Cpl Don Adams
US Marine Corps
Yarmy (Don Adams) was wounded during the Battle of Guadalcanal, nearly dying. He also contracted blackwater fever, a complication of malaria. After his recovery and return to the States he served as a drill instructor. As a Marine Corps drill instructor he was commended by his superiors for being able to exceed the performance of his recruits at every required physical task.
Don Adams was an American actor, comedian and director. In his five decades on television, he was best known as Maxwell Smart in the television situation comedy Get Smart, which he also sometimes directed and wrote.
(Veterans – view more military profiles of famous people on www.togetherweserved.com)
I emailed my friend and former Marine sergeant, Mrs. Mandy McCammon, who’s currently serving as a Navy Public Affairs Officer, at midnight on 28 May. I asked Mandy if she had enough pull on any of the bases in San Diego to get me access for the day so I could give Bud, who served on USS Dewey (DD-349), a windshield tour.
The next day she sent me an email from the current USS Dewey (DDG 105)’s XO, CDR Mikael Rockstad, inviting us down to the ship two days later.
We linked up with Mandy outside Naval Base San Diego and carpooled to the pier where we were greeted by CMDCM Joe Grgetich and a squad-sized group of Sailors. Bud started to cry before the doors of the van opened. He’d been oohing and pointing at the cyclic rate as we approached the pier, but when we slowed down and Mandy said, “They’re all here for you, Bud,” he was overwhelmed.
After we were all out of the van directly in front of the Dewey, shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries, Petty Officer Simon introduced himself and said as the ship’s Sailor of the Year he had the honor of pushing Bud’s wheelchair for the day. Unbeknownst to us, they’d decided to host Budaboard the Dewey, not at the Dewey. And so they carried him aboard. None of us expected him to go aboard the ship. I’d told him we were going down to the base and would have the chance to meet and greet a few of the Sailors from the new Dewey. He was ecstatic. The day before, he asked every few hours if we were “still going down to visit the boys from the Dewey,” and “do they know I was on the Dewey, too?”
Once aboard, we were greeted by the CO, CDR Jake Douglas, the XO and a reinforced platoon-sized group of Sailors. To say it was overwhelming is an understatement. These men and women waited in line to introduce themselves to Bud. They shook his hand, asked for photos with him, and swapped stories. It was simply amazing.
They didn’t just talk to him, they listened.
Bud’s voice was little more than a weak whisper at this point and he’d tell a story and then GMC Eisman or GSCS Whynot would repeat it so all of the Sailors on deck could hear. In the midst of the conversations, Petty Officer Flores broke contact with the group. Bud was telling a story and CMDCM Grgetich was repeating the details when Flores walked back into view holding a huge photo of the original USS Dewey. That moment was priceless. Bud stopped mid-sentence and yelled, “There she is!” They patiently stood there holding the photo while he told them about her armament, described the way it listed after it was hit, and shared other details about the attacks on Pearl Harbor.
Bud finally admitted how tired he was after more than an hour on deck. While they were finishing up goodbyes and taking last minute photographs, GMC Eisman asked if it’d be OK to bring Sailors up to visit Bud in a few months after a Chief’s board. I hadn’t said it yet because I didn’t want it to dampen the spirit of the day, but I quietly explained to GMC Eisman the reason we’d asked for the visit was simple: Bud was dying.
I told him they were welcome to come up any time they wanted, but I suspected Bud had about a month left to live. Almost without hesitation, he asked if the crew could provide the burial honors when the time came. I assured him that’d be an honor we’d welcome.
Leaving the ship was possibly more emotional than boarding.
They piped him ashore. CMDCM Grgetich leaned in and quietly told me how significant that honor was and who it’s usually reserved for as we headed towards the gangplank. Hearing “Electrician’s Mate Second Class William Bud Cloud, Pearl Harbor Survivor, departing” announced over the 1MC was surreal.
Later that night Bud sat in his recliner, hands full of ship’s coins and declared, “I don’t care what you do with my power tools; you better promise you’ll bury me with these.”
He died 13 days later. For 12 of those 13 days he talked about the Dewey, her Sailors and his visit to San Diego. Everyone who came to the house had to hear the story, see the photos, hold the coins, read the plaques.
True to his word, GMC Eisman arranged the details for a full honors burial. The ceremony was simple yet magnificent. And a perfect sendoff for an ornery old guy who never, ever stopped being proud to be a Sailor. After the funeral, the Sailors came back to the house for the reception and spent an hour with the family. This may seem like a small detail, but it’s another example of them going above and beyond the call of duty, and it meant more to the family than I can explain.
There are more photos, and I’m sure I missed a detail, or a name. What I didn’t miss and will never forget, is how unbelievable the men and women of the USS Dewey were. They opened their ship and their hearts and quite literally made a dream come true for a dying Sailor.
They provided the backdrop for “This is the best day of my life, daughter. I never in my whole life dreamed I’d step foot on the Dewey again or shake the hand of a real life Sailor.”
Without question, it’s the best example of Semper Fidelis I’ve ever seen.
Jennie Haskamp, the author of this article, is a Marine Corps veteran.
Hundreds of former Sailors are leaving us each day leaving their service memories and photographs unrecorded – an enormous loss for their families who want to know what they did in their service and pass this to future generations. Together We Served is helping families of Sailors to record the service stories of both those who are still living or who have passed on ensuring that their service will never be forgotten.
U.S. Navy Sailor Service Profile Help Guide and Worksheet
Click on the image below to view a typical U.S. Navy Service Discharge Certificate (DD-214) and interpret the various fields of information which will enable you to build a Remembrance Profile of a Sailor on the U.S. Navy Heritage Website:
In addition, a form is included which can be used to compile other service information gathered from various others sources and help create a more complete profile. A finished profile is available as an online “Shadow Box” which may be shared with friends and family via it’s own unique web address (URL) or printed out and framed. The profile can be updated at any time which will automatically update the Shadow Box.
TM2 PO2 Terrence Rioux
(Veterans – record your own Military Service Story at www.togetherweserved.com at no charge)
WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE MILITARY?
My college deferment ended when I graduated with a BS in Marine Biology in 1970. I received my notice to report for my physical examination in the spring. The draft was still in effect, although by this time it had been set up as a number-weighted system. The lower number you were assigned, the more likely of being called up for military service. My number, it turned out, was several digits higher than were called that year.
The Vietnam war was becoming very unpopular, and many of my peers did what they could to avoid service. My family, however, had a history of serving in the military.
My Mother’s Father was a soldier in WWI and suffered from mustard gas exposure (that’s him in the accompanying photograph). My Father and several of my Uncles served in WWII. Unfortunately, none of that generation were open about their experiences, although I did find a chest in the attic containing my father’s ribbons and things he brought home, such as German military patches.
My Father was a commercial fisherman, so I was drawn to one of the maritime services. I graduated with a major in marine biology. One of my high school buddies had already enlisted in the Navy and another in the Coast Guard. I decided to enlist in the Navy, planning to serve one 4-year hitch and get out.
BRIEFLY, WHAT WAS YOUR SERVICE CAREER PATH?
I have to say that my service career path was unusual, to say the least! I never worked in my assigned rate. My first choice of rate in Boot Camp was Ocean Systems Technician (OT) and second was Sonar Technician (ST), but I was somehow assigned the Torpeodoman’s Mate school. I was able to volunteer to be a marine mammal handler in Vietnam while still in ‘A’ school. I also was able to get into Dive School, and I eventually qualified as a diver first class, but unfortunately diving is a specialty, not a rate. I made E5 as soon as I qualified, but I became trapped as a TM. Because the TM rate was a ‘critical’ rate, I was unsuccessful in being able to transfer to another one. To be honest, I never intended to make a career in the Navy, although I ended up serving 4 years 8 months on active duty (extended for Diver First Class School) and another 6 years as a Reservist.
DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS? IF SO, COULD YOU DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE SIGNIFICANT TO YOU?
I did not participate in combat operations. I volunteered to serve with an operation in Cam Ranh Bay, RVN. As a member of the Military Detachment of the Naval Undersea Research & Development Center out of Kaneohe, Hawaii, I became a Dolphin Trainer in the Marine Mammal Program. The unit tested a Swimmer Defense System using dolphins to defend the supply piers at Cam Ranh Bay. Although the area was mostly pacified, the pier where ammunition ships offloaded was certainly a tempting target for swimmers to deploy limpet mines to a ship’s hull. The enemy never challenged the marine mammal system, however, during the year that it was deployed.
WHICH, OF THE VESSELS OR DUTY STATIONS YOU WERE ASSIGNED TO, DO YOU HAVE THE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY?
My time attached to the Naval Undersea Center was fulfilling and adventurous, and I would have stayed there forever if I could. Working with dolphins as a member of a small team in the field was a truly awe-inspiring experience which I will never forget.
FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?
There are a lot of competing memories, so its hard to pick one out. One aspect of military service is that you acquire a lifetime of ‘sea stories’ from all of your adventures. One visual memory that stands out for me came from a dive in the old Mark V helmet while I served aboard the USS Coucal. Once a quarter, the ship steamed from it’s home port at Pearl Harbor to the island of MAUI to practice laying a 4-point moor and conduct diving and submarine rescue bell training operations. A WWII submarine, the USS Bluegill, had been sunk off Lahaina for our practice. I can still vividly remember standing on the deck of the sub at 130 feet of depth facing my buddy in full hard hat dress in crystal blue water, and turning to view a school of eagle rays slowly ‘fly’ by.
WERE ANY OF THE MEDALS OR AWARDS YOU RECEIVED FOR VALOR? IF YES, COULD YOU DESCRIBE HOW THIS WAS EARNED?
No, I never had to face a situation in which an act of valor would have been required. The swimmer defense system was never challenged by the enemy while we were in Cam Ranh Bay, and when I served aboard the Coucal, no stricken submarines needed to be rescued. It is interesting to note that the very few Medals of Honor awarded during peacetime were earned by Navy divers involved in submarine rescue. I hope that I would have been able to do my duty with honor if it were my fate to be tested.
OF THE MEDALS, AWARDS AND QUALIFICATION BADGES OR DEVICES YOU RECEIVED, WHAT IS THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?
The Navy Achievement medal reminds me of the great times I had while attached to the Naval Undersea Center training porpoises.
WHICH INDIVIDUAL PERSON FROM YOUR SERVICE STANDS OUT AS THE ONE WHO HAD THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?
I would have to say it was the CO of the Torpeodomans Mate ‘A’ school in Orlando, Florida in 1971. I don’t remember his name, and I couldn’t find it in my copy of my service records.
It’s funny how small events can lead to a life-changing path.
As I’ve stated earlier, I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic when I got orders to the TM school. I don’t have anything against the rate, but I simply didn’t have any interest in it. The only silver lining was that the school was in sunny Florida, and I was definitely ready to leave the frozen wasteland of Great Lakes after spending a winter going through boot camp and Basic Electricity & Electronics School.
I admit that I didn’t push myself too hard, but I stayed out of trouble and passed all the written and practical tests. Apparently, too many of my classmates did worse. One day we were all summoned to an All-Hands meeting. The CO of the school was there, as well as a civilian mucky-muck from DC. They told us that the fail rate at the school was unacceptably high and wanted to know from the students why this was so. We could speak freely, they said. Total silence. Then, a hand from the back of the room was raised, and the speaker — I’m not admitting anything! — said, “Well, maybe it’s because some of us got stuck with this school and don’t want to be here.” Total silence. All eyes were on the miscreant, including the laser eyes of the CO. Uh-oh, the big mouth did it again!
A week later, a messenger interrupted class and told the instructor that I was to report to the CO’s office. “Oh man, you’re in trouble now,” everyone said almost as one. I was expecting to get thrown out of the school and sent to the fleet as an I.B.M (“instant boatswain’s mate”).
The CO was looking at my records and said, “I see you studied marine biology in college.”
“Well, there is a unit requesting volunteers to train marine mammals. Of course, it is in a certain hot country that has hostile action. Are you interested?”
“Of course, you will need to satisfactorily complete this course…”
So, I got three sets of orders. One, to a 4-week Scuba Class at the 2nd Class Dive School at San Diego. From there, a 10-day Vietnamese Orientation school at Coronado, CA. Then, a flight to Oahu to the Naval Undersea Center for several weeks of Marine Mammal Training and then to Cam Rahh Bay as a member of Project Short Time.
My military diving experience and contacts eventually resulted in my successful career at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution as Diving Safety Officer. I met my wife while I was going through NAUI scuba instructor training course the summer I began work at WHOI. So, you could say that my entire life changed because of this single incident.
A quote said to his best friend, Daniel Hill, not too long before his death: “Men like us shouldn’t go out like this.” (Referring to his cancer.) “We’re supposed to die in some desperate battle performing great deeds.” And he did.
Rick Rescorla had prior service with the British Army in combat in Cyprus (1957-60) with the 16th Air Assault Brigade, Parachute Regiment. He had been trained as a constable in the London Metropolitan Police force in 1960, and served in the Northern Rhodesia Police Force (1960-63), prior to coming to the States in 1963.
After arriving in America, he enlisted in the Army at Fort Dix and graduated from OCS in 1965. He was assigned to the 101st Airborne, arriving in Vietnam in September 1965. He lead a platoon in Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry in the battle at Ia Drang Valley. (Detailed in We Were Soldiers Once, and Young as well as Heart of a Soldier among others).
The famous photo taken of him on 16 November 1965 served as the cover of several books and as the model of a statue of him in Fort Benning. He was 25 years old during that action.
He attended the University of Oklahoma obtaining a B.A. and M.A. in English and studied law at Okalahoma City College. Later, he taught taught criminal justice at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.
He remained active in the Army Reserve until he retired as a colonel in 1990. (Leaving active duty in 1968.)
At the time of his death, he was serving as vice-president in charge of security at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter in the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001. He was killed while evacuating people from the World Trade Center Tower 2.
On March 25, 2009, Rick was awarded the Above & Beyond Citizen Medal from the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation for his actions in saving many people, evacuating them to safety from the WTC in which he lost his own life.
By Diane Short TWS Chief Admin
During World War II there were millions of letters that traveled to and from the battle fronts in both the Pacific and Europe. Most have been lost to time.
In early February I was on the Help Desk when a woman came on and said she had bought a house and found this box full of letters written from SSgt James P. Halliday to a Miss Shirley A. Talbot of Teaneck, NJ. She had no idea what to do with them and wondered if I would be interested in them. I of course said yes and asked her to send them to me and told her we would try to find their proper home.
When the letters arrived in March, I was absolutely amazed. There were over 100 letters, all grouped in neat packages, tied in red bows. They all appeared to be numbered and in the order they were received. Along with the letters were a couple notebooks that appeared to have homework assignments in them. I quickly put that aside to start reading the letters.
The first letter from then Sgt. Halliday was to a Miss Helen Wenk. He had evidently known her before the war because he talked about several friends they had in common. He also said that he would love to hear from “that beautiful niece of yours.”
The second letter is his response to Shirley. It appears she was a thoroughly modern girl who didn’t wait for him to write first. When her aunt told her about this soldier she knew who was serving far from home in Europe, she knew she had to write him.
As I read the letters, I felt I got to know him. He was kind, always cheerful and always careful of how much of the war he brought into his letters. He was 21 years old, serving in the 440th Engineer Depot Company currently somewhere in France. He was a native of Niagara Falls, New York. Loved baseball, music and movies.
Shirley Alice Talbot was 16 at the time and still attending Teaneck High School. As I read his letters, I wanted to know more about her. I remembered I had her homework so I picked up the notebooks. What I found amazed me. In the time before computers, spell check or even typewriters in the home, she had drafted each of her letters to him. In her own hand were her carefully worded replies to him. Notes made in the margins, sections scratched out, spelling corrected. She wanted to be sure that each of her letters were just perfect.
Reading her letters to him, I found that she was a shy young lady who loved school, music and adored going to the movies. She had this wonderful wry sense of humor. She talked of happenings in New York, plans after school and looked forward to finally meeting him when the war ended.
His last letter reads as follows:
April 13, 1945
Well beautiful, here is your Jimmie once again from somewhere in Europe and writing to a very charming young lady somewhere in New Jersey.
Today My Sweet, we heard the news of President Roosevelt’s death and it was indeed a shock to all of us. I imagine it had the same effect on you people at home. It is indeed a great loss to our country, especially at this time.
It has always been said that he did his job and his name will probably be equal to Lincoln’s as a great leader and statesman. Yes, he was a great man. It is too bad it had to happen, but that is life. You never know when your day is.
The news of his death spread like wildfire and within an hour, I believe everyone knew and Gen Ike set a 30 day mourning period in his honor.
Well honey, how are you these days? You know I’m always interested in learning that and in five long days now I haven’t had a letter from “My Shirl” to inform me of such. What a life. I must say Miss Talbot that these days seem like weeks and I certainly hope that this streak will come to a close tomorrow.
Today has been my day off Honey and I’ll give you a brief account of how it’s been spent. This morning I was woken by Sgt. Fadel (and on purpose). So while I was up, I decided I might as well go eat breakfast. And what do you think we had? “Fresh Eggs”! And your Jimmie finished off seven of them. After breakfast I returned to our quarters and went back to bed. I didn’t get up again Honey until 11 o’clock! When I did I showered and read the “Stars & Stripes” until dinner time (1150). After dinner I started a little house cleaning project which took me to 2 o’clock. I finished at that time and Sgt. Rashke and myself went down and took a shower, drew our weekly rations and that my sweet brings us to the present. It is now 4 o’clock.
Shirl Dear, within the next five days I will have 3 snapshots for you and I will send them immediately to you. I am anxiously awaiting yours. How I admire your latest one Shirl. It is grand Beautiful and I do mean beautiful.
Last night Honey, Sgt. La Combe and I went to see a movie nearby and I thought it was a very poor picture. The name of it was “Kansas City Kitty” starring Joan Davis. She is simply crazy in my estimation. Have you ever seen that picture Shirl? If so, what was your opinion of it? I didn’t like it one bit.
Shirl, it doesn’t look like this war with Germany is going to last much longer for the ninth Army is only 67 miles from Berlin and Gen Patton is about the same distance and still going full speed. In today’s “Stars & Stripes” it had an article showing the progress of the Ninth Army and the spectacular dash which covered 225 miles since it jumped the Rhine on Mar 24th. That My Sweet, is traveling and if they keep it up, it should be just a matter of weeks or so. Once they link with the Russians it should be all over but the shouting. Then our hopes of going home will be in sight and it’s something we can look forward to. I hope.
I haven’t heard word from my brother yet and I will admit that I am a bit worried over him. I have lost track of the pervert. It must be a good two months since I last heard from him. My mother hadn’t heard from him when she wrote her last letter. Just have to wait and hope I guess.
Well Shirl Dear, I haven’t much more to say. It’s hard to write an interesting letter my sweet when the mail has been so held up like it is. Here’s hoping tomorrow will be a brighter day.
In closing my sweet, I sincerely hope that this letter finds you and your parents in the best of health and happiness.
Good day beautiful and take good care of yourself. I remain with love.
The letter arrived April 20th. On May 2, 1945 SSgt James P. Halliday died in the Ardennes in Belgium. He is buried in the American Cemetery there.
The words of his last letter must have haunted her. “You never know when your day is.”
Shirley never quite got over losing her Jimmie. She married late in life and never had any children. She moved to Scarsdale, lived a happy life by all accounts. She lived as a widow for several years before passing herself in 2002.
The house where these letters were found was hers. She kept them close to her and to her heart, all of her life.
ARM3 Paul Newman US Navy
Shadow Box: http://navy.togetherweserved.com/profile/378215
Short Bio: Graduating high school in 1943, Newman briefly attended college before enlisting in the U.S. Navy Air Corps. He wanted to be a pilot, but he was told that he could never fly a plane as he was colorblind. He ended up serving as a radio operator and spent part of World War II serving in the Pacific.
There was no single reason that persuaded me to enlist in the Marine Corps in 1956 or to join the Army ten years later in 1966. It was a combination of reasons, strongly influenced by the world in which I lived at the time. When I graduated from high school in 1956 I had no clue on what to do next. I knew I wouldn’t be going to college like some of my friends. College was never a family tradition nor could we afford it. Besides I wouldn’t have been accepted anyway because of my miserable grades.
I had been working a part time job counting coins and wrapping them into rolls at a bank since the 11th grade but now that school was behind me I wanted a fulltime job. I looked for work wherever I could but nothing panned out. Failing to hit upon fulltime employment, I decided to keep my part time job at the bank with plenty of off time for bumming around dating girls, swimming, playing baseball and going to parties. But before I knew it, my lazy, crazy summer ended and it was time to get serious about finding work. I began by returning to many of the same places I started with at the beginning of the summer but still no work was available. That’s when I decided to enlist in the Marine Corps.
One hot late August day I climbed the steps to the Marine Recruiting Office on the third floor of a downtown building. I was met by a tanned, physically fit, spit-and-polished Staff Sgt. who was eager to sign me up. He told me a lot of things about the Marine Corps but what sold me was when he said Marines are lean, mean fighting machines (this was before J. Walter Thompson advertising coined the phase “The Few, the Proud, the Marines.”). It all sounded like a perfect place for a tough, scrappy, streetwise kid with a questionable future. With my mother’s permission, I signed up. Three weeks later I was standing at attention for the first time on the ‘grinder’ at MCRD San Diego. My journey from adolescence to manhood had begun.
The draft hanging over my head and no job had a lot to do with why I joined the military. But there was an even greater, more powerful influence that convinced me to join the Marine Corps and later the Army: I grew up during World War II—an experience that shaped forever my passion for the military. I was three years old when the war started and eight when it ended. The war was ever present and all consuming during those five years—not only for the military men and women but the entire nation.
The patriotism that had been hammered into early on during the war took a more realistic turn in 1944. Every since I could remember our next door neighbor, Harold Bradley, was my boyhood hero. The 19-year-old Harold was handsome, athletic, smart, and women (girls) loved him. I wanted to be just like him when I grew up. When he joined the Marine Corps, I wished I was old enough to go too. To remind myself that the vanished Harold really did exist somewhere, I often stared for long periods of time at the patriotic red and white flag with its blue star hanging in the Bradley’s front window. One day in early 1945, I noticed the blue star had changed to gold. Harold had been killed on the beaches at Iwo Jima. Perhaps that’s the moment a subconscious seed was planted in my mind that would one day sprout into my wanting to make the military a career.
It was also at this time that I believed war was a natural state of affairs. I assumed I too would march off to war one day. But that isn’t what happened during my time as a peacetime Marine. Our war was the ‘cold war’ and our single mission was preparing for a future war. I secretly wished a shooting war would erupt but it never did, until that all changed nine years later.
Like many Americans in the mid-60s I sat in my living room watching the Vietnam War unfold on television. Every night I noticed the war getting more and more intense. I also noticed my desire to be part of it was growing as well. By early 1966 I made up my mind. I was already a 2nd Lt. in the National Guard so I put in my papers for active duty as a commissioned officer. My application was accepted and in Nov 1966 – 9 years and two months since I first put on a marine uniform – I was back on active duty.
BRIEFLY, WHAT WAS YOUR CAREER PATH IN THE SERVICE?
I reported to MCRD San Diego in September 1956. Although I had been somewhat athletic as a teenager I had a rough time physically for the first half of boot camp beginning with the excruciating pain of squatting for a very long time going through my ‘bucket issue’ of toiletries piece by piece. What I found equally difficult was the duck walking with foot lockers held overhead or standing at attention for long periods with my M1 Rifle fully extended in front of my chest. All of the physical training eventually made me stronger. In fact, the cumulative effect of boot camp’s physical training and behavioral modification fostered a remarkable degree of strength, discipline, teamwork and esprit de corps that not only helped me make it through the 13 weeks, it shaped me into a remarkably more confident person ready to do great things in the world.
Following boot camp, I completed AIT at Camp Pendleton and cold weather mountain training at Pickel Meadows in the Sierra Nevada mountains. I then sailed off to Japan aboard the U.S. Breckinridge where for half of the trip I was seasick.
I was originally assigned as a truck driver in the 3rd Tank Battalion at 3rd Marine Division Rear at Camp McGill, Japan. But shortly after arriving I retired my greasy dungarees for a clean white pistol belt with a shinny brass buckle and the crimson and gold brassard of a military policeman.
What I really loved about Japan was the experience of living in a foreign country. I mingled with the people, climbed Mt. Fuji and visited many historical landmarks such as the Imperial Palace and the Great Buddha in Kamakura. I also had a couple of girlfriends and through them, learned how to speak and write a fair amount of Japanese. I returned to the United States after 13 months overseas and ended my enlistment as a ‘brig’ guard at Great Lakes Naval Training Station, Illinois.
I almost ‘shipped over.’ So strong was the possibility, some of the guys took bets. I can’t remember who won or lost but I bid them all farewell, grabbed a Greyhound bus and headed home having concluded my time on active duty in the Marine Corps.
Shortly after active duty I joined a Marine Reserve Rifle Company. I was then married with a fulltime job in a factory and going to junior college part time.
In 1962 I left the Marine Reserves and enlisted in the Michigan Army National Guard. I quickly made it to Sergeant but I wanted to be an Officer. I passed the prerequisite tests and was accepted to the 9-week reserve component OCS at Ft. Benning, Georgia. But five days before I was to go I was told my allocation was given to an older guardsman, this being his last chance to go. I was disappointed and frustrated but when my chain of command said I had to wait another year, I became determined I was going to OCS and soon. I called the commanding general and told him of my plight. A couple of phone calls later I was soon on my way to the regular Army 26-week OCS.
In September 1963 I traveled by train to Ft. Benning where I was met with a hard core reception reminiscent of my arriving at Marine boot camp. I was the only reserve component candidate in my class and 20-minutes after I arrived the company commander sought me out, braced me against the wall, stuck his face next to mine and threatened me not to screw up his class or else. That threat hung over my head like the Sword of Damaclese for the duration of the course. It also gave me all the motivation I needed to succeed.
Following graduation I returned home to college, my family, a new job as a Pinkerton’s private detective and the National Guard where for the next three years I was a rifle platoon leader. During this time I became more aware of the growing war in Vietnam. One night while watching the nightly news about the war, I decided go on active duty.
I received a commission in the U.S. Army as an infantry officer in 1966. I trained for a year and went to Vietnam. Following one year back in the states, I volunteered for a second Vietnam tour of duty. When I returned in 1970 I had orders to go to the career course at Ft. Benning but I declined. My absence from my wife and two children had placed a strain on the marriage and I had planned on resigning. But infantry branch suggested I take a job in my hometown of Grand Rapids as a National Guard Advisor – the very same unit I had been in when I was in the Guard. If I still wanted to stay in the Army following the assignment I was told that I could then attend the career course. I took the job. I also finished my college education with a BS in Political Science.
I decided to stay in the Army and attended the career course in 1973, a decision that brought my marriage to an end. Following the career course I was assigned as the infantry tactics instructor at the transportation school, Ft. Eustis, Virginia. I taught patrolling, survival and guerrilla warfare to freshly minted Lieutenants. When I was promoted to major, I took over the combat arms branch. In my spare time I got my Master’s in counseling and guidance and I also got remarried.
About this time the army put into practice a ‘dual-track’ system. This meant that all officers would be given at least one assignment in another MOS, my alternate field came up as a public affairs officer. The plan was to have one PAO assignment and when that was over, I would revert back to an infantry assignment.
My PAO assignment was a two-year, family accompanied tour with the 8th Army/United Nations Command. My wife, her three children, my two from my previous marriage and our two dogs packed up and flew off to Korea in 1978.
We tried learning the language and would spend equal time with Korean and military friends. We also got deeply involved in helping Father Keane with his poorly funded orphanage. At the orphanage we met an Amerasian brother and sister. We decided to foster them and through an international adoption agency, we adopted a beautiful nine-month old Korean girl. Living under the same roof were now eight children, two adults and two dogs. I think it was too much for some of the children as three decided to return home.
I discovered I liked the PAO business and asked HQ for another PAO assignment. Following two wonderful years in Korea we returned home with five kids, including our two fosters.
My next assignment was PAO for the Presidio of San Francisco. We lived north of the Golden Gate Bridge and every work morning I marveled at the beauty of Marin County as I carpooled into San Francisco. I wanted to retire there but of course I didn’t. My final assignment was Deputy Chief of Staff at Ft. Ord, I retired in 1984.
DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS?
My first combat tour was 1967-1968 with the 5th Special Forces Group. Two Sergeants and I were flown into A-102 (Tien Phuc) in I Corps when a number of their outposts were captured by NVA troops. For five months we augmented the A-team stationed there. The outpost was a magnet for enemy and rocket fire and an occasional “probing” by enemy sappers. A few months after I was there the Detachment Commander, Capt. Mac Speaks and three Army engineers, along with a half dozen camp mercenaries, were killed in a brazen night-time attack.
When I made captain I requested a transfer to Project Delta (B-52) in Nha Trang. I was the senior advisor to a company of the 81st Airborne/ Ranger Battalion under the control of South Vietnam Special Forces. We were a reaction force that would go in if one of our reconnaissance team was in trouble. We also ran routine, company size missions in areas where our reconnaissance teams found signs of large enemy activity. Following Tet 1968, we patrolled the jungle south of Tan Son Nhu Air Base for a couple of months.
My second tour was with the 1st Cavalry Division in 1969-70. I commanded Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment for seven months. We conducted “search and destroy” missions in the Bu Dop/Song Be region in III Corps along the Cambodian border. The area really belonged to the enemy as American or South Vietnam combat troops had not operated in the area for years. This often proved to be more than a little exciting. In May and June 1970 I took the company into Cambodia as part of Nixon’s incursion.
My final assignment was assistant operations officer in the 1st Brigade at Bein Hoa.
Over 5.7 million U.S. military servicemen and women served in the Korean War often under extreme hardship conditions.
Korean War Veterans are more prone to suffer from disabilities related to cold injures as a result of exposure to severe cold climates. Cold weather accounted for 16% of Army non-battle injuries and over 5,000 U.S. casualties of cold injury required evacuation from Korea during the winter of 1950-1951.