Vietnam War - All Gave Some, Some Gave All

NEVER FORGET THE WAR IN VIETNAM

This website is about remembrance.

WEB MASTER: Dalton R. Phillips, HTCS(SW), U.S. Navy (ret)

 

I lost my first wife, Kathy, on March 20, 2015. She died unexpectedly after blood clots were formed after a routine procedure was done. We were together for almost 30 years. I married again on March 23, 2016 to an old flame I had back in the 1970's. My new wife, Linda, and I now reside in New Haven, Indiana. My life has been quite a roller coaster ride. The most memorable period of my life was from 1964 to 1968, when I served on the USS HANCOCK (CVA-19).

 

 

 

I do not use a Guest Book. If you have comments - be it opinions, criticism, suggestions or compliments - you can reach me at
 
 

   POINTS TO PONDER

 

President Obama had eight years to screw things up. Let's give President Trump more than a few months before we label him as unfit to serve and scream IMPEACHMENT!

 

 

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THE RAMBLINGS OF AN OLD VETERAN

I am a veteran of the Vietnam War. I sit here today as an old man. The years have gone by quickly and those who served in Vietnam are old and will soon appear on a listing under "DECEASED".  Many Vietnam War Veterans did not want to talk about their experiences for many years.  Many of them still do not want to talk about it. I often think about the days of the Vietnam War and the people I served with back then. I sometimes wonder why some of us have lived to be old while so many others died as youths in Vietnam. The Vietnam experience was sad but those who served have many memories (both good and bad) and we should be proud.  I believe it is time to talk about it.

I am proud of the 23 years I served with the U.S. Navy, which included my tour aboard the USS HANCOCK (CVA-19).

Our government made a big mistake by committing our military services to fight a war in Vietnam.  Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines take an oath to protect  and defend the constitution of the United States and carry out the orders of the President and the officers appointed over them. We all did our duty.

The Vietnam War impacted the lives of many thousands of  young men and women - whether they were in the military services or not.  I was one of them.  It was a tragedy for our country but I think most of us who were alive during those times can look back on it now and smile, as we think about old friends and some of the crazy things we did back then.

After serving 23 years in the Navy, things tend to get a little muddled and confused when I start thinking back on it. Some of the most vivid memories I have about my years in the Navy come from my service aboard the USS HANCOCK (CVA-19). It was a special ship with a special crew.

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A long, long time ago - far, far away ...

 

A FAMILIAR SIGHT ON THE FLIGHT DECK OF THE USS HANCOCK (CVA-19)

  My reason for writing all of this is to show how the Vietnam War was for us sailors who stayed off shore on the aircraft carriers and other ships of the U.S. Navy. I do not intend to glorify what we did but I want to "tell it like it was". I do not want to take anything away from the combat veterans of the Vietnam War - I give them all my heartfelt salute for doing what they did over there.  I did not serve "in country" in Vietnam at any time, and I was never in combat. I was certainly not a war hero.  But I served in the Vietnam Theater of Operations, in a hostile fire zone, and I did the work that I was assigned  to do,  in supporting the war effort.

 

I quit school after I failed the seventh grade and started over a second time. I was probably about half way through that second stint in the seventh grade when I quit. I know it is unbelievable to think that a child could quit school so young but it was fairly common back then. I can't blame it on any one thing - it was a combination of different things. As I have written, I felt that some of the teachers showed partiality to the richer kids back then. I still believe that was the case. But I was hard headed and a little rebellious. I was a troubled youngster - not easy to deal with. I think I was 14 when I walked out of school for the last time. I did not stop learning there - I kept reading about everything that interested me, so my education continued on. But after that - my life lacked structure and discipline. I was starting to get in trouble before I joined the Navy right after I turned 18. I think joining the Navy was the best thing I ever did. It put structure and discipline back in my life. Anyway - I wish it was not that way. I wish I had stayed in school to go on to college. The world started wobbling on its axis in 1965 - too much was happening too fast. It was a bumpy ride for all of us for several years after that - Vietnam, the Age of Aquarius, the hippie revolution, bouts with heavy drinking, Watergate, Nixon's disgrace, the Fall of Vietnam, more bouts with heavy drinking, and on and on. It was about 1977 before things finally settled down for me.

 

After I quit school, I didn't sit around the house and do nothing. I was always outdoors - if I wasn't working I would be out exploring. I did some nasty jobs - cleaning out a chicken house was probably the nastiest job I did. All of that dust and the stench of it. Andy Shipp and I contracted that job for $10 ($5 each) - it took us about 10 hours of steady hard work to do the job. I chopped cotton, pulled cotton, worked as "throw back hand" in a big trailer that was towed behind the cotton strippers in those days, set up and mended barbed wire fences, rescued new born calves in the middle of winter, worked in a cattle feed lot, worked on windmills, plowed with a tractor, picked up bales of hay, shocked feed, loaded semi trailers, drove a delivery truck and the list goes on. My hourly wage ranged from $0.65 to $1.25, depending on the job and the generosity of the person that hired me. By the time I reached 18, I realized that I wasn't cut out to stay on the farm and I needed to go see the world. I had the work ethic, but I lacked education and had no special skills. I needed discipline and structure in my life. I joined the Navy - partly because my older brother Stan pushed me to do it. I promptly went to Vietnam. I didn't serve in country there and I was never in combat, but it was still an unpleasant place to be. I often thought about home and I longed to be back there. After a few years, the Navy got in my blood. I liked the Navy life - especially the travel and adventures. I served 23 years. I could have done a lot worse - like serving prison time. Life has some strange twists and turns.

I am not writing this as an intellectual or "subject matter expert". I am writing as a person who lived through those times. I am not here to pass judgment on anyone but I will express my opinions as honestly as I can. The opinions expressed here are my own and I do not expect everyone to agree with me. So be it.

Like many others, I did not did not try to stay in touch with old friends from those times. Since I've had this website up I have made contact with several old shipmates.  I hope to hear from others as time goes on.

Thanks for your service!

U.S. AIR FORCE IN VIETNAM: 2,586 deaths

U.S. ARMY IN VIETNAM: 38,224 deaths

U.S. COAST GUARD  IN VIETNAM: 7 deaths

U.S. NAVY  IN VIETNAM:  2,559 deaths

U.S. MARINE CORPS  IN VIETNAM: 14,844  deaths

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REMEMBERING BOOT CAMP

The Chief talked and we listened.

I was an ordinary sailor. I served on the old aircraft carrier USS HANCOCK (CVA-19) from October of 1964 until June of 1968. During that span of time, the USS HANCOCK made three cruises to the Western Pacific. When we were deployed, we spent most of our time operating off the coast of Vietnam. All of us knew we were there to keep the ship running with all vital systems operating and the war planes flying.  I  made a contribution to make that happen, as did every other man on board the carrier.  In South Vietnam, we operated in the South China Sea on "Dixie Station". Our mission was to protect friendly ground forces and disrupt enemy communications. Our aircraft provided close air support for the friendly ground forces and conducted bombing missions to destroy waterborne craft in the South China Sea and the inland waterways, destroy roads and bridges and generally kill the enemy wherever we had that opportunity. In North Vietnam, we operated in the Gulf of Tonkin on "Yankee Station". Our aircraft conducted bombing missions against designated military targets in North Vietnam, usually in coordination with the Air Force.

U.S. ARMY 1ST INFANTRY DIVISION

The "Big Red One" saw service in Vietnam from 1965 to 1970.

 

For us serving on the ships, it didn't matter much whether we were operating on Dixie Station or Yankee Station. It was all the same to us. It was hard to believe that we are in a war zone. When we were operating on Yankee Station we received Combat Pay - $55 a month as I remember. We also got free postage on the letters we mailed home - when we could find the time to write them. The aircraft carriers almost always stayed 25 miles or more away from the coast. We ran up and down parallel with the coast, within our assigned sectors, launching and recovering our aircraft. We rarely saw land and when we did it was just the higher mountain peaks. At night we could sometimes see flashes from the shell bursts in country, but that was not common. It was always hot and miserable.  In the daytime, we could sometimes see the black puffs from the enemy flak bursts as their gunners tried to shoot down the planes coming back to the aircraft carriers. We saw planes come back all shot up and we saw pilots being lifted out of the planes covered with blood from wounds. We knew we were in the war but it was sometimes surreal for us. It was not a pleasant place to be. As far as combat is concerned, It was not likely that we would ever be shot at. But life aboard an aircraft carrier is extremely dangerous, at any time, especially when we operated in that scenario.

The Captain came over on the ship's announcing system almost every night just before taps (lights out) to update us on the days actions - usually a tally of how many straw bridges we blew up and how many sampans we sunk.

I was just a kid. I joined the Navy in June of 1964 because I dropped out of school and there was not much for me in the little town in Texas where I grew up. I was having problems at home - I was under the legal age and still drinking heavily, I couldn't keep a steady job, and I was always being criticized by my parents and older brothers. I had never been in jail but the local police knew more about me than they needed to and kept a close watch on me. I was headed for trouble if I stayed there.  I needed to get away from  there. I needed to learn a trade, earn a living and start being independent. I needed to get motivated, set goals for myself and work hard to achieve them. In short -  I needed to grow up.

Joining one of the military services was part of the process of growing up for most of us young men coming of age back in those days, at least up until about 1965.  Some of us saw it as an opportunity and a way to better ourselves but most of us just saw it as a way to get away from Mom and Dad and have some adventures on our own - away from home. That is the way it was for me - I joined the Navy as a "way out". I had no real plan for what I wanted to do with my life.

U.S. ARMY 173RD AIRBORNE BRIGADE

The "Sky Soldiers" saw service in Vietnam from 1965 to 1971.

 

It was mostly a case of the "luck of the draw" for me.  I always knew I would go in the military as soon as I could. I admired soldiers and I wanted to go in the Army. I had things all set up to join the Army right after I turned  17, but my mother refused to sign the release papers at the very  last minute. I had to wait until I was 18 to enlist, without parental consent. I turned 18 in May of 1964 and immediately contacted the Army again. But they must have met their quota because the Army recruiters didn't seem all that interested in me at the time. They kept putting me off. Out of frustration, I contacted the Navy and their local recruiter jumped right on it.  I enlisted in the Navy two weeks later.  I have often pondered what would have happened if I had joined the Army in 1963 instead of the Navy in 1964.

A few months after I joined the Navy, one of my best friends from back home joined the Army. After boot camp, he went through Army Paratrooper School and was assigned to the 173RD Airborne Brigade. Around March of 1965, I started getting letters from him. The 173RD had been staged on the island of Okinawa, for further transfer on to Vietnam. They were one of the first major Army units to be deployed to Vietnam, for combat service. My friend was just a scared kid, like the rest of us who found ourselves over there. The 173RD Airborne Brigade saw heavy action in Vietnam. My friend made it through all of that and he is now an old man living about thirty miles from where we grew up.  I have met up with him a few times since we served in Vietnam but he never wanted to talk about his experiences there. That is typical of most combat veterans.

The draft was in effect and I received my draft notice, with orders to report for induction into the U.S. Army,  two months after I turned 18, while I was still in the Navy's Boot Camp. Again - it was the "luck of the draw for me".  Looking at the Vietnam War Killed in Action listings for 1965 through 1968, mostly Army and Marines, I see that the majority of them were between 18 and 21. If I was drafted by the Army, there is a high probability that I would be one of the names on that list.

Vietnam was bad news. The region of southeast Asia where Vietnam is situated had been a world trouble spot for many years but things really started to heat up in the summer of 1964, while I was in the Navy's boot camp at San Diego. Two incidents allegedly occurred in the Tonkin Gulf off the coast of North Vietnam in early August of 1964, involving attacks on U.S. Navy ships by gun boats from North Vietnam. You can read different accounts about what happened back then by visiting other websites, using the search query "TONKIN GULF INCIDENT". It was all very confusing and I guarantee that if you read ten different accounts about it, in the archives of the major news services, you will notice some differences in all of them.

U.S. ARMY 25TH INFANTRY DIVISION

The "Tropic Lightning" soldiers saw service in Vietnam from 1965 to 1971.

In August of 1964 the Tonkin Gulf incident set the ball rolling that caused things to happen that would start a real shooting war in Vietnam. President Johnson started running his mouth and making threats against North Vietnam. North Vietnam was not going to be intimidated by him and they continued to take hostile actions against the American service people stationed in South Vietnam, using the Viet Cong. Every time they did something. President Johnson would get on his soap box and start running his mouth. I truly believe that President Johnson wanted to go to war in Vietnam, even before the Tonkin Gulf incident happened.  I also believe the leaders in North Vietnam wanted to wage war in South Vietnam, to eventually obtain ownership of it, even if it meant going to war with the Americans. In any case, Ho Chi Minh (another old man) and his compatriots in North Vietnam were a plucky bunch. They were not going to be intimidated by President Johnson.

 I graduated from boot camp in early September of 1964, with orders to the USS HANCOCK (CVA-19) homeported in Alameda, California. I was processed for "on the job training" in the engineering branch of the Navy and designated as a Fireman Apprentice. That is another way of saying that my scores on the battery of tests the Navy gave new recruits were not very high and I was not considered to be worthy of going to an apprenticeship training school before I went to the fleet. Instead, I would be sent straight to the fleet for on the job training.

When I checked in to the Alameda Naval Air Station in the San Francisco Bay I was told that the HANCOCK was out on fleet operations for an indefinite period of time. I had to bide my time for several weeks in Transient Status - which meant that I was assigned to whatever jobs needed to be done, such as cleaning toilets or picking up trash. It was a blessing because it gave me a little time to calm down and get used to being in the real Navy. It also gave me time to get over some of the homesickness.

  In the middle  of October of 1964, I was flown from Alameda Naval Air Station to North Island Naval Air Station in San Diego in a crotchety old plane with two wing mounted propeller engines. We left Alameda very early in the morning and did not land in San Diego until around 3 that afternoon. The plane carried six to eight passengers and the seats in it faced the rear of the plane. We landed at two or three places enroute to San Diego. At the terminal at North Island NAS, there were 80 to 100 of us gathered in the lobby, all bound for the USS HANCOCK. Most of us were "newbies", young sailors right out of boot camp or apprenticeship training schools. There was one chief petty officer and a few petty officers. They were detailed to keep us all in line. We were bussed over to the pier where the HANCOCK was scheduled to tie up. Around 5 PM the old ship made its approach and finally docked just before dark. I was totally overwhelmed by the size of it and I couldn't believe that something that big could actually float.

As I remember it, we were in port in San Diego for about a week after I reported on board. We then set sail for a cruise to the Western Pacific on October 21, 1964, by the official records. That was the beginning of the Vietnam War for me.

After the Tonkin Gulf incidents in August of 1964, things continued to go downhill in Vietnam, which caused great concerns for the President of the United States. Lyndon B. Johnson. I will go to my grave believing that the war in Vietnam was fought mainly  because the ego of one old man (Lyndon B. Johnson) was bruised. He could not understand how a little third world country like North Vietnam could challenge the power and authority of the mighty United States of America and him. He was not going to let them get away with it. He set out to teach them a lesson and "put them back in their place".  I do not want to beat up on President Johnson - he had enough criticism when he was alive and I believe he suffered enough. He was probably one of the best qualified men who ever served as President of the United States but he let his pride and ego get in the way. He made some very bad decisions regarding Vietnam.

THIS WE KNOW: From January 1, 1961 to August 10, 1964, 181 Americans military people were killed in Vietnam - by the end of Lyndon Baines Johnson's term as President of the United States, almost 36,000 American military people died in Vietnam.

One thing stands out in my mind that still leaves a sour taste in my mouth. It makes me believe that the Vietnam War was premeditated - the Johnson administration had things all planned out. During our transit across the Pacific, around December of 1964 or January of 1965, I remember attending a briefing which was given to us by one of our officers. The briefings were mandatory for everyone on the ship, with no exceptions.  These briefings were scripted affairs. For the most part, the officers read word for word from a white paper that was provided to them by "higher authority". The gist of it all was to get the point across that communism had to be stopped in Vietnam to prevent a "domino effect" from occurring. If action was not taken by the U.S. to stop communism in Vietnam then it was almost certain that all of Asia (or a great portion of it) would be under communist control within a few years (the domino effect). They also talked about Vietnam being of great importance to the U.S. because of the rubber tree plantations located there. The bottom line is: We were being prepared to go to war in Vietnam and these briefings were a big part of the propaganda package. I think it was a form of brain-washing. The officer who gave the briefing I attended did not seem to have his heart in it - he was very nervous and there were some uncomfortable pauses as he read from that white paper.

U.S. ARMY 4TH INFANTRY DIVISION

The "Ivy Division" saw service in Vietnam from 1966 to 1970.

I believe the white paper for that briefing was written by someone near the top in the Johnson administration - possibly Robert McNamara, the Secretary of Defense. I am not sure why they thought it was necessary.

I assume that members of the other military services were given similar briefings around that time. It was obvious the the politicians were setting the stage for a shooting war in Vietnam. I believe President Johnson made up his mind that we were going to war in August of 1964. Plain and simple, it was propaganda.

Here is an official government pamphlet, published and distributed in 1964:

 VIETNAM: Struggle for Freedom

This is very similar to the what we were told in that briefing.  Keep in mind that this paper was written before the United States committed large scale ground forces to combat in South Vietnam or started the bombing raids on North Vietnam

I must confess that I was more confused after the briefing than I was before I heard it. I have thought about it often and I still wonder why our government decided that such a briefing needed in the first place. I was bothered by it because whoever wrote it seemed to think that we were all stupid.  I was naive but not stupid. To make it worse, many of the officers who gave the briefings were well aware that it was propaganda and it showed.

The days before the Vietnam War turned hot in 1964 were similar to those before the first President Bush launched Operation  Desert Storm. The big difference was that President Johnson did not give the Generals and Admirals the freedom to plan things out properly or the authority to make decisions and run things in Vietnam.  President Johnson tried to do everything from Washington D.C - BIG MISTAKE.

It was a very complicated situation and we all knew that. South Vietnam was not a pleasant place to be in those times. It had been at war for many years before we got involved there.  It was primarily a Civil War, after the French were defeated in the 1950's. It is true that things were out of control in South Vietnam and it had been that way for many years . The government of South Vietnam  was not stable and there was wide-spread corruption. In many cases the people in South Vietnam had good reasons fro being unhappy.  Some of its citizens were being brutally murdered by other citizens, who were influenced by communist agitators from North Vietnam. It was a big mess -  it was a place we Americans should have stayed away from. I think President Johnson was sympathetic with the people in South Vietnam and honestly believed that we could go in there and "straighten up the mess".  He believed we could stop the violence in South Vietnam quickly.  Instead, adding our military forces to the mix there just caused a huge explosion that could not be reversed. In a short period of time, we were committed to a terrible war. Sadly, our presence there only added to the misery of the people in South Vietnam

I can only speak for myself. I was an 18 year old kid.  I was gung-ho and ready to go to action. I took this oath when I enlisted in the U.S. Navy :

"I, Dalton Ray Phillips, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."

I had been raised to "wave the flag". My attitude was: "Ours is not to reason why. Ours is but to do or die."  I really didn't need a pep talk. I think it was that way for most of us.  I was ready to do my duty and follow orders. I did not need all of the propaganda to inspire me.

To say that I was naive would be an understatement. To me - if our President said it was the right thing to do then it had to be right and his wisdom should not be questioned.

Blind faith can be dangerous.

All of this brings to mind some of the statements made by members of the German Waffen SS after World War Two ended ... "I was a soldier" ... "I followed my orders" .... "I did my duty for my Fuhrer".

U.S. ARMY 23RD INFANTRY DIVISION

The "Americal Division" saw service in Vietnam from 1967 to 1971.

 

The large scale bombing raids on military targets in North Vietnam started in February of 1965 and continued into 1967. Shortly after the bombing started, the U.S. committed Army and Marine Corps ground forces to combat action in South Vietnam on a large scale and beefed up the presence of the U.S. Air Force in South Vietnam and nearby countries.  All of that required the involvement of many more ships and people from the U.S. Navy. Things escalated very fast in 1965. The rest is history - we were engaged in a full scale shooting war without having clear objectives.

During those early days of the war, all targets to be bombed in North Vietnam had to be personally approved by President Johnson. At that time, I think it was like a big game for him. He bragged that "an out-house can not be bombed in North Vietnam without my personal approval".  He liked the power and control. He set the stage for running the war from Washington DC, which was a major blunder. Throughout the years Johnson was in office, most of the important decisions about the war that should have been made by the military professionals were made by the politicians and bean-counters.

President Johnson later had to accept responsibility for making some very bad decisions, many of them against the advise of his Generals and Admirals.

The bombing of targets in North Vietnam was not as effective as it should have been because of the many restrictions imposed by President Johnson. Surface to aIr missile (SAM) sites were under construction in North Vietnam and we knew about it early.  They could not be bombed because President Johnson was afraid Russian's would be killed. We knew they were being constructed but did nothing to stop it and that was probably one of the biggest mistakes we made during the period of the Vietnam War. Our planes were not allowed to attack the SAM sites unless there was convincing evidence that U.S. aircraft were being illuminated and targeted for SAM attack. These SAM sites later became totally operational, which caused the loss of many American aircraft and their crews.

There is an old saying in the Navy : "Piss Poor Planning Produces Piss Poor Results".  That applies very well to the situation in Vietnam under the leadership of President Johnson. If we did not learn anything else from the Vietnam experience, I hope we learned this: IT IS NOT THE WAY A WAR SHOULD BE FOUGHT.

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  During that cruise, USS HANCOCK made the transit across the Pacific, stopping off in Hawaii, Japan and the Philippines, before we  took up station off the coast of Vietnam sometime in January of 1965.

In early February of 1965, Camp Holloway and the U.S. controlled Pleiku air field, in South Vietnam were attacked by Viet Cong communist insurgents and 8 Americans were killed. Within 12 hours, President Johnson ordered retaliatory bombing strikes to be launched against military targets in North Vietnam from the U.S. aircraft carriers USS CORAL SEA and USS HANCOCK. It was called Flaming Dart. Rear Admiral Edward Cobb Outlaw was in command of the Naval Air Forces participating of the raid and he had his headquarters on the USS HANCOCK.

I think it is important to point out that in 1964, Lyndon Baines Johnson had the full confidence of most Americans. He had been an important political leader for many years. There was no reason to question his judgment.

I did not know Lyndon Johnson personally, but he had been an important man in Texas as far back as I could remember.  I had heard about him all of my life. He had been a U.S. Senator from Texas when I was growing up there. He was quite a hero for us.  I admired him In some ways - I used to think of him as a real life Foghorn Leghorn type of character, with his Texas drawl and bigger than life persona.  He was obviously a man with  a huge ego. He liked power and he liked to be in control. He liked to be the center of attention and he loved to run his mouth. He also surrounded himself with "yes men" - advisors who gave him inaccurate information because that is what he wanted to hear.

 On that fateful day in February of 1965 , I believe he honestly thought that ordering the air strike on North Vietnam was a quick fix that would cause them to back down and show him the respect that he so richly deserved. 

There was a great deal of excitement on the HANCOCK when we got the word about the air strike. Most of us were glad  we were playing a part in making history by retaliating against the communists in North Vietnam. As I remember it, there was only one air strike launched from the HANCOCK that day and there were not that many of our aircraft involved in it. From what I have read - there were a total of 49 Navy aircraft involved in it. We were finally going to take action against North Vietnam and we all cheered about that.

We didn't know what to expect from North Vietnam and all of the ships involved were placed in Condition Three - Wartime Cruising. Both of the aircraft carriers were steaming in the Tonkin Gulf in relatively safe waters off the coast of North Vietnam. The aircraft carriers accompanied by several destroyers and other escort ships.

 it was intended to be a show of force that would convince North Vietnam that we meant business. It didn't work. It was like swatting a big wasp nest with a small fly swatter - it just stirred things up. Within a few days, they hit us again in South Vietnam. Over 20 more Americans died. President Johnson made up his mind to pour many thousands of Marine and Army ground troops into Vietnam and plans to do that started immediately.

I didn't keep a diary but I believe we only stayed in Condition Three status for about three weeks. That becomes a grind in a hurry. The number of watches that had to be stood by the sailors was basically tripled. It seems that we were either on watch or working, and there was little time for sleep, writing letters or recreation. All critical stations (normally not manned) and the Damage Control parties were manned up at 1/3 strength 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

North Vietnam did not have a Navy to speak of and they posed little threat to the American aircraft carriers, as long as we kept them far enough away from the coast. They made a few attempts to send patrol boats and  MIGs out to attack the American ships but the radar picket escort destroyers and fighter jets from the aircraft carriers took care of them with no problems. Admiral Outlaw decided that it was not necessary to keep the aircraft carriers in Wartime Condition Three. 

The excitement of it all dwindled for us after a few days. Then the monotony and grind of it set in. We were all very happy when things were finally relaxed and we went back to normal peace time cruising again.

Operation Rolling Thunder officially started in early March of 1965. From that point through about 1972, the U.S. Navy kept from two to four aircraft carriers stationed off the coast of Vietnam and missions were launched around the clock. Hundreds of other U.S. Navy ships also served in the Vietnam theater. The Air Force was also launching continuous bombing strikes against targets in North Vietnam from their bases in South Vietnam and with the B-52's from Guam.

U.S. MARINE CORPS  3RD DIVISION

The 3RD Marine Division saw service in Vietnam from 1965 to 1969.

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There are those who believe that us old Navy guys who never did time "in country" in South Vietnam should not claim to be veterans of that war. I can appreciate that viewpoint, to a certain degree, but I believe those people would see things from a different perspective if they had served where we did. The Navy played a very important role in the Vietnam War - especially the Aircraft Carriers. I think we all did our duty and worked as a team to contribute to the war effort in Vietnam. We obeyed our orders and did our duty. That is what American soldiers, marines, airmen and sailors are supposed to do. I believe I earned my stripes in Vietnam.

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No one knows for sure what President John F. Kennedy had in mind when he started meddling in the affairs of South Vietnam while he was in office as President of the United States in the early 1960's. We know JFK had a special interest in Vietnam. There are many different opinions about that.  You can read many different commentaries about that on other websites, written by people who are much smarter than I am.  In any case, by early 1965, I believe it should have been clear to then President Lyndon Johnson that he had a tough choice to make - swallow his pride, abandon South Vietnam and pull all Americans out of there immediately or beef up the American presence in South Vietnam and stand and fight. With typical Texan bravado, he chose the stand and fight option. (I can say that - don't forget, I am also a Texan.)  Hindsight is 20/20 and we all now know that he made the wrong choice.

The Vietnam War was caused by a stubborn old man who could not swallow his pride.

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Things were complicated in America in the middle 1960's. Most of the working class adults came from the "greatest generation" - those who had endured World War Two. Their off-spring were the "baby boomers" and let's be honest here - many of us were pampered spoiled brats. Around 1964 - the whole world seemed to go nuts with all of the changes that took place. Although it was in the news every day, what was going on in Vietnam was of little importance to the average American. The older folks yawned it off - even after the shooting war started they thought of it as a "small war" that didn't matter much anyhow. After all - in their minds,  it didn't cast a shadow against what had happened during WW2.  Besides, they had other things to worry about.

"BEAVER" CLEAVER GONE BAD!

The Hippie Movement was starting and all of the baby boomers were impacted by it, in one way or another. It was supposed to be about "being your own person" and "doing your own thing" but I believe most of the baby boomers who became hippies were like little sheep - following along after the herd. Those of us who resisted the Hippie Movement were labeled as "squares".

We were all under pressure to take sides - either  continue to be a square or drop out to be a hippie.

Obviously, I believed in what we were trying to do in South Vietnam so I chose to be a square.

I was a country boy when I arrived in San Francisco in 1964. I wasn't prepared for the the things I saw in 'Frisco. I was like a real life "Gomer Pyle" in many ways.  I spent the next four years in and out of 'Frisco and I saw the hippie movement progress from a few "gentle people" and "flower children" to huge mobs of dirty, long-haired, screaming fanatics. It all started out quietly enough but within a few years, the hippies were protesting against everything - especially the Vietnam War. The hippies were "anti-establishment". They wanted changes but they did not always know what changes they wanted. They were especially active in the California cities situated around the San Francisco Bay. They tried to blockade the Armed Forces Induction Centers and other government buildings. They demonstrated at the gates leading into military bases and tried to block traffic.  By 1967, I was still dedicated to doing my duty in the Navy, but I was not happy with the way things were going in Vietnam. I was starting to have doubts of my own about our ability to win in Vietnam, unless the rules of engagement were changed.  I was still very much against what the hippies were doing.

By 1967 things in America were in very sad shape. The Vietnam War was only part of the problem, but it became the focal point. Our President had lost control, our value system had deteriorated and the whole world seemed to be turned upside down. It seemed like everyone wanted to pick on us in the military services and blame us for all of these problems. It didn't matter what uniform you wore  - Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Navy or Marine Corps. We were treated with total disrespect. We were heckled, spat at and generally ridiculed in public places, such as the airports. Most of the action was done by the hippie anti-war protestors. They were very hateful and assertive and they liked to make noise.  Everyone else seemed to ignore what they saw happening around them - they just turned away and pretended not to notice. I can honestly say that I preferred being overseas to being in America back in those days of social turmoil. When we visited Hong Kong, there were always many older tourists there from Australia. They always treated us with great kindness and told us how much they appreciated what we were doing in Vietnam. We almost never heard words of praise like that from the older folks back in the United States.

When I think back on those times, it still leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

Despite all of the hostility that was shown toward us back then, coming back from a lengthy WestPac deployment was always a pleasant experience for us. It was great to be back in the USA. You can't believe how great a simple McDonald's hamburger or a big cold glass of real milk tastes after you have been away from such things for almost a year. We learned to appreciate the simple things in life. It was always good to come home.

After we completed our cruise to Vietnam in 1967, I was convinced that we were not winning and we would never win the war unless we changed the way we were doing business. There were too many restrictions and "rules of engagement" imposed by the politicians. The war was being managed from Washington D.C. The Generals and Admirals were not running the war - the politicians were in control.

War makes people crazy. By the end of 1967, I was all for a full scale invasion of North Vietnam because I believed it was the only way we could hope to win the war to end the madness that was going on in Vietnam.  I wanted it to end but I still wanted the U.S. to win. To give it up was unthinkable to me.

I was called a "baby killer" for the first time at the airport in San Francisco by some little hippie guy who was backed up by about 20 of his kind. They often roamed around in the airports - looking for opportunities to harass military people who were walking alone. If there were two or more of us walking together, they usually kept their distance because they were cowardly. But if you were walking through an airport in uniform by yourself, you could count on being harassed by the hoard of hippie agitators.

I hated to go around airports back then. We were required to travel in uniform and that just made us easy targets for the hippies. I travelled by Greyhound bus a few times to avoid the hassles at the airports. At the airports, we would go to the seating areas near the boarding gates and gather in little groups. There would be people there from all branches of the military services - officers and enlisted people. It was mostly men in the military back then, but there were sometimes a few women in these little huddles.  We were basically treated like social outcasts. We were more comfortable in the company of other military people. 

Several big name celebrities from Hollywood had joined the anti-war band wagon by 1967,  including Jane Fonda. She is the one we hear about most nowadays but there were many others. They helped to keep things stirred up among the hippies. I do not think they performed a public service that was of any great value, as many of them like to take credit for nowadays. They were just more noise-makers and agitators and their fame gave them a special place in the scheme of things.

The draft dodgers who ran away to Canada and other places got  more sympathy from most folks  than the military people who came back from Vietnam wounded.  Former President Bill Clinton was one of the draft dodgers, if what I read about him is correct.  

We had orders to ignore the anti-war agitators  and it was understood that we would be punished if we were involved in a confrontation with the hippies in a public place. I got in the habit of trying to look as mean as I could when I was in the airports and other crowded public places. I figured if I was going to be treated like an asshole I might as well act like one, and I usually did just that.

War is a horrible thing. We all knew that innocent people were killed every time we launched a bombing mission against heavily populated areas in North Vietnam. I truly believe we tried to focus on bombing military and industrial targets but I know there were innocent casualties. On the other side of the coin - we knew that innocent people were routinely being slaughtered in South Vietnam by the Viet Cong or the North Vietnamese invaders. I am certain there were many more innocent casualties in South Vietnam than there were in North Vietnam, although there is no way to tally it all up. Babies and other innocent people should not be killed but it happens in every war. As General Sherman said, "War is hell".

Jane Fonda and others took a very one-sided stand about the war - especially the "baby killer" thing.  She got that started and went way too far with it. In my mind, she was guilty of grand treason because she openly aided the enemy of the United States at that time and caused great hardships for many American prisoners of war held by that enemy.  Jane Fonda went on to live a successful life and as far as I know she has never apologized for what she did. To this day -  I still will not watch a movie or TV show if Jane Fonda is one of the actor's in it. I have no respect for the lady.

I am happy to see that our military people today are shown appreciation when they return from deployments. During the Vietnam War, there were no "Welcome Home" banners or other displays of appreciation for us when we came home. If we were recognized at all, it was to be heckled by agitators. We tried to make ourselves "invisible" as much as we could.

I didn't have a problem with people being against the war in Vietnam by 1967, but tormenting the people in uniform was just plain wrong. I never could understand that.  It got worse as time went by.  If we are not happy with the way things are going, as citizens we have a duty to try to make some changes. The best way to do that is by being involved and voting for the right pepole.  We need to watch what is going on and stay involved to keep the politicians in line - from the President of the United States down to the local County Clerk.  

I was one of those squares who believed in HONOR, DUTY and COMMITMENT. I have no apologies for that.

U.S. ARMY 101ST AIRBORNE DIVISION

The "Screaming Eagles" saw service in Vietnam from 1965 to 1972.

The Vietnam War ended Lyndon B. Johnson's political career. He did not run for re-election as President in 1968. After he turned over the keys to Richard M. Nixon in January of 1969, he left Washington and stepped out of the political spotlight. For the rest of his life, I believe he was haunted by the ghosts of all of the people who died in Vietnam because of the decisions he made and the military actions he ordered while he was President. I believe he was a broken man in his later days. He died on his ranch in Texas in January of 1973.

I believe he was a good man who was tormented by what happened in Vietnam and the negative impact it had on America. He was shamed by it all because "it happened on his watch" and he had to accept that responsibility.

In 1964, I think all of us in the American military services were over confident. We could not imagine being defeated by a third world country like North Vietnam. We did not understand what we were up against.

This is the way I see it, for what it is worth:

The morale of all of those serving in the military services during the Vietnam War suffered and was at an all time low when the war finally ended. It took several years for the military services to recover from the Vietnam experience. After Johnson, we went through the years with Nixon, Ford, and Carter serving as Presidents of the United States without much improvement in the morale of the military services. President Ronald Reagan finally helped restore "pride in service" when he took office in 1981.  That trend continued through the term of President George H.W. Bush but started a decline again when Bill Clinton took office as President in 1993.  There was some improvement during the term of President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2009, but I believe President Barack Obama is not good for the country or the military services and he needs to go. Needless to say - I did not vote for Obama the recent National Election. We have some of the finest airmen, soldiers, marines and sailors in the world serving in our military services today but they are being taken for granted, spread too thin and pushed too hard. President Obama wants to make big cuts in the defense budget over the next several years, which includes major force reductions. He also has the tendency to control the war efforts from Washington D.C.  In my opinion, President Obama is quick to take credit when things go well but rarely accepts the blame when things go bad. I do not give him high marks as our Commander in Chief but he won a second term as our President fair and square and we are stuck with him.

This YouTube clip says it better than I can.

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I have fond memories about John Wayne. While filming the movie "The Green Berets" he spent about three days on the HANCOCK. He didn't put on a show or anything like that. He walked around the ship, accompanied only by a young marine escort, letting himself be seen and occasionally stopping to chat with ordinary sailors. One of his favorite places to hang out was a sponson weather deck off the hangar deck. He would stand there, gazing out at the sea - enjoying the view and the fresh air, probably sneaking a cigarette when he could get away with it, although smoking was always prohibited in those areas. Sometimes one of the older Chiefs would go out there with him and they would stand there talking.

We had several USO shows come on board the ship - the ones I remember are Bob Hope, Danny Kay and Martha Raye but there were several others. They all put on nice shows but most of them stayed up in the wardroom or in officer's country, when they were not performing. We enlisted men rarely saw any of them out walking around the ship, and when we did, the Captain or another high ranking officer was with them. But John Wayne was different. He ate all of his meals in the crew's mess, seated at a table with some of the youngest sailors. One day I was in the medical ward, working on installing a drinking water fixture in one of the passageways. I heard a commotion and  looked up -  there was John Wayne walking toward me. I had to step aside to make room for him to pass. He had a big smile and he said simply, "How are you today?" as he walked by me, in that gravelly voice of his. He was a very tall man. I am six feet one inches tall and I had to look up at him. He did not put on airs and we all felt like he was approachable. He acted like one of the guys. He didn't have a message and he didn't give any speeches to talk about the war or the politics involved with it. He just had a smile and a few kind words and that meant a lot to us.  I will never forget that.

 

U.S. MARINE CORPS 1ST DIVISION

The 1ST Marine Division "Blue Diamonds" saw service in Vietnam from 1966 to 1971.

 

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Our pilots were the real heroes. There are no braver men on earth than the Naval Aviators who flew off the decks of the aircraft carriers during the Vietnam War. They risked their lives every time they flew a sortie. The planes that flew attack missions from the HANCOCK were all single-seaters - the A-1's, A-4's and F-8's. We still had a wooden flight deck and could not handle the more modern F-4 Phantoms and A-5 Vigilantes.  We lost many pilots. - I don't have an exact count.  Many others managed to make it back to the ship and land their planes - although some of them were badly wounded. We still flew the old A-1's from the HANCOCK. The old propeller driven planes were extremely accurate as bombers but they made good targets because they were so slow. The Navy finally stopped using them on the bombing raids in North Vietnam around 1966 because of the heavy losses. They continued to use the A-1's for  support missions in South Vietnam for a few more years after that. The A-1 pilots were a special breed.  They wore khaki flight suits that looked like something left over from the Korean War, with 45 caliber pistols worn in shoulder holsters. Many of them sported colorful scarves around their necks - Red Baron style. They hammed it up and were not about to let the jet jockies jet the best of them. One night, an A-1 came back all shot up and crash landed on the flight deck. The Crash and Rescue team managed to get the pilot out but he was badly wounded. To get him to the medical ward, they had to bring him through the berthing compartment where I lived. I remember seeing that big burly young pilot strapped onto the stretcher - all bloody and writhing around in pain. A few hours later, it was announced that he had died. The sight of that young pilot is still in my mind. I don't know his name - I wish I had made a note of it.

Walking around on the hangar deck, we saw the damaged aircraft almost every day - an A-4 with the nose section cleanly shot away, an F-8 with several bullet holes in the tail section - small holes on one side, large jagged holes, with danling debris, on the other side, an A-1 riddled with bullet holes throughout and something that looked like a spear imbedded in the undercarriage.

Many of our pilots were captured after ejecting from their damaged planes in hostile territory. Many of them spent years as prisoners of war in North Vietnam. I believe some of them are still listed as Missing In Action.

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I did not see the horrible things in Vietnam that many combat veterans saw. I was crushed when the Vietnam War ended the way it did.  I was very bitter about the Vietnam experience. I tried to put it out of my mind for many years. I did not want to think about it or talk about it. I don't feel shame for my service in support of the war in Vietnam and I never have. I still feel great sadness and some anger about the way it was handled by the politicians and the lack of support we got from the folks at home.  I feel like we let down all of those people who died in Vietnam.  It was something I wanted to put out of my mind.

I hope we never put our young men and women in uniform in that kind of situation again. For starters, we must keep a close watch on the politicians to prevent them from getting us entangled in another mess like that again. When we do commit our military forces to go into one of these cesspools, the politicians must let the military professionals control what goes on there. The Generals and Admirals should run the war - not the politicians. We should have clear objectives and our troops should have everything they need to get the job done. If we need to make budget cuts in other programs to pay for that, then so be it. We should always fight to win. If we do not have a plan and do not know what we are doing there or how we are going to pay for it  or how we can win then we should get the hell out of there. The President of the United States, as Commander in Chief, sets the pace. We need to keep a President in office who cares about our men and women in the military services. We can all use our votes to make that happen. Most important of all - our military people must have the full support of the people here at home. If we have issues about what is going on, then we should put the heat on the President and the other politicians to get it set straight. I am now an old man but if I ever see some 20 year old kid in uniform being picked on and humiliated in an airport or any other public place by a bunch of agitators, I will start knocking on some heads with my walking cane. 

I regret that so many good people had to die in the Vietnam War.

U.S. ARMY 82ND AIRBORNE DIVISION

The "All Americans" saw service in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969.

 

I hope we learned some lessons from the Vietnam War so we do not make the same mistakes in the future. First and foremost - I hope we learned that we can not solve all of the problems in this world by using military force. When we have to fight - we have to fight smart.  We are fighting some of the most fanatical and cruel bastards on this earth. They have no "RULES OF ENGAGEMENT". Their objective is to kill the Infidel Americans - soldiers and civilians, old and young, men women and children.  They give no quarter and they expect none in return.  It is an evil world and we have to continue to fight el Qaeda and the other terrorists to keep them away from the U.S.  But we must be smart and innovative. The bad guys need to know that we are as determined as they are, and that we can be just as ruthless - when it is necessary. We should not impose unrealistic Rules of Engagement for our soldiers. Our troops in harm's way over there should not have their hands tied. War is a cruel business and people get killed. Our commanders and the troops in action are well trained and we have to trust them.  The news media looks for cases where innocent people are killed over there and they blow it up when they report it. They do that because it makes makes good news print and good news print is their bread and butter - it is how they make their money. We need to make the bad guys afraid at all times - always on edge, looking over their shoulders, afraid to go to sleep at night. We need to show up when and where they do not expect us, kill as many of them as we can,  then vanish quickly. We need to make maximum use of the remote controlled drones, smart missiles and bombs, and all of the other high tech gadgets we have at our disposal. We have to wear the bad guys down. Our enemies are not stupid. They keep informed about our Rules of Engagement and they take advantage of the situation when they can. The days of planting large numbers of people on the ground in places like Afghanistan and Iraq are over. We need to carefully choose the areas where we commit our troops on the ground, along with all of the vehicles and equipment that goes along with them. That makes a good show of force but it is not effective, over the long term.  Our troops - arrayed for conventional ground warfare - make easy targets for our enemies and that is not what we want to do. We need to be ready to put those large forces in place quickly, when it is necessary, then pull them out just as fast. Everything needs to be kept mobile.  In these times of unrest ant turmoil around the world, we certainly should not be talking about force reductions.

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Life aboard the HANCOCK was not easy. It was an old ship (built in the early 1940's) and had a distinguished record back to the days of World War Two. It was hit by a Japanese Kamikaze off the coast of Okinawa in 1945, when about 45 sailors died. I was reading up about it: of all of the aircraft carriers in the Navy record books, the USS HANCOCK is tied with the USS ORISKANY for making the most deployments to Vietnam. (I believe they both made 12 combat deployments there.)  We were all very proud to serve on the HANCOCK. It had a reputation for being a "work horse" and when one of the newer aircraft carriers was broke down and laid up in a shipyard for repairs, they always called on the HANCOCK to take up the slack.

Here is a quick sketch of the way it was for us:

The U.S. Navy had many more ships in service than it does today. Unfortunately, most of the ships in those days were built during World War Two and were seriously outdated.

Our existence was mostly mundane. We got up at 6 AM, we routinely worked 10 to 12 hour days, we caught naps whenever we could but almost never got a full night of sleep, we stood a 4 hour watch during our "off time" ... then it all started over again the next day.   

 Only a few places on the ship had air conditioning in those days. The berthing compartments, where we slept, were very Spartan. There were no chairs or other pieces of furniture. Those items were "missile hazards" and not allowed. We sat on the deck to write letters, play cards, or just shoot the bull.  We slept in canvas bottom racks which were equipped with mattresses about two inches thick. Space was at a premium and the bunks were arranged in tiers vertically and spaced about two feet apart. There would be three bunks in each vertical tier - sometimes even four or five high. There was forced air ventilation throughout the ship but the output was limited to a few discharge points in each compartment. We did not have air ducts or fans at our bunks. The berthing compartment where I slept was actually a passageway right under the hangar deck. People were walking through there at all hours of the day and night.  Sometimes that was a good thing because the movement of people walking by would stir up a little breeze.  There was a hatch nearby which opened onto the hangar deck and every once in a while we could feel a puff of air coming from that. When we were operating off the coast of Vietnam, it was always miserably hot and sultry. There was very little air moving around inside the ship and we would lay in our bunks and sweat. Sleeping was not easy. We worked ten to twelve hours a day and stood watch for four hours a day, so we did not get to spend much time in our bunks. By the time we got in our bunks, we were usually almost exhausted and somehow managed to drift off to sleep - despite the noise and the discomfort of the heat and lack of ventilation.

In those days - being deployed on a Navy ship meant that you would be out of touch with your loved ones for several months. There was no television or radio. The internet would not come into being for several years. If you could manage to  get a good short wave radio on board you could sometimes pick up a broadcast from "Hanoi Sally" or something very garbled coming out of Red China. That was all Communist Propaganda. I do not remember hearing an Armed Forces Network (AFN) broadcast while we operated off the cost of Vietnam. I only tried to listen to a radio there a few times. I did listen to AFN broadcasts when we were in Japan and the Philippines - those were good "liberty port" and we had better things to do than sit around listening to the radio. Letter mail normally took at least two to three weeks to get though to us - sometimes much longer.

U.S. ARMY 9TH INFANTRY DIVISION

The "Old Reliables" saw service in Vietnam from 1965 to 1969.

 

When we could get away with it, we would go out on a sponson weather deck or to the fantail, where we could just stand and look at the water and breathe in some fresh air.  It was beautiful, especially in the early mornings and late evenings.  it was a good place to have some quiet time and gather your thoughts, but those areas were off limits most of the time. We would sometimes sneak out there anyway. We had a storeroom and workshop on a platform deck on the fantail, right under the flight deck. That gave us a reason to go back there. I remember sitting back there, watching the planes approach and land just a few feet above us. At night, the propellor wash would sometimes stir up phosphorous, which made the water look like it was glowing. It was an eerie green light and it was pretty spooky. There was also heat lightening at night. There wouldn't be any clouds but sometimes there would be bright lightening flashes. I never heard thunder but the propellors made a great deal of noise back there. 

The work shops were very important for us because we often hung out there when we were not working. The shops were the hang-outs. Several of us had reel-to-reel tape players and we would hook those up to play our favorite music. We sometimes had two or three of them going at the same time, as I remember it, so we got to listen to country, rock and roll and pop music - all at the same time.

We were supplied with "Stars and Stripes" newspapers when the parcel mail could get through but they were usually several weeks old by the time they got to us. Parcel mail typically got through to us every four to six weeks but that all depended on the tempo of operations and where we were operating. The parcel mail was usually delivered to us by one of the replenishment ships. We had letter mail delivered more often. It usually came to us on the COD (Carrier On Deck Delivery) aircraft.

Our Ships Office printed out a daily newsgram consisting of a couple of type-written pages. Several copies of it would be copied off and distributed around the ship every morning, along with the printed copies of the Plan of The Day. Those newsgrams were sacred for us. The radiomen would tune into some of the news services using their high powered equipment to get the latest news, which was included in the newsgrams.  Each copy would be passed from person to person until it became so dog-eared that it could no longer be read.

Making a telephone call to the states was not practical in those days. After 1966, special telephone centers were set up at some of the big bases in Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan. The hours of operation were restricted, there were always always long lines and it was very expensive. Most of us didn't bother with it.

We never had enough fresh water. We were almost always on "water hours". They allowed showers every three or four days. We would stand in long lines to take a shower. They had Petty Officers posted to manage the showers - we were allowed three minutes in the shower - wet down, soap up, rinse off, get out, towel dry and leave.

The drinking water always tasted bad - rust mixed with diesel fuel best describes it. Most of us drank a lot of coffee or flavored "bug juice" and very little straight water.

U.S. ARMY 1ST CALVARY DIVISION - AIR MOBILE

The "1st Air Cav" saw action in Vietnam from 1965 to 1972.

 

We had hot food every day and it was not all that bad. In the military, food is very important to keep the morale up. I have to praise our cooks for doing what they did to keep us all fed. We all griped about the food but we did not miss many meals. Almost everything came out of a can or a box, and there was no fresh produce. We drank a lot of "bug juice", which was made with a Kool-Aid like powder. We found out that it was sweetened with saccharin - which had already been determined to cause cancer. We didn't care - it tasted good, the flavoring masked the bad taste in the water. Some of the decks in our work shops were polished steel and we used the "bug juice" powder for making up a slurry that we would put down to clean and shine those steel decks. (That always made the Chief happy.) The only milk we ever had was mixed up from powder also, there were always big slimey clumps in it and it tasted terrible. I tried it over dry cereal a few times but I usually stuck to my coffee or bug juice. The most common meat was what we called "roast beast". I believe it was actually veal and it probably came out of a can. They must have had a surplus of it in the supply system - we usually had something made from that "mystery meat" at least three or four times a week, along with reconstituted dehydrated soups and canned vegetables. We also had a lot of tuna (or chicken) ala king over noodles. an oriental Chop-Suey like concoction (which I hated) and dishes like that. Hamburgers and hot dogs also came out of a can. The hamburgers looked and tasted like Alpo dog food and the hot dogs were like big Vienna sausages. Every four to six weeks a supply ship would come alongside and we got some real frozen meat - usually steaks and hamburgers.  We might also get some fresh produce. It would feed us for a couple of meals then it was back to our old routine. The best meal of the day was always breakfast - canned bacon, powdered eggs (scrambled), creamed beef over toast (the famous SOS), reconstituted dehydrated hash brown potatoes, oatmeal, dried cereals, pastries and bread was the standard breakfast fare. The cooks sometimes made a tomato based version of the SOS - which tasted sort of like Sloppy Joe filling. I really liked the stuff and I have tried to make it at home several times over the years - can't seem to get it quite right.  I have to say that some of the cooks were real miracle workers when it came to preparing good meals with the ingredients they had to work with.  We had excellent bakers and we always had fresh hot donuts every morning.  Our Chief was in good with them and they owed him, for some reason. One of our guys would go to the Bake Shop every morning around 5 AM and they would hand out a big box of fresh donuts and other sweet pastries. On our birthdays, we were entitled to a special steak dinner, to be shared with another person of our choice, if we wanted it. Most of us did not take advantage of it because it didn't seem right to be eating steak while everyone else was eating the standard fare.

It was basic and simple food but we always had plenty of it.  The mess decks were open about 18 hours every day and there was always food available - even if it was just peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We were much better off than the grunts serving in country in South Vietnam.

I did not care much for Chief Petty Officers when I was a young sailor. Our Chief was a grumpy guy who seemed like an old man to us - he was probably around 35 years old. We saw him twice a day - at morning muster and at the afternoon muster, after the noon meal. If we saw him any more often than that then we knew someone was in serious trouble. The Chief always looked like he was mad at the world. He made rounds every night sometime between midnight and 4 AM. On his rounds, he always stopped by Damage Control Central, where we stood our watches. He would swing the door open, throw his Chief's hat in, then he would come in after it - usually cussing about the place being dirty or something.  God help anyone who was caught dozing by the Chief. He never had anything nice to say to any of us but when one of us went out and got in trouble, the Chief would come to bail us out. That happened with me on several occasions.

The Chief was a "clean freak". To keep the Chief happy, we had to keep everything clean and neat. We spent a lot of our time cleaning.

Navy Chiefs are a special breed, now as then. There are no schools to teach someone how to be a Chief. They evolve from a new recruit up to Chief over a period of several years - some faster than others. The Chief is very special in the Navy. The Chief has to be thick skinned - the officers blame the Chief for everything that goes wrong, the middle grade enlisted people believe they can do everything better than the Chief, the lower enlisted ranks blame the Chief for everything that makes them unhappy. The Chief is used to being called names, such as "dumb ass", "asshole" or "Neanderthal", behind his (or her) back. It all goes along with the job. But in times of crisis, everyone turns to the Chief to come up with a quick fix for the problem.  As part of the development process - they learn all the tricks of the trade and by the time they become a Chief,  the Chief knows everything.  "Ask the Chief" is a motto for the Navy Chief Petty Officers of the Navy. 

We hated the Chief as young sailors coming up through the ranks - then one day we became "the Chief" (those  of us who stayed in the Navy long enough). It is no wonder that Chief's are so grumpy. I have been retired for almost thirty years and I am still a Chief, in many ways. The Chiefs back in the days of the Vietnam War were especially gritty - I think "meaner than a two headed rattlesnake" is a fair description for most of them.  But a good Chief always took care of his or her people.

The words below are from a wise old Navy Captain.

"Junior officers don't know what they want and don't know how to ask for anything. Warrant Officers know what they want but they don't know how to ask for it. Chiefs know what they want and they are just plain blunt when asking for it."

The "Navy CPO Creed" explains it better than I can.

I mouthed off to a Marine Sergeant of the Guard one day, while standing a parking lot watch. He said I was smoking on watch and I told him I was not smoking, which was the truth. He said I was cocky and  didn't like my attitude - I was promptly placed on report for "insubordination" and "dereliction of duty". That is serious business for a young sailor. The Chief had a pow-wow with the marine's First Sergeant and they reached an agreement - the report chit was discarded within a few hours after it was written, before it went anywhere. Needless to say, it was not a freebie for me. I gave up two weeks of liberty time, as I recall.  I replaced the canvass bottoms in all of the bunks in my berthing compartment (about twenty), and if there was any trash to be carried off the ship, I was the guy who got to do it - day or night. I had a very disgruntled old Chief looking down my neck all the time. I was the Chief's personal errand boy. Let me tell you - I had great respect for Marine Sergeants after that!

The Chief ran our liberty when we were in port. If he wasn't happy with you for some reason -  your Liberty Card would mysteriously come up missing. You did not leave the ship without a Liberty Card in those days. Assuming that you settled your differences with the Chief, your Liberty Card was "found" after several days.  The Chief also controlled our work load.  Extra Duty had to be imposed by the Captain as non-judicial punishment at Captain's Mast. But the Chief kept a list of all the jobs that had to be done, and if he needed you to stay over to work while everyone else was on liberty  then he had every right to make it happen. So we learned early not to get on the Chief's bad side.

The Warrant Officers from those times were also colorful characters. My division's Material Officer was an old Chief Warrant Officer.  He was also the ship's Fire Marshall. Rumor was that he served on several ships that were badly damaged in battle during World War Two - at least one of them sinking. He had about 30 years of service in the Navy. We called him "the Carpenter".  As I remember it, he was one of the most senior Warrant Officers on the ship. He was tall and mean looking. The Carpenter was hard on us but he also stood up for us, when it was necessary.  I saw him get in "heated discussions" with Commanders from the Air Department on more than one occasion. The airdale's on the hangar deck didn't like us very much because we stored our shoring materials and some of the other emergency equipment on the hangar deck, which they considered to be their domain. Understandably it was a big hindrance for them but it was essential equipment that we had to keep readily available, in case of emergencies. One day a Lieutenant Commander from the Air Department was chewing me and another young petty officer out because a welding machine we were using was in the way of his crew, even though it was parked in an area that was reserved for our emergency DC equipment. Our old Warrant Officer walked up while we were being chewed out and he lit into this young Lieutenant Commander.

"Commander, what in the hell do you think you are doing? If you have a problem with where our damage control equipment is stored on this ship you can come to my office to talk to me about it. I can guarantee that you will not talk to me the way you are talking to these young lads.  You don't have enough time in the Navy, son."

  Needless to say - the welding machine stayed where it was.  The young Lieutenant Commander made a hasty retreat, after making some apologies to us. It was clear that he accepted the crusty old Warrant Officer as the "alpha male" present that day.

SPECIAL FORCES

We always had plenty of coffee to drink. We also used it as "comshaw" when we needed something when we were in port in the Philippines or Japan.  "Comshaw" means to trade or barter. Our Chief would get the coffee for us from the cooks. The Filipino and Japanese shipyard workers would give you just about anything you asked for if you brought them a big unopened tin can of Navy coffee grounds.

Some of my friends got in big trouble for stealing ice cream one day. A supply ship was alongside and they passed over several pallets of ice cream in five gallon buckets. A working party was there with a chain of guys to pass the buckets of ice cream from the hangar deck down to a walk in refrigerator three decks down.  That was big treasure for us!  It was rare for us to get ice cream. My friends were on the working party. They heisted several buckets of the ice cream and hid it in a fan room but they were caught in the act. None of us got to eat any of that ice cream.

The two most important things in a sailor's life back then were food and liberty time.    

 Monotony was a big problem for us. Every day was the same. Every once in a while, we had "Holiday Routine" on Sunday but that usually depended on the mood the Chief was in. It didn't happen very often for us, since our Chief was rarely in a good mood.

The Captain scheduled a recreational day periodically - about every three months, usually on a Sunday. We called it a "Hootinanny". That was always a big thing for us. As a special treat, the cooks would break out some cold cuts or cook hamburgers and maybe even throw in some canned soft drinks, if any were available. The sailors would get together to come up with different events to help us entertain ourselves on these special days - there would be several bands playing, wrestling or boxing matches, raffles going on, movies being shown on the hangar deck and different games and contests going on around the ship that we could get involved with.

I don't remember watching many movies while I was on the HANCOCK. There was really no space that was big enough to show movies for the crew.

I don't remember much about our Captains. The one that stands out in my memory is Captain Streeper. He was a little short guy - probably stood about five feet five inches tall. He liked to get out and walk around the ship, and he always had his Marine orderly with him. He would stop and chat with sailors as he walked around the ship. The Marine orderly was a big tall Lance Corporal. It was funny to see them walking around together - they looked like Mutt and Jeff.

 Captain Streeper had "true grit" despite his small size. He offered to turn us loose on "dungaree liberty" one day, to go take care of a bunch of hippies who were trying to blockade the main gate at the Alameda Naval Air Station. He also took the ship in as close to land as we ever came one night in Vietnam to help rescue some of our pilots who had been shot down. He was on the announcing system a lot, saying he would drive that carrier up the Mekong River if that is what it took to get those guys out of there. I believe he would have done just that but an Air Force helicopter finally rescued the pilots before it was necessary. It was a bad night. The downed pilots were in the water close to the shore in enemy controlled territory. The VC were trying to get to them in small boats and we had planes flying over to strafe the boats. We also had a destroyer in close.  Several helicopters were shot up bad trying to get to the pilots. The rescue attempts went on for a couple of hours. It is a miracle that they were rescued.

Captain Streeper was the most visible of the four Captains I served under while I was on the HANCOCK.  Almost everyday I would see him somewhere around the ship - just walking around, looking at things and talking with the sailors. He always had a pleasant greeting and sometimes he stopped to chit chat with us.

I am proud that I served under him.

 

 

ARTICLE FROM JDNEWS.COM, Jacksonville, North Carolina December 4, 2007

http://www.jdnews.com/articles/streeper-53659-uss-hancock.html

Retired Navy captain donates yacht to Carteret Community College

Retired Navy Capt. Harold P. "Jeep" Streeper had a military career that spanned 27 years and three wars including World War II, Korea and Vietnam. As the commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Hancock in 1967, he faced one of the biggest challenges of his life.

"On our first day off Vietnam, during the first combat air strike, our air wing commander was knocked down," Streeper said. "He was leading a flight of 60 aircraft, and he was our only loss for the day, but that was a real blow."

In all, 14 men aboard USS Hancock would be killed during the 10-month combat deployment to Vietnam.

"I used to talk with my men every night over the ship's public address system," he said. "I would tell them what went on that day, tell them to try to conserve water, and tell them to get some rest. I wanted to reassure them, praise them, and give them the straight skinny."

During the year Streeper served as USS Hancock's commanding officer, the ship launched more than 10,000 sorties.

Streeper, now 87, lives in New Bern and Greenville.

"I have to be near the water, so I spend a lot of time in New Bern," he said.

With 7,152 flight hours and more than 800 carrier landings, Streeper knows the sacrifices of naval aviation.

He enlisted in the Navy in 1942 after graduating from the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio, and was appointed an Aviation Cadet and sent to flight training, whereby he was commissioned an Ensign and designated a Naval Aviator Jan. 1, 1943.

During World War II, he participated in combat operations with both the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets. During the Korean War, he was officer-in-charge of a detachment of aircraft that would test the new steam catapults installed in USS Hancock. He would be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service in Korea.

Even with his medals, sea stories and years of being a successful real estate developer, it doesn't take long to realize that Jeep Streeper has his feet firmly planted in the 21st century.

"I don't like what's happening to this great country," he said. "There's a great deal of selfishness on the parts of many, and it bothers me."

Streeper and his wife, Evelyn, recently donated a 56-foot motor yacht to Carteret Community College in Morehead City to be used in the college's marine trades program.

"We wanted to do something that would help people learn a trade and give them some real world experience," he said. "I spent a lot of time on the boat, and it means a great deal to me that it goes for the right purpose."

 

 

 

OBITUARY FROM LEGACY.COM

Harold Streeper Obituary

Captain Harold Preston "Jeep" Streeper, Ret. USN, 90, passed away Thursday, June 23, 2011 at his home. A private west coast memorial service will be held at a future undisclosed time.


A native of Bridgeport, Pa., Captain Streeper graduated from the College of Wooster, Wooster, Ohio, in 1942 and immediately enlisted in the Navy as a Seaman. Shortly thereafter, he was appointed Aviation Cadet and following completion of flight training, was commissioned Ensign and designated Naval Aviator on Jan. 2, 1943.
 

During World War II he participated in combat operations with both the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets and during Korean hostilities participated in action with Navy and Marine units. In early 1954, as officer in charge of Detachment Delta, Composite Squadron Three, he participated in the fleet test and evaluation projects of the original steam catapults installed in USS Hancock. In 1955, he commanded night jet all weather Fighter/Attack Squadron 194 and in 1961-1962 commanded Attack Carrier Air Group 15. During these years he was deployed in USS Essex, USS Oriskany, and USS Coral Sea.
 

From 1964-1965, Captain Streeper served as operations officer, Carrier Division One and Task Force 77 and was deployed again in USS Hancock and USS coral sea engaged in air strike operations in Vietnam. For this participation he was awarded the legion of merit. Prior to taking command of the Aircraft Carrier USS Hancock, he was the Commanding Officer of Amphibious Attack Cargo Ship USS Tulare (AKA-112), involved in amphibious assault operations for seven months in Task Force 76 in Vietnam. He was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal for these operations.
 

Shore duty assignments include tours as a flight instructor at Pensacola, participation in the Berlin Air Lift, Assistant Operations Officer on the Staff Commander Naval Forces, Far East, Naval Attaché to the Republic of Korea, two tours of duty on the Chief of Naval Operations, and Force Training Officer for Commander Naval Air Force, Pacific. He was a 1952 graduate of the General Line School at Monterey and a 1959 graduate of the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.
 

Additional awards include the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with three gold Stars and Oak Leaf Cluster, Presidential and Navy Unite Commendations, Medal for Humane Action for the Berlin Air Lift, Military Order ULCHI (Korean Legion of Merit) and numerous campaign and foreign medals. Also, the South Vietnam Government awarded him the National Defense Decoration, Fifth Class and the Medal of Heroism with Willow Branch for his three years of participation in the Vietnamese War.
 

After retirement in 1973 from the Navy, he was President/CEO of Rampage Corporation. While expanding his interests and investments to coastal Brunswick County from 1988- until 1997, he was an avid investor, active in listings, sales, and development. He again retired and spent the next 9 years living aboard and cruising on his 56 foot motor yacht "Fox Corpen" in the Great Pacific Northwest, Puget Sound, San Juan Islands, Canadian Gulf Islands, and Desolation Sound. In 2006 he brought the yacht around, through the Panama Canal, up the ICW, and after cruising the following year in the coastal waters off North Carolina, he donated the yacht "Fox Corpen" to the Carteret Community College Foundation, Inc. for use as a "floating classroom." He continued to maintain a coastal lifestyle for the next 13 months, before Captain Streeper returned to Greenville in 2007.
Captain Streeper was a member of "The Golden Eagles", a national elite group of 200 members consisting of early pioneer contributors to naval aviation. He was one of the proud founding members of the Navy's Tailhook Association and a life member of MOAA and ANA.
 

He is survived by his wife, Evelyn Bullock-Streeper; stepsons, William Floyd Bullock, Jr. and wife Jane, of Ivanhoe, and Gregory Christopher Bullock and wife Linda, of Greenville; and step-grandchildren, William Floyd "Trey" Bullock III, Patrick and Amy Butts, and Madison and Max Riley Vinciguerra.
 

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to a charity of your choice.
 

 

Through it all, we had some pretty good times. Everyone was in it together and we formed close friendships. We always tried to look out for each other. It is true that there was a great deal of rivalry between the various departments on the ship, and even the divisions within the departments. We stayed with our own kind - Airdales, Snipes, Deck Apes, Weaponeers, etc. The initiation of new arrivals was great fun - except for the people being initiated.  I remember standing a "Mail Buoy Watch" and looking for a "Sea Bat" and being sent to fetch a "left-handed crescent wrench" for a senior petty officer There was always a lot of joking going on, and we constantly played pranks on each other, but it helped break the monotony.

We had disagreements and sometimes we fought with each other. But we were back on friendly terms by the next day.

When we were in port overseas and on liberty, we were all Hancock sailors. We looked out for each other. If we heard that a Hancock sailor was in trouble on the beach, we all went to see if we could help out. 

It was hard to keep track of the days. As I remember it, we stayed at sea for around 90 days straight on one occasion. The typical at sea period for us was between 45 and 60 days. We would visit a port (Hong Kong, Japan or the Philippines) for a week or two then it was "back to the line".

Ships of these times can stay at sea longer than we did back then, but there is a big difference in the living conditions.

When we were in port, we played hard. Drinking and getting drunk was our favorite past-time when we were on liberty. Drinking was even encouraged, it was all a way of life for sailors. I remember going to a big party. I got there about four and was drunk by five. I kept going until around eight, when the Shore Patrol carted me back to the ship in a Paddy Wagon. They carried me on board. I woke up the next morning with vomit all over me and a terrible hangover. I was wearing my new gabardine dress blues that I had just bought in Hong Kong. I had taken the jumper off at the party and I never saw it again. Apparently I was raising all kinds of hell at the party, but I don't remember any of it. That is only one incident - there were many others.

ARMY AVIATION

The ports we visited most often were Subic Bay (Philippines), Yokosuka (Japan) and Sasebo (Japan). They all had shipyard facilities so we could have major repair work done on the ship during our port calls. We visited Hong Kong less frequently, and sometimes other ports. Our main port of call was Subic Bay. It was a real oasis for us - it was a nice base with clubs, restaurants and recreational facilities of all kinds. The big attraction was Olongapo - a sprawling town just outside the main gate of the Subic Bay Naval Base. It is hard to describe the sights, sounds and smells of Olongapo but any sailor who has been there will never forget it. It was a dirty place and most of the people lived in utter poverty. But they loved American sailors and most of them were good people. The main street (Magsaysay Boulevard?) was lined with wall to wall bars.  During those days we were only allowed to go for three or four blocks on that main street - everywhere else was off limits to us. But we sometimes went there anyway. The streets were muddy and there was sewage and filth everywhere. The main way to get around if you did not want to walk was to "take a jeepney". There were sometimes hundreds of those brightly colored jeepneys on the main street, running up and down. They liked to honk the horns. They were old World War Two vintage jeeps that had been turned over to the Philippines when the war ended. They were sold to private individuals, who modified them so they could be used as taxis. The Filipinos took great pride in keeping the jeepneys in good running condition and "looking sharp".  There were street vendors on the sidewalks selling everything from "barbecue on a stick" to watches, jewelry and other trinkets. We called the barbecue "monkey meat" - and it probably was just that. There were young boys wandering the streets to snatch money, watches or other valuables from the drunk sailors, when they had the chance. The Filipino police were always on patrol in large numbers and I saw one of them shoot a young boy in the back one night for stealing a few dollars from a sailor. There was always a crazy carnival like atmosphere there -  a combination between Dodge City in it's heyday and the French Quarter of New Orleans during Marti Gras.

 The biggest danger we faced while operating in the Vietnam Theater was fire. The aircraft carriers in those days were called "Floating Zippos". They carried hundreds of tons of explosive ordnance and over a million gallons of fuel - including high octane Aviation Fuel. A small fire could quickly turn into a catastrophic conflagration - which happened on several of the aircraft carriers operating off the coast of Vietnam. To this day, U.S. Navy aircraft carriers are one of the most dangerous ships to serve aboard.

Many things have changed in the Navy since those days but I have great respect for the young sailors of today.

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It took a little over two years for me to make third class petty officer. That was a big milestone for me because I made third class about the time I had two years of active service so my pay jumped from a little over $100 a month to about $220 a month. About three months after that, in late 1966, several  petty officers from my division were ordered to go in country in South Vietnam to support a new Mobile Riverine Force that was being established in the Mekong Delta. That left several open billets. One morning, my Chief woke me up early to tell me that I needed to put on a second stripe before I showed up in the shop for work because I had been promoted to second class petty officer. That jumped my pay up by another $30 a month or so. It was officially labeled as a "command meritorious promotion" but we called it a "Ho Chi Minh promotion". It is the only time I was promoted in the Navy without having to work for it and pass a test.

Sadly - two of my good friends were among those selected for assignment to the Mobile Riverine Force in South Vietnam. I lost track of them, but, as far as I know, neither of them was killed in Vietnam. (Their names are not on The Wall.)

Not long after that, the River Patrol Boats (PBR's) in the U.S. Navy Mobile Riverine Force started catching hell over there but they dished plenty of it out in return. They earned a distinguished reputation for their hard fighting and the Navy was very proud of them. The bad guys in Vietnam hated them and we heard that a nice prize was given out to anyone who captured a PBR crewman.

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In 1967, my best friend was John Henry King. He was from Greenville, Texas. We took leave at the same time and both of us went back to Texas to visit.  I flew there and he drove. The plan was for him to stop by Sweetwater, Texas (where I was) on his way back to California, so I could ride back with him. A few days before he was scheduled to pick me up, his sister called to tell me that he died after a car wreck. He was 21 years old.

King drove a fairly new Ford Falcon. It wasn't a sports car but he always drove fast on open roads - as fast as the Falcon would go. He was driving lickety-split on a two lane highway out in the country when he lost control of the car in a curve. The car flipped three or four times. He was taken to a nearby hospital with severe head injuries. He drifted in and out of consciousness but died after a few hours in the hospital. During one of his periods of being conscious, he told his sister to call to let me know that he wouldn't be there to pick me up. There were two hitchhikers in the car with him when the accident happened. Neither of them was hurt. There was some talk about foul play being involved but I believe it was just his time to go.

God bless John Henry King and may he rest in peace. He was a good friend.

He was a hard drinking hell raising kid. If you were his friend, he would do anything for you. He was very patriotic. As I get older,  I think about him often - along with several others I knew back then, who  are no longer with us.

John Henry King was a tall, lanky cowboy type. If he was still alive today, I think he would look something like the actor Sam Elliott. He liked to play "The Yellow Rose of Texas" on the jukebox at the pubs we visited overseas. That was a standard in the country and western bars we hung out in back then. When it came on, King would loudly demand that everyone in the place  stand up to honor "his anthem".  Well - that didn't go over very well with some of the people and on a few occasions we had to leave in a hurry. He was normally good natured and easy to get along with, but when he drank too much, he was loud and sometimes downright obnoxious.

 

 

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I am proud of my service on the USS HANCOCK from 1964 to 1968.

I have guilt feelings about never serving "in country" in Vietnam. Around 1969, the Navy asked for volunteers to go to Vietnam, to serve as special advisors to the South Vietnamese military services. There were plans on the table to wind things down and start withdrawing Americans. I volunteered for that. It required going to a special language school, to learn some Vietnamese. I was tested and I think I scored about "6" on the foreign language aptitude test.  Obviously, I was not a good candidate and I was not selected.

I think most of us sometimes feel guilty because we are still alive while so many others died young in Vietnam. I sometimes think that part of me died in Vietnam. The good die young is a thought that comes to mind as I think about them. I have lived a lot longer than I ever expected and getting old is no cake walk. I am now an old man - I have good days and bad days but I can deal with the aches and pains of old age.  When I think about complaining, I think about all of the others who died so young in Vietnam. I lived a full life and I  got to see children and grand-children. 

I left the USS HANCOCK (CVA-19) in June of 1968 and went to a ship operating in the Mediterranean Sea. I did not see service in the Vietnam Theater of Operations after that but I always kept track of what was going on there.

I was deeply depressed and angry when the war ended the way it did.

I don't think those of us in the military services lost the war in Vietnam. Looking back, I don't think we should have been sent there in the first place.  Hindsight is always 20/20.  The war was managed by bean-counters and politicians and that is always a bad combination. We in the military services never had the chance to "fight to win" in Vietnam. For the most part - we were just a bunch of scared kids who were sent to a very unpleasant place on the other side of the world to lay our lives on the line. Many of us never came home.

I was very bitter for a long time. I felt like we had been duped. After wallowing in self pity for several years I decided to get over it.

As it turned out - we Americans have survived okay since we pulled out of Vietnam in 1975, despite being deprived of all of those rubber plantations.

I worry about some of the younger ones coming of age today. It seems that too many of them are looking for "entitlement programs" they can qualify for to get free stuff (education grants, medical benefits, food stamps, etc.) Understandably - times are hard in this economy but we have to draw the line on some of the entitlements. Unfortunately - work is not a high priority for many of our young people today and there is not much being done to turn that trend around. Over the years, the media has planted the idea in the minds of many of our youngsters that "the government is obligated to take care of me". Very sad.

The Vietnam War was a tragedy, in more ways than one, but we must never forget those who died there or those who served.

I stayed in the Navy until 1987. The 3+ years I served on the USS HANCOCK (CVA-19) were undoubtedly the most memorable of my Navy career.  Our contribution to the Vietnam War effort is something I am very proud of.

When you get old, you have a lot of time to think and reflect. As I look back on my life - I think about those I used to know and all of the good and bad times. As for the self evaluation - I made my share of mistakes and I have regrets. I also helped people and did some good works. Career wise, I think I did pretty good for an old Texas country boy, who quit school in the 7th grade and left home at age 18 with two bucks in my pocket and the clothes on my back. I think we have some fine young people coming up today. My advice to them is: get a good education, work hard, stay sober and use your time and talents wisely.

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