How did the Vietnam War shape you?
Richard Armitage was the 13th United States Deputy Secretary of State, serving from 2001 to 2005. He served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War and then after the fall of Saigon moved to Washington D.C. to work as a consultant for the United States Department of Defense, which sent him to Tehran and Bangkok.
Throughout the late 70s and early 80s, Armitage worked as an aide and foreign policy advisor to politicians including Senator Bob Dole and President-elect Ronald Reagan. When Reagan was elected, Armitage was appointed to the Department of Defense. In the 1990s, Armitage worked in the private sector before being confirmed as Deputy Secretary of State with the election of George W. Bush in 2001. He left the post in 2005.
Armitage was educated at the United States Naval Academy. He is an avid bodybuilder, and speaks many languages, including Vietnamese.
Question: What impact did the war have on you?
Armitage: Well first of all I think when a young man goes to war – and I went for almost six years in Vietnam, in country for almost six years – it has . . . it says a lot about how you will look at the future. For me that experience has made me very loath to want to go to war again, and make sure . . . As far as I’m able that it’s . . . that war is something of a last resort. Beyond that I think it started me in a direction towards foreign policy, something I wouldn’t have even considered when I was a young teenager. I think you made daily decisions, if not hourly decisions, about the people living and dying. I remember one case where I was taking a wounded Vietnamese sailor to a hospital in Tainan. He had been terribly wounded while we were in an operation, and he was so badly wounded that I actually gave him three __________ of morphine, which I thought it would kill him but kill him peacefully. He not only survived, much to everyone’s surprise – although he lost his eyes, his ears, two arms – but he came back to thank me for saving his life. So it’s funny.
When a young man goes to war, it changes his life.
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