- Grove City, Pennsylvania

Local News

April 25, 2014

Wiley: 'Nam era media ignored showing of pro-troop support

GROVE CITY — Hundreds of thousands of Americans marched in parades all over the U.S. in support of GIs fighting in Vietnam, including 150,000 civilians in a parade the day the war ended - New York City-style.

The "Home with Honor" parade was held on March 31, 1973 - the day the U.S. withdrew from Vietnam, Charles Wiley told a packed Sticht Lecture Hall at Grove City College on Monday.

The two-mile parade was led by 1,000 servicemen who marched up Broadway past Times Square to Central Park, where they sat in grandstands while the 150,000 civilians - including policeman, firefighters, veterans organization members, hard hat workers and citizens - marched past them to pay tribute.

Today, Americans believe no brass bands celebrated GIs coming home from Vietnam; however, the NYC event included 100 brass bands, Wiley said.

The popular GCC lecturer displayed a photograph of "Home with Honor," as well as a Fort Dix (N.J.) Post article of the celebration that can be found on the National Committee for Responsible Patriotism website he launched in July after decades of information collecting about the war.

Fair coverage of "Home with Honor" and other celebrations for GIs nationwide cannot be read in U.S. history books, Wiley noted.

The celebrations were largely ignored by the national media, but excessive attention was paid to the anti-war movement that was relatively small in comparison to Americans who supported the troops overseas, he said.

This has since distorted the public's historic understanding of soldiers who fought in Vietnam; a sham "that makes me sad to talk about," Wiley said.

"The news media is the most powerful source in our society. It decides what we think and talk about ... and it changes history."

The distorted coverage caused three major misconceptions in the U.S. conscience: that Americans "turned their backs on GIs when they came home"; there were "anti-war demonstrations on every street corner" and "there was no parade to welcome them home," Wiley said.

"It's not true. None of it happened."

National coverage of the war was "a terrible example" of the media's power, he said.

The World War II veteran and native New Yorker also has first-hand knowledge about Vietnam here and abroad.

Wiley was a media correspondent who reported from 100 countries, including 11 wars - with four trips to Vietnam that included the Tet Truce and Easter offensives. After the Tet is when the media overwhelmingly covered more anti-war bias, he said after the lecture.

Wiley's articles and photographs have been published in numerous media outlets, including the New York Times, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report and Time magazine. He's appeared on hundreds of network and local programs and has lectured in 50 states and five continents, including dozens of high schools and colleges annually.

His fact-finding led to eight arrests by secret police, including the KGB, and imprisonment in a Cuban dungeon.

Besides his experience, Wiley has videos, photos and articles of local news coverage supporting GIs, although mostly ignored by the three national news networks at that time - ABC, NBC and CBS - and major print media, he said.

President Lyndon B. Johnson obsessively watched the three networks' reporting about Vietnam, believing he'd have a better understanding about American sentiment, Wiley said. That, in turn, shaped his decisions, he added.

Wiley has taken unofficial polls of thousands of people attending his lectures over the years. He occasionally has "one or two hands (raised)," he said, of people who had been rejected by a family member for fighting in Vietnam - and generally it's a distant relative.

"It's disgusting we taught the American people that we turned our back on our kids," Wiley said.

Americans did spit on soldiers and called them "baby killers," he said. But they were a fringe group of anti-war demonstrators who would show up at the three major U.S. airports soldiers always flew into alone from Vietnam, Wiley said.

The group numbered in the hundreds across the nation, "but they were fanatics," he noted.

About a half a dozen would demonstrate, but they made an impression - despite the hundreds of thousands of Americans who supported the troops, Wiley said.

"How did they become the spokesperson for the media? Because that's what people talked about."

However, pro-GI demonstrations far outnumbered anti-GI demonstrations, Wiley said.

The third largest parade in the U.S. history involve a quarter-million people marching in NYC during the middle of the Vietnam war, in May of 1967. Called the "Support Our Men in Vietnam" parade, it last nearly nine hours, said Wiley, showing live, local footage of the event.

"Not one of our three networks gave a single second of coverage," he said. "Note how many young people were there. They say young people were against the war. It's not true."

Hundreds of thousands of patriots showed up for ceremonies in five municipalities in NYC and New Jersey, including a 36-hour vigil in Battery Park, for "Operation Gratitude" in October of 1967 that received moderate coverage by the New York News.

That weekend also saw pro-GI demonstrations in 75 U.S. cities, stretching to Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Alaska for "Operation Gratitude."

It barely received a nod from the national media - however, a front-page issue of Time magazine featured a photo of 30,000 anti-war demonstrators in Washington, D.C. that same weekend, Wiley said, projecting the issue.

Inside were nine pages of coverage for the anti-war demonstration - and a 31-word sentence about the pro-GI demonstration, but with no mention of location or numbers.

"Newsweek had two sentences" of "Operation Gratitude," Wiley noted, projecting it. Hundreds of mayors, congressman and celebrities supported the effort, as well as two-thirds of the nation's governors - but only two politicians were mentioned in Newsweek, including Richard Nixon before he was president, he said.

Parades "were going on all over the country," Wiley added. Recently, he learned of one in Massachusetts organized by a high school student for the GIs, which drew 25,000 people, he added.

"It was simply ignored by the (national) media."

At the end-of-war celebration in NYC, women served refreshments to the 1,000 veterans watching in the grandstands - and the men were treated to a $100-a-plate dinner, Wiley added.

Research has also shown that Vietnam veterans aren't "the losers" painted by Hollywood, but the most successful out of all the veterans of war, Wiley noted.

Chuck Larish, a Vietnam veteran and Liberty Township man who attended the lecture, said he never knew about the support for soldiers like himself on the home front.

His family supported him "but it's nice to know that people do actually back our people out there," he said.

GCC's Center for Vision & Values helped launch the NCRP website to get the word out.

Dr. Paul Kengor, director, said he and Dr. David Ayers, sociology professor and college dean, decided last year to help Wiley build the site. 

He's brought up the Vietnam bias for years during the trio's annual meal when Wiley visits GCC to lecture, Kengor added.

Last year, the website plan was written on a restaurant napkin, he said. By the next day, political science student Christy Phillips was contacted to help Wiley with the web page, which V&V funded. Wiley and Phillips both live in California, and they worked together over the summer on the website.

"I'm looking forward to seeing how the truth is revealed and what that does for the American population," Phillips said.

Wiley does not want the site to be conservative versus liberal - or considered a resistance movement. Being an old-school newsman, he is interested in facts, he said.

He has reached out to the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars about the site, he said.

He'd like to ask editors at Time and Newsweek for comments on the website about their predecessors' lack of coverage of the overwhelming pro-GI sentiment during the Vietnam conflict, he added.

"The American people never, ever turned their backs on the troops. It's a lie. It's slander."

To visit the National Committee for Responsible Patriotism, search online.

Published April 9, 2014, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.

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