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Interview with John Scott, May 2, 2008 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with John Scott, May 2, 2008
May 2, 2008
Interview with retired military chaplain John Scott.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Scott, John Interviewer:  Zarbock, Paul Date of Interview:  5/2/2008 Series:  Military Chaplains Length  40 minutes


Zarbock: Good afternoon. My name is Paul Zarbock. I'm a staff person for the University of North Carolina Wilmington's Randall Library. Today's May the 2nd in the year 2008, and we're recording this session in Kansas City, Missouri. This is part of the Military Chaplains Oral History Project, sponsored by the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Today's interviewee is John Scott, Retired Military Chaplain. Good afternoon, Chaplain. How are you?

Scott: Good afternoon. I'm fine, thank you.

Zarbock: Just a couple of preliminary questions. What led you into the ministry? Why did you select the ministry as...

Scott: Ministry? Well, as young boy, a teenager, I was kind of floundering around a lot, and looking for something meaningful. And eventually, a group of young people encouraged me to go to the youth group in a church, which I did. And that kind of got me started down that path, and-- but I really didn't decide to go into the ministry until I was nearly completed college.

Zarbock: And where did you go to school?

Scott: I went to Gordon College in Massachusetts, and to Gordon-Conwell Theological School in Massachusetts.

Zarbock: So, did this come-- did your identification with the ministry come along slowly, or did you have a road to Damascus?

Scott: It was a gradual process, but there was one event that happened in college, I think, that probably, if I could tell this, probably did more than anything else. My wife and I had been married for a couple of years. I was a senior in college. We had no money. We had no money to pay, and we had no money to pay our college bills. I was president of the student council at the time, and the comptroller called me in and said, "If you can't pay the bill, you can't take your final exams; you can't graduate." So we had no one. I came from a very poor family, a broken family, a poor family. My wife's family didn't have any resources. So I kind of, at that point, was very confused about what was happening. On the day that the comptroller gave me to pay the bill, of course I couldn't do it, and I looked in my mailbox, and there was a note from the comptroller, telling me to report to his office, and I did. And he said, "John, I've got good news for you." I said, "Oh?" I said, "What's that?" I expected him to tell me get out. He said, "I've got good news for you." He said, "A man was passing by the office, and just on a whim, went in and said, 'I would like to pay a student's tuition.' And he said, 'You give me a name, and I'll pay that student's tuition.'" And the comptroller said, "Well, I can't do that. I'll give you a list of names, and you can pick a name, and then you can do that." So he did, and he picked my name, and paid our tuition for that semester. And I told the comptroller I wanted to thank him, but he said I couldn't do that; he wanted to remain anonymous. So, that got me probably more focused on going in the ministry. I felt that that was God's intervention in what was happening in my life at that time, and that opened the opportunity for me to go on from there.

Zarbock: What an amazing story. So you graduated, yes, that's the word, graduated from seminary, and why did you choose the military chaplaincy?

Scott: Well, it was during-- 1961, during the Berlin crisis. My denomination, at that time, sent out a letter, saying that there was a shortage of chaplains. They had called up a lot of chaplains for the Berlin crisis, and that they needed some younger men to volunteer to go in as chaplains. So my wife and I discussed it, and I was serving a church in Brockton, Massachusetts at the time, and decided that that was what we wanted to do. So that's how that came about. And it was only-- I only intended to go in for three years and then get back, and go back into the civilian ministry again.

Zarbock: But, in fact, you spent how many years?

Scott: Twenty-nine and half, actually.

Zarbock: It's hard to quit when you're having fun, isn't it?

Scott: Excuse me?

Zarbock: It's hard to quit when you're having fun.

Scott: Oh, yes. Well, things worked out well for me, you know, and it was good for the family. It's not good for every family, but for us, it worked out very well, and I was successful in what I did and just kind of stayed with it, you know? And eventually, you get enough time committed; you start thinking about retirement and things like that, you know?

Zarbock: Well, off-camera, it struck me that your career has really been in-- might be grouped into three separate epics.

Scott: It definitely is.

Zarbock: The first part, when you were a military chaplain and you served in Vietnam. Am I correct?

Scott: Most all troops are in the first ten years, yeah.

Zarbock: What was that like?

Scott: Well, it was great. No, I really enjoyed it. I had a lot of interesting jobs. I learned a lot in my first assignment. I was-- in addition to my regular job, I was a stockade chaplain. We had a couple of hundred prisoners in the stockade.

Zarbock: Where was that, sir?

Scott: At Fort Dix, New Jersey. And I'd also-- I was the kind of guy that was so dumb, that whenever they wanted something done, they'd ask me to do it because they knew that I would do it. And some people used to say to me, "You know, they're taking advantage of you," and I'd say, "No, no. I don't do anything that I don't want to do." You know? But I learned an awful lot. It was a tremendous experience. From there, I went to Germany and served three years in a Hawk Missile Battalion all around the Nuremberg area, and learned an awful lot from that, as well. From there, we went to Thailand, directly from Germany to Thailand, and I served...

Zarbock: Now, that's a cultural shock, isn't it?

Scott: It was. I was supposed to go to Vietnam, and they got my orders messed up, so I ended up going to Thailand, instead.

Zarbock: What unit were you assigned to?

Scott: I was with the 29th Signal Group, which was-- this was the communications system for Vietnam. It was called the Long-Lines, and so on. And they transmitted all of the stuff back to the United States and so on, and it was spread all over Thailand.

Zarbock: What was the political situation in those days, with the United States and Thailand, although the military actions primarily were in Vietnam?

Scott: Yeah, we had a number of people in Thailand, but you're right, most of them were in Vietnam. I think that overall, the relationship with the Thais was very good, at least from my perception. I was a major, and I, you know, I didn't get involved in the politics or anything, but from my perception, is we had a good relationship with the Thais.

Zarbock: Were there any acts of hostility with the Thais and American personnel?

Scott: Yes. One of the big things was that it was a big R-and-R site, and 10,000 troops every week went for R-and-R from Vietnam to Bangkok, Thailand, and they spent their R-and-R there. So it was economically, for the Thais, it was a really a bull market, you know; they were really making a lot of money and doing a lot of building. And so I think that-- I think we had a good relationship.

Zarbock: But yet there was an awful lot rambunctious behavior on the part of the troops.

Scott: Oh yeah, well, you know, yeah, you know, they get loose in a place like Thailand where they're met at the airport by prostitutes as soon as they get off the airplane, and so a lot of our young soldiers got involved in that. Not all of them, but a lot of them did.

Zarbock: What about drugs, Chaplain?

Scott: At that time, drugs was not a problem. Drugs became a problem when I was in Vietnam. And I was-- we first became aware of it as the troops were drawing down, and this would be in 1970. And we were beginning to see more and more troops getting involved in drugs. And the Vietnamese were supplying them with the drugs. A lot of our soldiers thought that these were harmless drugs, that they were not addictive, because the Vietnamese told them that. And so they got hooked on drugs. And toward the end of my assignment in Vietnam, I was assigned to the-- we were drawing down, so the division-- I was with the 1st Calvary Division. As they were drawing down they moved me out, because units were going home. And I was with the 1st Cav Division. I was at 90th Replacement, rather, at the end of my tour, and that's where they established the first identification program for drugs. And many of-- they were testing them as they were-- the GIs, as they were coming back home, and we had a testing station there. And every soldier, officer, enlisted, had to urinate and supply some urine. There were a lot of tricks to that. Some people used other people's urine and so on. But many of them found out that they had been on hard drugs and didn't know it and were completely devastated, because now they're afraid to come home. And at that time, the Army or the military in general, was still treating drugs as a criminal activity.

Zarbock: It was a courts-martial offense?

Scott: Yeah, and not something-- although we weren't courts-martialing them, we weren't treating them. And so they'd come home and have to go to the VA system if they were lucky enough, you know, to have one nearby. And many of these young soldiers were terrified, because they were coming home to their wives and their parents, and how are they going to explain all of this? You know, it was a very, very traumatic event for them when they found out. That was really my first identification with drugs in the Army. They were around before that, but, I mean, not in any big sense.

Zarbock: Well, how would you characterize the second epic of your...

Scott: The second part of my 30 years was mostly in academic environments. I mentioned about that; I helped start the Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss.

Zarbock: Why was there a need for that?

Scott: Well, because there was no level of education, the training for the higher level NCOs. And this was training, basically, for those who were becoming eligible to become an E9 or a sergeant major, or were already sergeants majors and trained them. And we had a-- I developed the methodology, started the Library, and was also the director of the Leadership and Management Department, which was the largest department of the school. In conjunction with that, we also had a program with a community college, where they were able to get an Associates Degree while they were there. So it was a very, very good program. It's still going and it's a very good program.

Zarbock: How long would a student be in residence?

Scott: Six months, at that time, and I'm not sure now because I've been away from that for a long time. What happened, is I was assigned there from the chaplain school as a-- the career course, and that was in July of 1972, '72. And they wanted the school up and running by January. And we were working 16, 17, and 18 hours a day, every day. We had nothing. We started from scratch. And the CONR commander at that time, this was his brainchild, and he came down. We were going to try to talk him into delaying the opening of the school, and he came down and he said no. He said, "I'm retiring in," like, "March of '73." And he said, "This better be up and running before I retire, because there are some people in the Pentagon who will kill this immediately, so you've got to have it running." So we did. We started the first class in January of 1973.

Zarbock: What was the nature of the curriculum? What were the course materials?

Scott: We taught everything, from leadership and management, to tactics of certain types, personal development, you know, in terms of the-- a degree from the community college. We had classes on foreign affairs, a whole lot of stuff.

Zarbock: This was strictly Army.

Scott: This was-- no, it was Army, and we had at that time a couple of Navy people attending, not many, probably two or three.

Zarbock: They'd be senior petty officers.

Scott: Yes, whatever that grade is for them, yeah. And I think eventually they've also had some Air Force people going to that class.

Zarbock: So you were one of the fathers of the institution.

Scott: Yeah, not because I wanted to, but it's just one those-- if anybody had asked me if I wanted to do that, my immediate answer would have been, "No, I want to be with troops." That's what I wanted to do. But, you know, I didn't know, at the time, that the Chief of Chaplains, Will Hyatt at that time, had actually sent my name to the next commandant or the first commandant as one of the people he wanted to be interviewed, and I didn't know that until a little bit later, and that's how I got caught up in all of that.

Zarbock: But you stayed as a member of faculty then, too.

Scott: Yes, for three years.

Zarbock: Good duty?

Scott: Yes. Yeah. It was great. I had a lot of instructors who were officers of all different branches, and that was a unique experience for them, to have a chaplain. I remember the first guy, an infantry captain; I had a little room where I had set up, and he came in and he looked in the door, and he saw me and he went back to the deputy commandant, and he said, "That's a chaplain in there." And the deputy commandant said, "Yeah, that's going to be your-- he's going to be your boss." "No, that can't work for a chaplain. What's he going to do when I use bad language and all this kind of stuff? He's going to crucify me, you know," because I became the rater for all of those people. And, of course, it didn't happen, but-- and he turned out to be a really fine guy, and we had a good time.

Zarbock: Although you were the rater of your staff, were you also the selector?

Scott: No. I was not the selector. They were selected by DA, Department of the Army. We didn't get involved in that at all.

Zarbock: What about the students; how were they selected?

Scott: They were selected by a board, and...

Zarbock: They made application.

Scott: They had to, yes; they had to make application and then they were selected by a board. Again, not at the school; this was at Department of the Army. And then they came to us and we tried to train them. And they responded very well to the program.

Zarbock: What was the carrot at the end of that stick? If they went into the program and when they came out, what was in it for the senior NCO?

Scott: Well, you know, in the Army, there's certain tickets that, if you get them punched, they're going to help you to other levels. So for a first-- sergeant first class, not a sergeant first class, first sergeant, the E-8 who came, that might be a stepping stone to him becoming a sergeant major, E-9. Or those who are E-9, it could be a stepping stone for them to become a command sergeant major, which is still an E-9, but it's a step above the regular sergeant major. And so, you know, there were some incentives for them to perform, and they did very well, overall.

Zarbock: Any discipline problems?

Scott: We had a couple. We had one-- it's really a shame. We had one who cheated, and he got caught. We had one who falsified his record and said that he had certain metals and awards that he did not, in fact, have. And why this ever was investigated, I don't know, because normally you just kind of accept that as, you know-- but for some reason, maybe, somebody reported him, I don't know, but he was drummed out, you know. But overall, they were very good.

Zarbock: That's a very small percentage of rotten apples.

Scott: Right, yeah, very small percentage.

Zarbock: Now, at this time you're married; am I correct?

Scott: Yes.

Zarbock: And how many children?

Scott: We had three children, at that time.

Zarbock: How were they getting along?

Scott: They were getting along well. My oldest son had some problems. We had to put him in a private school overseas. The other two did fine, no problem. From there, I went to Commander General Staff College, and not only was I a student there, but I was also an instructor in management, and I also was an area coordinator for a big housing area. They had a couple hundred homes there that I was responsible for. And I was also a class leader, which was a very-- This was the first time in the history of Commander General Staff College; there were five of us that they made chaplains class leaders, based on seniority. And so I was one of the first ones to become a class leader, which meant I was responsible for 53-- they were separated into groups-- 53 officer students from the United States and four foreign officers.

Zarbock: Won't anybody let you be a chaplain?

Scott: Well, that's a good question. I think what happened and, you know, I'm not sure, exactly sure, why this change happened, because it certainly wasn't manipulated by me. It's not what I wanted to do. But when I was in the advanced course at the chaplain school, apparently the faculty saw something in me that I didn't see in myself, and they recommended that I-- my career path go along that line. So from there, I went to the Chief's Office and stayed there for six years on the first tour, and then went to Hawaii. In the meantime, I had open heart surgery as a result of that constitutional case that I mentioned. And then, from Hawaii, I became the assistant commandant at the chaplain school. And from there, I went to the intelligence command for one year. And then they called me back to the Pentagon to be the director of personnel, so it's sort of-- but, you know, and I-- you asked about ministry, and I struggled with that, initially. How can I be a minister and be involved in all this stuff? And I had to come to a conclusion that, like a bishop or a senior pastor, you can still minister to the people that are working for you and that you're responsible for. As the XO, I was responsible for, you know, worldwide day-to-day operations of the chaplaincy, and I saw that as a form of ministry. Earlier on I wouldn't have. As a young chaplain I wouldn't have seen that.

Zarbock: Your vocabulary changes, but not your values.

Scott: Oh yeah, yes.

Zarbock: Could I take you back, please, and would you sketch out that lawsuit that we were talking about off-camera?

Scott: Yes. Yes.

Zarbock: What gave rise to it, and what was the process, and what was your involvement?

Scott: You want me to start from the beginning?

Zarbock: Yeah.

Scott: Okay. I was sitting in my office minding my own business, November 27th, 1979, a date that's etched in my mind, when my boss came to me, my general, and said-- gave me the papers that he had just received from the JAG and said, "We've got to do a lot of work to prepare for this case." So he said, "I'm putting you in charge of it." And I spent many, many hours researching, myself.

Zarbock: Now, what was the case?

Scott: The case was-- the case was brought by two Harvard law students by the name of Katcoff and Weider, and their allegation was that the chaplaincy was unconstitutional, initially based on the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Zarbock: So these are constitutional amend...

Scott: They said it was-- they said the chaplaincy was unconstitutional, because we were paying ministers, clergymen as public servants, and that showed an establishment of religion. Of course, if you are not familiar with the history of the chaplaincy, the chaplaincy really began on July 29th in 1975, even before we were a nation. When the Congress...

Zarbock: You said "1975".

Scott: Seventeen-seventy-five. Did I say 19?

Zarbock: Yeah.

Scott: Seventeen-seventy-five, when the Congress passed a bill to pay chaplains, and that's really the basis of-- so right from the very beginning, the constitutional-- the Congress saw this as a constitutionally-accepted thing, and, but anyhow, they said it was unconstitutional. And they thought that we ought to have all civilian clergymen and let the denominations pay them and send them overseas and so on, and take care of ministry. And we pointed out that that was completely unworkable, because you can't control them. The military has to have people where they need them, and if somebody doesn't want to go and they're a civilian, you lose control of them, you know? So we pointed out that that was just impractical to do that. The case dragged on for several years. As I mentioned, I formed a team, and we worked on it together, brought people on active duty, a lawyer, and psychologists and historians, and so on, to try to get all of the information that we needed, in order to provide that to the attorneys in New York. This was-- the trial was to be held in the Circuit Court in Brooklyn, New York.

Zarbock: I'm going to interrupt and ask: what is your best guess as to the motives or motive behind the people who filed this suit?

Scott: Okay; that's an excellent question, and we struggled with that. I'll give you a couple of hints. First of all, they were two graduate students studying law. Their professor, to whom they're responsible for their thesis, was known as a very anti-military, anti-chaplain thing. We assumed that there may be some collusion there, although, you know, there was never any proof of it. When the case-finding went to a hearing, the first hearing, the judge asked them; he said, "What are you doing-- writing a paper for Harvard for the law school?" And of course, they didn't answer that. And a judge who had been a-- that was served during Korea, was very hard on them, and pointed out places where, in Korea and so on, where a chaplain was absolutely essential to be there. Of course, that didn't change the nature of the case, but it showed the judge's prejudice, sort of, against those two students.

Zarbock: Now you're in federal court. Is that correct?

Scott: This was in the Circuit Court. I think it was the 5th Circuit Court in Brooklyn, New York. And the-- we won the case, eventually. The reason why it wasn't-- it didn't go any further than that, was because the students had no money to appeal it, and so they simply dropped the case after we won it; after a year or so, they dropped it. It only cost them 15 dollars apiece to file that suit. It cost the Army probably a couple of million dollars to defend it. So we won. It made some changes in the chaplaincy, though, because what we realized, is that the, really, the permission that we have to be chaplains, is not totally open. I mean, there are restrictions on it. And we have to analyze what we were doing, to find out if this really was a constitutional kind of thing that we were doing. And as a result of that, we made some changes in the way we did business.

Zarbock: For example?

Scott: Well, the thing that amazed us about this case, is that the ACLU never joined. We expected that they would, and we expected that we'd have to go all the way to the Supreme Court. And we believed; I believed, that if we went to the Supreme Court, that it would be upheld. At that time, there was a fairly sympathetic-- this was in 1979, '80, '82-- and the Supreme Court was pretty sympathetic, and so was the Congress. And so, my feeling was, if the Supreme Court acted and didn't act in our favor that the court-- that the Congress would, because at that time, we had a lot of former military people as representatives and senators. We don't now, but at that time, we did. I-- probably 90 percent of them, you know, had some military experience.

Zarbock: In my life, I was involved in a parallel situation. It didn't get as far as yours, but the tremendous amount of staff time and funds to support this consultant and that consultant, plus the administrative time. Somebody has to do the word processing. Somebody has to do the this; somebody has to do that, let alone the hours that the leadership puts in.

Scott: Oh, yeah. Well, these students weren't very smart. I could have built a better case, I think, against the chaplaincy, than they did. We were fortunate in that view. Well, what they did, was they sent out with their application, their filing of the case, we had 140 some interrogatories that we had to answer and about 20 some-- what was the update with the other thing? Anyhow, we had to find it and they were nitpicking things, like they wanted the list of attendance at every chapel service in a five-mile radius of every military post in the world, and finally, they dropped that. But initially, we had to prepare to answer those, and that's what my committee did. We tried to prepare the answers to those, until finally, we were let off the hook, and didn't have to respond to them.

Zarbock: Well, that was a fun-filled moment in your...

Scott: Oh, yes. And at the end of that, as I was getting ready to leave, I had to have quadruple bypass surgery. So that was kind of my reward for that.

Zarbock: Where? At Walter Reed, or where?

Scott: Yes, at Walter Reed. That was in 1982.

Zarbock: Well, your convalescence-- and as I remember it, you then packed off and went off to Hawaii.

Scott: We went to Hawaii.

Zarbock: Well, that's not grim duty, is it?

Scott: No. For me, it meant no difference. My wife loved it, because, you know, she was at the beach and all that. But I did my work every day, you know, and--

Zarbock: What was your assignment there?

Scott: I was the West Com Chaplain, which is the Western Command Chaplain for-- I had responsibility for Hawaii, for Korea under certain conditions, under mobilization. I was responsible for the chaplains in Korea, for Japan and, again, under mobilization, and for...

Zarbock: When you say "mobilization," what does that mean?

Scott: Well, if ever we went to war and we had to, you know, under wartime conditions, I would have been responsible for all the chaplains, Army chaplains in the Pacific. And it was good, but I, you know, it was just an assignment for me. I did the same things I always did, except that was a big more pastoral than some of the other things that I did, because I had, I don't know, maybe 30 chaplains, and I preached every Sunday and so on.

Zarbock: How long were you there?

Scott: Three years.

Zarbock: Children with you?

Scott: No. They-- well, our youngest one was, for a while, then he came back to college. The other two were married.

Zarbock: And when you returned to the States?

Scott: When I returned to the States, I was sent to the chaplain school, and initially, I was the director of the Department of Military Ministry, and then became the assistant commandant, which meant, as the assistant commandant, I was responsible for just about everything: day-to-day operations, instruction, development of curriculums and all of that kind of thing. The commandant was more of a political figure, you know, and he went around with all the generals and all that kind of stuff, and I stayed there and took care of day-to-day. And we had a very good relationship.

Zarbock: Where was this school located?

Scott: It was at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, then.

Zarbock: Now, currently, as I understand it, there's a situation of amalgamation of all of the chaplain schools at Fort Jackson, I believe.

Scott: Yes, Fort Jackson.

Zarbock: What comment would you make about that?

Scott: Well, the way they're doing it, I have no real objection to. They're going to remain separate, only they're co-located. But each one has its own commandant and its own staff and so on. So it's just a co-location. But back when I first when into the Army, into the Chief of Chaplains Office, one of the first projects I had to work on was that very thing, but there, they wanted to consolidate all of them under one, and we object strenuously to that, because the duties of an Army chaplain are much different from an Air Force chaplain or from a Navy chaplain. We're trained for the field to be with the troops out there. The Air Force are in nice, comfortable chapels for the most part, you know, and that's not our lifestyle. So we objected to that, and we won. And so this is, you know, and that was back in 19-- I went there in 1976, so, you know, that's been what, 32 years ago, and now, finally, they're getting around to doing something about it.

Zarbock: You know, my observation of substantial federal change, is that it takes at least 30 years. I remember once, many years ago, reading articles in magazines about, "there should be a cessation of smoking." Oh, that's 50 years ago. Well, it's-- that has finally percolated down into the feelings and beliefs of most people that say, "Yes, it's a good thing."

Scott: Well, you know, that happened in the Army, during my time in the Army. When I first went in, in 1962, January of 1962, if you went to a staff meeting, I mean, it was filled with smoke. Now you go to a staff meeting and you better not smoke. When I went to-- early in my career, when you'd go to a battalion party, for instance, one of the objectives of many of the officers would be to get drunk, to see who got the most drunk. You don't dare do that anymore. Deglamorization of alcohol and cigarettes; and that started back after Vietnam, really. The Army started pushing, getting away from that kind-- that's not to say that some people don't still drink; they do, maybe one or two may even go a little bit overboard, but not like it used to be. And smoking; of course, everything is smoke-free now, so, entirely different environment.

Zarbock: And now it's green?

Scott: Yes, and I think a tremendous change in the chaplain assistants and chaplains as well. When I went in the Army in '62, the caricature of a chaplain was kind of a Chaplain Mulcahy or who's the other guy? Father Mulcahy and, you know, kind of bumbling and so on, and there was some of that.

Zarbock: Nice guy, but...

Scott: Nice guys, but not very effective. And the chaplaincy has done a tremendous amount of work in selection and retaining; you know, we had no retention policy in those days. Unless you did something wrong, you could stay. Now, at the end of your third year, you have to go before a board and they decide whether or not you're going to be retained on that...

Zarbock: What are the criteria?

Scott: Well, it would be things-- first of all, you look at their Officer Efficiency Reports, look for any chinks in their armor of any kind, any kind of problems that they've had.

Zarbock: Such as? What might be?

Scott: Well, a problem might be that they just don't get along very well with people, or it may even be a moral problem. You know, we've had some guys who were homosexuals and even a couple of pedophiles and a few people have got involved with somebody else's wife. A very small minority, but as director of personnel I had to handle those problems.

Zarbock: Chaplain Scott, how important was, and how important is the wife of the chaplain?

Scott: Well, I think, very important, and...

Zarbock: And has that changed over your career?

Scott: Well, I think it has. I think that initially when I went in the Army, most officers' wives worked.

Zarbock: Worked?

Scott: Or didn't work. I'm sorry. Most officers' wives did not work when I first went in, and most chaplains' wives did not work. Over the years, that has changed considerably, so that the wives have something outside the house and the kids that they're doing. Many of them work, or they're engaged in volunteer-- they've always been engaged in volunteer work, but engaged in other kinds of activities that give them something besides just sitting at home every day. And I think that's been a helpful thing to a lot of wives.

Zarbock: That's a personal identity.

Scott: Yeah, that's right.

Zarbock: Well, I'd often thought that faculty, the clergy and higher business levels evaluated the individual as-- with some care when it came to the behavior of the wife.

Scott: Oh, yeah.

Zarbock: Didn't have to be a raving beauty, but had to live within a certain boundary.

Scott: Oh, yeah. I think they still do, you know, because-- but it's not like it used to be where you were kind of rated, in some cases, as a partner, a partnership, where it should have only been the officer who was rated. I remember my assignment in Germany, the executive officer-- I was a captain at the time, and the executive officer's wife was trying to order my wife around. So I went to the executive officer, and I said, "Look, if you're going to pay my wife, you can order her around. If you're not going to pay her, you don't order her around." Never heard another word about it. I took a lot of risks in the Army. I'm the kind of person who, I'm-- I think I'm a kind person, but I say what I have to say and I try to say it nicely, but I say what I have to say and I don't care who it is.

Zarbock: Now you ended up-- what was your role at the chaplain school?

Scott: I was the-- started out as the director of the Department of Ministry, and then spent two years as the deputy assistant commandant.

Zarbock: What was the most difficult part of your job at that time?

Scott: At that time? You put me in a bind, here. I had a kind of a conflict with my boss, my original boss, because, again, as I said, I'm a guy who speaks my mind, and he didn't always like me doing that, and so that was a little bit tough. He left and a new commandant came in, and we got along beautifully and, but that was probably the most difficult thing for me, personally.

Zarbock: And that raises a question I've asked all of the chaplains. In your military career, was there ever a time, or were there times in which you were ordered or hinted at broadly or even to the level of a wink and a nudge to do something?

Scott: Yes, on two occasions, both in Vietnam, both with the same commander, who was a very hardnosed commander-- fair, but hardnosed; very rough.

Zarbock: This an infantry guy?

Scott: No, this was field artillery. And he, on one occasion, called me in and said-- asked me what the morale was like on the fire bases. And I told him that some of the soldiers were concerned about drugs. And he immediately said to me, took out a piece of paper and a pencil and he said, "Give me the names." And I said, "No, sir, I can't give the names." And he said, "Well, what I want you to do then, is I want you, tomorrow, to go back to those same fire bases, and--" because I said I couldn't give-- I said I couldn't give him names, because it wasn't so much a confidentiality issue-- is, was more an issue of trust. I said, "If I give you those names, there's not a soldier out there that will ever trust me again, and I'm not going to do that." And so he said, "Well then, I want you to go back tomorrow, not as a chaplain and to get those names for me." And I said, "No, sir." I said, "If you want that done, you're going to have to send out a CID agent or somebody whose job that is. I'm not going to do that." And he got very angry at me, and said, "What good are you to me if you can't do what I ask you to do?" Now, in the room at that time, was the executive officer, who was a lieutenant colonel who later became a four-star general and Chief of Staff of the Army. His name was Vuono, Carl Vuono. He was a lieutenant colonel then, and I was a major. And so he-- the commander got very angry at me, and I saluted. I said, "Sir, if it comes to a choice between my job and my integrity, you can have my job I'll keep my integrity," and I turned around and walked out. And Colonel Vuono walked out behind me, and he was white. And he said, "Chaplain, you've had it." He said, "The old man is really mad, and you're really in trouble." So I went back to my hooch and I wrote to my wife, and I said, "Maybe I'm coming home sooner than I thought I was." And-- am I taking too much time?

Zarbock: No.

Scott: And so, anyhow, I was concerned, but I felt at peace with myself, that I had done what I should do. And the next morning, he called me in the office and I figured, well, he's really going to drop it on me, now; you know, he's going to relieve me and reassign me, or send me home or whatever. And he got up from his chair and he came around. He was not a demonstrative man at all, and he came around and he put his arm around my shoulder, and he said, "You know, Chaplain, I got to thinking about this last night, and I realized that if you had done what I had asked you to do, I would not be able to trust you or respect you, either, so I appreciate the decision you made." And that worked out very well. It could have gone the other way, you know, but it didn't. The other thing...

Zarbock: But that's good leadership.

Scott: Well, it was good leadership on his part, too, that he was willing to admit that he made a mistake.

Zarbock: Yes. Yes. Oh, both sides, absolutely, no doubt.

Scott: The other thing was a little bit different. I was on a fire base where a new brigade was going in to replace a brigade that was moving out. And a helicopter was flying above the operations center. And the pilot radioed down, and said they had two Vietnamese, two Viet Cong onboard; what should they do with them? And the-- I'm not sure I want this printed, but I'll tell you anyhow. So I heard the transmission and brigade commander, who was trying to make himself look good or big or tough said, "Drop them." And so the pilots pushed them out of the helicopter, and they landed in front of the operations center. I don't know whether they were dead before they pushed them out, or whether they died-- they were maybe 150 feet up above there. And so I felt that I needed to report that. I went back to my unit and I wanted to see-- I went to Colonel Vuono, the guy who became four-star. I told him what happened. He said, "You'll have to talk to the old man about it." He didn't get back until about midnight that night. And so he had called me and said, "The old man will see you now." So I went in, and I told him what I had seen. And this commander, who he later became a two-star general also, this commander said to me, "You know, if you report this, number one, that brigade commander is going to get relieved. Do you want to end the career of a brigade commander?" He said, "Number two, a lot of the officers are going to lose respect for you. And number three," he said, "if there's a courts-martial, you'll probably have to stay beyond your time to take part in a courts-martial." And he said, "Well, what are you going to do?" And I said, "Colonel, I have no choice. I know, as a chaplain and under the Geneva Conventions, I'm responsible to report what I believe was a war crime, and so I'm going to have to do it." And he said, "You're sure that's what you want to do?" And I said, "Yes, sir." And again, he-- see, I thought he was testing me. I thought he was wanting me to say no, you know, that I wouldn't report it. And well, I knew I had to do it. So I said, "Yes, sir, I want to report it, regardless of what the outcome is." And so he got up again, and he shook my hand, and he said, "That's exactly what I wanted you to say," but he was giving me every opportunity to get out of it.

Well, fortunately, what happened there, is because the colonel was away, he was at a staff meeting at division headquarters, and didn't get back until late that night, some other people had seen it and already reported it. So the only thing that happened to me out of that, was that I was called by the inspector general of the division, and I had to go up and give an affidavit to him in terms of what I had seen, and that was the end of it for me. So I got out of that one fairly easy, but it could have turned out differently.

Zarbock: I wonder who the accusers would be: the officer on the ground, or the pilot who threw the people out?

Scott: They would both be in trouble. Certainly the colonel, the brigade commander who told them to drop them.

Zarbock: That was the order.

Scott: That was the order, yeah. And the pilots obeyed the order, which was an illegal order, and so they would be in trouble, as well.

Zarbock: Perhaps a lesser charge, but nevertheless.

Scott: Probably so, yeah. But, you know, I just feel that that's something we have to do. And some of the-- oh, the commander had said to me, "If you do this, a lot of the officers are going to not like you for doing this in our unit." And I said, "Well, I'm going to have to live with that." And he was right. That night, I went to the officer's club mess where we ate, and a lot of the officers told me they didn't appreciate what I did. And they said to me, things like, "The Viet Cong are animals, and they treat us that way; why shouldn't we treat them the same way?" And my response was, "I'm a chaplain, and my responsibility is to bring a sense of humanity to a very inhumane situation." And that worked out well.

Zarbock: "I'm doing my duty."

Scott: Yeah, right. That's what I get paid for. It worked out well, and as I said, both of those incidences could have turned out quite differently, but they turned out okay for me. And my commander, the colonel, later became the commandant of Command General Staff College, and when I walked across the stage to get my diploma, he said, "Chaplain, you made it in sight of me," but it was because of him. He treated me-- because I was willing to-- he said to the officers one day at a staff meeting, right after this happened, the next staff meting, he said, "Why can't you guys be like the chaplain, and tell it to me like it is?" Well, they couldn't, because he'd fire them just like that, and they knew that.

Zarbock: My favorite question, and the last question. Envision a stone tablet, and we're going to chisel some words on that stone tablet. And the words are going to be, "I, John Scott, have the following credo that I've learned from my life experiences." Colonel, what are the words?

Scott: Well, you know, I'd have to think in spiritual terms for that, because what I've learned, is that we grow through experiences, and that my faith, as a result of being, for instance, in Vietnam or for any of the experiences, has caused my faith to grow, and to cause me to trust God more, to try to serve Him more faithfully, and to take care of my family in a better way. Those were a lot of words, but I guess the one lesson that I learned, if I could put it in just a couple of words, is that I can get along without an awful lot of things in this life. I can get along without a house. I can get along without a TV set, a car and all these kind of things, but the one thing that I can't get along without, is relationships to my wife, to my friends, to God.

Zarbock: Thank you, Chaplain. It's been a privilege to know you.

Scott: Well, I enjoyed it.

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