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).
INTERVIEW WITH MYSELF
1. Were you
drafted or did you
volunteer for military service?
volunteered for the Marines at nineteen (1961), served four years and
was discharged (1964).
2. How old were
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.
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?
against it. They knew I would be sent to Vietnam.
Describe your Basic Training. Where, what happened, your feelings
and observations. Did it change you in any way? How? Did it prepare you
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.
Describe your feelings
upon receiving your orders for Vietnam. What about the trip to Vietnam?
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.