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…
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…
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…
Returning to Vietnam was no sentimental journey for Bob Ruybal after 50 years.
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.
Robert Ruybal of North Port was finishing up his senior year at the University of Colorado in 1968 when he bombed the last semester.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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 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.
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.
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…
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.
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 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 (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 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.
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 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…
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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 was a Vietnam “Tunnel Rat.” It had to be the worst job an American soldier could have in the Southeast Asian war.
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.
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, Fla. graduated from high school in 1942 and immediately signed up for the Army Air Corps during the middle of World War II.
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 of Punta Gorda got out of high school in ’69, just in time for the last of the Vietnam War.
Dutch Dutcher was a 17-year-old wise-guy from Brockton, Mass. when he signed up for the Army with a friend in 1967.
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…
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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…
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, 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
“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.”
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 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…
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.”
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.
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 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.