Old Dominion University Libraries
Special Collections Home

Copyright & Permitted Use of Collection Search the Collection Browse the Collection by Interviewee About the Oral Histories Collection Oral Histories Home Colonel William D. Bassett, Jr. was a U.S. Naval Academy graduate and a decorated veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars. His interview discusses his experiences in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, military careers and military families, selective service, communism, and other topics.

Oral History Interview
with
COLONEL WILLIAM D. BASSETT, JR.

November 29, 1978
Interviewer: Joel Trammel

Listen to Interview


Introduction: This is an interview with Colonel William D. Bassett, Jr., member of Fleet Marine Forces Atlantic at the Naval Operations Base in Norfolk, Virginia. Col. Bassett has been in the Marines for twenty-nine years and has seen active duty in both Korea and Vietnam. This interview was recorded for Old Dominion University by Joel Trammel on November the twenty-ninth, 1978.

Answer: ... my father. My dad was a thirty-year Marine; he came in in 1917 and retired in 1949. He and I were on active duty in the Marine Corps together for about five months. I was commissioned in the Marine Corps in June of '49; Dad retired in November of '49, so I kind of grew up all around the world. As a matter of fact, I had my first three years in China as a baby -- went over there at the age of nine months. My mother followed Dad out there, and he was assigned to China right after my birth. And then we went from there to Cap-Haitien, Haiti, and that was for another three years, 1930 to '33, and from there back up to the United States and served in -- Dad was at Quantico, Virginia at that time. Spent a year in Newport, Rhode Island when I was around twelve years old, and then went out to California. A year out there in San Diego, and then following that, we were transferred in September of '41 out to Honolulu, Hawaii.

Question: You got there just in time for some interesting action then, didn't you?

A: Right. I was fourteen then. And -- I'll never forget the day, of course, three months after we arrived, December the seventh of '41 when the Japanese struck. That was quite a -- quite a day, of course. My dad was home at that time and got him up and he went out aboard the ship -- he was stationed on the Tennessee at the time and I was able to watch from the rooftops the battle at Pearl Harbor from a distance, there in Honolulu City. Matter of fact, while I was standing on the rooftop, a Japanese Zero shot down a P-40 right over our area we were in; it crashed into the punchbowl.

Q: I was going to ask you if you had any damage in your area, your -- maybe your home or your building, or in that particular area.

A: No, we were actually about eight or nine miles from Pearl Harbor itself, but the air battle, what little air battle there was did come, some of it, over our area. As I say, I saw that one incident. Other than that, it was just -- you could see the planes diving in and out and the antiaircraft shooting at them in the -- over Pearl Harbor, and it was all the smoke and all that type of thing.

Q: That would be very -- something which you really wouldn't forget as a child, I'm sure.

A: That's for sure.

Q: Very interesting. I had an uncle who was in the battle there, stationed aboard one of the ships. He survived. He has told me some interesting stories about that. Then from Pearl Harbor, --

A: Well, then from Pearl Harbor, we, oddly enough, Dad on the ship went back to San Francisco for rehabing of the Tennessee, and we weren't able to leave until April the seventh. Got evacuated on Easter Sunday of '42. And then from there, we went to San Francisco for a short while and back down to San Diego, where I finished up my high school and went to preparatory school, and from there I went to the Naval Academy at Annapolis, entering in 1945, and then, as I mentioned earlier, was commissioned in June '49. I've been following in my dad's footsteps ever since.

Q: That sounds like a very interesting career. Having attended the same high school from grade one through twelve, [sic] it looks like I missed out on a lot. Did you find any real difficult problems as far as adjusting in your moves throughout your school years?

A: I would say nothing really difficult. There were --

Q: There were American schools available?

A: -- American schools available. Matter of fact, down in Haiti, when I first started school, age of five, I was in Kindergarten and it was a dungeon. A Haitian dungeon that the Marines had taken over this compound and by next year up at Quantico I was skipped the First Grade right into the Second Grade, and we always had a family joke about the fact that our teacher, who was a warrant officer's wife, had a captive audience and she must have taught us well there in the dungeon ...

Q: That's right.

A: So -- but as far as adjustments and moving around, there was always that feeling when you first got to a place of finding new friends, but a lot of times you'd meet the same military juniors again or others that you'd met over again as you went to various duty stations. And again, being the way of life, it wasn't too hard to adjust.

Q: That's very interesting. And then your career, now. Where did you first begin your career after Annapolis?

A: My first duty assignment was at Camp Pendleton, California. I went back out there since I claimed to be a Californian. I was raised mostly in that area and born in California. But, really, my career started with the Korean War. As soon as I got there we were preparing for it.

Q: That would have been...what...1950?

A: 1950 right. Well, I didn't mention one thing. After Annapolis, I did go to Quantico to what we call our marine basic school for a year, where all marine lieutenants go.

Q: This is near Washington?

A: That is near Washington. Quantico, Virginia. Right, south of Washington. And then from there, we went out to -- really started my career out of the school phase so to speak, at Camp Pendleton. I was there very shortly, just the summer of 1950, and then that fall, in December, I was off to the Korean War. Which was my first combat engagement.

Q: They say that anyone who is a graduate of a military academy really needs a war or two to really get involved in what they have studied, so you got into it right away.

A: Right, too soon. Almost too soon. (Laughs)

Q: Almost too soon. (Laughs) And what got -- were you in Korea?

A: Yes, I was there from late '50 through '51. And at that time I was a rifle platoon commander up there on the front lines and I saw active combat against the North Koreans. The Tenth North Korean division as a matter of fact. We were engaged with them for quite some time in the central part of Korea.

Q: I haven't served in Korea. I've heard that it has been compared to Vietnam by a number of people. Could you perhaps give me a personal observation as to the usefulness of our fighting there? Was it a useful battle? And also would you compare it to Vietnam? Is there any comparison that you can see or a parallel there?

A: Yes, I think it is. Of course I'm of the opinion that we should really, our nation the free world, should stop the encroachment of communism. I think we've fairly well effectively done this. Korea was the first test of the United States in this regard and as they divided up Korea after World War II, I think that the US was off guard like we were and not realizing the Potsdam agreements and what was being done by Russia to divide up the world, to grab what it wanted to grab. So, the fact that we went into Korea, it was really more or less defenseless. The marines were one of the first units in there, of course, the army with us shortly thereafter. And we were able to throw them back up to the 38th parallel. It was the first time we showed the communist world that we didn't want them to go any further, and we understood what they were going to do and what their results of their World War II "land grab", Post World War II "land grab." So, I think it was effective. Very fortunately the US populace was behind us then, and we had a different -- a different atmosphere to the -- to the support and the -- the fighting man himself. At Vietnam, really we were doing the same thing, but the circumstances were vastly different. And, of course, that point could be argued, but I think we really lost the Vietnam War, as far as I am concerned. But again it showed that we had some resolve. And it may have slowed down things -- at least there haven't been too many pushes by the communist world since then.

Q: I can remember the Korean conflict, just a little bit. Some of our neighbors, maybe some of the parents of some of the kids in school, but I don't remember that much about it. Of course, I did follow Vietnam and am familiar with all the protests. Why do you think there was such a protest to Vietnam? When there wasn't to Korea? Is there something we can put a finger on?

A: Well, how I look at it that we've really had a degrading of the American patriotism, the spirit, the resolve... I think it's been brought about by, probably, too much ease of life.

Q: Too much freedom.

A: Too much freedom. Now I'm not talking about freedom of individual rights, but everybody looks toward money and material things and this philosophy I think kind of grew during the 50's, when people didn't even realize it. Then it got into the early 60's and, of course, with the advent of the hard rock and the Beatles on the scene and the pulling away of the youngsters from the traditions and the norm and from the family and --

Q: The breakdown of the family.

A: -- the breakdown of the family. We started getting all of this migratoriness. Runaways were starting, the drug scene came at that time and all of these things, I think, brought on the fact that we were losing our morals -- losing all of these qualities that we had prior to the early 60's. And as the war came on, we just didn't have the resolve to fight it like we did before. I think the US populace didn't understand it and, of course, there was a lot of communist influence on our campuses.

Q: Right. In the United States itself.

A: Right. I saw a very interesting film one time put out by the FBI, and it showed a -- the march on Selma, that was a civil rights march, and showed in the background some individuals and it -- and it honed in on a certain face. And showed this individual's face, and it was a -- a white man, and they identified his name...I can't remember it. And then the next time -- and then they showed some scenes up at the bombings -- it up at Minnesota, I believe, the university up there when they blew up that building there.

Q: Madison...Wisconsin

A: Madison, Wisconsin. That's what it was, yeah. And it showed some of the background people and -- this large group -- and then again they brought out this one face, the same face. And then they showed some of the campus riots out of Berkeley and it was the same thing. And they had documentary evidence that there were a certain number of Russians and a certain number of US citizens that had gone down through Cuba and so forth and ended up in Russia and had been trained in schools in Russia. Very detailed training. Even a little town was set up so that these individuals would get the flavor of the US, the corner drug store so to speak, so they could be speaking US English -- colloquial English and this type of thing. And then they were sent back over here to this nation. And even though we thought it was a civil rights thing or a student protest or whatever, a lot of it was, of course, very well planned by the Russians --

Q: By professionals...Professional agitators

A: Professionals. Agitators. And, of course the North Vietnamese knew this. They were working hand and glove with the Russians. They played on these type of things. They got certain individuals like Jane Fonda. She was involved with some of these dissident groups, and the Black Panthers, for example. And she showed up in Southern California to rally there in Oceanside, right by our marines, as a matter of fact. Of course she then went over to Vietnam and they wined and dined her and all this type of thing and she'd come back and spread propaganda. I just cite her as one example.

Q: Right.

A: So these -- these are the kinds of things I think that...that not only was the break down of the morals, not only the youth that were having these problems, not only the drug scene, not only the "do your own thing" society, but the communists also were very meticulous to work it to their best interest.

Q: Well, I have heard a lot of talk that maybe the communist were behind it, but I'm hearing it from a professional military man it just reemphasizes what I had already thought. How has the marines or the armed forces in general changed...say in the what...almost 30 years that you have been involved? Have you noticed a breakdown in morals or a breakdown in patriotism or have you -- could you give us a comment on this?

A: Yes, I think it goes in direct parallel with what I've just mentioned. I first came in, as I mentioned, in 1949 into the Marine Corps, the young recruit was from a disciplined -- basically a disciplined background. He had a family discipline; he had again these values, patriotism, and etc. Naturally there was always a few bad apples and a few that you had to work with, but these could be very easily worked with and culled out. So, once you'd trained them into the discipline of being a marine and gave them the military arts, you didn't really have the problems of motivation and the problems of leadership that we now have since this turn of the early sixties. When we started getting a new breed of individuals in. In other words, the leader in those days -- his leadership problems were simple compared to -- as I look back on it, and I was a leader in both -- in both areas, a young leader before and, of course, now at a higher level. But, those days you only had to worry about the training, the field exercise, your logistics, your administration, and your troop or your marine, took care of himself. He was there. You knew you could count on him and you didn't have to worry about the continuous motivation and the continuous guidance, this type of thing. Nowadays, it's -- it's different. You have to continuously concern yourself with some dissident problems, maybe some altercations in the barracks. Back in the late sixties, early seventies we had actual riots aboard our bases. Mostly small in nature, but still enough to be significant. We had dissident groups that would form. We actually had some stabbings and things like this, which you'd never have to worry about in past years. Another thing that runs part and parcel to it is the educational level. Even though we were taking non-high school graduates, we have always done this and we are still taking them to a degree. Your man of an eighth grade and ninth grade education, which was a typical marine really back in the thirties and the forties, was much better educated than a lot of ours coming out of high school today.

Q: So this is a break down of our educational system...

A: Right. The breakdown of our educational system has impacted -- it's very difficult to find young men who can be good clerks, for example, that can spell and can write, and can do administrative-type work. We even find this in our officer corps. It's worked up to the level of a major. Now say a major would have come in -- would have been getting out of college in the early sixties -- mid-sixties, and he would be of that rank now. It takes about ten years of commission service. And I find that -- that my officers that work for me at -- at that level are very poor sometimes in expressing themselves orally and in writing. So these kinds of problems you did not have in years gone by which you face now and really spend a good portion of your leadership time.

Q: How has the -- our volunteer military affected the operation of the armed forces?

A: Well, I'd say it's had a drastic effect. And I think this is being found out by our officials in Washington. There are large numbers of --

Q: Talk now...reinstituting the draft.

A: Talk now...absolutely. But the way I watched it, number one, the draftees, and I had -- had them in -- in Vietnam with me, a lot of times they were very fine individuals. I had -- speaking of clerks a while ago, I had a -- and I was in Vietnam incidentally in the sixty-eight time frame...sixty-eight/sixty-nine...I had two clerks who were college graduates. One was an agricultural major. He'd come from a very fine, close farm family and was a superior man. And the other one I can't remember his background. But they were both college graduates, in for two years, been drafted, and were superior marines. So you have that advantage -- of getting some of these top notch people that wouldn't have come in on a normal enlistment, they were just, of course, kind of interrupted in their normal careers. But this also triggered because of the draft. And it was only taking -- I think every year they had individuals with numbers up to 365 on that lottery system and they'd seldom get above 100 to 150 calling people. So if you had a number above 150 you probably wouldn't even be called. So, but that was still enough of a system to cause good men, the best we could get, at that particular time to come into the military, and -- voluntarily. Now, since the draft has been done away with, you find that you really have to go out and beat the bushes. I think many people are aware of the recent problems that the Marine Corps had up in the Ohio area. Apparently there was a recruiter, I believe an officer level, there, probably was sanctioning this, and a number of his staff NCO recruiters -- they were out on the streets so to speak, were actually cheating. And they went -- we had one story that didn't even get into the press. I understood that one recruiter went in and recruited two twins and had them sign up when they were in a jail cell. Two twin brothers. And then to cover up the fact that they were together and had this bad background, they sent one, since they were from that Ohio area, one to the west coast and one to the east coast to boot camp, to Parris Island and San Diego Recruit Depot, Parris Island being in South Carolina. So -- and this was because the pressure was on them to get recruits. So they were, of course, dipping down and taking people with bad backgrounds, criminal backgrounds, drug backgrounds, this type of thing, which we didn't have to do when there was a draft. There seemed to be enough volunteers of adequate young men coming in. Another thing that I noticed too is, and I had some personal observation of this. When I was stationed at Headquarters Marine Corps a few years ago, my family stayed down in the Norfolk area here, I was rooming with an army colonel reserve, who was in charge of the selective service office in Washington, DC. Now, he wasn't on the national level, but he was actually on a local level. And he -- this was the time we were doing away with selective service, and he was saying what a shame it was. Now he had an office there that had a regular staff, peacetime staff so to speak, it had been there for years, of about maybe eight or nine people, then he had some additional that were there during the Vietnam War. But this permanent staff that he had, comprised of -- of individuals, and mostly were women, middle grades of civil service, like GS 6s, 7s, 8s, and 9s, that had been with the selective service program for ten, fifteen, twenty years. One of them was an expert on legal matters of selective service, another one was the go-between with all the civilian institutions, schools, mayor's office, etc., police. And when they did away with these offices, of course, these individuals were reassigned. Some of them were reassigned to the Pentagon to other jobs. In other words, we took away our selective service structure and all of this expertise, which really in a civilian community takes many, many years to formulate.

Q: Right.

A: So here we are now, talking about going back to it and they are going to have to start from scratch to build our --our whole selective system -- selective service system back up again. So there is another area that we lost, and is not, of course, too well seen to most people.

Q: Do you think, without making a derogatory statement to those who do join, that maybe the majority of the ones who volunteer now are maybe those who are unemployable in the private sector or maybe have some problem maintaining a job or maybe have something in their background that would not qualify them to be, say in the upper echelon as far as private sector of employment? Do you find that maybe there is a lower caliber, such as maybe the black race, we feel like that they are -- not that they are any different -- but they have by nature of their discrimination, not been allowed to grow the way they really should?

A: This is absolutely true. We have a large number of blacks and not, again, because anything against them as a race, but the ones that we do bring in, the recruiter has gone down and found because he is in the economic le--le-- social levels, low levels. He does have problems getting civilian jobs. He has probably dropped out of school on his education or he got a very poor education. He may have a background with some offenses in it, civilian or criminal offenses or otherwise misdemeanors. And so -- and not only the black race, we get a lot of these in the white race, but particularly the blacks. So, to answer your question, I'd say, yes, we are taking in these types of individuals, which do come in because they realize that they can have a living in the service. And it's hard for them to adjust because of their backgrounds, and if they have any kind of a background where they are prone to commit affiances, they, of course, continue on like this once they get into the military. So, this has been one of our problems, again the leadership problem. We are not only getting the typical young American who is not as well motivated as he used to be, but we are getting a notch below that typical, which even makes it harder.

Q: You mentioned Parris Island while ago. Being a South Carolinian, I can remember stories in the newspaper, maybe back 20 years ago now. One incident, it's not real clear, that I'm thinking about is some Sergeant or someone who marched some boys off into the sand and I think there were some lives lost, but...the typical picture of a marine leader is one of a very toughness and a very rigid. Is the marine corps still that way or -- is it -- is it still a very disciplined or has it had to make changes and maybe become more lax in its standards because of this maybe drop in morals nationwide?

A: I would say we are not as well disciplined as we were in those past years. Not as super-military as we used to be. Perhaps some of it is better. I think that there at one time was the -- the individual who was kind of play-acting and had an image of himself of being this extremely pseudo-military guy, and a lot of times this manifested itself into the drill instructor ___. And the incident that you are talking about is called the Ribbon Creek Incident, incidentally, which is a small creek there at Parris Island. What happened that particular night was very unfortunate. The drill instructor decided to break out his recruits, and this is no longer done. Now they have a lot of controls to stop this type of thing. The freedom that the drill instructor had, the absolute freedom and control he no longer has. But, he fell his recruits out at night to make a -- a -- this -- because of disciplinary or whatever he thought the reason might be -- to make this forced march down into this certain area and apparently he was not as familiar with the area as he should have been. He wanted to march 'em through some water apparently to -- with their weapons held above their heads or whatever to -- and thinking it would be shoul--chest-deep or something, and then bring them back and then make them spend the rest of the night cleaning up themselves and their gear. And this, of course, would instill this discipline. Which really is kind of counterproductive when you think about it anyway. But apparently he got them into a place where there was a current and some problems and it was dark and he lost control and a couple of recruits drowned and this--then they looked hard at the--at the programs they had and how they ran this and the absolute authority of the drill instructor with very little supervision. So, they changed this and they put, what they call the, series officers and series drill instructors, which is really kind of gathering the individual drill instructors into a more tightly knitted organization where they would have other more senior staff NCO, and by staff NCO say a drill instructor is a Staff Sergeant he'd have a Gunnery Sergeant over him, which is the next rank up, to look at him and a junior officer down there, which they never had before. It used to be that the drill instructors would have their own areas, have their recruits, and hardly ever see an officer supervisor or a more senior staff NCO. So, as a result of that, they made those changes and they stopped all the harassment type things. It used to be that a drill instructor could walk into his--his particular squad bays, turn on the lights at 2 in the morning, haul all the recruits out, make 'em put buckets over their heads, that's one of the tricks they used to do, and march up and down hollering in the buckets, ___feet on top of the buckets, and--or take them out onto the parade deck, which is the blacktop area where they do their marching, with toothbrushes at 3 in the morning and tell them they are going to spend the rest of the night scrubbing the blacktop with toothbrushes. In other words, childish things like this; hazing and harassment. This has been done away with. As far as the other aspects of discipline, we've still tried to maintain. In other words, during the prescribed hours, when you are training to learn your weapon, to learn to march, to learn to respect authority, this is all still in there. But I think that because of the way the nation has changed, because of the way society is now, it is--it has its effects on the military. And even though we attempt to still have these types of good discipline, we don't have that side of discipline as good as we did in the past years.

(Pause in tape)

(New voice and interview)

A: And these places that you could frequent, but I've never been alive until now. And that was a lie. No, now it was a lie.

Q: The power of Christ to save lives.

A: And that's what happened to me. And up to this point, people say, "Do you regret any of it?" Not one second. My only regret, my only regret is it didn't happen to me twenty years ago. Right.

A: Well, that's basically it. I wouldn't go back and, you know, I say I wish I didn't ---

Q: Ok. After you found this encounter, what did you do? Did you finish your education? Or were you in school then?

A: Yes I was in school at the time. After I ---

Q: Somewhere in Texas?

A: In Texas. In Southwest Texas Junior College. Southwest Texas Junior College. No I didn't finish my education. I got out and I intended to go back to--I graduated from there, and I was getting ready to go back and finish my education and I pray---(interview cut off)

(Original interview with Col. Bassett begins again)

Q: In thinking about the soldier of today, and the future in the military, we have heard a lot of things from various Congressmen in the news that the pension system may be cut because of financial reasons and because of it growing and maybe that in years to come it will take maybe thirty or thirty-five years to retire instead of the twenty that has been so in the past. What type of future do you see for someone beginning a career in the military, say this year or maybe last year, or the last five years? Is their future as bright as it has been in the past, or will there be a cutting back, as far as you can see?

A: Well, it's kind of hard to tell at this point. From the feel that I get, and of course I'm kind of on the other end of the line, having just another eight months before I finish my thirty years in the Marine Corps, actually a total of thirty four when you add the Naval Academy time. So it doesn't affect me as directly, but just talking to my junior officers and my staff NCOs, there is a great lot of concern. I think the reason for the concern is is the uncertainty of the situation. Every time the Navy Times comes out, or one of the newspapers, and it talks of a new retirement or scheme or system lengthening the career, contributing to the retirement, which we don't do now, and various things of this nature, it causes this uneasiness where the individuals start thinking, "Well, should I really stay around?", especially the young officer who is in for his first three or four years of obligated service and he realizes that he has employment on the outside that is available to him. It affects him mostly at that point in his career and for the staff NCO, he thinks about that nice early twenty-year retirement that he used to have of going out the window. But when a man makes a choice, he usually comes in about the age of eighteen or nineteen, and he re-enlists for that first time, which would be after his first three or four years, then he's more or less committed himself. And what's in his mind, is that "Oh, I'm going to have that twenty years in and I'm only going to be thirty-eight or thirty-nine years old." And he knows, having then at that--by that time in his career, talked to the older ones that are getting out, I say older, they are still young at that age, that they're very employable. That they've learned discipline, they've learned some arts along the way that are not strictly military-oriented such as they've become administrators and they've become logisticians or something of this nature. And usually a little, they pick up a little of this as they go along so they can see that when they get out they can go out into industry, they can go out into private enterprise, they might be in a varied number of jobs, get with the civilian government jobs, a lot of them go into those type of things. And, or even into--into private endeavors, running their own machine shop, or something of this nature, or opening up a--a garage. And, 'cause they've learned these kinds of skills. Well, when they think that they're going to have to stay in to age 55 and they realize that their military pay has not been that great. I'm talking now at the staff NCO, enlisted ___, and he's been thinking about getting that twenty-year retirement and then adding on top of it, this better pay that he'll probably have, plus the fact that military retirement of course when he gets out at twenty gives him the benefits of commissary and medical. He probably, he starts to think, well maybe it's not worth staying around till age 55 for this. And right now we have, and I have in my office, some young corporals and sergeants that are facing that first choice of when they're coming up for that well, second enlistment, but the first re-enlistment at the end of their first four years, they are looking hard at this. And this might make a big factor in their decision. Of course the uncertainty about it is, they may be making the wrong judgment call. These things may never come to pass and they might get out and decide not to make it a career where they would have and yet we may not find that the regulations and the retirement has changed. So the--these are having an effect, I see it on the--on the youngsters--on the youngsters, the young officer and the young enlisted right now. For those who have been in of course, we've been assured that our--our time will not change, and those that are approaching the twenty years right now they've been assured that they'll still get their twenty-year career, they're not going to arbitrarily say they're going to have to stay on for another fifteen years or whatever, to go to thirty-five years or--or thirty years. So I think this is having an effect on the future, future soldier. Another thing that's having the effect is right now for those who have a skill, I was just reading an article on my desk yesterday, about the retention of the aviator. And we've got a real problem in this area. The airlines are getting more and more demands, passenger miles. They are talking about needing something like, I forget the figure, 2500 pilots this next year. There are very few pilot-training, civilian pilot-training programs. Most of them are--the best is in the military. That's several hundred thousand dollars to train a military pilot. The Air Force is particularly concerned because they're--they have pilots that fly big airplanes, exactly like the airlines do, either transcontinental or transoceanic, and this type of thing. And these individuals can fit in beautifully right in almost into the cockpit of a commercial airliner. I understand that there is about 55% from this article that are getting out--of the young pilots that are getting out right after they are eligible to get out, say at the end of their, maybe for a pilot, probably six or eight years, depending on how much pilot training they had. Since their obligation is a little longer. But still a man is young, he's probably about thirty years old, he's trained and the airlines need him. We have some younger officers that are getting out that are not pilots for the same reason. They find that their college backgrounds, their three years or four years as a...I say three or four incidentally because a service graduate, an academy graduate is obligated four years and an individual coming in through another type of program, ROTC, or something like this is obligated three years. But anyhow, they find that they also have some saleable, marketable talents in the civilian world and because of the salaries that are being paid by industry and other things, so they're getting out. Doctor retention, dentist retention, this has been a problem now for the last ten years. A doctor can get out and make $75,000 to $150,000 on the outside, why should he stay in and draw $30,000 to $40,000 in the military? So the--there is a lot of doubt in my mind as to the military man or you say, the soldier of the future right now.

Q: Yeah, I feel like we've covered maybe the military aspects pretty well, I'd like to ask you a couple of questions on maybe on the world scene. For instance, what do you see for Africa in the future? What, what is your observation of the conditions there?

A: Well I think that Africa is going to continue to be a hot spot, it's getting more and more. I was privy to sit in on a State Department presentation when I went through a counterinsurgency course up in Washington area a few years back and, believe it or not, the United States has, I think was kind of, we were being--smarting by our excursion over there into Vietnam and the public reaction to it. And the State Department has more or less said that they don't desire to do what we did in Vietnam, they don't want to really get into Africa with a show of military force. And they don't--they don't want another Vietnam over in any of those countries. They also found that the Chinese were very aggressive in some of the African countries, as well as the Russians. And they found that...that they were kind of paring off against each other and that they--the Africans themselves, even though they were very primitive governments in some of those nations, were becoming very disenchanted with the way the--both of the communist-- large communist nations were...were operating in their country and they weren't selling communism as well as they expected to. So I think we're--one of our ways that we're really looking at Africa is to kinda stand back and maybe let the Communists fall on their face this time, rather than our going over there and doing it like we did in Vietnam. Another thing that the State Department--he incidentally, he was the number two man, I can't remember what his name was, it was a number of years ago, but I think our policies stayed about the same since then. But, another thing we found that when we go in with a force, this just stimulates the resistance of the communist side and a bigger effort. And I think they would say, "Well Africa it's just too big for us. Maybe we ought to--to not tread so heavy and maybe things will take care of itself." So that's kind of the way we've been looking at Africa. I know in--in the plans that I deal with at my headquarters here at FMFLANT Headquarters, Marine Force Atlantic, we have contingency plans for Africa but they're really not front burner. Most of our...our contingency plans that we really work and we really exercise toward, are in support of NATO in Europe.

Q: You mention the fact about China and Russia, I heard on the news, I believe just yesterday, someone making the prediction of maybe Manchuria might be one of the next hot spots, maybe that...that, I believe the statement was made that war between Russia and China was inevitable. Would you care to comment on this? Or---

A: Well, I really can't comment too much on that one. As far as my--my exposure in my work and what I've seen, except for what you just explained on the news, and what I've heard there, we really don't have a lot of intelligence on those--in that area up there. So I really can't make too much of a comment beyond what--what you yourself have heard.

Q: One other question I wanted to ask you concerning hot spots, I know that you are a born-again Christian and I would like to, in this light ask you, what future do you see for the Middle East?

A: Well I, (laughs) --

Q: That's a loaded question.

A: --that's a loaded question. I'll probably have to answer part of that because of my Christian background. Of course our Bible tells us that this is going to be where the battle is going to take place and Armageddon and we're going to have blood flowing down through the valleys there up to the--to a man's chest I guess. I think that this is going to be the focal point, and I do believe that this may be the area that we are going to find that Russia and the Chinese are going to have confrontations again with the Arab nations. We've got--of course the three great assimilation of power, or assembly of power in those three groupings there and I think that this will really be the focal point and a--and as the Bible states and as we now know that Jerusalem is going to be more of a focal point as it comes along, and that we--I think the Russians have realized as well as a lot of the Arab world that the riches of Palestine, what the Israelis have there, the--the food, the bread basket that it is, I think it's been said that in a 200-square-mile section there, you could probably grow enough produce to feed practically the world if you put your mind to it, put the effort to it. So I think that is going to be a focal point as the--as the sides gather and I do believe the common market, ten nations that are spoken to, and I believe this is predicted in our Revelations, that we are going to find this is going to be the seat of the Anti-Christ and that we're really on the threshold of all this right now.

Q: It's an exciting time to be alive, isn't it? To you?

A: Well, at times I just wonder. I look back and say maybe I should have had my life fifty years before. No, I'm not afraid, I'm not afraid as long as I've got God and I know He's with me, and He's--He's going to be--He's stronger than the--the powers in this world and greater is He that is within us, than He that is in the world, and He'll never forsake us, and as long as we have our hand in His hand we're going to make it through and we don't have to worry about all these things really.

Q: That's, that's very true. Ok, just a couple of final comments. I'd like to maybe, if you can divulge, maybe what your day-to-day activities involve here in Norfolk and then maybe give me an observation as to if you maybe could have changed your career, would you have done so? Or have you been satisfied with your career in the military?

A: Well, I'll answer your last question first. I have been satisfied. As I mentioned earlier I am about to complete thirty years here next June and I had intended to stay with it as long as I could all the way through to whatever rank I made and--and of course if I were to--to make the next higher rank and I've already been up for General a couple of times but you always can still make it and I have one more opportunity, and that I would go on beyond those thirty years. But right now, the statutory requirements are for the rank of Colonel to go out on thirty. And I had already intend--always intended to go, you know, to that full career. If I had not made Colonel I would have gone out on the max which would have been twenty-six for a LTCOL. So I have been very satisfied with it, being a Marine junior, following in my Dad's footsteps. I have--I've found it very rewarding and as a Christian I've found that I've been able to survive very well. I had one Commanding Officer years ago that was the party type and wondered why we didn't want to play cards and do this and that and I took some hits from him and as a matter of fact it slowed me down a couple of years making Colonel. I was a LTCOL at the time. But, again, the Lord prevails, and He opened the doors and I got another boss who thought I was great who was a church-goer and we overcame, which is to say the Lord overcame, so here I am as a Colonel. So it's been a--it's been a career that I would have gone into in--in all regards. Now I can't remember your first question. What was that one? (Laughs)

Q: First question was what are you're involved in in Norfolk now?

A: OK. I'm a logistician on the--I'm a Supply officer and logistician. I have been--I'm the Supply officer of the FMFLANT, Fleet Marine Forces Atlantic Staff. I've been the G4, which is the Logistical Officer, and that's, of course, has cognizance over the--all aspects of logistics, motor transport, ordnance, medical, dental, etc. I'm also the second senior man, Colonel on the staff, for these past two days I've been the acting Chief of Staff, which I fill in quite often there, for Fleet Marine Forces Atlantic. Incidentally our command, I keep saying this for those who don't--aren't familiar with it, our Headquarters is here at Norfolk, it's a three-star General command, LTGEN Miller, is the Commanding General of Fleet Marine Forces Atlantic. We are part of the CINCLANTFLT. Our command comprises 42,000 Marines with the Headquarters located here, and then we have a division down at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, near Jacksonville, that's about 20,000 men and about 16,000 some-odd in our Air Wing down at Cherry Point, North Carolina and down at Beaufort, South Carolina. And then we have a logistics group also located at Camp Lejeune, and totals out as I say at about 42,000 Marines, and that constitutes our force and we are one of the heavy arms here and--under CINCLANTFLT. We rank along with SURFLANT, SUBLANT, and all the other type Commanders. As I mentioned earlier, our emphasis right now is NATO, going in on the flanks, up into Norway in case we are needed there to stop a Russian attack, or down into Turkey, we exercise in those nations quite often. We could be used in the central area to reinforce the Army in Germany and this is our primary thrust.

Q: OK, in closing, I'm sure that there are many stories you could tell me, I'd like for you to finish our interview with something outstanding that's happened, that really stands out in your mind, maybe a person you have met or maybe an experience that you have been involved in or something that you would consider an outstanding point in your career. I'm sure there are many, but if you could just give me maybe an example or two of something that you would--that you look back upon maybe with pride and pleasure, something of that type.

A: Well, I mentioned earlier as a child and kind of a lifetime thing I guess, was the Pearl Harbor attack and being there and seeing all that went on at that time and being part of that history. In my career, it's kind of hard to pinpoint. I've had some very fine occasions where I've been in the audience of various Presidents of the United States. Ceremonies that we've put on for Nixon at Camp Pendleton, and Ford and--up at Washington D.C. To really pinpoint any--any high point is very difficult. I would say I had of course exciting times while I was in combat twice as I mentioned earlier in Korea and Vietnam. There is nothing really that--that stands out as meeting any particular individuals. I have, of course, met a number of high-ranking military. I used to brief papers for JCS when I was stationed in Washington my first time, I got to--to be in the audience for the Commandant of the Marine Corps and other high-ranking officers in the other services. Some very interesting papers and discussions, this type of thing. But it is hard to say that there was anything else really outstanding.

Q: Well, after a career such as yours, I guess maybe I could understand, but it sounds like you certainly have had a very fulfilling and interesting career, and I want to thank you for allowing me this time to record this interview.

A: Well I certainly appreciate being here and enjoyed it.

Q: I enjoy it very much. Thank you.

Interview Information

Top of page