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“I thought, well, how do they handle writing home to this kid's parents, he's been in-country one month, and tell them that he accidentally picked up a rocket in his hand and it went off?” (Audio Interview, 51:19)

   Steven L. Bobb, Sr.
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War: Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Branch: Marine Corps
Unit: Ammo Company, Force Logistics Command, 3rd Marine Division
Service Location: Quantico, Virginia; Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; Da Nang, Vietnam
Rank: Corporal
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Steven Bobb enlisted in the Marines knowing that he could not be drafted, under old treaties that forbade his tribe to bear arms. He worked as an ammo tech in Vietnam, arriving in 1970, also pulling some guard duty and occasionally going out on patrol. Although he was rarely in direct danger (his first patrol at night being his worst experience under fire), what he saw in Vietnam affected him deeply. In particular, he recalls an accident in which a young soldier, one month into his tour, picked up a live rocket, which went off but did not kill him immediately.

Interview (Audio)
»Interview Highlights  (10 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: audio (63 min.)
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 Audio (Interview Excerpts) (10 items)
A lot of military service in his family; he is mainly an Umpqua, who do not have to serve in the military because of treaties signed years ago; enlisted in the Marine Corps in September 1968; had to have an operation to remove a growth from his rib; surgery had not healed completely when he started basic training in March 1969. (02:33) Getting into trouble during basic training for not wearing his “cover” (hat); his DI knocked him down and kicked him around for about 20 minutes; he never forgot his cover again. (01:58) Training at Camp Pendleton to go to Vietnam; the closer to departure day, the more apprehensive he and his buddies got. (02:18)
Incidents of fragging a weekly occurrence; lots of in-fighting, racial tension; the night he arrived at Red Beach, four or five people had been killed in an incident at one of the base clubs. (01:05) Enemy had access to their ammunition dump through tunnels; second night in country on guard duty in the humid night, battling huge mosquitoes; being treated like a “newbie” and not told anything; reacting to a U.S. artillery battery firing in the middle of the night as though it were incoming fire, provoking laughs from the veterans. (03:29) Describing the sensation of being in an ambush, how time slows down while under fire; physical reaction to the shock of being under fire lasting for two weeks. (02:26)
Going out on a night patrol for the first time, scared, especially because the leader was 18, two years younger than him; relieved when people he spotted turned out to be his own troops; wary of guys who were too gung-ho and could get your unit into trouble. (04:49) On a day patrol looking for an 18-year-old booby trap specialist; took a Vietnamese interpreter with them; could not get any civilians to provide information; caught a suspect, who pled with them all the way back to camp, where they were going to turn him over to ARVN for questioning; everyone knew he was in for a tough time; Bobb never found out what happened to him. (04:19) Accidents are a part of war; describes one involving a newbie who ignored orders not to touch munitions that had been scattered from a 1968 explosion of the ammo dump; Bobb saw the Marine pick up a rocket and have it go off in his hands; he did not die immediately; wondering how the Marines would be able to tell the young man's family what happened; waking up every morning with that image and the man’s screams in his mind; not surprised how psychological trauma has adversely affected Vietnam veterans. (07:43)
Recycling Grade 3 ammunition by taking it near the Laotian border for four days in a row, burying it, and blowing it up; ambushed by the enemy on the fourth day; infantry accompanied them; called in air support, which scorched the hill on which the enemy was positioned. (02:08)  

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  October 26, 2011
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