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Dartmouth Veterans

Vietnam Perspectives

Phillip C. Schaefer

Publication Year: 2014

These are tales of what it was like for young men to go from the bucolic hills of New Hampshire to a land wracked by war and violence. The result is a collection of more than fifty accounts, showing the variety of experiences and reactions to this dramatic period in American history. Some soldiers were drafted, some volunteered; some supported the war, but many turned against it. Common to all the stories is the way in which war changes men, for good and ill, and the way in which the Vietnam experience colored so much of the rest of these writers' lives.

Published by: Dartmouth College Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-x

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James Wright

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pp. xi-xviii

The Class of 1964 arrived at Dartmouth in September 1960. It was, culturally, still the 1950s, and would remain so for the next few years. This class was rooted in the Eisenhower era but would graduate in the age of the Beatles and of Bob Dylan.
September 26, 1960, at convocation, 806 matriculants heard President John Dickey affirm his confidence in their generation of...

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Phillip C. Schaefer

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pp. xix-xxii

Ten years ago I took an oral history project about World War II to the local elementary school. A fifth-grade teacher, an enthusiastic history buff, integrated the project into the curriculum and worked very diligently with me to guide that project to fruition. That exercise involved fourth and fifth graders interviewing local World War II veterans, printing a book...

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Edward Miller

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pp. xxiii-xxviii

When the members of Dartmouth College’s senior class assembled for commencement exercises on the morning of June 14, 1964, the Vietnam War seemed very far away. For the newly minted graduates, as for many Americans, there appeared to be good reason to believe that the United States stood on the threshold not of war, but of a new era of peace and...

Abbreviations and Glossary

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pp. xxix-xxx


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Military Service

Tom Seymour

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pp. 3-10

It was December 22, 1962, about one o’clock in the morning, when I alighted from the train that had taken me from Hartford, Connecticut, to Beaufort, South Carolina, to begin my Marine Corps basic training at Parris Island. Strangely, I had been given a private room for the long train ride, which took me through Washington, D.C., in the...

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An Undergrad in Vietnam

Anthony B. Thompson

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pp. 11-16

In 1963, with a firm push from Thad Seymour, dean of the college, I found myself suspended from the Hanover Plain. The plan was to “grow up” during two years, preferably in the U.S. Army, and return to Dartmouth ready to absorb something more valuable than Tanzi’s best. So, in the spring of 1963 I volunteered for the draft. However...

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Dartmuth Interruptus: Military and Maturity

Lockwood (Woody) Barr

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pp. 17-20

At the end of my sophomore year in 1962, I found myself on academic probation with the very real prospect of experiencing Dean Seymour’s gentle propulsion out Dartmouth’s door. As fall term got under way, it became increasingly apparent that I was not going to be able to salvage any usable parts from the academic wreckage...

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Cold Wind for the Hanover Plain

Nelson Carman

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pp. 21-24

It blew in off President Kennedy’s lips the night of his T.V. address to the nation, October 22, 1962. For me, Homecoming 2012, and enjoying the fiftieth-anniversary celebration for our returning 1962 undefeated football lettermen, triggered a week of memories both stark and fuzzy, of concurrent joy and fear; it needed...


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William Brewster Nickerson, ’64

Sage Dunlap Chase

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pp. 27-32

Lieutenant (Junior Grade) William Brewster (Bruce) Nickerson, ’64, U.S. Navy, was the first Dartmouth man to die in Vietnam. On April 22, 1966, he was bombardier/navigator on a Grumman A-6 Intruder off the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk when his plane was presumably shot down by enemy fire over the Gulf of Tonkin, following...

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Rolling Thunder: One Small Step to Enlightenment

Robert B. Field Jr.

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pp. 33-40

Rather than easing into grad school, I was one of many fraternity brothers and members of our Class of 1964 who, immediately following graduation and often encouraged by an uncertain draft status and fathers who were veterans of World War II, opted to volunteer for three years plus of military service. For me, it all began with...

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Life aboard a U.S. Aircraft Carrier

Paul T. (Pete) Koenig

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pp. 41-46

I entered the U.S. Navy at Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island, in August 1964. That was a mere ten weeks after graduation and within days of the Gulf of Tonkin dust-up and resolution that released the “dogs of war” in Southeast Asia. None of us was aware of the significance of those events at the time. I had just escaped New Jersey...

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The Road from Dartmouth to Vietnam

John T. Lane

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pp. 47-50

Some things in life are controlled by our will. However, I have found that very often one small, unplanned event creates an impact many years later. My road to Vietnam started with freshman year at Dartmouth. A senior living across the hall was recruiting freshman to fill the ROTC training unit. At the time I had no particular...

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The Green Lieutenant

Hugh Savage

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pp. 51-54

I am proud of my service in the United States Army Corps of Engineers as a combat engineering officer. I wish I could say the cause we fought for in Vietnam was glorious and honorable. Even when I was there, I had my doubts.
I was in Army ROTC at Dartmouth. My father and uncle had served in World War II, and I considered it my duty to serve; besides, I did...

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Supporting Our Troops and Country

Derick Denby

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pp. 55-57

Prior to our June 14 (Flag Day) graduation and my commissioning as a second lieutenant, I selected the Army Security Agency as my preferred branch of the Army. Its mission sounded interesting, and headquarters were at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. I thought the latter meant I would not spend much time at Fort Benning, Georgia. Much...

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Vietnam-Era Military Service: Some Good Memories

Fritz Corrigan

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pp. 58-63

I signed up for Army ROTC during Freshman Week at Dartmouth because I couldn’t get into any Navy programs and knew that I would be subject to the draft when I graduated. I was a sucker for the recruiting pitch: “Infantry officers ride and enlisted men walk.” I also liked the prospect of future responsibility. It never entered my mind in 1960 that...

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Two Souths Remembered: America and Vietnam in the Mid-’60s

James P. Stewart

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pp. 64-69

Vietnam—the name still evokes a visceral response from veterans and those who lived through the era. Why was Vietnam different? There was virtually the same number of casualties in Korea, yet that is often referred to as the “forgotten” war. Both entailed use of the draft at home and enemy combatants from the north “in...

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“I Never to See You Again”

Tim Brooks

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pp. 70-75

When I arrived at Dartmouth in the fall of 1960, the Republic of Vietnam was far from my, or anyone’s, mind. I enrolled in ROTC because I assumed that otherwise I would have to enlist or be drafted, like my two brothers, and if I was going to serve somewhere, I wanted to do so as an officer. So when 1964 came I pinned...

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Radio Days

Alan McKee

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pp. 76-81

I hesitated to put anything on paper about working at Armed Forces Radio in Saigon (AFRS) because it seemed trivial and almost insulting, weighed against what real veterans faced, especially those who became casualties of a tragic conflict. Besides, Robin Williams already did the job. I didn’t much like his take on events, however, and couldn’t...

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Vietnam and My Life

George Morrow

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pp. 82-83

I didn’t join the military out of patriotic fervor; I was simply caught up and carried into it by the flow of events that so powerfully affected my generation. And though, at the time, I saw the experience as merely something I had to go through, I now realize that the experience fundamentally shaped my understanding of myself and my...

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Paradoxes of War

Bud McGrath

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pp. 84-90

Freud tells us that if we keep track of our dreams over a period of time, provided our unconscious does not inhibit access to them, eventually a pattern will emerge that will tell us important truths about ourselves. The same may be true about the conscious stories that we tell repeatedly about ourselves to ourselves and to...

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Ours Is Not to Reason Why, Ours Is But to Sit and Wait

Richard Mack

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pp. 91-93

My decision to make ROTC part of my college years was, as were many of my decisions at that time, not accompanied by a great deal of thought. Yet it shaped the rest of my life, perhaps with more impact than did many of my later and more contemplated choices. The military experience shaped my personal life, my career, and...

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Vietnam: A Defining Life Event

Neal Stanley

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pp. 94-96

In each of our lives there are certain things that change our patterns of thought and modify our actions. For me Vietnam was one of those events.
I was twenty-five years old in 1967 when I received orders to become a military adviser to a Vietnamese combat unit. I had spent the three previous years in Germany as an officer in an armored cavalry regiment...

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Vietnam: Before/During/After

David W. Kruger

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pp. 97-100

In the early 1960s I do not remember that Vietnam got much attention on campus at Dartmouth. But for me at least, military service was a duty I was expected, by family and by myself, to fulfill.
Joining Army ROTC was an easy decision, as was staying with it for the four years. Participating in the mountain and winter warfare unit...

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Navy Days

Paul E. Hale

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pp. 101-103

Graduation was approaching. My good friend Doc Davis and I hadn’t a clue about what to do with the next phase of our lives. All we knew was that the draft loomed, and without any kind of deferment we figured our days were numbered. So rather than run the risk of becoming a soldier for two years, we decided that becoming an...

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Ready, Willing, and Able: Life as Helicopter Pilot aboard a Frigate in the Gulf of Tonkin

Robert (Bob) Parkinson

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pp. 104-109

Not exactly burning up academics at Dartmouth, I graduated with the class, but was unsuccessful with applications to graduate school. Reclassification to the front of the line in the draft and receipt of a notice to appear for a physical for the Army were sufficient for me to declare to Mom and Dad that I needed to join the Navy. On...

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A Very Personal Experience

Glen Kendall

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pp. 110-113

In my senior year of high school I narrowed down my choices of a college to either West Point or Dartmouth. From a very early age I believed my mission in life was “to help make the world free for democracy.” I cannot discern where this came from. I recall that there was a strong and active anticommunist sentiment in my small, isolated...

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Scooter Driver

Ned Miller

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pp. 114-116

After nine months of infantry officer training I made my first career change. Flying looked more interesting than being a “ground pounder,” so I was off to Pensacola to become a naval aviator. It proved to be a good choice, but I often wonder where the path not taken might have led. From Navy ROTC at Dartmouth to flying to reentering...

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Vietnam War Experiences

Charles L. Marsh Jr.

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pp. 117-122

In March 1960 I received my first telegram. The operator called my mother at our home in Arlington, Vermont, and read it to her and later mailed me a copy. Dartmouth was offering me admittance and the choice between a scholarship, loan, and job, or a Navy ROTC scholarship. They asked for an answer the next day. I enthusiastically...

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Down to the Sea in Ships

Ernie Notar

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pp. 123-129

Navy was the only choice for me. My father and uncles all served in the Navy in World War II, building airstrips in the Pacific islands. Growing up, as we all did, with the images and memories of the war, I latched onto the naval side of the story and was generally fascinated with the romance of the seas. “Join the Navy and see the...

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Tet's Albatross

Charles G. Williams Jr.

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pp. 130-132

When I was in the second grade, my father forced me to do two things—study math and memorize items (Catholic church). This had a profound effect on my future life. When I took the SAT test and an IQ test in high school, I did much better than expected. This performance enabled me to receive a scholarship offer from...

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Dartmouth and ROTC

Donald C. Bross

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pp. 133-143

As Dartmouth Professor Lew Stillwell said during one of his memorable Monday battle-night lectures, “History is a personal thing.” My personal history of military involvement is woven into my experience at Dartmouth, as were three years of high school Army ROTC, but in particular, NROTC at Dartmouth was part of my identity. Everything...

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Observe, Analyze, and Respond

Stanley C. Herr

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pp. 144-150

I selected this title because it is sometimes employed as a simple set of actions that a combat soldier should use as a checklist before firing his or her weapon. It is a reaction to the old “shoot first, then bother to find out what was going on around you” mentality of the Wild West gunslinger. But I never served in a combat zone. During my...

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Vietnam in the Course of a Navy Career

Michael W. Parker

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pp. 151-157

Graduating from Dartmouth with a regular commission in the Navy in 1964, I was obligated to serve at the pleasure of the president for a minimum of four years after graduation. When I submitted my letter of resignation to attend dental school, having served four years, the president was not pleased. I was told that I could not resign until...

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How Did I Miss Vietnam?

Michael M. MacMurray

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pp. 158-160

I don’t think I had really heard of Vietnam until I was at Supply Corps School in Athens, Georgia, in late 1964. One of my classmates there (who included Ernie Notar) got orders to Vietnam, and no one thought much of it. I went to a ship homeported in Guam and after a year became so bored that I asked to be sent to Vietnam in early 1966. I was quite...


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Entitled Elites and Exploited Expendables

David S. Decalesta

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pp. 163-171

I grew up in a wealthy suburb of Rochester, New York. The fabled Oak Hill Country Club was at the bottom of our street. Our fathers were doctors, lawyers, dentists, college professors, successful businessmen. Our moms mostly were stay-at- homes, and I guess a lot of them put in the hours at one or more of the four private country clubs. I thought I...

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The Police General's Horse

Newell Grant

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pp. 172-176

Sergeant Brown of the Army ROTC staff said, “Well, if you don’t sign up for ROTC now, during Freshman Week, you can’t sign up later. But you can drop it anytime during freshman and sophomore years. And you get thirty dollars per month.”
Thirty bucks a month . . . beer money, I thought. Not...


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Father and Son

George J. Fesus

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pp. 179-181

I was in Army ROTC at Dartmouth and was commissioned a second lieutenant, armor, at graduation in 1964. I deferred my entry into the Army to attend business school, so I didn’t enter active service until the fall of 1966. I had signed up for armor because I thought I would prefer riding to walking, because I had seen the movie...

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A Life Saved

Willard Cook

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pp. 182-185

The first six months of my year in Vietnam (July 1967–July 1968) were spent stationed at the White Elephant in Da Nang working for Rear Admiral Paul Lacey Jr. The last half of my tour was served as a supply officer in the huge Naval Support Activity supply depot in Da Nang. This supply depot supported all allied activities in...

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The Maturing of a Dartmouth Marine

Lee A. Chilcote

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pp. 186-202

In June 2012 I participated in Marine Week in Cleveland, Ohio. Other than an early viewing of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., I had not joined in any Vietnam-era event since retiring as a Marine Corps captain in December 1968. As I watched the Marine Corps Drill Team, the Marine Corps Band, and a mock invasion by the Marines of...

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Winning Hearts and Minds

Ivars Bemberis

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pp. 203-212

I thought I would paint a mural of my war experience, but what emerged is a mosaic. When I was in country, there were more than five hundred thousand soldiers in Vietnam, of which fifty thousand were ground combat troops. Everyone saw a different war; most did not fight, but served in a massive, essential, rear echelon supporting those chosen few. Support...


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A Quiet War, a Damped Conscience

Robert J. (Woody) Woodruff

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pp. 215-220

I went to great lengths never to set foot in Vietnam, and failed, mostly miserably.
I can’t remember a time when I thought that U.S. intervention in the decades-long, postcolonial conflict was a positive idea. In 1965, as a graduate student in New York City, I was not among many superpatriots. Even in 1965, informed criticism of the war was widespread. Anyone who...

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My WestPac Tour

Stephen M. Thompson

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pp. 221-228

I arrived in Vietnam waters in October 1968. I had attended Navy Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island, and served on the destroyer Marshall (DD-676) homeported in Tacoma, Washington, on a mission to train reservists. I had requested a western Pacific (WestPac) tour in order to experience our front-line Navy in action. The result was...

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Vietnam—Accelerating My Maturity

Peter E. Luitwieler

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pp. 229-236

Yes, I wanted to be in the military. I signed up for ROTC, but after my freshman year at Dartmouth the staff sergeant in charge of ROTC was pleased when I handed in my resignation. The reason for my decision was that I had an excellent summer job running a caddy camp at Lake Sunapee Country Club in New London, New...

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Life in a Jungle Base Camp

Carl Durei

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pp. 237-240

We arrived at Tan Son Nhut Air Base in March 1967 on a chartered commercial airliner. We stepped off the plane on a pitch-dark night into what seemed like a hot, wet blanket. We had flown for fourteen hours and were very jet-lagged because of the twelve-hour time-zone difference from home. After a day of processing...

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LST-912 on the Rocks

Alan S. Woodberry

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pp. 241-246

Early days
I joined NROTC at Dartmouth with a commitment to serve two years on active duty and four years in the reserves. My father was a naval officer in World War II and encouraged me to join NROTC. The eight Dartmouth NROTC courses were taught by naval officers and did not address what one might expect to encounter in...


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From Lawyer to Aerial Recon Commander

James Laughlin

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pp. 249-253

It was probable that eventually I would be drafted into the armed forces. I felt that I would be better off serving on active military duty as an officer as opposed to a draftee or enlistee, so I joined the Army ROTC upon my matriculation at Dartmouth in September 1960. I completed the four-year program and was designated as a Distinguished...

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The War at Home

Karl F. Winkler

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pp. 254-256

After 9/11, I was in the Atlanta airport with time to dawdle before my flight. Instead of taking the airport train to concourse D, I was meandering down the corridor. Along with several others, I was admiring the statuary in the corridor when a door opened to our right. National Guard troops walked out single file, dressed in desert...

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Lawyering in the Army — Vietnam and Stateside

Philip McFerrin

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pp. 257-263

Looking back at my experience in the Army, I naturally have mixed feelings. Forty years or so after the end of my active duty, I somewhat grudgingly concede that my service was a positive experience, although I did not want my sons to serve. Perhaps it is because of the total absence of any recognition from the public of that...

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Vietnam: Once in a Lifetime

Curt Little

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pp. 264-277

On a hot day in September 1967 I was sitting in bleachers at Fort Benning, Georgia, with about a hundred other first and second lieutenants (mostly recent college, graduate school, or law school graduates), learning the fundamentals of being an infantry officer in Vietnam during a twelve-week course. The Army officer lecturing the...

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“I Guess You Can Learn Something Anywhere"

Walton Smith

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pp. 278-284

July 1967 to January 1968
When I graduated from law school, as Dean Griswold shook my hand, he asked what I would be doing next. I told him that I was in JAG and would be going directly to Vietnam. He was silent for a few seconds and did not release my hand. Finally he said, “Well, I guess you can learn something anywhere.” I took that...

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Thoughts on Vietnam

Jim Harris

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pp. 285-288

Fittingly, I am writing this on Memorial Day. Surprisingly, thinking about Vietnam is harder than I imagined. First, a bit of history. When we were boys, World War II was not a distant memory; nearly every man, it seemed, was a veteran.
My father rode a destroyer for four years in the Solomon...

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Duty and Service in the Cold War Era

Edmund B. Frost

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pp. 289-293

My first memory of Americans being called to war is hearing on the radio in the summer of 1950 that North Korea had invaded South Korea and that we were at war against the Communists. From then on, through graduation from Denver’s South High School in 1960, the Cold War and the threats coming from Russian and...

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The Past as Prologue

Alan E. Ferris

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pp. 294-302

The date was February 8, 1967. While driving to Fort Benning, Georgia, in my 1954 Chevrolet convertible to begin my two-year tour of duty in Army Intelligence, I could not help but hear on the radio, my only companion on the trip, news commentary describing the importance of our country’s involvement in Vietnam and the...

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Vietnam Remembered

Robert Hager

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pp. 303-306

I didn’t want to go to Vietnam. It was 1969, I was nine years out of Dartmouth (a history major) and well beyond the draft age. Furthermore, I was married with three children, and the youngest was still an infant—all good reasons to stay away from a war zone.
But the problem is that I was a journalist and the war was far and...

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Fighting the War on the Home Front

John Topping

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pp. 307-315

My two years of service during the Vietnam War were much less heroic than those of many of my Dartmouth veteran classmates. Mine were spent as a young legal officer at Bolling Field, a Washington, D.C., air base with no airplanes, some nice housing for generals, and an officers’ club with a capacious swimming...

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Nobody Knows and Nothing Changes

Lynn McCanse

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pp. 316-319

Several years ago a surgeon friend of mine gave a presentation at a trauma conference regarding his deployment to Iraq, which occurred in the middle part of that war. At that time, it was still the U.S. policy not to acknowledge returning fatalities, and while the war was well publicized, the injuries occurring there were not. The Iraq...

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Rear Guard

Bill Riggs

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pp. 320-331

The Army had me from 1968 until 1970. I did not go to Vietnam, although I was scheduled to be trained for a job that surely would have shown me more of that part of the world than I had any interest in seeing. I am proud of my service. I imagine that most of the chapters in this book tell stories of those who did serve in Southeast...

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An Air Force JAG Desk Jockey

David W. Hess

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pp. 332-338

After I graduated from Dartmouth and Air Force ROTC as a second lieutenant, my active duty was deferred so that I could attend law school and get admitted to the bar. I accepted a job offer from a Wall Street law firm and was patiently waiting out my residency requirement when President Johnson announced in the fall of 1967 that...


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Legacies of the Vietnam War

John T. Fishel

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pp. 341-349

The orders came in the spring of 1969. They said report to USASSG-ISB, Room 2A514, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., on or about August 1,1969. They ordered me to report first to Engineer Officer Basic Course (OBC) at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, with a report date of May 26, 1969. I only recall a little from OBC: The secondary mission of...

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Robert J. Rose

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pp. 350-352

I graduated from the University of Wisconsin Medical School1 in 1968 and subsequently started my internship at Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital knowing that I was subject to the “doctor draft” of the Vietnam era. At that time Betsy and I already had three children. Because I had been accepted into a residency in orthopedic surgery at the...

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Missing from Action

C. Dean Razzano

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pp. 353-356

After receiving an MD from the University of Kansas in Kansas City in 1968, I went to the Cleveland Clinic to embark on a career of either cardiology or heart surgery. The clinic had recently pioneered cardiac catheterization and revascularization heart surgery. After one year of internship and one year of general surgery, both...

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Epilogue: The Plan

William Peters

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pp. 357-362

Always have a plan, they told us. A good plan keeps the mission together. But then they would tell us that the plan could always go out the window. Later, they would tell us, the lower enlisted, not to concern ourselves with the plan, that we’d be given orders and we only had to follow them. To this day, I’m convinced that much...

Veterans from the Class of 1964

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pp. 363-364


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pp. 365-370

E-ISBN-13: 9781611685503
E-ISBN-10: 1611685508
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611685497

Page Count: 360
Publication Year: 2014

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Subject Headings

  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975 -- Personal narratives, American.
  • Dartmouth College. Class of 1964.
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975 -- Veterans -- United States -- Biography.
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