LTC Frank Bridges

Frank was a Senior at Missouri State University, and in the Reserve Officer Training Corps, when the Vietnam War started. He and Shirley had been married for more than 4 years, and he had worked full time to help pay for his 5-year college program.

After graduation, he reported to the Basic Signal Officers School at Fort Gordon, Georgia, and then went to the 459th Signal Battalion at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. He attended the Navy's Combat Cargo Operations Course, which lead to his being the 459th's Movements Officer when the unit went to Vietnam in late Summer 1966. He and a small staff oversaw the movement of trains to Long Beach, California; the loading onto the USS President Taylor; the offloading of five companies at Cam Ranh Bay; the backloading of two companies for movement to Qui Nhon; and the offloading and convoying of Charley Company to the 4th Infantry Division's base camp south of Pleiku. There, he managed a secure telecommunications center for a few months. Then it was off to the Headquarters of the 43rd Signal Battalion just north of Pleiku to be the Intelligence Officer and the Radio Officer. Sadly, there was little security and very little planning for radio operations. As with many units moving into Vietnam at that time, a lot of shortcuts and lack of planning occurred. His efforts there centered on getting a radio frequency coordinated in the Central Highlands and beefing up physical security. The most serious problem in physical security was at Kon Tum, approximately 22 miles north of Pleiku.

After the first tour in Vietnam, he went to Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, where he attended two 1-year telecommunications courses, then it was back to Vietnam as a volunteer. Shirley and their 11-month-old son went to Alaska to live with Shirley's sister while Frank was in Vietnam.

When he arrived in Vietnam in the Summer of 1970, he was assigned as the Chief of Inside Plant Engineering, Southeast Asia Telecommunications Management Agency. There he was responsible for the dial telephone exchanges that had been installed the length of Vietnam and the transferring of them to the Vietnamese Military. Among the interesting situations was the exchange at Cam Ranh Bay. There had been continuing problems there over the years that were tough to explain. He had crews dig down through the sand to ensure that the copper grounding cables were attached to the grounding bus. As it turned out, the bus was not there, so the problems were solved. After approximately 6 months, he was reassigned to command Bravo Company, 40th Signal Battalion (Heavy Cable Construction). Their mission was to install and repair multi-pair communications cables. By this time in the war effort, all the work was repair and most of that was splicing repairs. When the United States Army 'landed' in Vietnam, most things were done in a 'temporary' fashion and that include multi-pair cable. He had troops working from just north of Saigon all the way to the Demilitarized Zone. Some of those detachments were involved in hostile action but, fortunately, none of his soldiers were killed.

On his first tour, a couple of things stand out as being rather unique. First, the higher headquarters got a 'brilliant' idea to put a passive communications repeater on the mountain above Man Yang Pass, where 3,000 French troops were trapped and killed during the French Indochina War. Frank, along with five armed men, two vehicles, and a small amount of equipment drove to the Pass and found a trail going up to the top. Once there, the men began to set up the repeater. Frank could see the outline of the 3,000 graves and wispy smoke raise at the end of the jungle. That smoke was almost assuredly the enemy, but they finished the testing and left. There was no improvement in the communications link between Pleiku and An Khe. Frank drove to Kontum to check on the radio operations and security. There was no security; however, the Company Commander had requisitions for barbed wire, lumber, and sand bags that had not been filled. He got efforts underway, and they received everything they needed to build towers and triple-triple concertina barriers. They also got Military Police (MP) gun jeeps to spend the night, etc. The end result was that during the Tet Offensive of 1968, Bravo Company, 43rd Signal Battalion, and the MP gunners killed at least 268 North Vietnamese while suffering 3 casualties and 17 injuries.

There were a couple of unusual occurrences during Frank's second tour. One was being caught in the Mekong Delta at Soc Trang during a monsoon rain. Until one experiences that phenomenon, you can't imagine what it is like to have a very few feet of vision through the downpour. During that downpour, a Huey helicopter set down, and Frank simple ran toward the sound. Another interesting activity was a 55-mile trip he made with a driver from Cam Ranh Bay to Ninh Hoa. He always avoided convoys, because his theory was that no self-respecting Viet Cong was going to reveal his position for one jeep, and it worked. He was not shot at while driving cross country on either of his tours.

He corresponded with his wife and mother during the two tours, both by letter and cassette tapes. His wife met him in Hawaii about mid-tour both times. She was not particularly happy about his being gone, but she understood that this was the career he chose. However, his Mother was very fearful that he wouldn't make it back home.

Frank completed his military career in 1988 and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel. He attended the Army War College and received three Bronze Stars and the Legion of Merit among 10 personal awards.



LTC Larry Henry

Larry graduated from Ohio University in June 1960 with a wife (the former Anne Kates), an Army ROTC Commission, and an Engineering Degree and entered the US Army in July that same year.

He completed the Quartermaster Officer Basic Course at Fort Lee, VA in 1960. His first duty was as the Post Quartermaster, Fort Hancock, NJ in 1960-61, with total responsibility for basic logistics support on an entire US Army post supporting a Nike-Hercules Missile Brigade.

After completing the Armor Officer Basic Course, Fort Knox, KY in 1962, he was assigned as an Armor Company Commander, responsible for maintenance of 25 tanks and associated equipment and control and supervision of company personnel.

In 1963, he became the Operations and Training Officer at the US Army Noncommissioned Officers Academy. He was responsible for the conduct of the US Army's premier course for Noncommissioned Officers, preparing them for increased responsibilities and certifying them as eligible for promotion.

In 1964, Larry was assigned to the 9th Logistics Command, at Korat, Thailand, as the Company Commander of the 590th Quartermaster Direct Support Company and Commander of the 515th Airborne (Riggers). His unit provided combat service support to the command, SEATO units, and other US Army and Air Force units spread throughout Thailand. This included Special Forces and Air America operating in Thailand and other locations, as well as packing and loading Air America Aircraft for air drop in Laos and Cambodia.

In 1966, Larry went to the 11th Infantry Brigade (Light), in Hawaii, as the Assistant Brigade Supply Officer. The 11th was forming up and training for deployment to Vietnam. After intensive training in preparation for combat, the 11th deployed on 24 December 1967. Larry deployed as the Company Commander of the Maintenance and Supply Company. The Brigade base camp was Duc Pho, which is north of Qui Nhon on Highway One, and generally is in the central part of Vietnam. Since Larry was in logistics, his unit had to run convoys to Qui Nhon, which was a 2-day trip. These convoys came under attack from time to time.

At the end of January 1968, promoted to Major, his buddies threw him a heck of a promotion party. That was also the night of the start of the 1968 Tet Offensive, and his unit received more than 150 mortar strikes in the company area and suffered 3 or 4 casualties. He remained in command during March, but in April 1968, he became the Supply Liaison to Qui Nhon. In June 1968, he moved to Brigade Supply Officer at Duc Pho. Larry was MEDEVAC'ed to Camp Zama, Japan, and spent part of June and July there recovering from a non-battle illness. He returned to the Brigade in July and was the primary duty officer in the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) through September. The TOC controls the war for the Brigade Commander. In October he resumed being the Brigade Supply Officer until he returned to the states in November. During his time in country, the camp frequently came under mortar attacks and ground probes from the NVA/VC about every 10 days. He once had a windshield shot out of his jeep while on Highway One. All small isolated camps were subject to continual reminders that this was a war zone!

As with most of us in a combat zone, Larry had some unique experiences. The first of these had to do with a mission his First Sergeant had, which was to build a "five-holer" for the enlisted men and a "two-holer" for the officers. When he completed the job, he took Larry on a tour. Larry stated that the enlisted facility was first rate, as was that of the officers. However, the officer's was painted pink on the inside. The more interesting part of this story is what happened during a mortar attack. The empty "five-holer" took a direct hit from a mortar round that completely destroyed it and damaged the "two-holer."

Larry related another story regarding troop morale. They would buy flatbed truckloads of Cokes and beer at the depot for 5 cents a can and sell them for 25 cents in the enlisted club and the officer's club. Using these "profits," they were able to buy a top quality movie projector in Australia and a popcorn machine. They erected a movie screen, which was plywood mounted to poles and painted white. This gave them a "first-rate" combat theater.

Another incident had to do with a volleyball game and a Warrant Officer. It seems as if Larry went high over the net to spike a ball and caught his little finger between his ring finger and the Warrant Officer's head. The result was a broken little finger, and he had to be MEDEVACed for 3 days to have it put in a cast because his local unit didn't have the capability to do it. Anne got a lot of mileage out of it, telling friends that he had to be MEDEVACed. Once the shock effect wore off, she told the rest of the story.

Larry's life lesson from Vietnam was that it is absolutely critical to be prepared for whatever you do in life.

Anne and the children lived in Daytona Beach, FL "on the beach" during Larry's tour in Vietnam. After Vietnam, Larry attended Graduate School at the University of Alabama, and served two tours in Germany and two in Virginia.

He retired from the Army as a Lieutenant Colonel at Fort Belvoir, VA in 1982 and then spent 19 years working for Electronic Data Systems (The company created by Ross Perot) as a Project Manager.


MAJ Brian Hutchins

When the Vietnam War officially started on 8 March 1965, Bryan was 24 years old and had just earned his wings as a navigator.

His Vietnam experience began in November 1967 when he was a navigator flying the C-141A Starlifter on channel airlift flights to Vietnam. Most of the flights were into Da Nang, but sometimes they flew into Saigon, Cam Ranh Bay, Phu Cat, and Chu Lai. During the Tet Offensive, they flew into Chu Lai with 10 pallets of Class A ammunition weighing a total of 65,000 pounds. Just as they landed, Chu Lai went on red alert during a mortar attack. The aircraft commander instructed all crew members to help the loadmaster push the cargo out of the back of the aircraft. As they taxied toward the end for an immediate takeoff, they left 10 pallets of Class A ammunition on the taxiway for the Marines to use to repel the attack. They were on the ground a total of 5 minutes and took off without clearance on their way back to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa.

Bryan was reassigned to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, to fly weather reconnaissance missions in March 1969. They were the typhoon chasers and chased tropical storms across the Pacific and into the South China Sea. They had a classified mission that flew out of Udorn Air Base, Thailand. He spent two weeks out of each month there, mainly because of his security clearance (Top Secret). On a mission in Laos, they were hit with some antiaircraft fire that put six shrapnel holes in the fuselage of the aircraft. The damage was very minor, and the safety of the air crew was never in question. They landed back at their home base without difficulty. As far as Bryan knew, this was the only incident of battle damage to any aircraft assigned to the Air Weather Service.

Subsequent to the two-year tour on Guam, Bryan was reassigned to B-52s at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, in May 1971. In mid-1972, all of the B-52G models were sent to Guam under the code name "Bullet Shot." He started flying missions into Vietnam from Guam in September 1972 through April 1973. In December 1972, under the code name "Linebacker II," they started carpet bombing in and around Hanoi and Haiphong. These missions consisted of about 15 hours of flying time per round trip. Of note, they flew in three ship cells with the aircraft one mile behind each other. On 18 December, the first day of bombing North Vietnam, his plane was number three in a three-ship cell. Number two had a surface to air missile system (SAM) explode just above the aircraft, putting several holes in a wing, and the aircraft started losing fuel. They diverted to NKP Air Base, Thailand. As they put their flaps down on the final approach, the wing caught fire, and they had to bail out. All crew members survived, and they went home for 30 days. After the R & R, they were back on Guam flying missions over Cambodia after the United States got the POWs back. On that 18 December mission, they had to shut down two engines due to mechanical problems not related to any battle damage.

So, in summary, except for a few months between assignments and change of aircraft, Bryan was involved in the Vietnam War from November 1967 through April 1973, flying three different aircraft with three totally different missions-Airlift, Weather Reconnaissance, and Strategic Bombing. As result, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and six Air Medals.

Flight engineers were notorious for finding problems in an aircraft that prevented it from safe flight when they landed at a favorable base. One of Bryan's last flights in a C-141 was to Alice Springs, Australia, in January 1969. They had landed in Sidney, Australia, and the flight engineers noted a problem in the fuel system. Parts had to be ordered and shipped from CONUS. They ended up spending four additional days at a hotel in Kings Cross in Sidney, and a good time was had by all!

While stationed on Guam during the Christmas season, the unit that Bryan was assigned to (54th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron) supported Operation Christmas Drop by using their C-130s to drop food and other supplies on the various remote islands that make up the Mariana Islands. Islanders would wade out into the shallow lagoons and try to catch the supplies as they fell from the sky. It was very satisfying to see them waving in appreciation for their "presents."

Bryan was separated from his family only during the B-52 deployment on Guam. His wife and kids remained at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base while he was overseas. His only contact with them was via mail or an occasional cassette tape. Telephone contact was almost nonexistent except during Linebacker II, when they were encouraged by the wing commanders to call home and assure family members they were safe. This was the only time he attempted to call home. The quality of the phone lines back in 1972 was not that great. It was via the military phone system to a CONUS switch, which would then call your home via commercial line. But Bryan and his wife wrote each other on an almost daily basis except when his schedule was interrupted by flights on bombing missions. He believes that letters from home were very important for the morale of the troops. He says that most of the letters from his wife and kids were saved and are somewhere in the clutter of his attic!

Bryan continued his military career and retired from the United States Air Force as a Major in 1984.



COL Glenn Israel

Glenn was a recently promoted Major serving with the 2nd Logistics Command in Okinawa, Japan in early 1965 when he first became involved with Vietnam. He was in direct support of our forces there and on a more personal level he was sending loaded C-130's to Vietnam every day as part of the Red Ball Express, Switchback/SOG Mission. The C-130's carried everything from pianos to Uzis and TV's to fashion clothing. A little barter material don't you know.

Glenn graduated from Missouri State University (MSU) in 1956 as a member of the second commissioning class. He was commissioned regular army and started his career detailed to the Field Artillery Branch. While still in school, he and Sue were married in October 1955 and had son born in Germany in 1958 and a daughter born at Fort Lee, Virginia in 1960. His son was old enough during their tour in Okinawa to understand that wounded soldiers were coming to the hospital in Okinawa from Vietnam. When Dad got orders for Vietnam he became very worried. Glenn promised him a BB gun and a puppy.

Glenn attended the Department of Defense Language School in 1967-68 in preparation for his assignment to Vietnam. As an advisor in the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV), he was assigned to the Vietnamese 2nd Area Logistics Command (2ALC) in Qui Nhon. His family lived in Springfield at that time and, in conjunction with Hillcrest High School and Cowden Elementary School, Sue and the kids put together a CONEX (container express-military shipping) full of toys and kid's clothing. Glenn managed to get the container shipped to Qui Nhon where he distributed the contents to the 2ALC children for Christmas.

Glenn was Deputy Team Chief, Team 8, and his unit was located on the beach. Glenn spent four days a week flying around the II Corps-Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) logistics area of operations to places like Pleiku, Kontum and An Khe. Of course his plane was shot at on some of those trips but he escaped injury. He had some challenges with his Vietnamese advisees and he related one such difficulty. The Vietnamese had received 5 new gas tanker trucks but they weren't using them. He had discussions with them as to why the trucks weren't being used. The answer was that they didn't want them to be destroyed. So Glenn gave them an ultimatum to either use them or he would have them transferred to another unit. The Vietnamese POL Depot Commander relented and on their first convoy, they were sent to the Central Highlands. Of course that convoy was ambushed in the Mang Yang Pass where 3,000 French Soldiers were killed during an ambush in the 1950's. Fortunately, the tankers were not destroyed.

At Glenn's base there was a large ammunition dump which was a juicy target for the Viet Cong. It was hit twice while Glenn was there. The first time it had an inventory of approximately $22,000,000.00 in ammunition. The Viet Cong got into the depot and used explosives to destroy all of the ammunition. He said it was quite show of 'fireworks' for several hours. The second attack on the depot was not quite so dramatic as there was not as much ammunition. He and his troops had to man defensive positions during these and many other attacks. One time the Viet Cong and, perhaps North Vietnamese, attack from the South China Sea across the beach. They managed to repel the attack, although they suffered some losses. Glenn said that as he was rushing to his command post in the dark, he 'wipe out' an unknown American but kept going. He later found out that it was very drunk Georgie Jessel.

His unit lived in what had been a resort hotel on the beach which was also used by visiting dignitaries like Jimmy Stewart, Martha Ray and of course, Georgie Jessel. Glenn got to 'tip' a few with all of them. He stated that Jimmy Stewart was a real gentleman and seemed to enjoy being around the troops. Martha Ray, a LTC in the Army Reserves, was what she seemed, dedicated to lifting the morale of the soldiers. He said that she would pitch in and help with anything that she could, to include working at the local Medical Evacuation Hospital when they were especially busy. There was a club in the same compound as the hotel where they had great entertainment to include the every present Aussie Bands and Singers. Glenn said all they had to drank was orange soda and beer.

Glenn exchanged cassette tapes with his wife and children along with his Mom. His children were nine and seven. He was sure that none of them were happy with him being in combat but they didn't communicate that to him.

Life's lessons he learned were always being alert to your surroundings and to appreciate your life and the good times.

Glenn retired a Colonel in 1980 and at the time was stationed with the Defense Logistics Agency in Alexandria, VA.



LTC Richard Johnson

Richard was single and he was an Intern at Kansas City General Hospital in Missouri when the Vietnam War started. He had been accepted to pharmacy and nursing schools before medical school. He finished his Internship in August 1965 and was drafted for the Navy and was commissioned a Lieutenant 0-3.

He reported to the Fleet Medical Service School in September 1965 for training that was to have been 12 weeks but for some reason was only 7 weeks. During the training the goal was to teach Marine Drill and Ceremony, he said the instrutors failed. He was off to Travis Air Force Base and then on to Okinawa. From there he was sent to the Marine Corps' 3rd Division at Da Nang. His ultimate assignment was the 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment at Chu Lai where he reported to be the Battalion Surgeon in October, 1965. He was assigned there for about 9 months and then assigned to the 1st Marine Regiment as the Regiment Surgeon at Da Nang where he finished his tour.

In both jobs his primary duties were the same:
1. Maintain the forces health.
2. Insure all Immunizations were up to date.
3. Insure that the Marines had dry socks and took their Malaria pills.
4. Make sure that the water supply was potable.
5. Assure that the Marines were free of "crotch-rot".

Richard went on several operations to provide immediate medical aid to the Marines in combat. On one such mission, which was located where there were some old French Revetments, the Battalion was in heavy action at night. The Battalion Executive Officer ordered him to get to the top of the hill. He had to work his way through a great deal of underbrush not knowing who he might run into. After some time he thought he must be near the top so yelled, "I'm a doctor, don't shoot". Fortunately they didn't and he proceeded to deal with wounded an dead. The hill was so steep that the evacuation helicopters had to set one wheel on the ground and hover. He also mention the "fly-in and walk-out" operations which were rather harrowing. He was also involved with three major operations; Operation Indiana, Operation Harvest Moon but he can't remember the third one. These included helicopter insertions, tracked vehicle action and much more. There was also the case of the rolled over truck that had Marines pinned under it, some dead and some injured. He made the decision to roll the truck off of the men knowing that some might be killed. However, some were going to die if they didn't roll it.

On one occasion Richard treat an approximately 6 year old Vietnamese boy who was suffering from shrapnel wounds. The only thing that had been put on the wounds was Vaseline and gauge. He remove all of the shrapnel, closed the wounds, bandaged him and gave him penicillin. The remarkable thing was that the boy didn't make a sound.

Richard was involved in a great deal of Civic Action Work among the Vietnamese villages. A medical a team would ago out with a fire team for protection and have an interpreter, and, of course, a good assortment of medical equipment and supplies. They administered basic medical assistance such as immunizations, bandage injuries, check on sanitation, and so forth. He said that to keep enough supplies for all of their actions, there was a lot of bartering and a little "thievery".

Richard mentioned some lighthearted experiences like the time he and Father McNamara decided there was a need to checkout the hard liquor supply some distance down the beach from their headquarters. After a great deal of checking, they decided that it would be a "great idea to walk back". Well, as best he recalls, they strolled and maybe stumbled some down along the beach. At some point a burly Marine yelled a rather unholy order of what the hell were they were doing. Once there was a clear understanding that they were "friendlies", they were allowed to pass. He related that they were probably lucky that they didn't get shoot.

On another occasion he received orders, erroneously, to report to Okinawa. Well, he found himself a seat on a plane headed there and off he went. When the error was discovered he was sent back to Vietnam. He stated that his reception wasn't all that friendly. What can you say, he was doctor who wasn't to excited about being drafted.

He corresponded with his family in Kansas City during his tour. He stated that his father had always felt bad about missing WW II and rather lived that experience through him. He was sure that his mother was worried but didn't show it that much. She sent him several care packages.

Richard was an Internist from 1971-1991. He finished out his working days an executive with Kansas City Life Insurance.


LTC Jerry Nicholson

Jerry was enrolled at Missouri State University when the Vietnam War began on 8 March 1965. He started his college degree program at Coe College. He enjoyed the party life a little more than he liked to study and was about to be drafted while he was enrolled at Marquette University. Since he didn't want to be in the Army, he decided to join the Marine Corps in June 1966. Jerry was single at the time.

Jerry went to boot camp at San Diego and graduated from a "living hell"
in December 1966. In February 1967, he enrolled in Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Quantico, VA and finished Officer Training in November 1967. After that, he headed to flight school in Pensacola, FL and graduated in December 1968. He then reported to Marine Corps Air Station New River, NC where he learned to fly the CH-46 helicopter and went on his first carrier cruise to the Caribbean.

In August 1969, Jerry was assigned to the USS New Orleans, HMM 164, a helicopter carrier. His generic mission would be to haul men and supplies from ship to shore and into combat in Vietnam. He would operate off of that ship for the next 12 months, mostly off the coast of Vietnam and on shore at a place called Marble Mountain. Jerry flew 20 to 30 insertion operations, which means taking men and equipment to landing zones (LZs) under fire, along with numerous administrative missions. During the lifts into the "hot" LZ's, his helicopter came under fire during 15 to 20 operations. While his helicopter was "shot up" nobody on board was hit. This resulted in his fellow Marine Pilots referring to him as, "The Untouchable." Yes, it was also a sarcastic reference to the TV series.

Jerry was reassigned to the USS Okinawa and was in port in Okinawa enjoying a night on the town when Military Police arrived with orders that everyone was to report for duty. When they got back, the orders were simply to "pack a change of clothes" as they were headed on an unknown mission. They spent some time ferrying troops and supplies to the ship. Once all were on board, they were briefed that there had been some problem with Apollo 13 and NASA wasn't sure where it was coming down. So they immediately got underway to a predesignated location in the Pacific Ocean. They had radio communications with Houston Control and at the scheduled time, Jerry was airborne watching for Apollo 13. He said the thought crossed his mind: "What if the capsule hits me?" All turned out great, as it landed near a carrier that actually had recovery training.

When asked about his family's reaction to his Vietnam service, he first mentioned the Marine Corps tie clasp that he gave his father before he left. That was the only tie clasp his father wore the rest of his life. Then there was his mother's "popcorn"! His Mom sent him care packages from time to time, and it was traditional to share the care packages with your buddies. She packed the "goodies" in popcorn, apparently not realizing that hungry Marines would eat anything. After a few of these care packages, Jerry asked his Mom to start salting the popcorn because they all preferred it salted.

In September 1970 Jerry returned to North Carolina. He assigned to HMM 262 at Marine Corps Air Station, New River, NC. He left active duty as a Captain in February 1972. He was in a variety of reserve assignments, including HQ Marine Corps from 1977-94, where he retired.

When Jerry left active duty, he enrolled at Southern Illinois University and received a BA in Sociology, a BS in Mathematics, and an MBA. He had a very successful career in Medical Management, to include his own consulting company. Jerry married Cathy in 1975 and they have two daughters, both married and living in Springfield, and four grandchildren.



CMD David Reed

David graduated from Central High School in Springfield, MO in 1956 and joined the Navy Reserve as a seaman recruit. He was then selected for Reserve Officer Candidate School at Newport, RI. Subsequently, he graduated from Drury University in 1960. Dave was a Reserve Naval Officer in the 9th Naval District, Large Service Division #142 when the Vietnam War officially started in March 1965. However, he served on board ships in the South China Sea during 1960-63. His duties were identical to what naval officers did during the Vietnam War and basically the same as they are today.

From the summer of 1960 to the summer of 1963, he was a deck officer either on an oiler or a refrigerated supply ship which operated much of the time out of Subic Bay, Philippines. His first duty assignment as an Ensign on the Fleet Oiler Tolovana, AO 64, was as a Division Officer in the Deck Department. In addition to being assigned as 1st Division Officer, his responsibilities included getting wire cables in place that support the fueling hoses between ships and then ensuring that the hoses were safely connected to the ship being refueled. Once refueling started, he remained on station to ensure that the hoses stayed in place during underway refueling. His Collateral Duty was as the Gunnery Officer for the 3"/50 caliber and 20mm guns.

He then went to Bremerton, WA to be part of a ship refurbishing and commissioning staff of the underway refrigerated food and ammunition supply ship Bellatrix, AF 62. They spent about 4 months there until the ship was ready for sea duty. David was now a Lieutenant Junior Grade (LT JG). His Collateral Duty was Assistant Gunnery Officer for the ships 5"/38's and 44 mm guns.

The supplies the ship carried were loaded on board at Subic Bay or out of the Japanese Ports of Yokosuka or Sasebo. Then they steamed into the South China Sea off of Vietnam to resupply the Fleets and Battle Groups operating there. They resupplied one or two ships at a time. The ships had to stay underway while the oil or supplies were being transferred, because forward motion was essential to keep the ships from bumping each other. While on the Bellatrix, he was promoted to Department Head in the Deck Department.

The in-port loading of the oiler took 3 or 4 days and the refrigerated supply ship 7 to10 days. The underway replenishment runs to the ships to be resupplied took 10 to14 days, and they would complete numerous operations during each deployment in the Western Pacific. While the operations might seem routine, they were not because it was a tricky and dangerous proposition each time they were alongside a ship. Waves, wind, and currents all played a factor in keeping the ships properly positioned. On one such operation, they had a ship along both sides resupplying them. There was an Admiral on one ship who needed to be transferred to the other ship and the only way to get transferred was to ride a swinging chair (Boatswain's Chair) supported by a cable running between ships. David was tasked with rigging a Boatswain's Chair between his ship and both of the other ships. After the rigging was completed, the Captain called David to the
ship's bridge and asked him if it was safe. David replied, "Yes, Sir" and the Captain then told David to ride the chair first to ensure that it was safe. Needless to say, David had done a great job because he survived.

When the ship he was on put into foreign ports like Hong Kong, Okinawa, Japan, Subic Bay, etc., David volunteered for the position of Special Services Officer (SSO). It was always a challenge to keep the men busy and out of trouble while ashore. So the SSO's job was to arrange things like bus tours of historical places or entertainment venues that were less likely to result in shore problems. David really enjoyed this Collateral Duty since it enabled him and the ship's crew to experience a foreign culture they would not have otherwise been able to experience. David did have one cultural experience he would have preferred to miss. As the newest junior officer on board the Tolovana, he was assigned to be the Shore Patrol Officer (SPO) one weekend while the ship was at Long Beach, CA. The weekend involved being SPO for the Pike Amusement Park. Soon after assuming his duty there, a group of Hells Angels showed up. David was understandably very nervous about having to deal with them and could envision his career being over if the situation got out of hand. Fortunately, nothing particularly bad happened. However, he said it was the "longest weekend of his life."

David wasn't married during this time in his life. But he corresponded with his Mom and Dad, who lived in Springfield, and received care packages on a regular basis.

David left active duty in late 1963 and joined the 9th Naval District, 142nd Large Service Division in Springfield, where he served in the active reserves for many years, and eventually was assigned as CO of this Unit. He also spent several years drilling monthly in Joplin, MO as CO of a reserve Seabee division and as CO of a reserve Mine Sweep ship before retiring in 1977. He married Darlene Resz in 1975, and they have a son Greg. After retiring from the active reserves, David remained in the Springfield area where he was involved in the wholesale electronics business.

 


COL Steve Vanderhoof

Steve joined the Army after graduation from Central High School in 1967. He was already married but thought that the military offered the best opportunity to develop a job skill so he enlisted. He trained as a refrigeration repairman, 51L20 an 11 week course in Ft. Belvoir, VA. After graduation, he shipped out to Vietnam in Feb 1968 where he worked most of the time fixing military refrigeration equipment. There was a big need for maintenance on all mess hall equipment such as ice machines, refrigerators, walk-in coolers etc. Everything from water coolers to Nike Missile control vans air conditioners were expected to be repaired. He arrived as a PFC, E-3 and left as a Spec 5, E-5. He also trained as a company clerk before leaving country.

When he arrived in Vietnam and was going to be assigned to 212th LEM Company, the First Sargent asked if him if wanted to transfer across the street to the 98th LEM Company since they were moving out immediately. The 212th was shortly wiped out in Quin Nhon. That is where the building was attacked by rockets and mortars and the entire building collapsed and killed nearly everyone in the unit.

First fire fight. He was in the company area and heard small arms fire. Troops were running up the hill to the barracks. He could not make it around the railing to go up the stairs because of the panic. Everyone was trying to get to their barracks and weapons. They were bouncing off of him while he held onto the handrail. Total panic! When Steve finally got to the second floor of the barracks, the platoon sergeant was crawling on the floor to open the foot locker with the clips of ammo their weapons. He asked the sergeant, "Where does the engineer platoon fall out?" He looked at Steve with terror in his eyes and did not answer. Steve grabbed magazines for his weapon and headed out the door. He followed some guys that looked like they knew where to go. They ended up in the drainage ditch and some guys were firing their weapons. He could see there was nothing to fire at, so he just sat there until they called "all clear". He was glad that idiots had not shot him.

This was right after Tet Offensive and everyone was edgy. Guard duty for a long time was on guard towers with the addition of a couple of positions between each tower. Two of them were on duty at a time and relieved every two hours. As newbie Steve and the other guy he was with decided to take their cots and put them in the basement of the bunker because it was cooler. After they got to sleep something jumped on his chest. Steve woke up with a rat the size of a cat sitting on his chest looking at him directly in the face. He grabbed the rat and threw it and it landed on the other guy. They both tried to get out of the single door at the same time and keep running into each other trying to get out of there. They looked like the keystone cops. The guys upstairs were laughing their heads off. They went back and got there cots and set them up behind the tower after that. Those experienced soldiers had a good laugh on them. Probably because they had the same experience when they were newbies.

Steve was always the second person out the door during an attack. He couldn't see how the other guy always beat him to the door, since he had to come from the far end of the barracks. Maybe he stayed dressed while he slept to be ready for anything. Anyway, one night they awoke to small arms and mortar fire. Steve followed the guy out the door as usual. It was pitch black and no moon or stars. They were running as hard as they could to get to their positions. The other guy stepped in a pot hole in the road and fell down and Steve fell right on top of him. They fell head over heels like in a cartoon and landed with all their gear spread out over the whole road. They gathered up their gear and sat in the ditch beside the road. They agreed that if Charlie wanted to shoot them that night he would have to come up here where they were.

After returning to the states Steve was assigned to the 278th General Support Company (Forward). That unit was based at Fort Devens, MA. That was a strategic outfit which had be able to deploy in 24 hours. They had a lot of exercises where they were put on alert and restricted to the base. They couldn't call their families who lived off post. That left Steve's wife stranded 30 miles away and no way to contact him. Because of the mission of the unit they did a lot of planning for deployments that never happened. That included load plans for how to load the unit on cargo planes. He stayed in that unit until he was discharged in July 1970.

Steve learned several life lessons. First the infantry doesn't provide security for you at the base camp in a combat zone. The Army contracts out the refrigeration work in the states, so you do not get to practice your MOS. If the Army wanted you to have a wife they would have issued you one. That leaves a nasty taste for the military in your dependents. For the three years he served, the VA paid for his college degree and most of the cost of his master degree. Quite a bargain for the time he served. Additionally, he used his veteran's preference to get hired at the post office. So the government never quit rewarding him for the time he served in the military. Now that Steve is retired from the military, he hears his buddies say they wished they had stayed in the military like him. We are so blessed as military retirees.

Steve's former wife suffered through the 3 years of low pay and separations. Steve doesn't think that she would recommend a military career. Basically she was alone for the first two years of his military service. She and their son did move to be with him in Massachusetts. Steve's Mom supported his decision to join the military. At the time of the Vietnam war, you could not get a good paying job because the employers thought you would be drafted.

Separated after his three year enlistment in July 1970, he was out of military for 10 years. He joined Missouri Army National Guard in 1979 and progressed to Colonel, ending his military career as the Director of Military Operations (DOMS) and was responsible for State Emergency duty and disaster preparedness.