Full Circle

Soon it will be 50 years since I took the oath to become a Marine.10 Oct 1967 I walked down the sidewalk of my home,got into my Dads car and left for the Federal Building in downtown Pittsburgh and ,along with four other recruits was sworn in.That same afternoon we were on a plane headed south.The first stop was the airport in Charlotte NC. While there we met a Marine that just finished 0311 training and,was heading home on leave then on to WestPac.We went to a bar in the airport and had a few beers while listening to his stories and advice about bootcamp. Some of the stories turned out to be true some not so true.Our next stop was the airport at Charleston SC. We were sent to a kind of staging area of some sort. There we met up with a bus load of other recruits and headed for Parris Island.On the way,someone started passing around a couple bottles of Jack or Jim can’t recall which.By the time we reached “The Island” I had a pretty good buzz.When the,I think,the driver announced that we were approaching gate the bus became a little quieter.Everything after that is a little fuzzy I do remember getting off the bus and standing in some sort of formation,Were there the “Yellow Footprints” maybe I can’t really remember.

I do remember being herded to a barracks where we stayed until about 0500 or 0600.crap really started happening then. I recall stripping and then being poked and prodded and getting shots I also remember the Corpsmen or,whoever marking numbers on us with black markers.Then , I believe we went to collect all of our gear.Next we met our Drill Instructors and half carrying and half dragging our seabags while being screamed at from all directions and called everything but human.I can recall lying in my rack that night and wondering what the hell I got myself into I got to be honest,I did not take a dump for at least two days!The memories that stick out the most about bootcamp are the confidence course,PRT,puggel stick(spelled wrong I think) I remember being doulble teamed during one fight.The rifle range was a good experience for me .Being brought up in a small coal town and the son of an avid hunter I already had some experience with hi power rifles.When I was about 13 or 14 my Dad bought me a second hand 8mm Mauser that I used for deer hunting I ended up with a Sharpshooter Badge.,missed Expert by a few hits.Another memory of bootcamp is walking guard at the WM recruit area and being approached by the O.D. A really cute WM Lt I saluted and told her good evening as she passed she returned my salute without saying a word.I wanted so bad to turn and watch her walking away but my better judgement prevailed Of course there is a lot more to bootcamp so I’ll leave it to you to fill in the blanks.By the way I was 3rd Battalion PLT. 3056.Next stop Camp Geiger ITR As you may recall Geiger was a little more laid back but still busy learning weapons,tactics and so on the hand grenade range and flame thrower, along with the 105 rocket launcher (bazooka for all you army guys and civilians) and who can forget the dreaded gas mask training!! I ran out of that building coughing gagging tears running down my face and snot just pouring out of my nose!! The next stop for me was 1371 Combat Engr. training.There we learned mines,booby traps C-4,TNT and how to build stuff like the M4T6 bridge,I would become very familiar with that type of construction later on.After engineer school it was home for a 20 day leave and on to WestPac.Pre-deployment training,as some of you know,is similar to ITR with a few exceptions,Learning the M-16,walking simulated jungle trails and so on.Next stop Camp Hansen Okinawa with a stop in Hawaii and Wake Island,I think Wake maybe it was Guam not 100% sure We were there about 4 or 5 days not much to do there we packed up some boxes for storage and that’s about it. I do remember the EM club,I spent a few nights at the club. One funny thing about that club was that they had this all girl band I think the said they were from the Phillipines They were singing this song about San Fransisco and wear flowers in your hair or something like that and they could not pronounce San Fransisco it came out sounding like “San Ran-chico” all of us sitting at the table just burst out laughing at the same time one guy had a mouth full beer and spit it out on the table.A few days later we were getting off a plane at the Da-Nang air base. We got there at night and had one of those green buses waiting to take us to transient area where we spent the night. I didn’t sleep much with sounds of jet engines and distant artillery rounds echoing through the night.Once again I was thinking the same thing as boot camp “What the hell did I get myself into” The next morning we got our assignments.I would be going to the 7th engrs.at Camp Love north of Da-Nang After the orientation period and a week of guard duty I was sent to the ferry crossing at “Liberty Bridge” this is the place I got to know quite well, other then a couple months at Camp Love and making runs north through Hai-Van Pass and as far south as Hoi-An and everywhere in between,I spent the major part of my tour of duty at “The Bridge”. Twelve months and Seventeen days later I was being driven back to “Transient ” to start my trip back to “The World”. As luck would have it I had to wait an additional day.With my last name beginning with a letter at the end of the alphabet I got bumped by an emergency leave.Whats one more night It was for a good cause.The day before as my friend Ike was driving me around checking out of Division we stopped at the Air Force PX and had an airmen buy me a bottle of 151 for the plane ride.however,that plan changed after we at the barracks got a going away present from “Sir Charles”. A rocket attack at the air base had us scattering outside and into the bunkers.When the all clear was sounded we went back inside. I thought.there is no better time but now to crack open that bottle I took a drink, a too big of a drink I might add,and passed the bottle that was the last I saw the bottle it was gone in no time flat! One good thing about getting bumped is that you get put to the top of the list for the next flight.So there I was twelve months and eighteen days walking up the stairs to the plane that would take me away from”Nam”. A year older with one Purple Heart and a C.A.R and an experience a 19 year old would keep forever.It was a very festive time on the plane especially when the pilot announced that we had left South Vietnam airspace.It got a little quiet after that but, not for long.After a few more hours in the air there I was back at Camp Hanson going through more lines collecting the items we packed the year before and,getting our uniforms ready for the trip home.Well wouldn’t you know it,I would get bumped again!! One more night on “Oki”The next day I was on my way.This time it was non- stop flight to Norton AFB .shared a taxi with 4 other guys to LAX and got a flight to Pittsburgh via one stop at Chicago.After about a couple days home I took the money that I was sending home and bought a car.It was a 1966 Corvair. Why a Corvair you ask ? I don’t know. After leave I headed for my next duty station. C Co 8th Engrs. Camp Lejeune About 2 weeks after reporting I was sent TAD Rifle Range Stone Bay.Rifle range was the best duty I ever had but it was only temporary. After about 7 months I was called back to 8th Engrs.”C” Co We were being sent to Camp Garcia Vieques Isand PR The duty there was not to bad I got to visit the main island a few times that was nice.There were only a few Vietnam vets in our platoon. One day we were ordered to report to the CO He looked at us and said “I think I already know what most of you will say but,I need to ask anyway.Due to the drawdown in Vietnam you are being given an option complete your enlistment or take an early release” Three days later I was on board a C-130 headed for Cherry Point Got back to 8th engrs and was assigned to “D” Co.. That weekend I caught a ride from the “Swoop Circle” to PA.Brought my Corvair back to base and a week or two later I was swooping home for the last time. So there I was 14 Aug 1970 Two years ten months out of a 4 year enlistment walking up the same side walk that I walked down to go take the oath. Once again a civilian I traveled “Full Circle” It has been a roller coaster ride since then,I would be telling a lie if I said otherwise a lot of you reading this know what I mean. Semper Fi HGW USMC 10 Oct 1967- 14 Aug 1970

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34 thoughts on “Full Circle”

  1. After returning from Vietnam as a Captain, in the Fall of 67, I was assigned to Camp Geiger as Company Commander. There, along with regular duties, I was one of the Safety Officers for much of their training. As each of my ITR Companies left for additional training, I knew that some of these great Marines would never make it back from Nam. At their final formations before leaving Geiger, I would always tell them to listen to their NCOs, as they have been there and done that. And to obey their young 2nd LTs, but to follow their NCO’s leads. It didn’t take me long as a 2nd LT in Nam to know that my NCOs knew a lot more than I did!!

  2. Sounds like my story in boot camp and ITR. Left Pittsburgh in Sept 1966 to PI and Second Blt. In Giger we fired 3.0″ rockets. 105’s were mounted on back of a “mule” and aimed with a fifty cal tracer round. Sure brought memories.

    1. Sgt. G J George, I also left in September for PI in 1966. we left by train from Buffalo NY. Out paths may have crossed. Geiger for motor training, then to “Nam”. Ahhhhh memories.

    2. I know our brains get fuzzy, especially with 50+ years of hard living. I hate to be the nit-picker but here goes: The M20 ‘Super Bazooka’ was 3.5 inches (it replaced the 2.36 inch original after WWII). The 106mm Recoiless Rifle was used on a ground mount and carried on the M274 ‘Mechanical Mule’; also placed on the M38A1 ‘Jeep’ (grooved windshield), or on the M50 Ontos [6 guns]. The ‘105mm’ is the M2/M101 towed artillery howitzer. I served 1961-65 and ths used all these (except the M50 Ontos) … I joined Sept 1961 and was fortunate enough to have the M1 Garand in Boot Camp & ITR; they were replaced while with 12th Marines [3rd MarDiv] with M14s in mid- 1962. I also used and qualified with the M1918A2 BAR and the M1919A4 Machine Gun (all .30-06, like the M1) before we reecived the M60 MG and short-lived select-fire M14 HB version.

  3. I had a similar experience from Pittsburgh. I enlisted in October of 1969 but was put on the delayed entry program so I didn’t get to Parris Island until February of 1970. I was in supply so when I got to ITR we were told that everyone in our platoon had an MOS not in the 03 field. They said other platoons had all infantry. After ITR I went to supply school at main side. Consisted of 2 weeks guard duty and another 2 weeks working in a warehouse. The said it would be OJT. On the job training. Then went to Camp Pendleton for staging battalion. I had orders for Vietnam but I ended up staying on Okinawa for the entire year. After 6 months on the rock I requested a split tour and transfer to Vietnam but never did go.

  4. Also from Pittsburgh, enlisted Feb 1966…still in college…arrived PI Apr 27th…same routine…ended up at DaNang working on F-4s and got out exactly 5 weeks early on Mar 21st 1970

  5. Great stories, travele same road in 67, ended up with 1st Amtrack Bn, 3rd Mar Div, Cua Viet, webecame came the only Amtrack Bn too convert to infantry, we where the Amgrunts of Cua Viet, C-4,and Ocenview. Quite a time in B-Co, 2nd Plt. We still have reunions with Plt members. I departed the corp in 70, spent last two years as DIPI, 3rd RTB. John Paul

  6. The “Bazooka” was the 3.5 inch rocket launcher…..the 105 was a “Recoiless Rifle” HUGE you didn’t want to be standing behind either. The 105 was “Sited in” using an attached 50 caliber one shoe, I remember WATCHING the 105 being fired, NOT firing it. I recall, hearing, “Fire the. 50!,” adjustment to target, “Fire the 50!” Then “Fire the 105!” VERY impressive!!!!

  7. I was in plt 3056 would like to hear from you I went to 1371 school I went to Nam April 4 1968 hit July 20 sent home

    1. I do remember you Gibbs!We got to Vietnam on the same day.,and I’m pretty sure we went through all training together. Where did you get sent after arriving in Nam? Harry

  8. A Korean Marine writes; ” who was the “idiot” who thought the 20 round mag, in the BAR had plenty, of firepower” ?????

    1. Sgt Don: The theory I’ve held for years, and which has been reinforced many times, is ‘the folks who design stuff never have actually used it or, likely, ever spoken to people who will. More importantly, they certainly never carried the damn thing into the field.’ I offer as some evidence the ideas that “20 rounds are plenty” (the troops will just squander more ammo); the AN/PRC 8-9-10 radios (three radios, one for armor, artillery and infantry; heck, they never need to talk to each other); the AN/PRC 25/77 radio; the M60 (no way to carry The Pig where something isn’t digging into some body part); the USMC M-1941 Field Pack System; the M422 Mighty Mite (aka Flipper); the M50/55 Reising machine guns …

  9. I really like the story makes me really want to go to marines more now. I’ve got mail from them saying am I ready to be a marine. I’ve been wanting to go since 6th grade. Any former marines out there know what jobs there are to do in the marines or it’s just going on duty or something?

  10. Hey Christian..First thing you need to do is start spelling Marine with a capital “M” or only job you will get is shitbird detail..and former Marine is kinda close, BUT Once Always..Semper Fi

    1. Actually, the Commandant decreed a few years back that there are no such things as a former Marine we are Marine Veterans and will be until we die, regardless of the clothing we wear.

  11. I’ll disagree with the Commandant. We are Marines until we die. We are not veterans as that denotes that we are out of the Marine Corps. Better description is that we are on detached duty. Semper Fi. Aug 1960-Aug 1964 USMC. 1970-1976 USMCR.

  12. May 1957 got off that bus and hit those yellow footprints. A few nights in receiving barracks and D I picked us up. Crossed main grinder and dropped sea bag , the D I told me I better get back on my shoulder ( I came from reserves ) so had a full bag . Platoon 157 became my home for the next 13 weeks . I was a six monther so say I fought the battle of San Diego .

    1. Comment from John McCaffery . I said I was in platoon 157 I had that wrong it was platoon 143 . Old age a little fuzzy .j

  13. .I also became a 1371 after a hot summer in 1968 in platoon 123 1st Bn at PI . I put down in Vietnam Thanksgiving day,then on to the 1st MAW MAG 36 MAS 36 . Had 12 months some days there doing anything and everything. Would love to hear from any of the men who was there in 1968 -1969.

  14. Semper Fi Brother! I too was 3056, but a little later. I went to PI May 1988. Remember being in a little out of the way holding area at the Charleston Airport. Like on the back side where no one would see us being herded onto the bus headed to hell. Going through it was scared out of my mind, but looking back it was one of the best things I did in my young life. It helped make me the man I am today and it still makes me proud to be one of the best. Thank you to all the men and women who send in stories and bring back memories. I really enjoy these moments back in time to reflect on the pride of being a Marine.

  15. Great story. I traveled down pretty much the same road to boot camp at PI in Jan. 65 then to Geiger for advanced infantry training. then to 3/8 Camp Lejeune and assigned as a Battalion Scout or S-2 Scout. It was great duty. Spent about 3 months on an LPH in the Carrib. for more training then 6 months on a Med cruise playing war games with the French and Italian Commandos. Then reality set in when I landed in Da Nang June 67 thru July 68. Once a Marine always a Marine. Semper Fidelis

  16. Hey Harry, I was in 8th Eng. B,C,and D Co. down in Camp Garcia, in 1968-1969. Rotated 3 times there, loved it there. I was a 3516 trk. mechanic. Back at Lejeune we had the first 4 man rooms for E-3 and below and 2 man rooms for E-4 and above. Since I was an E-5 then I had the 2 man room. I also drove the 5 – ton wrecker. Sgt M.G.ALU.

    1. Hey Mike, Do you remember all of the horses at Garcia ? Our Co. area, at one point, looked like a street in the old west.The locals didn’t mind if we rode the horses but to let them go at the end of the day not to keep them tied up overnight. Harry

      1. Harry, I remember some horses, and clearing the cows off the airfield so the C- 130s could land. Also the pig roast on the beach with the locals. I remember the ride out to the quary with a Emco on a low boy trailer and smashing a car that was stopped on the one lane bridge. What is your last name ? Semper Fi, Mike

        1. Hey Mike,Vieques had some great beaches! We had some good parties at the beach Vieques is now in control of civilians and has become a tourist destination. I was at Garcia Apr 70 to end of July 70 Harry White Jr.

          1. Harry, I left Vieques in March of 70 for the last time. I really enjoyed my time there. The beaches were the best. I can understand why they turned into vacation spots. Semper Fi Mike

  17. Interesting, my induction is exactly the same except I left for MCRD San Diego. Platoon 2093 Gunny Ortiz was our head DI, with Sgt. Dukes, I saw him in country as a PFC, something obviously happened…mean sucker probably deserved the demotion! Semper Fi Marine! I served in country from August 68-November 69. They wouldn’t let me in VN until I turned 18 in August.

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