Christopher Brophy: This begins an interview with Andrew J. Melnick on October 4, 2006, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, with Christopher Brophy and Sandra Stewart Holyoak. To begin, I would like to thank you for taking the time to speak with us today.
Andrew Melnick: You're welcome.
CB: When and where were you born?
AM: December 4, 1941--three days before Pearl Harbor--Newark, New Jersey, Beth Israel Hospital.
CB: Could you tell us a little about yourself?
AM: How so?
Sandra Stewart Holyoak: Specifically, let us talk about your father. Your birth date is something that we need to come back to.
AM: Right; my father? My father was an immigrant from a town called Bialystok, in what was then Russia. He left Russia, at the time, at the age of seventeen, principally because of the pogroms that were being done by the Czar. If you're not familiar with pogroms, very simply, the Russian soldiers would come into the main area of Bialystok, take out their weapons and just fire in a circle around the square in Bialystok, or they would knock on houses. [Editor's Note: From the early nineteenth century to the early twentieth century, Czarist government forces and/or neighboring populations carried out pogroms, violent assaults, on Jewish communities within the Russian Empire.] My father tells stories of his parents hiding him under a bed, so that the Russian soldiers could not find them, and I forget how many people were killed each year in Bialystok by the Russian soldiers' pogroms.
So, he made a decision, which I'm not sure I could have done, which is to leave Bialystok. Then, he went to Mexico City first, and he tells a story of selling ties to the Mexican natives, who wore T-shirts. So, he was a pretty good salesperson, started the first Yiddish newspaper in Mexico City, somehow or other, got to the United States. I always accused him of being a "wetback." [laughter] He got to New York City--I'm not really sure when. It's hard to say, but around the 1920s.
He was trained by his uncle as a watchmaker, which is what he did for the rest of his life. His uncle was probably one of the great watchmakers in the world. He worked as a watchmaker for a firm called Patek Philippe, which makes some of the finest watches in the world. He was the guy that, when no one else could repair the watch, his uncle did it.
He lived in the Lower Eastside for a while, then, moved to East Orange, New Jersey, of all places. He got married sometime, I guess, in the mid-'30s and moved to East Orange, New Jersey, where his sister, who had also come from Bialystok, and her husband had a candy store, and they lived in East Orange, New Jersey. East Orange, New Jersey, at the time, was a white-only, almost a "KKK" town, where the Carnegies lived. It was the first stop on the train to New York. It's hard to believe, when you see East Orange today, it had some of the finest stores in New Jersey, in East Orange. That's basically the background.
My mother, while born in New York City, grew up in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia. I was very disappointed that my grandfather did not become a rum runner, [laughter] similar to the Bronfmans, [founders of the Seagram Company], so [that] he could have made some money, but how he wound up in this town, in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, is beyond me. It was a coalmining town. She came back to the States [at] about the age of twenty. They got married, probably, in the late '30s.
My father and mother were left-wing, but, as he said, "I never signed anything," even though he attended the Communist Party meetings, [laughter] which is very good, because my cousin's father did sign [documents at] Communist Party meetings. So, when my cousin had to work for Admiral [Hyman G.] Rickover, [father of the US Navy's nuclear fleet], designing the nuclear power plants and installing them in the nuclear submarines of the United States, Admiral Rickover had to give him a special dispensation. Otherwise, he wouldn't have made it. They moved to East Orange, New Jersey, and I was born in Newark, as I mentioned, but lived my early years in East Orange, New Jersey. The apartment building that I lived [in] in East Orange, New Jersey, today, is now Exit 145 of the Garden State Parkway. We lived in East Orange, on Rutledge Avenue, and then, moved to West Orange in 1950 and I graduated from West Orange High School in 1959. That's really it, and then, on to Rutgers.
SH: Let us back up, quite a bit, actually. When your father made the decision, with his family--I am sure it had to be a family decision.
AM: No, it was him.
SH: Just he alone?
AM: He alone came.
SH: How did he make his way from Russia to Mexico? Did he ever talk about that?
AM: Well, he didn't talk much about it, but it was by boat, in the steerage, and he didn't really talk much about it. The unfortunate part--I should have done this, too, with my father, who's passed away, to find out the long story about how he got here. It is incredible when you look at immigrants and how they just picked up and came. I had a discussion with--I'm an adviser to an Indian company--had a discussion with the Indian head, a young man who grew up in London, and I said, "You probably hate Americans, because we're optimists," and he said, "Yes. You guys are just a bunch of optimists." I said, "It's in our genes," and he said, "What do you mean?" I said, "We're a country of immigrants. To be a country of immigrants means you have to be an optimist. The pessimists stayed home. The optimists picked up and came to America. So, inherently, we're a society of optimists, because the people who came before had to say, 'Geez, I don't speak the language, it's a long way away, I'm a stranger, but I'm still going to do it,' and the people who said, 'Well, it's a long way away and I'm not going to do it, because there's going to be a lot of trouble,' are the pessimists." The head of Merrill Lynch, where I worked, Launny Steffens, once said [that] he hasn't met many very successful pessimists. [laughter]
SH: Well put.
SH: When your father went to Mexico City, was there an enclave there of ...
SH: Jewish people who spoke Russian? I am thinking of the language.
AM: They probably spoke Yiddish, which was the common language at the time. The answer is, sure there was. It was very large; large? There was a Jewish community, still is, in Mexico City, which [he] became part of. Every once in a while, we had this person who would knock on our door in West Orange, who came in from Mexico City to visit. When my sister went down there, she met with a little bit of the people that, I guess, my father knew at the time, but that's true anywhere in the world. I'm on the Board of Governors of the American Jewish Committee and they're everyplace. We were in China with the American Jewish Committee last year and there is a town in Western China which had an active Jewish community until, I don't know, fifty years, sixty years ago, but it was the last spot of the Silk Trail of Marco Polo. So, it was a commercial area. [As a] matter-of-fact, what you put on the door if you're Jewish is a mezuzah and there are a number of houses in this western town of China that had, still have, mezuzahs on it, and still have some ancestors who are, whatever--still practice, shall we say.
SH: Was there some reason why he would go from Russia to Mexico and not go to, say, England?
AM: Because he couldn't get into the United States. He couldn't get into the United States--that's the bottom line.
SH: Was the uncle already here, the watchmaker in New York?
AM: Yes. He was already here and his sister was already here. I'm not sure why he couldn't get into the States, but he couldn't get into the States. His brother got into the States, initially, because my father's father came to the United States and didn't like it. So, he went back to Bialystok. When he was in New York, he bought a coat, a winter coat. So, my father's brother took the winter coat, with the label, "New York City," and went to the American Embassy and, by proving that he'd been in New York before, even though he hadn't been to New York before, he was permitted to come into America.
AM: [laughter] And everybody has these stories about getting here.
SH: They are fantastic.
AM: I know. It's an incredible thing.
SH: Did any other members of the family come over? You talked about the grandfather going back.
AM: Yes. Well, at some point, the mother came here, and I only knew her a short period of time. She never spoke English and she was in an old folks' home. His sister came here, I'm not sure when, and had to be in the '20s, and his brother never came here. They had an older brother, never came here. Bialystok was a pretty--what do you call it?--developed town. There was a lot of industry, and I have a picture of them in Bialystok and they're wearing ties and jackets. So, it wasn't a shtetl or anything like that, and the town, actually, exported capital. That's probably what happened with Mexico, but they started businesses in Argentina, for example, out of Bialystok, yes. I bicycled in the Soviet Union in 1988, from the western border of the Soviet Union to Moscow. I did something that neither Napoleon nor Hitler did--I got to Moscow, [laughter] but, anyway--but I landed in Warsaw to get to Brest, [now in Belarus], which was the western border of the Soviet Union, and, on the road down, it's like on the Garden State Parkway, a big sign, "Bialystok." The next exit was Treblinka, which was one of the extermination camps. So, whatever happened to the rest of the family, I have no idea.
SH: That was what I wanted to ask.
AM: Yes, I have no idea. My father's father probably died. [His] brother, my guess, was exterminated.
SH: Where did your mother's family come from?
AM: She [was] born in New York.
SH: Was she first-generation?
AM: Yes, she was first-generation. Her parents came from Germany. So, they were--I know her mother's name was an Unterberg, which is one of my old bosses. They came from Germany. I don't know too much about their background, either. It's interesting, I don't know why, we never made an effort to really dig into it, and we're all sorry now that we didn't. Then, they moved to Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, where he was a general store operator. She always made light of it, but they had one of the first cars in town and they had a maid, and so on, and so forth. So, they lived pretty okay, but they also suffered because the coalminers, it was a coalmining town, every once in a while, would take off on the Jewish families. So, they had to be careful. She just had a high school education, and then, she came to New York, with her sister, who is one year younger, and they became secretaries in businesses in the garment trade.
SH: Did she have a large family?
AM: Four sisters--feel sorry for my grandfather. God's revenge against a male is a teenage daughter--so, he had four, he really had a lot of revenge. [laughter] So, he had four daughters. They all came here. Ultimately, the parents came here as well. They brought them here. I didn't know any of them, because they died before I was aware. My grandfather died before I was born and my grandmother, I think, died when I was one or two years old. So, I, from my perspective, never had grandparents, for all practical purposes.
SH: You talked a little bit about their left-wing politics and the fact that your father never signed anything, as you say. What were the politics that were talked about around the table? How did they feel about Hoover and FDR?
AM: Well, they were either Communist or Socialist, depending on how you define things, and, if my father knew what I did for a living, he'd probably roll over in his grave, but he knew where I was headed. [laughter] They're very left. Roosevelt was their hero. As I said to most of my cousins, "You're still voting for Roosevelt," which is true of most of the liberal Jews. They're still voting for Roosevelt. So, they were very strong on Roosevelt, very left.
My father was always a Socialist and that was their politics. There was a lot of discussion around the table. In addition, my father was a very strong Zionist. Where he grew up was where the source of all the [Zionist pioneers], most of the first-generation Israelis, were, the Ben-Gurions--everybody came out of that area.
So, actually, when I think back, when I think about World War II, I do remember my father was an air raid warden. In New Jersey, we had a lot of air raid sirens [air raid drills]. So, I remember him [doing that]. The air raid wardens of the Second World War had white [helmets]. They'd painted white the helmets of [the First World War soldiers]. The World War I helmets were painted white. He went out there and I remember looking down the street, watching him doing whatever he's doing. That's about as much as I remember about World War II.
In the '47-'48 [period], when Israel was establishing itself, he was a member of something called the Farband Labor Zionists, which is the left-wing party in Israel. [Editor's Note: The Yidish Natsionaler Arbeter Farband or Jewish National Workers Alliance, a mutual aid society serving Jewish communities across North America, aligned itself with the Poale Zion political party, a predecessor to the Israeli Labor Party.] They were raising money for the war and I used to, being a little kid, be around where they're meeting. What is funny is, the other reason you joined the organization is for your cemetery plot. So, when I visit my father's cemetery, stone, it's like going to a meeting of the Farband Labor Zionists. There they all are, [laughter] sitting around the table, except it's in the cemetery. So, that was an important time for them, '47-'48, with the founding of Israel, and that was probably more important to him.
He was not a religious Jew. I remember, one time, he said, "I used to go to synagogue on Saturday. Then, one time, my father rolled over, went back to sleep and says, 'Let's not bother.'" He rolled over, went back to sleep; I don't think he ever bothered again. I don't remember him ever going to temple. He sent me to Hebrew school and all that, but I don't remember him going to temple, but he was a very strong Zionist and that was what really was important to him. He spoke English okay, although my wife says--she can imitate him. When he wrote letters to certain people, he always wrote in Yiddish.
SH: Did he?
AM: To anybody who read it, couldn't be to everybody, but to whoever. That was his real language. He could speak a little Russian, he could speak a little German, I assume Polish, too, but Yiddish was the [main language], and my mother didn't speak Yiddish, but she understood it. So, when we were growing up, [laughter] when they had to say something, it was in Yiddish, at least to my mother.
SH: Was their marriage arranged?
AM: I don't think so. There was nobody to arrange it. Yes, there were no parents around. It was just--I hate to say it's like Fiddler on the Roof, "Do you love me?" [laughter] I don't know what the answer was, but that's how it happened, yes.
SH: Was your mother agreeable to this non-practicing husband?
AM: Yes, she didn't care either. They were both--politically, they were secularists. There was a debate in Oxford, in 1948, particularly about Israel, but, "Are Jews a people or a religion?" okay, and it's somebody there who I thought made the best point. "When Moses led the Jews out of Egypt, they were a people and a nation. When they passed Mt. Sinai, they were a religion." So, it gets down to, "What are you?" They were secularists. They had no sense of religion. They never attended anything.
SH: Other than the meetings that your father attended with the American Farband ...
AM: The Farband Labor Zionists, yes.
SH: What else did he do to support that?
AM: Except for once in his life, he actually never left New Jersey very far. His only plane trip he ever took in his life was to go to Israel, once.
SH: He did.
AM: That's it, yes, that's it, once. Driving, he was a terrible driver. We didn't have a car--I'll answer your question--but we didn't have a car until 1956, until I would have been, I don't know what, sixteen. He really didn't understand America, in the sense of what I grew up with and what I needed. Not to have a car, you've got to be kidding me. [laughter] Okay, we didn't have a car. He was a watchmaker. My mother had to go down to Newark to get parts for repairs, okay, and he was in East Orange. She then went across the street and shopped for groceries in Kings Supermarket. She got on the #21 bus with two bags of groceries, took the bus to what was called the "Swamp Line" in West Orange, took a taxi to go home. You've got to be kidding me. I don't know how you live that way. They lived that way, basically. He got a car in 1956. He flunked the driving [test], the written exam first, passed the driver's exam, takes us out for the first drive and has an accident on the first drive. He was a terrible driver. My God, he was a terrible driver. Thank God I drove in a year--to answer your question, though, not much.
They weren't part of anything. He was very uncomfortable as part of American society, because I guess he was insecure about it or whatever. I'm not sure why, but the Labor Zionists were the thing that he was active in. That was his whole thing and, beyond that, not really. He got the Yiddish newspaper every day, The Forward, and that's really it. Neither of them really were aggressive in getting out, and that affected me in the sense that I grew up shy, insecure, and I was kidding about WRSU [Rutgers University's radio station], but that took me out of my shell. This sounds like a psychologist's thing, instead of oral history. [laughter]
SH: Were many Jews called on to support those who were coming out of Eastern Europe? Were your parents active?
AM: No, they never [did]. They weren't really active members of the temple. Temples usually are the ones that did, were the organizations that helped in the United Jewish Appeal. They were very isolated, insular. They really weren't part of anything. One of the things, when you grow up, your parents give you a sense of what you should do when you're an adult and I would say, for both my sister and myself, we had no models. They didn't know anything about college. Today, you help your [kids]. I don't know about you, but I certainly helped my kids write their letters and get ready for college. I didn't have anything--it was me.
AM: I was on my own.
SH: Is your sister younger?
AM: Yes, she's younger, but I was on my own. They didn't know college from a hole in the head. They said, "Go to college. We want you to go to college," but they didn't know what that meant.
SH: All right, because I wondered if they supported them financially or wrote letters to the political leaders.
AM: No, no, they were not [active].
SH: There were huge tracts of land that were purchased, too.
AM: Well, the thing that you have when you're Jewish is what's called the pushke, which was a blue box for the Jewish National Fund, and you put your quarters and your nickels in it. When it's filled, you send it off and they planted a forest in Israel. Now, if you go to Israel, they have what they call the JNF Forest, the Jewish National Fund Forest. What you see in Israel today was not what Israel was in 1948. It was mainly a desert area and swamps, and so, when people say they want to go back home, that home is not what they left. It's an entirely different country. It was swamps and desert, and now you've got forests. If you go from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the whole road is forest. Well, those forests weren't there in 1948. Those were all planted and, when Hezbollah attacked this time, the rockets were sparking--I was there during the war--the rockets were sparking as they came in. As a result, when they went into the forests, they put them on fire, which is not talked about too much here, but a lot of the forests have been damaged because the rockets coming in burned the forest. [Editor's Note: Mr. Melnick is referring to the Israel-Lebanon/Hezbollah War (July 12-August 14, 2006), during which Hezbollah forces killed forty-three Israeli civilians with rocket attacks against northern Israel.]
So, the answer to your question is he didn't make a lot of money. I don't know what he made, but, in current dollars, if you made twenty-five thousand dollars a year, it was a lot. We lived okay, I'm not complaining, but he didn't make a lot of money. I don't know what current dollars would be--maybe it's a little higher, because he owned a house--but it was that kind of thing that they did very loyal, very Zionist, but [was] not a joiner. My mother was never a member of the PTA. He came home--he worked. Look, he worked six days a week, to nine o'clock every night. He came home. Sunday was his biggest day. He can go out and mow the lawn. [laughter] That was it. During the summer and when we got older, they used to rent a room for one month in Belmar and he used to come down on the weekends, but he was not an aggressive guy. I always said, for our family, my mother was aggressive, but those were the days when women couldn't [be aggressive], right. We would have been, as a family, more successful if my mother had been permitted to go out and work and my father stayed at home.
SH: That was my next question--did your mother work outside the home?
AM: No. Well, she worked for my father, in going down to Newark to get parts. When I came home, she wasn't home, okay, because she left some time mid-morning, went down to Newark. It was the Newark jewelers, which was [their] supply. There was a guy who made the jewelry. She would do that, come back to the store, then, do the shopping, as I described, take the bus home. [laughter] I still can't believe that. I really can't believe that, take the bus home and take the taxi, and she usually came in about four-forty-five. So, when I got home from school, she wasn't there, or, [when] my sister came home from school, she wasn't there.
SH: She waited to do this until after you were in school.
AM: Yes. She left after we left in the morning. She probably cleaned up the house, she did the wash, everything.
SH: You were not in any kind of daycare.
AM: No, no. I can't remember that period, but, no, we weren't in daycare, because I lived in East Orange, no, no.
SH: Did they ever talk about the Depression and how that affected them?
AM: No, they didn't, no.
SH: You talked about the lack of support. Was education important to them? Was that something that they wanted for you, but just did not know how to help?
AM: Oh, absolutely, okay. [laughter] Well, it's a Jewish tradition, education. When I was in China--it was interesting. This is [through my work with] the American Jewish Committee. The Chinese said to us, the very top [representative], "You and us are similar. We're an old people with a focus on family and education," and, yes, the marks, very focused on the marks. If it wasn't an "A," it was a problem. It was a real problem if it wasn't an "A," and there were no compliments. If you got "As," nothing was said, but, if you got "Bs" and "Cs," something was said. So, they were very much focused on education. My father, if you went to the store, he was a watchmaker, but people'd come in and he would get out from behind the bench, sit down with them and they'd spend an hour or two philosophizing. He would have been a great professor, okay. That would have been his role, but, as a business person, he was terrible. [laughter]
AM: Was terrible. [laughter]
SH: You talked about going to Hebrew school.
SH: Are there any memories from that, or any people that were mentors?
AM: I really resisted it and I made every effort at being kicked out every day, and the teacher would say, "Go to the principal," and I would say, "Nah, I'll go home." So, I used to go home, play football. [laughter] I got through it, but of the things, I think, in the Jewish religion that hurts it a lot is that here are kids, relatively young, three days a week, or whatever it is, two days a week, after school, where their friends are playing, they're going to school to learn Hebrew and all [saying], "What's the point of this?" At the age of [pre-adolescence], who cares? and there's a great deal of resistance. Like, I have a friend of mine, his son's getting bar mitzvah-ed. The day he gets bar mitzvah-ed, he's not going to Hebrew school anymore. So, there's a lot to overcome. So, the answer to your question, I was a very rebellious individual and, as my aunts and uncles tell me, they had a hard time controlling me. So, I did pretty much what I wanted to do, which is still the case. [laughter]
SH: What did you do? Obviously, you were in grade school there, in East Orange.
AM: Yes. Well, initially, at East Orange is where I started out, which is sort of interesting, because I was one of the only white kids in the school, Eastern School, and I don't know how I got to call black people--I'm not certain, today, what you call black people, black people or African-Americans, but whatever.
SH: What did you call them then?
AM: Negroes, and, for some other reason, I don't know, I kept calling them "color blondes," and I don't know why, but I called them "color blondes." I don't know what caused me to call them "color blondes," but, for years, I called them "color blondes." It's something my mother must have said to me. In school, yes, I pretty much did what I wanted to do. What happened was, in East Orange, they'd moved to Rutledge Avenue, so, I went to Columbian School, and I was terrible, absolutely terrible. I used to be put in the back of the room for my behavior, and I was really terrible. Then, we moved in fourth grade and I made a resolution to myself, "I've got to change." So, I started to become good, and my parents were surprised at that. [laughter]
CB: What grade was this again?
AM: Fourth grade. I was, I don't know, how old, ten?
SH: Usually, it is the reverse.
AM: Yes, I know. I said, "I've got to get [serious]," and the other thing was, when I moved from East Orange to West Orange, in West Orange, they had long division. [laughter] We hadn't got to long division in East Orange--major changes. So, my mother really spent a lot of time getting me up to long division and you had to go up to the blackboard, and see who could do it faster and all that, and I hate to lose. So, I figured, "I'd better get [serious]." I hate to lose. [laughter] My attitude is, "If you like to lose, you lose."
SH: How much younger than you was your sister?
AM: She was born in '45, I think, so, she's four years younger than I am, yes, because my wife's born in '46, yes, '45. So, anyway, we went to West Orange. I can't tell you how I rebelled, but I rebelled.
SH: Did you have afterschool jobs?
AM: At the age of thirteen, I started working. I worked in the summer down in Newark, initially at a place called S. Marsh and Sons. They had--what do you call it?--a leather goods store, which was owned by somebody else, Marty Brandman, and Marty Brandman was considered "The Prince of Newark." He was an immigrant. He came over [on] the boat from Germany with the Shwayder Brothers. If you know who the Shwayder Brothers are, they're the ones that started Samsonite, the luggage company, okay. So, he got into leather goods and it was a discount leather goods luggage company and, at the time, there's something called fair pricing or fair trade, or something, where you weren't supposed to discount prices. Manufacture published a price, no one could discount it. You couldn't have a Wal-Mart today if this were still in effect, okay. Well, Marty had the relationship with the Shwayder Brothers coming over on the boat, and so, he discounted Samsonite luggage, and Bamberger's, today's Macy's, two blocks away, got all upset. They couldn't do a damn thing about it, because Marty had come over on the boat with the Shwayder Brothers. I would say I learned more about business from Marty Brandman than I ever did getting an MBA--and I'm not being critical of Rutgers--out of Rutgers or anybody else. So, I worked there, and then, they moved to Millburn. So, I worked, from the age of fourteen to the age of twenty-one, selling luggage and pens and all that sort of stuff.
First year was basically just being a stock boy and they were over the old Newark Paramount, right on Market Street, and this was during the summer. Newark is hot as hell, and I remember getting a hundred cartons of Samsonite luggage that I'd have to carry up two flights of stairs to put in the warehouse and I got paid minimum wage, which, at the time, was a dollar an hour, something like that. [laughter] It bought a lot. My tuition at Rutgers was four hundred dollars a year, okay. [laughter] The whole thing was twelve hundred dollars, including room and board. So, yes, I worked and I would work during Christmas and any time I could, to help pay for college, is what I was working [for], or help pay for something at the time, when I was thirteen, yes, to help pay for different things. So, I worked pretty regularly. It scares me when I think about it, because it means I've been working for over fifty years, which is scary. [laughter] I have a friend of mine talking about retirement, and someone said to him, "You worked hard all your life, how can you retire?" and he said, "I worked hard all my life to retire and it's the bottom line." At some point, you've got to give up. So, yes, I worked eight years, until I graduated from college.
SH: Did you have any time for extracurricular activities in school?
AM: I was in the band. That was my main extracurricular activity. I was in the marching band and, also, the concert band.
SH: What did you play?
AM: Trombone, because I'm totally uncoordinated. So, you don't have to move your fingers with a trombone. You just do this. [laughter] I'm not a great musician, I don't have an ear, but I figured I'd do something, and my mother really hated it, because have you ever played a brass instrument?
CB: I used to play the trumpet.
AM: Then, you know there's a spittoon, right.
AM: [laughter] And I used to do it right on my mother's rug. [laughter] She used to hate me and, finally, she gave me a plate. [laughter] So, yes, I played the trombone for a long time. It was a great instrument.
SH: Usually, beginners, that is all they do. [laughter]
CB: I guess the trombone is too big to hold over the sink. [laughter]
AM: It's a great instrument, and it's great [because] I was in the front row of the marching band. So, every once in a while, the twirlers were in front. You do [laughter]--I can't explain that on a microphone. There's my arm moving forward, for anybody listening. [laughter] We'll censor that part. [laughter]
SH: Was there anyone in your school who encouraged you and gave you any sort of academic counseling or pointed you toward college? Why Rutgers?
AM: No, I didn't get any counseling. I pretty much, as you'll see, did it all on my own. No, I didn't get any counseling. I considered Newark College of Engineering first, because that would be a commuter school and it's cheap. Then, they came up with something called the New Jersey State Scholarships and I said, "Oh, God, maybe I can afford Rutgers." So, I applied for the scholarship and I got it. So, that took care of the four-hundred-dollar tuition [laughter] and my parents then said, "We're a little frightened." I started talking about going away to school, which they hadn't really thought about, and I explained it to them and they said, "Fine." Oh, I know what happened, too. My father's aunt had a boarding house in New Brunswick, on Mine Street, next to the fraternity over there--I forget the name of the fraternity--a half a block in from College Avenue. So, they said, "Ah, you can stay there." So, I got a special dispensation from "the Pope," whoever "the Pope" was at the time at Rutgers, to live off campus, which wasn't the [standard] case for freshmen. So, I didn't have to stay in Hardenbergh or whatever the freshman dorm was at the time. That's how it happened. That's how they got comfortable with me going away to Rutgers. Then, it came to the question of money and I got the scholarship, and then, I worked. Not including the scholarship, I probably paid half of the cost of college at the time, and, yes, probably about half. It doesn't seem expensive, but when you're not making that much money, the dollar was different then. The value of the dollar was different, but no doubt, by the way, that college tuitions have gone up faster than inflation, by, like, double.
SH: Did you come and check out Rutgers?
AM: No. There was no way of getting down here. My father would never drive that far. I forget how I got here, actually. [laughter] Maybe my mother drove down that day.
SH: Did your mother learn to drive then?
AM: Yes, my mother was a much better driver. I wouldn't ride around with my father, but I permitted my mother to drive if I was in the car.
SH: Like you said, you only had to spend one year on it before you could drive. Did you become the family chauffer?
AM: I was the chauffer, yes, for two reasons: one, I wouldn't permit him to drive; [laughter] two, I wanted to drive. So, it was a combination of both. So, yes, yes, I was the driver.
SH: There was really no other choice but to come to Rutgers.
AM: I would say today, with my marks and my position, I probably would have gone to an Ivy League school, if my parents knew what they were doing and the school was more supportive, because I had the marks to get into an Ivy League school.
SH: Was there anyone who said, "Why don't you look at Columbia?"
AM: No. It was so far above me at the time, because my parents couldn't give me any advice and all I could think of [was], "Columbia's a lot of money, okay. So, why even think about it?" I never gave it a thought. I graduated well within the top ten, probably top five, percent of my class at school, probably less than that, and kids lower than me went to either Princeton or those kind of schools. I probably could have, but I didn't know enough. I was naïve at the time.
SH: Were you involved in anything besides the band, such as student government?
AM: No, I was a total nerd, okay, very shy. I know my kids ... can't believe that I was shy, totally shy, afraid of people. I didn't date, I didn't do anything. This is getting into psychology--I don't want to get into that, [laughter] but the bottom line is, no, I was totally a hermit, almost.
CB: What made you join up with WRSU?
AM: Because I said to myself--I've always maintained a philosophy and [do now] as I'm getting older--that, "You're being tested, and how are you going to meet the test?" and so, I said, "I've got to get out of this." So, I walked into WRSU and it sounded interesting and, at the time, it was at 12 College Avenue and it would just broadcast within the confines of the dorms. I said, "This sounds interesting." I couldn't write, so, Targum [Rutgers University's student newspaper] was out, [laughter] but I can talk. So, I figured, "I'll do it." So, that's how WRSU--I can't even say it anymore.
SH: When you came to Rutgers in 1959, there was still mandatory ...
AM: ROTC. [The] most important thing that ever happened to me in my life is ROTC.
SH: Really? For someone who has now gotten dispensation to be off campus, was there any sort of initiation? Talk about the ROTC. What was it like as a freshman?
AM: Well, the thing I always say to people--I made the commencement address at the Rutgers undergraduate Business School, okay, and I was asked to do that by some of the interns that worked for me. I said, "What do you want to talk about?" and they said, "Career path," and what I said to them was, "There's no such thing as a career path. It's a twisting trail through the jungle and the important intersections, you don't know until you look back." Who the hell knows that? and the most important decision I made in my life was ROTC at Rutgers. I came down and it was required, because it's a land-grant college, and you had a choice between Air Force and Army ROTC. What the hell do I know? Seventeen years old, military, I don't even know what that is, but there was a draft at the time. You had to be aware of that, and I heard that the Army had a term paper. So, I said, "Who the hell wants a term paper?" So, I went in the Air Force line, okay. [laughter] I'm getting in this, ready to sign up in the Air Force line. The Sergeant comes over to me and says, "Son, there aren't many jet pilots that wear glasses. Why don't you get in the Army line?" So, I got in the Army line. So, I took the two years, and then, I took the Advanced ROTC, because the check would pay for my car and dates. I started becoming social. Everything in my life came from that, if you really go through it, because I went to Vietnam, met my wife in Washington. It all comes out of that one decision, and there's lots of things relative to that. Getting back to your question, so, that was the ROTC part of the decision. Signing up for courses is not like, I gather, today, it's a major to-do. What do they call it, "the Rutgers Screw?"
CB: "The RU Screw."
AM: "The RU Screw," sorry. [laughter] It wasn't like that. You have to remember, there were thirty-two hundred students at Rutgers, undergraduate. We were the largest freshman class, sixteen hundred. We graduated six hundred, roughly, 635, and they said, when we're there, I'm sure you heard the same thing, "Look to your left, look to your right--one of you won't be there." I had a friend of mine, later on, who graduated from Columbia, and he said to me, "You know the difference between the Ivy League schools and the state schools? In the Ivy League schools, very hard to get into and very hard to flunk out of--in the state schools, very easy to get into and you flunk half the class out," and that's the difference between the Ivy League schools and most of the good state schools, like Rutgers. Okay, so, yes, you get here, but you'd better get through. Half the people were flunked out in Western civ or freshman English, and that's the way it worked. So, I came down as an engineer. Again, getting back to being rebellious, I refused to take a language in high school, because I'm going to be an engineer. "Who needs a language?" and I knew Newark College of Engineering didn't require a language. So, I'm set up. I don't take a language, and I just said, "The hell with it." So, I didn't take a language.
I came here in engineering. I was going to be a ceramic engineer, because Rutgers had one of the leading ceramic engineering courses in the country and ceramic engineers were very important at the time, to create missile cone heads for the Atlas missiles and blah, blah, blah. So, I took it and I did terrible, okay, and the other thing I didn't like about it, engineering is like a high school course. If you take a liberal arts course, you can read the book whenever you want to read it. In engineering, if you don't stay day-by-day, you get lost; in calculus, you get lost in, okay. I didn't come to college for that. I didn't come to college to be in high school. So, I said, "The hell with this. I'm getting out of this thing." As a result, I had to get a language. So, I took summer school that year, to make my high school credit. I took Spanish, and then, later on, I took French as my undergraduate [language], and I'm terrible in languages.
So, I went through the first year as a freshman and, later, converted to being an economics major, but I got involved at WRSU, which is, as I said, the best thing that ever happened to me down here, because it forced me out of my shell. Ultimately, I became the business manager of the station. So, I had to go out and sell advertising. Here's a guy who's afraid to talk to himself, has to go out and sell advertising, [laughter] and, also, became the special features editor of the station. I became the Edward R. Murrow. You wouldn't know who that is, and, if you saw the movie, okay, you would know who it is. [Editor's Note: Broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow was renowned for his coverage of such subjects as the Second World War and the "Red Scare" engineered by Senator Joseph McCarthy, the latter of which was dramatized in the 2005 film Good Night, and Good Luck.] My big focus was Malcolm X, and so, I went into the ghetto in Newark, in a--I don't think it could have been a church, but it might have been an auditorium--where Malcolm X was speaking. I'm the only white guy there and he's got the whole black audience going bananas against white people and I'm sitting there recording it for WRSU--again, getting me out of my shell.
CB: You were kind of forced to.
AM: Forced to. I had my big Ampex--in those days, it was reel-to-reel. So, you take your big Ampex recorder, it's me, I'm setting up the whole offsite, to record this thing, [laughter] and I'm recording it. I did a whole thing on Malcolm X.
SH: Why did you pick Malcolm X? Did you have that latitude?
AM: Yes. I'm the special features editor and, if anybody told me not to, I would have done it anyway. That's me. [laughter]
CB: Was there any kind of backlash while you were there?
AM: No, there was nothing, and I'm listening to him. Half the things he was saying was right on anyway. He was right. This is really early in the Civil Rights Movement. Remember, this is before the March on Washington.
SH: It has got to be before 1963.
SH: You graduated in 1963, right?
AM: Yes, it was 1960, '60-'61. That's when I was special features editor. In the last year, I was business manager. I did the news most of the time, too. Dick Standish, who's on [KYW-TV, a CBS affiliate in] Philadelphia, was our news editor.
AM: Yes. I don't know if you ever watch Philadelphia [news]--you probably don't watch Philadelphia--but he's one of the leading newscasters in Philadelphia. Dick was great. We had a lot of good [guys there]. What happened, and, unfortunately for parents, a lot of students, guys, came down to be pre-med, you name the course, but a lot of pre-med, they went over to WRSU. Parents went nuts, because they gave up pre-med and decided to go into radio and television, and a lot of them did. It made a lot of people do that, and did well.
SH: How did you get focused on economics then?
AM: I don't know. [laughter] I checked, "Economics." I have no idea.
SH: You went from ...
AM: Ceramic engineering to economics.
SH: Did you talk to anyone?
SH: Was there any kind of academic counseling?
AM: No. I do everything myself.
SH: Okay. [laughter]
CB: With the change from engineering over to economics, did you have favorite classes or favorite professors?
AM: Yes, Professor Balinky, Alexander Balinky. He did comparative economics. I think he was a Russian Jew, but he was what college was supposed to be about, which is not to memorize things, but to think about things. I always believed that's what college is about, is to teach you how to think and to challenge your thinking, not to say, "Okay, in 1972, this happened." He was doing comparative economics, which, at the time, you had a Communist society and you had a capitalistic society, and so, you're dealing a lot with [Communist systems]. At the time, even though a lot of us were not sure about Communism, it was something there and it was a challenge to the West. So, there was a constant dialogue on that. Balinky was terrific. I still remember him. Actually, the President's father was very good, Richard [P.] McCormick. He was very good and I had him. I had a guy that was boring, but, actually, it was an interesting subject, "Comparative Far East Economics After;" I don't know what it was, but it was about the Far East, which I loved. That course was interesting. I'm trying to remember some of the other things that might have been interesting, but Balinky was terrific. There were some other economic courses, but they're economic courses. [laughter]
SH: Did you continue to live off campus?
AM: No, I moved back into Hardenbergh and we had fun with that. My next-door neighbor was a friend who had graduated from high school with me. Ultimately, being a nut case, he ultimately became a psychiatrist, [laughter] but there was a professor, an art professor in [the Art Department]. I forget his name. He became one of the famous artists, I think, in the United States at the time. I can't remember his name, but one of the courses was that you had to have involvement with what you were doing. So, his [Mr. Melnick's friend] project was going to be, he was going to cut the head of a chicken off, [laughter] put a white sheet up, put a light behind it, and then, he would have the shadow of cutting the chicken [head] off, okay. So, guess what he had in his dorm room? Chickens.
SH: More than one.
AM: More than one. So, here we are in Hardenbergh, with a bunch of chickens, that he's cut their heads off, practicing for the course. So, at some point in time, the New Brunswick Health Department comes up. [laughter] I don't know what they do, but they declare it unhealthy, all these dead chickens. [laughter]
SH: And you continued studying
AM: Yes, "A few dead chickens, what's the big deal?" [laughter]
-------------------------------------END OF TAPE ONE, SIDE ONE---------------------------------------
CB: Side two, tape one.
SH: Please, continue.
AM: Well, anyway, no, the chickens were dead. He had cut them off. ... I don't know who called the health department in.
SH: Do you recall the name of the professor?
AM: Allan Kaprow, I believe, was his name. I've read more about him and I think he left Rutgers, but he was considered a brand-name, shall we say. [Editor's Note: Professor Allan Kaprow developed the Happenings performance art movement while at Rutgers University in the 1950s and 1960s, before moving on to several other universities, ultimately spending nearly twenty years at University of California, San Diego.] The other thing we had happen in the dorm room, we had--I can't remember her name, not Suzie Kwan. Some other movie came out [The World of Suzie Wong (1960) starring Nancy Kwan] and the local theater had her picture ... in a two-piece swimsuit, about eight feet high. So, we took it, put it in the dorm room and lit up the critical parts of the female body.
SH: That was artwork though, right? [laughter]
AM: No, this was just a movie; it's artwork when [you modify it]. Then, some Congressman drives by, I don't know who he was, and called up Dr. Gross, [laughter] Mason Gross, who, by the way, Mason Gross was a wonderful individual, and so, we got called on that as well. [Editor's Note: Dr. Mason Gross (1911-1977) was the twelfth President of Rutgers University from 1959 to 1971.] So, we had some fun in Hardenbergh. They've changed the name of Livingston. It's amazing. It used to be Livingston, now Campbell. [Editor's Note: Hardenbergh and Campbell Halls are residence/classroom facilities at Rutgers University.]
SH: Do you know anything about that change?
AM: Have no idea. I don't even know who Campbell is, except the soups. So, anyway, I lived in Hardenbergh for a couple years, after [the] first two years on Mine. One of the [roommates], forgot his name, Craig something, he's on the Board of Trustees now, lived with me, became a doctor, who lived on Mine Street [in New Brunswick].
SH: Did your aunt rent out primarily to Rutgers students?
AM: Oh, yes, only Rutgers students. The great thing [was], it taught me that you could live through church bells, because right across the street was a church and the bells went off at seven o'clock in the morning. You would think that would get you up for class, but within a month, it didn't bother me. [laughter] The great thing about Hardenbergh, I always tried to schedule my first class [so that it] was in Hardenbergh, so [that] you didn't have to get dressed. You just sort of [went downstairs]. There were no girls, no women, at the time, so this was an all-male school.
SH: I wanted to ask about that. In some of the photographs that we see, through the 1940s, the men are still wearing ties and shirts and jackets.
AM: Oh, forget it.
SH: By the time you came in.
AM: Well, if they had, I wouldn't be wearing them anyway. The one thing that was nice about WRSU was the fact that it was--what do they call it?--coed, I guess. Is that term used today? I doubt it. [laughter] Some of these terms; yes, it was a coed [institution]. I wasn't a member of a fraternity, and so, it was coed and it was a good chance to meet women from Douglass. [Editor's Note: The New Jersey College for Women, created in 1918, was renamed Douglass College in 1955 and is now the Douglass Residential College at Rutgers University.]
SH: We know that ROTC was still in effect at that point.
AM: Yes, courses.
SH: Courses, but did you also have convocations?
AM: No, no.
SH: We know mandatory chapel ends with the end of World War II.
AM: There was nothing mandatory that I can remember.
AM: And [if] it had been, I probably wouldn't have attended. [laughter] That would be just something else not to attend. You're at college--you're not going to do what people tell you to do. That's the whole idea of college. You're supposed to be revolting, and we were revolting. [laughter]
SH: Were you also involved with any of the social activities at Douglass?
AM: I don't think so. I used to go over there, but I don't think [I was involved in] any social activities, that I can remember. They had those living [areas], like Corwin, and what was the other one?
SH: There was Jameson.
AM: Jameson, yes. I dated a girl in Jameson, I dated a girl in Corwin, but I don't remember much about them, but that was nice at the time. [Editor's Note: Jameson and Corwin are both residence halls on the Douglass Campus of Rutgers University.] In '62, we had the Cuban Missile Crisis and we thought the end of the world was coming. [Editor's Note: The Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 developed between the United States and the Soviet Union over the USSR's deployment of medium-range nuclear missiles to Cuba.] I'm in this class [today] and the kids were all excited about 9/11, [the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks]. I said, "Big deal. We had almost a nuclear war," and so on, and so forth, but we had an agreement--the guys at Rutgers and the girls at Douglass had an agreement. If this was true, we'd get together real quick, [laughter] and there were no busses. I don't think there were. Maybe there were busses, but I don't think there were. Parking was a lot easier. Physically, parking the car was a lot easier than this.
SH: It is a nightmare. When did you start having a car on campus?
AM: I had a car on campus when I was a junior. Because of ROTC, I could afford my [car]. 1962, actually, my father actually bought a new car, "Wonder of wonders," and I said, "Look, I'm working, I will find a way to keep the old car," which was a '53 Buick. I had it on campus for two years, until I went in the Army.
SH: Did you use that car to go to set up in Newark for the Malcolm X debate?
AM: Yes, exactly what I did, yes, yes. I used that car and a lot of things for WRSU. I was one of the few people in the station that had a car, that could easily get around.
SH: As business manager, in your senior year, was that when you began to sell the ads?
AM: Yes, yes, and, also, manage. It was a good thing, too, because most of the women were in the business half. So, it was a good thing to manage, [laughter] had a lot of positive side, whatever.
SH: As you were a senior now, was your sister a freshman in college?
AM: Yes, she was at Newark-Rutgers. [Editor's Note: The Newark Campus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, was established in 1946 when the University of Newark was merged into Rutgers University.]
SH: I was going to say.
AM: Yes. She was at Newark-Rutgers and I had to save her a number of times, because she was having a hard time her freshman year. So, my parents would ask me to come back and give her a pep talk on staying in college and all the good stuff that it would do for you, and so on, and so forth, and they didn't know from Adam. So, I spent a lot of time coming home to help her out as well, yes.
SH: How often did you go home?
AM: Well, this turned out to be a bit of a commuter's college then--I don't know if it is now--on weekends. I would say that half the kids, on weekends, went home, if they could. So, I would say I went home every other weekend, and, usually, I had another friend who had a car, so, either he would drive or I would drive home. Earlier, we used to take the train from Newark Penn Station to, [Mr. Melnick imitates a conductor], "New Brunswick, New Brunswick." [laughter] So, we did a lot of that. I wasn't a member of a fraternity, so, there wasn't that much to do on the weekends here if you weren't a member of a fraternity. I used to stay down for a few of the football games.
We actually had good football teams then, undefeated in one year, first time Rutgers was ever undefeated, 1961. That was a fabulous year. I went to all the away games, and probably the greatest football game I ever saw, and I still believe that, was the last game of the year. We were 8-0. Rutgers had never had an undefeated year--in case you're aware, unaware, Rutgers started college football, if you're not aware of that. They don't say that. [laughter] [Editor's Note: Rutgers defeated Princeton University in the first college football game, held in New Brunswick, New Jersey, on November 6, 1869.] They don't make much of that, do they? [laughter] So, here we are, 8-0, never had an undefeated year, we're playing Columbia [University], and Columbia is--what kind of team is Columbia, same as us, right? We're down 19-6 at the end of the third quarter. We're down 19-6 at the end of the third quarter, and we're saying, "Oh, my God." Rutgers won 32-19, four touchdowns in the last quarter. It was the most incredible game.
AM: Yes, and I hear all [the students today], everybody, I listen to some of the people, "The one game was incredible. I can't believe it." I said, "You're not even close." I'm talking about Rutgers games, because the significance of it was, here, from 1869 to 1961, Rutgers never had an undefeated year. It's 8-0 and you're playing a crappy team called Columbia.
CB: You have to win that game.
AM: You've got to win that game. You're down 19-6 going into the fourth quarter.
AM: They won.
SH: Was it at Columbia?
AM: No, it was here in New Brunswick.
SH: It was.
AM: Oh, yes, down here.
CB: What was the feeling at the University like after that?
AM: Oh, it's fantastic.
CB: Did people go crazy?
AM: Yes. It was a big deal. It was absolutely a big deal. It was great.
SH: You talked about not being part of a fraternity. Did the fraternities still rule?
AM: Oh, yes. It was important to be part of fraternities. I wasn't. I wasn't social. Look, freshman year, still afraid of myself, I couldn't talk to myself. I hate to get into this psychology stuff, and so, I didn't even participate in rushing and I didn't participate. I said, "I don't know [these people] from Adam."
SH: Was there any sort of initiation for the freshmen coming in to Rutgers if you were not in a fraternity?
AM: No, no, because the fraternity rush was later. Okay, when you came in, you wore your dink.
SH: You did do that.
AM: Yes. Well, you had to do that. I even screwed up singing. Once, they had me sing, as I'm walking along, "Upstream ..."
CB: "Upstream, red team/Red Team, upstream?" [Editor's Note: This is a line from the Rutgers University fight song.]
AM: And I said, "Red stream up team." I got it backwards. [laughter] Yes, I went through all that. I don't know what I did with my dink; I see that up there, [a dink on display in the Rutgers Oral History Archives office]. I have no idea what I did with my dink. It was fun. You did what you had to do, but it was a grind, the freshman year, because it was engineering and it was a grind. College is different than high school.
SH: You stuck it out two semesters before you changed.
AM: Yes. I changed at the end of the second semester, and then, went to summer school and worked in the afternoon. I would come down, take Spanish in the morning, work in the afternoon. I even remember, it was a quarter on the Garden State Parkway at Union [Township] to go to Millburn. For the seventy-five cents, you could get, I forget whether it's two or three--let's see, three times, that would be forty-five--yes, I got three hamburgers, French fries and a milkshake for seventy-five cents at McDonald's, [laughter] had a quarter left for the Garden State Parkway toll. [laughter]
SH: You are a great commercial. I may say, for the tape, he looks very fit. [laughter]
AM: That's right. [laughter]
SH: Talk about WRSU, the three years that you were involved with WRSU. What were some of the other things that you did there? They were turbulent times in our nation's history.
AM: The '60s.
SH: The Bay of Pigs. [Editor's Note: In April 1961, Cuban exiles, trained by the CIA, launched a failed invasion at the Bay of Pigs in an effort to overthrow Fidel Castro's Communist regime.]
AM: Yes. Well, I did news. I did special features, and then, later, business. It was a great place to be. It was our fraternity, in effect. Some of them were in fraternities, but it was social. We did music, "From Bach to rock," as we used to say, did the news, and I'm trying to remember, at the time, probably still true, the administration really didn't want to answer any questions--probably still doesn't.
CB: Nothing has changed. [laughter]
AM: Nothing's changed. So, you would have demonstrations or other things, and it was early on [in] the demonstrations, but more on the Civil Rights things. Bottom line, they didn't want to talk too much. I'm just trying to remember--what were some of the issues--and I don't really recall. We obviously did the sports and there was a lot going on with that, but the station was in a very primitive state. We really couldn't broadcast beyond the dorms, not that many people listened, but we had fun. [laughter] That was really what it was about, and it was a learning process. Again, I would say, of all the things that I had at Rutgers, beyond just the ROTC, WRSU was the most important thing for me, because, as I had to call people to do special [features]--I had to call people. That's incredible. I actually had to call people, which was amazing, for me, to actually call people. So, from my perspective, it forced you to learn more about Rutgers, because you're talking to people, finding out what's going on and trying to create news, right, trying to create news. I would say the biggest part of the '60s was probably in the last year I was here, '63, with the March on Washington, blah, blah, blah. [The] war in Vietnam hadn't started, really, in any way. So, it was the Civil Rights Movement and I would say that that was just really beginning on campus, too. We didn't have that many blacks on campus to make so much noise. [Editor's Note: On August 28, 1963, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was held on the National Mall, during which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., made his famous "I Have A Dream" address.]
SH: Was there any academic oversight to WRSU?
AM: No. [laughter] I don't think there was at the Targum, either, that I recall.
SH: You talked about Mason Gross as being fabulous.
AM: Yes, he was terrific.
SH: Was he someone who interacted with the students?
AM: He was incredible. First of all, he taught a course, but that's beside the point. What do they call "the Ledge" now? You probably don't know what I mean by the Ledge, do you? It's where you can get some food between Hardenbergh and Frelinghuysen. [Editor's Note: "The Ledge," located on George Street, the social hub of Rutgers College, hosted concerts, gatherings and other events.]
SH: The SAC?
CB: Okay, the Student Activities Center.
AM: Yes. That was called the Ledge.
SH: You are here to teach.
AM: Yes, that was called the Ledge. Anyway, he would come down one night a week and sit with the students.
AM: Just sit there and BS.
SH: In your four years, have you ever met with the President?
AM: Yes, and he was there and he taught a legitimate course in philosophy. That was the folk music time, which was really what was starting to expand. There was a show on television called Hootenanny, which did folk music, and it was here two times, filmed at the Ledge. I was sitting in the back on television at the time; I don't know how I got on. Tommy Smothers was there, a couple other, noted [personalities]. So, we had that going on, but Mason Gross wasn't far away, in that sense of the word. He wasn't sitting up there--he was [accessible]. You'd see him on campus, walking around.
SH: What would be the typical dress that you would see?
AM: What I'm wearing now is what I used to wear to school. I don't know, yes.
SH: You were not into the more ...
AM: No, extreme, no. There wasn't that much extreme, actually. If you take beards, that would be it. I don't think there was that much extreme. I don't remember that much. As you got a little further on in the '60s, there was. Don't forget, when we came out of school, [when] we came out of high school, dress wasn't that extreme. People were still wearing loafers and socks, [laughter] chinos and shirts. Yes, it wasn't that extreme.
SH: What about the assassination of Kennedy?
AM: Well, the assassination, remember, I was in the Army with the assassination of Kennedy, okay. I graduated June of '63, he's assassinated November of '63. I was in, interestingly; were you here with Kennedy's assassination?
SH: Not here.
AM: No, I don't mean that. Were you alert? Okay, so, you remember where [you were].
SH: Conscious, yes.
AM: Yes, you remember. Everybody remembers where; I was in psychological warfare class in the Army and what they were teaching us is, "Don't believe anything you hear on the battlefield." There's microphones, there's loudspeakers. On the old battlefields, there used to be a lot of [noise].
AM: Okay. So, we're sitting there and in walks this guy. He says, "The President's been assassinated." We all started laughing, because we thought it was part of the psy warfare class, but that's where I was when Kennedy was assassinated, when I was down in Fort Gordon, Georgia. At the time, one of my [fellow] graduates, one of the black students that graduated with me, had marched in Albany, Georgia, against segregation, and he was jailed.
SH: He graduated from Rutgers with you, okay.
SM: And he marched down in Albany, Georgia, and he was arrested and he was going to be tried, as a capital offense, for doing that. [Editor's Note: Donald S. Harris, RC '63, was arrested and charged with insurrection, a capital offense in Georgia, for organizing a voter registration drive in Americus as part of his work with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. He was released only after a federal court found the law he was arrested under to be unconstitutional.]
AM: It was incredible. The South was incredible, [laughter] but that was incredible. It didn't happen, but, while I was down there, that's what was going on. When the Bay of Pigs happened, or when the Kennedy assassination happened, we were put on alert and we were not permitted to leave. That was a Thursday, I believe, and we were not permitted to leave the base, because they were concerned it might be Cuba. [Editor's Note: President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on Friday, November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas.] We were down in Georgia and they were preparing for the defense of America in Florida, because they expected--who knows?--with Cuba. I was an officer and we weren't permitted to leave the base. Of course, I had a date that Saturday night--I left the base. [laughter]
AM: Priorities. In fact, the only Jewish girl in Augusta, Georgia--so, they're priorities. [laughter] So, anyway, that was an incredible period. When I came back--when was it? Christmas vacation, yes--I stopped at Arlington [National Cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia], and, at that time, they didn't have the JFK Memorial Gravesite. It was still with the Special Forces, [Green] Berets. The flame was there and everything was just as the way he had been buried in a month before.
SH: Yes, it was only a month before.
AM: Yes, just a month before, and I traveled through. I actually have pictures at home of his grave as it existed before they made it a big deal.
AM: Yes. It was a difficult time.
SH: You had been in school when the Bay of Pigs happened, and then, you graduated in 1963.
SH: Then, you go right into ...
AM: Well, I went into the service in November of '63.
SH: You did. Most guys left right after graduation.
AM: No, it depends [on] when you're in officer school, and they screwed it up with me, because they got the wrong--it's typical--they got the wrong date when I reported. I reported in. There was nobody there to report to, but, anyway, I started October of '63. It would have been October '63.
SH: Maybe we should back up and talk about graduation, because I am thinking that you graduate, and then, go into the service.
AM: Yes, go. No, well, I just worked my summer job, basically, until I went in the Army. So, I just fooled around for a summer, was a good deal--free, no responsibilities, no school, nothing to worry about except the Army. I got orders, at the time, and it said, "APO San Francisco," [or] something. I didn't know where the hell it was. At first, I thought I was going to Staten Island, because it comes from Staten Island. I said, "Gee, I'm going to Staten Island in the Army, pretty good deal," but it said, "APO San Francisco." So, I called up my uncle, who was a civilian in the Army Signal Corps supply [facility] in Philadelphia. I said, "Where's this?" "Oh," he says, "it's Saigon." I said, "And where the hell's Saigon?" I didn't know where Saigon was at the time. He says, "Oh, it's in Vietnam." I said, "Well, that's not a help. That's not helpful." I didn't know where Vietnam was. At the time I went to Vietnam, you needed a secret clearance, because, at the time, it was early in the war and you needed a secret clearance.
Anyway, I went down to Fort Gordon, Georgia. When 9/11 happened, I had a department and I was right by the World Trade Center. I was in the World Financial Center, so, I'm seeing people jump out the window and all that, and so, the Merrill Lynch building was closed, because of all [the damage], for two months. So, we were down in Princeton and had a lot of young people in the department. So, I got them all together [for] one meeting. As one of them said to me, he says, "First time I've ever seen a feely-touchy kind of Wall Street meeting," and I said to them, "Every generation has the event that changes them. For my parents, it was Pearl Harbor, probably, for me, it was Kennedy and, for you, it was 9/11. When you look back on it, it'll be a major change in your life," and Kennedy was because you grew up sweet and innocent and, look, [in] the '90s, most of the people [think the] '90s were a wonderful period, nothing's going on. All of a sudden, your life changes, and that's what happened with Kennedy. You just say, "Oh, my God, it's a different world," and Vietnam made it even more so, unfortunately, because it made you even more of a skeptic and a cynic than you might have been before.
SH: Politically, here on campus, did you support Kennedy?
AM: I was a member of the Young Democrats and I remember, at the football game, I was out selling skimmers [a campaign hat] with, "JFK," on it. Yes, I was. If you're twenty and you're a Republican--no problem, I happen to be a Republican--it's too early. [laughter] How far right can you get if you already started on the right? okay, all right. [laughter] You've got to start over here and move. Okay, so, yes, I was. Well, first of all, my parents, so, I took a little bit of what my parents said, and then, I think, when you're young, well, you don't have taxes, you don't have any responsibilities, and you're idealistic. You tend to say, "All the world's wonderful." So, yes, I was a Young Democrat. [As a] matter-of-fact, in the annual, whatever you call it, the annual ...
SH: Scarlet Letter, [the Rutgers College yearbook]?
AM: Yes, Scarlet Letter, it'll show "Young Democrats" below [my photo and biography entry].
SH: With your father being a Zionist, were you following what was going on in Israel at all?
AM: Oh, again, I didn't really care. [laughter]
AM: Yes, I didn't care. What do I know about Israel? Who cares? "I've got my own problems to worry about and he's an old man. What does he know?" [laughter] What do you want me to say?
SH: That was the attitude.
AM: Yes, at that age. I have gone into this class--it's sort of interesting--and I'm realizing these kids really don't know what's going on, and listening to the professor, I'm not sure she really knew what was going on, either, because her emphasis and what I lived through are two different things. If you're not rebellious--I'm trying to encourage my son to be rebellious. It's hard to get him to be rebellious. "I'm telling you, you're not supposed to do what I say. [laughter] You're supposed to kick me in the butt and say, 'I don't want to listen to you.'" I'm trying to get him to be rebellious. He won't be rebellious. I'm really disappointed. [laughter]
SH: Was there any issue that you, as a young person here at Rutgers, took umbrage at?
AM: Relative my parents?
SH: Within the community or within your social group. You talked about going to see Malcolm X.
AM: Yes, well, I think that's part of it, the Civil Rights thing, certainly, okay. My father was sort of pro-Civil Rights, but, in it all, he's still, pardon me?
SH: When you came out of East Orange, were you the only ...
AM: West Orange.
SH: Excuse me, West Orange.
AM: No, no, East Orange, I was the only white, but, then, I moved to West Orange.
SH: You were the only white student at one point in your schooling.
AM: Yes. Then, there were no blacks in West Orange, but my father was verbally for Civil Rights, and I'll use words that I shouldn't use, but they were always "the shvartzah." Okay, so, as far as he was concerned, yes, they should have civil rights, but he was looking down on them. They weren't as good. He actually became more bigoted in some [ways]. I forget the year, like, '59, somebody, a black person, came in and put a gun to his head and said, "Take me to the safe," and he did whatever he did, and then, he had a mild heart attack as a result of that, and so on, and so forth. So, as liberal as he was, he really became kind of negative on that issue. So, that was something. I would say not being concerned--from his point of view--not being concerned about Israel was a major rebellion, but Civil Rights was part of it. While you say we weren't, maybe, dressing as radically as you might say, but it was different, all I can say, in the way we dressed. I'm not sure about the social relationships, whether that had been as radical as it later turned out to be. We didn't have women in our dorms or anything like that. That was a no-no.
SH: In looking through the Scarlet Letter, there were not very many African-Americans here.
AM: No. I can [count on] two hands, maybe, at the most, that I can remember. No, there wasn't. I don't think that was Rutgers. That was sort of the nature of things, but, as a state university, there was no emphasis on doing anything about it, which I think was troubling to people, and that's the reason I was doing Malcolm X. I was going, "Here's Martin Luther King, pretty cool, okay, middle-of-the-road kind of guy, and I'm going over to Malcolm X?" [laughter] So, it's basically saying, "Yes, you guys are all bad. We need our own country in Arizona, okay, and we're going to split across [the nation]." He wasn't for mixing. He was for total segregation, but separation--he was for separation. That's a better way of putting it, and I thought the guy, my feeling was that most of the things that he was talking about, he was absolutely right on the issues of the time, that they were problems and we had to do something about it.
SH: Was it ever discussed in any of your classes?
AM: No, not that I recall. My memory's not great, but not that I recall. I don't think it was a [major topic]. When was the desegregation of the school in the Supreme Court, when was that, 1950, '50 or '60?
SH: Actually, you are talking about the South.
AM: I'm talking about the Topeka case, the desegregation of the schools, where the Supreme Court ruled. [Editor's Note: Mr. Melnick is referring to Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka (Kansas), decided by the US Supreme Court in May 1954, which legally desegregated public schools in the United States.]
SH: It starts in the mid-1950s.
AM: Yes, but it was the late '50s, yes. So, 1960, nothing's happening, and then, you have the [election]. Yes, Kennedy becomes [involved]. What happened was, Martin Luther King was put in jail. Most people don't realize that the black community voted fairly heavily Republican up to Kennedy, because the Democratic Party was a party of segregation and was a party of slavery, which is a hell of a heritage to have. I always tell that to my Democratic friends, "You're the party of slavery and segregation--not too bad." Then, Martin Luther King goes to jail and John F. Kennedy calls him in jail, and that changed the black vote.
SH: Right, because Kennedy was trying to defuse the situation in Mississippi.
AM: That was later. This is just Martin Luther King's in jail. It's the 1960 election, he's running against Nixon, and he just calls Martin Luther King in jail, and he says--I don't know what he says--but that shifted the black vote, and, probably, when you consider how close the election [was], probably made all the difference in the world. [Editor's Note: Following Dr. King's arrest during a march in Atlanta on October 19, 1960, Senator Kennedy, then the Democratic Presidential candidate, called King's wife, Coretta Scott King, on October 26th to pledge his support in securing his release. That call, and an endorsement from King's father, Martin Luther King, Sr., soon afterwards, helped to swing the African-American vote to Kennedy.] People talk about the debate, I'm sure that's one thing, but that call was an important call. After that, the black vote switched to the Democratic Party, because, as I said to my father, "You can talk about voting for the Democratic Party, but, basically, what you're voting for is keeping the chairmen in the Senate of the major committees in power, and all of them are from the South and all are segregationists." Today, the "Conscience of the Senate" is Senator [Robert] Byrd. Well, in 1984, Senator Byrd did a filibuster against the Voting Rights Act. [Editor's Note: Senator Byrd filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for fourteen hours, part of an eighty-three-day filibuster by opponents of the bill. By 1968, he had switched his stance on civil rights.] So, he's the "Conscience of the Senate"--give me a break, besides the fact he was in the KKK. So, I would say Civil Rights was just beginning when I was there. Now, remember, we were coming out of a homogenized society in which we were taught the "Leave It to Beaver" look and we're coming to a campus, thirty-two hundred people here, there wasn't much in the way of dramatic stuff. So, we were just at the beginning of what happened in the '60s. If you think about it, when we left is when things started to pop, because, first, Civil Rights ...
SH: I was trying to lay the ground work.
AM: Yes, see, things were popping here, really. Then, you get Vietnam stirring things up, Civil Rights stirring things up, the assassinations, so on, and so forth. So, the '60s became an incredible period, but we were at just the beginning of what was to happen, and we were coming out of an entirely different period. The '50s were wonderful, the Eisenhower period.
SH: Who was your commencement speaker?
AM: No one, that I can recall. I don't think we had any. I think Dr. Gross made the commencement address, if I recall.
SH: You had your summer job, and then, your orders sent you to the South.
AM: I go to Fort Gordon, Georgia.
SH: Had you done much traveling before? It does not sound like it.
AM: When I go to Vietnam, it's the first time I'm ever on a plane. When I go south of Pennsylvania, it's the first time I'm south of Pennsylvania. I lived a sheltered life, and my parents didn't go anywhere. So, the bottom line is, I drove to Fort Gordon, Georgia--a different world. Stopping along the way for food, all of a sudden, I see something called grits, [laughter] don't know what the hell grits are. The world is different. You go down and there's--I forgot the pecan pie place.
AM: Stuckey's, thank you. It's a different world, and here I am and I don't know from Adam; twenty, am I twenty-one? Yes, I was twenty-one. I'm twenty-one years old, never, basically, had left New Jersey, and now I'm going to Vietnam, going in the Army. I will tell you I'm a firm believer in the draft and remain that way, because the draft is a marvelous way of meeting people from all over the country and getting to know each other--doesn't have to be a military draft, but a national service draft.
So, I go to Fort Gordon, Georgia, and most of the people are from Boston or a lot of them are, because Northeastern had ROTC Signal Corps. I'm in the Signal Corps. My roommate is from Alabama. He's never met a Jew before, I've never met bourbon and water before, and so, we got together over bourbon and water. [laughter] Jim was from someplace in Alabama and we got to be close friends. In fact, we actually served in Vietnam together, went back to Washington, DC, together and became friends with one other person, Dave O'Neal, who we still [know]. I think Jim was killed in Vietnam. I never could find him afterwards. He stayed in the Army, and Dave O'Neal, I still [talk with], we're in communications, and that's what I'm saying about the draft. I've met people from all over the country, so on, and so forth, which you would never do just normally, and the draft put us all together.
SH: At Fort Gordon, what were you being trained for?
AM: How to kill people, twelve ways, silently at night, how to fire our weapon and how to set up a communications network. I'm a Signal Corps officer. I have to learn how to design--I'm an economics major--how to set up a communications network. I graduate number one in the class, despite all the engineers there, and I learned to understand communications. You have to know what goes in, what comes out and applications, limitations and something. You learn that, you can design any communications system in the world. Just give me the box and tell me what goes in and what goes out and I can design it, okay. So, the Army taught me how to design communications systems, taught me how to kill people, and I say that. The Army's job is to kill people, not to get killed. I think--what's his name--George Scott said that, with Patton. [Editor's Note: Actor George C. Scott portrayed US Army General George S. Patton in the 1970 film Patton.]
CB: Patton said that.
AW: Yes. That's true. I remember the course--I can always remember that course--twelve ways to kill a man silently at night. You're taught how to use a bayonet, how to lead, as an officer, but the most important thing was, you got USAA insurance. First course at Fort Benning, Georgia, I think he was a captain, he gets up, he says, "Lieutenants, there's only one reason to be in the US Army--that's to have USA Automobile insurance. It's the best insurance in the world." He's right. I still have it and you had to be an officer, at that time, to be able to get it, military officer to get it, and it's great insurance, absolutely fabulous, great insurance company. So, we were taught leadership, communications, psychological warfare, how to kill people, I don't remember [them all], but, basically, that.
CB: What was a typical day like?
AM: Well, it was like college. You had a series of courses, and there would be a lot of in-class courses on designing stuff, okay. Then, there would be outdoors [classes], on small unit tactics, first, squad leadership, and then, platoon leadership, in attacking a hill, or so on, and so forth. Even though you're in the Signal Corps, you needed to know, because the Army's attitude is, "No matter what you are, you're an infantry person first, okay." So, you needed to know, and they have different courses on thinking quickly. There was a great course--actually, should have it at some of the parks. You'd be four guys, they'd give you a problem and you had to solve it, and they'd have people around if you weren't doing it right, how to take a prisoner across the stream, okay. If you did it wrong, the prisoner escaped. It was these kind of things. So, they taught you a lot. The military is a wonderful experience at the age of twenty-one, because, particularly if you're not a career person, it teaches you how to manage people, manage organizations, as a practical matter, and so, when you come out, you're ready to manage. I'm a big fan of the military in the sense of its training and I've had people--you can tell--among the young people [who] used to work for me. There was only a couple that were in the military, one was a West Pointer and one was a first sergeant, and there's a difference, at their age, between their maturity and the other people. It's just an incredible difference, and you can see it in the Army when you see people interviewed on television. Take a nineteen-year-old in the Army and take a nineteen-year-old off the street and you'll see the difference.
SH: How integrated was the officer corps at that point in the Army?
AM: It was integrated, but there weren't many blacks. I don't think we had a black in the Signal Corps Officer Training. There wasn't a black there.
AM: There was no blacks. The Army had been integrated, but there were none.
SH: About fifteen years since it had been officially desegregated.
AM: 1948 or '47, I think it was, okay, Harry Truman. [Editor's Note: In July 1948, President Harry S. Truman ended segregation in the Armed Forces by signing Executive Order 9981.]
SH: This is 1963.
AM: Yes. There were black sergeants, okay, NCOs, but there weren't, that I can recall, any black officers when I was in the service, that I dealt with. I'm not saying there weren't any--that I dealt with.
SH: In the Signal Corps?
AM: They probably would have been in the infantry, frankly.
SH: You talked about getting orders to go to Saigon and not even knowing where Vietnam was.
AM: Yes, right.
SH: Were there other options? Did you have a dream sheet that you filled out?
AM: Yes, sure. Well, when you come out, first of all, you have a choice of combat and non-combat branches. I took two branches that weren't combat and one that was combat. Combat was the Signal Corps. I put in for Washington, DC, [laughter] and I got Vietnam--so they listened to me. When I got down there, they tested my eyes and they said, "Your vision is not qualified for a combat branch. So, if you want to get out of Vietnam, you can get out of Vietnam." I said, "No, I'll go." I talked to my father. I'm trying to remember what exactly he said, but he said to me, I'm trying to remember how he put it, but he said, "In about thirty years, you'll have nothing to be ashamed about."
CB: Very good point.
AM: He was right.
SH: Tell us then about leaving Fort Gordon. Where did you go?
AM: Well, I fly to Saigon--again, this is the first time I've ever been on an airplane. So, the flight was [from] Newark.
SH: From Georgia to Saigon?
AM: No, no, I went home. So, Newark Airport to Baltimore to Los Angeles to San Francisco, then, you go to Travis Air Force Base, get on a plane that takes you [overseas], and it was crowded. There's no first class, World Airways. Where did it go? Travis, Honolulu--not Wake. Was it Wake [Island]? or, yes, it was probably Wake--well, no, Wake. Guam, Clark, into Saigon--so, I get to Saigon, pretty long trip. I get off, I don't remember how, go downtown. They'd put me up in a BOQ, bachelor officers' quarters.
SH: What year?
AM: January '64.
AM: I get down there, I go to sleep. I wake up and this guy is cursing like I've never heard anybody curse in my life. He was just--I'm new. I've heard some words, but this is incredible. I said, "This is the Army." So, he leaves. I said to a guy, "Who is he?" "He's the chaplain," he said. [laughter] So, I get up and I see this lizard or salamander on the wall and (Bob Radar?), he says, "Those take care of the insects. Don't get rid of him." So, anyway, I was there for, I don't know how long, in processing, and they sent me up to Da Nang. Now, at the time, no one ever heard of Da Nang, no less Saigon. Da Nang, when I got to Da Nang--let me back up. At the time, in Vietnam ...
SH: What were your orders? What were you supposed to be doing?
AM: On my responsibilities--they didn't tell me--I was a 4400, which is a specialty that says, "Signal Supply Maintenance Officer." So, ultimately, I was responsible for all signal maintenance and supply for the US Army from Saigon to the North Vietnamese border, had about eight detachments to do this, but my point--a couple points I want to make--one, the number of American troops in Vietnam at the time was approximately seventeen thousand, according to newspapers, which was a lot of nonsense. What you have to understand is in the Army at the time, there's something called permanent change of station, PCS, and something called temporary duty, TDY. A permanent change of station meant that you're counted there, but it meant that you were there for more than six months. So, anywhere from six to twelve months, permanent change of station, you count in Vietnam. Six months and a day or less--you're a Marine in Okinawa and you're sent to Vietnam for less than six months, you're in Okinawa. So, you could send four million Marines into Vietnam for less than six months and there are only seventeen thousand American troops in Vietnam. You could send Air Force pilots into Vietnam and they're stationed at Clark and they don't count. So, what the American people were being told, there's seventeen thousand troops in Vietnam, that was nonsense. There were a lot more, but they were TDY, temporary duty, out of Okinawa, Clark, etcetera. So, that's the first thing. So, when people say people mislead today, they don't know what they're talking about.
I'm so cynical that--the second thing about it was that when I got to Da Nang, and then, I'll have some other comments, it was a chain-linked airstrip. It was not a jet airstrip. Let me back up again; at the time I went there, it was called the Military Advisory something Group, Vietnam. Theoretically, we had no combat troops in Vietnam. So, these were all advisors and they're considered the top officers in the Army, and I came as a support person, not as an advisor. There were more generals in Vietnam at the time than second lieutenants. There were eleven second lieutenants in Vietnam at the time and God knows how many generals and colonels. So, for example, I would come down once a month to Saigon--and I'll get into your question--and go to the officers' club, the Rex. A general would come over to me and say, "Son, I didn't know there were any second lieutenants in-country," and he would invite me over to have lunch, because everybody is supposed to be career officers and blah, blah, blah, and this gets to the next point and this, I think, is the most important.
I'd never seen it written, but one of the key reasons why we got trapped in Vietnam is something called the Officer Efficiency Report, the OER. It is designed--remember, all these officers are career officers. They're coming over here to get their ticket punched, to say they were there, for their career. They come over and they're advisors to the Vietnamese Army, ARVN [Army of the Republic of Vietnam], and the Officer Efficiency Report is the evaluation their boss does of them that goes back to the Pentagon. So, whether they're going to make general or colonel, whatever it is, the Officer Efficiency Report is designed to assess a US Army officer in either a line job, in other words, a commander, or a staff job. It was never designed to evaluate an officer as an advisor to a foreign army, okay. Now, you've got all these aggressive career officers coming over and they're advising ARVN to do this, that and the other [thing]. The Vietnamese Army is not doing it, just total [disregard], just not doing it. Now, what are they supposed to tell their boss, who's going to tell the Pentagon, which is going to wind up in their OER and affect their total career? So, what do they tell them? They tell them a lot of nonsense, and the nonsense comes all the way back here. Why? So [that] they get a very positive OER, Officer Efficiency Report. The OER, to me, is a fundamental problem of why we had problems in Vietnam, and I've never seen it written, but I know exactly what was going on, because they had to make it sound good.
So, anyway, I get to Vietnam, they send me up to Da Nang, it's a chain-link airstrip. The first thing they asked me to do is to do a pay run, a payroll run. They have to have an officer on a payroll run down to Quang Ngai, [a province in Vietnam]. What do I know about Quang Ngai? So, I take a rifle, get in the jeep with a guy and go out for a Sunday drive. Nothing happened, but what I found out, when I came back, was this was the oldest and most intensified VC, Vietcong, area in the country. [laughter] What do I know? That's the reason they asked me to do it, because they figured I didn't know. So, anyway, I go down there and back. So, anyway, my job was signal maintenance and signal supply.
SH: Obviously, there were advisors down in Quang Tri.
AM: Quang Ngai, yes. Quang Tri, there is, but this was Quang Ngai. There were advisors down there, American advisors all over. My first real sense of what was going on was, Special Forces was out in the western part of Vietnam and something happened. The VC attacked them and they knocked out all their communications. So, we were responsible for getting what were called "Angry Nines," [AN/GRC-9] radios, out to them. We got a lot out there and blah, blah, blah, and we took care of them. The captain who was in charge of Special Forces at that time was the first one to win the Congressional Medal of Honor, but what I remember about that is, he brought me--at the time, you had the regular, old black boots. He brought me a pair of jungle boots that only the Special Forces could wear and he said, "Thank you," for getting the radios out there. It was really cool, but, again, at the time, they didn't have tropical [uniforms], the lightweight fatigues. So, we cut our arms off, and made them short sleeve, and so on, and so forth. Everything they told us back home, the way things are done, weren't done there.
For example, in the Signal Corps, you're supposed to have your communications equipment on a truck, so [that] you can use them. In Vietnam, they're all on the ground. We all wore guns on our hips. Instead of wearing the hats of the Army, we all wore cowboy hats, that you got in the local stores. You walked downtown, it was like Dodge City in Gunsmoke, [laughter] everybody walking with their guns on their hips, cowboy hats, cowboy boots, it was [a scene]. As I said earlier, you needed a secret clearance to get into Vietnam at the time. It wasn't the way it later turned out.
SH: Was your father shocked when they started asking questions in your neighborhood for your clearance?
AM: I don't know. I don't think so, no. No, he wasn't, no. So, anyway, I was up in Da Nang. There were two other second lieutenants with me, who were actually operating communications. My job was to maintain and supply to everybody. We got a new--they got a new--CO [commanding officer], comes off the plane, captain, [laughter] with the golf clubs on his back. He thought he was going to be in Saigon. Saigon had a great golf course. My job was, among other things, [to serve as] the recreation officer. So, he said to me, "Lieutenant, there's only one job you have up here: build a golf course." [laughter] Do you remember Sergeant Bilko, the television show, by any chance? You wouldn't remember--you probably saw the movie. I used to think it was comedy, but, after being in the Army, it was a drama. [laughter] [Editor's Note: The 1950s television comedy The Phil Silvers Show, later remade into the 1996 film Sgt. Bilko, focused on a soldier who acted more as a con artist than a noncommissioned officer.]
SH: A sad state of affairs. [laughter]
AM: The only thing he was interested in--building a golf course.
SH: You did.
AM: No, I didn't. You've got to be kidding.
SH: I was just going to say.
AM: This is an airbase. You've got to be kidding me, but what they did do is build a jet airstrip there. Okay, so, they made it a jet airstrip, and, here, again, the cynicism, by August of that year, they had a jet airstrip, because it was a little early. The Gulf of Tonkin Crisis happened in August of that year and I remember a jet landing. I don't know what happened. All of a sudden, we see a jet landing. It was smoking. I don't know whether it was shot at or what, but ...
SH: This is before the strip was ready.
AM: No, after. The strip was ready by the Gulf of Tonkin crisis. I remember reading--my mother used to send me Time Magazine. So, I'm sitting there at the Da Nang airstrip, it's open, in, like, a hut for the planes, and I'm getting a haircut. [Editor's Note: On August 2, 1964, the USS Maddox (DD -731) reported being fired at by North Vietnamese torpedo boats. On August 4, 1964, it was mistakenly reported that the Maddox and its reinforcement, the USS Turner Joy (DD-951), were again attacked. Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution on August 7, 1964, authorizing the President to take retaliatory action against North Vietnam.]
---------------------------------------END OF SIDE TWO, TAPE ONE------------------------------------
CB: This continues an interview with Andrew J. Melnick.
AM: So, I was sitting at the Da Nang airstrip with this Time Magazine, getting a haircut, and it says, "There's no jet airplanes in Vietnam." [laughter] So, I look up and I say, "So, what are those?" and I took some pictures of it, of course, which you weren't supposed to, and so, we had the jet airplanes there. One of our prime responsibilities up there, from the Signal Corps point of view, was, the most sensitive line, most sensitive communications line, in Vietnam was from NSA, National Security Agency, listening devices on the north border of South Vietnam into North Vietnam. At that time, until about halfway [into when] I was through there, there wasn't any satellite communications. So, it went through a copper wire across the Pacific and it was terrible communications. So, it was a real problem, and the person who was theoretically head of the advisory group, what was called I Corps, which was the northern part, was a Navy captain, military colonel equivalent, but was actually a member of the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency].
SH: Did you know that?
AM: Yes, everybody knew it. [laughter]
SH: I wondered how open this was.
AM: Oh, yes. There weren't that many people around. I lived downtown, on the economy.
SH: Did you?
AM: Yes, the four of us lived on Doc Lop Street. [laughter] This is before the war was really getting heavy, and there was no room on the base. The enlisted men were on the base, and they had to eat the food out there. The chef, or whatever they call him, unfortunately, had come over as a tank driver. We had no tanks, so, we made him the head of the mess. So, he made the food, but the thing about the US Army is, an officer eats after his men. So, you had to eat the last food on the line, but, for the most part, on weekends, we had something called the DOOM Club, the Da Nang Officers Open Mess, downtown, which had been the former naval officers' club of the French Navy.
AM: So, on weekends, we had New York steaks that we could barbecue, French-onion rings and strawberries. Da Nang had a wonderful beach. It was a great place to be, if you had to be someplace, and this was before it really got big. I realize it got really huge after I left, but it wasn't [then]. There weren't that many people there when I was there and there was no Marine base south in Marble Mountain, [five hills of marble and limestone located south of Da Nang]. I went to Marble Mountain as a tourist, not [that] there was any military down there.
AM: Yes, a beautiful Buddha within Marble Mountain, that was carved. Vietnam was a beautiful country, wonderful history, wonderful people. We were wrong--I'll get back to this. One other point I wanted to make before I forget--later on, at the very end of my tour, I went down to Saigon.
SH: This is only the second time that you had been in Saigon.
AM: No, I went every month. I can talk about this, but I just want to make this point, so [that] I don't forget. In November, in the '64 election, President Johnson said, "We'll never send a US soldier to fight a land war in Asia." I go down to Saigon around November or December and we're planning for--and had been planning before the election--to be sending US troops to fight a land war in Asia. He said one thing, but we were doing something else. So, whenever people talk about Presidents misleading, it goes back to Lincoln. [laughter]
SH: This would have been in December of 1964.
AM: Yes, that's exactly right, and the election was November '64. When I got down there, they were well into it. It was happening long before, but, anyway, getting back to Da Nang. So, I was the recreation officer, signal. I drove to Hue, which was the former imperial capital Hue.
Let me back up--Vietnam's a beautiful country and the one thing we were wrong about was, every major street in Vietnam is named after a hero that fought off the Chinese invasion. So, they were very anti-Chinese. So, to suggest that China was going to [come in], it's going to be a "Domino Effect," nobody had read the history of Vietnam. The history of Vietnam was to fight off the Chinese. It was three parts of the country, the North, the Central, which Hue was [in], and that was the old imperial capital, and the South, where Saigon was, very industrious people, very educated people and very nice people and a beautiful country. It's just unfortunate what happened.
I traveled around a lot, because the captain who came up with the golf clubs was entitled, [by] what's called in the Army a TO&E, table of organization and equipment, ... to an airplane with a pilot, two pilots, actually, and he was afraid to fly around. So, he said, "You can have it." So, I flew around. We used to fly to all the places where I had facilities, maintenance facilities, supply facilities, on the coast and inland, Pleiku, [a town located in the Gia Lia province of Vietnam], Kontum, where there were tigers--used to be a lot of tiger hunting up there--and so, I got around to see the country a lot, and I used to drive between Da Nang and Hue.
It was a beautiful drive, and Hue, the imperial capital, was destroyed in the war, but I had pictures of the imperial capital before and it's just absolutely beautiful. Hue was the university city. So, it was absolutely a gorgeous place and I was the contracting officer and that's why I had to go down to Saigon once a month, but I worked with a woman who was the contractor that we dealt with, Madam Nhom. I remember, one time, going to her place for a dinner, part of the bribes that I always accepted, [laughter] and she said, "How about chicken soup?" I said, "Hey, fantastic," just like my Jewish mother. So, she gets me chicken soup. The problem was, the head of the chicken was in the soup, [laughter] with the eyeballs and everything.
CB: You were used to heads of chickens rolling around.
AM: Yes, right, yes, you're right, Rutgers tradition. [laughter] So, anyway, I fiddled around with it. I was the contracting officer. Every month, I had to go down to Saigon to report in what I did and what I didn't do. It was a wonderful experience for a twenty-one-year-old. I would never give it up. I'd taught English to the Vietnamese, even though I didn't know Vietnamese. This is when they were at a stage where they understood enough English. So, I got to meet a lot of the Vietnamese, the Vietnamese-American Friendship Association, or something like that. So, I did that while I was there, most of the time.
SH: Were these young professionals or students?
AM: I wouldn't use the word professionals. They were young people, up to older people. All of them wanted to learn English because they would be dealing with the Americans. It was more of a business type thing, okay. They all knew French, basically, but they wanted to learn English, and so, I did a lot of that and taught, as part of our winning the--what was it?--the minds and the whatever it was.
SH: Hearts and minds.
AM: Hearts and minds. I went after the minds--the hearts were somewhere else. [laughter] Most of the rest of it is really a question of making sure that people got what they needed from the point of view of parts, supplies. You got into funny things, like, we got about forty containers--connex [a type of shipping container] was what they were called--and, apparently, over two years, these requisitions built up, forty connexes of toilet paper. You get these sort of things, or one of our broadcast radios were missing and we found out the VC [Vietcong] had it and they were making broadcasts with one of our radios, and they stole one of our trucks. [laughter]
I look back on it, when I came out of Vietnam, and we can talk a little bit more about it, when I came out of Vietnam, and I was in the forecasting business most of my life, [I] made my best forecast. I was interviewed by the Newark Evening News, I found it for my mother when she died, a clip--came back in February or January '65 and they interviewed me and said, "How long will the war last?" I said, "About ten years." The one thing that I always said to people, "You don't understand the war unless you can answer this question: Why did their Vietnamese fight better than our Vietnamese? because they're both Vietnamese." We controlled the country. For example, there was a coup d'état a couple times when I was there and what people back here didn't understand, whoever was going to win was up to us, because the Vietnamese had no communications. So, if they wanted to talk to Da Nang from Saigon, they had to go over US communications. So, if we didn't want someone to become the head of it, you can't talk. So, how do you control the Army, the Vietnamese Army? How do you control who's going to be in charge? Of course, communications. So, the US had all the long lines communications. This was a primitive country.
[I] remember, somebody talking, back here, you could hear it, "They're bombing a bridge." Well, it wasn't the George Washington Bridge. [laughter] It was a little bridge that the water buffalo could go around if you bombed the bridge. Who's kidding whom? So, it was a primitive, very primitive, country. It's hard to explain, but you just wonder how we got into it. You just wonder how you get into it, because, if you read the history, there was nothing really involving us, and if the Australians really [did not care]--we had some Australians there, and the Filipinos really weren't there.
The Australians were there. Well, one thing I learned about the Australians, they drink well. The officers' club, we had, at least once a month, a hail-and-farewell party, people coming in, people going out. That was free. Then, you had a happy hour. The drinks were a dime. Even then, a dime was little money, and then, oh, half price, it was a nickel, and then, they were a dime, and the Australians look [down] at our beer. I always remember, Schlitz used to advertise beer in Australia--you've got to be out of your mind. [laughter] These guys would just drown in the stuff.
You know it was a tragedy, is about the only way to describe it, in my opinion. When I came back, to show you again I was rebellious, when I came back and I was in Washington, DC, in the Army, while I was in the Army, not in uniform, I was marching around the White House against the Vietnam War. Theoretically, you shouldn't be doing that. You can't do that.
SH: You would get arrested.
AM: Yes. Well, I wasn't in uniform, but there was no reason that one could see, if you understood the history, to be there and there was no Domino Effect, because, if the Filipinos didn't care and the Thais didn't care, and the other thing that I discovered, "Who were the real heroes over there?" I went back to Vietnam in 1993, [for] Merrill Lynch, went to Hanoi, and then, I landed in Tan Son Nhut. Tan Son Nhut, [an airbase located near Saigon], was like Atlanta Airport in the old days and I got off there and it was a very hollow feeling, but I was at a different age. I said, "When I went over at twenty-one, it was a lark. I had nothing to lose, my first trip out of the country, I'm in the Army, I'm wearing a gun on my shoulder." The people that are the real heroes are the thirty to thirty-five-year-olds that have a wife and two kids. You go over there and you don't know if you're coming back or not. You have something to lose; you absolutely have something to lose. So, for example, I volunteered to go back a second time.
SH: As a twenty-one-year-old, how often were you near combat situations?
AM: Not really, okay. I don't claim to be a hero.
SH: No, I am just saying ...
AM: Well, they were ...
SH: Suppose you were still just there advising.
AM: Yes, yes. Well, the advisors who were out in the field were in combat situations. I'm a support troop, okay, supply. Yes, I remember, during the Tet holiday, they're firing fifty-caliber machine-guns bullets over our [quarters], where we were staying, that sort of thing. I was in areas that could be exposed. I got combat pay every month I was in Vietnam, but I never was exposed to combat in the sense I was fired at, but I was in areas where I could have been and that would qualify you for combat pay. So, in other words, I would be in the countryside, which, theoretically, was heavy with VC. I'm lucky, thank the Lord. I never was, really, I would say, in combat. So, I don't make any claims to that. I thank the Lord.
SH: Did you employ Vietnamese on the base?
AM: Yes, we had a couple contractors, but, for the most part, they were US, US enlisted men, and they were a wonderful group of people. The thing about it is, in the Army, you're a second lieutenant, you're twenty-one. The guy who's the [enlisted] head of the unit is probably thirty-five, been in the Army fifteen years, and he sees this guy coming in and [says], "You're going to tell me what to do?" and the rest of them have been in the Army, because they're [the] experience there, trained, probably, two years. So, you walk in and you're their boss. How do you do it, okay? One of the things we had to do was rearrange the place, and I think the best thing I ever did is, I took my fatigue jacket off, which [had] my rank on [it], and just went and helped them. I just joined in and I think that really said, "Hey, this guy's not just going to be up here, he's going to get in, get his hands dirty," and that was the most important part.
Two, you get people like, I always remember, PFC Dunbar. He probably had an IQ of sixty, maybe, and I took care of him and made sure that he had a job that he could feel comfortable about and could succeed and have accomplishment. For a guy with a sixty IQ, it wasn't a great job, but he really was terrific and he was loyal as hell. Rank is one thing, loyalty is another, because we had, after the first captain, somebody named Captain Sebastian A. Lasher, was a West Point [graduate]. He was terrible. So, one time, he calls us three lieutenants in. He says, "You may not respect me, but you have to respect this," these are the two tracks, captain [insignia]. If you get to that point, you're dead, you're absolutely dead. You have no management [skills]. You're not a leader. Okay, maybe you're a manager, but [not] a leader--I believe there's a big difference between leadership and management, okay.
CB: Huge difference.
AM: Huge, okay, and I happen to believe leadership cannot be taught, okay. It comes from the gut and it comes from the backbone. Once I had this call from [a supervisor] at Merrill Lynch and they said, "They're having a leadership conference down in Princeton. We want you to do certain things." I said, "You're not having a leadership conference--you're having a management conference." She says, "What do you mean by that?" I said, "In management, you teach them to get everybody together in the center. A leader takes them off to the left or right, and you can't teach that, because you've got to be on your own. You've got to believe in what you [do], okay, and you've got to convince people. That's leadership," and, getting back to the service, the captain who said that, he was a manager. "Okay, we'll listen to you because you're our boss and you've got to write our reviews up, but you're not a leader," and a leader gets respect, a leader gets loyalty, and it doesn't come from rank. That's what you have to work on.
So, that's what I'm saying--the Army was a great experience in teaching how to manage where your career wasn't at stake. It was a wonderful experience, absolutely incredible experience. The other part of Vietnam that helped me was, it turned me from a sweet, innocent person into either a cynic or a skeptic, because everything I read wasn't what was going on. We'd have our weekly, "What's going on in I Corps," northern part, and this CIA guy [briefed us], and we'd have it in what was called White something--can't remember the name of it. Da Nang was a beautiful, old [city]. The French name was Tourane. It was a beautiful, old place. Saturday night, sometimes, we'd go to a hotel and they'd be having strings. You felt like you're in the Tropics. It's wonderful. You really felt like a colonial army at the time. It's wonderful. [laughter]
SH: There is something to be said for that.
AM: Yes, really was. Here you are, you're here and there weren't that many [Americans] in Da Nang. We were all by ourselves. You had the cyclos [bicycle rickshaws], there are hardly any cars there--it was wonderful. We'd have this meeting in the White something and they'd get up and red was enemy and blue was us. Well, there was a blue dot and the rest was red, and that's the way it was, and, yet, what was going back? When [Secretary of Defense Robert] McNamara came over, we used to call it "Christmas in Saigon," because he was getting such a snow job. Part of the reason was, the correspondents, the media, at the time, was afraid to come up north, because it was too dangerous.
SH: I wanted to ask you about the kind of press you saw.
AM: Very little.
SH: Any women?
AM: Yes, there was Margaret; ... I forgot her name. She was that war correspondent, the photographer.
AM: Yes, she was there, for a while, but none of them'd come up country. [Editor's Note: Noted documentary and war photographer Margaret Bourke-White did not cover the war in Vietnam.]
AM: It was later on when they started getting up, but they wouldn't come up country. Well, first of all, it was secret, so, I don't know whether they permitted them to come up country, but my attitude, my sense, was, they didn't want to come up country because it was dangerous. It's a chain-link airstrip. There were no places to really stay that were nice. "God, they've got US soldiers walking on the streets with guns on their hips? Then, it must be dangerous." When we cut off our sleeves, these pictures, some of the pictures, got back to the Pentagon. They said, "It is against," whatever, "to cut off their sleeves." Our attitude was, "Come over and tell us that. [laughter] You come over and tell us that, we'll wear long sleeves. Until you do that, never." It was a hot place. It was incredibly hot and humid, and so on, and so forth. So, it was an Army that ultimately rebelled, obviously, with what went on, but it started [then]. When you talk about rebellion, in the States, in a sense, we were in rebellion there--not because we were in Vietnam, but because we're Americans and we're enjoying ourselves and we're going to do it our way. [laughter] So, it was that way.
SH: When these coup d'etats took place, did anything change for you? Did you have any of the ARVN on the base with you?
AM: No. We wouldn't permit any ARVN on the base, absolutely not. The only thing that changed was, we got orders as to who [to facilitate communications for]. Most of ARVN would be cut off from communicating, because we ran the com center, communications center. So, we would get orders, "Only General [Duong Van] Minh and General Nguyen Khanh can talk on the communications. Nobody else," and that would be it. That's a pretty good deal. You have your own communications center, system, but that would be it. They were cut off and that's the way it worked. So, we controlled all of that. That's why I say I turned to a skeptic and a cynic. So, when I hear stuff today, I have certain friends [that] get all excited about all that, and I'm saying, "Boy, are you naïve. You're really naïve. You don't understand how the real world works."
SH: You first went to Da Nang, and then, as you said, you made these trips back and forth to Saigon. You left eleven or twelve months later.
AM: Yes, eleven months.
SH: How much had it changed by then?
AM: Oh, it changed a lot, because ...
SH: You talked about the numbers.
AM: Well, I don't remember what the numbers actually were, but, talking about Da Nang, it'd been a chain-link airstrip. They moved a Marine division in. There were more Air Force people, but a lot of jets. One thing I learned about a jet, a pilot can be drunk, get in a jet aircraft, put the oxygen on and fly it--not in helicopters. So, we had a lot more helicopters, a lot more jets, a lot more Marines, press was coming up. In the Gulf of Tonkin Crisis, we were concerned. Look, we were about as far north as you can go and our concern was [that] the Chinese were going to come down Vietnam and, basically, roll all over us. We're saying, "How the hell do we get out of here, but, more importantly, how do we get our [stuff out]?" You have to understand, the PX [post exchange], where you go to buy stuff, in Vietnam was a lot better than the PX in the US. So, you could buy all sorts of Japanese amplifiers and all that. So, we all bought all this kind of crap and our major concern [was] not, "Was the Chinese Army going to kill us?" [but], "How are we going to get our amplifiers back home?" [laughter]
SH: Everybody had amps.
AM: Oh, yes, it was incredible, incredible, and, if you didn't get it there, when you went to Hong Kong, you could get whatever you needed to get at the PX, okay. So, shipping home, when you left, it was a major event. You're bringing a whole bunch of crap home.
SH: Where was your first R&R [rest and recuperation]?
AM: My only R&R, Hong Kong, which, outside of New York, is my favorite city in the world. I've been to Hong Kong I don't know how many times. It's amazing when I tell people what Hong Kong was like in '64. Neither of you have been to Hong Kong, I assume.
SH: No, I have not.
AM: So, there's a hill now that has the most beautiful apartments and houses, which overlooked what's called "Happy Valley," which is the racetrack. Then, it was all shacks of immigrants from China. Hong Kong, they turned the water off at night, because the Chinese would not run water in. So, they got water from rain. It was an entirely different city than it is today. It's [remarkable]. I still have pictures from that period. I went into a bar in Hong Kong. They said, "What do you want to drink?" I said, "Milk." [laughter] They looked at me--we didn't have any milk in Vietnam. So, we had plenty of alcohol. I could get alcohol for ten cents. So, I go in a bar in Hong Kong, I don't need alcohol, and we developed a lot of alcoholics in Vietnam. So, I ordered milk, because I hadn't had it in a long time. We had ice cream, but we didn't have milk, which, later on, the Army did build a dairy facility. That's the wonderful thing about the American military. They make America anywhere in the world. They make America anywhere in the world.
One of the things that [I did], in dealing with the Marines, after they came in, they needed some C rations, combat rations, and we got a whole load of them and we didn't need them. So, I traded the C rations for two outboard motors and two boats and water skis. [laughter] So, we had those, on the Da Nang River. The only problem was, the Vietnamese use the Da Nang River not only to wash their clothes, but for most other human activities, and you put your feet in the [river], oh, my God, that was awful. Yes, well, you'd be walking down the street in Da Nang and they'd be defecating on the street, urinating on the street. It's a different world. You just have to get used to it. [laughter] After a while, you don't notice it.
SH: Was there a lot of interaction between the different forces?
AM: I wouldn't say interaction, but there was. The Marines were actually stationed--Marines never want to be in a facility that has any decent anything. So, they put a camp outside the base. They put their first camp outside the base. The Air Force always has the best officers' clubs, and so, they had a great officers' club. We had the Army officers' club, but that, usually, you only used on weekends. That was the old [French] Navy officers' club. So, yes, there was interchange, but not that much. There wasn't that much.
SH: You were then sent back to DC.
AM: Yes, I'm sent back to DC, in the Strategic Communications Command, CONUS, which is Continental United States. What I loved about the Signal Corps is, I was never in training [laughter] and our job was to support the strategic communications of the United States. I was in charge of Logistics Division of the Strategic Communications Command and we included satellite communications around the world and, while I was there, we were building the combat information center of the Pentagon. Now, you need all sorts of clearance to get into [it], but I had access, but our most important job was supplying Lucy Baines [daughter of President Lyndon B. Johnson] with her tent and recording equipment for her weekend parties. [laughter]
Oh, the other thing, which gets back to Washington, also, what we used to do in Vietnam is listen in to UPI and Associated Press. We'd get the tape, we'd take it off, classify it and send it back, "Secret," to the Pentagon. So, when I got back to Washington, the President's saying, "Why do I hear, on Huntley-Brinkley [The Huntley-Brinkley Report], the night before, the same information I get in the morning in my secret briefing?" I knew why, but I didn't tell anybody, because it's being classified in Vietnam, but, for Huntley-Brinkley, it's not classified. It's just the regular news. So, they would put it on the news at seven o'clock. The President would see it, President Johnson, and then, he'd come back in the morning, get his CIA briefing and the CIA briefing would have this information classified as top secret, [laughter] and that's why it was happening, okay. The other thing that President Johnson wanted was Sony portable televisions that he would give as gifts. So, we'd have to order hundreds of these things as gifts--so, Lucy Baines' party, that, and then, maintaining the communications of the United States of America.
My boss was a drunk, Major Smart. So, he was all right in the morning, but he said to me, "Lieutenant, take care of me," which I did, and, again, he'd probably seen some Jews, but not really, not that close. [laughter] So, it was an interesting experience for him, too, and then, we had some other [officer], I think he was a major, too, and I forget his name. These two, they'd been in the Army a long time and to be a major [for the] number of years they were in grade meant they weren't too good, [laughter] and he lived on base. This was in Suitland, Maryland, and he would go home for lunch and, generally, not come back. If he came back, he wobbled back. So, my job was to take care of him and we supplied the equipment and parts and whatever was needed for strategic communications in the United States, for [the] US Army, and the US Army was responsible for strategic communications for the President, and all sorts of things like that.
My roommate in Vietnam came back. He came back a month late, because he was in the communications center and there was a book of--at that time, it wasn't a computer, it was a book--of code. The way the code works is, there's rotary wheels and you set them based on each day, all over the world, for the United States. Well, he lost the last page, that was blank. In effect, he compromised the US code system for an entire month. So, he was held there until they could find this blank page, which they never did. So, he comes back. He's my roommate in Washington. Now, we invade the Dominican Republic. Now, who do they send down there, in this highly sensitive communications center process? My roommate. That's the Army--it's wonderful. [Editor's Note: The United States occupied the Dominican Republic from April 1965 to September 1966.]
During this time, they needed somebody to go back to Saigon to do certain things and they wanted a field grade officer, which is major, light colonel, lieutenant colonel, colonel. No one would volunteer, too dangerous. I'd been there. I said, "Fine, I'll go," for a couple reasons: one, it was tax-free, if you're in Vietnam. Two, you got something called a cost of living allowance, okay. Why you need it in Vietnam, I haven't the foggiest. You need it in Washington, DC, which I wasn't getting. I could afford a half a date a month in Washington, DC, on a second lieutenant's pay or a first lieutenant's pay. So, I volunteered and the general who's head of the Signal Corps [said], "Thank you, Lieutenant," and I was out at Fort Lewis, Washington, ready to go, back to Vietnam. My mother, at that time, went nuts.
SH: I am sure.
AM: Yes, she went nuts, but I figured, "What the hell?" and then, he calls me, when I'm out at Fort Lewis, Washington, says, "Thank you for volunteering, but I've decided to send a colonel over there." So, [I] came back to Washington, DC, and spent the last number of months in the Army in Washington, DC.
SH: Did you ever think about making it a career?
AM: Absolutely not, [laughter] [for] a very simple reason. Well, I went to Vietnam early in the war. I figured it's going to be ten years, so, I'd be there three times, and I figured I wasn't going to make it if I went there three times. I'm pretty sure my roommate, who went back a second time, didn't make it. So, I wasn't going back. The second point was, if you're going to do it, don't be a Reserve officer, be regular Army, which meant, either one or the other, I had to jump out of a plane, which I think is kind of stupid, or to be a Ranger, and I'm not athletic. It's not my thing. So, I got out. They tried to convince me to stay in, they wanted me to stay in and blah, blah, blah. Then, there was a rumor that you're going to be in for the duration, which happened in World War II, meaning you're in, and I said, "Oh, my God, I'm in [for ten years]," but, no, I got out.
SH: Did you have to stay in the Reserves?
AM: Yes, I was in what was called--you're looking at what could have been the Governor of Oriente Province in Cuba. I got out of the Army. I was in Washington, DC. They take care of the Congressional aides, okay. They have something called the Civil Affairs group in the Army and the job is to manage the civil [government], the Army invades somebody, to manage their government. So, our civil affairs group was to be the government of Cuba and I was to be the Governor of Oriente Province. [laughter] I don't speak Spanish; anyway.
SH: However, you had a little bit.
AM: A little bit, a summer at Rutgers, so, I'm ready to go. "Hablo espanol," that's about it. [laughter] So, yes, I was in the Army. Now, they made a big deal about President Bush not signing in and all this kind of crap. [Editor's Note: During the 2000 and 2004 Presidential Campaigns, President George W. Bush was accused of not fulfilling his duties as a Texas Air National Guard officer during the Vietnam War.] Anybody who's been in the Reserves knew that that was political nonsense, because I don't remember ever signing in. All I remember is showing up and I had to bring Dunkin' Donuts or something. We'd sit down for a half an hour, BS, and I don't know what the hell we did. We went to Fort Devens [in Ayer and Shirley, Massachusetts], for summer camp a couple times and people brought their own tents, polka dot tents, they brought their television sets, they brought [everything]. This is the Army out in the field. [laughter] So, when they're talking about President Bush not signing [in], I said, "You've got to be kidding me." Anybody's making that comment has never been in the Reserves, okay. It's just not done that way. It's nonsense and they send you a check and you sign, you get the check, that you were there. I've been through these things. That's the reason I'm so skeptical and cynical when you hear these things, and you say to yourself, "Either these people are naïve or they've never done it." If you've done it, it's a different world out there.
SH: You talked about the communications going to a satellite system. That happened after you came back to Washington.
AM: No, it happened about halfway through, and it was like a miracle. Holy molly, you could actually hear somebody, because you take a long line going across the Pacific, and then, a line across the United States and it was "crackle-crackle," and this is the most sensitive communications we had. What happened then was, I didn't do it, but some of the people called home as a result. It was pretty easy. It was wonderful. Yes, we had a lot of new technology we were experimenting with. We had one thing where, it's not important what it was, but we needed a part and I submitted a high priority requisition, "Get it to me as fast as possible," and I got it back cancelled and it was signed, "Cancelled," it was signed by my uncle, who was down at the Philadelphia signal supply depot.
AM: So, I sent him a letter. I said, "Uncle Hal, I need this," [laughter] and he sent it back in the regular mail. I got it, yes, I got it. Well, you do what you have to do, right? [laughter] You do what you have to do.
SH: This is the uncle who was working with Rickover.
AM: No, his son was working [for Rickover], his son. He was the one that attended the Communist Party meetings, okay, or one of them did, maybe his mother, so on, and so forth. So, anyway, he worked at the Philadelphia signal, whatever it was called, warehouse or supply agency, and so on, and so forth, but, anyway, that was the Army. It was only two years. It was a good deal. It was the same as the draft, except you were an officer, and, as I keep telling my son, "If you're going to go in, you only go in as an officer. You don't go in as an enlisted man," no, because, in Washington, the officers' clubs were wonderful. [laughter] My wife still remembers, and that's where I met her, in Washington, going out to Bolling Air Force Base, and having a chateaubriand, blah, blah, blah, and the strolling strings and it's wonderful. The other thing, we lived near Fort Myers officers' club and they had a buffet every Sunday and I used to eat about five of them, so that I wouldn't have to cook during the week. [laughter] It would last me to next Friday. Anyway, no, the Army is wonderful. I had a great experience with the Army. It's like anything else--you block out the bad stuff--but it changed me completely, from a total nerd, introverted, afraid of the world, to a person who had been out in the world, at the age of twenty-three.
SH: Did you ever have any of the kids that were being drafted in this country under you?
AM: Sure, all the time. Those are the kids that worked. Yes, absolutely, you had drafted kids, and then, we had, like I had in Vietnam, I think he must have been about fifty years old, he was an E-3, which means private first class. He'd violated curfew. He had six kids at home in West Virginia and a wife. He'd violated curfew. I busted him to E-1, which means he had hardly any income. What can I do? Yes, we had a lot of drafted. Again, that Army was a wonderful milieu of people from all over the country. For example, in officer's training, we had this--you asked what we do--we had a map course. They say, "You're here and that's where we want you to go." From New Jersey, when's the last time I used a compass in New Jersey? [laughter] Give me an exit number, that's all I need to know, right. I had a friend from Arkansas. He got me there, okay, without a compass. [laughter] That's the wonderful part about meeting people from all over the place. They all have their ways of doing things and it makes you a lot broad minded. Right now, you're from a "blue state" or a "red state" and you'll never meet each other. I'm from a blue state; my roommate's from a red state. I'm a Jew, he's a Protestant. He's from Alabama, I'm from New Jersey, or he's from South Carolina--Mullins, South Carolina, Dave O'Neal was from.
It's interesting, too, I was talking to Dave last year and I forget how he put it, but he said, "I really didn't know the Jewish people, but I'd met you," and he said, "You guys are amazing." He said, "Your father came here and, all of a sudden, you're doing this." He said, "It's just remarkable." Now, if we hadn't met, he wouldn't have that perspective, and I wouldn't have my perspective on him, okay, and that's the wonderful thing about the draft. Again, I'm not saying a military draft, but a national service draft, and I also believe, this is a personal, political comment, young people should owe something to this country and a national service draft is the way to do it. Do you want to go in the Peace Corps? I don't give a damn what you do, take two years out of your life, and, by the way, it's a great two years. [laughter] You have no obligations. You just go out and enjoy yourself. It's wonderful.
SH: When you made the decision to not stay in the military, what did you start thinking that you wanted to do? You were still in the military. You still had that commitment, I assume.
AM: Well, there's no commitment when you decide you're getting out. You had the commitment for the Reserves, but that's not a big deal. It's a good question. A lot of kids today, I don't get the sense that they really--they go nocturnal, you know what I mean? They're up at night, they sleep in the day and they don't realize you have to work for a living. I didn't have a choice. I had to work for a living.
So, what I did was, I started sending résumés out to different organizations. It wasn't like you're on a college campus and you get companies [that] come in to interview you. You've got to go out and find a job, and I sent a résumé out to a number of companies and I got a call in from Chesapeake Potomac Telephone Company. I was sort of, like, an ideal person for them, which I didn't realize--communications background, military officer. They put me into what was called the INDP program, Initial Management Development Program, where you come in at the second level of management in what was then AT&T, in the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company, and so, that's how I got the job.
I decided I wanted to stay in Washington, DC, because I liked Washington at the time. It was a young people's place. Kennedy came in '63 and he instilled a [sense of service]. Everybody wanted to work for the government at the time and a lot of young people came. It was a great party town. You didn't have to figure out what you're doing on Saturday. Someone would call you and off you went. It was one party after another, after another, after another, and it was just a young people's town. Remember, this was when the Baby Boomers were starting to become at a point where they're going out into the world, just before it, and it's just a lot of young people and what are they doing? Coming to Washington, because Kennedy had set this standard of working. I forget the song, "We're going to Washington," blah, blah. Anyway, so, it was a wonderful town to be in. It was young, dynamic.
So, I wanted to stay in DC. So, I applied to a number of places--I forget where. I didn't want to work for the government, which is a mistake in Washington. You should work for the government or a lobbying organization, one or the other. I didn't want to work for the government. That wasn't me. As it turned out, the phone company wasn't me, either, [laughter] but, anyway, I went to work for the phone company. The first thing I learned in the phone company is, you should wear a hat, which I didn't wear. I refused to wear a hat. Everybody in the phone company, at that level of management, wore a hat. So, we have this guy coming down from AT&T. They said, "You'd better wear a hat that day." I said, "I'm not going to wear a hat that day." Guess what? The guy from AT&T didn't wear a hat. [laughter] It was great. Anyway, so, I got out of the Army, I went to work for the phone company, spent two years doing that, met my wife during that time, future wife. I didn't get married at the time, but [at] one of these parties.
SH: Was she in Washington?
AM: She had come from Washington State. She didn't go to college. At the time, because there were no computers, the FBI needed every woman, or girl, who graduated from high school in the United States, who wasn't doing anything else, for fingerprints. So, J. Edgar Hoover would bring in all these women from the hills of West Virginia. There were hotels set up, because Mr. Hoover felt protective of these women, and they would come in and they would work in fingerprint. Within three or four months, they'd get out of the hotels and go out on the economy. So, my wife was brought in, but she didn't go to work for fingerprint. She went to work in the Civil Rights Division of the FBI, which you couldn't have picked a better spot to be in. It was right in the heart of what was going on. There's some interesting stories as to who was informers for the FBI during that period of time.
SH: I would love to hear that.
AM: Well, besides Ed Sullivan, Mario Savio, I don't know if you remember Mario Savio, but he led the [Berkeley Free Speech Movement]. He was an informer for the FBI. So, I met her at a party, one of these parties. A friend of mine said, "Hey, there's a party going on." There were, as there turned out, ten English women. Initially, I thought there were eleven, because I met my wife, she's speaking with an English [accent], like an Englishwoman. So, I said to her, "Where you from?" and she says, "Washington State." I said, "What?" Then, she says to me, "Are you Jewish?" and I said, "Oh, my God, no, no, I've got a problem," but, actually, she was looking for a Jewish husband. [laughter] She claims this isn't true, but her mother sent her off to DC. What happened was, her mother had worked for the FBI in the '30s. They couldn't afford to send her to college. So, her mother writes in a letter to Mr. Hoover, because, at that time, it was a small agency, she knew Mr. Hoover, "Dear Mr. Hoover, my daughter would like to work for the FBI." They call, boom, she's working for the FBI. [laughter] Her mother sends her off to DC and says, "Find a Jewish husband." She's not Jewish. [laughter] She's not Jewish. Her grandfather was a Presbyterian minister. [laughter]
AM: Okay. So, she asked me if I'm Jewish, and, if you're Jewish, you figure, "Okay, this is not good," but, anyway, so, we met, and so on, and so forth. So, I worked for the phone company until '67, in economic forecasting/capital budgeting. I then went out to--what did I do? Oh, yes, I decided, "Let's go out to San Francisco," and we go out to San Francisco, because, at that time, it was Haight-Ashbury.
SH: Are you still protesting and marching?
AM: Yes, I protested a little bit. Well, you know how bad a period [it was].
SH: The war is still not over.
AM: No, the war's going on.
SH: It is getting worse.
AM: I remember, when I was in Arlington, sort of laying down in my bed, "Well, Robert Kennedy's assassinated, Martin Luther King's assassinated." I'll never forget, driving, when Martin Luther King was assassinated, the blacks were rioting. I was working for the phone company in DC and I was living in Arlington at that time, coming back over the bridge and looking back at DC and seeing smoke rising over the Capitol Building. That's the most incredible view, just smoke rising over the Capitol Building. This is the capital of our country and there's smoke and there's going to be troops there to control it. It was an incredible period.
Anyhow, Kennedy was assassinated, and then, I remember sort of half dozing, watching President Johnson speak, who was the most boring speaker in the world. All of a sudden, he says, "I'm not running for President." I literally rolled off the side of the bed. [laughter] I couldn't believe it. [Editor's Note: President Lyndon B. Johnson announced that he would not seek reelection on March 31, 1968.] When I watch tapes of the '60s, it's really hard to believe what went on and what we went through. The changes were enormous, three assassinations, a President not running, a war in Vietnam, God knows what else. I'm losing things. It was the most incredible period of change--and Watergate, oh, that's the other thing.
SH: I was just going to say, do not forget.
AM: Yes, Watergate, and it really changed everybody from being--I came back from Vietnam being a cynic and a skeptic and everybody turned into that, as a result of what happened with Watergate and Vietnam. It's unfortunate for this country in many ways, because there are things that can be done, but nobody believes anybody, and everything's a conspiracy. Everything's a conspiracy, and guess what? Things happen because they happen and they're not a conspiracy, and they're just not.
SH: So, you moved to Haight-Ashbury.
AM: So, I drove out with my [future wife]. We weren't married, but we drove out. I had a Jaguar at the time. I sold it, because I knew it'd break down on the way out to the coast. [laughter] I bought an old '59 Oldsmobile convertible and we drove out to San Francisco. I found a motel or a hotel for ourselves, and then, I called the head of the retail office of, it was a firm, like Merrill Lynch, Francis I. du Pont, Bill Hambrecht, who later became a major venture capitalist. I applied for a job and I went in to the secretary and she said, "Where'd you go to school?" I said, "Rutgers," and she says, "Oh, that's like Princeton and Harvard." I said, "Of course," [laughter] and then, I meet Bill Hambrecht and, unfortunately, Bill went to Princeton. [laughter] So, he knew, but he hired me as a retail broker, okay. Yes, it's "R-U, rah-rah. Up team, red stream," right?
Anyway, he hired me as a retail broker. So, I had to train for six months, of that, two months out in San Francisco, four months back in New York, and, when I came back to New York, my mother had a stroke, and so, my family asked me to stay back in New York or in the East Coast, which I did. So, I became a retail broker in Washington, DC, for about a year and I decided it's not for me, and it was interesting doing it, but it's not for me. So, I went back to Rutgers Graduate School, MBA. I got married then, three years later, and went on ...
SH: You were married when you went back for the MBA.
AM: Yes, but I wasn't married up until that [point]. We got married in October 1968, yes--trying to remember if that's right. That has to get taken out, because my wife will hear it. [laughter]
CB: Can you tell us a little about the look and feel of Rutgers after you came back from the war, as compared with before you left?
AM: Well, remember, I went through the MBA in Newark.
AM: Not New Brunswick.
CB: All right.
AM: The difference, though, was a lot more in Piscataway, mainly, okay. The gym over here, the addition was built about the last year I was at school. The cafeteria was a hut--what do they call that? I don't know what they [call it].
AM: The Quonset hut. That was the cafeteria. Then, they built a new cafeteria, which wasn't here when I was here, and, hopefully, the food improved. [laughter] All right, what can I tell you? I remember the food. I remember, one time, having a chicken pot pie, and I'm sort of reading the Targum and moving my fork in the chicken pot [pie] and I hear a clink back. You know those things they mash potatoes in? Well, one of them broke off, was in the chicken pot pie, but that's all right. It's probably better than the food. [laughter] So, that wasn't there. A number of the technology buildings at the [Busch Campus] on Piscataway weren't there, but the biggest difference is the number of people. This became a large school. Think about it, forty-two hundred when I was here, undergraduate. I'd graduated from a high school that had twelve hundred, okay. So, this wasn't much bigger and it's like a small school, very friendly, close, collegial and all that good stuff. You come back to a factory, [was] about the only way to describe it, and it's gotten bigger, obviously. Who was the President at the time?
SH: [Edward J.] Bloustein, [President of Rutgers University from 1971 to 1989]?
AM: Yes, Bloustein was President. The main thing was the ...
-------------------------------------END OF TAPE TWO, SIDE ONE--------------------------------------
CB: Side two, tape two.
AM: And the most impressive thing I found coming back was, they protected the golf course. I think that's a very important part of education and running a university, similar to what I experienced in Vietnam, where the only thing the Captain wanted was to build a golf course. There's a linkage here that I feel, a commonality which I must sense, but the size, the new buildings. When I think about Piscataway, the dominating building in Piscataway was the Institute of Microbiology and, when I was here, Selman Waksman was sort of like the hero of this place. He got the--whatever he got.
SH: The Nobel.
AM: The Nobel Prize, that was it. The old chemistry building was there, but the new chemistry building, I don't think, had been there. I was in engineering at the time and all these Quonset huts, all these temporary buildings, were there. I forget when they put the temporary dorms in Piscataway, which are still there, of course. Are they still using them as dorms? [laughter] You had a sense that the University, which is still true, was building on a shoe string. My budget--what's the budget of this university, about a billion, right?
SH: That must be close.
AM: Okay. My budget at Merrill Lynch, research department, in 2000 was a billion-four, okay. So, here's a university running a billion-dollar budget, and I've got about fourteen hundred people, I'm running a budget of a billion-four. We paid our people well. [laughter]
CB: I should go work for Merrill Lynch.
AM: It's not a bad place, by the way. I'll recommend it highly.
SH: Were you working while you were getting your MBA?
AM: Yes. I was working for something called the Interracial Council for Business Opportunity. I was helping put blacks into business. This was, [after] the riots. The Interracial Council for Business Opportunity is a non-profit organization. I think it was the Rockefeller Foundation, either the American Jewish Committee or one of those, okay.
SH: This was after the Newark riots.
AM: Yes, it was right after. Yes, that was '68, '68-'69, yes, it's just about, literally, right around the Newark riots. [Editor's Note: The Newark riots, lasting from July 12 to July 17, 1967, resulted in over two dozen deaths, over seven hundred injuries, fifteen hundred arrests and property damage exceeding ten million dollars.] So, my job was to take applications that were going to go to the Small Business Administration for blacks and help them either get loans, if they're currently in business, or help put them in business, and I was doing loan packages to help put blacks in business. I used to go into the ghetto a lot in Newark, in Springfield Avenue, see what they wanted to do, blah, blah, blah, and I did that for all the time I was in graduate school. So, it was a great job.
[I] remember getting one muffler shop guy in. He needed seventy-five thousand dollars and we started talking. He put everybody on the books, and so, he had sixty-five thousand dollars worth of accounts receivable. People owed him for doing jobs. I said, "You got the money there." So, I looked at his checkbook. He wrote checks, but he wrote nothing in the checkbook. So, he didn't know how much money he had. He never made that [notation]. His marketing, he says, "Well, sometimes, I spend some money." I said, "What do you do for marketing?" He says, "I go to the bar across the street and buy drinks around," and it becomes an interesting experience, because, when I went to work on Wall Street for five years, as part of the Interracial Council of Business Opportunity, I used to teach small business management to blacks in Newark, at Newark-Rutgers. What you learned was that these people want to do things, but they don't have the education, like if you're familiar with accounting, on the left side, on one side of the equation, and the other side of the equation, assets equal, so forth. I learned not to say the equation but, "On this side of the equal sign, on that side of the equal sign." You learn how to communicate. They didn't know percentages. They're running a business, don't know percentages. So, you come away both enjoying what you're doing, but, also, coming away saying, "I don't know how you solve this problem," because, when you get right to the nitty-gritty, there are people that are, in a sense, the leaders of their community that don't have the skills that are necessary to go beyond a certain level, but we tried to help them.
So, I did that for about five years, but, getting back, [I] went to graduate school in Newark. My wife worked, I worked, it was fine. I got the GI Bill. I forget what they paid me a month, 125 dollars a month, or something like that. So, I went on the GI Bill. I went through as fast as I could. Remember, I kept telling my wife, "I'm flunking out." On graduation, she finds I was in the honor society--so, got to keep them honest, yes. [laughter] So, that was a good experience, the Business School. In general, I find Rutgers really doesn't try to be number one, and this is true of the Business School, too, and I really have a hard [time with it]. I've said it to--who was the President before the current, McCormick?
SH: Francis Lawrence, [Rutgers University President from 1990 to 2002].
AM: He was a disaster. I met him. I said to my wife, "I can't believe this guy's the president of anything. I would never hire him." My attitude is, when you manage something and lead something, you want to be number one, and then, maybe, you wind up to be number two. I had a department in London, they said, "We're too small. We can't compete. We'll be number seven." I said, "If you try to be number seven, you'll be number twelve. So, try to be number one and you'll see where you go," and I find that Rutgers doesn't try to be the best, the leadership, and I think even the current leadership, frankly, doesn't understand how to be the best. Anyway, so, I graduated from Rutgers. It says '70--I left in December '69, went to work on Wall Street, 1970.
SH: Your work has primarily been on Wall Street.
AM: I've been in Wall Street for thirty-five years. I've managed, initially as an investment analyst, then, I managed the global research departments of Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs and I was on the management committee of Goldman Sachs as well. At Merrill, I had twenty-eight offices in twenty-five countries around the world, traveled all around the world. Merrill Lynch paid me to develop a global education for myself, in all the countries of the world, and it's been an incredible experience, seeing the world and watching it develop, particularly in the developing countries, because we financed--and, certainly, Merrill didn't, Wall Street did--China, India, Brazil. We're bringing all their telephone companies public, and it's been a great experience in seeing the world. So, thirty-five years on Wall Street and it's a wonderful place to be. I recommend it highly to anybody, okay.
CB: You mentioned that you have a son. Did you or your wife encourage him to come to Rutgers at all?
AM: He didn't have the grades to come to Rutgers and he didn't want to come and the third reason, which is the most important, he's not comfortable in a large situation, okay. He was having problems with homework. Kid's fine as far as whatever he did and you can only bang on his head so much, and my wife made the suggestion, "We send him to New York Military Academy." Being in the Army, I said, "You've got to be out of your mind. I don't want the kid to be in the Army." So, he went there. The great thing about it is, the teachers have enforcement. We said to Alex, my son, said, "Look, anytime you want to come home," it's north of West Point, "anytime you want to come home on a weekend is fine." What he found out is, if he didn't do his homework, he couldn't come home on weekends. He had to rake leaves. Within two weeks, he was doing his homework and, by the time he was done, he started in seventh grade, he was ... the cadet captain, which meant he was the leader, but he needs a more structured situation and he needs a smaller situation. So, Rutgers didn't satisfy that. I'm looking out here, I said, "Oh, my God, Alex would have gone [crazy]."
CB: The size of this place is pretty daunting.
AM: Yes, particularly [when] you come out as a freshman from small high school.
SH: You have to have a teenage daughter, according to what you said to us.
AM: Yes. Well, I had a teenage daughter. She's now a twenty-five-year-old divorced single mother, and I have a six-year-old granddaughter. So, she's whatever [age].
SH: What about your community activities? You talked about being in Israel with the AJC.
AM: Yes, yes. I'm on the Board of Governors of the American Jewish Committee. I'm also the fundraiser for the Federation. I'm in charge of the fundraising for the Federation. I'm on the Board of Directors and, just recently, had to recruit an executive director from New York. So, to answer your question, when the war started, I got an email from the executive director, David Harris, saying, "You want to go to Israel?" I said, "Great, let's go." That was on a Wednesday and, Saturday, we're on the plane. By Thursday, we're in Haifa and we had rocket attacks coming in at us, three of them, but it's not a big deal. You're just going through.
The problem is when I landed at the airport in Tel Aviv, the taxi driver says, "You're brave." I said, "I'm not brave. I can go home." The second trip, recently, we just went up to a town called Kiryat Shmona, went into an air raid shelter there where they had to spend thirty-three days. I couldn't stay thirty-three minutes in it. There was no air conditioning, it was hot, sixty people. We went up to the border of Lebanon, was interesting, too. We met with some of the soldiers who are Americans, went over to Israel, talking about how the Hezbollah fight. It wasn't mentioned in this country, but when they went to a town, the Hezbollah would basically put a fence around the town, keep the civilians in the town, won't let them get out. When the troops came in, they used the civilians, and particularly children, as human shields and in the first part of the war, eight Israeli soldiers were killed. Well, they were killed from an ambush out of a mosque, which the Israelis cannot fire on.
So, the war was a very difficult war and we were down in the south, in a town called--I can never pronounce it--but Sderot, or something like that, and they get the Katyusha rockets. Before the war in the north, we had been down there, yes. When the war in the north started, we went down there and he said, "We were going to send the kids up north for the summer, to get away from the rockets." I said, "What's the problem in town, business?" He said, "No, the children." He said, "All you have to look at is what they're painting. Everything's in red. It's rockets, it's tanks, it's ugly pictures of Arabs," and so on, and so forth, and the kids are just depressed. The Minister of Education in Israel talked to us and she said, "We started school on time, which is a miracle here, with everything that's going on," but she said, "The kids come in now and they're experts on the sounds of different types of rockets coming in. They can tell you what kind of rocket's coming in, whether it has ball bearings in it." For example, we visited, when we were in Haifa, some injured railroad workers and there'd been eight workers--I think five were killed. They knew who the workers were that were killed, but, because of ball bearings, they could not identify them for three days. That's how bad the ball bearings ripped them apart. So, the Israelis destroyed civilians, no question about it, but the Hezbollah's only target were civilians. That was their only target. Collateral damage was their target. We visited two hospitals and the Israelis discovered that they were aiming at those hospitals. That was their goal, to hit the hospitals. So, it was an interesting experience. War is hell.
SH: What is the AJC's purpose?
AM: Two things: one, historically, it was founded over a hundred years ago, after a pogrom in Russia, to help Jewish people around the world that are under stress. Historically, it worked on Civil Rights, as a leader in desegregation and all that, and, today, it continues that, but its other role, and I describe it and David Harris, an incredible individual, as "The State Department of the Jewish People," and that's the reason we visit around the world. [The] year before, I went to visit the--what was it?--the equivalent of the Secretary of State of the European Union, Javier Solana, we went to visit the head of the International Red Cross, we went to Poland to visit [the] President of Poland, blah, blah, blah, and then, when we went to Japan, we met with the foreign minister and senior officials of Japan, the foreign minister and senior people in China, to talk about what's going on in the world. The job is to ensure that, for example, we just met with the head of the Jewish community in Venezuela. It's a real problem. Whatever his name is down there ...
SH: Hugo Chavez.
AM: He is not good for the [Jewish community]--he's not a friend, the same in Argentina. So, the job is to--you would think it would be over already--the job is to rescue Jewish people in trouble.
SH: Do you have any other questions?
CB: I was going to ask one final question. Do you have any favorite Rutgers memories? Does anything stand out, one thing you would love to say about the University?
AM: Well, what I would say overall is, it gives you a hell of education for the money, okay. When I went to work on Wall Street, at Drexel Burnham, there were twelve assistants. Eleven were Harvard MBAs and there was one from Rutgers. We had a down year in the market. There was one assistant left and that was Rutgers, and not because I was working for any less money. That's the reason I'm sort of ticked off at the University a little bit for not getting more credit, figuring a way to get more credit.
When I managed on Wall Street, we had something called the Institutional Investor List and it ranked research departments and I was brought into Merrill Lynch to get them up to be number one. We were number one for seven straight years in the United States, we were number one in Europe, we were number one in fixed income in the United States for five straight years, number one in Latin America for a couple, I don't know how many years, number one in Asia. There are certain things you do, which you may have a problem with if you try to be intellectual about it, to make sure that that happens and you tell people you want to be number one. There's no sense in being a loser, and so, I think Rutgers provides a very good education, I think it's a better school than it's given credit for and I blame the management of this university for not getting better credit, both within [and beyond] New Jersey, but when you look at these polls--I know they take them--they probably, as academics, poo-poo them. Guess what? People take them seriously, alumni take them seriously and it means something, and not to take it seriously is bad management, and there's ways of making it happen, where you can control it to some degree, and they don't do it.
When I retired from Merrill Lynch, I got a call from Goldman Sachs and they made an offer I couldn't refuse. They said, "Come in, be a partner and join the management committee, but what we want you to do in research is change it," and it took me two years and I changed it, okay. You know what you have to do. Well, I have not seen anybody here in the leadership of Rutgers who knows what they have to do. They talk a good game, but they don't know what they have to do, and I remember saying to the head of the Business School at Rutgers, "The Rutgers Business School has no rating. It's ridiculous," and he says, "Well, I can't get anything out of the University." I said, "Look, this school always wants to compete with Princeton, always. Princeton has no business school. You could be the number one business school in New Jersey. Why not try? Why not go for it?" and so, my attitude is, you always have to be number one, never try to be less.
So, the answer to your question is, I think it's a wonderful [school]. Both undergraduate and graduate, I got a wonderful [education], and so, my memory is, it's a great [education], which is what it should be, when you think about a memory. First thing should be your education, the second, my wonderful experience with WRSU, because that changed me, and, three, I hate to say ROTC, but it was important to me in what it did. So, when I look back on Rutgers, what is my pleasant memory? What are the words of the alma mater? "My father sent me to ...
SH: ... "Old Rutgers."
AM: And what's the next [line]?
SH: "And resolved that I should be a man."
AM: And that's what it did for me.
SH: I think that is a grand place to end. I know you have a date at one o'clock.
AM: Yes, 1:05 [PM class]. I've got to find out about what I lived through. [laughter]
SH: All right, thank you so much.
AM: Thank you, enjoyed it.
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