John Lamb: This begins an interview between Judge Phillip Lewis Paley and Mrs. Sandra Stewart Holyoak and John Lamb at the Rutgers Oral History Archives at Rutgers University on March 8, 2011.
Sandra Stewart Holyoak: Thank you very much, Judge Paley, for coming in and talking with us today. I know you have a very busy schedule these days, so, I appreciate this more than you can know. [laughter] To begin, for the record, could you tell me where and when you were born?
Phillip Paley: Yes, I was born on September 17, 1942, in Richmond, Virginia, at the Retreat for the Sick Hospital.
SH: Do you know why the hospital was called that?
PP: It was a retreat for sick people. I thought you were going to ask me how it was that I was born in Richmond. ... That's because my father worked in the retail business and he was working for a department store called Thalhimers, T-H-A-L-H-I-M-E-R, in Richmond. ... My mother was there with him and I, as someone once said (recently, I read about it), I wanted to be near my mother when I was born. [laughter] So, I was born in Richmond.
SH: All right, I will take that explanation. Let us go back and talk a bit about your father and his family history.
PP: Sure. My father's name was Ben Alexander Paley. He was born in Brooklyn, in the Amboy section of Brooklyn. ... He developed rheumatic fever as a child, as an infant, and, when he was one, his parents--whose names were Samuel and Rose--were told by a doctor that, to insure my father's health, they had to move to the country. So, they moved to the Jewish community of Trenton, New Jersey, which I think they thought was country because it was near the Delaware River. [laughter] ... That's where my father grew up and that's where his older sister and two younger brothers went to school.
SH: Do you know what your grandfather's trade was?
PP: He was a tailor.
SH: Had your grandfather and his family been in this country for a long time?
PP: My father was born in October of 1908. I believe that my grandfather came here in 1906. My aunt, who was born ... around 1903, was born in Russia or Poland, or whatever it was at the time, and was an infant when they came here. I don't know whether ... my grandfather and my grandmother came at the same time or whether my grandfather came first. I don't know how that worked out, but, by 1908, they were here living in Brooklyn.
SH: Were there other members of the family that were also emigrating from that area?
PP: There were cousins of my grandfather who ended up in Albany, New York. Indeed, most of my family is from Albany and there were cousins of my grandmother who ended up in Trenton. That may be why, when they were told to move out of New York City, they chose Trenton, because there were relatives who were there.
SH: Wonderful. Did your father go to school in Albany?
PP: No. My father never lived in Albany. He lived in Brooklyn until he was one or two, then, they moved to Trenton. He went to school in Trenton.
SH: That was where your father went to school.
SH: I got it, yes. What is your mother's background?
PP: My mother was born in New York City, basically near the Lower East Side, and she was the third of a family of five children. Their maiden name was Falk, F-A-L-K, and my maternal grandfather had aspirations of wealth, and so, there was a time when they moved to Albany, New York also. ... She was basically raised either on a farm adjacent to Albany or in Albany. That's where she went to high school.
SH: How did your parents meet?
PP: The aunt who was born in Russia, who came over at the age of three, grew up, married and became pregnant. She was about to deliver at Beth Israel Hospital [now Beth Israel Medical Center] in Newark when my mother, who was a nurse at Beth Israel Hospital, was apparently providing some medical service and my father was there to visit his sister. ... It turns out that everybody knew everybody else's friends from Albany, New York, and that's how they got together.
PP: 1938. They were married September 4, 1938.
SH: In your family, how many siblings do you have?
SH: Older, younger?
PP: Younger brother, five years younger, roughly.
SH: Can you please tell me about your father? He grew up in Trenton.
PP: My father grew up in Trenton. He finished eighth grade. He was expelled for disciplinary problems--he was not terribly obedient--and that was the level of his formal education. The Paley Family and cognate relatives [who] were in Trenton were into retail and he became educated in the retail business and he worked for relatives who had department stores in Trenton. ... It was an old department store called Swern's and that was a first cousin.
PP: Down in Trenton. So, he worked there and became knowledgeable in retail, and then, when I came along, after my parents moved back to Trenton, he worked in Goldberg's Department Store, ... well, until we moved up to Northern New Jersey, which is a long time later.
SH: Can you talk a little bit about the family stories concerning the Great Depression, and then, going into World War II?
PP: Well, my father's family was poor. ... Nobody was well-to-do, nobody owned any businesses. ... As far as I know, my grandparents owned a home in Trenton, but ... my father and his brothers and sister did not go to college. I believe that all of the other kids, his siblings, finished high school, but that was the extent of their formal education. My aunt, the one who was born in Russia, married a man and they owned a confectionary in Kearny, New Jersey. That's where I learned how to read, because of all the comic books that were on the stands. [laughter] I would stand there and read each comic. My uncle who was next in age went into retail and became a merchandise manager at a department store in Cleveland, Ohio. My other uncle stayed at home and cared for his parents and had a job driving a truck, picking up people's laundry, bringing it to the cleaning establishment and bringing them back to them, and that's what he did for the last twenty-five or thirty years of his life.
SH: How did the Depression affect them then, being in retail?
PP: Well, they didn't have terribly far to fall. ... I can't ever remember my father telling me a story about anybody not being employed, but the nature of the employment was not anything beyond subsistence. When I was growing up, we always had enough to eat, we always had enough to [wear], and this is right after World War II, we always had clothes on our [backs]. We were not poor, but I would characterize us as lower middle class. My mother was a nurse, but she was not educated and, as long as my brother and I were small, she did not work.
PP: So, the only person in the family who was working was my father.
SH: Your father's time in the Navy was during World War I.
SH: During World War II?
PP: My father was born in 1908 and, as I said, he was in Richmond, Virginia, and he got drafted. ... At the time, as I understand it, the people that they were taking from Richmond, Virginia, tended to be African-American and they would make them, in the Navy, galley people, working in the food supply. [Editor's Note: At the beginning of the war, African-Americans were excluded from all positions in the Navy except for steward, which involved serving the daily needs of the crew.] Because my father had some experience in selling, buying and selling, they made him a storekeeper and he was assigned to various ships in the Navy in terms of a supply capacity. He was drafted when he was thirty-four.
SH: I was going to say ...
PP: Which is somewhat older.
PP: It's in 1942. I was eight or nine months old at the time. I mean, I don't remember that, but put it together.
SH: No, I understand. [laughter]
PP: And he went into the service and I know that he spent at least two years in the South Pacific. He was assigned to a supply ship called the Mindanao, M-I-N-D-A-N-A-O, which is a province or city in the Philippines and he was storekeeper on this, on the ship. [Editor's Note: Mindanao is the second-largest island in the Philippines. The USS Mindanao (ARG-3) serviced ships involved in the Philippine and Okinawa campaigns.] I still have a coconut that he sent me when I was a baby from somewhere. He was in the Gilbert Islands and the Admiralty Islands and the Marianas Islands and all of the South Pacific, doing the supply work on his various ships.
SH: That is unbelievable. When you put on the pre-interview survey "US Navy," I was assuming that it would be sometime after or during World War I.
PP: No, it was World War II.
SH: What did your mother do then?
PP: Well, she was a nurse, and then, she took me to Albany and we lived with my grandmother, her mom, and she worked at the veterans' hospital, nursing, and my grandmother would babysit for me, you know, during the day. ... She worked [as a nurse] because she had two brothers and two sisters. The two brothers were doctors, the two sisters were nurses, and she was a nurse. So, she was the only one at home. The others were all in the service. My two aunts on my mother's side, [one] served in North Africa and one of them served in Iceland, in England and France. The other one was in North Africa. My uncles, one of them was at Fort Snelling in Minnesota and the other one ... started at Camp Kilmer, over here [near New Brunswick, New Jersey], and then, went to England, I think, and France and, ultimately, in Germany at the end of the war.
PP: And they were doctors. ... So, I think ... they were majors, I believe, I'm not sure, both in the Army.
SH: What a story. You really do have a lot of World War II history in your family.
PP: I do.
SH: Did the family save any letters or any material?
PP: ... I'm sure that my aunt, who is now in her nineties ... and lived in Iceland, has material from her service. She married her husband at a city hall in France, in Paris. She knows it was in Paris, but she doesn't know what city hall it is. We have the wedding pictures. My other aunt is gone and there's nothing from her. I don't think that my uncles left any memorabilia. I have occasional postcards that they sent to me, that ... my mom kept in a scrapbook. ... I have, somewhere, an old book that my aunt sent me from Paris, had [the title] Billy Goes to Paris or something. It was a history of Paris and a story about all the sites to see in Paris.
SH: Your father then serves for the duration of the war.
PP: '42 to '45.
SH: Where does the family go then? Does your father come back to Albany?
PP: [He] comes back to Albany. I can remember the day on which he arrived.
SH: Can you really?
PP: I was three. Well, I don't remember him arriving. You have to understand, I didn't know him.
SH: Right, that is what I was just going to say.
PP: But, my aunt, the one from Iceland and England, made a cake and she liked my father very much and my father's name was Ben. I can see her now, as I'm looking at you, vividly, jumping up and down and saying, "Benny's coming home, Benny's coming home," clapping her hands, and then, there was a cake on the table. I can't remember his arrival. I guess we stayed in Albany for a short time, and then, my dad, mom and I moved to Trenton with his parents, living on Lamberton Street, which is ... in the Jewish quarter, down by where the courthouse is now.
PP: The courthouse, yes. ... So, when I got there, I was two, or ending of two, beginning of three, and that's where my first real memories are, because I can still remember walking up Market Street. You walked past the courthouse and the courthouse windows had funny screens on them. They're still there today. They're like ... bars that come out, you know. ... A little boy could pull himself up by these bars, [laughter] they were always so unusual, and walk around it. We would walk downtown because it [the courthouse] was near downtown.
SH: That is amazing. Where did you start elementary school?
PP: The first place that my parents lived with me after the war was at Hamilton Township, about a half a mile out of the border of Trenton, 2300 South Broad Street, which was a redbrick garden apartment development. ... We lived upstairs and we had our home there and my father was trying to get back into retail and relearn the business. His field was fabrics and upholstery and draperies. He was an expert at draperies. So, he was trying to get back into the business and my mother was taking care of me, and then, my brother was born two years later, 1947.
SH: Was this new housing just for GIs?
PP: Oh, no.
SH: Returning GIs?
PP: This was, ... was and is, a small apartment development. I've not been in the apartment for sixty years, but I'm sure that the rooms would be very small now, much smaller than this one. Best I can recall, it was a small, two-bedroom apartment upstairs and had a kitchen. I can't remember much about it. I can remember the stairway, though, you know.
SH: The retail that your father was returning to, was this under some of the stores that your uncles owned?
SH: He was on his own.
PP: He worked for, as far as I know, ... a department store called Goldberg's, which was across the street from my cousin's department store.
PP: And he became, ultimately, a merchandise manager there in charge of draperies and summer furniture and a lot of other retail stuff.
SH: What do you remember about family vacations?
PP: Not very much, because we were not shore people. ... They never went down to the shore in New Jersey. The vacations that we took occurred when I was older. ... We drove once to Florida, we went twice to Cleveland, because my uncle lived in Cleveland, and that was about it. We were not vacation people.
SH: Did you go up to Albany often?
PP: Went up to Albany at least once a year, drove up, because, ... as you may remember, my father had cousins, my mother had her mother [in Albany]. They both had friends who knew each other. So, my father's first cousin and my mother's brother turned out to have been best friends in high school.
PP: That's not how my parents met.
PP: But, turns out to have been best friends. So, there was always this connection. There still are people from my family who live in Albany, New York. ... It's a Facebook [page] or one of those things that I'm involved with. [laughter] [Editor's Note: Facebook is a social networking website.]
SH: Do you have any questions before we go on about school?
JL: Once we get into high school, I have a couple questions.
SH: Talk about going to grammar school. What do you remember about that?
PP: Sure. My first grammar school was Rowan, R-O-W-A-N, which was off South Broad Street. It was about, I guess, a quarter mile, maybe a half a mile, ... towards Trenton from Hamilton Township. [It] was a red brick building, standard high school [grammar school], and I went there for kindergarten through third grade. Late in third grade, my parents bought a house. The house was in West Trenton, on Reading Avenue, 35 Reading Avenue, and I moved from there to the school that I went to for the rest of the year and for the next two years, [which] was called Hillcrest. Hillcrest was famous because it was the last school in Trenton with a grass playground. It was pre-asphalt and it was a little school. When it rained and we could play dodgeball inside, ... the teachers would draw a circle with chalk on the wooden floors. We'd move the desks around, and then, there was a grass playground that, after school, became a softball field, but it had grass in it. The school is no longer there, and I went there until, I think, fifth grade, and then, I went to Joseph Stokes Memorial School for fifth and sixth. I finished that, and then, I went to Junior [High School] #3. In Trenton, there were Junior #1, Junior #2, Junior #3, Junior #4, Junior #5. Junior #3 was a classic red brick building with columns in the front that looked almost Southern. It had a swimming pool. It had a concrete or tile swimming pool. We learned swimming. It had basketball courts, and so forth, and it was situated in West Trenton. To the west of it was a well-to-do part of Trenton called Hiltonia. To the east of it was West State Street, where all the doctors and lawyers had their offices. So, it was like going to a private school almost, and then, to the north of it, which is where I lived, but even beyond me, kids came from the projects. Kids came who were, you know, middle class, and so forth, but there was a great deal of emphasis on the academic at Junior #3, and so, a lot of people went from Junior #3, many people went, after they finished Junior #3, to private school, and most kids went to Trenton High.
SH: Really? Was that unusual in New Jersey at the time, to have a junior high with swimming pools and these kind of facilities?
PP: Oh, I don't know. I think all the junior high schools in Trenton had a swimming pool.
SH: Did they really?
PP: This was before people started leaving the city. This was before the demographics changed. So, minority folks were just kind of moving in and there were an awful lot of business people and professionals who sent their kids very happily to Junior #3. That was a terrific place to go. It was a good place to deal with intellectual curiosity, [for] people who are intellectually curious, and so, when I left Trenton at the end of eighth grade and went to Fair Lawn [High School], which is in Bergen County, I was very well prepared for ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth [grades].
SH: All right. To know more about Trenton is always very interesting. Were you exposed at all to the state assembly or anything? Did the school do any tours of this kind?
PP: No. What I was exposed to that is of significance to me is rock and roll [music], [laughter] because, in 1950--there is some dispute about what the first rock and roll record was. Some people think it was Gee by the Crows. I don't know about that, but I know, in 1953-1954, Ray Charles was doing Hallelujah, I Love Her So and I never got over my first exposure to rock and roll. It was so much different from the popular music, which, at the time, was Frank Sinatra--nothing bad about Frank Sinatra--Julius LaRosa and other--Ray Conniff--singers and all of that, and here comes Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. ... I can remember, in Junior #3, having debates with my music teacher. I'm not a musician. He was African-American. His name was Charles Higgins. He liked opera, he liked classical--he couldn't understand rock and roll--and I used to bring in my records of Frankie Lymon and debate him about how significant rock and roll was. [laughter] I had no knowledge of terminology or chord structure or phonics, but I just knew that that music was something that was seminal. So, that's what I really learned at Junior #3. That was the seminal thing.
SH: That is wild, at that age, to do that. [laughter] How diverse was the school population?
PP: I'm sorry?
SH: How diverse was your school's population?
PP: Well, it's hard to know. I guess most of the kids, I can see my high school class, ... the overwhelming proportion was white. Most of the kids were not Jewish, but there was a substantial Jewish minority. Black kids were starting to come in from the projects. ... You know, at the time, ... they would have, like, 8A or 8B or 8C. Then, they would have 8X for kids who weren't quite intellectual, and so, a lot of the minorities would go into there, and so, we had very little to do with them. We would pass in the halls.
SH: Was there a technical school set up at that point for high school?
PP: Oh, I'm sure there was, but ... I wouldn't know very much about that.
SH: How observant was your family?
PP: We had a kosher home. ... I was taught. I went to Hebrew school two days, two afternoons, a week and, on Sundays, I learned how to read the Hebrew letters; still can do it. I was bar mitzvah-ed at Adath Israel [Congregation], which is now a Baptist church [laughter] on Bellevue Avenue in Trenton, and we had a party and it was all very nice. ... As soon as I could stop doing ritual, I did and have never gone back to ritual observance. I respect it.
SH: Had your father been observant?
PP: My father was not devout. He was kosher. He always kept a kosher home, but he would eat non-kosher food out, to a limited extent, but he didn't really insist, like some parents will, that you go to church or you go to synagogue and you do it regularly. So, neither my brother [nor I]--my brother, in his later life, has become extremely devout and extremely conscientious about synagogue activities. That's something that he did not do until he was in his fifties.
SH: Was there any anti-Semitism in Trenton as a kid growing up?
PP: Not that I can recall.
PP: I've experienced some anti-Semitic things, but I can't recall anything in Trenton then.
SH: They happened later in your life.
PP: No, that happened at different places, but not anything that I can recall about Trenton. I mean, Trenton, at the time, was--I can remember taking my brother to a movie. We had our home in West Trenton. We got on a bus. We walked to the bus stop, got on a bus. It was fifteen cents for the bus fare. We went downtown and we discovered that the movie had raised their prices from twenty-five cents to thirty cents. We had to walk up to my father's department store, where he was working and he wasn't there, and ask one of the salespeople that we knew to give us a dime, so [that] we can go to the movies. It was okay. We did it. ... I must have been twelve, my brother was seven, and there was not a problem with getting on the bus and going downtown. ... That was two-and-a-half miles, three miles, whatever it was.
SH: Amazing. [laughter]
PP: Different world.
SH: Different world, for sure. Did your family move to Fair Lawn? Is that why you went to high school in Fair Lawn?
PP: Well, my father was a very good retail executive and, as I understand it, he had a sale that was so popular that the floor in this old building sank an inch. ... Goldberg's Department Store had opened up a branch in Morrisville, which is right across the bridge from Trenton, you know, in Pennsylvania. ... My father thought that it was only a matter of time before Goldberg's business could no longer address the building where it was and there weren't any other big buildings that were available. So, he thought he saw the handwriting on the wall and he reached out to friends of his in the business to try to find another position and he found a position at another department store called Meyer Brothers in Paterson, which was ... much more old-fashioned. There were only saleswomen. They only wore black.
SH: In costume.
PP: You know, this was an old-fashioned department store. ... It was privately owned by a man named Mr. Meyer, whom I remember meeting, and my father, I guess, started working there around '55 and we moved up to Fair Lawn, to an apartment, a garden apartment, in 1956.
SH: Was that traumatic for you, to leave Trenton?
PP: Eighth grade? sure. It wasn't leaving Trenton--it was moving to a new place. I mean, I was thirteen years old, but I made friends in the school very quickly, and so, whatever minor trouble there was, [I] got over [it], but it was very interesting to observe the social etiquette that existed between boys and girls. I mean, when you're thirteen, things are happening. [laughter] So, the best way to put this is, I went from a society of kissing games to a society of making out in a day, without any orientation. Who tells you about stuff like that? [laughter] but, you know, I ultimately adapted, and so forth. So, we moved to a two-bedroom garden apartment, a duplex, in Fair Lawn and my father worked at this department store in Paterson.
SH: Did your mother drive? How did you get around in Fair Lawn?
PP: Well, she had started working as a nurse around '54 or '55 and she continued working and she worked in a hospital in Paterson. ... She had the following schedule. She would wake up at ten o'clock at night. She would wake up and take a shower and get dressed in her uniform and go to work at eleven. She would work until seven [in the morning]. She would then go out and buy donuts and danish, and then, come home and see that we all had breakfast. She'd make coffee for my dad, she'd give us juice. At eight o'clock, she would go to sleep. She'd sleep until eleven or twelve. Then, she'd get up, clean, wash the house, wash the clothes and all, get food for dinner, make dinner, and everything would be served at six o'clock. Then, at seven o'clock, she would go to sleep again and sleep until ten. We didn't know that televisions had a volume control on them, because we were never allowed to turn the TV up while my mom was sleeping. We watched TV, but [laughter] ... we strained to hear it, because she was sleeping at night, so [that] she could go to work, so [that] we could have better things in life. We understood that.
SH: Where was she working in Paterson?
PP: Barnert, B-A-R-N-E-R-T, Memorial Hospital. She was a general duty registered nurse. So, she would work, a patient would hire her and would pay ... the registry a fee of so much per shift, and then, she would get whatever percentage of that fee she was entitled to.
SH: Were you involved in any kind of activities, like Boy Scouts or sports?
PP: I had been a Boy Scout in Trenton. I never got involved in any kind of formal activity in Fair Lawn. The singular activity that I had, ... you know, I was a good student and I was doing well in school and I was listening to music. [laughter] I was listening to [rock and roll], perfecting my rock and roll chops [laughter] and listening to all of the good music [that] came along--Fats Domino and Huey Smith and the Clowns and all of the ancient rock and roll people--regularly. ... There was a time when nobody knew more about rock and roll, and I could hear one note [Judge Paley snaps his fingers] and tell you what the song was, but that was a long time ago.
SH: Was this via the radio?
SH: Were you collecting records?
PP: Collecting. I collected records.
SH: Did you have a job, an after-school type of job?
PP: I did not have a job. I had summer jobs doing different things. ... There was a zoo in Fair Lawn and I would walk horses around with kids on them, you know. I did that for a short period of time and I had other jobs. I worked with my father in his department store, cleaning out storerooms, things like that, in the department store where he worked, but I never really had a job after school.
SH: Was education important to your parents, for their children?
PP: Well, I don't know how to answer that fairly. I think that the answer is yes, but my father never really understood the importance of education. He was always inhibited by educated people and he didn't quite understand what you needed an education for or what it did for you. He wasn't terribly broad-minded. Yes, he supported me. Yes, there was no question but that I was going to college, but my brother, who graduated near the bottom of his class, the other end from me, did not go to college and was not pushed to go to college. He went right into the military.
SH: When you were in high school, what were your favorite subjects, other than music? [laughter]
PP: Well, music wasn't a subject. I mean, they wouldn't talk about rock and roll as a realistic discipline. ... I suppose that I enjoyed English. I enjoyed history or social studies. I did all right in math, but I was no mathematician. I knew I was not going to be a scientist. I didn't know really what I was going to do, but I read constantly, everything from novels to non-fiction. I was always with my head in a book. I had learned to read when I was five and the first book that I finished when I was five was a Hardy Boys. ... I was so proud, you know, and I just never stopped. I never stopped reading. My father was--it's not that he'd objected to it, but he certainly didn't encourage it. He thought it was a little impractical. "What are you reading now? Oh, it's a novel, big deal," and he didn't understand, as I do now, the importance of general reading and what it does for you.
JL: You went to high school during the Eisenhower Administration. Do you remember events like the air raids, where you had to hide?
PP: Oh, sure. It wasn't scary or anything. We just did it. I mean, it was something that you did. You followed the teacher's guidance and you sat there and you covered up and it wasn't dramatic. Everybody did it.
SH: The Civil Defense drills, I think they called them.
PP: Well, they had orientation. Don't forget, we also had fire drills, just regular fire drills, where we had to leave the building, and then, come back, and we had to do it in, like, parade form, where you just had to follow the person in front of you. So, that certainly was not traumatic or anything like that.
SH: How far did you live from the school?
PP: In Fair Lawn?
PP: Less than a mile. What, maybe three-quarters [of a mile]?
SH: Did you walk to school?
PP: Yes, every morning. Because my mother would stop and get the pastries, and we lived closest to school of all of my friends, they would come over. [laughter] They would eat the pastries, they would have juice, and then, we would all walk to school, sure.
SH: No wonder she was working. [laughter]
PP: Yes, that's right, exactly, [laughter] and, at that time, every morning, she would stop and get fresh baked goodies.
SH: Were you cognizant of current events? Was that something that was discussed in school?
PP: I can't really [remember]. Certainly, by the time I got to college, I was, and I can't remember that much. Sputnik, yes, I remember standing in my ... parking lot, out the back door of the garden apartment, seeing Sputnik going over, and I remember the World Series when Don Larsen pitched this perfect game in 1956. [Editor's Note: The Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, into Earth's orbit on October 4, 1957. New York Yankee Don Larsen pitched his historic perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers on October 8, 1956, in Game 5 of that year's World Series.] We were very conscious of sports.
SH: Were you?
PP: We were very conscious of baseball, not so much football, but baseball was the big thing then, because we had New York and Brooklyn and the Yankees, as well as Philadelphia from the other end. [laughter] So, there were four pro teams within driving distance and that was terrific.
SH: Did you go to baseball games?
PP: Not many. I went to one with a cousin of mine, but not many--not as many as I would have hoped that we would when we moved closer to New York, you know. ...
SH: Did you go into the city at all?
PP: Often; often, once every six months or so. The city was magnetic, still is, never got over that, but I can remember going into New York to see The Ten Commandments at the Criterion Theater, Ocean's Eleven--I forget if that was during my college or high school--with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, at the Criterion, I'm sure. I can remember going from Trenton to the city to see The Diary of Anne Frank when I was in eighth grade. My father's work took him to the city regularly when he would buy. He was a buyer, that's where he would go to buy, at the different markets and things. He would buy summer furniture and draperies, and so forth. ... I can remember one day when we took the day off, with our parents' permission, four or five friends of ours, and spent the whole day in the city, eating pizza from King Pizza on 42nd Street. I remember spending seventeen dollars that day and thinking, "Oh, my God, my parents are going to kill me," you know. [laughter]
SH: That was a huge amount. [laughter]
PP: That was.
PP: It was all I had, earned it from babysitting. That's what I used to do. I used to babysit a lot.
SH: Did you?
PP: I would babysit for two years old and up, not real babies, but two years old and up, and I would just sit there. My friends would come over. We'd watch television and drink soda, and that's how I earned my fifty cents an hour.
SH: Were you involved in any sort of sports within the town?
PP: Intramural, yes, varsity, no. I never tried to play any sports.
SH: You said that you were not musical, but were you involved in any of the musical programs at the school?
PP: No. They had a terrific band. They had a jazz band. We're fortunate because my high school, in my year, has a website and we have kept in contact with each other. ... When you said that, I thought about the band, because people are sending pictures of the band that nobody has seen for forty years. They would play that [jazz music], but I can remember going to Paterson, to the Fabian Theater, I think in my junior year, to see Bill Doggett and Chuck Berry and Chuck Willis and about twenty major performers. Each one did three songs, and then, they got off, and it was stunning. It was just wonderful.
SH: Once in a lifetime type of experience. Wow, I am impressed.
PP: Once in a lifetime.
SH: Yes. [laughter] What would serve as a guidance counselor in your high school, to point you towards college?
PP: Well, I don't know how to answer that question, because the guidance counselors did not really deal with me. I was bright. I guess, you know, I did well. I was in the upper ten percent of my class, but I wasn't fearsomely bright, and the guidance counselors tended to stress the people who were fearsomely bright or who had a skill. If you could play tennis or if you could, you know, play baseball, they would help you. I was kind of in a great nowhere, and I can remember getting no help at all from any guidance people about where to apply, what to apply to. I don't remember any guidance about how to take the SATs, or whatever they were [called]. The college boards is what they were called then. I don't remember receiving any help at all. I knew that they were on a certain day, I knew that you had to register for them. I did and I took them and I did okay. I didn't do great; I did okay.
SH: Were you advised as far as taking a foreign language or being involved in debate?
PP: Nope. I took Latin for two years and I took German for two years. ... As far as I can remember, it was just because I wanted to take Latin and I wanted to take German--German because my parents knew words in Yiddish and Yiddish is a bastardized form of German and I thought I could figure out what they were talking about when they spoke by taking the German, [laughter] and Latin because I understood that a lot of words in English come from Latin. ... I thought that it would be helpful to have that, but I can't remember anybody sitting down with me and saying, you know, "You have an inclination towards humanities. You should go here or you should do this or you should do that." I don't remember it happening.
SH: Was there any testing for scholarships?
PP: None. I applied to the University of Pennsylvania.
PP: Because my father always wanted to go there and he never could put it together to apply. He had only been to eighth grade, but he knew about the Wharton School of Business and he thought that that would be a practical thing for me to do. I didn't do it because the guidance counselor said, "Apply to Penn," and I got in.
SH: [laughter] Was that the only school you applied to?
PP: No, I applied to Rutgers in Newark; I got in. I applied to Lehigh; I did not get in. I applied to two other schools. I can remember five [total], but those are the ones that I remember, and I know why I didn't get in at Lehigh, because I had an interview with a professor who taught German and he started speaking to me in German. ... I didn't do it very well and that's why I think I didn't do well at my interview, but I loved Lehigh. It was beautiful, it was whatever, but I knew that, if I got in, I was going to go to Penn. ... The only way I could go--it was four thousand dollars a year. That included everything. Well, ... between my parents' income, I don't think that they were making twenty thousand [dollars], so, how do I go? I had one of my uncles, who was a doctor, was very generous and helpful and [he] helped. I worked every summer. ... That was my spending money, that was my allowance, that was my whatever, and I think, the first year, I got a loan for twenty-five hundred [dollars], and the combination of all of those things permitted me to go to an Ivy League college.
SH: Where did you work during the summer, with your father?
PP: No, no. One summer, I worked as a delivery boy for a pharmacy in Fair Lawn, and that's when I learned how to drive a stick, because the only truck they had was a stick. ... They said, "Here's the key. Figure it out," and I'm not mechanical, as I've tried to make clear, but I figured it out, didn't crash into anything, [laughter] ... figured out how to hold it on a hill, you know, with the clutch.
SH: I was just going to say, no license or anything.
PP: No, no. Well, I had a driver's license.
PP: But, there was no separate driver's license for stick, but it was a stick shift truck.
SH: Okay, but you already had a license.
PP: I had a driver's license.
SH: You already knew how to drive and all that.
PP: Yes, I knew how to drive, but not a stick. You know, it's the clutch that's the problem.
PP: Because you have to figure it out, yes. [laughter] I did that for a summer and I don't know what I did after my freshman year. I know what I did ... after my junior year, because I had taken ROTC [Reserve Officers' Training Corps] and I went to what is called summer camp, which was basic training for officers, to be at Indiantown Gap, [a fort located near Annville, Pennsylvania].
SH: Before we go on to college, do you have any other questions, John, about high school?
JL: No. I am ready.
SH: We know how and why you were at the University of Pennsylvania. Where were you housed?
PP: At Penn?
PP: Well, the first year, I lived in a double room in a dorm and, the second year, I moved to a different dorm. I had a double room, but my roommate didn't come back. His family was from Western Pennsylvania, linebacker country, mining country, steel country. [The] town was Monaca, near Aliquippa.
SH: [laughter] That is funny.
PP: And I don't think that they ... understood about the expense. So, I had a double room for myself for the whole year. I did not pledge for a fraternity--I wasn't invited to--in my freshman year, but I was invited to in my sophomore year and I did, and did not do well my sophomore year as a result. ... Then, [I] went to summer school to make up a credit or two in Fairleigh Dickinson [University] in Rutherford, then, went back [to Penn] for my junior and senior year.
SH: Talk a little bit about what the campus life was like at Penn.
PP: Well, it was a little different for a public school person to adjust to. There were some people there--I'll give you an example, two of my classmates, I don't know them, but Ronald Perelman is one of them. [Editor's Note: Billionaire Ronald Perelman founded MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings, Inc.]
PP: He's only worth six billion [dollars] today, [laughter] and Nelson Peltz, who was the chairman of [Triarc]. He owns Wendy's. He's worth about two billion [dollars]. Everybody I met was the son of an architect, doctor or lawyer--I didn't know anybody like that. So, that was a little different. Plus, ... I told you I had taken a summer course at Fairleigh, and the professor was great and the book was great. [It] was the same thing as at Penn, but the exams at Penn required so much more than the exams at Fairleigh Dickinson. They really compelled you to think and to express. So, I ... felt bad that I had not gotten into a fraternity the first year. I did okay, but not terrific, and then, I put all my energy into getting into a fraternity the second year. At the time I was--try and imagine this--much thinner than I am now, but my shoulder and my chest were the same size. I was very strong. I could do push-ups all day long. ... I was a gymnast, so, I could go up a rope without my legs, you know, which I couldn't even begin to do now. [laughter] I try every once in a while, but I could do that. I could go all the way to the top, go, "Boom," and come down without using any legs, just my arms and my hands. So, I was fit, and I never ran, but I was extremely fit and extremely strong. So, the hazing, such as it was during, you know, going out to the fraternity, well, they said, "Give me ten." I'd give them twenty [push-ups]. It didn't [bother me]. I could do that.
SH: What about the ROTC? Was it mandatory at Penn?
PP: No. My father suggested that, in his experience, if you have to go in--don't forget, there was a draft--you may as well go in as an officer, because he saw officers sitting around, not working. That's a simplistic way of looking at it, but that's what he saw.
PP: So, I said, "Okay," and, at the time--I have a lot of respect for the military. It's evolved and, at the time, I don't think it had begun to evolve, and so, ROTC was "leadership laboratory." That's what they called it, which was, "Ten-hut, stand at attention." You know, your thumbs have to be down, your thumbs have to be on the seams of your pants. "Left face," you will move your feet a certain way. ... Every week, we would practice drilling and there's nothing ... more boring than drill, you know, but I was in, and we had to wear uniforms for our ROTC work. ... I can remember how there were very few fraternity people who were also in ROTC, but ROTC paid you a small stipend and that was important to me, and then came the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis and, all of a sudden, sirens are going off and people realize that their friends and siblings and girlfriends and boyfriends could be drafted into active duty and there could be a war. ... All of a sudden, people stopped laughing at you when you wore your fatigues. [Editor's Note: In April 1961, CIA-trained Cuban exiles invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in an ultimately doomed effort to overthrow Fidel Castro's Communist regime. In October 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis developed between the United States and the Soviet Union over the USSR's deployment of medium-range nuclear missiles to Cuba.] I mean, I remember that vividly, how the attitude towards the military changed very dramatically, in a day, because of what was going on with President Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs.
SH: How political was your family? Were they involved in politics at all?
PP: My father was a Democrat, my mother was a Democrat. They were not politically involved in the sense that I now understand political involvement. My father knew politicians in Trenton. I met them from time to time. Indeed, I met some of them when I became a judge and that was cool. That was just terrific. [laughter] People that my father thought walked on water because they were political leaders, now, they say, "Judge Paley, how are you? I remember your dad, I remember your grandfather." ... That was terrific. My father had enough contacts in Fair Lawn, through whatever, so that I got a job one summer--I think it was my senior year. Yes, I know, because that's when I got engaged--as a toll collector on the Garden State Parkway, part-time. So, I worked on the Parkway and I made eight hundred dollars, which was the cost of the engagement ring.
SH: Oh, my. [laughter] Where did you meet your wife?
PP: She was a student at Penn. We had had a date in April of my junior year, her sophomore year. She was a sorority girl and I believe it was April, or that could have been when we got engaged. We got engaged when I was a senior, because we got married after my first year in law school, and she was the one who encouraged me to go to law school.
SH: What was your major at Penn?
PP: Well, I thought I wanted to be an accountant, but I had not done well in accounting, and so, I majored in just general economics, corporate finance. I had no idea what I wanted to do, I had no idea where I wanted to go, didn't do particularly well. I was a "gentleman's C" student, and then, I met this woman, whose name is Gale, who ultimately became my fiancée and wife, who encouraged me to take the LSATs in ... the end of my junior year, and I did and I did okay. I got a high percentile, not ridiculously high, but high enough to think seriously about it, and applied to a couple of law schools, some of which, I realize, was outside my grasp, because I could not ask my parents to fund three more years at the cost of Penn. I just couldn't do it. So, I think I applied to Columbia, I think I applied to NYU, I know I applied to Rutgers, because I got in, [laughter] and I went to Rutgers Law School. Then, it was fifteen hundred dollars a semester, ... or a year, rather, the tuition. So, I was living with my parents in Fair Lawn and commuting to Newark to go to classes and study it. It was not comfortable living in a small apartment, two-bedroom. My brother was out already. He was in the service. So, I had a bedroom to myself, but it was all very small and my parents didn't have the sense of what studying entailed, you know, real study. ... So, that was difficult, and then, I got married the end of my first year [of] law school and we got an apartment in Newark, North Newark, near Belleville.
SH: Gale, your wife ...
PP: Gale, G-A-L-E.
SH: What was her major?
PP: Possibly history, and then, she went to Rutgers, here, after we got married, and she got a master's in, I think, education, because she was a teacher, and we used to come down here. Are you an old New Brunswick person?
SH: Not old, but I am.
PP: Well, you know what I mean.
SH: Yes, right.
PP: The Scarlet Pub, do you remember it, where Johnson and Johnson is? We used to have hamburgers there. There were big Revolutionary War murals inside.
PP: Not this Scarlet Pub that exists now.
SH: No, down here.
PP: Down right where the international headquarters [of Johnson and Johnson] are. We would ... sometimes take the train from Newark or we would drive down. We didn't have a car for the first two years we were married, and then, my brother, we borrowed his car when he went overseas. So, we would come down here [to New Brunswick]. I would take my law books and, while she was taking her classes at night, I would study here, and then, we would go back. [laughter] I wouldn't study when I was driving, but I would study when [she was in class].
SH: This is good to hear. [laughter] Just briefly, talk about your brother's service. The draft was in place. Had he been drafted?
PP: No, I don't believe so. My brother graduated from high school in 1965. He had no aspirations for further education and my parents didn't know what to do with him, I think. [laughter] So, he went into the Air Force and he was an enlisted man. He was very mechanical. He was the opposite of me, and so, when we lived in an apartment, in a garden apartment, he got friendly with the superintendent, who taught him how to fix the boiler system.
SH: Gee. [laughter]
PP: ... We had a friend who owned a bowling alley, who taught him how to repair the pin--you know, the automatic pin machine.
SH: Setting, yes.
PP: Pins machine, pinsetters, and he never saw something that he couldn't fix. ... When he graduated, shortly after he graduated, he went into the Air Force and he was stationed at Lowry Air Force Base in Colorado, at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas and different bases, and then, he was assigned to Bitburg Air Force Base in Germany. He was there when I was assigned to Germany and we saw each other.
SH: How wonderful for you guys. To go back, we talked briefly about the Bay of Pigs. What did you think of Kennedy and the Camelot image of the time?
PP: Well, I had been a Democrat and I had worked on the campus for Kennedy and I can remember two things about the fall of my freshman year--first of all, Bill Mazeroski's home run, which defeated the Yankees, [laughter] and, second of all, the Kennedy campaign and staying up all night waiting for the results. [Editor's Note: Pittsburgh Pirate Bill Mazeroski clinched victory over the Yankees in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series with a home run, the first time a home run ever ended a World Series.] My father had won, in a contest, a TV, an Emerson TV, with a blue body, and he gave it to me to use in the dorm. ... We watched the election returns there and I was very supportive of Kennedy and Democrats and enjoyed that, but I was not active in any campus political organization or anything. I'm like Groucho Marx--I refused to belong to a club that would have me for a member, you know. [laughter] ... So, I was having a difficult enough time with schoolwork and really didn't want to get involved in any other activities. I couldn't deal with it effectively, so, I wasn't active.
SH: Was this the first political campaign you watched that closely?
PP: Oh, yes, I would say so, yes. I have no recollection of being involved directly in any other political campaign. I never worked for Adlai Stevenson. [Editor's Note: Adlai Stevenson, II, was nominated for the Presidency by the Democratic Party in 1952 and 1956.] I never knew anything about local politics or who the Senators were or anything like that from New Jersey.
SH: In 1964, when you were graduating from Penn, were you aware of Vietnam? I know you were in ROTC.
PP: Barely. Because there was no singular American military presence in Vietnam then, ... it wasn't like it was later. '65 was the big buildup, when they sent over the First Air Cavalry unit and they started [building up the forces in-country]. Maybe, at the time, there were twenty thousand Americans there and people, I'm sure, were being killed, but not in any significant numbers, you know. So, I would say, no, I don't believe that I was. Now, I certainly was by the time I finished law school and I certainly was in 1965. I knew that I was going to go into the service. Because of ROTC, I'd gotten commissioned as a second lieutenant and, every year, I would have to call St. Louis, which is the administrative center, and make sure they knew that I was alive and make sure they knew what I was doing and ask them--and it was never a problem--for another year's extension, because I was going to law school, and they'd always [grant it]. They were terrific. They did a good job and, even [when] I graduated law school, in May of '67, they let me stick around and take the bar exam.
SH: Did they?
PP: And I didn't have to go on active duty until October. So, I was very happy with that, very happy, and it was okay. I paid for the toll call once a year as long as I got my deferment.
SH: Go ahead.
JL: As an ROTC man, how did you feel about the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution? Did you know that you would have to go in and serve? [Editor's Note: In early August 1964, the USS Maddox (DD -731) and the USS Turner Joy (DD-951) were involved in a controversial naval attack by North Vietnamese forces in the Gulf of Tonkin. Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution on August 7, 1964, authorizing the President to take retaliatory action against North Vietnam.]
PP: Well, I don't know that I had any sense of what the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was supposed to do or what it was. So, I can't say that ... it was dramatic in terms of [being shocked]. First of all, I knew I was going to go into the service. I didn't know where, I didn't know how, and what happened was, in 1967, say, I knew that I was going in in October. At some point, the Army sent me a request to fill out for where I wanted to be stationed. ... The first place I wanted to be stationed was Arizona and the second place--I have it in this folder--and the second place, I think, was Texas and the third place was Europe. They gave you American places you could pick and outside America, and I picked Europe, and then, when I got my orders, which are here, [it] was for Germany, and I had mixed feelings about that. I'm Jewish. This is 1968. I had never been to Europe. Here, I'm going to Germany, twenty-three years after [the end of] World War II. What is that going to be like? So, I can't say that the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution had any direct impact on me, because I knew I was going to go into the service anyway, and I don't think that I put two and two together and said, "Oh, there's going to be a buildup." I don't think so.
SH: I would like to back up a little bit then.
SH: While you were still at University of Pennsylvania, Kennedy is assassinated.
PP: Ah, yes.
SH: What was the reaction?
PP: I was walking into the laundry to pick up laundry, [the] cleaners, Marty's Laundry on Spruce Street. The reaction was absolute shock. My fiancée, or date, I guess--I'm not sure if we were engaged yet--was about five blocks away and I ran over there. "Have you heard?" and I think I was the first one who told her and everybody was just aghast. People were crying, and then, the rest of the weekend--I think that was a Friday--the rest of the weekend was spent indoors, watching television, trying to make sense out of all of this, but I absolutely remember where it was. It was in the early afternoon. It was around one-fifteen, one-thirty.
SH: What about your feelings of Johnson at that time?
PP: I don't think I had any feelings for Johnson other than that he was a Democrat and, throughout my life, I've tried to support Civil Rights. ... I believe that Lyndon Johnson supported Civil Rights and I know that John Kennedy supported Civil Rights. ... That would have been the single issue that I would have thought had importance to me.
SH: Had you been involved in Civil Rights prior to Johnson?
PP: I lived in the United States.
SH: I know.
PP: There were minority people here. ... Belonging to a minority myself, I understood a little bit about what they were going through. There was a history of common [oppression]; there was a common thread. Jewish people were enslaved in Egypt and black people were enslaved in the United States and Europe and elsewhere. ... I knew, back then, enough about music to know that everything that you see in movies now about how white people were ripping black people off was absolutely correct. I knew it. I started listening to serious blues. I can remember going into a record store and seeing the thirty-three-and-a-third [format] album, Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Blues [Singers, released in 1961], and saying, "I've got to listen to that someday." ... Now, I basically know it by heart, because I've listened to it so often. I knew that that was something about the American culture that was going to survive me, that there was something permanent about that short time in the twentieth century when that music was created. ... I still believe that, never gotten over that.
SH: From that point on, we have the assassination of Martin Luther King. [Editor's Note: Civil Rights leader Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., was shot on April 4, 1968, while preparing to lead a protest march in Memphis, Tennessee.]
PP: Well ...
SH: What were your reactions to that? You were in law school at this point.
PP: No, when Martin Luther King was assassinated, I was in Europe.
PP: [In] 1968.
PP: And, when Robert Kennedy was assassinated, I can tell you exactly where I was. [Editor's note: Senator Robert Kennedy was shot on June 5, 1968, shortly after winning the California Democratic Presidential primary.] I was in Austria, at a town called Fulpmes. ... In law school, I did [protest] marching. It has always been a source of considerable grief to me that I never got on a bus and did a freedom ride, but my parents would not have understood that and that would have created its own tensions. [Editor's Note: Beginning in May 1961, African-American and white "freedom riders" began testing the desegregation of interstate bus travel made legal in the 1960 Supreme Court decisions Boynton v. Virginia and Morgan v. Virginia. They faced violence, arrests and imprisonment when hostile Southern mobs and local law enforcement refused to honor the ruling.] ... Because of my interest in the music, all of my friends knew where my sympathies lay all of my life and I had to ... deal with the kidding and, you know, little bit of ridicule--nothing grotesque about that--which I was able to do very handsomely.
SH: Did you go to Washington, DC?
PP: No, no, didn't do any of that. The marching that I did was in Newark, in law school, a little bit and not much. I mean, ... I was no sit-in person, you know. I was of the right age and I should have done it, but I didn't.
SH: Do you remember Martin Luther King's speech?
PP: Oh, of course, very well, watching it on television. I mean, I can't remember--I don't know if what I remember about it is from that day or from having seen it so many times since, but one of the first books that I bought when I went to law school was called Why We Can't Wait and I bought it on the balcony of Meyer Brothers Department Store. It was three dollars, twenty-five cents, hardcover. Why We Can't Wait was ... a group of essays written by Martin Luther King and I read it. I don't think that my father understood. You know, after Sputnik, the first orbiting astronaut was named Yuri Gagarin. He was Russian. I sent a letter to Khrushchev, congratulating him. [Editor's Note: On April 12, 1961, Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin made a 108-minute orbit around the Earth, becoming the first human to travel into outer space.]
SH: Did you really? [laughter]
PP: My father went crazy. He thought I was going to be a Communist. [laughter] I wasn't going to be a Communist. I said, "I thought this is great, you know. ... Wouldn't it be nice if everybody was peaceful all the time?" stuff like that. I never got a response, I never got an answer, [laughter] but my father, when I told him that I had written the letter, ... I wasn't going to tell him again. [laughter]
SH: What are some of the other events of this era that you remember? You have talked about the music. There is Bob Dylan, there is the Beatles, all of this. What did you think of them?
PP: Beatles were copycats, never liked the Beatles. [laughter] Beatles were derivative. They ripped off a lot of black culture--with all due respect to the Beatles--not as much as the people in the '50s did, but, you know, they did. They made up for it later. ... So, I joined a fraternity and there was another fraternity brother in this fraternity at Penn and ... we both liked the same kind of music, which was R&B, but not the R&B they have now--real R&B.
PP: Pre-Motown. We stocked the jukebox with our stuff and people who had never heard this [would say], "Ike and Tina Turner, what are they?" [laughter] Have you ever heard of Ike and Tina Turner?
JL: Yes, Tina Turner, yes.
PP: They are serious rhythm-and-blues people. They were--I mean, he's deceased--and we would play it. Everybody would dance and have a wonderful time and say, "Where'd you get that music?" Well, this is the stuff that we were listening to constantly, you know, William Bell and all kinds of blues stuff, B. B. King, from back then, in the early '60s and the late '50s, before it became very commercial. So, that was really important for me, and Philadelphia has very good radio stations, and so, the black stations were terrific, and Trenton also had a very good black radio station. George Luther Bannister was the DJ.
SH: Really? That is wonderful that you pulled that name out. [laughter]
PP: Sponsored by Elias Light and Company. ... I used to know the jingle, but that's gone. [laughter]
SH: Did you ever consider doing a radio show at school?
PP: Yes. I had a fraternity brother whose family was well-to-do and they were from Providence and I was invited to be a disc jockey [there]. I mean, there was a time when nobody knew as much about popular music as I did. It was a very small window [of time], but ... I could not have possibly explained to my family why, when they were sacrificing so much for me to go to an Ivy League school, that I was going to go off and play records. [laughter] So, I never pursued that, and then, as I say, it was pure happenstance that I took the LSATs. Certainly, my parents understood that going to law school was a good thing for somebody like me. That was not a waste and I could justify that.
SH: Had you ever been involved in any debate clubs or anything like that in school?
PP: No. I'm saying no, but I have some dim recollection of being involved in some debating circumstance, but, no, not a debate club. I wasn't much for activities.
SH: I know they had moot court and things like that.
PP: Well, in law school, sure. That wasn't a debate.
SH: Right, but I think they do it in high school now.
PP: You know, my uncle, who is still living, is ninety-seven, ninety-six, he was a doctor. He told me that he had gone to Union College in Schenectady, [New York], and he said that one of the things he regretted, in retrospect, was that the entire time that he went to college, he never had a date, because, when he wasn't studying, he was working. ... I feel that way about the lack of [my] activities at Penn. Now, I dated, I went to dances, I did this, I did that, but I never really got involved in any kind of activities and, ultimately, I became a serious hiker. ... With the rock and roll and all of that, there were things that I could have become involved in, but I didn't and that was wrong. That was a mistake.
SH: What did you think of Woodstock? [Editor's Note: The Woodstock music festival attracted over half a million people from August 15 to 18, 1969.]
PP: Well, I wrote a letter to The New York Times. First of all, I didn't know about Woodstock and it wasn't until I came back that I'd listened to the music which transfixes me. I mean, I know every song, every group. Crosby, Stills and Nash, Stephen Stills is a genius, but in; ... what was it? 1969, so, that would have been the fortieth anniversary [of Woodstock] in 2009. So, I wrote a letter to The Times, which they didn't publish, and it said, "Dear Editor, how I wish I would have been at Woodstock, with Janis [Joplin] and Jimi [Hendrix] and The Who. I would have loved to have heard them. Unfortunately, I had other priorities. [laughter] I was in Vietnam at the time and, when you write about Woodstock, you should say that there were half a million people who would have wanted to go, but who were otherwise occupied." They didn't print it.
JL: You said you were interested in classic rock and all those groups. How did you feel about Crosby, Stills and Nash's song "Tin Soldiers" and other protest songs? [Editor's Note: The phrase is from the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young protest song Ohio, written by Neil Young, which derides the National Guardsmen who shot and killed four students during a protest at Kent State University on May 4, 1970.]
PP: Oh, yes. I think it's terrific that they still do that, for some of them should not even be alive now, Crosby particularly, [laughter] but, no, ... if they want to do that, that's fine. Stephen Stills ... had an album called Illegal Stills and, on it, he wrote a song called Soldier. ... At the dedication of "the Wall" in Vietnam, when I was politically active, the Vietnam Wall in Washington [Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC], I wrote to Bill Bradley, who was the [US] Senator. ... I said, "Why don't you consider inviting Stephen Stills to do this song, because it is a moving song about a soldier who was wounded in the Ia Drang Valley?" which was the first pitched battle in Vietnam, and, since nobody else was doing that at the time, in 1982, of course, I never got an answer. ... I think that if they want to protest, they want to, you know, play music and protest, it just builds up the emotion to the music and it's fine with me. ... I don't know, I don't agree with everything that, you know, they do or every position that they take, but I find myself more sympathetic to a lot of what they do than not sympathetic.
SH: After you finished law school, you had until October to take your law exams.
SH: What did you do during that period of time, just study for the bar?
PP: I studied in June. I'm sure we took a week's vacation. We went to ... South Jersey, and then, I studied for the bar exam, which was in July. It was the week of the riots in Newark. [Editor's Note: The riots in Newark lasted from July 13 through July 17, 1967. Twenty-six people were killed, all but two of whom were African-American.] My bar exam was taken at the Robert Treat Hotel in Newark and, on the third day of the bar exam, the riots were breaking out. They came in and they took people out of the room, activated for the National Guard and the Reserve--now, not me, because I had been deferred--but, I mean, can you imagine? You're taking the bar exam, you've studied for months to do this and, now, all of a sudden, you're going to go live in a tent on Lincoln Avenue somewhere. Where my apartment was in Newark, we had tented soldiers on the lawn. My wife had to walk through the tents, the tented area, to get to the junior high school where she was teaching. ... There, we could hear fire and weapons and things going off during the riots. After that was over, I'm sure I took a vacation after the bar, but I can't remember exactly where I went, and then, that would have been '67.
SH: Were you surprised that they happened?
PP: Oh, sure, sure. It hadn't happened before. It had never happened before, but ... I think it was '65 was Detroit or Watts, so, it was a matter of time. Ken Gibson, who was the Mayor of Newark thereafter, said, "Wherever American cities are going, Newark will get there first," and I agree with that. We lived on the one side of Broadway that was white and predominantly Italian. On the other side of Broadway was black. There was no mixing between the two. ... Everything was ghettoized, you know. Our side was more pleasant than the black side. We were friendly with black people because my wife was teaching and she taught students and we met students. ... Then, in September, I became a substitute teacher and taught at Broadway Junior High School--her school--and I had thought that I would want to be a teacher at some point, maybe a law teacher or something, but I was convinced, after teaching in junior high school, that it wasn't for me. [laughter] I couldn't deal with it. I was much too impatient, much too serious, but I did make friends ... with the people from the community, and then came October and I was supposed to report October 4th and I reported October 3rd. I drove down to Fort Lee, Virginia. Well, I got my orders in early May, because, I remember, I was coming home from law school and I got stopped for speeding on the McCarter Highway, [laughter] on the day that I got my orders. [laughter] ... The cop pulled me over and I said, "Officer, please, I'm a little upset. Look, I got orders today for active duty. I could be going to Vietnam," and he said, "Get out of here. Go away."
SH: Really? [laughter]
PP: Yes. I didn't get a ticket, but I drove carefully the rest of the way home, and the orders were for Fort Lee until March, and then, Germany.
SH: You knew right then where you would be going.
PP: I knew I was going to go to Fort Lee, Virginia. So, then, my wife was teaching and I went. Then, I drove down to Fort Lee--which is south of Richmond, north of North Carolina, so, maybe it's, I don't know, eight, nine hours--but I drove down and got assigned to a room with another ... lieutenant. By that time, I had been promoted and I was a first lieutenant. I think he was a second lieutenant, I can't remember. ... We shared a double room. He was from Arkansas. I had never been around people who used the N-word. ... We had a maid who was African-American and he referred to her, not to her face, but to me, [by] that word. I said, "Oh, my God, this is worse than going to Vietnam," you know, and we had a little discussion about that. He was very good in field exercises and was not very good at academics, so, we kind of worked with each other.
SH: Were you at Fort Lee for school?
PP: Basic quartermaster officers' school, to learn about supply regulations, supply procedures, because, at ROTC, I had been commissioned in the Quartermaster Corps. Quartermaster is supply.
SH: Right. This was at Penn.
PP: No, ... at Penn.
SH: Right, that was Quartermaster, okay.
PP: At Penn, yes. So, I knew I was going to be a quartermaster.
SH: Now that you had passed the bar, did you not want to go JAG [Judge Advocate General's Corps]?
PP: Well, if I had gone to JAG, I would have had to have made a commitment for two more years of active duty.
PP: And I didn't feel comfortable doing that, and I don't think I could have explained that to my wife or anybody else.
SH: Okay, fair enough. [laughter]
PP: I thought it was rare enough, with all due respect, that people with my educational background were going into [the] Army in the first place. I thought two years was enough. So, I was taking this fundamental, basic quartermaster course, which lasted until, basically, New Year's. ... My wife came down and we did a little touring. We went to Jamestown. She got a cold, just like the colonists. She got pneumonia.
SH: Oh, dear.
PP: And [we] went back. She couldn't shake her pneumonia. ... I came up for New Year's. I came up for Christmas week and, at the time, there was a very fancy restaurant in New York called L'aiglon, which means "The Eagle." It was on East 55th Street, across from the St. Regis [Hotel], and I put on my dress blues. You know what dress blues are?
PP: It's a cavalry uniform--think of a cavalry soldier, with light blue slacks, yellow piping, whatever that's called.
SH: The stripe.
PP: And a dark blue, and a hat, but an officer's hat, you know, and we go into L'aiglon. We drive in, park the car, go to L'aiglon, and people are looking at me. By this time, I'm a first lieutenant and I have a ribbon, National Defense Ribbon, and they have no idea what I am. ... As we were getting our overcoats, because this was December, somebody said to me, I'll never forget this, "Excuse me, what kind of a uniform is that?" and I said, "I'm an usher at the Roxy [Theater] and I have to hurry, because the late show is coming." I mean, people had no idea. People had no idea that it was a military uniform.
SH: You are kidding.
PP: They did not have any clue. The military culture was so far removed from [general society], and this is a class-A restaurant. This is a major place; they had no idea. Then, I went back to Fort Lee and I found an apartment and I moved to this apartment, and then, Gale came down and we had a very pleasant late winter and spring. I introduced her to Virginia. We found the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. We drove around every weekend, you know, and I was in something called "Supply Management Course" until March, and then, I got my orders to go to Germany. ... I believe that Gale and I paid for her flight. She came over the next day, by a civilian flight, and I had to go to Frankfurt to pick her up, which I did, and, now, we were in Mannheim, Germany, which is on the Rhine. It's about thirty miles north of France and about forty miles south of Frankfurt, so, it's in the western part of Germany.
SH: Southwestern, yes.
PP: And we stayed in a hotel. About four years ago, with my second wife, I returned to Germany and showed her the hotel that we had stayed at. Ultimately, [we] found an apartment in downtown Mannheim, right near the main park, the main structural aspect of Mannheim, which was a wreck after World War II. [It] is an old water tower, the Wasserturm, and we were three blocks from the Wasserturm. ... Mannheim was designed in the eighteenth century or the seventeenth century by an architect. ... It's like a chessboard. So, our block was called "R Drei," [which means] R3, R Drei, [laughter] and that was our address, R Drei, "Paley, R Drei, Mannheim, Germany," whatever the code was, and we lived on the fifth floor. It was a walkup, but it was a beautiful apartment with a terrace. We had a local bakery, we had a local laundry, we had a local wine shop and they [the neighbors] took care of us, especially when, as what happened, Gale became pregnant and we bought a dog, a little dachshund, Fritzie. [laughter] ... The Germans love pregnant [women] and the Germans love doggies. So, she could not carry even her pocketbook upstairs. Somebody would always be grabbing and taking it upstairs, and so, she was helped very much during her pregnancy and we were there for eight months, nine months. We saw all of Germany, all of Austria, Northern Italy, Amsterdam, Holland, and a lot of other places in-between, and had a wonderful time.
SH: How rare was it for military personnel to be living in an apartment? Was there not base housing supplied in Mannheim?
PP: There was base housing, but most of the career officers took that over and they were very happy to have somebody who wasn't interested in living on the base, and I learned that ... there's a variety of Americans who were in the military and who never wanted to leave the base, because they're comfortable with pizza and they're comfortable with bowling and they're comfortable with American things. ... Then, there were Americans who want to see the cathedrals and the churches and the art. ... That's the minority, I'm sad [to say], I'm sorry to say.
PP: But, we were both like that and we wanted to spend weekends in Heidelberg, which was ten minutes away, and we wanted to go see the university at Marksburg and we wanted to go to Strasbourg in France, and we did all of those things.
SH: What was your duty?
PP: I was assigned to a headquarters unit of a brigade. All right, so, I don't know if you know about [the] military. You know, so, there's a squad, which could be as little as five men, people, and then, a group of squads--and squads can have different functions--make up a platoon and a group of platoons--it all depends on what function--make up a company, and a group of companies make up a battalion and a group of battalions make up a brigade. So, that's what it was. So, I don't know, several hundred people were in this brigade and it was called the First Support Brigade, Erste Support Brigade. ... It was based in Mannheim and its job was to provide supply services to the Seventh Army. ... It was part of the Seventh Army and it did supply stuff and we were in an old military barracks that had been German-occupied during World War II, right outside of [Mannheim]. It was called ... Taylor Barracks and that's where my office was.
SH: You talked about how friendly the Germans were to your wife and to you.
PP: Oh, yes.
SH: Was that normal?
PP: Oh, yes, they loved Americans, because ... the theme was, "We were not Nazis," you know. "We didn't know who they were. We're going to show you what nice people [we are]." Now, Germans, the German people, the people who lived there, were naturally hospitable. There's a word in German, gemutlichkeit, and there's no question but that that is a sincere position, but they didn't want to be associated with what happened in World War II. ... So, they bent over backwards and we had Germans who worked for the United States Government working in my office, some of whom had been prisoners of war and recognized that Germany lost the war to the United States and they had been working for the United States since the '40s.
SH: There were lots of things going on at that time with Russia and, of course, East Germany.
SH: Were you ever on alert with regard to Russia and East Germany?
PP: No. The main thing that was going on was the revolutions in Paris. Danny the Red was a student who was very anti-American, he was very left. That was going on. [Editor's Note: Daniel Cohn-Bendit was the informal leader of protests in Paris that sparked other protests throughout France against President Charles de Gaulle's policies.] When you went to Strasbourg, you drove on a highway along the Rhine, and then, you made a right turn over a bridge. As you made the right turn over the bridge into France, there were these signs: "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?" in English, from French sympathizers or anti-sympathizers. We were never harassed, we were never bothered. We didn't bother people, they didn't bother us. There was a lot going on. There was a lot of friction between white Americans and black Americans; I don't mean officers, but I mean enlisted people. There was friction between the Americans who left the base and the Americans who stayed on the base all the time, for their social activities.
PP: Yes, it wasn't fun. So, ... what would happen would be, ... the people would leave the base and they would come to downtown Mannheim to drink. ... There were black bars and there were white bars and a black person didn't go into a white bar and a white person didn't go into a black bar. Now, these were bars. I didn't go to bars at the time. I was a married man, so, I don't know anything about that. I know that cars were [vandalized]. The windshields were broken near where my car was parked, because I had to move my car from time to time in order to avoid that, very troubling. This is a foreign country, we're supposed to be, you know, "the policemen of the world," or whatever you want to call us, and, here, we can't even control our own folks.
SH: Did you ever try to go into Eastern Germany?
PP: I knew I could not.
SH: Or into Berlin?
PP: No, I never tried to go to Berlin. It was always closer things that were much more interesting to me, but I could not go to Czechoslovakia, I could not go to Poland--I was not allowed. We took a trip to Northern Germany once and, on my leave papers, I forgot to put Denmark as a destination. So, they would not let me into Denmark, because my leave papers didn't say Denmark.
PP: Because they were afraid I was going to desert and go to Sweden, as far as they knew. They were under instructions to prevent me from going. I never had any desire to go to any of the Communist countries. I didn't go until two years ago. Back then, we traveled all around Germany. We took many weeks off, we took many weekends off. We ate our fill in the brew pubs, whatever they were called, the gasthauses, and we saw some beautiful scenery and went to this castle and that castle and went to where Germany was supposed to originate and King Ludwig's castles. [laughter] ... It was wonderful.
SH: When did you meet up with your brother?
PP: Well, my brother was in Bitburg and I was in Mannheim, I would say seventy-five miles away. So, he visited once. He came to us and we had a two-bedroom apartment. Gale was pregnant at the time. So, he came and he stayed in the extra bedroom. We took him to Heidelberg, we took him around Mannheim, and then, once, we went there and we passed Frankenstein Castle [laughter] and we went to Bitburg and we went to Trier. ... The most famous landmark is called the Porta Nigra, which is a wall of black stone that was constructed by Romans back in 109 BC or 109 AD, [laughter] or something like that. ... You know, that was terrific, and so, we saw each other twice. He was enlisted. My concern was that he would go to Vietnam as an enlisted man and I didn't think that that was a very good thing, because the people who get killed tend not to be the officers. ... Then, in October, I got promoted to captain and, at the time, the Army needed senior first lieutenants or captains. So, I knew that whether I ... accepted the promotion or not, it was likely that I was going to go [to Vietnam], even though the rule was, if you go overseas, you only go to one theater.
PP: They violated that rule, [laughter] because I got [redeployed] three weeks after my promotion, which was October 3rd, year to the day that I had gone on active duty, when I got promoted to captain. ... We took a week off, came back and, two weeks later, I got my orders to go to Vietnam and I was going January--I think it was the 4th. I can't remember the day, because I didn't get there on the 4th, which I will tell you about, but, so, I told Gale, who was extremely upset. She was pregnant, after all, and we called our parents and we told them that we were going to call them within a few days, after we had assimilated this, to tell us what the logistics were, because Gale was going to ... come home earlier than I. I would stay until late December, and that's what happened. Gale left in early December. She took the dog and came home and she stayed with my parents in New Jersey, in Fair Lawn, for a couple of weeks, and then, I came home in late December. ... When I stayed in Germany, I was by myself, so, I had the opportunity to travel around. So, I went to Munich and I went to Dachau and I went to different places that I hadn't been.
SH: I was going to ask you about that, since you are Jewish.
SH: Going to Germany, did you go to see these things?
PP: I went to Dachau. I'll tell you a funny story first about Germany. I tell my juries all the time. They come in, you know, fifty people, they're going to be on a jury, and they all sit next to each other like this, [bunched together]. [laughter] ... I tell them that, ... on this trip, ... I stayed at the hotel in the railroad station in Munich and I walked around. After I unpacked and registered, I started walking around Munich. I knew what I wanted to see, but it was late. I'd been on a train for hours and hours. So, I was walking around and I see a movie. It's cold now. I'm wearing an overcoat, I'm wearing civvies [civilian clothes]. It's Dr. Zhivago, in Germany. Dr. Zhivago was a movie that came out around 1968, with Tom Courtenay, and it was a very large spectacle movie and I had seen it in English. ... I think Vladimir Nabokov was the author, and I may have even read the book, but I certainly saw the movie in English. [Editor's Note: The movie was released in the US in 1965. The author was Boris Pasternak.] "Ah-ha, so, this is a good opportunity for me to learn German," and because ... [of] the subtitles. So, I go in. ... It's a beautiful theater--imagine Radio City Music Hall. It's a big theater. There are five people, ... customers, in the theater. This is Germany, so, we all have to sit in the same row, next to each other, holding our overcoats. Now, in the United States, you wouldn't have to do that. You could put your overcoat next to you, the seat would be all right, maybe somebody would be over here, ... wherever you want, [but] because it's Germany, ... they had one usher on this side of that particular aisle, that particular row, and they had one usher on that side. ... I always tell the jury people, "It's an insight into the German character--there must be order," [laughter] you know, and then, a couple of days later, I went to Dachau. ... That was stunning, because you leave [Munich], you go on a train. Dachau is a suburb and you go on a train. Have you been? Do you know? So, you take the train, it's twenty minutes away and you get off and there's a railroad station. Now, at the time, I was semi-fluent in German. I could get along, but what do you say? "Take me to the camp. Take me to Dachau. Take me to the concentration camp?" and I said to the cab driver, "Take me to the camp," and he said, in German, "You mean the concentration camp?" and I said, "Yes, thank you," and he took me to the camp. ... It was a cold, bitter day. It was maybe ten degrees colder than it is now. It was spitting rain and there's a museum at the camp and you go through the museum, and there's a movie, and then, you walk through the grounds. What they did at Dachau was, they tore down all the barracks. They kept up one barracks over here and one barracks over there, but they tore down forty barracks that were erected. So, they kept two as a [reminder], and then, they have the crematoria and the chapels that they subsequently built at the end and I spent three hours there and it was very moving and very sad. Then, I went back a long time later, but I'll tell you about that later. ... Now, every German student in high school must go to Dachau, every German [student]. The busses are full. All the people you see are students who are going through because they have to be reminded of what went on. So, after that, I went back to Mannheim, and then, flew home and stayed in Fair Lawn for over Christmas and over New Year's. ... I knew I was going to Fort Lewis, Washington--Fort Lewis is near Seattle--and I was going to go there for a four-day Vietnam refresher course, because I'd been in Germany, so, I have to be refreshed. [laughter] ... Mind you, I'm a supply officer, I'm not a combat soldier, but I am a captain. So, I get out there and I learn that the four days will become about two weeks, because everybody has taken Christmas holiday off. They all went home. So, now, January is extremely busy. "Want to keep me here for eight months? Keep me here for eight months. What do I care?" [laughter] and they taught us infantry tactics--they re-taught us. They had classes for us dealing with Vietnamese. They had mock Vietnamese villages there and they refreshed us--not supply stuff, but basic soldier stuff--to make sure that we knew about that, and they taught us how to ambush. They taught us how, if you're on a truck, all right, and you have a squad of men and, all of a sudden, people start shooting at you, how do you get off the truck in the way where you're going to save as many lives of your men as possible? things like that. ... We did it, and I insisted that my men scream like banshees, and they did, so, we only had to do it once. [laughter] See, I'm not stupid. ...
SH: When was your wife due?
PP: My [wife], Gale?
SH: When was she due?
PP: End of February.
PP: ... When I left around January 3rd or 4th to go to Fort Lewis, she had a month-and-a-half to go. So, she was in her eighth month, seventh month. That's what she was doing. We expected the baby in February.
SH: Where was her family from?
PP: Philadelphia, but her parents had moved to Scranton. That's where we were married, in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and her father was in the clothing business and finished his career in the clothing business in Scranton.
SH: Did she go live in Scranton once she left your parents' home?
PP: After I left, she went to Scranton and that's where my daughter was born, in the hospital in Scranton. ... Then, she, Gale, stayed with her folks and that was no problem at all. I mean, they were perfectly happy to have ... her there and to take care of the baby, and my parents would go out to visit until I came home.
SH: There was no entertaining the idea that you could be deferred until the baby came.
PP: No, never thought about it.
PP: Never thought about it.
PP: I never thought about it.
PP: I certainly would not have been interested in doing that, because that meant that I would have had to wait to do something unpleasant.
PP: ... You know the sword of Damocles, and I wasn't interested in doing that. You know, when I was in Vietnam, we never saw each other on R&R. I didn't want to. I didn't want to come to [see her]. She could have come to Hawaii, [but] we didn't want to spend the money--we didn't have the money--and it would have been very difficult to leave. Other people did it. They were able to deal with that. I was happy to go to Bangkok and I was happy to go to Tokyo and that was it. It was okay. As it turns out, I only stayed in Vietnam for about nine months anyway. I wasn't there for a full tour. So, I got an advantage.
SH: How long were you in Fort Lewis before they shipped you over?
PP: ... I got there around the 3rd and I left on the 15th, so, I was there for twelve days and I arrived in Vietnam on the 15th or 16th, I can't remember, of January.
SH: Did you go by air?
PP: Oh, yes, [laughter] indeed. We flew to Hawaii. I was in Hawaii for an hour. Then, we flew to Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines. I was in the Philippines for an hour. Then, we flew to Cam Ranh Bay, which was a big base in Vietnam. ... There were two places in Vietnam ... where planes would land, American planes, you know, United Airlines, civilian planes. Cam Ranh Bay was one that was on the northern coast and Bien Hoa was another that was near Saigon. Well, I should say Tan Son Nhut. They would land in Tan Son Nhut, in Saigon. Those were the two places. If you flew into Cam Ranh Bay, you were supposed to go to the northern part of the country. If you flew into Tan Son Nhut, you were going to go to the southern part of the country. That was the aim. So, we flew in.
SH: Did you know that you were going to Cam Ranh Bay?
PP: I'm sure I did.
SH: Okay. I did not know how explicit your orders were.
PP: Let's see. [laughter] I can't remember. I'm pretty sure I did.
PP: I don't think it was a surprise.
SH: How are you doing?
PP: The two.
SH: Can I put this back on?
PP: Yes, sure. It's the same terminology, a replacement battalion.
PP: So, I flew to Cam Ranh Bay, and then, they let you go into a barracks, like a dormitory, which had bunks up and down--I don't know what they did with women, but these were all men--and I stayed there for less than a day. They woke me up in the middle of the night and said, "Captain Paley, are you a college graduate? Did you go to law school?" I said, "Yes, yes." They said, "We're diverting you. Please get dressed. Be outside in ten minutes. You're coming with us." They put me on a cargo plane. I don't think I had seen the sun in Vietnam. [laughter] They put me in a cargo plane with duffle bags. That's what we sat on--we didn't sit on seats, we sat on duffle bags. We didn't have straps, and they flew to Tan Son Nhut. No, they flew to Bien Hoa, that's what it was. They flew to Bien Hoa, because ... it was a military plane. So, Bien Hoa is thirty miles northeast of Saigon.
PP: And it was a big Air Force base. ... "We're going to Bien Hoa?" and the plane is noisy and ... this is my first day in-country. I can't tell whether people are shooting at the planes. Now, you understand, we had air superiority. There was no North Vietnamese Air Force. So, what am I worried about? [laughter] but, I mean, it's my first day in-country, what do I know? [laughter] So, we land at Bien Hoa and they take me, by a car or truck, to another replacement battalion where I stay ... until the next day, and, at that time, a sedan comes to pick me up, an Army sedan in OD [olive drab paint scheme], with a lieutenant and a sergeant. "What's this about? This is pretty cool. There are generals waiting to be taken by a truck ... out in the field [laughter] and I'm being picked up by a sedan. I like this a lot." [They] take me to Headquarters, United States Army, Vietnam, which is in a place called Long Binh, which is ten miles from Bien Hoa. ... Imagine a 1950s era college campus with 1950s era construction of what looks like office buildings, right, air conditioned office buildings, and we walk into the second floor of one of these buildings, which are on the top of this huge hill, and a colonel comes out to see me and shakes my hand and says, "You're going to like it here. It's an air conditioned building. There are toilets."
PP: "They flush." [laughter] So, he says, "Here's the deal," says, "We are ... part of the Adjutant General's office, AG of the United States Army, Vietnam. We're the headquarters of the entire Army force in Vietnam and our job is Special Services." That's goodies. That's, "Generals, they want a jock strap, you get them a jock strap. They want a tennis racket, you get them a tennis racket." Our office controlled R&R, which is rest and recreation. Our office controlled entertainment. So, when Greg Morris, who was on Mission: Impossible [a TV spy drama from 1966 to 1973], came over to visit, he was part of our responsibility to escort around, Gypsy Rose Lee and other people like that. I said, "Oh, I think I can deal with this." ... When I said that I would do this and work with this, and I was going to be the staff officer for supplies, which meant my job was to get supplies to the troops, I said, "Oh, this is terrific." So, they showed me where I'm staying, which is in a dorm. Now, I've graduated from the double-decker bunk bed type dorm to the single dorm with about twenty feet between the next cot [and my own] and I have a footlocker and I have a wall locker and I have a reading light. ... I'm as happy as I can be, and I have my own office, I have my own sergeant.
SH: You have AC. [laughter]
PP: I have a secretary.
SH: Oh, dear.
PP: I have electricity. ... Now, my office--I had a desk like that--my office was one quarter the size of this room.
SH: Not big, [laughter] for the record.
PP: So, I would say that my office was eight feet by ten feet, if that, and this is where my sergeant and I sat, because he had a desk, too, Sergeant Morris, and he was much older than I. He was in his fifties.
SH: From the photograph we are looking at, he is not a young man.
PP: He was a career noncommissioned officer, and he was going to teach me all about supply regulations and what to do to help the troops. My secretary, who didn't sit in this office, was Vietnamese. Her name was Ngo [pronounced "Nyo"], N-G-O-T-H-I, My Hanh, M-Y-capital H-A-N-H. Her name now is Christina Gallagher and she lives in Las Vegas.
PP: She married a man named Gallagher, came over to this country later. So, I learned that I was put on duty to travel around Vietnam and to check and see whether the swimming pools that the taxpayers have paid for were functional. "Okay, I can do this." I had a forty-five [caliber] pistol and, from time to time, if I went into Saigon, I had the use of an office M-16. ... I was trained in both of those weapons. ... So, my experience was substantially different from what a lot of people's were. This was not combat--this was combat support, at best--and, within the first two months, I had traveled to Pleiku in the Central Highlands, Qui Nhon in the northern beach area and other places around, and we had a hotel that we occupied. My office was responsible for maintaining an entire floor of a hotel in Saigon, and that's where we put the Greg Morrises and the Gypsy Rose Lees, and, once every couple of weeks, I would travel to this hotel and stay there overnight, because there would be business going on in Saigon. So, this was a pretty plush circumstance. We had Vietnamese women who washed our clothing and polished our boots. We didn't have to do any of that, and, ultimately, I moved out to my own room, with my own refrigerator, my own TV. I don't mean that the government provided it. I had to buy it, but it was my own--my own cot, my own sink, with a bathroom down the hall, you know, shared toilet and shower facilities, but flush toilets and running water and hot water. So, my experience was substantially different from most of the men who were in Vietnam, and the best thing was, I worked with American women. Now, some of them were older--don't forget, I was twenty-six. Some of them were in their forties and fifties and older, who worked for the Army as civilian personnel, but some of them were Red Cross girls--you should excuse the expression--and "donut dollies" and people who worked for the USO [United Service Organizations] and people who worked for the Army in setting up the service clubs. [Editor's Note: "Donut dollies" was the term for volunteer Red Cross women who entertained troops.] ... They were attractive, young, college-age, early twenties girls who decided to go to Vietnam for a year and see what it was like. ... They would make enough money, because they were always being taken out for dinner--they didn't have to spend money--to save their year's salary, and then, they would travel home and take a year going west. So, they'd go to Thailand, and then, they'd go to India, and then, they'd go through Europe, and, if they saved eight thousand dollars, you could do that at the time and do it very well. ... They were females, so, they were escorted constantly. It was very pleasant having them around. They were scenery. [laughter]
SH: When you went to places like Pleiku, did you go alone or with someone? How did you get there?
PP: Alone, fly. I would be taken. I would receive an order and would get on, maybe, a helicopter ... or, like, a two-seater, like in the movies. I flew from My Tho, which is south, back to Long Binh over Saigon in a two-seater. It was terrific. I have pictures of downtown Saigon from the air. It was just wonderful, but I don't remember how I got to Pleiku particularly. I was very new at the time, but I know that I traveled to Pleiku and I was there before the end of February, because the end of February was Tet II. [Editor's Note: The Tet Offensive, a series of offensives conducted from January 30, 1968, to September 30, 1968, by the Viet Cong against every major city in South Vietnam, is seen as the point when American public opinion began turning against the war. The Second Tet Offensive was initiated in February 1969.]
SH: What do you remember about Tet II?
PP: Well, Tet I was Tet, and so, everybody figured that something was happening. Tet II, I was at my room that was the dorm room in Long Binh, and I shared the room with civilians who were reporters, photographers, press and others. ...
SH: They were housed in this facility.
PP: They were housed in a camp lodge. [laughter] I mean, that's what it looked like. So, now, we're getting rocketed and we're getting shelled and there's Vietcong around Long Binh--Long Binh was twenty-five thousand Americans--and they're shooting at us. I don't mean us in this room.
PP: But, the base, and so, we received instructions. The instructions were that we were to do whatever we could to get the people out of these lodges into the bunkers. We had bunkers. Imagine a big sewer pipe with a bench surrounded by ... sandbags. So, we had that right outside the door and they would move, because we had a plane which was called Spooky, [a Douglas AC-47, which provided close air support for ground operations]. It was a big plane and we had air superiority. It was firing at the enemy, and so, there were red lines in the sky.
PP: From the tracers, and these idiots were taking pictures of the tracers. They were standing up and, I remember, I had to pull my weapon, which was not loaded, and say, "Get into the bunker, now. My orders are, you are to get into the bunker. Get into the bunker, now," and they did [laughter] and I did, without any problem, and, ultimately, Spooky went and the VC went, but we were shelled. There were VC who were within a quarter of a mile, you know, of where I was. That was close enough.
SH: What about the CIA?
PP: Don't know anything about it. ... The only contact that I had with intelligence was, one day, in my office--people would drop by my office, because I had these goodies that were available. ... One day, somebody points out that we were on this hill. Well, on the other side of the hill, in the valley, was an old rubber plantation, and this intelligence officer says to me, in my air-conditioned office, "Look down there. See that tree?" a mile away, half a mile away, says, "Behind that tree is camped a reinforced platoon of Vietcong soldiers." I said, "You know that?" [He] said, "Yes, I'm with intelligence." Well, I said, "Well, do something intelligent--shoot them, [laughter] because, if you don't take care of them, they're going to shoot me. If you know that they're there, can't you do something?" "That's not my job." "Okay, fine." That's my only contact with anything like that. So, we were never--my office, as far as I know, was never--bothered or shelled. The one tragedy that happened was in April. My daughter was born March 28th. I found out March 30th--not February 28th, but March 28th, the Army was wrong--and she was healthy and the Red Cross gave me the word and everything, and that was dramatic. So, my friends took me out. We drank beers and we were a little tipsy. Three or four days later, my friend, his name is Ming Chin, he's an American captain, and I, [also an] American captain, have to go to Saigon on business. ... We leave behind a lieutenant whose name is Bud Stork, like a bird, stork. ... That night, in the officers' mess, they were having a bistro night or something. So, they put out red-and-white checked tablecloths and bottles of Mateus, with the wax dripping, and they lit the ... candles and they were serving coq au vin, [laughter] pretty nice. So, he has his coq au vin, he has a couple of glasses of wine and he walks down the hill, tenth of a mile to his hooch--a hooch is a cabin--and he is there. The VC rocketed the base with one rocket that night and it hit him. It went into his room and blew him apart. He did not suffer--that's the only good thing you can say. So, in the morning, we were called, "Come back immediately," and we returned to the base from Saigon, which was forty-five minutes or so, and everybody was just [shocked]. ... Bud's responsibility was, he would learn, say, on the twentieth of the month, that there were ten thousand seats to go to Honolulu, Hawaii, on R&R. He was responsible to say, "The First Infantry Division gets eight hundred seats. The 25th Infantry Division gets nine hundred seats. This unit gets this, that unit gets that," that's all he ever did. He was a nice Catholic boy from Oakland, California--blown up. So, our colonel, our boss, was also Catholic and felt that it was appropriate to have a Catholic funeral, you know, okay, fine, and we did. ... Everybody was there from the entire headquarters, because he had worked in this large headquarters complex. There were hundreds of people there, and then, it was over. The priest was there, the chaplain who was Catholic. They got a Catholic chaplain, and, of course, many of the Vietnamese who worked with us were Catholic, too, so, they understood the ritual of what was going on. Now, we're just a mess. "What do we do?" ... We had offices on the third floor and on the second floor. He [the Colonel] said, "All right, you, you and you, you're going to take the desks and the files from the second floor, move them to the third floor. You, you and you, third floor to second floor. Now--that's an order," and, for the rest of the day, all we did was schlep. [laughter]
PP: But, after an hour, we started laughing. It was so silly. Here we are, we're mourning and we are now moving furniture from one room to another. Why? There's no reason for it. Yes, it was--it was to make us be a little more comfortable and to deal with our grief. So, we didn't grieve very long because we didn't have the chance to grieve very long, and we all understood how fortunate we were to have a job doing what we were doing. So, our hours were seven-thirty in the morning to six-thirty at night. We got, one week, a half a day off, the next week, a day off, the next week, a day-and-a-half off. So, we were working six full days ... [a week], eleven or twelve hours a day, no nonsense, because anybody who didn't like that could go right to the field and go right to combat. ... We all understood that and nobody took advantage of it, and we thought that the last person in the world who would be subject to a rocket attack would be somebody who was telling the 199th Light Brigade how many people could go to Sydney, Australia, on their next month, and that's what happened. Years later--that was '69, right--[in] '82, they dedicate the Wall [the Vietnam Veterans Memorial] in Washington and I was there when they did it.
SH: Were you really?
PP: And found his name. I had never reached out to his relatives, but, that night, when I got home to Piscataway, [New Jersey, I] called his mother, found her, found names of people named Stork in Oakland, called his mother. She started to cry. I said, "I wanted to tell you that somebody was there for your [son]," never spoke to her again, never wrote to her. She never wrote back, she never called, she never did anything, but I wanted her to know that somebody had not forgotten what was going on.
SH: That is really nice that you did that, though.
PP: Well, she's a mother, you know. [laughter]
PP: I mean, it's important.
PP: I hadn't done that earlier, which was my fault, but I tried to make up for it. So, let's see, I stay in Vietnam until May and, in May, I go to Thailand for R&R. I always wanted to go to Bangkok, went to the floating market, saw the Buddhas. It was terrific; come back, and then, my friend, Ming, ... finished his tour of duty in July and he left. His parents, of course, were Chinese-American and they came over to the Orient. ... I forget exactly where [he went], maybe it was Hong Kong. So, he flew to Hong Kong and we made plans to meet in Tokyo mid-August, August 10th or something like that, and we did. We met in Tokyo. His father was a successful businessman, wanted to see the Suntory Scotch Factory and this plant and that plant, [laughter] and we went to Nikko, which is a shrine in Japan, and went around Tokyo. ... I, because of my work, had made some contact with business people who were selling things, cameras, and so forth, to Americans, and so, they took us out to dinner, to a major Chinese dinner, which even Mr. Chin thought was stupendous. [laughter] ... He had come from Canton as a railroad worker and went back to Canton, got his bride, came over and ended up with a very large ranch in Oregon and was a wealthy man, and never forgot where he's from and raised a very nice young man, who is now the first Asian-American justice of a state supreme court. He's on the California Supreme Court.
SH: Is he really?
PP: To my great consternation, he is a Republican and he's conservative, but ... he's pro-choice, I guess you would say, although he does not support the right of gay people to marry. He was ... [on] that side of the question when they published their opinion, but he's extremely bright and we've seen each other every so often.
SH: You have stayed in contact then.
PP: [We] have stayed in contact.
SH: With people that you served with.
SH: When you were flying to different parts of Vietnam, were you ever in danger? Just flying, you could have been in danger.
PP: Well, you know, probably not. I didn't feel any fear. The pilots were knowledgeable. I never went to a place that was absolutely so remote that it was total jungle, you know. There were stories. I knew people who were Green Berets [US Army Special Forces], who were soldiers, you know. I mean, I'm a soldier, they're soldiers, whose idea of fun would be to see how low the plane could fly over a forest ... and they could jump safely, and one guy jumped from seven hundred feet. Now, you're never supposed to jump from less than a thousand feet, but he jumped, just to show people that he could do it. He was about this tall. His name was (Seymour Samuels?). [laughter] He was from Tennessee and he married a girl from Penn that Gale and I knew, a sorority sister of Gale's, but he was a warrior and they put him in quartermaster because they wouldn't make him infantry, because his eyes were bad. ... He wore glasses, like I did, but he was a wrestler. I mean, he was, like, a tough guy. [laughter] So, after I came back from Thailand, I then spent the next few months in Vietnam, then, went to Tokyo, and then, came back, and then, I had a month to go, and then, I left on my birthday. United Airlines picked me up on my birthday and I had a forty-eight-hour birthday, because it was the dateline. So, we were flying east. So, we went, on the way home, to Okinawa, Wake Island, Hawaii and San Francisco. We got to San Francisco--well, Oakland, I guess, ... Travis Air Force Base in Oakland. Now, I was going to be discharged from the Army and we were going to be discharged the next day, and then, I was going to come home. So, of course, I called home. Everybody knew I was safe and all of that, and we were tired from all the traveling and I met a guy and [we said], "Let's share a room." So, we bought a room in a motel and we stayed in this room and we went to sleep at about two-thirty and we had to get up at five. We were up at five. We were getting out of the Army. [laughter] This was a good thing. So, we went to the Army depot ... and went through our physical examination and debriefing and all that good stuff and it was late afternoon when I got to San Francisco Airport. I don't remember if I had my tickets or if I bought my tickets then, but I was in my uniform. I mean, I had no civilian clothes left. Every month, I would throw away a T-shirt, every month, I would throw away briefs, because I did not want to be laden with the detritus of Army life. [laughter] I wanted to get home. You know, I was happy to come home, where I couldn't wake up in the morning and see that, even though I put the top on the toothbrush, there was a little friend, a bug, who had gotten in there [laughter] and sucked the moisture out of your toothbrush. Enough, it was enough. ...
SH: Even though you were staying in almost a resort type area. [laughter]
PP: Even though.
PP: Even though. I mean, they came out of the drains, ... the insects, and the people kept the place clean. There were no bedbugs, but there were insects. It was a tropical country. I came home and I flew [in to] San Francisco. I was in my uniform--and I talk about this a fair amount--and nobody said hello. Nobody said, "Welcome home," nobody sat next to me, nobody did anything, and that was at a time when the seats were a quarter full. Anyway, I went home and my wife had made a reservation at a hotel in Manhattan and my father and my wife came out to Kennedy [Airport] to get us. I landed three [minutes after midnight]. I saw my wife. I held her three minutes after midnight, on the next day after my birthday. So, I missed by three minutes, and my dad drove us to Manhattan and dropped us off. It was the St. Moritz [Hotel] and we had a room and we stayed there for three days, and we walked around and ate. I was 155 pounds. I'm now 225, 230, and I'm not hugely fat or anything, but I was skinny. I was in good shape. ... So, I hadn't seen my mother and I hadn't seen my daughter and, on the third day, I said, "I'm ready." So, we went home ... to Fair Lawn and I met my daughter and that was not a problem--she was six months old--and renewed my acquaintance with my family and all the friends and everything like that, and then, started to look for a job.
SH: Coming back home, being in uniform, did you suffer from any disparaging remarks from people?
PP: Not in uniform. I was perplexed--I couldn't understand what I had done to cause people to shy away from me. I understood, by that time, that Vietnam was unpopular. I'll tell you, here's a war story for you.
SH: I would like you to talk about what you were hearing.
PP: Sure. I never met a soldier in Vietnam who thought that what we were doing was ... being done in the right way and there were some people who thought we shouldn't be there at all, and that's a political issue. That's not something for me to address, but one of the people that I met in Vietnam was a colonel and his name was Beauchamp and I'd known him as a colonel in my unit in Germany. ... I walked into a dining hall one day and there's Colonel Beauchamp and I recognized him and he was by himself. I said, "Colonel, I'm Captain Paley. I don't know if you remember me, but I was in the Headquarters, First Brigade and I knew colonel this and Colonel Orlikoff and sergeant major this," and he said, "Oh, sit down, let's have a beer." Okay, fine, we're going to have a beer, and he was reading The Stars and Stripes. The Stars and Stripes is the military newspaper. ... He had this odd look on his face. I said, "What are you thinking? What's going on?" He said, "You see this?" and I look at the headline and it's, "Americans Capture a Village," and it had the name of the village, say, Trang Bang. I said, "What's the problem with that? That's good, isn't it?" He said, "You don't understand. I was here as an advisor in 1962, when we captured that village then." So, we had lost the village and we had to recapture it who knows how many times, and he pointed out exactly where it was on the map and where he had been stationed. So, what we did for all of the time that we were there, in large respect, was to tread water. Now, there is an argument that says that the fact that we were there ... had an impact on the power of the Soviet Union, which caused it to deteriorate and to decline. That may very well be, but fifty-eight thousand Americans, who could have produced some powerful music, [laughter] who were my age--there are, I believe, nine women on the Wall and there are now 1,750 MIAs, so, it's reduced--were killed. It's very difficult for us who served to justify that. There probably was a much better way where the same objective could have been achieved. I mean, look at Iraq, for example--I mean, those guys are heroes. They're terrific, but there's three or four thousand, there's not fifty-three or fifty-four thousand, or thirty-three or thirty-four thousand, and so, that's something that, ... even though I'm not particularly militaristic, I can't ever forget. ... That's why, as a judge, I have ceremonies in my courtroom for Veterans Day and for Flag Day, in which we commemorate military service. There's always a probation officer who has a son who's in Iraq or a judge who has a son who's in Afghanistan, which is the truth, and so, I'm a conduit of recognition, because, when I came home, nobody wanted to talk to me. ... I'm from Fair Lawn, right, so, I went to the ... shopping centers--the Garden State Plaza, the Bergen Mall. I went to the Garden State Plaza and there's a window with garments for women. Now, one of the significant garments worn in Vietnam by Vietnamese women is called "ao dai." It sounds like you're saying "outside," and what it is is, it's silk slacks and it's a tight-fitting blouse, right, that fits tight around the waist, and then, there's a big flap on the front and a big flap on the back and they almost meet. ... They wave in the wind, so that they, the women, looked like butterflies, absolutely beautiful. I went into this store and I said, "That's a Vietnamese outfit." [The storekeeper] said, "No, that's Thai." "No, it isn't. That's Vietnamese." "They don't wear them in Vietnam." "I was in Vietnam three weeks ago." "You'll have to leave, sir." You know, I was incensed, because they wouldn't recognize what it really was, but they wanted to make money off the style. Then, I decided that I would go to--they had a moratorium day, October 15, 1969. Maybe you remember. [Editor's Note: The Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam was a nationwide demonstration against the Vietnam War.] So, I went to my high school and I showed slides of my experience in Vietnam, and I had to deal with a lot of resistance from the students. "Why are you showing us pictures of swimming pools at places called Happy Valley, near Qui Nhon, when my brother died? Why are you talking about the restaurants in Saigon when you should be talking about the blood, guts and gore?" not Al Gore, gore, and I said, "I was asked to come to talk about my experience in Vietnam. I'm not going to tell you a lie. I could tell you about what it's like being shelled--I'm not going to tell you about that. I can't tell you about what it was like being in combat, but you should understand, most of the Americans are not in combat." That makes it even more tragic, fifty-eight thousand, but I was not well-received. ... Therefore, I learned that you had to be very careful about explaining where you were and what you did and to whom you explained it between 1967 and 1969, and I was ... somewhat intimidated. There were no judges, as far as I know, who had children who were in Vietnam, because, ... remember, I came back, I got a job, I started practicing law. ... When I was in law school, there were only four of our class of 125 who had any military, anything like ROTC, at all.
PP: You know what I mean. ... Other people were marching against the war and nobody ever confronted me or, as far as I know, any of my classmates--two of whom are gone now, and then, I'm the third and there's a fourth one, and I don't remember who it is--but nobody ever confronted us, but most of the people there were very much anti-[Vietnam]. I mean, it was Rutgers Law School in Newark. This was the most liberal place you can imagine, and they weren't about to be sympathetic to folks who were military, especially the Vietnam era.
SH: While you were in Germany, there were a lot of protests against the war.
SH: Also, while you were in Vietnam, there were a lot.
PP: Protests here.
PP: Protests in the United States, yes. We read about them. We saw some of them on Armed Forces Television--heard some, I mean. I was there when he went on the Moon, Neil Armstrong went on the Moon. [Editor's Note: On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first man to step onto the Moon's surface.] We saw that on television, forty-eight hours later. Some of what we saw was restricted. In other words, we saw Bonanza [a popular Western TV show from 1959 to 1973] reruns, but we didn't see Smothers Brothers. [Editor's Note: Tom and Dick Smothers starred in The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour TV series from 1967 to 1969. The show provided a forum for views and music from the counterculture and antiwar movements, which generated controversy and eventually led to the show's cancellation by CBS.]
PP: Yes, because that was too controversial, and it's one thing as to how somebody from the Middle Atlantic States, who's well educated, is going to react to Smothers Brothers and how somebody from Iowa, with all due respect to Iowa, you know what I mean, is going to react to The Smothers Brothers. We saw the standard pap of the series Bonanza being the outstanding example. Let me tell you, it was wonderful to see. It was just wonderful--it was like home.
SH: Right, of course.
PP: But, the news that you got was very much slanted towards a particular position or positions.
SH: You said you also had press in your compound.
SH: What was your interaction with them like?
PP: Very little. I told you that we were working eleven and twelve hours a day plus. So, when I got home to there, I would usually lie down, maybe write a letter. I didn't want to have social interaction. Then, I'd go to eat and we were fortunate, again. We had a Chinese restaurant, I mean, a privately owned Vietnamese Chinese restaurant, that had terrific food on post, and I got in trouble, because I brought my secretary, with other people, to have lunch or dinner and she was--the term was "local national." You were not supposed to be with local nationals and you certainly weren't supposed to take them to an officers' club, because, "No Local Nationals." We're trying to win the hearts and minds of the people, but you can't have lunch with them. So, you know, ... I was not really ... a strong supporter of that position at all.
SH: Speaking of hearts and minds, were there programs that you were supplying or supporting, like taking care of orphanages?
PP: You mean charity? ... no. There may have been such programs, but I wasn't involved with them at all. There may have been times when we were asked to donate athletic equipment or something, but I have no specific recollection of that.
SH: I do not remember when [American actress and activist] Jane Fonda went to North Vietnam. Where were you at the time?
PP: I don't know, because I don't remember what day it was, but all I will say about that is, I will not see her in a movie. She posed on an antiaircraft weapon that presumably was aimed at an American--no, you don't do that. You want to protest against the war, protest, have a sign, "Get out of Vietnam. Hey, hey, LBJ," perfectly fine, but you do that, and you're a wealthy, powerful person, no. So, all of these biographies that she writes and all of these exercise tapes, no, and everybody is very much aware [of] my prejudice in that regard.
SH: You were very much into music. At that time, it was the big reel-to-reel tapes. They were readily available.
PP: Oh, yes, oh, sure.
SH: Did you have such things?
PP: No, but I had a radio and I can tell you where I was the first time I heard Proud Mary by Creedence Clearwater Revival, because that was significant. I heard that, I said, "Oh, my God, they brought rock and roll back." Remember, I'd never heard rock. ... I'd been married. That meant WQXR, which was The New York Times' radio station, which was classical, and I decided I was going to grow up and improve my musical tastes. ... Then, when I went to Germany, I discovered Eric Clapton and The Sunshine of Your Love and Cream, and was blown away. Now, in Vietnam, Creedence is, "Oh, my goodness gracious, there is life after 1960 in rock and roll," and then, when I came home, I started listening to rock and really got into it--oh, but I will tell you a story about music. One of the programs that my office dealt with was called "Tapes for Troops." ... What would happen is, as tape recorders of various kinds became affordable and part of the mass media, we had a program whereby you, as a civilian, could make a tape, let's say of a Creedence Clearwater Revival album, and you send it to me, and then, I would have the tape and I could play it on a tape recorder, etc., sometimes reel-to-reel, sometimes eight-tracks, sometimes whatever. ... My office, our office, was next to another office which was part of the adjutant general, which had a much sadder responsibility. That was the casualty count people and it was commanded by a lieutenant colonel, adjutant general, which is an administrator, like I am an administrator. I'm supply, he's personnel, and he used to take the tapes that would come in the mail, play them, and then, put them back, or he would copy them, and then, put them back. ... One day, I got really annoyed with this--this was a colonel--and I said, "Colonel, those are for the troops." Well, I almost got court-martialed.
PP: Oh, yes. He talked to my boss and my boss said, "What were you thinking? Why did you do that? All you had to do was turn away. You could have spoken to me. I would have taken you out and calmed you down and gotten a beer. Don't be silly." I'm paraphrasing, substantially. [laughter] ...
SH: I suspected as much.
PP: Yes, and I had to apologize, which I did. I didn't want to, but I did. I knew that I only had X number of weeks. ... What can they do to me, send me to Vietnam? I'm in Vietnam, ... but I remember that absolutely vividly. I was so annoyed. This man has the job of counting casualties--that means he's safe, like I am--and for him to do this without asking, as though it was a right, I found that's the arrogance of office, which we in Middlesex County certainly have reason to understand, because we know what's going on in the newspapers today. [Editor's Note: In a contemporary news story, a Middlesex County sheriff was charged with accepting thousands of dollars in bribes for job promotions.]
JL: I saw that in the newspaper.
SH: In talking with other people who served in Vietnam, especially towards the end, they talk about the colossal waste. What did you see?
PP: Well, I wasn't towards the end.
PP: When I was there, we were at the highest point of American troop participation.
PP: I think that the number was 550,000. There were 550,000 Americans in Vietnam.
SH: At this time, there was over a half a million, I know that.
PP: Yes. ... I've also heard the number 546, sticks in your mind, but, when I was there, doing my thing, and then, President Nixon announced the program called Vietnamization, ... when he did that, the numbers started going down, not because troops were removed, but because they stopped replacing different units--attrition, you know. So, I believe that by the time I left, in September of '69, it was down to maybe 485,000, but that's not near to the end. Let me explain to you about waste, okay--here's what happened. There's a term called demurrage, D-E-M-U-R-R-A-G-E. That's the cost of freight. They decided, in Washington, that they were going to build up the military for an incursion into Vietnam in 1965 and that they were going to do all kinds of things. ... They sent over the First Air Cavalry Division, and then, other units, en masse. They also sent along billions of dollars, I suppose hundreds of billions of dollars, of supplies to help them, but they always think about supply accountability last. It cost us a great deal of money to pay for the boats, the ships that were loaded with all this stuff that was standing in the harbor, because the dock capacity in Saigon was only--let's say they could only unload four ships a day, or whatever it was, and there were forty ships lined up. So, every day that the ships are lined up, the government has to pay X of ten thousand, hundred thousand dollars, whatever it was, and then, when they unloaded them, because there was no real supply accountability, it was the demurrage, and this is a political issue. "Let's unload them." So, they unloaded these CONEX containers, metal containers loaded with whatever, without any kind of paperwork to show what was in them. So, on the banks of the Saigon River in Saigon, for years, sat tens of thousands of CONEX containers and nobody knew what was in them. So, whatever waste there was at the end was insignificant compared to what there was at the beginning. [laughter]
PP: Yes, what there was at the beginning. Nobody had any idea where anything was. It was just, "Get it off the boats. We don't want to pay demurrage. Put it on this beach. Somebody else'll take care of it. By that time, I'll be back home," and that was unfortunate. That was not the way it's supposed to work.
SH: Did you ever have trouble supplying your troops as your job required?
PP: Once I was able to find out where the stuff was, no, and it wasn't that easy to do, but I'll give you an example. I mean, remember, these are goodies. So, we decided that it would be a good morale builder for each company unit in Vietnam to have a volleyball net and volleyballs to play with, right. What's the cost of that, nominal, right? So, I'm the supply guy, staff supply guy, and I call. I write out a requisition and the requisition goes all the way through to Washington and, three months later, I get a call from the Pentagon, wanting to know if I'm serious. [laughter] I say, "Yes, thank you." I hang up, and they sent the volleyballs. They didn't get them while I was there, but I know that they got there later, because I was told that they got there later, but, I mean, the right hand did not know what the left hand was doing. My story about Colonel Beauchamp tells you that, and supply was just as forlorn as anything else and it was a shame. An awful lot of money was wasted, awful lot of money.
SH: Are there other stories about your time in-country that you would like to share? I would not have a clue what you were experiencing.
PP: I don't think that there's anything particularly dramatic. I was an office worker. ... Oh, I'll tell you one. We had a new commanding officer. Our old commanding officer, the one who organized the funeral, his name was [Lieutenant] Colonel Samuel Kamakaipolani Apuna. He was Hawaiian and he was a good guy, and he was replaced by a man who was single and who was a martinet and who was very anal, who made the following order. He went around our office. Now, you have to understand, the large office, not my little office, but the large office, was a room five times this office. There were twenty-five desks in there and we were R&R people. We were telling people to go, have a good time, on airplanes. So, we had travel posters up and one of the American women, an older one, had come in once and said, "Oh, that looks gaudy." So, we had somebody make a sign that said, "Oh, that looks gaudy," and put it on top of a travel poster. We had travel posters for Malaysia and everywhere in the Far East and Australia, all over the place, because this was goodie time, right. ... This colonel walks around the office and says to us, "No one will have more than one picture of his or her family on his or her desk at any time." We are about as far away from the United States as you can get. [laughter] We are dealing with an unpopular engagement, we are not respected at home, there are demonstrations going on and he's concerned about what pictures are on your desk. He's not concerned about whether they're neat or not, you know. He could have said, "You have to make sure that they're in a line," ... or, "You have to make sure that they're framed," or something, but that's not what he did. He forbade us from doing that, until he was counseled by his superiors, I mean. ... This is a man who recommended me [for] and gave me my Bronze Star, but, when he did that, all respect for him went out the window, because he had no idea what he was talking about, no idea how much we all missed our families and wanted to be home.
SH: Talk about the difference between being an ROTC officer and, say, a West Point graduate.
PP: Sure. Well, you mean an officer in the Army who ... went through ROTC and an officer in the Army who went through West Point? Okay, if you went to West Point, you are called a "ring knocker." That's because you always wear a ring with your class on it [Judge Paley knocks on the table several times] and you always go like that. Not like that, with your fist--you always knock your ring, [Sandra Holyoak taps metal on the table] or like that, correct.
PP: Yes, and I went to school at Fort Lee with some of the West Point graduates. When you're out in even as limited--I hesitate to call it the field--but, when you are, let's say, in a combat zone, like I was, you can't tell the difference. The fact is that anybody who's out in the field for two months learns about his or her job and knows much more about it than any guy coming from West Point or ROTC. It's all on-the-job training. You get trained by ... the person that you're replacing--who to call, what essential extensions you need to have in your Rolodex, or whatever the equivalent was at the time--and then, you proceed, and you either like your job or you don't like your job. Now, I can't really speak to combat, because I was never in combat, other than being shelled once or twice, like on Tet II, that I told you about.
SH: How about you? Do you have any questions?
JL: You said you worked for the generals. Did you ever get to see General Westmoreland or General Abrams?
PP: ... Might I have seen them? Their office was a couple of hundred feet away from mine. How often they were there, I have no clue. I have no idea. I never spoke to them. My contact with generals was very limited. Now, maybe my boss, the colonel, one of the colonels, would have had more contact with them, but I had very little contact with them.
SH: What about some of the other nationalities there? Were you also supplying those troops?
SH: Like the Koreans.
PP: Yes, South Koreans, Australians and others, Thai forces, yes. We were the organization that dealt with that. They all came through the Army, unless they were Marines. Then, they went through the United States Marines, but what the United States [did], the way that it worked was, the main headquarters was called MACV, Military Assistance Command, [Vietnam], because this was supposed to be an advisory role. It ended in 1965 as advisory, because it was combat, but they never called it combat. We used to call it a "hostile training exercise," because you couldn't call it combat.
PP: Yes, hostile training exercise, but MACV had all of the branches of the United States Military underneath its auspices. ... Probably, there was a part of MACV that dealt with all these foreign groups, and we were assigned, for example, to provide the goodies, the Special Services, just like the casualty guy was probably assigned to count Americans who were assigned to the Thai forces, or maybe even the Thai forces [themselves], because there weren't very many other nationalities there. The Australians were pretty conspicuous, but I don't remember running across a whole lot of other nationalities.
SH: I wondered if they had any requests for special goodies.
PP: No, not that I'm aware of. When I went back to Vietnam, in 1995, I took my daughter.
SH: Did you really?
PP: I wanted to show her where I had been, and, at that time, the principal other occupants--there were no Americans left--the principal other occupants were Russians. All of the American military bases had been taken over by Russians.
SH: What did it feel like to go back?
PP: What did it feel like to go back? Well, I had always wanted to go back. It really is a nice country. It's a beautiful country, and I wanted to see it without worrying about a bomb underneath my car or without carrying a weapon on my shoulder, because you always had a weapon. ... So, I was divorced from Gale and I remarried a woman named Nancy. Nancy had two children, Michelle and Kevin, and they were extremely good students. Kevin went to Stanford and he was studying Japanese and he took his junior year abroad at Stanford at Kyoto. ... Michelle had been at the Sorbonne [University in Paris] and we visited her, and my daughter, Lizzie, had been at the Sorbonne and we visited her. So, now, we're going to visit Kevin and I said to Nancy, I said, "Look, Nancy, ... we're going to visit Kevin, that's a given, but I have no particular interest in Japan. I don't particularly want to go there. Would you mind if we went to Vietnam?" and she said, "No. Let's go to Japan first, then, we'll go to Vietnam, terrific." So, we set up a trip and we went back to Vietnam. So, it was my daughter, Lizzie, my stepson, Kevin, Nancy, my wife, and I. ... After Kyoto ... [where] we met Kevin's family that he was living with, we flew to Saigon, [renamed] Ho Chi Minh City, and went back. ... Then, my daughter, at the time, was working for a not-for-profit in New York and was sent by them from Saigon to Hanoi.
PP: I wouldn't go to Hanoi. She went to Hanoi, and then, to Indonesia, and then, to other places on her way home. They were happy, because I paid for her trip to Saigon, so, they only had to pay one way. They didn't have to pay for a round trip.
SH: Do you have another daughter?
PP: I have a second daughter, Sharon. Sharon was born on August 15, 1971, so, she was two years younger than Lizzie, two-and-a-half, and Sharon is single without children. Sharon came with us to Paris the first time, to see her sister, didn't come the second time and didn't come to the Orient.
PP: She didn't want to do that, but my daughter, Liz, did and we had a terrific time.
SH: Wonderful. Did it seem as you remembered it?
PP: No, it was absolutely different. It was like looking at downtown New Brunswick now. ... I've been in here for nineteen years and, before that, I practiced in the courts here. New Brunswick has changed so much from what it was when I first started coming to Middlesex County. ... Vietnam changed, and the point that I would like to make is, that we won, because Vietnam, for all of its Oriental demeanor, is Western in outlook. It doesn't look to the East as much as it looks to the West. So, when you fly--now, it's called Tan Son Nhat, not Tan Son Nhut, [laughter] they changed the name--and, when you fly to the airport and you take a cab to your hotel, you pass a Mercedes dealership, a Touche Ross sign, a Coca-Cola bottling plant, etc. Now, there are lots of hotels. This is 1995, so, it's a long time ago already, but there were lots of hotels being built by Korean interests, Chinese interests and other Oriental interests, but the principal change is, when you used to go from Saigon to Long Binh, [it] was a drive of forty-five minutes, twenty miles, something like that. The road is still as bad as it was. Then, you saw fields and rice paddies and water buffalos once you're a half a mile outside of Saigon. Now, it's suburbs.
PP: Now, it's the bottling plants and the golf courses and the businesses and the concrete apartments, three stories, and it's basically one built-up area with very few rice paddies and very few [water buffalos]. So, it's more developed. ... It's substantially Westernized. McDonald's, Burger King, you know, all of the essentials are there now.
SH: When you came back from Vietnam, did you go immediately into practice?
PP: I started looking for a job and ... one of the things that I can't remember is the day on which I started working. I came home September 18th. I was really home, out of New York City, September 21st, and I immediately started looking for a job after the weekend and I interviewed hither and yon. Of course, if you're a lawyer ... who's never practiced, the worst time to find a job is September, because all the people from the last year [are also looking] and everybody's taking the bar. Now, I knew I had passed the bar. So, I interviewed over six weeks or so, and I answered an ad for a little office in South River. I was going to be number three lawyer out of a three-person firm, but I thought it would be a good opportunity to learn and I started working, doing a suburban general practice with an emphasis on matrimonial, and I started to learn a little bit about litigation. I hadn't looked at a law book in two-and-a-half years and they started sending me to court, teaching me how to interview clients and what to do to get clients and how to look. ... I was, by that time, 160 pounds, so, I was completely different from what I am now, and, of course, I had a mustache.
SH: Did you?
PP: And it was dark, but I didn't have a beard ... and my hair was GI, [laughter] you know, Marine cut. So, you know, I just started to work and I remember my first paycheck and the net pay. Well, mind you, I hadn't worried about money for two years, because the government takes care of everything and it does a fair job, ... at least on a captain level and first lieutenant level.
SH: That, and it provides your medical coverage.
PP: ... Yes. Now, I get my first paycheck and I'll never forget, 155 dollars, ninety-eight cents, [laughter] for a week, and I look at it and I said, "Oh, my God, this is nothing." Rent was 185 dollars a month, food and everything, and we had bought a car by that time, etc. We had a car in Europe that we had bought and we had shipped it back here. ... You know, one thing led to another and I practiced in South River for nine years. That firm dissolved. I then went to a firm of six lawyers in Newark and we grew that to twenty-two. That dissolved, and then, I went to a fifty-five-lawyer firm in Roseland, and then, I was ready to come on the bench [become a judge]. Then, I was forty-nine and, in-between all of that, I had moved to Piscataway, had two daughters, ... [lived] with my wife and children and was very active in local politics, Democratic politics, here in Middlesex County.
SH: Were you?
PP: Very. I was a councilman in Piscataway. I was appointed by the vote of four to three, and then, I was elected by a substantially larger margin and I served until 1980, and then, I became the township attorney for Piscataway, which I did for eleven years. That was, like, a record up to that time, and I remained active in politics, even though I didn't occupy any political office, but I was a political person. ... My firm was doing well and I was doing well and did a lot of interesting legal work--affordable housing, land use and general litigation--and then, I had always wanted to be a judge, and so, the time was right, the place was right and I got appointed October 3, 1991.
SH: To the Somerset court?
SH: Middlesex Superior Court?
PP: Superior Court of New Jersey, right.
PP: Assigned to Middlesex, and my first job was family. Well, I knew family--I had been a divorce lawyer. There was a time when nobody in New Jersey did as many child custody cases as I did, but that was a couple years before, but I figured I knew the lingo. ... I worked in family for two years, and then, I was assigned to Mercer [County] for one year, not to exceed one year, but I stayed two, because I did good work and they liked me. I learned about juries. Then, I came back here and they put me in a court without juries for a year-and-a-half. That was special civil, landlord/tenant and small claims. Then, I went to criminal for nine years and, now, I'm doing civil for six. Civil is automobile accidents, contracts, medical malpractice, discrimination. The University is involved with a lot of lawsuits about discrimination, and I do some of that.
SH: While the war was winding down, did you pay attention to what was going on?
PP: Oh, sure.
SH: Was it something you just did not want to hear?
PP: Oh, sure. I carried in my wallet, for decades, a little [comic] strip from Doonesbury about ... that scene of the Americans going up the ladder at the embassy building and Phred, remember, the little VC, Vietnamese cartoon character, P-H-R-E-D. They say, "I wonder if my friend, B. D.," that's the guy with the football helmet who was a Vietnam veteran, "knows about this. I wonder if he knows what's happening. He must know, he must know," and the last panel is ... B. D. sitting on his porch, holding his head like this, "What a waste." I took my kids to that embassy building--I mean, I took Kevin and Lizzie--and we took pictures of that ladder and that little tower, you know. ... That was fascinating. That was a good thing. A story: one day in 1975, I come home at eleven o'clock from a drunk driving case in municipal court somewhere and my wife says to me, "Do you know anybody from Guam?" I say, "No." She says, "Got a collect call from Guam. I didn't want to accept it. I told them to call back when you're home. Here's the number." "Who's it from?" "I don't know." So, I call. It was my old secretary, My Hanh, who had escaped Vietnam on April 30, 1975. She secreted jewelry, diamonds, on her person and escaped with a seven-year-old niece and went to Guam and wanted to know if my wife and I would sponsor her here. I said, "Absolutely." She came to Hawaii, and then, she came here to visit in Piscataway in the summertime. It was warm, June or July. We have stayed in touch, more or less, over the years. She and her husband took a train trip and they landed in Philadelphia and we came down and took them for dinner. So, yes, I followed all of that with great eagerness. ... Then, I went out to Huntington Beach, California--that's where she was living--to see her and I saw how vibrant the Vietnamese community was out there. ... Working in the courthouse here, one of the sheriff's officers was seven [when he] was brought here from Vietnam as an immigrant. He's now a sheriff's officer. He's a law enforcement officer who speaks fluent Vietnamese and fluent English, because he learned English going to school here. So, yes, I followed all of that and it was very, very sad. It was a waste, it was a waste. It could have been done differently, but ... you know machismo--we were Americans, we are Manifest Destiny, we never give up, we never take a step back--and all of those lives were lost and it's a shame, for egos. Johnson didn't want to be the first President to lose a war. Nixon didn't want to be the first President to lose a war, so, he goes into Cambodia, right, and he starts all of this stuff in Cambodia, which leads to Lon Nol and millions of people getting slaughtered in Cambodia. [Editor's Note: US-backed Lon Nol led a coup that overthrew the Cambodian monarchy and named himself president of the new Khmer Republic in 1970. He tried unsuccessfully to suppress the Khmer Rouge, Communist guerillas who won the Cambodian Civil War in 1975 and instituted genocidal policies that killed millions.] ... I read about the fifty-eight thousand because, you know, my friend, Bud Stork, all he did was put people on airplanes and that could have been me. ... At any time, there could have been [a bombing]. We used to get out of our cars--we had automobiles and what-have-you, trucks--somebody could have bombed, put a bomb underneath [one of them]. One of the things in Vietnam that the Vietnamese did, which isn't terribly respectful, is, because it was a very poor country, probably still is, and they had a very ineffectual police force, ... a Vietnamese would jump out in front of an American car and tolerate being struck by this car and know that the Americans would pay him. They would make a claim and what the amount of money was, like 150 dollars, which was a month's wage or so, ... these people would fall down in front of you and they would be bleeding, but they would have taken care of their family for whatever that period of time is. I mean, you know, that is very difficult to deal with.
SH: Unbelievable. I had not heard that one before. Anything else, John, before we finish?
JL: I am very good.
SH: Okay. When you were in Vietnam, was your social activity at the officers' club? Was it on base or did you go out? [laughter]
PP: Okay, it was out, it was on base. I didn't travel around. I went to Saigon often. So, I had a city at my disposal, [laughter] provided I restricted ... where I went, and there were certain places that Americans just didn't go, but, when I say, "By myself," what I mean to communicate is this--I'm a reader, you know. I have my Kindle [an e-reader made by Amazon] now. My idea of a hot time is to sit down, maybe with a nice martini--then, it would have been a beer--and a book and I will read the book and I will sip my martini and I'm as happy as I can be. My idea of total luxury is to sit, like, in a leather chair in a room where the temperature is appropriate with a stack of books like this to read through. [laughter] So, reading is not something that everybody does, but I was perfectly happy doing that. ... Then, I was perfectly happy watching the Bonanza reruns and the Car 54, Where Are You? [a TV comedy from 1961 to 1963] and the nonsense that was on, because ... it reminded one of home as well as the news. The social events that took place, I can remember barbecues where, you know, there's a barter economy in the military and we had goodies and we traded our goodies with units for food, steaks and lobsters, you know, all on a very high level. ... We would get steaks and lobsters and we would trade something that they might want that we had access to, and so, we were fed absolutely well and we would have these barbecues out, where the Colonel would cook and everybody would have a good time and everybody would get a little tipsy, nothing bad. Don't forget, we weren't driving cars to get home. We just had to walk, and there was a different culture about alcohol anyway.
In terms of officers' clubs, let me tell you this. I knew that I did not want to stay in the military when I went to, on-base, an officers' club where they were having, let's say, an "exotic dancer." Exotic dancers then were a lot different from exotic dancers now, so, they were much more modest, no poles or anything. ... I watched a colonel become drunk and try to put a dollar in somebody's garter belt, you know what I mean, who was on stage or who was dancing, and the Colonel acting like I used to act when I was a freshman or sophomore at college and the man was in his forties. ... I said, "I really think that I don't need to replicate what I did when I was in my twenties. I've done it. ... I don't want to retrogress, I want to improve." ... I've thought, "If that's what socializing is, even in a combat zone, with a man who probably is a very effective officer, it's not for me. I don't want it." So, I stopped socializing. I seldom went to shows, because I was happy reading, I was happy with the friends that I had. I was happy going to Saigon, to the French restaurants, and eating steak cordon bleu, which nobody else had any opportunity to do, but I would go and I would get a martini and a steak cordon bleu at a wonderful French restaurant with great service, and then, I'd go back to base. [laughter] Okay, I had a different experience than many people.
SH: Okay, let me put it back on.
SH: Go ahead.
JL: A lot of critics compare Iraq and Afghanistan to Vietnam. They say they are "Obama's Vietnam," "Bush's Vietnam." How do you, as a veteran, feel about using these terms?
PP: Sure. Vietnam was traumatic, okay. I don't think that Iraq and Afghanistan are traumatic. That was what I was trying to say before, with all due respect. It's so different now. There's no draft. My conservative Republican buddies on the bench, one of whom, his name is Judge Daley--I'm Paley--name's Roger. I'm a liberal Democrat, he is a conservative Republican; we both agree there should be a draft. We're not sure about the status of women. [laughter] We think they should be included for some purposes, but, all right, because, what has happened in Iraq, why aren't Iraq and Afghanistan traumatic? Why aren't they traumatic? These people who are serving there are all volunteers. Most of us are not at risk at all. For people who are serving there, it's not fair. When Judge Daley and I were in Vietnam, and we were at the same place, but we didn't know each other in 1969, it was more democratic, with a small "D." Without that democracy, with a small "D," you lack something in your society. Nobody likes war and the people who like war the least are the soldiers. Now, the problem with Vietnam as an illustration, you know, there's an old saying, ... I mean, "Even a stopped clock is right twice a day," right. What has happened is, everybody is so afraid of repeating Vietnam that they're afraid to make the commitment. Like this surge in Afghanistan, the people talked about, as I understood it, militarily, it was absolutely necessary, but nobody wanted to say, "We're sending more troops," because look what happened in Vietnam. "We're going to get caught in Vietnam and not get out now." I would have hoped that we learned enough over forty years to understand that you don't go in anywhere without an exit strategy, but, if you're going to do it, you do it. You do it to win, you don't do it to pussyfoot and you don't put those troops at risk simply because you want to be politically correct. So, all of my Republican friends feel that that is the way. I don't know how many of us are willing to have our children or grandchildren participate in that. I would not be terribly upset if my grandchildren chose to do that, to volunteer for the military, but I don't know how many people agree with that. Listen, it's hard enough to get people to serve on juries. I spend all of my career trying to persuade people to give us three days of their time. Today, I picked a jury and we concluded at twelve-thirty and they're coming back tomorrow. So, they were here for a half day today, going to be here all day tomorrow, all day Thursday, maybe Friday, won't go into Monday. You have to pull teeth to get people to understand how important it is, and so, I have developed, because, as you can tell, I speak well, a certain patter which convinces them, such as, "What's the classical illustration of justice? It is a woman dressed in a toga. Well, there's nobody here dressed in a toga, but you, the lady who's wearing the red sweatshirt, the Rutgers sweatshirt, you're justice and you, the gentleman who's wearing the white shirt with the blue striped tie, you are justice. You don't have to wear a toga to be justice. We want your intelligence, we want your insight, we want your wisdom, all right," and I've found, over the years, that produces the least resistance from people now.
SH: Amazing, you have to sell it.
PP: You have to say it over and over again in different ways to convince folks, because ... the doctors who are on the jury or in the jury panel will say, "I have patients," the lawyers, "I have a trial," the architects say, "I have clients, customers," the psychologists say, "I have an agenda booked up," the hospice people say, "Don't you know how important it is, what we're doing? I can't deal with this now," and you have to overcome that resistance. If there is so much resistance on that level, talking to people about going to a place like Afghanistan for seven months, or sending their kids, it's a problem. Now, my good Republican friend on the bench understands about volunteerism, because he's done it. ... We can talk about that and other people can't, because we believe that it was a blessing to live in the United States and an obligation was imposed upon those of us who have a better education, more so than those of us who aren't educated at all, to represent this country in that circumstance. ... I keep coming back to how fortunate I was that the job that I had was very compatible with my personality and didn't involve the creation of many moral dilemmas, not for me. If somebody had put a rifle in my hand and said, "Go shoot it over there," I would have done that. I was equipped to do it. [If] somebody had put a pistol in my hand, I would have done the same thing, but I didn't have to and I know that there are people who did fire their weapons at other people and who killed other people as a result. ... I know what a burden that is, but they do it because ... they felt that their country asked them to do it and there are some things you do because your country asks you to do it. You obey the law, you pay taxes, you vote, you serve in the military if necessary and you serve on jury duty. You asked before about Jane Fonda--the one thing I will say on Jane Fonda's behalf, and I don't want this to be taken too seriously, because I really think that she is contemptible, at least she stayed for most of her career in the United States. She didn't run to Canada. I can understand protesting, I can understand how people can have different views about Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya. That's easy. That's the United States--we're different people. We're allowed to have different views, but I can't understand how, just because you're at peril, you could feel free to leave and take up citizenship somewhere else. This is the United States and ... it's a blessing to be here.
SH: What did you think when they were exonerated or given a pardon?
PP: Yes, they were pardoned.
PP: When they were pardoned.
SH: What did ...
PP: I thought it was terrible. I thought it was a breach of a moral responsibility, because I don't understand how to explain that to Mrs. Stork. I don't understand how you explain that to anybody who's lost a child, a husband, a father in combat. I just don't understand that.
SH: Please, continue.
PP: So, from time to time, as somebody who is a professional and who is successful, to a greater or lesser degree, people say about my service in the military, "Well, couldn't you have gotten out? ... Couldn't you have pulled a string or done this or done that? You know, couldn't your father have helped you?" and I don't know whether I could have or not, but it would never have occurred to me to ask for that kind of help. I asked for help from my parents when my wife was expecting and for them to take care of her and, of course, they did. That was not unexpected at all. ... People seem to think that if you are well educated and a professional that, somehow, you don't have the same obligation that somebody who is not well educated and not a professional does, and I am a democrat to my core, small "D." I believe that democracy ... has produced substantial benefits for this country and I'm not going to excuse myself or give myself an alibi [to not serve]. I'm not a hero, but I'm a responsible human being and that's my responsibility. I want this country to be a place where my children and my two grandsons can grow up in a pleasant environment. Life is hard enough without growing up in a totalitarian society and, sometimes, in the United States, we've come close to [it]. There are different aspects about totalitarianism. What we don't need is to have democracy fold.
SH: It must have been a wonderful feeling, though, to be able to help sponsor the Vietnamese woman.
PP: Oh, yes. ... I don't know whether she needed me or there was some other relative or friend, but I was very grateful that she called me and very grateful to see her later. ... She now is in Las Vegas, having met her husband after she was here in New Jersey, and she is looked upon very much as part of the family.
PP: Oh, sure, you want me to talk about that? sure.
SH: We are looking through some of the memorabilia that Judge Paley has here.
PP: Sure. When I was the township attorney in Piscataway, I drafted resolutions for the council and one of them that I drafted was a resolution, I don't think that I have it, appointing me as the official representative of Piscataway to the dedication of the Vietnam Wall in Washington. ... I made clear that what I was going to do is take it with me, but I was going down at my own expense, and I did. I stayed overnight. What I wanted to see was the dedication of the Wall.
SH: Talk about that, please.
PP: Sure. Well, how can I start this? In 1979, I was a councilman. I told you I came home from Vietnam on my birthday. So, now, it was my birthday [in] 1979. ...
SH: Like ten years later.
PP: Ten years later, and on television was a movie called Coming Home [released in 1978] with Jane Fonda and Jon Voight and others. ... As far as I can recall, it was the first movie about Vietnam soldiers. They had been wounded and they were in the hospital and this was on the day before the day of my birthday. ... At the end of the council meeting, I addressed the public and I said that, "Yesterday was my birthday and I was thirty-six," or thirty-seven, "and a lot of things have happened, that I wanted to reflect on it." ... I talked about how my wife had blossomed and how my life had changed, how my children had grown, how my professional life had developed and what a change it was from the time I spent in Vietnam. ... The newspapers picked it up and I have articles somewhere, I don't think I have them here, about that effort.
SH: Is it the reflections?
PP: No. So, thereafter, next, comes the dedication of the Wall and I thought that it would be commemorative and respectful of the service--not of my service, but of others who didn't have a forum--to go to the Wall. ... So, I went and I had the forum and you can see this is an old paper called the PD Review. That was Piscataway-Dunellen and here is my picture, and it says, "Phillip L. Paley is going to Washington today because he has strong feelings about the Vietnam War. Those feelings center not on whether the war was right or wrong. His concern is the American men and women who fought the decade long conflict on the other side of the world, and then, were ignored or even treated like pariahs by the country that sent them there." ... So, I went down to see the dedication and I learned that before there was the dedication, there was going to be a parade. So, in 1982, I was forty and I was starting to put on weight, develop a paunch. I did have a beard. It was black, and so forth. So, I stayed over with a friend and I get up at ten o'clock to see the parade. I'm not interested in the parade, but you know what? I got there at, ... I think Alabama had passed and I got there at Alaska, maybe Arizona, but before Arkansas, because it was alphabetical order. ... I looked at the soldiers and some of them were in wheelchairs, but not many, and they all looked like me. They all had beards, some scragglier, they all were paunchy, they all had started to show evidence of age. Some of them from the West, who were Indians, ... I mean American Indians, they wore headdresses. ... I couldn't take my eyes off that parade, because it was I who was marching, you see. ... I stayed there and I watched the entire parade through Wyoming, and then, I left. I had no interest anymore in the dedication. I, of course, walked up and down to the Wall and I was honored that Bud Stork's name was there and, I told you, I called his mother. ... I remember that as a momentous occasion--America was paying attention to and fulfilling its obligations to my brothers-in-arms and sisters-in-arms who had served in Vietnam, and, now, of course, what a change it meant. Nine years later comes Kuwait [the First Gulf War] and Kuwait took place and, all of a sudden, Americans are on active duty in Kuwait and the bombing in Kuwait is on the television. ... At that time, I was a lawyer. I was doing well. I was with a big firm in Northern New Jersey and I walk into a restaurant in Livingston called Nero's, and I order lunch. I order a martini, I order lunch, and I paid for it with a credit card that says, "Vietnam Veteran," and the bartender says, "The drink is on me, God bless you." I am very surprised at this, because, now, I'm all of a sudden--believe me, I didn't serve in Vietnam to get a martini. I can take care of my own martinis. ... I've been a judge since 1991 and I started dealing with juries in 1993, ... the décor in my courtroom is all Vietnam. There's not much of a décor, but there's a picture of the Vietnam Wall. There's a picture about the Vietnam Wall; it's called Reflections. It shows a civilian putting his hand up to the Wall and there's reflections of soldiers and sailors and Marines on the other side.
SH: It is a beautiful print.
PP: I have ribbons, my ribbons, on the bench in front of me and I have a couple of framed things, stamps dedicated to the Wall, and so forth. ... Occasionally, and it's more and more frequently, a jury person in the panel will say, as they're walking out of the courtroom, "Are they yours, Judge?" and I will say, "Yes," and they will say, "God bless you, thank you, thank you very much," and I use my bench, my platform, to have ceremonies, Veterans Day and Flag Day. Judge Daley does it one year, one of them, and I do it the next and we speak and we invite World War II veterans, Korean veterans, Somalia veterans, Kuwait veterans, Iraqi veterans, Afghanistan veterans. We have had a probation officer whose son was a sergeant, I believe, in Iraq, that was two years ago, on Veterans Day. Then, one year ago, he came back and was here in the courtroom, and then, this year, he's in Afghanistan. He's a lieutenant. We have had lawyers who appear in the courtroom who serve on active duty and some very stunning moments. On the jury that I am serving with now, there is a woman, and I never mention my veteran status, my status as Vietnam veteran, I let them gather it, but there's a woman now whose husband lost a leg recently, arising out of a wound that he suffered in Vietnam service. I remember that people would come before me who were Vietnam veterans, when I sat in criminal, and they never had to worry about being treated too harshly. They were always treated according to the law, but they didn't have to worry about harsh treatment. So, this is my way of using my platform, without preaching, to suggest that the country really owes a great debt to the people who served in Vietnam, who are now, effectively, grandparents. My grandson is now eleven-and-a-half, and so, theoretically, he's eligible in only six-and-a-half years to go into the service. ... His father was not in the service, but his other grandfather was. He was a doctor in the Navy and his father was born in Newport at the Newport Naval Air Station. So, I hope that all of this has been helpful or constructive.
SH: It has. I truly appreciate it. One more question, have you been down to the New Jersey Vietnam Memorial?
PP: Oh, yes, absolutely. I was there. I have pictures of it in my chambers. It is very moving. I know one or two of the people who were on the Wall. Now, Judge Daley knows--you see, I'll tell you what we do. We swear in the jurors en masse downstairs, periodically, and, when he does it and when I do it, we always refer to a Middlesex County veteran who died in Vietnam on or about that day. ... Whenever I have a group of people in my courtroom, not with a jury at a trial, but whenever there's a group, an audience, I will dedicate the day to [a veteran]. I have a list--the veterans' people have given me a list, of Middlesex County--Vietnam veterans who have died and New Jersey veterans who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, it's ... not current, but it's five or six months old, and so, I know, and I've retyped it. ... By the day, I can tell you, ... very quickly, if there is a New Jersey resident who has died in military service, in combat, in those areas, let's say on March the 10th, which is today, and then, I will dedicate the day to that person. ... I'm using a public platform to do that. ... My assignment judge, Travis Francis, who is the boss, the administrative boss, has been to some of the ceremonies and he was very concerned that Judge Daley or I might use them as some kind of political platform to support this candidate or that candidate, and we really make an effort not to do that. When John Kerry made a joke about the intelligence of people who serve in the military, I, the liberal Democrat, said, "I will say this to John Kerry," and I said this at one of the ceremonies, because Judge Daley can't, but I can, "Shut up. Don't run." You know, I can say that. It's not political when I say it, because it's just a difference of opinion, but it would be political if a Republican said that. Honoring veterans transcends politics. [Editor's Note: On October 30, 2006, Senator John Kerry made a controversial statement, taken as an insult to the intelligence of current US service personnel, while stumping for California gubernatorial candidate and fellow Democrat Phil Angelides. Senator Kerry claimed that he had misspoken, that the comment was directed at then President George W. Bush, not US service personnel.]
SH: Thank you so much.
PP: You're welcome.
SH: Thank you, again.
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Reviewed by Laura Rice 12/1/11
Reviewed by Silver Laur 12/1/11
Reviewed by Shaun Illingworth 12/14/11
Reviewed by Phillip Lewis Paley 1/9/12