Path to a Lonely War
A Naval Hospital Corpsman with the Marines in Vietnam, 1965
Modern Southeast Asia
Published by: Texas Tech University Press
Imprint: Texas Tech University Press
Sales Date: May 2016
- Published: May 2016
Having just turned eighteen and graduated from high school, and living insmall-town Nebraska with nothing much to do, young Dick Schaefer joinedthe Navy on impulse, hoping that by choosing his branch of the military hewould have some measure of control over his future. Not fully aware of the increasing military action in Vietnam, Schaefer found himself on a train bound for boot camp in San Diego in late summer, 1962. Schaefer's account of his time at boot camp is wry and rollicking. Upon graduation, he requested and received orders to report to the U.S. Naval Hospital Corps School in San Diego--and found that his choice of study suited him very well. After completing his studies, again on impulse Schaefer requested assignment to Hawai'i, assuming there must be a large naval hospital at Pearl Harbor. In fact, there was no such hospital--and Schaefer was assigned to the Fleet Marine Force. And thus this young naval medical corpsman became assigned to a Marine Corps unit for three years. "Marines and sailors didn't like each other very much. My new tattoo would go over well!" In Spring of 1965 Schaefer's unit boarded a large troop transport ship boundfor a six-week stay in Okinawa. Then it was on to South Vietnam as part of the first contingent of American combat forces. Schaefer recounts the terror of that first beach landing, the hollow ache of homesickness, his professionalism in handling injuries both minor and devastating, the tragedy of friendly fire, and his involvement in Operation Starlite. He also offers his reflections on American involvement in the war, the reception of the troops as they returned stateside, and his own reintegration into civilian life.