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Interview with Stanley Karnow [4/12/?]

James Doyle:

We need to do the date and place of the interview. So it's April 12th -- oh, that's Franklin Roosevelt's death date -- and it's in Potomac, Maryland at your residence, at the residence of Stanley Karnow. And the interview is being done by James Doyle. And the people in attendance are just James Doyle and Stanley Karnow. So we'll start with the branch of service you served in, your rank, and where you served.

Stanley Karnow:

Well, I -- I served in the -- in the Army Air Corps in a communications outfit, Army Air Corps communications system which was within the Army Air Corps. After three years of service I gloriously rose to the rank of corporal.

James Doyle:

Okay.

Stanley Karnow:

You want to know about how I got in?

James Doyle:

Yes, that's next. Why did you -- First of all, why did you join. When did you join and why did you join?

Stanley Karnow:

Well --

James Doyle:

Got drafted, whatever.

Stanley Karnow:

When -- naturally when the war broke out in 1941 I was a little too young, but the atmosphere at the time was giving our complete commitment to the war, as a kid you just couldn't wait until you joined up. I mean, it was just part of the whole atmosphere and the culture at the time. And so when I got to be 18, I started exploring different avenues to join up. Of course, my first dream was to become a Navy Air Force pilot, that seemed very romantic, and I went down to Church Street, New York, to be examined, and they discovered I was color-blind or partly color-blind, so that ruled me out. Then I heard there was a program in which they were training meteorologists within the Air Corps, so I went down to the draft board in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and I had myself called up with the sort of expectation that I would go into this program. Just sort of to make an interesting comment about -- about the atmosphere at the time, if you were 18 years old and on a college campus in 1942 or '43, you had to be -- you had to rush off to be in the Army. I was back at Harvard on a fellowship in 1970, '71, during the Vietnam War, and anybody who had gone off to the Vietnam War must have been crazy, I mean everybody -- it was completely different. Nobody -- nobody wanted to get involved in Vietnam. So the atmosphere was totally different from what it had been during the Second World War. Just a second. [Pause]

James Doyle:

What year in Harvard were you? When did you start Harvard, what year?

Stanley Karnow:

I started in seventy -- in '42.

James Doyle:

And you went down to the draft board in --

Stanley Karnow:

Cambridge.

James Doyle:

-- in Cambridge in '42?

Stanley Karnow:

'43, when I got to be 18.

James Doyle:

Okay.

Stanley Karnow:

I was 18 in '43.

James Doyle:

Okay. Do you remember the draft board, do you remember any of that, do you remember the very first thing?

Stanley Karnow:

I don't remember details about it. I just -- all I know is I went down to where I guess just wherever the draft board was and said, okay, here I am and sign me up. I think I previously had been in some kind of communication with the Air Corps to make sure that I was going to get into this program, but I don't remember, the details are quite vague about that except that the time came and I went. It was April of 19 -- April of 1943, and I reported to Fort Devens, Massachusetts, where I got my shocking initiation into the Army by having to do guard duty one night and then doing all the tests that they gave you, intelligence tests and whatnot. And then started to do -- then went off to do basic training. And, of course, again, you know, the country was mobilized for war, so of all places I did basic training was Atlantic City where the Army had taken over the hotels, and we were living 12 to a room and jogging up and down the boardwalk, doing calisthenics. Then I think I went down to -- well, then I finally got my assignment which was to go into this course which was going to train -- it was a pre -- it was a course that was going to train us in science to become meteorologists, but the first year was just a science training course, and these courses were being given different places around the country. My course was being given in Hamilton College, New York. Hamilton College, Clinton, New York, which is a small liberal arts college on top of a hill. So off I went there.

James Doyle:

Do you remember any of your instructors either at basic training or when you got to Hamilton?

Stanley Karnow:

Well, the basic training, you know, the guys that were out there drilling you were your almost classic kind of lean southern sergeants or whatnot who would, you know, give you the Hup, 2, 3, 4, and so forth. When I got to Hamilton College, I guess I don't specifically remember any one of them, but it was kind of curious that -- that they would put us in this course which was like going to college again. It was -- you know, we had to go to English classes and whatnot, not only science classes. I don't -- I've never quite figured out what their intention was. Excuse me. I sometimes think in retrospect that the Army -- maybe this is totally wrong, but maybe the Army wanted to sort of preserve or coddle a bunch of college kids by putting them in these courses and keeping them out of the infantry, so to speak. I don't know. But anyway, there we were in this place, this college, taking all these courses. I was terrible in physics and these highly complicated vector analysis and things like that we were supposed to be learning. Then after almost a year there, let's say eight months, they called us together and announced that the program was being washed out, that they didn't really need -- so sounds like a typical Army experience -- that they already had too many meteorologists, and they really didn't need anymore. So we were -- so what were we going to do. So they said, okay, just stand by and -- and we'll tell you what your future assignments are going to be. So we, you know, hung around there, and the morale was terribly low. And finally I get sent down to some camp, I think maybe it was Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to do some more basic training, and eventually I was sent to a school for weather observers. Now, weather observers are not exactly meteorologists, they're guys that go outside and look up in the sky and say there's a cloud or something, but they're not involved in forecasting and doing sort of complicated stuff of meteorology, which I must say in those days was very primitive compared to what it's like today. So anyway, I went off to this training camp, this weather observer's course in Chanute Field, Illinois. And for some reason I did very well in it. And finally when I finished, I had an assignment to be a weather observer in, sounds funny, Suffolk County Army Airfield in West Hampton, Long Island, within easy reach of the Hamptons, the beaches, and whatnot. And since I came from New York, I could go home whenever I wanted. Anyway, it was sort of a very cushy assignment. It was a small airfield mainly being used for training purposes for I think we had Brazilian pilots training there. Anyway, and I did whatever I was supposed to do, look up in the sky and draw weather maps and whatnot. Okay. That went along for a while, and they -- they suddenly washed me out of that. They just said, Well, we have too many of these weather observers, we don't need you anymore. So we're going to turn you into a cryptographer, code clerk. So off I go back to Chanute Field, Illinois, studying ciphers and codes. And finished that course very quickly, did very well in it because I'm addicted to crossword puzzles. And then began this sort of, which I'm sure you've heard from others, this sort of typical waiting around for some assignment. Anyway, you know, there were long stretches of being stuck in places like Wichita Falls Airfield in Texas and someplace in Utah and whatnot. But finally I -- I got my assignment which was I went down to southern California to Riverside, California, and got on a ship. I have to find the exact date. I think it's in late '44. And got on a ship headed for Calcutta. And so that was, you know, now I'm going overseas for the first time.

James Doyle:

Did you know what your assignment would be in Calcutta?

Stanley Karnow:

Well, my assignment was supposed to be a cryptographer somewhere. That was what I was supposed to be. Calcutta was just the place we landed but, you know, they didn't tell you exactly where you were going. But I wasn't even sure I was going to Calcutta, and for all I knew, I really didn't know very much about -- my geography was not that good. But I just will say that it was a 49-day trip on this dumpy little troop ship, 3,000 of us on there, it was really a nightmare. Never stopping. We stopped once in Melbourne, we had to go south of Australia, we had no convoy, so we were zigzagging around. We stopped in Melbourne, we were so exhausted, that the city wouldn't let us off for fear that we'd smash up the city. So we stayed on the ship and went on to Calcutta. Now, I have spent the better part of my life reporting from Asia, being involved in Asian affairs, and a lot of it started right there. I can remember as our ship cruised up the Hooghly River, Calcutta, I'm looking hanging on the railing and looking at this, I was absolutely overwhelmed. It was just so fantastic, you know, the tremendous sights and scenes and smells and the noises of India just were just captivating. And so -- so we got off in Calcutta, just stayed there for a little while, and then took this long train trip up to Assam. Now, Assam was -- was the site of a string of airfields that from which the aircraft flew over or I should say flew through The Hump to deliver supplies to the Chinese Army in Kunming. And I was based at one of these airfields for a while, a couple of them. It was very hot and sticky and mosquitoey, but it was a lovely kind of atmosphere that I liked. For a while we were billeted on a tea plantation, and it was really beautiful. And after a while, then I did my job which was not very thrilling, just breaking or deciphering messages that would come in. Of course, I learned the idiocy of codifying things. You know, you'd sit there and break the code of a message that would come in and would say something like, All personnel may pick up their beer ration. I mean, why it had to be coded, I don't know, but anyway. Then after a while my boss said to me, Look, how would you like to go up in the mountains? There was a --

James Doyle:

Do you remember who he was or what his rank was?

Stanley Karnow:

Probably a lieutenant.

James Doyle:

Okay.

Stanley Karnow:

And I think he was probably an Ivy Leaguer like me anyway. He was sort of a nice guy. And he said, he says, Look, we have these homing -- we have these homing stations, these beacons that we send out signals to the airplane going -- the airplanes going over through The Hump and, you know, we need someone to run them, and there's a vacancy in this one place in it's an area called Sadiya Tract, Sadiya, S-a-d-e-y-a [sic] I think is the way it's spelled.

James Doyle:

Okay.

Stanley Karnow:

I have downstairs, show you my pass to get in there. It was a sort of special frontier tract, and it was kind of in the foothills of the mountains. And so I said, Okay. And I went up there. And what the job consisted of really just making sure that the gas was in the motors so that the signals kept going on. But here I was, you know, at this time I was, maybe I was a corporal or maybe I was a PFC, but I was living in a bungalow, lovely old kind of Indian type colonial bungalow with four servants because it's India. You know, you have a cook, and the cook doesn't -- because of the kind of caste system, the cook doesn't make the bed. So he gets his cousin in to be that. And then his cousin doesn't serve you at the table, so you get another guy. And then you get a fourth guy to sweep the floor. Anyway, it all cost about $10 a month, but it was quite splendid for a kid like me. And I set up there wandering around the countryside up there which was very beautiful, I had a Jeep, and reading a lot. Now, we didn't know the war was -- you know, when the war was going to end, so I started learning Russian in the hopes that if it went on I would get myself assigned to Vladivostok which kind of interested me or I might have gone to Shanghai, whatever. Anyway, so I stayed up there not quite -- it was really very sedentary except one small incident when my Jeep overturned, and I had to be flown to a hospital, but it was not serious. Then I got shipped down to Calcutta and put in charge of the motor pool at the Dum Dum Airport which is -- which is today the commercial airport, was then partly being used by the Air Force, the Air Corps. And I got to know Calcutta a little bit because I had my own Jeep, and I used to drive around there. And that's a very exciting city, really marvelously filthy, noisy, beautiful, and I've been back there since. It was not -- it was not a dangerous war for me, but it got me out of the country and introduced me to Asia which was very exciting, and after three years I was really eager to get out and go back to college.

James Doyle:

What did you see of casualties? In other words, these planes were flying, you didn't -- you didn't see --

Stanley Karnow:

Occasionally, occasionally when I was up in the mountains there would be these teams would come through looking for casualties. Frankly, I didn't -- I didn't really see any although sometimes they'd bring back guys who were -- planes had crashed. You couldn't go over The Hump. The airplanes didn't have the altitude. You were flying C-46s and C-47s. C-47 is a twin engine, a great airplane, later became known as a DC-3 in its civilian garb. And sometimes these planes would crash where the pilots would bail out, and there was some pretty horrible things. I mean, sometimes the guys would get -- their parachutes would get stuck in a tree branch, and they'd be hanging from a tree branch, and the next thing you know a bunch of bugs would go down and start eating them up and so forth. It was pretty horrible. But I frankly did not -- was not a witness to any of those things. It's all secondhand that I heard. These guys would come through bringing the bodies down, but they didn't come around often. It wasn't -- I think most of the time I think they probably just left them. Anyway, so eventually I got on a ship to come home, troop ship.

James Doyle:

Any citations or anything?

Stanley Karnow:

Well, there's a funny sort of funny story. Although I never heard any shots fired in anger, they had a system of -- the Army had a system of staking out battlefield areas, and let's say that a battle arena would end at a railroad track, and if you're on the sort of let's say west side of the track, you got into the battle. If you were on the east side of the track, you were in the battle. So I just happened to be on the east side of the track, so I'm in the battle, although I never heard any shots fired. And these were some battles that were actually taking place some distance away, let's say on the Burmese border, so I got battle stars for that. I got two battle stars which were useful because it gave you five points towards your discharge. You know, they had a point system, how many points you would get, and that would determine how soon you can get out of the Army. I was pretty eager to get out by now, three years in the Army.

James Doyle:

Before we get to -- I want to know how you -- what about communication, how did you stay in touch with your family? Were you able to get much mail? Did you send much mail?

Stanley Karnow:

Yeah, it was -- you know, you used -- what they used at the time were those letters, you know, you wrote to your family, and they wrote back. I mean, you can't compare it to today. I mean, nobody telephoned or anything like that. That was unthinkable. So I had no problem. You know, I think I was okay. Of course, families are very concerned about their guys in the Army. You know, you've got to remember that casualties in the Army are not just casualties of actual battles. For example, there was a -- the strip of airfields along the Brahmaputra River were connected by a road, kind of primative road, but the traffic on that road was phenomenal because of all the equipment and everything. And the drivers of these big semis would go barreling down those roads at top speed, and there were people who were killed in accidents. I myself turned over in a Jeep. I mean, Jeeps were very dangerous. I mean, you could have gotten killed in any kinds of way. And I remember when I turned over in the Jeep and had to go to the hospital, and the wards were filled with guys who were suffering and dying from the most stupid accidents. And that's the kind of thing that, you know, things you worry about.

James Doyle:

Is this what they called the Burma Road?

Stanley Karnow:

No, no. The Burma Road, no. The Burma Road is further -- the Burma Road went from China into Burma. No. This was a road just along the river. But I mean, you could have multiplied this by hospitals, Army hospitals anywhere in the world. I mean, there was a guy lying next to me, for example, who was dying. He was cleaning a kitchen. In order to clean the floor of the kitchen, he thought it would be easier if he just dumped a lot of gasoline on the floor. Of course, the next thing you know the whole thing went up in flames. I mean, and the hospitals were filled with guys doing dumb things like that. The Jeep was a terribly dangerous vehicle because it had a very narrow -- a very narrow wheel base. And so forth. So I think if you sat down and made a list of casualties of any war, you'll probably find that, you know, there were more people killed in accidents or diseases or whatever than were actually shot. Okay. That's my comment on that. So going back to the family had every reason to be and I, you know, would be concerned if I had a son who served. But anyway.

James Doyle:

Well, tell me about the -- tell me about the food. How was the food? Tell me about getting supplies. Did they get the mail to you by overland vehicles?

Stanley Karnow:

Yeah. When I was up in the mountains I had a Jeep, and I had this Jeep, and I would drive down to the nearest base, maybe a couple of hours away. It was -- it's a bit of a drive. I kind of liked it because it was kind of quaint. You had to cross a river on an old ferry. And then I'd go to the PX, pick up some food, you know, the standard American food. You could get anything you wanted, you know, at the PX, cigarettes of course, staples and cereals and whatnot. Ice cream mix. I used to bring back ice cream mix, and I would give it to the missionaries who were up there, and they would make ice cream for us. There was no -- and then I had this cook when I was in the bungalow, he was an Indian, he was a Christian actually but he was an Indian, and he cooked -- he cooked Indian food for me. So I had -- I'd have lamb curry for lunch and chicken curry for dinner. The next day chicken curry for lunch and lamb curry for dinner. And coconut pie or banana pie. I can't look a curry in the face.

James Doyle:

Well, what about stresses? Did you feel -- it's kind of a lonely life.

Stanley Karnow:

Well, guys would come through occasionally, and they were -- you know, we sort of -- it was kind of like guys would come up there to go hunting or for a while I had a roommate, partner, who came up. Really nice guy. I can't remember his name. He was a truck driver from Jersey City. He was really a lovely guy. And you know, we'd sit around. I did a lot of reading. I can't remember, we probably didn't even have a radio to my knowledge. Guys would come up there and then we'd go out -- I'm not a hunter. I wasn't interested in that. But I liked to go out and sort of wander around, and it was very beautiful in the hills and so forth, so I liked that. The food was okay and conditions were quite, you know, quite good.

James Doyle:

How did you entertain yourself other than -- I mean, were there poker games?

Stanley Karnow:

No, no. Well, there would have been down in the bases, but I'm not a poker player or not a good one anyway. So it was mostly reading. I did a lot of reading.

James Doyle:

And you weren't -- the USO was not available to you?

Stanley Karnow:

No. No.

James Doyle:

You weren't seeing any of that stuff?

Stanley Karnow:

No, there wasn't any of that, not out there anyway.

James Doyle:

What about leave?

Stanley Karnow:

Well, I went down -- later at one stage I went down -- I wanted to go up to the mountains in Darjeeling in those old English resorts, and I remember flying down to Calcutta one time to get on an airplane that would take me there, an Air Corps plane, and I had to wait a few days, and the heat in Calcutta was just abominable, I just couldn't take it, so I dropped the idea and went back. When I was in Calcutta, I had a rather good time. This is before I -- on my way -- before I left. As I said, I was -- I was running the motor pool, so I had a Jeep to myself. One night I went to -- there was some sort of a dance or something held for GIs, and I went there, and I met a very pretty girl. So I had a girl friend who was -- she was an Iraqi Jew. Her family were Jews from Iraq. Jews from Iraq, you know, are spread out all over the world. So there she was. She was very young and pretty and nice and so, you know, that was kind of a nice feeling. Very innocent relationship.

James Doyle:

Was she able to write to you when you then went up to the mountains?

Stanley Karnow:

No. This is before. I'm finished with the mountains now.

James Doyle:

Oh, this is after the mountains?

Stanley Karnow:

Yes, yes.

James Doyle:

Down in Calcutta?

Stanley Karnow:

Yes. The only thing I did -- when I was down in Calcutta, the only time I left Calcutta before going home was I got on some mission to scrap a lot of stuff. We went around where we put up various things like antennas, and the idea was to tear it all down. I don't know why. It was a typical idiotic Army thing. I mean, why didn't we leave it in there? I don't know. You know, destroyed Jeeps and whatnot, things that could have been useful to people. It was one of those incomprehensible Army projects to destroy that stuff. But anyway, then I went back to Calcutta, and then I came home. I never heard from the girl again. It was just a sort of passing --

James Doyle:

Besides that dance, were there any other things like that, any humorous things that were happening, any, you know, in a group were there people playing pranks you know?

Stanley Karnow:

No. I'll tell you though, Calcutta is a fascinating city. It's filthy, the streets are -- were filled with beggars, lepers, I mean and so forth. And our idea of a great thing to do, I was sleeping in a tent out at the -- out at the Dum Dum Airfield, but if I could get away would be to go into the city and go to the Grand Hotel on Chowringhee which is the name of the great street, Chowringhee, and check in for the night and sleep in nice cotton sheets and have a meal in this grand dining room, you know, with the great chandeliers hanging and the waiters in their turbans and eating these great marvelous curry dinners or lunches and drinking beer and going to the movies. It was an interesting thing about going to the movies in Calcutta. Going to the movies in Calcutta, this is, mind you, we're talking now under British -- How are we fixed for time?

James Doyle:

We're fine. This will run out -- Don't worry about it. I'm just keeping the -- We're 45 minutes in. We're not even 45 minutes in.

Stanley Karnow:

Now, we're talking about India under British rule, right?

James Doyle:

Right. Right.

Stanley Karnow:

A couple of things, couple of observations. It was still very, you know, it was a marvelous kind of colonial atmosphere about it. You would go to the movies, you went to the movies in Calcutta, you just didn't go to the movies. It was like going to the theater. You bought tickets. You had assigned seats. You sat down. The seats had little sort of trays next to them, and these waiters would come down the aisle and serve you tea while you were watching a movie. The intermissions -- of course, everybody would be dressed up, by the way, in black tie. The other thing I noticed, there were lots of -- a few, not many, anti-British demonstrations going on which is sort of my introduction to what was going to become later the fight for independence. So you'd have a lot of angry, noisy students running through the streets and so forth protesting, with the police running around with trunches hitting them on the head and so forth. So I mean, all this here I am, you know, what am I, 19, 20 years old, wide-eyed, you know, watching all this marvelous stuff going on.

James Doyle:

Were you -- did you do any shopping other than at the PX?

Stanley Karnow:

No. I mean, I wasn't -- I'm not even -- No. There wasn't -- Yeah, okay, maybe I bought some cheap pieces of something or other for my mother in the bazaar or something like that. That didn't preoccupy me. I'm trying to figure out, it's a long time ago, I can't remember exactly what I did.

James Doyle:

Sure.

Stanley Karnow:

But this time at this stage my main thing is how do I, you know, get home and get back to school.

James Doyle:

Right.

Stanley Karnow:

That's what I wanted to do.

James Doyle:

Tell me if you remember any of your officers. I mean, a lot of this is remote controlled.

Stanley Karnow:

Yes.

James Doyle:

When you're in the mountains, your boss is not there.

Stanley Karnow:

I don't remember the names of any officers.

James Doyle:

Do you remember anything about them, anyone who -- I mean, like some of these stupid things that you're assigned to do.

Stanley Karnow:

Yeah, no. They thought they were stupid too, you know, it was just following orders.

James Doyle:

Sure. You didn't keep any kind of a diary at the time?

Stanley Karnow:

No. Although I'll go downstairs and look and see because there's a -- see if I can find it. There's a report -- My predecessor up in the mountains sent back a report which had some description of me in it because I overlapped with him for a while. His son somehow got ahold of this report, was giving it to him for a birthday present, and sent me a copy. It's not terribly interesting, but I've got it, and I've got a couple of little other things, you know, pictures. I've got one picture anyway. I have the other usual sort of discharge papers and whatever, you know, my special pass that allowed me up into that area.

James Doyle:

Yeah.

Stanley Karnow:

If that interests you.

James Doyle:

Did you get any -- what was your feeling about your unit, about, you know, the other soldiers, that sort of thing? You were kind of living in isolation.

Stanley Karnow:

In that place. In the other places, I didn't have any -- to my knowledge I didn't have any particular friend. Now, I want to just go back a moment. Before I left the States while I was on that circuit, you know, waiting what we call going from repple depple -- Repple depples, you've heard that term?

James Doyle:

No.

Stanley Karnow:

Replacement depots they were called. We called them repple depples. You know, you go to Wichita Falls, Texas, and you hang around there for a while. And they don't know what to do with you. I don't know, maybe there was some kind of big machinery that was trying to figure out what to do with all these guys. And you go to one of these places like Wichita Falls, Texas, and what they would ask you to do is to be out there every morning to pick up cigarette butts or whatever, you know, it's called policing the area. We had a guy, marvelous guy, among our group by the name of Mike Valenti (phonetic). He was really a marvelously funny guy. He had been a newspaper reporter in Brooklyn. He was a very accomplished pianist. I mean, you know, popular music. And really generally funny, marvelous guy. So he said, I've got a way to handle this business about wasting our time picking up cigarette butts. He said, we're going to become Japanese language instructors. It's like a scene out of some of those comedies. So he got into the -- somehow got a typewriter, and he printed out little cards, said Private Stanley Karnow is to be excused from all duties as he is teaching Japanese. And he put some phony signature on it and put a stamp, some sort of seal on it. And in the morning when the sergeant came through to wake us all up, you'd hold up the card and go back to sleep. And then, and then we would walk across the airfield, these were airfields that were civilian airfields but taken over partly by the Air Corps, and we'd go to the local cafe there, and then we'd have a big breakfast and sit around and smoke and so forth until noontime. It was all part of the great, you know, the great scams of avoiding the idiotic things to do. And there were several guys in that group, I can't remember the others, but I remember him vividly, who were very -- very talented, very interesting. There was one guy who was an astronomer and whatnot.

James Doyle:

Do you remember any --

Stanley Karnow:

I'll say one more thing, and then I'll just drop it. I keep getting letters from the people who were doing the training program at Hamilton College wanting to have reunions, and I'm not interested in going to one of those things, but there are still a bunch of guys who want to have reunions. Sorry.

James Doyle:

I was going to ask you if were there -- when you were in training, you were obviously with college kids.

Stanley Karnow:

Yes.

James Doyle:

Do you remember any of them, you know, were there any college professors who had been drafted and were over there, anyone who comes to mind?

Stanley Karnow:

I don't know anyone who comes to mind. I'll tell you one thing, there was a guy who was teaching our course, it was either the meteorology or the cryptography course, in Chanute Field, Illinois, who obviously had been a teacher. I think he probably was a very fancy prep school, New England prep school teacher. Guys like that. At one camp I ran into my old high school history teacher who was a really brass guy who reminds me of, you know, reminded me of Sergeant Bilko. You know, he really sort of taken over the whole unit there, you know, he was running everything. I don't remember, again I don't remember anybody specific, but it's true, you know, there was -- we were college kids. I think one of the things that concerned us, certainly concerned me, is as you are being shunted around, you know, waiting for some definite assignment, you never knew that you might be plucked out and thrown into the infantry which is what happened to people I know. My -- excuse me -- later my college roommate after the war was a guy who was in one of these training programs and was pulled out in the middle, you know, given a rifle and shipped off and was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge.

James Doyle:

Was that just because they -- they needed guys?

Stanley Karnow:

Yeah, they needed guys and, you know, I think that -- you know, I don't know how -- you'd have to go back and find out, you know, from someone. I'm looking at it from a completely worm's eye view. You'd have to go back and find out something about the whole logistics of the war, who served, who got in the infantry, who was spared, and so on and so forth. So I mean, you wanted to -- I mean, I've always -- you know, I've been in a lot of wars in my life, and one of my purposes has always been to survive, you know. When I was a reporter involved in wars, I had this theory: If you get killed, you can't file your story, right. So that was always a concern. You know, not that it was a daily concern but, for example, when I was up in Utah at one of these camps before I was sent overseas, I had some problem with my back, and I went into the hospital, and they did some operation, and I was in there for a week or so. And when I came out, I found that some guys in my unit had been pulled out and shipped off to Europe. Could have been me, you know.

James Doyle:

Yeah. Tell me about the problem with your back, was it simply a temporary problem?

Stanley Karnow:

Yeah.

James Doyle:

It wasn't something chronic?

Stanley Karnow:

No, no. I had some -- nothing. They fixed it up for me. It was no problem.

James Doyle:

Tell me about do you recall the day the war ended or the day -- the last day of your service or when you got orders from Calcutta back to the States?

Stanley Karnow:

Well, I do remember when I was sitting at my cryptography machine in August of '45 that the message came through, coded of course, that some big bomb had been dropped in Japan. We didn't know what it was, but we all got drunk on whatever crappy rice wine we could find because we assumed that was going to be the end of the war. And --

James Doyle:

Do you remember worrying about, at this point, about the invasion of the mainland of Japan and how many troops they were going to need for that?

Stanley Karnow:

No. That never came up. I'll tell you, I didn't know. I mean, as China was becoming liberated, I would have liked to have been assigned to, as I said, I would have liked to have got assigned to Shanghai. I would have liked to have got assigned to Vladivostok in a way, but I wasn't going to stay on. I mean, guys were reenlisting and going off to those places. I didn't want to do that. But I really sort of looking back, I would have liked to have lived in Shanghai. I would have liked to have seen Shanghai back in the '45, '46, and so forth. It was a completely chaotic city, but it was a wild city and so forth. I missed that, so... But when the war -- when it became evident the war was going to end, everybody now begins to say, okay, let's go home and go back to our various pursuits. Now, I was kind of young. I started college very young. I started college when I was 16, so I didn't feel that I was -- I mean, a lot of guys felt that they had lost three years. I mean, I was -- in 1945 I was only 20 years old. But there were guys who were 25, and that's when you get -- when you get on to colleges in those days, you see so many guys who were back on the GI bill were in their 20s, mid 20s, which is very unusual for colleges. So anyway, the main thing was to go home. Calcutta, one day we say, okay, you're on, you're going home. One of the things that I couldn't understand, another Army -- piece of Army bafflement was before we went home, they issued us a complete set of everything. Everything. Gas masks and the whole thing. And I don't know why. I think they were -- that was one of their ways of getting the stuff shipped back.

James Doyle:

Yeah, yeah.

Stanley Karnow:

Anyway, we got on the ship, and this time it was a little faster because we didn't have to -- no submarines to zigzag. We went up by way of Japan, and then we headed toward Seattle. And as we were approaching Seattle, guys started throwing that stuff overboard and, I don't know, the captain of the ship or somebody said, Listen, you've got to stop doing that because it's going to pollute everything. But whatever you don't want, make a pile of it on deck number C or something like that. So we took everything we were given practically and piled it up, and I think they just dumped it overboard in one particular place. I mean, thousands of dollars worth of stuff, blankets and all kinds of things. And the odd thing, of course is, you know, you dumped over -- you dumped over pants and stuff like that. Then after the war you went to the surplus store to buy the same sort of stuff that you had thrown away.

James Doyle:

So you --

Stanley Karnow:

Anyway, so we got off the ship.

James Doyle:

In Seattle?

Stanley Karnow:

Fort Lewis. Fort Lewis, Washington. We were given apples, and we were put on trains, and I think we were sent back to -- to be discharged in places close to our homes. And I think if I'm correct, I can look at my discharge paper which I have downstairs, I think I ended up in Fort Dix, New Jersey. And so that was quite exhilarating.

James Doyle:

Do you remember that at all? Do you remember, you know, the last day or the last couple of days after the troop ship when you're back home being processed, was that just totally --

Stanley Karnow:

It went very smoothly as far as I knew. You know, all you did was you got on the train. Naturally it's a long trip across the country. I mean, I still to this day have these marvelously fond memories of Seattle. Usually it rains in Seattle, but that was a bright day, gave us apples as we came off and put us on the train and off we went. And, of course, everybody was exhilarated, you know, the war is over and we're going home.

James Doyle:

Did you spend a couple of days at Fort Lewis?

Stanley Karnow:

No, no. I think we got right on the train and went. I don't think there was any -- that's how we ended up -- I think it's Fort Dix I ended up, you know, got off the -- took the bus and went home to Brooklyn.

James Doyle:

Was there any -- do you remember, you know, I'm home, I'm going to get a pizza or anything like that?

Stanley Karnow:

No.

James Doyle:

There wasn't any because you --

Stanley Karnow:

I didn't eat pizza in those days.

James Doyle:

And you weren't deprived of ice cream or anything like that?

Stanley Karnow:

No.

James Doyle:

So there wasn't -- Okay.

Stanley Karnow:

No. I went home and my parents were delighted to see me, of course. And then the next thing I did was to start planning to go back to college.

James Doyle:

What -- what were you in, like September of '45?

Stanley Karnow:

No. This is now -- No. Wait a second. No. It's later. It's '46 now.

James Doyle:

It's '46 because it took a while, yeah. So is it like spring, do you remember?

Stanley Karnow:

Yes. It's the spring of '46. I think it's -- the discharge, I could find it out downstairs.

James Doyle:

That's okay.

Stanley Karnow:

Excuse me. March of '46. The first thing I do is I join the 52-20 Club. You know what that is?

James Doyle:

Yeah. It's $20 for 52 weeks.

Stanley Karnow:

$20 a week for 52 weeks.

James Doyle:

And everyone got it.

Stanley Karnow:

Yeah, right.

James Doyle:

Everyone that got discharged, right?

Stanley Karnow:

Yeah. So you got that, and that tide me, you know, 20 bucks a week was not bad.

James Doyle:

Yeah.

Stanley Karnow:

And then I registered and went back to college for the summer school. I wanted to get back as soon as possible to school. So I went back maybe in June.

James Doyle:

What year are you going into now?

Stanley Karnow:

'46.

James Doyle:

But I mean, are you going into --

Stanley Karnow:

Well, it was all mixed up, you know.

James Doyle:

Yeah.

Stanley Karnow:

First of all, they gave me credit for those courses that I had taken, the meteorology courses and whatnot. So my original class was the Class of '45 and by now I'm slated to graduate in June of '47. So I stayed on through the summer, through the -- I stayed on for three terms steadily. And now, of course, I had the GI bill which was quite phenomenal because that gave you tuition, books, and a stipend to live on. The GI bill is one of the greatest inventions ever made. So I had -- then you came back and everybody else, you know, you were there and all your buddies were all back from one thing or another. I practically didn't know anybody who had not been in the Army among my friends.

James Doyle:

Were you a different kind of student? Were you changed by all this?

Stanley Karnow:

Oh, yes. I was much better. I mean, I was a pretty good student in the first place, but now I really plunged into it and did very well. But I also was very -- excuse me -- I was very taken up with working on the paper, on The Crimson, so that took up a lot of my time.

James Doyle:

Had you been on The Crimson before?

Stanley Karnow:

Yes, I was on before I left.

James Doyle:

Okay.

Stanley Karnow:

So that became very active.

James Doyle:

Who was on The Crimson with you? Now you've got a bunch of GI bill guys on The Crimson.

Stanley Karnow:

Well, and some who weren't. The interesting thing about The Crimson, about college in general now, is let's say that I had graduated in my class, so I would have been out of there by '45. But because of the war, you've got a lot of people -- I got to know a lot of people from other classes I would never have known. One of my closest friends, for example, is a guy who was a New York Times columnist, Tony Lewis.

James Doyle:

Oh, sure.

Stanley Karnow:

Who was the class of '48.

James Doyle:

Did he miss the war?

Stanley Karnow:

Yeah. He didn't serve. He was just a touch too -- too young.

James Doyle:

You still in touch?

Stanley Karnow:

Oh, yeah, sure.

James Doyle:

Great guy.

Stanley Karnow:

You know him?

James Doyle:

Oh, yeah. When I did my book, he did the preface to it. I got to know him really well during Watergate because I was was working for Archie Cox. Yeah, he's a super guy. I miss his stuff so much. I guess it's in the New York Review which I don't see much.

Stanley Karnow:

His wife is the chief justice of the Supreme Court.

James Doyle:

I know. She's the one that got us in this jam we're in now.

Stanley Karnow:

Anyway, he is one. Chuck Bailey is another guy.

James Doyle:

Oh, yeah. How is Chuck's health?

Stanley Karnow:

Terrible.

James Doyle:

Parkinson's, huh?

Stanley Karnow:

Parkinson's, yeah. Now, Chuck was in the class of '50. So obviously I would never have known him. So there were a lot of guys -- so, you know, we had a reunion not long ago, The Crimson. Of course, there weren't many people from my day there. But anyway, so that was a big -- you know, and all these guys are a little more mature than they had been, the ones who had come back. And it was a terrific deal going back to school.

James Doyle:

Yeah. Did you join any veterans organizations or any of that stuff?

Stanley Karnow:

I tried -- I went to Paris after I graduated.

James Doyle:

Well, I don't want to short -- Have we finished with college pretty much? I guess we have.

Stanley Karnow:

I don't have much to say. Yes, I was a good student.

James Doyle:

Okay. So you graduated. What's the first thing you did when you graduated?

Stanley Karnow:

Graduated, graduated what do they call --

James Doyle:

Summa?

Stanley Karnow:

No, not summa. No, not that great. Just an ordinary cum laude, graduated with honors. In the summer of '47 Tony and I went on a -- took a freighter to Europe. Now he hadn't finished college, so he had to come back, but I stayed on, and I was going to stay on for the next ten years also using the GI bill, incidentally, in Paris to go to school. And there was a -- there was a veterans organization called the -- I think it was called the AVC.

James Doyle:

Yes, the Americans Veterans Committee.

Stanley Karnow:

Committee.

James Doyle:

Was liberal and --

Stanley Karnow:

Yeah, liberal and so forth. And I can't remember who the hell was behind it. There was a chapter in Paris. And they got into a lot of fights and squabbles, but there was a leftist group and sort of a pro-communist group and so forth. It finally kind of -- it didn't really amount to very much. So I never really got involved in veterans organizations.

James Doyle:

And were you ten years in Paris?

Stanley Karnow:

Then I spent the next ten years in Paris.

James Doyle:

Okay. So you went on a freighter?

Stanley Karnow:

Yes.

James Doyle:

You have not yet had a job in journalism other than The Crimson. You didn't -- and you didn't do any journalism during the military. So tell me about the freighter to Europe.

Stanley Karnow:

So we took the freighter, and then Tony had to come back, and I wandered around with another schoolmate of mine, classmate of mine, called Mitch Goodman. I don't know whether that name rings a bell with you.

James Doyle:

No.

Stanley Karnow:

Mitch Goodman was a brilliant guy who made a career as a -- as a radical in life. You know, he was one of the -- remember the Spock Five?

James Doyle:

Oh, yeah.

Stanley Karnow:

He was one of those guys. He was a dreadful guy in the end. He's such a brilliant guy, he could have done such interesting things, but he sort of painted himself off in a corner somewhere.

James Doyle:

Just like Ramsey Clark.

Stanley Karnow:

Well, Ramsey Clark is a -- you know, compared to -- Ramsey Clark, he was really right down the middle compared to this guy. Anyway, but anyway, and I wrote a book called Paris in the Fifties about all this. So I stayed on, had the GI bill, did some -- contributed some pieces to a Progressive Party paper that was started about in the summer of '48, got a job as a public relations guy for -- for a refugee organization.

James Doyle:

The GI bill is still helping you though, you're not in -- you're not registered in any school?

Stanley Karnow:

You have to be registered in a school.

James Doyle:

So you --

Stanley Karnow:

Yeah, they didn't care. You could have gone to cooking classes.

James Doyle:

You were in some registered school?

Stanley Karnow:

Yeah. I registered at Sorbonne, then I registered at the Institute of Political Science.

James Doyle:

Did you take any --

Stanley Karnow:

No. As long as you're registered. That's all they cared. I learned more just sitting around cafes than I would have in class. But as long as you had a registration, you're fine, and they paid 75 bucks a month which was in those days was not bad. I mean, I was living marginally. And then one day when I was a public relations guy, I went up to the Time office to try to --

James Doyle:

Now, wait. We skipped a little here because I interrupted you. So you're living off the GI bill.

Stanley Karnow:

Yes.

James Doyle:

Your first job after wandering around, you got a public relations job.

Stanley Karnow:

Yes.

James Doyle:

Is that your first one?

Stanley Karnow:

Yes. It was sort of writing copy for this refugee organization.

James Doyle:

Okay.

Stanley Karnow:

And -- and tried to plant stories. So I went up to the Time office in 1950 I think it was to try to plant a story with them, and the bureau chief who was a very amiable guy said, you know, How's your French? I said, Pretty good. I've been here a couple of years. He said, Come to work for me as a gofer. So fine. I jumped at that.

James Doyle:

What was his name?

Stanley Karnow:

Frank Stanton.

James Doyle:

Oh, sure.

Stanley Karnow:

Does that ring a bell?

James Doyle:

Well, didn't he -- did he later go into broadcasting or a different Frank Stanton?

Stanley Karnow:

No. This is a different. No, I'm sorry, it's not Frank Stanton. It's John Stanton.

James Doyle:

John Stanton.

Stanley Karnow:

John Stanton. Oh, he was a marvelous amiable guy. He'd sit there drinking martinis.

James Doyle:

So you're a gofer in the Time bureau, and where is Buchwald? Is he --

Stanley Karnow:

He's working then beginning to do columns for the Paris Tribune.

James Doyle:

Was he one of the guys in the cafe you were hanging with?

Stanley Karnow:

Yeah, sure. Then we -- then he used to come around to the office. I knew Buchwald very well. He used to come around the office, and we used to play gin rummy in the afternoon. And gradually they started letting me do stories on my own, and eventually I became a correspondent. But that was a great way to start. And so anyway, I mean, the GI bill, you know, was kind of really for all of us there, there's a whole school of people out there who were just living on the GI bill. And some guys that had some pretty hairy experiences in the war and so forth.

James Doyle:

And a lot of guys who would never have gotten to college if it wasn't for the GI bill.

Stanley Karnow:

Absolutely.

James Doyle:

That's what changed America. I mean, there's not been enough written about that.

Stanley Karnow:

There was a documentary I saw about a year ago on television, I mean the number of Nobel laureates who had the GI bill.

James Doyle:

Yeah, yeah. So you started work as a journalist, and you're starting to write stories, and just quickly tell me your journalism career from then, the Paris bureau of Time, what's next?

Stanley Karnow:

Well, I stay in Paris. Then I come back to the States on a -- when I'm in Paris, I'm not just in Paris, I'm wandering around other parts of Europe and especially North Africa where the Algerian War is now beginning. Then I go back to Harvard on a Nieman in '57.

James Doyle:

Now, Bradley's in Paris at this time, right?

Stanley Karnow:

That's right. He was working for Newsweek. He was also the first attaché at the embassy.

James Doyle:

Right.

Stanley Karnow:

Sure, we knew each other in Paris.

James Doyle:

So then you won a Nieman from the Paris bureau?

Stanley Karnow:

No. Yeah, from the Paris bureau. And so I went back. And went back to -- and then they -- while I was there, they gave me my own bureau. I wanted my own bureau somewhere.

James Doyle:

We're skipping the Nieman. What class? What Nieman class?

Stanley Karnow:

'57, '58.

James Doyle:

So who's in that?

Stanley Karnow:

Well, the guy that was -- Tom Wicker was in that class.

James Doyle:

So Bob Healy was in that class.

Stanley Karnow:

No, I don't think he was.

James Doyle:

No?

Stanley Karnow:

Tom Wicker. What's the guy who just died recently. He was -- worked for The Baltimore Sun. He was a White House correspondent during the Eisenhower administration.

James Doyle:

Potter, Phil Potter?

Stanley Karnow:

No, not Phil Potter.

James Doyle:

Oh, I know. Chuck Caudry.

Stanley Karnow:

No. He was -- he had a Lithuanian name. In fact, he was just buried in the Lithuanian cemetery in Baltimore. Anyway --

James Doyle:

So I mean, you're one of the few Harvard guys who got a Nieman I think: you, Tony.

Stanley Karnow:

Yeah.

James Doyle:

There's not that many.

Stanley Karnow:

Yeah. Strangely enough, they're sort of reluctant to give them to -- and I was working for Time, and Time was reluctant to let me have it. I remember the -- I mean, I remember the managing editor said when I applied for it, he said, What do you need a Nieman for? He said, The only reason you get a Nieman is to go to Harvard. You've done that. And to get a job at Time. You've got that.

James Doyle:

Well, I'm surprised the board didn't say the same thing to you.

Stanley Karnow:

Well, I was overseas and I had a big supporter in I think it was Barry Bingham. Barry Bingham?

James Doyle:

Sure. I bet he was on the committee.

Stanley Karnow:

Yeah, he was on the committee.

James Doyle:

And he convinced --

Stanley Karnow:

And I was overseas. I didn't have to go back for interviews or anything like that. But I do remember writing a pretty eloquent letter of application. He wrote me a very sweet letter. Anyway, so I got it.

James Doyle:

That's great.

Stanley Karnow:

Anyway, so I came back.

James Doyle:

What did you study?

Stanley Karnow:

I studied economics, not that I learned very much, but I studied economics of developing countries with Galbraith and Barbara Ward and Ed Mason and whatever.

James Doyle:

What had you majored in?

Stanley Karnow:

History and literature. So anyway, but it was a lovely year. So, you know, and while I was there Time said, Well, what do you want to do next? And I said, Well, give me my own bureau somewhere. Well, I liked being based in Paris, but I wanted to be independent. So they said, Where do you want it? I said, Well, since I'm covering the Algerian War, how about calling it the North African bureau. So they said, Fine. So I went off and got myself a place in Morocco, and I hadn't been there very long, maybe a year or so, when they transferred me to Hong Kong. So off I went. And I spent 11 years in Hong Kong. But I didn't stay -- I didn't want to stay with Time all that period because I got sick of working anonymously.

James Doyle:

Yeah.

Stanley Karnow:

So I switched to Saturday Evening Post which you're too young to remember.

James Doyle:

Not at all.

Stanley Karnow:

But that was like buying a ticket on the Titantic because it was really about to go down the drain, and I also --

James Doyle:

What year are we now?

Stanley Karnow:

We're now in about '64.

James Doyle:

Okay.

Stanley Karnow:

And also I started stringing, so to speak, for The London Observer. So in '64 or '65 when I began to sense that the Saturday Evening Post was shaky, I went back to the States and confirmed indeed it was pretty shaky, and I didn't know quite what to do. I went down to Washington and for some reason had dinner with Bradley. He was then I think the Newsweek bureau chief.

James Doyle:

He would have been. That's the year he switched.

Stanley Karnow:

I know. So he said to me, I'm going to move over to The Post. You come to The Post. So I said, Fine. I said, I have one condition. He said -- I said, The one condition is I go back to Asia. And, you know, typical Bradley, No, you don't want to go back to Asia. You know, stay here, become a national political correspondent and so forth. No, no, no. And of course, we had a screaming match. Conversations with Bradley are always screaming matches. And finally I won my screaming match. So he said, Okay, you stay around here for a while, get a sense of what it's like, the office and so forth. So I stayed for a couple of months. And it was a smart thing that I did that I went back. First of all, the Vietnam War was just beginning to heat up and beginning to have the cultural revolution in China, and so I was much better off doing that than, you know, getting into the national political scene. I had no background for that. Here you have guys like Broder and so forth, knew a hell of a lot more about that than I did. What happened. Oh, yeah, then I came back. Then in '70 --

James Doyle:

I want to tell you that in '68 I was going to Vietnam. I was supposed to go in '67, and they put it off. So it was during Tet.

Stanley Karnow:

To do what?

James Doyle:

Well, I was going because I was the Washington bureau chief for the Boston Globe, and I said to them, You can't cover the campaign unless you know a little bit about Vietnam.

Stanley Karnow:

Oh, sure.

James Doyle:

So I'm going to go on a fireman's tour, you know, and I was supposed to go in late '57 -- '67, and they put it off. So I said, Okay, look, I'm buying the ticket. I'm locking myself in, so February 4th, well Tet happened, and I had trouble getting in, but I called you, you were in Hong Kong, and I was in Hong Kong overnight, and I called you just to check in with you. Someone said, Call Karnow. And we talked, and I checked in, and you told me where to go get a good deli sandwich.

Stanley Karnow:

I owned the deli.

James Doyle:

Oh, you did own the deli at the time.

Stanley Karnow:

Yeah, I invested in the deli. It was a disaster.

James Doyle:

So anyway, that's an interruption.

Stanley Karnow:

That's all right.

James Doyle:

So you were Hong Kong bureau chief all during that time? Then you came back to --

Stanley Karnow:

No, no. I switched to The Post by '65.

James Doyle:

By '65, then came home, but then you went back to Hong Kong for The Post?

Stanley Karnow:

That's right.

James Doyle:

Yeah.

Stanley Karnow:

I went back to Hong Kong for the first -- yeah, for The Post. And then by '70 I guess we decided it was time to come home. Been to Hong Kong for 11 years at that point. So I got myself a fellowship to the Kennedy School, and so that was a good kind of nice transition to go to the Kennedy School for '70 and '71. And wrote a book while I was there.

James Doyle:

What was that book?

Stanley Karnow:

It was about China. It was called Mao and China: From Revolution to Revolution. So, as I say, that was kind of our decompression chamber into the States. And then my wife came down here, and we found this house while we were up there. And then I went down to The Post. When the year was over, I went down to be a diplomatic correspondent for The Post. I hated it.

James Doyle:

So the point is you were going to be doing what Murrey Marder did and do it here in Washington, you were going to be a diplomatic correspondent covering the Statehouse -- I mean the White House? The State Department?

Stanley Karnow:

With Murrey.

James Doyle:

With Murrey, and then you'd also travel overseas?

Stanley Karnow:

No, no, was confined to Washington, and I had to share that assignment with Murrey which if you know Murrey -- Do you know Murrey?

James Doyle:

Well, you know, I see him at Nieman reunions and stuff.

Stanley Karnow:

Well, he'd drive you crazy.

James Doyle:

Yeah, yeah.

Stanley Karnow:

Murrey would shift this pipe around his mouth. Trying to write a lead with Murrey, you know, it's now midnight, he can't figure out exactly what to say in the lead. He's even worse now. Have you seen him lately?

James Doyle:

I haven't seen him lately.

Stanley Karnow:

He comes to meetings, and he'd stand up, and they'd have to pull him away, he starts talking and goes on forever.

James Doyle:

Yeah, I've probably seen him at the Council on Foreign Relations or something.

Stanley Karnow:

That's right. But he did a very generous thing for the Niemans, you know, giving out money.

James Doyle:

Yeah, he sure did.

Stanley Karnow:

That was a nice thing for him to do.

James Doyle:

He sure did.

Stanley Karnow:

Anyway, he's a nice guy but, I mean, I didn't want to work with him, and I didn't want to work in that office anyway. So I quit. I just walked out. Had another screaming match with Bradley and walked out. And that night, not quite knowing what I was going to do, got a call from NBC saying come to work for us.

James Doyle:

Aha. Who, do you remember?

Stanley Karnow:

Dick Wald.

James Doyle:

Oh, sure.

Stanley Karnow:

And --

James Doyle:

You had never worked with Dick, you were never on the Tribune.

Stanley Karnow:

No. But Dick had come over to The Post for a while, didn't he?

James Doyle:

I don't know. He may have, yeah.

Stanley Karnow:

Anyway, I only knew him slightly. As a matter of fact, I just saw him last weekend at a birthday -- at an anniversary party for a mutual friend in New York. Anyway, he called me and said, Come on up to New York. And I said, What do you want me to do? He said, I don't know what I want you to do. Come on, just join us. And I worked for them for a year, but it was not a -- it was a kind of -- it was true, they didn't know what they wanted me to do.

James Doyle:

Aha.

Stanley Karnow:

It was kind of like here's a credit card and here's an air travel card, and when you think there's a story somewhere, you go there.

James Doyle:

Sounds great but it's, you know.

Stanley Karnow:

It's not a -- it's not a good thing. There's a term I think they use in the business, you can't go to Paris where they have a correspondent and tell the guy what to do, even though you may know more about the story than he does. So I did a few things. I took a trip around China with Jack Reynolds which was fine, and they got their money's worth, but at the end of a month -- at the end of the year or so I could see it wasn't doing anything. But while I was on this -- while I was doing this traveling around -- Tell me if I'm babbling.

James Doyle:

No. We're fine.

Stanley Karnow:

While I was traveling around the world at their expense, I went back to Vietnam, I went to Laos, I went to Cambodia, I went to China. I needed some outlet for writing. So I got hold of Walter Pincus who was then working at The New Republic who had the notion -- Walter's a guy who lives in -- Do you know Walter?

James Doyle:

I do. I remember it was around then that he had his notion for his national newspaper, is that right?

Stanley Karnow:

Yeah. Walter's a guy who lives in grand illusions, one sort or another. He wanted to have a national newspaper. He thought that he had the franchise to take over The New Republic when Gil Harrison left it. Anyway, I somehow got hold of Walter and started contributing pieces to The New Republic. And then when the year ended with NBC, I went to -- came back here, and I went to see Gil Harrison, and I said, Well, put me on the staff. Which he did, for practically no money, but that didn't make any difference. It was a lovely, lovely place to work I will say. And Gil Harrison, cranky guy. Did you know Gil?

James Doyle:

I just -- I did a couple of pieces for him.

Stanley Karnow:

He was a terrific editor and he was a marvelous pencil editor and a very, very tolerant guy. I mean, we didn't have much money but, you know, I mean he would do stories -- you know, for example, I remember I did a story on Scoop Jackson, and he didn't like him. Harrison didn't like Scoop Jackson. So I said, well -- he said, Boy, you're really being very nice to Scoop Jackson. I said, So what are you going to do? You going to run the story? He said, Of course. It's your story. I'll run it. Then, of course, Harrison did the stupid thing, he sold it to Marty Peretz. And Marty Peretz is the most corrupt.

James Doyle:

Yeah. It's a disaster. Have you seen the movie Shattered Glass?

Stanley Karnow:

No.

James Doyle:

You need to see that.

Stanley Karnow:

What is that?

James Doyle:

It's a movie about this kid, what's his name, I can't remember his first name but he's the guy who did all of the false stories in The Republic and they had to apologize.

Stanley Karnow:

Oh, yeah, yeah.

James Doyle:

What you realize is that Marty Peretz had destroyed the magazine and that this guy could come in and fake stories for a year or year and a half under two different editors and the checking system.

Stanley Karnow:

I don't see the magazine anymore.

James Doyle:

I don't either. I stopped looking at it. You know, he had a vendetta against Sy Hersh because Sy Hersh was on the different side of the Israeli question.

Stanley Karnow:

That's a whole --

James Doyle:

It's all vendettas.

Stanley Karnow:

The whole thing -- for Marty the whole world revolved around Israel.

James Doyle:

Yeah, yeah.

Stanley Karnow:

I mean, you know, he's a neocon-Likudnik. And it's interesting because the evolution, when I first knew him it was during that Kennedy year, and he was very much against -- he was very much in the anti-Vietnam War movement and marching around and so forth. And as soon as the war ended, you know, he dropped that completely, and then became, you know, total kind of -- everything revolved around India. He called me up in the morning, Sunday morning and said, We've got to do a big piece denouncing India. I said, Denouncing India, you're killing a dead horse. He said, Oh, don't you realize India, they just left the PLO office in Delhi, we've got to deny it. Yeah, so. On and on it went. And then -- I don't know, does the magazine have any credibility now?

James Doyle:

Well, it lost it with this business. It's not just Glass but before that they had a young woman who was plagiarizing like crazy. And it's neocon and all that. So I don't --

Stanley Karnow:

Well it had to go bad, when he took over one of the first things he did was to fire the book editor, what was her name, lovely woman, it will come back to me. What he wanted to do was he wanted to give -- he wanted her to give favorable reviews to books by his friends. He wanted to ingratiate himself. You know, he was never really a member of the Cambridge community. He didn't go to Harvard. He went to Brandeis.

James Doyle:

Yeah.

Stanley Karnow:

He kind of bought himself into Harvard through his wife's money.

James Doyle:

Yes.

Stanley Karnow:

And so forth and then started strutting around like he was a --

James Doyle:

I think he was always just an assistant professor.

Stanley Karnow:

He was never even that. He started some (inaudible) Department which is a bullshit department. Anyway...

James Doyle:

So after a year --

Stanley Karnow:

I quit. So after he took it over it became untenable, but I really liked it while it was going. And I don't know what -- Gil Harrison has subsequently said selling it to Marty Peretz was the worst thing he ever did. And Marty fired Pincus. I quit. I quit because I wanted to do a story on the Mayaguez incident. Do you remember the Mayaguez?

James Doyle:

I sure do.

Stanley Karnow:

And he didn't want me to do a story about the Mayaguez incident because by this time the war is over in Vietnam. He ceased to be anti-war. And he, I don't know, on and on it goes. It was a lot of an accumulation of things, so I walked out.

James Doyle:

We're off the subject.

Stanley Karnow:

But then I had a -- you know, whenever I quit, I did have a little cushion. So I had a foundation had asked me to set up a syndicate to distribute articles by foreign writers in the States, so I did that. And then the next thing you know I got into the Vietnam television project, book.

James Doyle:

Yeah, that's good. What -- what have we not -- there's got to be something that I didn't cover.

Stanley Karnow:

Let me tell you about -- let me just talk about going back, if we can, about being a GI and the rest. You have a little time?

James Doyle:

Yes, we've got plenty of time. I just want to get this in the right place.

Stanley Karnow:

You know, this has something to do a little bit with my service. I'm a big supporter of universal military service. I think one of the terrible things is that -- that you have to share, the burden has to be shared even if it's -- for example, I think that if the children of the sons of the middle classes were being drafted to go to Vietnam, there would have been much more protest for the middle classes earlier than there was. Instead, you had the irony of the middle class kids getting college deferments and protesting against the war on the campuses, which is perfectly okay, while the lower classes, the blacks are out there fighting the war.

James Doyle:

Yeah.

Stanley Karnow:

And I think that the other thing about it, you know, I have at least one son could have been drafted. They never get to know anybody outside of their own little social circles. My kids, my sons they go to, you know -- [phone interruption]

James Doyle:

About your kids.

Stanley Karnow:

Well, you know, they've gone to fancy prep schools and all that. That's fine. I have no objection to that. But, you know, they don't know -- you know, they never met a truck driver or anything like that. You know, they live in a world of their own, and I think the draft has a lot to do with mixing you up with the rest of the country.

James Doyle:

And they don't understand a thing about the military, I mean my kids at least, and their attitude sort of is, Well, you know, those people, I admire them but I don't want to have anything to do with them, and I don't know anything about them, so...

Stanley Karnow:

Well, anyway, I didn't like the Army and nobody does, but I'm glad I did it. You know, how do you put it. It sounds a little sentimental, you know. I shared in one of the -- you know, I shared in the experience of our generation which is to serve in World War II. I also, you know, could say I shared in the second big experience of the 20th -- of American 20th Century which was all the time I spent in Vietnam. If you put World War II and Vietnam together, you know.

James Doyle:

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Yeah.

Stanley Karnow:

You know.

James Doyle:

The book is fabulous.

Stanley Karnow:

Thank you.

James Doyle:

The book is fabulous. It really is.

Stanley Karnow:

It's my annuity.

James Doyle:

But it's also a reference book. I've got a Vietnam shelf.

Stanley Karnow:

Yes, there's a lot of good books on Vietnam.

James Doyle:

There's a lot of outstanding books. Neil Sheehan's is a book that I love. But your book is the book you go to when you need to remember something.

Stanley Karnow:

It's the basic book. You know, I got in there early. It should be revised over and over again but, you know, how can you. Langiss (phonetic) did a very good book. Maraniss did a very good book.

James Doyle:

Oh, the new Maraniss book about the --

Stanley Karnow:

Vietnam.

James Doyle:

Yeah, I haven't read that. It's good, huh?

Stanley Karnow:

Yeah, it's good. They're all good.

James Doyle:

He's good.

Stanley Karnow:

Anyway, you know, it's funny kind of you look back.

James Doyle:

I'm going to turn this off. We don't need to -- unless if this is something that relates to your service.

Stanley Karnow:

No. Just sort of general. [Interview concluded.]

 
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  October 26, 2011
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