Monday, August 20, 2007

In The Navy: Part I

Some might question the wisdom of what I did. All I can say in my defense is: 1) I was only 17 and knew no better and 2) I was a small-town lad from North Dakota who'd never seen the sea.

What did I do? I hated the idea of the military draft every bit as much then as I do now, and for just about the same reasons. My high school pal Richard Nordrum went to Winnipeg to avoid the draft, and for whatever other reasons remain closely held. He remains there to this day, and by all accounts, does not regret his decision. I, rather than be drafted into the Army, joined the Navy.

There are certain benefits to volunteering rather than being drafted, one of which is a (kind of) choice of work rating, and the training that comes with it. I knew I wanted to work in construction, so my first choice was Equipment Operator in the Seabees. My second choice was Engineman, which is simply a mechanic. Since I was already a frustrated hot rodder (Frustration coming from a chronic lack of money), the thought of becoming a mechanic wasn't the worst possible fate.

I went to Engineman School in Great Lakes, Ill. It was a very good school, and I learned a lot--some of which I apply to this day while working on my own cars.

It was during this period that I made several hitchhiking trips from Waukegan to Grand Forks on weekend liberties.

It was oddly prophetic that in 1962, we had three VietNamese petty officers in our class. I didn't even know what VietNam was, beyond being able to locate it on a map. These fellas, and others that attended other classes, were part of the early aid program that the US was giving to South VietNam in those early months before we entered the war militarily.

The only name I remember of the three guys is Choe Pyong Su, an Engineman 1st Class. He was the elder of the group; around thirty at the time. We all spent some time together, drinking beer and talking about ourselves. They were planning to go back home and kick some commie ass, they said.

I hope they did. I hope they're still alive.

I always thought, and still think that our intervention in VietNam's struggle was none of our (America's) business, but that didn't keep me from picking sides. The US government really did South VietNam dirty by accelerating the war to such a high degree, then walking away. South VietNam got screwed as much by the US government as by the North VietNam dictatorship. A lot of good people died needlessly.

They've killed Freedom! Those bastards!

Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California


Aurora said...

We shouldn't have been in Vietnam to begin with. We were warned to stay out and we left in a bad way. However, I have read one Asian commentator who believes that America's intervention in Vietnam had some benefits in the Asian region and indirectly staved off the total communistic domination over the region which worked out to the advantage of the U.S. in terms of allies later. I don't know how true this is, but he's got some interesting perspectives.

steveintx said...

Bro, this one reminded me I have a pic of the day. Holler if you don't get it in your email. SSG

The Wine Commonsewer said...

Great photo and there's got to be a sharp little comment here somewhere but I can't quite put it together. I was once that thin as well.

Col. Hogan said...

Aurora, I really never accepted the notion of a domino theory, and always thought that if we refused the communists aid, they'd fail from their own incompetence.

Col. Hogan said...

Steve, Got the pix. Good shots of Justin....

Col. Hogan said...

WC, Would you believe I can still fit into that uniform? Didn't think so.

Yankee Doodle said...

It's amazing how much aid we gave to the communists during the Cold War. You're absolutely right about them collapsing under the weight of their incompetence if we had not done so.

Your views on Vietnam make sense. Any US involvement should have been with special forces types, with the option of sending in regular units in case of an invasion. As it was, by the time the invasion came in from North Vietnam, the US regular units that were so desperately needed could not be committed again.

Iraq (2003 - present) should have been handled differently, too.

Aurora said...

Col.H. said if we refused the communists aid, they'd fail from their own incompetence.
and Yankee said It's amazing how much aid we gave to the communists during the Cold War.
The American taxpayer has funded out of our hard-earned dollar (I've worked there too) the most evil and destructive regimes on the planet. It's immoral and disgusting that our money should be funding then and now, these abominations.
You both could be right about the governments collapsing. And if you are, the implications are really quite shocking when you think about it. America has actually propped up the greatest evils on the planet by no fault of the good and decent people who earned the money in the first place but by a select few very bad apples in positions of power and political theorists who came up with the policies...Trace it back to the real culprits, our places of learning where the professors of the western world churn out the leaders of tomorrow's world.

Col. Hogan said...

'Twas Ron Reagan who saw the vulnerability of USSR and pushed it. I still hold out (dwindling) hope that Russia and the other Soviet bloc nations will turn to capitalism. GWB seems unwilling to help in that trend, and Putin is a loose cannon.