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Interview with Thomas Richard Carper [11/17/2002]

David F. Winkler:

Good afternoon, Senator. I'm Dave Winkler with the Naval Historical Foundation, and this is David Taylor with the Library of Congress, and we're here with the Veteran's History Program today to discuss your career in the navy and in the naval reserve. Today is the 17th of September; and we're up here on Capitol Hill, and I thank you for your time.

Thomas Richard Carper:

It's my pleasure. How often does a Senator from Delaware get to meet with two Daves? (Laughter).

David F. Winkler:

The -- I'd like to open up the floor with a question talking a little bit about your youth as far as growing up and you're interest in the military, and what eventually led you to the Navy ROTC program at Ohio State?

Thomas Richard Carper:

My wife says I never grew up, so I hope maybe in a sense I never do. I grew up in Danville, Virginia. In fact, my dad worked for Nationwide Insurance. We moved to Fairmount but to the extent that I ever came close to growing up anywhere it was Danville, Virginia, right on the North Carolina border. I was in Boy Scouts, and my dad was involved in something called Civil Air Patrol and encouraged me to attend Civil Air Patrol meetings. And I did scouts when I was about 12 or so, and then spent a couple years with the Civil Air Patrol. Actually, the first time I ever sat in the left seat of an airplane, I was a Civil Air Patrol Cadet and took off a plane with a real pilot sitting beside me,(Laughter) and took off in the wild blue yonder. But I was always interested and intrigued with the military. My dad had been a Chief Petty Officer in World War Two, and in my family -- nobody in my family had ever graduated from college, at least that I'm aware of. And I remember when I was a senior in high school, I applied to the Air Force Academy. We didn't have a lot of money. I wanted to get an education like the military and the Civil Air Patrol is affiliated with the Air Force and -- but I applied too late to be considered. One day I'm sitting in homeroom in my senior year in high school -- in your high school did they ever do announcements? They do announcements in homeroom?

David F. Winkler:

Sure.

Thomas Richard Carper:

They do announcements; and one morning they announced in our homeroom, "Anybody interested in winning a navy scholarship, go see your guidance counselor." I said, "that could be me," and I went and saw my guidance counselor that day, learned about something called Navy ROTC, Reserve Officer Training Corp. and found out that it's a scholarship program. The Navy pays for your tuition, your books, your fees, 50 bucks a month on top of all that and sends you off every summer to become a -- train as a Junior Naval Officer. So I said, "boy, I'd like to try that," interviewed, tested, all that stuff, and won the scholarship and went off to Ohio State. The rest is as you say "history."

David F. Winkler:

Now, you arrive in Ohio State in 1964, and then you graduate in --

Thomas Richard Carper:

How do you know all this? (Laughter) You've been talking to my mom?

David F. Winkler:

By your bio sheets. Could you talk a little bit about how life was on campus to be a midshipman in 1964 and your -- the Vietnam War is going on, and, you know, the popularity award is declining as you're going through campus. Could you talk about being a midshipman in this atmosphere?

Thomas Richard Carper:

I'll actually go two years behind that. My first tour in Southeast Asia began in April of 1970. I remember coming back from one of our flights sitting at a -- on base at a little restaurant outside, next to the officer's club. And they had a -- played music, and you can have your (inaudible) there. And the B-52s were coming from strike at U-tapao on to the base, and it was late in the afternoon, actually, early evening; and you see this huge wave of B-52s coming in to land after their bombing missions in Vietnam. And on the P.A. they played "Four Dead in Ohio," which is a big song by -- first I ever heard it -- big song by Crosby, Stills Nash and Young, and it was about the shootings in Kent State. I was gone from Ohio State at the time, but in the weeks that followed the shootings, the student riots shut down Kent State. They closed down Ohio State. Literally sent everybody home in the middle of the spring quarter, and they never finished the quarter. That was was what it was like in 1970. I left in '68, and the mood on campus was not nearly that polarized, but there was strong feelings against the war felt by a lot of people. And it was interesting in ROTC you wear your uniform one day a week. And in the other four, six days a week, you're just a regular college student. So the people that were rabid and really stoked up against the war, a lot of cases they're your friends, so it's like they held it against you personally. But the day you wore your uniform, you did stand out and symbolized, to an extent, the military and the operation led by our Commander in Chief, Lyndon Johnson. I remember mayday parades. I remember mayday parades at Ohio State. I don't know if you ever saw the pictures like in demonstrations where the students or young people would put like flowers in the barrels of the weapons. We didn't carry weapons in our mayday parades, but there was a sort of a friendly dissidence. You could tell those who were not in uniform, those who were. Some demonstration against, nothing unkind or intimidated, you can just feel. The day you wore your uniform, you're different.

David F. Winkler:

Can you talk a little bit about your summer cruises as a midshipman? When I was midshipman. I went to Penn State. We did a third-class, and then they did an orientation-type cruise; and we did a first-class cruise. Was that similar to your experience?

Thomas Richard Carper:

Yeah. So you're a Nittany Lion? You went to Penn State before they were a big team school?

Thomas Richard Carper:

That's correct.

David F. Winkler:

My first -- I call my freshman year, but we headed off for Newport, Rhode Island. I was there in 1965, the year that Bob Dylan was booed when he sung rock and roll at the Newport Folk Festival. They put us on a destroyer (?Die S.?) D. D. A. D. And we went out in the Atlantic Ocean and did exercises on a destroyer. I remember maybe the most exciting thing was we got stuck in a hurricane at sea. It was a real test of our stomachs, our will, and our manhood, see if we can handle that. The other thing I remember from that cruise was being assigned to the engineering department and being down in the engine room, and I remember blowing the tubes, which was something that puts you in the hottest part of the engine room, and you have to turn all these valves and steam blows on you. I mean it was -- I like to workout everday at the Y and usually back in Delaware, and sometimes I go into the steam room, and that is cool compared what it was like in the engine room of the (?Die S.?) D. D. A. D. It was a good experience. You find out what it's like to be the lowest of the lowly seaman and chip paint on the deck and all kinds of things, but it was a good experience.

David F. Winkler:

This was an old World War Two, I guess -- Fram, I guess, is what they called them. They were feet. They were modern sized in the early 60s, but you're talking about a destroyer at that time that's probably about pushing 25 years old. So you rocked a roll out there?

Thomas Richard Carper:

They were older than us; and riding out the hurricane was an adventure. It was a real adventure.

David F. Winkler:

Tell us about that. What are your recollections about that?

Thomas Richard Carper:

Being the bounced around when you're trying to get in your bunker. The idea of serving a meal and trying to eat a meal in the -- in your quarters. And I remember thinking, you know, maybe I don't want to be in a ship, or maybe there's a better life out there for me in the naval aviation.

David F. Winkler:

Well, you had mentioned you had been in the Civil Air Patrol, so, obviously, you had the air bug at an early age. I assume this certainly did not dissuade you from that. Could you talk a little bit about your decision-making process to apply for naval aviation?

Thomas Richard Carper:

Well,, our second midshipman cruise was at the end of my sophmore year, and it was bifurcated into two parts. We went to Little Creek, Virginia and landing school, training school, and that was fun. I remember going there a couple days early with my best friends from Ohio State, Gary Shirk, who's also a midshipman. And we got there early, and we camped out on Virginia Beach; and we went to a great concert. I remember I said early in the summer I had been to Newport. I didn't see it, but I was there the same night that Bob Dylan was booed when he did rock and roll. A year later we were at the Virginia Beach and we got to actually go to a concert by a group called "The Birds," and who were just the epitome of folk rock. We camped out in Virginia -- it was great. They trained us to be sort of like marines doing activites for three or four weeks. And after we did that, they sent us down to Corpus Christi, Texas, and we learned how to fly airplanes and put us in these little tiny planes and had a pilot instructor and went out and did all kinds of flying. It was fun; it was exciting. And a bunch of guys got sick; I didn't. I said, "maybe I want to do this. This could be fun." We had great marine officers at our Navy ROTC in Ohio State. The best officers that I trained during the time that I was a midshipman at OSU from '64 to '68. I think they were the marines and some were enlisted personnel. The gunnery sergeants were just excellent as well. And I was drawn to the Marine Corp. I think not so much because of the mission but because of the great respect that I had for the officers and enlisted men who trained us at OSU. My last cruise at the end of my junior year just before my senior year was Long beach, California. We were on a jumbo oil, The Navasota. It was a great duty. We would go out on Monday morning, fly around the South Pacific -- South Eastern Pacific, and then come back into port Friday afternoon, have the weekend off; and on Monday, go out and do the same thing again. It was fun. They didn't put us down the engine room. We didn't have to blow the tubes. And we were actually treated more like a junior officer, and we learned a good deal about watchstanding and the operations part of the standing watches and all. I remember I taught a course -- we're not too far from Mexico; and we had a growing Mexican population in California. And someone on the ship, I don't know if it was the skipper or somebody, had asked me if I spoke a little Spanish and taken Spanish in school. And they asked me to teach Spanish classes. So one of the extra things I did on that ship was to teach some of the troops to speak Spanish.

David F. Winkler:

Okay. I served on The Navasota for a year and a half.

Thomas Richard Carper:

You did not. On active duty?

David F. Winkler:

On active duty from '84 or to '85. It was a USN ship at the time. I was an IOC at the MILDET?

Thomas Richard Carper:

Did anybody on the crew mention me.

David F. Winkler:

(Laughter) Well, they were a salty crew; it's possible. But yeah I'm very familiar with the old Navasota. It's probably razorblades by now. Okay. So could you just address, perhaps, some of the duties that you had in the midshipman brigade. There's something --

Thomas Richard Carper:

At Ohio state?

David F. Winkler:

Yeah, at Ohio State.

Thomas Richard Carper:

You know, if my life depended on it, I couldn't remember for sure. I know I was on the -- we had a military counsel at Ohio State, which was comprised of army, air force, navy, ROTC. And I was involved in that from the time I was a freshman. And I enjoyed that. I especially enjoyed -- we had a military ball every year. And I got to -- my senior year I got to be in charge of it and got to put together this big dance and had hundreds of students and invited a rock and roll group from Canada and The Mamas and Papas had discovered. And I -- I think it was the first time they ever had rock and roll. It was 1960. And we had a traditional band and orchestra, but we had this band. People thought it was pretty neat. I did too.

David F. Winkler:

What did you study in Ohio State, by the way?

Thomas Richard Carper:

I started off in I thought I'd major in political science, but I changed my mind about half way through and moved to economics. I majored in economics. And I never regretted it. I'm glad to be a former -- actually, economics would be a lot more helpful to me as State Treasurer of Delaware. When I was in the House of Representatives, I serve on the Banking Committee and worked on a lot of banking, housing, budgeting, and economics issues. So it's very helpful there. As governor and economics undergraduate and MBA and that was definitely, I think, more helpful to me than a major in political science. And, I think, in the Senate a lot of what I do is actually economics is usually helpful.

David F. Winkler:

Okay. Going onto --

Thomas Richard Carper:

But I almost -- when I graduated from Ohio State, I had to decide what to do, what pipeline to take. And I did not want to stay in the Navy forever. I wanted to do my time, serve. I loved the Navy. I liked the military, but I wanted to do my time and then be onto other things. And the -- I say I studied economics, and I was interested in business, and I say, "if you're studying economics, and you're interested in business, what could you do in the Navy?" And I say I go to Athens, Georgia and become a supply officer and that uses my undergraduate training sort of gets me going. I started out on a course a life in business, and -- but I was also interested in aviation. So it's a real tough choice, and at the end, almost flipped a coin. And ended up going to down to Pensacola. I could have been a pilot and learned to fly at Ohio State. They taught us to fly our junior year. I was pretty decent at it. But I didn't want to stay for the extended period of time that you had to if you became a naval aviator. And I learned about this Naval Flight Officer program, and I said five years instead of six.

David F. Winkler:

Oh, okay.

Thomas Richard Carper:

Be in an airplane, go all over the world, exciting missions. If I end up in P-3 Soviet nuclear submarines. I think I try that.

David F. Winkler:

Okay. So you knew going in that -- okay. Well, first of all, you had the six year versus five year commitment at the time, which, I think, is now -- it's just a five year commitment if you're a pilot and then -- going in, most aviators at the time they want jets; they want to fly jets. But you had --

Thomas Richard Carper:

I like the idea of coming home, landing on ground and landing every night. I like going home and sleeping in my bed. (Laughter)

David F. Winkler:

Okay.

Thomas Richard Carper:

The idea of being on a ship and trying to land on this little floating landing strips that's not what I want to do. So I wanted to be in P-3s and felt very fortunate. I wanted east coast. I wanted to be close to Ohio State, so I can see my girlfriend and who I dearly loved. And instead I got P-3s, west coast, and, actually, a year or so after I graduated, I was on my way to Southeast Asia.

David F. Winkler:

Could you take us to the pipeline?

Thomas Richard Carper:

Sure. We went down to Pensacola. VT-10 was the name of the training squadron at the time. I spent about, I want to say, maybe about a half a year or so there. I love Pensacola, beautiful white beaches. And I liked spending the time in the airplane and the guys that I flew with. And the sort of the introductory courses in airmanship and all. We went off from there to Corpus Christi, Texas. I really like Corpus Christi. I remember we got to Corpus Christi. One of my buddies from Pensacola and I sort of went out together. He was from Baltimore. Sal Serio, S-E-R-I-O, and we got out to Corpus Christi; and we wanted to be able to live out in the economy. We didn't want B.O.

David F. Winkler:

We wanted to live out in the economy. And the deal is if you showed up at the bachelor officer's quarters at Corpus and they had room for you, I mean, that's where you're going to be for that period of time of time that you were stationed there at Corpus Christi Naval Air station. We waited I remember on a Saturday evening until they finally filled up, and there was no vacancies. We went in, they said, "I'm sorry, but we're full. You can't stay here." We said, "would you stamp our orders to that effect?" They stamped our orders. The next day we went out and ended up finding great accommodations. We ended staying in the guest quarters on a ranch of this millionaire family. They had tennis courts, pools, horses, and, so, that was where we lived; and it was like dirt cheap. It was incredible and inexpensive. And we made -- you know, we're getting our pay as incense. And we're getting flight pay, and we're getting -- they're paying us for our rooming and quarters and all. I felt like I had more money than we'd ever had in our lives, probably making about $5000 a year. We felt very flush. And we would fly and at the time they're teaching this these navigation -- selection navigation and how to do navigate planes. And we flew some missions out over the Gulf of Mexico. It was fun, loved being in a plane, loved being in Corpus Christi, loved living in Flour Bluff -- that's where we lived, Flour Bluff, Texas. And I love telling people we're from Texas. I say, "oh I used to live in Texas." And they say, "where?" And I say, "Flour Bluff." And I've met two people in my life that ever heard of Flour Bluff.

David F. Winkler:

At that time were they flying beach craft for training missions?

Thomas Richard Carper:

(Nods)

David F. Winkler:

Okay.

Thomas Richard Carper:

And we what did we fly? Bamboo bombers. I think we call them Bamboo bombers down in Pensacola. And we actually ended up a little bigger plane when we got into Texas. But it was -- it was fun. I enjoyed it, great memories there.

David F. Winkler:

It's in Corpus that's where you get the NFO wings?

Thomas Richard Carper:

Wings, we got our wings.

David F. Winkler:

Okay. And you would be assigned -- I guess, the replacement air group out at west coast and where in the -- was it determined early on that you were going to go to the P-3 community; or is it once you got your NFO, you made a determination?

Thomas Richard Carper:

I honestly don't remember, but I remember it was somewhere along Corpus Christi that we learned I was going to go to the west coast instead of the east coast, did not make my day. And I very much wanted east coast and for some of the reasons that I mentioned earlier, and it wasn't to be. And it turned out that I ended up loving Asia. I love the people there, and the -- we had some great missions.

David F. Winkler:

Okay. Well, I guess take us through that. Go out to the -- I guess the training P-3 squad and then --

Thomas Richard Carper:

When we first went into San Diego -- and I lived in Coronado, a little island, beautiful beach, a north island. It was the naval air station that we're apart of. I lived in Coronado, and we had a huge, big, old white two-story house about five of us lived in. And the -- they -- we started learning about -- learning about (Inaudible) warfare. And that was where they sort of began steaming us in that knowledge, and out of that training environment, some people ended up in P-3 airplanes and some ended up in helicopters and all. I ended up being routed up to naval air station Moffet Field just south of San Francisco where my squadron 40 was. They sent us up there to Moffet Field to where the trainee squadron -- and we went through a classroom syllabus. We went through a flight syllabus that lasted, I want to say, four, five months. By the time we got to our squandrons, I believe it was April of 1970, and my squandrons were about to deploy. I walked across the parking lot and went to my new manager, my new squadron, and they said, "pack up; we're going." So we headed out.

David F. Winkler:

Can I ask you what the specific job was you were being trained to do?

Thomas Richard Carper:

In the Navy P-3 airplane, we had a 13 person crew: Eight enlisted persons and five officers. Out of the five officers, three were aviators. Their job was to fly the plane of the two naval flight officers. One was the navigator, the junior person was the navigator. The more-senior person was the tactiful coordinator, the person who kind of coordinates the crew. And during the time that I was on active duty with Patrol Squadron 40, a new designation was created called "mission commander." So whoever was the senior or senior naval officer, senior aviator, the senior naval flight officer would be the mission commander. And you have to go through a special curriculum, and, of course, if you completed it, you can be designated as a mission commander. In my last year in the squadron, I earned a designation as a mission commander. When I went to reserves in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, after my active duty, the reserves did not have a mission commander designation; and we encouraged them to have one. They did; so after a year or two there, still flew in the same airplane in reserves; it's the P-3. Became a designated mission commander there as well.

David F. Winkler:

Okay. Take us to that first deployment, or your, I guess, three deployments in Southeast Asia. Talk about how those deployments go. I guess your objective was to attract some good sunmarines. Did you have some kind --

Thomas Richard Carper:

In Patrol Squadron 40 in Moffet Field, when we were home, we flew a lot of our missions about half way between California and Hawaii. And the Soviets would go in station with their boomers and submarines.

David F. Winkler:

Yankee class?

Thomas Richard Carper:

Yankee class. And we flew most of our machines against Yankee class. They had other models that succeeded the Yankees. In the event we flew missions, we do a three hour, probably a three hour preflight, study the intelligence, study the oceanography, understand the target, do our preflights, do our charges and everything, and make sure the airplane worked; and then we'd take off. We usually fly ten to twelve hour missions, and we'd maybe fly three hours en route beyond station for six hours, turn around, three hours, come home post flight, which was usually an hour. We talk all our stuff on magnetic tapes and debrief with the folks who -- some of the same folks who actually debriefed sent us out twelve hours earlier. And the idea was to find out -- to know where the soviet nuclear blastic submissiles were. Not all all the time. But have a pretty good idea where the box was, a fairly small box. If we ever had to go get them, we'd know where to look. We would create these tracks so that -- and the soviets they send a sub out it might be on station for, I don't know, 60 days, and we would have a track so we'd know which seamounts, what routes they followed, and even if we weren't flying, we'd have a pretty good idea if this was a submarine, have a pretty good idea when it came out six months later where he's going to be lurking. And I loved that. I love that it was a great game of cat and mouse sort of matching your wits against those soviets. We usually fly those missions at a high altitude, and the idea was to be passive so that they wouldn't know that you were there and didn't want to spook them.

David F. Winkler:

By being passive, the tools your using, I guess you're laying patterns and then using your magnetic detection. Could you talk a little bit about those techniques as far as --

Thomas Richard Carper:

You know, just like you and I have individual fingerprints, the submarines and ships have an individual acoustic fingerprint. They sound different. It's -- maybe just listen to them with your ears. It's hard to tell the difference. But they actually have ability to analyze, to look at individually at the acoustic signature. Theyre quite discreet. And we would -- during the time I was in active duty, we went from not being sophisticated, a lot of times not knowing where we were without great accuracy to knowing with considerable accuracy where we were to knowing exactly what we're looking for. Having sonar void, you could tell us, yes, there's a ship, but there was a submarine there. The direction that the submarine was from the directional finding sonar void, and we actually made a lot of progress in the short time that I was privileged to be on active duty.

David F. Winkler:

What were the skills that were most important to have in that position, or for anyone to have in that position?

Thomas Richard Carper:

I have sort of four or five principles that undergird me. When I was governor, these are sort of like our core values. One of those is I'll try to do what's right. The second is, be committed to doing everything well; third was, go and treat other people the way we want to be treated; fourth was just never give up; fifth rule was always surround myself by people smarter than me. And what I try to do on my crew is to put officers and enlisted people with the very best people that we could find. I loved what we did. I never gave up. I mean like the moment we took off on a mission until the moment -- even coming off station half way home we're still monitoring the sonar voids that we had dropped, looking for the submarines trying to get them even as we were on our way home. I think just having excellent people on our crews was important. And the other thing is just train hard. I remember I would lay in bed the night before a flight and actually go through the flight in my head. You know, probably like coaches go through a game thinking about the game that you're going to play the next day or quarterbacks. I would sort of lay out the flight and the mission in my head against the soviets. And so as a preparations is important, and the other thing is just not giving up. And I was always motivated. I kept my crew motivated throughout the flight, and if they saw me slacking off, then why shouldn't they? They never saw me slack off.

David F. Winkler:

Were these principles that were forged by your naval experience, or were they things that --

Thomas Richard Carper:

I think they're probably embedded in me in part as I grew up up, but, certainly, the Navy -- I call it a condition do spirit; but we felt in my squadron that we could do anything. And we, from the time, I got in my squadron on active duty. We're sort of a ho-hum squadron. We weren't all that good, but after I left, we won the battle, and we thought we were the best around. We were good.

David F. Winkler:

The -- I -- certainly, the analogy is fishing, and you have to have patience. So I imagine being a mission commander you have to exhibit some extreme patience as far as listening to the day then putting it together?

Thomas Richard Carper:

Patience on the part of officers but great patience on the part of the enlisted crew. Especially for the people that were enlisted for six, seven, eight hours who, actually, analyzing the acoustic data, looking for just maybe a line on a printed page to see if maybe that could be just the clue that you're looking for. The patience that they had and the fortitude and staying off the job -- man, that was impressive. I was enlisted with some terrific people. Especially good on active duty but I had some guys Jim Herdman, Chief Petty Officer on my reserves squad. Oh boy, he was good. He was so good.

David F. Winkler:

Discuss the active duty when you deployed overseas. You talked about flying out of Moffet Field. You made three deployments to Southeast Asia; where were you based at?

Thomas Richard Carper:

We would do split deployments. When you get overseas and -- first, the time we headed out in 1970, we went to Philippines, Sang Lee Point, which was a little naval air station just across the bay from Manila. It was just us. Just a little P-3 base and right out the door was a little community called Cavite where the guys go get in trouble, and we could catch a lunch and go across the big city to Manila. I love filipino people. They're just lovely. Even though you go into Cavite and people would be walking around with machine guns sometimes, I still just thought they were, for the most part, a very sweet, friendly people, made us feel welcome. I especially like the fact that we had our own naval air station; it was just us. It was just P-3s, and there weren't too many of us, so it was very special. And when we weren't there, we flying out of U-tapao, Thailand. They pull all the P-3s out of Vietnam, I think, sometime in the 1970s because they kept getting blown up. And somebody finally said why do we want to keep these P-3s on the ground in Vietnam so they can get blown up? And they can easily fly their missions out of places like Thailand, fly them out of okinawa, fly them out of Taiwan; you can fly missions out of the Philippines. And I remember missions over there were, for the most part, two to fly anywhere from a couple hundred miles to a lot less than that off the coast of Vietnam. We'd fly missions from the Gulf of Thailand on around Cambodia to Hi Nan Island, usually fair low level missions. When -- ill fly 5,000 feet to do our radar surface searches, and we'd drop down to as low as 200 feet, to actually take a look vessels. We did a lot of photo reconnaissance intelligence, just trying to keep track of what was flying in and out of the South China Sea. And took a lot of pictures of ships going into Vietnam to see what kind of cargo they might be carrying. We looked a whole lot for junks infiltrated trollers going in from Vietnam to resupply the Vietcong, probably found a few but consider the hours that we flew. It's not like we went out and found a couple every flight. We'd be lucky to find a couple every deployment.

David F. Winkler:

Okay.

Thomas Richard Carper:

We flew a lot of those surveillance missions, and I was, I must say, I was very busy. And we flew to a lot of places with a lot of shipping traffic. You're trying to keep with not very got navigational systems, making sure you knew who you were, keep your stand-off distances from the places you weren't supposed to be standing off from, making sure you're at the right altitude, standing off of the ships that you're -- especially, there were soviet ships that you're photographing and try not to set off any kind of incident. And long missions -- 10, 12 hour missions started very early. I remember in the Philippines -- no, not in the Philippines but in Thailand, probably get up about 3 o'clock in the morning. And the idea was to have had breakfast, finish your preflight, be in your plane ready to take off first flight. And you fly a long mission. I remember we were lucky if we could eat one meal. It was very busy on our flights, come back and land.

David F. Winkler:

During this period we're having the wind down from the Vietnam War, Vietnamization. We have Admiral Zumwalt, who is now the CNO --

Thomas Richard Carper:

One of my heros.

David F. Winkler:

-- and --

Thomas Richard Carper:

I liked Admiral Zumwalt.

David F. Winkler:

Wanted to get your thoughts because he's one of these fellows you either love him or you hate him. And wanted to get your take on Admiral Zumwalt, Z-grams, all volunteer force. How was that as far as you know the quality of the enlisted folks?

Thomas Richard Carper:

I know for some of the folks who had been in the navy for a long time they bridleded under his leadership. I liked him a lot. I actually got to meet him later on in life; and I was at a dinner in of all places, Delaware, I was a congressman at the time. We had a group trying to raise money for the Vietnam Memorial, and Bob Hope was there General Wes Moreland was there; and I like to work the room, shake hands with people at the tables. So I'm working the room, and I'd said hello to Bob Hope and said hi to General Wes Moreland, and I came up to this one table and this one fellow was in a civilian attire, suit and tie. I said, "boy has anybody ever told you you like exactly like Admiral Zumwalt?" He said, "people have said that to me." (Laughter) I said, "I'm Tom Carper. I'm the congressman here, and he says, "I'm Admiral Zumwalt." (Laughter) But -- I mentioned my core values earlier: Try to do what's right, do everything as best we can, treat other people the way you want to be treated, never give up. I really felt that he treated people the way that he'd wanted to be treated. He was more focused on family. I remember we used to go overseas for six months at a time; a lot of people wouldn't see their families for half a year. We'd be home for eight months, overseas for six months, home for eight, overseas for six. Boy that took its toll on families, especially, for our enlisted personnel. And Zumwalt, I think, really did care about family life, to try to reduce the kind of divorce rate that we had. He was mindful of the fact that kids need to see their dads, and I liked that. Plus, the idea that he let us grow beards. If you wanted to have a beard, you could have a beard. People had side burns, and that -- I mean -- for us in that time in California, that was great. (Laughter).

David F. Winkler:

So did you do that; did you grow a beard?

Thomas Richard Carper:

I'm sure I had a beard. Dave and I look just like you. (Laughter) Actually, my sister provided a copy of a picture of me with my beard and for a documentary they did when I ran for Senate a couple years ago. And I looked like a cross between G. I. Joe and Abraham Lincoln, not a bad combination, actually. I had three oversees tours.

David F. Winkler:

Right.

Thomas Richard Carper:

One was Philippines and Thailand, the second was Okinawa and Guam. Every month we'd always cycle into -- almost every month, into U-tapao. We fly missions out of U-tapao as well. And we got to Okinawa, I think, about six or seven months into a 10 month draught, and we're there in the middle of the summer and God, it was hot. It was miserable. They turned the water on one hour out of every 48 hours, turned it on from midnight to 1:00 a.m. The air-conditioning there in the summer was powered by water, these big water cooling units. And they didn't use it. So we got to be in Okinawa for the whole summer with no

Thomas Richard Carper:

C. And not much water. And about every one out of three weeks, we would go to Guam. And it always rained in Guam. It rained everyday. And we'd get off of our planes in Guam after our missions, and we would go over our quarters, and we would just take a shower. We would just enjoy the air conditioning. It was -- then we'd get ready to go fly for another mission. There's an old saying, "Guam is good." (Laughter) Guam is good. We thought Guam was great. Just loved it. And, actually, went back to Okinawa and by the end of the summer we refitted our P-3s, and with the dispenser, we could shoot out para flares, a lighting device. Lights would come down over the water and would light up whatever's on the water at night. And we tooled those. We could use them to see the clouds. We could actually see the clouds over and around Okinawa. And in order to try and make it rain -- I remember it finally rained, we danced in the streets; I did. (Laughter).

David F. Winkler:

I'm looking at the time here. Do we have time for about 10 more, maybe, minutes --

Thomas Richard Carper:

That's it.

David F. Winkler:

Okay. Good. We're talking about the overseas deployment at the time the war in Vietnam is -- well, in 1972, of course, you have the North Vietnamese offensive and then the Christmas bombings and everything. I guess you're in the -- I don't know where you are in a cycle at that time, but you obviously are making some observations you and your squadron makes about the conduct of the war. What was your thinking at the time?

Thomas Richard Carper:

I can't speak for everybody in the squadron. I was hoping we could get a settlement, and that the war would come to an end. I had the opportunity to go -- during the Vietnam War, we never landed in Vietnam. A lot of the people in aviation, whether you're on ships or on P-3s, we just weren't there, flew a lot of missions around Vietnam, over Vietnam, Cambodia. But some of the people I've talked to the first time they've ever set foot in Vietnam was when they were shot down. And that was not part of the deal to ever land there. I remember going back to Vietnam and actually landing as part of a six person congressional delegation that I led in 1991. All Vietnam veterans, including a guy named Pete Peterson, congressman from Florida who been a P.O.W. for six years. We went into Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos. We were trying to find out what happened to our POWs, MIAs. And the Vietnamese, the Cambodians, Laosians hadn't been very helpful in terms of opening up and sharing with us their own records. They're great record keepers, but they weren't being very helpful. They were -- they had a lot of information in museums, war records, their archives. They just weren't sharing much with us. We weren't all that convinced that the U.S. effort was very successful, and I got a real good briefing from state department and work closely with the state department of defense going into Vietnam and spent a fair amount of time with our own team in Southeast Asia. We, literally, were in Cambodia the week that this counterfeit ring was broken. It was a period of time when a lot of Americans were convinced that our guys, our MIAs, were being held captive. And we had pictures the cover of Time and Newsweek, all the major newspapers that pictures of people alleged to be Americans -- you didn't know what their names were, from the war; folks that were missing. But it turned out that they were Russian nationals, and the pictures had been taken out of like the versions of Time and Newsweek and bootlegged and sort of spun back to us as American POWs. And we actually got to be there when that was found out, and we had just some great meetings with the leaders of different countries, including the brand new leader of Vietnam, which has become the secretary. I'd like to think that the earnestness of our congressional delegation made an impression on the Vietnamese. We're there at the time when the Bush Administration -- Bush '41. President Bush was saying to the Vietnamese this is a road map for normal relations. You do these things; we'll do these things. You do those things; we'll do those things. And eventually, will lead to more normal relations. Vietnamese weren't having any part of it. They felt they were being set up. If they did these things, we'd simply move the goal post. We tried to convince them that we wouldn't do that, and as six members of the House, Democrats, Republicans, who cared about that part of the world and moving toward normalized relations, we would not count as moving those goal posts. And if they really did the things we were being asked to do, we'd make sure that we reciprocated. They did; we reciprocated. They did more; we reciprocated. I got to be presiding over the U.S. Senate when, gosh, about 10 years later. We took up U.S. Vietnam trade normalization. And to be there and called Pete Peterson who went onto become U.S. Ambassador -- first U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam and got to call him on the phone right after the vote and say guess what we just passed? He was watching it on C-SPAN, so he already knew.

David F. Winkler:

Leaving the active navy, going into the reserves, reserve squadrons had a reputation as being as good as the active guys you find that to be the case --

Thomas Richard Carper:

When I got to go to Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, as I mentioned, my active duty squadron went from being sort of a ho hum squadron to being, I thought, the best. We won the battle of excellence, and I left just before that and moved across the country to Delaware to get an M.B.A. and to run for office when I was 29. And I hooked up with a reserve squadron, literally, the same week I showed up in Delaware to start graduate school that September in '73. And I got to this reserve squadron that had been moved down from some place in New Jersey or New York, and they moved down to Willow Grove, Pennsylvania just north of Philly. And they had P-3 airplanes P-3As. We had P-3Bs that were modified and pretty decent plane in Moffet Field. We had sort of the P-3A, and it was sort of like a step back but not much. It was a lot like going to the P-2 airplane or some other kind of airplanes, the airplane that I was pretty much used to. But in terms of being able to use the airplane effectively, in terms of being really serious about the mission, not especially. I'm a fire brand. I think people in my squadron thought I was going to stay and be Chief of Naval Operations. I mean, like I was so committed, I was -- I loved what I did. And we had the best crew, fly the best missions, everything; we're committed to excellence. I got to my new reserve squadron. They just weren't that with it. And one of the things I stay with them for 18 years, and, well, got to be pretty darn good. And I'd like to think that I -- some of my ferver, determinatinever,and dedication to the mission sort of rubbed off on them. And I had the opportunity to not only become a mission commander there as well and have my crew fly a lot of missions in the Atlantic, in the Mediterranean, North Atlantic, but, also, to have some jobs, including -- you have to give flight checks to the crew, take the crews out, train them. I got to be training officer for my squadron department head, and in 1982, November of '82 -- I've been state treasurer for six years, but in November of '82, I was elected to Congress, our only congressional seat. I was deep selected for promotion to commander, and I command screen, which made me -- put me in the pipeline, and I was commander for a squadron. In the navy, you always want to appoint for commander of the ship, commander of the squadron, so it was like the hat trick. In one month, elected to congress, selected for promotion to commander and command screen. And I think, boy, how does life get any better than this? And I got to congress and two months later, and I found out that I could no longer hold a mobilized bullet in reserves.

David F. Winkler:

Hold on. What's that?

Thomas Richard Carper:

If the balloon goes up, you couldn't be called to active duty. But the other thing is you couldn't be paid. (Laughter) And you couldn't stay with your squadron. And couldn't fly my airplane. My airplane -- couldn't fly the mission with the people I've flown with for the last six years. And I was crestfallen. I loved the P-3; I loved the mission. I loved the guys I flew with in my squadron. And the secretary of the navy at that time was a guy named John Lehman.

David F. Winkler:

I was just about to ask you that.

Thomas Richard Carper:

He was in the A-6. He was a naval flight officer, flew in the A-6. I called him, and I said, "Mr. Secretary, I'm Tom Carper, the new member of Congress." Oh, congratulations. And I said, "I understand you're in reserves." He said, "yes, I fly in the A-6." I understand you're a naval flight officer. He said, "yes, I am." We'll, I'm P-3 naval flight officer as well. How do you do this? How do you get to be a secretary of the navy and still fly and still take care of the airplane? He said, "I have a special waiver from the Chief of Naval Operations. I said, "that's what I want." I didn't want to be paid. But I wanted to be able to continue to fly in the airplane and stay current in the airplane and fly the missions and -- so I got to do that for, gosh, another 12 years and stayed with my squadron and continued to fly, and I was -- one of the great ironies is, you know, how they trade airplanes back and forth from active duty? They get older, and they trade them down to the reserves to maintain the planes and upgrade the aviation and electronics. They're perfectly good airplanes for a long time. One of the airplanes that we had when I was in Moffet Field, California in Patrol Squadron 40 -- when you're the the plane commander, or the mission commander of the aircraft, or the tactful coordinator, or flight engineer, you actually had your name printed on either side of the slides of the plane. And the plane that had my name on it ended up coming to Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. My name was gone by that time, but it was a six-digit number, so you knew it was my old plane. But I thought it was a nice bookend from the time I was on active duty Patrol Squadron 40 to later on being in the reserves with Willow Grove and rapping it up in the very same airplane.

David F. Winkler:

Do you have any follow up questions? Well, I'm just wondering in the larger sense how the military service shape shaped your life and your service now in congress?

Thomas Richard Carper:

As governor, I was commander in chief of the Delaware Army Air and National Guard, and they had in -- they actually had a commander in chief who knew stuff about the military, loved the military and was very much interested in their missions, and, actually, paid him a lot of attention. And I still do that as a member of the Senate; and I did it as a member of the House. When I was in the House, we ended up in a military skirmish down in Panama. We ended up in a war in the Persian Gulf. God only knows what will happen now here in 2002 with Iraq. We could end up in another scrape. I just think helpful to have had some military experience. We don't have a whole lot of people in the House or Senate who served on active duty, particularly, served in time of war. I just think it's a helpful perspective to have. And I don't serve on the Armed Forces or Armed Services Committee, but I think because of the experience I've had, I'd bring some expertise, so I think that's just a huge help. The other thing is people look at us to be leaders. I was trained to be a leader from the time I was 17 as a freshman at Ohio State. And history will show what kind of leader I've been in the Congress, House, or Senate, but I think those leadership skills were really on display for the eight years I was governor of Delaware, privileged to serve as the leader of the nation as governor.

David F. Winkler:

What do your sons, Ben and Christopher ask you about about the military?

Thomas Richard Carper:

My younger son, Ben, who is now 12; he is just captivated by military. And we talk about battles; we talk about aircraft; we talk about tanks. He went through a period of time where he was -- just couldn't get enough of tanks, aircraft. We talk about if we ended up in war with Iraq, how would we do it. What would make sense; what's the approach? He's very much interested in that kind of thing. Interestingly enough, he doesn't have much military discipline. It's hard to get him to make his bed. He wears his boy scout uniform usually with his shirt out. But he loves military history, just loves it. And his bigger brother, who's about a year and a half older, he is ramrod straight, organized, driven. I mean, he looks like a guy how could be CNO later on. So far he doesn't express any kind of interest. I joke; I tell people when I put the boys to bed at night, I put little anchors aweigh, hoping it'll kind of sink in, and they'll end up wanting to be in the navy like their dad. We'll see.

David F. Winkler:

I guess a final question is in the aviation community. There's a lot of camaraderie, and I guess, applies here to the Senate. Is there some parallels there? That's a pretty close-knit group. I remember when I was on active duty part-time the only people who ever called me Tommy besides my mom were the people I served with in the navy. And the only people who call me Tom now, besides my mom, are the people I served with in the Senate. There's just a close-knitness here, especially, when you're in the Senate. And God, I really felt it when I was on active duty and in the reserves, but, especially, when I was active duty. I felt I was very much a part of a special unit. My crew and the squadron as well.

David F. Winkler:

I think that's a wrap. I appreciate your time.

Thomas Richard Carper:

I enjoyed it very much.

David F. Winkler:

Thanks very much.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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