The following is a transcribed excerpt from 'Fox News Sunday,' May 30, 2004.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are the modest sons of a peaceful country, and millions of us are very proud to call them "Dad." They gave the best years of their lives to the greatest mission their country ever accepted.
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CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: That was President Bush yesterday at the dedication of the World War II Memorial. Tens of thousands of veterans and their families are visiting the site on the National Mall this holiday weekend.
And here to discuss the memorial, to reflect on World War II and undoubtedly talk about current events are two distinguished Americans: a former Army Air Corps lieutenant who flew 35 combat missions on his way to earning the distinguished Flying Cross. He later served as a U.S. senator and presidential candidate, George McGovern. And a former Army captain who was badly injured fighting in Italy, while earning two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star as he tried to save a fallen comrade. He later served as Senate majority leader and presidential candidate, Bob Dole.
And, gentlemen, welcome. Thank you, both, for joining us on this special weekend.
FORMER U.S. SENATOR GEORGE MCGOVERN: Thank you.
FORMER U.S. SENATOR ROBERT DOLE: Thank you.
WALLACE: Senator Dole, let's begin with the dedication yesterday. How special to see those tens of thousands of veterans and their families finally get their place on the National Mall.
DOLE: I really couldn't believe it. I mean, I thought we had a nice crowd. When you're up there on the stage and you've got a better view, it never ended. You couldn't see the end. You couldn't see where people were no longer there. And I was — it was very impressive. And I think — we were just talking together — everything went just about as planned. Good day. Great day.
WALLACE: When you were here a few weeks ago, you said that you thought it was going to be an emotional, teary day. I know at one point in your lovely speech you paid tribute to a couple of members of your family who've served in the war and have died since. Tough...
DOLE: That was the tough part. About that (ph), I get to my brother Kenny and my brother-in-laws Tom, Allen (ph) and Ray, I'd be OK. But, you know, we lost three-quarters of the World War II guys, and here Senator McGovern and I are still around. You know, we're the lucky ones.
WALLACE: Senator McGovern, your thoughts about the dedication?
MCGOVERN: I thought it was, as Bob said, a perfect day. And we ought to give credit where credit is due. This is really Bob Dole's production. He's the one that raised the money for it and kept it moving along and got it through Congress.
I don't think I ever heard Bob speak better than he did yesterday. I've heard some good speeches from him, but I thought yesterday was right at the top of the list. And all of us had great satisfaction from what was going on out there.
WALLACE: Senator McGovern, they call you the greatest generation. Was there something special about your generation, or was it the challenge you faced that was special?
MCGOVERN: Well, I think most of us in that generation are proud of the title, "the greatest generation." On the other hand, I am an old history teacher. I was a history prof before I got into politics. We've had some pretty great generations, including the first one, which produced figures like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams. These were great figures. They gave us the Declaration of Independence, they gave us the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
So I always feel just a little bit doubtful whether our generation was the greatest, but we'll take that label, as long as it's something that somebody else coined, who was not a member of that generation.
WALLACE: Senator Dole, I'm sure that you — it's only natural, all of you had spent some time recently reflecting back on World War II and your experience. How did it change your life?
DOLE: Well, in my case, almost totally. I mean, I thought I wanted to be a doctor, and I was — my grades didn't demonstrate it before the war, but I made good grades after. But when I couldn't use my, you know, arm very well at the time, well, I had to change course.
But I think, even on a more positive side, it made me more sensitive to people with disabilities. You know, let's face it, when you're healthy and 17, 18, 19 years of age, you don't know there's anybody in a wheelchair. But once you join that club, and it became, you know — I felt some responsibility.
And I always had help from Senator McGovern, when it came to disability issues. Remember, Jennings Randolph from West Virginia was sort of the leader in that effort, and we were happy to follow him.
MCGOVERN: You know, Chris, talking about this generation and the war experience — if, in fact, we were anything close to the greatest generation, is probably result of three factors.
We were honed and toughened by the Great Depression for 10 years prior to World War II. Nobody had a dollar. There weren't any rich people; we were all poor in the 1930s.
And then the war itself — we believed in it. We had a clear mission, and we executed it. So that gave us a sense of self- confidence.
The third thing that's sometimes overlooked is the GI Bill of Rights. That's one of the most marvelous things the federal government has ever done, is to offer these 16 million people that fought in World War II a chance to go to any college of their choice. I went all the way through Northwestern University to a Ph.D. in American history. It changed my life.
WALLACE: One of the things that struck me, in studying up for this interview, is the responsibility that you had, both of you, a lot of people, when you were so young.
WALLACE: Correct me if I'm wrong, Senator McGovern. You were 22 years old when you were flying a B-24?
MCGOVERN: That's right. Seems unbelievable, right? I went in at 19. But by the time I got a crew of 10 men assembled, I noticed on the list, which I got before I saw the men, that one of them was 33, the flight engineer. I said to Eleanor (ph), "Gosh, that guy is not going to listen to me, at 21 years old."
I tried to grow a moustache so I'd look a little older. I learned how to frown so I'd look a little bit tougher.
But actually, I think that young Americans, when they are called to a duty that's clear to them and they see the purpose of it, I think they'll rise to the occasion every time.
WALLACE: Senator Dole, correct me if I'm wrong, I think you were 19 when you enlisted?
DOLE: Nineteen, yes.
WALLACE: And then you became a lieutenant?
DOLE: Platoon leader, yes. I had about 40 young men, and I was probably one of the younger ones. We had some — it was the 10th Mountain Division, been around for a while, so some of the guys were older, and second lieutenants were a dime a dozen, and the poor guy that succeeded me had been killed. And my — excuse me, my predecessor had been killed.
But in fact, there is a guy in town now, I am going to see him this morning, named Frank Caraffa (ph), who literally helped save my life, with a guy named Rally Mannanon (ph). And he's going to — I am going to visit with him this morning, because he took care of me for a while when I couldn't do anything for myself.
But I think — you go back to yesterday. I mean, you know, maybe some of the architects didn't like it, but it's good enough for us. You know, we like it. I think it's going to be — there are going to be concerts there; it's going to be a living memorial, it's not going to be a big block of granite.
WALLACE: Senator McGovern, you ran for president in 1972, famously opposing the Vietnam War.
WALLACE: How did your service in World War II, how did it shape your view of war?
MCGOVERN: Well, nobody thinks that war is a pleasant experience. Look what Bob went through. He had to fight for two and a half years after the war to stay alive — seven or eight surgeries. It's a very painful and difficult experience.
There is an old English conservative, Edmund Burke, and we all studied him when we were taking European history. He once said, "A conscientious man will be cautious how he deals in blood." And especially young blood, young men.
I have 10 grandchildren, many of them in that military age. I want them to be brave, I want them to respond to duty when it calls, but I also want to make sure that their seniors are cautious about what wars we enter and what we stay away from.
I still believe, Chris, that we should not have put our army into Vietnam. But that doesn't mean I demean what these soldiers did there. They were as good as any soldiers we've ever sent abroad. And I never once have criticized an American soldier, all the way up to General Westmoreland. They were doing what the senior civilian authority of this country asked them to do.
WALLACE: I hope you won't mind, both of you, me calling you elderstatesmen, but I can't let you go...
DOLE: We're elder, yes.
WALLACE: But I can't let you go without asking you a little bit about what's going on now.
Senator Dole, the young Americans who are fighting now in Iraq — what's your thought about that conflict?
DOLE: Well, when I hear the reports of the incident yesterday in Saudi Arabia, it reminds me that, you know, we're still in the global war on terrorism. There are Americans involved. I don't know the exact numbers, maybe killed or hostages. I think seven were rescued.
But it's a tough call. It's not like World War II. You can find some similarities, but the country is not united. It's unfortunate all of this is happening in an election year, so it's becoming sort of politicized. But I think we should — I think we're doing the right thing.
WALLACE: Senator McGovern?
MCGOVERN: Well, this is probably one area where Bob and I may disagree, and I greatly respect his judgment on this. I think that if Bob Dole were president of the United States, he would not commit American soldiers abroad without full consultation with the Congress, full debate on the issues pro and con.
There was no big hurry about plunging into Iraq. It's been there for 6,000 years. And I wish we'd taken a little more time to get the input of Congress under unhurried conditions, to get the input of other countries whose help we need and which we're now seeking.
That's the kind of thing that somebody familiar with the legislative situation, the tripartite system of government, would have done.
MCGOVERN: It's what President Bush Sr. did, before we went into the Gulf War. And I regret, I think we plunged into this one ill- prepared.
WALLACE: Let's end — and I'm glad to see the democratic debate continues. Let's end...
DOLE: Well, we've been debating for a long time in the Senate.
MCGOVERN: I was going to say...
DOLE: We're long-time friends today.
MCGOVERN: That's right.
WALLACE: Let's end by talking about the memorial. Senator Dole, as you mentioned, it is a sad reality that, of the 16 million Americans who served, 12 million are gone. So in a sense, this memorial is less for your generation than it is for all of us.
What message do you think Americans should take away when they go visit the memorial?
DOLE: It's for Senator McGovern's 10 grandchildren, for example. They ought to take away, as I said yesterday, that some time in your life you may be called upon to make a sacrifice for your country, to preserve liberty and freedom. And that's how I look at it.
I mean, it's not for us. We're not going to be around much longer. But I think it's — I think it's distinguished. It's not about war, it's about peace and strength. There are no guns, no statutes. It's just a place for meditation and pay your respects to your father or grandfather.
WALLACE: And Senator McGovern?
MCGOVERN: I agree with that.
I gave the commencement address at the high school graduation of my oldest granddaughter. She's 18. We'd been talking about colleges where she might go, and she said, "Grandpa, I got to tell you something. I'm going to join the Air Force." I said, "Well, do you think your mother would be proud of that?" We lost her mother, one of our daughters. She said, "Well, Grandpa, that's what you did." I went in at 19, of course, World War II was gathering force then. But she said, "I need the discipline."
So I'm proud of her. She's doing well. She's out in Colorado Springs, getting up at 6 o'clock in the morning and doing her job. And I'm proud of her for making that decision.
WALLACE: We want to thank you both for joining us today.
And if I may, thank you, Captain Bob Dole, of the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division, and Lieutenant George McGovern of the U.S. Army Air Corps' 455th Bomber Group. Thank you, both, for your service to our country.