Comedian Bob Hope is still highly critical of the U.S. effort in Vietnam and made his feelings clear once again at the inaugural Distinguished Vietnam Veterans Awards banquet given by the National Vietnam Veterans Network.

Hope, one of 13 honorees at the Sheraton Washington Hotel Thursday night, told reporters: "It wasn't a war, that was the problem. If it had been a war . . . they would have finished that war in two weeks . . . They could have saved 3 million lives if they'd given it to the military."

Hope added, "It's a sad thing. . . . It was a costly lesson that I hope to hell we've learned for our children and our grandchildren, because Eisenhower and Kennedy had a great idea to go in there and save democracy for South Vietnam, and then we sent a half a million troops over there and goofed. We really goofed."

The other award winners were Virginia Gov. Charles Robb; Sen. Larry Pressler; Billy Ray Cameron, national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars; former football pro Rocky Bleier; Jan Scruggs, president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund; retired major general Hugh Robinson, vice president of the Southland Corp.; James Mayer, staff administrator of Paralyzed Veterans of America; Max Cleland, secretary of state of Georgia; Patrick McLaughlin, U.S. attorney in Cleveland; Gary Beikirck, veterans' counselor in Rochester, N.Y.; entertainer Chris Noel; and Cora Lee Redmond of the American Gold Star Mothers.

The network, a nonprofit support group for Vietnam veterans, said the award winners "symbolize the true image, positive character and achievements of Vietnam-era veterans."