Ray Kelley of Port Charlotte was the leader of a four-man machine-gun squad in Vietnam. During his tour in 1966 and ’67 he was involved in 24 operations including one firefight where he received the “Silver Star” and “Purple Heart.”
Venice man feared for his life only one day in Vietnam
Tom Upright, who lives with his wife Sue, in Grand Palm, Venice, FL, is a U.S. Marine—first, last, and always.
“Rocky’ Burns of North Port was an emergency room medic in Vietnam in 1969
Bradley “Rocky” Burns of North Port, Fla. was sent to Vietnam in 1969 as a 20-year-old poorly-trained medic who hated the war with a passion.
William Moultrie of Englewood served aboard the USS Inchon during Vietnam War
William Moultrie of Overbrook Gardens subdivision in Englewood, Fla. enlisted in the U.S. Navy at 18 when he was attending community college in Northern Virginia in 1965.
‘Rap’ Peavy of Venice Acres spent nearly 19-months in Vietnam War running a radio station in Laos
In 1967 “Rap” Peavy of Venice Acres was attending the University of South Florida in Tampa when he had to drop out of school because his stepfather suffered a heart attack and he had to get a job to help his family out financially. He lost his draft deferment and became 1-A for the draft. So he decided…
Former Sgt. Richard Uhlich ran APC in Vietnam with 9th Infantry division
A few weeks after graduating from the Manhattan School of Visual Arts in ’67 Richard Uhlich of Englewood Isles got his draft notice. He was headed for Vietnam.
Sgt. Doug Nichols of Englewood spent only 4 months in Vietnam because his mother was dying
Because his mother was dying of cancer back home, Sgt. Doug Nichols of Englewood, Fla. spent four months in Vietnam during the war. He was assigned to the Americal Division: Company A, 4th Battalion, 54 Infantry Regiment. His unit was stationed at I-Corps near the DMZ in the highlands. Their home base was Chu Lai when…
WO-2 Robert Rodenhouse flew with the ‘Cat Killers’ in Vietnam in ’71-72
With a low draft number of 43, Robert Rodenhouse of Venice, Fla. knew he was about to be drafted in 1970 during the middle of the Vietnam War. So he volunteered for the Army. After basic at For Knox, Ky. he decided there must be a better job in the Army than gun toter in…
Former Petty Officer Ray Gomes aboard carrier USS Enterprise when it blew up off coast of Hawaii in ’69
Ray Gomes of Gulf Cove subdivision, Port Charlotte was a nuclear reactor operator aboard the USS Enterprise, America’s fist atomic aircraft carrier. He was aboard when tragedy struck the Navy’s largest ship. An on-deck explosion the morning of Jan. 14, 1969 caused a chain reaction and fire among the carrier’s aircraft that were ready to…
101st Airborne trooper returns to Vietnam after 50 years
Returning to Vietnam was no sentimental journey for Bob Ruybal after 50 years.
Master Chief Arthur Ortner saw world as Navy Seabee in WW II, Korea, and Vietnam
On Aug. 19, 1966 Master Chief Arthur Ortner retired from the Seabees. By then he had constructed buildings of all shapes and sizes all over the world for the Navy during his 20 years of service.
Bob Ruybal of North Port went to Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division in ’68
Robert Ruybal of North Port was finishing up his senior year at the University of Colorado in 1968 when he bombed the last semester.
Byron Hill learned he was headed for the Vietnam War so he joined the Marines
After graduating from Southern Illinois University in 1964 Byron Hill of Island Walk Subdivision, Venice, found his name at the top of the list to be drafted and sent to fight the war in Vietnam.
Sgt. Bob Hayes received 2 Purple Hearts while fighting with the 3rd Marine Division in Vietnam
Bob Hayes of Port Charlotte was a member of Company A, 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division when he got to Vietnam in 1966. As an 18-year-old gun-toter it didn’t take long for him to receive his first Purple Heart for combat wounds.
Pfc. Marc Folden joined 1st Cavalry Division in A Shau Valley, Vietnam in ’68
With 10 weeks of Combat Medic Training under his belt 19-year-old Marc Folden of Venice flew into Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam aboard a commercial jet in April 1968 and joined the 1st Cavalry Division, the largest Army unit in the field, in the A Shau Valley as a combat medic with Aco-Company, 5th Battalion, 7th…
Sp.-4 Carl Fisher spent 13 months in Vietnam in 68-69 with 577 Combat Engineers
The year after Carl Fisher of Fantasy Island Condominiums on Manasota Key graduated from high school in 1966 he was drafted and sent to Vietnam as a private and a member of the 577th Combat Engineers.
CW-2 Mike Ware of Venice flew Hueys in Vietnam for 101st Airborne in ’68
Chief Warrant Officer-2 Mike Ware of Venice was a “Kingsmen” in Vietnam. He was a Huey helicopter pilot in ’68 who flew 101st Airborne Division assault troops into battle throughout that war-torn country. The “Kingsmen” is what they called themselves.
Bill Akins was a forward artillery observer with 1st Cavalry in Vietnam
Bill Akins of Port Charlotte quit high school at 17 in 1966 and joined the Army with his father’s permission. After basic at Fort Bliss, Texas. he was sent to Germany with a self-propelled unit of 175 millimeter artillery gun battery attached to the 7th Army.
Lt. Col. Bob Hardy flew F-100 fighters in Vietnam and Korea during “Cold War”
With 16-hours of flight time under his belt in a North American F-100 “Super Sabre” during flight training at Craig Air Force Base in Selma, Ala. in 1966, Bob Hardy who was a 26-year-old Air Force captain at the time, got the scare of his life.
Lt. Col. Bob Hardy spied on Russians, flew jets in Vietnam and Korea before becoming American Airline pilot
One might say aviation was in Bob Hardy’s blood. The 76-year-old Port Charlotte, Fla. resident was 16 when he soloed. By the time he was in his early twenties he had joined the Air Force. He saw action flying on secret spy missions along the Russian coast, flew combat missions in Vietnam and Korea before he…
Maj. Dick Napolitano was Air Force spy for 20 years, then he spied for NSA 20 more years
Dick Napolitano of Oyster Creek subdivision in Englewood, Fla. was a spy during most of his 20 years in the Air Force and for an additional 20 years he worked as a civilian spy for the National Security Agency.
Sp-4 Robert Weatherhead lost right leg at end of Vietnam tour
Minutes before Spc.-4 Robert Weatherhead was to fly out of the Vietnam jungle in 1969 at the end of his tour with the 25th Infantry Division, he and his buddies got in a firefight with a couple of North Vietnam Army regulars. Then he stepped on an enemy mine and lost his right leg.
Jim Winslow of Venice, Fla. served aboard nuclear sub USS Francis Scott Key during Vietnam War
Jim Winslow of Venice, Fla. served as an electrician’s mate 2nd class aboard the ballistic missile submarine Francis Scott Key during the Vietnam War era. He helped keep the nuclear reactor that powered the sub running during his six-year hitch in the service.
Lt. Col. Bill Richardson of Port Charlotte, Fla. served in WW II, Korea and Vietnam
Lt. Col. Bill Richardson (Ret) of Port Charlotte, Fla. fought in three of this country’s wars—World War II, Korea and Vietnam — during his 33 – years of military service.
Stephen Worden served aboard nuclear subs USS Monroe & USS Carver in Vietnam Era
Stephen Worden of Port Charlotte. Fla. was a 1st Class Navigational Aids Technician aboard a couple of ballistic missile submarines —the USS James Monroe (SSBN-622) and the USS George Washingyon Carver (SSBN-656) — during the Vietnam War era.
1st. Lt. Ward Abbett awarded Silver Star and 3 Bronze Stars with Vs in first 4 months fighting in Vietnam War
When 1st Lt. Ward Abbett arrived in Vietnam aboard a purple Braniff Airline he was a well-educated, seasoned soldier. He was a graduate of “The Citadel” in Charleston, S.C. He also spent his first year in the Army stateside as the executive officer of a headquarters company, but he wanted to see action in Vietnam.
Randy Smith and son present Marine Corps Commandant with Vietnam memento
Randy Smith of Venice, Fla. isn’t just any Marine. He’s a former Marine Guard, who on April 29, 1975, took down the American flag for the last time at the United States Embassy in Saigon then flew away in the next to last U.S. helicopter to leave that beleaguered capital at the close of the…
Phil Harris and destroyer’s crew plucked Gemini-8 astronauts out of Pacific in ’66
The high point of Phil Harris’ four-year naval career was the rescue of two Gemini 8 astronauts on March 16, 1966 in the Pacific by the crew of the destroyer USS Leonard F. Mason (DD-852). The 69 year-old Burnt Store Meadows, Fla. resident served as a machinist-mate aboard the ship.
Spc. 4 Harry Stapleton was tanker for 11th Armored Cavalry in Vietnam in ’68-’69
Harry Stapleton of Punta Gorda, Fla. drove an M-48 “Patton” tank in Vietnam in 1968-69 named “Crimson and Clover.” The 69-year-old local resident maintains “I was no hero,” but he found himself in some firefights with the enemy he distinctly recalls almost 50 years later.
Sgt. John Sanderson and his LRRP intelligence team played cat & mouse with enemy in Vietnam
Sgt. John Sanderson of Heron Creek subdivision in North Port, Fla. was the leader of the first LRRP team attached to the 4th Infantry Division during the Vietnam War.
Stuart Nord served with 1st Cavalry during ‘Tet Offensive’ fighting near Hue
Stuart Nord of North Port, Fla. was a member of the 1st Cavalry Division when he flew into Vietnam shortly before the Tet Offensive Jan. 30, 1968. Tet was the nationwide attack by North Vietnamese Army troops and Vietcong guerrillas on the major cities and military bases in the south.
Pork Chop Hill, along the 38th Parallel in Korea was 1st Sgt. Dave Evans’ baptism of fire
It was winter time in 1953 when Dave Evans’ Marine Ranger unit arrived on Pork Chop Hill, just north of the 38th Parallel that would separate North Korea from South Korea. He was an 18-year-old Leatherneck just out of boot camp experiencing his baptism of fire.
Flying an A-4 Skyhawk in Vietnam – Col. Tom D’Andrea was in VMF-211
There weren’t suppose to be any enemy surface-to-air missiles in South Vietnam, but they were there. Maj. Tom D’Andrea, executive officer of Marine Attack Squadron 211, got an up close and personal look at the telephone pole-size missiles one day in 1967 while flying his A-4 Skyhawk fighter-bomber on a mission.
Pfc. Dominic Socci of North Port served as 155 Howitzer crew member in Vietnam in 1969
Even though Pfc. Dominic Socci of North Port, Fla. saw little of the enemy because he was part of a 155 mm Howitzer crew that sat back from the front lines five miles or more, there were times when the war and its aftermath caught up to him and drove home the horrors of battle.
Vietnam dog handlers recognized at ‘The Wall’ Veterans Week
At 6:06 a.m. Thursday, former Airman 1st. Class John Langley of Venice stood in front of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., and read 30 servicemen’s names who appear on the memorial together with more than 58,000 others inscribed there forever.
Sgt. Mike Hirsh says Vietnam was ‘useless war’
Former Sgt. Michael Hirsh of the Seminole Lakes subdivision, south of Punta Gorda, Fla. was in the first public information detachment of Army reporters since World War II who went to Vietnam.
John O’Sullivan was Vietnam War ‘ground pounder’ with 1st ID in ’65
John O’Sullivan is one of two full-time helicopter pilots who fly for the Charlotte County, Fla. Sheriff’s Office. He learned to fly after serving a tour in Vietnam in 1965 with the 1st Infantry Division.
Col. Bob Carroll received ‘Silver Star’ fighting with 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam War
Col. Bob Carroll never mentioned he was awarded a “Silver Star” in Vietnam “For Gallantry in Action.” The Manasota Key, Fla. resident also has an 8 X 10, black and white, framed photograph of President Lyndon Johnson pinning the medal on him at Fort Benning, Ga. The commendation accompanying the medal says it all.
Don Miller of North Port became scared ‘Tunnel Rat’ in Vietnam during the war
Don Miller was a Vietnam “Tunnel Rat.” It had to be the worst job an American soldier could have in the Southeast Asian war.
Marine Randy Smith makes trip to Ho Chi Minh City for Corps’ Birthday Ball
Randy Smith of Venice, Fla., who served as a 19-year-old Marine Corps guard at the American Embassy in Saigon 40 years ago, is returning to Ho Chi Minh City, its new name, in a couple of days.
Englewood, Fla. man kept F-84 ‘Thunderjets’ in air during Korean War
Doug Danforth of Englewood, Fla. was a precocious kid. He graduated from high school at 15, joined the United States Air Force at 17 and went to war with the 27th Fighter Escort Wing, 8th Air Force in Korea on Dec. 7, 1950.
Fred Davis of Englewood served in Europe during WW II and 2 tours in Vietnam
Fred Davis of Englewood, Fla. graduated from high school in 1942 and immediately signed up for the Army Air Corps during the middle of World War II.
Sgt. Derek Nelson served 3 1/2 years in Vietnam from 68-71
Derek Nelson of North Port, Fla. served 3 1/2 years in Vietnam. He first went there in 1967 as an 18-year-old member of the 9th Infantry Division located in the Macon Delta. During his second tour in 1969 he served with the 1st Logistics Command in Saigon. His last 18 months over there he was…
Joe Comeaux flew C-130 transports in Vietnam with 776 Tactical Airlift Squadron
Joe Comeaux of Punta Gorda got out of high school in ’69, just in time for the last of the Vietnam War.
Spc. 4 Dutch Dutcher of Polynesian Gardens was a 9th Division cook in Vietnam
Dutch Dutcher was a 17-year-old wise-guy from Brockton, Mass. when he signed up for the Army with a friend in 1967.
Arcadia soldier served in top-secret communications unit in Vietnam
Lee St. John was a bit of a contradiction in Vietnam. He was a Baptist kid from Arcadia, Fla. who ran a liquor warehouse in ‘Nam. He was a small arms specialist who never fired a shot until he wound up in a Southeast Asian war. He was a “spook,” or spy, a member of…
Retired Lt. Art Rimback is a man with many military secrets he doesn’t talk about
Art Rimback, who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., had a military and civilian career afterwards that was pretty much a closed book. He did a bunch of secret stuff he doesn’t talk about.
Christ Nielsen was crewman aboard Navy rescue helicopter during Vietnam War
Christ Nielsen of Punta Gorda, Fla. was a “Seadevil.” He was a member of U.S. Navy Helicopter Combat Support Squadron Seven that rescued downed pilots and seamen in trouble off the coast of Vietnam during the war.
Capt. Mike Clarity was skipper of destroyer, USS Cochrane and Port Commander at Pearl Harbor
During his 30 year Naval career Mike Clarity of Punta Gorda, Fla. was the skipper of a guided missile destroyer and the Port Commander at Pearl Harbor by the time he retired from the service.
Tom Poole was a CIA commander in Laos during the ‘Secret War’ – He fought at Long Tieng during the ‘Easter Offensive’
Tom Poole was a Green Beret, a member of the Special Forces, in Vietnam in 1964. Later he became a Central Intelligence operative in Laos commanding mercenaries along the Ho Chi Minh Trail during the “Secret War” in 1970.
Col. Jim Fraser of Port Charlotte, Fla. graduated near top of his ’47 West Point class
Jim Fraser already had two years of college behind him at the Missouri School of Mines when he got a chance to take a competitive exam in 1944, along with 360 other potential candidates, for the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Getting Navy to pay for his education made big difference for Lt. Cmdr. Jay Stuart
Jay Stuart had two years behind him at North Carolina State in engineering in 1960 when he ran out of money for school. He decided to join the Navy and see the world.
Former Sgt. Herb Mc Cool escaped without a scratch during 3 tours in Vietnam
Herb Mc Cool of Port Charlotte, Fla. figures he was shot at by North Vietnamese Army regulars and Vietcong guerrillas at least 5,000 times during his three tours in Vietnam. He served in the 67th Maintenance Company from 1967 to ’69 at “Camp Eagle” near the convergence of the Ho Chi Min Trail and the…
He kept the ‘big wigs’ smiling when they came to U-Tapao Air Force Base, Thailand
Charles Evans of Punta Gorda, Fla. graduated in 1962 from Colorado State University with a degree in Civil Engineering in one hand and a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Force in the other with a three year commitment.
Ray Jasica to deliver nuclear bomb to Russian sub pens during Cold War
Ray Jasica, who now lives in Punta Gorda, Fla. was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in Marine Corps Aviation after graduating from training at Pensacola Naval Air Station in 1954.
Two sailors meet 40 years after Vietnam War
Forty years after rockets rained down on their Tango Boat operating in South Vietnam’s Cau Lon River delta country, killing or wounding all seven crew members, Soan Ngo, skipper of the beleaguered boat, and Jim Milstead, his American advisor, were recently reunited in Venice, Fla. thanks to the efforts of a friend and the internet.
Skip Libby of La Casa served in 3rd Marine Division in Vietnam in 1965
Two days after graduating from high school in 1963 Skip Libby of La Casa mobile home park in North Port, Fla. joined the Marines and went to Parris Island, S.C. for basic training. Two years later he was sent to Vietnam as a member of the 3rd Marine Division, the first division of Marines in…
Warrant Officer Mike Goff received 2 DFCs in Vietnam while flying ‘choppers
Warrant Officer Mike Goff never saw “The Valley of Death.” He wasn’t one of the 400 soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Division surrounded and attacked by 2,000 North Vietnam soldiers at the La Drang Valley in mid-November 1965.
Ray Starsman produced manual for building International Space Station
Producing the manual for designing the International Space Station was the most important and satisfying job Col. Ray Starsman of Punta Gorda, Fla. ever had during a long and varied working career.
Capt. Ray Starsman commanded 105 mm Howitzer battery in Vietnam
“I was a 27-year-old captain who commanded Delta Battery, 1st Battalion, 5th Field Artillery, 1st Division. That battery was the longest serving unit in the history of ‘The Big Red One.’ It went back to the Revolutionary War when its original commander was Alexander Hamilton,” the 72-year-old retired Punta Gorda, Fla. bird colonel said. “That was kinda cool.”
Phu Bai was Lt. Col. John Campbell’s baptism of fire after decades in Corps
John Campbell was gung-ho to join the Marine Corp. He quit high school in his sophomore year at 17 and became a “Leatherneck” in 1946.
Larry McClure, a ‘Pearl Harbor Baby’ flew rescue helicopters in Vietnam
Larry McClure of Punta Gorda Isles, Fla. thinks of himself as a Pearl Harbor baby. He was born on Dec. 20, 1941 at the Naval hospital in Pearl Harbor. His father was a Navy chief at the time serving with the Pacific Fleet at Pearl. His dad was aboard the carrier USS Lexington when she…
Sgt. Ed Vuolo and 1st Armored Division threw Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait
1st Sgt. Ed Vuolo of Port Charlotte, Fla. drove into Kuwait on Jan. 17, 1991 aboard a Humvee behind the M1A1 Abram Tanks of “Old Iron Sides,” the United States’ 1st Armored Division as part of “Operation Desert Shield.”
Sgt. Ed Vuolo went to Vietnam with a computer, but used his M-16 during ‘Tet’
Ed Vuolo grew up on Long Island, NY, graduated from high school in 1966 and two years later he was drafted into the U.S. Army.
Marine repays debt 30 years after death of his platoon sergeant in Vietnam
Capt. Tom Smith United States Marine Corps wrote this account of his tour in Vietnam: “On July 1, 1968, while serving as platoon commander of 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 27th Marines, I received orders for a mission. It was a four-day, three-night patrol to establish various platoon patrol bases and then conduct numerous…
John Arens served in the Merchant Marines, Rangers and Navy
John Arens served as a teenage Merchant Mariner in World War II, become an Airborne Ranger in the Korean War, graduated from diving school in the 1960s, spent 11 years as a Navy SCUBA diver in the Arctic before skippering a Navy spy ship during the Cold War and completed his 40-year military career as the captain of a fast transport ship during “Operation Desert Storm” in 1991.