Monday, January 5, 2009

A Q&A with my Dad about his time in Vietnam

In the '90's I conducted a half-hour interview with my Dad about his service in Vietnam. Eventually I gave up trying to transcribe the tape myself and turned itover to a professional service. They folded soon after and I got neither the tape nor the transcript back. All that remains is this brief bit I personally transcribed. With luck, I may someday conduct a new interview.

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Q: Could you please state your full name, branch, and date of service, and lowest and highest rank?

A: Edward M. Slap-, United States Air Force, July 1966 to July 1970. I started at E1, highest rank attained was E5.

Q: Why did you choose to enlist in the Air Force when you did?

A: Didn’t have much choice at the time. It was either that or being drafted. There were not many alternatives for young men at that time.

Q: What age were you then?

A: Oh, uh, nineteen

Q: The Vietnam War had already been raging for some time when you enlisted, what were your feelings about the war back then?

A: … hard question because, like I said, we didn’t have many options as, as a nineteen year old at that time. [You] Either had to go in the military, stay in school the whole time, or become …or head to Canada. Basically the only three alternatives a young man had.

Q: But what was your feeling about the war itself? About what was going on over there?

A: Well the war itself seemed, for what we were told, at age nineteen you just kinda don’t know too much about what’s going on yet, but it seemed like it was, at the time, a just war. Uh…there were some very serious questions being raised already at that time as to how we were going about it. Not only the reason why but how we were going about it. [I] Had questions concerning that.

Q: Like what?

A: Well, it was just like [unintelligible] all we were doing is prolonging the war. It’s the old adage, ah, I hit you, you hit me back, I go out and get a club, then you go get a club and I go get a knife, then you go get a knife. I mean, it seemed [our] battle[s] were just escalating it, were not really settling anything.

Q: When did you arrive in Vietnam?

A: January 1968. Ten days before the Tet offensive started.

Q: What were some of your first impressions of that country and its people?

A: Of [the] country?

Q: Of the country and its people.

A: Well, we arrived about 11:30 at night and it was incredibly hot. Good Lord, was it hot! We just came out of Wisconsin and Seattle, Washington in the middle of winter and I think it was something like 98 degrees at 11:30 at night. You just couldn’t, and I mean you wouldn’t, by the time you got maybe hundred yards you were just soaking wet from perspiration and nothing you could do about it. You know just…didn’t even see my first Vietnamese until about…the following day because we were at Cam Ranh Bay checking in, and my first [laughs] impression of them was, was how incredibly short they were! God they were a small people. My God, I’ve seen kids in, going to junior high here taller then they.

Q: But were they-

A: And yet, after a while you start to learn that height didn’t really mean much.

Q: Where were you stationed?

A: Phu Cat Airforce Base

Q: Where was that?

A: About 40 miles East of Pleiku and about 50 miles North, Northeast of Qui Nhon, right off the, uh, south China coast.

Q: That was Northern South Vietnam?

A: About, uh…we were in the upper half, the lower upper half.

Q: What was your job at that base?

A: Supply Specialist. Just, anything to, our primary job was to make sure those airlplanes kept flying. And, uh, just anything they needed, anything the army unit needed, uh, our job was to get it to ‘em.

Q: You got there right before the Tet offensive. What do you remember about it, when it started?

A: [pause] Well, I didn’t really know it was a, Tet offensive, just, you know, it started. We . . . came under attack around 1 o’clock in the morning. And, uh, at the time we had not been, we were sleeping on a cot, sleeping on a cot, in the middle of a main hallway because our permanent quarters weren’t ready yet. And, I had sacked out and the first thing I knew I could remember hearing the concussion and the next thing I knew some guy who was trying to get out tripped [chuckles] over my bunk and fell right over me. And down went the cot, down went everything. I was on the floor then people stampeding out, grabbing their gear, trying to get up, trying to get this big shit offa me, tryin’ to find out where my stuff was because that was the first time I had been through it. And get over – get your weapon, get over to your, uh, assigned spot where you know down into the bunker. And then you just kinda wait it out, see what happens.

Q: What did happen?

A: Well, it was a mortar attack and, the barracks area itself was . . .away from the flight line where the aircraft were so there was a bit of a


Jeanne said...

I'm sure you tried everything to get the tape back, so sad that it was lost....

You did a good job of what you could save, and it does bring back memories of long ago, several of my friends and co-workers had gone to Vietnam, my cousin never was the same....(Jimmy)

My other cousin Ronny was also station there and my first husband too.

Something to keep, God Bless

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Hope you do redo the interview. It is information that you do not want to lose :o)

Beth said...

I hope you can find out more. It reminds me that I need to get busy and start some interviews with my Dad.