Wisconsin Veterans Museum

Oral History Interview with Robert J. Webster

Wisconsin Veterans Museum


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´╗┐DERKS: How did uh? How old was Robert Webster and where was he when he decided to join the military?

WEBSTER: I was 17 years old when I. In fact, my father had to go sign for me. I enlisted for three years in the Marine Corps in 1966, in February I went in.

DERKS: So, were you living here at Oneida?

WEBSTER: In Green Bay at the time, yeah.

DERKS: Why did you pick the Marines?

WEBSTER: Well, I don't know. I guess ever since I was a younger lad, I guess, I heard about Ira A's and then I had some cousins that was in the Marine Corps and, you know, they came home and had this, you know-how they talked about it and everything else, you know. I'm gonna be a Marine, you know, so that's how 00:01:00that came apart.

DERKS: Were they in World War II or Korea?

WEBSTER: Actually, no. That was in the early '60s. Two of them that was in during the Cuban Crisis. And they were under, way down there, you know, I guess, that was called Ops, so.

DERKS So, you joined and off you went.

WEBSTER: Yeah, I went to San Diego. I did my boot camp there. In fact, I was about as big as I am now, but I was so darn skinny that when I left, that recruiter told me, he said, "Eat a lot of bananas and drink a lot of milk," so I weigh enough, you know. So, I did that and I just made it getting in there. But they, well, not fattened me up, but they built me up cause when I came home, I 00:02:00weighed 145 so I gained 25 pounds in there, but I was solid. Not like now.

DERKS: How'd you like that Marine Boot Camp?

WEBSTER: It was good, I think. I, you know, you don't really like it, I guess, probably at the time. But you know it really did good. But of course, I was in pretty good shape, you know. I felt sorry for a lot of them guys, you know. A lot of city guys that, you know, they weren't. Because I was solid, you know, running around and you know, I had to cut wood and everything else. So, I was in pretty good shape. You know, I worked on the farm and everything, so.

DERKS: How did they, did they accept you pretty readily, the fact that you were Oneida?

WEBSTER: Well, in boot camp I guess it didn't matter because, you know, it was 00:03:00all mixed and I didn't, I don't think I seen any racial thing at all, you know, because there were so many different nationalities as it was, you know.

DERKS: And what year was that?

WEBSTER: In '66.

DERKS: '66. So, Vietnam was going on.

WEBSTER: Yes, it was going on pretty heavy then. In fact, that's when, Halloween that same year I went over, yeah. I think it was Halloween because I remember being on that plane when we left Okinawa because all the stewardesses had Halloween costumes on, you know. That's how I remember. I don't know if it was Halloween or not, but it was close to it.

DERKS: What kind of costumes? Those little French maid costumes?

WEBSTER: All different, yeah, some pretty tight ones, too. In fact, that's the 00:04:00last good shapes we seen for a long time. [laughs]

DERKS: And where did you land?

WEBSTER: In Da Nang. I don't know, it was pretty late at night and we were coming in and you could see firefights going on and everything, you know, outside the city there and stuff. Oh, boy, what the hell did I get into now, you know. I guess I was a little afraid but at the same time, you know, that's what I joined up for, you know, so. In fact my cousin went in six months before me and he was in Vietnam, he was in Da Nang at the time, but he was in communication. He was in 5th Com Battalion, right at China Beach, so, he was pretty secure. But I was Infantry, you know. But, anyway the next day, then they 00:05:00put us on some choppers and they took us to Chu Lai and then from there they sent us out. That's when I got Gulf Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines. They sent me out to a battalion area, six by. And then from there then the next day, you know, and in all this time I got no weapon or nothing, you know, no 782 gear or nothing, so. And then they gave me my stuff, what I needed, in the Battalion area. Then they came and took me out to the company. Gulf Company and put me in the second platoon, second squad. That's where I stayed my entire tour.

DERKS: And were was, that was at Chu Lai or?

WEBSTER: Yeah, outside Chu Lai.

DERKS: And what kind of, what were they doing when you got there? What was their mission?


WEBSTER: Well, we had to go out on patrols all the time, you know and stuff. I think that first day I got there, that night I had to go out on night patrol, this fighter team, you know. They put me on fighter team and boy that was scary enough [?].

DERKS: So, you were the newbie. You were the green guy.

WEBSTER: Yeah, yeah. Actually, well there were two of us that went to the company, but I didn't know where the other guy went. In fact, I don't even remember his name because out of that whole plane load everybody went different ways, you know. The guy you did make buddies with on the plane going over, you know, you never saw him again.

DERKS: So, when you were geared up and ready to go out on the first patrol, did they give you any advice? Did they tell you anything?


WEBSTER: Well, that night, you know, they just said, just make sure you don't lose out there, just make sure you--So, they kind of put me in the middle of it. But nothing happened. It was pretty safe for then.

DERKS: That's the thing about those patrols, isn't it? You go through a few where nothing happens and then all the sudden it happens.

WEBSTER: It wasn't too long. One night we got some sniper fire, you know and stuff. Nobody got hit or anything, but that was the first time I got fired at. It's pretty scary then.

DERKS: What'd that feel like?

WEBSTER: Well, you know we was going, actually we were going across a rice patty. This was on the dike and some damn gook somewhere opened up on us, you 00:08:00know. And, but I heard a couple rounds, you know, go by, you know but then we went down into the patty behind the dike. But then we returned fire and hell, he was gone, you know. I don't know, what, maybe we got him, too, you know, but he was quite a ways off so, you know.

DERKS: When you go out on patrol, what are you, what is your gear? What are you carrying?

WEBSTER: Well, I was, you know, our, you had, you always had extra ammo with us and [?] stuff, you know and you always had your poncho along, in case; especially during the monsoon season, you know. Because then you would get the night ambush, you know. A lot of times we had to just not patrol, but to stay 00:09:00out, you know, all night and we called it night ambush. We had to go here or certain places or checkpoints, we'd have to, you know--would have to go. And a lot of times, we'd just set up for awhile, so it it's pouring out, you know, you had to have your poncho on. Right under there, you'd try to keep dry.

DERKS: What's it like going on a night patrol? Well, most of them, a lot of the time it was night, wasn't it?


DERKS: How do you deal with the darkness and what's that like?

WEBSTER: I don't know, I just, I don't, to me, I think it was just a bunch of shit, you know, because they, Christ, they could hear you coming, you know. You can't really, you know, but at the same time I guess if they were coming in 00:10:00toward you it would hold them up, too, or whatever, you know, because a lot of--Well, I never did myself, but I know some other patrols that did engage in a couple of bigger, you know they met a bunch of them guys, too. Because they did the same thing too, I think, you know. They sent out little patrols or whatever whenever there was a bigger unit coming in too, whatever, you know. But I was fortunate. I didn't have to meet up with them. But we had, you know, a lot of times we got, you know, sniper fire and stuff. But I think that was more the VC than the regular NVA, you know. Because them guys I think they're [?] harass you and or whatever, you know.


DERKS: And what do you do when--How does an ambush patrol work?

WEBSTER: I think we were, we would go out and just set up somewhere, you know, because we'd learn from the ledgers and stuff, you know, that they'd say that there a whole lot of VC in this area or whatever, you know. And we would go out and set sometimes, you know, like would go in the evening or afternoon patrol and just set somewhere and just stay there, you know. Then at night, you know, all night we'd watch and see if they would come through, you know. But then again two of the, you didn't know who the hell to trust or whatever, you know. Again, myself, I didn't really engage in any big big groups of VC or NVA that 00:12:00came through, you know, but I heard from different platoons and stuff.

DERKS: So, in all your, in all those ambush patrols nobody ever came through?

WEBSTER: Not in the ones I was on, you know.

DERKS: Lucky for you!

WEBSTER: Yeah, yeah, I'd rather not.

DERKS: And so, those are the ambush patrols, what are the others? Just the, did you do search and destroy or--

WEBSTER: Yeah, yeah. You know, a lot of places, you know, we went and some villages, well, we burned them, too, you know. We'd be going in and stuff and we'd get some sniper fire from that village or whatever and we'd burn that whole son of a bitch down, you know. You know and how that rice and all that shit, you know, would get your--I don't know, it was--I remember my first squad leader I 00:13:00had was Sergeant Muncy and, Christ, you could always, you could tell where we were, where we were, you know. You'd see smoke over here, smoke over there, you know. Yup, there's Muncy burning that son of a bitching village again, you know. But after awhile, I think that some of them, I don't know, villagers or what did, then they'd tell, you know, where the VC were, a lot of them, you know, because they didn't want their village burned down. Word was getting spread, you know. But of course, at the same time, then they hated our ass too for doing it, you know, the people their selves, you know. But I don't know, we didn't care, because I don't know how the heck they--The people, you couldn't trust them, you 00:14:00know. Or they tell you this and they turn around and be right with them, I don't know. Maybe they were forced to, too, you know. They wanted to live too, I suppose, you know, but I don't know, it ain't understandable God damn--

DERKS: Yeah.

WEBSTER: Try to do my job, what the heck. Keep alive. Try to do what I was told.

DERKS: So, what, after you weren't green anymore, where did you, what was your job usually when you'd go out on patrol?

WEBSTER: Well, after a while, I was point man. Well, a lot of guys took turns and stuff, you know. A lot of them guys, "hey, hey seen you" and, you know, shit 00:15:00he brought up in the woods and stuff you know, [mumbles--] Yeah, I don't give a shit, you know, I have a pretty good sense of direction and stuff always, you know, and at night, you know, a lot of guys they're just, you know, Christ, even some would be up there. "Get the hell in the back," you know, I mean, you know, Christ you can get us lost or don't know where in the hell we're going to end up. So, I was point man for quite awhile and damn lucky on that. I hit a couple of booby traps, but they were duds, you know, so, I was damn lucky there. Somebody was watching out for me, you know.

DERKS: What's that feel like when you hit a dud booby trap?

WEBSTER: Ooh, of course it is--Well, the first time I hit that one trip wire and I heard a click off ahead of me, not, ah shit, maybe twenty yards, twenty-five 00:16:00yards ahead of me. It might not have been even that. And I heard it click anyway, and I, oh, oh, I didn't hear no pin fly or nothing, so I knew it wasn't a grenade. But I heard it click. Everybody, you know, everybody gets down, you know. But, anyway, I went up; it was on a little trail. Went up that trail and here's a, I don't know if it was about as big as a 50 caliber and they had that rigged right down that trail. That round and they had a nail in there and it came, and it just missed the side of that firing, but then there was hardly nothing holding it, so, I didn't want to know, you know, if it did go off, if it would have went straight or which way it would have went, you know, but anyway--But then after that, boy I, but at night, you know you can't see. This was during the day, you know. But at night, I hit one on time, too and I don't 00:17:00know what the hell that was, but nothing happened, you know. We heard some voice and I found that little trip wire there. Somebody buried in the ground is what it is. I didn't want to monkey with that, you know. We didn't have no engineers along, you know. We just left it and marked it and I think next day engineers went out there. But I never found out what the hell that was, you know.

DERKS: So, somebody was watching out for you.

WEBSTER: Yeah, yeah. I'm glad too, you know.

DERKS: Tell me what it's like to walk point.

WEBSTER: Well, I don't know, you know, I know it, I had a, it was a big responsibility, you know, to kind of check out everything, all this and, you know, or something, make sure, because a lot of guys behind, you know, especially in a company size or even platoon size patrols, you know, our 00:18:00operations that we went on, you know, so. I tried to be as, you know, as careful as I could, and all that, so. I think one other time, I was going across a big, that was whole, I think that was platoon size operation we was on, but I was going across this one big dike, and I don't know what the hell made me stop. And we was way out in the middle and I just seen a little piece of a cardboard sticking up on one corner. I don't know if the wind blew it, blew dirt off it or what, you know, I saw it and I held them up and it was called right away. The squad leader came, you know and stuff and so then called engineers up. They were alone with us then. And here was, Christ it had to be about four feet by four 00:19:00feet maybe, I don't know where in the hell they got a big cardboard like that, you know, but then that pungy, it had that pungy pit there, dug out in there. And hell, well, I would have fell in for sure, you know, cause we're spread out, you know. But that's probably just what they, long as they get you out of the field I guess, or who knows. Maybe if I did fall in there and then called for medivac then all hell would've maybe broke loose or whatever, you know. Because you didn't know where in the hell they were, you know and stuff. But anyway, that was probably a four feet deep, you know, I don't know how damn many pungys, sticks were sticking out of there, them bamboo, you know. So, anyway, I lucked out again on that one.

DERKS: Just, your eye just caught something that wasn't right.


WEBSTER: Yeah, yeah just that little piece, that thing, you know, I got, you get to notice what the hell, you know. And a lot of times, too in different things, you notice something that changed, you know, or whatever, cause, you know, in different villages and stuff, too. You go in that village and what the hell? Where is everybody? It's too quiet here, something ain't right, you know. [?] I don't know why I didn't like it here as much as the next guy, but, you know, I guess I feel [?] myself today, yet. You know, I'd rather do it myself, you know, than have somebody else do things, like at work, you know. I just feel, feel better or more secure or whatever, you know.


DERKS: You trust yourself more than

WEBSTER: I trust myself more, yeah. Yeah, I guess you can say that.

DERKS: And they must have trusted you.

WEBSTER: Yeah, yeah, they, I know one time, it was at night. We were weren't far from out base camp. Platoon, platoon size and we were going back to our hill, team base on Hill 10 that time. But, anyway, that lieutenant was along, second lieutenant and I don't know, I think he just got there not too long, but, kind of an asshole, you know, think he know everything. The sucker. He didn't know nothing. And that's, and he had, I don't know who he had point out there, but Christ, Christ, going around in circles, you know, and that's when Covalt Seisel 00:22:00[?] squad leader then--oh and I tell you that my nickname was "Savage," they nicknamed me "Savage," you know. I didn't care, you know, what the hell, Christ, I was 18 years old, you know, 19, I turned 19 over there. And then, but anyway, "Is Savage up?" I went up there. "Savage take us home!" You know, okay, you know, and away we went. And Christ, up over the hill, down a little bit and stuff and there we were. I know where the hell we were, you know, but that lieutenant, I don't know if he tried the wrong thing. Maybe he was trying to tell that, his point man where to go, or whatever, you know, but they weren't getting us home where we wanted to go, so. But that made, that made me feel good, you know. All the guys out of the whole platoon, you know, and stuff. Like 00:23:00I say, there were a lot of guys that walked point, too, that were good and stuff, too. It made me feel good, "Savage, take us home," yeah.

DERKS: Tell me about the other guys in your squad.

WEBSTER: Well, Colvalt Siesel, that squad leader, he's the one that had the longest, probably 11 months, he was my squad leader, and he was from Oklahoma. He was a draftee, but he got wounded and stuff up in, they were up at the rock pile. That was just before I got there. That's why I did come to the unit, because I was a replacement, because they had lost a lot of guys, you know, just before I got there. And there was, Campbell. He was a, he was half Cherokee guy. He was from Oklahoma. Him being half Indian, me and him had a kind of clicked 00:24:00her off there, because there was only, there was two other, two other Indians in our, in the whole company, you know. And one was in 3rd platoon, I think, and one was in 1st platoon, but we never hardly got to visit, you know, with them other guys, because, you know, we were always do our own thing, you know. And the one in 1st platoon, anyway, in Operation DeSoto, he got, he got killed. And I talked to him, you know, a few times and stuff because sometimes when we were back at base camp at night, we'll have to end the lines and then they'll have different guys come around and check, check the lines, you know and stuff. And he came around one night and we talked with him quite a bit and stuff. But anyway, in that Operation DeSoto he got killed. Quite a few of them got killed 00:25:00and wounded. But we had a Veterans' Pow Wow, back in, I don't know when that was, maybe in '95 or '96 or something out in Oneida, out there. And some guys came from South Dakota there and stuff, and they know that guy that was with me. And you know, we got to talking and stuff. And one of these days I want to go out there and meet his family and tell them about his [?] and stuff, you know. But them guys, that was pretty good. But anyway, getting back to my unit, there was Richard D. Worthly. In fact, he just passed away here a little over a year 00:26:00ago. He had some, got a lung disease, I guess from his work or whatever. But he's the one that nicknamed me "Savage" and he was kind of like an artist. He had an Indian head drawn on the side of my helmet and stuff and put "Savage" on there. He was a damn good buddy of mine. And after these reunions started and stuff, I never seen him since we came back from Vietnam, you know. But I talked to him, because I lived in Chicago for awhile, for a couple years and he lived in Waukegan, you know, it's just a suburb there. And I talked to him on the phone and stuff, but I never seen him, so. But then I never heard from him again and then I got a Christmas card one time. And heck it wasn't Reagan, but I remembered the postmark was California. So, anyway, my wife got on the computer 00:27:00and there were only two Richard D. Worthlys in California, I couldn't believe it, you know. The first one I called, it was him. And I told him, God damn it, we're having a reunion out there in San Diego and he came. Not for the whole thing, but he came for the banquet, and stuff, him, and his wife. And, Christ, I could see something was wrong with him, you know. But he was a damn good guy. He was a sea-going Marine at first, you know, them guys that be really squared away and stuff, but when he came to Vietnam, he didn't give a shit for nothing, you know. He was, Christ. Well, we didn't have no inspections or anything but, Christ, he'd be all ragged and everything. He didn't gave a shit for nothing, you know. He was a damn good guy. And he made one more reunion and then he, he passed away. And I went, his son and daughter lived down in Mukwonago, I think, 00:28:00or somewhere down there near Milwaukee, outside Milwaukee, and anyway got a, got to talk to them through email and stuff and by phone. And they didn't have no pictures of their father at all in, you know, from Vietnam and stuff, so. And I didn't hardly have any either. All the pictures I got is from the guys that I got, you know from the reunions. They had their albums along and stuff so, anyway I, I told them I would meet with them and give them some pictures, you know of their dad and stuff. So, my wife made a bunch of copies and stuff, and we went down there to meet them. We went down there, probably nine o'clock in the morning. I come, found the address and I went up on the step and then knocked. And here's some great big guy come to the door and he's looking right 00:29:00over the top of me, you know. And he knows I was going to show up, then he looked down and he seen me. "You're Webster?" "Yeah." He says, "Holy shit," he said, "you're a little guy!" He said, "How my dad talked about you, I thought you were eight feet tall!" [laughs] But anyway, we spent the whole day there with the family and stuff and it was, it was good, you know. It was good that they know what their dad did and all that because he was a damn, he was a good guy, and a funny guy too.

DERKS: Was he a big guy? Richard?

WEBSTER: No, he wasn't really that big, you know. But I don't know what the hell them kids eat now a days, you know. Like me too. My son, you know, of course, I'm only 5'7", my son he's 6'1", you know. Well, I think on my wife's side she 00:30:00had some, her uncles and stuff were big guys, so, hereditary here and there. But I noticed that a lot, [?] kids now a days, they're a lot bigger than their parents are.

[Break in video]

DERKS: Who is that leaning on you in that photo?

WEBSTER: That is the squad leader.

DERKS: I was going to ask you what operation Desoto was?

WEBSTER: That was the worst operation. An air strike that was called in too close and that's where our source [unclear], that's where he got killed. And quite a few. I mean there weren't that many killed, but there was a lot of them 00:31:00that got wounded from that. And then we had a helicopter that was blown up, a medivac helicopter. That was a good buddy of mine. Casamir. He was from Seattle, or Tacoma, Washington. Washington state. I don't know how many guys got it on that, plus the pilot and the crew that was on that chopper. Because there was nothing left of that. There was shit going on in the air for it seemed like ten minutes. And that happened, not that same night. The next day I think it was after they called that air strike. The Captain called in that air strike. 00:32:00Because we got ambushed and all hell broke loose. Called in that air strike in. The pilot dropped it too short. Where the smoke was. He was supposed to go beyond it, and he dropped it on this side of it. I was far enough away, you know. I still felt the blast. But anyway, then we called in medivacs for I don't know how many damned--Anyway, the ambush quiet down and that's when the start. And all the guys that were medivaced, then we had to carry their gear. You know, the rifles, the cartridge belts and everything else. Ammo boxes. Just getting 00:33:00dark that time too. And then we had to go I don't know how far in the damned dark, to a hill, you know. Cause there was paddies, more, alongside of the hill. Then the next day, that's when we went. Going back to that battalion area? But anyway, they sent out a little listening post out. Because where we was it was kind of like a saddle, you know. The hill here and then went down, then another hill. Was going to send them guys up over there for a listening post. The fire came, and then they hit a booby trap down in the middle there somewhere. Guess 00:34:00three of four of them guys got tore up pretty bad. And that's when they called in medivac. And that chopper, shit, from where I was it looked like it was only four or five feet off the the ground. And they say that was a 500-pound bomb, you known. That blew up there. And that's when [unclear]. But before that, when them guys did hit that, then they wanted some guys over there with ponchos, you know. My buddy, Kessinger [sp?], there, ran over there with his poncho. It was probably, I don't know, a hundred yards away, you know, from where we were. And that's the last time I seen him, you know. But then, and then some guys, that 00:35:00was a company sized operation was on, so, I don't know. I don't know who the other guys were that went over there to help them, you know and stuff. But I know Doc Boulton [sp?], the Corpsman, with the second platoon, the senior Corpsman in the Company, in fact. He was over there, and I don't know how in the hell he didn't, and he was carrying one of them guys up to that chopper, too. When that blew up. And he never got a scratch out of that. But to this day, his ears are still ringing. And I just got an e-mail from him yesterday. Cause he went down to the VA and tried to get some help, or whatever, for his ears. He 00:36:00says he needs hearing aids, you know. And all these years, he said, that it bothered him, but he, the heck he could live with it. So, there is nothing on his record, you know, cause, you know, he didn't go in and, and not down on paper, you know. About his ears. So, squad leader and myself, we both got an e-mail from him. And I got to write a letter to, telling them what happened. Just like I said now, on Operation Desoto, that's when that happened. And that was in April of 67'. And he said, Oh he know how that is. He went down to Oklahoma to see his grandchildren. And they said, "Grand Pa, come with us, we 00:37:00gotta holler at you." He said, "Now I realized that my hearing is going, or is bad." So, that's, tonight in fact I think I am going to write a letter up, you know. Describe what happened on that operation, that's when he started, he said. Hopefully that will help him with the VA, you know.

DERKS: Twice in one day you have to remember that?

WEBSTER: Yeah. And then that next morning, that's when we had to go up there and police up all them, you know. They bring us garbage bags to pick up all the pieces of them bodies. I don't know how many it was. The biggest piece we found 00:38:00was one leg. The rest was all a mess.

DERKS: And your guy that ran over there, you think he got caught up in that?

WEBSTER: Yeah. That was the last of him, yeah. The pilot and them guys, you know. As I said, I don't know how in the hell Doc Boulton got out of there, without, you know, without even being wounded. Well, not there, he was wounded. I think he's got three Purple Hearts. And I think one was up on priority [??] and then he got a couple others. Christ, I remember we used to be in fire fights and stuff, and he, you know, right away. "Corpsman up, Corpsman up!" And he would run and shoot at that sombitch, you know, like you see on the movies. That 00:39:00damned Doc, he would make it, you know. Kind of tall, skinny guy, but still, yet. Christ everybody else was down, you know. I think he's got a bronze star, too. But God Damn, I think he should have more than that. Because he went down. Cause he went down too, for post-traumatic stress, and I think they only give him 30%, or whatever. Shit, I know if I ever sat down with him. Cause he went through a lot more shit than what I ever seen, you know. Because, like I say, he was in that operation Prairie. And that was worse yet than Desoto, you know. I will tell you one thing. As long as I am able, I never miss a reunion to be with 00:40:00them guys. Then there is Bobby Donaldson, he was from Louisiana. And Mike Mahone, he's from North Carolina. Blankenship, he's from West Virginia. And Sickinger [sp?], he's from Wausau, or Marathon City, just outside of Wausau. He was with us. And I finally got him. Not last year, the year before he finally come to the reunion. And now, he said, "God damn it", he said. I know the other guys too, they said, "Well, shit", the bond that they had, still have I should say. Just to be back with one another, you know.


DERKS: So, when you get back together, are you still nineteen-year-old kids again?

WEBSTER: Sometimes. Yeah. And I guess what gets me too is that the wives all hit it off really good, you know. Well, I think most of us guys got post-traumatic stress and stuff, and I think they probably went through the same shit, you know. Hate us yet, but they wouldn't be with us yet.

DERKS: What make the bonds So, strong?

WEBSTER: Well, watch one another's back. Had to fight to stay alive. There is 00:42:00just something there that, you know, they know what we been through. And you can't talk to anybody that wasn't in about it. Oh yeah, they understand. But they don't understand. There is no way they could understand, you know, what you been through. We know what we did and where we were. I don't know, it's just something that's there, that will be there forever. They say, once a Marine, always a Marine, you know. I guess that's probably true of all the branches. 00:43:00Dedicated. That's why they went in. They wanted to be in that branch. That's going to be part of them for the rest of their life.

DERKS: What was it like when you got short?

WEBSTER: I don't know, it didn't really, well I was getting anxious to come back and stuff. But the night before my orders came from Battalion, we went out on patrol. How in the hell did that work? There was a couple of fire teams that 00:44:00ride shotgun. It was up by Fu Bai. But then them gooks blew that bridge up and we couldn't get back that night. And my order had come in that night, or that evening for me to come back to Battalion. I am going home. And here I am. Where are the guys. And we lost our radio contact. I don't know, our battery went dead, or what. We didn't have no contact with us. Son of a bitch, I hope nothing happened to them. That savage is going to go home and he is, you know. But anyway, the next day we got back. Right away, gunny key, a big Samoan. So, get 00:45:00you stuff and get out of here, back to Battalion, you are going home. That was a good feeling. So, I said so long to the guys. I didn't see none of them. Well, I did see one guy, He was in Camp Lejeune. In fact, we were in Kilo three six together. But he was in a different platoon, but we knew one another. And he had come back. How long ago was that now. Six years, seven, we started having 00:46:00reunions. And how I found out is I get that Leatherneck Magazine every month, or every two months, or whatever it is. And I told my wife, "One of these days I am gonna see my unit in here." And god damn, there it was. I called Skaggs up in, he must have been on his computer. What year I was there, and what platoon I was with, and stuff. So, he was rattling off these names. God damned, Snyder, holy shit, there is one of my best buddies. "Yeah, I got his phone number here, and stuff." And holy chorist. He didn't have everybody's, but couple different ones he had. Kovill, Squad Leader, and he had Snyder. I called them guys up. And I 00:47:00laugh at that Snyder. Called him up. "Who is this? Webster? Savage Webster?" Yup! Holy Christ, he got all excited. He told his wife, that's Savage Webster. Well, shit, she don't know me. I was laughing and stuff. And he is there every one too.

DERKS: What was it like the first time you saw them again?

WEBSTER: It was, I don't know. We grabbed on another and hugged on another. In fact, the first one we went to was in Washington D. C. And Big Sam Bass, he was, I don't know how tall he is. But anyway, he's too, when I got to DC. I found out where the place was, and I see all these guys out in the street, like out in the 00:48:00back there. He's the first one I seen. A head taller than everybody else, you know. God Damn! There is Sam Bass. So, I walked over there, anyway. And just before I got there, he recognized me right away. "Holy shit" I don't know who else is here? He said, "Well, Ciecel supposed to be here, and Snyder." Right there, you check in. So, I went and checked in at the little room they had like this. I came back out and went back outside there. About 25 feet away by Sam, that guy standing there. Ciecel, the squad leader, and he turned around. "Sav, Holy shit", he said. "Boy, you made my day." He said. Because he probably thought I was dead, somewhere, or something, you know. When I came home it never 00:49:00dawned on me or anything to have a reunion. I guess I tried to leave it behind. I drank a lot, and stuff. I didn't do drugs, at all. I always worked. Weekends, sometimes during the night. Friday night on. Sometimes during the week. I always talked about being in service, Vietnam and stuff, you know. But I never thought I would ever be at a reunion. And then I never thought about going to the VA for anything, you know. Realizing that there was anything wrong. Because I get 70%, 00:50:00you know, for post-traumatic stress. Plus, I got diabetes, they said, was probably caused from that Agent Orange. But that I control that with diet. I don't have to take any medication for that. Hopefully I will never have to. But that post-traumatic stress, thing. When I went to see that psychiatrist. He said, "How often do you think about that." Well, shit I said, there ain't a day that goes by that I don't. There is something. I said, "espescially a chopper. I hear a chopper. It's the first damn thing I think of, is the one that got blown up. And the second thing I think about is now, where are they going to take us. 00:51:00What operation we going to go on, you know, where." I said, "There are a lot of little things that trigger, noises and stuff you know. I don't like to be in a big, crowded area either, and stuff, you know." I said, "There is a lot of little things", I said, "That remind me, you know." I said, "Even my wife, to this day she don't sleep with me because of my sleeping pattern, or whatever." Plus, I got to half sat up too, you know. Christ, so damn many times got to, I 00:52:00guess when we was always out on patrol. Put that helmet behind my back, you know. You know, you are sitting at the ready at all times. You slept like that lot of times. So, when I got home, I still use two pillows. I can't lay flat.

DERKS: Got to be up and ready to go. Did you have nightmares?

WEBSTER: I do every now and then, yet. Used to be more. I think that's why I drank, too, a lot you know. Well, I ain't drank now for 18 years. It will be 18 years in January, I think. But I still, every now and then, I get--But I think 00:53:00it helped me a lot to see them guys at the reunions. Because, like I told my wife, I says, "You are with them guys, even though they rotated, most of us guys that hand around together there. We been together from 7 to 11 months, you know. we were together."

DERKS: Do you think part of it was that being along when you came home, and 00:54:00realizing it wasn't just you?

WEBSTER: You tried to drown it, but you couldn't. Just something you had to learn to live with. But then again, I think talking about it, talking to them guys and stuff. It just maked it a little easier, I guess.

DERKS: What was it like when you came back to Green Bay?

WEBSTER: Well, to me everybody was glad to see me. I never got, well a lot of 00:55:00these guys got spit on, and stuff, but that never happened to me. Maybe some people didn't like it, but they didn't say anything, to me anyway. But I heard about it, you know. I don't know what I would have did if they did do something. I would have fly off the handle. I would be in prison right now, you know, because what you been through. And them guys getting killed, and all that stuff. And then somebody say something, well like that. That's pretty damn negative, it's hard to say what the hell I would have did, you know. Might have did 00:56:00something I would be paying for yet, you know. Because at the time I wasn't taking not shit, you know.

DERKS: Seems risky to me to say that to a Marine?

WEBSTER: To anybody, yeah. I tried to, I didn't go to work right away. I didn't have no skill. Nothing that I could. You know I didn't know no trade.

DERKS: No jobs to have you walk point?

WEBSTER: No. [long pause--.]


DERKS: Do you think about that time when the helicopter blew up?

WEBSTER: You know when that happened, I thought, Holy Christ. What the hell next. I thought stuff would keep going on all night. I thought, god damn, we are going to get overrun, and stuff. But they said, "Shut that off!". But boy, let me tell you, I don't think anybody slept that night. Because that's down there, 00:58:00Duc Pho That was a bad damn area, you know. I rein in magazines, the Army 73rd Airborne was down there. The Marines were down there. You know, different thing. But it was always a son of a bitch, down there, you know. Regular North Vietnamese regiments and stuff, down there. I know back in that, I don't even remember how long we were down there. A week, or couple of weeks. But that Battalion area, every night, boy, they got mortared. Shit, that's when I was glad I was out in the field, you know. Instead of sitting back in the Battalion 00:59:00area, you know.

DERKS: So, what's that like in the field, hearing the base getting shelled?

WEBSTER: Yeah. Got their bunkers, there. Well, I don't know. Guess I felt better them than us. Of course, you didn't want it happening to your own guys, but god damn.

DERKS: When you went on an operation, it was by helicopter?

WEBSTER: Most of the time, yeah.

DERKS: How did you like those helicopter rides?


WEBSTER: Well, we got shot down one time. We didn't really crash, but we landed pretty hard. You could hear that whooooomp. They must of hit one of them lines, you know. hydraulic lines, or some damn thing. But we landed pretty hard. I don't know where in the heck that was. Anyway, we had to stay there. Well, then a couple of the other ones landed. So, we made a perimeter and stay all night, until the next day. Then they got a great big. Of course, this was in the evening, and the next day they got on of them big son of a guns that came and lifted it out of there and took it back; to Da Nang or somewhere. But then they sent another one for us. It was the scariest ride I had; you know. I remember 01:01:00when we first got there they had them old son of a guns. The ones where the pilots were up on top, and you had to get underneath. Just that one single blade. I think they had them in Korea. But them suckers would rattle, Christ.

[Break in video]

DERKS: An operation like that is it--is it a lot of helicopters, a lot of people, all heading out there? What, what does that look like?

WEBSTER: Well, I, you know, we were on a company size one anyway, you know. It usually-we weren't first, you know, there'd be--But there'd be a, you know, a lotta, a lotta helicopter. I don't know how many guys--12--13 guys fit in a, in 01:02:00a--one of them Chinooks, you know, them twin blade ones. And I don't know how many they'll be. But they don't, you know they land all over and the guys run out instead of perimeter or whatever. And then--and once they go, then the, you know, get a stab this from there. You know, whatever the--

DERKS: So, once you've got that perimeter set up then they start bringing in supplies and, other stuff, or?

WEBSTER: Well no.

DERKS: Or is it just set you down and then you take off?

WEBSTER: Yeah. Yeah. And then we could go on our patrol or whatever from there, you know. Once they let us down.

DERKS: And did you um, was it always those, um--'cause you were pretty early there, right? 60--

WEBSTER: 6 and 67. Yeah.


DERKS: The--they didn't have the Hueys up there then or--

WEBSTER: They would--they might've had 'em but we didn't--[long pause] -- I know later on -- we used some, we used some then. I know we didn't, we didn't use 'em, you know, that much as it was, you know. But when we did, it was with them Chinooks. But I think, but I think this one time I rode in a Huey, you know, that day. I forget where they, they came and got us. Or drop us off. I can't remember. But I think it was only that one time that I'd rode in a Huey. Otherwise, it was always some big Chinooks.


DERKS: Where there--I, I was um, we talked about that one bad spot and I was wondering if uh, if there were places that you just didn't want to go and when you, the word came down that, where you were going, you were either relieved or, a little concerned or, or just didn't know. Did, did you know where you were going and what was going on?

WEBSTER: We always didn't know where we were going until we were on our way. You 01:05:00know, we--they'd just say, "Well we're going on an operation." Where? When? You know, nobody knew. And then, pretty soon--"Tomorrow we're going," you know. "Pack your gear," you know, so. And that--most of the time, seems like it that I remember was that, you know, when we were on our way, then we'd know where we were going, you know. [laughs]. I dunno, maybe--I dunno how that that worked, you know. But I dunno. It's like they didn't like to tell you a of things until they want to, you know. Don't have to 'til they want to, I guess.

DERKS: Then you'd know how long a ride it was gonna be, or--

WEBSTER: [laughs] Then you'd know if you should run away or what, you know. [laughs].

DERKS: Hard to run away once you're up in the helicopter.

WEBSTER: Yeah, yeah. They got ya' then. Yes. I don't what the right strategy is behind that is. Always want to know where to run anyway, you know. [laughs].

DERKS: And you don't want to be by yourself.


DERKS: What--how much, uh, contact did you have with the uh, with the villagers or with the Vietnamese?


WEBSTER: I dunno. I--depends on how long we were at some of these--hills, you know. Different hills and--but I, I never really, I never had too much contact, you know. The--couple haircuts and--and the laundry, sometimes, you know. But mostly I did my own laundry. I I only had--we had a barber up in, you know, somebody knew how to cut hair [laughs. That was it. And what was the, uh, what was the countryside like where you were? Was it jungle or rice paddies or--? Well, let's see. In Chu Lai it was mostly--it wasn't really jungle. It 01:07:00was--mostly rice paddies and, you know all just brush and stuff it seemed like to me. But that was mostly rice patty around there. Then we went to Danang, which I was around, around there most of the time it seemed like.--You know out, just, I was on Hill 10, I was on Hill 55, I think and Hill 190. 190, that was the closest, uh, to Danang that we got. And then we was over Ivan Pass [?] I don't know what the heck--what that was. But that's when I rotated from that one. But it but out--outside the, Danang, on 190, that was, that was pretty dim 01:08:00and it was pretty mountainous there. And more of jungle like uh--but toward the Danang more, it would be to the, to the East, that was all rice patties. But from hill 190 where that river came through to the west, then it was all mountains and some little southernly stuff, like--And down on Hill 10 where we was, that was, that was mostly all rice patty down there. And--

DERKS: Which, which were you most comfortable in? The mountains or paddies or--I guess they all had their problems, huh?

WEBSTER: Yeah, yeah--[long pause]--I count probably the rice paddies was more--[long pause]--it was more--you were more apt to get booby-trapped though 01:09:00on them uh, dikes and stuff in the rice patties, you know. But at the same token, if you was in the mountains, you don't know what in the hell or where, you know, them--and being thick and stuff then you're, you know, you're--I trusted the paddies more, you know. Because--oh that's another thing down there when we was in Duc Pho [?]. I think just before we were pulling out of there, there was a great big mound. And here, come to find out that them engineers--somebody found a, you know, a little spider hole, come to find out that it was that whole god dam hill that was, all dugout in there. And there was 01:10:00a hospital and everything else down in there. Right, right inside the perimeter, that battalion area there. You know it wasn't in use, but it was there. So--maybe they, left when, when whoever came there first, you know. They mighta pulled out. But it was down there. I didn't go down in there but--

DERKS [laughs] You didn't have--

WEBSTER: Met some guys and guys with--some guys went down in there.

DERKS: Some 45 and a flashlight--

WEBSTER: Yeah. And, yeah there's all kinds of rooms down in there and everything else, I guess. So, you never know what in the hell's, you know.

DERKS: What was the temperature like up there. Was it hot or comfortable, or?

WEBSTER: It was, oh it was hot, to me. Real hot. I guess that's why they gave me them, them shots that denote your blood or whatever. But I know we got them in, 01:11:00I think in Okinawa, before we went home. Big son-of-a-bitchin needle and, [shakes head]--[long pause] and painful. [laughs].

DERKS: When, when you get together with those guys in the, the reunions, um, do, do you talk about, um, or what do you talk about the most. Do you--are there certain things that, that you end up talking about or certain things that you never talk about?

WEBSTER: No, I guess we talk about, we talk about probably everything, you know. Yeah--you know not all the time, you know. But--it's even when the wives go shopping or something, you know. And then, our, our--another guy comes in, you know, like this year in August, Guy Gonzalez. I remember him but, you know, you 01:12:00forget about a lot of these guys too, you know. And you get stopped by squad leader's police last year. And he's oh, oh ok. And he lives out in California 'cause ours was in Sacramento this year, so. He said, sit out, come up here, so he came, he came up there and, after I'd seen him, I remembered him, you know. But otherwise, I like completely forgot about him, you know. But then he's talking, you know, "Remember this," you know, he's talking and stuff. And then I would, then I would tell him, "Oh yeah then--" you know so it, that, that's, you know, and seems like every year we get, you know, a different guy or two that was with us, and stuff, you know, so. There was some guys that was in the weapons platoons, you know that attached to us and all that, you know. So, that's, it's pretty good.


DERKS: Thank you.


DERKS: Thank you for your service.

WEBSTER: Yup. Thank you.

[Although the interview appears to end, there is an additional segment, which follows.]

WEBSTER: Uh, uh, anyway. It was uh, in 66, it was, uh, I dunno, it was around Christmas time somewhere. Christmas and New Year's. And my cousin that was down in, uh, Danang, or up in Danang, he had a three-day in country R & R, so, him being right by China Beach all the time, he didn't want to go there. And, at that time we were guarding the airport in Chu lai. The airstrip there. So, he can cut a flight and he came there and he, found where I was and stuff. And, so, 01:14:00and then, we had to, you know, man the bunkers at night. Out there on the perimeter. So, he come along out there. And he went to the damn village that afternoon, I guess, and he got some kind of gin, whiskey or wine--whatever it was. And we got drunk. Me and him. And Kassinger--the one I told you about--got killed. He, he had us stay up all night because us--we got drunker than hell. [laughs]. Then another and we passed out or what. But uh, he was up all night and, as rocket stuff again I got the shits from the next, the next day. Uuugh. Almost died. The goddamn--I never, that's why I always leery about drinking anything, you know. For the gooks is all. Cause holy shit I thought I was gonna die, you know. [laughs] That raw gut stuff. So, I, I pretty much stayed away 01:15:00from that and just, got--took our two can rations, you know. Saved 'em up a lot of times.

DERKS: So, what was your, uh, cousin's job?

WEBSTER: He was in uh, communications. In the 5th Comm. Battalion, whatever, whatever they did, you know.

DERKS: And, and he could just go out there with you and just--

WEBSTER: Yeah, they, you know, I don't know how come. But then, that's when their, our platoon sergeant, you know told me, "Why the hell are you going back there when you _______." He heard about us getting drunk, so. Comin' around here getting my damn guys drunk, _______. [laughs]. Almost chased him out of there, you know. So, anyway, he went back there. He's--and then he came to see me again though too when we were on the Hill 190 outside Danang there. Which when I say it was the closest to Danang, and our, our uh, supply truck would come in, you 01:16:00know. "God damn dare--what they dare you chump get out of there." "What the hell?" You know, so that was. Well that was good. I was glad to see him, you know. Yeah he's my first cousin, you know. We always--and like I say, he went in six months before me and, in fact he still wanted to kinda sign me up too. I think he got extra Fridays, you know, uh--to kick all that. When he came home. But uh, anyway he had passed away here two years ago. He had cancer, you know, so. That was, that was--pretty, pretty hard on me cause, cause ever since I could remember, you know, being 4-5 years old, we was always together it seemed like, you know. Then after we came back from Vietnam, we was obtain in together and stuff, and then we got out and, you know we worked together all these years 01:17:00and stuff too. You know, not on the same group but the same company and stuff you know. But technically always seeing one-another, you know. Everyday, you know. Stuff, so. I was pretty harmless.

DERKS: I'm surprised they even let him into camp that second time.

WEBSTER: [laughs]. Yeah. Well, I'm at different ser-- difference. But it sergeant then. You know. But that time he just stayed that one day and, he went back that afternoon.

DERKS: So, you guys were out there in the, in the trench celebrating Christmas, huh?

WEBSTER: Yeah [laughs]. Yup. Yeah it has--yeah I know we was--it was around Christmas time. Course I don't know the holiday from the others--when, you know, it--over there.

DERKS: What day of the week it is, and--

WEBSTER: Yeah. You know, being out, out in the field, you know, I guess he 01:18:00didn't want to go back in battalion. They'd have a big dinner and stuff or whatever, you know. But--it would of been nice.

DERKS: Do you remember your birthday over there?

WEBSTER: I don't even think I do know when. I probably know when it was but the, you know, just another day, nothin'--

DERKS: No parties.

WEBSTER: No parties. [laughs] The other thing I made up for when I got home. [laughs] Uh, so that's--well I turned 18 in boot camp. I turned 19 in--Vietnam. And then I was out in the--down in the Caribbean, I think, when I turned 21. Then, by the time--time works out better. Well, I did that Caribbean cruise. Then I did the Med cruise, you know. Then I got back and--the fact that I had 01:19:00exit--I extended six months to go on a Med cruise, you know, so. But then when I got back from that, it was still a--I, got out a little early after, you know, so.

DERKS: So, you weren't even old enough to drink when you were out there getting drunk with your cousin.

WEBSTER: No. [laughs]. Well, I don't work but that uh--I remember when I came home on leave, this one bar my dad used to go to, and, this lady, this old--this older lady, she, she know me. Well, she knew my dad. I guess, for a long time, you know. Before World War II she knew him and stuff and--I would came in there and stuff and--she knew I wasn't old enough. "The Goddamn," she said, "I don't care if the cops come in." She said, "I'll race out with them, goddamnit. You old enough to go fight for your country. You can have beer in my place anytime," you know. Well tell--she knowin' my dad and st-probably me know me since I was a big fart too, you know. But that, uh, didn't that make me feel good, you know. Ick.


DERKS: Well, ok, now you can have this back.

WEBSTER: [laughs]

[Interview Ends]