Library - Reading Room
Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!
Visit From A Former P.O.W. George Smith
Wednesday, January 19th, was the date of the re-opening of the Covered Wagon. The Wagon was honored by having George Smith, former Green Beret Sergeant and ex-POW, to speak at the opening night meeting. He spoke of his two years of captivity as a prisoner of the National Liberation Front in Viet Nam from 1963 to 1965. An audience of over 100 heard George speak, and he answered questions afterwards about his experiences.
Earlier that afternoon, George arrived at the Boise Airport and gave a press conference for the local TV and radio stations and newspapers. A reception was held from 2:30 to 4:30 PM at the Immanuel Methodist Church in Boise, sponsored by the Valley Peace Action Committee. This was followed by dinner with veterans of SE Asia at the home of Mark Lane in Mountain Home. About 15 vets attended, and found they had much in common with George's views on the war. (which were not pro-war, incidentally). Then there was the meeting and talk at the Wagon, which ended around 11 that night.
The next morning at the KTVB studios, The Idaho Today program taped an interview with George for a later telecast. At noon, he gave a lecture at Boise State College, then took off for a long drive to Pocatello where he had dinner with Rev. Willis Ludlow. Another lecture was given at Idaho State University, in Pocatello, followed by a reception given by Prof. Pavesic of ISU.
Friday was to be the big day for GI's at Mt. Home AFB. The chaplains and some interested people had received permission to have an on-base coffee-house established in order to give GI's a place to rap and get away from lifers. Colonel Hereth, the base commander, stated in the Wingspread (base newspaper) that he would not interfere in the programs of the Shelter - the name of the coffeehouse. When the chaplains asked if it would be alright to have George speak at the Shelter, Col. Hereth gave his permission. Since permission was granted, George and the Wagon (we were paying his expenses) arranged for an extra day's stop, so he could speak on base. After plans had been made, and airline tickets paid for, Hereth changed his mind and said that George would not be allowed to speak on base. Hereth didn't want George to speak, because George is too "political." Hereth just might be "political" too, if he had been under Air Force bombing attacks while held prisoner of the NLF in Viet Nam. George later found out that the Air Force knew of his location in the jungle (along with other POWs), but bombed enemy camps anyway. Needless to say, George was mad. At 11 AM, George and GI's with the Wagon had lunch in the BX cafeteria. This action must have had the blessings of Col. Hereth, because he arrived shortly after we did, along with the deputy commander, the Security Police commander, and of course, a small contingent of OSI agents, the James Bonds of the Air Force. George, who has been out of the service for a few years, had forgotten all about the "shake factor" - he offered Hereth a copy of Helping Hand! Col. Hereth, in a brilliant display of command authority, asked George not to distribute the HH on base. To really impress upon us that he wielded great power, he ordered Captain Gary Aker to get a haircut. However, George behaved in a most irreverent manner in the presence of Cot. Hereth, and proceeded to pass out Helping Hands to the few brave souls who would dare accept them. Time grew short, however, as George had to be in Boise for an interview on the Tom Fairchild talk show, KATN radio. There isn't anything constructive to say about that fiasco - George told of his experiences, the callers told him he was "programmed", or "brainwashed". Another that he wasn't a "true blue American." The average caller obviously believes that the Viet Cong are capable of only inhuman atrocities. So much for ignorance.
George's final gig took place that night on base. An unknown airman dropped him off on the base, so that he could distribute a leaflet to officers, a plea on behalf of the POW's to stop the bombing
Sad to say, George was only able to give away one copy of his request. He gave it to a Lt. Col, who, like a robot, promptly fetched Col. Hereth from the officers club. The Colonel did his usual routine, and banned George from the base for eternity. Heartaches, Colonel, Heartaches.
George left the next day, heading home to his family. But we benefitted, and I'm sure the people of Idaho also benefitted, for the insanity and futility of war was shown in a new perspective - by a former POW.
Helping Hand, no. 8