Partial Transcript: What was your childhood like, and how did being in a military family influence your view of the world, if it did?
Segment Synopsis: Townsend had a farm boy childhood in northern Wisconsin where his family moved in 1947 after his father left the military after 1945. He is from a Scots-Irish family with a long history of military service. He has family members that fought in the American War for Independence, the Civil War, World War I, and World War II. He and his friends reenacted major wars on the playground for fun. He lived in a military culture.
Keywords: Korean War; Scotch-Irish; WWII; farm family; military family; playing war; rural Wisconsin
Partial Transcript: And what do your children do in the military?
Segment Synopsis: Townsend’s daughter is an Air Force colonel on the General’s List and switches in and out of active duty. His son is in the Air Force National Guard as an enlisted man. His youngest daughter is an arms merchant for a British Defense firm in Dubai. His middle daughter’s husband worked for the Secret Service. Townsend said that this is a common story for Scots-Irish families.
Keywords: Jewish family; National Guard; Scotch-Irish; Secret Service; US Air Force; active duty; military family; reserve duty
Partial Transcript: What was it like growing up in the Cold War era?
Segment Synopsis: Townsend said that in northern Wisconsin they weren’t really aware of it, but there were a series of radar stations up north that were the third level of defense from a bomber attack by the Soviet Union. Sometimes he would see a B-52 Bomber flying overhead testing the radar stations. In his school he never did the Duck and Cover drill. He does remember Wisconsin agriculturalists printing fallout maps for if Chicago or Illinois got hit, but he said they wouldn’t be credible at all. He never saw Duck and Cover educational videos. He is not sure why, but he guessed it was because Wisconsin did not have a lot of strategic targets. He does remember Life magazine talking about people building fallout shelters, but his family never did.
Keywords: Antigo, Wisconsin; B-52; Cold War; Lincoln County, Wisconsin; Northern Wisconsin; Pinetree line; Wisconsin Agriculturist; farm life; nuclear fallout; radar stations; rural Wisconsin
Partial Transcript: Why did you choose to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison
Segment Synopsis: He wanted to get out of northern Wisconsin. The stories of his family were stories of wandering and traveling so he had no desire to stay in Gleason, WI. Going to Stevens Point was like going to high school. He wanted to play football in Madison. Tuition at Madison was $116 at the time, but he didn’t get a scholarship. He wanted to try and make it as a walk on. He weighed 195 pounds when he went to Madison and 165 pounds after the freshman season, which wasn’t enough. He was surprised that the University made you take classes while you were playing football. While signing up for classes at the Red Gym he saw a very pretty girl and followed her to a signup table and he ended up taking Russian with her. He dated her for four years.
Keywords: Chicago; Gleason, Wisconsin; Northern Wiscosnin; Red Gym; Russian language; UW Football; UW-Madison; Yugoslavian immigrants; class registration; college tuition
Partial Transcript: And how did that turn out?
Segment Synopsis: She was a left-wing Princetonian liberal and he was a redneck conservative trying to hide it and they parted at Travis Air Force base on his way to Vietnam. She wanted him to go to Canada, but he thought that was unacceptable.
Keywords: Travis Air Force Base; Vietnam War; draft dodging
Partial Transcript: What were some of your favorite memories from UW?
Segment Synopsis: He has three major memories. First was the memory of his fellow students, who he learned a great deal from. His roommate was from the east coast and he and his friends were politically and artistically active and Townsend and them had many positive debates and discussions involving these ideas. His second memory was of Dr. Michael Petrovich who taught European History and Dr. Victor Terras who taught in the Slavic language department who were each excellent teachers. His final memory is of the protests. He said the debates with his friends and schoolmates challenged everyone’s core beliefs and the protests split them. The demonstrations wanted you to commit one way or another. He said his friends either became more pro-American, dropped out of the political scene, or became radical activists. It was an exciting time and it challenged your values.
Keywords: LSD; Michael Petrovich; Northern Wisconsin; Sterling Hall bombing; UW-Madison; Victor Terras; Vietnam War; Vietnam War protests; campus culture; campus political climate; farm communes; leftists
Partial Transcript: Were you at UW during the main student riot outside the Commerce building?
Segment Synopsis: He was at the protest and was inside linked arm to arm with his friends. By chance he had to go to ROTC later and when he came back the police had come and there were students with bleeding heads and there was tear gas everywhere. He thought to himself that he was lucky he wasn’t there. His apartment was at 534 State Street where Steep n’ Brew is now and from the porch he would watch students running down the street and then see the police chasing after them. One time a student threw a Molotov cocktail off a roof at police and they shot at him, but luckily he was not hit. Violence was right outside his house often. The National Guard was a more calming influence in Madison.
Keywords: Dow Chemical Protests; Madison police; Molotov cocktail; National Guard; ROTC; State Street; UW-Madison; Vietnam War; crowd control; rent; room and board; student protests; tear gas
Partial Transcript: Speaking of the National Guard, how did the massacre at Penn State [sic], when they called in the National Guard and they fired on students...
Segment Synopsis: He said the National Guard being ill trained to handle riots is a tradition in the United States. He explained why having ill trained soldiers is a danger wherever they are used and why the National Guard was ill prepared during this period. He saw it as a terrible accident.
Keywords: From Here to Eternity; Kent State shooting; National Guard; US Army; Vietnam War; military history; military training; strike breaking; student protests
Partial Transcript: And there's a part of another story that was more important to me there, rather than just that incident.
Segment Synopsis: He was clear at that time that Communism was a very bad thing. It was a genocidal government that used terror to control its population. He explained how terrible Communist rule was in the countries where it was and how that solidified his perspective.
Keywords: Albania; China; National Guard; North Vietnam; Soviet Union; collectivization; communism; genocide; military training
Partial Transcript: What were the major events that occurred in Madison and in the world while you were on campus?
Segment Synopsis: There were the riots on campus. The Vietnam War was the main issue. The music of the time was big, like the Beatles whose song "I want to hold your hand" came out his senior year. It was music and the major conflict between Capitalism and Communism.
Keywords: Battle of the Ia Drang Valley; Dow Chemical Protests; Otis Redding plane crash; Patsy Cline; The Beatles; Vietnam War; country western music; nuclear arms control
Partial Transcript: How did these events help shape or change the way you viewed the world?
Segment Synopsis: These events were crucial to how he viewed the world. His original worldview was sharply challenged by his circle of friends. He was somewhat of a male supremacist when he first went to the University, but that belief was very challenged by the times and the university and he accepted that change. He starkly changed his attitude about that topic seeing it that interactions are one human to another, not male to female. These events made him commit one-way or the other, pro-American or anti-American.
Keywords: Bill Clinton; George Wallace; McCarthyism; campus political culture; chauvinism; communism; feminism; gender relations
Partial Transcript: Do you remember any significant reaction on campus or in the media to the Tet Offensive in Vietnam?
Segment Synopsis: He didn’t remember. Everything he knew about the Tet Offensive came subsequent to that and even subsequent to his military career. While doing research much later in life he found that at the time it seemed like a terrible defeat for the U.S., but a few years later it was clear that it was a great loss for the Viet Cong. When he first went to Vietnam in mid-1970 Vietnam was pacified. All of the Air Force operations he was involved in were in the Ho Chi Minh trail, Laos, and Cambodia. The major battles were far outside Vietnam. By the time he left Vietnam he was incredible bored and it was obvious to him that the U.S. had won the war. He was looking for a new exciting assignment and he got one in Berlin, Germany in late 1971.
Keywords: Cambodian Air Force; Ho Chi Mihn Trail; Tet Offensive; US Air Force; Viet Cong; Vietnam War
Partial Transcript: 1989-- From 1982-1989, I ran the counter-deception directorate for the [aerostat?] and it was located at a CIA facility.
Segment Synopsis: From 1982 to 1989 he ran the counter deception directorate at a CIA facility. It was 7 years of mentally exhausting work. The Soviet Union seemed as though it was as strong as it was in 1982. He was too tired though and he left the military because he did not have anymore to give. He left in July 1989. In October 1989 the Berlin Wall fell and a year and a half later the Soviet Union collapsed.
Keywords: CIA; Cold War; Fall of Berlin Wall; Soviet Union; counter deception; military intelligence; retirement
Partial Transcript: Do you-- Going back to your time on campus, do you remember any significant reaction on campus and/or in the media...
Segment Synopsis: New York Times article on March 10th, 1968 that leaked information that Westmoreland was requesting 206,000 more U.S. soldiers for the war. Townsend remembered no reaction whatsoever. He said he was probably concentrating on his schoolwork. He was already in ROTC and was going to go into the military anyway. The draft and the number of personnel they needed in Vietnam was a matter of indifference.
Keywords: ROTC; Vietnam draft; William Westmoreland
Partial Transcript: Although you had already graduated in 1969, what effect did the Sterling Hall bombing on August 24, 1970 have on you, if any?
Segment Synopsis: He was in Vietnam at the time and it was partially shadowed by the other bombings occurring in the U.S. at the time.
Keywords: Sterling Hall bombing; Vietnam War; Vietnam protests
Partial Transcript: So you were in the ROTC during your time at Madison...
Segment Synopsis: The influence of his father who was a career army man. His father was a career army infantryman and while he was sitting in his foxhole he said that no child of his was going to be in that army. His father guided him toward the Air Force. His older brother was in the Air Force as well. ROTC also helped him pay for his room and board in college. His family background and the consciousness of what they were fighting for were what drove him. It was clear to him what the impact of Communism was wherever it took power. Since he was taking Russian he could read the reports and knew about collectivization happening all over. He also enjoyed the pay he got for being a Second Lieutenant.
Keywords: Berlin, Germany; China; North Vietnam; ROTC; Russian language; Soviet Union; US Air Force; US Army; WWII; collectivization; communism; military family; military pay
Partial Transcript: What was your normal day-to-day routine while in Vietnam?
Segment Synopsis: He was stationed in Thailand. His routine was that they would fly every three days. His flights were 12 to 14 hours long. One day he would do the flight, the next day he would rest, and the third day he would prepare for the next mission. He would get four days off a month. He did this for 18 months. From time to time he served as a translator for the Cambodian ground commanders since he knew a great deal of French military jargon.
Keywords: Cambodian Air Force; Korat, Thailand; US Air Force; Vietnam War
Partial Transcript: What were the kind of missions that you ran?
Segment Synopsis: : There were three different kinds. First was the Igloo White program, which put sensors along the Ho Chi Minh Trail network to try and follow the truck and infantry traffic. For these missions he was at 16,000 feet. Townsend explained in more detail how the program worked. He also flew missions as an advisor flying with Cambodian, Vietnamese, and Thai officers and an American colonel where he would do the translating. For these missions he worked in air born command and control for the air forces in Cambodia. The last types of missions were the OV-10 missions. They were forward air control missions with smaller aircraft. They were at most 6-hour missions.
Keywords: Ho Chi Mihn Trail; Igloo White; OV-10 missions; US Air Force; Vietnam War; military surveillance; military translation
Partial Transcript: What was your opinion and the Viet Cong and the NVA then and how has your view changed...
Segment Synopsis: Townsend was at 18,000 feet in the Air Force and had no direct interaction with them. He sees the whole world as a bell curve and there were many brave Vietnamese soldiers and then there were also many murdering and terrible soldiers. He believed they fought bravely for an awful cause. He said the life span of a North Vietnamese soldier was not long and it must’ve been a very hard life to live. Townsend explained the general patterns of Communist army strategy and the brutal tactics used even against their own men.
Keywords: Chinese army; North Vietnamese soldiers; Soviet Army; Soviet Union; US Air Force; Viet Cong; Vietnam War; bunkers; communist army; military police; tank attack
Partial Transcript: What did you think about most while you were in Vietnam?
Segment Synopsis: Townsend most thought about women and booze. His war was not a hard war because he flew. They always flew well above the rated AAA in the area. It was a good war for him. It became boring after a while and he looked for new things to do. By the time he got there most believed the war was winding down. Thailand was a wonderful place to be for him and he was making good money. His part of the war was pretty limited.
Keywords: Forward air control; Thailand; US Air Force; Vietnam War; anti-aircraft artillery
Partial Transcript: Why did you think the United States was fighting in Vietnam?
Segment Synopsis: He believed the U.S. was there to prevent genocide. He said people new what would happen with the Communist takeovers. He said some argued it was for the oil by Vietnam. Also it was the Cold War, a conflict between one system and another. He then described some of the thought processes of the early Communist leaders and then the reaction of leaders that came after them. He explained the general pattern of de-escalation of violence as a generation of Communist leaders died off. Townsend attributes much of the end of the Cold War to Steve Jobs, Andrew Wozniack, and Bill Gates for driving down the price of the microchip. The U.S. was able to develop a command and control system and weapon system that negated all of the money the Soviets put into tank and military formations. He believes the Soviets could not challenge this system. Townsend said this is clear with hindsight, but it was not obvious at the time.
Keywords: Andrew Wozniack; Bill Gates; Cold War; Ho Chi Minh; Marxism-Leninism; Mikhail Gorbachev; Soviet Union; Steve Jobs; Vietnam War; communism; genocide
Partial Transcript: Did you agree with the reasons the United States was fighting in Vietnam at the time?
Segment Synopsis: He did, completely. He said that when you fight you have to win and that the U.S. Army used a bad strategy. The strategy was a strategy with mass formations to be used on the plains of Europe and was not applicable in Vietnam. He said this strategy destroyed the Army. When Abrams replaced Westmoreland, the strategy changed, but it was too late. Abrams changed to a strategy of protecting the natives. At the same time; however, the army had to maintain the other strategy for war in Europe. He discussed the difficulty faced by the U.S. Army in the more recent past regarding changes in strategy and how they are comparable to Vietnam.
Keywords: Creighton Abrams; David Petraeus; US Army; Vietnam War; William Westmoreland; military strategy
Partial Transcript: How did you feel when you found out the US was ending military involvement in Vietnam?
Segment Synopsis: He was in Berlin at the time and trying to figure out what the Soviet Army was doing. He discussed the Arab-Israeli War, also known as the Yom Kippur War, and how it had a life changing impression on him. In the beginning he went into the military to have fun and get a life experience, but this conflict made him realize that military life was a serious business. He said that the low level U.S. officers in Vietnam who left with a sense of defeat later became the higher level officers, majors to one star generals, who put together the war plans and were determined to win the next war. These plans were not used on the plains of Europe, but in the First and Second Gulf Wars.
Keywords: Arab-Israeli War; Gulf Wars; Israel; Soviet army; Syrian army; Vietnam War; Yom Kippur War; military strategy
Partial Transcript: Did you do anything in between your time in Vietnam and your time in military intelligence in Europe?
Segment Synopsis: No, he passed through the U.S. and then went straight to Berlin and stayed there for four years. Then he came back to the National Security Agency, which he did not enjoy greatly. He was there for two years, but it was a crippling place for his career. The station kept him from becoming a colonel. He married in 1978 and wanted to leave Washington D.C. He was stationed in Ramstein, Germany doing war planning and new intelligence systems. He lived in a small German village and he spoke fluent German. Two more of his children were born there. Townsend discussed his time in Germany. In 1982 he returned to the U.S. because his mother-in-law was dying and then he took up a position in counter-deception.
Keywords: NSA; National Security Agency; Ramstein, Germany; US Air Force; Washington D.C.; counterdeception; military intelligence; officer promotions
Partial Transcript: Was it your choice to go to the NSA or were you ordered there?
Segment Synopsis: He had to leave Germany and find another assignment so it was his choice. As he got there the officer promotion system changed. The NSA was awful for him because he wasn’t doing Air Force things. He further discussed his experience in the NSA.
Keywords: NSA; National Security Agency; OER; Officer Evaluation Report; US Air Force; officer promotions
Partial Transcript: What made you decide to go into military intelligence and continue to serve overseas...
Segment Synopsis: Townsend said he loves overseas and that he is a genetic linguist; languages come easy to him. He loved Germany and loved Europe. He was a farm boy in northern Wisconsin wondering if he would ever get out of Lincoln county and when he went to the University of Wisconsin his world opened up to everything that was out there. He wanted to keep traveling. Townsend explained why he loved Germany so much.
Keywords: Europe; Germany; Lincoln County, Wisconsin; Madison, Wisconsin; UW-Madison; bike trails; exercise
Partial Transcript: What does a signals officer do?
Segment Synopsis: They intercept enemy radio communications. In Germany he could intercept the Soviet’s FM and UHF tactical communications. One could figure out how they were going to fight from those interceptions. That information would be sent to other government agencies like the NSA and would be integrated into other intelligence. He said similar things are still happening in Iraq, trying to intercept cellular phone calls. Townsend briefly discussed security today.
Keywords: Signal Officer; Soviet army; cell phone surveillance; email encryption; hacking; military intelligence; military surveillance; radio surveillance
Partial Transcript: What stands out to you in your time in Berlin?
Segment Synopsis: Many things stood out to him, but he greatly enjoyed playing rugby there. The Berlin Opera and the Berlin Philharmonic also stood out to him. He was in love with the prima ballerina of the Berlin ballet. He also enjoyed the famous soprano Jessie Norman in the Berlin Opera who was a black American singer. He said the music scene was wonderful. The sports world was great. He greatly enjoyed the Germany bars and restaurants. He attended classes at the Berlin University in Russian because his German was not good enough at that time. He said the University was a hot house of leftist Communist students. He further discussed his time at the University. He has gone back to Berlin several times, but he said it is not the same. He explained the difference between life on each side of the Berlin Wall. He said it reinforced what he was fighting for.
Keywords: Berlin Ballet; Berlin Opera; Berlin, Germany; Free University of Berlin; leftists; rugby; student strike
Partial Transcript: What was your time like working in the CIA?
Segment Synopsis: He said it was very interesting work and most of his co-workers were very professional and hardworking, except those that were backstabbers which there are in any bureaucracy. He revisited his bell curve belief. His work was very intellectually compelling doing a very difficult task. He said this task was made even harder because he found out later the Soviets had broken all their codes. They could send false information that would confirm the CIA’s false assumptions. Intellectually it was the most powerful time of his life and he suffered from serious exhaustion and burnout. He took care of himself physically and mentally which allowed him to go on for 7 years, but afterward he could not go on and it took him several years after retiring to fully recuperate. He furthered discussed exhaustion, for him and others. He doesn’t know how he could have prepared better for this task.
Keywords: CIA; Soviet Union; Vietnam Veterans; WWII Veterans; bureaucracy; counterdeception; military intelligence; work-life balance
Partial Transcript: As deputy chief, Air Force Intelligence Agency, counter-deception directorate in the CIA, what were your duties?
Segment Synopsis: His job was to manage the analysts, personnel management. He needed to know what they were doing, protect them, get them their materials, and give briefings and write publications about their findings. He discussed the attitudes and abilities of his subordinates while in the CIA and how exhaustion affected them as well. Townsend was also doing work to upgrade their data automation abilities. He said it was difficult because at the time he knew the U.S. would be fighting the Soviet Union for another 30 years. He was trying to tell the story of the Soviet deception program. He applied these principles of deception to the present day and the Gulf Wars. He discussed the serious downsides of deception and how it can be dangerous.
Keywords: CIA; Cold War; Gulf Wars; Iraqi army; Saddam Hussein; Soviet Union; Soviet army; US Air Force; Vietnam veterans; WMDs; bureaucracy; counterdeception; management; military intelligence; military surveillance
Partial Transcript: What kind of worldview did working for the CIA give you?
Segment Synopsis: He came with his worldview already. It did not change much. He said CIA personnel are Americans and the same bell curve applies to them as well. He said it is a great job for young people, especially people that want to be linguists. He said he wasn’t well prepared, but none of them were.
Keywords: CIA; NSA
Partial Transcript: Were there distinct differences in relations between the U.S. and Soviet Union and differences in deception between the different Soviet leaders?
Segment Synopsis: The Soviet leaders until Gorbachev were well schooled in the deceptive arts, especially Brezhnev. Gorbachev was another generation and he used different methods to influence public opinion and external forces.
Keywords: Leonid Brezhnev; Mikhail Gorbachev; Soviet Union; military deception
Partial Transcript: What were some of the major events that occurred while you were in the CIA?
Segment Synopsis: Reagan became president in 1980 and Townsend started in the CIA in 1982 so the major effort was Star Wars after it was proposed in 1983. A deception, in order to be effective, has to have a great deal of truth associated with it. He discussed the particulars of deception involving the Star Wars program and the arms race. He said the Soviets just couldn’t match the computer technology the U.S. had. Star Wars and the arms race in general were the main issues while Townsend was working with the CIA. He was so involved in arms control negotiations and counter-deception that nothing else seemed to happen.
Keywords: CIA; Israel; Mikhail Gorbachev; Ronald Reagan; Soviet Union; Star Wars; Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI); counterdeception; deception; military technology; nuclear arms race
Partial Transcript: We've covered this a little bit, but what perspective on the Cold War did working for the CIA give you...
Segment Synopsis: It gave him the perspective that the U.S. was spending way too much on intelligence. Townsend explained the inefficiencies of the U.S. intelligence programs and how inefficiencies actually helped the downfall of the KGB.
Keywords: CIA; Cold War; George W. Bush; KGB; Soviet Union; War on Terror; bureaucracy; military intelligence
Partial Transcript: We covered this quite a bit, but, besides being completely mentally and physically exhausted...
Segment Synopsis: He was thrown out of the military because of the OER promotion system. He also wanted to get out of Washington D.C. and come back to Wisconsin where it was peaceful. Madison was a compromise because he wanted to move back to the farm, but his wife didn’t want that.
Keywords: OER; Officer promotions; US Air Force; Washington D.C.; retirement
Partial Transcript: What did you think when the Berlin Wall fell?
Segment Synopsis: He was awestruck. He said he would have never expected it. He said they knew that when the Soviets stopped shooting their own people the government would collapse and Gorbachev said he wouldn’t shoot anyone anymore. In that sense Townsend knew it would happen, he just did not know when.
Keywords: Berlin Wall; Cold War; Mikhail Gorbachev; Soviet Union
Partial Transcript: This moves into my next question, which is, what did you think when Gorbachev announced the end...
Segment Synopsis: He wanted to get a civilian job as a Sovietologist, but there were no more Soviets to study so he had to find a different way to research. He said the former Soviet Union was even more of a wreck than he imagined when he made his several trips there between 2002 and 2003. The former Soviet Union became increasingly criminal and he said he would not encourage anyone to invest in something there where you could not get your money out immediately after. Townsend explained Ben and Jerry’s experience with investing in the Russia. He said Russia is now very much a gangster nation. The youth are leaving at a fast rate. He said Putin is a KGB gangster. He further discussed the difficult life conditions in the former Soviet Union.
Keywords: Ben and Jerry's; Cold War; KGB; Russia; Soviet Union; Sovietologist; Vladimir Putin
Partial Transcript: Do you have any regrets?
Segment Synopsis: He regrets not studying harder as a student and not having a worldview when he left college. He discussed an essay called "The Hedgehog and the Fox," which describes the two ways historians view the world. The hedgehog holds its one stagnant view of the world while the fox sees many variations on how the world can be. Townsend sees himself as a fox because he can see and sympathize with everyone’s point of view. He said this is a hard position for a man of action, a soldier, to cope with in a world filled with deceptions and counter-deceptions. Overall, he does not have too many regrets although he does wish he would have understood women better.