Navy Vietnam VeteranSince most of the stories about Vietnam, then and now refer to Army and Marines, most folks have no idea that the Navy was there, in-country and in force. Those of the public who do know we were there think of our presence in PBR's and the Swiftboats that John Kerry made infamous in his 2004 bid for the Presidency. I'm not going to get into that political quagmire except to say that the Swift boats were little more than high-speed water taxis for VIP's. They were made of flimsy aluminum and a mosquito could blast its way through the superstructure.
I received orders to a ship in Vietnam in July 1969, after failing out of Electronics Technician School at Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. They gave me three days to get all my shots, pack up my stuff and get on a charter DC-8 at Travis.
When I arrived at the Annapolis Billet in Saigon, I noticed a big hole in the front wall where a satchel bomb had detonated and killed five sailors two days before. That night they gave me an M-14, flak jacket, steel helmet and a couple of clips of bullets. They told me if anyone approached the dumpster I was guarding I was to shoot them. Lucky for me and any would be garbage burglar, they didn't come that night. I had no idea how to use, and could barely lift the rifle.
For the next year I worked on a machine shop converted from an old LST hulk called an ARL. The work was hot, tedious and hard! In the distance we could hear and sometimes see firefights. At night lumbering planes would drop agent orange on the jungles and helicopter gunships would rain tracered lead into the jungles. Part of our job was to help clean up body parts from the Alpha, Tango and Monitor boats.
We witnessed the attempted "Vietnamization," where the RVN soldiers and sailors were to a more aggressive role in their war. Because we were in a non-combat mission we never got R&R, but I did manage three four-hour liberties in Nha Be. Just enough time for a couple of beers, a burger at the club and a short trip to the Gonnerhea infested ***** houses just off ba
Two of my brothers had been in the Army, and thankfully they didn't have to go. They turned out to be fairly normal and had successful careers. My life has mostly been a series of one failure after another. I did manage to stay in the Navy long enough to earn my pension.
When I returned to Conus in 1970, the plane landed at the far end of a runway at Travis. We had to walk to the terminal in 107 degree heat in dress blues, carrying our bags. Thankfully I had shipped my stuff home beforehand and only had one bag. I called my mother from the terminal and asked her to pick me up at an Air Force ba
Thanks to TV heroes like Dan Rather I will never be able to hold up my head, and like my father before me, say I proudly served my country, and my country was proud of my service.