"If liberty is not a criterion, it's a pleasant place to be," said Walter Cronkite. "There're not many vehicles on the street -- but more than you see in the north. Its economy seems not to be as effected by one decade of communism as the north is after 30 years.
"Compared to wartime, there's a minuscule number of vehicles on the street. The beggars have been swept from the streets, and you don't see the amputees on the street as you did then.
"It's a somnolent, pleasant colonial town."
Cronkite was taking a verbal stroll through Saigon (now called Ho Chi Minh City), recalling the street clamor and clutter of a wartime past. He returns, with cameras in tow, for a CBS Reports retrospective, "Honor, Duty and a War Called Vietnam," at 10 Thursday.
"Honor" is one o network shows scheduled this week as the nation recalls the Vietnam experience 10 years after the war's end.
Saturday night at 10 on 4, NBC's Marvin Kalb hosts a White Paper presentation called "The Unwinnable War," examining shifting American attitudes toward Southeast Asia.
Cronkite's excursion is his first to Vietnam since 1973, when he covered the return of American prisoners of war.
His Cronkite's stops include Haiphong, a prime target for American air strikes, and Hanoi -- it has "a bicycle economy in a computer age."
And he takes with him Rep. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a former Navy pilot who for six years was a prisoner of war. Cronkite takes McCain to the spot where he was shot down and to the prison where he was interrogated, tortured and held in solitary confinement.
"There's a monument to him on the shore of a lake he ejected into," said Cronkite. "He broke both arms and a leg. They misspelled his name on the monument. That didn't bother him as much as the fact that they said he was in the Air Force."
In stunning contrast to the memories the prison held for McCain, he and Cronkite were treated cordially by their Vietnamese hosts. "The reaction to him was quite friendly," said Cronkite. "In fact, the Vietnamese were quite friendly in general."
The Vietnamese served tea to McCain and Cronkite in the same room in which McCain had been interrogated. "Next door," said Cronkite, "was a room in which he'd been tortured."
They also visited the cell in which he'd been confined. McCain walked into the cell, but he stayed near the door.
McCain recalled for Cronkite the degrees of weakness he and other prisoners exhibited. "Unfortunately," he told Cronkite, "Not all of us can emulate John Wayne. But I think the overwhelming majority of us did the best we could. There was a great deal of pain here, a great deal of suffering, a great deal of loneliness. But there was also a great deal of courage displayed."