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Interview with George Veldman [01/03/2004]

Wallace Erichsen:

This is tape number one, side one of an oral history interview with George Veldman, date of birth June 26, 1945. George is a US Army Vietnam Veteran, he lives at [address redacted], and we are interviewing him on January 3, 2004 at his residence. My name, as interviewer, is Wallace Erichsen and I am the husband of Carol Veldman Erichsen; Carol is George's cousin. This interview is being done as part of the Veteran's History Project of the American Folklife Center for the Library of Congress. George what war and what branch of service were you in?

George Veldman:

I was in the Vietnam War, and the US Army.

Wallace Erichsen:

And what was your highest rank?

George Veldman:

Sergeant, E-5.

Wallace Erichsen:

And where did you serve in Vietnam, what area?

George Veldman:

I served in the- in the Due Pho area, South of Da Nang in the Americal Division which had it's base camp in Due Pho, and then we worked out of the fire base LZ [landing zone] Cork.

Wallace Erichsen:

Is that what you called it, fire base LZ Cork?

George Veldman:

Yes.

Wallace Erichsen:

That's c-o-r-k?

George Veldman:

Yes, c-o-r-k.

Wallace Erichsen:

I'm going to start Segment 2: Jogging The Memory. And with that, George, were you drafted, or did you enlist in the Army?

George Veldman:

I was drafted January 18, 1968 I was drafted. I was in Detroit, Michigan.

Wallace Erichsen:

I was going to say, where were you living at the time?

George Veldman:

I was living in Highland Park, Michigan at the time.

Wallace Erichsen:

Okay.

George Veldman:

The induction station was in Fort Wayne-downtown Detroit. The old base down there, that's where the inductees reported.

Wallace Erichsen:

That's where you went into the service then?

George Veldman:

Yes.

Wallace Erichsen:

Do you recall your first days in the service?

George Veldman:

As on-going through the process, or-

Wallace Erichsen:

Going through the process, right.

George Veldman:

Going through the process, very nervous, very confused. Very disorganized, had no idea what was going on We spent the whole day there - had to report at like seven o'clock in the morning and then we spent literally the whole day going through physicals and hearing tests, and then they actually swore us in that night before we left Fort Wayne.

Wallace Erichsen:

Where did you go from Fort Wayne then?

George Veldman:

Went to Fort Knox, Kentucky. They flew us down to Fort Knox-out of Detroit to Fort Knox, Fort Knox, Kentucky. And that's where we spent-

Wallace Erichsen:

Is that where you went through basic training?

George Veldman:

Basic training was in Fort Knox, Kentucky.

Wallace Erichsen:

Okay.

George Veldman:

I think it was 14 weeks, I believe it was.

Wallace Erichsen:

Okay. What did it feel like the first few days?

George Veldman:

Confused. I don't want to say scared at that point, but more confused, didn't know what was going on because all they were doing was yelling at you all the time. Everything was yelling, trying to get you to follow the same program, they didn't try too much marching at that point, but just trying to get you get in the same area at the same time and halfway resemble an army, I guess.

Wallace Erichsen:

Do you remember any of your instructors?

George Veldman:

I don't remember any of their names. We didn't have the worst instructors in the world; they were a little bit on the forgiving side, I think.

Wallace Erichsen:

Were they the easiest, or the best instructors?

George Veldman:

They were pretty good instructors. They were pretty personable guys. I know some of the others talk about among their friends; there were some loud ones, but our guys were all pretty decent guys. Basic training was just try to get organized and get going and fight the resistance that “you don't want to be in the service" of the other people. I was older, by the way-- because I gave the date of 1946. But I was 23 years old when I went in the service. So I was three to four years older than just about everybody in there. So my mentality was a little bit different - to follow instructions - not fight it as much as a 19 year old would at that point.

Wallace Erichsen:

Let me back up just a minute to the Selective Service Board. How did you avoid the draft so long?

George Veldman:

I was in college.

Wallace Erichsen:

Okay.

George Veldman:

I didn't go to school as soon as I got out of high school. I went to work right away, and the Vietnam War was picking up, so the only way you could stay out of the service was to go to college. And so I started going to school. But, you know, when you're going to college for the wrong reasons -- you're going to college is to stay out of the draft- I had a pretty good job at the time, and I was driving a truck and making decent money, so when I went back to school I was doing that just to avoid the draft. To be honest, it was just to avoid the draft. So at that point I just gave up, you know, "if this is going to happen, it's going to happen" so I just dropped out of school, and shortly thereafter got the letter.

Wallace Erichsen:

From the local board, classified you 1-A real quick.

George Veldman:

"Greetings, Greetings", yeah

Wallace Erichsen:

Well how did you get through basic training then? Obviously you survived.

George Veldman:

Well yes you know, you're with a group and you move as a group, so I think a lot of it is you rely on each other You make some friends-in that group there was four or five of us from Highland Park, so there was a little camaraderie there, at least we knew each other. Basic training was strenuous; they have the long days, particularly as you get more into the training. But it was all physical P-T training and marching and all that stuff the first part. But kind of jumping ahead a little bit up to that point, all my life I played basketball, and Fort Knox had a basketball team. This helped me get through about six weeks of that training. I started playing basketball for Fort Knox. And they know you're only going to be therefore a certain amount of weeks, but for five weeks I got out of a lot of training-I'd just go play basketball with the team. We'd play other battalion groups, the tank groups or stuff like that. So we played basketball. So we'd have- while they'd be out training, I'd go play basketball.

Wallace Erichsen:

Building your morale.

George Veldman:

Right.

Wallace Erichsen:

Well this ends Segment 2. Now we're starting Segment 3, Experiences. George where did you go after completing basic training?

George Veldman:

Went to Fort Polk Louisiana. That was infantry training. Obviously at that point, with the Vietnam War on, everyone was basically heading for infantry, so, me included, went to Fort Polk, Louisiana.

Wallace Erichsen:

And you stayed there how long?

George Veldman:

I believe that was 12 to 14 weeks, again. Once again, this was strictly infantry training. Fort Polk was set up-the environment of Fort Polk was as close to Vietnam, I think, that they could come up with. There was very heavy tree forestation, very humid weather, a lot of the same-as far as physical things that can happen to you, you're training in a condition that's very humid, very hot, and how you can handle that type of heat, things like that.

Wallace Erichsen:

And then from Fort Polk?

George Veldman:

Fort Polk? At that point, when I was in Fort Polk, they came through and wanted to know if we wanted to take a test for NCO school-Non-Commissioned Officer School at Fort Benning-once again that was a 14-week training. And so I took the test and passed that. And I guess basically I did that because I knew ultimately I was going to Vietnam anyway, so this was more of a delay-tactic type, know to be honest with you, it just to get through the whole training. So if I spent one year in the United States, one year in Vietnam, when I got out, I'd be out, instead of a lot of-if you had six months to go after your tour of Vietnam, they'd send you back to Vietnam-I mean they'd send you back to the United States and you'd serve in one of these basic training units or something like that. I didn't care to do that, so I figured the more training I could get, I would take that. So I went through all the training at Fort Polk, basic and infantry training, and then we went to Fort Benning, Georgia.

Wallace Erichsen:

And you spent how long there?

George Veldman:

About 14 weeks there. That was really good training, in Fort Benning. They, once again, they were teaching you to be a leader, because you are now going to be in a position where you're going to lead troops and technically into combat. So, we went through some of the same physical-type training again, but it was a lot more leadership training. A lot of the day-to-day activity was making decisions. In a certain environment-if you were put in this predicament, you know if you had fire incoming fire or something like that, what would you do, how would you get out of this, or how would you handle that type of situation. So they'd do a lot of that day-to-day training, and then every couple weeks they'd put us in an environment out in the base somewhere where they had actually people dressed up like NVA [North Vietnamese Army] or Viet Cong, and you would handle the situation. And then when it was over, they would evaluate it- what did we do right, what did we do wrong, and then critique us on that, and then, you know if it was really not up to what it should have been, re-do that part of that training again. So basically that's what it was. Once again we went through the basic, almost like a Drill Sergeant-type of training so we had to move troops. So each one of us got to head up-be a squad leader, and then we d be a company commander for a couple-three days, so just once again in training. But everything was geared towards leading people, particularly into combat.

Wallace Erichsen:

When you graduated from that then, were you promoted?

George Veldman:

That wasn't when you were promoted to a Corporal.

Wallace Erichsen:

To Corporal, I see.

George Veldman:

So then at the end of that training- and that was just not a given. When you went to that school, I believe about a quarter of the class didn't graduate. And you were tested, you had written tests and what they were observing. It just wasn't automatic, that when you graduated 14 weeks you d be a Corporal And then some of them dropped out, some people didn't want to do it; they didn't like that type of training. And they hadn't forgotten you anyhow; so if you dropped out it would just be a matter of they'd cut your orders and you'd be going to Vietnam. So when I graduated from there as a Corporal, then we were sent back to Fort Polk, Louisiana again and in which case, then I was in charge of the squad of people coming from basic training into AIT [Advanced Infantry Training], to lead them through 14 weeks of training there, and so I had 20- I believe like 25 or 27 people in the squad and so every day we'd do the training- we'd do the training with them. Observing once again what they're doing, and critiquing them and we made sure discipline stayed normal-type of procedures. They're going through training but we'd oversee their training, and given that we'd gone through Fort Polk once already and Fort Benning, and then back there again, we could point out and help the instructors and things like that.

Wallace Erichsen:

How long did you spend at Fort Polk the second time?

George Veldman:

Another 14 weeks again.

Wallace Erichsen:

And then from there where did you go?

George Veldman:

I ultimately ended up in Vietnam. You get leave after that, but-

Wallace Erichsen:

Were you home on leave for 30 days or less? Or more?

George Veldman:

Ah, More, [laughter]

Wallace Erichsen:

Okay George, again, where did you go after Fort Polk?

George Veldman:

Well then they gave you 30 days leave of absence, but just to kind of fill in a little bit here that 30 days leave of absence ended I believe around the 15th of December, which would have meant that I was going to have to go to Vietnam just a few days before Christmas. And there was three of us from the Detroit area that when we left Fort Polk all agreed we weren't going to Vietnam a week or so before Christmas-that we would stay in the Detroit area, stay with our families, and then leave shortly thereafter. Of the three of us two of us did exactly that; one of the other fellows broke his leg skiing while he was home. I have no idea what happened, but obviously he was somewhat delayed. So I didn't leave until the 27th of December, which technically made me AWOL for a number of days, so when I reported in to Oakland, California-that was the transfer station for Vietnam, we were given Article 15 s [Non-Judicial Punishment, Article 15, Manual for Courts Martial], which is like a slap on the wrist; I had to make up the days I was AWOL and a 50 dollar fine. So, but given that it was Christmas time and the impact that it was going to have on the family, none of that mattered-being home with the family was more important.

Wallace Erichsen:

Was that where they held the Article 15 Non-Judicial Punishment hearing, was that Oakland?

George Veldman:

Yes, that was in Oakland, California.

Wallace Erichsen:

Were there a few others that had done the same thing?

George Veldman:

There were probably about-well, there was a number of us that were there. They took us in a room at least seven at a time, and out of that seven there was only one person that had a legitimate excuse no to be there; his wife had a baby, and they understood that. The other six of us were in the same boat that I was - they just weren't going to report a few days before Christmas.

Wallace Erichsen:

George what did your parents think about your AWOL?

George Veldman:

Well, nobody knew at all- none of my brothers or my parents knew at all, about this being AWOL. My dad was pretty strict, by the rules, and obviously he would not have appreciated the fact that I did hat. So they didn't know about it until after I got out of the service and I had some papers in my folder that- my mother one day was going through it, and came across this deal that I was AWOL or a number of days And I remember she called me at work even, to question what in the world was I doing, what did I do and I told her well I had to be home for Christmas, and I wanted to be home for Christmas and I was out of the service and it didn't matter any more. But she was just surprised, and we laughed about it after it. But I mean your family is the most important thing you can have and if you knew my mother, she was a tremendous worrier and that would have literally, I think, destroyed her knowing that I was going to Christmas just a week before-l mean, going to Vietnam just a week before Christmas, so it was worth it to make that decision.

Wallace Erichsen:

And she and your father also felt-

George Veldman:

Well they talked about it but I mean I was out- out of the service at that point, so nothing could ever happen. I mean, I did the time- I had to make up the days, and like I said the 50-dollar fine, they just deduct that from your pay, so it was very insignificant in the whole thing.

Wallace Erichsen:

Like you said, it was a parking ticket.

George Veldman:

Almost like a parking ticket. No points.

Wallace Erichsen:

Now George, from Oakland, California, how did you get to Vietnam?

George Veldman:

We flew. I was in Oakland because of this AWOL situation probably three or four days longer than what probably would normally be. But once that was done and they got the orders and they assign you to a flight and we flew from Oakland, California to Hawaii. They refueled the plane in Hawaii, and then from Hawaii it was supposed to go all the way over to Vietnam, but there was-that was January, and there was some big storms or something going on over in that area at that time of year, and so we actually flew into the Philippines, and we stayed there probably eight to 10 hours waiting for the weather to clear. And they let us off the plane, obviously, but we couldn't get off the base-we couldn't leave the base, but we had to stay in the immediate, but at least we could walk around, because that's such a long plane ride. So we stayed in the Philippines a good eight to 10 hours, and then we flew into Tan So'n Nhat Air Force Base.

Wallace Erichsen:

This was a commercial airliner you flew?

George Veldman:

Yes, Northwest.

Wallace Erichsen:

Northwest.

George Veldman:

And that's another little story here, I remember soldiers used to look up in the sky and see that red- tailed plane, that was Northwest. But we flew Northwest Airlines. Both in and out.

Wallace Erichsen:

So exactly where did you enter Vietnam then, where did you land? At Da Nang?

George Veldman:

Yeah well, no. I flew into Saigon at Tan So'n Nhat Air Force Base. Then we spent two or three days like in- I don't want to say indoctrination, but kind of indoctrination about the country, what to expect. This is your first real experience- at night we could hear artillery, you could hear gunfire, you could hear the bombs going off at night. So you're sort of getting the feel for everything, it was training; now it's for real and these are real situations going on, even though you're on a big base like that Air Force base was but you were starting to get a good feel for "this is real now." So really about three days, then they assigned you you got your orders to wherever you were going to be dispatched from there. And in my case I was assigned to the Americal division, which worked out of Da Nang, so they boarded us on some type of prop plane, I don't remember what the numbers of those were, but they flew us up to Da Nang. So we got to Da Nang, we were there once again for a day or so just kind of a little more indoctrination of now you're getting closer to the actual situation- the actual combat situation. So we would- a couple, three days of just there, but once again you hear a lot more of the gunfire, you could see a lot more of the jets take off, the helicopters leaving every day. And then from there we were assigned to the company, and I was assigned to the 11th Infantry Brigade, Company C, which, when I left Da Nang, and there were four of us on that helicopter, they actually flew us right into a combat situation. When the helicopter landed the Lieutenant, I don't remember his name but it was one of the Lieutenants there, actually knocked us down because they were shooting at the helicopter. When that helicopter came down they were shooting at it. So he knocked us down- our company was surrounding a village, I don't remember the name of it, but it was actually surrounding a village and in there was NVA soldiers, and they had been there a couple days in the firefight, and that's what we were replacing troops- the ones that had been wounded or killed.

Wallace Erichsen:

I assume you had been issued rifles and combat gear back in- when you left Da Nang?

George Veldman:

Right. When we left Da Nang, we were given everything at that point- our backpack and the basic essentials you went into combat with; the poncho liners and some ammunition and rifles and things like that but the other stuff you picked up along the way. But when that helicopter hit it really didn't hit the ground- it kind of got down to the ground and we jumped off the thing. They literally knocked us down because they were firing at that thing when he took off out of there; they were shooting at it.

Wallace Erichsen:

Was your job assignment as a squad leader right away?

George Veldman:

Squad leader, as a Sergeant. I met- I don't remember names, but I met the company commander, the Captain for that group and he got me over to an area and he said, "These are your six, six or seven guys." The medic, once again, traveled with- whatever reason that I was there, so we had the medic with us also in our squad. And so, from that, you're brand new, to be honest with you the best way I ever learned was to listen to them. They were in combat; I'm new, even with the training, but just listen to what they were doing and how things transpired and what was expected. I had no idea, I mean they've surrounded a village, and we were there for I bet you three or four days before we even went into the village, and there was that much fire coming out of it and us going in and during the day they would shoot artillery into the place. The jets bomb runs run through the place, but yet they kept on shooting at us, so we just stayed there. And finally there was enough cause, I guess, or they felt there was enough- comfortable enough to move through that village and when we did there was no resistance at all. Obviously there was a lot of dead NVA- this was NVA, and then too, Viet Cong- a lot of dead NVA and a lot of weapons. And for me it was a brand new experience to see the first dead bodies we'd come across and, to get a little morbid, they'd been in 95 degree temperatures for three or four days, so it was a little messy at that point. But we destroyed all their weapons, every weapon we could find we destroyed them. So it was welcome to the real combat right from the get-go.

Wallace Erichsen:

George when did you arrive in- in-country, in Vietnam? Month and year?

George Veldman:

Probably, I think it was January 5th, January 4th 1969 is the actual date I hit Tan So'n Nhat. I don't remember the days, each one was two or three days there, two or three days in Da Nang, and then at the other place. But probably by the middle of January I was with my squad at that point.

Wallace Erichsen:

And that was near Landing Zone Cork, is that right?

George Veldman:

At that point, I didn't know it but it was, because the fire base we worked out of was called LZ Cork, and I believe it was a NVA infantry headquarters before the American troops took the thing over. So we- but that was our base of operation, we worked out of that. We would go out into the jungle about 10 days at a time and we would go back up into the base camp at Cork Landing Zone for about ten days. That's kind of just to give you a little break so you could sleep, not dig in the trench every night. So that was kind of the mode of operation, about 10 days in, 10 days out, that type of thing. Through that period of time- about a month in they took us back up to Da Nang one time for three or four days just to give us a break, and then one time they took us back to Due Pho, which was the headquarters there for three or four days just to get a break, they flew us back in just to get a break.

Wallace Erichsen:

George, every time you went out did you encounter hostile fire?

George Veldman:

Most of the time we encountered hostile fire. Once again the area around Due Pho and our firebase was all mountains, it was very high mountains, very high mountains, very heavy jungle. So every time we would go out we'd get a lot of sniper-type activity until towards the end we actually went into a big combat situation, most of it was just sniping, we'd be sniped at. Basically our operation from there was search and destroy; we'd come across these small villages, and basically they wanted these citizens of these small villages to move back into the big base camps so they could be protected, because at night the NVA soldiers would come in there and take their food, whatever they wanted to do in those villages. So it was basically to get these people, make sure there was nobody NVA or Viet Cong in these villages and get the actual people who lived there out of those villages. So quite often we would end up destroying the villages. Going into those villages, many times we'd come into sniper fire, so most of the time we would go out, we would encounter at least sniper fire. That was a very strong Viet Cong area, not NVA area. We were a little bit south and to the east more, towards the water, towards the South China Sea I should say. So it was more Viet Cong than actual NVA soldiers except for that base camp we were at when I first went in. That was the only other time that I think I actually saw NVA garb or those types of weapons. They all had the AK-47s, but basically we were encountering Viet Cong or snipers. And occasionally the snipers, Wally, a lot of times it was the women in the villages [that were sniping] because they despised American troops as much as the other people didn't, the North Vietnamese or the Viet Cong, or their husbands were Viet Cong any which way. So a lot of the times when we would go in those villages it would actually be- the women would be the ones who were doing the shooting.

Wallace Erichsen:

Did you encounter caches of weapons, ammunition, rice, supplies, and military supplies?

George Veldman:

I personally never saw a cache of weapons. We'd come across a number of situations where they had the rice, where we'd just stumble across it or there was whatever information we had to tell us it was in that area, but never a cache of weapons.

Wallace Erichsen:

Do you think the food was being used by the NVA or the Viet Cong?

George Veldman:

Yes, obviously it's not stored in bags or anything like that, it would be like taking a front-end loader of rice and just dumping it. There would be a big pile of rice just in the middle of nowhere; you'd come across it. So in their plans, their strategic, whatever maneuvers they had, they would put rice for them to eat, and obviously they were eating rice. We would destroy it, we would either put C-4 type of explosives on it or something just to scatter it-

Wallace Erichsen:

Petrol on it?

George Veldman:

Yes, right, well, being infantry we didn't have much petrol-type stuff, but just a hand grenade, just to blow it up and get it scattered all over the place so they couldn't eat it anymore.

Wallace Erichsen:

George did you have support from gun ships, helicopter gun ships, or artillery, or air cover?

George Veldman:

That was one thing that I have to say, and I've obviously talked with a lot of other Vietnam veterans and stuff like that, we seemed to be able to get gun ships whenever we wanted. So the 11th Infantry Brigade did an excellent job, if we called in, we got it; and we used them all the time, particularly the gun ships, the Cobras and the actually Huey helicopters with the door-gunners on them. If we'd come into a situation like that village the first day I was there where they'd call in air strikes, that was the higher rank-type person, you had to have somebody of a higher rank to be calling in air strikes. But we- as a Sergeant I could call in helicopters, and we'd get them, and we'd get them very quickly. They moved with us so if we'd come across a situation where we may be getting some type of incoming fire to us or on us, we would call in gun ships. And obviously up above they could tell us what we were heading for- area, the terrain, or if there's a village or whatever. So we had-we used them a lot, and they were with us a lot, we were really fortunate.

Wallace Erichsen:

Where there many casualties in your unit, George?

George Veldman:

Not at first The first month-February, probably pretty much through February I don't think we had any casualties from combat. We had some from malaria; people weren't taking their pills or whatever they were supposed to do. We had some people just get hurt- infections, feet, not taking care of their properly- hygiene, where they would get so infected, their feet would get so bad that they would take them back, so until February, basically nothing really happened. Starting in March is when we really started for whatever reason, put us in a situation where we started running into a lot more incoming- we were running into more Viet Cong. We did one time run into more NVA soldiers. We called in the morning they took us out on the-to LZ, a hot LZ with the helicopters and we were encountering very strong gun fire- once again rifle fire from, these were all NVA and by the time that day ended we came across probably seven or eight NVA soldiers that had been killed. Once again destroyed all their weapons, we don't do anything with the bodies; just leave them there. But that was he only other time we ran into an organized group. But until that point we'd never had any casualties. In March, we started picking up-l don't believe that anybody was killed. We had a few people get hit, wounded, but at that point even through March once again there was nobody actually killed until-

Wallace Erichsen:

Were these NVA that were moving into the area, is that what- ?

George Veldman:

Well it must have been because- it must have been more NVA in that area, but it seemed like everything that we'd come across would be the Viet Cong again, if d be the un-uniformed, disorganized, you know, just a few people.

Wallace Erichsen:

Militia-type.

George Veldman:

Yes right there you go. So that was more- once again, we're still running in more of the sniper fire, and we'd go out on patrols and you are almost not going to see them, you could, if I remember correctly Wally that technically there shouldn't be a male in a village between it was like 13 or 14 years old and 40 years old whatever a 40 year old Vietnamese person looked like, but there shouldn't be any male in there because they should be in the South Vietnamese Army unless there was something wrong with them. So we'd be in these villages-always it was women and kids, but then once in a while you'd go in these villages and there'd be a brand new baby, so obviously there had to be a male around there somewhere, and hiding. And when you went into these villages, that's what we had to look out for, because they had tunnels and every village had tunnels. To get them out of those tunnels, if they were in the tunnels, basically if we found the hole, we dropped a grenade in, and that was our mode of operation. And if there was enough incoming fire-sniper fire from them, those villages, we would literally burn the village down. They gave us a cigarette lighter with the 11th Infantry Brigade emblem on it, and it was something to the effect of that's what you used it for was to burn down villages. But if there was a hole in the ground we dropped a grenade in it.

Wallace Erichsen:

Now these villages were they abandoned on the surface as far as people living in them during the day?

George Veldman:

These were occupied villages. There'd be women and kids in these villages and the water buffaloes and chickens.

Wallace Erichsen:

Would they move to a rural area though, or back to the cities?

George Veldman:

Well we tried to move them into these refugee camps- I'm sorry, I guess that's the only word I can remember to use for it- where they'd be safer, but they didn't want to leave. It'd be like somebody coming into your house and telling you to leave because it's for your own good, but they didn't want to leave they didn't understand, they couldn't speak English. But yet you knew something was going on- there was some type of activity, because these women couldn't run these villages all by themselves there had to be some males around there. Either working at night or whatever they were doing, but there had to be males in those areas. Many times we would get them out of these holes and at that point we d call a helicopter and they'd take them back into- I mean I don't want to say POW, but they would just take them back into the area where they would be interned, where they would interrogate them and things like that, but there shouldn't be any male-a number of times we'd find a male and then we d just take them back, call a helicopter and take them out.

Wallace Erichsen:

Would they return then, from the resettlement or refugee villages? Would they walk back on their own?

George Veldman:

I don't know that, Wally. I don't know that, because once again I have to believe that if there in that age where they should be in the service they're probably a draft dodger or for some reason they didn't do it So I never went back to another, a same-we never went back to a same village twice in the time, the four and a half months I was there; it was always a different village. They'd give you your orders when you'd leave the LZ, "this is the area you're going to work in and this is the villages that are out there, and go check out these villages."

Wallace Erichsen:

George, did you have any Vietnamese interpreters with you, either South Vietnamese Army personnel or - ?

George Veldman:

Okay well basically once again we worked out of this LZ Cork, which was a mountain top, a very large mountaintop, and there'd always be two or three helicopters sitting up there at night and basically we'd pull guard duty. You could at least get a warm meal there at night, so when we were back at the LZ we were assured at least of getting a warm meal, where as when you're out on patrol you were eating C- rations and things like that; so this was kind of a morale thing. To back up, during the day you always had to have somebody pulling guard duty on the LZ but you didn't need 27 of how many people up there, maybe 30 or 40 people, so you'd rotate guard duty, somebody was always sitting there very relaxed. This LZ Cork like I said was once NVA infantry battalion or whatever was up there. And off the-of this particular mountain top there was like a finger that went off to the side of it and it kind of narrowed down to a point. And while the Americal- Americal Division 11th Infantry Brigade was up there, a number of times that point would get overrun and a number of casualties, obviously a number of deaths were encountered So while we were there one time they decided to close that finger off. We destroyed all the booby traps and all of the other stuff that was out there and then we built a great big bunker at the end, this was back on a mountain top, so you're closer to a circle I should say, and we built a great big bunker, I think it took about maybe four or five days to build this thing; all sandbags and wood and then you had your gun ports for night fire so you could see and you had all your machine guns and all those type of weapons with you, and you could actually sleep in this thing too. So we built that in one of our stays there and that was probably early April at that point, Wally, and we left there because our time was up and to go back out into the jungle and the next squad moved back in there, and that first night that we left that fire base and our bunker, the NVA overran that bunker and killed, I believe it was four soldiers who had been sleeping in that thing. So obviously it was a very real threat, even while we were building that. And obviously they were watching it, and I believe from our standpoint any time you make a change you're kind of more relaxed, you're not set up so the best time to overrun it would be in a change, whereas we were set, knew what was going on, so the first night they're probably kind of getting acclimated to what was going on and they just overran that. They didn't get any further into the base than just that bunker, because the rest of the troops that were there fought them off, and I don't know if they were killed or what happened to those guys.

Wallace Erichsen:

The bunker was out on this finger, is that right?

George Veldman:

Well no, we'd closed the finger down, this would be the perimeter, where we kind of more had a circle now, but this bunker was facing that finger. And so we set up- even for us we had a lot of booby traps out there and they still, they were there because you just took the detonator off them in the daytime. But a lot of- we protected that with claymore mines, which are detonators. So there were a lot of claymore mines, they had tear gas; they had all kinds of stuff on that finger, because that was such a threat to getting back up into that main perimeter of the LZ. So that was a very tragic thing for something we built and then the next day it had- I think you could sleep four people in it, all four were killed in that thing.

Wallace Erichsen:

So, many casualties there.

George Veldman:

So from that, moving into early April it seemed to be intensifying again. [Tape stops, starts]

George Veldman:

Okay, one of the interesting things, and we didn't know about it until actually I was back in the United States. In the Americal Division during Tet of 1968 was in the My Lai massacre, and in Tet of 1969 we were back in My Lai. As a whole company we set up a perimeter around My Lai- couldn't figure out why we were there. We were there about- at least seven-eight days of really very little activity, of just protecting a village and we didn't know why. We knew it was My Lai, but we didn't know the story of what happened the year before with the massacre of Captain Galley and the other people involved with that. So it was very interesting for us to be in that village. Obviously the residents weren't overly excited about us being there, but we weren't a threat to them. They told us not to go into the village; towards the end many days- we actually did go into the village one day and talk to some of the people. Every day though we'd have the kids- the little kids from the village come out to see us. That was a good indication of what was going on. So if you had children around you, you knew you probably weren't going to be attacked because through their own internal network of knowing- of threats, if something was going to happen they would pull the kids back into their village. So every day the kids would come out and spend the day with us, and we had pop, they used to get the coke and things like that and candy. So we had the kids with us most of the day, which was kind of a comfort level - that was something that was taught to us as "if the kids are with you, you should feel a little bit safer than if they don't come out." And I remember one day they didn't come out one morning and we kind of put ourselves on alert - I don't know why they didn't come out but that afternoon they were back, so I don't know what happened- we never did know what happened, but when they didn't show up that morning I know we put our guard up, but nothing happened. But it was very interesting to read about all of that and hear about that after, particularly when we got back in the United States when things were going on with that division.

Wallace Erichsen:

So really, George, your unit was providing sort of a guard service for the village at that time?

George Veldman:

Yes, I think it was strictly a guard service. I don't know if we were protecting them from the NVA or if they were upset or if they were going to do something, I don't know, we never- we weren't watching the people in My Lai; we had our backs to them. We never felt threatened by them, but we were actually protecting them in case, I guess, if the NVA decided to come through My Lai or cause havoc in there again, but nothing happened at all, nothing.

Wallace Erichsen:

So this was just an extra precaution during early Tet, the time of Tet, 1969?

George Veldman:

It had to be-it had to be during Tet of '68-'69 now, it just had to be extra protection. They flew us in there that was kind of an area a little bit away from where our normal- where we were that firebase. They actually flew us in a helicopter and took us back out in a helicopter; so it was kind of out of our normal patrol area to go up into My Lai, but we were there.

Wallace Erichsen:

I see. George what did you do-what type of things did your unit do when you went on patrol?

George Veldman:

Basically- obviously there was orders given to the officers to patrol certain areas. It was a very heavy jungle, many of the areas once again were covered; so the sun wouldn't even come through some of the areas and the jungle was so thick. For us to move was very difficult, once again it was up and down hills and mountains, everything we did was in the mountains. There was no way to get around them you'd go up over top of them and back down the other side. Lots of times we d use machetes to cut our way through these, and ultimately it was going to usually a village, once again. Basically it a ways seemed like we were ending up at some type of village along the way. But the patrol basically was to search and destroy, that's basically what it was. It was just to find activity-some type of activity that could obviously interfere or hurt American troops. A couple times we actually made-our patrols would end up right at the South China Sea, where we spent- we'd set up a perimeter, and it was difficult to be on the sand and kind of open, but we did, and we'd go swimming. We'd go swimming in the South China Sea and you know, kind of a break-in all kinds of situations you've got to find the best, a little bit of levity or a little bit of comfort in something, you can't stay in that stress all the time. So if you could find a break or make a break you'd make the best of it. A very interesting story there too, when we were in that, by the ocean, the South China Sea there, the New Jersey, the USS New Jersey-

Wallace Erichsen:

Battleship-

George Veldman:

Battleship New Jersey was offshore from there, and it would shoot it's- I don't know how big they were- 12 or 16 inch guns that they had-and they would shoot those projectiles, they'd actually go over top of us. And they always said it sounded like a freight train; it sounded like a freight tram.

Wallace Erichsen:

I was going to ask you what it sounded like.

George Veldman:

It sounded like a freight train. It was unbelievable, this thing was flying through the air, heading in the country somewhere, a long ways into the country, but-

Wallace Erichsen:

A big chunk of metal.

George Veldman:

A big chunk of metal, the size of a Volkswagen, they always said, flying through the air, but we could hear it, we could actually hear those projectiles going over top of us, and you could hear the guns off of the sea, and they would shoot in, so-

Wallace Erichsen:

Could you see the ship out at sea?

George Veldman:

No you could hear it, you could hear the gun shot, or whatever they called it from the ship, but no, we couldn't see the ship, it was far, it was far enough off that you couldn't see it, but we could actually hear the projectile go over top of us as it's going inland. So both times that we were there, both times the New Jersey was firing.

Wallace Erichsen:

You just hoped they had their range right.

George Veldman:

You better hope they had their range right [laughter] that would have been wild. No, but that was a very interesting situation, to have that. But the rest of the time we were back in the jungle. It didn't take very long for us to get back into the jungle.

Wallace Erichsen:

Were you out for several days on these patrols, or - ?

George Veldman:

Basically we would go about ten days at a time. We'd go out ten days and then back up to firebase for ten days and then one time they took us back to Da Nang for three days, and that was just like- don't want to say R and R, but it was basically just to get us out of the jungle, just to give you a break and get you out.

Wallace Erichsen:

George did you have to carry your own ammunition and food for the entire ten days, or were you- supplied by the-

George Veldman:

No we, well we were re-supplied but we carried, when we left the firebase we were full-supplied and basically the squad, you had one machine gun, you had a radio, as I was a Sergeant, and then the rest of them were just carrying their own ammunition, carrying your own food, and then everybody carried a couple belts of the machine gun ammunition because obviously you used it so fast. So weight was a factor given the very extreme temperatures and the humidity, but you had to protect yourself so you d carry that We would get re-supplied, the food basically was C-rations, and that was all canned food, there were little bags of the toiletry-type stuff, but it was all canned foods. Basically they were very creative with the C-rations, there were some of them- nobody ever ate the ham and lima beans, I don't think anybody ate ham and lima beans.

Wallace Erichsen:

What was your favorite?

George Veldman:

It was the pork, because if one of the cans had bread in it we'd make a pizza. And once again; a very creative way of cooking. For fuel, C-4 was a plastic explosive, almost like a modeling clay-type of- we'd use that for blowing up bombs that we came across, bombs that weren't detonated, shells that weren't detonated, put a C-4 in there, took a blasting cap, so we'd use C-4 as a fuel, and it burned very hot; it was almost like Sterno.

Wallace Erichsen:

You'd just light a match to it, right?

George Veldman:

Light a match to it, but you didn't want to stomp it to put it out because it would detonate.

Wallace Erichsen:

You'd lose your foot.

George Veldman:

But we did use- and it had a very low flame, it was almost like a- very much like Sterno, it was almost an invisible flame because at night, sometimes, it would get dark early, obviously, to make coffee or hot chocolate or something like that, they would dig a hole and put some of that in the bottom of it, and you could have a fire and not be detected that you were in that area, and the flame would stay in the ground, very hot flame.

Wallace Erichsen:

It really didn't smell did it, compared to the heat tabs that you had?

George Veldman:

No, not at all, it didn't smell at all, we used C-4 all the time. Part of the- because when the re-supply helicopters would come in for us they would bring four or five days worth of supplies to you, and that was a problem because you have to carry this, and nobody wanted to carry all of these C-rations. So basically we'd open it up and there was fruits and things like that, but the stuff that nobody ever ate, we would bust those open and just, in essence, destroy them. They would bring in more ammunition than we ever wanted sometimes, and it was very heavy, a hand grenade weighs one pound or 16 ounces, I think a hand grenade is. So they'd bring in a whole case of those, and by the time we'd distributed those then you could be carrying four or five extra pounds. We always found a reason to get rid of some of those hand grenades just because there was too many to carry. Every pound counted when you were carrying your backpack and things like that, but the bullets and things like that we'd-obviously for the rifles we carried and kept those. But some of the stuff we could get rid of we tried to get rid of it, basically any time we'd come across a village sometimes there was a little hole in the ground we d throw a hand grenade in it just to get rid of the hand grenade. But if there was one hole in there was always one hole out, and you had to be cautious of who was at the other end of- make sure one of your own squad members weren't at the other end of that hole so we'd always yell "fire in the hole" or something like that and we'd throw that grenade in. I know one time we killed a number of people in those type of situations, when people were hiding in those holes, because you could tell what happened when that thing would go off. So you never could tell because they were hiding in the ground, they were small people and they were hiding in the ground all the time, so they could come up right behind you as you're walking your patrols. Once again patrols you had to watch, and your training was not to walk down clearly marked or what looked like very well traveled trails because they could be booby-trapped. But many times that was the only way to go, and I think just like anybody else, if you were trying to find an easy way to move you would be cautious around those, but you would move down actual trails, and we did come across booby-trapped trails, we'd come across-

Wallace Erichsen:

Did you take any casualties at all from booby-traps?

George Veldman:

Not while I was there, not till towards the end. But no, at that point; still being very cautious. Strange things we'd come across, we came across a skull one time, and that skull was booby-trapped. Obviously that'd be something you'd want to pick up or move, or just out of curiosity like the skull lying there, but on close examination we'd come across a thing, the skull was booby-trapped.

Wallace Erichsen:

What were they using to booby-trap it with? Artillery- American artillery rounds, or-

George Veldman:

Well, yes, they were using- it looked like a lot of our type of stuff. It was small anti-personnel type, you know we had anti-personnel things and they were using our anti-personnel concussion, or step-on type things or something like a hand grenade, take the pin off and leave the- push the skull down on top of the thing, that's what this one was. So you'd have a hand grenade, and I'm not sure what the North Vietnamese- what type of a Russian or whatever- I don't think I've ever come across one of their hand grenades or whatever they called it, but this particular skull had a hand grenade in it. And so what they did is they- we got everybody out of the area and we put some C-4 on it with a blasting cap, and then blew it up, and then obviously had the secondary explosion with that whole thing blew. So we had to be very cautious and that was one of the things that in our training, we were told, "out of curiosity, don't touch things." It would be obvious, so you used a lot of common sense over there and looked out for each other. [END SIDE ONE, BEGIN SIDE TWO]

Wallace Erichsen:

This is the beginning of side two of the interview with George Veldman. We're recording this on January 3, 2004. George, we were talking about patrols and how far you went out. Do you have anything else on that?

George Veldman:

No, basically, understand we were probably in about one click - a thousand meters a day, we never traveled much more than that. Every night we would dig some- I don't want to say a fox-hole, we would never get that deep, but just something to get in the ground a little bit. Obviously malaria was a big deal over there, mosquitoes; so you had all the protection for that type of stuff. We set up a base camp every night; we'd set up claymore mines around the perimeter. You had to make sure, and we'd do it through radio contact, that somebody was always awake in the complete perimeter, that was a problem once in a while, everybody would fall asleep and basically you'd be unprotected. So it was your own responsibility when you were up to make sure you'd get the next guy up because I don't know how far away from you, but just a little ways away from you that he's awake, at least somebody's always awake and somebody's always observing. But basically you'd sit for an hour and then you wake up your next person and then you'd sleep again and they would pull duty for an hour. So every night we would set up somewhere, obviously we called in our position back to headquarters so if they were doing any artillery or anything like that they knew we were in that area, so for our own protection.

Wallace Erichsen:

So this was a different base camp or different location every night, and then the next morning you'd wrap up your claymore mines and defensive weapons and

George Veldman:

Pick it all up and move on to the next-heading to wherever that destination was. Which once again was usually some type of village or activity that may have been in that area, somebody reported activity in that area NVA in that area, which, like I said, only twice in my time did we actually come across NVA. Basically' it was snipers, the real threat that we had was snipers. And given that the terrain was so heavy jungled snipers were a real problem for us.

Wallace Erichsen:

George, did you have Vietnamese interpreters with you?

George Veldman:

Towards-I was wounded April 20th [1969] there. The month of April we started seeing a lot more activity--we were getting a lot more sniper activity at us, we were coming across a lot more snipers, so a lot more of that type of activity-once again, talking about going to the village, they would take a male out of the village and what they'd do is they'd take them back to these base camps and interrogate them and try to get information about what was going on in that area. And basically I believe it was called Chieu Hoi [Vietnamese for "open arms;" a program whereby enemy soldiers could surrender without penalty, an enemy soldier who so surrendered], they would bring them, that person, back to the area that they found him in and basically they were supposedly telling you that there was either food, a cache-weapon caches down there, or in that area and then we'd go try to find them. So we did use those a couple, three times. I don't remember the results of the first two but the third one led to a rather unfortunate incident for our whole squad at that point. We were flown into an area with him, and basically there was a top of a mountain where the helicopter set down. We got out and basically he-the Chieu Hoi said at the bottom of that hill or mountain, there were weapons. And given that it didn't look like a very threatening environment at that point, the Lieutenant-we had a brand new Lieutenant come in the squad, basically he just sent one of the squads down there, which would be about seven or eight people.

Wallace Erichsen:

How far was this down, the bottom of the hill?

George Veldman:

It was- I don't know in feet, it was very steep, very heavy forestation; there was a trail going down, very thick forestation. I don't know in feet how high it was, but it was a long ways down. And so they sent the squad the rest of us just stayed up top of the hill and ten minutes or so into that, their decline down to that area we heard sniper fire and immediately we had radio reports that a couple of guys in the squad had been hit, they'd been sniped and-they'd been hit, the snipers had hit them, and they were obviously screaming for a medic, the medic traveled in my squad, but for whatever reason this officer didn't send my squad next, he sent another squad down, and they were moved very quick down the hill, and they got so far down and then they picked up sniper fire again, so now we had two squads down there separated, they never hooked up with each other absolutely, so now you had two squads of seven or eight troops separated and both of them had wounded people. And then they sent my squad, which at that point we were having some discussion up above that we should all go at the same time as opposed to separating any more of us but the Lieutenant chose not to- we went down, my squad, we got down so far, and then we started pick- because obviously we knew there was a lot of snipers in there, we started picking up sniper fire Nobody in my squad was hit at that point, but we were in radio contact with the two groups down And once again with the medic traveling with me, they're screaming for the medic, and we couldn't move And basically I told him not to go, to stay- we were talking with the officer up above and he s saving "no keep him with you, it's too dangerous to have him move down by himself, and we couldn't move because every time we tried to move they were shooting at us-there was a lot of in- a lot of fire coming in We were firing back, but the jungle at that point, I don't think we could see 15 feet in front of us We couldn't see anything; we didn't know where it was coming from. All I know is every time we moved they would-there were shots going over top our heads, because basically we were crawling down at that point, the hill. So as we tried to make contact with each other, we couldn't, we couldn't move. We were calling at that point-we had a number of gun ships because at that point we could not have been used bombs-we were too close to it. So we had these Cobra gun ships come in, and the Huey gun ships in, but they couldn't see anything either. But every time we moved, they were actually shooting at them too. It was such a heavy underground or growth there that nobody could see anything, so we basically didn't move, but the radio people on the first squad down there were screaming bloody murder that they had to have the medic and had to right away or somebody's going to die. So the medic was listening obviously to the radio we had, and he just jumped up and decided to head on down and he was killed instantly, just like you see in World War II movies and stuff like that, which was obviously very demoralizing to have him just- and the same thing, we couldn't get to him. Where we were at, because he did get a few steps in away from us, and his body was in the trail, and then they were telling us at the bottom, one of the troops in that first group had died and I believe there was one in the second one that was also dead. So the Lieutenant and that last squad group actually did get down to us, so we had two squads together, but we couldn't move. And we were probably pinned down, Wally, I bet you, it had to be four or five hours, we couldn't move. If we moved anywhere, they would shoot at us. And it didn't matter how many helicopters up above were striking the area there.

Wallace Erichsen:

How could you mark your position for the helicopters?

George Veldman:

They- they could just see us. They- the trail was enough that they could see us. Once again we didn't dare put smoke out, I mean that would just identify your position even more-

Wallace Erichsen:

Mark yourself for the enemy.

George Veldman:

So it was strictly just communication. We were talking, we were on their frequency; we were in constant contact with them. They were talking about- because the trail was pretty straight down so they knew what area we were in. It seemed like the sniper fire was lessening, and we don't know if the helicopters were hitting them or if they decided to move out of their position or whatever. But there was another helicopter that came in and basically was communication with- behind us. Oh I don't know, maybe four or five hundred yards behind us was a clearing and he was guiding each one of our squads back, you know they had the wounded, the dead we- at that point the dead were still where they were at, but the wounded and us, he was telling each squad how to get back to this clearing so we could get our reinforcements, get ourselves back together as a group and do what we had to do. And we did move back into these clearings, and it seemed like whatever happened to these snipers, and there had to be a fair amount of them in there, disappeared. But United States soldiers never left their dead, and so we were back there, and coming up to the evening basically amounted to "we have to go back and get these bodies back." And so we went back into the area and they had booby-trapped two of those bodies. Once again we suspected they would be booby-trapped, and they were booby-trapped. They had grenades underneath their bodies with the pins pulled and so they did, you know, kind of the guys who were more the specialists at detonating those type of things, they pulled the- they got the grenades out and they told us there's going to be some, you know, "you're going to hear grenades. And it's not incoming, it's them." And then we carried the bodies back to this clearing. [TAPE STOPS, STARTS]

Wallace Erichsen:

[Follow up interview with George Feldman on 05/08/2004] This is May 8th, 2004. We're continuing the conversation with George Veldman about his Vietnam U.S. Army experience. George, were you wounded in combat when you were in Vietnam?

George Veldman:

Yes Wally, I was wounded in Vietnam. Continuing with the story I was just reiterating there a minute ago, that evening we regrouped back- the rest of our squad or company regrouped back in a clearing for the evening, I believe in the morning we started out with, there was 27 of us; at that point I think between the dead and the wounded we were down to about 12 people left. We regrouped into a clearing, spent the night there, set up our perimeters and spent the night there. The next day they were coming in to pick us up, take us back into the base camp where we- we'd been minimized, and so that day we spent there and then that evening we moved to a spot where the helicopter was going to pick us up the next morning and we found a clearing on top of a hill. And I think in our instructions in training, as you may know, a clearing is something you shouldn't be necessarily going to, but it was the most convenient, and obviously we were a little tired and weary, so this looked like a good spot to spend the evening was this big clearing. As we moved up on the clearing, my squad led up that clearing, up to that clearing, and the- one of the men in my troop, in my squad, stepped on a booby-trap. And I really don't remember too much beyond that- I remember him mentioning- calling my name "Sarge," and I don't remember anything else after that. I did regain consciousness shortly thereafter I believe, because I regained consciousness while I was still there, before the helicopters got there to take us out. Lester was his name, Lester stepped on the booby-trap, and he ended up losing part of his leg. I did get to see him in the hospital in Da Nang before we both left there. So I received a lot of shrapnel wounds, basically my whole left side of my body, from my chest all the way down to my legs. We were medevaced out that evening to- back to Da Nang, to the hospital. Very interesting story there too, because if there's one booby-trap there could be two, and when the helicopters came in to- medevac helicopters came in to get us they wouldn't land because they had to be sure it was clear, because if they put those runners down and they hit another one and flipped one of those helicopters over it would have killed everybody up there. So actually what they ended up doing is they hovered right down above the ground, I remember that, and they lifted us up into the helicopter. So they took Les and I back to almost like one of those MASH units- the movie "MASH," and checked us both out because they didn't know how bad our wounds were. Obviously he was in worse shape than I was, but so him and I- I remember holding his I.V. bag, the medic had an I.V. in him, and they had one in me but mine was hanging up and they took us back to this MASH hospital for about, I don't know, the better part of an hour probably, where they worked on both of us, and then they flew us up to the big hospital in Da Nang. So that was the extent of my wounds, obviously, it was pretty bad for both of us, obviously worse for him than for me, but so that's-

Wallace Erichsen:

Do you remember the date when you were injured?

George Veldman:

Yes, it was April 19th, 1969. Sometime that evening, I don't know what time any more, but it was still daylight so it was in the evening, we were setting up for the perimeter for the evening, which was the plan, was set up the perimeter.

Wallace Erichsen:

How long were you in the hospital before you rejoined your unit?

George Veldman:

I never rejoined the unit.

Wallace Erichsen:

So you were medevaced out of the country, then?

George Veldman:

Right. After being in the hospital in Da Nang, I was there about 10 days, and then they flew us out. At that point they told me they were going to take me to Japan because the amount of injuries that I had and wounds, and the amount of infection- the infection rate in Vietnam, even in a hospital was pretty high that they wanted to get to a better hospital, so I stayed there about 10 days, then they flew us- we went down to Tan So'n Nhat, they flew us down there, and then they flew us over to- I was in Camp Zama, Japan for about 21 days I think it was.

Wallace Erichsen:

Now George I understand prior to this, the booby-trap wound, you had been wounded earlier.

George Veldman:

Yes Wally. I- I don't remember the exact time, probably early March we were on patrol, just kind of a routine day, and we hooked up with a bunch of APCs, Army Personnel Carriers, and just kind of hooked up with them for the day and just kind of hung out with them. There was nothing going on- anything special. And as it was coming up to the evening, they said they would pull guard duty for us, we didn't have to pull guard duty at all, they would take care of you guys the rest of the night. So they set the perimeter up, I believe- I believe they traveled in groups of six is my recollection, and then they were going to pull the guard duty for the evening. And then it being very warm, that is, they left the back doors on these APCs down, and then they slept on top of them more, pulled guard duty on top of them. But when they keyed their radio inside that APC, when they keyed the radio a red light comes on. And I when they keyed their radio inside that APC, when they keyed the radio a red light comes on. And I mean unbeknown to us and it didn't mean much to us, but obviously when it's pitch black and that's the only thing you see-

Wallace Erichsen:

The transmit light?

George Veldman:

Absolutely the transmit light. Obviously the Viet Cong or North Vietnamese or whoever's out there at that point were keying in on that red light, they knew there was something there, so they hit- they fired RPG you know Rocket Propelled Grenades, hit the backs of those APCs. We were sleeping just outside the back of those, and when it hit, obviously there was a fair amount of wounded, the people with the units of the APCs themselves, but shrapnel went everywhere and I got a small piece of shrapnel in the back of my right leg. And I didn't even really know that it was wounded at that point, until next morning and I realized there was a little blood down there. And they'd medevaced out the- the bad casualties, and the rest of us who were wounded a little bit, they wanted to keep us there. And then they happened to see that my pant leg was up and there was a little blood, so, you know, you've got to go back in so they flew us back in to a clinic. And I mean I've been wounded or hurt worse working on a car than I was there and I don't make light of that, but the fact is you're wounded you get a Purple Heart. So that was my first one - I was hoping that was going to be my only one, but obviously it wasn't, and the second one obviously was far worse and had greater impact.

Wallace Erichsen:

Okay, so you actually received two Purple Hearts.

George Veldman:

I have two Purple Hearts, yes. Purple Heart, with oak leaf cluster.

Wallace Erichsen:

Let's continue on then once you're- you've been medevaced out of Vietnam and you're in Camp Zama, Japan. How long were you there? George Veldman:: I was in Camp Zama 21 days. Basically recuperating, they didn't actually stitch me up until I got to Japan because the- and I don't remember the medical terms for it, but they actually left the wounds open and they packed them with antibiotics or whatever they put in it until I got to Japan and then at that point is where they actually stitched- did all the stitching up of all the wounds. And I do remember, and I don't remember the exact number, but I received over 400 stitches to put me- stitch all these wounds back together. So it took a few hours to do that, and it was getting, almost making light of it, they were getting bored with it and they had different nurses coming in and things like that, and just- one would leave, another would come and they'd just keep on going, but they put the painkillers or whatever on it so you don't feel it but most of the wounds were right down to the bone, and they would just started right from the bone and come back up and stitch them closed.

Wallace Erichsen:

Did you have any communication with your parents back at home at the time you were wounded?

George Veldman:

Well I did Wally. What happened was the Red Cross notifies the family, and when they got the- as a matter of fact they got my letter before the Red Cross contacted them. And I didn't go into great detail in my letter basically, if I remember correctly I basically stated that I was okay, that I'd been wounded, and didn't go into much detail, and so my mother somehow, being my mother, and the worrier that she was, and everybody that knows her, somehow between them they got through to the Red Cross and was able to make a call, and I was in Japan, to Camp Zama, Japan. So in the middle of the night Japan time, I get the call and the medic or somebody came and got me with a wheelchair, and it was her on the phone wanting to know if I was okay and what happened and things like that. I don't remember the time frame, but I think I had like five minutes I could talk to them, so I actually talked to my mother and dad, and I don't know I believe I talked to Dick too, my brother. But so I did have actual voice communication with them, but it was in Japan and that would be probably two or three weeks after all this happened but I was able to talk to them.

Wallace Erichsen:

I understand the neighbor of your parents in Highland Park had some connection with the military or--

George Veldman:

He was a VFW commander, World War II veteran; he had a lot of pull.

Wallace Erichsen:

Do you remember his name?

George Veldman:

Yes, it was George Washer. And he had a lot of pull with things too, so I don't know, I've never really asked my brother how that all came about, but somehow Ma got it- got a hold of him-

Wallace Erichsen:

Got to him and said, "I need to talk to my son."

George Veldman:

She wanted to know how we were doing here. So it was nice to talk to them a little bit, but given that you don't know what's going on, they were thinking the worst and obviously it wasn't that bad, but I was able just to talk to them and assure them that I was going okay.

Wallace Erichsen:

Okay. Moving on to Segment 4: Life in the Military, George how did you stay in touch with your family?

George Veldman:

Basically through letters. That's one thing that I believe the military pride themselves on, and that was important to receive letters. No matter where we were at, when they brought food in they always brought the mail with it, and so you always look forward to that.

Wallace Erichsen:

Even if the mail arrived by helicopter.

George Veldman:

It always came by helicopter. You got the mail, and I believe that was one of the main drives to keep troop morale up, was to get letters from home. So I would have letters from home from family, friends.

Wallace Erichsen:

How often did you get mail? Did you have any days, for instance, where you didn't get mail?

George Veldman:

No, no, it'd only be when the supplies- when they'd bring the supplies in, so maybe, at least once a week, possibly twice a week. Never more than twice a week, but usually about once a week, and that's basically whenever they'd bring the supplies in.

Wallace Erichsen:

And then would you have two or three letters at a time?

George Veldman:

Oh yes, there'd be a lot of them, there'd be a fair amount. We had people from- some family and friends and church, and just relatives so we had a- you'd get a bunch of them. Sometimes you'd get some and sometimes you'd get none, and then that was a tough day when you didn't get any and everybody else is opening up their mail and, so you'd get at least something. I know once in a while they would let them through, we'd get packages, little boxes and I remember Dick and Mom sending cookies and Kool-Aid, Dick would always send me Kool-Aid, because drinking the water with the salt tablets in it or that- whatever they put in those tablets for the anti- to purify the water, Dick would send over pre-sweetened Kool-Aid, at least take the flavor of that water out, particularly when you didn't have the running water so you had that water. But basically, letters, that was all the communication.

Wallace Erichsen:

Now your letters going back to the States, did you have to buy postage for those letters?

George Veldman:

No.

Wallace Erichsen:

How did that work?

George Veldman:

You know, honestly I don't remember. We had letters, we'd put them back, obviously the government to care of that because I believe actually- [Tape stops, starts]

Wallace Erichsen:

George how did you send mail home to the United States?

George Veldman:

Well, we had letters, they had some form letter that they would give us that we could write on, then we'd address it and the mail was free sent home, and I believe we wrote "Free" up in the top right corner where the postage would go, but that's, obviously we didn't need stamps or anything like that. But they encouraged us to write letters. When we had a break they, strongly, actually would try to make sure people would communicate back home, and that way you're getting letters back too, because like I said, mail was an important communication link back home, what was going on, so you could keep up with your family.

Wallace Erichsen:

And you were able to get some packages from your parents?

George Veldman:

Yes, I'd get some small boxes once in a while, like cookies and Kool-Aid- as I was saying, my brother Dick would send pre-sweetened Kool-Aid. And that was a life-saver because when you had the water that was stagnant and you put those iodine pills in it it tasted pretty funky, so the Kool-Aid killed the flavor. So I remember basically always having a couple packages of Kool-Aid, and I remember one time talking to- writing Dick and telling him "please send me Kool-Aid"-

Wallace Erichsen:

"keep sending the Kool-Aid"

George Veldman:

And he'd send the letter and there'd be Kool-Aid in it, and Ma would send it too. And I remember they sent cookies one time. [Tape stops, starts]

Wallace Erichsen:

George what kind of food did you have? Did you have C-rations?

George Veldman:

Yes, we had C-rations, particularly out in the field we had C-rations all the time. The only time we ever had actual real food was when we went back into the base camp or back up at Da Nang one time, but the rest it was always C-rations, we ate nothing but C-rations.

Wallace Erichsen:

So when you were back in Da Nang you'd eat in a mess hall?

George Veldman:

Right, we'd eat in a mess hall and back at the LZ Cork once in a while they would bring in hot meals and we would have that, but basically even there we had C-rations, so it was always C-rations.

Wallace Erichsen:

I'm going to ask you about your stomach. When you're on C-rations did it shrink up, and when you got a good regular hot meal you started eating too much?

George Veldman:

You get very creative with C-rations. The only one I remember everybody threw away was the ham and lima beans, and nobody I don't think-

Wallace Erichsen:

Well what do you mean, the Marines took those all the time!

George Veldman:

Well that's a Marine, but the Army didn't eat them. But the ham and lima beans nobody ate them. I remember obviously if you left them, they would eat them, you know, the enemy, so you took your bayonet and you punctured the cans just to make sure that- but nobody, I don't remember anybody eating the ham and lima beans. But beyond that, you got very creative; there was beef, there was bread, and we'd make pizza. To heat food up, and you know, C-4 is a plastic explosive and it bums very hot, the only thing you don't want to do is stomp it to put it out, so that would detonate it. But we would take pieces of C-4 and light it up and then that's how you'd heat the food. So you'd get pretty creative with that stuff so when the C-rations would come in, everybody would fight for the fruits and the pizza and the bread, or the beef and the bread and things like that. And that's where you got your other supplies too, you know, talking about toilet paper and things like that, that's where you got your toilet paper and matches, in the C-rations.

George Veldman:

There were spoons, there was a P-38, the can opener to open them - I think everybody kept one of those. But so that's how we basically for the four months I was there, other than probably a handful of times, I ate C-rations every day.

Wallace Erichsen:

I see, okay. How about supplies? You know, ammunition, beans and bullets, I guess, you know, and other supplies - were you able to get those in the field alright?

George Veldman:

Yes, that would be a demand-on-call depending on what type of activity we went through the days prior to that. But obviously you had to carry a certain amount of ammunition with you all the time. Given that we weren't" very far from the LZ or even from Da Nang really, honestly, when you needed supplies, particularly bullets, hand grenades, things like that, we'd get those. They would come in and just drop them off and we'd just move on to pick it up and carry everything you could. The problem was when they brought it in they'd bring lots of it, and being it's hot and you only want to carry a certain amount, the one thing that we would get rid of very quickly, everybody I believe carried at least two hand grenades - a hand grenade weighs one pound. So if they brought in and they had seven or eight of these things you didn't want seven or eight more pounds. We found a way to get rid of those, we always had two, everybody had two, we would find a reason to get rid of those other hand grenades.

Wallace Erichsen:

Reconnaissance by fire?

George Veldman:

Oh absolutely.

Wallace Erichsen:

Toss them as far as you could.

George Veldman:

Any hole in the ground was suspicious, just make sure everybody knew what you were doing, but hand grenades were very heavy when you think about the pounds. The bullets you had to have them, the machine guns, the M-16 machine guns, everybody carried some part of that, the bullets for those things, because obviously they're rapid fire.

Wallace Erichsen:

Did you have M-60 mortars with you at all?

George Veldman:

No no I carried the hand grenade- the grenade launcher- M-72 I believe. [Tape stops, starts] But I had a grenade launcher, and then I also had- it was called a LAAW- Light Anti-tank [Assault] Weapon, it was like a-

Wallace Erichsen:

A Bazooka.

George Veldman:

A Bazooka. I actually carried that also, it was a-

Wallace Erichsen:

So you had one LAAW per squad?

George Veldman:

In our squad there would be one of those, for whatever reason I had that one, and then we'd have a grenade launcher on an off night, basically and M-16. The grenade launcher we'd pass around different people. The same thing, even the shells for those weighed you know probably six, seven ounces, so when they brought a lot of those in- there's only a certain amount you can carry, it's a very mountainous area, Da Nang was extremely mountainous area, and you're going up and down those hills, obviously they're very heavy, and if you had to move fast you couldn't carry that much.

Wallace Erichsen:

George how did you handle stress and pressure when you were out in the field?

George Veldman:

I just- basically you didn't think about it through the day, it was more like night when you thought about the pressure of what happened. As the day was going on it just happened.

Wallace Erichsen:

Kind of replay the day through your memory?

George Veldman:

Right you think more of it through the night. But as the day went on obviously you'd get in situation that look like it could be a potential danger or problem, you know, obviously you feel the pressure, you're moving with your troops given the squad leader you're protecting your troops also but it didn't seem to happen until after Or even the day before if we knew we were going into a certain area you might think about what was going on but as it actually happened I never really thought too much at the moment what was going on it was more after it was over and reflecting, and obviously a lot of stress, a lot of pressure. Particularly as I mentioned before, I got wounded that night before and we had 15,17 people wounded, three of them killed, what happened, your friends, now you're probably never going to see them again. Even if they got wounded, you never saw them again. So that's when you'd reflect back on it, but through the day itself you just kind of went about your business.

Wallace Erichsen:

Pretty much kept busy, pushing ahead and kept going. Let me ask you about your faith and how that saw you through your time in Vietnam and time in service in entirety.

George Veldman:

Well I believe, truly believe that's why I could actually get through that place, was my faith in Christ. I accepted Christ as an eleven-year-old and raised in a Christian family, and basically all of our family was strong in the Christian faith, so going into Vietnam was obviously going to be a stressful time, and to back up, just aside here, just before I went to Vietnam I was home for Christmas that year, and I don't know if I mentioned that but my mother gave me a New Testament that had a steel plate in the front of it and that was going to get me through from her point of view. But, obviously a lot of prayers going for me, and you just had your faith in Christ that what was going to happen, it just happens. You have to have a strong faith there's no atheist in a foxhole, because I truly believe that you've got to have faith in something because any second something's going to happen to you and particularly in an environment where you really don't know what's going to happen from day to day. So I believe that faith had a great part of my life.

Wallace Erichsen:

It saw you through. How did you entertain yourselves, you and the troops when you were in the field particularly and even back in the rear area, back in Da Nang.

George Veldman:

Back in the rear area you could get to a PX, you could get to- you know, there were nightclubs; there was PX, officer's clubs and NCO clubs, things like that. Just relaxed, just take it easy. Out in the field it was a little bit different because you still had to pull guard duty. Irregardless of where you're at, you're still a potential target, so there really wasn't a lot of- a lot of talking, more, and it was just relating, you know, finding somebody who had something in common. Basically talking, somebody's always pulling guard duty, it has to- and once you set up, you had to have somebody pulling guard duty.

Wallace Erichsen:

Let me ask you, how did you work the guard duty? Was it so many hours on and you were off the rest of the night?

George Veldman:

We did it one hour on, and then they rotated. So basically through the night you'd probably only have to pull guard duty one time. But we rotated the times, every hour you'd increment it back one, so if it was 11 o'clock one night it would be 12 o'clock the next night, one o'clock the morning next. And then they kept in communication with the other people to make sure everybody stayed awake, that was the biggest thing because you were tired, and everybody had the small radios. And you couldn't talk on them because you'd hear, but they'd just keep clicking the radio. You'd click it twice and they expect the guy next to you should click it back once or twice and then go- keep clicking all the way around- if they're not clicking around you'd better go check and see, somebody's falling asleep.

Wallace Erichsen:

If they don't hear a click they might assume you're asleep.

George Veldman:

But given the perimeter you can't have somebody falling asleep on you, so it was critical to stay awake. But basically in the evenings it was just a lot of talk, we'd eat. You couldn't have a fire, and the people that smoked; once it got dark they couldn't smoke anymore because once again as with the back of that APC, the light- the lit end of the cigarette carries a long ways. So at night once it got dark nobody could smoke. If they did, and I've seen a couple times, they'd did a trench hole and then put the cigarette down in it and they'd put their face down and into the cigarette. And nobody seemed to have much problem with that; some people did smoke a lot. But basically, you know, there was no entertainment. I remember I had a- I did have a small transistor radio, and you could pick up the United States radio station [Armed Forces Radio] that was broadcasting there, and once in a while you'd listen to that. But once it got dark- started getting dark, you know you had to be quiet, and it was very quiet around there.

Wallace Erichsen:

Had to be vigilant for the enemy at that point.

George Veldman:

Right, I mean if they can hear you they can shoot at it, so you had to be very careful.

Wallace Erichsen:

George I understand in the four months that you were in-country in Vietnam you only got one three day R and R period back at Da Nang. What did you do during that period?

George Veldman:

Basically I did nothing. I watched a lot of- where we stayed, our barracks was right next to the air strip, and basically I remember just doing a lot of watching the fighter planes going in and out, heading out for their bomb runs and then coming back. Once again there was some NCO clubs and things like that we'd go to. There was a movie theatre, went to see a movie, I don't remember what it was, but we went to see a movie one night. But basically just relaxed, wrote a lot of letters, just caught up with, and just ate stuff that we couldn't get; ate a lot of junk food, candy bars, things like that that we didn't get. Just kind of very much relaxed, it was, and then the last day you're thinking well, you've got to go back, so you really- that part was a little bit rough.

Wallace Erichsen:

So your entire unit came out to Da Nang and then went back in the field.

George Veldman:

Our whole company was brought back in for that three days, and that was the only R- of my four months I was there that was the only R and R. Technically after six months- within the first six months you're supposed to get an R and R, and I had signed up to go to Australia, but I never quite made it that far, that would have been in June. I already saw the- if I had made it to June I would have gone to Australia, but that was all taken care of with the activity [being wounded and evacuated].

Wallace Erichsen:

Do you recall any particularly humorous or unusual event while you were in the service, particularly in Vietnam?

George Veldman:

No, honestly I don't remember too many humorous things, nothing that comes to the top of my head. I'm sure there were some things.

Wallace Erichsen:

Pranks that others had pulled on members of the unit?

George Veldman:

Well there were pranks, but I don't remember necessarily to go into detail, but yes, there was always something- you had to horse around, you had to keep your morale up. And you know, there was a lot of crazy talk, there was a fair amount of black guys from the Detroit area that was in the area, particularly in the company, and we'd talk and stuff. But basically in Vietnam it wasn't- I don't remember a lot of prank- type things that we did to each other. More so when we got to Korea, and more that type of stuff we saw that there. But there wasn't too much of that type pranks and stuff.

Wallace Erichsen:

I see. What did you think of your fellow soldiers, and also the officers in your unit as far as their intentions and background and training?

George Veldman:

You know, the guys you're with, the troops you're with, they're all great. I mean they're all in the same- you're all in the same boat together. You're there, you're looking out for each other, and you're protecting each other. They all had a job to do; they all wanted to go home. Really looked out for each other, they were great guys. There was two guys from Michigan, one I got kind of close to- he was from Newberry, Michigan, so we had a lot in common, at least in Michigan- we was in the Upper Peninsula, but we used to root for the Lions and you'd try to keep up with the- you'd get the Stars and Stripes Newspaper once in a while and at least keep up with the sports teams and what was going on. But he was from Michigan, so anyhow him and I kind of hung out a little bit to talk, but that's about it.

Wallace Erichsen:

I see. George after you were medevaced to Camp Zama, Japan, how long did you spend there?

George Veldman:

In Japan?

Wallace Erichsen:

In Japan.

George Veldman:

Well it was 21 days. I was air lifted to- from Da Nang, to Tan So'n Nhat, to Japan, that was all done on a c- military, Air Force hospital ships or whatever, I don't remember the numbers of those things. But I was in Japan 21 days - basically as I say it was all recuperation there.

Wallace Erichsen:

I see, and then from there you were transferred?

George Veldman:

I went to- [Tape stops, starts]

Wallace Erichsen:

George once you were somewhat recovered from your wounds at Camp Zama, Japan, where did you go from there?

George Veldman:

I was hoping to go home, [laughs] but in the Army's infinite wisdom, they chose to send me to Korea. I still to this day don't know why; I was a Sergeant and they said they needed some NCOs in Korea, and so they send me over to the 7th Infantry Division, which was up near the DMZ, but I was on light duty because of the wounds. So I was assigned to a company, and I don't remember the name or the number of the company right now, but it was the 7th Infantry Division, and basically the First Sergeant of that company had been to Vietnam twice and was going back for a third time, and felt that the fact that I was in Vietnam and nobody in Korea had ever been to Vietnam, that I shouldn't be with those people, he felt everybody in the world should be in Vietnam. So he found a private room, and he said "that's my room, and you can sit there for the next six months if that's what you want to do, or whatever you want to do." So basically for the first- at least the first month of that I did recuperating, I really couldn't do much, I was still- there were still stitches in me and they had to take some- even in Korea they took stitches out of me. But after that I just spent the rest of my time- I did go home on leave in there, the First Sergeant worked it out to get me a leave, so for the whole month of August of 19691 went home, which was good, they got to see me. And then I went back in September, and the count- you know, January 31, 1970 is when I got done, out of the service. My time in Korea was really just doing nothing.

Wallace Erichsen:

After your first month in Korea though, did you work in the company office?

George Veldman:

That's what I did, I did the mail and I worked in the office because I could type. I basically worked in the office area. When I got back from leave, and I was getting bored- obviously I was in pretty good- you know, my health was better then, and given that, as I mentioned before, basically my belief and faith, that I was not going to mess around with Korean women. And obviously that was a very- there were Korean women everywhere. But the officers in the company all had these girlfriends that they would spend the night with in the villages. And we were down, they moved us down to Taegu, Korea, and we were guarding nuclear missile bases, nuclear sites, and these girls had these- they would come into the village at night, and these officers and First Sergeant would go down there every night. Well they quickly figured out that I didn't drink and didn't smoke and all this stuff, that "hey, you're a good person to keep around here at night," so at six o'clock at night they would go down into the village and I was basically in charge of the company at that point, so I was a Sergeant, an E-5 Sergeant, but they had a lot of faith in me obviously. And so every night I would take care of anything that would come up, and they had to be back on the base at midnight, because at midnight they shut those gates and no matter who it was, nobody would get in there. Well one night, I had all the rules and regulations and what to do, basically what to do, but one night one of the guys OD-ed on some drugs and the Medic came in and said I had to call a helicopter, and I said "I don't know about calling any helicopters in, nobody ever told me about doing this" and he said "if you don't, this guy's going to die, you better get a helicopter in here." So I called up to the aid station, they said "well, we probably should get a helicopter down there," so they had these fire cans, I don't know if you remember those, but we lit up the helicopter pad that was on the base with these fire pots, and the helicopter came in and got these. Well, obviously a helicopter making a lot of noise in the night in Korea, the Captain, the Lieutenant, and the First Sergeant all come running up the hill wanting to know who in the world called, using different terminology, who called the helicopter in and why did they call the helicopter in. And I said "I called the helicopter in, and this is why," and they were very upset that I would do that, and basically their thinking was "let him die," if he took the drugs that's just too bad, you don't bring a helicopter in here, but they got over it real quick, nothing ever happened, it was a positive thing, but it was more that I called the helicopter in instead of one of them and they weren't even on the base when it happened, but they got over it.

Wallace Erichsen:

You're then a sergeant as a company commander, right?

George Veldman:

The sergeant was a company commander. And then that didn't stop them, because the next night they were back down in the village. So as long as I was there until my discharge date, every night I would pull, from six o'clock until midnight, that was my duty, was to take care of- so I'd stay around the headquarters there, which was fine with me, because I really had nothing else to do, they had radios and everything else in Korea, and papers, and you could keep up with things there. Obviously a lot- being in that base, in Taegu there was very little tension or pressure. [Tape stops, starts] One night in that base in Taegu, given there was a nuclear missile launching site there, somebody reported an infiltrator had got into the perimeter of the base, and you had never seen anything like this in your life. They rang off this alarm that nobody had ever even heard before, and they were broadcasting "there's an infiltrator." And this is the middle of the night, they opened up the weapons room, and they're handing everybody an M-16 and they're running into the woods. And nobody knows where anybody is. And I ran out, I hooked up with the First Sergeant, and I said "they're going to kill each other out there, they're going to start shooting at each other," because nobody- they're running out here like crazy, everybody's running somewhere, but nobody knows where they're going, and they're going to start shooting at each other. Fortunately nobody did start shooting at each other. They started shooting flares, at least you could see. There never was anybody- they never caught anybody on the base, but that was a real learning experience, so the next day and then in the next little bit they had some training sessions in the middle of the night if- nobody had ever trained these people that- when that alarm goes of what to do and where to go, and instead of everybody taking live ammunition and running into the woods heading for the perimeter, and being dark and everybody wearing dark clothes, so they didn't start shooting each other. Because it wouldn't have taken much- if one person had shot somebody, you'd have had an out and out war amongst each other, you'd have been killing each other out there. But that was- it was funny for the moment, funny after, for the moment was scary, because I kept telling this guy "nobody knows what they're doing" and they just kept handing these rifles out, and these guys are running with them, and- but nobody did shoot each other, but that would have been a very memorable night.

Wallace Erichsen:

George do you remember coming back to the United States and being discharged from the Army?

George Veldman:

Yes, I was discharged from Fort Lewis, Washington. So we had a flight out of Korea to Japan, and Japan to Fort Lewis, Washington. From there, there's processing-we landed in the middle of the night and I believe in the morning everybody was at breakfast, it was steak and eggs for everybody, and then they processed the paperwork, and it took about seven or eight hours, I think, to process you out, and then they'd give you plane tickets home, they'd give you whatever money they owed you at pay, and then they transported you to the airport. At that time, in 1970, obviously the Vietnam protests were getting pretty loud and violent at that point, and they even told us if we didn't want to wear our uniforms home that we didn't have to because you might face somebody in the airport, you may run into some people that may not think to highly of you wearing a uniform, but I did wear my uniform home. But I- there were some people that did; they actually put civilian clothes on. But it was a different time, a different place, the war was starting to wind down a little bit at that point, but the protesting was very prominent. Obviously when I got home I was dating- I married, my wife Penny now, but Penny at the time was going to Michigan State University, and I would take her back to school, and I just had to get off that campus. Just the fact that the amount of protesting that was going on up there, and all I could think back was the guys that I'd left didn't deserve that. They're there for their lives the morale was bad over here, but they had to keep their morale up, so I would drop her off and basically just try and get off that campus, I just couldn't take being around Michigan State at that time.

Wallace Erichsen:

Right. Did you go back to school under the GI Bill, or what?

George Veldman:

Not right away Wally. I went back to my job, where I worked when I went in the service. And then when I got out, went back there, and obviously being a veteran they have to hire you back, and I went back to work there a little bit. And then I started thinking about "this isn't going to work, I m not going to work on a factory the rest of my life," I didn't want to do that. So then I got a job at the Secretary of State office here in Michigan, and from that point I realized I needed to go back to school so I ended up with a job in the accounting department with no degree, but they were willing to tram me. And from that point that's when I started going back to school under the GI Bill. And eventually- I don't know, about eight years to get my degree, but I graduated from Central Michigan University with a degree in Business Administration.

Wallace Erichsen:

When was that, when you got your degree?

George Veldman:

Probably about eight years ago, ten years ago.

Wallace Erichsen:

I see [Tape stops, starts] George did you make any close friendships with other members of the service when you were in the Army, and have you kept in touch with any of those people?

George Veldman:

I had a couple close friends. I really haven't kept in touch with them at all after. The one in Vietnam- there was a fellow in my squad from Newberry, Michigan, Dave Schultus, and obviously him being in Michigan we had a lot to talk about. We'd kid with each other, he being from the Upper Peninsula and all but he was probably the closest friend I had in Vietnam. I have not talked to him once- him and I wrote letters when I was in Korea and he was still in Vietnam before he went home, so I'd keep up a little bit with what was going on with the squad, you know, people going home pr if somebody got injured or wounded or something to that effect. But he made it through the 12 months or 13 months and went home, but after that-after he wrote that last letter I never had any other contact with him And in Korea I had a real good friend for that six or so months I was over there, Rich- {tape stops, starts] Okay and then the other friend I had was from Korea, from that time over there, was Ron McCracken And he was another Sergeant that had been wounded in Vietnam and brought over there so him and I hung out for six months, and pretty much after we got out of the service-and we both got out about the same time, we wrote letters for about six, eight years, and once we started having families we just- it just stopped, and that's just the way it is. Those were my two closest friends that I can- that I relate to. [Tape stops, starts]

 
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  October 26, 2011
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