On the first Oral History interviews, Mr. Paul E. Ward was the interviewee and the interviewer was Mr. Robert Tidwell. The interview was conducted on July 28, 2003 and it was transcribed by Shannon Geach. Mr. Paul E. Ward, who grew up in Columbus mainly through the Depression, had served from 1940’s until the early 1950’s on the U. S. S. Frank E. Evans. During the start of the interview, I smiled when Paul Ward stated that he had several “boyfriends”. My understanding was, at first, that he was in relationship with a lot of men. My mind tried to rethink how a former soldier who is very masculine would have a relationship with another male.
But as the interview progresses, I came to realize that their relationship was simply friendship, and not similar to a relationship between a male and a female. Paul Ward’s childhood was amazing in the sense that he had so many jobs while attending school. Today, it is simply not common to find children working during the early morning and in the Sundays, at a very young age, and still go to school. Furthermore, it is also amusing that he enjoyed his life even if they were poor and that they were struggling and working hard just to stay alive. I greatly admire his courage and the hope that he had.
As the interview continues, I learn that he is the oldest and that he had two brothers and a sister. I think of him, at that point of the interview, that he was very much a responsible and a loving kid. He did not just help himself, but also his parents, brothers and sister. The difficult tasks that Paul Ward did while working in the cruiser and the promotion that he got after four years of labor were really inspiring. It gives hope to the readers of the interview who are currently having a hard time in their respective work. His memory regarding his work was really good.
He was able to describe the things that he did in the cruiser and all the other jobs that he did with much detail. Readers are able to imagine or at least picture out the scenarios that Paul Ward was talking about. Though, there are some instances in the interview that it becomes a bit technical, such as saturated temperatures and the degrees that was needed in the burners. When Paul Ward had another assignment or duty in a new ship “Evan” from the old ship “Ellis”, which was a four stacker, it was intriguing how Paul Ward preferred the Evans than the ship Ellis.
The interview continues to have interesting topics being discussed. As such, readers do not have a hard time deciding whether to read or listen to the interview or do other things. Upon continuing the interview, Paul Ward stated that the living conditions in the ship Evans was better as compared to that in the ship Ellis. This is because the new ship was wider and had cooler atmosphere in the area where the burners are, as compared to the old ship Ellis. Paul Ward again, was able to clearly describe the setting or picture inside the Evans.
His descriptions and details make the Evans an intriguing or interesting ship. When Paul Ward was talking about the things that they did inside the ship in order to entertain themselves and not be bored, a certain feeling of joy can be felt. Probably because it changed my impression that living in these ships would be very boring and would be very difficult. I was amazed that they were exchanging books, magazines and even movies with the other ships that they meet in their course. It was also amazing that they were able to watch movies or be able to read books even if they didn’t have libraries inside the ship.
It was funny how they would repeat a particular movie or read a book or magazine over and over again until reaching the docks. Maybe it was indeed a bit hard, but really interesting. The practice which Paul Ward mentioned during the early interview was not quite interesting, for it somehow shows a picture of mainly hardship and pain. But later on in the interview, the practices or trainings that Paul Ward mentioned made trainings become really interesting. What made me interested most is their gunnery practice.
Especially the aerial gunneries, where the guns used were really loud and that vibrations can be felt all throughout the ship, down to the boiler room where Paul Ward was assigned. It was a bit disappointing, but expected that Paul Ward wasn’t able to participate in the gunnery practice and mainly stayed in the boiler room. In the interview, it was funny or humorous when Paul Ward called some of the older crews “pappy” or those who were not able to cross the equator as “polywags”. The old timers who were able to across it before was also given names, and this was “shellbacks.
” The instance where Paul described an old timer in their crew who had a belly and dressed up like a kid was really funny. The details itself were really humorous. Paul Ward’s experience, as a veteran, generally is unbelievable. He was able to live, work, marry and even had a daughter; all was done with a cheerfulness and enthusiasm. He was also able to hear the atomic bomb drop during the war and still lives to tell the story with a smile. His passion for work, hopes and dreams, patriotism, loyalty to the ship Evans and his humorous stories or details are really rousing and thought-provoking.
Paul Ward, from the interview seems to be a happy-go-lucky guy. The second Oral History interview was conducted by Dr. Richard Burks Verrone on Mr. Elmer Hale. The second interview was conducted on October 3, 2002 in Lubbock, Texas in the Texas Tech University campus and was transcribed by Shannon Geach. Mr. Elmer Hale, as the interviewer politely asked, was born on the 8th day of July by the year 1945 in Lawrenceville, Illinois and grew in a broken family, taken care by his grandmother. When his grandmother died, he was adopted by a couple in Pinkstaff, Illinois.
In this part of the interview, it seemed that Elmer Hale had an interesting, yet sad past. Especially when he stated that his mother was a mental patient because of an accident. It rouses curiosity among readers of the interview transcript and is quite intriguing as to how or what accident did his mother got into. Learning that he had no military background and a very limited knowledge about the Vietnam War, it was a bit mind boggling as to see that he did well in the military trainings and exercises. He was even proud to say that most of the trainings passed or went easy on him and that he was able to handle physical and mental stress well.
It was a bit interesting that unlike Paul Ward, Elmer Hale was already holding guns at an earlier age, as such, he was assigned in the light infantry division. Just like the trainings that Paul Ward mentioned, the gunnery practices, what made me curious most are the weapons training which Elmer Hale took. He was able to train with various weapons which includes the M-16 and hand grenades. It was a bit surprising that a person who had been familiar with guns would not perform well in handling the M-16; and still prefer M-16 above the other weapons. The basic training that Mr. Elmer Hale did in Ft.
Leonardwood was quite amazing as he describes the setting and the courses or traps set on the training grounds. It was also astonishing to learn that there are really casualties even in basic training, especially during live fire exercises. During his actual missions or combat battles, Elmer Hale’s description of the battleground is thought-provoking. He is able to state details clearly as it just happened yesterday. He still remembers the stench of the battleground, the terrain and how the battle had been going on. It was a bit funny when he described that the battlefield’s stench is like that of the open sewers.
Just like in the movies on war and military combat, he stated that upon reaching the battlefield, great pressure is placed onto their shoulders. It was quite remarkable how these soldiers fight even with all the pressure that they experience or feel in the battlefield. Mr. Elmer Hale even told that he tried everything to remove the pressure, yet it is still there and won’t leave them. I don’t generally have an idea of how big Vietnam is nor the battle that took there. Upon continuing the interview, I learned that Vietnam is just a small country which is just similar to the size of California, as speculated by Mr.
Hale. The soldiers who are sent to war are really remarkable. As Mr. Hale continues to explain or state the scenario in their camp, Camp Enari which is located west of Pleiku,I can’t help but be amazed how they could fight with a “recycled” weapons. Indeed, they had complete equipments, canteens, rucksack, poncho, etc. but going to battle with a “recycled” weapon is really tough. If was funny when Mr. Hale asked the officer in charge of the weapons whether these weapons do fire, as if hesitant to use them and prefer hand-to-hand combat. Mr.
Elmer Hale greatly believed that their company or his fellow soldiers had a very high morale, even if they were few in numbers, as he stated that they lack a few men or people and that their company was only made up of around 75 people. This is another extraordinary thing about these brave veterans of the Vietnam War. In addition to this, it was quite remarkable for him to be alive and manage to get out of the war after being wounded twice. As the interview continues and Mr. Hale goes on with the experiences he had in the war, his detailed story makes readers’ imagination think bigger.
It is as if you are watching a action-packed movie, full of ambushes, house-to-house attacks and defensive maneuvers. The killings of the prisoners of war or POW, which Mr. Hale mentioned was a little intriguing though just like in movies, it does happen, only that this time it is for real. Mr. Elmer Hale also was surprised with what happened to the POWs and that made him realized that they were really in a serious battle and that was real time. The interview as it progresses with the battles which Elmer Hale went into becomes more and more exciting.
One really exhilarating part was when he and his sergeant was on a tree and was fired by the enemy with a B-40 rocket. I personally don’t know how big or how powerful a B-40 rocket is, but from Mr. Hale’s description, that it was able to blast them and the tree, it was really surprising to learn that he only managed to have a few shrapnel on his limbs and right side of his body. They even managed to get a hold of a tank to get back at the enemies who fired a rocket towards them; something which seems normal in their situation, yet interesting. A very remarkable story that Mr.
Elmer Hale had told is about the 50 year old nurse who owns an orphanage in the middle of the battlefield. She takes care of a lot of children who kept running in the orphanage while at night she would be captured by the armed men. It was exciting and quite interesting for a 50 year old woman to be kidnapped to treat the people who kidnapped her. It was also remarkable that she is still alive after several abductions that she had experienced. Mr. Elmer Hale even had the chance to talk to the nurse for about 30 to 40 minutes in the orphanage. It was a bit dramatic when Mr. Hale stated that he nearly lost his life to a comrade.
It was funny how he labeled the guy as “colored”. He stated that the colored guy pulled a knife and threatened to kill him, right at their base camp. It was amazing that Mr. Hale had the courage to tell the “colored” man to surely kill him or else he would kill the “colored” man; even if Mr. Hale was not proud that he experienced that. Just like the life of Paul Ward, Elmer Hale had continuously traveling from one place to the other. Both of these veterans experienced going to certain places they do not know, battling in situations that they barely knew before. Unlike Paul Ward, the experiences which Mr.
Elmer Hale experienced were mainly battles on land and were definitely more action-packed. Just like Paul Ward, Mr. Hale had a wife after the war and lived a normal life. Unlike Ward, Hale experiences certain mood swings when he remembers the things they have done and fought in Vietnam through movies. Ward valued the memories he had during the Vietnam war, but Hale didn’t want to look back at them and prefers to stay away from it.
The Vietnam Center and Archive: Oral History Project. (2007, December 16, 2007). Retrieved December 15, 2007, from http://www. vietnam. ttu. edu/oralhistory/