By David R. Frazier, editor
Excerpt from his book, “DRAFTED! Vietnam at war and at peace”
President Donald Trump’s advocacy for the drug Chloroquine brought back memories from 52 years ago for Frazier who was prescribed the “malaria pill” following his Vietnam service in the Army.
In July of 1968 while working at the Ypsilanti Press, I got a call from Art Chernicki, the UPI photo chief for Michigan. The White House had just announced President Lyndon Johnson was making a surprise visit to the American Legion Convention in Detroit. Could I cover his airport arrival?
Detroit Metro Airport was midway between Ypsilanti and Detroit, so the drive didn’t take more than half an hour. The field was divided in half with the civilian terminal on one side and the
Air National Guard hangars on the other side much like Gowen Field in Boise.
Soon I noticed a slender old guy wearing a white dinner jacket festooned with medals standing off to one side by himself. He looked like either a Navy captain or a chauffeur. Then it hit me. It was General William Westmoreland, my former top commander in Vietnam and now chief of staff of the U.S. Army.
It was a hot Michigan July day with huge thunder clouds billowing up in the distance. We were all killing time awaiting the arrival of Air Force One.
“Those clouds look almost like a monsoon don’t they,” I
remarked to the general for openers.
“Were you over there son?”
“Yessir. I got back a month before you did. I work for a local
paper and UPI now.”
About then the broadcast media boys recognized Westy and stuck microphones in his face.
“Gentlemen! Would you excuse us. This young man and I are talking,” he admonished. They backed off and we continued our idle chitchat. No doubt he was using me as an excuse to not talk to the media or take the spotlight off his boss, President Johnson. An unknown photographer made an extremely respectful and kind gesture when he silently walked up behind me and removed one of my cameras from my neck. He made several shots, including one (above) which made the rounds of the wire services
captioned, “Two Veterans discuss the war.” Little did they know the real conversation.
We talked a bit more about returning home, my old unit in Saigon, etc.
At that point he asked, “How long did it take you to get
“I wasn’t regular sir. I got drafted so I was U.S.” I explained referring to my service number prefix.
“No no. I mean REGULAR. I have had the trots ever since I got back and I can’t get regular,” he confided.
Responding way outside my pay grade, I advised the chief of staff of the Army to stop taking the malaria pills–CHLOROQUINE– we were all instructed to take every Monday for several months after returning from Vietnam.
“You think that will work?”
“Worked for me,” I said with a smile.
About then there was a stirring among those standing around the black presidential limousine as Air Force One taxied off the runway.
“Well, I have to greet the president. Nice chatting with you,” said the general as he strode away to stand at the foot of the portable stairs and offer a salute to the commander in chief.
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