I Count My Blessings - Volume 1 By Dewey Donald Neufeld

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First part of the autobiography of Dewey Donald Neufeld.

I Count My Blessings

by Dewey Donald Neufeld

September 11, 2023


This autobiography is a humble acknowledgment to the assistance, guidance and love so many wonderful people poured into my life. If it were not for the efforts of these magnificent people, this story would not and could not be told. Because so many good people have touched my life, it makes me feel there is much more good in our world than is generally credited or counted. Either I met just about all the good people in our world or there is more good in humanity than we think. I prefer to believe there is much more good, if we will but look for it.

While it difficult to single out the many individuals who have influenced this work, and my life, the greatest contribution of encouragement came from my cousin, Shirley Ann Leonard. Without her support, this work would have been less detailed, less expressive and certainly less lengthy. There were times, when it seemed much longer than necessary. When I wondered whether the work should be continued, I received reassurance the story should be told as completely as possible. Without telling me what to write, Shirley guided my efforts toward expression with generous amounts of encouragement and technical assistance as the story unfolded.

Woven into this story, is story in the background of the God who was always there, when I did not know Him, when I was running away from making the personal commitment to the relationship He desired, and even when I was not giving God the glory He so rightfully deserves. I was forty-four and a half years old when I was baptized, so you can see, it was a long struggle between me and God. I hope to be able to weave, into this story, the times I believe God was there. It will sound megalomaniacal, but I believe God in intensely, individually concerned with the relationship He desires with each.

I am not certain to what end this story will serve, but it seems necessary to be told. I hope it will help more than it hurts. I know, it has helped me to write about some of the things I have encountered during my life. In the writing, some things are less bothersome than they once were. Perhaps, this is reason enough for anyone to write their autobiography. I hope this work expresses a small measure of the gratitude I feel for the assistance so many people have given me during my lifetime. This book is dedicated to a multitude of wonderful people who have, in the great and small ways, influenced my life and the wonderful God, inspiring their kindness.

Since I left home, to go out and make my own way in the world of responsibilities and obligations, I have been exposed to kind people everywhere I traveled. From Kansas to Japan, Hong Kong to San Francisco, Los Angeles to Honolulu, California to Texas, I have been greeted by a multitude of kind and wonderful people. This abundance of good will has helped instill, in me, the basic belief God has placed within mankind has a tremendous capacity for doing good. I might be called naive, but in spite of the realities of the school of experience, this inspiration cannot be shaken.

I have grown to manhood and accepted my place in society. I am better equipped to handle the vagaries of life, because folks lent me a helping hand, as I was stumbling along on my way to this present position. I have always been too shy and reserved to express the deep sense of gratitude I felt as the kind people offered their assistance. Now, I can only do so, by trying to be worthy of their trust and faith in me.

When critics scoff at my naivety, I cannot help but feel proud my path was crossed by so many men and women of good will. The reason I can chuckle at the critics' efforts to convince me I am wrong, is I know better; I have seen so much good it belies their efforts. But as I am chuckling at their skepticism, I am also mumbling my thanks to God for my extreme good fortune.

Dewey’s Prayer

Lead me Lord—for I know not the way. Strengthen me Lord—for I am weak without Thee. Give me courage Lord—for I am sore afraid. Teach me Lord—for I have much need of learning.

Guide me Lord—even when, I stumble from the pathway Thou has shown. Be merciful unto me Lord—even when, I forget to show love and mercy. Bless me Lord—even when, I forget to show gratitude. Be gentle unto me Lord—even when, I am proud and require a measure of humility.

Forgive me Lord—for I have great need of Thy love! Let me be gentle of speech Lord—for a sharp tongue, no matter how righteous, can turneth away love! Let me sow love, harmony and unity Lord—even when, I am of a mind to turneth away. Lord, “Let me be a little meeker to a brother who is weaker—Let me think a little more of others and a little less of me!”

Thank You, Lord, for the little joys You have allowed us to share. Thank You, Lord, for the late night talks and the quiet interchange of thoughts. Thank You, Lord, for allowing us to share a bit of ourselves with dear friends and loved ones. To make all our worlds a little brighter in the warm glow of our trust in each other and Thee.



01 - The Early Years


The Mennonites in Kansas


Emotional Experiences



02 - A Foster Family

Letter to Art and Ruth

03 - Life in Texas Father Figures

04 - Starting Naval Service Regular Navy Boot Camp Active Duty Navy

05 - Going to Sea Daddy Dies Signal Bridge - Watching the Torpedoes Radioman Third Class - Transferred

06 - Atomic Tests, Then a Man of War CJTF-8 Night Becomes Day Heavy Cruiser - Big Guns

07 - Shore Duty, Corvette and War Easter Break and The Risk of Loving Electronics School and Base Beautification Preparing for War Entering the War Zone

08 - The Chief in Vietnam The After-Effects of Tet War Becomes Personal Mother Dies A Chief’s Men

09 - The Chief’s Sea Story 1968 Tet Offensive I Served with Heroes Last Deployment

10 - Finding Meaning We Are Going Back In the Company of Heroes ─ Norman’s Last Flight My Cousin’s Funeral

11 - The Chief Ashore Senior Chief Denied - Results in a Better Chief Christmas 1970 Marriage Comes

12 - Naval Communications Station, Guam Communications Watch Officer Computers and Communications Leadership and Praise

13 - The Chief’s Last Command Western Pacific Deployment Rendezvous with History My Thoughts When Saigon Evacuated USS Vega’s History of 1975 Deployment Fleet Reserve and Evaluations of Naval Service

14 - Transition Computer Technician and Word Processing Divorce and New Beginnings Family Tree Sharing

15 - Family and “Wish Games” First Trip to Missouri Second Trip to Missouri Christmas 1980 in California

16 - Disappointments 1981 Letter Shirley’s Mini-Reunion

17 - Family and Missouri Johnny Ray’s Family Aunt Ruth’s Family Reunion

18 - Christ Comes to Stay

==Acknowledgment== ===Dewey’s Prayer===


There is a song which says, “When I’m weary and I can’t sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep and I fall asleep counting my blessings . . .” This expresses my views so eloquently. Because I feel my life has been so richly blessed, I am unable to long retain a feeling of depression, when something unpleasant touches my life.

When I catch myself wondering if there are any redeeming virtues left in the human race, I start to mentally listing the wonderful people who have so richly blessed my life. While I do not fall asleep, I soon feel there must be more good in the world around us than others give credit. Either I have been blessed by having met most of the good people in the world or there are still a lot of nice people, who are not being touted in the news media. It seems the good events in people’s lives are not dramatic enough to make most of the spectacular news coverage. Because of the economics of that competitive industry, this is to be expected. Still, it is sad we are not more aware of the good around us.

As I cannot presume to have met all of the good people in the world, I must conclude there is still much to be optimistic about. Too often, we let the unpleasant events cast a dark cloud of pessimism over the countenance we display to the world around us. It is good to stop and count our blessings and the thanksgiving will cause our attitude to blossom in the radiance of the good in our lives.

I do not know at what point I became convinced my life had been so richly blessed by God. I believe the idea has been there for a long time and probably started to germinate and grow shortly after I left home to join the U.S. Navy. I have long been convinced my life has been brought into contact with some exceptionally wonderful people. This conviction is likely fostered by a feeling of inferiority, for in the past, I have found it difficult to believe such wonderful people could want to help or be nice to me. Perhaps, a low opinion of myself raised my esteem for these people, but, I do not believe the answer is so simple. While I recognize a feeling of inferiority in myself, it is something I am comfortable with—I like myself, but I am puzzled, when others like me as well. There seems to be just enough inferiority to create a pleasant sense of humility which I also find comfortable in myself.

I like myself and I hope you will also like Dewey, when you read my story. Most of us look for approval from our friends and loved ones and I am no exception. In respect to excuses, it has been said, “your friends do not need them and your enemies will not believe them.” This work is not offered as an excuse and I am not concerned about what my enemies might think. Still, I would like to explain some of my behavior to my friends, even though they have not asked for these explanations and have accepted my idiosyncrasies with loving kindness. Friendship is a marvelous thing, when we learn people care about us in spite of all our faults, uncertainties and insecurity. It is reassuring, to the ego, to learn we are worthy of the affection of others and it is uniquely special, when those others are the wonderful people who have richly blessed my life.

I believe what we are today is largely the result of our past. The experience, events and people of our yesterdays along with God’s providence to provide an atmosphere of growth, contribute to make us what we are now. If we are satisfied with what we have become, the events of our past do not seem as harsh. I am basically pleased with myself and at ease with what I have become. There are certainly some things I might wish to correct in the mistakes I have made along the pathway of my journey from yesterday to today. However, when I look back at my life, I would most likely make the same mistakes, if I had it to do all over again. For the most part, I believe, I have learned from my errors, although, there may be some who may wonder just how well I learned my lessons in the school of my experience. The benefit of having studied in the “school of hard knocks” is the individualized instruction I have received in the school of experience.

I do not think I would do things much differently, if I had my life to live over—even, if I had the present level of knowledge and experience. I would try to be more attentive to the needs of those I came in contact with, so I might help them in their journey through life. I would try to correct some of the misunderstanding and confusion created by my reticent nature and try to be more communicative of my feelings for others. There would be some things I would wish to “fix,” if I had it all to do over, but mostly I would likely do things pretty much the same as before. Being at ease and comfortable with myself makes the events of the past seem less troublesome, having confessed my sins to my Savior helps.

I have long considered myself to be somewhat of a philosopher and keep referring to myself as a “cracker-barrel philosopher.” This seems a good title for a home-grown, philosophic wanderer traveling through life without any special credentials or diplomas. My only qualification for this title is a deep sense of wonder at the events I am allowed to participate in or the scenes I am privileged to witness as I journey through this life.

I travel through this life with a childlike sense of wonder and awe. I am aware of the depth of my ignorance and am constantly seeking more knowledge, light and wisdom. In spite of my years, I am still awestruck with wonder at the things I see and the people I meet. I still get an emotional lump in my throat whenever I witness some special human kindness done to myself or another, a dramatic example of human courage performed in the face of great adversity, or any number of other emotional displays. As a philosopher, I do not have any profound answers to the burning questions facing our lives. I have only a deep sense of wonder, a profound trust I am not alone and an innate belief there are a lot of good people in the sea of humanity around us!

The feeling I am not alone allows me to try to look at the greater picture painted by the events in our lives. I only see small glimpses and cannot discern what the total picture will be when the “Master Artist” has completed His work. Still, the tiny glimpses are enough to convince me something, or rather Someone other than coincidence, is at work in our lives.

The conviction of a force at work in our lives other than the laws of chance or coincidence is a subject much too lengthy and detailed to expound upon now, so I will leave it for another time. Still, as the topic fascinates me, I will likely comment on the theme from time to time in my writing. I feel I have been extremely “lucky” in my lifetime. In spite of what may appear to be revealed in my writing, I feel I have never lived through any really bad times. I am one of those “lucky” individuals who has never really known adversity. I think this is why I do not have a proper respect for money. I have been too richly blessed to know what it is like to be needy. Sure, I remember some times which were not too pleasant, but even those times were not all that bad. As I look back, God has always looked after me and kept me protected. Because of this, I can afford to have a careless attitude toward material gain. I may pay for this attitude one day, but for the present it allows me to do things and aid some of those closest to my heart.

“We tire of those pleasures we take, but never of those we give.” I do not know who said this, but it describes my thoughts. I am not the most expressive person, when it comes to letting those around me know how much I care for them. Therefore, in doing things for those I care about, it helps them to know what I generally forget to express verbally. Perhaps, this behavior, of wanting to do things for those I care for, is indicative of a feeling of inferiority or insecurity. It could be misconstrued as an effort to buy love, but his is not my aim. I am sure my behavior can be easily explained by those who know about such things. Still, I do not care what it indicates, because I am comfortable with myself and my actions. I realize it is hard for me to express my feelings verbally and this can sometimes create misunderstandings among those I would least like to be uninformed of my feelings for them. So, in doing things for those I care about, it helps both them and me. It is also easy to do things for those I know would do the same for me if our circumstances were reversed.

Because I have this conviction, it is easy to want to do things for people. There are some who may not receive as much attention or expression of my feelings. I am certain they may misunderstand or be jealous, because they did not receive quite as much as another. If this becomes a factor, it is something they will have to deal with themselves, because the fact remains there are some I am closer to than others. There are others whom I am getting to know a little better, the longer I am able to share time with them. If some misunderstanding, I am sorry, but I do not think I will change my feelings or my actions a great deal. Life can be much more pleasant for all of us, if we help each other. This does not mean just money or things. It can be something even more significant such as the gift of time or an attentive ear.

Years ago, I formulated a mental exercise which allows me to keep material “things” in their proper place. The first part of the exercise is to pick out the most treasured possession I owned. This took a bit of thought, but I finally decided the things I valued most were my photographic albums and family pictures. The second part, of the exercise, is to think of all the ways these valued material possessions could be taken away. There are so many ways to lose material treasures no matter what their form or substance. Material gain can be stolen, ravaged by fire, wind, flood and any number of other ways taken from us. Once I realized how easy it is to lose something material, I began to realize there are treasures of greater value which cannot be taken from us. A thief cannot steal the love and affection of our friends and family. Flood, fire or wind cannot damage our inner qualities of character and faith. The less tangible traits of the inner person are far more valuable than whatever precious metals or stones may adorn the outer shell. So while I do not have a great deal of outer wealth and not the best attitude toward amassing such, I am comfortable with myself and feel I have been richly blessed in so many other aspects. I have no desire to be the richest man in the cemetery. While I am sure I cannot take my material gains with me when I die, I feel the inner qualities will follow me beyond the grave!

I was asked to reveal all of myself in the telling of my story. This request has given much stimulus toward an introspective look at myself and this may have been the reason behind the request. It was said, if I could be completely free to express my innermost self, it might make others feel free to reveal theirs. It has been said, the image projected by my story is one of sterility—too clean to be real—and others feel intimidated by the perceived perfection they believe they see (or want to see). While this request is too much for me to respond to at this point in my life (and probably always will be so), it has given me something to think about.

The defensive mechanisms, the years have brought forth, provide a secure barrier which is hard to bring down. There is a part of me which wonders whether this is desirable or even wise. Another part of me is saying, maybe it would be okay to eliminate some of the barriers. I prefer to think I am sharing a large part of myself with my loved ones and friends, as I tell them the story of my life. There is a quotation attributed to Earnest Hemingway which seems appropriate at this time:

“No man can ever reveal me to the world more vividly than I have chosen to reveal myself. No man can conceal himself from his fellow men, for everything he fashions and creates interprets him. I tell people all about myself in my books.”

It is natural for people to reveal more of themselves to those they feel worthy of such trust and who provide a sense of security. Even so, I feel the natural desire to “put my best foot forward.” As a child, I tried very hard to do what was “right” and please to gain love, attention and acceptance. I do not wish to disappoint those who are the closest to me so I try to “reveal” my better qualities and hope they will not discover the less noble side of my character. I would prefer not to reveal all of myself because there are things I do not like in myself. Also, I am a shy, somewhat introverted, private person by nature and inclination and I choose to keep a portion of myself behind the protective mask I wear for my “public” image. Even so, I will now share a portion of myself I find I am less comfortable with in the hope some will see the perceived perfection is but a graven image of a false idol.

One of the things I least like in myself is what I perceive to be a quick temper which I find difficult to keep under control. If someone cuts me off in traffic, I find it easy to verbally lash out in anger in the most unseemly manner. While quick to anger, I believe I am just as quick to cool down. Unfortunately, the damage has been done by that time and I do not like the results of my behavior. Next on the list of things I do not like in myself is a sharp tongue which tends to speak biting words better left unspoken. It is hard for me to keep from using harsh language—especially under the stimulus of my temper. I find this quality repugnant in myself and I am embarrassed by such behavior in myself as well as others. I have been led to believe such behavior is not appropriate and I certainly do not like it in my makeup. I remember a sign I saw when I was stationed on Adak, Alaska, which has stayed with me all these years. It stated, “Profanity is the mark of an inadequate vocabulary!” How true! It is a sign of weakness, since it solves nothing.

It is extremely hard for me to forgive with the complete sense of forgetfulness we are taught to exercise. Instead of “turning the other cheek,” I want to extend a closed fist. To try to overcome this reprehensible tendency, I try to pray for those who have done me wrong. While doing this, I try to cleanse my heart and mean the words I am praying. This is hard and I wonder just how successful I am, but it generally makes me feel more at ease with myself, my God and the person concerned. An indication of my lack of success is I tend to try to erase all feeling for those who have wronged or disappointed me. I try to put those individuals in the past, learn from my mistakes and go on trying to concentrate on the present events. I feel this tendency is contrary to what we have been taught as the lessons of our faith.

There are things we do, say and think which we have been taught by religious and social convention are not desirable. If we accept these guiding influences and try to live within their teachings, we are upset whenever we do something “wrong.” We can (and often do) rationalize our behavior so we can continue without having to answer to the voice of our conscience. We all have our faults, fallacies, frivolities and flaws. Our greatest concern should be if we come to believe these things do not exist within us. Fortunately, it will be awhile before I can feel I have reached such a state of perfection. When I do, I know I will be granted an appropriate measure of humility to bring things back into proper perspective again.

So perfection is a state we have been taught we should strive to reach. Because we wish it so desperately, we seek perfection wherever we think we can find it. This can make us tend to make false idols out of those we believe are more perfect than ourselves. We must beware of this because only One who walked among us attained such a state. The others should not be placed on pedestals as symbols of perfection. There is but One worthy of emulation and the rest of us can but try to live by the lessons He taught. I especially caution those who want to put themselves on a pedestal as a mark of perfection, because in such a lofty position, there is a tendency to “throw stones” at those less perfect. Self-righteous pronouncements and judgments can hurt others and turneth away a loving heart. Pedestals can be a shaky place to stand and because of my lack of perfection, I find it easy to avoid such a lofty perch.

Humility is an easy virtue, if you keep things in a proper perspective. In the light of Christ's perfection, it is easy to be humble. If some were intimidated, by what they perceived to be perfection, I hope they will realize they need only look to One example to follow and it certainly is not this one! So we should not try to judge another person’s state of perfection or imperfection. If we wrongly judge too harshly, we may do severe damage to the one judged and may ourselves stand in judgment for our actions. If we judge wrongly in the other direction, we may tend to make false idols out of those unworthy of such adoration and, again, must pay the price of our judgment. It is much better to accept the persons for whatever good and bad qualities they have and leave all judgments in the hands of One better qualified than ourselves.

I have the same good and bad qualities as anyone else. I have the same hopes, fears, insecurities and conflicts. I am pleased by some of the things I see within myself and troubled by others. It is getting easier to speak of some of the things which have been troublesome in the past, but I doubt if ever all the “veils” will be dropped. There will always be the wish to present my best image to the world, my friends and certainly my loved ones. This should not intimidate anyone or make them feel inadequate for certainly, I have my share of faults. With the help of friends and loved ones, I am finding it easier to present some of these less desirable qualities. Still, there will be a measure of privacy I will desire and expect. I do not wish to exhibit all of my character flaws and I do not think it entirely necessary. It might be better, for me, if I had the courage displayed by others in my family, but I do not. Therefore, I will show those closest to me some of my foibles and those not so dear will be given a more guarded presentation.

Along with the bad qualities, there are some things I like in myself. I am proudest of the help I have been to others. As I have been so helped, I have tried to lend a helping hand to others. This might be analyzed as one with an inferiority complex, searching for acceptance and approval. This may well be, but as long as it pleases me, I see no need to change. I care not the nature of the complex, I am happy with myself and proud I have been able to lend a helping hand from time to time. One maxim in life is: Whatever you know and are convinced is good and right, do it always couched in love and let God get the blame since He says, “In as much as you did it to the least of these My brethren, you did it unto Me.” Further, “What we would the other person do to us, we should do to them first.”

As a practical matter, in helping others with their problems, I have found my own troubles seemed much less than I first thought. In thinking of another person’s problems, I find less time to concentrate on my own woe. I firmly believe in the adage about the man who complained he had no shoes, until he met the man who did not have any feet. If we but look around, we will find plenty of people who have troubles far greater than our own. This helps me keep things in proper perspective and I generally find I would not wish to trade places with them even if I am “barefooted.” I cannot help but believe we get back a measure directly proportionally to what we give out. If we sow trouble, we may reap a whirlwind harvest not to our liking.

Some of proudest accomplishments will not be included in my story, because they cannot be told without sounding like I am bragging. This would embarrass both me, for sounding boastful, and those the stories would concern. Because I am a private individual and would find it embarrassing to be thrust into the spotlight, I trust these stories will not be told until after my death—and only then, if those concerned really feel it necessary. It is because I was so helped by many people, the deeds I am most happy with have been, when I was able to help someone else along a troubled pathway. Because of all the wonderful people who have touched my life, it is hard for me to feel depressed, when I hear about all the bad things going on in the world around us. Either I have met all the good people, or there is more good than people think. Of course, the good things are not generally spectacular enough to make the news reporting.

How does a person measure the value of their life? Do they count the degree of financial wealth or perhaps, consider the magnitude of personal fame and notoriety? Is the asset side of the ledger filled with material grandeur and vast holdings of property? Is not fame and fortune the true test of success and a valid measurement of personal worth? Those of us without grandiose holdings must elect a simpler set of values to substitute for fame and fortune. This is likely the rationalization of one who expects never to amass great financial wealth and who would be uncomfortable in the limelight of notoriety. Someone has said, “Measure success by lives touched and helped across the Brook of Life.”

When I measure and weigh the value of my life, I am comfortable with the way the “business” is going (and growing). There is little likelihood (or desire) of financial greatness and fame seems but a fickle transient. The deeds on the “asset” side of my “ledger” are stories which I would just as soon remain private. If I told these tales, it would sound boastful and unbecoming. If others related the events, I would be uncomfortable and uneasy. While I will not talk about my successes, I do not mind talking about my failures, because I feel some of these incidents must be told in fairness to those who have had their character tainted by falsehood and innuendo and some of this misinformation brought into the light. I also feel others may learn from my failures and this would be reason enough for the telling.

Lately, I have been doing a lot of thinking about why I have found it easier to become closer to the maternal side of my family instead of my father’s side of my family. This is due, in part, to having greater opportunity. Events, such as my cousin Norman Wayne Partridge’s funeral, seemed to forge a growing bond with my maternal family. I seem to feel more at ease within myself with many of my mother’s family. Recently, I have begun to wonder why this should be. I have been trying to look within myself to learn the answer to the questions: “Why don’t I go see dad’s family more than I do?” and “Why don’t I feel closer to them than I do?”

The underlying reason, I believe, would have to be my desire to forget much about my past. I have been trying to forget the disappointments of my youth. Because of their closeness and their attempts to help our family, the paternal side of my family is associated with the things I wanted to forget. It has been easier to run from the memories—if I did not acknowledge them, they might go away. I tried to ignore my past and have succeeded in “blocking out” some of the vivid details of the events which happened in my lifetime. It is easier to push the disappointments, in my life, into the farthermost corners of forgetfulness. If they are pushed back far enough, it is difficult for them to see the light of my recollection. “Blocking out” my disappointments and hurts is easier than dealing with such painful subjects.

But, “blocking out” is not a practical application or technique. It allows the things I did not want to face to remain in the shadows of my consciousness to haunt and torment me by flitting in and out of the view of my memory. These restless spirits, of my memory, remain with me to mar the beauty of my today with ghosts of my yesterdays. Instead of “blocking out” my memories, it is better to bring them out into the light of reason and examine them for form and substance. The examination of these tormenting spirits from my memory allow me to learn they are not to be feared, but rather to be cherished. They helped make me what I am today and if I like myself today, I should not regret the pain of my past. There would not be steel if the iron ore were not refined in the heat of the blast furnace! So it is the mettle of my character was forged under the pressure of my past. We are the product of our past.

The ghosts of my past have been allowed to mar the beauty of today. There were many good times in the past as well as the unpleasant things. The good should not be ignored, because their memory might also remind me of the pain of my disappointments. I choose to not remember the unpleasant past any more than I have to by the fickle circumstances of fate. Then, I decided to write some of the events in my life for the family tree story. The more I wrote on my story, the less I was bothered by the ghosts of past unpleasant memories. The first efforts at writing my story were conducted in the impersonal third person style. As I continued to grow less troubled by past memories being expressed in the biographical sketch, it seemed the impersonal third person style was no longer necessary. I found myself being able to express my memories, of past disappointments, in the more personal first person style of writing.

Revising my story to the new style of writing allowed me to further explain my views, thoughts and emotions about the events which shaped my life. Because I was less troubled by the past, I was better able to explain it in the present. Greater explanation led in turn to less bother about what was being elaborated upon. The ghosts of past disappointments seem less troublesome. They are still about, but we are much more cordial terms. There is no longer the fearful stimulation towards flight, but rather the gentle reminder of the foundation upon which the present is built. Whatever I am or have become has been influenced greatly, by the events and individuals of my past. Add to this the gentle, guidance of a loving God who determined the course of my travels through this life and you have a person with a greater sense of serenity. I know not the destination of my tomorrow, but I am at peace with my today and more comfortable with my yesterdays.

My aunt Velma, a wise lady, once said, “Yesterday is like a cancelled check; Tomorrow is like a promissory note, but Today is ours to spend as we wish.” Perhaps, using today to describe my yesterdays will help someone be less troubled tomorrow. In any event, talking about the past has helped me. It has allowed me to look within myself and question my feelings about some of the past events I once preferred to forget. I do not always get logical answers in response to my questions, but I feel free to ask myself, “Why?” I trust this autobiography will answer some of the “why’s” for my friends and help to explain some of my idiosyncrasies which they have accepted so graciously with loving understanding and often forgiveness. I will let the reader decide whether or not my life has been blessed as I believe it has.

==Chapter 1 ─ The Early Years==

I was born at the home of my maternal grandparents, 420 Avenue B in Newton, Kansas, on Sunday morning of March 27, 1938. At 4:36 A.M., Doctor M. C. Martin, M.D., and nurse Sally McCrary, R.N., attended the birth of the firstborn son of Ida Wilma Lenora May and Herbert Arthur Neufeld. I weighed in at seven and a half pounds, was 21 1/2 inches long and had light blue eyes. My maternal grandmother, Minnie Agnes (Muskat) May, suggested the name Dewey as a first name because it was not a common name. My father liked the sound of Donald as a second name. It was decided; my name would be Dewey Donald Neufeld.

According to mother's entries in my baby book:

“Our baby’s first outing was Saturday morning, April 9th, 1938. We came from Newton to Grandpa Neufeld’s Jacob H. Neufeld when baby was only 2 weeks old.”

“Baby’s first hair was a light brown with a little bit of red cast to it.”

“Now our baby is 19 months and I cut a lock of hair—it’s almost white and he has light blue eyes.”

I said my first word when I was nine months old, started walking at the age of thirteen months and never learned to creep until after I started learning to walk. The most important entry concerned baby’s first birthday and tells where I developed my “sweet tooth.” Mother wrote this entry:

“Baby’s first birthday was celebrated at grandpa Neufeld’s house. Dewey was a very good boy. It rained all day and was awfully muddy. His birthday cake was chocolate with white frosting. He ate about four pieces. We stayed home all day and uncle Edward A. "Ed" Ediger was here too and mother sent Imogene Helen "Gene" (Ediger) Cole and aunt Dorothy, Dorothy Esther (Neufeld) Ediger some cake.”

I have been eating cake from that time on. I can remember making a trip to grandpa Neufeld’s farm and the road being extremely muddy. The car was slipping and sliding and it looked as if we might not be able to get through the country road to the farm. I wonder if this is the same trip I remember?


Because there is indication that much of what we are can be attributed to hereditary influence, some historical background of my family would be appropriate to give an indication of the “stock” from which I may have inherited some of my “mettle.” The paternal side of my family are of “Dutch” Mennonite descent. I always thought we were of German origin, because the family spoke German, until my grandfather, Jacob H. Neufeld, corrected me the last time I saw him alive.[1]

The Mennonites have a dual origin of Switzerland and The Netherlands. From these two countries they spread over Europe, Russia and to America. Therefore, it is said all Mennonites are either of Swiss-German or Dutch-German origin. The Mennonites are one of a denomination of evangelical Protestant Christians, formed from the Reformation movement of the 16th century. The first church was organized in Zurich, Switzerland in 1525 and the members called themselves the Swiss Brethren. They believed that church and state should be separate, and that Reformation leaders had not reformed the church enough. They also believed that baptism and church membership should be given only to those who voluntarily gave up sin. Because they baptized only persons who proved their goodness in their daily lives, they were nicknamed Anabaptists, meaning re-baptizers. Historically, they have stood for adult baptism, aloofness from the state, exercise of the ban, or excommunication, restriction of marriage to members of the group, and practice the rite of foot washing. Its name is taken from Menno Simons (1496-1561), a Roman Catholic priest who was born and lived in Witmarsum, The Netherlands. After his conversion in 1536, he led the Anabaptists in The Netherlands and northern Germany.

The Mennonites were persecuted in many countries. Dutch Mennonites moved to northern Germany and Danzig, Prussia, in the 1600’s and to the Russian Ukraine in the 1700’s. Gdansk, Poland, is the name of the city which was once known as Danzig. I believe my family settled in the delta region formed where the Wista (Vistula) and Nogat Rivers empty into the Bay of Danzig and the Baltic Sea. It was a 900-mile (as the crow flies) wagon train journey in 1820-21 to the area in South Russia where they settled after leaving Danzig. In 1874, many Mennonites moved from Russia to Canada and Kansas, Nebraska, and nearby states. A Kansas Historical Marker erected by the Kansas Historical Society and State Highway Commission gives the following description of the Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church and its members’ immigration to the United States:


Beginning in 1874, hundreds of peace-loving Mennonite immigrants settled in central Kansas. They had left their former homes in Russia because of a hundred-year old immunity from established religious orthodoxy and military service was being threatened.

The Alexanderwohl community, so named because of a solicitous visit by Czar Alexander I with Prussian Mennonites in 1821, had lived happily in southern Russia for more than 50 years before coming to America. Originating in The Netherlands in the 16th century, the community moved to Prussia in the 17th century and later to Russia, always seeking freedom from intolerance and persecution. Their decision to come to America and Kansas, where they chose lands in Marion, Harvey, McPherson and other nearby counties, was due largely to the efforts of the Santa Fe railroad’s foreign immigration department. With them, they brought the hard winter wheat which has since helped make Kansas the breadbasket of the world.

The Alexanderwohl church is typical of many Mennonite organizations in this part of Kansas. Today these religious folk prosper in a modern world while retaining their original philosophy of freedom and manner of worship.

My paternal grandfather, Jacob H. Neufeld, was born on December 15, 1879, in Neu-Halbstat, Darpe (village) Number 4, Sagradealka (Sagradowka), South Russia. My grandfather did not have a middle name, but used the name Henry to explain the initial “H” in his name. His father and mother immigrated to the United States when he was seven years old (August 1, 1887) with the Mennonite movement from Russia. My grandfather told me relatives took his family to Odessa in a horse and buggy. The Peter Johann K. Neufeld family sailed from Odessa, Russia, in a small ship to a large town (Bremen) in Germany. In Germany, they changed their money from Russian to United States currency. They then boarded a larger ship, the Elbe, to make the journey to the United States. The voyage took nine days from Germany to New York. The ship’s captain was a man named Von Goessel. The town of Goessel, Kansas, is named after the captain after it was learned he had gone down with his ship when it sank after hitting an iceberg.[2]

The Peter K. Neufeld family left New York for Hillsboro, Kansas, on a Santa Fe train. My great grandfather (Peter K. Neufeld) rented a farm six miles south of Walton, Kansas, until he died on December 26, 1902.

My grandfather, Jacob H. Neufeld, told me his grandfather, Peter Neufeld, had supplied milk to the Russian Czar (Nicholas I?) when the ruler of Russia had come to the coast for a vacation. Grandfather’s parents, Peter Johann K. Neufeld and Anna (Friesen) Neufeld, and the Abe Friesen family also helped milk the cows. A German leader by the name of Cornice Nealista had brought about twenty cows. The czar’s life was being threatened and this man, Nealista, trusted Peter Neufeld. He asked Peter Neufeld to supply the milk while the czar was on vacation, because they were concerned about the czar being poisoned.[3]

I never knew my paternal grandmother, Helena (Reimer) Neufeld. She died before I was born. My paternal grandmother was born on a farm four miles east of Goessel, Kansas, on December 23, 1883, and died on April 23, 1935. Her parents immigrated to the United States from South Russia in the year 1877 and arrived in Newton, Kansas, on the fourth of July. It saddens me not to have known my grandmother, because the pictures we have show a lovely person with a delightful twinkle in her eye and the look of a person who enjoyed life.

My grandfather, Jacob H. Neufeld, Jacob H. Neufeld, married my grandmother, Helena (Reimer) Neufeld, on November 4, 1909. They lived on farms near Walton and Peabody, Kansas. My father, Herbert Arthur Neufeld, was born on February 13, 1912, in Peabody, Kansas. My father was raised on a farm about midway between Moundridge and Peabody, Kansas. He had one older sister, Hedwig Helena (Neufeld) Schmidt, two younger sisters, Hilda Marie (Neufeld) Friesen and Dorothy Esther (Neufeld) Ediger and a younger adopted brother, Willard Milton Neufeld.


My maternal family is derived from German and English origins who united in Missouri, in the early 1800’s. The Muskat family immigrated to the Missouri frontier around 1834. The Schumaker (Shoemaker) family is from Pennsylvania Dutch origin. I do not know when they immigrated from Germany. The May family is of English/Irish origin.

My maternal grandfather, William Logan May, married my grandmother, Minnie Agnes (Muskat) May, on March 18, 1903, in Oak Hill, Crawford County, Missouri. They had nine children, but one was born dead. They knew only the “hard times” of the edge of poverty as they tried to raise their family in Missouri and Kansas. The family moved to Hesston, Kansas, in 1915. My mother, Ida Wilma Lenora May, was the sixth child born into the family (October 11, 1916) and the first child born after moving to Kansas.

While poor all her life, my grandmother, Minnie Agnes (Muskat) May was a strong willed woman with great religious convictions. She held her family together with courage, will power, and faith when there was little else. It was she who moved her family to Kansas, without even enough money for a ticket to go all the way on the train. They were to meet my grandfather, William Logan May, in Kansas City and he would have money enough to move them the rest of the way to Hesston. It must have taken a great courage to leave the area my grandmother knew and where her friends and family lived to move to a strange place without even enough money to go all the way. To move her four children and their meager belongings and not even know if they would be able to find my grandfather in a strange city must have required great faith and courage for my grandmother.

While I have known some difficult times, I have never had to experience the bitter poverty of my family or the desperation of trying to raise a family with so little money as to live in constant doubt and worry. My grandmother was a great lady and perhaps, I have inherited a small measure of her determination and perseverance.

===Emotional Experiences===

My father, Herbert Arthur Neufeld. married my mother, Ida Wilma Lenora May, on August 25, 1936. My parents had five children born to that union: Dewey Donald, Gerald Dean “Butch” or “Jerry,” Richard Lyle “Dickie” or “Rick,” Donna Jean “D.J.” (Tyler) (Perry) (McClung), and Sharon Darlene (Martin), before they were divorced on March 30, 1945.

My father next married Nora Marie Jarvis on August 28, 1945. She was the third member of the triangle and one of the reasons for the dissolution of my father’s first marriage. To this union was born five children: Sandra (died at 6 weeks), Linda Susan “Linda” (Manning), Patricia Kay “Pat” (Nordmeyer) (Unruh), Pamela Ann “Pam” (Nichols), and Herbert Allen “Herb.” My mother, Ida Wilma Lenora May later married Curtis Willard Hausey and they had one child, Earnest Carlton “E.C.”

The first five, of us Neufeld children, alternated between living with our mother, who had legal custody, and our father and his new family. There was always the threat hanging over the first five of us, we would end up in an orphan or foster home if the slightest thing went wrong. I do not remember where this threat originated. I once thought it was with my stepfather, but I in reading some of the old letters, it was talked about between my mother and father before Curtis came on the scene. The last time we were brought back to Kansas (May or June 1949), it was for this purpose. Our uncle, Edward A. "Ed" Ediger, informed our stepfather such a move was unacceptable and he would arrange for our care. We were taken back to our father and stepmother. This was a brave thing for uncle Ed to take on, because his family was poor and another five children to raise was a staggering prospect.

The incident which seemed to bring our departure, from Fort Worth to Kansas, was my two brothers playing in the house on Lemming Avenue and breaking the glass-top coffee table. I learned later, my brothers and sisters thought it was the breaking of the coffee table which caused us to be taken back to Kansas. My stepfather was certainly enraged, some whippings were administered and we were soon being taken back to our father. When we discussed this incident years later, my brother, Richard, said he grew up feeling responsible for what had happened to us. This was a terrible burden for a young child to have to carry! Needless to say, our childhood was one of turmoil and lack of stability.

I can remember a trip my father made to see us while we were living in Texas. My uncle Edward A. "Ed" Ediger brought my father and my grandfather to Texas. I do not remember where they were going, but they stopped to see us on the way back to Kansas. My father started giving mother a difficult time to the embarrassment of my grandfather and uncle. They tried to settle my father down, but seemed to have no effect. We kids were terrified of what was going on. Finally, mother took a butcher knife out of the kitchen and told my father he would be leaving. When my stepfather found out about the incident, he reported he had sent word to Kansas, my father had better not come back to Texas again. Supposedly, if he did, my stepfather would shoot him.

My aunt Myrtle told me of another unpleasant incident before my parent’s divorce, but I could not remember it. There seems to be a tendency to block out unpleasant events from the mind and the things I witnessed between my parents are difficult to remember. My childhood was traumatic, so it is understandable some of my recollections are indistinct and fuzzy at best. As my brothers and sisters talk about the events in our lives, many things are being remembered which were once blocked out. Donna Jean’s autobiography has helped me remember several incidents with more detail than before I saw her work.

I do not know whether a measure of my feelings of inferiority can be attributed to a feeling of blame for my parent’s divorce. Perhaps, some of the “guilt” was transferred to me and I thought I might have, in some way, been the blame for their not staying together. Because I have “blocked out” so much of what happened, it is hard for me to say if I felt responsible. It seems entirely possible for my subconscious to have assumed I was at fault, because it seems the mantle of responsibility fell upon my shoulders at an early age. I cannot remember a time, when I was not responsible for something. Being the eldest, I was taking care of my younger brothers and sisters as long as I can remember. I was helping around the house in whatever capacity I was able.

It could have been the threat of being placed in an orphan home, which led to my desire to want to please. It may have been the sense of responsibility of being at fault for my mother and father’s divorce, which drove me to want to help out or please my elders. It may have been just being a “good kid” was my way of gaining love and attention. Regardless of the reasons, I accepted the responsibility and tried to do as much as I could to help.

It may have been the terrible uncertainty of the orphan home, which made the fights between my parents and later between them and my stepparents so upsetting to me. It bothered me very much as a child, and even as an adult, I find it most uncomfortable to be around people who are bickering or fighting. I do not like verbal abuse, even now, so I can understand why I would try to forget some of these things from my childhood.

My father started drinking heavily after the failure of his first marriage, possibly due to a feeling of guilt and depression. He found it difficult to hang on to a job for very long and worked at whatever he could find. Consequently, his new family and the original five of us children spent a great deal of time moving around; usually, just one jump ahead of our creditors. In desperation, my grandfather borrowed the money to build our family a small house. The little five room house was on the edge of the town of Moundridge, Kansas, on Ruth Street. My grandfather, Jacob H. Neufeld, did most of the carpenter work himself. Finally, we would have a permanent place to live and could cease our rambling.

The little house on Ruth Street was simple. There was not enough money for fancy things. There was no bathtub; bathing was done in a large wash tub in the kitchen. There was no hot water heater; the water was heated on the stove. There were no inside toilet facilities, although there was a room built for a bathroom. I guess money must have run out before the plumbing could be put in. It was a simple abode, but it was the first real home our family had known in a long time. My grandfather did pretty well, with his limited resources, and our family owes him a large debt of gratitude. I read once, where privacy is tremendously important to people of working-class background who may have had to sleep three or four to a room sometime in their lives. These people want walls around every room, and they want doors to the rooms, not entry ways. This seems to fit my architectural preferences and privacy is important to me.


One of my earliest memories involves being laid on a bed, when a baby. The bed was against the wall, in a room just off the kitchen of my grandfather’s farmhouse. Being just a baby, I was fascinated by the pretty wallpaper and began eating pieces of it. It may be I heard the story and just believe I can remember the event. Be that as it may, it was on my grandfather Neufeld’s farm I developed a taste for exotic foods. I managed to pull off pieces of the wallpaper and eat them. Apparently, my concerned parents discovered what was happening and removed me from the tempting morsels. After some worry on the part of the relatives, no apparent ill effects were noted other than a ravenous appetite which remains with me still.

Another momentous event stands out in my mind and was confirmed many years afterward. As a small child, I helped fill up the gas tank of my cousin’s 1929 Harley Davidson Racer motorcycle. The only problem was, I filled the tank with tiny handfuls of dirt and sand. I was so small, I had to reach over my head to place the contents of each tiny fist into the motorcycle’s tank. I happily filled the tank, until I tired of being helpful. Many years later my cousin, William Rankin “Billy” Watkins, confirmed the incident. I thought it took place at the house of my maternal grandparents, but I learned from my cousin the incident took place in McPherson, Kansas.

At the house of my maternal grandparents, I learned not to play with wasps. There was a wasp nest in the mail box and I was told to stay away from them both. Still, it seemed like a good idea to go get the mail for my grandparents. Not being able to see into the mailbox, because of my small stature, I plunged my hand into the inside to retrieve the mail. Instead of the mail, I stirred up the wasps and proceeded to beat a hasty retreat towards the house with the wasps in hot pursuit. This incident did teach a healthy respect for those little winged critters with fire in their stingers. I believe I was more frightened than hurt by the wasps.

As a lad, I enjoyed the trips to my grandfather’s farm. I remember playing in the tent-like foliage of the two, large cedar trees between the house and the road. The trees were planted on either side of the sidewalk. I enjoyed climbing on the limbs. It was like climbing a tree inside a tent. The limbs hung down and were like a canopy isolating the tree from the outside world. The cedar trees provided a private world of adventure. The call for adventure beckoned me to explore new realms.

The call for adventure on the farm also produced several painful reminders to be a bit more cautious in my explorations. I learned to give the pot-bellied wood stove a wider berth, when I burned the back of my left hand on the stove. The scars remained for the longest time during my childhood. I learned to stay away from the yawning, black abyss of the cellar door after falling down the steps on at least two different occasions. I fell down the cellar steps at my grandfather’s farm and again at my aunt Hilda and uncle Jake Friesen’s house in Inman.

When just a little older, the farm began to hold even greater fascination and a fun time was had on our family visits. My young uncle, Willard, would give us children rides on one of the horses used to do the farm work. He was once showing off for us children by riding down the driveway rather quickly, when the horse stumbled and rolled over on uncle “Bill.” I thought, at the time, that the only thing injured was the rider’s dignity, when both the animal and rider got to their feet. I later learned uncle Willard had broken his arm, which may account for the reason it is the last time I can remember being taken for a ride on the horse.

The story is told of my grandfather, Jacob H. Neufeld, planting some horse radish on the farm. The plants multiplied and did quite well. they became so abundant, after several years, it was decided to plow them up. The plowing only made the horse radish more abundant. While I was too young to remember the event first hand, the story stuck in my mind, when someone in the family told it on my grandfather. The curious thing is, I cannot remember how the plants were finally killed off. I had visions of a tremendous horse radish jungle growing on the old home place and taking over the entire yard.

Another story I heard was concerning the time, when crows were a menace to the farmers. The farmers would gather to try to kill the crows. They would get as many men as possible with shotguns. The men would sneak up to the hedge row where the multitude of crows were roosting in the trees. In the dark, the crows either would be asleep or would not see the men and did not fly away as the men came up to the hedge row. The men would line up with their shotguns. When the signal was given, all would fire their shotguns into the branches of the trees. The firing would cause the uninjured crows to fly away, but the farmers would rush up and club the wounded crows on the ground. Someone’s city cousin was visiting and wanted to accompany the farmers on the night’s crow hunt. He was given a shotgun and it was assumed he knew how to shoot the weapon. The “city slicker” took his place in the line on the dark night. Somehow, he managed to hold the double-barrel shotgun to his shoulder while he put both index fingers on each of the shotgun’s triggers. When the signal was given, he pulled both triggers at the same time, apparently thinking this was why there was two triggers on the gun. The recoil knocked him down and nearly broke the index finger on each of his hands.

I was in kindergarten, when my mother baked some cupcakes for my birthday party at the school. I was proud to be able to help pass out the cupcakes to my classmates. I remember, when the president died in office. The children gathered around the flagpole as the flag was lowered to half-staff. I did not know anything about President Franklin D. Roosevelt except he must have been someone quite important. I remember my first grade class being taken for a ride on a fire truck. It was quite exciting for everyone in the class. Some of the children were allowed to wear the firemen’s hats, when we were riding on the truck, but I do not recall being one of the lucky ones.


As an adult, I can look back upon the adventures of childhood and wonder how children ever manage to survive into adulthood if mine was a normal youth. One of our thrilling adventures was to climb up the brick-layer’s scaffolds and leap off the top of the walls into the rather small pile of sifted sand. The building was an automobile dealership being built in McPherson, Kansas. The walls were nearly finished, when this sport was discovered. My brother, Gerald, and I would climb up the inside scaffolding and leap off into the sand from what now seems like a frightening height. Then, we found it quicker to climb the boards bracing the walls on the outside. We would scale the boards, like monkeys up a coconut tree, and leap out into space with the childlike confidence we would not be hurt because of the soft, sand pile below. There is no fear in the hearts of the children. We only knew it was great fun. Still, something inside told us, it would be better if we did not tell our parents of this adventure. God’s angels must have to work hard, protecting young people out for adventure.

Many such events never made it to the ears of our parents. One adventure happened when we lived in McPherson, Kansas, when I and my brothers were playing at floating our home-made sailboats in a large body of water. A tremendous rain storm had dumped a lot of water. The water filled up the pit of the ready-mix cement facility. It was a deep pit under a set of railroad tracks. The sand and cement train cars would be put onto the rails over the pit and the cars would dump their contents into what must have been a ten or twelve foot deep pit. A conveyer belt took the sand and cement to overhead bins where it was dispensed to the mixer trucks.

The pit was level full of water and the only thing keeping us at bay was a simple board fence placed around it to warn the workers. My brothers and I were leaning through the boards, floating our boats in the lake provided by the rain. My youngest brother, Richard Lyle, fell through the boards, when he leaned over too far trying to retrieve his boat. None of us could swim and my brother was not doing very well at learning. I did not know what to do. I knew I should not jump in the water and try to help him, because I could not swim and we would both be in trouble then. I had a thought which God’s angels must have inspired, because it was beyond my experience. There was a ladder used by workmen to get down into the pit to check the conveyer belt. I thought, if I could just pull on the ladder, I might be able to help my brother. I pulled on the end of the rough-board ladder and pulled the sunken steps under my struggling brother. I quickly took my brother back to the house, but told my stepmother only that Rick had fallen into a puddle of water—it was not mentioned where the water was located.

Another fascinating haunt was some storage tanks down by the same railroad tracks. The tanks were a little farther down the tracks. The three of four tanks were about fifteen feet high. On the top of the tanks was a little catwalk which allowed a person to go from one tank to the other. With a little more daring, my brothers and I discovered we could step from tank to tank without using the catwalk. On one of the frequent trips to the tanks, our littlest sister, Sharon Darlene, was tagging along after her brothers. We boys climbed up the ladder, leading to the top of the tanks and the catwalk, without giving any thought to the little girl trying to follow. Our sister made it up several steps before she lost her grip on the rungs of the ladder and fell off backwards. She put a nasty gash in the back of her head which took several metal clamps to close.

I have apprehensions about the value of fireworks in the hands of children. I was lighting some firecrackers, when one of them did not go off as expected. I walked over to the firecracker and was going to break it apart and light the powder to make it fizzle. As I reached for the firecracker, it exploded and blasted something into my eye. I found it difficult to see out of that eye for quite some time afterwards. One should be extremely cautious around fireworks and not take these tiny explosive devices for granted.

One of my most vivid memories is of the lasso. I wanted a rope lasso for the longest time. I kept pestering my father to get me one. After quite some time, my father relented and we went to the hardware store to buy the lasso. We also purchased a metal eye and my father spliced it into the end of the rope. I was extremely proud of my lasso. I knew it was just like the ones the cowboys used. I would practice with it constantly, trying to learn how to rope anything that moved or that did not move. One summer evening, relatives were visiting and all of us children were playing outside. It was dark and we were running and chasing each other. My brother, Gerald, was running from me, when I got the idea I could lasso him. As we ran along, I flipped the rope up and dropped the loop around Gerald’s neck. I then stopped, while he kept running, until he hit the end of the rope and left his feet. The rope left a terrible burn on his neck and the fall knocked the wind out of Gerald. This was the last I ever saw the lasso. I am not sure what happened to it, but it was never to be had after this event. This probably hurt me about as much as the rope had hurt my brother.

A happier memory involves the iceman’s gift of a chunk of ice. We children would follow the iceman on his rounds in the neighborhood. One time, he gave us a piece of ice, which was rather large to us children. It may have been around five pounds. It was too large for us to eat. The only thing I could think of was to get up on the porch railing and throw the ice down on the cement porch. The plan was to smash the ice into smaller and more manageable pieces. I climbed onto the railing, the ice was handed up to me, I raised it as high as I could and the ice crashed down. It broke into many little pieces which all of us children grabbed and stuck in our mouths to suck on in the heat of the summer afternoon. The iceman’s gift was nice!

It is not a good idea for children to cause their mothers worry. This lesson, in human behavior, was brought home most vividly, when I went to see my best friend, Paul Ediger, who lived about a block up the street. The two of us were inseparable and seemed to be at either one or the other’s house all the time. We played for awhile, then Paul’s family got ready to go pick up his older brother at work. They asked me if I wished to go along. Naturally, this seemed like a good idea. I completely forgot that I was supposed to be home in about an hour—around five o’clock, I think. Paul’s brother had to work late and did not get off work until nearly seven o’clock. The family waited for him outside in the car. It was nearly eight o’clock when I returned home. I found a worried mother who had even been thinking of calling the police, when her son had not returned home when expected. My mother proceeded to apply a razor strap in a most undignified place which left an impression on my memory. This experience taught me to be certain my parents knew where I was going and when I would be coming home. I did not want to confront the visage of a worried mother again.

The worry of my parents’ impending divorce must have created an unsettled subconscious. For a time when we lived in McPherson, I had terrible nightmares of being burned up in a fire while skeletons were trying to get me. I was glad when these nightmares stopped. For the longest time, I also had the fear of the bridge falling, whenever I rode over one as passenger in a car. I remember, as a tiny child, standing with my mother on a bridge-like structure over some railroad tracks. I think we were waiting for my father to get off work. My father may have been riding on the little rail cars track workers use. I seem to remember my mother and I waved at the workers on the little train cars.

In McPherson, I remember a fortune teller telling the grown-up’s fortunes. The children were made to play outside, but I had to go inside on some pretext or other. I wanted to watch, so the fortune teller asked me what I most wished. I said a horse. She did something with the cards and told me I would have my wish in so many months. I cannot remember the figure except it was a rather large number of months. It could be the smart fortune teller had found an effective way of getting rid of pesky children with overactive curiosities. I have yet to receive the horse.

I can remember my mother making cottage cheese. I do not remember developing a taste for the dish, until much later in life. The cottage cheese’s taste and texture reminded me of sour milk and I did not like that taste. To this day, I do not like buttermilk for the same reason. In the days of the ice box, the milk soured easily. Still, the cheese was put into a cloth sack and hung outside on the clothesline pole. I also remember the same clothesline pole knocking out Gerald's front tooth, when I accidently bumped into him. My brother met the clothesline pole with his mouth and the tooth suffered from the impact. Our traumatic childhood may be the reason Gerald and I do not have a much closer relationship.

My brothers and I went through a phase, when we spent every possible dime we could get our hands on for comic books. It would be nice to have a stack of those books now, since they have become collector’s items of some value. Then, they were just a stimulus to the imagination and a source for daydreams of adventure.

I remember, spending three days in the hospital to have my tonsils removed, when I was nearly six years old. Although it was January 21, 1944, according to my baby book, the weather was beautiful and made it so hard to be cooped up in a hospital bed. I watched the squirrels playing on the lawn and trees outside the hospital grounds. I so wanted to get out of the hospital room. I remember, fighting when they put the mask over my face and started to administer the anesthetic. After I awoke, I was asked what I most wanted to eat. I chose ice cream. Ice cream was such a treat to us, it would be the first thing chosen. I could not swallow the ice cream and was so disappointed.

Since ice cream was such a treat, I would try to talk my father into making us children some “snow ice cream.” The recipe for snow ice cream involved clean snow, milk, vanilla extract, and sugar. The milk, sugar and vanilla mixture was mixed with the clean snow and a substitute ice cream was made which tasted delicious to us children. When winter arrived, I would welcome the first snowfall, knowing soon we would be able to have some snow ice cream. I still retain a great fondness for ice cream.

Another recipe, I can remember, concerns home-made carbonated soda water. While I cannot remember the proportions of the recipe, it concerned water, vinegar and baking soda. The resulting mixture made a fizzing soda tasting drink which would have been better if it had been made with some flavoring to add to the mixture.

I can remember some incidents about World War II. There was a popular little song called, “Bell-bottomed trousers, coats of Navy-blue” I tried to learn to sing. I remember, when my father was drafted into the Army. I was told my mother talked to the draft board, because my father was not giving us any support and if he was in the Army, there would be the government allotment. Be that as it may, I was proud of the helmet-liner my father sent each of his three sons and the picture of him in uniform he sent me. I believe I was in the second or third grade at the time.

I wore my “helmet” proudly to school. During recess, I decided to test the device I thought would stop bullets. The helmet-liner was not the steel outer shell which actually provided the protection. This was painfully learned, during recess, when I went running toward a stately tree on the playground to butt it like a Billy goat. Wearing the “helmet,” I knew I would not be hurt and this would show everyone the protective capabilities of the “helmet,” I was so proud to have. The stars which danced in front of my dazed eyes gave vivid demonstration of the lesson learned about trusting the bullet-stopping ability of helmet-liners. If it were not for this early “helmet” testing, I might have grown much taller and become a professional basketball player.

In McPherson, Kansas, there was a drainage ditch between the railroad tracks and the road. The tracks were higher than the road and water gathered in a pool between the road and tracks. The pool was about three feet deep and rather large. It was great fun to take the old railroad ties and float them in the water as boats which could be ridden in half-submerged condition. The pond had its hazards. I cut the bottom of my left foot on a broken piece of glass on the muddy bottom. Still, it was fun on a hot summer day to splash around in the poor folks swimming pool.

Poor folks learn to survive by using whatever resources they have available. There was not a lot of money to be had, so I could not ask my parents for things like candy or sweets. If these things were desired, it meant doing something to obtain the goals. Money was literally within my grasp. With the aid of a “gunny sack,” I had only to walk along the highway and pick up the discarded soda and beer bottles. The bottles were sold after they had been cleaned and sorted. This was how I learned to be independent and gained the finances I desired. Sometimes, I would give the money to my stepmother and she would figure how many groceries we could buy with it. Other times, I would buy candy and appease, with childish delight, my sweet tooth. Usually, I would take the assorted candy bars home to share with my younger brothers and sisters.

One of the civic organizations of Moundridge, sponsored a kite flying contest. The contestants had to make their own kites. String and sticks were provided, but paper and labor were the charge of the contestants. I got my paper from my father at the flour mill where he worked and made my kite. At the contest, I was able to get my kite airborne first. I won first place in this first event for getting the kite up in the air, at the end of the string, the quickest. However, it was with great difficulty I managed to keep it aloft. The kite was tied so it continued to make large loops in the air and seemed destined to crash into the ground. Some stroke of fate or the angels kept the kite up, but I was not able to do anything in the other events, until time came for the most loops. My kite would not stop and no one else could make their kite do a loop. Consequently, I won first, second and third place in this event.

When the points were figured from all the events, I had won the overall first place, a modest little trophy with one arm broken off and a little over five dollars in prize money. The trophy was kept, but the prize money was given to my stepmother to buy groceries. The prize money came at a most opportune time, when the family’s finances were at one of their lowest points, because my father had gone off somewhere to look for work and had not yet returned. My stepmother greatly appreciated the money brought in from the kite flying contest. I do not remember what became of the little trophy, because there was a time, when I wanted to forget my unsettled childhood and did not want anything around to remind me of what I had been through.

Yes, our family was poor. There were times when the family had barely enough to eat and these were the times the “gunny sack” would be taken out for many workouts. Other times, a relative or social worker would stop and deliver a box of groceries. I did not give much thought to the arrival of the groceries. I just accepted the fact someone, other than my father, had provided them. However, one box contained a large, Hershey chocolate candy bar for each of us children and this did impress me. The thoughtful person who packed that box was remembered many times even though the name remained a mystery for many years. I thought it was so delightful for someone to remember the children, when they were extending a helping hand to the family. Little details such as candy for deprived children are so easy to overlook. Many times, I thanked God for providing someone so thoughtful, when we needed the help so tremendously. It was not until later in life, I learned aunt Hedwig and uncle Art Schmidt had delivered that box and were responsible for the thoughtful candy for us children.

I can remember going along with my grandfather on a trip to Inman, Kansas. My grandfather had once lived there, in a little house, and was returning to see if he might be able to borrow some money to help support our family. We had to hitchhike, since my grandfather had no car to make the trip. It was a hot day and we walked most of the 15 or so miles. Even then, it was difficult to get a lift. I do not remember if our trip was successful, but we did not have to walk back to Moundridge. It was nice to spend the time visiting with my grandfather. I had so little time with my grandfather, each moment now, seems a precious treasure. I persistently requested the honor of accompanying my grandfather, until the permission was granted.

As a young lad, I spent many hours at the blacksmith shop, watching, with fascination, as the smith pounded the white hot plowshares to a sharp point. With great interest, I watched the smith heat the iron in the forge, first to a cherry red and then to white hot. With a long pair of iron tongs, the smith removed the plowshare from the fire and placed it on a large machine that hammered it to the desired shape. When the smith had the plowshare to his liking, he would plunge it into the big tub of water causing a great hissing noise and much steam. The blacksmith seemed to tolerate curious boys in his shop and would let them try to pound a piece of cold iron, with one of his big hammers, into some recognizable form. After attacking the chunk of metal vigorously for a time, we would retire to an empty nail keg to listen to the smith and his cronies swap stories. The blacksmith shop was as much a social place as a professional spot.

My uncle Jake D. Friesen owned a blacksmith shop and hardware store in Inman, Kansas. I remember my uncle Jake and uncle Edward A. "Ed" Ediger, at one of the family gatherings, trying to see who was the stronger. The contest took place at uncle Ed's farm with my two uncles taking turns holding a sledge hammer vertical, at arm’s length, with one hand. Then, they would slowly lower the sledge hammer, until it touched their nose and raise it back to the vertical position. Both of my uncles were able to perform this feat without smashing their noses as we children watched with fascination. It took tremendous arm and wrist strength to perform this feat and it still is amazing to me to think of their feat. What is even more staggering, to my imagination, is the fact I seem to recall the sledge hammer being one of the large twelve pound ones used to drive posts in the ground. Be that as it may, this is what sticks in my memory.

On other times, I would wander out of Moundridge, cross a couple of fields and sit by the little creek, when I wearied of watching the smith at his tasks. During these quiet times, I would observe the mud turtles sunning themselves, or a crayfish backing into deeper water, or the birds singing in the trees. I once tried my hand at fishing in the creek. I cut a willow branch for a pole, tied some string and a fishing hook to the pole and proceeded to try to catch a fish. After using nearly all the worms I had dug for bait, I finally hooked the catfish which had been nibbling on the bait all afternoon. The fish was slightly over a pound, but to me it seemed larger. After the moments of solitude and enjoying the revelations of nature, I would amble back to my troubled world in town.

While returning home from one of my trips to the stream, I found a broken machete-like corn knife. It did not have the handle and was rusty. This did not matter, because my head was filled with visions of making it into a hunting knife. It was ground to some semblance of a point at the blacksmith shop. It was starting to look like a hunting knife, but the problem of a handle remained. When I found the old jawbone of a steer which had been butchered, visions of a fancy bone handled hunting knife filled my imagination. While trying to cut the jawbone with the newly acquired, almost-hunting knife, it slipped and nearly took off the knuckle of my left index finger. It was then, the hunting knife ceased to be a neat idea and was discarded in favor of trying to stop the bleeding of the cut.

I was a proud lad. My bitterest memory is the time I had to wear the clothes, some nice people had given me, to church. In the same congregation was the son of those nice people. His name was in the waistband of the trousers he had outgrown and his parents had given to the poor kid down the street. It hurt my pride to have to wear the hand-me-down trousers to church and I was very self-conscious. I sat in the pew thinking everyone in the church knew the pants, I had on, were not mine but some other boy’s. I don’t remember ever going back to that church. I now realize I was selfish to think along those lines. Such thinking undermines the good work of the people who were only trying to salvage a bit of my character out of the chaos in which I lived. However, the memory will always haunt me and has given me the strong conviction never again will I wear another kid’s trousers. This attitude remained, until I finally gave my heart to Jesus after so many years of running away from making a commitment to our Lord. Anyway, this experience also taught me charity should be best handled with a gentle hand to prevent injury to the recipient’s pride. I have attempted to follow this lesson during the times I have been able to lend a helping hand to my relatives.

Near the school in Moundridge was a small park. During the winter, the children would slide on the ice of the frozen stream flowing through the park. During one of these morning skating excursions, before school started, I fell through the ice. We would run along the bank, stop and slide on the ice. I lost my footing and landed in a most undignified manner. The seat of my trousers hit the thin ice in the middle of the stream. The stream was shallow so the only danger was the soaking of body and pride. It is difficult to act nonchalant, when you are cold and wet. It seemed best to go back home instead of to school. It is not known if this incident had anything to do with most of us children coming down with whooping cough about that time. I can remember, being quarantined and the doctor prescribing doses of vitamins.

The town dump was a fascinating place to visit. The opportunity to make some “find” was ever present. One time, I found an old golf club and took it home. Across the field from the dump was a dried up pond. The banks of the pond contained some holes among the dried grass and weeds. I knew the holes must be animal burrows and house some animal—maybe a wolverine. I decided to “smoke out” the animal and see if I could catch it. There was no thought given as to what I might do if I caught something so wild as a wolverine. It would have been like the story of the fellow having the tiger by the tail and could not turn loose of it for fear of being eaten by the tiger. Still, I was determined to carry out the project and capture the creature. This bold plan necessitated a trip home to get some matches.

Upon returning to the pond, some paper was gathered up and kindling placed in the mouth of one burrow entrance. The small fire was lit. I proceeded to the other hole I knew must be the exit to await the animal which would most certainly come charging out. I am not sure what I would have done if an animal had come out, but I was intensely watching the exit hole, when something told me to look around. It was startling to see the dry grass, on the banks of the pond, afire. The exit hole was forgotten in the rush to try to put out the fire before I could get in trouble. I tried stomping out the fire, but that did not seem to slow its progress. My shirt was removed and I proceeded to beat out the fire with the shirt. When the fire was out and a hasty retreat had been beaten back to the dump, I decided to try to wash the fire stains out of the shirt. I was not successful at washing the shirt, but nothing was mentioned about the dirty shirt—maybe dirty shirts are expected on little boys.

One of my classmates told me about the Boy Scouts of America and talked me into joining its organization. Although my uniform was bought by someone else, it did not scar my ego, because I was one of several who had their uniforms purchased for them. The uniform was new and did not have another boy’s name in the waistband. The scout troop also held paper drives to earn money to help pay for the other scout’s uniforms. I was able to assist these efforts after I joined the troop. I was so proud to wear my scout uniform.

I had a difficult time learning how to tie knots required to become a “tenderfoot” scout. Somehow, I learned how to tie bowlines, square knots and sheep shank knots. Later, I would become fascinated by knots and relish being able to tie a turkshead knot on coffee cups to give to friends and loved ones. The comradeship and the learning to ply the skills of the outdoorsman, with other eager lads, took my thoughts away from my problems at home. The close contact with other scouts plus the steadying influence of the Scout Master provided me with the help required to set me upon the right path to manhood. The hikes and camping trips are remembered with pleasure. I remember the urge to get out in front of the pack during the hikes. The competitive spirit made me want to walk just a little faster so I could be out in front of everyone else. The several trips were pleasant escapes from the worries of home.

Many people endeavored to aid our family and the children would often receive clothing from the county welfare people as well as various church organizations. I remember going, with my father, to a county welfare center to receive a winter coat and shoes. This was not as personal as receiving clothes with someone’s name in the waistband. Still, it did not set well with a young lad’s pride that his family had to accept charity from any source. Charity was received from neighbors and relatives, but nothing seemed to alleviate our family’s basic problem of my father’s psychological confusion.

As the oldest child, I began to realize my father was not entirely responsible for the support of his family. As a result, my pride was severely hurt. I could not comprehend why my father was not like the other boys’ fathers. I began to feel as though I could not depend on my father to satisfy my needs, either materialistic or spiritualistic, and I tried to develop into a self-reliant being. This conflict, of trying to be an entity and the need to depend on my father for the guiding influence in my life, became a difficult burden for my sensitive personality. When young, a child has the tendency to worship his father and I was no exception. I was very disappointed to learn my father did not seem worthy of such adoration.

My father inflicted great pain to my sensitive personality by something which I am sure must of seemed a small thing to him. I was playing with a ping pong ball I had found. My father asked to see it and I proudly handed it to him. He held the ball between his fingers and thumb while I proudly watched him examine the ball. He then “squirted” the ball at me and it hit me on the forehead. The shock my father would deliberately do something like that demoralized me and I ran crying from the house. I was so upset, I hid under a cement trough which was leaning up against the woodpile and would not answer when he called later. I finally came out from my hiding place, but my father had lost all the child-like trust and adoration I would feel for him. It seems a small incident now, but at the time it cause great conflict in my life.

==Chapter 2 ─ A Foster Family==

When this conflict was reaching a climax, my father left to look for work and was not heard from for some time. After nothing was heard for nearly two weeks, my grandfather, Jacob H. Neufeld, tried to find some homes for us children. Relatives and friends were called upon to share the burden of our support. One day, I was ushered into our living room and was presented to some strangers. I was told, because my father was out of work and times were difficult, our family could not stay together any longer. My grandfather, Jacob H. Neufeld, told me the other children would go to stay with relatives. I was to live with these people, on their farm, until my father could come and get me. My father never came and the strangers became my family.

The family who took me in was Ruth Elizabeth and Arthur Adolph “Art” Schmidt. They had three children. I was welcomed as another addition to their family. They offered the gentleness and feeling of security which had been missing in my home. Much of the inner conflict disappeared as this new family quickly won my loyalties. My heart was captured by their understanding and affection. They became an integral part of my life. The farmer and his family took me into their hearts and by doing so, unlocked my heart to them. A boy with a jaded outlook on society and few belongings was accepted into their household. It must have taken a great measure of courage to accept such a challenge.

I was given new clothes, plenty of good food and my very own room. In fact, we stopped to buy me some clothes on the way from Moundridge to their farm outside Walton. But more important, I was given the compassionate understanding and sense of belonging to something permanent. I no longer had the fear of being separated from the security of my home. Now, the somber lad learned to laugh more freely and to enjoy life as a boy should.

The regime of farm life agreed with me and the steadying influence of the Schmidt family gave me a strong foundation in achieving the attenuation with society, required by anyone assuming a position within its organizational structures. For the first time in my life, I attended church regularly and learned to respect its spiritual aspects in the shaping of a person’s character. I had many examples to follow in the conscientious responsibility displayed in an everyday manner of daily living by this wonderful family. This family’s influence in molding my character will be appreciated and felt for as long as I hold a position among the other members of the society in which I reside.

This wonderful family shaped the lump of frustrated fears and insecurities to mold a boy into a responsible person, better equipped to deal with the demands of society. They accomplished this transformation by providing plenty of hard work, though none was beyond the capabilities of a boy’s willing young hands. In addition, the formula included loving care, a sense of belonging, a moral guidance of regular church attendance, and the essence of having good examples to follow as I grew up. These subtle influences did much to erase earlier prejudices and directed my steps toward a favorable character development. I spent some of the most impressionable years of my life in those beneficial surroundings, so it is not without reason this wonderful family will always hold a place of endearment and gratitude in my heart.

The subject of my adoption came up in the course of a conversation, to see what I thought of the idea. I gave it some consideration. It might have been nice except for the nagging hope someday my family would still be able to reunite. It did not seem right to consent to the adoption, when my parents were still alive. My life might have been different, had I consented to the adoption and stayed a part of the Schmidt family. It is unlikely I would have chosen the military service as a career had I been adopted.

I especially enjoyed the “covered dish” church socials. The end of the table with the numerous desserts was the most appealing to my sweet tooth. I could generally eat more sweets than at home without anyone noticing. The children usually played tag in the little park across from the church. I was a fast runner and could dodge quite well. I also enjoyed giving the younger children rides on my shoulders.

Another vivid memory associated with church happened, when my friend decided to show me a nerve pressure point between the first two knuckles. My friend pressed between my knuckles and a hot searing pain flowed up my arm. The pain made it difficult to keep from yelling out in the middle of the sermon. The outcry was stifled and the pressure was soon released, but it was difficult to concentrate on the preacher’s words. I never quite forgave my friend, the preacher’s son, for demonstrating the nerve pressure point, although, some atonement was accomplished by being able to ride in his horse cart. It was a two-wheeled buggy which was harnessed to a pony. It was great fun to be taken for a ride in the pony cart.

One of my favorite places, on the farm, was the top of the 45 foot silo. I would climb the ladder. Holding on to one of the two reinforcing rod rails, I would walk around the edge of the silo. I would sit on the edge, hanging my feet over the rim and lean my arms on the lower of the two railings. The top of the silo offered a wonderful view of the surrounding fields, but was dangerous if I had fallen. God must watch over the adventures of young boys. One of my less favorable memories concerning the silo, was having to smear mud around the doors to make the air-tight seal, when the ensilage was being put into the silo. I was not fond of getting my hands dirty to put the mud around the edges of the doors. I also had to get inside to level out the ensilage and pack it down after each load had been blown into the silo. This was hot work inside the silo as no wind was able to ease the heat of the day.

When it came time to bring the cows in for evening milking, another bit of sport took place. In the herd was a young yearling bull. I would sneak up through the tame cows and catch hold of the young bull’s tail. The young bull did not like this and would take off at a run with me trying to keep up. The race did not last very long, because my two feet had problems maintaining the speed of the bull’s four feet. Still, this bit of sport was fun—at least, from my point of view—but the bull probably did not think much of the game.

In winter, it was hard for me to find the determination to get up and face the world. It would be dark outside. The wind would be howling as it blew the snow around. The warmth of the bed would make it hard to want to arise, get dressed and start the morning chores. Still, it had to be done before school started, so I would drag myself out of the bed. After my feet hit the floor, the pace would pick up in order to get dressed in the cold of the room upstairs.

Another vivid memory involves gathering eggs from the henhouse. After filling the large wire basket with eggs, I was on my way to place them in the cellar. The eggs were kept in the cool cellar, until it came time to take them into town to sell. Half way down the cellar steps, I stumbled and the wire basket slipped out of my hand when I tried to catch myself. There was not an egg left intact and it was a messy business cleaning up the residue of the accident. No one ever yelled at me, when I did something dumb like break the basket of eggs. When I needed discipline, I the firm displeasure was communicated to me, but nothing physical. There were times, when the physical would have been easier to bear than the knowledge I had done something to displease and disappoint my new family.

The cellar also contained the sugar-cured hams. The hams hung from the ceiling beams in the cool of the cellar. The hams did not look appetizing with the green mould which grew on the outside. However, they did taste good. Working on a farm can develop an appetite. Things like the ham and the crisp cracklings are remembered with pleasure. Cracklings were the residue from the rendering of lard. They were the tiny pieces of meat cooked out of the lard. The cracklings were fried and then put in a press to remove all of the grease. Then, the cracklings were served with eggs for breakfast.

Some of the nicest memories of farm cuisine was during the time for harvesting the wheat. The days were long and work was not stopped, until absolutely necessary. At these times, the dinner and supper would be brought out to the field. Time would be taken from the combining to spread a picnic feast under one of the shade trees and enough food to feed an army would be unloaded. The appetites were good and the hearty meals provided witness to the culinary prowess of the cooks.

I remember one season, when the oats were bundled, shocked (put in stacks), and combined with an old-style threshing machine. This manner of harvesting had pretty much gone out of style, so it was a treat to be a part of history being replayed. I also found the small, three-tine pitchforks used to put the shocked bundles on the hayrack was just my size.

One of the most enjoyable farm task was putting up the hay. Handling the hay bales gave me a feeling of accomplishment. It was easy to see something was being accomplished and did not take long to make an impact on a field. One of the times, when handling hay bales was not as enjoyable, was the time some clover was cut and baled. The clover had gone to seed and after being pounded through the hay bailer, the seeds were loose. When the bales were lifted overhead, to stack them, the seeds and loose bits of clover flowed down the front of the body lifting the bale. As it was a hot day, the seeds and bits of clover stuck to the body to make an itching, uncomfortable situation. It was good to have that job out of the way.

I remember, playing on the old horse-drawn farm implements which were no longer being used. My imagination would let me picture what it must have been like to work with the old implements. It must have been a lot more work to use the horse-drawn hay rake than the modern one used with the tractor. I did have the opportunity to work with one of the older hand-tied wire hay bailers. It took two people to tie the bales. Each person sat in a seat on either side of the bailer. One would poke the wires through and the other person would tie them before the bale exited the machine. The newer machines took less people to operate and were a lot faster to use.

In the old days, before hay bailers, the hay was put up loose in the barn. With the advent of the hay bailer, it was no longer necessary to use the tremendous rope slings and the trolley arrangement. The hay was stacked on top of the hay slings on the hayrack. The wagon (hayrack) was pulled up to the end of the barn and the trolley hook was connected. The hay in the slings would be lifted up into the barn, moved along the trolley track in the peak of the barn and dumped where desired when a rope was pulled to release the hook’s catch. With hay being put up in bales, it was no longer necessary to use the trolley arrangement. Consequently, the rope was no longer used until I discovered it made a wonderful Tarzan swing.

The trolley could be pulled anywhere in the barn and it was possible to swing from the stack of hay bales on one side to those on the other side of the barn. This was great fun, until it was learned a pull on the rope would cause the trolley to speed down the track and crash into the stop at the end. This resulted in a loud noise that delighted childish ears. It was while showing this delightful noise maker to some children over for a visit one Sunday, the inevitable happened. The wood block, u-bolt arrangement blocking the end of the track shattered. The trolley and rope came crashing the twenty or so feet down to the hayloft floor. It was fortunate none of us were standing in the center of the barn. The trolley hit a hay bale and shattered the bale. It would have been even more devastating to any of us children, had we been standing in the path. It was difficult for me to go and tell the Art and Ruth Schmidt what had transpired during a childish display of the noise maker.

Words have different meanings to different people. Much of the definition of words comes from a person’s background. I learned this lesson when I returned from working in the fields to find my mother and stepfather were paying a visit to the farm. My stepfather asked me what I had been doing. I replied I had been “chiseling.” My stepfather got visibly upset because, to him, the word denoted swindling someone. I had to explain, to him, a chisel was a farm implement used to break up the fields like a cultivator. It was an interesting lesson in learning to be more aware of people’s perspectives and perceptions during the course of a conversation.

On Sunday afternoons, there was little to be done on the farm. It was a day for rest, relaxation and spiritual renewal. One of the neighbor boys and I would go swimming in some of the ponds in the nearby pastures. One such pond had a make-shift diving board we enjoyed using. It was a board plank which had been anchored securely over the pond and could be used to dive into the pond. I had not learned to swim good, but I could dog paddle. It bothered me for water to get in my nose. When it came to diving off the board, I would hold my nose with one hand and stick the other hand out in front of my body. I made what I thought was a perfect jack knife dive and entered the water in a nearly vertical position. Unfortunately, the water was only about four feet deep, at that point, and there was a deep layer of mud on the bottom of the pond. I stuck the arm, which was stuck up in front of my body, into the mud until my head just touched the surface of the mud. This left my feet sticking up in the air above the surface of the water in the most undignified end to a perfect jack knife dive. I extracted myself from the mud and learned to be more cautious in diving into strange ponds.

After learning to shoot the .22 single-shot rifle, my friend and I would go to the ponds for target practice. We would shoot at the snapping turtles which lived in the ponds. The turtles would come up for air and present a little bit of a challenge to us. After several shots, the turtles would only stick their noses out of the water. It was extremely challenging to hit the small targets presented. The snapping turtles were never completely culled from the ponds. A few of them were dispatched, but most of the turtles managed to survive our marksmanship or lack thereof.

Another bit of fun on a Sunday afternoon was going to the closest neighbor’s farm to visit their children and ride their horse. Late one evening, the neighbor boys and I were taking turns riding the horse down the road. The horse was ridden without a saddle and with just a bridle. I had ridden down the road and was headed back to the neighbor’s farm, when a car came up the road from behind me and startled the horse. The horse took off at a run with me trying to hang on to the bridle and the horse’s mane in sheer desperation. After what seemed like a couple of minutes, but was probably shorter, of bouncing up and down on the horse and knowing at any instant I would fall off, the car finally went around me and the horse. The horse then became more manageable and I was able to get my mount under control for the rest of the trip.

I had to ride the school bus from the farm to school. For the most part, the bus rides were uneventful. Riding the school bus meant I could not stay late after school and practice with the rest of the football team. Still, that would not have made a lot of difference to my athletic ability. The bus driver once told us the story about a person walking past the cemetery. It was late and a ghost jumped up. The man was frightened and took off running about thirty or forty miles an hour down the road. After running for about an hour, the man got tired and stopped to sit down on a log to catch his breath. The ghost came up puffing, sat down beside him and said, “That was some race we just had.” The man replied, “Yes, but it is nothing like the one we’re goin’ have!”

While living on the Schmidt farm, I joined the Walton 4-H Club. For the first time, I had to manage my own finances and organize my project. The first year, my project was a Poland China pig. When it came time to exhibit my animal, at the county fair, it was evident I had much to learn about showing animals. The pig was somewhat wild because I had not taken enough time to train the pig to stand still. As a result, the pig continued to circle the arena at a fast pace and it was quite a job to try to keep up with the animal and try to stop its wanderings. I would head off my pig and just when I thought I had him stopped, he would start off in the opposite direction and the foot race began again. Still, the judges awarded me a third place ribbon, possibly for stamina and endurance. I believe all 4-H contestants received, at the very least, such an award as a boost to their morale.

The following year, I won an essay contest sponsored by Sears. This was my first attempt at professional writing and my essay won a prize. The prize was a registered Durroc pig. The only stipulation was one of the pig’s litter would be given to the following year’s winner. The experience gained from the first 4-H Club project was of benefit and next year’s fair saw a first place ribbon and a tamer animal to exhibit. The money earned from the 4-H Club projects was invested in Postal Savings bonds at the suggestion of Art and Ruth Schmidt.

During one of our 4-H Club outings to visit the member’s projects and see how things were progressing, I remember the following incident: We had visited several projects, when we stopped to see one of the member’s pig. Someone in the club asked the member what he had named his pig. The member responded his project did not have a name, until he got mad at it; then, the pig had a lot of names.

When I started school at Walton Consolidated School, I was warned to watch out for the other boy in my eight grade class. They said to beware of Jim DuFriend for he was a rough lad. It turned out Jim and I became good friends. Jim’s recital of The Charge of the Light Brigade was my first introduction to the action poetry I would develop a taste for in later years. Jim was a typical, small town lad, who grew up wanting to be outdoors. He enjoyed hunting, fishing and being able to enjoy the outdoors. The last I heard of Jim, he was an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps and I suspect Jim was good at his craft, because I remember him as a natural leader as well as a really nice person.

In the eighth grade, I developed a thirst for reading which could not be quenched. I read something like sixty or seventy books from the school library. This is the first time in my life I can remember reading with such interest and vigor. To this day, I enjoy reading. I mostly read to improve my knowledge rather than just light reading only for pleasure.

In the ninth grade, we were given aptitude and I.Q. tests. We were never told our scores, but we were given a list of occupations from which to chose in the ranges indicated by the testing. The occupation which interested me was veterinarian. Since I lived on a farm, it seemed the natural occupation to satisfy my interests and aptitudes. I started collecting the articles from the farming magazines about veterinary medicine. I once diagnosed a calf with “wooden tongue” from the scrapbook information and had it confirmed, when the veterinarian came to treat the animal.

There were only two boys and four girls in the eighth grade class. In my freshman year of high school, another boy joined the class. When it came time for athletics, every boy was expected to try out for the team. I was a small lad, but I tried out for the football team. I was so small, there was not enough room between my hip and shoulder pads to wear the rib pads. I did not weigh much over a hundred pounds wearing the football equipment. Still, I gamely tried the sport that was more than my small, uncoordinated size could master. I was more of a mascot for the team than one of the players. It was fun for me to go to the games. The coach would let me go into the game, when the team was so far ahead of our opponents it would not do any harm or so far behind it could not matter. Our small school played six-man football. It was difficult for our small school to win many games, when we played schools who carried a full schedule of eleven-man football games and played their best six for the six-man games apparently scheduled for practice.

One of the times the coach let me go into the game was one of the times the other team was way ahead. I was sent in to play nearly every position except center. This time I was sent in as right end. The play was going to the left so the only thing I had to do was to try to block my opponent as best I could. The opposing right end was a huge lad. The ball was snapped and I threw my block with my feet just a churning. Since I was so small and the other team was so far ahead, the other player just stood there with his hands on his hips and watched me trying to move him out of the way. The coach took me out of the game right after the play had been completed.

Another game, I was sent in as left halfback. I was to run with the ball around the right end. The ball was snapped and handed off to me as I charged with the ball around the right side of the line. I made it just about to the line of scrimmage, when I looked up to see the biggest player in the world waiting for me. The player made the bone crunching tackle that nearly knocked the breath out of me and the coach took me out of the game.

During one of the practice sessions I had the opportunity to tackle one of the football players who was a senior in high school. He was the best broken field runner the school had produced. He could cross-step and spin out of the tackler’s grasp with the greatest of ease. He ran with authority and was difficult to stop when he got moving. The practice drill was to line up the team about five yards apart. The runners would attempt to break tackles as they ran up the line of tacklers. I was midway up the line and just behind one of the better players who was a junior in high school. The junior tried to tackle the senior and almost had him stopped. As the senior was breaking free of the junior’s tackle and had just turned to start forward again, I ran up to tackle him. I felt as if I had tackled a locomotive. I was nearly knocked loose by the impact, but managed to hang on, slide down the legs and trip up the senior. I was not sure the effort to make the tackle was worth it, because the wind was almost knocked out of me in the process. Still, the team kept this game lad around and I enjoyed going along to the games.

The following is one of the letters I wrote, attempting to tell Art and Ruth Schmidt how greatly I appreciated their effect on my life:

===Dear Art and Ruth,===

We have much to be thankful for. God has been so gracious to us. It seems like each year we have more to be thankful for. It seems like things break easier now, than when we were younger. I am glad Ruth is doing better from the broken leg. Falls seem to be a major danger as you get older. I can imagine the broken toe was quite painful. It is a hard place to immobilize so it can heal. Since you can wear regular shoes again, I guess the pain is not so bad now. It seems good health is the greatest blessing. Life can be difficult, when a person doesn’t have good health.

One of the greatest blessings God has given me is you and your family. I cannot thank you, and Him, enough for what you have given me. At a time when things were looking pretty bad for me, you came along and rescued me. Thank you! You gave me the stability of a loving family when mine was a mess. You took me to church regularly. In fact, I don’t think we ever missed a Sunday of church, even though sometimes we had to drive across the pasture and go out by the highway, when the roads were drifted up. More than going to church, you showed me how Christians were supposed to deal with life. It took me a long time, of running away from making a commitment to accept Jesus, as my Saviour, but I could never run away from the example you set for me to see. Knowing about Jesus and seeing what He does in people’s lives was the most wonderful gift you gave me. Thank you!

Sometimes we do not see the example we are setting for others. I feel it is that way with you. It seems, God does so much through the willing disciple, that he or she can ever realize. I think it is going to take eternity for God to show us all the things He did, when we did not realize He was even at work. You probably do not realize what you were doing, but thank you anyway. I remember the kind way you treated a couple of strangers who stopped by for gas and how kindly you treated me, even when I did something foolish. I think back on some of the dumb things I did and marvel at your sense of composure.

I want to thank you for the offer you made to adopt me. It was one of “those roads not taken.” It was a wonderful and generous offer. Had I accepted, life would have been much different than what I made of it. I don’t know if I ever explained why I did not accept. I guess every child, of a broken home, always hopes the family will somehow be reunited. Both of my parents were alive and I had that hope, of the family getting back together. Maybe I felt that if I accepted the offer of adoption I would not be able to get back with my family. Now that I am older, I can see some of these thoughts were foolish. I can also understand what a wonderful offer you gave me and thank you for opening your heart to me so completely. Your disappointment in my not accepting your offer of adoption is like what God must feel when His children do not accept what Jesus has done for us. I think our experiences in life give us some tiny glimpse into the heart of God. Having once rejected the offer of adoption into your earthly family, I do not want to reject God’s offer to adopt me into His family. I want to be a brother to Jesus and tell Him how grateful I am for His many blessings. I also want to thank you for the many blessings you gave me. I have prayed, and still continue to do so, that God will wonderfully bless you, because He has wonderfully blessed me through you. Thank you so very much!

Because I felt that Jesus was real for you, I found that He was real for me. Just living for eternity did not seem so grand, but living for eternity with Jesus does seem like a wonderful blessing. Being able to spend eternity with the wonderful people I have met and known in this life seems like such a grand experience. I may not understand why Jesus should love me so much, as to make such a sacrifice to adopt me into His family, but I am so glad He did! I don’t know why you and your family should love me so much as to want to adopt me into your family, but I am so glad you did. By not accepting your wonderful offer, I must have caused you much grief. I am so sorry! Sometimes, we do not understand the pain we cause without thinking.

We can all look back and find a few things we might have changed given our understanding now. The important thing is that we did the best we could at the time. You did the best you could and I pray God has and will continue to bless you so abundantly, more than you can even expect. What you did for me, during the time we were together, has stayed with me all my life. You built well with the material God gave you to work with! The foundation of your work stayed with me, even when I was running away from making a personal commitment to accept Jesus as my Saviour. Even when I was running away from Him, I knew He was there and that He loved me, because you had shown Him to me in every aspect of your everyday living experiences. I could not run away from the foundation you had built in my life. Thank you!

You might think you could have done better, but you did the best you could with what you had to work with. That is good enough! You were a faithful servant and your Lord Jesus will say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servants.” It is hard for me to express how wonderful the example you lived out before my eyes. You probably do not remember it and may even doubt my words. Please do not doubt. You did good! Look at your family. You raised them well. You can see God’s success in them! You have a wonderful family and in this day and age, that is quite an accomplishment! It looks like (to me) you have raised not only a nice family, but a family of Christians. That is a wonderful heritage! It looks, as if you will have your whole family with you in heaven. Can you ask for more than that? I think not, but God still has some blessings reserved for you. I pray they are wonderful, because you are wonderful!

I have learned to not worry about “the road not taken,” because I cannot go back to change the journey. The past is gone and we cannot do anything about it. Tomorrow holds some wonderful promises, especially when you put Christ Jesus into the picture. I am looking forward to many wonderful tomorrows with Jesus and some wonderful Christians in my past, but tomorrow is just a promise that gives hope. In the end all we have for now is Today. When we put Christ in our today, He gives us strength for whatever comes and the grace of His companionship to make the trip so much better! You might have done some things differently with me if you had to do it all over, but you did pretty well considering what you had to work with. I am looking forward to spending eternity with you, because I know you are going to be there. I know that if I do not let go of Christ’s hand, I am going to be there also! Eternity with you and Jesus sounds good to me! I am looking forward to being able to get to know your family. They seem like such neat people, I am looking forward to spending time with them. Maybe the true measure of a man is not what he has accomplished, but rather what God has accomplished through him. I believe God has done well through you! Enjoy today, because God will give you eternal tomorrows and at His right hand is pleasure forever more and in His presence is fullness of joy!

May your Christmas holidays be filled with joy and may you feel the sweet joy of communion with your Lord Jesus Christ. Please give my love to your wonderful family. I love you both so very much!

Chapter 3 ─ Life in Texas

Two and a half years were spent in the sheltered protection of the Schmidt family before my mother again established a home for us children in Fort Worth. The family of my stepfather soon became endeared to my heart by providing warmth, understanding and companionship. The Hausey clan became far dearer to my heart than most of my blood relations, which were remembered only vaguely and were never brought into as close a relationship because of their distance.

Once again, my mother and stepfather undertook to gather us children under one household. Their courage in undertaking this challenge is to be commended, since each child’s character had developed differently as each of us was exposed to a different environmental situation. The magnitude of this decision can be appreciated in the light of the lack of success of the other time they gathered us together. I wonder, now, if there might have been some guilt feelings concerning the previous rapid transit of us back to Kansas after the broken coffee table incident. I am certain mother may have been deeply troubled about it, but I am not as certain about the state of my stepfather’s conscience. It may have been Curtis felt we were old enough to be of some help and work around the house. Be that as it may, there were numerous problems to be overcome and a great measure of patience was required to deal with the five new charges. Sometimes, the patience was there and sometimes, it was not.

I was somewhat awed by this rough, gruff, loud-talking truck driver who was at times coarse, rude and inconsiderate. He had a habit of drinking too much beer and becoming loud and obnoxious. Because of the disillusionment with my father’s behavior and drinking problem, I found it difficult to respect my stepfather’s behavior. While I could not respect my stepfather, I managed to get along with him. Still, it was like walking on eggshells, when he started drinking. We knew the least little thing would start him off on a loud tirade. I think verbal abuse is almost as damaging as physical abuse. Both are not the most pleasant way to grow up.

It was especially upsetting to me for my stepfather to “bad mouth” his two brothers. He would talk about uncle Marvin like his brother was the dumbest person in the world whenever uncle Marvin made a decision. You would think the trucks belonged to Curtis instead of his brother. Curtis acted as if his brother was working for him instead of the other way. Curtis would “pad” his receipt tickets to get extra money. This appeared to me to be the same as stealing from his brother, who was paying his salary and expenses. When uncle Marvin was settling his accounts, after aunt Rita’s death, he found some unauthorized checks where Curtis had signed Marvin’s name to write the checks for what appeared his own gain. Much of this has been told to me so I am not sure I remember things like the checks. I do remember enough things Curtis did where it did not surprise me, when I learned about the checks. I am sure uncle Marvin put up with a lot of trouble only because Curtis was his brother. Curtis seemed to utilize his family influence whenever it suited his needs and he repeatedly took advantage of those around him.

Still, Curtis did have some good qualities. He did try to help make our family a new home. When my stepfather accepted the responsibilities of a ready-made family of five, he provided us with a host of new relatives. The new family opened their hearts to me and again, I opened my heart to my new family. I could not understand why they could be so kind and endearing upon such short notice.

Father Figures

I tagged along with my new uncles on fishing trips, an occasional hunting excursion and the multitude of small journeys around town. Whenever there was a job to be done, they would welcome my feeble, but wholehearted, attempts to help. They treated me with respect, as if I were more of an equal or friend, rather than the young lad who was usually underfoot. Consequently, I grew much closer to my two step-uncles than my stepfather. They were more of a father to me than my stepfather ever tried to be. Uncle Marvin and aunt Rita had a standing contract with me to take care of their lawn. Thus they made certain I had enough spending money, which I would have been reluctant to ask from my mother and stepfather.

My stepfather seemed to want us children around, only when he needed something done. If he required someone to drive him around as he went to visit the bars, my younger brother or I was asked to act as chauffeur. If he needed the oil changed in the truck he drove, we were allowed to make a few dollars by doing the work he preferred not to do. This was a good way to earn some spending money, but I soon got the impression the only time he wanted us was when there was a job to be done.

My step-uncles would ask me to go along just for the companionship. Uncle Tol would ask if I wanted to go along if it were only down to the Montgomery Ward’s store to look at a new boat or outboard motor that was being contemplated. I was more like the son my two step-uncles never had. During the fishing months, I could count on my uncle Marvin being at home, when I got in from school on Friday afternoon. His pickup truck would be loaded and he would ask if I were ready to go fishing. It did not take me long to round up my fishing gear and we would soon be on the way to the lake for the weekend.

The first time I went fishing with my uncle Marvin, was in the fall of the year. It was so cold out on the lake it did not seem fishing should have such an attraction. The fish would bite just enough to keep my uncle Marvin from wanting to quit. About the time I would get my hands warm again, another nibble would happen. It would be time to get the hands wet and re-bait the hook with a minnow or take a fish off the hook. The hands were cold and inner reasoning made me wonder why anyone would want to go fishing as I prayed the fish would stop biting. Other trips were more pleasant and fishing became more fun.

Aunt Kot and aunt Rita undertook to make me feel accepted and welcomed in their homes, whenever I paid a visit, which was often. On one of my visits, my aunt Rita asked to be allowed to purchase my high school class ring as a graduation present. The ring was ordered special my senior year rather than the junior year, when most of my classmates bought their rings. I was grateful, as I would not have bought the class ring, if it had not been for her thoughtful consideration. The money for the class ring seemed to be more than our family could afford. The ring was only twenty dollars, but to me that was a lot of money. We children had the idea there was not enough extra money for such luxuries. Still, there was enough money for my stepfather’s ever present six-pack of beer. I had even helped my mother and stepfather by contributing the money I had saved in the postal savings bonds from my 4-H projects. While our family could not be considered as poor, there was not a great deal of extra money in the family’s coffers.

I attended Diamond Hill Jarvis High School after transferring from the small Walton Consolidated High School in Walton, Kansas. I graduated with the class of 1956. The school in Texas was of little challenge after being conditioned to the competition of small classes of only five or six students. Studying in the small class environment was like having a private tutor and the class progressed rather quickly. I was soon lost in the anonymity of the larger institution. I was once informed some people at school called me “genius” behind my back. While this is good for the ego, it does not seem likely. It does speak highly for the individualized instruction given at the small school. In later years, there developed the regret I allowed the anonymity to submerge my competitive spirit in striving to top others in my class. Thus more knowledge might have been gained during those formative years.

It was difficult to form close attachments with classmates or contemporaries, because my transitory childhood had developed a fear of parting. I learned to know many people, but would never really feel free with the people around me and held a vast portion of myself in reserve for fear of being hurt. I was courteous and friendly to my classmates, yet remained cool and distant; not encouraging closer relationships, which might cause pain in the future.

A large chink was hacked out of my “armor” when my classmates at Walton High School gave me a going away party, just before the Thanksgiving holidays (1953), when I went to live in Texas. The small class of two other boys and four girls gathered at the house of my favorite teacher, had dinner, played a few games, talked and finally presented me with a gift. The gift was small hunting knife. Being a sentimentalist under my hard shell of indifference, this was a traumatic experience making dry eyes difficult to retain. Only the wise remark about the knife coming in handy out in the “wild and wooly west” made the situation remain dignified. In later life, I would be less reserved, but I am still a private person who found himself uncomfortable by public displays of affection or notoriety. I am much more comfortable with smaller groups of individuals than with crowds.

I remember the only fight I got into while in high school. It took a long time to develop and was not much of a fight. A young lad kept trying to get a fight going with my younger brother, Gerald. Each afternoon as we walked home from school, the boy would try to get my brother Gerald to fight him. There was never anything said to me and things rocked on for several weeks. Gerald did not want to fight the other boy, so he took the verbal taunting and abuses. One day, I had my fill of the situation and turned to the boy and said if he wanted to fight we ought to go to it. I was so enraged I did not offer much of a fight. As I was going after the boy like a wrestler would approach an opponent, he backed away and proceeded to handle me like a boxer. After about six hard right hand punches to the left side of my head, reason set in and I began to wonder if this was the best way to approach the situation. About the time reason began to dawn on me the other lad was getting a bit concerned that his punches were not doing much to slow the enraged lad coming after him. He offered to call a truce, which I was glad to accept. The truce was accomplished by the shaking of hands as each of us parted to continue our way home. My boxing lesson was punctuated by the most dramatic of black eyes and I still carry the ruptured blood vessels in the left eye to remind me it might be better to try to hold my temper than fight.

In the summer time, I enjoyed sleeping outside on an Army cot ordinarily used for fishing trips. It was cooler outside and a lot more peaceful. My stepfather would become obnoxious, when he had a few too many beers under his belt and it seemed more peaceful outside of the house. In the days before air conditioning the open windows did not prevent the bellowing from being heard outside. In fact, my uncle Tol and aunt Kot moved from next door, because they could no longer stand to hear Curtis make drunken slurs on his brother’s character. I was never able to understand how my stepfather could have so little concern for his own brothers. My stepfather not being close to me did not bother me, but the abuse of my “uncles” did. Later, when my mother and aunt Rita died within about a month of each other, I wrote long letters (from Vietnam) urging my stepfather to get close to his two brothers. I thought the shock of the two brothers losing their wives within such a short time would bring my stepfather closer to his two brothers. My efforts did not seem to have an appreciable effect on my stepfather’s behavior.

While it is difficult for me to pinpoint the reason for the turmoil with my stepfather, it does seem there was something basically wrong. All of the children tried to escape the household as soon as possible. I was going to quit school and join the Navy. I was “lucky” and fate allowed me to finish school. My brother Gerald, did quit school and joined the Army as soon as he was old enough. He had my mother and stepfather’s consent to enlist. My sister, Donna Jean, quit school to get married and get away from the household. My brother Richard and my sister Sharon both ran away from home, when our father died. My sister Sharon was brought back to Fort Worth, but she left again as soon as she was able. There was a considerable amount of turmoil and much negative vibration in the house.

My brother, Earnest, has had a tough time adjusting to life. I think it stems from a conflict on the part of my stepfather and the lack of love E.C. must have felt as he was growing up. I think my stepfather being the youngest of the three brothers, resented the attention E.C. received, when he was born. E.C. was the only Hausey son to be born to the three brothers and the family was proud of him. I think my stepfather resented not being the center of attention he had been all the many years. His mother treated him as if he were an only son, while protesting she never showed any favoritism. Hers was the rankest hypocrisy and it hurt my uncles Toliver and Marvin deeply. She would give all three of her sons a tie for Christmas, but Curtis would receive a matching tie with his dress shirt.

My mother put up with much more than she should have, because of the problems with her first marriage to my father. I think she felt responsible for what happened and suffered longer with Curtis, because she was determined her second marriage would not fail. I do remember my mother saying she hated to make one of their frequent trips to Kansas, to see our relatives. My mother would have to pack all the clothes for her, Curtis and E.C. She would have to load the car and get everything ready for the trip. She would have to drive all the way, while Curtis drank his beer. When they got to Kansas, she received frequent verbal abuse from Curtis for such silly things as not packing a particular shirt Curtis wanted to wear. He had not even thought to mention he might want to wear the shirt and had done nothing to help pack their clothes. Such was some of the things Curtis put people through and the underlying atmosphere is what made the children of his household wish desperately to escape.

The lessons a person learns during the course of their life, comes in many varied sizes and shapes. A valuable lesson can be learned from unpleasant circumstances as much from the nice times. There were a lot of nice times to be had. I helped my uncles Marvin and Tol build the fishing cabin on the four lots uncle Marvin bought on Lake Whitney. Uncle Marvin would fish on Possum Kingdom Lake and always rented a boat and cabin on each trip. Along with all the bait and groceries purchased, the expense was great. He tried to get the man to lease him a cabin so he would not have to load the fishing stuff each time he wanted to go fishing. The man said he would not lease a cabin. He preferred to continue the present arrangement. After all the business uncle Marvin had given the man, this was a bit upsetting. Marvin decided he would not go back there anymore and found some property on Lake Whitney. He bought the property, built a fishing cabin and our family enjoyed many good times at uncle Marvin’s fishing camp.

I remember one trip I made with uncle Marvin, when we were going to Possum Kingdom Lake. It seemed uncle Tol and my aunts had gone ahead and were already at the lake. Uncle Marvin and I had a later start because we had to wait, until school was out for the week. Uncle Marvin was hungry and decided to stop at a roadside fruit stand to get some fruit to eat on the trip. He asked the man selling the fruit how much his grapes were and received an answer of something like twelve cents a pound. Uncle Marvin said he wanted a couple of dollars worth and proceeded to get some other fruit such as bananas and peaches and a hundred pound sack of potatoes to take to the lake. My uncle and I ate grapes, until we could hardly stand the sight of another grape and still we had a large sack left when we got the lake.

Uncle Marvin would take me along on the truck he owned and drove, when it did not interfere with my school. The large International truck would set up a rhythm as it passed over the tar strips separating the sections of pavement in the highway. The rhythm would make me so sleepy I could hardly hold my eyes open beyond the Fort Worth city limits. Uncle Marvin would let me just about doze off and slap my knee to wake me up with a comment like, “wake up! I didn’t bring you along to sleep.” Actually, he seemed to enjoy my company and the talking helped pass the time away.

I wrote my feelings for uncle Marvin, the last time I saw him in the funeral parlor: There was only the receptionist present, when I went to say my good-byes to the man who had meant so much to me and who had done so much for me. I believe uncle Marvin and I had about fifteen minutes alone together. The door to the room was closed when I got there, so I closed it when I entered where the casket had been placed for viewing. This provided a greater sense of privacy for me to sort out my feelings and analyze my grief for a man I dearly loved.

I called Marvin Carlton Hausey my uncle, but he was the combination of all the male relationships in my life. Uncle Marvin was a combination of friend, uncle, big brother and certainly more of a father than my stepfather ever was. Uncle Marvin never had any children of his own, so he unofficially adopted me as his son. I loved that man and I am deeply thankful to God for having allowed us to share some time together.

As I looked at the body in the casket, I felt like I want to cry at my loss. There was a deep sense of loneliness in me, as I realized uncle Marvin would be with me only in my memories from now on. I was glad I had those moments alone with uncle Marvin, because my grief was a private one. In recent years, we had not shared much time together and after a loved one dies, you can think of so many things you wished you had done, but did not. The feelings of regret can weigh heavily and increase the grief you feel; you begin to feel sorry for yourself more than for the deceased. I was starting to feel sorry for myself, until it hit me how selfish I was by feeling that way. To wish uncle Marvin back to life, would be to wish for him to continue suffering and pain.

To wish him more agony, to ease my sense of loneliness, made me feel selfish and cruel. While I might be grieving at my loss, I had to believe his gain was much greater. Because of my love for uncle Marvin, I could not wish him continued suffering just because I was lonesome or regretful. There would be no more good times to share with him. As I gazed at the frail, tiny body of uncle Marvin, my selfish grief for myself seemed even more cruel. He had been in poor health for ever so many years. When you looked close, you could see even the undertaker’s skill could not cover the pain the years had brought forth for uncle Marvin. I no longer wanted to be selfish. I preferred to remember him as the “giant” in my memories.

After I realized it was being unkind to wish uncle Marvin more trials and suffering, my loss did not seem so great. I was still sad and there was a hollow, empty feeling inside. Still, I begin to remember the good times we had shared and I smiled to myself as I wondered if there would be golden catfish in heaven for uncle Marvin to catch. I told him not to catch all of the catfish and to save some for the rest of us.

We never spoke much about our feelings for each other, but I always felt uncle Marvin loved me as much as I did him. Because I felt he knew my feeling of love, I did not feel quite so sad. Even though we had drifted apart physically, I do not think there was any doubt concerning the emotional bond we shared. I regret not having spent more time with him. I could blame this situation, which allowed us to grow apart physically, on Wanda or uncle Marvin’s second wife, Ann. Wanda tended to want to spend our time with her family and I never felt all that comfortable around Ann. Any blame would have to rest on my shoulders and most likely it was many factors rather than just one. It does illustrate we should sometimes “make time” to do the things we may regret not having done after our loved one dies.

The first time I rode with my stepfather or step-uncle, I thought we would never stop. It seemed like the truckers should stop more often, but I was informed this was the way they made the greatest progress. Maintaining a steady speed and not stopping often allowed the truckers to cover the greatest distance. Later, I would be allowed to drive late at night, when there was little traffic on the road. It was a lot of fun, except I could never get the truck into third gear. I would grind gears for nearly a half-mile before the transmission would finally agree with my efforts. I never mastered the art of double-clutching the big International trucks like my brother Gerald.

I remember nearly being electrocuted, by the metal light socket on a frayed extension cord. I was helping my uncle Tol put in plumbing for an automatic washing machine in my mother and stepfather’s house at 3025 N. Harding Street in Fort Worth. I had to crawl under the house to help with something from underneath the flooring. I had the light socket in my left hand. I kneeled on the damp ground to enter the crawl-space under the house. As I kneeled in the damp ground, the socket made contact with the frayed electrical cord. The electricity flowed through my body to the ground with great force. I was unable to let go of the cord and could not yell for help. All I could do was try to shake the extension cord from my grasp. After what seemed like an eternity, the light was finally shaken out of my grasp and I got to my feet in a shaken condition. This event taught me to be weary of electricity and attempt to exercise the greatest of caution, when working around it. In later years, my cousin, Billy Watkins, would be electrocuted under similar circumstances while working under his home in Wichita, Kansas.

I once caused my brother Gerald some pain before I thought what I was doing. I was playing with a large alligator clip that must have come off a jumper cable. It was not as large as the present day jumper cables, but the alligator clip was a large one with serrated teeth. I had been pinching my finger with the jaws of the clip. Without really thinking about what I was doing, I attached the clip in the middle of my brother’s back. It pinched the skin unmercifully and Gerald let out a howl of indignation and pain as he started to run for the house. I ran along behind my brother an managed to remove the alligator clip. Then, Gerald turned to try to catch me. I knew better than to let him catch me and I raced up the street with Gerald in hot pursuit. We ran for nearly a block, before Gerald decided fear would continue to put wings on my feet and he could not catch me. I had not meant to hurt my brother with my thoughtless action. After the deed had been done, I knew my brother did mean to do me harm, so I proceeded to run as fast as the motivational force of fear would put wings on my feet.

Gerald and I wanted to surprise our parents by baking a chocolate cake while they were away from the house. There was a recipe on the can of cocoa and we proceeded to build the cake. It was mixed according to the directions, placed in the oven to bake the prescribed length of time and removed when done. The cake was a three-layer cake. Each layer sagged in the middle, when removed from the oven in the pans. When the cake was removed from the pans; it sagged the on the other side as well. It was decided this would never do. We would eat up the first cake and try to make another for our parents. The second cake ended up the same as the first. We must have left out some ingredient in the mixing process. My brothers and sisters and I ate the unfrosted chocolate cakes, until we were unable to look at another piece of cake. This event made me think I had better choose another career field than baking. I might be able to eat good, but I doubted I would never make much money with cakes that sagged in the middle.

My stepfather would entertain us children with stories of his Navy flying experiences, when stationed in Kansas, during World War II. He told of “buzzing” a railroad man on an old hand car. The railroad man shook his fist at the fliers. The pilot, Curtis was flying with, decided the impudent railroad man could not get away with shaking his fist at the aviators. The pilot came around again to “buzz” the handcar. This time the plane was much lower. When the aviators looked back, the railroad man was in the ditch and the handcar was going down the tracks without him.

Another time, he was flying with a pilot who flew his plane along the river. The pilot was bouncing the wheels of the plane on the frozen ice of the river to break the ice. My stepfather said he was a little nervous at this escapade. He and the pilot had flown somewhere and spent the weekend on liberty. The aviators had done a lot of drinking and were still feeling the effects on Monday. They were flying along and the pilot let Curtis take control of the airplane. My stepfather asked permission to do an acrobatic loop. The pilot gave his permission and the loop was accomplished. My stepfather was feeling rather smug about the trick and decided to do it again without telling the pilot. My stepfather slowly gained the altitude he required for the trick without alerting the pilot. Suddenly, he pulled the plane into a quick loop and frightened the pilot. After the stunt had been completed, the pilot took control of the plane and proceeded to make the aircraft do all kinds of acrobatic stunts. The booze started rolling about in my stepfather’s stomach and nearly made him airsick. It taught him to not scare his pilot with unexpected stunts again.

Later my stepfather would start taking lessons to obtain his pilot’s license under the G.I. Bill. He did not complete the lessons. After listening to his stories, Gerald and I pestered my stepfather to take us flying. After a big Sunday dinner of chicken and dumplings, my stepfather took Gerald and I out to Meacham airport. We went to one of the flying schools and the instructor agreed to take us for a flight. My stepfather told the pilot to do some acrobatics to show us what flying was really like. The pilot took us over one of the nearby lakes to do the stunts. We did stalls, and various stunts for nearly an hour. The pilot would explain the stunts to us and my stomach held out, until the pilot started doing something called a “lazy 8” or “lazy S” stunt. The big dinner came up and my stomach cramps were severe, until the pilot took the plane down to a lower altitude. The pilot decided it was time to take the flight back to the hanger. After we landed my stepfather made me clean up the mess in the plane. The experience showed that acrobatics and chicken and dumplings are not the best combination for a pleasant Sunday afternoon.

I Count My Blessings

Chapter 4 ─ Starting Naval Service

During the last of March of my junior year (1955), I desired to enlist in the U.S. Navy. There was a phase when school did not seem as interesting as the call to explore the world on a first hand basis. I was most fortunate to encounter an understanding recruiter. I have thanked that old Navy Chief Petty Officer many times, in later years, even though I never knew the recruiter’s name. The recruiter asked about my scholastic record and advised I wait until school was completed before enlisting. This would benefit both me and the naval service. Because the Chief said it would be to the Navy’s benefit, if I completed my high school before joining, it was taken to heart as being good advice. If he had just said to finish school, it is wondered whether the advice would have been heeded as readily. My stepfather suggested, if I desired to make the naval service my career, I might consider joining the Naval Reserve unit and become a “part-time sailor” during the time spent finishing my education.

I do not remember when I was first introduced to “The Sailors’ Creed,” but I was impressed with the solemn words: “I am a United States Sailor. I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America and I will obey the orders of those appointed over me. I represent the fighting spirit of the Navy and those who have gone before me to defend freedom and democracy around the world. I proudly serve my country’s Navy combat team with Honor, Courage and Commitment. I am committed to excellence and the fair treatment of all.”

This is the oath of enlistment I took: “I, Dewey Donald Neufeld, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, so help me God.”

Regular Navy “Boot Camp”

Shortly after joining the reserve unit, a program allowing selected individuals to volunteer for regular Navy recruit training was introduced. I requested to be considered and spent my summer vacation attending the basic training “boot camp” at the United States Naval Training Center, at Great Lakes, Illinois, with twenty-four other reservists from throughout the country. The training period was to be not less than nine nor more than eleven weeks in duration. It turned out to be ten and one half weeks in length.

The training was a novel experience, an adventure I even enjoyed. It advanced my career by gaining advancement to Seaman Apprentice (E-2), which came about more quickly than if I had gone to the usual two-week Reservist basic training. The training provided an unusual topic for discussion during my senior year of school. Younger boys, and some my age, looked with awe at my “dog tags” which were worn on a chain around my neck for this very purpose, as well as to identify myself as a member of the military profession. Even then, I would state I planned to make the Navy my career, when asked what my plans were after high school. I would delight in bringing the naval history I had read, in one of the reserve books, into the American History classes. Finally, in self-defense, my teacher asked to borrow the book and also read up on naval history.

Graduation from high school was followed closely by a two-week annual training cruise aboard an attack cargo ship out of Norfolk, Virginia. Two weeks of shipboard life on the U.S.S. Muliphen (AKA-61) only whetted my desire to make the Navy a life’s undertaking. The ship looked large to the young reservists reporting aboard for duty. The other lads and I nudged each other each trying to get someone to lead the way up the gangway. I finally decided to lead off. I could remember most of what the training films had said a person was supposed to do when reporting aboard a ship. Memory failed and doubt set in, when I got to the top of the gangway and tried to find the national ensign to salute. I was looking all around in the middle of my salute and must have provided a chuckle to the Officer of the Deck on watch. The Officer of the Deck pointed to the stern of the ship, indicating to me where the national ensign was being flown. The ceremonies for coming aboard ship where then accomplished with proper dignity and decorum. Thereafter, during my naval career, I would take pride in conducting these ceremonies with precision and pride. I would pause, when rendering my snappy, crisp salute, when coming on board or leaving the ship.

I still remember the thrill of seeing the three battleships, USS Iowa, USS New Jersey and USS Missouri moored up near the ship I was taking my reserve cruise. There is something special about a Navy “man-of-war.”

The introduction to shipboard life was fascinating and I tried to be everywhere, at all times, to experience the most I could. I ended up standing more watches than any of the other reservists, but I did not mind, as I was interested in everything. I remember being a bit queasy, when standing watch in after steering. It was in the stern of the ship and the compartment was going up and down at the most extreme motion of the ship. My stomach was a little uneasy, until the experienced sailors said I might try lying down on the deck, until my stomach got under control. This helped and I was soon back to my more exuberant self. Later, I learned the fantail of the ship could be a lot of fun. The extreme up and down motion of the ship would allow you to jump in the air as the ship was at its topmost motion. As the ship fell, you seemed to float in the air and it was fun.

During the reservist’s two-week cruise, the ship had a landing exercise to show the part-time sailors what it was like to “hit the beach.” The reservists had to climb down the debarkation cargo net ladders into the waiting landing craft alongside the ship. Then, we went out to form up in our groups and made circles, until time to head for the beach. At the appointed place, our landing craft formed a line and headed for the beach. I was riding in an LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle and Personnel) and I could envision some of the drama, I had read about in the naval history books, about how the Marines must have felt in the South Pacific. There were no bullets being fired at the landing craft, but there was still the sense of drama in the air. When our boat hit the beach, we were unable to get the ramp down. After beating on the ramp and the latches to no avail, the beach-master finally waved the boat back off the beach to make room for others. It took some maneuvering to get the boat off the beach, because by that time, it was stuck in the sand.

I remember my first experience with the ship’s guns being fired. The gunnery exercise went well in the beginning stages. It was a hazy day. That, prevented the aircraft from coming out to tow the sleeve target, ordinarily a part of the gunnery shoot. To compensate for the lack of an aerial sleeve target, the five-inch open gun mount on the ship’s fantail (stern) was firing a flare shell and the smaller caliber weapons were firing at the flare. There were several firing runs for the port side guns and those guns were shooting exceptionally well. Even the untrained reservists could see the tracers heading for the flare shells as the 20mm and 40mm anti-aircraft weapons fired.

The run to starboard was a little more dramatic. As the five-inch gun mount fired the flare shell for the starboard quarter, an airplane materialized out of the haze farther astern of the target area. I was looking in the direction I expected to see the flare shell burst. As I watched, I had the impression the projectile from the gun was going sideways. I knew that could not be possible and I looked in amazement at what first seemed to be the star shell projectile going sideways. The pilot saw the gunfire and knew he was in a bad location. As the pilot tried to scramble for more altitude, the airplane emitted an exhaust trail. The flare shell had not yet exploded, so the gunners saw the airplane and the exhaust trail and assumed this was the target. Since it was not where they were expecting, the guns had to be trained farther aft. This gave the pilot a few precious extra seconds to spoil the gunner’s aim. It looked as though the tracers from the 20mm guns were right on target, but perhaps, the plane was a little out of their range. The tracers from the 40mm guns were walking their way up the vapor trail, when an officer literally ran up the ladder to the fire control director and yanked the man off the controls for the gun mount. Apparently, the airplane was not damaged, but the firing exercise was cancelled and the pilot must have been concerned. It must have taught the pilot not to fly into restricted gunnery areas.

One of my favorite places, on the ship, was the forecastle of the ship. I enjoyed sitting down by one of the holes in the side of the ship that the mooring lines were passed through. I was out of the wind and weather, but I could look at the fascinating sea through the hole. The sea was constantly changing colors. One time I would see a dark, rich blue and the next moment it would look like the sea was black. Another look might prove an emerald, green. Not far away from the ship’s stopover in Boston, the crew got to see whales spouting.

Another bit of excitement happened, when the ship encountered a thick fog bank. As I had spent a lot of time on the forecastle, I was naturally curious and around the area of the bow lookout’s position. I watched and listened with him and several other men and officers. The ship’s radar had picked up another ship closing on us and the lookout was trying to make a visual observation. We could just barely see the water, when we looked straight down from the bow of the ship. We ended up being able to hear the other ship’s propeller noise as it passed just in front of our ship, but we were never able to sight the ship visually. It was an interesting two weeks of shipboard duty, which stimulated my spirit of adventure and the thought of “seeing the world.” This spirit of adventure was quelled long enough to spend a leisurely summer fishing and relaxing with my family.

During this time, we made a trip to Kansas, to visit my maternal grandparents. While we were visiting in Towanda, I borrowed my grandfather’s .22 rifle and took it out in the field behind my grandparent’s house to see if I could scare up a rabbit. I finally shot a rabbit and proudly took it back to the house. I remember my grandfather taking the rabbit and seemed to have it skinned almost at once. He was fast, when it came to skinning a rabbit. We did not get to eat the rabbit, because it had a large cancer-like sore on the side. That would be the last time I would see my grandfather as he died Friday, August 16, 1957, just before my tour of duty on Adak, Alaska, was completed.

My first introduction to the seafaring life brought a feeling for the fascination the sea holds for the mariner. I particularly thought the poem “A Sailor’s Song” by Paul Laurence Dunbar was so expressive in describing the fascination the sea seems to hold for the seafaring man.

A Sailor’s Song

Oh for the breath of the briny deep, And the tug of the bellying sail, With the sea-gull’s cry across the sky And a passing boatman’s hail. For, be she fierce or be she gay, The sea is a famous friend alway.

Ho! for the plains where the dolphins play, And the bend of the mast and spars, And a fight at night with the wild sea-sprite When the foam had drowned the stars. And, pray, what joy can the landsman feel Like the rise and fall of a sliding keel?

Fair is the mead; the lawn is fair And the birds sing sweet on the lea; But the echo soft of a song aloft Is the strain that pleases me, And swish of rope and ring of chain Are music to men who sail the main.

Then, if you love me, let me sail While a vessel dares the deep; For the ship’s my wife, and the breath of life Are the raging gales that sweep; And when I'm done with calm and blast, A slide o’er the side, and rest at last. (Paul Laurence Dunbar)

Active Duty Navy

I was advanced to Seaman (E-3) on June 27, 1956, during the summer before active duty was requested in mid September 1956. Since I knew I wanted to make the Navy a career, I tried to enlist when it was time to request the active duty. Apparently, the yeoman did not want to do all the paperwork involved with a reenlistment and I did not know any better. The yeoman gave me the story it would be a lot of paperwork if he did it now, but I would only have to go to my next duty station and request the change in status. I believed the yeoman and did not stop to think if he had a lot of paperwork to do, it would seem reasonable the next duty station would be required to submit the same amount of paperwork. Still, if this was the best way, then, I would do things the way the yeoman said it should be done.

On September 19, 1956, I was sent to Dallas, Texas, for the commencement of my four years of service as USNR. From Dallas, I was sent to San Diego, California, for further processing. At San Diego, I was given a classification interview to determine what career path I would follow during my next four years of active duty. The Chief Petty Officer conducting the interview was surprised, when I requested fleet duty and said I wished to strike for Boatswain Mate. The Chief said he could recommend any school he desired, because of the high test scores on my basic battery classifications tests. The Chief said he thought I might not do well if I went to a school I obviously did not want. The Chief would recommend “on the job training” in the fleet. This was music to this young sailor’s ears. So it was with some disbelief orders were received stating my next year would be spent at some place called Adak, in a cold region of Alaska. This shock was accompanied with the immediate thought: “Oh, no, they wouldn’t send a southern boy to Alaska!”

After the initial shock had worn off and a journey to Seattle, Washington, I was flown to Adak, by way of Kodiak, Alaska. I was stationed on Adak, from September 22, 1956 to September 23, 1957. The duty at the U.S. Naval Station, Adak, Alaska, was quite interesting. It was here my career path was determined by my high marks on the entrance tests, typing skills learned in high school and something called “the needs of the service.” Because of these factors, it was decided I would be assigned to the Operations Department to work in communications. This was a considerable letdown, because I had my heart set on being a Boatswain’s Mate.

A Boatswain’s Mate was my image of the ideal sailor; someone who was out, on deck, battling the elements and tying knots, being a “real” sailor. Still, I was determined to make the best of a disappointing situation and soon learned I was fascinated by all the gadgets in the “radio shack.” I soon developed some degree of expertise with the teletypewriter keyboard and continued to develop this skill during my years with naval communications. As a part of the naval communications system, I experienced developments in the field of communications ranging from telegraphy to high-speed computer/satellite methods of relaying messages. The telegraphy was the most difficult. Morse Code would prove a tough skill for me to master. I would never be quite as good at it as with the teletypewriter keyboard.

The elements were not entirely forgotten and much time was spent hiking around that remote island in the Aleutians. The urge toward adventure could not be stifled and the elements seemed more friendly than had first been anticipated. The cool, clear streams, with their many small waterfalls, and the rugged terrain made each hike an adventure. The cold fresh water coming from the melting snows on the mountaintops was a delight to taste as I quenched my thirst on the hikes.

While en route to Alaska, one of my buddies, Robert Ray “Bob” Tapp, and I had the idea we would do a little trading with the Eskimos for a polar bear skin rug. It seemed a way to take advantage of a year in the barren northland. This was mostly Bob Tapp’s idea since his stepfather had been stationed as a weather observer on one of the northernmost islands off the cost of Alaska. Bob’s idea sounded good to me and I readily went along with his proposal. Bob and I set about accumulating a supply of items we deemed would be what the Eskimos might require and be easy to trade. It seemed fishhooks and fishing line would be the best goods with which to barter. It was with some disappointment we landed in Adak, where we found no Eskimos. The only inhabitants on the island were the military and their dependents stationed there. Also, there were no signs of polar bears in those waters so far to the south of the bears’ normal haunts; so much for my efforts at merchandising and barter.

While at Adak, after one year of active service had been completed, I was allowed to reenlist for four years to gain the status of being “regular Navy” rather than a reservist on active duty. I learned, soon after reporting aboard, I had to wait until I had been on active duty for a year before I could reenlist to become USN rather than USNR. The remaining three years of my active duty were dropped and my enlistment of four years started at this time. Thus began the realization, of the status, of truly entering the career I had always thought I would pursue. At this time, I requested the Radioman Class “A” basic school that would have been easy to get during the classification interview in San Diego. The Navy Department, in all their wisdom, decided I was needed too badly to spend the time going to school. I would have to learn about those fascinating gadgets, in the radio shack, on my own. I received the orders for the sea duty I wanted so badly a year before.

Adak, taught me to appreciate music for the first time. Until then, I thought music was something to be tolerated, but not enjoyed. Since there was little else to do at times, a lot of time was spent listening to the Armed Forces Radio Station. After awhile, music seemed nice and I was surprised to find I actually enjoyed listening to it. I find I can now enjoy just about any type of music, but I’m not too fond of the loud, blaring variety that gives witness to little talent, masked by loud amplifiers.

While stationed on Adak, I made use of the indoor swimming pool to increase my proficiency. When I went to basic training, I could only “dog paddle” and swim just a little. In basic training, I learned to swim enough to pass the qualifications. On Adak, there was plenty of time and the pool was convenient. I used the opportunity to practice and thought it good exercise to swim laps as a workout. The base also had a nice hobby shop and I would wander around and see what looked interesting. I tried some of the simpler leather kits that required only lacing the pre-cut pieces together. Still, it was interesting and I enjoyed the time spent at the hobby shop and swimming pool.

I had opportunity to get close to the Boatswain Mate rating I once desired. I was assigned to the “hatch crew.” This duty involved unloading of the supply ships, when they arrived. I have vivid memories of ammunition handling working parties while a member of the hatch crew. One cold icy morning, I was carrying boxes of ammunition. We had been warned to be very gentle with the boxes and not to drop them under any circumstance. It was difficult to hang on to the box, when the feet go out from under the body and the natural tendency is to drop what is being carried to break the fall with the hands. My safety indoctrination made me feel if I dropped the ammunition box an explosion might result. In spite of the desire to do otherwise, I clung to the box. I landed on my back and the box coming to rest on my chest. A little bruised from the experience, it taught me to walk a bit more gingerly, when carrying ammunition boxes on an icy pier.

Not long before my tour on Adak, was completed, the island was shaken by an earthquake. The earthquake hit one night after “taps” had been sounded and the lights turned out in the barracks. I was about to go to sleep, when my bunk started shaking. My first thought was someone had come back from the Enlisted Men’s Club and was trying to wake me up. I was not going to give them the satisfaction and I pretended to continue sleeping. The shaking continued and it became obvious it was not caused by someone with a few too many beers under their belt. Then, it seemed wiser to stay put rather than run downstairs as others were doing. If the building collapsed, I thought it better to be on the second floor with less to come down on my head. Running outside meant worrying about the falling power lines and possible electrocution. The earthquake was eight on the Richter scale and only .5 less than the great San Francisco earthquake (8.5). Little damage was done to the island base of Adak.

During the long night watches, I thought it fun to go up in the signal tower in the Operations Center across the hall from the Communications area. We would use the high-powered binoculars and long glass telescope and look at the full moon. It seemed, when the moon was full, we could observe great detail through the magnification of the “glasses” and the seeming nearness of the moon. It was a shock for me and the rest of the world, when Russia launched the first “Sputnik” satellite into orbit around the earth about this time.

When I departed Adak, I went home on leave. My stepfather was thinking of buying a new car, so we went looking at Buicks. We saw one I thought was really neat and helped to persuade him it was what we ought to have. It was time for the 1958 models to come out so the dealer wanted to make a good deal. The car was a two-door, white with light blue trim around the lower part of the car. It was sporty and the blue color sold me on the car at once. Anyway, I helped my stepfather make the down payment on the car since I would be using it while I was home on leave. We made a trip to Kansas, to see my grandmother.

I Count My Blessings

Chapter 5 ─ Going to Sea

On Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 1957, after having spent my thirty days of leave at home, I reported aboard my new duty station, the U.S.S. Zelima (AF-49), home ported in San Francisco, California. The U.S.S. Zelima was a refrigerated cargo ship whose primary mission was to lend her support to the other ships in the fleet by transferring freight and food needed for long periods of deployment. Standing pier sentry watches during the cold, wet, San Francisco winter made the tour on Adak, seem mild in comparison to the biting cold being experienced from the wind blowing off the bay. Shipboard life also provided many jolts to the head and shins, until I learned to go through hatches and up ladders successfully. It was while I was aboard the U.S.S. Zelima I was tagged with the nickname, “Smiley.”

Daddy Dies

I received word my father had been murdered on April 25, 1958, in Farmington, New Mexico, by one of my father’s friends, when my father stepped between the man and his wife during a family quarrel. My father’s friend thought my father should not interfere in a family matter even if he was pushing his wife around. As a result of trying to keep his friend from beating his own wife, my father received a blow to the head and died almost instantly. The details I received, third hand through my mother, are a bit hazy. It must have been difficult for the man to have to live with the knowledge he had killed his friend. The only friend whose name I could remember was a fat man by the name of Johnny Potwin. My brother, Richard, informed me this was the same man who killed our father. It is my understanding the man was not charged with any crime and had only to live with his conscience concerning the deed. I found out later that it was not Johnny Potwin.

Although there were many years, my feelings bordered on dislike and disrespect for my father, I realize the things my father gave me were worth much more than the tangible material support denied. I saw my father twice after his apparent desertion of our family; both times for only about fifteen minutes. I received only one bit of correspondence, a birthday card on my twenty-first birthday, with a short note for a letter accompanying the card. A curt, but firm, letter informed my father there was little common ground to continue the correspondence and I tried, not so gently, to tell my father I did not wish to continue writing. Now, I wish I had not written that letter.

Later, out of consideration for my grandfather, I contributed ninety dollars of the $185.53 required to purchase a tombstone for my father’s grave in Kinsley, Kansas. My grandfather tried to help our family stay together and was hurt, when he was unsuccessful. The old man deserved a small return on his deep agony and suffering. It meant so much to my grandfather the grave be marked properly. The dislike for my father had mellowed and been replaced with a feeling of pity for my father and the people who suffered because of him. I begin to see, failed relationships are generally affected by both parties, in various degrees, and a relationship without Jesus in the middle is nearly always going to fail.

While still uncertain just what I want from life, because of my father, I am certain I know what I do not want. For many years, I felt as if my father had abandoned us or betrayed our love. I felt he and my stepmother were to blame for the precarious and uncertain childhood. Now, I realize there were many more factors involved and perhaps, no one single reason can be singled out as being the reason for the way things developed. The results of the things which happened to myself and my brothers and sisters will have to be determined as the years pass. I think, I am a more understanding individual for having been through the trials of these early years. Perhaps, this is the reason for having to give up a more carefree childhood for the uncertainty and disappointment I had to experience. It has been said, even as a child, I acted as an adult and my aunts and uncles could talk to me as an adult rather than a child. In some respects, this is a compliment, but it would have been nice to have experienced a more carefree childhood.

When my ship was in San Francisco, one of my favorite places was an ice cream store called Blum’s. Blum’s had the biggest banana splits I had ever seen for only $1.25. It was a tremendous dish, which provided all the ice cream a sailor’s sweet tooth could desire. My friends and I would make it a special point to visit Blum’s whenever our ship was in its homeport of San Francisco.

Duty aboard the U.S.S. Zelima was fascinating to me. I got in on the “ground floor” of many of the activities. There was a tremendous amount of work, when it came time for the underway replenishments (UNREPS). It meant all the lower rated men ended up handling cargo, either in the ship’s holds or on deck. Generally, the cargo was prepared the day before the ships would come alongside to receive their cargo delivery. It meant the cargo was taken from the cargo holds and stacked out on the deck. The perishable items would be left in the refrigerated holds, until the last possible minute. The canned goods and non-perishables would be stacked out on deck in preparation for faster delivery to the receiving ships.

There were times, when cargo had to be moved from either forward to aft transfer positions or the other way. When this was necessary, it meant long conveyer lines of rollers were set up and a human chain was set up along the line at five or six foot intervals. The cargo would be rolled on the roller conveyer lines from one man to the other, until it reached whatever transfer station was its destination. The U.S.S. Zelima sailors would marvel at the newer sister ship, the U.S.S. Vega (AF-59), which had forklifts and elevators to move the cargo around. During one underway replenishment in the South Pacific, during the Laotian crisis, the U.S.S. Zelima handled slightly better than 350 tons of fleet freight and a little over 250 tons of food to the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Hancock. While, the aircraft carrier was being replenished on the one side of the ship, the accompanying destroyers and escort vessels were being handled on the other side of the U.S.S. Zelima. The following day there was another large replenishment, but it did not last as long as the eight hours the aircraft carrier was alongside.

It was staggering, to my imagination, to think the ships could maintain their positions, steaming so close together for such a long period of time at fourteen to sixteen knots. It must have been a tremendous strain on the helmsmen steering the ships. The ships generally steam about thirty-to-forty yards apart and it is tricky business maintaining the ship’s position without mishap.

Signal Bridge ─ Watching the Torpedoes

One of favorite places on the ship was the signal bridge. I quickly made friends with the signalmen. They seemed to know everything going on around the ship. I tried to learn the signal flags so I could help them, when it came time to hoist the signals. I tried to learn to read the Morse code of the flashing lights, but found it too difficult to hold enough of the characters in my mind to be successful at reading light. I did enjoy spending my free moments on the signal bridge. The view from the signal bridge was great and there were plenty of binoculars to help you see even better. I helped tie the turkshead knots on the railings of the signal bridge, when I first learned how to tie that bit of fancy work. The knots sure looked nice when painted white and helped set off the railings.

Because there was such a good view and the signal bridge was one of my favorite places, I was there, when the U.S.S. Zelima was torpedoed. We were down at San Diego, California, taking part in underway training exercises. The entire fleet of ships, in the harbor, got underway for a mock battle exercise. As we were a cargo ship, we were one of the last ships to leave the harbor. It was around noon, when we cleared the harbor. I had just been to dinner and was back up on the signal bridge. The battle exercises were not due to start for another hour or so. While we were talking, we noticed some red and green smoke on the horizon. While the senior signalman was checking the book of signals to see what it might mean, we suddenly spotted the torpedo wake coming straight for us.

Word was relayed to the pilothouse and the ship started to turn to get away from the torpedo. We did not make it. The torpedo was fired straight toward the ship’s smokestack. It was set to run under the ship since it was a training exercise. Still, it is a strange feeling to see a torpedo coming straight for your ship and know there is not a thing you can do about it. We were torpedoed several more times during the course of the training exercise. The other cargo and tanker ships in our task group were also torpedoed that day. It seemed the submarines could shoot their torpedoes at us whenever they wished. Even when you know it is a training exercise, it is a bit unsettling to be torpedoed.

Shipboard life holds a lot of unpleasant jobs as well as the ones that are more fun. There are jobs like compartment cleaning most young sailors learn to survive. Fortunately, the Operations Department compartment was on the third deck, close to the operations working spaces. When I had my stint at compartment cleaning, it was an easier job than some of the below decks spaces of the rest of the crew. I tried to give the job a little extra touch of my own. I shined the brass “dogs” on the portholes until they sparkled. The brass dogs were the nut-like fasteners that locked the porthole glass windows and covers in place. With the rest of the compartment suitably clean and the “dogs” shined, the compartment passed inspections, which might have otherwise found some discrepancies, if the inspecting officers had not been so impressed with the shiny “bright work” and the additional “touches” I tried to give my work.

I never had the opportunity to enjoy the less pleasant tasks associated with duty in the galley called “mess cooking.” About the time my turn was to come about, one of the other men asked if I would mind if he went instead. This man had some sort of personality conflict with the Chief in charge of the radio shack. This man had been on mess cook duty previously and ordinarily would not been eligible to go again. He was told this and it looked certain my time had come. The same night the other man was told he could not volunteer for mess cook duty again, he was found in the wardroom trying to “fix” the officer’s television set. It was determined he could go and have another stint of mess cook duty, if he wanted it so badly. Before my time could come around again, I was advanced to Radioman Third Class Petty Officer (E-4) and was no longer eligible for such duty.

I remember my first trip to the fascinating port of Hong Kong. It was aboard the U.S.S. Zelima and it was my first introduction to the use of chopsticks. A group of my friends decided they wanted to go out for a Chinese meal at the floating restaurants at Aberdeen Fishing Village on the backside of Hong Kong. As I had never eaten with chopsticks, I had some reservation about this idea. I was reassured it would be easy to learn and someone would show me, when the time came to use the implements. The meal went well and it was not too difficult to use the chopsticks. The chopsticks were given to the diners as a souvenir of our trip. Afterwards, we would practice, with our souvenirs, on the ship. We would get a can of mixed nuts, open it and sit around trying to get the nuts out of the can with chopsticks. It was a good way to practice for the next visit and a reasonable proficiency soon developed.

The small, close-knit group of friends in the Operations Department numbered one among us who was an officer. This presented a problem, since the captain looked with displeasure upon enlisted men and officers socializing together. This policy is generally wise and in later years, I could see the wisdom of this. It almost, requires a “split personality” to be able to separate the emotions between work and play, when senior men socialize with juniors. Many misunderstandings and a lot of hard feelings can come from such social arrangements. Still, at the time, the officer friend was a lot of fun to be with and everyone enjoyed each other’s companionship. The officer, John G. Winn, had a car so it allowed our group greater mobility than might have otherwise been enjoyed. One of the places we would go would be the wineries in the Napa Valley, just north of San Francisco. The wineries had tasting rooms set up where visitors could sample the fruits of their labor in the vineyards. Because of the influence of my father and stepfather, I did not want to drink anything. It was the longest time, before I would drink anything at all other than soft drinks. I still will only drink two or three drinks before the alarm bells, in my head, start ringing in my mind and I stop. I refuse to get drunk and lose my sense of dignity or make a fool out of myself. I had enough of such things when I was growing up. Even now, I do not like to be around people who drink to excess. Being around drunks is a painful reminder of my past disappointments and I do not choose to socialize with them now that I have the option to do as I wish on this matter. While I would not drink, when we toured the Napa Valley, it was still fun to accompany the group and see the other sights of the winery tours.

The added mobility allowed our group make a trip to Lake Tahoe to do a little gambling. It was before payday, so I only had about twenty-five dollars extra. Still, I felt I could go along and play the nickel slot machines. Since the transportation was paid for, I could afford to lose about fifteen or twenty dollars and still have enough to get by until the next payday. Our group made it through the snows of the mountain passes to Lake Tahoe and the gambling casinos.

While the others played the more dramatic games, I stuck with my nickel slot machines. I was determined to make my money last, so I could enjoy the trip as long as possible. As it turned out, I was a consistent winner on the slot machines and ended up buying the group’s supper that evening on the return trip to the ship. I was intrigued by watching the people playing the dollar slot machines like I was playing the nickel ones. It is interesting to gamble if you can stop at any time. It looked as if some of the people could not stop. Since, I expected I would lose what I was gambling, I was prepared to not win. The two $15.00 jackpots and three $7.50 jackpots were only an added bonus. The greatest fun was in watching the other gamblers.

Radioman Third Class Petty Officer ─ Transferred

Many facets of naval life were learned during the two years spent aboard the U.S.S. Zelima. After a great deal of self-study in the many phases of communications, on June 16, 1959, my advancement to Radioman Third Class Petty Officer (E-4) was achieved. While never realizing it, I must have made an impression of being a good and conscientious worker, very dependable within the scope of my limited experience. This was pointed up by the ship’s Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander William J. Shea, upon my transfer to the staff of the Commander of Service Squadron Three (COMSERVRON 3), the immediate superior under whose supervision the U.S.S. Zelima operated while deployed in the Western Pacific area. The XO (Executive Officer) related he regretted to lose me and he appreciated the part I had played in helping the ship perform so well. It was further stated his only choice was to send the best Radioman available to the commander’s staff rather than one of the “goof-offs” who desired to be transferred instead. To testify to his sincerity, the XO said should I ever need a reference, for any purpose, he would be more than happy to give his endorsement. Later, I learned the ship had earned the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for operations in the Taiwan Straits area in September through November 1958.

I was transferred in Sasebo, Japan, on July 29, 1959, a week before the ship was scheduled to return to the states from its deployment period. With the change of duty stations went the thirty days leave I had been assured upon arrival in the states. It had been naval policy to allow only a fifteen-day leave, for persons living west of the Mississippi River, unless they were being transferred to another duty station. I had managed the promise of a thirty day leave, since I had not been home in two years and had used the time I might have taken leave to attend the eight week radio operator’s school on Treasure Island, California. (It was here I learned Morse Code and some basic electronics.) My initial disappointment of not being able to go home on leave soon disappeared in the mystic charm of the orient.

While in the far east, many places of interest came before my wondering eyes. Among them were the exotic places of Sasebo, Yokosuka, Yokohama, Nagasaki, Kagoshima, Moji, Hiroshima, Kobe, Nagoya, and Osaka, Japan, Kaohsiung, and Oilung (Keelung), Taiwan (Formosa); Subic Bay and Manila, Republic of the Philippines; Buckner Bay and Naha, Okinawa; and Hong Kong, British Crown Colony. The most intriguing and fascinating spot being the mysterious city of Hong Kong.

On my last visit to Hong Kong aboard the U.S.S. Zelima, my friends and I had the pleasure of meeting same nice British citizens. We had purchased some swim fins, masks and snorkels with the idea of doing some skin diving at Repulse Bay. Repulse Bay was one of the swimming beaches on the backside of Hong Kong. We rented a tiny rowboat to hold our belongings. We had brought along same nylon line and a large rock to be used as an anchor. Not having tied the “anchor” to the strong nylon line while on the beach, we were attempting to tie the rock to the line while hanging onto the rowboat. It looked rather precarious to the people who had their cabin cruiser anchored nearby. The British people invited us to tie our boat up astern of their cabin cruiser if we wished. The invitation was graciously accepted and during the next few hours everyone became better acquainted. We were invited aboard for tea and had a delightful time. The entire afternoon was spent in the company of these delightful people before it came time to return to the ship.

The sea holds a special fascination for those who sail the bounding main and I was no exception. I was fascinated by the always-changing colors the sea presented and would spend my leisure hours watching its picturesque beauty. I was especially thrilled to see the sunsets and the sunrises at sea. The golden sun sinking into the sea would fascinate me and I could generally be found on deck watching the sunsets. One morning in Sasebo, Japan, was especially beautiful. The combination of sunrise and clouds made the rays of the sun look just like the Japanese national flag. Sasebo is a port surrounded by mountains, so the sunrises were always a treat to end the long “mid” watches. Another treat was being able to sleep out on the upper decks, when the ship was sailing the South China Sea. The night was not contaminated by a city’s lights, and the multitude of stars, filling the skies, seemed so close you could reach out and pick a handful.

One picturesque spot I visited was so lovely, I refused to take liberty there. It seems idealistic, but I did not want to find out the place was less than the perfect image presented to my eyes as I viewed it from the ship. The port of Kagoshima, Japan, was something right out of a picture post card. It was a resort city known for its hot baths and spas. The heat was provided from the volcanic hot springs. There was a mountain behind the city and on a cold day, you could see the steam rising from the numerous hot springs around the area. Across the bay was another large volcano with steam rising from its cone. The setting was so lovely, it would have been a shame to see it up close and find it might be less than the perfection presented from the farther view.

On September 18, 1959, I was awarded my first Navy Good Conduct Medal. On August 25, 1961, I re-enlisted in Hong Kong.

I can remember spending one Christmas in the Philippines. The ship had pulled into Subic Bay and it was near Christmas. My friends and I would go to the base “gedunk” or cafeteria and play Christmas songs on the jukebox. It was nice to hear the songs, but it sure made everyone melancholy and homesick. Christmas just does not seem the same in the tropical setting of the Philippine Islands. There was one special Christmas in Sasebo, so delightful to remember. The base chaplain arranged for one of the large landing craft (YFU) to be loaded with military personnel and dependants. The harbor craft was packed with people and they went around to all the ships to sing Christmas carols to the men on the ships. I thought this was a very special touch to bring the holiday season a little closer to the men on the ships.

The island of Taiwan held a special interest. It appeared, to me, to be a place of constant readiness for war. The tops of the buildings had anti-aircraft guns positioned on them. I saw my first quad-fifty caliber anti-aircraft gun atop one of the buildings on the pier the ship was moored alongside. The common workers loading and unloading the ships in the harbor had the look of soldiering about them. Even though they were not dressed as soldiers, they had the “feel” of being military men in their deportment and bearing. It was an intangible feeling I sensed and I never knew if my observations were correct, but there was a definite martial air surrounding the island fortress of Taiwan.

While stationed with COMSERVRON Three, I and several of my friends would check out bicycles from the Special Services Department on the base. We would ride about five miles or so away from Sasebo, to a delightful little place known as “Ku Jyu Ku Shima” (pronounced Koo Jew Koo) the Japanese equivalent of “ninety-nine islands.” There was a small park, zoo and museum. Some fishermen also lived nearby. We were intrepid (another word for “dumb”) individuals and would start our swimming/diving as early as February, when the water was so cold it had a bite. We would wear tight dungaree trousers over our swimming suits and tight sweatshirts to act as “wet suits.” The clothing helped keep a small measure of the heat next to our bodies, but it was quite a shock to plunge into the water. It was even more difficult to try to enter the water gradually as that seemed to make the water feel even colder. Usually we would stand on one of the rocks, holding onto our facemasks, and would dive backwards into the water to prevent losing the masks from the force of hitting the water.

We once hired one of the fishing boats to take us to one of the outer islands one summer Saturday. It had a delightful little beach and was a lot of fun. I had purchased a spear gun and one of my friends had made an “Hawaiian sling” spear gun out of a fishing pole and surgical rubber bands. There were a lot of fish in the waters around ninety-nine islands, but we never managed to spear any. The fish were much too cautious. In the dimness of the cloudy waters, the fish would see us before we would see the fish. The fish would then turn and flee and we would only catch a glimpse of silver and then the water would be gray and murky again.

While at the outer island, I was using my friend's “Hawaiian sling” spear gun and managed to spear myself where the wrist and thumb come together. The sling spear gun was too short and I was swimming with it “cocked” as I did with the “store bought” gun. My grip on the shaft of the sling spear gun slipped and the frog gig-like point went into the skin until it rested against the thumb bone. It entered enough so one of the barbs had gone under the skin and necessitated being cut out. I learned I could not cut myself, on purpose, no matter how pressing the circumstances. One of my friends had to cut the skin enough so the barb could be pulled out. I vowed, from that time on, my knives would be sharp. It was not easy to cut the skin when the stomach is squeamish and the knife is dull. My hand was bandaged and we bicycled back to the base dispensary to see about the injury, which was not serious. A band-aid and a tetanus booster shot took care of the problem.

While stationed at Sasebo, I was talked into studying a little bit of Aikido. It is one of the martial arts of self-defense. It was interesting and especially the history surrounding the founder. I studied for several months, then became interested in the skin diving at ninety-nine islands. Being a peaceful individual, I felt I would never need to apply this knowledge to defend myself. It seemed unlikely I would be getting into a fight, if another choice presented itself. I have regretted this decision.

When stationed in Washington, D.C., I had the opportunity to attend my mugging by some young men. I also learned I would not walk away from an obvious situation of hazard. I thought the men were acting suspicious and thought how easy it would be to step inside of the corner drugstore to look at magazines, etc. While I do not know the reason for not taking this course of action, I continued my way toward the base. Close to the bridge, leading back to the base, the young men decided it was the time to make their presence felt. The three would-be muggers ran up behind me with the largest attempting to give me a two-handed rabbit punch to the back of the neck. I heard the footsteps and turned to go into a crouch, the punch just glazed me and was hardly noticed. The two smaller attackers were trying to close in from my sides as the larger man jumped back from his ineffective punch. The closest attacker received a glancing sidekick from me, which stopped him, because of its unexpected delivery. It was not delivered with forethought and lacked the power to injure. It was unexpected and thus startled the attacker. The confusion caused the three attackers to back away and I, then went after the largest of the three men. It seemed if I could get rid of the largest man, the others would not wish to continue.

The largest man quickly backed up to get away from my attack, so the only other recourse was to go into a defensive stance and see what the attackers would do next. I went into an open-hand stance and the biggest attacker misunderstood the open hands. He said to the others, “he knows Karate!” Everyone seemed to freeze and change their minds about the mugging. I was not about to enlighten them about the difference. While I had not studied long enough to really protect myself, it did help. Later, I wished I could again take up my studies of Aikido, but have not found the opportunity. When it became apparent the attackers had the fight taken out of them, I continued back to the base and turned my back on them with the disdain befitting one “who knew Karate.”

It was not long before my last visit to Hong Kong with COMSERVRON 3, I wrote my mother asking her to send the savings bonds I had saved. I had plans to spend a portion of the money on a tailor-made wardrobe in Hong Kong. Hong Kong was known for its good quality cloth and inexpensive tailoring. Three years earlier, I had taken out a $50.00 a month savings bond with my mother as co-owner. I received a letter from her with two bonds, saying she was sorry things had been a little rough and they had cashed the other bonds (36 X $37.50 = $1,350.00). This was a shock since I had been counting on the money, when entertaining thoughts of going to college, when my enlistment was over and nothing had been said about cashing the bonds during these years. The tailored clothes were purchased, but not in the quantity previously anticipated and I decided to reenlist.

An interesting side light to this story happened during my next leave home. My step-cousin, Connie Fay Hausey, asked if I had plans to attend college. I replied I did not think so since the loss of the $1,350.00 savings would make it more difficult. The word got back to my mother and stepfather. They were quite upset someone else knew of the money being spent. I ended up making an apology, and reassuring them I had not meant for their feelings to be hurt. I have been reluctant to take out any more savings bond allotments after this incident and prefer a closer watch over my little amount of money.

Money and family can be delicate subjects. After having experienced charity in various forms as I was growing up, I have tried to treat money matters with relatives with a gentle hand. Being single and on a ship much of the time, it allowed me to save a bit of money for my leave periods. I always made it a point to help with the food, when I was home. I did it by saying the Navy paid for my food, when I was on leave and mother should let me help with the food. Since most of the time I was using their car, I was always certain it was filled with gasoline and well maintained—saying it cost less than trying to rent or lease a car for the duration of my leave.

When I was home on leave, I would generally try to take my brother, E.C. around with me. I tried to give him things I did not have, when I was growing up. Because I had more money than “good sense,” I was over indulgent with him and he seemed to have little appreciation for the things which came so easily for him and which I thought he would place as high a value as I thought I would have, if I had been in his place. Perhaps, I tried to vicariously enjoy his childhood after having little ease in my own youth. After several leave periods, it became apparent E.C. was having his own problems with his childhood and did not share my sense of values. He would be generous with the things I had given him and give them away to someone else.

I would say both E.C. and I learned a few things during this period of time, but I think his childhood was much rougher than my own. He did not do well in school. Because he came along so late in life, when his parents were middle-aged and not expecting to have another child, E.C. did not receive the loving attention he might have received had he been born to younger parents, with fewer psychological problems in their own lives. Consequently, the only way he could receive attention was by doing poorly in school. If he brought home good grades little was said and he seemed to be ignored, when everything was going well. If he brought home bad reports, he received a lot of attention. It was bad attention, but at least he was being noticed. It seems the pattern for his childhood was set long before he got to school and he did not do well.

I had some long talks with E.C. and tried to encourage him with his schooling. I tried to show him the importance of a good education. I even told him I had promised myself to set aside the one thousand dollar savings certificate of deposit (C.D.) for his college, when he got ready to think about higher education. I told him I would help as much as I could, when this time came. Later, we had another conversation, when it became apparent his grades were not improving and if things continued the way they were going, he would never be able to qualify to enter college. I attempted to use a form of “shock treatment” by saying I would not have to worry about the C.D., because he would not be able to go to college, if he did not improve his study habits. I should have realized both he and I were fighting a “stacked deck” in trying to make him modify his behavior to fit a pattern, which could never change, because of the environment in which he was living. It would have caused us both less pain. Still, I tried to help him in the way, which seemed best to me at the time. I am sorry for the cross E.C. must bear during his life, but I was unable to help him with his heavy load. I hope there will come a time, when life will be more gentle with him.

Shortly before my two years with the staff, Commander, Service Squadron Three (COMSERVRON 3) had been completed, I reenlisted in the U.S. Navy for a period of six years. The two years of staff duty saw another advancement, Radioman Second Class Petty Officer (E-5) on September 16, 1961, to be awarded while I was home on thirty days leave, prior to being sent to the U.S.S. Jason (AR-8) in San Diego. I reported aboard on December 8, 1961. The USS Jason was the flagship for Commander, Service Squadron One (COMSERVRON ONE), so in one form or another I have been closely associated with headquarters-type commands much of my naval career.

I Count My Blessings

Chapter 6 ─ Atomic Tests, Then a Man of War

The USS Jason saw me for only two months (8 DEC 1961—21 FEB 1962) before I was called upon to be a part of the special Commander, Joint Task Force Eight (CJTF-8) being formed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. CJTF-8’s mission was to conduct the atomic tests in the Pacific Ocean in response to the Soviet’s breaking of the nuclear testing ban. I was surprised to see the message containing my transfer orders. The orders were received during my evening watch, shortly before I was to be relieved. I should have been less surprised since someone had read my fortune with cards. The cards foretold of a long journey and a complete change of working conditions. I am not certain I can believe in card reading, but this would tend to make the cards seem possible or could be a lucky generalization.

The tour of duty in Hawaii, was a delight since originally, I was to be part of the boat group stationed around Johnson Island to ferry the task force between the islands where the tests were being conducted. The flowers of Hawaii, are remembered as being a special treat. Most of the time, the members of our task group were isolated to ourselves. We were either working, sleeping or getting ready to go back to work. Still, there was time to enjoy the beauty of this island paradise. It was especially nice to be able to take a few moments, when walking to work, to stop and admire the beautiful flowers which seemed to abound on the base. I delighted in marveling at the beauty of the flowers and the handiwork of nature. I still get excited in the spring, when the roses start to bloom and it seems as if everywhere I look, I see beautiful roses.

This tour of duty started out modestly and made me wonder if things would get better. The members of my task element had to set up a communications center in one end of an empty hanger on the Naval Air Station. The make-shift communications center was a chain link fenced-in area with canvas put up to prevent people from seeing inside. A Marine sentry walked around the outside to prevent people from being able to come up to chain link fence. It was not very impressive, but it served the purpose, until the new communications facility could be built in the other end of the hanger. The new facility was on the second floor and in air-conditioned, soundproofed spaces, which were quite nice.

Security was taken seriously. The atomic testing organization, considered everything to be very “hush hush.” I remember hearing one story to illustrate this high regard for security. The Executive Officer of the Air Station decided to see what was happening. One of the buildings on the other end of the Air Station housed some scientific apparatus. It was isolated and the sentry had orders not to allow anyone to pass his post without proper identification and security clearance. The Executive Officer thought he was exempt from such security measures and proceeded to drive his car past the guard post without stopping. The Marine sentry fired a round through the back door of the car, which brought the Executive Office to a rapid stop. The officer learned, by the most vivid example, national security came before his command prerogative. I was told the sentry was given a court martial, found guilty, fined two dollars and given a carton of cigarettes—for missing the Executive Officer. Security was a serious business and no one on the base deemed it otherwise.

Night Becomes Day

One of my most vivid memories of this tour of duty concerned the final test. It was to be an air burst. That evening, everyone stationed on the Hawaiian portion of our Task Force, went up to the rooftops of the barracks, to see if we might be able to see the blast on the horizon. We expected to be able to see a small glow on the horizon, since the tests were so far away from us. It was a shock, when the night was illuminated with enough light to read a newspaper. It suddenly became as bright as day! The blast provided a dramatic demonstration of the destructive power of atomic weapons and made me aware of the awesome power at a nation’s disposal.

I received the following transfer evaluation of performance, when I left Hawaii:

Transfer evaluation report aboard CTU 8.3.9 6 MAR 62 - 24 JUL 62:

Description of assigned tasks: (RM2(P1)) Supervisor Joint tribsta (tributary station) under CJTF 8 (Commander Joint Task Force 8); Assistant Training PO (Petty Officer); Assistant to RM1 in establishing new Communications Center.

Evaluation comments: Outstanding in all fields, military and professional.

Justification comments: NEUFELD assisted RM1 in establishing a new CommCen (Communications Center) with 14 other shipboard RM’s (radiomen), with nothing available for reference but past experience. He has performed all duties willingly and in an outstanding manner, and maintained a perfect uniform, and has set an exceptionally good example for the lower rated men.

M. E. Fitzgerald, CDR, USN

The following message was placed in my personal files:



1. I note with pleasure the outstanding performance of duty of the JTG 8.3 Communications Unit, Barbers Point, during the advance preparations for, and conduct of, the 1962 nuclear tests in the Pacific. Your communications unit has provided consistently reliable communications support for Joint Task Force Eight, including commands and units of the Air Force Task Group (JTG 8.4 at NAS Barbers Point and Hickam Air Force Base) and to JTF-8 scientific task units based at Barbers Point. This communication support has been a vital factor in the conduct of current test series.

2. I commend you for your high standards of efficiency and courteous service, and your adaptability in operating under Joint Task Force procedures. It has been reported that the JTG 8.3 Communications Unit Barbers Point set the standards for efficiency for other JTF-8 communication units operating in your area.

3. Your organizational ability, and the outstanding capability of your communication unit, are a credit to the Navy Task Group and Joint Task Force Eight.

4. Please pass on to all hands my sincere appreciation and well done.


Heavy Cruiser ─ Big Guns

Six months were spent in the sunny climate of the U.S. Naval Air Station at Barber’s Point, Hawaii, before I was back in the fleet and aboard the flagship of the Commander of the First fleet, the U.S.S. Saint Paul (CA-73). I was stationed aboard the heavy cruiser from August 30, 1962, through May 31, 1963. Life aboard the cruiser, U.S.S. Saint Paul, was interesting and I felt the thrill of battle, when the ship would go to action stations. Whenever the ship’s eight-inch guns in the main battery would explode, firing their huge projectiles, a surge of power would sweep up my imagination and scenes of battle would be envisioned. After the slow moving freighter and repair ships of the Service Force, the speedy man-of-war inspired the lust for adventure. The words from the song, “Sink The Bismarck,” would run through my mind and I would hum along with: “. . . we hit the decks a running and turned those guns around etc.”

Just walking the decks of the large ship, in the pursuit of routine tasks, would stimulate my imagination. I could see the heroes of Lord Nelson, John Paul Jones, Thomas Truxton, Admiral Perry or old “Bull” Halsey pacing the decks of their ships as they sought out the enemy or were being tossed about by stormy seas. The refrain from Rudyard Kipling’s poem “The Galley-Slave” would run through my mind:

“Bear witness, once my comrades, what a hardbit gang were we— The servants of the sweep-head, but the masters of the sea! By the hands that drove her forward as she plunged and yawed and sheered, Woman, man, or God or devil, was there anything we feared?”

I reported aboard the cruiser after it returned from an extensive tour of duty in the western Pacific as flagship to the Commander, Seventh Fleet. The ship went into a lengthy period of overhaul in the ship repair facility at Long Beach, California. During this period in Long Beach, the Communications Officer taught me, and several other radiomen, the game of handball. It was an interesting sport and I accepted the challenge to myself to try to make use of both hands. It was an effort to try to develop the coordination in the left hand to return the serves and volleys of the small ball traveling at a good speed. The forearms received bruises from the ball hitting the arm instead of the uncoordinated hands. Still, it was fun and provided a good physical workout.

When our ship left the repair facility, it was time to undergo training exercises to test the ship’s readiness for battle. Underway training exercises are an experience for any ship’s crew, but the cruiser provided more of a feeling of battle preparedness. During one of the exercises of shore bombardment, the U.S.S. Saint Paul did not do well. The captain was more than a little upset at these results, since the ship had the reputation throughout the fleet for her gunnery expertise. The “skipper” held a counseling session of all the senior gunnery officers, petty officers and mount captains in the wardroom. He must have convinced them of the seriousness with which he viewed the shore bombardment exercise, because on the following exercise, the Gunnery Department was back to its expected level of performance.

The ship was shooting at aerial drones, launched from the U.S.S. Targeteer. The drones are large, remote controlled model airplanes having a wingspan of ten or twelve feet. They were launched by rocket assist from the ship, then flown by remote control from the bridge of the support ship. As each of the first three drones were launched and put into firing position, they were shot out of the sky by the gunnery personnel. The Navy takes a dim view of having these rather expensive model airplanes shot down. It prefers to have the gunners fire close to the drones to score points. After the loss of three drones, the U.S.S. Targeteer cancelled the rest of the gunnery shoot. The captain announced the cancellation of General Quarters, about an hour earlier than scheduled. It seemed, to me, there was a note of pride in the “skipper’s” voice as he made the announcement over the public address system.

During more rational moments, I took the General Educational Development Tests administered by the University of Wisconsin for the military services. The G.E.D. tests were to measure, if my general educational development level had reached that of one year of college equivalent. I passed the tests with the highest category being in the interpretation of reading materials in the natural sciences and the lowest being the correctness and effectiveness of expression.

I Count My Blessings

Chapter 7 ─ Shore Duty, Corvette and War

I received word I was to be transferred on May 31, 1963, to the staff of the Commandant of the Potomac River Naval Command at Washington, D.C., for a tour of shore duty. Because of these orders, the realization of a six-year dream of owning a Corvette came to pass. The car was ordered and was delivered, during I my thirty-day leave in Fort Worth. The car was a 1963 Stingray of silver blue color and powered by a modest 327 cubic inch, 300 horse power engine, with more power than this inexperienced sports car driver could handle. I was never able to get nerve enough to learn what the top speed of the car was. It registered 160 MPH on the speedometer. Nerves would fail before the top speed could be learned.

The Corvette was fun to drive, but not worth the bother of the insurance hassle that went with owning a sports car. For the longest time, I kept a scrap book of cancelled insurance policies and paperwork. The nice letters said, “Through no fault of the driver, the risk could no longer be assumed. . . .” The driving record of no accidents or chargeable tickets meant nothing to the insurance companies, dealing only with averages in deciding whether to retain coverage on sports cars. I had to go “assigned risk” to get my liability insurance. When I arrived in Washington, D.C., I had to pay fifty cents for a certified copy of my driving record in the District of Columbia. I had not been there long enough to have received a parking ticket and yet, I had to get the certified copy of my driving record. Then, another $4.00 was paid to get on the assigned risk listing.

An insurance agent came out to interview me. I showed him where the car was parked, where the barracks were and the fact I could walk the half-block to the communications spaces to work quicker than I could to my parking place to get the car. The agent was not obligated to grant the insurance, but the investigation must have shown him the liability was not as great as it seemed. The assigned risk, liability policy remained in force for the entire time the car was in my possession. The comprehensive, fire and theft required by the bank, who loaned the money, is another sad story, which left a bitter taste in my mouth, concerning insurance companies. When I left Vietnam, I had enough money saved to pay cash for a new corvette. I decided it was not worth all the hassle of owning a sports car and bought a pickup truck with a camper instead.

I reported to the Naval Station, Washington, D.C., on July 4, 1963, and was processed to the staff of the Commandant on the next day. Two months later the Naval Station established a consolidated Communications Office to serve the many commands in the area. I was transferred to the Naval Station, insofar as the administrative control went, although my actual working spaces remained the same as they had. Not long after reporting to Washington, D.C., I was advanced to Radioman First Class Petty Officer (E-6) on November 16, 1963.

Washington, D.C., was an interesting place to be stationed with many sights to be seen. My favorite haunts were Point Lookout, and Fort Washington, Maryland. The fort was a fascinating place, that was preserved much the way it was when built. The fort had originally been built to defend Washington against a British raid up the Potomac River. When the British marched overland from Baltimore, the fort was not fired upon with naval cannon. The fort brought many images to my mind, but the most mind-boggling, to me, were the two empty gun emplacements of such gigantic size. Some historical reference was found which mentioned disappearing gun emplacements at Fort Washington. I could not imagine the size of the guns involved to use such huge emplacements. Many pleasant hours were spent at the fort, wandering over the grounds and marveling at how well preserved it was.

Driving through the Virginia or Maryland countryside was a delight to the imagination. I could feel the historical significance of the area and fully expected to see Confederate or Union Calvary come charging out of the woods surrounding the fields beside the road. The scenery was beautiful, but the stimulus to my imagination was even greater. The air seemed charged with electricity as the pages of history opened to another time. The scenery was a delight. I was glad, I accepted the advice to detour, on the way to Washington, D.C., by going along “Skyline Drive.” It runs along the ridge of the Shenandoah Valley and presents a beautiful view of the valley. My view was dimmed a bit by the tremendous deluge of rain so thick I had to pull the Corvette over and wait for it to subside enough to see the road. Still, the view was breathtaking and lovely.

While stationed at the Naval Shipyard, one of the junior men on my watch section decided to take flying lessons. Being a curious individual, I would ask questions on the long night watches. When it was quiet and the work was done, the man would study his ground school lessons. When he was having difficulty, he would try to explain it to me. While I did not know much about flying, if the man could explain it to someone who knew so little about the subject, it helped him learn it even better. I found it was an interesting way to spend the night watches. I had the opportunity to go flying with the friend, after he received his license. After the long conversations, the airplane seemed much more familiar and not as foreboding.

I remember the nation’s shock as we heard the news president John F. Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas. We could not believe such a thing had happened and, to me, it was even more of a sorrow. The U.S.S. Saint Paul had been preparing for the president’s visit to the fleet, when I was transferred from the ship. I witnessed one of the “dress rehearsals” for the president’s visit. The fleet in San Diego went to sea for battle exercises to display its weaponry and tactics to the president. Since they wanted everything to go well, there were several rehearsals for the visit. The president visited the fleet while I was home on leave in Texas.

I was able to attend the presidential inauguration of Lyndon B. Johnson while I was stationed in Washington, D.C. It was another interesting experience, although not a lot to could be seen, because of the enormous crowds. Tickets were sold for all the bleacher-like seats along the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route. If you did not have an advance ticket, it was difficult to see much of the parade. Still, the United Servicemen’s Organization (U.S.O.) building had seats for the servicemen and I was able to see some of the parade.

Since I had “transportation,” I received some invitations to spend our three days off at a friend’s house in Ohio. It was there, I got to know Carl E. and Marguerite Clemens. Their hospitality was always gracious and Mrs. Clemens would make the most delightful sandwiches for us to eat on our drive back to Washington, D.C. The drive along the Pennsylvania Turnpike in the fall of the year was a delight to the senses. The trees would be magnificent in their “coats of many colors,” Mother Nature had provided to dazzle the eyes.

During one of my leave periods at home, an event happened which is significant. My step-cousin’s husband, who also became my good friend, gave me a few words of encouragement one night, as he and Connie gave me a ride home. Robert J. “Bob” Votaw must have seen something of my shy introversion and decided to do something about it. We talked for a few minutes and he said something to the effect: all I needed was someone to tell me I was okay and people enjoyed me for myself. I do not remember his exact words, but they were to the effect he had not known me long, but was impressed with me and wanted to let me know he “liked” me. This conversation, while short, had a tremendous effect on allowing my personality to further blossom! It is nice to have someone tell you they like you for being yourself. I have tried to remember this important lesson to tell others of my feelings for them.

Easter Break and The Risk of Loving

After spending a year and half in the faithful execution of my duties, I decided to take leave for the coming Christmas holidays. The leave might have been uneventful if it had not been for the charming personality of a girl I had been acquainted with for a long time, but only just learned to know. I had gone to school with Jo Ann Covington’s brother, Jerry. I had not given her much thought while we were in high school. We dated several times during my thirty-day leave. The more I learned of her and the more I saw of Jo Ann, the more I was caught up with the compelling urge to be with her more. I sought out her charming company at the slightest excuse, trying to appear calm and collected to everyone about being so fascinated by her, but failing to fool anyone save myself.

Soon the days passed, Christmas leave was over and I had to depart Texas, to go back to Washington, D.C. The long trip gave considerable time for reflection and thinking. The agony of parting was made even greater by the delightful time spent at home. Many revelations were beginning to soak into my befuddled mind. Many lessons in human relations would have to be relearned and modified, but the sun began to dawn on my troubled heart making the future brighter for me and more sunny to those around me.

During the “Easter break,” from school teaching, Jo Ann decided to take a tour of the nation’s capitol. This delighted me, since she had made such an impression on my senses. I tried to make her trip a delightful experience. While waiting for her arrival at the airport, I picked up a copy of Reader’s Digest to pass the time. I read one brief piece, which seemed to fit my circumstances exactly. It was titled “The Risk Of Loving” by Sydney J. Harris. I clipped it from the magazine and have kept it to share with others from time to time. It seemed to sum up many aspects of loving and my life. It states:

“As I stood at the airport, waiting for the plane to bring my family back from Florida, I thought of the frightful risk involved in loving. If the plane had crashed, most of myself would have gone down with it.

“And yet there is no way to love without risk. When you commit yourself to another, when that other becomes an integral part of yourself, you have made yourself infinitely more vulnerable to the cold hand of fate. Those who cannot love are those who are afraid, or unable, to run the risks involved. They want to keep themselves safe and protected. They fear that their love may be rejected, or betrayed, or weakly returned.

“Yet, unless we are willing to take such chances, to accept the fact that such loving we leave ourselves wide open to disappointment or disaster, we cannot escape from the web of our own selfish egos.”

The flight arrived and the delightful girl arrived to take my mind away from the solemn, philosophical side of life. If she had not come to Washington, D.C., for a visit, it is doubtful I would have taken the time to play “tourist.” Now, I had reason to go around to all the places I had been driving past for a long time. We took the sightseeing tour of the capitol and had a delightful time. It was the most beautiful time of the year with the cherry trees around the capitol in their most radiant glory. The cherry blossom time of the year is the loveliest of times and the pink blooms made the buildings all the more impressive. The few months remaining on my tour of duty in Washington, D.C., seemed kind of pale in comparison to the delight of the “Easter break.”

Electronics School and Base Beautification

On August 9, 1965, I reported for duty at the Radioman Class “B” School at the Service Schools Command, U.S. Naval Training Center Bainbridge. Maryland. The school consisted of 37 weeks of electronics theory and practical troubleshooting experience on communications equipment. I was uncertain how well I would do in this field, since I had never been to the basic Radioman Class “A” school. Still, I reasoned whatever electronics training I would be able to assimilate, it would be to my advantage. The end result of the uncertainty was to finish third in a class of fourteen, with a final grade average of 84.72. I missed receiving the silver diploma of second place by .23 of a point. I beat the second place winner with my academic grade, but the other man had a better troubleshooting grade to aid the final overall average.

During the period of the demonstrations against the war effort, I wrote the following thoughts on 17 April 1966, as part of a leadership exercise conducted at the school:

A great deal of emphasis has been placed on a small group of malcontents, who talk of “dodging the draft” or of burning “draft cards” in protest. In protest of what, one wonders? Are their protestations based upon moral convictions or religious ideologies? If so, these dissenters should be saluted for their honorable motives.

While the hand is raised in tribute for this resolute demonstration of moral convictions and strength of character, this stalwart group would do well to consider the words of Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” These words point out the responsibility for defending the freedoms—even that of dissention.

The privilege to believe as you will, brings the obligation to protect the liberties, of all freedom-loving peoples, lest your own slip away to become but a sweet dream of yesterday in a desolate tomorrow. If man is to preserve his innate love of liberty, there will come moments when he must defend his ideals or see then taken away.

This defense won’t be an easy job, nor a pleasant task to contemplate. Few relish the thoughts of personal danger or risk even though much blood was shed by past heroes to preserve our present privileges. Dare we say to these past heroes their sacrifices were in vain?

It’s possible for even the deeply religious person, abhorrent of taking another human’s life, to serve his country. Desmond T. Doss, a drafted conscientious objector, won the Medal of Honor in World War II. He refused to fight on religious grounds, but served with the 77th Division on Okinawa, as a medical aide. Doss won America’s highest military honor for ignoring heavy enemy fire to treat and rescue wounded men and illustrates, for all, it is possible to fulfill moral and personal commitments.

Doss is but one example of past heroes who belong to the brotherhood of men not afraid of doing their duty. This elite group was not without fear, but even while being frightened they went “in harm’s way” to discharge their responsibilities. Perhaps, the small band of misguided citizens who boast of “beating the board (draft)”will accept the challenge that once again it is time to prove this is, indeed, the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”

My tour of duty at Bainbridge, provided an introduction to something, which was to haunt me ever afterwards. The first lady, Lady Bird Johnson, decided her calling was to beautify America. Consequently, the military bases were called upon to do their part. The students at Bainbridge, were required to clean an area along the chain link fence around the base. As a result of these efforts to beautify the base, I developed an allergic reaction to poison ivy, which would, at times, prove devastating to the epidermis. My first case at Bainbridge, was so bad the base doctors did not believe it was poison ivy. My forearms were covered with a massive area of weeping sores, which would not respond to the usual treatment of Burroughs solution or calamine lotion. After more experience with this allergy, I found hydrocortisone cream seemed to do the best job of combating my problem.

Preparing for War

The tour of duty had some nicer moments. I started my poetry collection notebook while stationed in Bainbridge. The library was close to our barracks and there was a little time for reading something other than textbooks on the weekends. Bainbridge was rather removed from any urban activity, so the library received plenty of use. I have always been interested in history and, being in the military, I was interested in strategy and tactics. I read any book I could find on the subjects and there was a bountiful supply to keep me occupied. I believe the information I learned from my reading helped me formulate a plan of action later, when my section was on duty the night of the 1968 Tet Offensive began in Saigon.

Another delightful place I enjoyed visiting was the weapons museum at the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground. It was not far away and I would delight in seeing the old World War II tanks and artillery pieces the Army had captured. There was a tremendous outside park of the vehicles on display for people to walk around and examine. There was a fascinating indoor museum which contained everything from muskets to intercontinental rockets. It was a delightful way to spend the weekends.

During the school, the girl back home decided to give her heart to another. As a result, I did something I had repressed a year or two earlier, out of respect for her feelings. I requested duty in Vietnam. I had long been interested in tactics and guerrilla warfare. I read everything I could get my hands on concerning these subjects. When it was time to leave Washington, D.C., I seriously considered applying for duty in Vietnam. I thought Jo Ann would not understand my actions. Now, she was no longer a factor, I could request the duty, long of interest to me, and learn, firsthand, about a subject I considered very important.

I requested Naval Advisory Group duty and, if this were not granted, duty on the river or coastal patrol boats. I received orders to the enlisted allowance, Chief, Naval Advisory Group, Military Assistance Command Vietnam Saigon, Republic of Vietnam. Before this duty could be assumed, I was required to undergo three weeks of Counterinsurgency School at the U.S. Naval Amphibious Base at Little Creek, Virginia. I received a thirty-day leave at home and reported to the base from the second through the 24th of June 1966.

During my leave, I sold the Corvette I had for three years. I knew I would be in Vietnam for a minimum of one year and probably longer as I planned to extend my tour. I did not want to have the car just sitting around. It seemed better to sell it. I also received one of the most impressive cases of poison ivy just before it came time to report for the Counterinsurgency School in Virginia. I was helping clear my uncle Marvin’s property at Lake Whitney. We were cutting the brush and burning it to clean off the property so it could be mowed and cared for properly. The smoke from the poison ivy or poison oak, made my face swell up to the point one eye was closed and the other was not far behind. During the flight to Virginia, the stewardess would bring me ice packs to help keep the swelling down. It was on the Naval Amphibious Base I learned of the ability of Cortisone to combat the problem. I was prescribed a derivative pill, Predinsone and the problem cleared up during the instructional phase of the school. I would be ready for the survival-training phase.

During the first phase of the school, I and a couple of my friends found a delightful super market that had a restaurant inside. You could go to the meat counter, pick out a steak, pay for it at the checkout counter and take it to the restaurant section to have it prepared for an additional fifty cents. It was a nice arrangement and the steaks were really good. There was also a tremendous slab of roast beef on the spit all the time. The other specialty of the house was the roast beef dinners that were both reasonable in cost and a delight to the palate.

The week of survival training was an experience to be remembered. I learned to make beef jerky and developed a taste for Sassafras tea. The tea seemed the only nice thing about the experience. At the end of the week of survival training, with very little food to eat, there was an all night and half the next day escape and evasion exercise. The escape and evasion exercise ended with everyone being captured and put into a mock prisoner of war camp. Each student was to experience a taste of what it would be like, if they were captured and placed in a real POW camp. It was during the interrogation I learned more about myself.

I decided while I was being held in the camp, before the questioning, I would not talk under any circumstances. When my turn came to go down to where the questioning was being conducted, I was tricked into giving my “Navy number.” The interrogator said, “Ah, you are in the Navy.” This made me even more determined to resist the questioning.

I was soon placed in the little black boxes to experience what it would be like to be placed in a tiny cramped isolated cell. The first box was about the size of a good size steamer trunk. In the box was one of the friends I had come to know during the school. I made up my mind, I would not even speak my name, rank and serial number. The people put me in with my friend and started banging on the box with sticks similar to axe handles. The captors kept yelling for the prisoners to call out their name, rank, and serial numbers. Because I felt my friend would be punished for my stubborn behavior, I started calling out my name, rank and serial number.

After a time, I was removed from the large box and placed in a much smaller one by myself. The guards continued to beat on the side of the box and have me call out my name, rank and serial number. I reasoned later, this was to allow the captors to know, when someone was close to passing out from the heat, etc. When the captors opened the lid to ask me what I had been doing in the “people's woods,” I would respond only with my name, rank and serial number. As a result of my unresponsive behavior, I was in the box a lot longer than was the usual case. I was in there, until my voice gave out from the continuous yelling of name, rank and serial number. It must have given my captors a bit of a fright. They took me out of the box and sat me under a shade tree for a while, before continuing the interrogation inside the small building near the boxes. One of the “guards” slipped me a tiny package containing two pieces of “Chicolet” gum. I did not have enough saliva to make gum out of the first piece I tried to chew. The “Chicolet” just broke up into tiny pieces of grit. The second piece of gum turned into gum and I managed to chew it okay.

When the interrogation continued, they would find little response from their captive. When the threat of the black box was brought up, I would respond to their question I did not wish to go back, but would not disclose anything further. When the threat of the black box did not get them anywhere, the captors decided I could crawl out the door like a dog. This was not acceptable to me and I refused to move. I had determined I would not allow them to demean my dignity by making me behave in such a manner. They finally told me I could walk back to the camp; my interrogation was over.

It amazed me to see how successful the interrogators were. The conditions were simulated. The “captives” knew they would not be beaten with rifle butts or tortured such as would have been the case if it had been real. Still, the “captors” managed to accomplish a lot and many “captives” went along with whatever was requested. Under such conditions, a person takes stock in what they consider important. They decide what point they do not wish to be pushed beyond and refuse to go farther. It might be a streak of stubbornness was the determining factor. I decided I would not cooperate with my “captors” and refused to allow them to go beyond a certain point. It was an enlightening experience.

Entering the War Zone

A short stopover at home after the Counterinsurgency and Survival School and I was on my way toward the realization of the long held dream of, seeing first hand, what guerrilla warfare was all about. The dream did not quite became reality, because I learned I would be assigned to the Communications Department of the Commander Naval Forces, Vietnam, headquartered in Saigon. The expansion of the naval role in Vietnam caused the establishment of a new command structure.

Following approval of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in February 1966 of the establishment of a U.S. Naval Component Commander for Vietnam, the Commander in Chief Pacific Fleet laid plans during March for the new organization. To be known as Commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Vietnam, this organization was scheduled for activation on 1 April 1966. The Commander’s billet was to be filled by Rear Admiral Norvell G. Ward, USN, who had formerly been Chief of the Naval Advisory Group, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam.

The primary purpose of COMNAVFORV is to bring under single command virtually all of the 12,000 men ashore in South Vietnam or operating in coastal and inland waters. Under Admiral Ward will be the Naval Advisory Group, the Naval Support Activities in Saigon and Danang, the 30th Naval Construction Regiment, CTF 115 (coastal patrol force), and CTF 116 (river patrol force). Operational control over COMNAVFORV will be exercised by General William C, Westmoreland, USA, Commander United States Military Assistance Command Vietnam. Administratively, Admiral Ward will be under Commander in Chief Pacific Fleet.

As I look back on my life, I came to the conclusion God must watch out for foolish sailors, because I was certainly kept out of trouble on several occasions. I reported July 7, 1966, and would remain there until November 1, 1969, to learn about the subject which so interested me from the vantage point of being a spectator rather than participant.

Duty in Saigon was, for the most part, uneventful and a rather nice way to spend sea duty time. It counted as sea duty and there was a special program, that if a person extended their tour of duty for six months, a free thirty-day leave was provided. I never had so much leave at any time during my naval career and I deemed this program to be something to be utilized. The result of the three years and four months of duty in Saigon was four months were spent at home on leave. On September 5, 1969, I requested my fifth six months extension of duty at COMNAVFORV, but it was not approved stateside. The reason given for the disapproval was “Chief Petty Officer NEUFELD has been serving in a hostile fire area since July 1966.”

Being in a war zone makes a person very aware of his mortality. I came face-to-face with myself and the possibility my life could end at any moment. This realization provided the catalyst for making some changes to my character. It gave rise to a serious analytical examination of life, as I had lived it. There were things I might have wished to do over, but could not. It left me with only the opportunity to change what I could each of the “today’s” I had left. I believed a benevolent, understanding God would weigh my life with some generosity, when it came time to make my accounting. I preferred to think the scales would balance out on the side of good, but there was little I could do about this after the fact. The only thing left was to make the most of whatever time remained allotted to me. One thought became uppermost in my mind was: it would be sad to die, without having the opportunity to tell a lot of the people how much I appreciated their assistance. I met some especially nice people during my life and they had helped greatly.

A view of mortality can bring nice changes. It made it easier for me to develop the alien trait of communicating with those closest to my life. Personal communications has become easier for the reticent youth who shunned close contact as a defensive mechanism, created by an uncertain childhood. I was not frightened at the thought of dying, but what did scare me was the thought of not having the opportunity to inform some nice people they had been instrumental in lending me a helping hand along the way. I developed a greater appreciation for Edgar A. Guest’s poem “Friendship Courage” and attempted to pattern my life so it might be used as an epitaphic rhyme. I hope a few people will be able to say these words fit my efforts when I am gone.

Friendship Courage

He never felt ashamed to say what many won’t admit, That he had seen another’s work and highly valued it. He never thought it silly to speak out a word of cheer While the one it might encourage was about where he could hear.

When we called him sentimental, in reply he often said, He thought it rather futile sending roses to the dead, And he thought it rather idle to be fond of someone near, And not say a word about it till you stand beside his bier.

He wondered how the notion ever struck the human mind, It was folly to be gracious and a weakness to be kind; Why to dead men go the plaudits which the living are denied. And why fondness for another is a thing we ought to hide?

All I know is this about him: Those he met along his way, Found encouragement and comfort in the things he chose to say. For the proof they had his friendship they were never forced to seek, Since he’d told them so in praises he was not afraid to speak.

(Edgar A. Guest)

I Count My Blessings

Chapter 8 ─ The Chief in Vietnam

Shortly after arriving in Saigon, I took the Navy-wide examination for Radioman, Chief Petty Officer (E-7). It seemed such an easy test after completing the 37 weeks of school in Bainbridge, I thought I must have really “blown” the test. I was appointed a permanent Chief Petty Officer on January 16, 1967, which was the realization of every career-orientated sailor’s goal.

Advancement into the Chief Petty Officer grades is the most significant promotion within the enlisted Navy ranks. At the rank of Chief, the sailor takes on more administrative duties. Their uniform changes to reflect this change of duty, becoming similar to that of an officer, albeit with different insignia. Sailors in the three Chief Petty Officer ranks also have conspicuous privileges such as separate dining and living areas. Any Navy ship of sufficient size has a room or rooms that are off-limits to anyone not a Chief (including officers) except by specific invitation. In Navy jargon, this room is called the “Goat Locker” or Chief’s Mess.

Chief Petty Officers serve a dual role as both technical experts and as leaders, with the emphasis being more on leadership as they progress through the CPO ranks. Like Petty Officers, every Chief has both a rate (rank) and rating (job, similar to an MOS in other branches). A chief’s full title is a combination of the two. Thus, a Chief Petty Officer, who has a rating of Radioman would properly be called a Chief Radioman.

The rating insignia for a CPO is an eagle with spread wings above three chevrons. The chevrons are topped by a rocker that goes behind the eagle (or “crow,” as it is commonly called). This is used on the Dress Blue uniform. On all other uniforms the insignia used is the one that has become universally accepted as the symbol of the Chief Petty Officer. This is a fouled (entwined in the anchor chain) gold anchor superimposed with a silver “USN.” Collectively, officers and chiefs are referred to as “khakis.” This is a reference to the color of their most common shipboard “working” uniforms, and is a direct contrast to those in pay grades E-6 and below (or blue shirts).

The Certificate of Permanent Appointment reads as follows:

To all who shall see these presents, greeting: Know Ye, that reposing special trust and confidence in the patriotism, valor, fidelity and abilities of DEWEY DONALD NEUFELD I do hereby appoint you a Permanent CHIEF RADIOMAN in the UNITED STATES NAVY to rank as such from the 16th day of January, nineteen hundred and sixty-seven.

TO THE APPOINTEE: Your appointment carries with it the obligation that you exercise additional authority and willingly accept greater responsibility. Your every action must be governed by a strong sense of personal moral responsibility and leadership. You will observe and follow such orders as may be given by superiors acting according to the rules, articles and provisions of United States Navy Regulations, General Orders, Uniform Code of Military Justice, and supporting orders and directives.”

Given under my hand at the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Navy Department, Washington, D.C., this 19th day of April in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and sixty-seven.

The advancement to Chief Petty Officer is a solemn occasion which brings with the promotion a deep sense of responsibility as I joined a brotherhood which can be partly explained by the United States Navy Chief Petty Officer Creed:

During the course of this day, you have been caused to humbly accept challenge and face adversity. This you have accomplished with rare good grace. Pointless as some of these challenges may have seemed, there were valid, time-honored reasons behind each pointed barb. It was necessary to meet these hurdles with blind faith in the fellowship of Chief Petty Officers. The goal was to instill in you that trust is inherent with the donning of the uniform of a Chief.

It was our intent to impress you that challenge is good, a great and necessary reality which cannot mar you—which, in fact, strengthens you. In your future as a Chief Petty Officer, you will be forced to endure adversity far beyond that imposed upon you today. You must face each challenge and adversity with the same dignity and good grace you demonstrated today. By experience, by performance, and by testing, you have been this day advanced to Chief Petty Officer. In the United States Navy—and only in the United States Navy—the rank of E7 carries with it unique responsibilities and privileges you are now bound to observe and expected to fulfill. Your entire way of life is now changed. More will be expected of you; more will be demanded of you. Not because you are a E7, but because you are now a Chief Petty Officer. You have not merely been promoted one pay grade, you have joined an exclusive fellowship and, as in all fellowships, you have a special responsibility to your comrades, even as they have a special responsibility to you. This is why we in the United States Navy may maintain with pride our feelings of accomplishment once we have attained the position of Chief Petty Officer.

Your new responsibilities and privileges do not appear in print. They have no official standing; they cannot be referred to by name, number, nor file. They have existed for over 100 years. Chiefs before you have freely accepted responsibility beyond the call of printed assignment. Their actions and their performance demanded the respect of their seniors as well as their juniors. It is now required that you be the fountain of wisdom, the ambassador of good will, the authority in personal relations as well as in technical applications. “Ask the Chief” is a household phrase in and out of the Navy. You are now the Chief. The exalted position you have now achieved—and the word exalted is used advisedly—exists because of the attitude and performance of the Chiefs before you. It shall exist only as long as you and your fellow Chiefs maintain these standards. It was our intention that you never forget this day. It was our intention to test you, to try you, and to accept you. Your performance has assured us that you will wear “the hat” with the same pride as your comrades in arms before you. We take a deep and sincere pleasure in clasping your hand, and accepting you as a Chief Petty Officer in the United States Navy.

The tradition of the emblem of the Chief Petty Officer was explained this way:

The Fouled Anchor is the emblem of the Rate of Chief Petty Officer of the United States Navy. Attached to the Anchor is a length of chain and the letters U.S.N. To the novice, the anchor, chain and letters only identify a Chief Petty Officer of the United States Navy, but, to a Chief, these have a more noble and glorious meaning.

The “U” stands for Unity, which reminds us of cooperation, maintaining harmony and continuity of purpose and action. The “S” stands for Service, which reminds us of service to our God, our fellow man and our Navy. The “N” stands for Navigation, which reminds us to keep ourselves on a true course so that we may walk upright before God and man in our transactions with all mankind, but especially with our fellow Chiefs.

The Chain is symbolic of flexibility and reminds us of the chain of life that we forge day by day, link by link and may it be forged with Honor, Morality and Virtue.

The Anchor is emblematic of the hope and glory of the fulfillment of all God’s promises to our souls. The golden or precious Anchor by which we must be kept steadfast in faith and encouraged to abide in our proper station amidst the storm of temptation, affliction and persecution.

The solemnity impressed upon all new Chief Petty Officers never leaves you. Being a “Chief” demands from you the expectation of greater service to your men and to your country. As a “Chief,” you enter a brotherhood or fellowship that extends down through the years. It is a proud tradition which allows you to place absolute trust in the integrity of your fellow Chiefs. The bond of Chief Petty Officers makes you want to strive diligently to be worthy of the trust imposed upon you. It brings you to a higher sense of duty as you become part of the tradition that is “Our Navy.” You never lose this sense of duty. The Chief Petty Officer Retirement Creed reads as follows:

You have on this day, experienced that which comes to all of us who serve on active duty in “OUR NAVY,” I say “OUR NAVY,” because your departure from active duty in no way terminates your relationship. By law and tradition, U.S. Navy Retirees are always on the rolls ever ready to lend their service when the need arises. The respect that you earned as “The Chief” was based on the same attributes that you will now carry into retirement. You should have no regrets. Do not view your retirement as an end of an era, but rather as orders to a new and challenging assignment, to a form of independent duty. Remember well that you have been, and will always be, an accepted member of the most exclusive of all fraternities—that of the U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officers. The active duty Chiefs salute you, your retired Chiefs welcome you. I wish you the traditional “Fair Winds and Following Seas.

As a Chief Petty Officer, one of my “defining moments” came when I learned the taste of fear. In retrospect, there was little danger, but at the time, it seemed greater. My watch section had duty the night of January 31, 1968, when the Viet Cong began their Tet offensive. I learned I was able to do my duty, when I was too frightened to speak in anything but a whisper and the words tried to stick in my throat. Early in the evening, word was received several VC “sappers” (commandos) carrying explosives and armed with automatic weapons had been captured in Saigon. The VC had orders to attack a radio station on the same street the naval headquarters was located. At this time, we thought they had orders to attack the U.S. Naval Forces headquarters compound. We prepared as best we could with the limited resources available. In the Communications Center, I had four M2 automatic carbines and two .45 automatic pistols. The weapons were used primarily for the courier runs we made to pick up communications traffic.

As, Chief of the Watch Section that night, I organized my defense team, which consisted of four riflemen, with the carbines. There was no hesitation on my part. I did not wait to be told what to do. As a “Chief” and communications watch section leader, I assumed that was automatically “my job.” I will relate this experience in the next chapter.

In March another free thirty-day leave was enjoyed, even more, at home. During that leave my friends and family gave me a surprise party for my thirtieth birthday. The girl, I was casually dating, kept me busy, until everyone could be assembled for the surprise. The girl had us running some errand and then took me to the place of the party. It was a complete surprise to me.

When I returned to Saigon, I received a letter of commendation. It reads as follows:

1. During the early morning hours of Wednesday, 31 January 1968, various areas of the city of Saigon came under attack by organized elements of the Communist insurgents (Viet Cong). At approximately 0300, the sounds of the explosions of mortar rounds were heard at the headquarters of Commander U.S. Naval Forces, Vietnam and Commander Naval Support Activity, Saigon. Immediately, you and your shipmates responded to the threat. Some of you rapidly and effectively established armed defensive positions throughout the compounds; while others established radio contact between the two headquarters and the Military Police radio network, and kept close watch on Viet Cong terrorist activity in the surrounding area. Your prompt and selfless actions, without regard for your own safety, greatly enhanced the security posture of the NAVFORV and NAVSUPPACT compounds, and afforded protection for the personnel and buildings in those naval installations.

2. For your actions on that occasion, you are commended.

On June 30, 1969, the Secretary of the Navy awarded the Navy Unit Commendation to the headquarters and staff for the events of the 1968 Tet Offensive and other experiences. The citation reads as follows:

The Secretary of the Navy takes pleasure in presenting the NAVY UNIT COMMENDATION to: HEADQUARTERS STAFF, COMMANDER U.S. NAVAL FORCES VIETNAM, for service set forth in the following CITATION:

For exceptionally meritorious service from 1 April 1966 to 30 Jun 1969, during operations against enemy forces in the Republic of Vietnam. During this period, the Headquarters Staff of Commander United States Naval Forces, Vietnam, displayed outstanding skill in planning, directing, coordinating and supporting United States Naval Forces in the prosecution of the counterinsurgency war effort along the coasts, rivers and inland waterways of the Republic of Vietnam. Laboring under the pressures of time and resource limitations, in a hostile environment, the newly formed staff reworked and revitalized traditional concepts and combined them with original and untested ideas which have proved eminently successful in combating the enemy and in effectively impeding his attempts at infiltration of men and supplies. With exceptional foresight and masterful planning, the staff established, coordinated, and supervised a unique and flexible defensive and offensive network. In order to allow for an expedited turnover of United States Navy assets to the Vietnamese Navy, the Headquarters Staff accomplished a carefully planned integration of United States and Vietnamese personnel and assets, in which the men of both countries fought together. Through outstanding professionalism, unswerving devotion to duty, and a profound sense of responsibility, the Headquarters Staff, Commander U.S. Naval Forces, Vietnam upheld the highest traditions of the naval service. signed John H. Chafee, Secretary of the Navy

Looking back on history makes it easier to see what was going on. I recently found the following historical account which will illustrate just how much the angels were watching over some of us. It is taken from the Vietnam Experience Nineteen Sixty-Eight published by the Boston Publishing Company and found on an Internet search.

While the world was watching the drama unfolding at Khe Sanh, however, NVA and VC regulars were also drifting into Saigon, Hue, and most of South Vietnam’s cities. They came in two’s and three’s, disguised as refugees, peasants, workers, and ARVN soldiers on holiday leave. In Saigon, roughly the equivalent of five battalions of NVA/VC gradually infiltrated the city without anyone informing or any of the countless security police taking undue notice. Weapons came separately in flower carts, jury-rigged coffins, and trucks apparently filled with vegetables and rice. There was also a VC network in Saigon and the other major cities which had long stockpiled stores of arms and ammunition drawn from hit-and-run raids or bought openly on the black-market. It was also no secret that VC drifted in and out of the cities to see relatives and on general leave from their units. Viet Cong who were captured during the pre-Tet build up were mistaken for regular holiday-makers or deserters. In the general pattern of the New Year merry-makers, the VC’s secret army of infiltrators went completely unnoticed.

Tet had traditionally been a time of truce in the long war and both Hanoi and Saigon had made announcements that this year would be no different ─ although they disagreed about the duration. U.S. Intelligence had gotten wind that something was brewing through captured documents and an overall analysis of recent events, but Westmoreland’s staff tended to disregard these generally vague reports. At the request of General Frederick Weyand, the U.S. commander of the Saigon area, however, several battalions were pulled back from their positions near the Cambodian border. General Weyand put his troops on full alert, but due to a standing U.S. policy of leaving the security of major cities to the ARVN, there were only a few hundred American troops on duty in Saigon itself the night before the attack began.

Westmoreland later claimed to have anticipated Tet, but the evidence suggests that he was not prepared for anything approaching the intensity of the attack that came and that he was still concentrating his attention on the developing battle at Khe Sanh where he thought Giap would make his chief effort.

In the early morning hours of January 31st, the first day of the Vietnamese New Year, NLF/NVA troops and commandos attacked virtually every major town and city in South Vietnam as well as most of the important American bases and airfields. There were some earlier attacks around Pleiku, Quang Nam, and Darlac, but these were largely misinterpreted as the enemy’s thrust by those who were expecting some activity during Tet. Almost everywhere the attacks came as a total surprise. Vast areas of Saigon and Hue suddenly found themselves “librated” and parades of gun-waving NVA/VC marched through the streets proclaiming the revolution while their grimmer-minded comrades rounded up prepared lists of collaborators and government sympathizers for show trials and quick executions.

In Saigon, nineteen VC commandos blew their way through the outer walls of the U.S. Embassy and overran the five MP’s on duty in the early hours of that morning. Two MP’s were killed immediately as the action-team tried to blast their way through the main Embassy doors with anti-tank rockets. They failed and found themselves pinned-down by the Marine guards who kept the VC in an intense firefight until a relief force of U.S. 101st Airborne landed by helicopter. By mid-morning, the battle had turned. All nineteen VC were killed, their bodies scattered around the Embassy courtyard. Five Americans and two Vietnamese civilians were among the other dead. The commandos had been dressed in civilian clothing and had rolled-up to the Embassy in an ancient truck. The security of the Embassy was not in serious danger after the first few minutes and the damage was slight, but this attack on “American soil” captured the imagination of the media and the battle became symbolic of the Tet Offensive throughout the world.

Other NVA/VC squads attacked Saigon’s Presidential Palace, the radio station, the headquarters of the ARVN Chiefs of Staff, and Westmoreland’s own MACV compound as part of a 700-man raid on the Tan Son Nhut air-base. During the heavy fighting that followed, things became sufficiently worrying for Westmoreland to order his staff to find weapons and join in the defense of the compound. When the fighting at Tan Son Nhut was over, twenty-three Americans were dead, eighty-five were wounded and up to fifteen aircraft had suffered serious damage. Two NVA/VC battalions attacked the U.S. air base at Bien Hoa and crippled over twenty aircraft at a cost of nearly 170 casualties. Further fighting at Bien Hoa during the Tet offensive would take the NVA/VC death total in Saigon to nearly 1200. Other VC units made stands in the French cemetery and the Pho Tho race track. The mainly Chinese suburb of Cholon became virtually a NVA/VC operations base and, as it later turned out, had been the main staging area for the attacks in Saigon and its immediate area. President Thieu declared Martial law on January 31st, but it would take over a week of intense fighting to clear-up the various pockets of resistance scattered around Saigon. Sections of the city were reduced to rubble in heavy street by street fighting. Tanks, helicopter gunships, and strike aircraft blasted parts of the city as entrenched guerrillas fought and then slipped off to fight somewhere else. The radio station, various industrial buildings, and a large block of low-cost public housing were leveled along with the homes of countless civilians who were forced to flee. The city dissolved into a chaos which took weeks to begin to put right.

The fighting within Saigon itself was pretty much over by February 5th, but it carried on in Cholon until the last week of the month. Cholon was strafed, bombed, and shelled, but the NVA/VC held on and even mounted sporadic counter-offensives against US/ARVN positions within the city and against Tan Son Nhut airport. B-52 strikes against communist positions outside Saigon came within a few miles of the city. When the NVA/VC were finally driven out of Saigon’s suburbs, they retreated into the surrounding government villages and fought there. U.S. and ARVN artillery and strike-aircraft bombed and shelled these supposedly pacified villages before troops moved in to reoccupy them. The NVA/VC repeated this tactic again and again in a clear effort to make the Saigon Government destroy their own fortified villages and, by doing so, further alienate the rural population. A month after the offensive began, U.S. estimates put the number of civilian dead at some 15,000 and the number of new refugees at anything up to two million and still the battles went on.”

The After-Effects of Tet

The article discussed the battles by the North Vietnamese Army in great detail and ended with the following comments under the title of “The After-Effects of Tet:”

The Tet Offensive and Khe Sanh may well have reminded Johnson and Westmoreland of the Duke of Wellington’s dictum: ‘If there’s anything more melancholy than a battle lost, it’s a battle won.” Giap had been frustrated at Khe Sanh and defeated in South Vietnam’s cities. NVA/VC dead totaled some 45,000 and the number of prisoners nearly 7,000. But the shockwave of the battle finished Johnson’s willingness to carry on. Westmoreland was pressuring Washington for 206,000 troops to carry on the campaign in the South and to make a limited invasion of North Vietnam just above the DMZ. As the battle for Hue died out, Johnson asked Clark Clifford (who had recently replaced a disillusioned McNamara as Secretary of Defense) to find ways and means of meeting Westmoreland’s request.

Clifford and an advisor group looked at the war to date and among others, consulted CIA Director Richard Helms who presented the Agency’s gloomy forecasts in great detail. On March 4th, Clifford told Johnson that the war was far from won and that more men would make little difference. Johnson then turned to his chief group of informal advisors (which included among others, Generals Omar Bradley, Matthew Ridgway, and Maxwell Taylor; Cyrus Vance, Dean Acheson, and Henry Cabot Lodge). Johnson soon found that they too, like Clifford, had turned against the war. According to Thomas Powers, Johnson’s “wise old men” had been told that recent CIA studies showed that the pacification programme was failing in forty of South Vietnam’s forty-four provinces and that the NLF’s manpower was actually twice the number that had been estimated previously. Not only had Tet shown that the optimism of the previous year had been an illusion, but it now seemed that the enemy was far stronger than anybody had thought and that the long efforts to win Vietnamese “hearts and minds” had largely been a disaster.

If Tet wasn’t a full-scale shock to the American public, it was at the very least, an awakening. The enemy that Johnson and the generals had described as moribund had shown itself to be very alive and, as yet, unbeaten. America and its ARVN ally had suffered over 4,300 killed in action, some 16,000 wounded and over 1,000 missing in action. The fact that the enemy suffered far more and had lost a major gamble mattered little because the war looked like a never ending conflict without any definite, realistic objective. The scenes of desolation in Saigon, Hue, and other cities looked to be war without purpose or end. Perhaps the most quoted U.S. officer of the time was the one who explained the destruction of about one-third of the provincial capital of Ben Tre with unintended black humor: “It became necessary to destroy it,” he said, “in order to save it”. For many, this oft-quoted statement was not just a classic example of Pentagon double-think, but also a symbol of the war’s futility. Westmoreland became a parody “General Waste-mor-land” of the anti-war movement.

Being against the war became more-or-less politically respectable for liberal elements. Robert Kennedy spoke of giving up the illusion of victory and Democratic Senator Eugene McCarthy challenged Johnson for the Presidential nomination on a peace platform. He was supported by thousands of students and young Americans opposed to the war. Vocal elements of the extreme right largely supported the war, but condemned the Administration for not going all out for victory. The JCS backed Westmoreland, but convinced him to settle for half of the over 200,000 additional troops he wanted to take the initiative. The JCS then reported to the White House that the extra men were needed to get things back to normal following the battles of the Tet Offensive.

Johnson’s dilemma was complete. He couldn’t meet the generals’ manpower requests without either depleting Europe of American troops—which was unacceptable—or without calling up the active reserves which would have been a political disaster. His most senior advisors had turned against the war and Johnson took another briefing from the CIA analyst whose gloomy reports had soured some of his most hawkish counselors. A few days after this briefing, Johnson went on TV to announce a bombing halt of the North and America’s willingness to meet with the North Vietnamese to seek a peace settlement. Johnson then said that he was not a candidate for reelection under any circumstances and would spend the rest of his term in a search for peace in Indochina.

One of those present at the special CIA briefing which convinced Johnson that a change of course was inevitable was General Creighton Abrams, Westmoreland’s deputy commander. Shortly after Johnson’s turnabout, Abrams replaced Westmoreland as head of U.S. forces in Vietnam. Westmoreland came home to become Army Chief of Staff—a move many saw as a kick upstairs—but, whatever the reasons behind the changeover, Abrams went to Saigon with a mission. He was to institute a program of “Vietnamization” in other words, to take all necessary measures to enable the ARVN to bear the main burden of the fighting and gradually return the chief role of American troops to that of advisors. Vietnamization had always been a feature of America’s role in Vietnam, but it had been on a back-burner since 1965 when it seemed that Saigon was incapable of doing the job. Now things were to be returned to what they were supposed to have been from the beginning. Vietnamization is usually credited to Nixon, but it began in the wake of the Tet Offensive and Johnson’s turnabout.

Giap’s gamble had another side effect. When the Tet Offensive began, many U.S. officials believed that the NLF had offered the Americans a golden opportunity by fighting a pitched battle where it could be defeated in open combat. In effect, the NLF was “leading with its chin” and the massive losses it suffered bear this out. The VC was not broken by the Tet Offensive, but it was severely crippled by it and, from then on, the North took on the main burden of the war. Further fighting in 1968 and the increasing activity of the Phoenix Program further decimated the NLF’s ranks and the role of the North grew even larger. The northern and southern parts of Vietnam had ancient cultural and social differences and while the communist cadres at the center of the NLF had managed largely to suppress these natural antagonisms, there still were basic differences in goals and approach. The NLF had gone into the Tet Offensive in the hope of giving a death-blow to the Saigon Government and, if it couldn’t capture power directly, it could at least gain a coalition leading to ultimate authority. The NLF’s dream vanished in the rubble of South Vietnam’s cities and it would be Hanoi that conquered Saigon.

This article on the Vietnam experience seems to describe what was going on the political scene at home. It is always easier to look back from the prospect of history to see what was happening. The “peace movement” was a unsettling experience for those who were serving their country as their country’s leaders directed. Speaking as one who was “over there,” I believed we were there to help a struggling country retain their freedom. Perhaps, that was just what we were told, but I felt we were there for a “noble” reason. I was disappointed our country did not have the resolve to see the job to completion.

War Becomes Personal

My next thirty-day leave for extending my tour was in October 1968. I arrived home to learn my cousin, Norman “Cob” Partridge, had been shot down while flying a helicopter in the northern area of Vietnam. His funeral was to be a couple of days, when the body could be shipped back to Towanda, Kansas, for internment. There seemed a special need to be present at the funeral. Perhaps, a destiny made it possible for me to come halfway around the world to be at a certain place at a certain time to be part of an event.

When I thought about how easy it would have been for me to have arrived two or three days later and miss the funeral, I started looking at some of the patterns in my life and those around me. While some might attribute the events to mere coincidence, it seems too many little things happened to make it possible to be part of an event. Any of the small steps could have changed the final outcome and I might not have been at the appointed place at the time I was there. The “coincidences” seem too many to be ignored and I began to wonder where it would all lead. I “had” to attend Norman’s funeral. It was difficult for me when the bugler played “taps” as part of Norman’s funeral. The mournful sound seemed to cut right through a military man at such a time and was especially piercing to my heart. I was hard pressed to choke back the tears forming in my eyes. It could just as easily been my funeral if events had been a little different!

Norman’s funeral taught me a valuable lesson. I learned funerals are not for the dead but instead are for the living. The dead are no longer to travail this life of troubles, but the living must continue their pilgrimage here. Funerals allow people the opportunity to show their concern for the bereaved. They cannot share the grief felt by the living at the personal loss of a loved one. Grief is a personal emotion each must bear alone. I wanted to show my respect and try to help in some small way—perhaps, by just being there.

Norman’s funeral brought many of the family into closer contact after years of separation and I was able to develop a greater appreciation for the personalities I was just learning to know. I developed a close feeling and a special love for several of my family that has continued to grow even greater. I had the opportunity to get “close” to my aunt Velma whom I affectionately nicknamed “Auntie Mame” later. I developed a close relationship with my cousin Shirley who became more like my “big sister” and my cousins, Dee and Alice who became more like “little sisters” to me. The events of this time period seem to have a far reaching impact on my life and perhaps, on the family unit as a whole.

I stopped off in Los Angeles on my way back to Vietnam and spent a couple of days with my aunt Velma and her family. I had a delightful time and they took me to Knott’s Berry Farm and several places. I especially enjoyed the long conversations I had with my Auntie Mame. I was asked to be an usher in my cousin Sherry’s wedding the following year. I said I would try to arrange it and would make it a point to try to be there.

Many lessons were shown to me during this period of time and I changed some of my opinions and ways of thinking. My views concerning funerals was a most dramatic reversal of thought for me as I once swore I would not even go to my own funeral. I thought it better to go off by myself, to remember the departed one as when they were alive. The years of duty in a war-torn land can create changes in a person’s attitudes and thoughts. There seemed to be pattern in the events woven around this period in time. It would have been so easy for events to have worked out differently in my life. When you consider the transportation of coming half way around the world, it is easy for a delay to occur at any step in the journey. My leave periods were decided months ahead (generally three or four months at the very least).

Whatever the reason for the way events seemed to work out, the same leave, my sister Donna and I made a special trip to Moundridge, Kansas, to see our grandfather, Jacob H. Neufeld. We made plans for another visit on the following thirty-day extension leave, six months later. It turned out this was the last time we saw our grandfather alive. Shortly after I returned home on my next leave, I learned my grandfather had died (May 23, 1969). I attended my grandfather’s funeral and seemed to be prepared for other events in my life. My aunts explained all the arrangements, which, had been made for my grandfather’s funeral. Several weeks later my mother died (June 10, 1969). I had a little better idea of what arrangements had to be made for my mother’s funeral because of my aunt’s explanations.

There was one high point I am most proud concerning my mother. I was able to talk her into taking two days off work so she could accompany me out to Los Angeles, California, where the family was gathering for my cousin’s wedding. It would be the happiest few days in her life in many years. She was able to take part in the festivities and enjoyed herself tremendously. The wedding was on the first of June and the family had a most delightful time. My mother had to return home on the Monday after the wedding while I stayed for several more days. The joy of having given my mother the opportunity of making the trip gladdened my heart. She would not have made it had I not purchased the ticket as a combination birthday, Mother’s Day and Christmas present. It took a lot of talking but the final results were worth it. The joy my mother experienced made everything easier to accept when she died suddenly on June 10, 1969.

Mother Dies

I received word of my mother’s death while on a double date with my cousin Connie and her husband Bob Votaw. We were attending a performance at Casa Manana’s theater in the round. I received the word as we were leaving the performance. I hurried home to help the rest of the family. When I saw my mother’s body at the funeral home, she looked so young. She looked twenty or thirty years younger. I could not remember her looking so lovely. The hard years and heartaches had been washed away from her and she looked so at peace. I could not feel grief of my lose, because her gain seemed so much greater. It is difficult to explain, but I felt strangely at peace and I knew she would no longer have to bear the trials and tribulations she had borne during this life. Her unexpected death made me so glad I had extended the little bit of happiness to her and almost insisted she go along to California to be part of the wedding.

During the family gathering for the wedding in California, a grand time was had. It was wished, at the time, my mother could have stayed a little longer, but the events seemed destined not to work out that way. Still, the family managed a trip to Disneyland during which we rented wheelchairs to take our grandmother and great aunt along with us. The two grand old ladies had the best time. They rode all the rides the rest of the family rode. By being pushed in the wheelchairs, they did not have to do all the walking and were not tired by the day’s end. They would talk about the trip the rest of their lives. It is one of the highlights of the family gathering, because of the joy they experienced. I remember, with delight, the family going to a fruit stand and buying a lot of fresh strawberries. The berries were sliced into a huge container and everyone ate all the fresh strawberries we could hold. I could hold a lot of fresh strawberries!

At the time my mother passed away, my aunt Rita Hausey was in the hospital and not expected to live. I thought there were enough family sympathizers to comfort my stepfather. It seemed uncle Marvin did not have much comfort in his life. I did not know what to do or say to comfort my uncle. Fortunately, when the words failed me, my aunts, Velma and Alma, took over to work a very special brand of miracle. They took the broken man and gave him hope to cling to. I will always be grateful to the wisdom of those two wonderful ladies, for the way they were able to turn around someone who was without any shred of hope and in deep misery.

It is especially difficult, when someone has to watch a loved one suffer without being able to do anything to ease the suffering. I could not ease my uncle’s suffering, but my two aunts knew just what to say and do to bring off the most delightful of miracles. I have loved them all the more for what they did for uncle Marvin. Perhaps, a greater destiny works in our lives. It seemed aunt Rita got better and several weeks later was out of the hospital. She lived for another month or so before passing away. She died while I was back in Vietnam and unable to get leave in time to attend the funeral. Also my stepfather did not call my aunts, so they were unable to be there to help the uncle everyone thought so highly of. It seems there is a “pattern” in the way things work in people’s lives. Hope can be a strong thing to hang on to in times of trouble and two wonderful ladies provided enough to sustain uncle Marvin over some rough moments.

While uncle Marvin had his morale restored, he was still unsure. Not long before I had to leave to go back to Vietnam, we spent the evening at my uncle Tol and aunt Kot’s house. As we were leaving, uncle Marvin offered to sell me his lots and cabin at Lake Whitney. He said he needed enough money to be able to bury aunt Rita if things went as they seemed destined. Because I knew how dearly he valued the property, I knew the desperation he must be feeling to offer to put up the cabin and lots for sale. I told him I did not want to buy property at this time in my life, but I would let him have the three thousand dollars I had saved if it would help ease some of the trouble in his mind and heart.

I redeemed my Certificates of Deposit and gave the money to uncle Marvin. After I got back to Vietnam and aunt Rita got out of the hospital, she had uncle Marvin establish a joint savings account for the money. When she did die a month or so later, the money had to be used and uncle Marvin put the lake property in my name. I made out an attachment to my will to give the property back to uncle Marvin, if something should happen to me in Vietnam. As much as he wanted to protect me by placing the property in my name, I wanted to make sure it returned to him if something happened to me. Later, he bought the property back shortly after Wanda and I were married. After he had done so much for me, I was happy to be able to ease some of the burden from uncle Marvin’s troubled heart.

Something I could not understand took place within me during this period. After mother’s death, I felt a strong obligation to my stepfather. My sister, Donna Jean, and I tried to help him all we could to get his affairs in order. While I was in Vietnam, I wrote long letters because of the sense of obligation I felt. The theme of these letters was to urge my stepfather to try to get closer to his two brothers. I reasoned the shock of him and my uncle Marvin losing their wives so close together, should make an impact toward overcoming the self-centered habits the years had given my stepfather. I made the mistake to try to change my stepfather and learned how it was to be unsuccessful and how futile it can be trying to remake old habits.

I was not bothered if my stepfather could not be close to me. It did bother me that he could not be close to my uncles Marvin and Tol. I was close to them and felt some of the hurt they felt. I was glad when my stepfather married Opal. It took the burden, of the obligation, to my stepfather off my hands. His marriage also took some of the frustration of trying to change people who do not wish to be altered, even when you think your motives are noble. The nobility of changing people can be argued long and loud, but I decided it was wise to stay clear of Curtis, Opal and my stepfather’s mother, Mrs. Mary Patterson. Knowing of the suffering Curtis and his mother had inflicted on my two uncles, I knew I did not want to be around my stepfather. If anyone had said something in the wrong context about what my stepfather deserved, I was of the frame of mind to tell them what I thought he deserved. Since I knew this would help no one and would, only contribute to discontent, I thought it wiser to just stay clear of these negative individuals. I preferred to spend my time with my uncle Tol and aunt Kot when I was home.

The Chief's Men

A “Chief” looks after his men. I am proud of all the men who served under me or were my seniors in Vietnam. I recommended several men for meritorious awards after they had left our command. That was the policy. I never knew whether they were awarded, but I tried. Here is the recommended citation for Petty Officer _____:

“For his outstanding contribution and meritorious service to the COMMANDER, NAVAL FORCES VIETNAM and Naval Communications, it is recommended that he be awarded the Navy Achievement Medal.”

The Secretary of the Navy takes pleasure in presenting the NAVY ACHIEVEMENT MEDAL to _____ for services as set forth in the following proposed citation:

For meritorious achievement in the performance of duty while serving as an Assistant Communications Watch Officer for the COMMANDER, UNITED STATES NAVAL FORCES VIETNAM from 27 March 1968 to 7 March 1969. Petty Officer _____ was largely responsible for his station being used as a standard by the United States Army 1st Signal Brigade for other Automatic Digital Network (AUTODIN) stations to achieve. Prior to implementation of AUTODIN, _____ recognized the potential problems and devised an effective and vigorous preparatory training program. Because of his keen farsightedness and close supervision, the actual conversion – a transition that normally creates backlogs and confusion until personnel are proficient in the exacting procedures required by this new, highly sophisticated system – was accomplished with great efficiency. Important operational traffic was handled promptly and COMNAVFORV gained the reputation of being a highly efficient Mode V AUTODIN subscriber. Through his consistently outstanding leadership, exemplary conduct, and professional performance, _____ proved himself as a valuable asset to the Vietnam area communications effort and the COMMANDER, NAVAL FORCES VIETNAM. Throughout his tour of duty in Vietnam, Petty Officer _____ performed his duties under the constant threat of imminent attack by Viet Cong terrorist squads and enemy main-line units, and was subjected to numerous rocket and mortar attacks during the Viet Cong TET Offensive of 1968. His professional skill, sense of responsibility, and resourcefulness reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Naval Service.

The Secretary of the Navy takes pleasure in presenting the NAVY COMMENDATION MEDAL to _____ for services as set forth in the following Proposed Citation:

For meritorious service in the performance of duty while serving as a member of the communications staff for the COMMANDER, UNITED STATES NAVAL FORCES, VIETNAM, from 23 September 1967 to 18 May 1969. During his eighteen month tour of duty, Petty Officer Third Class _____ exhibited professional ability and dedication to duty far exceeding that of the average communicator of his rate. Petty Officer _____’s service as Internal Routing Clerk has been without equal and he has proven to be the best qualified person to hold the position ordinarily assigned to a more senior communicator or watch officer. His professional ability has been unquestioned by those who worked with him and he has been a valuable and capable assistant to the Communications Watch Officers in the internal routing of a wide variety and large volume of incoming and outgoing message traffic. _____ has been instrumental in maintaining the orderly and expeditious processing of message traffic addressed to the headquarters, staff and numerous activities requiring rapid and reliable communications in order to properly support the U.S. Naval forces in Vietnam. He performed his duties in a capable and cheerful manner that was a major factor that contributed to the high morale of his fellow watch-standers.

Throughout his tour of duty in Vietnam, Petty Officer _____ performed his duties under the constant threat of imminent attack by Viet Cong terrorist squads and enemy main-line units, and was subjected to numerous rocket and mortar attacks during the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese TET Offensive from January to mid-May 1968. His professional skill, sense of responsibility and resourcefulness reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Naval Service.

The Secretary of the Navy takes pleasure in presenting the NAVY COMMENDATION MEDAL to _____ for services as set forth in the following citation

For meritorious service in the performance of duty while serving as Message Center Supervisor for the COMMANDER, UNITED STATES NAVAL FORCES, VIETNAM, from 5 April 1968 to 5 April 1969. During his tour of duty Petty Officer Radioman Second Class _____ has exhibited a command knowledge of his rating and Naval Communications far beyond that ordinarily expected of Radioman Second Class Petty Officers. The knowledge and experience with the Automatic Digital Network (AUTODIN) communications enable _____ to help develop and institute a completely new concept of operation from that of a tape recovery and message copy operation to that of a torn tape Minor Tactical Relay. The smooth transition and the immediate increase in the efficient, rapid and reliable service to all tributaries and subscribers was largely due to the foresight, knowledge and efforts of Petty Officer _____. His diligent and resourceful efforts to train the men of his watch section was evident when the station activated two Mode V AUTODIN terminals in August 1968 and instituted the relay type of operation. As a result of this training effort and the professional excellence of Petty Officer _____, many of the problems that were anticipated did not develop and those unexpected problems which did arise were quickly disposed of, under _____’s supervision, by his capable watch section. The transition to the AUTODIN operation was conducted at a time when the traffic load was at a high peak, however, the entire operation and transition was smooth and an immediate increase in efficiency and speed of service was noted. Message handling times were decreased using the new system and methods improvised and improved upon by watch personnel under the direction of such supervisors as Petty Officer _____. With this direction, traffic flow became more rapid and a greater degree of service was provided in support of the mission of the Naval Forces in Vietnam. His efforts to maintain the high degree of reliability of communications for the headquarters, staff and many activities served by the communication department, have exhibited an outstanding professional competence that has kept standards high in the light of increasing traffic loads accompanied by decreasing numbers of personnel on board. Petty Officer _____ has performed his duties in a manner which reflect his outstanding professional capabilities and has proven himself a valuable asset to the COMMANDER UNITED STATES NAVAL FORCES, VIETNAM.

Throughout his tour of duty in Vietnam, Petty Officer _____ performed his duties under the constant threat of imminent attack by Viet Cong terrorist squads and enemy main-line units, and was subjects to numerous rocket and mortar attacks during the VC and North Vietnamese TET Offensive from January to Mid-May 1968. His professional skill, sense of responsibility and resourcefulness reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Naval Service.”

Sometimes numbers can tell a lot. This is a list of the monthly messages we handled at the COMNAVFORV communications. We were in the process of justifying the installation of an automated communications system, when the command decision to start phasing down and turning over everything to the South Vietnamese. These figures will be more significant in the next chapter.


1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 JAN - - - - 23,420 91,094 96,158 138,814 FEB - - - - 24,004 75,807 94,399 126,638 MAR - - - - 42,649 87,466 110,470 141,648 APR - - - - 50,194 88,315 118,721 137,233 MAY - - - - 57,362 95,280 131,328 141,641 JUN - - - - 64,498 89,762 125,788 103,793 JUL - - - - 63,641 92,763 142,272 90,517 AUG 9,984 73,060 73,640 166,768 129,111 SEP 12,260 76,949 76,178 148,821 OCT 17,084 75,694 80,625 157,321 NOV 22,555 76,975 86,202 136,084 DEC 22,002 88,687 86,913 133,576 TOTAL 83,885 717,133 1,024,045 1,561,706 1,009,395

I Count My Blessings

Chapter 9 ─ The Chief’s Sea Story

The Chief Petty Officer stared into the night, listening intently for gunshots and/or explosions that would mark the beginning of the expected attack on the compound of the Commander, Naval Forces Vietnam (COMNAVFORV) headquarters in Saigon. The questions in his mind being: Where are they? What are they waiting for? Is there anything else I can do to help protect us?

A few minutes earlier, the morning of January 31, 1968, there was the sound of explosions sounding close, probably from the attack on the Presidential palace about three or four blocks away. The four men, the Chief had assigned to the compound defensive positions, had followed his instructions immediately upon everyone hearing the explosions nearby. The Chief had gone to the defensive positions on the flat roof of the two-story building, telling each: Stay calm; don’t shoot at shadows; don’t fire at anyone not firing at us; be certain of your target(s) identification and do not put your weapon on automatic, because there were only forty-five rounds for each of his men on the roof.

The Chief had been in Vietnam for nearly a year and a half, having read everything he could find on strategy, tactics and guerrilla warfare before volunteering for this duty. Expecting the attack to materialize at any moment, the Chief knew if the enemy was attacking in a city as large as Saigon, it would require an extremely large number of combatants and was a major effort not to be underestimated. He had already decided he was not going to run. The Chief felt it was his responsibility to do everything possible to keep the men of his watch section alive as long as possible. The Chief also knew, if there was an attack, everyone would be dead before sunrise. Even surrender was not an option, until the enemy had achieved their objective(s) in the attack, then having the luxury of taking prisoners.

Fear was real! The Chief went around checking each man, trying to keep everyone calm and vigilant; whispering, because it seemed the enemy might hear what was being said. The fear was more palpable, because the men on duty in the Communications Center were not issued weapons until after the Tet Offensive had begun. The Chief had only four .30 caliber carbines from the WWII-era and forty-five rounds each, plus two .45 caliber automatic pistols.

* * *

I hesitate to include this, because it seems out of place when talking about heroes, but it is part of the “parchment” of my life. It is included for three reasons: first, it is the only sea story I have; second, it allows the real heroes to know that, I know the experience of the fear of dying in combat; and third, it is a definitive part of who I am. While I may not know what combat is like, up close and personal, I do understand the fear of death and the responsibility of keeping men alive in a situation of eminent danger. We will discuss the real heroes (like my cousin, Norman Partridge) a little later, standing in respectful awe of their heroism and valor.

As a career military-type, I ask the statesman to exhaust all diplomatic efforts before we use the sword, thinking also of the morality and spiritual aspects involved in combat. In war, people die or are terribly maimed. The cost is high for heroes who come to the aid of their country; please be certain it is worth it, when we send our young people off to war. In his book, On War, Prussian General Carl von Clausewitz repeatedly states, war is simply an extension of politics. When we un-sheath the sword, the price is always bloody, seemingly so difficult to get the sword back into the scabbard. I believe in civilian control of the military. I believe our forefathers were wise. I also believe it is easier to negotiate from a position of strength, weakness only emboldens the bullies. If we must fight, I prefer winning. Losing is not fun. However, winning means killing, which means hating, which excludes love, ending up a terrible price to pay for excluding God, because love and hatred cannot co-exist in the same heart. Those heroes called to defend us, pay a terrible price to answer the politician’s call to war. War should be our last desperate resort!

Before volunteering for duty in Vietnam, I attempted to prepare myself by reading all the books I could locate concerning guerrilla warfare, counterinsurgency, military history, strategy and tactics. There seemed a compulsion to study these subjects. I was convinced the Cold War was going in this direction and our country would need to meet this threat more as time went on. The books I read, helped me understand the theoretical aspects of warfare, helping me to make better decisions in 1968. I volunteered for Vietnam, because I felt we were trying to help a country retain its freedom. They called it “nation building.” If it was not a worthy cause, do we blame the hero or the politician? It is a question worthy of our contemplation. If war is an extension of politics, then it bears societal, as well as social, implications.

In 1969, my fifth request for a six-month extension of my tour was disapproved at the second endorsement at the Enlisted Personnel Distribution Office, U.S. Pacific Fleet, San Diego, California, stating I had been “in a hostile fire area since July 1966.” Whether the war was right or wrong, I was there, because I thought my country needed me. When asking for duty in Vietnam, I got as close to the war a sailor could without becoming a Navy SEAL or Hospital Corpsman with the Marines. I requested river patrol boats (PBRs), coastal patrol boats (PCFs) and advisor to the Vietnamese Navy, receiving orders for: Enlisted Allowance, Chief Naval Advisory Group, Commander, U.S. Military Advisory Command, Vietnam, (CNAG, COMUSMACV). It looked as if I had my wish, presuming I would be an advisor. God had other ideas. God was watching over me, even though I had not asked for help, running away from accepting Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and Lord.

An interesting aside, is two years earlier, when the Navy first asked for volunteers for Vietnam, I nearly volunteered, only consideration for a girl at home, restraining me. Two years later, the girlfriend was no longer in my life. Had I submitted the same choices the first time, receiving the same orders, I would have likely been exposed to combat situations, perhaps, fatally; certainly, my life would have been much different. Another aside: when I joined the Navy (in the Naval Reserves while in High School) I wanted to be a Boatswain Mate and requested this, when I went on active duty for four years in 1956. Had I been able to pursue this desire, advancing to First Class Petty Officer, I would have likely received orders to River Patrol Boats as a boat commander. It is interesting to look back on “the road not taken.”

In 1966, the Navy’s presence had grown so large and was continuing to grow; a separate command structure was required rather than the naval forces being operated by the Army. Commander, Naval Forces, Vietnam (COMNAVFORV), was established on April first, and the building of the necessary command support structure began. Arriving in Saigon three months later, on the seventh of July, I was assigned to the Communications Center, COMNAVFORV. I was disappointed, my orders had been changed. I was a Radioman First Class Petty Officer (E-6), communications, not war, was my technical field. I was where I was supposed to be, if not where I requested.

The workload continually increased to an average of over one hundred thousand messages a month. Until after the 1968 Tet Offensive, we kept a year’s worth of files in the command’s vault. That was above a million messages on January 31, 1968. That was a lot of paper! After Tet ‘68, the files were limited to three months because the command was in a war-zone. This will be more important as the story continues.

In 1967, I was selected for, and advanced to, Chief Petty Officer (E-7). The Certificate of Permanent Appointment reads, in part: “Your appointment carries with it the obligation that you exercise additional authority and willingly accept greater responsibility. Your every action must be governed by a strong sense of personal moral responsibility and leadership.”

1968 Tet Offensive

As a Chief Petty Officer, a “defining moment” came when I had to face the “dragon” called Fear. In retrospect, there was little danger, but at the time, it seemed greater and the expectation of dying, for me, was real. My section had the twelve-hour watch the night of January 31, 1968, when the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Viet Cong (VC) began their Tet Offensive. I learned I was able to do my job, when I was too frightened to speak in anything but a whisper, with the words trying to stick in my throat, while the sounds of combat were going on nearby.

Not long after relieving the day watch-section, word was received from the Operations Center across the hall: they had intercepted, or received, a report on the Military Police (MP) radio channel. The MPs had captured some enemy “sappers” (commandos) carrying explosives and armed with automatic weapons. The enemy soldiers had orders to attack a radio station on the same street the naval headquarters was located (Phan Dinh Phung). We were at the intersection of Doan Thi Diem.

We thought they had orders to attack our compound. We prepared as best we could with the limited resources available. In the Communications Center, I had about twenty-five men, armed with: four .30 caliber M2 carbines with forty-five rounds each, plus two .45 automatic pistols. The weapons were used primarily for the courier runs we made to pick up communications items at Tan Son Nhut Air Base. We were not issued personal weapons until the second or third day of the 1968 Tet Offensive.

It seemed probable we would be attacked, likely before morning. If attacked our options were few, the prospects of survival fewer. The Admiral and most officers had gone to their billets, leaving those of us standing watch in the compound to our own resources. As Chief of the Communications Watch Section, I organized my part of the defense team, which consisted of four riflemen, with the carbines. There was no hesitation on my part. I did not wait to be told what to do, making my plans without consulting with the Ensign (O-1) acting as CWO (Communications Watch Officer). As a Chief, I assumed it was my job and I was determined to protect my men as long as possible.

The Compound Defense Plan assigned two corners of the roof to the Communications Department. On my own recognizance, the other two riflemen were assigned to guard the two stairways to the second floor, where the Communications and Operations Centers were located. Selecting the four men I thought to be the most mature, calm and unflappable, I took each man personally, to the gun rack where I had stacked their weapon and ammunition. I instructed each what they were to do and where they were to go, until there was no doubt in anyone’s mind, directing: if anything “unusual” happened, they were to go immediately to their defensive positions without waiting for orders. We would “sort things out” later.

I informed the First Class Petty Officer (E-6), he would be responsible for running the communications watch section and for maintaining the continuity of communications, reasoning: if something happened, my first priority was the defense of the compound and the actions of my men in defense thereof. Being inside the building and not knowing what might be going on outside, when the action started, I reasoned the First Class Petty Officer deserved the reassurance of having a weapon and assigned him the .45 caliber automatic pistol. I instructed the First Class Petty Officer he was to allow no one out of the communications spaces. No matter what, there was to be no “sightseeing” on the roof if something happened. Usually, on quiet nights, when everything was caught up, some of the men would go up on the roof and see what was going on or to just catch a breath of fresh air.

A Chief Petty Officer is expected to act like the Chiefs of his heritage, calmly setting about to evaluate the situation and resources available. After careful consideration, there was no alternative than to make a stand. I had personally determined I was not going to run. If necessary, this would be the “hill” upon which I would die. I explained my assessment of the situation to the First Class Petty Officer, explaining: if the enemy was attacking in a city the size of Saigon, it was a major undertaking, requiring an extremely large number of combatants. There would likely be no taking of prisoners until their objective(s) was secured, so surrender was not a viable option, if we wished to stay alive. If we were the object of the attack, we would be hit from all sides simultaneously, making escape unlikely. If we did run, managing by some means to escape, there would be a court martial to be faced for running off and leaving all the classified “stuff,” especially, in the vault. With a large number of enemy combatants loose in the city and not knowing where they might be, the safest place was staying where we were, even if it involved combat.

When everything was analyzed, the only option was to stand and fight. With a lot of luck, we would be able to keep the attackers off the second floor of the building and out of the communications spaces until daylight. With the classified material in our spaces and the inadequate disposal facilities, there would be no hope of being able to dispose of things in time to evacuate successfully, even if an escape route was available. When there is time, and you are asking people to face possible death, it seems good to let them know what is happening. It is important to stay calm; it will reassure your people, you have a handle on the situation, and are their best chance for continued good health. Panic is never a leader’s friend and is devastating to those being led.

During the night, there were reports of several MP jeep patrols having been ambushed in Saigon, which heightened my concern about the expected attack. About three o’clock in the morning, the explosions commenced all around town, some sounding close. The men in the compound went to their defensive positions without being told. I spent the time going around to each position on the roof, insuring everything was in readiness. I wished each man to remain calm, not firing indiscriminately. There were only 45 rounds for each of my rifle positions. If they opened fire at shadows without having a clear target, we would soon exhaust our limited supply of ammunition. If possible, I wanted to conserve our ammunition as well as avoid a prolonged firefight with our limited resources.

With the fear in my throat so great it was hard to talk or swallow, I went around to each defensive position, quietly reiterating my orders to my men and the other men in the compound who were manning rooftop positions. As Chief, I took it upon myself to issue orders to the men they were to shoot, only if we were shot at and, then, only if they had a clear target. They were not to waste ammunition shooting at shadows. I tried to make certain they understood my orders trying to make sure they remained calm enough to carry out the orders. As a Chief Petty Officer, I assumed it was my responsibility to try to keep everyone calm, even though I was uncertain whether any of us would be alive in the morning. It was my job to keep us alive and to keep communications functioning.

I am proud no one, in the compound that night, fired a shot. There was no need. If the others were half as frightened as I was, there was plenty of nervous tension on the trigger fingers. The report earlier in the evening and the explosions around town, made me expect to see the enemy come charging out of the dark night to attack the compound. While we were waiting for the attack, I noticed one young officer was aiming his .45 pistol at a figure sneaking along in the shadows of the wall on the other side of the street. I walked over quickly, to see what he was aiming at, and quietly said to him, “Don’t shoot, Sir. I think he is one of ours.” The figure turned out to be one of the Military Police patrols. As a result of the loss of several of the jeep patrols, the MPs did not run through intersections without first checking whether it was clear of an ambush. I could not recognize the identity of the individual in the shadows. I only knew he was not shooting at us and waiting to learn the identity was our best option since it would conserve our limited supply of ammunition and shooting at a “friendly” was not wise, since they would be sure to shoot back, possibly with M-60 machine guns.

The 1968 Tet Offensive went all around the city and near the naval headquarters compound. The NVA/VC attacked the Presidential Palace, which was approximately three or four blocks away and the American Embassy a few blocks farther. There were intense, hotly disputed battles going on not far from us. We learned later, the radio station to be attacked was in the Cholon area, but the fear of expectation was real, as we waited for the attack, expecting a black-clad hoard of soldiers to come charging out of the dark with guns blazing and death eminent. When you are too scared to talk, in anything but a whisper, because the enemy might hear; knowing by sunrise you and the men working for you will probably be dead, you fight the way you trained. Whatever happened, I was determined to react as the Chief, “dragon” or no.

In retrospect, I wonder why our compound was not on the Tet Offensive target list. Directly across the street was the headquarters for the U.S. Naval Support Activities for Vietnam. On our side of the street was the billet for General Westmoreland, Commander Military Assistance Command Vietnam. (The general was at his headquarters and not at home that night.) It looked as if we were a “soft” target which could have been taken with relative ease and of some political, if not strategic, value. I learned later, my maternal grandmother was a praying lady where her children and grandchildren were concerned. She prayed for me intensely, Granny and God making a difference.

My “sister-cousin,” Alice, shared the following about our grandmother: “. . . and what you don’t know is that your life is a direct answer to our beloved Granny’s thousands of prayers. We took turns spending nights with her, as often as mother would allow, and she was a true prayer warrior. She never forgot a grandchild, great grandchild or child. She prayed so earnestly for their souls and safekeeping. Your name was mentioned often. I knew ‘Dewey’ before I ever met you at Norman’s funeral. She prayed you through your trials in Vietnam. . . . There’s no doubt she had a direct line into heaven! She’d be so proud of the choices you’ve made, your testimony and God’s love you so faithfully share with everyone you can. I’m blessed to have you in my family.”

Later, I read five battalions of NVA and VC had infiltrated Saigon for the 1968 Tet Offensive. Another estimate was four thousand enemy attacked Saigon. Lieutenant General Hal Moore of the book and movie, We Were Soldiers, stated there is always something a leader can do to improve the situation; it is never three strikes and you’re out. We were facing a possible battle: with four World War II-era carbines, with forty-five rounds per weapon, with carbines which could be set to full-automatic fire by nervous fingers, it was not a comfortable position. The enemy did not come, but the fear did. In spite of fear everyone stayed calm as we waited, hearing the explosions near us. I would have given anything for two Thompson sub-machine guns, with three magazines each and a supply of hand grenades for our inner-perimeter defensive positions. It would have been better if each of my men had been issued weapons.

I Served with Heroes

Those who serve in the military or defend society from the dangers will be the first to tell you they are not heroes. They will say, however, they have served with heroes. I served with heroes. Those young sailors were asked to serve in a “hostile fire area” without weapons. It was thought they did not require weapons in Saigon, going to and from their billets to work, knowing they were in a country at war, where they could anticipate an unexpected attack at any moment. These heroes quietly went about doing the duties asked with professional competence, wishing they had the comfort of weapons. The 1968 Tet Offensive proved the fallacy nothing was going to happen in Saigon.

There is a less dramatic form of heroism, which does not diminish the more spectacular events propelling heroics to the highest level of sacrifice. Quietly going about their duties, when fear is rampant and survival seems questionable, is heroism, expected by the trust of comrades, but normally not rewarded, except in the acceptance by those of the same experience, facing the possibility of death every day. Those twenty or so individuals, having to stay in the Communications Center, while the four with weapons were manning compound defensive positions, were my heroes. They did not have the reassurance of having weapons with explosions going on not many blocks away, keeping the communication circuits and facilities operating while awaiting the predicted enemy attack. The hero stays to do the necessary duties, when self-preservation indicates the flight mode of escaping imminent danger the wisest alternative, staying to carry out the duties, earning our respect and admiration.

My being in Vietnam did not affect the war one way or the other. Still, I am glad I went. I believe many veterans feel they were glad they were there. It was a “defining moment,” changing my life. I cannot say it was a “rite of passage,” but going to war, made me examine my spiritual condition. The possibility death could come at any moment will cause introspection. I was running away from the responsibility of accepting Christ as my personal Savior. As I look back, this may have set in motion the framework for my making the decision a decade later. Regretfully, I was a slow learner.

From time to time, the Viet Cong (Charlie) sent rockets into Saigon. With several exceptions, they did not usually land close to where I worked or lived. One morning, Charlie sent about two dozen 122mm rockets, aiming them toward the Presidential Palace. Fortunately, rockets are difficult to aim. They are pointed in the general direction of the target, hoping they come down about where you want them. In a city as large as Saigon, you were likely to hit something.

The morning was still dark, when I stepped out of the small taxi, paying the driver, turning to walk toward the gate of the compound, when explosions seemed to come from all around. I thought about “hitting the dirt,” but looked over at the wet weeds and grass, thought about messing up my freshly starched, khaki Chief’s uniform, deciding to let the explosions come a little closer. These foolish thoughts could have cost my life and seem dangerous now. I crouched down as low as possible beside the small tree, trying to minimize the possibility of being hit by shrapnel, waiting for a lull in the explosions. It seemed like an eternity, but was only a few seconds when the lull came.

It seemed prudent to get some layers of building over my head, so I ran the remaining distance toward the COMNAVFORV compound gate and shelter, quickly covering the remaining twenty or thirty yards to the compound gate. I was moving out smartly. As I turned the corner into the compound, I remember seeing a yellowish gray plume of smoke coming up near the building directly across the street. The rocket hit in the little back yard and was probably something like 25 or 30 yards away from the compound gate, the rockets coming down a little short, if we were the target. The explosions reverberating off the building walls and solid fences made it seem as if they were all around. There was some difficulty putting the letters into the mailbox inside the building. The mailbox seemed to be moving around on the wall.

I spent one week short of three years and four months in Saigon, having eight campaign stars on my Vietnam Service Medal, leaving Tan Son Nhut Air Base at 1830 (6:30 p.m.) hours on the first of November, 1969, but not in-country long enough (twenty-four hours) to be eligible for the ninth campaign which started that day. I regret not having been able to stay another six hours to be eligible for the ninth campaign star; that would have been “cool.” In 1975, I would be eligible for the option of having the tenth campaign star, my ship being a part of Operation Frequent Wind in the evacuation of Saigon, but it is also “cool” having three stars on my Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (AFEM) received earlier in my career.

Last Deployment

Ironically, I would be off the coast of Vietnam, when it fell to the Communist invasion in 1975. My final tour of duty, before retiring, was aboard a ship being on deployment to the Western Pacific (WESTPAC) area. I was aboard the refrigerated stores ship, U.S.S. Vega (AF-59), as Operations Department Chief Petty Officer, when Cambodia (Operation Eagle Pull) and Vietnam (Operation Frequent Wind) fell, also becoming a part of the SS Mayaguez Recovery Operation when the Cambodian Communist rebels captured the United States merchant ship. The crew of the Vega receiving three Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal awards, one for each of the above mentioned operations, two Humanitarian Service Medal awards for the evacuation operations and one Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation.

We were about twelve miles off the coast of Vietnam, near the port of Vung Tau, when Saigon fell, we watched as the people evacuated their country in anything that would float or fly, trying to escape the horror of the Communist invasion. The United States Navy ships escorted the Vietnamese “Freedom Flotilla” to Subic Bay in the Philippines. There were so many ships in port, we were sent back to sea to look for stragglers.

While at sea, word was received concerning the SS Mayaguez being captured, the Vega being directed to head in that direction following behind the faster U.S.S. Holt (DE-1074). The Vega was a refrigerated stores ship, carrying supplies from Subic Bay, in the Philippines, to the Marine Expeditionary Force and ships in the South China Sea. Although not involved in the action, we were close whenever something was occurring. We were expecting, and making plans for, the possibility of towing the large, container ship when it was recovered. The members of the crew were released. The crew and the Marine boarding party were able to get the ship underway being towed by the U.S.S. Holt, at least initially, getting the boilers up later. We had an underway replenishment with the Holt the next day, seeing some of the Marines on deck. Those Marines and the Air Force helicopter crews who took them in and who fought on the island known as Koh Tang are my heroes. We lost some brave men on that little island and sadly, we left some Marines behind. That’s not supposed to happen!

It was an interesting deployment, considering the time I had spent in Vietnam, emotionally thought-provoking, for my last year of naval service, wondering whether the deaths of those 58,272 individuals really mattered, deciding: politics may stop war as well as start it, the deaths of those brave warriors did matter, their sacrifice should never be forgotten. The names of my cousin, Norman, and his two companions are listed on the black marble wall of the Vietnam War Memorial. (I will relate his unfinished parchment in chapter 10.) Politics may change, but heroism is a legacy coming down to us across the ages undiminished as the heroes paid the ultimate sacrifice, in the company of their hero friends, to help protect the freedom we hold dear and attempt to help others achieve. Our freedom is paid for by the blood sacrifice of heroes and Heroes.

Upon returning to San Francisco from the WESTPAC deployment, I retired from active naval service, completing another nine and a half years of inactive service in the Fleet Reserve before officially retiring at the end of thirty years service. When a person volunteers for duty in a war-zone, the prospect of dying or being wounded is something you think about before requesting such assignment, trying to get your life right with God, asking for His mercy and protection, trying to face the fear of dying before it should occur, resigning yourself for whatever happens.

I do not like the way the politicians try to play general, but I want civilian control of the military. We are willing to die for our country, we ask only our sacrifice be not futile, but then in God’s view all war is futile. I am glad Jesus is coming soon. Until then, we will have wars and rumors of wars and the conundrum war brings.

I Count My Blessings

Chapter 10 ─ Finding Meaning

We Are Going Back

I am reminded of the story of a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. Both he and his brother, also a pilot, pulling two tours each, overlapping about a month when both were in-country at the same time. One of the brothers dropped off a group of soldiers and was pulling out of the Landing Zone (LZ). The pilot, looking down, realized the unit was completely surrounded by the enemy. Immediately, telling the crew, they were going back to pick up the soldiers, in the face of great danger to themselves and certain death of the soldiers if they did not. The co-pilot disagreed. The pilot saying, “There’s the door. You can get out any time you wish, but the rest of us are going back.” They rescued the soldiers, the pilot receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross. Their sister reported she was told when the helicopter landed and the engine stopped, the rotor blades fell off, it being badly shot up in the rescue.

When asked by their sister whether they had read the book, We Were Soldiers, about the battle at LZ X-Ray in the Ia Drang Valley, in November 1965, they said, “… we were there!” We are surrounded by many heroes; if we will take the time to listen to their stories, we will be wonderfully blessed. They are an amazing group of individuals, well worth the time listening to their experiences.

Our life-story is a “parchment” containing two stories: what might have been, and what we are. The difference is generally dramatic, at least for some of us. The difference between what God created us to be, had we acquiesced to the perfect will of God by complete surrender of our will to God’s control, compared to the less dramatic what He accomplished within the limits of our restrictive cooperation. How different might the story have been? The prodigal son was welcomed home, beginning a new life being in the joyous presence of his (heavenly) Father. Still, there are sometimes the memories of what might have been if the detour had not been taken.

Our life is a “parchment,” being read by everyone around us with varying degrees of interest, but everyone noticing. How much of your “parchment” have you written and how much have you allowed God to write? With many of us, probably most, there is a regrettable difference. The good news is the fantastic “parchment” God can begin as soon as we allow Him total control of the “manuscript” of our lives. God writes with the “ink” of His love and His “pen” is the cross, filling our lives with the will to accomplish a re-creation of His character to shine out of us. God’s character of love changes us, changing also our world. This analogy is more real than we think. God created humans to be members of His family with abilities to bring glory to God when we allow Him to do with us according to the high calling God has for His children.

In the Company of Heroes—Norman’s Last Flight

Those who have gone into a “hostile fire area” must face the prospect of dying. It goes with the territory. Many have the opportunity before the dangerous situation is faced to make their peace with God, knowing there may not be time enough to pray when things get hazardous to their health. This is a story about someone in my family, as told by the brave men of Norman’s unit. It is really the story, a snapshot, about one day in the lives of the brave heroes in his unit—each living up to the radio call-sign of “Top Tiger,” earning our respect and admiration. Thank you; you are my heroes! Thank you for telling us about Norman’s last flight. This cannot do justice to the things you faced every day you went to work in Vietnam. Mike Tompkins, thank you for the record of the heroics of the Top Tigers of your father’s unit.

We think of a hero as mighty in valor, great in courage, placed in extraordinary circumstances and danger; this is all true. What is going to be said next will not diminish the sacrifice of those heroes, who like my cousin, Norman, a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, with the “Top Tigers” of the 68th Assault Helicopter Company of the 145th Aviation Battalion (Combat) based at Bien Hoa Air Base. Norman, having been in country sixteen days, co-pilot on a flight to insert a replacement American advisor to a Vietnamese Army Ranger Unit, when they begin taking a tremendous amount of fire from the enemy at their Landing Zone (LZ).

The pilot estimating, as they came to a hover, they received over 60 rounds, killing the two door gunners trying to return fire, severely wounding both pilots. Norman was fatally wounded, who before he died, was trying to wipe the profuse amount of blood off the instrument panel so the pilot could read the instruments and fly them away from the carnage at the LZ. The helicopter was badly shot up and without communications. The pilot managed to get the aircraft about a mile from the LZ before crashing into the jungle with a terrible explosion and fire. The pilot managed to crawl out. He was the only survivor of his crew, found unconscious under the nose of the aircraft with his .45 in his hand, protected from the intense fire. Norman was still in his seat when the rescuers arrived. The pilot said later, he believed Norman died before the crash.

The pilot of the “Smoky” (gun-ship with smoke-screen generator) saw the firing, dropped in behind the injured “Slick” (transport helicopter) and returned fire, neutralizing the enemy’s fire. Following the crippled helicopter, they saw the crash; the two door gunners jumping from the gun-ship with their M-60 machine guns to see if there were any survivors, finding the pilot, carrying him to the pick-up clearing in the jungle. The bodies were recovered the following day. After being rescued, the pilot spent a nearly a year recovering from his multiple gunshot wounds, two broken legs and possibly a lifetime with the memories of the nightmarish experience. They say the heroes are those who died, but the ones who must keep on facing life with horrific memories of past experiences, exhibit, on a daily basis, heroic stamina beyond the comprehension of the rest of us. Thank you, Top Tiger-47, you are my hero! Thank you for your service to our country and your community.

Norman’s unit was made up of heroes, risking everything to rescue a comrade, risking their lives on a daily basis, saving many warriors who desperately needed their help. The stories of the helicopter pilots and crews in Vietnam are legendary and will live as long as there are Vietnam veterans to remember them. Norman enlisted to fly helicopters. He knew it was a risky, dangerous occupation. What makes young people do these things?

Our lives become the “parchment” those around us read. The “parchments” written by the sacrifice of heroes tell stories of valor, honor and commitment in the defense of our country and their comrades-in-arms. Their gallantry dramatically displayed and hopefully not soon forgotten, amazing acts of heroism, often written in the blood of the heroes. Freedom has never been free, being paid for by the sacrifice of brave heroes willing to sacrifice everything, even their lives. Let us never forget the price of our freedom.

My Cousin’s Funeral

Interesting things happened during my tour in Vietnam or the leaves when I was home. One thirty-day leave, for extending my tour, was in October 1968. I arrived home to learn my cousin had been killed while flying a helicopter in Vietnam. To all who served, Vietnam was an intensely personal tour of duty. The men of my cousin’s unit were heroes. He flew with the best of the best! He will forever be my hero as will the men who served with him. Thank you, gentlemen, you were magnificent! I believe Norman was proud to be considered worthy to serve with such an elite unit. Had he lived, I feel Norman would have continued to add his valor to the unit’s proud reputation. The following newspaper clipping is copied:

FORT RILEY, Kan. – Warrant Officer Norman W. Partridge of El Dorado was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal by Major R. P. Hill, assistant chief personnel division, adjutant general section, at Fort Riley, last month.

Warrant Officer Partridge, United States Army, was with the 68th Assault Helicopter Company in Vietnam. The citation for the Distinguished Flying Cross reads:

“For heroism while participating in aerial flight evidenced by voluntary actions above and beyond the call of duty: Warrant Officer Partridge distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions while piloting a UH–1D helicopter. When medical evacuation was requested for a wounded American adviser, he immediately volunteered for the mission. After inserting a new adviser into the hostile area, his ship came under intense enemy fire. All crew members were seriously wounded and the aircraft suffered extensive damage. Despite his wounds, Warrant Officer Partridge took control of the aircraft to assist the aircraft commander during the departure. While en route to Dau Tieng, the aircraft engine failed and a forced landing was attempted. Due to the considerable mechanical damage that the aircraft had suffered, it crashed and exploded on impact. Warrant Officer Partridge’s dedication and courage were above and beyond the call of duty. His actions were in keeping with the highest tradition of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.”

According to the Air Medal citation,

Warrant Officer Partridge “distinguished himself by meritorious achievement while participating in sustained aerial flight in support of combat ground forces of the Republic of Vietnam during the period Sept. 12, 1968 to Sept. 16, 1968.

During this time he actively participated in more than 25 aerial missions over hostile territory in support of counter insurgency operations. During all of these missions, he displayed the highest order of air discipline and acted in accordance with the best traditions of the service. By his determination to accomplish his mission in spite of the hazards inherent in repeated aerial flights over hostile territory and by his outstanding degree of professionalism and devotion to duty he has brought credit upon himself, his organization, and the military service.”

Norman’s funeral was to be in a couple of days, as soon as the body could be shipped back to Kansas, for internment. Because I had been in Vietnam, I felt the need to honor my cousin by attending the funeral in uniform. Because it was the time of war protests, I traveled home, to Texas, in civilian clothes, but had left my dress blue uniforms when I came home as Chief the first time. (I would not need the dress blues in the tropical climate of Vietnam.) There seemed a special need to be present at the funeral.

My cousin’s funeral made me look at life differently. I came to believe there was a force at work other than chance or coincidence. What do I mean? Each time I extended my tour in Vietnam, I had a three or four month period in which to take my thirty-day leave. I had the time of my leaves planned well in advance, usually at least six months ahead. Each leave, something was happening: three funerals, a wedding, Thanksgiving, Christmas and my thirtieth birthday to mention just a few. Some of the events were anticipated, but much happened that was not expected.

At the time of Norman’s funeral, I realized I could have not been there easier than being there, a two or three day delay making a tremendous difference. Norman died on September 16 and his body recovered on the 17th. Had his body returned a few days earlier, or my leave delayed a week, I would not have been there for the funeral. On some of the flights, we had problems. I spent an extra day at Yokota Air Base in Japan, because the plane had mechanical difficulties. Combine something like that, with being on the other side of the International Date Line and it would have been easy for me to miss the funeral.

When I thought about how easy it would have been for me to have arrived two or three days later, missing the funeral, I began looking at some of the patterns in my life and those around me. While some might attribute the events to coincidence or prior planning, it seemed too many little things, not planned, happened to make it possible to be part of an event and the planning was done six months in advance of the events, usually at home on the previous leave. Any of the small steps and decisions, could have changed the final outcome and I would not have been at the appointed place, at the time I was there. The “coincidences” seem too many to be ignored and I began to wonder where it would lead.

At Norman’s funeral, it was difficult when the bugler played “Taps.” The mournful sound of the bugle seems to cut right through a military man at a funeral and was especially piercing to my heart. I was hard pressed to choke back the tears forming in my eyes. If events had been different, it could have been my funeral. I once hated funerals. I thought I would not even attend my own. I never figured out how I was going to manage that. I thought funerals were depressing.

When I arrived home, for my cousin’s funeral, I realized funerals are for the living. The dead do not know anything, but the living have to keep on struggling with life’s problems. I was there to be as much comfort as I could to my aunt and uncle. Norman was younger and I had spent little time around him. Funerals allow people the opportunity to show their concern for the bereaved. They cannot share the grief felt at the personal loss of a loved one. Grief is a personal emotion each must bear alone. I wanted to show my respect and try to help in some small way, perhaps, by just being there. I no longer have trouble attending funerals. Sometimes, all you can do is hold someone’s hand; weeping with them as they grieve. There are no wise words which will work at times like this, but a shoulder to cry on is usually appreciated and tears are an expression of the pain experienced by a broken relationship, expressing the sorrow suffered.

I believe we are a part of events for a special purpose. We may not know why, but there are times when we can sense something special is happening. I believe God will give us a clearer perspective someday. Each of us has some wonderful, what a dear friend calls, “life bytes,” to share with people. All you have to say is: you have been there and done that, to let the person know you understand what they are going through. Ask God for wisdom to know what He wants you to do, what He wants you to say; you will come away with a tiny glimpse of why you are supposed to be at a certain place, at a certain time. There is a God! He will use us to help others, if we allow Him to use us. In working alongside of God, we find He does indeed “direct our steps.”

Norman’s funeral brought many of the family into closer contact after years of separation. I was able to develop a greater appreciation for the personalities I was just learning to know, developing a close feeling and a special love for these members of my family that continued to grow even greater. The family was more open, not as guarded and self-protective, or maybe it was just me. My parents were divorced, each remarrying, starting another family. I had little opportunity to be around my maternal aunts and uncles, hardly knowing most of my maternal cousins. Without meaning to, or trying, I seemed to slip into Norman’s place as I came to know this part of my family better, developing close relationships. About eight months later, when my mother died, my aunt, Norman’s mother, said she would be my mother now. We grew very close over the years, treasuring the quiet times and talks we had together.

I came to see how a decision in the past, could have changed my being at a certain place at a certain time to be a part of a particular event. When this continues to happen the laws of probability and chance fail in explaining why these things are happening. I was once asked if I wanted to be adopted by the family I was living with; they were Mennonites. Had I said “Yes,” my life’s “parchment” would have been entirely different; I would have likely stayed closer to the farming community, not joining the Navy. The choices we make end up making us what we become.

I believe God is in control. I do not believe in predestination, because God has made us free, moral agents with the power of choice. Sometimes we make good decisions; other times our choices are not wise. God works with what we give Him, at times, even using us when we are not aware He is working in our lives. I pray I will make better choices in line with what God wants, but many times “self” still gets in God’s way. I know, He has a lot of work to do with me, but I know He is up to the task.

An insight I picked up becoming a Christian: “God has created each of us unique and special.” I do not feel this way, but it does not change the fact, my Creator does not use molds, to mass-produce people alike. We are unique by creation, then made even more so by life experience: choice having something to do there. Even if we were born in the same time-frame, our experiences are going to be different. When you add to this being a Christian, we are accepted into the family of God, becoming brothers and sisters to Jesus, it gets overwhelming. I have come to see others as being unique individuals, whom I enjoy getting to know.

The heroes leave us with unfinished “parchments” of their lives cut short, leaving us a legacy of valor, duty and honor, undiminished by whatever political decision creating the conflict taking their lives. The sacrifice of heroes leave us in respectful awe at their accomplishments as well as the frustration of wondering how different our lives might have been had the heroes lived. War is a terrible monster, taking the lives of society’s finest citizens, leaving some big holes in the hearts of those left to mourn their passing, anticipating the time when there will be war no more forever! Until then, there will be tears shed.

I Count My Blessings

Chapter 11 ─ The Chief Ashore

On November 1, 1969, I was transferred from Vietnam. I would enjoy a thirty-day leave at home and then report to Instructor School in San Diego, California. I completed five weeks of Instructor School with a final grade point average of 94.69 and standing of seventh in a class of forty-two. Being unaccustomed to speaking before a group, the Instructor School was difficult. Ordinarily, I would not have applied for such duty. It seemed the only way to have the opportunity to get a duty station closer to Texas than California or Virginia. The chance of receiving shore duty in, or close to, Texas, gave the inspiration to apply for duty I would have ordinarily shunned. I was transferred to my final destination for three years of shore duty at the U.S. Naval Reserve Training Facility located at Carlsbad, New Mexico.

When I returned from Vietnam, I bought a pickup truck and camper; it was a delightful way to travel. It was especially nice when it came time to go back to California, for Instructor School. I did not have to pack a suitcase. I could just hang the uniforms in the camper’s closets. If I got tired driving, it was a simple matter to pull off in the nearest rest area and climb up in the camper’s queen-size bed for a nap. It was such an easy way to make a long trip after the several times of driving the Corvette on a long trip. There were only a few moments, when things were not as much fun and they involved some of the thick, dense fog which rolled in off the ocean between San Diego and Los Angeles. During the weekends at Instructor School, I would try to spend the time with my aunt Velma and her family in Los Angeles. We shared some delightful moments and I had a delightful Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays with them. Driving back to San Diego, in such dense fog, was quite an experience I will remember.

Duty in Carlsbad was a varied experience, which taught me many lessons. Here, I was my own boss and my only supervision came from El Paso, Texas. Since it was not often the “supervisors” came up from El Paso, I ran things pretty much as I felt they should be. I acted as instructor, advisor, training administrator, recruiter and personnel administrator to the 57-man Naval Reserve unit. I maintained all training and personnel service records. I advised and counseled the senior executives of the reserve unit on all matters relating to their unit and acted as liaison between the executives and the men of their organization. In Carlsbad, I acted as the major representative for the Navy and developed considerable rapport between the Navy and the community.

I was especially proud of the rapport which developed with the community. The previous station keeper before me had been fighting the terrible image of the person before him. This individual did so many undesirable things to disillusion the community; my predecessor had a tough time overcoming the bad relations. Between he and I, the community forgot about the “bad apple” and the Navy started to have a better standing in the community.

I put a lot of creative effort into my tour of duty in Carlsbad. With the help of my good friend, Engineman Chief Petty Officer Walter Lester Corbin, I accomplished a lot with very little expense to the reserve program. Most of what we did, we either used materials we had on hand, were donated or when this failed, we purchased the things we needed and donated it to the “cause.” Walter and I did things like put a cement foundation under the old radar trailer being used as a makeshift dispensary. We put in electricity and an electrical breaker box. We installed fluorescent lighting, painted the inside to make the trailer into another part of the building and a spare classroom. It was hot work, mixing cement in the small mixer Walter borrowed, but we poured the foundation and the cement steps in front. There was a lot of personal satisfaction every time we saw people using the old radar trailer on drill nights.

Many such efforts were done to enhance the reservist’s drills. It would be easy for me to take credit for these efforts, but in all sincerity, I have to give most of the credit to Walter. If it were not for his efforts, I could not have done these things. It bothered me greatly the reserve unit could not seem to appreciate the amount of work he put into making their efforts successful. It was Walter who kept the central heating and air conditioning plant working. Whenever he had to recharge the air conditioner, he never charged for his work or the Freon he put in the system. Walter and I put quite a lot of effort, and time, trying to make the facility the best one possible.

Senior Chief Denied ─ Results in a Better Chief

During this tour of duty, an event happened which turned me into a more effective Chief Petty Officer. There was a serious personality clash of wills between the Commanding Officer and some of his personnel in El Paso. This clash carried over and ended up touching everyone—even those of us in Carlsbad. The Commanding Officer gave everyone extremely low marks to get back at the people who were giving him the problems. In order not to appear vindictive, he had to give all the Chiefs low marks. These bad marks killed my opportunity of being selected for Senior Chief Petty Officer (E-8). It would have taken at least four years for the marks to work their way out of consideration for the tough competition of the selection board. There are so few openings the selection board must weigh every factor of a candidate’s service record. This realization, allowed me the liberty to stop worrying about promotion and set about doing the best job I could. It created a better Chief Petty Officer for the Navy, but it was a real disappointment.

As I look back at the marks, and narrative description accompanied them, it doesn’t look that bad. Still, it was quite a shock to me, because I thought I was doing my job the way my Commanding Officer wanted. To illustrate my remarks, I will include the narrative summary of performance accompanying the performance evaluation. The previous year’s (January 1970 to 1971) summary is as follows:

Chief NEUFELD is an exceedingly able and competent petty officer. He rapidly assimilated the details of his assignment and immediately made his presence felt. He is aggressive and straightforward. He is generally tactful, but can be blunt when supporting a position which he knows to be correct. He is rarely completely satisfied with his performance even though it is of high caliber and he is continuously attempting to improve its quality. His conduct is beyond reproach. He enjoys an outstanding reputation for sincerity and honesty. Chief NEUFELD needs no supervision and can be depended upon to carry out his assignment regardless of the time or talent required. He is demanding of himself almost to a fault. His contribution to the continuing efficient operation of the Facility in his charge has been positive and influential. Chief NEUFELD is a definite asset to the staff and to the Navy. His advancement is strongly recommended. It was signed H. H FERRERO, LCDR, USNR, who was my Commanding Officer in El Paso.

In Lieutenant Commander Ferrero’s letter dated February 17, 1971, for the recommendation of my advancement to Senior Chief Petty Officer, he further said:

3. Chief NEUFELD has proved to be an extremely able petty officer. Although his facility is remote from the parent Training Center, he has carried out his responsibilities with positive results yet with minimal supervision. He has a nice sense of judgment which enables him to draw correct conclusions to abstract policy declarations. He has carried on with tactful aggressiveness always ensuring that the goals of the mission of his facility are met in a fashion compatible with stated policies. Chief NEUFELD is certainly capable of assuming the increased scope of responsibilities associated with pay grade E-8. Indeed, he has already demonstrated that he can cope with these and greater demands of duty.

Then, on November 30, 1971, Mr. Ferrero reported my lowest evaluation of naval career. The performance evaluation comments to justify his marks reads as follows:

Chief NEUFELD is a fast learner and an exceedingly capable petty officer. However, he requires some supervision because, in his zeal to press home his point, he is frequently brusque and perhaps, lacking in tact. He has a tendency to categorize some of the inactive reservists in his charge as non-productive persons beyond salvage because they do not coincide with his view of what they should be. He does not in these instances entirely act out his role as the senior active duty enlisted advisor to the unit. Chief NEUFELD enjoys an enviable reputation for sincerity and honesty. He is a hard indefatigable worker. His influence with most of the inactive reservists is significant. He is considered to be capable of assuming assignments of greater scope and responsibility and his advancement to the next higher pay grade is recommended.

The Naval Reserve program has always been an austere one. There was little money for expenses. In order for the Commanding Officer to come up from El Paso, I invited him to stay at my apartment. I had a two-bedroom apartment in Carlsbad. Since the second bedroom was not being used, unless a friend or relatives paid a visit, my Commanding Officer was welcomed to stay. The accommodations were not fancy, but the only expense involved with the trip was the gas the Navy vehicle used. It was a shock to receive the evaluations, because I had felt I had good rapport with my Commanding Officer. I believed the C.O. felt I was doing an exceptional job and the one the officer wished. There was never any indication something was wrong, until the shocking evaluation marks. I felt he would have said something during the evenings at my apartment, after we had finished the reserve drill nights. We talked about some of the unit’s problems and I felt, he thought, I was doing the best job possible. There was never even the slightest hint of his displeasure at my performance.

The Chief, in El Paso, who had started the problem requested an investigation. An officer from the Commandant, Eighth Naval District, Headquarters in New Orleans, investigated the allegations. The seniors were in the position of having to support the Commanding Officer’s position, to keep from undermining his authority. It was not long after the officer had a serious heart attack. When it came time to take his retirement physical, the Army base in El Paso refused and sent him to the Naval Hospital in San Diego. The heart condition must have been severe, because the officer never returned to take part in the change of command ceremonies.

This experience allowed me the luxury of not having to worry if something I did might affect my promotion. This gave me the freedom to do the job without having to worry if my actions might be misconstrued. It also taught a valuable lesson in human behavior. When the new Commanding Officer came for a visit, I decided to make my position known to the officer. After expressing my views on my ability to do the job, I requested the senior to keep open the lines of communication, so another “misunderstanding” would not occur between Carlsbad and El Paso. The new C.O. respected my position and said if I was not doing something to suit him, I would surely know about it before evaluation marks came due. Being free to express my position, allowed a better rapport between myself and the future officers I would work with, and for, during the rest of my naval career.

The next evaluation report was submitted in November of 1972 and the new Commanding Officer (LCDR. F. T. STOUT, JR. USNR) gave me significantly higher marks and the following performance summary:

Chief NEUFELD is a highly motivated, reliable Chief Petty Officer who continually turns in a top performance. He takes an active, interested role in the administration and training of the Carlsbad Naval Reserve unit. He is instructional in planning and conducting an interesting training program for the assigned unit. He constantly maintains a spotless naval facility, insuring that the local Navy always puts its best foot forward. Highly recommended for advancement to the next higher pay grade.

In addition to those remarks, because of some of the high performance marks required further justification in the comments sections, he wrote the following:

Chief NEUFELD continually represents the Navy at its best. His personnel appearance, attitude and personality present the ideal picture of a Navy Chief. He is always looking for and manufacturing training aids to increase the knowledge and interest at his drill unit. He is highly effective in counseling new personnel and CADRE personnel and motivating them to meet all requirements and Navy standards.

While stationed in Carlsbad, I had the pleasure of entertaining several friends and relatives who came to visit me. There was a delightful visit by my uncle Tol and aunt Kot. Another time, my cousin Jo Ann and her husband brought my brother Earnest and another young boy out for a visit. My nephew, David Tyler, came to spend a couple of weeks and I had an enjoyable time showing him some of the things around Carlsbad. One of the favorite places, I would show the visitors besides the well known Caverns, was the less famous “Sitting Bull Falls.” Sitting Bull Falls was a little park located at the end of a box canyon about an hour’s ride from Carlsbad. It was so isolated a person felt they were going back in time and fully expected to see Indians camping in the canyon. The falls were not spectacular, but there were some caves to explore in the cliffs and the setting was peaceful.

While my nephew was staying in Carlsbad, I took him to see the bat flight one evening at Carlsbad Caverns. It was interesting to see all the bats leave the caverns and start their night foraging for insects. I also talked my friend, Walter Corbin, into showing us were we could hunt for arrowheads. It was on a ranch back in the mountains near the old Butterfield Stage route. It was an interesting trip even if David and I did not find any arrowheads. During the trip, we stopped to have lunch and a cup of coffee in the back of my camper. It was a bit warm and stuffy so we opened a window. The window was forgotten and left open, when we continued our trip back to Carlsbad on the dusty back roads. The camper acted like a vacuum sweeper and sucked in a lot of dust. It was a job cleaning all the dust from every nook and cranny in the camper. Still, the trip was a lot of fun.

During David’s stay in Carlsbad, the annual Soap Box Derby contest was held. I had never seen this event and David’s stay gave me the excuse to attend. It was fun to watch the racers drive their homemade cars in the contest. Another fun time was had, when I decided to try to help David work on his Cub Scout advancement. One of the projects was to make some plaster casts of animal tracks. I bought some plaster of Paris and took David to one of the small lakes near Carlsbad. We found some tracks in the soft mud around the lake. The casts were made, but in making the cast of the first track, to get back to the original configuration, the plaster stuck and did not turn out all that good. Still, it was another fun time and I delighted in showing David the sights around Carlsbad.

Christmas 1970

The Christmas season of 1970 was a fun time. My aunt Velma and her family drove out in their camper from California. They stopped in Carlsbad and I joined them with my pickup and camper. Our caravan continued on to Towanda, Kansas. I had a most delightful leave with my family and it was one of the few times we could spend some time together other than at someone’s funeral. There was much visiting to be enjoyed and some rather boisterous singing of Christmas carols around my cousin, Shirley’s piano. It is a wonder the neighbors in the small town did not complain, but it may be they did not want to appear as “Scrooges.” Our family had a delightful time and the singing is remembered with pleasure.

The final breakfast is also remembered with gastronomic glee. Members of our family would go hunting at various times throughout the days. We did not get a lot of game, but every trip produced a rabbit or two and several quail. The final morning, before everyone started back home, my aunt Alma cooked up the rabbits and quail. She then, made a big pan of white gravy in the pan used to fry rabbits and quail and baked a large pan of biscuits to complete the delicious breakfast. The breakfast was a feast, which makes my mouth water just to remember. The holidays are remembered with much pleasure, because of the good time had by all. It was a grand time, filled with much fellowship, goodwill and love. Some members of our family seem to have so little opportunity for pleasant memories and long to relive the delightful moments shared during those brief moments.

On March 14, 1972, I submitted the following request for an extension of my tour completion date to the Bureau of Naval Personnel:

1. It is requested that I be granted a twelve (12) month extension of my tour of shore duty as Training Administrator and Station keeper at the U.S. Naval Reserve Training Facility located at Carlsbad, New Mexico. This request is submitted in the belief that such an extension would not only be beneficial to myself, but would also be in the best interests of Naval Reserve Training. The knowledge and experience gained from my tour with the Carlsbad unit (NRSD 8-29(S)) would be of great value during the forthcoming restructuring of the Naval Reserve training concept and the development of the Fleet Expansion Unit (FEU) method of mobilization training. On 1 July 1972, there is scheduled a change in the billets of Commanding Officer and Executive Officer which when the present officers move up the chain of command to fill these billets, will leave the billet of Training Officer for the unit vacant. During the transition phase of restructuring of reserve training concepts and the shift of officer personnel, it is felt that my presence and services at this facility would be particularly valuable.

2. This request is presented with personal motives as well as professional. I plan to be married in July which would be personal motive enough to request an extension of my tour. However, there is also the strong personal motive of wanting the satisfaction of seeing the effects of my efforts to instill a greater feeling of unit pride and professionalism through the effects of strong leadership predicated on precept and example. In the light of reports received from members of the unit concerning previous station keepers, I feel that the unit has made great strides toward improving their readiness posture and attitudes. If only a portion of these reports are true, this attitude change can only be attributed to the present station keepers. It is felt that there has been a positive effect from the efforts to instill a feeling of unit pride and a continuation of the present station keepers would greatly benefit the facility and the unit personnel. Therefore, it is requested that favorable consideration be given my request for an additional twelve (12) months extension of this tour.

Lieutenant Commander F. T. Stout, Jr. forwarded my request with the following endorsement:

1. Forwarded, strongly recommending approval.

2. Chief NEUFELD has been untiring and selfless in his efforts to strengthen the Naval Reserve program in his charge and is deserving of sympathetic consideration of this request. Continuation of his tour at NRTF, Carlsbad, New Mexico is particularly desired.

This request was not granted.

Marriage Comes

In October of 1971, I was introduced to my future wife, Wanda Sue Edwards. I was home, for the weekend, from Carlsbad. My cousin, Connie Fay Votaw, asked if I would like to meet a girl who was a teacher. Wanda’s father had retired from the Air Force. It seemed to Connie, Wanda and I had something in common, and she thought we might like to meet. It seemed a good idea, at the time, so I telephoned Wanda and asked if we might meet. She agreed and our first date was watching the University of Texas vs. Oklahoma University football game at my uncle Tol and aunt Kot’s house.

I was not particularly looking for romance when I was introduced to Wanda. It sounded like it might be fun to meet her but I was not expecting anything to come of the meeting. However, Wanda and I quickly became infatuated with each other and I would spend every other weekend in Fort Worth. We tried to be together whenever I had the weekend free of duty constraints in Carlsbad. I did much to aid the energy crisis by using a lot of gasoline driving between Fort Worth and Carlsbad on the weekends to be able to spend the time with Wanda. On 29 January 1972, I proposed marriage and Wanda accepted. We were married on July 15, 1972, at the Matthews Memorial Methodist Church in Fort Worth by Reverend Maggart B. Howell. We had a delightful honeymoon in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The Williams family, who Wanda was living with, when she met me, let us use their other home in Colorado Springs. It was a nice time and we enjoyed seeing all the sights in that area. We visited places like Royal Gorge, Pike’s Peak, Cave of the Winds, Garden of the Gods, the Air Force Academy Chapel, Seven Falls, Cripple Creek and various other “sights” in the area.

While making plans for our future, Wanda and I had decided it would be foolish for her to give up her job since I only had three more years of active service before I would be retiring from the Navy. We decided to buy a house in Saginaw, Texas, and start building our home for the time I would no longer have to travel around. We bought a house in the Rancho North addition and were assisted by uncle Tol and aunt Kot in the construction stages. They helped with the electrical wiring done by my cousin’s husband. If it were not for the family’s assistance, our house would not have been constructed as well as it was. It was the only house of that period which had very little aluminum electrical wiring and was done by a master electrician instead of the unlicensed electrician doing the other work in the development.

The following letter was written by me to the president of the company developing the area Wanda and I purchased our house. It describes some of the problems we had with the building of our “dream house” and gave some possible solutions for the company to consider. I have never been one to complain without trying to give thought toward constructive answers to the problems. As a result of this letter, I was asked to pay the man a visit to discuss, in person, the letter. The following letter was written on October 24, 1972:

Sabine Valley Building Company, 4329 East Belknap St., Fort Worth, Texas

Dear Mr. Fleet:

My wife and I have recently moved into a house in the “Rancho North” addition of Saginaw, which your firm built. Our experience during the construction of this new house brings to mind some thoughts and comments, which may interest you. I trust these points will be considered in the constructive light they are offered and will benefit both your firm and your future customers.

Sabine Valley Lumber Company has built a reputation, through the years, for quality in construction of their houses. It was this “word of mouth” advertising from friends and family, which brought us to Rancho North. The construction of our house made it apparent a great degree of quality remains to justify your reputation.

Sub-contractors, however, can quickly cause dissatisfaction and create doubt concerning the care in construction, which built the reputation of craftsmen who took pride in the quality of their work. I feel certain this is an area to which you may have given considerable thought since it doesn’t seem prudent to let others destroy your reputation with their carelessness and lack of pride. There is, presently, some doubt in our minds concerning the validity of the reputation we heard so much about.

May I offer one possible solution to this problem after having posed the question? It would appear a system of quality control checks are imperative to insure sub-contractors build with the same precision of past craftsmen who built the fine reputation for your firm. The only method, which can guarantee the name Sabine Valley continues to merit this recognition, is INSPECTION OF WORK. Inspectors who would only be concerned with the quality of work and whether it met the standards of your firm might reverse the trend away from care and craftsmanship. Inspectors from V.A. or F.H.A. cannot insure the good name of your firm. Instead, it must be inspectors who will have to answer to you when a less-desirable piece of work is produced. Inspectors loyal to their company, with the authority to control payments to sub-contractors, would be of great value, pay a handsome return to your firm, and should be taken into consideration as a method of retaining the once deserved reputation for excellence in building.

My wife and I have nothing but praise for your site supervisors, Mr. Jess Laxton and Mr. Lester Ross. Their efforts showed Sabine Valley does care about the quality of the products they turn out. It is this belief in your firm, which makes us feel the comments will be favorably received. Supervisors, concerned with the scheduling of sub-contractors, working on more than one or two houses would find it impossible to give the thorough inspection necessary to insure quality of construction. A series of careful inspections by men of experience, loyal to your firm, would be required to obtain the degree of excellence associated with your reputation. The inspectors would turn in their reports to the site supervisors who could then take steps to get the faults corrected in a timely manner. If a carbon copy of the inspection results were made, it would provide a valuable management “tool” for the qualifications for retention. I might add these inspectors should be well paid, technical experts in the building trade and not just a fellow picked at a lower salary who might just go through the motions while not being qualified to “insure” your firm’s reputation with his quality control checks. While I have a high regard for your site supervisors, I do feel they need the assistance of a system of quality control inspection necessary in any manufacturing process where a product is produced for public consumption.

This letter seems to be restricted to one topic when several areas merit comment and attention. Perhaps, this can be excused in the light a strong case for inspection and quality control checks appears necessary—from my point of view, at least. This need becomes increasingly apparent when you consider the fact you have an unlicensed sub-contractor working without any form of check other than a V.A. inspector who is apt to miss some points with his infrequent inspection trips. The need for someone to look out for your company’s reputation and your customer’s hopes for a quality house becomes quite evident when you look at the brick on our house or when the roof starts to sag before construction on the house is even completed.

It would appear people everywhere are concerned with the quality of the product they are buying. One has only to notice advertising for the automobile manufacturing industry to see this emphasis on quality. People seem to be expecting greater quality for their money and rightly so. It might be well to look at the designs of your houses from the point of view of making them more desirable and habitable. What can be done, at little increase in expense, to make the new house more livable? One of the earliest things, which became apparent in our house was the lack of enough electrical outlets. It is ridiculous to move into a new house and discover you need extension cords to plug in the bedside lamps on either side of a king-size bed. It would seem with your floor plans, you are rather restrictive in the manner in which furniture can be arranged in the house. A few more electrical outlets would facilitate the arrangement of furniture to meet any taste or whim. It is rather silly to have to pay $15.50 each for additional electrical outlets when it is so easy to install them as the house is being built at a lesser cost and with a greater ease.

This brings to mind a technique, which might help those of your customers who are buying their first house and might not know all the items they want in their house when the original plans are being drawn. It seems after the plans are drawn, all a customer gets is, “it can't be changed.” It is rather discouraging to your customers to hear this so consistently. In the Navy, we have been led to believe there is nothing that cannot be done if you have that “can do” spirit. It may be this is one of the reasons I see so many “For Sale” signs with your company’s name on them in the windows of the houses in this area. In any case the marketing method, which might be adapted to serve your customers, could be taken from the automobile industry. I am thinking of the marketing of optional equipment, which could be installed at a lesser cost if built into the plans during preliminary stages.

Your company can offer any option the customer may want, but the problem seems to be they are not known or thought of during the original planning stages. After the plans are drawn, no one in the company appears to want to change them. Many items would not cost either the consumer or your company much more if properly planned. For instance, it is rather difficult to explain to my neighbor why only three walls of his den are paneled when he saw the clean-up crew haul away two sheets of paneling. It would have taken roughly two and a half sheets to finish the other wall. When he asked why it was not done, he received something about it not being on the plans. Items such as this may seem small to the busy executive, but they appear important to those of us who have come to believe your company’s reputation for concern for quality and your customers. To you, it may be just another house, but to us it is the house we have long dreamed of building and a rather personal matter.

The marketing of “optional items” in your houses would be rather easily done with some thought and could be in the form of a notebook containing the compilation of your years of experience building the customer’s extras. A careful study would determine what might be offered to the homeowner-to-be to personalize the house with little or no additional expense. The options, which would require additional expense, could be offered at a reduced rate if properly planned in advance. Many of us do not know what is available, when we are undertaking to design our home from your house plans. Therefore, this marketing technique would be of great benefit and make us feel the house was being built to our specifications rather than being mass-produced to meet an architect’s impersonal concept.

There were moments when we were quite discouraged with the way things were going with the construction of our “dream house.” In fact, there was a time when we wondered whether we were wise to continue in this venture. Perhaps, we expected too much after the good things we had heard and became discouraged more than other people buying a home. Perhaps, some of your customers are not quite a vocal in expressing their thoughts and are led to believe there is nothing they can do about their dissatisfaction or that company personnel do not care.

It does seem your site supervisors have the greatest influence over assuaging the customer’s discouragement. The efforts of Mr. Laxton and Mr. Ross should be commended because it is principally through their efforts customers are led back to the feeling Sabine Valley does care about their customers. It would be difficult to determine the amount of money they have saved your firm through the goodwill they have generated in your customers. They do have a great effect in the retention of satisfied customers and represent your firm most admirably.

This rather lengthy letter is offered with the hope it will be of some benefit to your firm as well as your future customers. Perhaps, we were led to believe rather strongly in your reputation and as a result were more disappointed than the average customer. It might be the average customer is reluctant to express his views for various reasons. While some of the comments were rather critical, I did attempt to offer a corrective course of action in order to make my comments constructive in nature. It does not seem possible one in your position could help but be concerned with the reputation of his firm. I do not know whether I could, in all honesty, continue to add to the “word of mouth” advertising, which influenced the decision to buy in Rancho North. Perhaps, time will clarify this point for me. In any case, I do hope these comments will serve some useful purpose and if I can further amplify or explain anything, please let me know.

Respectfully, Dewey D. Neufeld, RMC USN

As a result of this letter I was asked to talk with Mr. Fleet. We discussed the problems mentioned and several others. Our conversation was rather lengthy and I left wondering if anything had been accomplished. Later, I recognized some of my ideas in the radio spots Sabine Valley used to advertise their housing development. They changed their marketing approach to attempt to tailor the houses to the way the customers might wish. They started a campaign of “customizing” the houses and advertising to this effect. I never noticed if they instituted a program of quality inspection of the work of their subcontractors, which I thought, was the most important aspect of the letter.

There was not a great deal of time I could spend at home and when I was home, there was much work to be done to make our house a home. Still, it seemed worth the effort since there was a set goal of retirement from the Navy. Wanda and I were proud of our new home and soon it spoke of our personalities. When Wanda wanted a divorce nearly eight years later, it seemed best to give up the house and its emotional ties to the past. We sold the house and I suggested Wanda get whatever profit was realized from the sale. The house was originally purchased for $24,000. When it was sold, Wanda realized a profit, which lacked forty dollars of being $20,000. This and the other money we had saved should provide her a large measure of financial security.

I Count My Blessings

Chapter 12 ─ Naval Communications Station, Guam

Communications Watch Officer

From Carlsbad, I was transferred to the U.S. Naval Communication Station at Guam, Marinas Islands. I was stationed there from 21 July 1973 to 12 July 1974. I was assigned duty as Communication Watch Officer. I was the direct representative of the senior executives. As such, I was designated the senior watch-stander in general services communication with the responsibility for efficient utilization of all tactical assets. I coordinated and directed all general service communication supervisory watch personnel on matters pertaining to carrying out established procedures and policy. When an operational requirement necessitated immediate divergence from established communication policy, I initiated action in the best interest of communication effectiveness and informed cognizant executive personnel in a timely manner of my action and supporting reasons thereof.

Computers and Communications

All my assignments have been interesting, however, the tour at the U.S. Naval Communication Station, Guam, was the most intriguing as it excited an interest in computer application. During the space of one year, I was privileged to witness how the Naval Communications Processing and Routing System (NAVCOMPARS) could revolutionize the communicator’s work. The computerized system made dramatic changes in the methods and effectiveness of processing and relaying information. It became possible to handle a larger volume of work with greater ease, fewer operators, and increased efficiency. As Communications Watch Officer, I was given a comprehensive overview of the capabilities and potential of computers and satellites to dynamically improve man’s ability to process and transmit vital information expeditiously. I wish to participate in discovering better means and methods in the utilization of these advanced instruments that allow the processing of intelligence on a real time basis.

My initial personal evaluation of performance at the NAVCOMMSTA Guam reflected my unusual assignment:

Annual evaluation aboard NAVCOMMSTA GUAM 23 JUL 73 ─ 30 NOV 73:

Background data: (RMC) Communications Watch Officer—responsible for efficient and effective utilization of General Service assets and coordination of command watch sections.

Evaluation comments: In the short time Chief Petty Officer Neufeld has been assigned, he has exhibited a steadily improving general knowledge of communication procedures and policies. Along with expanded knowledge, his performance of duty is also improving. He is a quiet and unassuming individual, with the ability to imparting of well being to others he comes in contact with. It is felt that his growth potential in rate is not yet reached, the outlook of which is excellent. His cooperativeness and his will to please others is outstanding. When speaking or writing the English language, Chief Neufeld has the ability to present himself clearly and concisely. He is highly recommended for people-oriented types of duty. Ratee is eligible in all respects and is recommended for advancement to Senior Chief Petty Officer.

Justification comments: Chief Neufeld's conduct is exemplary of a Senior Petty Officer. At all times, either on or off duty, he sets an outstanding example for others to follow.

Edward H. Heuer, Captain, USN

Being stationed at the Communication Station, gave me a broader view of naval communications. It was an experience, which would decide my future occupational pursuits. I arrived before the new computer was to be installed and received a first-hand experience of the old method of handling message traffic addressed to the ships operating in the western Pacific Ocean areas. I saw the old “torn tape” relay methods of manually handling the teletypewriter messages and then the operation, when the computer became operational. I have long been a believer in letting the machines make life easier. The computer was seen in the same light and I delighted in trying to utilize it to make the communication operation run more efficiently and quickly. There was some reluctance on the part of personnel to utilize the untried computer to its fullest potential. I was instrumental in causing the new methods to be exhibited for the first time in controlling a satellite communications link to the station at the remote island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

I had been informed it was possible for the computer to be linked with satellite communications circuits. When the requirement for the circuits to Diego Garcia was established, I asked if the watch personnel could set things up to run on the satellite circuits. When it was learned the circuitry was possible, I obtained permission and established the links. It was especially gratifying to see the computer handle the message traffic instead of the extra watch personnel that ordinarily would have been required for the additional circuits to Diego Garcia. It was a start and after the circuits had been in operation for most of the watch, it was difficult for the more reluctant individuals to deny it was possible for the computer to do the work more efficiently than manual intervention.

I had the opportunity to establish circuits with the Commander, Seventh Fleet, one of the major afloat commands, when the flagship was docked in the Philippine Islands. It was known the computer would operate well on the reliable satellite and oceanic cable links, it was thought it could not hold up, when it was necessary for radio frequency transmission. When the flagship got underway from Subic Bay, the circuits were shifted from the oceanic cables to the radio frequency transmission. The message traffic continued to flow to the flagship without any problems or major delay. It was proved the computer was able to handle things so much easier than had been done in the past.

I delighted in being instrumental in trying these new methods of communications and inspiring others to utilize the new “tool.” It was difficult for the prominent individuals to extend themselves and authorize the utilization of the computer to its fullest potential. I did not feel this reluctance and tried to push the watch personnel to utilize it to the fullest capabilities. I enjoyed watching the computer do the jobs once done with so much more difficulty by manual methods. I took on the role of instigator and motivator to urge the personnel to utilize the computer to its fullest designed potential. It excited me to see the computer doing the work and making life for the watch-standers easier. The personnel to man the Fleet Center message relay function had been cut to around half by the introduction of the computer. Communications was more rapid and efficient than what was accomplished with manual methods of the past years. This dramatic observation made me decide I wanted to enter the field of computers, when I retired from the naval service. The experience on Guam only whetted my desire to learn more about this fascinating field.

Leadership and Praise

I wrote the following memorandum to my immediate superior to make official the recognition of the professionalism displayed by the personnel who were supervising the efforts of the personnel manning the Fleet Center communication efforts:

19 June 1974



To: 30

Via: (1) 30W1

Subj: Recognition of professional performance

1. It is respectfully recommended consideration be given for recognition of the leadership and professional accomplishments displayed by three Traffic Watch Officers. It is difficult to describe their accomplishments because the effects are primarily behavioral and attitudinal in scope. It has taken great dedication and persistence to reverse the trend, exhibited by many Fleet Center personnel, of lack of concern for anything in the field of naval communications. It is my firm conviction, that last year, there were few communicators in the Fleet Center who had a feeling for their job, responsibilities or duties. The general attitude conveyed to all was one of apathy and even, at times, hostility toward the mission of NCS Guam. Even the watch supervisors, at that time, exhibited a blatant lack of concern for their responsibilities, and showed little professional pride in themselves or their men. It is with great and justifiable pride I announce my conviction this situation has been corrected by the efforts of the Traffic Watch Officers and recommend proper recognition be given to:


2. While changes in attitude and behavior are difficult to document, some recent events serve to illustrate the present high level of professionalism, which exists throughout the Fleet Center. Tropical Storm Carla required the setting of Tropical Storm Condition One, on short notice, during the evening of 2 May 74. During this period of heavy traffic, WESTPAC COMM TEST and weather uncertainty, numerous Fleet Center personnel voluntarily came in, without being asked, and helped the regular watch as peak loaders. Also personnel who had stood the eve watch that day stayed on to assist the mid watch to clear traffic and assist as needed. This would not have happened last year. The COMM TEST has repeatedly provided opportunity for personnel to exhibit their professionalism with an extraordinary number of terminations and heavy traffic loads. On 12 June 1974, the Fleet Center had nine terminations. CAMS required the additional emergency termination of USS New Orleans and requested to know if we could handle additional circuits with the USS Juneau and NAVCOMMSTAs Diego Garcia and H. E. Holt. Although it required considerable ingenuity and management of resources to figure out where to put the additional circuits, each request was met with a hearty “can do” response. Each of these Traffic Watch Officers believes he had the best watch section and takes pride in the professional accomplishments of himself and his men. In the length of time since NAVCOMPARS has been operational, the watch personnel have constantly strived to further their understanding of this communication “tool” in order to utilize it to the fullest potential. This has required flexibility, ingenuity and initiative as procedures, methods and practices had to be developed or modified to meet the new requirements of a changing communications environment.

3. It is apparent, the major factor contributing to the impressive change in professional performance and attitudes can only be attributed to the leadership qualities exercised by the Traffic Watch Officers mentioned. It is with justifiable pride in their outstanding performance I request consideration be given for official recognition in the form of command letter of commendation or appreciation. The recognition of leadership efforts and accomplishments should prove good for morale and encourage greater efforts by others in the command to exhibit their professional potential.


I was never certain if this memorandum accomplished the recognition I desired as I was transferred soon afterwards. I also feel I may have had a slight influence on the change in attitude and the professionalism exhibited by these personnel. The position of Communication Watch Officer allowed me to advise and work with the other men while they were standing watches. The CWO position was removed from the direct chain of command so it was a position of advisory influence to the Fleet Center Personnel. My tour of duty with the Naval Reservists in Carlsbad helped me on Guam. I was able to persuade where once I had a tendency to order things done.

Since Wanda did not accompany me to Guam, my tour was just one year instead of the usual eighteen months. The time went by quickly, but I found time to start a new hobby. I became interested in seashells and started collecting them. It was fun to go skin diving in the beautiful waters around Guam and I utilized the swim fins, mask and snorkel whenever I had the opportunity. Several times, I went “shelling” at night. It was eerie to hunt the seashell creatures at night. In the darkness beyond the beam of the underwater flashlight, it was easy to imagine all sorts of predatory creatures such as sharks or moray eels. I saw eels on several occasions when looking under large rocks or coral. The eels were given all the room they might want while I eased back from where I had seen the creatures.

The modest collection of seashells was made more delightful because I had found most of them myself. While the shells are mostly the common ones found close to the beach, there was the personal satisfaction of having discovered them rather than purchasing them in a store. I had some delightful moments with William Frank “Bill” Baller and his wife Sandy. I had been stationed with Bill, when we were in Sasebo with COMSERVRON THREE. Bill took me on many of the seashell hunts and Sandy had me over for supper several times.

I received the following personal evaluation of my performance, when I was transferred from U.S. Naval Communications Station, Guam:

Transfer evaluation aboard NAVCOMMSTA GUAM 22 JUL 73 - 12 JUL 74:

Background data: (RMC) Communications Watch Officer—Functions as direct representative of NAVCOMMSTA Communication Officer. As such, is designated as Senior Watch-stander in General Services (GENSER) Communications and is responsible for efficient utilization of tactical assets. Performs as liaison and coordination point for intra-department/division watch functions. Authorized to release operational GENSER messages originated by the command.

Evaluation comments: Chief Petty Officer Neufeld’s performance is such that he will be a great loss to the command. In his quiet but firm manner, he has the ability to gain the confidence of personnel under him and achieve excellent results from them. His knowledge of Naval Communications has been applied exceedingly well towards the efficient utilization of GENSER assets. His sincere feeling for other people instills a rapport conductive to an easy and harmonious working relationship with all he comes in contact with. Chief Neufeld is a very conscientious and dedicated professional Navyman who places the service above himself. Chief Petty Officer Neufeld is qualified and recommended for advancement to Senior Chief.

Justification comments: Chief Neufeld has been instrumental in the improved working relationship with other departments/divisions. His performance of duties is of the highest quality and a definite asset to any command. Due to his wide and varied background in the Naval Service, Chief Neufeld has gained considerable Communication knowledge and know-how which he applies to his daily work with exceptional results. On his own initiative, he has on many occasions undertaken projects to improve the effectiveness as well as working conditions of his division. Always with a kind word for others, regardless of conditions, Chief Neufeld is the best example humanly possible in the area of personal conduct. He has never been known to commit any act, verbally or otherwise, that would bring discredit upon himself or the Naval Service. A soft spoken man, he has the ability to clearly and concisely convey his meaning with an excellent command of the English language. He continuously demonstrates the skill and intelligence necessary for the added responsibility of a higher rate.

Edward H. Heuer, Captain, USN

I Count My Blessings

Chapter 13 - The Chief’s Last Command

U.S.S. VEGA (AF-59)

I left Guam at 0130 in the morning of 13 July 1974. After spending a delightful thirty-day leave at home with Wanda, I was sent to the U.S.S. Vega (AF-59). I reported aboard the U.S.S. Vega on 16 August 1974, while the ship was moored at the Naval Supply Center at Oakland, California. This was to be my last tour of duty before being transferred to the Fleet Reserve prior to full retirement from the Navy after a total of thirty years service. I was aboard the U.S.S. Vega until 9 August 1975. The U.S.S. Vega was my most interesting tour of duty and the events, which I witnessed during the year I was aboard, were personally dramatic in the light of the time I had spent in Saigon years before. It seemed fitting my last tour of sea duty should be on the same type of ship as my first tour. The U.S.S. Vega (AF-59) was the newest ship of its type, when I was stationed aboard the old U.S.S. Zelima (AF-49).

While my ship was in Oakland, I had the opportunity to renew my long-standing acquaintance with a friend I knew from the U.S.S. Zelima days, John G. (Greely) Winn, II. I had some delightful visits with John and Nan Winn while I was in Oakland. They were the nicest friends and the most gracious hosts whenever I had the opportunity to visit their home in the Piedmont area.

I was the Operations Department Leading Chief Petty Officer and senior radioman onboard the refrigerated stores cargo ship U.S.S. Vega (AF-59). The U.S.S. Vega was home-ported in San Francisco. I assisted in the establishment and implementation of departmental policy, plans, procedures, assignments and responsibilities. I drafted correspondence, instructions, notices, reports and guidelines for executive approval. I supported the executives in various ways and assisted in the management of a 30-man department.

The experience of the bad evaluation in Carlsbad, allowed me to be a more effective Chief Petty Officer. Since I no longer had to worry about my advancement, I could do my job without fear of what others might think. Consequently, I developed a close rapport with the Operations Officer who was my departmental officer and the Communications Officer who was my division officer and direct senior in the chain of command. I worked closely with all the officers and had numerous dealings with the Commanding Officer and the Executive Officer (XO). The feeling of having the respect of the officers I worked for, made me feel a close kinship to my “last command.” If there was ever a duty station, which might have changed my mind about retirement, it would have been the men and officers of the U.S.S. Vega. We were an outstanding crew and proved our skill and professionalism on the 1975 Western Pacific deployment.

The officers and men of the U.S.S. Vega sweated out the usually strict and demanding Underway Training and Battle Evaluation refresher training in San Diego during the weeks of October and November of 1974. My experiences during the 1968 Tet Offensive, made me more tolerant of the battle exercises and practice General Quarters drills held—especially, in the middle of the night. I tried to convey the importance of the practice drills to my men from my own personal experience in Vietnam. After the refresher training was completed, the crew began to think of the overseas deployment coming the first of the new year. There were some funerals to be conducted off the coast of California. The U.S.S. Vega conducted five burials at sea of veterans who requested their remains be returned to the sea. The funerals were conducted with all the respect and dignity accorded to a fallen comrade in arms.

There was one dark night (29 OCT 1974), off the coast of California, which created a little consternation and concern in my mind. The U.S.S. Vega was operating with the ammunition supply ship the U.S.S. Mauna Kea to provide training for the other ship. The U.S.S. Vega made a turn and the ship caught a large wave, which tipped the ship a lot farther on its side than I was accustomed. It seemed to be nearly a thirty-degree list to starboard that shook a lot of things loose. I was on the signal bridge watching the dark night, when the ship tilted dramatically. The battle helmets and other stuff shook loose started raining down the deck at me. I wondered what I would do if the ship continued to go over farther. I hoped this would not happen, but there was some doubt in my mind about the ship righting itself. The experience brought forth visions of the “The Poseidon Adventure,” the movie where a ship turned upside down. The most damage was done in the “ship's office,” because the desks had not been welded to the ship’s deck.

From December 17th through the 27th, I enjoyed a pleasant leave at home in Saginaw and then in Kennard, with Wanda’s folks, for the Christmas holidays. All of our holidays were spent with Wanda’s family and the piney woods of East Texas provided a nice change from the city or shipboard life. I especially enjoyed playing “Paul Bunyon” by working to clear my father-in-law’s land. It was fun to work out with the chain saw and axe after so many years of riding herd on a desk or teletypewriter. Clearing the land provided the opportunity to pit my muscles against the forces of nature and it was gratifying for me to see the land emerge from the forest. When the ever-present danger of coming in contact with poison ivy did not deter me from playing in the woods. Consequently, I arrived back on the U.S.S. Vega with another dramatic case of poison ivy on my forearms. The Naval Hospital in Oakland prescribed the Predinsone pills and a type of cream to cover my arms. The Executive Officer made the remark there was nothing like a sea voyage to clear up a person’s allergy. I had to smile, the Navy thoughtfully provided me with the opportunity to clear up my allergy.

Western Pacific Deployment ─ Rendezvous with History

The U.S.S. Vega left the Naval Supply Center at Oakland at 1500 (3:00 p.m.) on January 2, 1975, for the deployment to the western Pacific area of operations. Our original schedule was to provide a trip to the Indian Ocean, but this portion of the deployment was never carried out due to the fall of Cambodia and Vietnam to the communist forces. The deployment started off with little fanfare and a lot of determination to do the job as quickly as possible, so the ship would be back home again. It turned out to be a most historic deployment.

The U.S.S. Vega was part of the operations in the Gulf of Siam, when Cambodia fell to the communists. The ship was ferrying supplies, freight and mail to the amphibious landing force standing by in the Gulf of Siam, in the event the United States would be required to intervene in the crisis. The rescue of Cambodian people fleeing the communist invasion was named “Operation Eagle Pull.” The task force created a lot of business for the U.S.S. Vega and the ship was kept busy between the Subic Bay and the Gulf of Siam. There was much to be done and time went past quickly. Later the crew of the U.S.S. Vega would be awarded the Humanitarian Service Medal for their participation in Operation Eagle Pull.

The Humanitarian Service Medal was authorized on January 19, 1977, this is awarded to members of the Armed Forces of the United States who, after April 1, 1975, distinguished themselves by meritorious direct participation in a significant military act or operation of humanitarian nature, or who have rendered a service to mankind. Operations which merit consideration for the Medal include: disaster, flood, tornado, and earthquake relief work, or rescue operations anywhere in the world.

In March 1975, I met my new Operations Officer, Lt. Davis. I had known Mr. Davis from Guam, and wondered if we would be able to work together. As it turned out, we were able to work together quite well and I have the greatest respect and admiration for Mr. Davis and the job he did as Operations Officer. Both of the Operations Officers I worked for gave me the impression they respected my ideas, views and plans. Because of the free flow of communications between myself and the officers, I felt able to provide my views on any subject. The officers did not always agree with my views, but they gave me the courtesy of listening to and evaluating my ideas. This allowed me greater freedom to provide input into the decision-making stages of every operation and I relished the feeling of contributing to the overall operations of the ship.

So many things happened during my last tour of duty. It is difficult to keep the events in proper perspective. From the 7th to the 9th of April 1975, the U.S.S. Vega was providing food to the refugees anchored at the Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc (An Thoi). These refugee ships were the ones who had fled the communist takeover of the northern portion of Vietnam. There was a mass of refugees and some problems on the ships. There had been word some of the dissatisfied refugees had taken over one of the transport ships and there was general chaos aboard most of the ships. The U.S.S. Vega crew did not know what we might be encountering as we brought rice to the starving refugees on the ships. As it turned out, there were some Marine amphibious landing ships to distribute the rice by boat and helicopter and the U.S.S. Vega only got to see the refugees from a distance of several miles.

The rescue of the Vietnamese people fleeing the communist invasion of their country was called “Operation Frequent Wind.” The U.S.S. Vega would be awarded the second award of the Humanitarian Service Medal. Also the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal would be awarded for Operations Eagle Pull, Frequent Wind and S.S. Mayaguez rescue. It was a most unusual deployment and the U.S.S. Vega played a significant role of providing logistical support to the operational forces involved.

The following weekly newsgram was issued by the Chief of Naval Operations on April 11, 1975, and describes some of the events of this period of uncertainty:

MSC, Navy ships aid in evacuation of Vietnamese refugees. Nine cargo ships and several small vessels of the Navy's Military Sealift Command (MSC) have evacuated more than 100,000 Vietnamese refugees from South Vietnam coastal cities since 27 March. Additionally, U.S. Navy ships have provided evacuation support in the form of food, fuel, water, and medical and security personnel to the civilian manned cargo ships carrying refugees. MSC efforts began when SS Pioneer Contender arrived at Da Nang on 27 March and took 5,000 refugees to Cam Ranh Bay. As of 11 April, SS Pioneer Contender had evacuated 27,000 refugees, more than any other ship involved in the operations. Other evacuation ships and the number of refugees they have aided include SS Pioneer Contender (16,000), USNS Sgt Andrew Miller (15,300), SS Trans Colorado (12,000), SS American Challenger (10,000), USNS Greenville Victory (7,000), SS Green Port (7,000) and Chitose Maru, under contract to MSC (2,600). Additionally, Boo Heung Pioneer, a Korean owned LST under MSC contract evacuated 5,000 refugees and two Navy ships, USS Durham (LKA-114) and USS Dubuque (LPD-8) moved a total of about 1,500 refugees. Overcrowding, coupled with a lack of food, water, sanitary conditions and dissident evacuees, threatened the security of some MSC ships. On 5 April, U.S. Marines were put on board four MSC ships. Greenville Victory, which had no security detachment, was forced by refugees to sail to Vung Tau near Saigon rather than her intended destination of Phu Quoc Island in the Gulf of Thailand. USS Long Beach (CGN-9) and USS Rathburne (DE-1057) intercepted Greenville Victory and escorted her to Vung Tau where the refugees debarked without incident. At Phu Quoc Island, where the number of refugees exceeded 49,000, USS Dubuque transferred food, water and medical supplies to the refugee-laden ships awaiting off-loading. Using landing craft and other small boats, Dubuque supplied more than 52 tons of relief materials to four ships at anchor. Teams of doctors and hospital corpsmen from USS Durham, Dubuque, Blue Ridge (LCC-19) and Frederick (LST-1184) worked around the clock, treating the seriously ill and injured. USS Stoddard (DDG-22), USS Cochrane (DDG-21) and USS VEGA (AF-59) also provided emergency supplies, assistance and medical care to the refugees. As of 11 April, nearly all MSC and USN ships were remaining in the evacuation area.

The following was received from Commander, Amphibious Squadron Five:


During refugee evacuation operations 30 April—2 May 1975, originator, as CTG (Commander, Task Group) 76.5, was tasked to coordinate the embarkation of refugees on assigned MSC shipping. One of the most demanding problems encountered was logistics support required to meet the needs of the thousands of refugees arriving for transportation to safe havens.

Those problems were virtually eliminated by the services of USS Mars, USS VEGA, and USS Kawishiwi. The efforts of the officers and enlisted personnel of those ships are most noteworthy and deserve special recognition. Their planning, cooperation and industry were clearly evident throughout the operation and their services were instrumental in providing those items required to sustain life. In retrospect, the food, water, medical supplies and general stores provided by the MLSF (Mobile Logistics Support Force) provided the refugees that degree of security and well-being which may well have been the principle factor contributing to good order among those displaced individuals required to live in otherwise wholly inadequate environments aboard overcrowded ships.

I am pleased to recognize the signal accomplishments of those three ships and to attest to their performance in surpassing the highest standards traditional to the Mobile Logistics Support Forces. Well done. Signed by Captain J. D. TREGURTHA, USN.

Still, it was an unsettling condition and I helped the officers and men plan for whatever contingency, which might happen, when encountering the starving refugees. The capture of the U.S.S. Pueblo by the North Koreans was still in my mind and I wanted our ship to be better prepared should the starving refugees become a threat. The experiences of the 1968 Tet Offensive also proved the value of advance planning and preparation to the maximum extent possible. It was here, at Phu Quoc, I had my first look through a starlight scope. It was a light amplifying device to allow the lookouts to better see objects on a dark night. Since it was not known what to expect, all the crew kept a more alert vigil and the lookouts were especially conscientious.

The following was received from the Commander, Task Force Seventy-Three, and illustrates how planning seemed evident to even the U.S.S. Vega’s immediate superior:

1. Vega’s superior performance in carrying the full load of SCS is noted with great pleasure. As you service the fleet, you have shown a superb level of readiness and exceptional “can do” spirit. I am very proud of the old girl. Well done to all hands for a totally professional showing.

The 27th of April saw the ship arriving off the coast of Vung Tau, Vietnam, to replenish the amphibious landing force watching the communist takeover of South Vietnam. The U.S.S. Vega was scheduled to conduct underway replenishments of the task force the following day. The U.S.S. Vega anchored late in the evening. It was anchored approximately 22 miles from the coast of Vietnam, so there was nothing to be seen. The following morning Saigon fell and the refugees began their mass exodus to the sea. The people fleeing the communists came out to sea in anything that would float or fly. They came in small and large craft. Everything from tugboats and barges to the Vietnamese naval craft. It was an astonishing sight for me since I had spent nearly three and a half years stationed in Saigon.

The U.S.S. Vega was off the coast of Vietnam until the 30th of April. While the ship did not pick up any refugees, one Vietnamese Landing Ship Tank (LST-505) came alongside for food and water. It was sad to see the people packed so closely on the decks of the ship. The Vietnamese pilots flew their helicopters and other aircraft out to the waiting ships. When the flight decks were too full to land any more aircraft, the pilots crashed their aircraft as close to the ships as possible in order to be picked up.

My Thoughts when Saigon Evacuated

I wrote down some of my thoughts during this period and it might be well to include them at this time:

Today is 1 May 1975, and a day of destiny. Presently, the ship is anchored at 9-03N 107-37E off the coast of Vietnam. We are a part of one of the largest groups of ships assembled in many years. It staggers the imagination to see so many ships in one area. It is impossible to count their vast numbers, as they are of every size, shape and description imaginable.

Since the North Vietnamese invasion of South Vietnam is now complete, the mass departure of citizens from the Republic of South Vietnam should be greatly curbed. Still, a mass of people have departed the country and one has to wonder if this might not be a bad thing for those who have conquered this country’s land, but not so many of its populace. There have been so many people to flee the communists one wonders if there are many people left in the country.

Of course, there are many more who could not flee the conquerors.

Those who have fled the invaders have come out to sea in just about any craft that would float. Fortunately, for all, the weather has been calm and has made their departure a little easier. This morning a Yard Freight Utility landing craft came alongside for food and water. YFU-69 was loaded with several cars, a jeep and jeepny/land rover type vehicle. There were approximately twelve persons aboard this craft and the “skipper” was planning to try to make Malaysia (Singapore, I think they said). Since this morning, we have joined with the rest of the U.S. ships standing by to assist this evacuation of a country.

Earlier in the day, I counted at least 22 vessels around us. Since that time, the number has grown into an uncountable mass of vessels of all types. It seems as if most of the South Vietnamese Navy must have departed. Many sea-going vessels surrounded by shallow-water patrol boats and fishing boats are everywhere one looks.

As yet, we do not know how many people have left their homeland. It seems there are people crowding the decks of every ship and boat one sees. Who will welcome these displaced persons? What country will offer them asylum? Where can they go to start rebuilding their lives? I have not heard anyone give the answers to these questions. Most countries would seem reluctant to offer a safe harbor to so many people and to so many naval craft—some as large as LSTs and destroyers. There is a rather nice size Navy, which has managed to extract itself from South Vietnam with their craft and weapons. It will be interesting to see what develops from this point. Can they continue to maintain a semblance of order and perhaps act as a government in exile with the hope of one day returning to their homeland?

Today is May 2, 1975. It is 1730 (5:30 P.M.). LST-505 came alongside to receive food for 2,000 refugees for five to seven days and 20,000 gallons of fresh water. This is the closest we have been to the face of war. Seeing these people crowding the decks of the LST makes a person take a long hard look at himself. I am not sure what I see within myself.

Mostly, I feel a deep sense of sadness. I am sad that, on the eve of our 199th birthday of independence, we betrayed another country in its fight for freedom. It saddens me to think, if our country’s leaders would have stepped in, with moral indignation and courage, all of these refugees might not have had to leave their homes.

It is my belief, if we had demonstrated the courage to get involved, regardless of the cost, we could have stopped things before they got beyond the point of being controllable. This is an exercise in intellectual hypothesis and many will disagree with my views. Be that as it may, I am deeply saddened that, because we did not have the resolution and courage to stand up and be counted, these people have to bear crosses we might well have done away with.

Have 199 years taught us nothing? It should have shown us, freemen cannot turn their backs on other people’s fight for liberty. Too soon we forget, our own fight against oppression. Can we really be free, if we isolate ourselves from the world around us? Will our freedom count for much, when others are not free to live as they choose? Yes, I am sad, and more than just a little frightened, at the answers to these questions. God grant us the collective courage, to stand alongside our friends in their time of trouble, even though we would rather not be involved. God grant us the courage, to feel our responsibilities to freemen everywhere, even when it is easier to run away instead.

While I am sad, the people I see on LST-505 seem relatively happy and filled with hope. It would appear, they feel a sense of gratitude at being able to flee their country’s invaders. It would seem, they are people without a country and yet, they appear optimistic. They have left their homes, relatives, friends and neighbors and yet, they are optimistic. How can this be? Is what they are fleeing so bad, as to make their present life happier, in comparison?

The U.S.S. Vega and other American ships escorted the refugee flotilla back to Subic Bay in the Philippine Islands. This would be named the New Life Flotilla. During the slow trip back, the Executive Officer took command of one of the Vietnamese ships on May 5. Since the harbor at Subic Bay was so packed with ships, the U.S.S. Vega was sent back to sea to continue looking for refugees fleeing the communists and assist them in reaching safety.

The following was received from the Secretary of Defense, James R. Schlesinger:


As the last withdrawal of Americans from Vietnam takes place, it is my special responsibility to address to you, the men and women of our armed forces, a few words of appreciation on behalf of the American people.

For most of you the tragedy of Southeast Asia was more than a distant and abstract event. You have fought there, you have lost comrades there; you have suffered there. In this hour of pain and reflection, you may feel your efforts and sacrifices have gone for naught.

That is not the case. When the passions have muted and the history is written, Americans will recall their Armed Forces served them well. Under circumstances more difficult than ever before faced by our military services, you accomplished the missions assigned to you by higher authority. In combat you were victorious and you left the field with honor.

Though you have done all that was asked of you, it will be stated the war itself was futile. In some sense, such may be said of any national effort that ultimately fails. Yet our involvement was not purposeless. It was intended to assist a small nation to preserve its independence in the face of external attack and to provide at least a reasonable chance to survive. That Vietnam succumbed to powerful external forces vitiates neither the explicit purpose behind our involvement—nor the impulse of generosity toward those under attack that has long infused American policy.

Your record of duty performed under difficult conditions remains unmatched. I salute you for it beyond any question, you are entitled to the nation's respect, admiration, and gratitude.

The following was received from the Secretary of Navy:

The performance of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps in the evacuation of Americans and Vietnamese this week was outstanding. Those who participated have earned my lasting respect for their professional competence in conducting the final military mission of our nation's Vietnam experience. This particular effort was typical of the many heroic actions of sailors and marines throughout the years of our involvement in the Southeast Asia conflict.

I express deep appreciation to all men and women of the Navy and Marines Corps for their dedication to duty—whatever location or assignment they have had during these difficult years. My appreciation extends to the civilian members of the Department and to the families of our personnel. Great personal sacrifices have been made as a matter of routine. These sacrifices are keenly felt at this moment. Whatever our heartaches at the outcome of events, we must now look to the future. Our Navy and Marine Corps must remain strong. Our personal allegiance to our country must not be forgotten. God bless you for being great Americans. Signed by J. William Middendorf, II Secretary of the Navy.

The following was received from General George S. Brown, USAF, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff:


Execution of Operation Frequent Wind is a tribute to the courage, professionalism, and devotion to duty of the air crews, ground security forces, ship's companies and support personnel who participated. This final humanitarian action, culminating along military commitment in Southeast Asia, was accomplished under the most demanding circumstances. Please convey my personal appreciation and admiration to those who executed this successful operation.

On May 13, 1975, just before the U.S.S. Vega reached its designated area of operations, word was received of the capture of the civilian merchant ship S.S. Mayaguez. The U.S.S. Vega was sent to support the destroyer and Marines who were sent to retake the ship. The U.S.S. Vega was scheduled to tow the ship back to sea and preparations were made to ready the U.S.S Vega for the new mission. It was thought the S.S. Mayaguez would not be able to get underway, so the U.S.S. Vega was to go in and provide the towing power once the ship was recaptured. I learned this information, talking with BMCM Harrison at the time. I had a close relationship with Boatswain Harrison and greatly respected his professionalism and dedication to duty. I have often thought of him as the example of what I would call the professional sailor. He was a black man who had overcome prejudice by proving he was the best at what he did. I had then, and have now, the greatest admiration for Master Chief Harrison.

On May 15, 1975, the U.S.S. Vega was just over the horizon from Koh Tang Island— Paloi Paui, awaiting word concerning its mission. As it turned out the rescuers were able to get the boilers of the S.S. Mayaguez started and the ship was able to leave under its own power. On the 16th, the U.S.S. Vega did have an underway replenishment with the U.S.S. Holt and the Marines it carried for the rescue mission. It was interesting to be so close to historical events and witness the scenes unfolding without actually participating. It was sometimes like watching a movie. The U.S.S. Vega seemed to be part of everything significant happening in that area of the world.

The following was received from the Secretary of the Navy, J. Williams Middendorf, II:

1. Valiant action and sacrifice to Navy and Marine Corps personnel in conjunction with superb efforts of our Unites States Air Force teammates, have in the past few hours resulted in the re-hoisting of the Unites States flag aboard the merchant ship Mayaguez and the safe return of that ship’s crew.

2. I salute each participant, our Chief of Naval Operations can take pride in the personal role he played in implementing the firm policy of the president of the United States. Naval forces, including our great Marines under the leadership of their Commandant, have demonstrated courage, flexibility, professionalism and strength. Well done to all.

The following was received from the Commander in Chief, U. S. Pacific Fleet concerning the S.S. Mayaguez operations:

1. The performance of the Navy-Marine Corps team, which participated in the Mayaguez operation, was truly exceptional. Your ability to execute successfully a joint service operation on very short notice is indicative of not only a high state of readiness and professionalism, but also an absolute willingness to undertake any assignment, however difficult.

2. The timely reaction of all seventh fleet units, which took extraordinary measures to get prepared and underway for this operation is particularly noteworthy in view of the heavy demands recently placed on all units by the Cambodian and Vietnam evacuation operations.

3. Your actions were in the highest traditions of the military service and exemplified fully our capability to act decisively in support of national policy. You have my deepest respect.

On June 4, 1975, I began the three day school at the naval base in Subic Bay to qualify as one of the customs inspectors to help upon our arrival in the United States. I was honored to be nominated for such a position of high trust and responsibility.

On July 7, 1975, I made my last visit to the intriguing port of Hong Kong. It was just a fascinating as I remembered and a nice way to end the deployment to the western Pacific. There was a brief stop in Buckner Bay, Okinawa, on 14 through 16 July before the ship started for the states. On the 26th through 28th July, the U.S.S. Vega was in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii for a brief stopover.

The following was received from Rear Admiral R. M. Collins, USN, Commander, Task Force 73 as the U.S.S. Vega departed the western Pacific:


As you reach the end of a preeminently successful deployment with the Seventh Fleet Mobile Logistic Support Force, I take this opportunity to commend the crew of VEGA for a job superbly done. VEGA continuously demonstrated an exceptionally high state of readiness and “can do” spirit in resupplying Seventh Fleet forces by transferring over 2,600 short tons of provisions and 354 million gallons of fuel. Additionally, VEGA continually displayed aggressiveness in areas of preventive/corrective maintenance during this deployment. Especially recognized was VEGA’s spirited performance during operations Eagle Pull and Frequent Wind. Your round-the-clock efforts in support of these vital operations literally saved the lives of thousands of refugees. As the only support ship during the S.S. Mayaguez recovery operations, VEGA in a mini-multi role, provided destroyer units with urgently needed fuel as well as provisions resupply. VEGA’s capability to perform flawlessly in this timely dual role contributed significantly to the success of another vital operation.

As you head home, I extend to each VEGA sailor my sincere best wishes for smooth sailing and a most deserved happy reunion with friends and loved ones.

The Commander, Service Group One sent the following:


1. As you approach the shores of California and make ready to enter the Golden Gate to San Francisco Bay, do so with a feeling of a job well done. Your deployment with the Mobile Support Force of the Seventh Fleet proves once again that VEGA has a professionalism and devotion to duty matched by few ships. Your participation in Operations Eagle Pull and Frequent Wind, and in the rescue of the S.S. Mayaguez, gives everyone in SERVGRU ONE a feeling of pride in being a member of a Navy team in which you belong. I extend my personal appreciation to Captain Brown, officers and men of VEGA for another successful deployment.

2. My staff joins me in wishing you a happy and joyous reunion with your families and friends. Signed by Commodore Christens.

At 10.00 on the morning of August 4, 1975, the U.S.S. Vega returned to the Naval Supply Center at Oakland, California. The arrival was greeted by a tugboat with the fire nozzles spraying a bouquet of water and the tooting of ship’s whistles. At the pier was a band and the crew’s families, waiting to greet the ship. It was a beautiful and fitting end to my last deployment.

On the following day (August 5th), I had my retirement physical and on the 9th departed the U.S.S. Vega for thirty days leave with orders to then report to the Naval Air Station, Dallas, for processing to Fleet Reserve status. On September 22, 1975, I was officially transferred to the Fleet Reserve and a lifelong dream of retiring from the naval service was realized.

I found on the internet the following account of the U.S.S. Vega’s history during my tour of duty:


After deploying to the line three times in early 1975, VEGA sailed from Subic Bay on 22 March 1975, to provide logistics services for TG (Task Group) 76.4, standing by in the Gulf of Thailand to execute Operation “Eagle Pull,” the evacuation of Cambodian refugees fleeing the communist takeover of that country. She conducted replenishment operations with a wide variety of ships. Returning to Subic Bay to reload on 31 March (1975), she set sail for the second increment of “Eagle Pull,” rejoining the forces in the Gulf of Thailand on 5 April (1975). After conducting replenishments with tank landing ship FREDERICK (LST 1184), attack cargo ship DURHAM (LKA 114), nuclear powered guided missile cruiser LONG BEACH (CGN 9), ocean escort REASONER (DE 1063), amphibious command ship BLUE RIDGE (LCC 19), amphibious assault ship OKINAWA (LPH 3), and dock landing ship THOMASTON (LSD 28), she arrived at Phu Quoc Island to provide supply support for Cambodian refugees, and transferred some 12.4 tons of refugee subsistence items to amphibious transport dock DUBUQUE (LPD 8) and PEORIA (LST 1183). Rendezvousing with TG (Task Group) 76.4 on the 9th, the busy supply vessel again returned to Phu Quoc on the 10th and to Subic Bay on the 13th (April 1975).

“Underway from Subic Bay on 23 April (1975), VEGA sailed for the coast of South Vietnam. By this juncture, the government of South Vietnam was collapsing, leaving tons of American-supplied equipment intact for the communist forces. Operation “Frequent Wind” was launched to evacuate Vietnamese fleeing the onslaught, lest they be left behind and fall into communist hands. For the next few days, VEGA replenished United States and South Vietnamese Navy ships, delivered passengers and mail, and transferred refugee supplies to vessels loaded with fleeing South Vietnamese. Underway at sea from 25 to 30 April (1975), the supply ship arrived off Vung Tau on 1 May (1975) and replenished South Vietnamese naval units YFU-69, HQ-3, HQ-800, AND H1-801 as well as conducted a vertical fleet supply replenishment with MARS (AFS 1) and fleet supplies and mail for five other Navy ships.

Heading for Subic Bay, VEGA served as escort for the “New Life” flotilla, heavily laden with Vietnamese refugees and their belongings. Arriving at Subic Bay on the 6th (MAY 1975), she stood in with the first contingent of refugee vessels—some 70 craft in all, of all shapes and sizes. Underway for a resumption of escort duties later that day, VEGA stood out to sea, she subsequently refueled from oiler TALUGA (T-AO 62) on the 7th (MAY 1975) before conducting underway replenishments over the next two days with MIDWAY (CVA 41), ocean escort BADGER (DE 1071), and oiler ASHTABULA (AO 51).

Arriving at Subic Bay on 10 May (1975) to load supplies, she got underway soon thereafter, in company with ocean escort HAROLD E. HOLT (DE 1071), for refugee vessel escort duties.

On 13 May (1975), communist Cambodian forces seized the American-owned containership, SS MAYAGUEZ, off Koh Tang Island, Cambodia. Both VEGA and HAROLD E. HOLT made full speed ahead for the area while American forces soon mobilized for quick and decisive strikes to gain the release of the ship and its crew from the hands of the Cambodians. Arriving on the 15th (May 1975), VEGA stood by to provide services while HAROLD E. HOLT moved in and delivered a detachment of Marines, who boarded the containership. (Dewey’s NOTE: VEGA was planning and making provisions to tow the SS MAYAGUEZ should that be necessary.) While the incident was brought to a conclusion by the swift recapture of the ship and her crew, the routine task of conducting underway replenishments to ships of the 7th Fleet in southeast Asian waters continued unabated in the wake of the fall of Vietnam and Cambodia.

VEGA returned to San Francisco, Calif., on 4 August (1975), following a circuitous route via Cebu and Subic Bay, Philippines; Hong Kong, British Crown Colony; Buckner Bay, Okinawa, and Pearl Harbor. A tally of the ships’ activities on her most eventful WestPac (Western Pacific) cruise showed the ship to have completed some 105 underway, 15 boat, and 38 vertical replenishments—the last utilizing the capabilities of helicopters for rapid and increased transport of supplies from ship to ship. A total of some 2,848.9 tons of provisions, including 136.8 tons of refugee supplies, were transferred. The ship then underwent restricted availability from 18 to 19 August (1975).

For the remainder of the ship’s active service career with the United States Navy, VEGA operated off the west coast, conducting local operations, and later deployed to the Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and Okinawa for her final WestPac (Western Pacific) deployment. She arrived at San Francisco on 21 December 1976 and immediately commenced leave and upkeep.

On 21 January 1977, VEGA shifted to berth 23 south Mare Island Naval Shipyard, to commence stand down prior to inactivation. She was decommissioned on 29 April 1977 and struck from the Navy list the same day.

VEGA earned 10 battle stars for her service to units of the 7th fleet during the Vietnam War.”

VEGA was awarded the following:

Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation (2 awards) National Defense Service Medal Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (7 - Vietnam, 2-Quemoy-Matsu, 1-Korea, 1-Op Eagle Pull, 1-Op Frequent Wind, 1-Mayaguez Op) Vietnam Service Medal (10 battle stars) Humanitarian Service Medal (1-Op Eagle Pull, 1-Frequent Wind)

As I retired from twenty years of naval service, a poem written by Rudyard Kipling entitled the “Galley Slave” seemed appropriate. It is written about a galley slave, but could just as easily be the words of a retired Navyman describing a lifetime of service to his country:

The Galley-Slave

Oh, Gallant was our galley from her carven steering-wheel To her figurehead of silver and her beak of hammered steel The leg-bar chaffed the ankle, and we gasped for cooler air, But no galley on the water with our galley could compare!

Our bulkheads bulged with cotton and our masts were steeped in gold— We ran a mighty merchandise of niggers in the hold. The white foam spun behind us, and the black shark swam below, As we gripped the kicking sweep-head and we made that galley go.

It was merry in the galley, for we reveled now and then— It they wore us down like cattle, faith, we fought and loved like men! As we snatched her through the water, so we snatched a minute’s bliss, And the mutter of the dying never spoiled the lover’s kiss.

Our women and children toiled beside us in the dark— They died, we filed their fetters, and we heaved than to the shark— We heaved them to the fishes, but so fast the galley sped, We had only time to envy, for we could not mourn our dead.

Bear witness, once my comrades, what a hardbit gang were we— The servants of the sweep-head, but the masters of the sea! By the hands that drove her forward as she plunged and yawed and sheered, Woman, man, or God, or devil, was there anything we feared?

Was it storm? our fathers faced it, and a wilder never blew, Earth that waited for the wreckage watched the galley struggle through. Burning noon or choking midnight, sickness, sorrow, parting, death? Nay, our very babes would mock you, had they time for idle breath.

But to-day I leave the galley, and another takes my place! There’s my name upon the deck-beam—let it stand a little space. I am free-watch my messmates beating out to open main, Free of all that life can offer—save to handle sweep again.

By the brand upon my shoulder, by the gall of clinging steel, By the welt the whips have left me, by the scars that never heal; By eyes grown old with staring through the sunwash on the brine, I am paid in full for service—would that service still were mine!

Yet they talk of times and seasons and of woe the years bring forth, Of our galley swamped and shattered in the rollers of the north. When the niggers break the hatches, and the decks are gay with gore, And same craven-hearted pilot crams her crashing on the shore.

She will need no half-mast signals, minute-gun, or rocket-flare, When the cry for help goes seaward, she will find her servants there. Battered chain-gangs of the orlop, grizzled drafts of years gone by, To the bench that broke their manhood, they shall lash themselves and die.

Hale and crippled, young and aged, paid, deserted, shipped away— Palace, cote, and lazaretto shall make up the tale that day, When the skies are black above them, and the decks ablaze beneath, And the top-men clear the raffle with their clasp-knives in their teeth.

It may be that fate will give me life and leave to row once more— Set sane strong man free for fighting as I take awhile his oar. But to-day I leave the galley. Shall I curse her service then? God be thanked—whate’er comes after, I have lived and toiled with men!

(Rudyard Kipling)

The words of Kipling’s poem “Tommy” seem also appropriate to me as I joined the civilian population. Too often we tend to ignore or belittle the military man during times of peace just as we do the law enforcement officer. But like the policeman, the military man becomes very dear in time of national (or personal) emergency. Whenever I felt my chosen career was not a popular one, I would think of the words of this poem and know if my country was ever in danger, my skills would be greatly appreciated:


I went into a public-’ouse to get a pint o’ beer, The publican ’e up an’ sez, “We serve no redcoats here.” The girls be’ind the bar they laughed and giggled fit to die, I outs into the street again, an’ to myself sez I:

O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that an’ “Tommy, go away,” But it’ “Thank you, Mister Atkins,” when the band begins to play, The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play, O it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins,” when the band begins to play.

I went into a theatre as sober as could be, They gave a drunk civilian room, but ’adn’t none for me; They send me to the gallery or round the music-’alls, But when it comes to fightin’, Lord! they’ll shove me in the stalls!

For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, wait outside;” But it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide, The troopship’s on the tide, my boys, the troopship’s on the tide, O it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide.

Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep, Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap, An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit, Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.

Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, ’ow’s yer soul?” But it’s “Thin red line of ’eroes” when the drums begin to roll, The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll, O it’s “Thin red line of ’eroes” when the drums begin to roll.

We aren’t no thin red ’eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too, But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you, An’ if sometimes our conduck isn’t all your fancy paints: Why single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints;

While it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, fall be’ind,” But it’s “Please to walk in front, sir,” when there's trouble in the wind. There’s trouble in the wind, my boys, there’s trouble in the wind, O it’s “Please to walk in front, sir,” when there's trouble in the wind.

You talk o’ better food for us an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational. Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face. The widow’s uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace.

For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!” But it’s “Savior of 'is country” when the guns begin to shoot Yes, it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please; But Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool – you bet that Tommy sees!

(Rudyard Kipling)

Fleet Reserve and Evaluations of Naval Service

It has been said that you do not have to give reasons because your friends don’t need them and your enemies won’t believe them. While this is undoubtedly true, I feel I should set the record straight. During the “mini reunion” of the Neufeld kids on Memorial day weekend 1981, I was told about my brother-in-law’s (John Dooley Martin) security clearance investigation for his work with the Kansas National Guard. He mentioned the investigator’s report to him concerning several members of our family and he mentioned some things concerning my naval service. My impression was John felt there might be some truth to the stigma concerning my service record did not show that I was recommended for re-enlistment upon my transfer to the Fleet Reserve and retirement status. I am uncertain as to the investigator’s branch of service, but it is apparent he knew nothing of naval retirement policy. I was required to request transfer to the Fleet Reserve a year in advance, therefore, everything was determined by the Navy Department. I was asked to reconsider a number of times during the U.S.S. Vega’s deployment and if I had wished to change my mind, the officers and men I served with would have had the greatest chance for making me extend my service. I am proud of my naval service to my country. It was both honorable and faithful. It seems well to provide the reader with some information concerning my professional evaluations and allow them to judge the nature of my naval service.

I was the only Chief marked in the top 1 percentile in both the category of performance and reliability. I was one of three Chiefs marked in the top 5 percentile category in: cooperativeness, initiative, conduct, resourcefulness, potential and the overall evaluation appraisal block. I was one of two Chiefs marked in the top 10 percentile category in: appearance, leadership directing and expression—writing. My lowest marks were in the top 30 percentile for leadership counseling and expression—speaking. There were four other Chiefs rated in the top 50 percentile area and this is considered the medial area in which most people are expected to fit and is listed as the “typical outstanding Chief of ratee’s rate.” The marking for my trend was “steady” and the marking for “your attitude toward having ratee in your command” was in the “particularly desire to have.” I was also marked as highly recommended for: MAAG/Mission duty, joint/combined staff attaché/naval headquarters, recruiter, instructor, career counselor, independent duty, recruit company commander, and NAVCOMPARS site supervisor.

The verbal description in the background data blocks describing my primary and collateral duties is as follows;

“Chief Neufeld is an exceedingly competent individual. His attributes include a particular flair for administration, an energetic and inquisitive mind which always seeks to find a better method of getting the job done, he is a tenacious and always finished what he starts and above all, ratee is a thoroughly dedicated Navy professional. Chief Neufeld, assigned as departmental leading chief, efficiently schedules and coordinates work and operations with the postal clerks, medical department, ship’s office, combat information center, signal bridge and radio. As training assistant for the command, he organizes and coordinates shipwide training. Ratee’s flawless files, and administrative procedures have contributed immeasurably to the smooth and effective operation of the department and the training program. Chief Neufeld is a tireless counselor, spending many hours, routinely after working hours, providing guidance and support to all levels of the Operations Department. Ratee regularly works a 60-hour week, giving his free time to the personnel who require his assistance and to solving personnel problems of the thirty young men assigned to him. Once a project is undertaken, RMC Neufeld stays with it until it is finished. A mere suggestion that a job needs to be done, or a project undertaken will immediately find ratee involved in completing that job or project. Chief Neufeld operates with great initiative and organization and will be effective in a role from totally independent operation to supervision of a large group. Chief Neufeld’s contributions to Operation Eagle Pull, Frequent Wind in the New Life Flotilla, and the S.S. Mayaguez recovery were notable particularly in the area of communications. Often working 12 or more hours a day, Chief Neufeld personally insured every circuit was up and operating at top efficiency. Often manning the voice circuits, Chief Neufeld contributed to the command’s responsiveness to the ever-changing situation. Ratee is a strong supporter of the Navy equal opportunity programs. His ability to express himself in writing and orally is outstanding. RMC Neufeld is recommended for promotion within earliest of his peers.”

The verbal description in the evaluation comments which is used to further describe ratee’s performance and qualifications, contained the following comments:

Ratee continually exhibits unequalled performance, standing out virtually from all others. His professional knowledge and ability is exceeded only by his dedication and zeal. Whether in uniform or not, Chief Neufeld’s performance and carriage are an example to be emulated by peers and juniors alike. Ratee always has a well thought out and viable point of view on any situation, presents his case, discuss the situation with his seniors and then “take charge and move out” in the direction whether it is the one he championed or not. Once having been assigned a duty or having selected a course of action by his own initiative, he sees it through to swift completion. Ratee may be relied upon to check out and discover problems and find solutions. He is dynamic and is aggressive in completion of his routine duties, thereby stopping many problems before they even are recognized by others. Radioman Chief Petty Officer Neufeld is moderate in drink, demeanor and speech. He consistently demonstrates those qualities which have earned him the reputation among his shipmates of being a “gentleman.” Ratee brings his total aptitude and experience to bear in solving a problem. Every resource is used in daily working routine. Ratee is seldom at a loss as to what-to-do-next. Ratee has not developed to his full potential. He would make an outstanding Senior Chief or Warrant Officer. Chief Neufeld’s ability to organize and utilize his personnel is of the highest order. Ratee is an excellent supervisor, knowing when to bear down and when to ease off. He directs and leads by example, challenging his men to be better performers instead of threatening them if they do not perform. Ratee is an excellent writer and presents his concepts in a clear, concise manner. His reports, evaluations and memorandums are clear, concise, readily understood and brief.

I had in mind to cite some other evaluations to clear the point concerning my naval service. The other evaluations were not quite as high as my last one, but they were all well above the medial of the of the average 50 percentile expected of the “typical outstanding chief of ratee’s rate.” In fact, the evaluations are so good as to be embarrassing. Still, it is nice to exit my active duty on such a good note. I believe my evaluations would have done much to compensate for the one bad evaluation received at Carlsbad and would have soon insured my advancement to Senior Chief Petty Officer had I elected to stay in the naval service. I am proud of my naval service to my country and extremely humbled by the evaluation remarks I received.

Annual evaluation aboard USS VEGA 12 JUL 74 - 30 NOV 74:

Background data: (RMC) Chief Radioman, Alternate Classified Material Security Custodian, Electronics Material Officer, Operations 3-M Coordinator, Operations Department Administrative Assistant, Departmental Safety Officer, Departmental Leading Chief Petty Officer, Crypto Board Member

Evaluation comments: RMC Neufeld’s over-all performance since reporting aboard has been outstanding. He has given a new meaning and significance to the Departmental Leading Chief’s billet. Chief Neufeld has an excellent and comprehensive background in all aspects of Naval Communications, administration and organization. He has further demonstrated an exceptional ability to analyze administrative changes and recognize and correct problem areas and streamline procedures. His recommendations for physical and administrative changes significantly improved the functional efficiency and capacity of the Operations Officer. Although he lacks any formal 3-M training, RMC Neufeld has successfully taken over the functions of Departmental 3-M Assistant and maintained the departmental standard of excellence in this area. He is completely reliable in every aspect of his duties from the initial sounding of trouble spots to the follow up and supervision required to ensure timely corrective action is completed. Chief Neufeld’s quality control is extraordinarily effective in every task he undertakes; he has set a new standard for his men. His completed staff work is invariably accurate, comprehensive and timely. Chief Neufeld is a thorough and meticulous worker in all things, and expresses himself concisely and accurately in any medium. His conduct, moral standards, and equal opportunity goals are of the highest caliber.

Justification comments: RMC Neufeld is an unusually competent and effective leader. His industry and initiative are such that it is not uncommon for him to be in the Operations Office at 2200 investigating administration or studying a new field. He learned enough about the 3-M system completely in his own initiative, in less than 3 weeks, to successfully take on duties of Departmental 3-M Assistant, which he continues to perform in an exemplary manner. Upon reporting aboard, Chief Neufeld began looking for ways to improve capabilities and efficiency of the Operations Office, again on his own initiative, and within 2 months submitted and completed physical and administrative changes which streamlines the Department’s filing system, tickler file system, and proofreading procedures. His extraordinary zeal for accuracy and pride in his finished products have already become legendary in the department, and are setting a new standard for his men. Within two months after reporting aboard Chief Neufeld quietly undertook the revision of numerous ship’s and departmental instructions, again completely on his own initiative and working primarily after working hours, and personally rewrote and typed several, including the Ship’s Training Bill, Long-range Training Plan, the CDO (Command Duty Officer) Emergency Action Folder, and the Ship’s various emergency/exercise/operational reporting instructions. His work is so singularly reliable that it is often promulgated with only the most cursory reviews or proofreading.

R. E. Brown, CDR, USN, Commanding Officer

RMC Dewey D. Neufeld Meritorious Service Awards

Navy Unit Commendation (staff COMNAVFORV date of award 30 JUN 1969

Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation - (USS VEGA AF-59 - 22 APR 75 - 7 MAY 75)

Good Conduct Medal (5th Award) – 4 Bronze stars

National Defense Service Medal - Vietnam service

Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal - 3 Bronze stars (Original Medal issued for - Taiwan area - USS Zelima AF-49 SEP-NOV 1958) (Op Eagle Pull (11 APR 75 - 13 APR 75), Op Frequent Wind (29 APR 75 - 30 APR 75), SS Mayaguez Op (15 MAY 75) - USS Vega (AF-59 16 AUG 74 - 9 AUG 75)

Vietnam Service Medal with 1 Silver & 3 Bronze Stars

Served in country from 7 JUL 66 to 1 NOV 69

Vietnam Advisory 15 MAR 62 to 7 MAR 65 Vietnam Defensive 8 MAR 65 to 24 DEC 65

*Vietnam Counteroffensive Phase II 1 JUL 66 to 31 MAY 67 *Vietnam Counteroffensive Phase III 1 JUN 67 to 29 JAN 68 *Tet Counteroffensive 30 JAN 68 to 1 APR 68 *Vietnam Counteroffensive, Phase IV 2 APR 68 to 30 JUN 68 *Vietnam Counteroffensive, Phase V 1 JUL 68 to 1 NOV 68 *Vietnam Counteroffensive, Phase VI 2 NOV 68 to 22 FEB 69 *Tet ‘69 Counteroffensive 23 FEB 69 to 8 JUN 69 *Vietnam Summer-Fall 9 JUN 69 to 31 OCT 69

*Vietnam Winter-Spring 1 NOV 69 to 30 APR 70

Humanitarian Service Medal with 1 Bronze Star Original Medal for Op Eagle Pull (12 APR 75) - 1 Bronze Star for Op Frequent Wind (29 APR 75 - 30 APR 75) - USS VEGA (AF-59) - 16 AUG 74 to 9 AUG 75

Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Commendation (Gallantry Cross)Medal COMNAVFORV Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Commendation (Civic Actions) Medal COMNAVFORV Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal

I Count My Blessings

Chapter 14 ─ Transition

During the U.S.S. Vega’s deployment, I had written several letters to companies I wished to interview for employment. The most promising seemed to be the Electronic Data Systems (EDS) organization who requested my resume. On August 29, 1975, I had an interview with Mr. Tom Watson. The interview was most cordial and I felt a job would have been offered had I not wished to settle in the Fort Worth area. The company required their employees be able to transfer where they were needed and I had enough traveling while in the service. In the light of the events, which happened in Iran with the rescue of the E.D.S. personnel, I wonder if I might have been involved in something like that had I not been so adamant about travel away from the Fort Worth area. It makes for interesting conjecture. The following narratives were written in response to EDS Corporation detailed resume dated October 25, 1974:

Describe any leadership experience you may have had in the service, extracurricular activities or jobs.

Responsibilities and obligations started early in life. As the eldest of six children, I was required to assist in caring for the younger brothers and sisters. At various times, I was able to financially assist the family with the small amounts earned by mowing lawns and doing various odd jobs and errands.

The service became a natural extension of this acceptance of responsibility. As my knowledge and experience developed, I became a candidate for consideration for advancement as well as supervisory positions of greater responsibility and authority. At times, there was the difficult distinction of being assigned to supervise the work of men who were senior in grade and should have been doing the job instead.

The night the Viet Cong began the 1968 Tet Offensive in Saigon I was in charge of the communications watch section on duty at the Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Vietnam headquarters. There was an intelligence warning that “something” would happen during the watch. This warning enabled me to prepare my limited resources to meet the contingency as best I could. Specific instructions were given and explicit assignments were made so everyone was prepared to meet the threat. Early in the morning, when the first gunfire and explosions were heard elsewhere in town, my watch personnel quickly manned the required defensive positions. Everyone was as calm as could be expected under the stressing possibility of meeting an aggressive force. Those not on the defensive posture continued to effectively handle the large volume of communications traffic and intelligence. Although personally frightened, I felt it was my duty to make the rounds of each defensive position to calm the men and ensure they did not commence firing at imaginary enemies. In spite of the stress and the explosions as close as two city blocks away, not one shot was fired that night. Since the compound did not undergo the expected attack, there was no requirement to fire weapons indiscriminately.

During my tour at the naval headquarters in Saigon there were times when as many as thirty men were assigned to my watch section. The maximum amount of traffic handled was 440,000 messages each month. During this peak traffic period I assisted in developing the justification for an automated communications system. The plans were approved up to the higher policy making levels before being disapproved in the light of the possibility U.S. forces would soon be leaving Vietnam.

The tour of duty at the U.S. Naval Reserve Training Facility in Carlsbad, New Mexico was the most challenging and developed the widest scope of personal experience. This tour of “independent duty” provided experiences ranging from a variety of administrative, clerical and recruiting paperwork to janitorial duties or designing and building a sound-powered telephone network from limited resources available. The work called for instructing, recruiting, counseling and liaison. As the reserve program is an austere one, it also required a great deal of resourcefulness and ingenuity to improvise training opportunities and equipment. Due to my efforts, the unit trained with the Fire Department’s assistance at their practice area on three occasions.

The tour at Carlsbad also called for representing the Navy’s image to the public. Some years earlier, this image had been “tarnished” considerably. During my tour it was possible to alter most of the prejudicial opinions formed earlier and the community was favorably impressed with the U.S. Navy in their area.

During the tour with the naval reserves, it was necessary to work with the unit officers as well as enlisted personnel. My status as senior of the two active duty support personnel assigned, allowed for direct and free communication with the unit’s Commanding Officer. This channel was utilized consistently to provide a close rapport between all concerned personnel. The freedom of communication allowed for an input of my ideas and opinions into the planning of most of the unit’s activities and many of the policy and decision making processes involved.

Describe the most interesting assignment you had while in the service.

All assignments have been interesting, however the tour at the U.S. Naval Communication Station, Guam, was the most intriguing as it excited an interest in computer application. During the space of one year, I was privileged to witness how the Naval Communications Processing and Routing System (NAVCOMPARS) could revolutionize the communicator’s work. This computerized system made dramatic changes in the methods and effectiveness of processing and relaying information. It became possible to handle a larger volume of work with greater ease, fewer operators, and increased efficiency. As Communication Watch Officer, I was given a comprehensive overview of the capabilities and potential of computers and satellites to dynamically improve man’s ability to process and transmit vital information expeditiously. I wish to participate in discovering better means and methods in the utilization of these advanced instruments that allow the processing of intelligence on a real time basis.

List all past positions, duties and responsibilities that you have had which directly relate to computer operations.

The Communication Watch Officer (CWO) at the U.S. Naval Communication Station, Guam, has the responsibility for efficient utilization of all tactical assets. As such, he has access to the Command Video Data Terminal (VDT) to determine channel and system loading. The Command VDT provided the management tool to effectively monitor traffic loads and determine the most suitable alternate methods of delivery when an overload condition occurred. While the CWO was not directly concerned with operating equipment other than VDT devices, he had the overall responsibility for the NAVCOMPARS as well as other assets. As CWO, I repeatedly pointed out areas where the system could be utilized to better advantage. These efforts caused the computer to be utilized successfully for the first time on a satellite path to provide communication linkage to the station at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. New equipment and methods require a degree of adaptability in associated personnel if the means are to be utilized effectively. It took persuasion, but personnel soon began to see the advantage of using the system to its fullest potential. At every opportunity, I was advocating greater utilization and had the satisfaction of witnessing the dramatic effect the system had on automating communications functions.

Computer Technician and Word Processing The combination of wanting to enter the field of computers and the lack of formal knowledge of this field, led me to enroll in the Control Data Institute (C.D.I.) Computer Technology course in Dallas on 6 October 1975. I thought about taking computer courses at the Tarrant County Junior College. While such studies would lead toward a degree it seemed too slow. A trade school seemed the quickest method of learning the minimum requirements to allow me to enter the field of computers. I chose to go to C.D.I. and enrolled in the computer technology course. The course was 750 hours in length. It was devoted to computer electronics and studying the operation and maintenance of computer systems hardware, including peripheral equipment. Intensive hands-on laboratory work provided practical experience on a completely operational, modern computer system to put into practice the theories and techniques, which were taught during classroom lecture periods. C.D.I. students study and work with all major types of peripheral devices as separate subsections of the computer technology course. These include disc drives, magnetic-tape transports, high-speed line printers, punched card readers, card punches, visual displays and other special equipment. I put considerable effort into my studies at C.D.I. with most of my evenings spent with homework, because I was determined to do the best I could with my introduction into the field of computer technology. On Apri1 14, 1976, I graduated from Control Data Institute at the top of my class with a grade point average of 98.3. Because I had the best grade point average in my class, I was requested to interview with the small service and sales representative of the 3M Company Information Processor (LINOLEX). I liked what I saw at the small company of Manning and Associates and elected to give them first opportunity of my services. This took a determined effort on my part, because there was a delay getting the results of the entrance exams back from the 3M headquarters in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The small company could not hire me until I was qualified to attend the 3M school on the LINOLEX system. The test results were finally received and I started work for Manning and Associates on May 11, 1976. I turned down several persistent offers with SWEDA Corporation, Terminal Communications Inc. and Olivetti Corporation of America. The extra income from the naval retirement and Wanda’s teaching career allowed me the luxury of waiting the extra time to see if things would work out with Manning and Associates. The test results were finally received from 3M and Mrs. Grace Petritz hired me. I attended the 3M school on the basic LINOLEX information processor system at the 3M Training Center in Saint Paul from 7 to 25 June 1976. I enjoyed working on the information processor and quickly assimilated the procedures associated with the word processing portion of the system. I could greatly appreciate its potential after utilizing manual methods of preparing typewritten material for so many years. The computer made the processing of word information so much easier and I wondered why the Navy had not adopted these systems a long time ago. I was determined to assimilate as much of the word processing methods as I could and the techniques seemed to come to me easily. My training on the system and my typing skills allowed me to be of some service, when I accompanied our sales staff to set up and assist their demonstrations. The knowledge I gained, concerning word processing, was to help me with my service work and my personal projects such as my autobiography and the family tree compilation. I continue to utilize the knowledge and experience about word processing for the benefit of myself and the company I work for. On January 7, 1977, I and the other technicians and sales personnel were informed 3M would be absorbing our organization into its BPSI (Business Products Sales Incorporated) branch office. Since the Manning and Associates LINOLEX technicians had qualified for the 3M schools, it was easy to bring us into the 3M organization. I was not sure I would enjoy the larger organization, but decided to give it a chance. I discovered I liked and respected the people I worked for and the other technicians in the branch. 3M found it necessary to cross train me in basic microfilm products and I found myself again studying both self-study and formal material at the 3M school in Saint Paul. It opened other horizons for me and kept things interesting and on July 11, 1981, I was promoted to Master Technician within the 3M organization. Divorce and New Beginnings In 1979, I was requested to attend the Microdisc school in Saint Paul on very short notice. My personal life seemed to take on all the characteristics of “Murphy's Law.” Everything, which could possibly go wrong, did during the time in Saint Paul and Wanda was upset by the prospect of not having any control over the events in our lives. The uncertainty created by the five weeks in Saint Paul grew into dissatisfaction and she broached the subject of a divorce. We continued to try to make things “work” in our lives, until it became evident it would not. On Sunday, February 17, 1980, Wanda decided she wanted to follow through with the divorce proceedings. The following day I took my “floater holiday” and started looking for an apartment for myself. I moved into apartment number 284 located at the Haystack Apartments on Harwood Road on February 20. It was first decided Wanda would keep the house, but she later decided it would be better to sell it. Because it looked like Wanda would be keeping the house, I did not split things “fifty-fifty.” I took $2,500 from our checking and savings accounts which was probably about a third or less of the total. I thought it would be enough to get me started and it seemed Wanda required more of the material things in life to give her security. The love and affection of friends and relatives has always given me more security than material possessions. While it might be a little inconvenient, I reasoned I could “make it” much easier with less money than Wanda could. On February 25, Wanda and I met with Wanda’s attorney and discussed the proceedings. The “uncontested” divorce papers would be filed the following day. Wanda would go to court Friday morning, May 2nd. This was a chaotic period in my life with all the arrangements the divorce required. There was furniture to move, belonging to me, and later I helped Wanda move all of her furniture and belongings into her new apartment. There was the loan to be arranged for the 1978 Audi car I was to keep. Wanda did not want to keep the loan with the Fort Worth Teacher’s Credit Union in her name, so it meant arranging financing at a time when it was costly. The payments went from $185.00 to $225.44, but it cleared Wanda of the obligation. Throughout all the uncertainty, the supervisory personnel at 3M were extremely understanding and helpful. They allowed me to take my floater holiday and a couple days of vacation on extremely short notice, so I could handle the crisis in my life. I greatly appreciate their concern and cooperation. The greatest help was from my sister Donna Jean, and her family. Because Wanda had not wanted to associate with Donna and Clyde, I had not been around my family in several years. It was like getting to know them all over again and I delighted in the freedom of learning about my family after the several years of semi-isolation. I was like a bird let out of its cage and relished my newfound freedom. My family helped me tremendously, with both moral and physical support. My sister, Clyde, and their family helped me move my belongings. They helped me, by storing some of my things at their house, and were a comfort in my time of need. April l5, 1980, saw the sale of the house Wanda and I had built with so much love and high hopes for the future. I had some “second thoughts” about my offer of giving the total amount to Wanda, after I learned how much profit there would be from the sale of the house. I called her and asked, if she would consider paying off the Audi loan to make things a little easier for me. She first said yes, that it seemed fair. At the signing of the papers to close the house sale, it was apparent she had some “second thoughts” of her own. When we talked about it later, Wanda was reluctant to carry through on what had first seemed reasonable to her. Since I had given my word about the house, I did not feel like pushing the issue. If she needed the money so badly, I thought she should have it. I would get by, even if things might be a little more restrictive in the budget and the money would be required by her to give her a brief sense of security. The love and support of my family and friends gave me a greater sense of security than financial gain ever could. The day the divorce was granted (May 2, 1980), the mother of the family Wanda had lived with when she and I were introduced, died. Mrs. Imogene Williams died at 4:00 on Friday afternoon. When Kathy Williams called to tell me the news, I was surprised and shocked. I knew “Mom” Williams had been ill several weeks earlier, but had not known she was in the hospital again. Since Mrs. Williams had almost “adopted” me along with Wanda, I felt a strong kinship and wanted to help the family in whatever manner I could. Consequently, I spent most of the weekend with the family and tried to be of service, when I could help. I, being so much in evidence with the family, seemed to upset Wanda and she did not spend a lot of time with the family. It did not bother me and I felt my desire to help the family outweighed Wanda’s personal concerns. There is not a lot outsiders can do to ease the burden of the family, but just being handy if there are any errands to be run can take the smaller details off the family’s minds. I acted as driver, when it was necessary, and in general was just handy if anyone wanted to talk. Being around someone, during such emotional experiences, can give you great insight into personal strengths and character. I found a great respect for Kathy Williams and the way she conducted herself. I had not pictured her to have the great strength and force of character she displayed. My friendship, love and respect for her grew tremendously, from the extra insights into her family, during these times of grief. I took a day of vacation on Monday so I could attend Mrs. Williams funeral and the family seemed to appreciate my presence. Friday, June 13, 1980, I left after work and drove to Wichita, Kansas, to spend a few days with my family. My cousin, Cindy Partridge, was getting married and the family used this as an excuse to have a reunion of sorts. Since the time was so busy, there was not a lot of time to visit. Still, the little bit of time the family spent together was greatly appreciated by me. I came to realize a sense of freedom I had not known I had lost. When married to Wanda, I had almost become isolated from my family. Now I reveled in the joy of being able to spend the time with them again. It is strange how people can lose the opportunity to spend time with their family without even realizing it. Wanda had been wrapped up with her own family and I enjoyed being with her family. Without realizing it, I became separated from my own family, because she did not enjoy being around my family as much as her own. As we were saying our farewells on the 19th of June 1980, my aunt Velma suggested I should come back to Wichita for the fourth of July holiday. Ordinarily, I might have felt I was imposing on Shirley and Don’s hospitality to come back so soon. I have since deposited those thoughts in the trash where they belong. Circumstances made it possible for me to make the trip to Wichita on the slightest “excuse.” Shirley and Don “adopted” me as their “little brother” and we all enjoyed the opportunity to learn to know each other better. I delight in their love and they in mine. Thursday the 19th, I had to return to Fort Worth to go to work on Friday. The day of vacation I had to take to be able to attend Mrs. Williams funeral, shortened my visit in Kansas. Still it was a pleasant visit and I enjoyed the time tremendously. Things were so hectic during this time, there was little time for visiting, so the time would not have helped much anyway. Many strange events came out of the gathering of the family for Cindy’s wedding. I began to analyze the things happening to my family, and myself, in a closer manner. I had not given a lot of thought to the “coincidences” happening to us since the time of Norman’s funeral. One of the most significant things to happen was when my aunt Velma, cousins Johnny Ray and Shirley decided to make a quick trip to Missouri, to pay a visit to Johnny’s father and see if they could find the old family cemetery in Oak Hill. The feeling for Missouri, they brought back seems to permeate the rest of the family. Serious plans were being made for the family to go there during the vacation in June of 1981, to see if the family might be able to locate the old home places and learn anything more concerning the family’s history in Missouri. There were plans of even trying to buy one of the old home places, if it were for sale, and speculations about many of the family members moving there. There is a strange feeling of a sense of destiny running through the fibers of the events, which are happening in the family. What will come of all these strange events remains to be seen. Still, there was a feeling I had suddenly found a sense of freedom, I had not even known I had lost. I did not come out of the divorce proceedings with much in the way of finances after all the expense of establishing a new home for myself. Still, there was the sense of being free to control the events in my life like never before. It is as though, it was better for the divorce to happen rather than to continue an existence, which would not have been happy for either Wanda or me. I delight in my newfound freedom and the things it has allowed me to do. If I felt the desire to make a quick trip to Wichita, there were no constraints to slow me down. If I wanted to do something to express my love for one closest to me, there were no discussions about the budget, as I had only my own vote to consider. Many things happened, during this time in my life, and some of them are a bit puzzling. It will be interesting to see what these events lead toward. While it does not seem strange, a factor, which lends itself to the unusual things happening in my life, is Shirley and Don’s move from Denver to Wichita. The move was made for health reasons, as the air pollution of Denver became unbearable. The move made it easier for Shirley to keep in personal contact with the rest of the family and provide the cohesiveness, which pulled the family closer together. In my case, the move put Shirley and Don in a locale where I could visit regularly. By living in Wichita, there have been more opportunities to visit. The result of these visits has allowed Shirley, Don and I to become even closer than we were in the past. This love and affection was also one of the stabilizing elements in my life, during the time of my divorce. The traumatic experience of the divorce, while unsettling, allowed me the time to devote to things I wanted to do. I was able to spend time on the family tree research. One of the things, which made this possible was, shortly after I moved into my apartment, I was requested to be a part of a committee of technicians to analyze spare parts custody requirements in order to decrease the number of “No Part” calls at 3M in Grand Prairie, Texas. “No Part” calls occur, when the service technician does not have the necessary part to fix the machine. He has to order the part, then later make a return trip to complete the service call. This is generally, an inconvenience to our customers, as well as the technicians. Family Tree Sharing In the course of my work with the no parts committee, I was allowed access to a word processor computer. This allowed me to do things on my own time, such as inputting the family tree information and stories. Being “single” I had time to devote to the committee work. Since I did not request overtime pay, for the hours of work for the committee, I felt free to utilize the word processor computer, when the company’s work was completed. Later, the 3M management personnel insisted I put in the overtime and be paid for my efforts. It seemed, to me an injustice to be paid overtime, in the light of all the personal good I was getting from being able to utilize the word processor computer. As I now had more time on my hands and fewer social commitments, I was able to pour myself into the long desired work on the family tree. The freedom of the divorce allowed me to revel in the joy of coming to know my family once more. The divorce seems to be part of the grand scheme of things. It insured my contribution to the family tree research by providing me opportunity to work on a project dear to my interests. Living alone, in an apartment, allowed time to spend on the company projects as well as personal business. This time allowed me to spend a good many hours on company business, when I was asked to be part of the no parts committee. I found I had the luxury of time and being able to spend it as I wished. If I had not noticed some of the strange things happening to our family, I might be tempted to get an inflated ego and start believing, I was responsible for what was happening. The many little things, happening from so many quarters of the family sphere, has made it possible for me to keep things in proper perspective. I came to see I was only an instrument to help the way things were happening. I believe, if it were not my efforts it would be someone else making these contributions. Whatever is happening in our family, seems to be bigger than anyone person. It seems to encompass just about everyone in our family. It goes beyond my humble efforts and is becoming everyone’s efforts and everyone’s story. Whatever it is which is happening, it is much larger than any one single individual—even if he does have access to a word processor. After getting home from work on July 2, 1980, I departed from Fort Worth. 365 miles later, I arrived at my “second home” at Wichita about 12:30 in the morning. The fourth of July holidays were shared with Shirley’s daughter, Mona, and her family from Denver. I surprised myself by going along on several motorcycle rides, which were a lot of fun. After the fourth of July holidays in Kansas, I felt different inside. I felt at peace with myself and more serene. It was strange I even noticed this, because I consider myself to be at peace with myself and a calm individual. I do not know if this was the result of my cousin Shirley’s counseling, something Don’s daughter, Barbara, said or all the therapy of writing my autobiography. Something, which contributed to my calm, was one of the things Barbara said, which put an idea in my mind I had not considered. During the course of our conversation, she mentioned, sometimes divorce was necessary to be able to continue your “spiritual” growth. I had not thought of things in this light, but she may have been right. In my case, the divorce was a catalyst for change in my life and allowed me to do some more “growing.” Those closest to my life seem thankful for the “growth” they have seen in my personality. My aunt Alma came over for a cookout at Shirley and Don’s house. We grilled hamburgers on the charcoal grill and ate outside under the shade trees. It was a delightful time. Aunt Alma related some more information about the family and I was able to record a couple of the stories she told us. I had made the revisions to the family tree information, which was required after the June trip. I brought a couple of copies of the revised text along. I showed a copy to Mona and she became absorbed in reading about the family’s history. She was still trying to read it, when most of the family group went to Wichita State University to watch the fireworks display. Mona was trying to read and walk at the same time. She finished reading and everyone enjoyed the spectacular fireworks show. In the course of the conversation about the family tree, Mona said they were working toward the dream of some day owning a business in the Lake of the Ozarks area of Missouri. She said they would like to have a small store or something along those lines to provide a moderate income and self-sufficiency. The seeds of Mona’s idea seemed to germinate in the minds of other family members, although not much was said then. The “sprout” of an idea seemed to grow a little more each time the family talked, until they began to share her dream. Where Mona’s “dream” will lead the family is impossible to say. It does seem to spark some unusual interest from some surprising quarters and I am curious to watch to see if the idea grows. Another unusual aspect of the events in my life centers around my uncle Earl May. Circumstances had created a situation where he had become isolated from his family. There seemed to be some prejudicial barriers between he and his family for many years. Now the barriers are coming down and he is being brought back into the family fold once again. The family is learning to love him, and he them. After so many years of isolation, his joy is paramount and manifested for all to see. For thirty some odd years, he lived in Florida, and there was not a great deal of contact between him and his family. His wife, Jewel (Monk), died around six o'clock in the morning of June 3, 1979. Aunt Velma invited him to come out to California, to spend the summer with her. Uncle Earl arrived toward the end of September 1979. Aunt Velma got him interested in the local senior citizens group and life began to look better, as his activities and interests increased. He met his future wife, Florence at the senior citizens center. After a whirlwind courtship he and Florence were married at 9:30 Saturday morning on August 9, 1980. She is a delightful lady who has brightened his life and he seems to sparkle under the influence of the love they share. Florence is an intelligent, gracious lady who enjoys life to the fullest and who also is a talented artist who has completed some lovely paintings. The Christmas 1980 holidays provided me with a nice time at my aunt Velma’s in California. It was something, seemed to be in the realm of an event, which was supposed to happen. It is strange and difficult to explain. I am not certain I fully understand what it was about this holiday, that was so special. I had spent other holidays with my aunt Velma and some at her house in California. It might have been this time it included uncle Earl. He had been an “outsider” from the family. I let myself feel some of the prejudicial feelings and could not understand some of the events in his life. Fortunately, I had the chance to get a second shot at overcoming my “hardened heart” and I am grateful for this opportunity. It is not often we have the chance to correct some of the errors we make during the course of our lifetime. It seems uncle Earl is being brought back into the family fold and I am not sure I understand it all. I am not complaining, because the way things have been going, nothing seems to surprise me anymore. I am most surprised by my own feelings—again. Since I am the only one I can speak for, with any degree of accuracy, I have to marvel at the changes taking place in my way of thinking and attitudes I bear. Uncle Earl is one of the changes. I am thankful God granted me the opportunity to make amends for my prejudicial hardness. When uncle Earl first showed up I thought he was “using” people. He gave me the impression of being another self-centered individual. I do not like being around selfish individuals, so I judged, when I should have been more receptive. Fortunately, not everyone in our family is as hard-hearted as I am. Through their efforts, I was given more understanding and the capacity to see the error of my previous impressions. I found uncle Earl to be a warm, honest individual who has deep feelings for his family and kin. Things could best be summed up by saying he has a “good heart!” Before I was shown the error of my ways, I took it upon myself to attempt to show uncle Earl what I thought was the error of his ways I wrote some letters to him, trying to “square him away” and made a fool of myself in the process. Because of my prejudicial bias and my love for the ones it looked like he might be using, I tried to show uncle Earl what I thought he should do. My Auntie Mame and cousin Shirley soon got me “squared away” and gently showed me the error of my ways I decided to quit playing God and trying to remake people in my image. Consequently a lot of people were a lot happier—myself included—and I discovered just how nice person uncle Earl really is. After my marriage to Wanda, I can better understand uncle Earl’s isolation. It is not always “right,” but it does happen. It is easy to put some distance between yourself and your family. You can do it without even realizing it, because it happens rather slowly. When you add personality conflicts between strong personalities, you have even greater potential for isolation. It is so easy for misunderstandings to develop between people of strong will. While I do not know all of his circumstances, I think I can better appreciate his situation. I was in his “shoes,” but God granted me a shorter walk down this path of isolation than he granted uncle Earl. Because I was able to get to know my family after only a few years of isolation, I can understand his joy in getting to learn about his family again. I feel this same joy and relish in the freedom of being able to get to know my family again. Be that as it may, this was a special Christmas for all of us who were at aunt Velma’s. This was an especially nice Christmas for uncle Earl. He said it was his best ever and it was a special time for us too. Tears of joy streamed down his face on several occasions. I do not think you can easily fake this sort of joy. He had a chance to share the holidays with some of his family he had not been around and got to know some of us a little better. I can appreciate his feelings, because I got to know my family later in life. I tend to have a greater sense of appreciation of the times I am allowed to spend with my family because of this. You tend to enjoy your relatives more, when you get to know than later in life. This may account for part of the reason I so enjoyed the Christmas holiday in California, and our Thanksgiving holiday trip to aunt Ruth’s. In any case, both times were absolutely delightful.

  I Count My Blessings Chapter 15 ─ Family and “Wish Games”

I shared my uncle Earl’s joy at the discovery of my family. On August 15, 1980, I wrote my aunt Ruth Immell a letter and sent her a copy of the family tree information. I was not sure if there would be any response, since I had not met my aunt. She had moved to Missouri, when I was very young, so I never got to know her. I received an answer to my letter thanking me for the family tree information. As our correspondence grew so did the joy of learning about another portion of the family, which had become isolated from each other. I discovered my aunt Ruth was gracious, loving and a person who was not only a gentle woman, but a genteel lady with considerable “class.” The Labor Day weekend saw me visiting my “second home” in Wichita. I had things packed and ready, so I could leave Fort Worth right after I got home from work on Friday, August 29th. Since Monday was a holiday, I had Saturday and Sunday to visit and Monday to drive back to Fort Worth. I received my Christmas present from Shirley early. It was a beautiful ceramic chess set done in my favorite color—blue. Instead of white and dark pieces, they were light and dark blue. The ceramic chess set is something I will always treasure and being the owner of such an elegant set made it necessary to try to learn something about the game. At first it seemed the set was too beautiful to put out on display. I was afraid something would happen to it, so I kept it packed away in the closet. After keeping it packed away for a while, I had another thought and put it out on display. Such a lovely set should be put on display for everyone to appreciate, as I do its beauty. Saturday night, Shirley and Don hosted a dinner for Judy and Carl Oswald. Judy is mine and Shirley’s second cousin. The steak dinner was delicious. Don cooked the steaks on the charcoal grill and Shirley fixed a delicious mushroom dish she tried during the Missouri trip in June. After the meal, we talked about various bits of family news to catch up on the years of not seeing each other. Judy brought some pictures, so I was able to copy some of her family pictures, including a studio portrait of her mother, Mary Martha Molinda (May) Brainard. I brought a copy of the family tree information for Judy in the hope she might become interested and I could learn more about her side of the family. The Labor Day weekend produced a strange awareness in me. The idea had been mentioned concerning the possibility of the family forming a corporation; the idea being to try to buy one of the old family home sites to either make a family museum or living on the land. The idea of a family corporation did not appear practical and could provide stimulus for considerable dissention and disunity in the family. Even so, the idea of living in Missouri, seemed to appeal to some family members. I said if other family members moved to Missouri, I would not mind having some property, where I could establish a vacation home and retreat. As the conversation progressed Shirley, Don and I found ourselves exploring the various possibilities and ramifications of the idea. As we talked late into the night, it occurred to me we were doing something I had not done since childhood. As my family did not have great wealth or material possessions, one of my favorite methods of recreation was to play “wishing games.” I would look through the mail order catalogs and think about how nice it would be to have first one thing or the other, when I grew up. An item such as an electric welder or typewriter would be considered and how nice it would be to have such a thing. I hardly knew what such items were used for, but I would think about all the things I would be able to do with a typewriter or welder. The “wish games,” concerning the idea of owning a small piece of land in Missouri, were just as vivid as the games of youth. The talk was of having enough land to have a nice garden. Then, a small tractor would be required to make garden work easier. Whether the land had a good water supply and what kind of pump might be needed if a well were drilled. I told how much I enjoyed playing “Paul Bunyon” as I tried to clear my ex father-in-law’s land in the piney woods of east Texas. I told about cutting firewood and the “wish games” then included a good chain saw and axe. We started to look at state maps to see, if an area might be found to fit all the dreams. It would have to be far enough away from metropolitan areas to give a country atmosphere of serenity and yet close enough to provide the comforts of being able to go into the city when desired. About this time, I mentioned we had all been playing “wish games.” My greatest surprise was my own enthusiasm, concerning the thought of owning land in Missouri. I have long considered Fort Worth to be my home and have not considered 1iving anywhere other than Texas. Now, I was talking about the possibility of moving from here and enjoying the wishful dreaming about Missouri. The shock struck me like a thunderbolt of realization. I wondered what kind of mystic charm could exert such a reaction in myself about a place I had never seen. It must have been the joy of being close to my family, which made the idea of moving to Missouri, so appealing. I thought, if they were going to move down there, I wanted to be close to them to continue to share the joy of discovery and the pleasant times we had together. I was surprised at my reaction to the “wish games” and the idea of moving to Missouri. I do not know where our “wish games” will take us, but they have provided some surprising stimulus and have made me do a lot of thinking about myself and my reactions. Monday, the first of September, I left Wichita to go back to Texas. On the long drive back to Fort Worth, I thought about my enthusiastic involvement in the “wish games.” I tried to think of a way I could make a secret trip to Missouri, to see this special place for myself. It must be special to have such an attraction to me. There did not appear to be time enough for me to make a trip to Missouri, on just any weekend, even if I got someone like my brother-in-law to help me with the driving. I began to contemplate the possibility of making the trip during the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend. I had promised Shirley and Don I would be coming back to Wichita to spend Thanksgiving with them. I asked them, if they might like to make the trip to Missouri, and spend Thanksgiving looking the area over. I reasoned there would not be time enough to stop and visit anyone and still be able to see a goodly portion of the area. Originally, I planned to just spend the time driving around and trying to find out, if I might like to live there. I also reasoned it would help us make better plans, concerning the family gathering next June. Shirley and Don said they would be happy to accompany me and the trip was scheduled. Events changed the original plans, much to everyone’s pleasure and the trip became more social in nature, because of later considerations. First Trip to Missouri During the family gathering on the fourth of July, my aunt Alma mentioned a strong urge to visit her older sister, Ruth. Alma and Myrtle started their trip to Gerald, Missouri, to visit their sister Ruth on the 11th of September. They returned on the 16th after a pleasant reunion with Ruth and her family and their aunt Geraldine (May) Reed. In the course of my correspondence with my aunt Ruth, I mentioned some of the family’s goals the following June. I mentioned the desire to find some of the old home sites and cemeteries. Consequently, aunt Ruth and her family took aunt Alma and aunt Myrtle around to Collier and Walbert Cemeteries. They also located the original Thomas Walton May house and visited Oak Hill. Aunt Ruth loaned aunt Myrtle some family pictures for me to copy. The trip was a very nice experience and a good start was gained on the goals for the gathering next June. I made a quick trip back to Wichita to hear about the trip from my aunt Myrtle on the 20th of September. The trip only allowed for Saturday visiting, but it seemed necessary to hear about their trip first hand instead of in a letter. My aunt Myrtle became even more interested in the family tree research after her trip to see her sister Ruth. As a result, she started looking through some of her things and contributed some exciting news. Aunt Myrtle found the original copies of her mother and dad’s marriage license and some exciting old family negatives. She began to write to some of the people who were mentioned as knowing the family, when it lived in Missouri. She called her cousin, Esther Brainard, to see if their family had any information we might be able to use. In a rather casual manner, she told aunt Myrtle she had some pages out of her grandmother’s Bible, which recorded many of the family births, deaths and marriages. Esther said she would be happy for aunt Myrtle to have this information, as she did not know what she was going to do with it. Needless to say, this sparked much excitement among the family beyond words to express. Aunt Myrtle became a major factor in the growth of family tree information and artifacts during this period of time, and she is continuing to work on these projects with great enthusiasm and energy. She also began work on her autobiography for the family tree. These discoveries started the serious consideration of one day starting a family museum to house the family memorabilia and mementos. It seemed some of these things should be preserved in a manner where they would be available for all the family to appreciate. The discovery of the original Thomas Walton May house on aunt Alma and aunt Myrtle’s trip to Missouri, and it being in such good condition, seemed to heighten the interest of converting it into a family museum. Whether this “dream” can be turned into reality remains to be seen, but it is a pleasant prospect. On October 10, 1980, another perplexing thing happened with me. I mailed the first four copies of the Foxfire series of books to my cousin, Shirley. This in itself would not be such a surprise, but I did not understand the reason for the strong urge, which compelled me to act in this manner. I had seen the books several days earlier and had the strong compulsion to get the books for Shirley. I tried to shrug off the desire, but found it was not easily shaken. I have learned not to ignore my intuitive feelings, even when I do not understand to what ends they may serve. “Something,” told me it was important for Shirley to receive the books. The Foxfire books are a series about rural living and the stories of the people relating how they did things like building log cabins or making wagon wheels. The books are filled with pictures and are so interesting they are difficult to put down once a person starts reading them. It is not known how these books fit into the picture of the family tree, but they seem to have a niche in the scheme of things. The weekend of the 2lst of November I made another trip to Wichita to my other home. I had been keeping some of my things at my sister’s house. Donna and Clyde were having their problems and Donna was thinking about moving into an apartment and would not have the room to keep my refrigerator. I asked Shirley and Don, if they might have room to keep it for me. They said they would and I hauled it there. During the visit, I received my Christmas present from Don early. I received something I had wanted ever since I was stationed in Japan. I had mentioned it, when he told me about losing the samurai sword he captured during WW II. His present was a samurai sword which surprised me to no end and which I treasure greatly. I hope to one day hang it over a fireplace mantle. Second Trip to Missouri In the realm of strange events, the Thanksgiving trip to visit Gerald to visit my aunt Ruth seemed meant to be. There was considerable bad weather around this period of time. In Texas, the bad weather swung south of the Fort Worth area and left the roads going north to Kansas in good shape for the trip on Wednesday the 26th of November 1980. The roads to the east and west were nearly impassible with snow and ice. Shirley, Don, aunt Myrtle and I left Wichita on Thanksgiving Day and the weather was nice. There was some snow, which stuck to the landscape, but the roads were clear. The snow was encountered near the Missouri state line and got progressively heavier the farther east we traveled. Still, the roads were clear and we had no problems getting to Gerald, Missouri. A lot of little things contributed to the trip and influenced the way things turned out. Originally, I had planned to make a trip to look over the land and had not planned to stop and visit. Events changed my plans much to my delight. I learned to know my aunt Ruth much better through our correspondence and felt a strong desire to visit her. Shirley and aunt Myrtle had written to some people in Missouri, and learned a lady had a picture of John and Emily Shoemaker. As the family did not have any good pictures of them, it seemed important to stop and visit the lady. She said she would loan us the picture to copy. I found my original plans becoming more social than I had originally thought. Another factor was aunt Myrtle’s desire to make the trip with us. This allowed her to show us the things she and aunt Alma had been shown during their earlier trip. This meant there would be less driving required to find things since there was now a “guide” to show us around. Also the snow seemed to curtail much of the traveling originally planned. The resulting trip was much more social and enjoyable. There was a good time had in visiting with family who had never met each other. There was a wealth of family pictures to copy and discussion about the family gathering the following year. While I did not get to see as much of the land I thought about seeing after our Labor Day holiday “wish games,” the trip was most enjoyable. Being introduced to more people made me appreciate them even more. An important visit was made to talk with Edna Shoemaker, the lady with the old picture of John and Emily (Shoemaker) Muskat. There is some difference of opinion concerning the people in the picture. Some think the man in the picture is Benjamin James Muskat rather than his father, John. Be that as it may, it was a pleasant visit with Edna Shoemaker and we are looking forward to being able to visit with her again to learn more about how her husband’s family is related to Emily Shoemaker. She confirmed her husband’s family was related to ours through Ben Shoemaker. Edna loaned Shirley the picture and she took it to a professional photographer in Wichita to be copied. The photographer’s work was less than satisfactory and extremely disappointing in the light of the high expectations of getting a professionally restored photograph of our family. After visiting with Edna Shoemaker, we went to visit her sister Beulah Souders. Beulah had extended a dinner invitation to my cousin Shirley and all of her fellow travelers. Shirley had written several letters to Beulah and they developed a close friendship in the short period of time. Not a great deal of new information about the family tree was learned from Beulah, but a delicious meal and a delightful time was had by all. The hospitality extended to us may have been the most valuable acquisition of the trip. Everyone seemed to be so friendly and gracious to us. People, we had never met before, opened their doors to us and made us feel as if we had known them all our 1ives. It was an eerie feeling to meet someone for the first time and feel as if you had known them all your life. I would expect such pleasant feelings to come from meeting with aunt Ruth’s family. It would seem reasonable to feel comfortable with your family and they certainly did make us feel right at home. More than that, the people who were not family also made us feel so comfortable and at ease. In talking with the man at the gas station, while filling the car, I felt as if I were talking with an old friend. I found myself telling him all about myself and our visit to his area, as if we had known each other all our lives and were catching up on the latest news. The people we met on our trip were as beautiful as the land, which seems to exhibit such an attraction. We visited Oak Hill, but did not get out and walk around because of the snow on the ground. We drove up the hill and around to the original Thomas Walton May house. We did get out of the car and tried to look through the windows at the inside of the house. It was getting late in the afternoon, so we drove to Cuba, Missouri, to see if we could get one of the local papers and so aunt Myrtle could buy some Swiss Mocha instant coffee for aunt Ruth to try. We then, drove back to aunt Ruth’s house, and spent the rest of the night visiting with her and her family. On Saturday morning, the 29th of November 1980, we left aunt Ruth’s house and started our trip back to Wichita. It was a very pleasant journey and we enjoyed each other’s company very much. We got back to Wichita that evening and aunt Myrtle seemed reluctant for the trip to end. It was most delightful and I had the opportunity to visit with her for a longer period of time. I got to know her a little better and enjoyed her companionship greatly. I had not been around my aunt Myrtle for any length of time, so this was an opportunity to visit as well as a fun trip. The next morning, I had to start back to Fort Worth. We had a delightful Thanksgiving and everyone is looking forward to the next time we can get together to visit with aunt Ruth and her family. Christmas 1980 in California The Christmas holidays were especially nice in 1980. We had decided to try to get together at aunt Velma’s to try to plan for the June trip to Missouri. Shirley and I flew out to California, and Don drove out to Denver to spend a little time with his son. I flew out of Dallas/Fort Worth airport on Friday the 19th of December. I had everything packed and my sister, Donna Jean, took me to the airport. My plane left at 6:50 in the evening, so we had to hurry a little. It was a pleasant and smooth flight. I arrived at Ontario airport, in California, at around eight-fifteen. Uncle Earl, aunt Florence, Shirley and John Kenny (aunt Velma’s boyfriend) were at the airport to meet me. It was crowded with a lot of holiday travelers, but we said our hellos and got away from there in spite of all the crowds. We started visiting as soon as we met at the airport and I do not think we stopped until it was time to leave to go home again. On Saturday evening (20th) aunt Velma had a party at her house. We had a good time and got to visit some more. Shirley, aunt Velma and uncle Earl played us some music. Shirley played the piano, aunt Velma played her guitar and uncle Earl played his harmonica. We had a grand time listening to them play for us. We tried to sing along with some of the songs, but could not remember many of the words. Still, it was a grand time and a very nice party. Sunday, the 21st, was a special treat! My cousin, Johnny Ray, rented an airplane and flew Shirley and I out to a small airport about thirty miles away. Johnny, Carol (his wife), Shirley and I went to the airport and flew out. Aunt Velma and the rest drove out since we could not all get in the little airplane. We went to the Red Baron restaurant in Riverside, California, airport for their Sunday champagne brunch. The airport restaurant had a fantastic brunch and it was like the rich folks to be able to fly in to dine at the restaurant. The food was really something! The salad bar had a roast suckling pig to go along with all the salad stuff. The regular food line had the usual things you would associate with a brunch. The highpoint was the French toast. It was served with a caramel-type sauce. You could get strawberries and whipped cream on top of the sauce. It was delicious! I had to go back for seconds on the French toast, because it really satisfied my sweet tooth and was delicious. The brunch had complimentary champagne. Our pilot (Johnny Ray) refused to drink anything alcoholic, because he was flying. Incidentally, he is an extremely capable pilot. He gave us a smooth ride and impressed me with his professional attitude and competence. I rode up front with him on the trip out. He showed me what he was doing and I found it very interesting. Shirley and Carol sat in the back seat. On the return trip I sat in back with Carol and Shirley sat up front with Johnny. He showed her how things worked and let her do some of the driving on the way back. You felt safe in doing that with such a capable pilot as Johnny Ray. We flew around a little on the return trip and J.R. showed us a little of the sights around Los Angeles. There was fog out over the ocean so we did not get to see the ocean. Still, it was a pleasant flight and we enjoyed the trip ever so much. It was a bit expensive, but it is nice to indulge yourself in a luxury every now and then. It cost J.R. around $108.00 for rental on the airplane to fly us to the brunch; since he paid for the flight, we bought his brunch. It was not a very fair trade, but we had such a good time, I was not about to argue with his hospitality. It makes you feel like rich folks, to fly into an airport just to have brunch. It was fun! We had a chance to do a lot of visiting. We get together so seldom we usually talk the night away. I think the earliest we went to bed was around midnight. Most of the time, it was somewhere earlier in the morning and one night it was around three-thirty in the morning. I enjoy the luxury of being able to talk the night away. It seems you really get a chance to know each other in the quiet of the night. The conversation ranges the gambit of all subjects and you get a better insight into knowing those persons who are hearty enough to stay up most of the night talking. It was nice to have the time to just sit around and visit with each other. Needless to say, a lot of the conversation was about the prospects of a nice time in June. We decided it was going to be impossible to make any kind of schedule for the June gathering in Missouri. We decided to just play things by ear. I envision spending the mornings and early part of the afternoons, looking around the courthouses and visiting with people who can tell us more about our family. The later part of the afternoons and evening should be reserved for family things. We will want to get together and find out what everyone discovered about the family tree. It will give us a chance to update the family tree books. The rest of the evenings should be devoted to visiting and having fun. Hopefully, we can get the musical members of our family to break out the guitars and harmonicas and play something. We should be able to do just a little work on the family tree and have a whole lot of time visiting and enjoying each other’s companionship. I know Johnny Ray is going to want to go down to Doniphan to see his father and his family. I think I would like to go along. I know great uncle Christopher May lived there. I don’t know if I can find out anything there or not. Still, I would like to see that area and then go on over to Batesville, Arkansas, to see if I can find any marriage record of John Muskat and Emily Shoemaker. I do not know if we can find out anything on the Benjamin Shoemaker family, but we can look around a little bit. Aunt Velma suggested if we do this, it would be fun to go over into Arkansas and look for diamonds. I do not know where you do this, but it sounds like fun. We had a delightful Christmas dinner at aunt Velma’s. Everyone said the meal was the best turkey and dressing she had ever made. I said it was all because of my help; I chopped the onions and celery and helped her cook them in butter. It was kind of fun puttering about in the kitchen. The meal was delicious and everyone had a grand time. Uncle Earl took us out to a steak house for steak dinner on Saturday, the 27th. We had a good time and got to know aunt Florence a little better. She is a gracious lady who is kind of quiet; when she speaks, people usually listen. She loves uncle Earl and he seems to bask in the warmth of the love they share. Aunt Florence is good for him and he seems good for her. She is an artist and showed us some of her paintings. I envy people with talent; I admire painters or composers. People with talent make me envious and I admire their abilities. I flew back to Texas on Sunday the 28th of December. My flight left Ontario airport around 12:30 noon; aunt Velma and crew took me to the airport. It was hard to say good-bye after sharing such a delightful time together. When you are having such a nice time, you hate for it to end. It was like our Thanksgiving trip all over again. Anyway, I got into Dallas/Fort Worth about 5:15 p.m. I called my sister, Donna Jean, and she came to pick me up at the airport. We visited on the way back to my apartment and told each other about our holidays. On Thursday night, the 29th of January 1981, Shirley and Don came down to Fort Worth to spend the weekend with me. It was a most delightful visit; we had the luxury of time. We had the time to just sit around and visit. It is such a rare luxury, I really appreciate having the opportunity to just visit. It is hard to really visit, when there is a large gathering around. As I look back, it seems the most enjoyable times for visiting are those times in the wee hours of the morning, when a lot of the people have gone to bed, and the few hearty souls sit around and talk. It is hard to really talk, when everyone is trying to catch up on the visiting. This is usually the case with our family, because we get together so seldom. Still, I am not complaining about the visiting of everyone all together. This is fun too, but the smaller group allows for more serious talking and exchanging of ideas and philosophy. Anyway, Don, Shirley and I had some nice visits during their visit. One of the things I am the most grateful for in my life is the opportunity to get to know them better. By them moving from Denver to Wichita and my divorce, I have had the opportunity to visit with them more often than in the past. The result of these visits has been to let us come to know each other better. They are more like a big brother and sister to me than cousins. The more times we share, the greater is my gratitude to my Maker for the opportunity He has given me.

  I Count My Blessings Chapter 17 ─ Family and Missouri

I must go back in time to cover some of the other events, which were also happening during this time period. Many of my weekends were spent in Wichita with Shirley and Don. On 14 February, I received a gold Cross ballpoint pen during my visit. It is the most elegant pen I have received. On the weekend of 14 March, I made another trip to my second home and we exchanged birthday presents. I was given a pair of “Dingo” western boots. I gave Shirley a briefcase and Don a fluorescent lamp with a magnification lens in the middle. The briefcase seemed appropriate for Shirley’s chosen profession and the lamp/magnifying lens seemed useful for doing detailed work on small things, which might be hard to see. I received a special birthday present on the 27th of March. Clyde and I were going to spend the weekend at my second home. When I checked the mail that afternoon, I found my aunt Ruth Immell had sent me her autobiography. I was delighted to receive it and took it along so Shirley and Don could read it. Everyone who has read it says it is the best one ever and I have to agree with them. My aunt Ruth is a terrific writer and has presented her story beautifully. We all love her even more for having shared her inspiring autobiography with us! I started work on it the following Monday after I got back to Fort Worth. This was also the day of the attempted assignation of the president. When I dropped Clyde off at his house, my brother Richard “Rick” was there. We had lost contact with him during the past year, so there was a lot of visiting to catch up with. I ate dinner at Donna and Clyde’s and we visited with Rick that night. We all promised, we would not lose touch and Rick was back with his family again. On Thursday (April 2), Rick came over to my apartment and we had more time to visit. That Saturday (April 4th) Rick and I took our nieces and nephews to the shooting range in Grand Prairie. We gave the kids a gun safety lesson first and were proud, when they observed all the proper precautions and safety procedures at the range. We all had a grand time and my niece, Sheila Marlene Perry impressed us with some fancy shooting for a little girl. Because Rick was back with the family and had a potentially hazardous occupation of security guard, I felt I owed it to myself to provide him with a bulletproof vest. While such a garment is no complete guarantee, I wanted him to have every advantage he could in the event he might be placed in a situation of danger. Since I was just coming to enjoy his companionship, the vest was as much for me as it was to protect him. In our later conversations, I was glad I wanted to do this. Rick impressed me with being cautious, but he also has a strong tendency for being certain before he would ever fire his revolver. While he is extremely observant, this could be dangerous to him and I was glad he would have the extra advantage of the vest. I felt he would almost let the criminal fire first just to be sure he was doing the right thing in using his weapon. Starting the weekend of 17 April, I spent four weekends in Wichita helping Shirley with the typing of her term paper. It was an interesting paper and I enjoyed seeing it develop. The end result was an “A” grade, because it was put together on the word processor without any errors or erasures—that makes a more professionally looking paper. In fact, the professor said the paper was so perfect, he refused to put any mark on it. He would not even put a grade on the paper, because it looked so good. Shirley was the only under-graduate to take the graduate course, concerning the counseling of older citizens and she received an “A” for the entire course as well as her paper. I do not know which one of us was the most proud of her paper. We all had a hand in the production of the paper and Don caught a very critical error, when we thought the paper was ready to submit. The error was corrected in time, but if it were not for Don it would have slipped through. I took up the final corrections for Shirley’s paper on the weekend of the first of May. Saturday, Shirley fixed Cornish game hens with rice stuffing, which was delicious. It was the first time I had tasted rice stuffing and I thought it was fantastic. Sunday morning I awoke with a touch of flu and thought it wise to get an early start back to Fort Worth. When I got back, I was feeling much better, but I decided to take a couple more aspirins and go to bed early to make sure the flu bug was gone. I think God is continuing to watch over me. I had noticed a bit of a shake, when I was driving which seemed to get worse on the return trip from Kansas. On Tuesday (May 5) I took the car to a Goodyear store to have them check the tires for balancing. When the car was put on the hoist, it was discovered two of the tires had tread separation and one had a nail in it. The right front and the left rear tires had tread separation and the left front tire had a large nail in it. I decided to replace all four of the original German made tires on the Audi with Goodyear Tiempo mud, rain and snow tires. It was a bit expensive, but in the light of the forthcoming trip to Missouri, for the family reunion, it seemed wise. It is easy to see what could have easily happened, if the tread had completely separated during my trip to Wichita. It would seem God is not through with me yet and my guardian angel is still watching over me. The Memorial Day holiday weekend I left Fort Worth for the mini-reunion in Wichita. I missed the storm which threatened me most of the way. I only saw some dramatic displays of lighting and cloud formations while my brother Rick, really caught the brunt of the storm, when he came through later that night. When I got to my second home in Wichita, I found my sister, Sharon and her family already there. They had come in from Ensign, Kansas, earlier in the evening. We had a nice time getting reacquainted once again as it had been a long time since we had been together. The mini-reunion on the 23rd was most enjoyable. Shirley and Don were gracious hosts and everyone delighted in the companionship and the grand hospitality. There was a lot of visiting and talking going on and not a lot of disappointments. It was apparent Clyde had been drinking and continued to do so all day that Saturday. He insisted they leave early Sunday morning to go back to Arlington. He said he had some electrical work to do and ended up spending the rest of the day and Monday sitting around drinking beer. John insisted he, Sharon and the girls leave early, because he had something important which needed doing at home. Sharon later reported it was a case of John not being able to stand her family. In spite of some of the personal problems, it was a grand time since some of us had not seen each other in many years. While I do not know all the ramifications of this very special event, it seems to me to set the stage for sane more dramatic events in our lives. The mini-reunion is but one example of how the family in general seems to be drawing together more closely. There are some examples where the opposite is true, but for the most part, there is a greater degree of love and compassion than in the past. Some, such as John and Clyde, do not seem to be able to handle these new feelings and that is their loss. The “gathering together” of the family seems to extend over a broad spectrum and we are learning to feel a sense of unity we have not felt before. Some speculation might be made as to the reason for this, but it is better to wait to see what develops and enjoy the ties being formed. Those who do not enjoy the greater unity and love will find a cold, lonely world of their own making while the rest of us revel in the joy of learning more about our family. Since Monday was a legal holiday, Rick and I drove back to Texas in convoy. It was a good trip, but I learned my new tires made my speedometer read faster than I was actually going. Rick was wondering why I was driving so slow at times, when I thought I was going the speed limit. We stopped and talked a bit in Denton, before Rick went his way on I-35 East to Dallas and I took the 1-35 west turnoff to Fort Worth. The next Friday (29 May), Donna and I went back to Kansas, for the weekend. During the trip we had plenty of opportunity to talk about some of the things I had been wondering about. We also drove through a spectacular storm complete with much lighting and a deluge of rain, which almost blotted out the road. Many people pulled off under the bridges and underpasses. My comment was, “God sure puts on a spectacular light show!” That Saturday, Harley, Don and I put a trailer hitch on Don’s Ford LTD in preparation for pulling the camping trailer Harley and Jan loaned us for our forthcoming trip to Missouri. Harley and Jan’s generosity allowed us to make the trip where it might not have been financially impossible if we would have had to stay in motels. It was really nice of them to be so wonderfully generous! Don said he was not sure he would be able to make the trip and asked if I might be able to loan him $500.00. I said my finances were in kind of a tight condition due to a lot of other considerations and I would have to check things out. Don said he would not expect me to do it without getting a little better interest than I could in the bank. Since I do not loan money to family for interest, I paid little attention to the amount of interest he offered to pay. It seems rather mercenary to charge your family interest. If you can’t help out your loved ones without expectation of payment, it would better if you sent them to the loan sharks to do business. Perhaps, I do not have the proper respect for money and I certainly am an easy mark, when it comes to being parted from my money. Still, I think if money is our only aim in life, we are in a world of trouble and disappointment. On Sunday, when Donna and I got back to Arlington, David was there and we talked a bit. I have already mentioned my dealing with Clyde at this time so there is little need to cover this ground again. David said he was taking a second job and trying to save his money, because he was planning to be married later in the year. This did not sound like the talk of one dealing in drugs or other dire things. By this time, I had learned of Clyde’s lies to me and was just waiting for him to say the wrong thing. I was all set to tell him what I thought of his dealings. Unfortunately for me, he never gave me this opportunity. The next weekend, I loaded up most of the belongings, I had left with Donna and Clyde and took them to Wichita to my second home. I checked with my supervisor and was allowed to utilize the company van to haul the things to Kansas. On Saturday, I talked with Don about the money. I said I could not loan him the entire amount, but I thought I could loan $300.00 now if this would help him. He said anything would be a big help so I made out a check. I informed him I would not accept any interest since he was family and I did not want any repayment until the first of January. The weekend of the June 12th, I made my regularly scheduled trip to my second home to help make final preparations for our forthcoming trip to Missouri. My sister Sharon had been offered a ride by Shirley, when it became evident she would not get to make the trip otherwise. Sharon was there early to help get ready for the trip. Everyone seemed to be getting excited for the trip. Shirley’s daughter, Mona, and her family were to come in that weekend from Denver. I just missed them, when I left on Sunday as they arrive about ten minutes after I left. Before I left, we had made plans to meet in the area around Lake Stockton, Missouri, as Mona and Don wanted to look over some property being offered them. We set it up they would call me collect on Wednesday to tell me where to meet them late Thursday night. I had my vacation set so I would leave Fort Worth immediately after I got off work on Thursday, the l8th. I would drive to the Stockton area and we would then all drive in convoy to the area around Doniphan to look at some more of the country in Missouri. I spent the week trying to get everything packed and ready to leave Thursday. When I did not get the call on Wednesday night, I assumed a change of plans had occurred and I called Wichita to see if they still might be there. I wanted to remind them of something I thought they might have forgotten to pack. When I called Wichita, Don Leonard answered the telephone. I was surprised to learn he had decided to stay behind, because he had been talking as if he would be making the trip with us and I thought the $300.00 had made it financially possible for him to do so. Don told me he did not think he could financially make the trip and the rest of the travelers had already looked at the land in Stockton. I knew, then, the alternate plan of them calling on Thursday between five and five-thirty was in effect. I told Don I could understand his not choosing to make the trip and signed off. Don was very pleasant to me on the telephone, but later I learned there was more behind his not wanting to make the trip. I received Shirley’s call on Thursday and found the schedule was changed and we decided to meet in Doniphan, instead of Stockton. I left Fort Worth about five-thirty since I had everything packed and ready to go. I arrived in Doniphan, Missouri, close to four-thirty the next morning. I parked next to the restaurant on highway 21 and settled down to wait for the other travelers. We had set it up to utilize channel 35 on the Citizens Band radio to make our contact, so I monitored the CB radio and waited. A heavy rainstorm rolled over the low mountains and soaked everything. I later learned Don Smith had trouble with his pickup and camper. He had lost the brake pad on one of the front brakes and was trying to fix it during the downpour of rain. He and the rest of our “convoy” were parked in Grandin, Missouri, about fifteen miles from me. I would watch the highway until I got sleepy, then take a nap on the reclining seat of my car and wake up to monitor the radio some more. My aunt Lillian (Jantz) May’s friend Bill Gamblin brought Don into Doniphan to pick up parts for his truck. They must have come through during one of the times I was napping, because I did not see or hear them. Around noon, I began to wonder if something might have happened to the other travelers and thought about trying to go out and find them. Since I was uncertain if they were coming in on highway 160 or highway 60, I decided it was best to stay put where I was. By the middle of the afternoon, I was getting a bit uneasy and thought I would go for a drive to charge up the battery in the car. I noticed my ammeter gauge was not showing a charge like it should have been doing after running the CB radio so much. I decided to go to the service station about a block away from the restaurant to have them check to see if the battery might have a dead cell. The man at the station checked the battery with an instrument and determined the battery was good, but the alternator was not charging like it should. Since it was getting late, he said he would call around the next morning to see if he could find an alternator in Popular Bluff. He thought it might cost somewhere in the neighborhood of seventy dollars—if he could find an alternator. He told me to give him a call around nine o’clock the next morning to see if he could help me and I left. I decided to try the local parts store to see if I could get a can of belt dressing. I thought maybe the fan belt was slipping and this might be why the alternator was not able to charge like it should. I pulled out of the station and into the parking lot across the street to try the store in the small shopping center. As I pulled into the parking lot, I saw the rest of our group drive up the street to the station to get gasoline and soon we were all trying to talk at once to catch up on what had happened during our trips. We decided to spend the night at the float camp about four miles from town in the park on the Current River. Johnny Ray’s Family It was a nice park and we got our two campsites organized before dark. We had supper and talked about not having heard from aunt Velma and Johnny Ray. Shirley and I decided to go into town to get some ice, go to the store for groceries and try to call Johnny’s relatives to see if they had heard anything from the California members of our group. Velma had given us the telephone number of Johnny’s aunt and uncle (Ethel and Elva C. “Elvie” Tillman) so we would be able to find out where they were staying if they got into town before we did. There was a telephone in the grocery store and we called Johnny’s relatives. There was time enough to make just one telephone call before the store closed for the night. We learned Velma and Johnny had car trouble and had blown a head on Velma’s VW diesel Rabbit car outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. They would be unable to get the car fixed until Monday since the VW place was not open on Saturday. As we talked with Ethel Tillman, we were invited to camp at their place outside of Doniphan. We said we had already paid our fee at the campground and would stay there for the rest of the night. Ethel said she might know someone who would be able to help me with my alternator problem. We thanked her for her help and decided to meet the following morning at the service station the rest of us met at earlier in the day so Ethel could take us out to their house. Later that evening, the sheriff’s patrol came through the campground and warned everyone there was a flash flood possible, because of heavy rains expected upstream on the Current River. They said to watch the river and be ready to move it became necessary to do so. We got the Ford LTD hooked back up to the camping trailer and everything rounded up so we could pull our vehicles to higher ground, if it became necessary to move out of the campgrounds. All of the activity made Mona’s daughter, Niki, frightened about saying in the campground. Our reassurances seemed to not console her so we decided to move back into to town just to be safe as well as to ease Niki’s terror. This seemed a wise move since my alternator had been acting up and I did not know whether my battery would hold up with both lights and windshield wipers working if it started raining. We pulled out of the campsites and moved into town. The battery held up and I was able to drive my car with the lights on instead of using a flashlight, as I had first feared I might have to do. We made camp on a wide street trucks parked in town; and soon the police came by to talk with us. After talking with the policeman and learning several years earlier, people had been caught in the campground during a flash flood, we were even happier to have moved when we did. There was no flood, but it felt safer in town. The next day, we met Ethel Tillman and she took us to her and Elva’s house. On the way we stopped and talked with one of her friends who ran a small starter and alternator rebuilding shop. The man said he would take a look at the alternator and see if he could do anything with it. We decided to bring it back to the shop, when we had a chance to take the alternator off ourselves and continued to Elva and Ethel’s house. We set up Mona and Don’s pickup and camper and Harley and Jan’s camping trailer at Ethel and Elva’s. They were most gracious hosts and treated us as if we were their family. After just a bit, we felt as if we had known each other all our lives instead of only a few brief hours. The Tillman family accepted us into their house and hearts without any reservation or hesitation. We could come and go as we wished and use their house and property as we wanted while we waited for Johnny Ray and aunt Velma. There is a special quality to the Missouri brand of hospitality! Saturday night was one of Ethel’s nights to go square dancing. She was going up the road a bit to the little community of Currentville and invited those of us who wished to come on up. Most of us were kind of tired and thought we would just sit around and visit with Elvie, but my sister, Sharon, and her daughter, Lisa, were made of sterner stuff. They accompanied Ethel and had a marvelous time. On Sunday Ethel and Elva took us to the little cemetery where my aunt Golda Victoria “Goldie” May Watkins and uncle Charles Rankin Watkins were buried. We were shown the farm the Watkins family had lived for many years and some of the other areas around that part of the country. It was a good time! Later that evening, many of the Tillman relatives came by and were introduced to us. We had a good time visiting and learned a little more about our family. Many of the people remembered my grandparents, Minnie and Will May as well as Goldie and Charlie Watkins. Again, we felt as if we had known the folks all our lives and if they were not family, they sure should be! On Monday morning, April 20, I got my alternator back. The man put new brushes in it and checked it on his test machine. He could not find anything else wrong so it cost me $10.50 for the brushes instead of at least seventy dollars it looked like it might cost for a new alternator. After Don Smith put the alternator back on for me, I offered to drive Shirley into Popular Bluff. She wanted to buy same clothes more suited to the hot, humid climate of the area and I wanted to charge up the battery and see if the alternator would work like it should. While we were in town, we went by the Safeway store to pick up some of the things we might need. I saw some fresh strawberries and said they would make a good dessert that night. I suggested we invite Ethel and Elva and their family to join us for dessert and the fresh strawberry shortcake made quite a hit with everyone. Aunt Ruth’s Family Reunion We were looking for my brother Rick to get there, but we seemed to have missed him. I had tried to call him Friday night to tell him where to meet us. His answering service would not accept the call like we had decided before I left Fort Worth. He had forgot to tell the answering service to accept the call. When we called Saturday, we found out he had picked up his check and left early that morning. Since we had talked about the possibility of going diamond hunting in Arkansas during the trip, I guessed he and his son, Brian, had made a stop on their way to Missouri. I was right, but we failed to make contact in Doniphan and after waiting a couple of hours in Doniphan, Rick went on up to Gerald to visit with aunt Ruth. While it would have been fun to have him around with us, it gave Rick the opportunity to spend some time with our relatives in Gerald and get to know them better. He had some pleasant times, visiting with aunt Ruth early in the morning, before everyone else got out of bed. Both Rick and aunt Ruth enjoyed their visits tremendously. In the meantime, we were waiting for aunt Velma and Johnny Ray to get there and they arrived late Tuesday afternoon. We had gone into Doniphan to see what we could find out about our family at the courthouse. When we got back, the California members of our group had arrived and we started trying to catch up on all the latest news and events. We decided we would leave for Gerald the morning of the 25th of June and stop in to have coffee with aunt Lillian as we went through Grandin on our way out. The Tillman family treated us like royalty and we took them into our hearts. Their son has a small band, so it was arranged for them to play for us on two of the evenings. We tried to sing along, but had trouble remembering the words. On Wednesday evening, we had a picnic down on the Current River, not far from Elva and Ethel’s house. We roasted hot dogs and marshmallows on an open fire Elvie fixed while the rest of us went in swimming. The Current River is well named and it was ever so swift where we were wading and trying to swim. There is a local saying, “If you drink from the Current River, you will return.” After the hospitality we experienced with the Tillman family, I can see where there is merit to this saying. Still, it was a lot of fun and we enjoyed ourselves tremendously. Thursday morning, we left the Tillman’s with just little sadness. They had become like family to us and we have a standing invitation to stop in and visit with them anytime we are in their neighborhood. We said our good-byes of the Tillman’s and started toward Gerald by way of Grandin. We stopped in and visited with aunt Lillian about two hours and started our way north towards Gerald. We drove through some beautiful countryside on our way north and enjoyed the drive a lot. Missouri has some beautiful rolling hills and lush green forests. We took highways 21, 49 and 19, so we were able to go through one of the large sections of the Mark Twain National Forest. The CB radios made it easier for us to talk and compare notes as our convoy traveled north through the lovely scenes unfolding at every bend in the road. We arrived at aunt Ruth’s house just about suppertime. We got all the camping vehicles, cars and trailers parked, sat down to supper and trying to catch up on all the events, which had been happening to everyone. It was good to see aunt Ruth again and she was happy to see the crowd, which was descending upon her. Friday, June 26, was our day for checking the courthouses. Rick and Sharon took the courthouse of Crawford County at Steelville. Rick had already made a trip there while the rest of us were in Doniphan. Mona, Don, Shirley and I took the courthouse of Gasconade County at Hermann. We had a chance to see some more of the countryside and the town of Hermann reminds a person of San Francisco. It is right on the Mississippi River and nestled in a bunch of hills. It is an old town with a lot of charm and history. We found a lot of names we had heard of at the courthouse. I am not certain if we learned anything significant, but it was fun looking through the old land records and it felt like we were turning back the pages of history with all the familiar names we were finding in the records. We spent the day in Hermann and even went by a real estate office, so Mona and Don could talk to them about what land might be for sale in that area. Saturday was a fun day, because we went around to some of the cemeteries Velma and Johnny Ray had visited the day before. They volunteered to try to plot where the family graves were located in the various cemeteries. We did not get to visit Collier Cemetery, because it had rained and we did not know if we could get into it since the cemetery is located on private property and off the main roads. We loaded everyone into Mona and Don’s pickup and camper and the Ford LTD. We started with Walbert Church Cemetery and visited the graves of Sarrah Jane May and a couple of Thomas and Dora May’s children. From there we went by aunt Ruth’s old farm, the old Lee Robinson farm and stopped in Tea. Someone is restoring the old general store in Tea, so we sat on the porch steps and had our group picture taken. From Tea we went to Oak Hill by way of the Warren Church Cemetery. The stop at each cemetery was like reading the pages of a history book. Everywhere we looked we found names we had heard or read about and at Warren Church Cemetery, we found the grave of Lee Robinson. I had heard and read the names such as Lee Robinson so many times, it was almost as if we were visiting the graves of relatives each time we went to a cemetery to see if we could find any family markers there. We went to Oak Hill and visited with the local historian, Fanny Tayloe. She told us some things about the town and let us copy some of her pictures. It was an interesting trip, but there were too many people all trying to talk at once to be able to have a very good interview of Fanny Tayloe. Perhaps, we will be able to talk to her next year when there are not so many people around and she will be to tell us her story. We need to let the other person talk in order to have a successful interview and some members of our family will not let a person get a word in edgewise. Still, it was a fun time and everyone seemed to enjoy going around to see all these scenes in our family’s past. From Oak Hill, we went to visit the first Thomas Walton May house, built on the hill. We found a young couple staying there and working in garden, when we drove up. They looked suspiciously at us, when such a large number of people started descending from the camper and car and were reluctant to let us see the house. As we visited with them, my brother Rick discovered the young man had gone to school at Diamond Hill Jarvis High School in Fort Worth, when he and my sister, Sharon, had gone there. I did not remember any of the names they talked about since I graduated about four years ahead of them. The young couple were taking care of the place for their relatives and told us who we might be able to contact, if we wanted to get permission to see the inside of the house. We did not have time to make the contact on this trip. From there, we went to visit the next house Tom and Dora May lived in. We visited the cement house they built near Oak Hill. After aunt Velma found a little snake to play with, we went into the house and looked at the construction. We marveled it was still in pretty good shape after all these years. We went upstairs and looked around. We looked at the reinforcing rods running along the walls. We went outside and looked around a little more before heading for the Gibson Cemetery. The Gibson Cemetery was like a history book all by itself. It seemed to hold the greatest collection of names out of the historical texts and census records I had been looking through. We found the grave of Captain Henry Souders and many other names I recognized. There was a large collection of Souders family graves in the cemetery, but we did not find any graves of members of our family. At this stop, aunt Myrtle lost the battery pack out of her cassette tape recorder. She and uncle Bill had to go back later that day to find it and luckily she went right to it. From there we went to another cemetery aunt Velma thought she remembered in her past. I am not certain, but I think it might have been the Buchard Cemetery shown on the geological survey maps. This cemetery was old, but we did not find any markers of names we recognized. From here we proceeded back to Gerald by way of Owensville and the Dairy Queen store, where we all had ice cream cones or other cooling refreshments to tide us over until suppertime. Sunday, June 28, 1981, was the day aunt Ruth had decided would be her family reunion, so we could meet all of her children and grandchildren. Everyone gathered at her house and had a delightful time. We all fixed some sort of food dish. Aunt Velma got a guest book and name tags so we could sign in and then write our names on the name tags so everyone would know who they were talking to as we became acquainted. Everyone seemed to enjoy the reunion and I think something like 51 people had signed the guest book. We ate more than we should have of all the delicious food, prepared on the two tables aunt Ruth had set up to hold all the food. Even then, it was difficult to get all the food on the tables. We filed around the tables filling our plates and took them outside or wherever we could find a place to sit. Afterward, we sat around visiting in small groups before we started taking pictures. Johnny Ray was the official photographer and he did a grand job. Everyone was snapping pictures of the groups as each family posed to have their picture taken by everyone else. Finally, Johnny Ray got us all together, set the self-timer on his camera and took a picture of everyone—including himself. We had some music from Fred, Ruth Ann and Carol Hartung and aunt Velma, while the rest of us tried to sing along. I was disappointed, when Fred put away the instruments so we could take the final group picture. I hoped he would get them out, when we were finished with the pictures, but he did not. On Monday, the 29th, most of our family started departing for home. It was sad our visit was so short, but we will treasure those brief moments dearly. Aunt Velma, J.R., Mona and Don and I stayed around another day before heading home. Monday evening, Mona and Don took aunt Velma and me to see the house they were thinking of buying. It was an exciting place with a lot of land and I kidded them about next year we would have to have our reunion at their new house. I hope they realize their dreams and are able to buy the property. On Tuesday, the rest of us left to give aunt Ruth a little peace and quiet once again. I left about 10:30 in the morning as I started for Fort Worth. As I left, there was a feeling of sadness inside and I knew, then, what the travelers the year before had felt, when they had to leave in June. I, too, did not want to leave! I decided to go back a different way than I came. I went back by way of Interstate highway 44 to Tulsa, Oklahoma, took highway 75 from there all the way to just outside of Dallas and caught highway 121 right into Fort Worth. I think God must have been riding with me once more. Somewhere near Springfield, I was getting a little tired. I reached across to the other front seat to get something and turned my head momentarily. When I looked up, I was heading right for one of the roadside reflector posts. The post was in the center of the car and I did not think I could swerve back to the left in time to miss it. I went to the right and down in the gentle ditch and started up the other side of the ditch before I got the car turned and drove back on to the highway to continue my trip. It seems, our guardian angels sometimes have to work overtime! This was the only bit of excitement and I got back to Fort Worth after 629 miles after I left aunt Ruth’s house. After I got unpacked and rested up from the trip, I started trying to bring my writing projects up to date. The extra time on my vacation allowed me to spend time on these projects, which had been neglected for the past six months. The reason for this unexpected windfall of time is something I will go into now. It has been my observation, Shirley and Don’s marriage was not the happiest at times, but then so are some of the other partnerships in our family. Earlier this year, I got the idea I might be able to help them by playing the role of “peacemaker.” It seemed my relationship with Don was such he wanted to be on his best behavior whenever I was around. I thought he cared enough for me to do this—at least, this is the way things looked to me. Therefore, I thought if I were around on the weekends, I might be able to provide a peaceful element to the relationship of Shirley and Don since both of them seemed to care for me as much as I cared for them. It seems as if I was wrong, about the degree of care being felt for me, where Don was concerned. Nothing was said to give me any indication I might have worn out my welcome with Don and I went happily along my way, thinking I was doing some good and my visits were being enjoyed as much as I was enjoying them. I believe Don was secretly jealous of the relationship Shirley and I have shared for a long time and resented his not being as close to me as I was to Shirley. I do not believe he was jealous of Shirley, because their marriage has been “rocky” for some time. In any case, early during our trip to Missouri, when Shirley called Don on the telephone, he accused her of having an affair with me. Hasty words can be spoken which can be regretted for a long time afterward and can never be quite undone! This foolish accusation is too ridiculous to answer. If having a close relationship necessarily equates to having sex, then, all close relationships in our family must be suspect—even Don’s relationship with his daughter, Barbara. Certainly this father/daughter relationship is a close one and would certainly qualify, if Don’s suppositions were valid. There are other degrees of love and caring which do not equate to sexual relationship. I do not think Don thought Shirley would tell me of his foolish accusations. I do not think he meant to upset his relationship with me, because I feel ours was developing into a close relationship. I certainly may be wrong about this, as I have been wrong numerous times before. But this was what I thought, before I learned of Don’s accusations. One thing is certain, this accusation will not upset my relationship with Shirley—only the one with Don. Shirley has been like an older sister to me for a number of years and we have been able to talk about a lot of things. I may not be able to spend as much time visiting and talking with Shirley (and Don), but the closeness will always be there for my “big sister.” Part of the strange events shaping our family is the “coming together” of our family. Others of my brothers and sisters look upon Shirley as a big sister. In fact, my sister, Sharon, coined the name “sister-cousin” to describe her relationship with Shirley. It is sad, when someone resents this “coming together” and wants to try to work against it. It is much better to build friendship and love instead of walls. If we build walls, we will soon end up fencing ourselves out from the love and affection, which would otherwise be ours. At this point in time, we must wait to see what life has in store for us next. We have certainly been dealt a surprise or two along the way!

  I Count My Blessings Chapter 18 ─ Christ Comes To Stay

As I look back over my life, there never seems to be a time when I was without God. He always seemed to be near. He always seemed to be watching over me even when I was doing something foolish or something I knew I should not do. Most of the time, it was both something foolish and something I knew God would rather I would choose another option. I really learned about Jesus in Sunday School.

I was baptized in Bourbon (Missouri) on September 18, 1980, after my cousin gave me a copy of The Desire of Ages. I fell in love with Jesus and the spirit of prophecy gift He has given His church. My early religious training was in the Mennonite church which gave a biblical basis of knowledge to compare the reading of The Desire of Ages. As I read about Jesus, I compared it with what I had been taught and found no contradiction with my biblical understanding. I also found a greater depth of information which allowed me to confirm my confidence in the precious gift of prophecy God has given His people. I fell in love with the Lord and the wonderful love letters He has given us in the Bible and the spirit of prophecy. I am presently typing the Bible onto the computer, so I can better learn to appreciate God’s love. I found a greater depth of information which allowed me to confirm my confidence in the precious gift of prophecy God has given His people. I fell in love with the Lord and the wonderful love letters He has given us in the Bible and the spirit of prophecy. The Bible does not seem nearly as formidable as I once thought it. My advice to anyone worried about their family members becoming Christians would be: keep praying for them and be a consistent living witness in your lifestyle of your love for Christ. In the end, the Holy Spirit will make a difference and God’s love will be communicated through you in greater measure to your family.


== Sources ==

  1. Personal Conversation with Jacob H. Neufeld in 1968, Moundridge, Kansas.
  2. Personal Conversation with Jacob H. Neufeld in 1968, Moundridge, Kansas.
  3. Personal Conversation with Jacob H. Neufeld in 1968, Moundridge, Kansas.

* Neufeld, John.

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