Vietnam is and probably will forever be the war that America would love to forget. The endless body bags of our loved ones being flown home in coffins, the aftermath of war, the PTSD ( Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and various other metal scars that never seem to go away; including physical scars, lost limbs, etc. John Rixey Moore is a decorated Vietnam Veteran who has written a couple of books about his amazing experience and chronicles his time in the jungles of Vietnam, below is my interview with him:
A. Perhaps the most important difference is that the conflict was almost universally disapproved by the American people. It served as the last gasp of the staging war between the US and the Soviets in which localized, isolated skirmish conflicts provided test cases for the latest weapons systems of the superpowers at the expense of those who lived in the selected disputed areas. Vietnam was also the first war to prove the now-universally accepted idea that unconventional operations must be the norm.
We, the British, and the Japanese had plenty of experience with what has now become known as Special Operations in WW II, though we were a bit slow to adopt some of the measures the British and Japanese had proven. Conventional troop movements, tanks, and large-army maneuvers were not possible in the jungles of SE Asia, and the development of clandestine operatives that conditions demanded gave birth to the highly-trained specialized troops employed now in the Middle East by the allied side.
Q. You were a green beret, are the movies that high light what that experience was like accurate? Why or why not?
A. So far, not really, although each has had a few of the elements right. The Deer Hunter had the behind-the-lines aspect right in a kind of antiseptic sort of way. No movie yet has captured the excruciating nervous tension and the filth of those long-range interdiction operations and probably never will. It’s one thing to send a film crew out into the boonies and record some guys sneaking through the jungle, but it’s quite another to make an audience feel that their lives are keyed to every shift in sound, insect calls, birds, the breeze. The movies make approaching the enemy seem pretty formulaic, and stabbing someone clean and quick. None of that is true. It’s hard enough to walk across one’s own living room completely soundlessly, let alone find some way to approach, say, an enemy sentry on watch while you’re wearing clothes, even if you’ve removed most of your equipment before the effort.
Q. Did you enlist or were you drafted?
A. Enlisted in order to avoid the draft.
Q. Were you enlisted or an officer?
A. No. I enlisted on what was then known as the College Option Plan–a fast track course in 2nd Lieutenancy and then an infantry commission. However during Basic and AIT training I realized that I didn’t want to be an officer. The result was pretty fast promotions as a college-educated sergeant, and then acceptance into Special Forces, where I’m sure I became much better trained in field operations than I would have been until perhaps too late as a “shave-tail”.
Q. Tell us about your book(s) and why did you decide to write them?
A. I wrote my Vietnam memoir, Hostage of Paradox, as a result of setting out to attempt a description of the indescribable, and the book just grew from there. My first exposure to combat was so traumatic that it presented a literary challenge to put it into words for those who were not there, and as I became increasingly immersed in the process of translating vivid memories in which I still held a profound emotional residuum into language, I gradually worked my way through almost all the experiences that still had me in their grip. About a year after I began the effort my brother and his wife had two children. Suddenly I had two new relatives whom I did not know very well. I decided that some time in the future these two young people might want to learn about Vietnam and that gave me a focus. I began to feel it was important to record it all, and suddenly here were two people close enough in blood to make it important and yet far enough in familiarity to keep me objective.
The second book, Company of Stone, about my time afterwards, came as a natural continuation of my experiences for the balance of the year I came back from SE Asia, not only because it was such an unusual year, but because the monastery and the mine informed both the war in the immediate past and the future that I’m still enjoying today. This book was actually finished before the Vietnam one, because there came a point part way through the Vietnam memoir when I just needed to get away from it. I laid it aside for a few years and wrote Company of Stone, and that book gave me both the courage and incentive to finish Hostage of Paradox.
Q. You’re currently enjoying a varied and fruitful life since Vietnam, how does one actually go from being a green beret to a soap opera star?
A. Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be in the theater. I don’t know where that came from except that I was very taken with the movies from a young age. I never lost the dream, although it became irrelevant to what I had to do for many years. When, one day in the early ’70s, I chanced to be introduced to a talent agent, she decided to sign me, and I suppose largely at the expense of acting classes, since I had been accumulating a momentum of real life experience my career grew pretty effortlessly, and with the vary rare exception of working with an occasional martinet director with something to prove, I’ve had a thoroughly enjoyable time horsing around in front of a camera. When looked at dispassionately, acting in front of a camera is an absurd way for a grown man to make a living, but it sure is fun.
Q. You own several patents on some technical gadgets and products, how did that happen?
A. Well, I don’t think my name is actually on one, but together with another gentleman, we conceptualized, built a working prototype, and obtained patent protection on a device for use in conference rooms and class rooms that enables a group facing a decision to express individual opinions anonymously by means to two electronic multi-switches that allow each to quantify his/her thinking. One switch allows a person to express degrees of approval from zero to ten, while the second switch places a statistical weight on that selection from zero to 100% in twenty-five per cent increments depending upon some agreed criteria. The cumulative result is displayed on a screen which records the votes in normal distribution, while displaying the weight as a single average. This may for instance indicate that the group generally approves what is being discussed, but there is limited confidence in it.
Q. What actions do you think the President should be taking to get our troops out of the current wars and conflicts we are currently in?
A. Make big talk about withdrawing troops, have the media cover it all, but keep the Special ops people that you’re not reading about anyway insinuated in the remote places.
Q. What is your opinion on women on the front line?
A. There are some jobs that simply require more physical strength than most women have. Other than those jobs, I think women are a long-overlooked asset to pretty much any job in or out of the military that men do. Women make especially good pilots.
Q. How should the USA be dealing with all the Chinese threats?
A. You’re getting way out of my line here, but the Chinese as I understand it, is heavily invested in the US. These days it is in Chinese interests as well as our own to cooperate.
Q. What are your thoughts on the current sequestering issues?
A. The sequester is not a cut in expenses. It is simply a limitation placed (temporarily by the way) on the amount of additional growth in expenses. It amounts to what the US borrows EVERY SINGLE DAY. This will have a zero effect on the budget. Given the amount of runaway growth in government expenditures, the amount of the sequester is invisibly small. This does not mean, though, that the President’s dramatic warning of cuts a few weeks ago will not provide the excuse for entities to get rid of their dead wood.
Do you have any parting words for the readers of the Military Press Newspaper?
For those of you who are leaving the military, remember that the increased personal freedoms you might face include the freedom to fail. Don’t let that happen. In chess you never make a move unless it’s covered by another piece. I think it was Winston Churchill who said that every couple should have three children–two to replace themselves and then another one in case one of them is an idiot. Always have a back up plan.
Secondly, beware of a boss who brags about having 20 years experience in the business. Anyone who tries to impress you with that kind of thing probably only has one year twenty times. Thirdly, thank you all for your service. It humbles me that so many good people choose to become the nation’s guardians. You have my gratitude and profound respect…