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Interview with Michael Haas [8/9/2004]

Steve Estes:

My name is Steve Estes and today is August 9, 2004, and I'm interviewing... Michael Haas

Michael Haas:

Michael Allen Haas of Wilmington, North Carolina.

Steve Estes:

You prefer Mike, right?

Michael Haas:

Right.

Steve Estes:

Okay, Mike, when and where were your born?

Michael Haas:

I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the 31st of October 1945.

Steve Estes:

And what did your parents do when you were born?

Michael Haas:

My father was a dentist in the McKees Rocks section around Pittsburgh, suburbs of Pittsburgh. And my mother was not working at that time, although years before had been a lab technician both at the Presbyterian hospital and what was then called Mellon Institute, which is now referred to as Carnegie Mellon University.

Steve Estes:

Did they meet in medical circumstances?

Michael Haas:

Well, they met on a blind date and dad was in dental school at the time. I think it was through a friend of my mother's who had dad as a friend; and he needed a date, they met, and got married. After dental school was over, he was then stationed in the Navy at the end of World War II. I think he graduated from medical school in 1944, so he just had a year or maybe a year and a half until he was discharged. They were at Great Lakes Naval Training Center near Chicago and also had a place called Farragut Naval Base, which was in Couer D'Alene, Idaho, of all place for the Navy, [laughs]

Steve Estes:

The positioning of the Naval bases can be kind of funny.

Michael Haas:

And that was only done during the war. A training station, and it was on a lake. And I guess there was really nothing else around it, but after the war it was completely shut down.

Steve Estes:

This is kind of jumping ahead, but did the fact that he had served in the Navy have any effect on your service?

Michael Haas:

Probably at least made me think about the military as a career and a good place to have a career. He always talked very positively about his time in the Navy, and, I think, in many ways was sometimes sorry that he didn't stay in because I think he certainly could have if he had wanted to. I think mom was of the feeling that they needed to be back around Pittsburgh, where her parents were, and she was an only child and that sort of thing. But dad always said he would have been happy, they both loved travel. To have been sent around the world and to have been a dentist at Naval installations all over the world, I think they both would have loved. He didn't mind wearing a uniform, and he didn't mind doing the same work every day and with somebody else to do the paperwork.

Steve Estes:

Yeah, my mom just started working as a doctor for the VA, in Charleston, and she is so much happier not having to do that paperwork.

Michael Haas:

My dad almost went into a position like that with the Veteran's Administration later in life and again I sort of think he was sorry he didn't.

Steve Estes:

How did you pick Johns Hopkins for school?

Michael Haas:

Well, it's sort of interesting. I graduated from Culver, which is now both boys and girls and a prep school in Indiana, northern Indiana. And I was sent out there because my parents really were not happy with the high school in the part of Pittsburgh where we were living after my 9th grade year. My grandfather said he would be happy to fit the bill for both my brother, who was three years younger, and myself to go a boarding school, a private school. So we got catalogues and all, and I wound up going to Culver, which the boy's side is a military academy and the girl's side is not military but a separate girl's school now-although at that time it was only the boy's school, there was no girl's school when I was there. At the end of that I was accepted and went to Gettysburg College, in Pennsylvania, a relatively medium sized, 1800 students at that point, liberal arts school. And after my first year decided that I wanted to transfer to some place, I think in a bigger town with more going on and wound up applying to Johns Hopkins, to the University of Pennsylvania, and to North Western University. Was accepted at all three and wound up going to Hopkins. Liked Hopkins very much as a school. I was a History major in the History department. And professors of mine were Stephen Ambrose. And Alfred Dupont Chandler was the head of the department at that point. David Donald was teaching civil war history. And there was another civil war professor who had just left for Yale, can't think of his name.

Steve Estes:

C. Vann Woodward?

Michael Haas:

Yeah, that was it. C. Vann Woodward, exactly.

Steve Estes:

Yeah, that department was huge in the 60's. It was one of the best departments in the country.

Michael Haas:

And I enjoyed Hopkins very much. As a school, I liked the intellectual challenge that was there, although I also found that it was a very difficult academic place. It was sort of like law school, in that I don't think that people look at Hopkins with nostalgia. In fact, I know many Hopkins Ph.D.'s that I've run into, especially at William and Mary, when we were living in Williamsburg, Virginia, who won't even support Hopkins at all with money because they just feel like they INAUDIBLE .. .and they really want nothing to do with the school. Except they're happy to have their degree, I think. My son went to William and Mary, he loved the school. My daughter went to Virginia Tech, she loved her school. I don't look at Hopkins that way.

Steve Estes:

So when you got out were you drafted?

Michael Haas:

No, I was in ROTC at Hopkins. And of course I was graduating in 1967, so pretty much we all figured you had to have something; you really had to go on to graduate school, the idea of being in school and not being eligible for the draft, that was disappearing. I had been in ROTC for essentially all four years. I was given credits my first year at Gettysburg because of my high school time. What was kind of interesting was that even though I was a History major, I did well in ROTC and was really a leader in it, especially as a senior, of the cadets. And the battalion at Johns Hopkins, you go through a summer camp between your junior and senior year. When it came to the total points earned in summer camp, I led the guys-and then it was all guys also at Johns Hopkins, which isn't the case anymore either. But I was the top cadet out of the Hopkins, let's say there were fifteen or eighteen or twenty people there for that summer. I had more points for all the different things you go through in the summer then the others. So when I got back to Hopkins, it was sort of interesting because as a junior that was my first year at Hopkins, nobody knew me particularly well. I think especially the ROTC staff said well, who's this guy, he just got here and he's our best cadet, now what do we do, because the person we had tagged to be the cadet's high commander was somebody else. So they made me the assistant to him, so it's the Deputy Commander of the Cadet Battalion. Anyway, I just did well at ROTC. I found the academics at Hopkins very challenging, in fact at Gettysburg I had what I would consider a "B+" almost and an "A" average on things. My very first semester at Johns Hopkins, I had straight "C's. And I was sort of in a panic because I had sort of expected to go on to law school, and I said I should have stayed at Gettysburg, where I had good grades. And Hopkins really threw me for a loop. Part of the problem also was though I was taking a very heavy load because I was on transfer and I had lost a bunch of credits. Gettysburg gave you credit for things like ROTC and gym and other things, and Hopkins didn't do that. Hopkins was very academic.

Steve Estes:

So was there anti-war talk amongst ROTC folks or were most your peers in that group pretty gung-ho about the war?

Michael Haas:

I think most of the ROTC people were-I don't know if you'd say Hopkins were gung-ho over the war, but they certainly weren't making comments that this was bad. In fact, it was sort of a wait-and-see attitude. Now my senior certainly there were a couple of teach-ins, but certainly nothing extreme. And one of the people who talked against the war was Stephen Ambrose, who was there doing work on the Eisenhower Papers and he taught some undergraduate courses as well. Taught War in the Modern World which I happened to take, and I still think was probably the best course I took in college or anywhere because he was always such a good storyteller. I mean, every class, nobody missed one. It was the greatest hour of the week, or couple hours of the week, just to listen to him. And he-I wasn't there, I think I had a class going on or something going on when this particular meeting, it was just sort of a big rally, took place. But what I was told was that his comment was essentially that it's just not in our national interest. He wasn't against it because he was a pacifist, but because he just didn't think in our national interest this was going to be worthwhile. And I think there were lots of clear-heads who were saying that. And I think I myself, I just don't know. Well, I always tend to believe that well if the government thinks there's something to do with this, maybe there is. And you might not want to be too much against it because just maybe they're right, we don't know. I don't know. And Hopkins has a small ROTC contingent, I mean out of my senior class, I don't remember if it was thirteen or fifteen that were actually commission but that was it. And Hopkins at that point had only about 1500 to maybe 1700 undergraduates.

Steve Estes:

So yeah, that's a really small percentage of the class.

Michael Haas:

Yeah, so it's quite small. And it wasn't like ROTC made a big dent on campus. When you wore your uniform, there were not too many around on Tuesday in uniforms.

Steve Estes:

So you said you weren't drafted, in ROTC you were basically going to serve to pay for the college, right?

Michael Haas:

Right, no, I did not have an ROTC scholarship, so that's a little different today. I think you'll find most people who are juniors and seniors in ROTC probably have a scholarship. And then they only offered two scholarships per year, and on transferring I think I probably could have had the scholarship at Gettysburg, but when they knew I was transferring to Hopkins, they gave that scholarship to somebody else. And Hopkins didn't even know I was coming when they gave out the scholarships, so I didn't get a scholarship at all. And my dad-[laughs] a year at Hopkins cost then about $2000, so it wasn't all that terrible ... by today's standards at least. I mean it was expected, you were going to do something in your junior and senior year when you went into the Advanced Cadet Corp. You're going to have to serve somehow and with the war on Vietnam on, you were going to serve on active duty, I think everybody knew that but not everybody went to Vietnam. But in the end I wound up being stationed there.

Steve Estes:

Take me to your first assignment.

Michael Haas:

Right, when I graduated, in fact it's sort of interesting, I received a TWIX Cable, which was phoned into you first, then they arrived by mail. And it said to report to Fort Hood, Texas on a certain date. And it was really difficult because I think we graduated at Hopkins about the 15th of June. Hopkins always started late and graduated late. And they wanted me at Fort Hood, Texas on the 16th or 17th, so I couldn't even drive it there that quick. It turned out that that was just a general date and that was all fixed up, as I wound up flying down to Texas with just a couple of days after graduation. Bought a car then, bought a VW bug, in Temple, Texas. Took a bus to Temple to buy a car. Paid in cash for about $1800, bought a new car. And drove to Fort Hood, checked in. And Fort Hood then was a very big installation. Not sure if it's quite as big anymore, but then it held 2 divisions and each division held 15,000-18,000 soldiers. The First Armored Division and Second Armored Division there, so it was all tanks and armored personnel carriers. And my initial orders sent me to the Second Armored Division, but for some reason I got there and they said no you're really going to be stationed at the First Armored Division. So it took a day or two to figure out just where I was to go. Then I was sent to the 2nd Battalion, 46th Infantry regiment and that was my first duty station. I spent from June of 1967 until almost, I guess it was about Christmas of 1968, so it was the rest of'67 and virtually all of'68 at Fort Hood. And I was second lieutenant. Arrived brand new and actually arrived there before going back then to Fort Benning, Georgia and going through the infantry officer's basic course and then also through ranger's school. And I was in ranger's school through December, in fact, we graduated just a couple of days before Christmas 1967. Then went back to Fort Hood and stayed at Fort Hood essentially all of 1968.

Steve Estes:

What was ranger's school like?

Michael Haas:

Ranger's school was pretty tough. You're cold, hungry, tired for nine weeks. And you do lots of really difficult things that maybe if you looked at a list at the beginning of ranger's school, you probably said, no, I can't do that or that's just too much, I don't think I can do it. But if you just took it a day at a time, I found that you could do it. Just did all these things that were in different phases. The first three weeks was at Fort Benning, Georgia and it was pretty much a weeding out phase and a strengthening phase. You just did a lot of exercises, you learned how to tie knots, you learned how to patrol, being out with just what's on your back and maps and map reading And you did all these things for three weeks. Then you went to the mountain phase, which was in a place called Dahlonega, Georgia. There's a big mountain there. You did mountain climbing; you did a lot of patrolling. You're up in the mountains, of course by that time, it was October or November and it was cold. You made these big fires at night. You had to watch around the fire; somebody had to be awake at all times. Then you were on mission's all day. For two weeks at a time, you wouldn't be around running water or a building or barracks or anything like that. You were just completely in these groups or patrols out doing the patrolling. And you had a couple of instructor's with you. And they suffered as much as you did. They ate the same food. They were just as cold and tired and hungry, I guess as everybody else. [double talk]

Steve Estes:

Go ahead. What were you saying?

Michael Haas:

I was just going to say the last phase was at Elgin Air Force Base, in Florida, and that was a swamp phase. And that's especially since there was a war in Vietnam going on, that was important because it wasn't really jungle, but you were in the marsh and swamp. And sometimes you were literally walking through swamp all day. I mean, your feet would not dry.

Steve Estes:

What I was going to say is you didn't end up using the ranger training, is that right?

Michael Haas:

Yes and no. I guess you kind of get hardened if nothing else. I had never been through anything like this before. I wound up then being stationed then in a port facility in Vietnam and I spent my entire year there, but the one thing we did once in a while was to go out on patrol and essentially just make sure people weren't sort of getting to close or planting explosives in the marsh that was around where the ships would be and that sort of thing. And I did that a couple of times, although that was not my job there. The person whose job it was to do that [laughs] said, well, look Haas, you're the ranger here, I'm not, you ought to be doing this stuff. So a few times I went out and sort of helped him out with that, but again I had my own job to do. So that was really true, I was not out in the boonies, you might say, leading patrols like the movie Platoon or something like that, that was not my job in Vietnam.

Steve Estes:

Well, let's get you there. Is there anything about your time at Fort Hood you think shaped you or shaped your future military career?

Michael Haas:

Not really. I mean most everybody there was a brand new lieutenant like I was, a very huge amount of people. One of the fellows there-and it's a very tragic story-was with me in high school and he was in the 2nd Armored Division. We had met, we must have just run into each other at the Post Exchange or something one day. We didn't know each other was there, and we said let's go have lunch together, and we did. He had been my roommate my junior year in high school. We were in a three-man room, so there was three of us living there. Then a few weeks after that-and I didn't know about this until a number of weeks after it happened-he was riding his motorcycle and was killed in a traffic accident just off Fort Hood. But it's such a huge place, Fort Hood, for one thing, it's not like you have major newspapers in the area and really, even local news-although I'm trying to think, I think the only television stations were like in Austin, and I think it was owned by Mrs. LBJ, Ladybird Johnson. Her family owned the TV station, there was only one TV station in Austin and I think that was the nearest TV station. I never found out about his death until I ran into a third guy who had been in high school with us, one day, accidentally, on post, and he said, we'll have to go to lunch. And I said, yeah, let's go to lunch, I'll call this other fellow and we will all go together, and he grabbed my shoulder and say Mike, you didn't hear, he was killed three or four weeks ago, and we were really amazed that you weren't at his funeral. I didn't know anything about it. There were many days I didn't get home from work until eight or nine at night, you always just had all this work to do. You were preparing soldiers to go to Vietnam. It was just sort of the way things were. Hood was a very interesting place for a brand new second lieutenant because it was very big, very full of tradition. You had not only the two divisions, but you had the Third Corps Headquarters. The Corps usually has a couple of divisions put together. I remember going to a ceremony where the Corps commander, who is a lieutenant general, was replaced with a new person coming in and literally you had the two divisions pass and review. And when a division forms to pass and review, that is a big group of men all marching in one solid block. You know you have 15,000 people marching. You don't see that very often. So there was a lot of things about the military you saw there that for a new lieutenant were sort of mind-boggling.

Steve Estes:

The logistics are made real there, I guess.

Michael Haas:

That's really true. And Fort Hood is sort of in the middle of nowhere. I often laugh, and I used to get into a sort of a major traffic jam going on to post in the morning and I thought if a satellite is looking down at the United States at traffic jams, they'd see this major traffic jam in the middle of the desert, [laughs] There's nothing here. There's no town, there's a very little town, INAUDIBLE, Texas was very small. But you have 30,000 people going to work everyday in the middle of nowhere. So little things like that I would find kind of interesting. It was also the time of the flower children. There were coffee houses, one down in Austin that was very anti-military, anti-war, and sometimes some of their material-they had a newspaper they put out and that sort of thing-was just circulated on post. Sort of had all that stuff kind of there. The idea seemed to be don't go to this particular coffee house because you may be photographed there by criminal investigation people or intelligence people and you don't want to wind up in trouble. And I really wasn't into that, but I was pretty neutral. I mean, I didn't look at the war as being a great thing. I saw the war as being-I described it to neighbors one time, he was a World War II veteran and always being stupid, and he just really got upset with me about that. . . . These wars are important and they're necessary, and if we need to defeat communism. .. and that was before I went. When I got back, I think I felt even more that we have a whole lot of people dying, and I'm not sure in the end if this is going to mean anything.

Steve Estes:

So when you got your orders to go there, what was your feeling at that point?

Michael Haas:

I sort of expected it. I didn't. . .1 was pretty resigned to the fact that I was just going to go. Most of my friends went, to be honest, if they were military. Not everybody did, but many did. We were all sort of prepared to go. I had gone back December of 1968. What was kind of interesting is-and it takes a lot of explanation on this, I guess-my commission, when I was commissioned at Johns Hopkins, I was given a regular Army commission in the transportation corps detail to the infantry. So what that meant was I was going to spend the first year or two in the infantry, but then I was going to go into my basic branch, which was transportation corps, and I was going to go to Vietnam that way. So before I went to Vietnam, I was sent to the transportation school at Fort Eustis. And that was early 1969. And I got to Vietnam, I'm think June of'69. Well, I was at Fort Eustis from January until probably early May of'69 in two different courses: one was the transportation corps officer's orientation course and that was like a basic course but shorter, since you had already been through a basic course; and then I went through what was called the Cargo Officer's Course, which prepared you to be what they called a Cargo Officer or be in charge of ship offloading and moving, just the logistics of getting things on and off ships... all of the paperwork it actually takes to ship huge amounts of goods back and forth. So I went to both of those courses there. And again, pretty much everybody in those courses was on their way to Vietnam, although a couple of people went to Korea and some went to Germany or even England at that point, but many of those went to Vietnam after they went to Germany or England.

Steve Estes:

What were your first impressions of Vietnam when you got there?

Michael Haas:

When I first got there, it was very interesting because I flew in on a 707 TWA and I boarded the plane at Oakland-what's the Air Force Base near Oakland, California? . . .1 can't think of the name, but anyway, it's the big Air Force Base that's there.

Steve Estes:

It's not Moffett Field, is it?

Michael Haas:

No, it's . . . um. .

Steve Estes:

It's okay.

Michael Haas:

Anyway. I actually flew in and checked into the Oakland Army Terminal and then they took me over to the big Air Force Base. And I flew out from there. And I wound out being on a plane with one of the fellows who was in that same Cargo Officer's Course with me., and we sat together on the plane on the way over. It's like a nineteen or twenty hour flight. They had a stop in... Hawaii, but nobody was in a good mood, [laughs] ... So we got back on the plane and I think then stopped in Guam and then went into Ton Son Nuht AFB, Saigon. What amazed me on the flight into Saigon was I had never before been on a plane that stayed so high for so long and then came down so quickly. Now my son has just got back from Baghdad and he tells me about these . . . spiral, kind of a corkscrew landings they do there. So they stay almost-they go in at reasonably high altitude, 5-6000 feet, and then sort of corkscrew down onto the runway below them. They didn't do that, they came down straight away, but I've never been on a plane where you just hung onto your seat as you were going down and everything in the plane that wasn't anchored down just went flying towards the front of the plane. Because you're just on angle that is unbelievable. I didn't know planes flew at that kind of an angle. And we looked at each other like are we supposed to be doing this. . .should we be saying are prayers or what's going on. And that's how you landed. You just came [roars] right in that way. and as you got close though you also saw all of these pockmarked areas, just all these craters, everywhere around you. And after the plane landed, then you're thinking what comes next, do they throw a rifle at you when you jump off the plane, [laughs] Well, no a bus came out, an Army bus, painted all drab. An Air Force Bus and it has screens, not just bug screens, but screens to keep out grenades on the windows. Heavy duty-type wire mesh on the windows. We got on board and we were taken to a central place where we got our bags, which was just a duffle bag, really. Then were taken to a place where everybody was sort of in process. And you got your assignment. And the assignments are interesting because you sort of checked in, they took your orders etc., so they said here's a bunk and every couple of hours we're going to put names up on a particular board and you just look at that board and it will tell you what your assignment is and when you're going to be picked up. So it was a long flight, a long day. I remember going into this place that was a sort of cafe. They asked me what I'd like to drink, and they had all these beers there. And I said, oh, I'll take a beer. I was very thirsty and I drank two beers relatively quickly. I was really wobbling around, [laughs] I hadn't had a whole lot to eat. I went back on the bunk to just lay down and the next time when I woke up, I went up to the list and there was my name; it said Saigon Support Command, and it had what time I was going to be picked up. A bus came, picked me up, and took me into downtown Saigon. I said, well, Saigon doesn't sound too bad. At least it's not DMZ or something that sounded a lot worse. I wound up spending a night then, it was just one night, at a hotel in downtown Saigon called The Rex. It was sort of a transit type hotel. It was pretty much just a third-world country hotel. There wasn't anything fancy, but it was a bunk. I remember all the noise and the smell of Saigon. You see kind of movies of Hong Kong this way, just teaming streets, people everywhere in these little cars, motorbikes, everything, just zooming around. Lots of noise. And lots of smoke and the smell was diesel and the fuel smell everywhere. Largely caused by all of these little motorbikes everywhere. And after a night of that, I was taken off to the place where I was going and that was this US Army Terminal Newport, which was up the Saigon River a few miles from Saigon itself. It was really kind of pleasant. I mean, the Saigon River sort of meanders, lots of turns, and the Navy had built this rather good-sized port facility. It held four, what they call, deep draft vessels or typical cargo ships. It also held two landing ship tanks, LST's, which tended to come, it seemed, from Korea. It had a bunch of barges that were always there too. And the barges were sort of shipped then all around Vietnam with stuff on them; they could carry any kind of cargo that was necessary. So it was the four deep draft vessel WORD that were interesting to me because they were almost always full and these were your typical cargo ships of the day from Moore McCormick Lines WORD Lines, all of the big cargo shippers that were American flag shippers were used. And there were some also from Panama that would also come. One of the one's that would come often times was a United Fruit Company refrigerator ship called the Mattapan. That would make a trip from the Philippines with frozen and refrigerated cargo. It was food for the troops, and it would all come into our port and have to be offloaded and put onto refrigerated trucks and sent all over sort of the central part of South Vietnam. There were other places South of there, WORD, and a few others, and a place called Cam Ranh Bay that was a port that was north of us a ways, so these were other port facilities were other ships were also coming and going all the time. One of the things I found interesting was Foremost dairies had a couple of dairies they operated in Saigon. So as you went around downtown Saigon, you'd see these big Foremost dairy trucks everywhere, [laughs] It just seemed a little unusual, here you were in Saigon and there were Foremost dairy trucks all around. They were servicing all of the US military facilities there.

Steve Estes:

So what was everyday life like at the terminal? I mean, you kind of described it, the ships coming in, unloading, and distributing the food to the troops across the country, what was your main job there?

Michael Haas:

Well, I was the director of administration for the port and the WORD or the S-l off the battalion, and that's sort of the administration person, the paperwork guy. From all of the civilians that worked there belonged essentially to me. we paid them, hired and fired them There were civilian personnel regulations for the Vietnamese, just like there are for Americans who work for the federal government. We took care of soldiers coming and going and ordered replacements. When people were ready to WORD, that was when you returned from overseas; you were usually there for 365 days and then you went back to the states, unlike Iraq today were units go and units come back. There the units stayed and the people transferred every year, so you constantly had people coming and going. The guy in the next office, he might have gotten there a month after you so he stays a month longer than you. And then he goes, and he's replaced. So you had this constant coming and going of people. It was a port that operated 24 hours a day, so you really had two shifts of people down at the port facility itself, the unloading and loading of the ships. And I really I didn't ever have to go down there, unless I wanted to. And some days I would just sort of do it to get out of the office, to walk down, because I was trained as a cargo officer. And all of the stevedores were contract hires that were Vietnamese, so there was a stevedores company called Trieu Tiet. They contacted with the US government to be the stevedores at this port, so they had two complete ships of stevedores there. Each worked a twelve hour day. And American soldiers in charge of what was going on did the same thing. But most of the soldiers lived near Ton Son Nuht AFB, which was probably, I'm thinking, maybe a thirty-five, forty, fifty minute ride from Newport. There was a convoy that came and went everyday with those soldiers. And maybe it was six at night that would come and would take back the ones that were ready to go off and bring the new troops down. And six in the morning would do the same thing. So you constantly had this convoy twice a day, which had personnel carriers or the Marines used these vehicles that were rubber-wheeled, kind of looked like a mini-tank on rubber wheels. They would kind of lead the convoy, so you did have protection for the convoy when it came and went, although never in my year there was the convoy ever attacked coming or going. But in the years past then, it happened.

Steve Estes:

Did you lose any friends while you were over in Vietnam?

Michael Haas:

I did not that I knew of at the time. Now there were thirteen of us that were commissioned in ROTC at Johns Hopkins. One of those thirteen was killed in Vietnam. He was actually killed-and I didn't know this until a number of years later-he was a friend in that we knew each other from ROTC. We were not roommates, we were not real close. He was in fraternity that I had connection with, so socially we rarely ever saw each other, but ROTC-wise were friends and got along fine, and i really enjoyed knowing him, his name was Pete Tripp. This is kind of interesting because, he was killed when-he was an infantry type person. I'm not sure if he was a second or first lieutenant, but in his battalion headquarters, when it was hit by a rocket. They were sort of in this sandbagged house of some sort that had been made with sandbags. It was their headquarters, and it had been hit by some sort of a missile or a rocket with a delayed fuse, so it went through the sandbags and exploded inside. I think three or four people were killed. Sergeant Major was standing by the door, was blown out the door and survived, in fact, was not really injured. But those inside, and Pete was one of them, were all killed, including the battalion commander, a lieutenant colonel. And the executive officer happened to be out checking the lines and he survived. But when I went back to Hopkins for my thirtieth reunion, my first time back there really going to Johns Hopkins, [laughs] because it was not really that great. I didn't really have any desire to go back, to be honest, but I did go back for my thirtieth reunion, about six or eight of us from ROTC were back there for that reunion. And when I got back there, I said, you know, I've been looking around and I don't think there's any memorial for those who died in Vietnam. I said, Come to think of it, I haven't seen any memorial for Korea either. Gilman Hall has really big, beautiful granite memorials for World War I and World War II, but that's all I see. and one of the other fellows said, well, gee, Mike, if want to try and organize something to get a memorial on with the alumni, I'd be glad to help you out with whatever you need. So when I got back from this, I wrote to the ¿rector of the alumni association, I told him what we saw there. And he says, wait until I check around and I'll get back to you. He did, and he says, you're right, there is no memorial. And I told him I'd be happy to be the point-man on doing this because we feel very strongly that Pete Tripp needs to be remembered, because he was the one we all knew from the class of'67. I think in the end eight different Hopkins people had died in Vietnam. Well, I thought this was going to be a very easy thing to do. I figured I'd just write to the alumni association again and say give us your list of who you think died in Vietnam and in Korea and we'll put it in the alumni magazine and we'll see if there are any others. Then we'll just get somebody to give us some money, Michael Bloomberg, you know, is a Hopkins grad, 1964, maybe he can afford a granite memorial or something. Well, it turned out nobody at Hopkins had a clue who died in these wars. Not a clue. And they didn't even know where to start, and I said, well, how about the alumni magazines. "Oh, well, we don't keep them all. They only go back so far." [laughs] I just was appalled at this. So what we wound up doing, I put a notice-with the alumni association's help and all-we put a notice in the alumni magazine and it said, "Group of alumni are spearheading the making of a memorial for those who died in Korea and in Vietnam. If you know somebody who died out of your class or anybody, send that information to ..." and it had my name and address and my email address. And I started to get mail, and we started to keep a list. That was how it was done.

Steve Estes:

Highly scientific process, [laughs]

Michael Haas:

Yeah, it was truly amazing. And the memorial then was put up at our thirty-fifth reunion and it's beautiful. I don't know who gave the money. I jokingly said Michael Bloomberg, they kind of laughed and said, well, you might be right, [laughs] So I don't know, that may be where the money came from, I don't know. He also gave a building there, the new physics, astronomy building, that must be a billion dollar building. It is one gigantic building with just all kinds of stuff inside, but anyway, that's how Hopkins got this. One thing I find interesting, the alumni association after this, there was another alumni director who came in, and he was an older man. And I think he just wanted to get rid of this as a project. He didn't have time for this, so I got a letter from him one day and it said, gee, Mike, thanks for all your help, I've given everything that you've done so far to the ROTC department and they're taking over from here .. .goodbye, [laughs] Well, when I came and I saw the monument, it had two guys on there with almost the same name. One of them is our guy, the other one [laughs] just got-I think it was a mix-up. The ROTC director at the time said, well, I was kind of given this time limit, like we need the names right now because we are going to start carving, so I thought it'd be better to put those names on to make sure we didn't forget anybody. My idea was I had much rather had had it accurate. So the person who's on there is wrong, died in Vietnam but he has no Hopkins connection. And he has everything but his first name is the same as a Hopkins guy, but see, the Hopkins guy was not on the Vietnam memorial in Washington DC. which is where the ROTC department is getting its information because he was not military. The Hopkins guy was State Department, and they're not on that memorial, unless they have some military connection. He's on the State Department memorial at the Department of State Headquarters. He was killed. He was in-it was one of these programs to sort of help pacify the villages and that sort. He was doing a very difficult-he was a pacifist himself and his jeep hit a landmine and he died. But anyway. Pete was the only person in our class from the ROTC side of things who was killed in Vietnam. There was also another class of '67 fellow who died, and at least one from the class of '68, but I don't think he graduated. I think he left Hopkins, enlisted and then died. But in the end, I think there were eight or ten from Vietnam and about six or seven from Korea.

Steve Estes:

Taking you back to Vietnam, do you remember your time as a "short-timer" there?

Michael Haas:

At the very end of my time, yeah . . ,um... it was sort of funny because you get this short-timer type-I mean, everybody joked how many days you had left, and you were "short" when you got down to under ninety days. One of the-was a warrant officer who was actually in charge of all the mechanics in the motor poll-the name for him, it's sort of the person in charge of the motor pull, warrant officer there. He took some wire and made this very little ladder and it would hook around your bed. [laughs] It was only like a foot high, and it said you're so short, you need a ladder to get into your bed. The last person leaving had that ladder by his bed. The other thing that was kind of funny, when you got there, you paid a certain amount of money into a fund, a INAUDIBLE fund, so that when you left, you got this plaque and they were actually ordered by the INAUDIBLE, which was me, from a store in downtown Saigon. And the Vietnamese were very good at making money off the Americans. Whatever we needed done, they could make something out of nothing. You could show them a picture of a suit, and if you could get them some material or get them an Army blanket somehow, they would make you whatever you needed. They could make you a flight jacket, whatever you wanted. And then they could copy things just by longing at them in magazines. I noticed that the Chinese do the same thing right now with all kinds of... [laughs] But anyway, you get this plaque, there was a place-we lived in this . .. [side of tape ends] [other side of tape begins]

Steve Estes:

Okay, go for it.

Michael Haas:

There were specific architects and engineers, P-A-N-E, they were kind of like the Halliburton people of today: everything you needed done over there for a price. We used to say "P-A-N-E" stood for "Problems, Alibis N Excuses." It's just like Halliburton in that it's also a very tough job, not everybody wants to do it, and of course they can charge a good deal of money to do these things since they are in a war zone too. And a lot of the people who worked there were retired military of one sort or another. We lived in this place that had been built by them INAUDIBLE, but it had sort of a little lounge area and had a refrigerator and kind of a bar setup type thing. And the refrigerator would have beer and Coke and things like that inside, but on the wall everybody had their plaque. And the plaque sort of moved up the wall so that the one at the very top was the next guy to leave. Then when you first go there, your plaque was at the very bottom. And it took, of course, twelve months until you were finally up there at the top. So it's always nice to see your thing at the top, your plaque at the top; you had the short-timers' ladder. I think what really bothered me though, on the day that I left was I didn't want to go because you feel like you're letting everybody else down. If the whole unit went, that would have been fine. And I think my son saw that that was sort of nice, from Iraq: the whole unit packs up and goes. But when you go and the people that are still there who have become friends and are nice people to work with, and you've had a reasonably good year- although it's a tough year and you have very little time off and you're always in uniform. But at the same time there were benefits too, I spent a week in Australia and I spent a week in Hong Kong. One was on leave and the other was on R&R, which didn't count towards your leave time. And I'm not sure I was ever charged for my time in Hong Kong either so it was like two weeks vacation. And especially the trip to Australia was just great, I lived on WORD Beach, just pretty hard to go back to Vietnam after that. And when I went to Hong Kong, it was still British of course and it was really a lot of fun, like you can buy anything you wanted there at low prices. Got all of my stereo equipment, some of which has just, in the last few years, worn out. I had a Sansui tuner and things like that, people said, "you've had this so long they don't make them like this anymore, you can't buy any of these that will last more than five years. Here you've had this thing for almost thirty years now."

Steve Estes:

What was coming home like?

Michael Haas:

I was very happy. You're on a flight. It's kind of interesting, when we left Ton Son Nuht, we got some rockets into the area just outside the fence at the Air Force Base. And all of a sudden here we are ready to board our plane or getting ready to board, and we are instead taken into a bunker, [laughs] It's like, oh my God, maybe we're not going to get out of here after all. Well, finally everything was clear, the "all clear" sign was given. We board the plane, we take off. We land then in Japan. By that time it was early morning. It was the Yokota AFB in Japan, and we were able to get off. You went into sort of a post exchange. I bought a lens for my camera there that was kind of neat. Bought a rice paper drawing, my only souvenir of Japan, and then boarded the plane again and off we went, then landed in Seattle at Sea-Tac Airport, the commercial airport there. Refueled, got off the plane, but the airport was essentially closed. It was like three in the morning or something like that. Almost nothing was open. We were allowed to stand around the airport, but there wasn't anything there. We were kind of told "don't go anywhere" because you haven't been through customs and that sort of thing. So it really wasn't much of a homecoming. Then I landed-the flight landed at Fort Dix McGuire in New Jersey. What was kind of funny was my initial orders back-I was getting out of the Army at that point to go to law school, getting completely out of the Army. My packet to do that was at Oakland Army terminal. My initial orders had been to the Air Force Base we can't think of the name of but it's right there at Oakland. They had asked me though, in Saigon, "where are you actually going?" I said I'm going back to Pittsburgh, which is my home, he said, oh, we have the next flight out of here is going to McGuire, we still have seats, I can get you on that, it will be right there. I said, fine, [coughs] So then we get to McGuire, they look at my orders, they go, well, you're in the out-process out of the Army, oh, gee, your out-process packet is in Oakland, California. I just-I had twenty hours of flight, just got off the plane, the fellow says, we have a flight leaving for Oakland in about forty minutes, we'll have you right on it. [laughs] Oh, no, I'm not going anywhere else, can't you just do it here? So they made a few phone calls and said, okay, we can do it here. So they said, we'll get your orders later, but I can out-process you here. So I completely out-processed out of the Army. It was really kind of a tough thing because they took my ID card and they cut it in half. Boom, you're gone, goodbye. And they gave me a ticket to Pittsburgh. So I got back to Pittsburgh that way and saw my family again. I was not married or anything. Took a cab home, and I really hadn't called them or anything. They knew about when I'd be home, but didn't know anything for sure. Really didn't have any time to call, and of course didn't have cell phones or anything, [laughs] Seemed like every place I got it was like, oh I guess, "twenty minutes to get to the next flight and here it is, see if you can get there on time." So that was just how I got back.

Steve Estes:

I have just several questions and there all kind of vying for supremacy. I guess, if you had to sum up your time in Vietnam and how it affected you, what would you say?

Michael Haas:

I look at my year in Vietnam as just one of my twenty years in the Army. I think what surprises me about some people-after that, if I can go ahead a number of years to when I was stationed in New York city, there I was not only the Senior JAG at the post but for much of the time I was also the Deputy Post Commander. Because it's a small post, the post commander was a full colonel. If he went on leave or on vacation, I was the commander often times. So he would ask me to represent him at speeches, often times on-the USS Intrepid was the big aircraft carrier there. They have a lot of Veteran's Day speeches, Veteran's Day ceremonies, that sort of thing. I think the commander sort of got tired of doing a lot of that, [laughs] He would just say, ah, well, here Mike, why don't you go give this speech. And I would give the speech and that sort of thing. Well, you go to these things, you always had this group from the Vietnam Veterans of America. These are guys-they're all guys, I didn't know any gals who were in it-these are guys and it's almost like their life stopped in Vietnam, in 1967 or '66 or '68, whenever they were there. They all sort of looked scruffy, they had beards. They still wear their old jungle fatigues around with all their medals on it if they have any. They have big patches on their sleeves, Vietnam Veterans of America. They just look like they're one step above homeless. I guess my though often times was they look at me, I'm in my green uniform, they see my ribbons, they know I was in Vietnam. Here I am, a lieutenant colonel, who still looks pretty normal, I guess, and here they are in these old jungle fatigues that they're going to wear until they're thread-bare, feeling sorry about how terrible the war was, how difficult it was from them and how it ruined their lives, and I guess I have a tough time figuring out why that happened to them and it didn't happen to me. . . . Most-99.9% of the people I know who served in Vietnam are very well-adjusted family type people who spent a year in Vietnam. I mean, I don't know. If it was just what I did there, the fact that I wasn't in a direct combat position the whole time, or if it just effects some people differently, or if people have a different psyche when they go into the war and when they see what's going on, it just effects them in such a way. I have a tough time dealing with those differences, I guess. And I really look at my year in Vietnam as just another year in the Army. Maybe it's because I could have done the job I did at Fort Hood or anywhere else, except in Vietnam you got less sleep and you worked six and a half days a week or at least six days a week, if not six and a half and sometimes seven days a week. In a lot of ways, Vietnam was a lot easier than Ranger's school, I don't know. But I think that's a very good point to ask. ... I think I saw lots of people. I enjoyed working with a lot of the people I saw. I had a lot of young enlisted people, all drafted for the most part, most of them drafted, who were from all over the country and who did their jobs fine. I mean, really everybody-people sometimes laugh about the military and say, everybody gets such good efficiency reports, good fitness reports, it must be mostly a lie. Most people do their job. Really, most people do their job. Most people. I was always amazed at how many very young enlisted people would say to me, sir, any job that's worth doing is worth doing right. I guess if anything, I left Vietnam feeling that the people that we had in the Army there were for the most part very good people. There were some-there were racial problems, but we really didn't see that at the port. We heard about that in the living areas near the Air Force Base, and that was called Long Binh up there, that's where people lived, most of our people lived. There were talks about black versus white ... used the term "riot," not sure if it was any riot, but fights or words spoken and people throwing things at each other and that sort of thing. We never saw that at the port. Although we didn't really have a lot of African-Americans working at the port that I recall. There were some . . . many might have been in other areas, like especially food services and that sort of thing, but we didn't see that much.

Steve Estes:

I was going to ask you a bunch of questions or a series of questions about your time after Vietnam, but for the sake of brevity in the interview, I guess I would kind of shrink those into one question: can you talk about how your life in the military evolved after you came back from law school?

Michael Haas:

Well, what I did-this was kind of strange in that I was in law school as a civilian only for almost the first semester. So I got out of the army-was in Vietnam June of'69 and June of'70 and got out of the Army and entered law school in September of '70. About Christmas time, I got a letter from the Army inviting me back in because they needed people in my MOS and they said that this was called the Selective Recall Program, if you would like to come back into the Army, we will allow that. And after they called and talked with me, they said if you want to go to law school under an Army program, there's a chance to do that. So I went back into the Army at that point. I actually physically left law school and said, well, I'm going to do that and I'm going to look at other options because I just really didn't know what I wanted to do and I wasn't sure if law school was what I really wanted. In fact, I wasn't sure law school was for me the entire way through. But anyway, went back into the military, then went to Fort Hood, Texas-uh, no, went to Ft. Eustis, Virginia, and became a military police company commander for about a year and a half. Then applied for the JAG Excess Leave program, went through that, started law school again as an Army officer though on excess leave in 1973. Graduated in 1976.

Steve Estes:

Where were you in law school the second time?

Michael Haas:

I went to Duquesne in Pittsburgh, Duquesne University. And that's where I also was for that first time. So they put me back, although I had to retake the LSAT's because my score was not high enough to get back in. And I retook it and did better the second time around, so I was able to get back in that way. And I graduated then in '76. Then in 1974 I was married, after my first year in law school. Then in '76, when I graduated from law school, passed the Pennsylvania bar and then was stationed in Germany for three years after that. What it really did-the law school experience changed my direction in the Army because before that I had been a transportation officer then a military police officer then finally a JAG. And the JAG I was in for the rest of my twenty-year career. I retired then in '88. One bad thing about being a JAG is that's all you really are. I mean there are other interesting jobs WORD in the Army that an infantry officer or some others can take, like being a liaison or a military advisor of an embassy or that sort of thing, but that's really not open to JAGs. JAGs fill JAG positions. They fill attorney positions all over the world, but that's really all they do. So in some ways I found that I was not as excited about being a JAG as I was about being an Army Officer in general, because I'm a very good, I think, manager of people and assets. Give me people and money and a building and we get things done. I maybe didn't find that the court room was something I enjoyed nearly as much.

Steve Estes:

Let me ask about sexuality and how the military dealt with sexuality while you were in the service. How did that evolve? Well, actually, let me step back and ask this question: did you know soldiers who were gay that served with you?

Michael Haas:

It's very interesting that my . . . I'm trying to think . . . certainly early on I never heard or had discussions about people who were gay. In fact, almost the entire way through the military it was that way. At Ford Hood, as a young lieutenant, I remember that there was another private in the unit who all of a sudden was investigated for-what I was told was another soldier had woken up and this fellow was playing with his penis. But all of a sudden that soldier was gone and I never saw or heard what happened to him, to be honest. I just never heard anything else after that. All through my career, especially towards the end of the career and as lieutenant colonel, you would sometimes serve with other officers who were maybe not directly in my chain of command-I didn't know them well. But they were unmarried, they seemed a little bit-well, sometimes the stereotypical-seemed a little feminine maybe. Were not married but yet were lieutenant colonels, but nothing was ever said publicly anywhere about anything. And even in New York City there was a little bit more joking, or at least the term came up more just because Greenwich Village Christopher Street wasn't that far away. And that sort of thing. And we had a band who was stationed there at Fort Hamilton, one of my last assignments and my only assignment in New York, so there was always this feeling that probably there were gay members of this band who do other things, maybe even appear with other organizations that may have gay members and that sort of thing. But I think almost always the military was very careful about anybody saying anything. I find this interesting because in high school and in college, I was a wrestler, and in the Army, I used to organize wrestling groups or teams. In fact, even in New York, got them to buy a wrestling mat, they didn't have one there. I would sometimes put up signs for people who were interested in wrestling for exercise, this is where and when to do it, but I've had people sometimes say to me didn't this ever get physical, didn't this ever break into sexual encounters. And I can honestly say, no, it never ever did. Whether nobody who ever came to these things was really gay, I don't really believe that as much as, I think, everybody knew that if anything were said or if there were any idea that somebody might be gay, that it was the death knell, as far as your career went. I just didn't know anybody in my years in that was around that ever said they were gay or ever indicated they were. Just after I retired, I was at-well, we were at-no, in fact, I was still in the Army . . . and living in Annapolis, Maryland, we were the advisory family, sponsor family for midshipmen at the Naval Academy. And that year, I'm trying to think, that was '86 or '87, the first time I think we had been a sponsoring family, a man by the name of Joe Steffan, who was a senior at the Naval Academy was outed. He was within three weeks of graduation and he was thrown out. I didn't hear about this so much through the press at the time as through one of the mid-shipmen who was one of our sponsorees who just shook his head and just said I can't believe this. Here's this fellow who's three years from graduation, he's sang the Star Spangled Banner in two Army-Navy games through his four years there, and all of a sudden he was just tossed out and without commission, without his degree. Of course, Joe Steffan wrote a book after this talking about what he did, although the book is very [laughs]-doesn't say much about ... what happened at the Naval Academy as to whether he had any sexual encounters there; he leaves that completely out. When he was writing the book, his cases were still pending before Federal Court. In the end, he decided just to drop everything because this is not the right time for this, this is not going to gain anything. I think he got a degree from something like the University of North Dakota and then went on to the University of Connecticut Law School. Now he works for one of the big Wall Street firms- not a law firm as much as a... it's sort of an all-purpose more of a monetary type.

Steve Estes:

Like Morgan Stanley?

Michael Haas:

Right, something like Morgan Stanley. Exactly. But anyway, that had happened while I was there and that was really one of the only things. Then right after I retired is when Tracy Thorne came out on Nightline. He was a pilot. I am very interested in human rights law and in helping out. I don't think the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy is good at all. And am trying to make changes to this as a retiree, but at that point I was just out of the Army. I knew when Tracy Thorne was being boarded out down in Oceania at the Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach, and really that was not very far away, it's about a forty-five minute ride. I really thought about taking a day of vacation from the job I was in and just going down to watch to see if I could be of some value. I'm not sure they-I don't know if they allowed civilians into watch, but I thought as a retired Army JAG they might.

Steve Estes:

Let me ask you, what do you think is wrong with "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"? And then what policy would you replace it with if you were God for a day?

Michael Haas:

I think the biggest wrong is that you're really asking people to lie to have a career. I think in the beginning maybe the thinking was well, look, everything is going to be okay, you just don't have to say anything and we won't ask, you don't tell, and everything's fine, but it doesn't work that way at all. People are put in the positions where they can't answer questions or they can't answer questions honestly. When you work in any office, you come in on Monday morning, people say, "well, gee, what'd you do for the weekend?" These people can't say what they did for the weekend; they have to make things up. I had a very interesting discussion one night at dinner with Dirk Selland, who was boarded out of the Navy. He was on a submarine, and I said, Dirk, what was it like? He said, well, you know, here you are, on a submarine, only seven or eight officers total, you have all your meals together in the Wardroom, and people start to get to know each other. You go into a port like Naples and everybody else is going down to the girly bars and I can't do that with them. They would have their wives or their girlfriends fly into the port to meet them, well, who was meeting me? Well, it was always my cousin. You go into a couple of different ports in Naples and then you're also in Osaka, Japan, and the same cousin visits you. [laughs] And it's like, "oh, you're cousin's coming back again, Dirk?" And all of that begins to have an effect on people. And all of a sudden, he found one day, on his bunk, seven or eight Playboy magazines just laying there. And their idea seemed to be let's watch and see what he does. He said, I think that they thought maybe I was just a very conservative, religious type person and that I just didn't partake in these things. He said finally he went to his commander, he said, I don't think I can do this. And that's the kind of thing that doesn't work. I think what we need is what virtually all other NAT O members have, except for Turkey. I've done a lot of research on this on my own as I said INAUDIBLE, including England, Germany, France, Holland, all these others, where people just can serve openly. And quite honestly I think it's like what people are going to find with gay marriage in Massachusetts, once it's been around for a while, it's kind of a so what situation. I found that to be virtually the way it is with most of these big problems. Once everything is in the open, it's sort of so what. I have certainly read interviews with numerous officers in England who are openly gay and I think both in Canada and in England there just doesn't seem to have been a problem to speak of. And Canada certainly. I know there's some that say, well, Canada is much smaller and they aren't organized quite the way we are. I can't believe that somehow Americans can't get over this if other people can. The Israelis, I mean, everybody else can do this. I can't believe we can't do this. I guess I don't want to see "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" just done away with because that would leave us with what was before and that may have been just as bad or worse. But I think it needs to be changed so that people can serve openly in the military.

Steve Estes:

You were the chief counsel of Walter Reed, right?

Michael Haas:

I was, right.

Steve Estes:

Inthemid-80's?

Michael Haas:

Right, I was chief counsel at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, which is a separate entity that's on the Walter Reed compound. There's also a JAG-and still is, I think-at the Walter Reed Hospital, who had different duties than I did.

Steve Estes:

Well, the question that I wanted to ask is this is when AIDS is kind of becoming public and is in the media, I imagine, I was wondering if you had to deal with that at all in your job, or if you didn't deal with it on your job, what the talk was in the military when that broke.

Michael Haas:

I dealt with it all the time, but it was in a medical context. What we had there were medical people trying to find a cure or at least trying to find out how it can be prevented. They looked at their job as just overwhelming. Like one fellow said, I have twenty-five lifetimes of work on my desk. I'm really not sure where to begin because we don't really know what kind of preventions there can be for this. It's a mutating virus that we just can't get a handle on. We think we know what it is, then it changes. And anything we try to treat, it changes around us. I mean it's like it's thinking on its own. So that was a problem Now at the same time all of us had then start be tested. That was when the testing began. Had to go to a lecture, I think, every six months. It essentially talked about behavior that could cause a person to get AIDS and not just to be gay certainly, just anything else . . . being with prostitutes that might infected and that sort of thing and HIV in general. . . what was possible to-I mean, the fact that the AIDS virus on a piece of laboratory equipment in front of you could be destroyed with Clorox solution. Outside the body it's very easy to destroy, but inside the body it's very difficult. ... So it was sort of the beginning of AIDS-

Steve Estes:

Do you think that that increased homophobia in the military?

Michael Haas:

.. . Not at the level I saw. I don't know if PFCs down in units-I mean, it's very different at Walter Reed where you don't have the basic training type of person. Most of the people I saw were E5s and above. And many of them had college degrees because they worked in a lab. One fellow was an E5, and he a chemistry degree from the University of Pittsburgh and probably went on for his Ph.D., but he was just an E5 working in there. That was the kind of person that you saw. I really never heard it discussed, and I wasn't really [coughs] ... we lived in Annapolis. I was not in a position where I saw what was going down in downtown DC ever. It was not a place I really went in on weekends or never hung around Dupont Circle in bars or anything and saw the soldiers who I might know in there. And if there were soldiers who went there, I just didn't know it. That's a good question though, I wish I knew more about that.

Steve Estes:

Well, I interviewed a guy who was a chaplain at Walter Reed, and he talked a little bit about-not homophobia there but he counseled folks who were HIV positive or who had AIDS, so he talked a little bit about it. And I didn't know whether-I mean, I know the JAG is slightly removed from that direct contact with patients, especially since you were in the more science side of it as opposed to the medical side.

Steve Estes:

Let me see. I want to ask a little bit about your son serving in Iraq. How did you feel about your son going into the military? And how did you feel about when he got orders to go to Iraq?

Michael Haas:

Good questions. I think as he was in the military it's kind of interesting because I think when you come from an Army family, you sort of already think about those things maybe more than others do anyway, at least most people do-although not everybody, you have your John Cameron Mitchell's too who are completely un-military and are artsy and into those sorts of things. My son went to William and Mary. He had always had an interest in military things, but not overly. He wasn't militaristic as much as I think he always had a big sense of duty, even as a youngster. When other kids wouldn't do things because it was painful to do or it wasn't fun, Eric would be sort of like, well, we got to do this. This has to be done, so we will do it. I always used to say that Eric had a sense of duty that I found very commendable. And in some ways maybe it wasn't so commendable and all of a sudden he winds up going to Iraq, [laughs] I was thinking, oh, my God .. . this is too much duty for me. Bat at William and Mary, again, he applied for an ROTC scholarship. He did not receive it his freshman year, but he received it for sophomore, junior, and senior years, and then was commissioned. Kind of interesting to ask for a pure infantry commission, but in the end what they gave him was military intelligence with a detail to infantry for the first two years. I told him, I said, Eric, I think they're smarter than you are [laughs] because you're a really bright guy and you can go more than just infantry things. I don't mean that as a put down on the infantry, it sounds that way. But I also know the infantry often times get, especially at the colonel level, these very good jobs as a military attaché; get great posts all around the world, or maybe being in the Paris area and things like that. So there are lots of different things you can do anywhere. But anyway, when Eric came down then on orders for Iraq, he had spent two years in Korea just before that. He had gone to Korea and while there-in fact, when he first arrived there, they extended for a year, which I was sorry he had done, because I said, Eric, you only do that if they're going to promise you some great job or something. You don't want to say you'll stay a second year already because then they'll said, oh, good, we can give you any job we want now. So they are happy to get people who will stay a year. I think, again, he saw it as a duty after his battalion commander kind of said, if you will stay a second year, we will get you a job that you like here, and he did, right away. My comment, I guess, was I know you like what you're doing and that's fine, but remember, you're not going to get these young years back either. Once they're gone, they're gone. And at that point he didn't know anybody to marry or anything, so he did stay there two years. He came back to the MI school at Fort Huachuca. Started there in June of'93-no, June of'92. Then met a gal that became his wife, I'd say about November or December, maybe even very early January of'93, and they were married in April of'93. Then he went off, first to Germany, to WORD Germany, where we had been, where I had been stationed when he was born. Was there for about a month and a half and then went to Iraq. I was probably . . . more concerned that almost-maybe more than most anybody else, except for his mother, [laughs] my wife. Because I think they sort of knew what was going on. To a lot of people-it's like when he went to Airborne school. Most people just said, oh, yeah, Eric's in Airborne school. I was going, my God, he's jumping out of airplanes, [laughs] I knew what he was doing. ... I was a basket case his jump week, but he did fine and he made his flight jumps and was airborn. He tried Ranger School and was injured twice and did not make it through Ranger School either time.

Steve Estes:

Do you think he's trying to live up to your example?

Michael Haas:

Well, I think he- . . .[laughs] he came to one day and he says, dad, I'm going to retire as a full colonel. And I said, Eric, I hope you do. So I think he certainly knows he has a father who was in the military, but we both see each other-I mean, we are different people-but I think he does see at least what I did, and I think that pointed his way towards the military. Now, after his year in Iraq, he had only been back now two weeks, and he's in Germany with his wife, and in fact, today, the ninth of August, they just took off for England and Scotland for two weeks. So he has thirty days leave after coming back and it essentially started last week. So I don't know sort of how much he wants to live up to what I did. I think he'll probably be in many ways a better officer than I was, so we'll see.

Steve Estes:

How does he feel about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell'?

Michael Haas:

It's very interesting, I asked him one day and I was very impressed with his answer because he said, Dad, I think everybody should be able to serve their country. And I thought boy that is-because in Korea, he served with a lot of West Point lieutenants who were very happy to be away from West Point, and he laughed, and he said, you know Dad, you talk to these guys and they are so happy to be away from West Point and they talk about how bad things were. He said, I was in William and Mary, I'd go back in a minute if they'd let me. And he said, the thing that really surprises me was that the West Pointers still have not accepted women in the Army. And he said, at William and Mary, half of our ROTC was women, and we're very used to working with them; they were our bosses, they were with us, served above us, below us, and with us. It was just everybody was accustomed to male and female working together and getting things done. I just find so many of the West Pointers, they just won't accept women. And of course, in Korea, he's with infantry lieutenants from West Point and there are hot women infantry lieutenants. There are women in other branches, in fact most other branches, but not in the combat arms, not in most of the combat arms, at least not in the infantry. So they can say that in the battalion they're in there, in the infantry battalion, and there are no women around to really say anything or be upset with what they're saying. And Eric laughed one day, he said, if they haven't accepted women, no wonder they haven't accepted gays, [laughs] So we have a long way to go with these guys. There are people, as you may know, who wear these hats, alumni from both Annapolis and West Point, and maybe even the Air Force Academy too, with the year on, the last year without women, which I think was like 1973 or something like that-but anyway, all of the services were made coed at the service academies at the same time. That still lingers. It's sort of surprising, [pause] Scary in some ways.

Steve Estes:

I've been talking to gay alumni at the Naval Academy and tomorrow I'm going to interview a guy who was a Wes Pointer, a gay alum, of West Point, so it'll be interesting. They have obviously a very unique perspective on that.

Michael Haas:

Exactly. It's really true.

Steve Estes:

I guess one last question that I'd ask is-and kind of already covered this already probably -but why do you support Service Members Legal Defense Network and MEI, both kind of advocacy groups for dropping "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"?

Michael Haas:

Right. I do it because I really see the idea that gays cannot serve in the military as sort of the last major discrimination that the country really hasn't approached the right way, hasn't gotten rid of it.; at least it hasn't gotten rid of it at least statutorily, on the book. I mean, I realize that even when you look at racial discrimination you can make it okay statutorily, say that the government doesn't do this, but you can't guarantee that every person is going to abide by that, I understand that. But when you have people who want to serve their country and are very good at what they do, and are told you cannot serve only because you're gay, then to have people who lose their jobs, as an example as interpreters out in Monterey, losing their jobs because they're gay. Everything else is fine. They have great test scores, everything's fine. They're excellent soldiers. It's amazing how many gay soldiers who have been found out and thrown out are your soldiers of the year, soldiers of the quarter. It really makes me laugh a few years back when one of the Navy admirals sent out a memo, and it said, finding these gay sailors to throw them out is so difficult because often times they are our best people. I mean look at, you say there is something really wrong here. And when a person loses their job in the Army because finally somebody finds out or you make a comment or people realize that he never really talks about his girlfriend and he lives with another guy downtown, and all of a sudden they're thrown out. Then they go and almost get the exact same job with another federal agency that's not military for higher pay, [laughs] you have to say there is something really wrong with this. And if all of these other Armed Forces, again virtually everybody but Turkey, in NATO, can come to this problem and fix it, I can't believe we can't do that. It really angers me that we have some other retired lieutenant colonels who work for other organizations like the Family Policy Institute or a few other organizations like that who are very vocal and are always getting their faces on television saying how having gays in the military just would not work. And I just don't think that's the case at all. Right now the average soldiers does fine, he or she is just not caught. There are gay soldiers everywhere just like there are gay people everywhere. I think we just have to make a change and it's time for that change.

Steve Estes:

Okay, well, I think that's a good place to stop.

Michael Haas:

Well, that sounds great to me.

Steve Estes:

Thank you, Mike.

Michael Haas:

Well, thank you. [tape ends]

 
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  October 26, 2011
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