MY TOUR OF DUTY

 

I discuss my tour of duty in an interview with myself, which begins below.  Use the menu to the right of the title. to navigate through the four pages of the interview.

 

I've also tried to answer the question, "What was Vietnam?"

 

You may want to  learn (these links will take you off this site) about my attempt to get a job as a fireman after the war, or you can read about the time I met the parents of a Marine who served with me.

 

If you are in Polk or Hillsborough County in Florida, and you would like a speaker about the Vietnam War, get in touch with  me by clicking on email in the navigation bar (above).

 

 

1.

Before Vietnam

 

INTERVIEW WITH MYSELF

 

1. Were you drafted or did you volunteer for military service?

I first volunteered for the Marines at nineteen (1961), served four years and was discharged (1964).

2. How old were you?

I volunteered for Vietnam, at age twenty-two (1965), nine months after I was first discharged.  I was inducted in Jacksonville, Florida.  After training, I was sent to Vietnam.  I was considered an “old man” by the young Marines around me, and I could not believe how young they were.

3. What did you feel like when you decided to volunteer? 

I was in the best shape of my life. I had served four years, got out, and was asked by the secretary of the navy to volunteer for Vietnam. At that time, I felt it was an honor to serve my country two more years.   

4. What do you recall was going on in Vietnam and in this country then? 

In 1966, the air war entered a new phase. Hanoi and Haiphong were raided for the first time. Cries of escalation and dissent really roared out through the U.S.  and around the world. By the end of 1966, fighting had reached major proportions. Over 55,000 communists, 9,500 South Vietnamese, and 6,053 U.S.  soldiers were killed in action.

Demonstrations against the war were taking place at most universities and in the streets. Draft cards were being burned. In the United States, the popularity of President Johnson was at an all time low. 

By the end of 1966, fighting reached major proportions. The United States had nearly 400,000 men engaged.  Infiltration from the north had risen to 8,000 men a month. Enemy strength in South Vietnam rose from 230,000 to about 287,000 in spite of the claimed 50,000 communists killed.

5. How did your family and friends react to your going into military service?

They were against it. They knew I would be sent to Vietnam.

6.  Describe your Basic Training. Where, what happened, your feelings and observations. Did it change you in any way? How? Did it prepare you for Vietnam?

I received basic training at Paris Island, S.C., in 1961. We were told a Marine was expected to commit suicide in cadence without a flinch, whether advancing into rifle fire or hurling himself upon bayonets. To bring him to a state of mindlessness where he was ready to do this, he was drilled physically and bullied mentally and spiritually until he was convinced not only that he was the lowest scum on the earth but also that his only hope of salvation, his ticket through the pearly gates, was to climax a lifetime of service by an act of self-sacrifice.

7. What did you think and feel about the Vietnamese war, the Vietnamese people, and Vietnam at the time when you came on active duty?

At the time I volunteered, I felt the war in Vietnam was no different from any other. My grandfather fought in World War I, my dad and uncles in World War II, and several uncles fought in Korea. I wanted to do my part, just like my relatives before me. I knew the Vietnamese were poor, hard-working people.  Vietnam, both North and South, has known little peace since history began. China has always been a presence, followed by the Mongols, the French, and others, all brought down by the indestructibility of the native Vietnamese. 

8. What were you told about the reasons for the war and by whom? 

On August 2, 1964, the American destroyer Maddox was attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin by North Vietnamese torpedo boats. Congress passed the so-called Southeast Asian Resolution, the nearest approach to a legal declaration of war in Vietnam, making it clear that our government would take all necessary measures in support of freedom and in defense of peace in Southeast Asia. South Vietnam requested assistance of the United States. This was the reason given to us by our instructors while training at Camp Pendleton, California, before going to Vietnam.

9.  Describe your feelings upon receiving your orders for Vietnam. What about the trip to Vietnam?

I volunteered for Vietnam, so it was not a big surprise. My unit went to Vietnam aboard the carrier Iwo Jima. While en route, we stopped just off the island of Iwo Jima for a ceremony honoring those who fought and died there. The ship then proceeded to the Gulf of Tonkin. We were to be part of a special landing force.