Tags: general westmoreland | public relations | vietnam

General Westmoreland Learns of Vietnam Documentary

General Westmoreland Learns of Vietnam Documentary
April 6 1968: President Lyndon Johnson (1908-1973) (standing) confers with General William Westmoreland (1914 - 2005) during a breakfast meeting at the White House, Washington, D.C. (Agence France Presse/Agence France Presse/Getty Images)

By    |   Friday, 28 September 2018 05:49 PM

The receptionist in our firm would buzz our offices to announce our calls. On this morning she came breathlessly into my office and announced, "Bob Hope wants to speak to you."

I was not expecting his call but neither was I surprised that he would be calling. I picked up my phone and said good morning to him.

He was calling to tell me he had heard about my assistance to his friend, General William C. Westmoreland, former Chief of Staff of the United States Army.

Mr. Hope was well known for his devotion to our armed forces and his many shows he took into combat zones to entertain the troops. It was in Vietnam that the beloved comic became friends with General Westmoreland, then the commander of MACV in South Vietnam. Back in the states his wife, Delores Hope, had befriended Kitsy Westmoreland, the wife of the General. It was a friendship that had lasted over the years the Hopes often had the Westmorelands visit with them in their home in Hot Springs, California.

What Bob Hope was calling me about was the recent CBS Documentary, "The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception," a program narrated by Mike Wallace. He had heard that I was handling press relations for his friend and he wanted me to know that I could call on him for help.

Several weeks before the General had told me Mike Wallace had asked him to come to New York to help them understand more about the Order of Battle used in Vietnam. The General had agreed to do so believing that Mike Wallace was to be trusted. (Remembering that later, Kitsy Westmoreland, the general's wife, told me "Wes still believes in Santa Claus.")

What ensued was best documented by Jonathan Z. Larsen in a thorough description in New York Magazine's October 24, 1983, edition.

Quoting from that article, "On the morning of January 21, 1982, as was his custom, General William C. Westmoreland, 67, retired army chief of staff, took his bowl of cereal with sliced banana into the den of his Charleston, South Carolina, home and parked himself in front of the television set. There on the screen, CBS's Diane Sawyer was promoting an upcoming documentary on a subject that sounded familiar. 'It is an axiom of war that, above all, one must know the enemy,' said Sawyer. 'On Saturday night, the CBS News broadcast CBS Reports will show that the American Government in Washington was deceived about the enemy in Vietnam....the broadcast is called 'The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception,' reported by Mike Wallace and producer-reporter George Crile, who found at the heart of the deception not the hand of the enemy but the American Military Command.'"

A few seconds later, Westmoreland was confronting his own image on the screen, admitting that he had blocked a report on enemy strength figures "because the people in Washington were not sophisticated enough to understand and evaluate this thing and neither was the media."

By the time the short promo was over, Westmoreland was shaken. He needed someone to talk to, and his wife was not yet back from her exercise class. Westmoreland picked up the telephone and dialed Dave Henderson, a Washington D.C. lobbyist and PR man with whom he was supposed to go goose shooting on Sunday. As Henderson now recalls the conversation, "the general called me that morning, very upset, and said something to the effect that 'they are going to try to make me look like a criminal, and I don't know what to do about it.'" Henderson suggested holding a press conference as soon as possible after the program. Westmoreland, without a staff or even a full-time secretary demurred. "Well, I don't have the capability of doing that," he told Henderson. "Well, I do, and I will, pro bono," said Henderson.

The article went on and we did hold the press conference. It had the intended effect. History books are full of the complete story of what ensued, classes are taught in law schools about Westmoreland v. CBS.

A Google search will yield many hours and days and nights reading. Several books were written about Westmoreland v. CBS.

Dave Henderson was born in 1937 and lived his earliest years in Hickman Kentucky on the banks of the Mississippi River, once called the prettiest town on the Mississippi by Mark Twain. Hickman was blessed to have a Carnegie Library at that time. It was there that his love of reading and dreaming began. A highlight of his professional career was to have led the public response to General Westmoreland's battle with CBS over their TV program, "The Uncounted Enemy, A Vietnam Deception." He also served as the General's press spokesman during the following years leading up to and during his libel suit in Judge Pierre Leval's Federal District court in New York. Dave contributed his services and expenses during those years. He previously served on The American Spectator board of directors. He is the author of the book "The Arkansas Project: From the United States Jaycees to the United States Justice Department and Whitewater." To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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He was calling to tell me he had heard about my assistance to his friend, General William C. Westmoreland, former Chief of Staff of the United States Army.
general westmoreland, public relations, vietnam
Friday, 28 September 2018 05:49 PM
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