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Interview with Clinton Wesley Grandy [7/2/2004]

Rebecca Blair:

We'll bore you to death here if nothing else. Today is July the 22nd, 2004. We are at Baker Middle School, Columbus, Georgia, interviewing Clinton Wesley Grandy. Sue Wofford is doing the camera. Sheila Burkes is helping with the paper. My name is Becky Blair. We're doing this in conjunction with the Bellsouth Pioneers Columbus Council. Mr. Grandy's highest rank was E8, and he served during Vietnam. Okay. Mr. Grandy, did you -- were you drafted, or did you enlist?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

Well, I was drafted, but then I enlisted.

Rebecca Blair:

Okay. Where were you living at the time?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

I was living in New York before I went into the Service.

Rebecca Blair:

Oh. Why did you join?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

Well, two reasons, one, I joined -- I really didn't believe what everybody was telling me about the Vietnam war. So I figured, well, I could find out if I joined. And, two, the job wasn't looking too good for me. I felt like I wasn't ready to go to college or anything. Just young man, adventurous, wanting to do something different.

Rebecca Blair:

Why did you pick the Army as a branch of Service to go into?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

Because my brother -- my brother and cousin was already in the Army, so I signed to go in.

Rebecca Blair:

Do you recall your first days in Service?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

Yes. It was real exciting. We left New York and headed to Fort Jackson on the train. And en route there, some kind of way, the caboose got -- the individuals that were with me, we got disconnected, and we were left in Virginia on the track while the rest of the train kept going.

Rebecca Blair:

Oh, no.

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

And we were supposed to got there some time about 4:00 o'clock in the afternoon. So we got there when they came back and find us. We got there the next day. So it was exciting day to get there. So it was real adventurous.

Rebecca Blair:

Can you tell me about your boot camp or your basic training? How was that?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

Boot camp with me was pretty good. We had a group of young men that was from all over the United States. And we became real close. We had a lot of togetherness. I mean, we looked out for each other. It was nothing like I thought it would be. When we found out there that you could make -- everybody pull together and brought the individual along. It was something unusual, because with my background, you know, at the ____________. At this time, we had a lot of racial things going on around the United States and all. But it didn't happen in the unit I was in. Nothing like that. I was amazed -- there was no racial. We had people that were black white, benefiting. There was never anything said negative. It was just -- it was something unusual. I -- I looked for the worst, plus going to South Carolina -- but it was really a lot of fun.

Rebecca Blair:

Do you remember any of your instructors?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

Not right off by name, but I do know my drill sergeant, first one. He was -- first two was Vietnam vets. They had did two -- two tours in Vietnam. I can't remember their name, but they was down-home soldiers. We -- we all felt we were going to head to Vietnam, and these guys was good instructors.

Rebecca Blair:

And you served in Vietnam; is that correct?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

Yes.

Rebecca Blair:

Where did you go?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

I first landed in Bien Hoa -- no. Take that back. I first landed in Long Binh. And I left from Long Binh, and I went to first cab headquarters. And from there I thought that I -- when they told me that I was going out to a fire base, I thought I was going to some nice area, which was in the middle of the jungle. And I would say about -- let's see. Play it cool. Don't say nothing. Play it cool. And I was assigned to the first cab division. We was their mobiles, so we did a lot of moving. The job that I was trained for, I didn't work, and I was trained for a telephone repairman.

Rebecca Blair:

Huh.

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

And I thought that's what I was going to be doing in Vietnam. I supposed to be running land wire, stuff like that. Never did. I ended up getting assigned to an artillery outfit and to a Recon outfit. And within one to five, basically, went to a fire base Ike, and the -- I was sent to Charlie Second 19th field artillery, and it was row of loose battery. When they have mobile battery, that mean that we may be in one place two days, two hours, and then they move us from there to somewhere else. It was a fun unit.

Rebecca Blair:

Huh. Did you see very much combat?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

The whole time. Round attacks. And I landed there in November '69, before Thanksgiving. So around by the 11th or 12th or 16th of November '69. And the whole time there was a lot of field ground attacks, everything. You name it -- artillery, rocket city, the whole time. And there was -- I would say my two most frightening days in Vietnam was the first day I got there and the day before I left. Because when I got there, I didn't know what was going on. And then as you stay there, you want to go home. You scared you might not make it home. So those were my most two frightening days.

Rebecca Blair:

Huh.

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

I don't think about that. It wasn't -- doing the ground attacks and then, we -- we got -- we received, like, a Bronze Star, received the ARCOM with the "V," the __________ with the "M," Mobile Unit Air Medals -- I got the Air Medal, the Vietnam Combat Ribbon, and different ones.

Rebecca Blair:

Did you see a lot of casualties? Were there a lot of casualties in your unit or the people you were assigned to?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

Casualties that I -- I was seeing was mostly the ground attacks, when we try to overrun the fire bases. I had quite a few friends that got killed and got shot in over ones like that. Compared to the enemy, I saw more enemy casualties than I did ours. I did see -- like, they -- I would say the largest amount of casualties that I was there to -- looking at, at one time, we getting over there -- and I guess somewhere about -- we had a lot of wounded, but about seven, eight got killed. Sheila Burkes: Seven or eight or 78?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

No. Seven or eight. Sheila Burkes: Okay.

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

Not 78.

Rebecca Blair:

Okay. Okay. Can you tell us about your most memorable experience?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

Let's see. The most exciting one?

Rebecca Blair:

Memorable, exciting, whatever. Sheila Burkes: Humorous.

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

Okay. My R & R's.

Rebecca Blair:

We don't need to know about your R & R's. We won't make you tell us about your R & R's.

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

I would say -- well, let's see. Getting promoted. See, some of my most adventures -- oh, okay. One of the most exciting ones -- something that was there -- we were going to going into Cambodia, went into a village, and I was the only black man with the guys that was there. And the children was coming up trying to rub on my skin, wanting to know did I have paint or stuff on. And they had never seen a black soldier before.

Rebecca Blair:

Huh.

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

So that was an experience there. Another experience that I had was -- the exciting one was that, I guess, that affected me the most when my best friend got -- one night we got -- we was getting hit, and we had artillery fire, and he -- he got wounded in there. And he was a real close friend of mine. And I almost got blowed up. So that was a turning point. I really got angry -- enough anger, I mean, right then -- any Viet Cong or Vietnamese soldier that had gunfire, we didn't have no love for them. We'll put it like that.

Rebecca Blair:

No compassion for them at all?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

None whatsoever. So I would say that one -- those two was probably my two most breaking points there.

Rebecca Blair:

Okay. When you were over there, how did you stay in touch with your family?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

My mother used to write, and my sister used to write me back and forth, you know. I couldn't say my girlfriend -- yeah, I could. I take that back. That girlfriend. Yeah, she wrote me all the time. I take that back. Yes, she did. I have letters from her. I had to go back, this one, that one. Yeah, my girlfriend wrote me a lot. Yeah, I would get letters from home.

Rebecca Blair:

Did you have plenty of supplies?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

Food was great, whenever we were back at the fire base to eat. And then when we were out in the field, you know, we couldn't take a bath like we wanted to, like change of clothes like we wanted to. You know, we got -- we had a lot of what they call jelly rot. You know, that is where in the monsoon your feet get wet and things like that -- and I got injury coming -- home fire hit me and messed up my knees. But as the food-wise, it was like -- we had some good food. We eat around the clock there.

Rebecca Blair:

What about your ammunition and things like that? Did you have plenty of those types of supplies?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

Well, the only -- the only time -- right at the time that I can remember that I got scared about ammunition was -- they knew we was on top of a mountain and we was getting deployed to another part of Vietnam. And I was the last part supposed to be moving out. So all the ammunition went with the first group.

Rebecca Blair:

Huh.

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

And that night, I guess we had made maybe about -- maybe about two platoons or infantries. I think we had about three -- yeah, three guns left on this -- on the perimeter, and a ground attack hit. And the fog set in, so we couldn't get help from the helicopters or anything for a long time. So that ammunition went real low -- real low. And I think some scared us like that, because out of nowhere the fog lifted and cleared, and we got air support in, so that -- that saved us. We -- we take some casualties that night.

Rebecca Blair:

Huh.

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

But we just -- everybody was going but us.

Rebecca Blair:

Did you feel a lot of stress or pressure?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

At times. At times. At times it get next to you. It was, I guess, just mostly around holidays or just when you get set reminiscing with the guys. It comes up, yeah.

Rebecca Blair:

Was there anything special that you used for good luck?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

No. The one thing, I was young, so I was energetic. It was just -- you know, like going in the country. They lived in the city like this. I was more country than I was anything else. It really wasn't -- I was excited. I made it right fast there, so it was -- it was good in that way.

Rebecca Blair:

How did the guys entertain themselves? How did you entertain yourselves?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

We had USO shows going there -- to the LZ's where we were. We played cards a lot. The biggest thing we did was play cards.

Rebecca Blair:

The USO shows that you saw, what entertainers did you get to see?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

Let's see Bob Hope. Let's see. The Dallas Cowgirls, different bands. I saw different bands back then that came over. There were a variety of bands. I guess, you know, they was touring.

Rebecca Blair:

You said a while ago you went on R & R. Where did you get to go on your R & R? Where did you get to go to?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

Taipei, Taiwan. And then I came back to the United States once and, again, went to the Republics of China and really enjoyed myself.

Rebecca Blair:

Do you remember any particularly humorous event or any really unusual event that was kind of funny?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

Well, we had a thing that we called "the Cherry Boy." You know, there was a new guy coming to the country. So what we would do, we would have him go look for things that we know didn't exist. If he was in -- in the artillery, we would come up with something, like, go tell him, "Go get us a can of mother blast." You see, and he would say -- they would say, "Go to artillery" and tell him to get us a can of mother blast. And the kid would go over there. And he says, "Look here, Sergeant says, 'Let me buy one of your cans of mother blast.'" He says, "I'm all out of mother blast. I think the other guy should have some mother blast." So we led him all around the place, and somebody tell them, "Go over there -- that first kid, he us some mother blast. Well, mother blast is when you shooting artillery, it's a blast they put at the round that don't come out. So it didn't -- it wasn't anything. So we used to laugh at him, you know. Now, that was boiling. I would say mine -- and the one that really got me, and I don't know if I should talk about this at this time. We had just finished a _________ fire that night. And we came in and picked up the bodies. We would use what we called "latrines" that, therefore, was assembled outside of the perimeter. So this particular morning, I had to go use it. So all the bodies would be buried and packed up and gone. And so, you know, we get the newspaper called "The Stars and Stripes." And everybody is trying to get the newspaper first, or they maybe take one the pages. So we take our -- what we call the "latrine." Now, this latrine was odd. It wasn't __________. It was a box that big. It was a couple boxes, and they cut around, and you sitting out in the open. It wasn't nothing but all guys there, anyway. If anybody saw you, they would have to be helicopter coming back. So this particular morning, I notice that all the guys and everybody are coming up to the burn, and the burn is -- go around the LZ. So everybody sitting out there in the morning. So when I look back, I see everybody coming up there like this. And I'm sitting back, and me being a gentleman, too, "What are you all looking for? A picture show or something?" And I get a laugh. So I just say -- and I took the newspaper. So anyway as you get there, you are sitting down, and I'm sitting like this reading. And everybody is sitting in the burn. So, anyway, you cocked your eye back and say, "Why are they looking at me?" So I'm still reading. So what they had did -- and I -- it was really disgusting. What they had did, they had took two Vietnamese that was dead and put them down in the latrine, --

Rebecca Blair:

Oh, my.

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

-- had them looking up at you. So when you finished what you had -- were doing and, you know, you have a tendency to turn around and look, and you turn around and look, and you see these looking up at you and take off running off with your pants down. And everybody laughs. So that is the one that they got me on. And everybody is laughing but you. And you furious, because you're ain't laughing -- and you're yelling.

Rebecca Blair:

And they're guys are still alive, aren't they?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

Oh, yeah, they just rolling. Now, that was the one that they got me on.

Rebecca Blair:

What did you think of your fellow soldiers and the officers that were --

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

Well, majority of the time they really -- officers that I really came in contact they was mostly just the Company Commander, Platoon _________. Majority of the time, I really didn't see a whole lot of them unless there was -- you get awards and stuff like that. They was there. But when we went to fire ammunitions and stuff like that, they wasn't around. And if you going gun or you were in a platoon, that platoon was like a family. You took care of each other. For the good or the bad, you took care of each other. You were tight. It didn't matter what color you were. You was family, and that's where you were. Then if you was in a Company, the Company was a big family, so it was tight. It was something that you had to visualize because you know what's going on in the states. And then you are in the middle of Vietnam, and it is like day and night. You can't imagine why this is happening here. And these same people saying it ain't happening. And it's like one of those things. We always fight at home when we get cross with everybody together, and that's just the way it was. Well, I really didn't -- I didn't -- I must admit, during my tour, I only had one individual. And I -- I don't -- you know, when I think back now, I can't say where he was. I wouldn't say he was a racist. He was just cocky and got on everybody's nerves, and nobody liked him. First, I thought it was a racial thing, but then when I found out that nobody liked him, black, white, or anybody, so it wasn't a racist thing. So I really didn't see it. The only thing that I used to get away from was that, if you were around a lot of blacks, he decided to called it ___________. And he wanted to give you a handshake, and the handshakes going on for hours and hours, you know. And if you weren't among them, you know, they used to have a thing -- well, I found this out. And if there was 100 guys that anybody -- you are supposed to go and shake all hundred of the guys' hands. Well, you wanted to shake all of the guys' hands, the you should leave by the time you got up and eat.

Rebecca Blair:

There was nothing?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

Well, the food was closed. And I would look at them, and I say, "Don't want nothing from you. Get away from me. We all brothers. And that -- don't come and give me all of that when I'm trying to eat." And I can remember I was head count one day. And the young man decided to come in. And he give everybody the mess hall that. And we started at 7:00 o'clock, and it was over at 8:00. And when he got there, it was 8:15, and I had closed down. This line was gone. So I was every name in God's world. But he -- I said, "Next time, we eat first, and you do that." So you have a little, like I said _________. It was there, but I guess, I kind of kept myself from a lot of it. And I knew it was there, both sides. And I -- when I say that it wasn't -- the individual was the only job. It was just the guys, just wanted to complain about something. You know, I would say that I couldn't -- I would say that most of the guys that I've met that was out of the south -- or let's say out of the south. Or if you lived in north, you were in the country areas of Pennsylvania. You didn't see a lot of that. Where you really saw a lot of it were if the individual was in the city guy from the -- New York, New Jersey, somewhere like that. That's where you saw a lot of the stuff at.

Rebecca Blair:

Huh.

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

You know, they don't know nobody in the neighborhood when they're living there, so that's the way it is. So that's where I saw most of the -- if you want to say, "racial problem," most dealing with them. Most of the soldiers that were black and white came out of the south, out of the country and all that. You didn't have that. You know what was going on back there, but we was there for a reason, and it just didn't exist. We just pushed it aside. We deal with it when we get back. That's what we did.

Rebecca Blair:

Do you recall the day that your Service ended the day you retired?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

The -- oh, the day I retired. The day I remember about that better than anything else was before I retired. See, we just came back from Dessert Storm, and we wanted PT on Callie Hill. ___________+ I was _____________+. And as we was getting around that morning, I asked my personnel Sergeant -- I said, "Why am I up at 5:00 o'clock in the morning with ya?" And I just thought -- I said "No. I quit. I'm going to retire. I'm told him I'm headed back to battalion." And I retired that day. It wasn't like I plan on it. I just wanted to retire. I just quit PT and walked back and walked my papers all the way through, and I put my retirement papers in. And I had enough leave time that I accumulated -- I had leave from the last April until I retired, which was in September. I had enough leave time saved up.

Rebecca Blair:

Huh.

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

And it was great. I mean, that day I put in, I walked my papers from there all the way to the retirement. It was an exciting day.

Rebecca Blair:

What do you after you retired?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

Well, after I retired, what I planning on doing -- my intention was going to college for two years and come out and get me a job. That was my intention. But it didn't happen like that. When I got out, I did go to college, and I knew, if I didn't do all of my college right then, I wasn't going to do it. So I started college in September '81, and I go to college from 7:00 o'clock in the morning -- my last class was over at 10:00. I did that for two years continuously. And during the same time, I was a substitute teacher right here at Baker, and that's what I did until I graduated. And then when I went from -- I got my associate degree from Charlton, and I got my BS from Troy State, and then I went and got my BS in education and everything from Columbus State. And I just stayed in school until I finished.

Rebecca Blair:

Was your college supported by the GI Bill?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

Yes. The Army paid for it. There was 30 and 31. One is for -- I have a regular GI Bill, and then I had my one for my disabilities where I had hurt my legs and all.

Rebecca Blair:

Did you hurt your legs in Desert Storm?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

In Vietnam.

Rebecca Blair:

In Vietnam. And when you were in Desert Storm, what did you do over there?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

Oh, I was the top officer. __________+ back in the real intense days. Then, I left there. I left out of there early and came back to 197 because of my leg injuries, and I wasn't supposed to go nowhere. But you know how that goes. But when I came back and I took over the ______ attachment for 197 infantry brigade, I think that was harder than being over there because I had total of something like -- about a -- well over 1,500 dependents to take care of.

Rebecca Blair:

Huh.

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

I had all dependents to take care of a full brigade. And it was a job to do dealing with -- I can make sure that the money came in, that the families were taken care of, and, you know, moving back -- some moving left -- some moving. You know, and then we had other soldiers that was coming in that we still had to get down to the airport to ship over there. So it was -- that was harder than being over there. My job went from, I would say, just about 18 hours a day every day.

Rebecca Blair:

Huh.

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

It was a lot of work. But it -- I -- it was a good experience. It was a good experience.

Rebecca Blair:

Do you belong to any veterans organizations?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

Oh, I'm a member of the AUFA, VFW, AMVETS. I'm a member of all of those.

Rebecca Blair:

What do you do? Do you participate in all of them, or do you go to all of them?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

No. Well, I go to the VFW, eat breakfast there. I really don't -- and I'm member -- I'm a member of DAV, lifetime member. But I don't -- from being hit, it takes more of my time than it does in a way, because I'm dedicated here. I'm athletic director. And these kids are my life. And I'm in here -- I'm in here, and I average 12 hours a day and on the weekends, so it takes priority.

Rebecca Blair:

Did your military experience influence your thinking about war and about military, in general?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

In Nam? In Nam, I looked back on it. There were things that, while I was there, it was good. But there was a big difference. My idea about war is a lot different than what, I think, the Army idea about war is. The thing -- I'm always one of these here -- if a battle is in your backyard and you invited me in it, whatever happens happens. I do believe that, when I was leaving Vietnam -- and I think that goes to take any place there. We had a thing that you couldn't fire unless you were fired upon. I think that is a bad idea. Reason being is, if I'm, like, living in a city and you living here in Columbus, I've got to call all the way to Columbus to get permission to shoot back at someone shooting at me.

Rebecca Blair:

Uh-huh.

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

And I think a lot of times you should let the commanders on the ground there make the decisions. And I think that's one of our worst things. We don't let -- the enemies would see it. We're not -- during the last part of Vietnam, they weren't letting the individuals there making decisions, and it caused lives.

Rebecca Blair:

Unnecessary.

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

A lot of people were wounded. So it makes me think about what the Army is today. I'm not saying they not just as good, but just the way the decisions being made. And when you make a decision to make a decision you already did -- or you lost people.

Rebecca Blair:

Do you attend any reunions with the guys you went to the Service with or anything?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

The only thing -- well, no, because -- well, I've been to different things like when they had an open house. We went to some sometime. But it's not that all -- I look through to the newspaper. One of my units is down at Fort Hood, but I never flew out, like, to do that.

Rebecca Blair:

Do you keep in contact with any of them?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

I have. When I was in the Army, I ran into quite a few of them that was in Vietnam. A lot of my comrades now, that was in Service with me, passed away. A lot of them -- from cancer. Most of them. A lot of them here have been diabetics. And a lot of them.

Rebecca Blair:

How did your Service and experiences affect your life?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

Maybe more discipline. I think the Army really did a lot for me. It made me more conscious of doing things. It made me to, really, as they say, remain free. That -- I don't want to be one of these individuals -- I believe in America, and I believe in life -- period. I think it stabilized my life a lot. It helps me in my job. I can deal with things that I see a lot of people that have been in the military can't deal with. It make me more conscious of doing something. You know, like I just won't get up and do something without thinking. It made me think. It made me keep a smile on my face all the time. And after dealing with 20-some years in the Army, there isn't too much out here that I can't deal with. So it -- it was a positive to me.

Rebecca Blair:

Is there anything in the interview that we haven't covered that you might want to add to the interview about your Service?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

Let's see. I had fun. I had more good days in the Army than I had bad days. If I had to go on back in the Army again, I would do it again. I don't think my one tour -- I would probably try to get out of going. The last one in Alaska wasn't my best tour.

Rebecca Blair:

Alaska?

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

I went from Vietnam to Alaska.

Rebecca Blair:

Oh, my goodness.

Clinton Wesley Grandy:

But otherwise than that, I enjoyed it. I think right now the best thing you got a lot of camaraderie with a lot of vets that you run into. You know, you don't really never run into a vet that doesn't have something good to talk to you about. And I -- the one thing that I used to, when I talk with guys about the Army, most of the time -- very seldom we talk about the bad things. Most of the time, it's where I went, the R & R, and the things that I had seen. I try to get the kids that I teach -- I try to talk to them about you don't know what is going on tomorrow because, when Vietnam conflict took place, I try to -- I tell them I was in the -- I think the fourth or fifth grade. And I had no idea that the day I graduated from high school I would end up in Vietnam, because I figured, hey, eight years this thing is going to be over with. And I have been trying to tell these kids that you sitting here laughing at this here that you just don't know. And a couple of them say, "Oh, Coach Grandy." But I say, "I want you to think about something." In 19 -- if you think about it, in 1999 or more, we were over in Desert Storm. And the same individuals that was in my class over here, a lot of them is over there now, and this is 2004. And I know they thought it would be over by the time they got out of high school. So that made them think a little bit. So the Army help me a lot in the classroom discipline-wise with the kids, especially the DQ's. You know, they are going through that "I want chicks" stage. They don't -- don't know where they want to be. They don't know if they want to be a teenager. So it helps them. I would say the Army was good for me -- did me good more than bad.

Rebecca Blair:

I want to thank you so much for your Service to the country and for your time that you are taking with us to do this interview. I really appreciate it.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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