A Time to Kill
Edited by Denny Roy,
Grant P. Skabelund, and Ray C. Hillam
Going to War
[p.3]J. Keith Melville,1 Army Air Forces bomber pilot, World War II
My attitude toward World War II is that it was a necessary evil. I felt this way when I first went in. I wasn’t overly “gung ho” to go to war, but I felt a responsibility to do my part. This is why I finally decided to sign up to go into the Army Air Cadet program. Of course, one of the factors was the real possibility of being drafted, even though I was working for a Remington Arms munitions plant and contributing to the war effort in that way.
[p.4]C. Grant Ash,2 Army Air Forces bombardier, World War II
We knew what we were fighting for! It may have been stylized, it may have been blown out of perspective, but I don’t think any of us questioned why we were fighting. We were fighting to save mankind from the likes of Hitler and Tojo.3 We were fighting for freedom. We put a value on freedom. We knew that freedom was worth fighting for. We felt that God was on our side, although it was a little startling to learn while I was a prisoner ofwar that all of our German guards wore a belt—a big silver belt made of an alloy that looked like silver—with a big swastika on it and the words “Gott mit uns,” which means, “God with us.” Every German soldier felt this just as strong, even to the extent of having it on his belly. That kind of shook you a little. “God’s with us, and he’s with them, too?”
Lawrence H. Johnson,4 Army Air Forces bomber pilot, World War II
I think there was a fury about the Japanese that was shared by every American. We just had a great feeling [p. 5]of betrayal when we were zapped by them at Pearl Harbor. We also heard what had been done to Allied prisoners. It was the-good-guys-versus-the-bad-guys kind of feeling.
Neil Workman,5 Marine radio operator, World War II
I guess you’d classify my mother as patriotic. She once said, “I’d rather see all six of my sons go to war and have to give their lives for their country than to have one who refused to go when his country called him.”
Peter Bell,6 Army Special Forces, Vietnam
When I returned from my two-year mission for the LDS church, I was informed that I was going to get drafted into the army. I didn’t want to get drafted. I wanted to choose my own destiny. I knew about the Green Berets, the Special Forces,7 and I figured that if I had to go to war, I wanted to be the best trained soldier I could be. I chose to [p. 6]join the Green Berets and be highly trained to be able to survive a war situation.
Chris Velasquez,8 Navy combat photographer, Vietnam
While I was living on the farm and working, it dawned on me that there had to be something more to life than this. One day I just happened to be sitting at a local restaurant, which was the local hangout for us in the 1960s, and drinking a cherry Coke. My friend came in; we began to talk, and I said to him, “There’s got to be something more to life than just working, Jack.” He said, “I was thinking the same thing. You know, my dad was in the navy. Why don’t you and I go join the navy?” That’s what started the whole thing.
Robert R. Hughes,9 Marine infantryman and motor transportation officer, Vietnam
In February 1967, I was only three months away from graduating from Brigham Young University. I was classified 1-A, and I received my draft notice while I was in school. The reason I received my draft notice was that they felt like [p. 7]I was avoiding being drafted because I’d switched majors a couple of times and I was in school longer than they thought I should be. So, rather than being drafted, I asked the draft board if they could give me a little bit of time to graduate. They said, “No.” So I joined the Marines.
Lynn Packer,1O Army broadcaster, Vietnam
It was late 1968, and I got caught in a bad situation. There had been a lot of criticism for drafting a lot of blacks and a lot of poorly educated people to go fight the war in Vietnam. Just a few months earlier, they’d changed the drafting rules to put college graduates and those who had reached their twenty-fourth birthday at the top of the list. I got hit both ways. I graduated and had my twenty-fourth birthday the very month the rule went into effect. I was destined to go into the military.
Essentially I was paying for the sins of the drafting system. They should’ve been drafting college graduates and people who had kids all along. But they hadn’t been, and suddenly they decided they’d better start doing it, so they really targeted this particular group. Here I was, recently graduated from college, having launched a potentially great career as a reporter for KSL television in Salt Lake City, married, and a baby on the way. And then I got the draft notice. I can remember I got home late one night from covering [p. 8]the primary elections for KSL and there was a note from Uncle Sam in my mailbox. It was a great shock.
If I could’ve found a reasonable way to get out of it, I would’ve. I gave very serious consideration to going to Canada. I was against the war at that point. It was clear to me that the reasons for the war were largely manufactured by this country’s administration. The administration view was that Vietnam was a bulwark against communism and it was keeping communism from spreading in Southeast Asia. But others and I knew it was a waste of time, effort, money, and lives.
Richard P. Beard,11 Army Airborne, Vietnam
I really felt, and still feel, that communism is enough of a threat to humanity as a whole that it’s worth the loss of life to oppose it. Freedom is worth fighting for. I’d served an LDS mission in Chile and had seen the communists at work down there. Therefore, I felt very strongly that the United States was right wherever it got involved somewhere in the world to stem communism.
Edmond S. Parkinson,12 Army Corps of Engineers, Vietnam
Upon arrival at the training/demarcation site—Fort Lewis, Washington—the Idaho engineer unit I was a member [p. 9]of found it was to share its billeting compound [quarters] with an armored cavalry regiment (ACR)13 from California. This ACR unit’s personnel were in the process of establishing a profound refusal to enter the war as an organized unit. There had been numerous complaints from their men since the mobilization announcement had been issued in April. Some of the men had fought their planned deployment with whatever means they could conceive. Many went AWOL and failed to report when the time came. Their worst offense, however, was to sabotage their own equipment. On the road from southern California to Fort Lewis, they put sugar into the fuel tanks of many of their trucks, which ruined the engines. When they finally arrived at the training site, some of the enlisted men would lie down in “peaceful protest” and refuse to respond to the orders given them. I observed a wide disparity between those two groups of men. On the one hand, the Idaho boys were resigned to make the best of the situation, while the California unit seemed compelled to devise means to shirk the responsibility of their oath of military allegiance.
Lawrence H. Johnson, Army Air Forces bomber pilot, World War II
My father and mother were very proud of my being in the Army Air Forces. They were very supportive of America’s role in the war and were proud of the idea that their family was contributing to it. I’m sure since I was their only boy they were very apprehensive about what might happen. While I was in the Pacific Theater (I was assigned to the Ninetieth Bomb Group, which had a skull and crossbones on the tails of its B-24s and called itself the “Jolly [p. 10]Roger”), a form letter was sent to all parents by the commander of the Fifth Air Force, General Kenney. His one page letter congratulated them on what a fine son they had. They really treasured it. It was a real positive thing for them.
E. Leroy Gunnell,14 Air Force pilot, Vietnam
I knew my wife was a strong and capable woman and could manage in my absence. But even knowing that and having the comfort and assurance from my church leaders, it wasn’t easy to leave a single parent with a house full of teenagers and younger ones to care for. So I was concerned about having to leave the family at that time. I gave each member of my family a blessing and just trusted in the Lord that he’d bless us if we tried to live our lives right. I believed he’d watch over and protect me and bless my wife with the ability and strength to meet situations that would arise.
Kirk T. Wahldron,15 Air Force pilot, Vietnam
I submitted a voluntary statement to go to Vietnam because I felt like I needed to have an experience there and [p. 11]I wanted to be a part of it. I felt like I wasn’t doing my part to help out, and I was very restless and anxious to do that. I had four little children, and I had some regret about leaving them and my wife behind. She worked hard with those little children. I had some guilty feelings about leaving them behind, and the whole parenting load to my wife. That’s the closest I ever felt to regret. But no, I didn’t ever regret volunteering for Vietnam duty.
Ron Fernstedt,16 Marine infantryman, Vietnam
If there was another war, I’d go in a second. I’m an adrenalin addict. You live faster and harder than you could believe possible. You make the closest interpersonal relationships you can imagine, then watch a man die with “Sorry about that,” and drive on. I do not extol the killing, the technology, and the horrors, but I do enjoy the challenge. It’s like playing chess with live pieces, or football for the ultimate stakes.
Howard A. Christy,17 Marine infantryman, Vietnam
Probably like many career officers at the time, I volunteered for combat duty in Vietnam. After all, the United [p. 12]States had been at peace for over ten years and many of us were at mid-career and wanted to test ourselves at what we’d been training for so long. I was a fairly senior captain and itched for the opportunity—of course having no real idea of what I was in for.
I had seen the developing conflict differently than most. Being the East Asia intelligence briefer at Fleet Marine Force Pacific headquarters in Hawaii,18 I saw the ugly strategy of terrorism on the part of the Viet Cong unfold, grim and tragic episode by episode, and had, along with a lot of others, strong feelings that someone should help the South Vietnamese hang on to what little freedom they had left. When one of my colleagues at FM Pac, a captain who had gone out to Vietnam to be an advisor to the South Vietnamese army, was reported as having been captured, tortured, and dismembered by the Viet Cong, I had no doubt that I wanted to go.
I went. In fact I cut a plush Hawaii tour short by a year to do so. The glow disappeared the first day in the country. Even though I was unable to go any closer to the front lines than the division headquarters (owing to security restrictions that applied to my intelligence billet in Hawaii), within hours it was painfully evident that I was in for a grim experience. On the third day, and my first day as division intelligence briefer, just before I was to set up my map in front of the commanding general, a staff officer hurriedly entered the briefing room and laid a slip of paper in front of the general. General Walt was visibly shaken by what he read. Silently he pushed the report in front of the other [p. 13]generals at the table, and the slip then moved quietly up and down the table for all the senior officers present to read.
What the message said was that Lieutenant Colonel Ludwig, a personal friend of General Walt, had, at his newly established command post at Hill 55 a few miles to the southwest, tripped and been killed by an ingeniously contrived booby trap, a trip-wire detonator attached to a live 155-millimeter field-gun shell buried in the ground. The deadly device had exploded with a roar. An eyewitness reported that after the explosion he saw the upper half of Lieutenant Colonel Ludwig, his lower extremities blown away, gruesomely sliding into the large crater the exploding artillery shell had created.
This tragic episode corroborated the comments of another senior Marine officer quoted in Time magazine a few weeks earlier. He was the commander of a helicopter detachment assigned to aid the South Vietnamese army. While on a flight he’d been hit by ground fire. He lost both his legs too but was still alive. He simply said that Vietnam was a “humorless war.”
But I still wanted to have my chance to command a unit in close combat. A few weeks before my opportunity came, a major, who had just been reassigned from a battalion in which a platoon had been caught in a massive ambush and annihilated, was assigned as my immediate senior in the division intelligence staff. When I told him I intended to command a rifle company as soon as I could, he looked up disdainfully and said, “You’re a damn fool”
Ivan A. FClrnworth,19 Army infantryman, World War I
I was inducted into the service at Camp Fremont, California. I spent three months there. When we got to [p. 14]Camp Miles, they put us in a big shed. I had the flu. At that time, the flu of 1918 was killing a lot of people. In fact it killed more than the war did. A doctor put a thermometer under my tongue. I was burning up with a fever, but I just rolled the thermometer up on top. I didn’t want to be sent back. Our captain was turned back on account of the flu and he cried like a little child. He felt so bad that he couldn’t go over with the troops. So I just rolled that thermometer up on top of my tongue. The doctor came and said, “This isn’t working, put it under your tongue again.” He went off to pick up another thermometer and I rolled it back up. He said, “You are sick, aren’t you.”
I said, “No, I feel fine.”
He said, “How come your face is so red?”
I said, “It’s always red. I just have a naturally red face.”
My squad could see how bad I wanted to go. Those kids just covered me up with their overcoats and carried my stuff onto the boat.
Ted L. Weaver,20 Army Air Forces bomber pilot, World War II
The first day I was there I went to the induction sergeant in my barracks and told him I wanted to see the Air Corps liaison officer with intentions of becoming one of the Air Corps personnel. He said, “Okay, you can see him. [p. 15]I’ll put you down.” He wrote something on a piece of paper by his desk and indicated for me to leave. So I left his desk and went around and got right back into the line that was lined up in front of his desk and waited my turn to get up to his desk again. I told him my name again. I said, “I’d like to know what time my appointment with the Air Corps liaison is. You said I had an appointment. What time is it and what day?” He acted surprised and angry or disgusted I don’t know which—and rattled off, “One o’clock next Tuesday.” I thanked him and got out of line again. Then I went on about my duties. This was toward the end of the week.
The following Tuesday, he called all the troops out and started giving them their details involved with being a new draftee: KP duty, wheelbarrow duty, latrine cleanups, and the things that were assigned to keep the guys busy. He called my name up as one of the cleanup details. I was supposed to go out on cleanup with a wheelbarrow and clean the area up. I spoke up and reminded him that I had an appointment to see the Air Corps liaison officer. “Oh, that’s right,” he said, and he excused me from the detail. At a quarter to one, I left the compound and went up to where the liaison officer’s office was. I sat on a bench in the barracks where he had his office. I waited awhile. There were two gentlemen sitting there when I got there. They went in and they came out. Three or four more came in and left. I waited there until 4:30 p.m. and he still hadn’t called my name. A runner-messenger came in and asked for me by name. He said, “Get on back to your barracks area. You are shipping out.” This aggravated me to no end. I just told the fellow, “Well, you’ll just have to wait. I have an appointment to see the officer in there.”
By then no one was coming or going, and he was just sitting in his office. I just got up and went in and stood at attention in front of his desk. He didn’t even look up. After a minute to a minute-and-a-half, he finally put his [p. 16]pencil down and looked up and said, “Well, what do you want?”
I gave him my name and serial number and told him that I was told that I had an appointment with him at one o’clock to see about getting into the Air Corps.
He looked down at his desk and looked at all of his appointments and he said, “I don’t have any Weaver on this list.”
I said, “Well, I was told that I had an appointment with you, and now I’ve been informed that I’m shipping out.”
He said, “Well, if you are shipping out, it’s too late to do anything about it. You’d have to have letters of recommendation and photocopies of your birth certificate and a bunch of tests.”
I had an envelope in my pocket that had all the information I’d obtained in preparation for getting into the Civil Air Corps up to and including the appointment for the physical. I reached in my pocket and dropped it on the front of his desk and said, “I have it.”
He opened the envelope, pulled the contents out, and started thumbing through them. He said, “Well, well.” Finally, without even looking at me, he picked up the telephone and called the barracks where I was staying, told the sergeant who he was, and said, “Scratch Weaver, he’s in the Air Corps.” So they didn’t ship me out. Then I had to take all the tests over again. But I passed them and was subsequently accepted as a cadet. This was how I got into the Air Corps.
Martin B. Hickman,21 Army infantryman, World War II
When you are nineteen, there’s a kind of excitement about going to war- the change in your work, and I was [p. 17]escaping. I felt this was a sense of liberation; I had no ominous feelings. I was traveling with quite a few Utah boys who I entered the service with at Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City, so I wasn’t alone. And when I got there, one of my high school friends was the company clerk in a training company, and I was able to have, or re-establish, that contact. The interpersonal relationships get established pretty quickly. I never had the sense of being lost until I left basic training and went overseas. I had one friend, but he was in another group. From the time I left basic training until I got to my combat outfit, I was alone—a replacement. I was really disoriented, just sort of in a dream world. The thing that saved me from the disorientation is that I read a great deal; I found solace in books.
It took me about a month to decide that I wasn’t cut out to be in the military. I didn’t like it; I didn’t like the regimentation; and I developed a fairly cynical attitude toward military service, particularly during basic training. While I was in basic training, I was selected as a squad leader. One day the platoon lieutenant said to me, “Hickman, you make ‘sir’ sound more like ‘son of a bitch’ than any other man.” I guess from then on my expectations were just to get out; getting it over as quickly as I could. I didn’t apply for officer’s training school; I was just willing to live it out as a GI. [p. 18]
[p.18]Ted L. Weaver, Army Air Forces bomber pilot, World War II
I remember the first night in the barracks. There were sixty draftees in the barracks. I undressed and knelt down by my bunk to pray. The place was noisy and full of smoke. The guys at the far end were playing poker. As I knelt down, one of the soldiers nearby said, “What the hell are you doing?”
I paused and said, “I’m saying my prayers, if you don’t mind.”
He shouted at the guys at the other end of the barracks, “Pipe down, you guys. Weaver is saying his prayers.” I don’t know whether he did that to embarrass me or out of consideration, but that was the first shock. After that I learned to pretty much ignore the language of the fellows and their attitudes toward me.
Danny L. Foote,22 Marine artillery, Vietnam
Boot camp was a depressing experience—being away from home. It wasn’t the first time I’d been away from home, but it was probably the most traumatic time. I came to a point where I was really questioning why I was in the service, why we were in Vietnam, and if I was in fact going over there, what was I going to be doing, and was I really committed? So when I’d pray about it, these are the types of questions I’d ask. One time while I was in the mess hall it seemed like reality just kind of went away; it was like I was the only person in the room. I had a very peaceful feeling about going to Vietnam from that point on. I went through my combat training without hesitation and without reservation; I just knew that no matter what happened, things were going to be all right.
1. J. Keith Melville was born 22 September 1921 in Bountiful, Utah. After graduating from West High School in Salt Laken City, Utah, Melville studied physical science at the University of Utah and the University of Montana before serving in the U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II. Melville was twenty-three years old when he began his military service. Following World War II, Melville received a doctorate in political science; he is a professor emeritus of political science at Brigham Young University.
2. Cecil Grant Ash was born 27 November 1922 in Pleasant Grove, Utah. He graduated from Lehi (Utah) High School and attended classes at Utah State Agricultural College (now Utah State University) and Brigham Young University before his World War II experience. Ash was twenty-one years old and single when he entered combat. After the war he earned a doctorate in microbiology and was chief environmentalist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He is now retired.
4. Lawrence H. Johnson was born 27 August 1923 in Burley, Idaho. After graduating from South High School in Salt Lake City, Utah, and attending the University of Utah for two years, the twenty-one-year-old Johnson went into World War II. Before retiring as a colonel from the air force, Johnson was a professor of aerospace studies at Brigham Young University from 1968 to 1971.
5. Cornelius (Neil) Workman was born 14 July 1924 in Delta, Utah. Following his graduation from Lovell (Wyoming) High School and part of a year at the University of Wyoming where he studied electrical engineering, the single twenty-yearold began his service in the U.S. Marine Corps. Workman continued his education after his World War II experience, and he worked as a school teacher and real estate broker in Salt Lake City. He is now retired.
6. Peter Bell was born 6 March 1948 in Mt. Pleasant, Utah. After graduating from Spanish Fork (Utah) High School, attending Brigham Young University for one year, and marrying, the twenty-two-year-old Bell went to Vietnam. Bell is a law enforcement officer and a member of the Nineteenth Special Forces Group of the Utah National Guard.
7. The terms Green Berets and Army Special Forces are synonymous. They are military advisors, mandated to teach counter—insurgency skills, foreign internal defense, unconventional warfare, and direct—action operations such as demolition and sabotage missions.
8. Cresencio (Chris) Velasquez was born 15 January 1943 in Ohio. After graduating from high school, he joined the U.S. Navy. From 1964 to 1972, Velasquez saw six tours of duty in Vietnam. During that time period he was married and divorced. Velasquez attended non-denominational church services during his first tour of Vietnam; he has since joined the LDS church. Velasquez retired from the navy and is currently studying history at Brigham Young University.
9. Robert R. Hughes was born 28 June 1942 in Washington, D.C. After graduating from Spanish Fork (Utah) High School and Brigham Young University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education and dramatic arts, Hughes went to Vietnam as a single twenty-six-year-old. After his combat experience, he earned a master’s degree in recreational education and taught LDS seminary. Hughes is currently an insurance and investment salesman in Spanish Fork.
10. Lynn Kenneth Packer was born 12 June 1944 in Brigham City, Utah. After graduating from Box Elder High School in Brigham City, Packer received a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from Utah State University. When his military service began, Packer was twenty-five and married. He and his wife had a daughter who was three months old when he left for Vietnam. Packer has been a television news reporter, a college instructor, a media consultant, and a legal consultant. In addition to consulting, Packer currently teaches communications classes at Brigham Young University.
11. Richard Paul Beard was born 24 August 1941 in LaMonte, Missouri. He had graduated from LaMonte High School and attended Central Missouri State College and Brigham Young University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English, married, and had a daughter before going to Vietnam in 1969. Another child, a son, was born while he was in the army. Beard is now an attorney and a Missouri state legislator.
12. Edmond S. Parkinson was born 19 November 1939 in Rexburg, Idaho. After graduating from Madison High School in Rexburg, Parkinson studied business at Brigham Young University and Ricks College in Rexburg. Parkinson also married, and he and his wife had three boys (ages eight, six, and six months) [p.9]and a girl (age seven) before going to Vietnam as a twenty-eight-year-old. Currently a computer consultant in Washington, D.C., Parkinson has worked in the military and as a farmer since his tour of duty.
14. E. Leroy Gunnell was born 22 October 1929 in Soda Springs, Idaho. After graduating from Soda Springs High School, Gunnell received a bachelor’s degree in English literature and a master’s degree in American literature at Brigham Young University. As a career air force pilot, Gunnell went to Vietnam as a forty-year-old father of six (two daughters, ages seventeen and fourteen; four sons, ages sixteen, fourteen, ten, and eight). Gunnell has worked as the administrative assistant for the Brigham Young University Honors Program since retiring as a lieutenant colonel from a twenty-four-year career with the U.S. Air Force.
15. Kirk T. Waldron was born 24 September 1936 in Tremonton, Utah. After graduating from Bear River High School in Tremonton, Waldron earned a bachelor’s degree in business management from Utah State University. Waldron was serving in the air force when United States involvement in Vietnam increased in the 1960s. Waldron and his wife had four daughters [p.11](ages eight, seven, six, and one) when he began his tour of duty in 1967. Waldron was professor of aerospace studies at Brigham Young University for three years before he retired in 1984. He is currently the deputy director of the Utah Department of Administrative Services.
16. Ron Fernstedt was born 15 March 1944 in Seattle, Washington. He graduated from Lytton (Iowa) High School. Fernstedt joined the LDS church in 1965, a year before he went to Vietnam. A law enforcement officer, Fernstedt is in charge of facilities security for Utah County.
17. Howard A. Christy was born 9 May 1933 in Berkeley, California. He graduated from Highline High School in Seattle, Washington. Christy, who joined the LDS church in 1962, earned a bachelor’s degree in forestry at the University of Washington in Seattle. He was married and had a seven-month-old daughter [p.12]when he went to Vietnam at age thirty-two. Retiring as a lieutenant colonel from the Marines, Christy earned master’s degrees in library science and history. He is senior editor of Scholarly Publications at Brigham Young University.
19. Ivan A. Farnworth was born 19 January 1897 in Chester, Utah. After graduating from Blackfoot (Idaho) High School and attending Ricks Academy (now Ricks College) in Rexburg, Idaho, [p.14]a single twenty-one-year-old Farnworth began his military service with the U.S. Army. He worked as a railroad inspector and businessman. Farnworth died in 1989.
20. Ted L. Weaver was born 16 December 1921 in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He graduated from Idaho Falls High School and studied music and pre-dentistry at Brigham Young University and the University of Utah before beginning his military preparation at age twenty-two. Weaver was engaged when he entered World War II. After his military service, Weaver earned a master’s degree in physics and pursued a variety of science and business interests in Salt Lake City. Weaver died in 1986.
21. Martin B. Hickman was born 16 May 1925 in Monticello, Utah. Hickman graduated from Logan (Utah) High [p.17]School and studied pre-law for two quarters at Utah State Agricultural College (now Utah State University) before serving in World War II as a single nineteen-year-old. After returning home, Hickman earned a doctorate in political science. He worked as a U.S. Foreign Service officer for seven years. Currently a professor of political science at Brigham Young University, Hickman served as dean of BYU’s College of Social Sciences for twelve years and dean of the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences for five years.
22. Danny Lynn Foote was born 19 June 1950 in Salt Lake City, Utah. At age nineteen, after graduating from Amos Alonzo Stagg (California) High School and attending a quarter at San Joaquin Delta Junior College in Stockton, California, Foote went to Vietnam in 1969. Foote has worked as a carpet installer. He is currently an electronics technician at Signetics in Orem, Utah.