|The following narrative was submitted on 30 September, 1996, by John Cruddas, who was born in 1948. If you'd like to contribute a narrative, please fill out our form. If your browser doesn't handle forms, just write us an email. For permission to reprint narratives, please contact Viet Nam Generation, Inc.|
I was standing guard at the Oakland Army Terminal in 1966, en route to Nam. A woman approached me looking for her son who was shipping out that day. She was upset and crying that she might not get to see him before he shipped. She said she was worried because he was going to Okinawa that night. Okinawa?? When I arrived at Oakland, I remember that I was in awe upon entering the warehouse. It was wall to wall with bunks. I had never seen so many people in one area. Unlike WWII, most of us travelled alone to Nam. Seemed funny to feel so alone among so many many bunks.
Planes took off and landed very quickly at Tan Son Nhut in Saigon as snipers tended to take pot shots at the end of the runway. My first official function was to don combat goodies and be trucked to a remote area to gather small palm trees for the officer's area. At the time it didn't seem so weird. My only friend was wounded while riding on the back of a jeep. The round ricocheted from the axle, up the side, through the seat. My friend lost a testacle but later assured me, from a medical hospital in Japan, that everything still functioned perfectly. I never saw him again and wondered if it really worked or if I was hearing false bravado. Seems like we didn't worry too much about the loss of an arm or a leg but we all wanted to return fully functional where it counted.
The country was hot and, in general, smelled like a toilet. Excrement was burned in barrels with gasoline. Just one of the chores for a newcomer, newbie, nuke or whatever the hell they called us.
When I went to Nam I was seventeen. When I returned I was 41. Funny though, I was only there 15 months. No one spit on me when I returned. No one really cared or was interested. We didn't talk much about it, if at all.