Today’s guests on “Naples Daily NewsMakers with Jeff Lytle’’ program at 10 a.m. on ABC7 are Peter Thomas, a veteran of Normandy who helped liberate two concentration camps; Jim Elson, who served in Germany amid the Vietnam era and remains active today as chair of the Collier County Veterans Council; and Homer Helter, a special friend of veterans as owner of a namesake antiques mall/military museum off Pine Ridge Road on Shirley Street.
Text and video highlights are at naplesnews.com/newsmakers.
Lytle: Let me ask you about the news media over the years. And there have been clashes and there have been actually evidence of cooperation between the news media and the military mission.
How has that evolved, Peter?
Thomas: Well, going back to the second World War, we never had correspondents on the front lines at all. They had to go straight to G-2. They were told what to write.
And now, they take basic training; they go into combat with the soldiers.
So it has changed drastically. It really has. And I’m not sure if it’s good or bad. I really am not.
I think ... right before D-Day in May, we had a rehearsal off the Devon Coast in England. We were rehearsing for going into Utah Beach. And at 1 o’clock in the morning, nine torpedo boats came up and killed hundreds of Americans. That was never put out. It was kept a secret for 20 years.
If that had happened today, it would have been all over CNN, NBC all the next day ... the day it happened.
But they felt that it would hurt our chances, so they kept it secret and everybody cooperated.
It couldn’t happen today.
Lytle: The Vietnam era was a whole different media experience.
Elson: Yes, it was. And that was horrible, actually, because things were distorted and focused in on one specific event without seeing the broader picture. And the sad part about that is I met many people — officers, enlisted and younger soldiers — who were coming back from Vietnam and felt that the media had done them harm. And they suffered. And many of them killed themselves.
Suicide was a huge problem in Germany from those who served in Vietnam because they were out there doing their best and they didn’t want to be in the jungles. But it was portrayed in such a way that they were the bad guys. And when they got back to what was called “the real world,” civilian life, or even military life in a civilian setting, they were hurt.
Lytle: Homer, you must have all kinds of news media stories from your clients, your friends.
Helter: Most of my guys are a little hard on the news, particularly, let’s say, the New York Times and things like that. They feel it’s slanted and one-sided.
Lytle: Against the military?
Helter: Yes. Yes. Not all newspapers, but they hone in on say the New York Times. I hear that a lot.
Elson: Yes, me too.
Helter: They’ll say, “Did you read that?” And I don’t ... I try to keep politics out of everything.
Lytle: That’s hard to do.
Lytle: Do they believe that the media reveals military secrets that might harm the mission?
Helter: Yes. They believe that the newspapers are not on the side of this country.
Also discussed this morning at 10 on ABC7: How soldiers’ experiences have changed over the years; the importance of who is Commander in Chief; level of support services available to veterans; importance of the local Holocaust Museum.