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Interview with James Barnes [Undated]

Pat McClain:

Today I'm interviewing James F. Barnes, 698 South Street, Scottsburg, Indiana. Date of birth, February the 22nd, 1943. My name is Pat McClain, and I'm on the staff of United States Senator Richard Lugar. Mr. Barnes, were you drafted or were you en- -- did you enlist into the Army?

James Barnes:

I guess you could say I enlisted in the National Guard. At the time that I enlisted, or joined the Guard, 1964, my brother is three years older than, you know, I am, and he was already in the Army. He was stationed in Germany. And our parents were a little older than most parents. And my dad was in real poor health. And my brother advised me to do the National Guard so I wouldn't have to be gone. You know, so I could help take care -- help take care of them while he was gone. So I wound up in -- in the Guard. And I think it was in March I went to Fort Knox for my basic training. Then after that went to Fort Sill for some advanced training on -- in artillery, because the unit I was assigned to at Bardstown, Kentucky, was artillery.

Pat McClain:

I see.

James Barnes:

And -- well, you know, I didn't mind boot camp. I was young, and I was in good physical shape. I thought it was -- I had a good time. I enjoyed it. And even in Oklahoma. I didn't care much for the weather, you know, but the training and stuff wasn't anything to me.

Pat McClain:

And you went into -- you were federalized in May of 1968?

James Barnes:

That's correct.

Pat McClain:

That's correct? And then you went to Vietnam?

James Barnes:

Um-hum. They -- I don't know. It's kind of unique, I guess, belonging to a Kentucky National Guard unit, and at the time I was living here in Scottsburg. I was driving back and forth because of the -- I hated to switch because I'd been married. Got married in May of '67, and I hated -- I didn't have a whole lot of time left on my enlistment. So I hated to switch, you know, and transfer up here. I didn't know hardly anybody, and I was very familiar with the people that I was with at Bardstown. You know, I grew up with them, went to high school.

Pat McClain:

Sure.

James Barnes:

So I decided not to transfer. Not a real good move, but I stayed -- I stayed down there. Had to drive down on a lot of weekends because we were on something -- I think they call it some kind of superalert. And we had two weekends a month training, you know. We'd go to Fort Knox usually for a shoot at Fort Knox, you know, on a weekend-type thing.

Larry Ordner:

But normally they only had one weekend a month?

James Barnes:

Normally one weekend. Because when I first joined it was just two hours every Tuesday night.

Larry Ordner:

Um-hum.

James Barnes:

But then it went into a different mode, and they put us in a -- you know, we -- on a different alert status I guess you would call it.

Larry Ordner:

Right.

James Barnes:

I don't know, due to the buildup. Because when I first went in, you know, Vietnam hadn't really cooked yet.

Larry Ordner:

Right.

James Barnes:

You know? I mean, there was a few people there, advisors and whatever. I don't guess it really got -- you know.

Larry Ordner:

So it started the first -- the two hours every Tuesday was kind of a fun thing?

James Barnes:

Yeah. Yeah, yeah. You'd go out on a Tuesday night, do a little cleaning, training, whatever. And then usually one weekend a month. But it wasn't that -- I liked it. I liked the Guard. It was fine. I don't know. I didn't mind military life really.

Larry Ordner:

Right.

James Barnes:

The peacetime military, I mean.

Larry Ordner:

Right.

Pat McClain:

And how long were you -- when was it you went to Vietnam?

James Barnes:

October '68.

Pat McClain:

October '68? Do you remember arriving there, and what it was like, and --

Larry Ordner:

How did you get there?

Pat McClain:

Yeah, how did you get there?

James Barnes:

Well, first of all, when we got federalized, you know, there was a whole battalion. And of course I knew a lot of people from the other places. There was one in Carrollton, Kentucky; one at Elizabethtown, Kentucky; and there was a couple of units out of Louisville, and that composed the battalion. So they took us all. I think around 600 people, roughly that.

Larry Ordner:

Um-hum.

James Barnes:

And, you know, we trained at Fort Hood. Got to know a lot of people from the different battalions or batteries or whatever. And then when you got ready to go to Vietnam, they give us 30 days. Sent us home, you know, for a 30-day leave. And then we all had to meet at Fort Hood in October. And they grouped us all together, and we flew from -- I think they took us to Dallas, Texas. We flew from there to Honolulu. When -- if anybody asked me if I been there. "Well, yeah." I say, "Yeah, I was there for a half hour. 4:30 in the morning. 5:00 o'clock in the morning we left."

Pat McClain:

I was going to ask you --

James Barnes:

I've been to Hawaii.

Pat McClain:

(Continuing) -- did they give you any R&R in Honolulu?

James Barnes:

No, no, no.

Pat McClain:

Oh, not fair.

Larry Ordner:

Were you on a military aircraft?

James Barnes:

No, we were -- we were -- I think it was Braniff at that time.

Pat McClain:

Yeah, I remember Braniff.

Larry Ordner:

Yeah, they had different contracts.

James Barnes:

But they flew from -- we went from Honolulu, and then from Honolulu we went to Philippines in Manila and landed. You know, just a layover-type thing. But, you know, the mood -- and I remember the mood, you know, changed, you know. From a lighthearted, you know, hollering and -- you know, we knew everybody.

Pat McClain:

Um-hum.

James Barnes:

And from Manila to Danang it was a little bit different flight, you know. But I remember the -- my biggest shock of getting off the airplane -- of course I was older than most of them, and I was a little bit more prepared to, I think, take care of myself or whatever. But the oppressive heat, the humidity. Stepped off that plane, and I just could not believe it. You know, we got a little taste of it in Manila, but I wasn't there that long. But oh, it was hot. It was hot. And Danang was a busy, busy airport, you know. Jets flying, fighter planes just zooming; zoom, zoom, zoom, one after another. But we didn't stay there -- I don't know. Very few. An hour or so. Then they put us on a C-140 I think or something. I don't know what it was. We walked in the back and up we went. Then they took us to -- I think that place was called Phu Bai or something like that.

Larry Ordner:

Um-hum.

James Barnes:

It was up north. And you waited there a couple of weeks before we got all of our equipment.

Larry Ordner:

How did it get there?

James Barnes:

Pardon me?

Larry Ordner:

How did your equipment get there? I mean, was it prepositioned equipment, or was it --

James Barnes:

No. They brought it --

Larry Ordner:

(Continuing) -- was it your equipment?

James Barnes:

Yeah. It come from Fort Hood with us. Of course, we were there before it arrived. And when it got there, they assigned us to different spots, you know, of the -- of the country, and they -- of course being in artillery, we set up there and, you know, fired a few rounds. It was a secure area, as it -- a secure area as far as it goes, you know. So there wasn't very much of a threat there. We fired a few rounds more or less I think just to practice and whatever, get us into the flow. And then we were assigned to a -- let me see. I think we first went to Hill 88 or something like that. I can't remember. It's been a long time. The landing zone they called it.

Pat McClain:

Um-hum.

James Barnes:

And we were there for, I don't know, three or four months. And then we moved again, and, I don't know.

Pat McClain:

Did you see a lot of combat?

James Barnes:

Well, I don't know what "a lot" is, but a couple of bad nights. Bad, you know, couple, three, whatever. But -- but it was -- it cured me; didn't want any more.

Pat McClain:

Did you lose friends in Vietnam?

James Barnes:

Um-hum.

Pat McClain:

Did you have decent food and plenty of supplies? Or were you mostly the -- what do they call those, packaged -- M- --

Larry Ordner:

Well, back then they didn't have MRs.

Pat McClain:

MR. Oh, they didn't have MRs?

Larry Ordner:

MREs.

Pat McClain:

MREs? I didn't think it was an MRI.

Larry Ordner:

I think it's probably pretty important here before we go on, Pat, Bardstown lost the most people of any community in the country during the Vietnam War, and that's where Jim was.

Pat McClain:

And that's where Jim was.

Larry Ordner:

Yeah. I think that's important.

Pat McClain:

Absolutely.

James Barnes:

Yeah. I think there was 30 -- yeah -- members that -- anyhow, 12.

Larry Ordner:

We hear about all this stuff on television and in the movies and stuff, but we never think of it as being right here at home, and it is.

Pat McClain:

Oh, sure. Yeah.

Larry Ordner:

And it's --

Pat McClain:

Are there any experiences that you had in Vietnam that you want to talk about today or not?

James Barnes:

No.

Larry Ordner:

Did you have any good ones?

James Barnes:

Oh, yeah. There's always good -- one of the better things or the highlight of the thing, I remember, was -- of course, it's hard to describe, you know. You know. But for other people, you know, you just almost have to be there. But in a gun position, you know, you -- you kind of dig in and have a perimeter and whatever, and the bad thing about that, especially in Vietnam, you know, you better have a drainage. Because if you don't, it's going -- you're gonna be floating. Well, it was in one of those monsoon-type things. It was raining, and there wasn't no -- a dry thing to be found, and I don't know. Two or three of us was outside trying to dig in the mud and get the water away from, you know, the powder. And I was wet from -- well, it wasn't any dry. You know, you just didn't get dry. And I was muddy from head to toe. And I thought -- I told the guys, you know, when you was digging and raining and, you know, there is more water coming in than you was getting out. And I told them, you know, I said, "There got to be a better place in this country to be." And it was getting close to Christmastime. And the sergeant came up there and hollered and said, "They want to see you down at the mess tent," I think or something. And I figured, well, I done something else, you know. So -- so then I went down there, and my name had been picked to go to see the Bob Hope troop, and -- me and another fellow. There was two out of the -- that got to go. And, you know, they helicoptered us out, took us back to the rear. And I don't know. I was gone probably a week. You know, it took that long to make the connections everywhere. And then we had to go down to Danang, and we got to see the Bob Hope show. That was a pretty -- pretty neat experience for me.

Pat McClain:

Oh, sure. Yeah.

James Barnes:

I mean, it was a -- kind of a different time for Christmas, you know. But -- but he put on a good show, and there was a lot of stars there. Ann-Margret, she was there. It was -- I enjoyed that. You know, that was a --

Pat McClain:

That was a highlight.

James Barnes:

If you're looking for a highlight, I think that would be. But, you know, some of those things are -- I think different people handle it different, but that's hard for me to talk about, losing people. And it's hard to imagine what human beings will do to each other. You know, we're supposed to be a top-of-the-line species or whatever, but sometimes you wonder. But . . . And another thing about it, you know, I mean, it was a level playing field. You know, the Vietnam -- the Vietcong, North Vietnamese, they -- they didn't differentiate, you know. If you were rich, if you were poor, if you were an elite, you know, they didn't care. You know, you was the same to them. And everybody -- you know, it was a level playing field, you know? You had to -- you had to do your -- you had to perform. Sometimes it wasn't very good. But there was a lot of dull time too, you know. Unlike what you see on TV, and the portrayal of -- or my experience of it is it wasn't a guts and glory thing every day, you know? There is a lot of down time, a lot of dead time. A lot of times you had to just find something to keep yourself occupied. And I don't know. It's a different thing when you watch the movies and television. It's an entirely different thing, unlike -- nothing that I've seen even comes close to comparing it. And it would be a difficult thing to convey I think. But . . .

Pat McClain:

Do you -- go ahead.

James Barnes:

We stayed together a pretty good while as a unit, and then they split us up, you know. They split about six or eight -- six or eight months, something like that, they split us, you know, and assigned some of us to regular Army units and stuff like that, you know. But they kept us together as a unit too long probably. That's my opinion.

Larry Ordner:

Well, and --

James Barnes:

Due to the fact that, you know, if you get hit, you going to lose a lot of people from the same place.

Larry Ordner:

Right. And the theme I think there is, when I went to a unit, I didn't know anybody there, you know? He was with his childhood friends; big difference. Just total difference.

James Barnes:

Well, yeah. Yeah. But I don't know. It was probably July that me and another fella there from our unit, he was -- as a matter of fact, he was a gun sergeant. And he and I and -- I forget now, there was two or three of us, got assigned, you know, went to the back. And they sent us to a -- oh, I can't think. I'm trying to think of the place. But it was down south. And we had an experience, you know, of going into a strange unit, you know? Just he and I. And then, you know -- actually, see, my term or my enlistment thing was -- or not enlistment, but whatever, it was in October was when I was supposed to go home, and this was July. And actually I started over in July, if you follow what I'm saying, you know?

Larry Ordner:

Right.

James Barnes:

Because I was taken from this unit -- of course, what was left of it -- and put into a strange -- you know, just like -- like I said, just like almost day one.

Larry Ordner:

Right.

James Barnes:

Because I remember the first thing, there is a little guy come -- they set us down on the helicopter pad. Of course, you throw your stuff off, and there you are. You know, he's gone, and you have to walk up this path.

Larry Ordner:

"He" was me.

James Barnes:

Yeah. But we went down there, and I had my stuff on the back, and we was walking up going to report to the captain, and a little kid from Jackson, Michigan, come running down there. Of course, I didn't know him at that time. He hadn't been in the country very long. And one of the things was, you know, a short-timer, "How much time you got left?" You know? And they figured by me getting there that I didn't have -- you know, that I had my year left. And his face, you know, he just knew that I was longer term than him. And when I told him I was going home in October, you could just see his face going down. They couldn't -- they couldn't get me for that.

Larry Ordner:

Yeah.

James Barnes:

But now --

Larry Ordner:

Did you keep a short-timer's calendar?

James Barnes:

No. And I haven't told you, but we had a bad time down there. Probably my worst. But anyway, he didn't -- I made it. He didn't.

Larry Ordner:

Yeah.

James Barnes:

So it seemed -- seemed to follow me, I guess. I don't know. But that was a -- a pretty good unit then I was assigned to. And I had some good times there. One of the times -- I told this a few times. I don't know why. Some things I do. Some things I don't. But this is kind of -- he'll find the humor in it I guess. But when you're -- this particular battalion or battery that I was in was split, three guns on one hill and three on the other. And this was the 155 towed (ph) outfit. A lot different. A lot different. A lot more work. But we had a fire mission one day, and it was in the daytime. Daytime fire missions are -- were fairly unique, you know, in the fact that the daytime belonged to us, the nighttime belonged to them, you know. And we were firing. And we were trying to do it with a partial crew so the other people could sleep. And, you know, it takes several people; two to carry the big projos, and a couple to ram it, and, you know, a powder man. You have to cut the powder. And you keep your powder -- it comes in big canisters made over here. I guess it's Charlestown.

Pat McClain:

Okay.

James Barnes:

But the green powder you've got five charges. The white powder you've got seven charges, whatever. But anyway, we was shooting green powder. And the green powder, when it fires out, I mean, a lot of times the bag doesn't completely burn, and it falls down. But the powder is -- it will -- it will burn so quick and easy. It's very, very explosive. So the powder man, when you cut the powder, it's important that you don't loosen those airtight canisters over one or two because of the fact that they will explode and burn. But they were just working our tail off, and I was having a hard time keeping up because I was the powder man. So I opened about 20 of those things, and the gun behind us was -- you know, we were in this direction, and we were the front gun, and he was firing directly over us and, you know, like I said, the green powder, you know, sometimes those little -- all of a sudden I turned around, and that powder had ignited, and we had to abandon our gun because of the powder -- because it was very explosive. Very, very -- very explosive. And it burned the powder canisters. They looked like -- it looked a whole lot like July the fourth, you know, the Roman candles. And it got so hot. You know, of course, like I said, we had to get off and get way down the hill. It got so hot that it melted the tires off of that towed (ph). They just melted. And the sandbags melted, you know. Well --

Larry Ordner:

You know, they're nylon.

James Barnes:

Yeah. Well, I knew I had the -- I knew I had had the course, because --

Pat McClain:

(Inaudible) gun.

James Barnes:

Yeah. Because after the -- after the thing settled down and we went back up there, of course the captain, all of them, you know, the lieutenant and everybody, they wanted to know who -- who was the powder man. And I said I was cutting the powder, you know. And they said, "How many did you have open?" And I said, "I think I had three." There was -- there was no way -- I mean, they couldn't count them because they were down over the side of the hill. All of them opened. All of them burned up. But I had to tell just a little bit of a fib. But they came -- the ordnance came out and put -- of course, we rebuilt the powder. It's a tin and everything. But that was -- that was kind of funny. At the time it wasn't too humorous, but it is now.

Pat McClain:

Now that you think about it.

James Barnes:

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah. And --

Larry Ordner:

When you're talking about cutting the powder, that -- when you get a fireman, and you're going to fire a certain distance --

James Barnes:

Um-hum.

Larry Ordner:

(Continuing) -- then however many bags of powder --

James Barnes:

Is how far that --

Larry Ordner:

(Continuing) -- is how far it will shoot.

James Barnes:

Yeah. Yeah. And, you know, the FDC, they calculate that, you know, from their forward serving.

Larry Ordner:

Right.

James Barnes:

They tell you, you know, the angle and all of that --

Larry Ordner:

Right.

James Barnes:

(Continuing) -- you know.

Larry Ordner:

Well, is the green powder more -- I mean --

James Barnes:

No, the white powder.

Larry Ordner:

I mean is the green powder --

James Barnes:

The white powder burns more, quicker.

Larry Ordner:

Oh, okay.

James Barnes:

And the green powder was just a -- actually, it was for closer. And this -- this -- I think it was this, we used four or five. I forget what charge it was.

Larry Ordner:

Right. Right. Does that mean that -- if you say charge four, does that mean four bags?

James Barnes:

Yeah.

Larry Ordner:

Okay.

James Barnes:

You have to -- you have to take those apart and take the two out that you don't need and put in that reach of that thing.

Larry Ordner:

Okay.

James Barnes:

See, you've always got --

Larry Ordner:

What happens to that if you --

James Barnes:

Well, at the end of the fire mission, the extra powder, you take them down and burn them on the perimeter. You know, spread them around, and that -- takes care of the -- you know, helps clear the --

Larry Ordner:

Right.

James Barnes:

Once you can see at night.

Larry Ordner:

Okay. I never had to do that in combat, so I didn't know, you know, what --

James Barnes:

Yeah.

Larry Ordner:

Because they had -- they counted every grain, you know, when I was at Fort Sill. I mean, they counted every grain of powder.

James Barnes:

Yeah. But see, they were -- you know, that's a training thing. It's different.

Larry Ordner:

Right.

James Barnes:

Because it's important, just like I told them there at Fort Campbell, you know, we should have put one downtown Clarkson, and we wouldn't have had to worry about it. But, you know, in that situation, you know, you're -- you're just hustling and trying to get the -- your -- your job done. Trying to help out the people out there. But that was -- that was in July. And in -- of course, you know, the closer, you know -- the closer you get to being home or your time being up, you know, you -- you -- you know, you get a little more cautious. Of course, I was more cautious because of my age I think. You were -- life becomes a little bit more important and valuable to you after -- you know, you're 18 and 19, you think you're indestructible, but you're not.

Pat McClain:

Right.

James Barnes:

Of course, I had a wife, and, you know, I had a lot to try to get back to. But I never got any R&R. You know, they had a system set up that you could apply and get a week, and you could meet your wife a week in Hawaii or, you know, I think you could go to Australia, and there was several choices, places you could go. But looking back or, you know, thinking about it, maybe it would have been nice to meet your wife and had a week in Hawaii. But if I'd a got there, I wouldn't a went back. So I didn't -- I didn't -- I didn't -- well, seemed like every time that I was trying, you know, something would happen. So I didn't get any, so -- any break or anything from the --

Pat McClain:

From the post --

James Barnes:

And I'm glad I didn't, you know.

Larry Ordner:

In retrospect, if -- you know, I did go with my wife, and I even -- in my last year I even got to come home, and it was awful to have to go back.

James Barnes:

Yeah.

Larry Ordner:

It was worse in the long run. Now, as you look back now, it was -- I mean, I -- you know, it is -- it was just harder to have to go back than it was that -- before you go.

Pat McClain:

I can imagine. Because you knew what you were going to go back to.

Larry Ordner:

Exactly.

Pat McClain:

Whereas in the beginning you had not --

Larry Ordner:

Right.

Pat McClain:

(Continuing) -- experienced that.

James Barnes:

And that -- that place down there -- you know, of course, it was the regular Army, and there was some good people there. I met some good friends, made some acquaintances.

Pat McClain:

Do you still keep in touch with some of the people you met?

James Barnes:

Um-hum. Sometimes -- I haven't been for a good while, but we used to about every five years or so, we would have a reunion in Bardstown. But my health anymore, I -- you know, it's hard for me to even take a walk, you know, without -- I have to have candy or something, you know. So I don't do much work -- work and home.

Larry Ordner:

Well, I think it's important, Jim. When, you know, he and I went to Indianapolis, you were planning on having to take your kit with you --

James Barnes:

Yeah.

Larry Ordner:

(Continuing) -- and how that limits your -- your socializing, your --

James Barnes:

Oh, yeah. It just -- it makes it a little bit, you know.

Larry Ordner:

Right. And one thing, Pat, I don't know how much you want me to put in here, but one of the things that Jim and I talked about with that, it's not his fault that he has the diabetes and that he has to -- to do those things, you know? In that even -- you know, here we are, we're 30 years later or more and paying the price for that.

Pat McClain:

Absolutely.

Larry Ordner:

Not --

Pat McClain:

Are you getting compensated properly?

Larry Ordner:

Well, we don't know yet.

Pat McClain:

I was going to give him one of those forms that I gave you.

Larry Ordner:

I don't know which one.

Pat McClain:

The privacy authorization forms.

Larry Ordner:

Oh. Well, he's -- no, he just -- we just now last month filed, and it will happen. It just -- it's going through the bureaucracy, but it will happen. Now whether or not it's adequate or whether or not -- I mean, that's -- you know, that's -- I don't know how you place even a value on it.

Pat McClain:

Well, absolutely. I understand that. Do you remember -- do you recall the last day of service, where you were, and -- do you remember the last day? (Laughter.)

Pat McClain:

This must be a good one.

James Barnes:

Before I get to that --

Pat McClain:

Um-hum.

James Barnes:

(Continuing) -- I want to back up.

Pat McClain:

Sure.

James Barnes:

And you asked me a while ago about mementos or whatever.

Pat McClain:

Um-hum.

James Barnes:

Let's see. I think I had two weeks left before they would regroup us, and, of course, like everybody else, you know, you pick up a few things. And I had been at this place where me and my buddy had been assigned to, and I had a -- you know, a sack full of stuff, you know? Little knickknacks and whatever. And we had another run-in with a -- a superior force, I guess what you want to call them, but it was at nighttime, and we were in the gun pit. Of course, our living quarters, as such, you know --

Pat McClain:

Are a hole in the ground.

James Barnes:

Yeah, was a hole in the ground and was off to the side, and everything I had was in there except what I had on. And, you know, as far as clothes, my Army issue stuff and everything was down there. And they blew that up. I had nothing except, you know --

Larry Ordner:

What you had on.

James Barnes:

(Continuing) -- what I had on. Well, I had two weeks left, you know? I didn't -- I had a radio, cameras, and, you know, they were all gone. I didn't -- so when it come time to come home, you know, most of the guys were carrying bags. I was in -- that's all I had. I mean, I didn't have -- I didn't have -- I didn't have anything.

Larry Ordner:

Well, you could move pretty fast.

James Barnes:

Well, yeah, yeah. But my last day, yeah, I remember. They had regrouped us all. What was left of the -- of the Bardstown unit was back together, and we were -- we were together a week in a fairly secure area and, you know, we drank a lot of beer and had a decent enough time. And then come the day to leave, we -- they flew us down to Danang to catch a commercial air flight from Danang to Tokyo. That was the schedule. And we were down there early in the morning. And we kept waiting for the plane, you know, waiting and waiting and waiting; never did show up. And, of course, everybody was anxious to leave because of the fact that at that time they wouldn't fly at night on a commercial flight out of Danang due to, you know, a lot of reasons.

Pat McClain:

Sure.

James Barnes:

But it kept getting later and later, and everybody was getting, you know, hungry and whatever. But they finally made arrangements for us to go to one of the Air Force barracks there in Danang to have a -- supper, evening meal. And I walked in, and so -- I told Jim one time that -- that I stepped in line, and they gave me a plate, and that was the first time in a year that I had a glassware or a plate, a clean plate. You know what I mean? There it was. And I thought, Well, my goodness. What's this?

Larry Ordner:

What do I do with it?

James Barnes:

What do I do with this? And silverware, and a glass that you could get cold milk. You know, you could go over there and get your milk and drink it or water, whatever, ice water. I said, Oh, my.

Pat McClain:

I'm in heaven.

James Barnes:

Yeah. I thought I'd sign up again for this. But mine was a little different. Mine was a little different. And he and I were talking the other day, and I didn't realize it, you know, until he told me -- of course, it's been 30-some years since I've been home, and last month was the first time that I'd ever contacted a veterans of any kind. I don't belong to any of the -- you know, the VFW, nothing. I just never did do it. Wasn't -- I don't know. Just didn't feel comfortable with it, and still not real. But through him I -- he's helped me a lot. But he told me that out of all the wars and everything, that there was just 10 percent of actual combat veterans. And that's a -- you know, you think about that. There's a lot of difference in a veteran and a combat veteran.

Pat McClain:

Um-hum.

James Barnes:

And most of the -- of course, I don't know. People handle it different. I find it very, very hard to talk about it.

Pat McClain:

Um-hum.

James Barnes:

And I know what you mean. 30 -- well, over 30 years since I've been home, and I -- I still wake up. Maybe you get over it, maybe you don't.

Pat McClain:

What have you done since you've been out of the service?

James Barnes:

Just work. You know, before I went in I was a -- I worked at a small furniture manufacturing place in Louisville. And when I came home, I went back and I worked there for 20 years. And then in 1985 quit and went to where I am now. It's a hardwood flooring manufacturer. And when I first went there, you know, we were really small. I think probably 15 people. And we've got about 70 now. We've grown quite a bit. Hopefully I'll work couple, three more years, but . . .

Larry Ordner:

He's been supersuccessful in the fatherhood department, Pat.

Pat McClain:

And how many children do you have?

James Barnes:

No, I think -- I'm not sure, but I think one of my boys might be about your girl's age or something.

Pat McClain:

Shannon is -- Shannon will be 30 this year, and Ashley will be 28.

James Barnes:

Yeah, Matthew. Matthew Barnes.

Pat McClain:

Okay.

James Barnes:

I think he went to school with one.

Pat McClain:

Matt Barnes, yeah. I think he went to school with Ashley.

James Barnes:

Um-hum, he's a -- he works with the U.S. Weather Bureau. He's a meteorologist. He went to Valpo, and then he went to Indiana -- or Illinois for his master's. And I've got my youngest son is -- he's a sophomore at Indiana State.

Pat McClain:

And how many children do you have?

James Barnes:

Just the two.

Pat McClain:

The two boys.

James Barnes:

Two boys. We never had any -- of course, my wife and I were just married a year, you know, before I left. And then I came back and was probably eight before the first boy was born, and then it was eight before the -- you know, we had eight, eight, and then we quit at 16. That was enough. But I don't know. The thing that I remember, and I guess it's most -- most troublesome to me, and perhaps shouldn't be, but the mood -- the mood of the country was a lot different when I came home. You know, I -- it's hard to express, but I never expected a, you know, a ticker tape parade or anything like that, but there was a lot of sacrifices made and a lot of things done by a lot of good people. And when you come home, you didn't see a flag from every pole, you didn't see flags on cars, you know? And if you had a uniform on, you know, people kind of didn't look at you the same. And I think the country was controlled by too many of the long-haired whatever. And, you know, everybody -- in my opinion, everybody says -- I heard a guy the other day talking about Kent State, you know, and the shooting that took place.

Pat McClain:

Um-hum.

James Barnes:

After that it changed. And yes, it did. And I think it changed for the better. Because if something hadn't been done, who knows what shape this country would have been in today. Because I think it was headed in a really, really wrong, wrong way. And the same thing happened in Afghanistan, you know. The previous two administrations just let that go. I mean, for goodness' sake, do you stick your head in the sand and let somebody like that take over another country and not do a thing?

Larry Ordner:

Yeah, right.

James Barnes:

Yeah, we got bombed. Yeah, but you look back, and -- well, this is something else.

Pat McClain:

No, that's --

James Barnes:

That was allowed. You needed to take steps. And -- and we failed to do so, and we gave them the power and the opportunity to do that. If 15 years ago or whatever we had done what was done in the last six months, none of this would have happened.

Larry Ordner:

No.

James Barnes:

Because those guys, they -- like everything else, they've got to have something to operate on. They got to have a room. They got to have a -- and they just took over a country basically. That's all they did. And we allowed it to happen. Never offered any help or -- or anything. But given enough power, they were able to do that. But I got off on another little subject there.

Larry Ordner:

That's all right.

Pat McClain:

That's fine.

James Barnes:

But like I said, the troubling thing was coming home. And that may be why that, you know -- that I never joined any of the veterans things. And there is probably not, outside of my family and a few at work, there's probably not a handful of people that knows that -- or that know that I was -- went to Vietnam.

Pat McClain:

Oh, wow. So anything else you'd like to share with your friends and family on tape or --

James Barnes:

No. I think pretty well sums it.

Larry Ordner:

Will they actually hear the tape?

Pat McClain:

Um-hum.

Larry Ordner:

Well, let me --

Pat McClain:

Okay.

Larry Ordner:

Let me add something --

Pat McClain:

Okay.

Larry Ordner:

(Continuing) -- for Jim here, because we were talking about veterans and combat veterans. And one of the things that I'm most proud of -- and I'm like Jim. There is a lot that I don't like to talk about. But one of the things that I am the most proud about is being a real combat veteran. Because you learn about yourself, and -- and your friends. I mean, that's -- you know, you can be proud about your education, your -- your family, whatever, but when you're actually a combat veteran, that's you totally. There's not anybody else. It's what you're capable of doing. And that's --

Pat McClain:

That's right. I'd like to add that Mr. James Jones, veterans officer for Scott County, also was in the interview with Mr. Barnes this morning. Thank you.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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