Alex: Today is June 6, 2005. We're in Spokane, Washington. The interviewee is
Dave Kenway and I am Alex Nagy, and I am using a sony video camera to
record this interview.
Alex:Dave, what branch of service were you in, and what wars were you in?
Dave: I was in the Marine Corps, and as in wars, actually none of them were
wars because Vietnam was never declare a war right?
Dave: There were peace actions and different things, but the main one was the
Vietnam war, and that was my longest in there. I was in Cuba during the Cuba
Crisis and I was in he Dominican Republic, and that was way before the VietNam
War, but those were the, Vietnam was the major area I was in.
Alex: What was the highest rank you received?
Dave: Yeah, I was first sergeant or a gunnery sergeant; depends on what branch
service. You know, I was an E-8.
Alex: Ok. Were you drafted or did you enlist?
Dave: No, I enlisted. I enlisted in 1959. January of 1959.
Alex: Where were you living then?
Dave: Uh. San Francisco Bay area.
Alex: Ok. What did during that time when you weren't in service? Or uh...
Dave: I was a young man like you; I was going to high school. I was about your
age. How old are you?
Dave: You see. Yeah. I was seventeen when I was in the Marine Corps. So I was
still in high school. I was in my senior year and I went into the Marine Corps.
Alex: Did you work or go back to school afterwards?
Dave: After I got out of the Marine Corps?
Dave: I went back to college. I went back to junior college and got my degree in
business and all of that kind of stuff.
Alex: Ok. Was your education supported by the G. I. Bill?
Dave: Yes it was.
Alex: Did you make any close friends while you were in the service?
Dave: I made a lot of close... I made a lot of close friendships, there were a lot of
Alex: Did you continue any of those relationships?
Dave: Well, unfortunately uh, none of them were alive after continuing in the
Marine Corps, the ones that were real close didn't make it, so I was like the lone
wolf and that was that.
Alex: Ok. Did you join a veteran's organization afterwards?
Dave: I belong actually to the VFW the Veterans of Foreign Wars and there's
three veterans groups that I support as in financially. I keep my dues going, but
as of participating in their functions, I don't go to their functions.
Alex: Ok. Alright. Why did you join the military?
Dave: I was seventeen, I was rebellious, I didn't listen to my parents. The usual
thing nowaday I think most kids do. And my outlet wall was to hell with you all I'll
just go in the Marine Corps., and that's basically it. I could cut off my own nose to
smite my own face. I went into service.
Alex: Well, what did it feel like?
Dave: As in?
Alex: Well, joining the military.
Dave: From leaving home and going to military was culture shock. Because your
leaving the very nurtured environment of your parents and your friends and all
this if you had little cliques and everything, boot camp environment, no matter
what service, people screaming at you and shouting at you and using all kinds of
bad language, I mean your going, "Oh, why did I do this?"
Alex: So, how did you get through it then?
Dave: I did well once I realized that it wasn't like being on the streets of San
Francisco. Your not a bad-ass and the drill instructor wasn't going to thump you
on the head. You did what you were told and took it one day at a time at getting
through boot camp.
Alex: Ok. I'm going to ask you about VietNam now. Where exactly in VietNam did
Dave: I was an eye-core. Everything from Danang air-base all the way up to the
Alex: Do you remember arriving there? What was it like?
Dave: Actually, when I got there, the first year when I was there, we went over by
ship, they dropped us at Danang. As in the town of Danang which is right by the
sea. And there was access to that harbor and they brought us in by ship, and my
first reaction: what a beautiful country it was. what a beautiful country it was. We
could see the coast lines as we were coming in, and it was a secure
environment. That was when we unloaded. The town of Danang was secure. We
didn't have to worry about the enemy shooting at us or doing different things.
That was my first reaction. What a beautiful country it was.
Alex: What was your job?
Dave: I was a LRRP. Long-Range Reconnaissance Patrol. I was a recon Marine.
Alex: Did you see any combat?
Dave: About three years of it.
Alex: Were there many casualties in your unit?
Dave: In my unit or other units?
Alex: Your unit.
Dave: Within my team, yes, yes I had a couple casualties where people didn't
make it. In some of the other teams, I think our casualty rate was actually lower
than most of the other office that did the kind of work that we did cause like I said
we were LRRPs; we weren't aggressive patrols. We were there to snoop and
poop. It was to seek out and find the enemy and report it back from where we
were, so our object was not to go out there and play Rambo because that didn't
exist I don't care what anybody says there was no Rambos that I'm aware of, but,
so our casualty rate was a lot lower in my team unit in VietNam.
Alex: What were some of your favorite memories there?
Dave: Coming home from missions alive. Truthfully. Sometimes we had to be
debriefed. It depends where we were. They could debrief us at Camron Bay
which was a big army base, but they would debrief us there and then from there
we would go back up. My main base was out of Danang, but I would be debriefed
in different areas. And every time I came back I'm going "Phew!" You were glad
to be back. You'd see other guys walking around being in a secure area.
Alex: Were you a prisoner of war then?
Dave: Never, never.
Alex: Ok. Were you awarded any medals or citations at all?
Dave: Well, I had the usual medals you get for being in the country, you know
you get certain medals for being in Vietnam, you have certain medals because
your in the Marine Corps and your in Vietnam, but yeah, I got all those medals,
but then I had a couple purple hearts, and I had a bronze star and a silver star.
Alex: How many purple hearts did have?
Dave: Three if I'm not mistaken. I have to count the holes.
Alex: Would you like to explain how you got them at all?
Dave: It was nothing heroic, you know, it's not like the movies they all happened
when we were on patrols, and one of them to my leg was uh... one of the
gentlemen in front of me had point, and he caught the variation of a "bouncing
betty;" took him out and he caught me at the legs, and the other ones were just in
ambushes, with uh, we got caught, somebody they realized we were there, and
we called for a hot pick-up. We had to get out of there because our job wasn't to
be compromised. Once they knew we were in the area it was no good for us to
be there, and it was basically just trying to get out. You know, nothing like the
Alex: How did it feel being injured?
Dave: I had no conception because your adrenaline is going so hot; you are so
wired. It's like being in a soccer match and your getting ready to kick that goal
and you know your going to make that goal. You're just pumping. You know,
somebody could come up and bang you on the head, and it wouldn't make a
difference. It's the same thing. It's like when I tried with my legs and I tried to
stand, and I realized, whoa, something's wrong here. You know. My buddies
were grabbing me by the arms and everyone thinks I'm down, and I'm going "Oh
man!" You're going "What's happened to your leg? Yeah, It wasn't like the
movies. You know?
Alex: How did you stay in touch with your family?
Dave: I wrote em'. Back in then they didn't have the internet or all that. You didn't
have access to telephones, so it was basically writing. Writing to my parents.
Alex: What was the food like there?
Dave: I ate pretty good food. I'm going to be honest with you. Because the type
of work we did and our outfit, I had access to a lot more things then other people
would have. I could go to the officer's club and eat, you know, go and hang out,
talk to the pilots and eat at their mess halls or all that. When we were on the base
I had no problems with that. And in the field, that's when they were trying rations
out as they use now over in the Gulf conflicts and all that. That's where they first
started experimenting with them, and we would have like what they had. Not
siniter , but it was the beginning, the basis of it because we couldn't take a lot of
weight with us. You know.
Alex: Did you have plenty of supplies?
Dave: As in?
Alex: Just general supplies. Ammo food.
Dave: Yeah, because it's not like being on demand on top of a fire base in the
middle of no place, and when the helicopters can and land the don't get enough
ammunition, they don't get enough food, they don't get enough toilet paper. I
mean there was none, and those things tend to tick you off. I was in a position,
and what I did, it was sort of like a pilot. A pilot had a nice comfortable
environment e was in until he gets in that plane, and has to go out and fight, but
when he comes back, he's coming back to a relatively secure base or an aircraft
carrier, and it's the same way with your LRRP outfits. Your attached to army units
or Marine units because there's all kinds of LRRPs, but your basically working it
out of a sectionally secure base, and your briefed where you're going, how long
you're going to be down, what your objectives are. You know what I mean? And
then you take your ammo and and shirt and things, everybody had a little
preference. They want a little more of this, but because we weren't supposed to
be engaging in the enemy, we didn't go in there like a rifle company would. There
was all the ammunition and the machine guns. Everything we had had silencers
on it. I used to carry a grease-gun that had a silencer on it, and you could barely
hear it just like our pistols all had silencers on them, but that's because like I said,
we were snooping and pooping, so we had ample supplies of what we wanted.
We could pick what we wanted to take.
Alex: how much pressure and stress was there?
Dave: I don't think any. I don't think anybody on our team had pressure or stress
because most of them were like me. They were volunteers to start with. You
didn't do that if you weren't a volunteer. The start with of the Vietnam era started,
all of us had been in the Marine Corps previous to that. We had been trained
state-side for this, so it was repetition, repetition, then you finally get to do the
real thing as in football, karate, soccer, swimming, you're always practicing, and
then one day it's actually happened, and you do so many things automatically
and everything that there's not really pressure there. I mean, sometimes you
really freak out because you realize people are actually shooting back at you.
Yeah, there's that pressure there, but if uh, I don't think you would have done
well if you were squeamish and couldn't take pressure in my type of position
because needless to say you had to go through psychological tests with doctors
and all that. They're worried about you being out in the middle of no place and
flipping out. You know and all that, but with the people I generally worked with,
everybody handled it all right. You cut loose a lot when you come back; you have
one too many beers at the NCL club or something like that you know, but it's... I
don't know. Did that answer your question?
Alex: Yeah, Yeah. What were some of the things you did for good luck?
Dave: I don't believe in good luck.
Dave: I didn't believe in it, and it was training what we did in the Marine Corps,
and you had to be automatic, it had nothing to do with luck. I never went that
way, so I don't know.
Alex: Did some of the other people do things for luck?
Dave: The people that I worked with, no. I knew nobody that carried a special
thing with him, or you know, I had gentlemen that made prayers, but I don't know
if you want to call that luck or not. They would go to the chapel and all depending
on their faith. You know, go to religious ceremonies before we went out, but as in
having a voodoo doll with them no.
Alex: Was religion important there?
Dave: I guess to every individual in their own way it was, yeah.
Alex: Ok. Were there entertainers at all?
Dave: As in?
Alex: people who came to cheer you up?
Dave: Oh yeah. They had USO that would come in. I never got to see any of
them. I was never in the opportunity where I could ever... I think Bob Hope came
and all those people. The USO tours would come to the bigger bases, and then
the less popular comedians would hit some of the fire bases and some of the
more outlining areas. But, no, there was people who would tell me "Oh yeah we
had the USO troop in here. It was great.
Alex: What did you do when you were on leave?
Dave: Leave where? As in from the war or from when I was in the service?
Alex: When you were in the service.
Dave: Well, you usually direct yourself back home to where you were raised.
Alex: Yeah. Where did you travel while in the service?
Dave: Well, I spent time in the Philippines, Okanawa, Japan, Korea, Hawaii,
Vietnam actually; I didn't even think of that one. But those were the places that I
had years where I was stationed at. You know, there were so many other places
I went to, that just in my line of work.
Alex: Do you recall any humorous of funny events; unusual events at all while
you were in the service?
Dave: I can name a lot of them, but not too many I'm going to put on film to be
honest with you (chuckle).
Alex: Ok. Would you like to say? What were some of the pranks anyone pulled?
Dave: Well, I can think of some cruel pranks that I think everybody in every
branch of the service pulled. You would get new, young second lieutenants in, or
different things like this, and especially within our type of unit we were very close
knit if you be a private, or if you be a kernel because everybody was a family. But
the new guy would come in and you would start measuring them, and they didn't
realize till they asked you, that you were measuring them for a body bag. Well
that's pretty sick, you know, if you're going to go out there and die, we want to
make sure that you have the right size bag. You know, but, nothing that was
really crazy, I'm sorry.
Alex: That's fine. Did you take any photographs?
Dave: I took photographs, but very few of them are left. I got rid of them all. My
wife found the few ones that you had there.
Alex: Did you keep a personal diary?
Dave: No. No.
Dave: A written type diary? No.
Alex: What did you do for a career after the war then?
Dave: The actual war, or after I got out of the Marine Corps.
Alex: After you got out of the Marine Corps.
Dave: I ended up becoming a butcher, and I was looking for a job because what
they taught me in the Marine Corps you couldn't apply to civilian life, and I was
on the unemployment line as a matter of fact, and I saw a guy I had known in
Vietnam that was a mortar man on one of the... what are you doing young lady?
(talking to the cat) hi everybody that's my cat. And he said to become a butcher.
And I said " I don't know anything about being a butcher." And he says " now's
the time to do it because they're very strong local and they're orientated towards
veterans, Vietnam veterans, and it wasn't all this baby-killer shit you hear about
now." So I went down there, and I went on an apprenticeship program. (cat
meows) I went on the apprenticeship program and became a meat cutter. I was
the oldest apprentice I think they ever had.
Alex: Are you still working today as a butcher?
Dave: I still am.
Alex: Ok. Let's see. Did your military experience influence your thinking on war or
about the military in general?
Dave: I'd say yes on both accounts. I think that a lot of my issues that I had with
the military when I got out, they have yet resolved. There was this better
communication with their troops and different things like this which I never felt
they had enough communication. I had a fairly good amount of communication
for the work I did. but we had to when we went into certain situations or be in
certain areas, and I would talk to army troops or eye-core troops, and sometimes
they didn't have a clue. I mean they had a clue why they were over there, but
they didn't realize that twenty miles down the road there were three VC divisions
or something like this where, why weren't these people informed why don't they
know why it's, you know... So that part has been addressed so that goes with the
service thing. What was the other one?
Alex: About the military in general or about war.
Dave: Oh, war. What can you say about any kind of action where human lives
are taken? You first think about it and you say "hey, alright. I'm a big, bad Marine;
A big, bad Ranger; you know what I mean? It's not pleasant the first time you
have to kill somebody. It's not a pleasant experience, and I always worried about
people who did my type of work and came on my teams. Like say, if we had to
get quickly, that just thought it was great. You know, I'm sorry, I get very sick to
my stomach, I had bad dreams for a long time, You know? Especially after you
do it and you... you.... Next thing you would do is go through and look for his
maps and all this, and you go through wallets, and you have a lot of the people
that you were fighting were Catholics. And you go, " Wait a minute here. What's
wrong? What's going on here?" And you are just like, this is really crazy, yeah.
But besides that, we don't learn from our experience it seems like, or we don't
learn from history. I don't know how you're going to rectify that or make things
Alex: Yeah. I see what you mean. Do you attend any reunions?
Dave: No. No. I don't have anybody left. (Chuckles) There's nobody left.
Alex: How did your services and experiences effect your life?
Dave: It made me grow up a hell of a lot quicker. When I was Seventeen, I was in
high school age. I wasn't high school age when I actually got in into actual
combat, but the growing up process in the service... it's not like being at home or
like being in high school or junior college, you know, it didn't work that way, but
because you went into so many different type of schools that is quite a growing
up process. You're dealing with. The men that were training me didn't want to
listen to any bullshit or anything. They were out there to teach me how to save
my butt. And sometimes when you're eighteen years old, you get a little cocky,
you know what I'm telling you? They wouldn't tolerate it back in those days. I
don't know if they do now, but when I learned how to jump and all that, the
Marine Corps doesn't have a school per-say, but the army, I went back to Fort
Bennett and Fort Bragg, I went through all of their training because the army
would teach us, and I learned some more different, specialized kind of training,
but believe it or not but Comuna Airforce Base, in Okanawa. But they showed us
a few different things that we had to learn, but it was a growing up process very
quick. Well, a lot of women and beer I guess. It was OK.
Alex: Is there anything you would like to add that we have not covered yet?
Dave: Nope. No. Just ask questions and I'll try to be honest with you.
Alex: I'm running out of questions here.
Dave: I think everybody, especially dealing with the Vietnam War, I guess a lot of
times it's why I don't go to a lot of certain Veterans things they have. I support
them financially, the Marine Corps League and the VFW, and the different ones I
pay my yearly dues to. It seems like a lot of them just want to sit around and and
talk about the war, and lives, and this, and sometimes you think that their mouth
is overloading it, and they've had one too many beers, you know, and you're
sitting there with the guys and every one wants to sound like a Rambo. They've
been watching TV too much, and with the type of work I did, or the men that did
my type of work in the Army or the Marine Corps, you'd have your LRRP outfits
that would go in now, and they were there to kick butt. No doubt about it. What
type of work I did, we didn't. We were snoopers and poopers. We usually then,
back in the olden days, used transmission satellites to the ships at sea. I mean
that was sophisticated stuff back then. That was hush, hush. It's Mickey Mouse
now, but you would see enemy convoys coming down on the Ho Chi Minh trail. A
good sized group, we would relay out to ships at sea or aircraft who would rig.
Then they would have the Navy Seals, Army Green Berets, or Ranger outfits set
up ambushes and things to try and get some of those officers or something. It's
sort of like a heart attack. You've got the first twenty-four hours you can get one
of those puppies and get all the information out of them is really good, but we
didn't drive them, we just spotted them, which can get a little hairy itself because
you're getting real close in. You're getting a lot closer in on certain situations than
you want to be. Where if you were in a shooting situation, you would have
dropped them long ago, but that wasn't what we were there for. We had to make
sure we didn't shower, didn't have deodorants on, after-shave lotion, none of that
because you could smell it. You could smell it in the jungle (sniffs) "It's Right-
Guard." Because you try to blend in as much as you can. It's just like smoking or
anything like that. You light up a cigarette, you've been someplace where
someone's been smoking. You can smell it. It'd be 100 feet to 200 feet from you.
You can smell it in the jungle. I would, you know. It wasn't like something you
would see in the movies where you do all this, and the guy would be walking
around smoking. That's the only thing I can think about in Vietnam. I got out
because I didn't like the politics. I had a lot of years in the Marine Corps. I was
getting tired after that long in Vietnam. I was getting tired of young people dying
on both sides. I was truly getting frustrated. Too much death on either side. Then
I realized we were at a no no win situation. That we were going to have to leave
Vietnam eventually because the government and their troops were not capable of
handling it after the U.S. left. That's a whole nother story in itself. Because I had
to work with the Arlins and other things like that. It was not good.
Alex: How has the technology improved since then?
Dave: Oh, everything is so high-tech now.
Alex: What was it like back then?
Dave: Well, you didn't have a lot of your nightvision stuff, and on some of that...
everything was top-secret. Now every soldier has that equipment available to
them like satellite links. Certain types of sniper rifles and sniper scopes that were
very la-la back then in the olden days is now General Custard stuff, so the
technology and the war in itself has grown so much. Just like some of the LLRP
stuff we did now we don't need to do now. They can drop little listening devices
on the ground in different areas and it is all grid-coordinated. You can tell when
there's enemy movement because all this is going off in computers that there is
ground movement. They don't actually have to have somebody eyeballing it. Or if
there is movement, they just get in there with a satellite and know if it's enemy or
not. You'll always need somebody out there actually eyeballing it, but you can
only eyeball so much, and the rest you can have these devices out.
Alex: How has the war changed your thoughts on the war in Iraq?
Dave: Well, if I were a politician... I remember when the war was starting over
there. I figured that we were going to go over there and kick butt. I said that to
people I worked with because a lot of people asked me, and then I said we were
going to end up getting tied up. They were going to try and make policemen out
of us and different things and I said " none of us then or now were trained as
policemen. They were trained as your army units and your tank units." I'm sure
they're being trained now hand to hand combat in all the towns, but I don't know
how to call that one. All of this mass destruction and all this, and it comes out
there's nothing there. Did we get rid of him for the oil? Did we put ourself in there
for that position? We're going to find out 100 years from now. It's like who shot
John Kennedy. It's going to come out eventually if they already don't know.
Certain things are coming out about the second World War that have been
classified until now. This has all been classified until now. Certain instances and
certain ships that got stuck that they told them "no, we don't know anything," but
they knew all along. So I don't know. Anybody that's got to feel about a particular
war or action by what they feel and what they see on TV.
Camera Turns Off
Camera Turns On
Dave: How did I become a LRRP? That's a long story in itself. It is. I went into the
Marine Corps, and when I got out of boot camp they send you to second ITR,
second infantry training battalion. I wanted to be a cook. I wanted to be a cook;
that's all I wanted to do, was learn how to cook. I figured: they'll teach me how to
cook, and I'll get out of the Marine Corps and go to school. I wanted to be a
culinary expert. When you get out of boot camp in the service you become a
striker. They called the cooks strikers. That's where you learned to wash the pots
and pans. Not mess duty, because everybody has to do mess duty. It's where the
cook goes through and shows you how to cook bacon. It's 101. I was in
Okanawa, and I was assigned to a recon outfit as a cook. They were the guys
jumping out of the planes, and doing all this recon stuff recon Marines did. Force
Recon. Your Rangers and all that. I was just learning how to cook. They were
sitting at a table once, and with a man like my best sergeant, and there were all
these sergeants that were from the outfit there. They were talking about certain
tactics, and I said, "That's really stupid doing it that way." They were giving
scenarios how they were going to give the class because no war was going on
then. How they were going to take a position, and I said, "That's really stupid." I
said, " I would run a front hole and do a right development, or otherwise, you
would get the fire and sneak around the other side. Why I came up with that I had
no idea. And so they looked at me. Didn't say anything. The next day I was called
in to my commanding officer, and he just talked to me. He said he's got a lot
better job for me than being a cook. He asked me if I ever thought about being a
recon Marine.I says, "You know, they've been running around." They would run
around go on these and go on these ungodly hikes. Run ten mile with their packs
on. So "No, I don't want to do that!" but that's what I did. He took me out of there
as a PFC, and I started as a grunt and recon, and I went off and got my jump
wings and all that. Once I got back I got my jump wings and all that from the
army and I became a LRRP. So, when you were there you were constantly going
to schools. You know I was going to schools, but I always had a wonderful report
in all my years in the Marine Corps with the cooks because thats what I always
wanted to be was a cook. They always knew when Sergeant Kenway was in, so I
got along with them real well, and actually, when I got back to the Twelfth
Marines. I was in charge of the cooks, corps, and office pinkies. Those were the
people that typed in the Marine Corps, typed, and the Corpsmen. They were all
in one battalion, and they were getting ready to go to Vietnam. My job was to
show them the reality of the war, and how to be qualified with a weapon because
mainly, number one, they were Marines. No mater what other job they did, they
were Marines. This was to enforce this on them because none of them had seen
combat or anything like that and I was working my way out of the Marine Corps
by then. That was fun, but that's how I ended up being a LRRP for all those
years. That was a lot of prestige in the Marine Corps because a lot of Marines
didn't have jump wings. It's not like you don't have any unless you were in an
army unit. Everybody there has jumped out of there... In the Marine Corps, only
selects have jump wings. Back in those days, we could were camouflaged
utilities like everybody wears now. Back then, you just wore the regular olive gray
and your league outfits. So there, that was sort of something to make you suck
in your chest and put your head up. But that's how I became a LRRP.
Alex: Did you jump out of any planes?
Dave: A lot of planes. More helicopters than I did anything. You first start out that
you jump out of... you go through your jump school. It's like in the movies, you
see them all look up and stand in a line, and then you have the master standing
there, and then you go out. A lot of mine were hop-and-pops which was literally,
jump and pop. It was low level jumping. Big planes, little planes. I never did
anything like they show that you're Navy Seals or special units doing. Jesus, how
high in the air they are? They got all of this special breathing stuff on because
they were so high. Never did any of that, you know, a basic grunt jumping out of
the plane or helicopter. A lot of the times you would do that because they would
take us in by helicopter. Depends what we were doing and where we were going.
Alex: By the way, How many years did you spend in Vietnam.
Dave: Three tours, so it's a little over three years. Every time I got ready to rotate
back, something came up, and it's like a convenience for the government. Like
now. They're not letting some of the guys back home. It was the same thing
because of my MOS, the type of job I did, they didn't have immediate
replacements or the replacements were being used other places, so they keep
on extending you. Well, you're going to get a six month extension over here.
Well, twelve months later they're going, "You get another six month extension."
Alex: Did they give you any rewards for that?
Alex: No? Just told you...
Dave: You're there. What are you going to say?I think the rewards you got, there
was something like that. There was one Lieutenant Kernel that I was with over
there, even because of his rank, made one star general when I came back to the
states. He would be at camp Penalton. He would seek me out and visit me which
would freak out everybody in my outfit. "What is the general here to see Sergeant
Kenway for? What is a general?" This is a kernal that I had known that was my
CO for all those years in Vietnam, so we would go up to the officer's club and
drink a few beers. It would just blow everybody's mind. But, That.
Alex: Anything else you would like to add at all?
Dave: Are you going to go into the service?
Dave: Why not?
Alex: I'm not an "army guy."
Dave: There is a lot of jobs in the service that people don't realize aren't front
line. You got to figure, what do they say, the actual people doing the fighting on
the lines with blood and guts is actually eight percent. I don't know if it's that low,
but everything else is support units.
Alex: I don't really believe in war.
Dave: There's nothing wrong with that either, but if you ever do decide, make
sure you go in as an officer and not an enlisted man because the officers have
the perks. In the Marine Corps you've got a lot of perks once you became above
a sergeant. Once you became an NCO because the Marine Corps is very big on
their non-commission officers, so when you start getting E-7 or E-8, you pack a
lot of power. You have like a new lieutenant came in and they would stick them
with me. You're baby-sitting them is what you're doing. You're taking care of
them which is all right; it's how they learn.
Alex: Do you remember when you were at that spot?
Dave: I babysat quite a few of them.
Alex: Or when you were the person being babysitted?
Dave: My babysitting was different because as I worked my way up through the
ranks, I gained more responsibility within my unit and the PFC to a corporal I am
taking those jobs that I have learned just like in corporations today. In any
business, you're making your way up. By the time I got up to the rank I had, I
knew what was expected of me, I knew what was expected of the people I
worked with. I knew how to show them how to make it work, but a lot of times you
would get a lieutenant or second lieutenant. They'd come right out of college and
been through the army training school and sending them right to the unit, but
they really had no hand-on experience working with people, and of course it
depends what kind of outfit and what things they send them to. Usually the
general would try and stick them with the older Marines. The First Sergeant and
the gunnies to let them learn. Ninety-eight percent of the times they make a
move, they would ask you before they do anything because they're not sure, but
it's a learning experience. Because they learn to get the confidence, or they
make a decision and you explain I really don't think that will work lieutenant, and
here's why. When we went on our patrols and types of things like that, it was my
team that was going out. It was my team, and if anyone else came on the team,
Was there as in Naval Intelligence no matter what rank they were, it was my
team. I was the pre-madona. I was the boss. It was like that on both teams
because sometimes we would have to take different people that had different
types of jobs because they had to eyeball something and we didn't know why
they wanted to eyeball something. We weren't told. We were just familiar in what
area they were going to. A lot of the times they were looking for certain things
and that, and I was never informed what, where, why, with no need-to-know.
When you have top-secret clearance, it's called need-to-know. All we needed to
know is that we needed to go to this grid coordinates, and it could be rivers, or
roads, or maybe.. You know, we never knew.
Alex: Did that make you mad?
Dave: No. Not in the least because a lot of the times it was just fine. I didn't care,
I didn't want to know, but I don't know, I had no idea. After it's over with "What do
you think that guy wanted? What do you think he was looking at all that for?" You
don't know if it was a fork in the river that the pilots could use as navigation or if it
as something they were planning. We had no idea. We had a lot of that. They
were areas we were familiar with, so they would ask us to go.
Alex: I don't know.
Dave: It's hard when you're trying to discuss some thing that happened that long
ago, because some of the bad things you put out of your mind, or you just get to
the point where you don't talk to them anymore. Needless to say, I wasn't happy
with the way a lot of the things were going, or I wouldn't have gotten out of the
Marine Corps after eleven years in the Marine Corps, and I had the rank, so
there was a lot of things I wasn't happy with the Marine Corps about, the way my
country was handling certain things at the time. I think there was a lot of the guys
that wouldn't admit it, but they felt the same way that I did. Demonstrations never
bothered me. I'd spent so long over there, I couldn't blame the kid for not wanting
to come over there. In my heart I said, "I can't blame that kid." What the hell
would they want to get drafted for and want to come over here and fight this
dumb war, and I was over there fighting it. I didn't advocate this to the men that
worked with me. When you're alone and you're thinking, you see a lot of people
get hurt on either side. What a waste of life. Just like the one general who was
actually the main man that his tactics were like the ones they used on they
French; they were going to wait them out. Guerilla them out a little at a time,
because they knew they would bust the American Spirit back in the U.S., but the
statement that always stuck out in my mind was, that "How many John F.
Kennedy's, Martin Luther King's, or Ho Chi Minh's, doctors and lawyers, did both
sides loose that got killed that had the potential of those men. On both sides."
And it's true, you had a lot of young men on both sides that died that could have
been great leaders with either country.
Dave: It is. War is not pretty. I'm sorry. I didn't have to go through what a lot of
the grunts had to go through. They would take take a hill and end up giving it
away, and losing all those men. I didn't have to deal with that; I don' know how I
would have dealt with that as my men would go up, loose half my platoon, give
the hole away, they just took it to take it. I didn't have to deal with that. My
pressures and my things were different. I didn't have to live in the mud for twelve
months on those fire stations like those guys did wondering if they're going to get
the food in, the water in. I was out in the jungles there for a little while, and it got
a little hairy, but we knew if we always got through it, eventually we knew we
would get back where we had good food, a hot shower, and a cold beer. That
was the perk to being a LRRP. A lot of people thought we were crazier than shit.
"No way man, would I be out there in the middle of that." because there was no
place to run. That's why I say, we weren't there to play Rambo. We didn't want to
be compromised, and anytime we were compromised, or we thought we were
compromised, we were, needless to say because I almost got shot up, there
would be hot pick-ups. They would come and try to get us out immediately
because the bad guys knew we were in town, so we lost our whole objective, but
as country goes, beautiful country. That was a beautiful country. Along the coast
and all that. I think you will have a lot of vets that will say that got to see some of
the uh,... My wrapper's husband was in Vietnam, he says the same thing. Wish
we would have bought real-estate back then because it was a pretty country. Felt
sorry for the people because they were just trying to survive. They were trying to
get along with the French when they were there, Americans come; they try and
get along with the Americans. Some of them lived on the side where they said,
they were the good guys, and they had relatives that lived on the other side that
was supposed to be the bad guys, but yet, they're all family. All they want to do is
form and live in peace. Sort of like in Germany with that wall. You got aunts and
uncles here, and others on that side. Especially by the DMZ; families were split
and all this.
Alex: Do you think the war helped at all, the country's situation?
Dave: I don't think it helped us. I think that the government got what they wanted,
and that's to unify their country; they accomplished what they wanted. What do
they call it now? Ho Chi Minh City? But, they've unified it, and they're trying to
turn it around and make the country work for them. They were starting to have
American corporations that were over there. They got a lot of repatriating and all
this, but they're starting to export things from Vietnam. I never felt Vietnam
should have been punished. We had all these sanctions on them after the war.
Something didn't come out looking like the way we should have, but we helped
other countries. Japan. Look at all the countries we've helped that we've had
conflicts with. Even Korea. We didn't go out any further than when what we
started, but we helped them out because a lot of the time you can sneak
capitalism in through the back door on them. You know what I'm saying? By
helping them out in certain ways. You know what they always say " the best two
types of government are communism and capitalism." I don't know how true that
is or not, but they were the two strongest at one time, and they look like they are
right now. Any war makes anyone who fights in it or anything else evaluate what
they're being told by their country, and by the superiors. Not everything's so black
and white anymore. Just like to say that the World War was very black and
white." Oh, well, we were minding our own business and got bombed. Well, we
weren't really minding our business" You cut off the oil to Japan, and it goes on
and on the things that led up to that.
End of Interview.