Skip to comments.Hijacked Honor ("The Wall Within" 1988 CBS/Dan Rather fraudulent documentary on vets)
Posted on 09/11/2004 1:28:55 PM PDT by idkfa
Stolen Valor: How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of its Heroes and its History, by B.G. Burkett and Glenna Whitley, Dallas, TX: Verity Press, 1998, 692 pages, hardback
One of the most ingrained stereotypes that plague the 3.3 million Americans who served in Vietnam is the tainted image of the Vietnam vet as scruffy, jobless, homeless, mentally unstable, addicted, suicidal, and stranded on the fringes of society. It is an image that has been reinforced by innumerable TV dramas, movies, and newscasts. It is also usually tied to stories about the horrors of war, atrocities, and other dark deeds that, allegedly, have caused these personal problems for the tragic vet.
The highly hyped 1988 CBS program, "The Wall Within," purporting to tackle the issue of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is a perfect example of the lies and distortions about Vietnam that have been fed to three generations of Americans. The program profiled six pathetic victims who it claimed were "representative" of those who served in Vietnam. It claimed that the symptoms suffered by these men were shared by hundreds of thousands of other veterans. The Dan Rather "documentary" became part of the CBS video history series on Vietnam and is graced with a formal introduction by liberal-left one-worlder Walter Cronkite.
This is how Dan Rather introduced his TV audience to one of his prize victims: "At age 16, Steve was a Navy SEAL, trained to assassinate. For almost two years, he operated behind enemy lines, then he broke. He came home in a straightjacket, addicted to alcohol and drugs."
According to the CBS propaganda piece, "Steve" had been trained to massacre and mutilate Vietnamese civilians and then blame the atrocities on the Communists. "Youre telling me that you went into the village, killed people, burned part of the village, then made it appear that the other side had done this?" Rather asked. "Yeah," Steve responded. "For propaganda purposes at home," Rather added. "Thats correct," Steve confirmed.
Terry Bradley, another supposed Vietnam vet suffering from PTSD, told a grisly tale of having, on one occasion, skinned alive up to 50 Vietnamese men, women and children. He told of cutting out hearts and eyeballs, of mangling and stacking their bloody bodies. The CBS program showed the mentally tormented vet at night in a dark forest howling at the sky.
Another PTSD victim, George Greul, told the CBS team that he had been traumatized by witnessing his friends gruesome death on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier while the ship was on a "secret mission" off the coast of Vietnam. He had seen his buddy accidentally walk into a spinning propeller blade and had been spattered with his blood.
The critically acclaimed "Wall Within" was a colossal fraud. The man identified as "Steve" turned out to be one Steve Southards, and through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, Burkett obtained his military records. The truth, he found, was that "Southards was not a SEAL, nor had he taken any SEAL training.... In reality, Southards was an internal communications repairman, assigned to rear area bases and had no combat decorations. His only special training was a motion picture operation course (16mm), at Subic Bay in the Philippines." Whats more, he had spent time in the brig for going AWOL six times. According to Burketts research, "Little that Southards had told Rather was true except that he had been in the Navy, and that his first name was Steve."
Terry Bradley was not a "fighting sergeant," as Dan Rather had described him, but another storytelling misfit who had spent 300 days either AWOL or in the stockade. No evidence was provided by CBS, and Burkett could find none either, from official sources or otherwise, to verify Bradleys tales of mass atrocities.
George Greuls carrier, the Ticonderoga, was deployed on a training mission off the coast of California, not a "secret mission" off the coast of Vietnam, when the fatal propeller accident he referred to took place. But Greul was not present when the accident happened; he was merely repeating what he had heard. However, his story had convinced the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that he had been sufficiently traumatized to receive a couple thousand dollars a month in compensation.
"the 3.3 million Americans who served in Vietnam is the tainted image of the Vietnam vet as scruffy, jobless, homeless, mentally unstable, addicted, suicidal, and stranded on the fringes of society. It is an image that has been reinforced by innumerable TV dramas, movies, and newscasts."
A study in the 1990s showed that the VietNam veteran was more likely to be employed, happy, stable and successful...than those who did not serve.
I will try to get a citation.
I think he was referring to John Kerry.
I see Dan did alot of exhaustive research on this story, as well.
Youngsters...... Make no mistake about this.... this is your war.... and these basterds did it to me and mine 30 yrs ago..... do you want the same outcome ..... well then get every body up and running monday morning .... pick rather .... take him out .... i have out lined how in other posts..... make no mistake ..... this is about the soul of this country.....
Use Kerry's plan....just frag yourself.
Dan Rather should be shamed off the air
The Rightwing Partisan Media should trumpet this story high and loud.
It would be doubly sweet if Kerry's failed candidacy brought enough notice to the old myths, in the age of a more aggressive, skeptical new media, to smash them forever.
Look for Rathers name in the index of the book "Stolen Valor" and read about his own military "service". He was medically unfit to serve in the Marine Corps in 1954 and he's been mentally unfit to serve as a reporter since the day he was born.
16 yearold SEAL???WTF,there's gullible,and then there's COMPLICIT.
I googled "the wall within" and this is what a vets site linked to after a short reference to the Rather program..This exhaustive article's author died in Iraq covering the war...He was a great loss to journalism in America.
The principal difference between a cat and a lie is that a cat has only nine lives.
- Mark Twain
The MSM has been making up stories about Vietnam and Vietnam vets!!! I'm shocked!!
Yes. I understand. I'm shocked too.
(Btw, you forgot to add the proper tag to the post)
My thought exactly. This killer must have gone straight from Wueblo to SEAL.
Oops, I was in a hurry?
Someone should post Dan Rather's photo which is on page 336 of "Stolen Valor." The photo would make a good mug shot if Rather were arrested for his involvment in "memogate."
Rather continues now with "memogate", his pattern of spreading lies and false information about men who served in our military honorably.
I have read Mr. Burkett's book and it is a great resource to counter all of the phony veterans that the media allways drag out to claim that they were baby killers.
..."During the Korean War, when men could be drafted out of college, Dan Irvin Rather joined the Army Reserves while attending Sam Houston University in Huntsville, Texas, thus avoiding the possibility of being drafted....
..."(This is the Same national broadcaster who, night after night during the 1988 presidential campaign, hammered Republican vice-presidential candidate Dan Quale for avoiding Vietnam by joining the National Guard.)"...
RUSH is talking about this now!
September 15, 2004, 5:52 a.m.
The First Rathergate
The CBS anchors precarious relationship with the truth.
By Anne Morse
Critics are calling the media scandal over the Jerry Killian forgeries "Rathergate." But to thousands of Vietnam veterans, the real Rathergate took place 16 years ago when Dan Rather successfully foisted a fraud onto the American people. Then, unlike now, there was no blogosphere to expose him.
On June 2, 1988, CBS aired an hour-long special titled CBS Reports: The Wall Within, which CBS trumpeted as the "rebirth of the TV documentary." It purported to tell the true story of Vietnam through the eyes of six of the men who fought there. And what terrible stories they had to tell.
"I think I was one of the highest trained, underpaid, eighteen-cent-an-hour assassins ever put together by a team of people who knew exactly what they were looking for," said Steve Southards, a Navy SEAL who told Rather he had escaped society to live in the forests of Washington state. Under Rather's gentle coaxing, Southards described slaughtering Vietnamese civilians, making his work appear to be that of the North Vietnamese.
"You're telling me that you went into the village, killed people, burned part of the village, then made it appear that the other side had done this?" Rather asked.
"Yeah," Steve replied. "It was kill VC, and I was good at what I did."
Steve arrived home "in a straitjacket, addicted to alcohol and drugs" knowing that "combat had made him different," Rather intoned. "He asked for help; that's unusual, many vets don't. They hold back until they explode."
Rather then moved on to suicidal veteran named George Grule, who was stationed on the aircraft carrier Ticonderoga off the coast of Vietnam during a secret mission. Grule described the horror of watching a friend walk into the spinning propeller of a plane, which chopped him to pieces and sprayed Grule with his blood. The memory of this trauma left Grule, like Steve, unable to function in normal society.
Neither could Mikal Rice, who broke down as he described a grenade attack at Cam Ranh Bay, which blew in half the body of a buddy, "Sergeant Call." "He died in my arms," Rice tearfully recalled. Rice described how the sound of thunder and cars backfiring would regularly trigger his terrible memories.
Most horrific of all were the memories of Terry Bradley, a "fighting sergeant" who told Rather he had skinned alive 50 Vietnamese men, women, and children in one hour and stacked their bodies in piles. "Could you do this for one hour of your life, you stack up every way a body could be mangled, up into a body, an arm, a tit, an eyeball . . . Imagine us over there for a year and doing it intensely," Bradley said. "That is sick."
"You've got to be angry about it," Rather replied. "I'm suicidal about it," Bradley responded.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, drug abuse, alcoholism, joblessness, homelessness, suicidal thoughts: These tattered warriors suffered from them all.
The The Wall Within was hailed by critics who like the Washington Post's Tom Shales gushed that the documentary was "extraordinarily powerful." There was just one problem: Almost none of it was true.
The truth was uncovered by B.G. Burkett, a Vietnam veteran and author of Stolen Valor: How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of its Heroes and its History (with Glenna Whitley). Burkett discovered that only one of the vets had actually served in combat. Steve Southards, who'd claimed to be a 16-year-old Navy SEAL assassin, had actually served as an equipment repairman stationed far from combat. Later transferred to Subic Bay in the Philippines, Steve spent most of his time in the brig for repeatedly going AWOL.
And George Gruel, who claimed he was traumatized by the sight of his friend being chopped to pieces by a propeller? Navy records reveal that a propeller accident did take place on the Ticonderoga when Gruel was aboard but that he wasn't around when it happened. During Gruel's tour, the ship had been converted to an antisubmarine warfare carrier which operated, not on "secret mission" along the Vietnam coast, but on training missions off the California coastline. Nevertheless, Burkett notes, Gruel receives $1,952 a month from the Veterans Administration for "psychological trauma" related to an event he only heard about.
Mikal Rice the anguished vet who claimed to have cradled his dying buddy in his arms actually spent his tour as a guard with an MP company at Cam Ranh Bay. He never saw combat. Neither did Terry Bradley, who was not the "fighting sergeant" he'd claimed to be. Instead, military records reveal he served as an ammo handler in the 25th Infantry Division and spent nearly a year in the stockade for being AWOL. That's good news for the hundreds of Vietnamese civilians Bradley claimed to have slaughtered. But it doesn't say much for Dan Rather's credibility.
As Burkett notes, the records of all of these vets were easily checkable through Freedom of Information Act requests of their military records something Rather and his producers simply didn't bother to do. They accepted at face value the lurid tales of atrocities committed in Vietnam and the stories of criminal behavior, drug addiction, and despair at home.
Perhaps that's because this is what they wanted to believe. Says Burkett: The Wall Within "precisely fit what Americans have grown to believe about the Vietnam War and its veterans: They routinely committed war crimes. They came home from an immoral war traumatized, vilified, then pitied. Jobless, homeless, addicted, suicidal, they remain afflicted by inner conflicts, stranded on the fringes of society."
Burkett, who did check the records of the vets Rather interviewed, shared his discoveries with CBS. So did Thomas Turnage, then administrator of the Veterans Administration, who was appalled by Rather's use of bogus statistics on the rates of suicide, homelessness, and mental illness among Vietnam veterans statistics that can also be easily checked. Rather initially refused to comment, and CBS spokeswoman Kim Akhtar said, "The producers stand behind their story. They had enough proof of who they are." For his part, CBS president Howard Stringer defended the network with irrelevancies. "Your criticisms were not shared by a vast majority of our viewers," he sniffed, adding that "CBS News and its affiliates received acclaim from most quarters . . . In sum, this was a broadcast of which we at CBS News and I personally am proud. There are no apologies to make."
Sarah Lee Pilley, who ran a restaurant in Colville, Washington where the CBS crew dined while filming The Wall Within, would not agree. The wife of a retired Marine lieutenant colonel who saw combat in Vietnam, Pilley, said she "got the distinct feeling that CBS had a story they had decided on before they left New York." After interviewing 87 Vietnam veterans, CBS chose the "four or five saddest cases to put on the film," Pilley said. "The factual part of it didn't seem to matter as long as they captured the high drama and emotion that these few individuals offered. We felt all along that CBS committed tremendous exploitation of some very sick individuals."
Why would Dan Rather do such a thing? Partly because the stories of deranged, trip-wire vets is much more dramatic than the true story: That most Vietnam veterans came home to live normal, productive, happy lives. Second, Rather apparently wanted the story of whacked-out Vietnam veterans to be true just as he now wants the Jerry Killian story to be true.
Or maybe despite a preponderance of the evidence he considered the sources of these tales of Vietnam atrocities "unimpeachable." As angry Vietnam veterans began calling CBS to complain about the factual inaccuracies of The Wall Within, Perry Wolff, the executive producer who wrote the documentary, claimed that "No one has attacked us on the facts." Despite the growing evidence that he'd been had, Rather also continued to defend the documentary which is now part of CBS's video history series on the Vietnam War.
Perhaps Vietnam veterans ought to take a page out of the book of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and air television ads exposing Rather's deceits something along the lines of: "Dan Rather lied about his Vietnam documentary. I know. I was there. I saw what happened. When the chips were down, you could not count on Dan Rather."
Certainly, we cannot count on him for the truth. During a 1993 speech to the Radio and Television News Directors Association, Rather criticized his colleagues for competing with entertainment shows for "dead bodies, mayhem, and lurid tales." "We should all be ashamed of what we have and have not done, measured against what we could do," Rather said.
Thousands of Vietnam veterans not to mention the Bush campaign would agree.
Anne Morse is a writer living in Maryland.
It should also be noted that CBS is the home of the correspondent in Viet Nam (can't remember if it was Rather or Mike Wallace) who stated that if he knew an American patrol was walking into an ambush he would NOT warn them. For if he did he would be sacrificing his objectivity!
"he had skinned alive 50 Vietnamese men, women, and children in one hour and stacked their bodies in piles."
Even this didn't make Rather stop and think "Is this credible"
I have watched professional sheep shearers. With specialized shears the best they can shear is about 4 an hour and they don't even take the skin off them, just hair.
Skinning 50 in an hour is about 1min 10 sec each with no stacking time.
With a dermatome, the implement that doctors use to remove a section of skin to do skin graphs, it would take a good hour to skin one human. Consider trying to skin a wiggling human , it would take even longer. Then there is the issue of being skinned alive wouldn't kill you.
You can definitely live without skin but not indefinitely. Fluid loss or infection would eventually kill you but not sufficiently fast so that you would have a body to stack when you finished.
Danny Boy Rathergate didn't bother to think any further than the statement. I skinned 50 people alive.
As a Vietnam veteran I somewhat recall the CBS program, however, after already being home for ten years I learned to ignore any of that 'Vietnam vets were baby killers' crap and I never watched the program.
That, of course, is murder. There is no statute of limitations on murder. Why doesn't the gov't round those guys up and put them on trial - use the Dan Rather interviews as evidence?
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