Jeremy B. Rutter

Dartmouth College Oral History Program

Dartmouth Vietnam Project

August 18, 2016

Transcribed by Mim Eisenberg/WordCraft



STEINBERG:              All right. So this is Leigh Steinberg interviewing Dartmouth Professor Jeremy [P.] Rutter for the Dartmouth Vietnam Project. We are in Jones Media Center in Baker-Berry Library at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, and it is August 18th, 2016.


                                    All right, so first of all, how are you? How are you feeling today?


RUTTER:                    I’m fine. I had a physical workout this morning.


STEINBERG:              Oh, that’s great.


RUTTER: There’s a little trail around my house, with one of my kids, and—yeah.


STEINBERG:              Great. All right, so I think that the best way to start this interview is to first talk about some biographical information that’s important to know, so where and when were you born?


RUTTER:                    I was born on the 23rd of June, 1946, which makes me a little over 70 now, in Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.


STEINBERG:              In Boston. Great. And where did you grow up? Did you grow up in Boston?


RUTTER:                    My father was in the [U.S.] Foreign Service, and I grew up all over the place, so I left the country for the first time when I was two—or not quite two, and we went to Italy. My father was a vice consul in Genoa. And then from there we went to Vienna [Austria], and then we came back to Washington [D.C.] for two or three years, and then we went to London [England] for three and a half years, and then we came back to Washington for a few years, and then we—then I went off to high school. And I went to a private school, also in the state of New Hampshire, down at [Phillips] Exeter [Academy]. And I swore when I graduated from that place that I was never coming back to the state of New Hampshire because I really don’t like cold weather.


STEINBERG:              Yeah. [Chuckles.] And here we are.


RUTTER:                    And, you know? Yeah. So I’ve been employed at Dartmouth—or I was employed for a shade under 40 years, and—yeah. I guess I spent maybe a quarter of my life, all together now, in Greece because that’s where I do my field work.


STEINBERG:              Mm-hm. And so when your dad was a Foreign Service officer and you moved around, what was your life like when you lived abroad? Did you go to American schools? Did you go to—


RUTTER:                    Never. We always went to local schools.


STEINBERG:              Local schools.


RUTTER:                    And it was pretty ducky. I mean, it was—you know, it was a good life. It was in the aftermath of World War II. We were in Europe most of the time. They were impoverished. The countries were destroyed. We were Americans. Traveled on Uncle Sam’s dollar. What’s not to like? I mean, we had—we had a very easy time of it. I mean, easy in some ways and perhaps a little difficult in others in the sense that we used to—never stayed anywhere for more than two or three years, so you, you know, make friends and pick up the local accent and maybe sometimes the local language, and then [makes a pop sound] move on.


STEINBERG:              And so did your mom work while you were abroad?


RUTTER:                    No, those were the days when women, you know, were moms, more or less, and, you know, it’s—it’s a great sadness—well, I don’t want to get overly dramatic about it, but it’s too bad. My mother would have been a very different person, I think, if she had been born, let’s say, in your generation, or even my children’s generation, because she would have had, you know, a career.


                                    Is it registering? Everything’s working okay?


STEINBERG:              Yes, it’s registering. It’s all good.


RUTTER:                    Okay.


STEINBERG:              So when you were in Europe post-World War II, what was the environment like for Americans? Like, how were you received?


RUTTER:                    Well, okay, the—most of my—let’s put it like this: This is all before high school, okay?


STEINBERG:              Mm-hm.


RUTTER:                    And I was aware of a completely different situation when I went back to Europe as a college kid than my memories of having been in Europe before—you know, before I came home to go to high school.


STEINBERG:              Mm-hm.


RUTTER:                    But we were—we always got teased because we had the wrong accent, you know, and then, when we picked up the local accent, then we come back to the U.S. and get teased because we had a German accent or a British accent or whatever it was. So we became a little our family, in a way, which was I think probably a fairly strange family in some way. Became a little island, and we were used to not being quite the same [chuckles] as the people that we lived in the middle of.


STEINBERG:              Yeah. So did you ever feel isolated while you were abroad?


RUTTER:                    No, because we had, you know, local friends, but they were the kinds of friends that—yeah, a lot of this, I had to, you know, grow up and realize that it was not sort of normal, because, you know, a lot of people make friends when they’re five, and then they—those are their friends for the next 10 or 15 years, but that wasn’t my situation, you know. it was hard to keep up with people. And you have to realize that this is pre-computer, pre-anything, and so, you know, you wanted to send an e-mail or videos or whatever to your friends all the time.


STEINBERG:              And so what made your dad want to be a Foreign Service officer? Do you know why he joined?


RUTTER:                    Well, yeah, that’s a good question. I don’t know. He was—he—[sighs]—he came from a pretty traditional family. He went to Exeter, God help him, back in the ’30s. He went to Princeton [University] and graduated in ’37 and had a degree in history, and—what did he do then? He went on, and he got an M.A. [Master of Arts], I think, in history at Harvard [University] and then taught for a few years or a couple of years at MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology]. And then along came the war, and he was in the service, in the [U.S.] Army. But he was never a—I don’t know, he was sort of a training kind of guy. He was an enlisted man; he never became an officer, although I’m sure he could have if he’d wanted to.


STEINBERG:              So did he serve in Europe during World War II?


RUTTER:                    He got as far as England, and he never made it any further. He was—of course, he couldn’t see—I mean, his vision was as bad as mine, so he was—you know, wore glasses all the time. And I’m not aware that he pulled any strings to, you know, stay out of combat or anything like that. If he was—you know, if I’m anything like him, I don’t think he volunteered for combat, you know?


                                    But he—he I think enjoyed the fact—I mean, I think he—both he and my mother really enjoyed the lifestyle of being a Foreign Service officer in that particular time period, because, you know—you know, yeah life was very good. They could live in a way that was way beyond the way they would have been able to live as a [makes popping sound]—I don’t know, high school teacher, a college teacher or whatever it is he would have done back here.


STEINBERG:              In America. So what were some of the things that you guys got to do, perks of—


RUTTER:                    We—we—we, you know, went backwards and forwards across the Atlantic [Ocean] on liners, you know, and those—in the days when you—you know, five, six, seven days across the Atlantic. We both flown—when I say “we both,” that was my next-younger brother and I flew 100,000 miles before the time we were ten, you know. I mean, a lot of traveling. A lot of exposure to foreign environments, foreign languages.


                                    We had nannies who were not American and sometimes not local to the countries where we lived, although usually they were. And we spent a lot of time with them and learned, you know, some of our language skills—I mean, generally communication skills from them. We were socialized in a fundamentally different way,—


STEINBERG:              Right.


RUTTER:                    —I think, than we would have been if we’d been in the U.S.


STEINBERG:              So what was your transition back to Exeter like? Did you always know you were going to go back?


RUTTER: Unfortunately, I did.


STEINBERG:              You did? Yes.


RUTTER:                    I was not, you know—I mean, on top of just whether you had —could pass the entrance exam, it turned out that—and a lot of people in my family had connections to Exeter, including one of them who was—had been the director of admissions for a while, so, you know, this was not—was not tough to get in.


                                    How did I like it? I hated it. You know, boarding school—I had some experience with boarding environments in England, as a really little kid. The first time my brother and I went off to boarding school, we were, I don’t know, six and eight or something like that. So we’d had some experience of it, and I guess it wasn’t our favorite, you know, activity.


STEINBERG:              Yeah.


RUTTER:                    When I went off to Exeter, I was 13. My younger brother went off to a place called St.—aw, jeez, what’s it called? St. Andrews [School], in Delaware, and he was 11.


STEINBERG:              Oh, wow.


RUTTER:                    Yeah. My brother taught me how to smoke when he was 11 and I was, you know, 13. I mean, it was—but what I really didn’t like about it was that I wasn’t—you know, I wasn’t socialized in America. We had never been around TVs, so—and had these weird accents and, you know, didn’t know all the—I don’t know, what do guys talk about each other when they’re pre-teens or teens? You know, at that age. Well, it’s all about their—their fantastic sexual experiences or whatever, which I had zero. You know, it was a little difficult to bond with guys I was going to school with.


STEINBERG:              So what was your daily life like there? What was your routine?


RUTTER:                    At Exeter?


STEINBERG:              Yeah.


RUTTER:                    Well, the academic work was not—I mean, it was challenging but not a major concern, and I did very well academically. I think, you know, socially I had these issues, and a lot of those in a way disappeared, as I think is true in a lot of high school situations—I was interested in a recent conversation I had with some—some people my age—I don’t, know a few nights ago. When you made an athletic team or, you know, when you became a personality on a sports team, a lot of those issues would—sort of disappeared, at least in that—in that era they would.


STEINBERG:              Yes.


RUTTER:                    I don’t know if it’s still true, but—you know, whatever.


STEINBERG:              So when did you graduate from Exeter?


RUTTER:                    Sixty-three.


STEINBERG:              So when did you become aware of current events that were happening in America and Vietnam?


RUTTER:                    I was about five. My—my father was, you know, a politics junkie and a historian, and we were encouraged to, yeah, be aware of what was going on in the world. But we were also interested—I mean, as I think kids are, in periods of history other than the one we lived in. But I think we were encouraged to think about, yeah, historical events all the time. And the place where I went to school in England—you might appreciate this—you had to learn your kings of England since 1066, and their dates. That’s the first thing [claps hands once] that you learned, okay?


                                    And you learned that when you were about seven or eight, along with your times tables, okay? And you started Latin—well, I started Latin when I was seven. I had some Greek when I was eight. I mean—and they introduce you to things, you know, when you were intellectually interested and ready, not, you know, by the year or whatever. So it was a very—very different kind of environment.


                                    So I would say we were pretty much in tune with—and we used to talk about it all the time at dinner.


STEINBERG:              Yeah. So were you aware of your parents’ political views?


RUTTER:                    Oh, yeah.


STEINBERG:              What were they?


RUTTER:                    My mother was a lifelong Republican. Came from a very big Republican family. My father was a lifelong Democrat, although he was also a democrat with a little “d”; and we would have all kinds of, you know, just endless discussion. And people would come to our house for dinner and be horrified by the argumentation and the, you know, things people said to each other and so on. So it was—


STEINBERG:              So did people discuss current events at Exeter as well, or were you—


RUTTER:                    Yeah, to a certain extent, sure. I didn’t join political clubs. The kind of things I did was join the science fiction club and the stamp collecting club or—you know, I was—yeah, I was a sort of a geeky kid.


STEINBERG:              So was there talk of the war, worry about the war?


RUTTER:                    You mean the Vietnam War?


STEINBERG: Yeah—when you were at Exeter?


RUTTER:                    Not much. No. No, no, no. That was at Haverford [College]. That was front and center right from the day we showed up.


STEINBERG:              Yeah. So, yeah, so what was your—like, take me back through that experience of getting to Haverford. How did you decide to go there, and then what was the atmosphere like on campus?


RUTTER:                    Well, I told you I had to get out of New Hampshire.


STEINBERG:              Yeah. [Chuckles.]


RUTTER:                    And the other thing was, you know, at Exeter—I graduated in a class of about 240 people, and 80 of them applied to go to Harvard, and 50 of them got in, okay?


STEINBERG:              Wow.


RUTTER:                    That doesn’t happen anymore. No. Okay. And there were 30 who went to Yale, 20 went to Princeton—you know, like that.


STEINBERG:              Yeah.


RUTTER:                    And a lot of people couldn’t wait to go to school with the same damn people that they’d gone to high school with. In fact, they arranged to room with these people before—I thought, You know, this is—this is not for me. This is not my—my kind of thing.


                                    But I had been prepared, by my father, just as—you know, I was, you know, the oldest of three sons, and I was going to follow in more or less his footsteps or at least I think that’s, to the extent that he ever thought about it. That’s what I was going to do. I went back there like a good little boy, and then it was not—the place I was supposed to go was Princeton [University].


                                    And I remember we went to Princeton—was it the summer after I graduated? It might have been. [Whispers] ‘33. It was my—no, it was the summer before. It was my father’s—yes, that’s right. It was my father’s 25th—what do you call it?


STEINBERG:              Oh that’s a big one at Princeton. P-rade. Yeah. Reunion.


RUTTER: Reunion, reunion, okay, in ’62 at Princeton. And we went to Princeton. And Princeton is just—if a place could be worse than Exeter, it could be Princeton, right? That place is hopelessly mired—and also Dartmouth. I would put Dartmouth in the same cat- —you know, bowl. They had special reunion jackets, reunion hats, reunion mugs, reunion everything. Of course, you know, I was 15. I was a little ahead of myself. And so this is the summer after my junior year. And we got, you know, big mugs. We were allowed to drink beer. My brother and I went nuts. We had a wonderful time!


                                    But the thought of going to this place—well, I didn’t really think about it, but that’s ostensibly why we were there. My father’s not a reunion junkie, and this is the first time he’d been there in a long time. So we went for this reunion, and we partied, and I got a sense for, you know, I don’t know, what the layout of the place was.


                                    And then my father had an old college buddy, who he said—you know, “Why don’t we go down and see Haverford? I haven’t seen Jack Lester in, you know, 30 years or something.” So we went down to Haverford because it wasn’t too far away. And Haverford was about as different as it could be from Princeton. You know.


                                    And I can remember—I had an interview right there—you know, it was easy enough to arrange. And I said to the director of admissions, of whom there was one, and I think the person may have had a secretary; that’s it, you know. That was the admissions department.


STEINBERG:              Yeah.


RUTTER:                    And at the time, Haverford was all male, 125 people in a class. There were 525 people in the whole place. And I said to the director of admissions—I said, “Do you have fraternities here?” And he looked at me, and he said, “you know, we like to think of Haverford as just one big fraternity.” And I thought, Well, maybe that was the wrong question. I was—I was just sort of a little put off by that.


                               Anyway—but it was a beautiful location, and the size was, you know, fine. It didn’t bother me, being a small thing. And I was—I applied early decision to Haverford, and I was the first kid in my class at Exeter to get into col—I was in before Thanksgiving. And so I took the rest of my senior—I mean, I didn’t take it off, but—I didn’t, you know, I did not worry about getting into college, okay?


                                    And I was not interested and caught up in this whole business of, you know, my roommate for the next three years being at the same place. I was the only kid in my class that went to Exeter. The only other kid—excuse me, went to Haverford. The only other kid at Haverford who went to Exeter was a guy that had been there—that was there from two years earlier, so he was a junior. So the place was not populated by—so it suited me just fine.


STEINBERG:              Yeah. So what types of people did you meet on campus? Like, what was your freshman roommate like? What did you get involved in?


RUTTER:                    My freshman roommate was—his—I saw him, you know, recent- —I did not keep up with him particularly, but I saw him at my 45th reunion, which was the first reunion I ever went to—45! A few years back. He was—he was the son of a principal of a high school on the island of Aruba. You know where Aruba is?


STEINBERG:              Yeah.


RUTTER:                    Okay. And he worked for Exxon [Corporation, now part of Exxon/Mobil Corporation]—you know, because it was a high school that was—I mean, they had a huge refinery there, and the whole island existed for the benefit to the extent Americans who were there. It was for Exxon. So I went down there. I remember the first Christmas, because my parents had just been posted to Liberia, so I couldn’t easily go there for Christmas vacation, so I went—I went to Aruba with this kid.


                                    So there were 125 guys in this class, and they were a pretty mixed bag. There were a few Quakers, but not a whole bunch. You went to Quaker schools, but you’re not a Quaker.


STEINBERG:              Yes, correct.


RUTTER:                    Okay, well that was—yeah, it was my situation.


STEINBERG:              Right.


RUTTER:                    And I’m—you know, it’s not just that I’m not Quaker; I’m not anything. I don’t give a fig about—you know, actually, I was quite virulently anti-religion at the time. Now I just don’t care. But what would I say about the kids that were there? Well, the guys that was making news at the time was a sophomore who was on a scholarship from the city of Philadelphia, so he was taking, you know, nearby political—what do you call it?—civic money to go to Haverford, and he was collecting money for the Viet Cong for medical supplies for the Viet Cong. So he made the newspapers routinely.


                               Haverford was known as a sort of a breeding ground for local communists, and we were known affectionately as the pinkos and the whatever. And there was an enormous pressure there to accede to a very left-wing, you know, political agenda.


STEINBERG:              Yeah.


RUTTER:                    Which suited—I would say suited 50 percent of the people there perfectly okay because frankly, why would you go to Haverford? Yeah, it was sort of a left-wing kind of place to go. And maybe another 25 or 30 or 40 percent of the people were basically apathetic. They didn’t give a damn. And there were 5 or 10—I always felt, like, kind of sorry for them. You know, 5 or 10 percent of the people who were really—you know, might have been right wing in some kind of other environment, who had to go deeeep underground, right?


STEINBERG:              Yeah.


RUTTER:                    And just not say anything.


STEINBERG:              So what was the administration’s response to this sophomore raising money for the Viet Cong? Was there any—


RUTTER:                    Well, they were not wildly enthusiastic about it because it got them a lot of bad press in the local media. But I think—you know, we were—we were—Haverford was—You were strongly encouraged to develop a social conscience. I don’t know whether you know about the—Haverford’s honor system or honor principle, but it’s very strict and strong. And everybody becomes a believer in it very shortly after they get there.


STEINBERG:              So what—can you explain that to me?


RUTTER:                    Well, yeah, silly me, I always thought this would be a great idea for Dartmouth, but Dart—no, I don’t think so. Dartmouth’s too big, I think, fundamentally, but also Dartmouth—it’s not the same people at all.


                                  Anyway, you take an oath, essentially, to be a straight arrow. You know, you’re going to be a straight arrow academically. You’re not going to cheat. You’re not going to—and you’re not going to take advantage of people and abuse people and, you know, I don’t know—sexual assault was not in the news back then, but that kind of behavior was definitely frowned upon.


                                    And if you witness somebody else misbehaving in any of these ways—for instance, you could schedule your own exams. You showed up on the—at the time when it was scheduled, and you scheduled the time. Then you were—you picked up an envelope in which was your exam, and you were free to go anywhere on the campus.


STEINBERG:              And take it.


RUTTER:                    And take that exam, right?


STEINBERG:              Mm-hm.


RUTTER:                    And, you know, people did all over the pla- —I mean, that’s what you did. And if you saw somebody else, you know, violating, like in the library, checking references or whatever, you know, you turned ‘em in! And it worked!


STEINBERG:              So you felt like that, like honor principle really influenced the student body.


RUTTER:                    Oh, hugely. You know, I—I mean, as you will realize when you graduate, and probably even before, people will be hitting you up for money, telling about how wonderful a place it used to be and so on and so forth. I’m always very curious to know what the status of the honor principle is.


                                    And one of the interesting things about the Haverford honor principle is that it continues to be renegotiated all the time. So it is—it is amendable. It isn’t fixed. And it always has to be that way. Students discuss it routinely every year and vote for amendments or changes or what have you, and so it stays alive as a principle, as it should.


STEINBERG:              So in November of your freshman year, JFK [President John F. Kennedy] was assassinated.


RUTTER:                    Yeah.


STEINBERG:              Do you remember where you were—


RUTTER:                    Yes, I do.


STEINBERG:              —during that?


RUTTER:                    It was halftime in the soccer game I was playing in.


STEINBERG:              You were playing in a soccer game?


RUTTER:                    Yeah.


STEINBERG:              For Haverford?


RUTTER:                    Yeah. It was a JV [junior varsity] game.


STEINBERG:              Okay.


RUTTER:                    I played—I played well enough that day so that I got to play the next day in the varsity game.


STEINBERG:              And so what—like, how did you feel about this? What was the reaction on—


RUTTER:                    Well, it was obviously a—you know, it was, I would say, a huge event, but it—it happened—it happened to me when I was hugely involved—engaged, emotionally and physically and what have you, in this game, so it was a little hard to change tracks there.


                                    So I suspect, you know, on a scale of one to ten, it was less of a showstopper for me than for a lot of people. I think I considered myself a Democrat. Was I in love with JFK? No. Did I hate Lyndon [B.] Johnson? That would be yes, because he represented—I didn’t hate him. I mean, did I have an antipathetic reaction to him? Yeah, yeah, because he represented a lot of stuff that—that was alien to me and that I didn’t much care for, so the whole southern—


STEINBERG: Democrat.


RUTTER:                    —and the drawl and the Texan and the—you know. No, that was not part of my—what I thought was worth emulating or what have you. But so I’ve been reeducating myself about ever since.


STEINBERG:              Mm-hm. And so what was the reaction like on campus?


RUTTER:                    Oh, there was a lot of gloom, and lot of gloom.


STEINBERG:              Did it spark any protest or anything?


RUTTER: Haverford protested so often, it was, like, you know, “It’s Thursday; there’s a protest.” I mean, you know, the Haverford and Bryn Mawr [College] together—they were just—there were endless protests. And my father told me before I went off to—I’ll never forget. Daddy said, “Now, one thing you need to know about Haverford. It’s the home of lost causes.” I said, “Ooh!” He said, “Yeah,” he said, “don’t—you know, do what you want,” he said, “but don’t—yeah, they—they—they take up a lot of things that you can spend a lot of time on it, and it may not go very f- —go anywhere.”


STEINBERG:              So did you involve yourself in the protests at all?


RUTTER:                    Nope. I did not. I was not a politically invested person at Haverford. My mother was very involved—because we had been posted in Africa, and some of my best friends were, you know, in Africa—they were black—we went to—


STEINBERG:              Yes.


RUTTER:                    —well they were African. But it was an international school, and so there was all kinds of different people there. And color and culture at this point meant nothing to me. You know, I did not have any kind of a “America first” or “white people first” or anything like that, absolutely nothing.


                                    And I remember when we came home from Africa—this was just before we went off to high school—my brother got into trouble. My little—you know, next-younger brother Danny, who was then—oh, was he 10, 11? Because he went off swimming in Rock Creek with a bunch of black kids he met on the street, and they took off their—you know, their clothes and went swimming in Rock Creek. And my mother said, “You can’t do that.” We were living in a hotel at the time.


                                    And my brother said, “Well, you know, why not?” And my mother—it was difficult to explain, you know. It took us a while to get—to get re-socialized to the basically racist, you know, situation here in the U.S.


STEINBERG:              So what was that situation like in Philadelphia and Haverford specifically? Were you exsp-—


RUTTER:                    The racial situation?


STEINBERG:              Yeah.


RUTTER: Haverford, like a lot of places, was trying to, you know, break color barriers to the extent that it could, so there were programs in the summer for kids from the inner city. There were—and, you know, Haverford is this idyllic country—you know, in the suburbs kind of place with the big trees and the grass and all that stuff. They had an exchange program with Morehouse [College], I think, or—I can’t remember, one of those colleges down South.


                                    And then there were a bunch of—there was a program by the time I was a senior where we had a bunch of African-Americans who came to go to school at Haverford, and one of them was a roommate of mi—I was off the first semester of my senior year in Italy. I went to the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome, so—but when I came back, one of my roommates was a guy that was from Texas Southern [University], and he was a big football player, a very nice guy.


STEINBERG:              And how were they received on campus?


RUTTER:                    Fine. I mean, you know, there was—there was no—I mean, there was justice—there was a pressure to be leftist politically. There was a pressure to be over-accommodating. You know, it’s no less racist, but it’s still—you understand what I mean? You’re still intensely aware of the fact that the other person is, you know, another race, but—but everybody was willing to do anything they could do to make that simpler for them.


STEINBERG:              Better. So did you know anyone who was involved in the civil rights movement directly, or you were kind of removed from the situation?


RUTTER:                    I didn’t have anything to do with it myself, but—but there were a lot of people who—yeah, a lot of people who did that in my class, so—you know, “What are you gonna do this summer?” “I’m gonna go down to Mississippi” or whatever it is. Yeah, okay, that was not unusual. And the March on Washington [for Jobs and Freedom], you know, when Dr. Martin Luther King [Jr.] gave his, “I got a dream” speech? I was there. My whole family was there. You know, my father was working at the State Department, but the rest of us were there. My mother came.


STEINBERG:              So you were at the March on Washington?


RUTTER: Absolutely. I was sitting practically on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, listening to that speech.


STEINBERG:              So what was that experience like?


RUTTER: Unbelievable.


STEINBERG:              Can you take me through that whole day?


RUTTER: Unbelievable experience. It isn’t often that you get into a crowd of 100,000—150,000 people. I’ve been in bigger crowds since, but not often.


STEINBERG:              And so not just the crowd. Like, what was the emotion like that day?


RUTTER:                    Oh, it was—it was—it was a like a lot of those days when there are great speeches—when there are a lot of speeches, and there was just, you know, the tedious speeches and so on—you know, predictable and so on. And then when—I mean, this is really true. I knew at the time—when was that, ’63, right?


STEINBERG:              Mm-hm, summer of ’63.


RUTTER:                    Yeah, that was the year I graduated from high school. I knew that was going to be a great speech—I mean, that that was going to be a history speech. Of course, ever since then I’ve been finding out that he’d given it several times before and he practiced it—yeah, this, that and the other. But anyway, as far as I was concerned, it was totally original at the time. I’d never heard anything like that.


STEINBERG:              So what was that whole day like?


RUTTER:                    Well, it was very exciting. It was very exciting.


STEINBERG:              And you went with your family?


RUTTER:                    I went with my two brothers and my mother and a friend of the family, and I think the daughter of—a friend of my mother’s and her daughter, who was about the same age as my next-brother and myself. And my brother went to St. Andrew’s, which is in Delaware. It was full of Southern kids, and he was affectionately known as a—you know, he was a nigger lover in the class, and he kind of—he showed up the next fall with—I was at the March on Washington. That was—we talked about things like that.


STEINBERG:              Yeah, that’s incredible that you were there.


RUTTER:                    No, my father got to stand at Nuremberg in ’38. After he graduated, he took a bike tour of Europe, and he was within ten feet of [Adolf] Hitler at Nuremberg, at one of the rallies there.


STEINBERG:              Wow.


RUTTER:                    And I can remember him telling me that story.


STEINBERG:              Yeah.


RUTTER:                    And my sons don’t—you can’t believe that.


STEINBERG:              So do you feel very appreciative to your parents that they exposed you to all of this—


RUTTER: Absolutely.


STEINBERG:              —political—


RUTTER: Absolutely.


STEINBERG:              —all the political—How do you think that shaped you in your kind of like path?


RUTTER:                    I think it—well, I think we were always—you know, we lived in a very internationalist family, okay?


STEINBERG:              Mm-hm.


RUTTER:                    So it was, you know, the globalization and stuff like that. And I went to high school with kids—I remember meeting a guy that was on my floor the first year at Exeter. He’s never been out of the state of Massachusetts until he went to Exeter in southern New Hampshire. And I thought, That is so weird. I can’t believe that. And I’m sure I was weird for him and so on. But, yeah, it was—I never felt uncomfortable in a foreign place. I take that back. Until I—you know, unless I couldn’t speak the language, which has happened to me many times since, and is always, I find—I find very awkward. But anyway—yeah. You get used to airports. You get used to—whatever. I mean—


STEINBERG:              Right.


RUTTER:                    I spend a lot of time abroad.


STEINBERG:              So going back to LBJ,—


RUTTER:                    Yeah.


STEINBERG:              —how did you feel about his escalation of the war?


RUTTER:                    Well, I was not enthusiastic. You know, I did not spend a huge amount of time thinking about what I’m going to do, because I knew I was going to go to grad school. And those were the days of graduate deferments, right?


STEINBERG:              Mm-hm.


RUTTER:                    So I was—you know, I was going for—you know, I don’t know, however. It was not immediately on my radar. And I guess—you know, I—I—I listened to friends who—“What the hell am I gonna do? What the hell am I gonna do?” kind of thing. And it was a very common, you know, topic of conversation. And at Haverford, most people were—there were one or two people who were—said, “Oh, yeah, I’m going to OCS [Officer Candidate School]” or you know whatever. “I’m gonna join up” or whatever. And they were the weird—they were the oddballs, you know. They came from right-wing families where Dad was a military—you know, a Marine or something like that. Most people were not like that.


                                    So the question was what were you going to do? Were you going to blow off your toe? Were you going to become, you know, gay overnight? You’ll plead homosexuality. Were you going to leave the country. Or just suffer in silence. What were you gonna do?


STEINBERG:              Yeah, so it was all about how you were going to get deferments.


RUTTER:                    Yeah. Mostly it was how you were going to get out of there, yeah. And how many doctors did you know, and who would swear on a stack of Bibles that you had, I don’t know, some condition or whatever?


STEINBERG:              So were you concerned about losing your deferment—


RUTTER:                    No.


STEINBERG:              —or anything?


RUTTER:                    No.


STEINBERG:              No?


RUTTER:                    No, no, no. I got—you know, I got a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship for my first year in graduate school, and then I got a National Defense Education Act fellowship for the next three years. Ooh! I mean, what’s to worry about? I was, you know, four years to the Ph.D. or whatever it was. No. Then they did away with the deferment.


STEINBERG:              Did you know people who were serving before you were drafted?


RUTTER:                    Who were in the military?


STEINBERG:              Like, do you know anyone who served in Vietnam before you joined?


RUTTER:                    I must have known somebody, but I didn’t—didn’t hang around. I didn’t—I was just not mili- —not interested in the military. My father worked for the government. But—and we’d met a lot of military people over the years, you know, so it wasn’t—I wasn’t—overawed—in fact, if anything, I was kind of depressed by how totally non-internationalist, non- —whatever. They were not exactly my people, either, okay?


STEINBERG:              Mm-hm.


RUTTER:                    Okay.


STEINBERG:              Okay, so you—


RUTTER:                    Hang on. Wait a minute. What did you ask me, about the—oh, when I went to grad school in the fall of ’67—yeah—there were several guys that were in Philadelphia that were going to med school at Penn [University of Pennsylvania], for example, or other, you know, graduate programs at Penn. One of my best friends at Haverford—he was—yeah, he was—he was studying in Slavic linguistics, okay? So he was at—and I think at Penn or Bryn Mawr—I can’t remember where he was. But anyway, he and I were in more or less the same boat in terms of his mother was French; his father was Russian, I think, so he was also very internationalist. The big difference between him and me was that he would have—he was absolutely not going to any war. Not. Not. Not. And when, finally, the, you know, the deferments were done away with, he emigrated to Canada. And that’s where he still teaches.


STEINBERG:              To avoid the war.


RUTTER: Married a French—married a French-Canadian. And he was half French, anyway, so, you know, very comfortable, and it came back, and so he teaches in Montreal, actually, but—whatever.


                                    So, yeah, I knew people at—and I knew somebody who blew a toe off, I think, also. So, yeah, I mean, there were all kinds of people there.


STEINBERG:              So when you were in that graduate school, deferments had been done away with?


RUTTER:                    Yeah.


STEINBERG:              Like, walk me through that experience. What was that like?


RUTTER:                    Well, okay, so I was in a graduate program in archaeology, okay?


STEINBERG:              Mm-hm.


RUTTER:                    And the deal was in the summer. You would go do fieldwork abroad. And I had gone to Italy, to an island in the Bay of Naples called Ischia, in the summer of ’68. Had a good experience and went back in the summer of ’69. This is the same tear that—the Apollo landing on the moon, okay? I missed that. I mean, I didn’t get a lot of TV coverage. I saw it on Italian TV. And a week after I got over there and was—get really into excavation over there, I got the draft notice.


STEINBERG:              Over there?


RUTTER:                    Over there. And I had just arrived. You know, I was going to be over there for eight weeks and stuff, and I got my draft notice, so I said, I can’t believe this. So I went out, and I had an extra kilo of wine for lunch or whatever, and then I thought, What am I gonna do? What am I gonna do? I think I called my parents and said, “Jeez, I got drafted,” I said. And in the end, I wrote to the draft board. I can’t remember whether they recommended this, because they were—they were having some rough times, themselves, at that time. I wrote to my draft board, and I said, “I’m not going to run away, but have a heart. I just got over here, okay? And I got about eight weeks to do, and then I’d like to clean up my life and get it ready, you know? And then I’m yours, okay? So can—can we postpone this until September?” And they said—unbelievably, they said, “Sure, that’d be fine.”


                                    So I just had this sort of black cloud hanging over my head, and I had sort of—not sort of. I had fallen in love that spring, and we were, you know, sort of writing endless letters backwards and forwards, and so when I came home, part of the things I had to get ready—you know, get shipshape—was whatever my relationship was there.


                                    Yeah. So I did all that, and then I went off, and, you know, I had my physical and joined up. I had a chance to volunteer for the [U.S.] Marines. Nope, didn’t do that. You know, they—the guy came in and said—you know, the draft sergeant said, “Okay, I need a couple of volunteers. I need two people.” There were 15 of us sitting there, I need a couple of volunteers for the Marines. But we all sort of looked at each other, went out of the room—you know, if he had to pick me, okay, fine. That’s—but I was absolutely not doing this.


                                    And then [chuckles]—and then in basic [training]—these are all my favorite stories—it gets very boring later on. But my favorite stories. In the first week of basic, I guess, you take a bunch of exams, a bunch of tests, and that’s how they decide what your Military Occupational Specialty will be, your MOS. Do you know all these acronyms?


STEINBERG:              Yes.


RUTTER:                    You do!


STEINBERG:              Well, you wrote that, so I looked that one up.


RUTTER:                    Okay.


STEINBERG:              Yes.


RUTTER:                    So even you took this battery of tests—okay, I was a grad school person, you know, had taken—what do you call it?—GREs [Graduate Record Examinations] and any number of exams, and so do I like—absolute—I love tests, okay? And especially the ones that have, you know, time limits and stuff like that. So I was just cruising through these tests. I loved the tests. It was my favorite part of basic training so far.


STEINBERG:              Was the tests.


RUTTER:                    Yeah. And so at the end of the day, after the Officer Candidate thing and everything else, you have a test on, you know, sort of a mini-lesson in Esperanto and how to use languages. Well, at this point, I knew quite a few languages, okay?


STEINBERG:              What languages did you know?


RUTTER:                    That’s part of the story.


STEINBERG:              Okay.


RUTTER:                    So I loved that part. That was my favorite part of the whole test. So we’re sitting there after taking eight hours of tests, and everybody’s looking so pissed off. You know, they’d just had it for the day. And I’m going like this [gestures], and the guy comes in [chuckles] and says, “All right, listen up, men. And Rutter, are you here?” And I said, “Yeah, that’s me.” And he said, “Okay”—and then he called out a few other names. And we were supposed to go talk to the officer in charge of this testing center, just—


                                    So when it was my turn, I went in and had a seat, did what I was instructed, and he said, “All right, Rutter, how would you like to become an officer in the United States Army?” I said, “Thank you, sir, as I understand it, that requires me to extend my tour with the Army.” He said, “That’s right, Rutter.” I said, “I’m not in favor of that. I—I—I—I’m ready to do my two years, and that’s it.”


                                    “All right, Rutter. You did very well on your—your language exam. Would you like to learn a new language?” I said, “Yes, sir, I would.” And he said—I said—he said, “Well, that’s great.” He said, “I’m afraid there’s only one language that’s available.” And I said, “What’s that, sir?” And he said, “Vietnamese.” And I said, “Well”—you know, that took me about five seconds. I figured I was going to Vietnam anyway, so what difference does it make? So I said, “Okay, sign me up.”


                                    He said, “All right, Rutter. I gotta fill out some paperwork here. What are the languages that you already know?” And I said, “Well, you know, I know French and German and English, and I know Latin, and I know Greek, and I know Italian.” He said, “Slow down.” I had just finished taking two years of Acadian and Hittite, okay?


STEINBERG:              Wow.


RUTTER:                    Very useless languages. And I said, “Okay, so Hittite and Acadian.” He said, “Rutter, are you jerking my chain? Are you trying to be wise with me?” And I said, “No, sir. No, sir. I just finished these courses.” And he said, “How do you spell that last one?” And so I had to spell it for him.


                                    So, you know, the—I told my girlfriend at the time that this is what I was going to do, and she said, “Oh, that’s great.” And immediately her wheels started to turn. So it turned out that the language training program was a six months training program, and it was going to be down at Fort Bliss, I think, in Texas. And it meant that—you know, I wasn’t going to be sent anywhere until that program was finished.


                                    So she said, “Well, great. Let’s get married.” And I said, “I beg your pardon.” And this was one of these steamy afternoons, in a car, on the base when I was in—in basic training. It was steamy because, you know, once a week we would get together and have a chance to, you know, talk and—


STEINBERG:              So was she down in—at Fort Dix with you?


RUTTER:                    Yeah. Well, she lived in Philly, and Dix was just up the way.




RUTTER:                    So she proposed to me in the car on one of these weekends, and I said, “I think that’s a bad idea. You know, I mean, why don’t we do that after I come back from Vietnam?” And she said, “No,” she said—you know, all her friends were getting married. It was—you know, in those days, it was something you did within two or three years after the time you graduated from college. So I said, “Okay, okay.” So, you know, we made plans to get married.


                                    In fact, we did get married about three months later, on a weekend pass out of Fort Dix. But before that happy event happened, my program had been cancelled, so the whole six-month thing—[Makes sound.]


STEINBERG:              Out the window.


RUTTER:                    And I ended up going to radio school down in Georgia. So she came along for that. About two months after that or three months after that, it was time to ship out.


STEINBERG:              Yeah. So was there any benefits being—having a spouse when you went over to Vietnam or no special—nothing?


RUTTER:                    No, it improved your sex life moderately, and your—you had a—yeah, perhaps a—a bigger reason to take a—there was a mid-tour holiday that you got for, I don’t know, a week or ten days or something like that. And, yes, so that was a nice—it was in February, I think, or March I came back to Philadelphia.


STEINBERG:              Yeah. So what was your—what was the rest of basic training like? Other than the tests. Like, what was your daily routine? Was it hard? What type of people did you meet there?


RUTTER: Different people. I mean, you know—but they were drafting—they were drafting a fair number of, you know, grad students, so there were some of us who were grad students. It’s not that I’m a huge intellectual snob, but, you know, it’s nice if you can share some of the things—


STEINBERG:              [cross-talk; unintelligible].           


RUTTER:                    —that—you know, whatever. So—and we had a slightly different outlook on the politics of everything, and so we weren’t rah-rah. And we knew something about sunny Southeast Asia. You know, we’d been following things going on for some time.


                                  Anyway, basic training was, like, you know, I don’t know, any athletic training that you’ve ever done. Food was plentiful but not particularly good. You know, you just got ordered around all the time, okay? And discipline, discipline, discipline. “Okay, I got it, I got it.” And—basically, if there was a big switch here in the side of your head, it turned about a quarter off when I got drafted, if not a little further off, okay?


STEINBERG:              Mm-hm.


RUTTER:                    And the closer I get to go to Vietnam, the further the switch went. Yeah. So basic was no big deal. And then we had signals training after that, so that was radio school, and you had to learn your Morse code.


STEINBERG:              Did you get placed into that, or did you opt into it?


RUTTER:                    Yeah that was. No, that was—yeah, that was the—Rutter, Rutter—you know, look up the—you know, five Charlie. Yeah, you get Rutter. It’s supposed to be teletype school, and so we had to learn how to type at a certain speed, and we had to learn Morse code at a certain speed, yeah.


                                    So that’s what I ended up doing, and that was signals—AIT, Advanced Individual Training or something like that that we got down in Fort Gordon in Georgia, which was very nice in the spring. It was the time of the Masters Golf Tournament. We didn’t go, but, you know. And my wife got a job at the local Woolworth’s and learned all about pinto beans and various kinds of beans that she’d never even heard of. She was a Philly girl, so she didn’t know anything about beans. You know, yeah, early married life was a little weird.


                                    Oh, I get to live off base.


STEINBERG:              Oh, that was nice.


RUTTER:                    That was—oh, yeah, great. I got to live with my wife! And there were a couple of other guys that were married. Not many.


STEINBERG:              So when did you learn about your deployment and where that would be and when that would happen?


RUTTER:                    Well, I didn’t learn where I was going to end up being. I mean, theoretically we could be sent anywhere. And some people were sent to Germany, but most people went to Vietnam.


STEINBERG:              Yeah.


RUTTER:                    So I think the default was, you know, you’re going to go to Vietnam.


STEINBERG:              And what was the atmosphere like in training? Like, were people kind of apathetic about Vietnam? Did they have strong political views or kind of reserved to the situation?


RUTTER:                    I think—you know, a lot of the drill instructors would always talk about—“Now, men, this is what you want to know about Charlie because this is the way”—and then they had all kinds of slang. A lot of them were African-Americans, the drill instructors, and so it was not Charlie or the VC or something, which is the way we talked about it in college, but it was “Mr. Charles” and—you know, they had all kinds of—you know, there’s all kinds of Army chitter-chatter about that.


                                    I don’t think we—I mean, we were all—we—people who had been to college were probably fairly left, most of us, politically. And we got the—definitely had the feeling that it was—you know, that was not the prevailing tenor in—in the military, so we just sort of shut up about, you know—and we didn’t run our mouths at the drill instructors. You know, you—whatever. No backtalk, you know, because all you’ve got was more pushups or more hanging or no weekend pass or whatever, so you just got with the program, is what you did.


STEINBERG:              And when your friends and family from home learn that you were drafted and that you were going into the service and most likely Vietnam, what was their reaction?


RUTTER:                    That I was an idiot.


STEINBERG:              For not trying to get a deferment?


RUTTER:                    Right.


STEINBERG:              So what motivated you to still go into the service?


RUTTER:                    Yeah, that was a long, spiritual tussle inside. But that was something that I—that was a decision I’d made, you know, befo- —when I was still over in Italy, before I even got home. Right. So my basic rationale—and I had to have a rationale because that’s the kind of person I am, so—and I had to be able to defend it and talk to people about it and all that baloney—was that I had had a free ride for a long time with my father, and you had a lot of benefits, and then actually, you know, owed my country something, and it was not for me to decide, Oh, it was great while it was great, and it’s now that something’s being asked in return, it’s time to take off.


                                    So, yeah, it just never—you know, honor things like that. Yeah, it was just a personal decision. But everybody in my academic environment—you know, “WHAT?” You know? And—and my brother, who was [Selective Service Classification] 4-F [meaning not acceptable for military duty] because he had two messed-up knees—he couldn’t go—so it was not a real situation for him. He thought it was kind of, you know, “Do you really have to—you really gonna go?”


                                    My father didn’t talk about things like that. I mean, he wasn’t very good about talking about emotional stuff, so I don’t think we had a real heart-to-heart about that. And my mother I think thought I was jerk.


STEINBERG:              Yeah. [Chuckles.]


RUTTER:                    But, you know, whatever.


STEINBERG:              Were you worried about leaving school, that you wouldn’t be able to finish your Ph.D. program, or you were pretty certain.


RUTTER:                    No, I found out about that, you know? Just everything was on hold, and if I got back or when I got back or whatever, you know, if I wasn’t brain dead or something like that, it was—you know, okay. Just continue on.


STEINBERG:              Yup. Alright. So you were—you went to Vietnam in July of 1970.


RUTTER:                    Right.


STEINBERG:              Yes. So were you aware of what was going on in Vietnam? Like, did you have any prior knowledge? Like, what did you know about Vietnam before you got there?


RUTTER:                    Not a whole lot. Not a whole lot. I knew where the I, II, III, IV Corps. I knew—I mean, vaguely. And, you know, I knew what the capital of Vietnam was. I knew something about Vietnamese history, a little bit. And [chuckles] I remember, believe it or not—have you ever heard of a book, From Here to Eternity or ever seen the movie, or no?


STEINBERG:              No.


RUTTER:                    No, okay. It’s a famous war story. Actually, it’s about just before World War II, but it was written by a guy called James Jones, and if you ever have a chance to read it, it’s—it is a very good book. And he wrote a trilogy. And the second, I think, in the series was—called The Thin Red Line, and for some ridiculous reason, I decided that I was going to read that book, and that’s what I was reading on the plane flying over to Vietnam.


                                    And it was about the Marines on Guadalcanal [Solomon Islands], you know, in World War II, which was a bloodbath, you know. And I was—periodically I would have to, you know, go like this [demonstrates] and say, You jerk! What are you do- —and worse words—you know, What are you doing reading a book like this? And I’m on Flying Tiger Airlines [sic; Flying Tigers or Flying Tiger Line], and we’re flying into Cam Ranh Bay [sic; Cam Ranh Air Base, now Cam Ranh International Airport], and I have no idea of where I’m going, okay? But I do know that the lifetime—the life experience—let’s see, the life expectancy, excuse me, of a second louie going into Vietnam is short.


                                    And one of my classmates at Exeter had just been killed—I don’t know, maybe six months or nine months or a year or two years before. I sat next to him for four years in chapel. We weren’t best buddies or anything like that, but the guy got wasted within two weeks he was in Vietnam, so—yeah, I mean, there was [makes sound], and that was playing in the background, I'm reading this war story, and I know that number two, after the second louie, is the radio operator, you  know?


STEINBERG:              Mm-hm.


RUTTER:                    And that’s what my job is. And I’d been told that “you may, when you get in country, you know, what your MOS is—doesn’t necessarily work out perfectly”, right?


STEINBERG:              Might change?


RUTTER:                    So you’re an O5 Charley [O5C) teletype operator? If they need a radio person, it’s going to be you. You’re going to all of a sudden become an O5 Bravo (O5B), which you’re technically qualified to do. So, you know, it’s where they need you.


STEINBERG:              Yeah.


RUTTER:                    So I get off the plane in Vietnam, and we spend a night sleeping on the tar floor of the Cam Ranh Bay Airport—you know, pull your duffel bag up and get whatever sleep you can get.


                                    And the next morning, we get up, and I’m going off to Dĩ An (which he pronounces ZEE-on, or Zeon, which is how some American sources spell it. I have no idea where Dĩ An is. it turns out it’s in III Corps, just up the road from Saigon. And I’m going to be with an outfit called the Left Arm Cavalry Regiment [sic; 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment], okay?


                                    And, oh, you know, you start asking questions real quick. Oh, this is a kick-ass outfit, and they just got—came out of the Parrot’s Peak, and this is where—this is where I’m going—and I said oh shit. You know? And it was—a lot of it was a lot of that kind of cowboy—a lot of it was, you know, go with the flow and we’ll see what happens next, you know.