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Interview with Brian T. Grattan [Undated]

Alex Hinderman:

State your full name for the record.

Brian T. Grattan:

Okay. Brian, B-r-i-a-n, T., Grattan, G-r-a-t-t-a-n. Middle initial T is for Tim, go by the nickname Tim.

Alex Hinderman:

What is your current address?

Brian T. Grattan:

28 Fairway, one word, View, F-a-i-r-w-a-y, View, Whitefish 59937.

Alex Hinderman:

What's your telephone number?

Brian T. Grattan:

[phone number redacted].

Alex Hinderman:

And do you have an e-mail?

Brian T. Grattan:

No.

Alex Hinderman:

Where were you born?

Brian T. Grattan:

In Missoula.

Alex Hinderman:

Missoula. On what date, month, day?

Brian T. Grattan:

May 16, 1938, which in ten days will make me 67 years old.

Alex Hinderman:

Really. Happy birthday in ten days. What branch of the service were you in?

Brian T. Grattan:

I was in the Army infantry. I was in the Army, and my branch in the Army was infantry.

Alex Hinderman:

Okay. Battalion, regiment, division, unit, shift, et cetera? The number of your battalion or something?

Brian T. Grattan:

Yeah, I was in a number of them, but in Germany I was part of the 18th Infantry and in Vietnam I was an advisor to the Vietnamese 1st Infantry Division.

Alex Hinderman:

1st Infantry Division?

Brian T. Grattan:

Yeah. That's part of the army of the Republic of Vietnam.

Alex Hinderman:

That was for that army?

Brian T. Grattan:

Yeah, I was an American officer, but I was an advisor in the early days of our involvement in Vietnam where I was with a battalion of Vietnamese, and I accompanied them into the jungle and into the rice paddies and in combat operations for about five months.

Alex Hinderman:

Okay. What was your highest rank?

Brian T. Grattan:

Major.

Alex Hinderman:

Major. Where is that compared -- in the middle?

Brian T. Grattan:

The rank starts -- in the Army you start out at second lieutenant and then first lieutenant, then a captain, then a major, lieutenant colonel, colonel, general.

Alex Hinderman:

Okay. That's pretty high up. Were you enlisted, did you enlist or were you drafted?

Brian T. Grattan:

No, I volunteered and went to ROTC at the University of Montana and was commissioned upon graduation as a second lieutenant, but I was a volunteer.

Alex Hinderman:

So that counts as enlisted?

Brian T. Grattan:

Yeah, volunteer. There are two different -- in the military you either enlisted or commissioned, and commissioned officers are a whole different thing than being enlisted. I guess partly just legal, but I was, like I say, a volunteer and commissioned out of ROTC. Do you know what the ROTC is?

Alex Hinderman:

No.

Brian T. Grattan:

It's a reserve officer training course. If you go to the University of Montana, you'll have the opportunity to join that or take classes, and if you enter for four years as an ROTC student, then when you're -- upon graduation you can get commissioned in the Army and serve two years up to a career as an Army officer, just like you graduated from West Point.

Alex Hinderman:

Okay, all right. What dates did you serve, from when to when?

Brian T. Grattan:

From June 6th, 1960, until about the 1st of December 1967.

Alex Hinderman:

What was -- what war did you serve in?

Brian T. Grattan:

You mean what did I do?

Alex Hinderman:

Wars in which you served. Would that be Vietnam?

Brian T. Grattan:

Yeah, I was in Germany --

Alex Hinderman:

Germany?

Brian T. Grattan:

-- during the Cold War.

Alex Hinderman:

Germany during the Cold War.

Brian T. Grattan:

And Vietnam in 1963 and '64.

Alex Hinderman:

Were you in West Germany during the Cold War?

Brian T. Grattan:

Yeah, to include Berlin when that opened. I was actually in the unit in the 18th Infantry when they built the wall in Germany, in Berlin.

Alex Hinderman:

Did you build the wall?

Brian T. Grattan:

Well, the Germans built the wall --

Alex Hinderman:

Oh, the --

Brian T. Grattan:

-- the Communists built the wall, but our unit, the unit that I was in went into Berlin to reinforce and provide a military presence, an American military presence during the Berlin Wall crisis when we almost went to war.

Alex Hinderman:

Okay. Were you ever a prisoner of war?

Brian T. Grattan:

I'm sorry?

Alex Hinderman:

Were you ever a prisoner of war?

Brian T. Grattan:

No.

Alex Hinderman:

Did you ever get injured?

Brian T. Grattan:

I got very sick.

Alex Hinderman:

Very sick.

Brian T. Grattan:

When I was an advisor to the Vietnamese unit, I lived with them under their conditions, ate their food, I was the only American with 700 to 900 Vietnamese, and because of the water and the food and the living conditions, I got really sick.

Alex Hinderman:

Just you weren't used to all those things?

Brian T. Grattan:

Yeah, just eating all that stuff. The American digestive system is not used to eating that kind of food and that kind of bacteria, so I got very sick and got -- actually was medically evacuated from Vietnam and spent about a year in various hospitals and stuff, because I had parasites and dysentery and amoebic dysentery and ulcerative colitis and all kinds of physical things, because my system wasn't used to eating their kind of food and drinking their water, and so it was -- so, yeah, I got -- I never got injured from gunfire or anything like that. I was never wounded.

Alex Hinderman:

Did you ever receive any medals or special awards?

Brian T. Grattan:

Yes.

Alex Hinderman:

What ones are those?

Brian T. Grattan:

I got the Bronze Star, and the Combat Infantryman's Badge.

Alex Hinderman:

Any others?

Brian T. Grattan:

Well, just kind of -- nothing of consequence.

Alex Hinderman:

Okay. What did you do to achieve those?

Brian T. Grattan:

The Combat Infantry Badge you get if you are engaged or in the proximity of or involved in combat, ground combat for 30 days or more, so the only way you can get those is to be where there's shooting going on.

Alex Hinderman:

Okay. Where was that when you received that, where were you located?

Brian T. Grattan:

I'm sorry?

Alex Hinderman:

When were you located when you got that?

Brian T. Grattan:

In Vietnam.

Alex Hinderman:

Did you have to go through boot camp?

Brian T. Grattan:

Not boot camp. I went through a six-week camp as an ROTC junior at Fort Lewis, Washington, and it's a camp we all had to go to, and it was essentially like boot camp, boot camp for aspiring officers, and then once I was commissioned, then I went to what's called the Army basic infantry course, which is more of an educational course than it was, you know, typical boot camp where they beat up on you, not literally but teach you all of the basics. We learned -- we learned kind of the basic boot camp stuff when we were ROTC cadets, and then we went to a four-month long educational course on how to be a lieutenant.

Alex Hinderman:

All right. Do you recall your first days in the service, and what do you remember feeling on those first days?

Brian T. Grattan:

I remember feeling the pressure to learn as much as I could, because I knew I was going to be leading young men in potential armed conflict, and I would very concerned that I would be good enough to do that, so --

Alex Hinderman:

How did you stay in touch with your family when you were abroad?

Brian T. Grattan:

Well, I had my wife with me.

Alex Hinderman:

Oh, really.

Brian T. Grattan:

In Germany. In Vietnam I stayed in touch by writing letters.

Alex Hinderman:

And the letters, did they take a long time to get back and forth?

Brian T. Grattan:

Sometimes, and there were sometimes when I would be out in the jungle with the Vietnamese Army troops for 2 and 3 weeks at a time, so I couldn't either get them or receive them or send them, so there was sometimes long periods of time before we communicated.

Alex Hinderman:

When you were in Vietnam, is it portrayed in movies and things today pretty accurately as to what you saw?

Brian T. Grattan:

Depends on which movie.

Alex Hinderman:

Like, say, that's a good one, we just recently watched it in school. It's a pretty long one actually.

Brian T. Grattan:

There was one movie called "Apocalypse Now."

Alex Hinderman:

That's it, yeah.

Brian T. Grattan:

And that was very overblown and Hollywood presentation, and that wasn't -- that wasn't my experience, that was a Hollywood movie, that wasn't a Vietnam experience.

Alex Hinderman:

All right. I was just watching a movie last night on TV called Buffalo Soldier, and it was about the soldiers that were stationed in West Berlin or West Germany during the Cold War, and it was about some kind of a like black market operations, like they would take trade with these Germans on the black market like cleaning supplies and stuff for drugs and other things. Did you see any of that?

Brian T. Grattan:

I didn't see any of that when I was there. When I was in Germany between 1960 and '63, I didn't see any of that at all, but I was in West Germany, and for awhile in West Berlin -- and with the possible exception of, you know, there were a few times when American soldiers would trade gasoline or cigarettes to the Germans for other services or money or whatever, but I didn't see any of that.

Alex Hinderman:

How did you entertain yourself while serving?

Brian T. Grattan:

Well, in Germany it's a pretty normal life. I mean, there was just work. I had family there, so we traveled when we could, went skiing down in Bavaria, went to Paris, and, you know, would travel and see parts of Europe.

Alex Hinderman:

Do you recall any particularly humorous or unusual events?

Brian T. Grattan:

Lots of them, but humorous kind of things?

Alex Hinderman:

Just a couple of things you remember.

Brian T. Grattan:

No, it was all pretty serious business. I mean, I really can't recall anything that -- it wasn't grim, but it was just kind of normal, that was just my job, and I just don't recall any particular thing like that.

Alex Hinderman:

Okay. Did you ever get close with any of your fellow officers or soldiers, did you make any good friends?

Brian T. Grattan:

Oh, yeah, I made some friends that I still have 45 years later. In fact, one of my best friends just died day before yesterday, Army friends.

Alex Hinderman:

Did you keep a diary?

Brian T. Grattan:

I kept not a diary but kind of a log or notebook, a journal of my daily activities while I was in Vietnam.

Alex Hinderman:

Do you still have that?

Brian T. Grattan:

Yes.

Alex Hinderman:

Is it in good condition?

Brian T. Grattan:

I haven't looked at it for a long time. It was very cryptic notes, what we did, where we were. There was no "dear diary" kind of stuff, I just -- "today we were in Long An and were resupplied and tomorrow we are going to Yama Yama Yama," so it was not here's what I'm thinking about or here's what happened or my friend Joe got shot or any of that kind of thing.

Alex Hinderman:

What was it like in Vietnam, were you in like dense jungle or was it --

Brian T. Grattan:

I was in the northern part of South Vietnam. There was occasional -- in the lower lands there were rice paddies and villages and fields where they'd grow bananas and things like that, but an awful lot of where we operated was in hilly, mountainous, jungle terrain, very dense.

Alex Hinderman:

Were there wild animals and insects and stuff?

Brian T. Grattan:

Yeah, we would occasionally see monkeys. There was one occasion where it was raining for days and days and the helicopters could not resupply us with bags of rice and the other food that we would carry with us and cook every day and eat, and things were getting pretty hungry, so I organized the Vietnamese battalion, and we put about 30 guys upstream in this river with hand grenades, and on the count of three everybody threw their hand grenades in the water and then we had a whole bunch of guys downstream scooping up the fish, so we did loaves and fishes things and fed everybody with fish that we killed with hand grenades.

Alex Hinderman:

That's funny.

Brian T. Grattan:

So that's a funny thing.

Alex Hinderman:

Do you recall the day that your service ended? Is that pretty clear still?

Brian T. Grattan:

Do I --

Alex Hinderman:

-- recall the day?

Brian T. Grattan:

The day? I think it was right about the 1st of December of '67, and I just resigned. What happens when you're an officer is you -- I had a minimum -- I had three years that I was committed to serve, and then I had planned on staying in for 20 or more years, but I decided that with a family I didn't want to be away from my family all that much, so the process is you resign the commission, which is essentially a contract with the Army, and so I just quit.

Alex Hinderman:

Did you -- when you were done afterwards and you came home, did you go to work or go back to school?

Brian T. Grattan:

No, I went to work.

Alex Hinderman:

You went to work. What did you do?

Brian T. Grattan:

I started selling real estate in Seattle.

Alex Hinderman:

Are you in any kind of veterans organization?

Brian T. Grattan:

No.

Alex Hinderman:

Did you ever get into like a combat situation or anything in any of your experiences?

Brian T. Grattan:

When I was there?

Alex Hinderman:

Yeah.

Brian T. Grattan:

Oh, yeah, for about four months I was in combat with the Vietnamese Army, not on a daily basis but very frequently.

Alex Hinderman:

Is that pretty nerve wracking knowing that you're --

Brian T. Grattan:

No, it's exciting and exhilarating and scary as hell.

Alex Hinderman:

Did they -- was it hard to sleep knowing that anything could happen or did you take --

Brian T. Grattan:

No --

Alex Hinderman:

-- any --

Brian T. Grattan:

-- no, I didn't. I had asked to go there, I volunteered to go there, it was something I wanted to do, and it was just kind of what I did, and I didn't have any trouble sleeping, and no nightmares and no post-traumatic stress or any of that kind of stuff. I just --

Alex Hinderman:

Did your experience influence your thinking about war or military in general, maybe what's going on in the world today?

Brian T. Grattan:

You mean from -- because of my experiences? Oh, yeah, yeah, I'm intensely interested in world affairs, and the -- you know, watch the news probably more than I should about what's going in Iraq and how the military is doing there and how the government is doing, and so, no, I pay very close attention to the news.

Alex Hinderman:

Okay. Have you attended any reunions or anything?

Brian T. Grattan:

Yeah.

Alex Hinderman:

How many?

Brian T. Grattan:

About five with some of the old buddies from Germany and from Vietnam.

Alex Hinderman:

Okay. Have you gone back to Germany and Vietnam?

Brian T. Grattan:

I've gone back to Germany, but I have not gone back to Vietnam.

Alex Hinderman:

Is there anything else you would like to add that we haven't talked about?

Brian T. Grattan:

No. I was a very willing and enthusiastic Army guy, and I was going to do it as a lifetime of service but realized it was in my estimation too hard on the family, because you're away from home an awful lot of the time, and I didn't think that that was fair to my two kids, so I just decided that I would have a more normal life than the military life, but I have great deal of respect for the military and an enormous respect for the soldiers and sailors and just all the military men and women that are serving today. I think the troops on the ground in Iraq did a wonderful job and are doing a wonderful job, and they're just -- you know, thank God we've got brave men and women who will do that. It's tough work. When people are shooting at you, they're serious.

Alex Hinderman:

Yeah.

Brian T. Grattan:

But I think that the modern American military is wonderfully run.

Alex Hinderman:

This just says that you're willing to participate in this. I need you to sign on the signature there. I think I can fill in the rest. Thank you very much again for doing this for me. It's really interesting. This is going to the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, so if you're interested online at all, there's a -- probably you can just go to the Library of Congress web site, and there's a link that goes to the Veterans History Project, but if you want to learn any more on that or anything, I just send this, and they are going to keep a record of this.

Brian T. Grattan:

And the tape?

Alex Hinderman:

And the tape. They are trying to have like a massive collaboration of all these things.

Brian T. Grattan:

I think that's a really neat thing.

Alex Hinderman:

It is.

Brian T. Grattan:

So much of the history of World War I and World War II probably was lost, because they didn't do this, and so it's a good thing.

Alex Hinderman:

Yeah. It's great, and it will always be remembered, and it will be always be there. Thank you very much.

Brian T. Grattan:

You bet.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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