Sarah Massey |
Interview on VietnamMy name is Gary Sharpe and I was in Vietnam December 1967 thru May 1969.
My name is Willis Coble from August 1969-August 1970.
Question- Were you drafted into the war or did you join on your own?
Gary- "I was drafted."
Willis- "I was drafted also."
Question: How did you feel when you were drafted?
Gary- "Well the letter said 'Congratulations, you have been selected' and there's not much you can do. You know, it was my duty so that's what I done.
Willis-"I was really drafted from my job. I was working for a company that was making equipment for the military over there and then my draft deferment ran out and I was drafted and I was drafted at kind of an old age. I was drafted when I was 25 years old when I left for Vietnam.
Question:-How long were you in the war?
Gary-" The normal tour of duty was 12 months and I was over there for 14 months and the reason I was there for 14 months was they come out with a deal that if you would extend for 2 extra months we will cut 5 months of your time off and the reason being they were losing men so fast they were losing them faster than they could train them. So I took 14 months of service and only got 19 months of service duty.
Willis- "I was there for a full year. When I went over I went through basic training and MOS training and training school basic development and lonely had to be there twelve months. Afterward I was discharged form the service.
Question-How did the Vietnamese people treat the American soldiers.
Gary-They were basically friendly. The North Vietnamese weren't friendly at all. In fact they would threaten the soldiers families to get information from the Army or any military group they could.
Question-Was the weather anything like it is here.
Gary-No, it was hot and during the rainy season, called the Monsoon season, it rained, and it rained, and it rained.
Willis-I'll go back and answer the question about the people. I was on a compound, like an aviation compound, and most of the contact with the Vietnamese people was either in the compound where they had civilians working for the government or either in town where the PX was, post exchange. They were friendly but they had a job and they got paid good money because they corked for the government considering the wages they would normally make. But it was really new; you really didn't know who to trust, especially the children and that was really sad about the whole situation. You didn't know who to trust.
Question-Have ya'll seen any movies that are anything similar to, cause I know some movies are just not historically accurate.
Willis-I've seen a little bit of Apocalypse Now, I think some of that depicted it a little bit but that is Hollywood style.
Gary- Well I'll say that some of it is pretty much true and some of it's played up a little too much.
Question: What branch were ya'll in?
Gary-I was in the United States Army and my rank was a Buck SargentE-5.
Willis- I was in the Army and my rank was an E-5 also.
Question: Now were you treated when you came back home from the war?
Willis-I wasn't treated very well. When I came back I remember flying into Forth Worth, WA and got a flight out of Seattle (seatack). I had my uniform on and I was there in the airport and I sat down beside this lady and she had her son with her. And when she found out I was coming back from Vietnam she gave me the cold shoulder and got up and moved. Took her son with her. We weren't treated very well at all. It wasn't a very popular war.
Gary-I think the Vietnam veteran got a bum wrap when we come home and we got the rep that he was a drug addict, that he was a drunk, and all of that and I'll tell you what. I lost a lot of good friends over there that never messed with any of that stuff. I think the Vietnam veteran really got a bad deal on the whole thing.
Question: Did either of you all meet your wife during the war or before the war or after the war?
Gary-No, I wasn't married at the time.
Willis- I was married. I had been married about two or three years before going in .
Question: Did you write your wife?
Willis- Yeah, all the time.
Gary- I wrote my wife pretty regular. She wasn't my wife at the time, but we were going to be married when I got home.
Question: Do any of ya'll have interesting stories about the war to share?
Willis- Was privileged to have a day off. I was going into the PX which was the postal exchange. Anyway there were two ways to catch a ride because everything was off limits. Catch a helicopter into town or catch a jeep. There wasn't any helicopters flying at the time so I hitched a ride on a jeep. There were a couple of medics picked me up and they said they had to make a stop and they wouldn't be very long and asked if I wanted to go it. And where they stopped was a leper hospital. I didn't even know there was still leprosy around anymore and it was an experience I will never forget.
Gary- Well, I'll tell anybody that asked me. I wasn't a Christian at that time but I know for sure that the Lord spared my life many times over there. I have a lot of stories to share but right now I'll tell you God spared my life over there.
Question: How old were you when you went over there?
Gary- I was 19 yrs.
Willis- I was 25 yrs.
Question: Did you know any POW's
Gary- I didn't know any either.
Question: What good came out of the Vietnam war?
Willis- The only thing that I can say. The only thing good about me being there was to be able to see people in a country that was very, very poor. People that have absolutely nothing. And to see how those people lived and survived and had been in many, many years of war and they were really war battered. And also being able to get along with people and survive in an environment life that for a year you had to do a lot of things to survive and I can say it was a good experience for me. I can remember it just like it was yesterday. I know there are many who have had very, very bad experiences and would like to forget the whole thing. But I think I have come away learning from it and have gotten some very positive things from it.
Gary- I think it was a war that could have been fought a lot different than what it was. It was a war that really didn't have boundaries and fronts and stuff and the United States could have gone in there with their bombers and started at Hanoi and bombed all the way South and cleaned this war up real easy but they thought not to do that and I think it was to keep people back home working and to keep the economy strong because everybody had a job then. And that's the way I feel about it.
Question: Do you think it was necessary to have the Vietnamese war or do you think the United States put their nose in where it shouldn't have been.
Willis-Well, I personally feel that we act as the world police and we always have and I think it's because of the size of our military force but the war was fought so politically that we ended up losing the war and really not that much good has come of us being there. I think in time we will probably have American companies going in there and building plants and building up the economy but I think it will be a while. I personally don't think be gained that much from being there. We lost ; where are a lot of lives, a lot of names of that memorial in Washington. That's a big price to pay.
Gary- I agree with Willis. It was a war that I didn't understand what it was all about. I just knew it was my duty to be there and to serve my country and that was my job to do and I went over there with the intentions to do the best job and get back home if I possibly could.
Question: Do ya'll have anything else you want to share?
No. End of session.