You have an unusual perspective about the war. You served in Asia for so long, served the military for most of your adult life, and yet you thought the war was foolish. Why?
You will find my answers unusual because I have spent half of my life in the Far East and I am Buddhist by nature. I believe that every man has to seek his own path and has to accept the consequences of whatever choice he makes. Therefore, I do not condemn anyone for what they choose. If their choice causes them suffering, I pity them. If it causes happiness, I rejoice for them. And, finally, I do not blame anyone for the results of the choices I have made in my life, although there is little reason to blame anyone because it has been a long and happy life and I have very few regrets.
That about sums up the philosophy that influences my feelings about the Vietnam War and everything else that I have been involved in over the past sixty years.
I just did whatever job was given to me and did it as well as I could.
What kind of service did you perform in Vietnam?
I was in communications, and what we did was pass messages back and forth.
I would like to trace your perception of the Vietnam War as you served there. What were your original feelings about the war? If they changed as time passed, how did they change? What changed in your opinion? Were there any specific events that influenced your thinking?
I had spent a number of years in the Far East already when the war started and I remembered Douglas McArthur telling the Congress, "Don't get involved in a land war in the Far East." I thought it was good advice and I felt that someone in Washington had made a mistake when we used the Tonkin Gulf incident to start a full scale war in Vietnam.
You also served in Korea. Did Vietnam affect your perception of your Korean service, or did negative feelings about Korea affect your feelings about Vietnam?
The fact that we never really solved anything in Korea made me suspect that we would never solve anything in Vietnam, either. But my position was that of a person on a team. You might think the coach called a stupid play, but you don't go out there and run your own route because of that. It won't help to win the game.
What kind of news did you get from home? Did you hear about the antiwar movement? What did you think of them? How much information was available? How did it portray the antiwar movement?
I heard about the antiwar movement, but didn't think much about it. College kids always protest a war. It is a dumb way to solve an international dispute. If I had been in college, I would have been against the war, too.
How did you feel about the military hierarchy and bureaucracy? Was it responsive? Adaptive to change? Accomodating? Why or why not? How did it feel about servicemen who had reservations about Vietnam?
The military always wants people involved in a war to be behind what they are doing 100%. If you're not, it will get you killed and it will get a lot of your buddies killed. I didn't think that people back home being against the war would get me killed. I hoped it would get me back home sooner. I felt from the begining that we would not be able to win that war, for a number of reasons. But once you commit, you have to put forth your best effort. There is no room in combat for a lot of self doubt. You are too busy fighting for your life. I was in the Marines at the time of the Korean War, and I carried that attitude with me when I transferred to the Air Force.
Please note: Grant Callaghan never publicly opposed the Vietnam War. Therefore, I do not want any of his comments to be misconstrued as being supportive of the antiwar movement (although his feelings may have been sympathetic).