US Navy Helps Refugees

Time Frame: 1979

Former Vice President Walter Mondale talks about the role of the US Navy in saving refugees from Southeast Asia in 1979.
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Some people believed that it was an inappropriate role for the military—that the military was for the purpose of protecting the United States, being engaged in combat. And this was a sort of a non-profit social work kind of thing that the Navy was not suited to do. But I must say I raised that point, but I must say that—so I went to the President on this. I said, “Mr. President, we need to get the fleet there. They're out there anyway, and they can really help us.” And I told the story in Des Moines that night about going to the USS Midway that was temporarily in Manila Harbor. And I flew out there and talked to the crew there. And the commander told me, he said, “You know I was opposed to this idea of rescuing these people, because I didn't think the Navy should be doing those things. But I've got to tell you, it's one of the best things I've ever been involved in in my entire career.” He said the crew loved it. And he said, “We saved a lot of lives here, and we all feel very good about it.”


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