They didn’t have a lawyer to even go to court when they got a telegram from Mitchell saying, “Stop publishing and hand over the documents or meet me in court in the morning.” Fortunately, they pulled a very good judge who believed in the First Amendment, who was very conservative. The outside counsel was a famous establishment New York lawyer named Louis Loeb, who told the publisher that if he published this material, the government would take him into court, and he would lose against the restraining order, and Loeb would not defend him! So I never got away from the war for ten years. Then they sent me down to Saigon because somebody quit, and I was thrilled to go. You got responsibility right away at the UPI because there was nobody else to do it. Rebuffed, Ellsberg contacted Neil Sheehan. You look at these guys, none of them had any experience in Vietnam. What kind of kid were you? I thought I’d never write another book afterwards, because it was exhausting. A Bright Shining Lie, that is, John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam. On graduating from Harvard, he entered the United States Army and was assigned first to Korea, but later transferred to the 7th Infantry Division newspaper in Tokyo. In your book A Bright Shining Lie, you talk about John Paul Vann’s career in the Vietnam War. I was in New York and I sent him a copy. I was an alcoholic when I was younger, and I had serious problems with it, starting in late years of high school and then in college. I won the Gettysburg Address Prize when I was in boys’ school for reciting the Gettysburg Address. Then Colonel John Vann died. What I should have learned was you don’t look at the top of the mountain, just look at the step in front of you, but it’s hard to do that. , The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam War, ( Neil Sheehan was born on October 27, 1936 in Holyoke, Massachusetts, USA as Cornelius Mahoney Sheehan. In six months or so, they would have won a military victory. He said if I joined for three years, I’d get a much better deal. Sold by: Simon & Schuster Digital Sales Inc. Prime members enjoy FREE Delivery and exclusive access to music, movies, TV shows, original audio series, and Kindle books. Don’t tell them this,” and I said, “But I have to tell them. Neil Sheehan: I never got away from the war. And then the Pentagon Papers came in ’71, in the midst of this, when I was an investigative reporter for the bureau. It’s true of all Irish names. He received a number of grants to continue his project; an advance from his publishers and the sale of partial serialization rights to The New Yorker enabled Neil Sheehan to finish his monumental narrative. It was a long book. If you were young and male at that time, you could advance in that world, because the wealthy people in New England — who were referred to as the “Yankees” by the Irish — were real social democrats. When we reporters went out into the field, we saw this army that wouldn’t fight, that was led by incompetent officers, who were political appointees, and who were corrupt. This stuff was local. My school was not a fancy school, and it had three, I discovered, was the quota, and since I was at the top of my class, I got in. So that was the one problem I had. I was also taking French courses, French literature, and kind of a minor in French literature. They’re all anglicized, except now they’ve brought some of them back. While you were doing it, were you aware of just how important a book you were writing? So I was covering the Washington end of the war. In 1971, he obtained the Pentagon Papers, which brought the Times the Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal for meritorious public service. So the reporters were the only ones who were reflecting what the advisors in the field believed. Just no bylines, because you’d be accused of bringing disgrace on the Army if something happened. I had terrible stomach cramps for a long period of time from nerves of the whole thing, because your nerves get to you. You’ve got 7,000 pages and a million words. Come in. He knew when not to move and then when to move against them. I knew where this thing was going, and that I had a vision of the book now, and it was working, my vision, but I was going to have to stop to support the family, go back to reporting. It was a man named Sir Hamilton Gibb, and they, in effect, bribed him out of Oxford. It was the violence that started me thinking, and the corruption that went on, that continued. It was really miserable. As America’s military involvement escalated, he found that the war he was observing firsthand no longer resembled the contest the U.S. government was trying to present to the American people. It’s something one has to always remember because when you stray off the path, you do a disservice to the American public. I had some problems. I went to the draft board in Holyoke, my hometown. All my aunts told me — my mother’s, my father’s brothers also, my father’s sisters — all said, “Don’t go up there. I still believed we should stick it out. It was the equivalent of a salary, and that year tided me over, and then we had another slim year, and then I had about two-thirds of the manuscript. I wanted to record this experience for those who had been there, for those who had fought there, for the general public at large, and for the generations to come, and also, I guess for myself. The Army was much smaller than it is now, and so I went to the recruiting sergeant. They get in these rubber suits, and they get through it, and then they kill you. The Vietnamese were going to resist us, just as long as it took. Come down at three o’clock,” because I finished my work editing the paper by 2:00, and I could catch the train into Tokyo. So we got attention within the profession. Apply.” So I applied. I had read all of his commentary on the Shakespeare plays, and we talked them all through. The central lesson of Vietnam is the United States can do evil as easily as it can do good. At what point in the Vietnam War did you sense that things might not be going the way the government told us they were going? Abe never said to me — he called me over to his office after the main briefing, and he sat me down, and he said, “Now, look, how do we know these things weren’t made up by a bunch of kids in a cellar?” This is the time of the hippies and the flower children and all the revolution. I never got shot at in uniform, but (I got) shot at after I got out. And I decided I really like this. You could get into a good college through the public high school, but you had to really be on top of your class, and I wasn’t. I mean, if there was a sniper in the village, they didn’t go in and get him. I had a lot of Vietnamese friends, and here came in the regular U.S. Army and the Marine Corps and the Air Force and the Navy, and they proceeded to blow up and burn down this country we were supposed to be saving. Sheehan’s reporting from Vietnam won him a place with the most prestigious newspaper in the United States, The New York Times. In 1966, he became the newspaper’s Pentagon correspondent, and in 1968, began reporting on the White House. It’s their responsibility. Irish-American culture was very constricting in those years. It was the central archive of the war, because the historians from the Pentagon who had done this had appended the actual documents to their narratives, and they had had access to all the documents in the State Department, all the documents in the Pentagon, and a lot of the White House stuff went through both places. In six months or so, they would have won a military victory. A friend of mine was taking over the Vietnam job, and he wanted me to work with him. And then we were very lucky during the Depression with Franklin Roosevelt, who probably saved this country from a revolution. When you started out as a reporter, did you ever imagine that Vietnam would become so much a part of your life? 95 I learned how to run a desk. Are we going to war with Israel because they have dozens of nuclear weapons? And then I ran out of money again, because it went on for some more years longer, and William Shawn, who was head of The New Yorker, was going to take 125,000 words. I volunteered for the draft, and they said, “You’ll have to wait six months.” I said, “Why should I have to wait six months?” They said, “The Army is only taking two a month.” There was no war on. In 1971, a former State Department employee, Daniel Ellsberg, obtained a copy of the confidential report and attempted to give it to members of the United States Senate. It was by accident when they were developing insecticides. It can’t all be ‘Top Secret: Sensitive.’ What is it that’s going to compromise the national security?” Because the government came in with a restraining order, with a case that if we continued to publish, it would cause immediate and irreparable harm to the national security. But as I said, my total motivation was to get away from the farm, to get into a good college, to get into the larger world, and to do that, you had to get through that gate out of the pasture. You could get sacked without any justification. That’s why they offered me a job, six nights a week at $10 a night. He got me into Alcoholics Anonymous in January 1961, and I’ve never had a drink since. Fortunately, the staff counsel who had been whispering in my ear in that meeting — saying, “Why are you telling them this?” — he was a young lawyer, and he had been put in the firm as staff counsel by Loeb, and he disagreed with Loeb. I said, “What form of history should I major in?”. I knew that I’d get out of Tokyo and I’d get a bureau very quickly, because people were constantly turning over. Soldiers — most soldiers who are sane — are afraid, but they control.
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