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Interview with Thomas H. Hodge [11/20/2002]

Henry Robinson:

Hi, my name is Henry Robinson, and I'm here with cameramen, Devin Led(ph) Nick Carrol(ph) and Matt Walcott(ph). We're at Cathedral High School on November 20, 2002. We're joined today by Mr. Tom Hodge, who will discuss his experiences while serving during the Vietnam War. Please state the following: your branch of service.

Thomas H. Hodge:

I was in the US Marines.

Henry Robinson:

The age when you enlisted.

Thomas H. Hodge:

I was 19 when I enlisted.

Henry Robinson:

Your rank?

Thomas H. Hodge:

When I got out I was a sergeant.

Henry Robinson:

And where you served.

Thomas H. Hodge:

Vietnam and the States.

Henry Robinson:

Were you drafted or did you enlist?

Thomas H. Hodge:

Drafted, but I decided to enlist into the Marines. I was drafted by the Army and decided to enlist in the Marines.

Henry Robinson:

Did you know what you were fighting for, a reason?

Thomas H. Hodge:

Not really. It was told that we were supposed to be fighting to stop the aggression of communism -- the spread of communism over in South Vietnam.

Henry Robinson:

Did you feel like you were doing a job?

Thomas H. Hodge:

In reality, we thought we were doing something, but once we found out that we weren't being let done what we were supposed to be doing -- it was more of a political war.

Henry Robinson:

Where and what was boot camp like?

Thomas H. Hodge:

I did my boot camp down in South Carolina -- Parris Island, South Carolina, and boot camp was like a nightmare from what you've been used to doing getting up in the mornings. I think the first morning we got up to boot camp, they threw a 55-gallon drum down the middle of the hallway and, you know, that like put you in a state of shock. And from then, they put -- fed into your brain what they wanted to feed into it. You know, if you were -- they were going to be your mother, your, father, sister, brother, your girlfriend -- anything they wanted you to be, that's what you were going to be in the Marine Corps.

Henry Robinson:

How long did boot camp last?

Thomas H. Hodge:

Boot camp was 12 weeks, and after boot camp we went through 4 weeks of advanced infantry training in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Henry Robinson:

Did you feel like you learned a lot from boot camp, changed?

Thomas H. Hodge:

Yes, survival. That's probably one of the main reasons I went to the Marine Corps because if I was going to be heading to Vietnam at that time back in the '60s, just about everybody getting out of high school or boys would want to be drafted into the military, so that's why I joined the Marines, because I knew that they were doing the best of training.

Henry Robinson:

What was your first job assignment?

Thomas H. Hodge:

After I finished boot camp and advanced infantry training, they sent me to Motor Transport school. I got to Vietnam, I was a truck driver. When I got my orders in boot camp, they told me that the life expectancy for a truck driver was three days.

Henry Robinson:

Why'd you sign up for that?

Thomas H. Hodge:

I didn't sign up for that. That's where they put you.

Henry Robinson:

Oh, they just put you there?

Thomas H. Hodge:

Yes. In the Marine Corps, they put you in the position that they feel you're best qualified for or wherever they need you. Every person in the Marine Corps is qualified as a -- as a grunt, as they call them. That's a ground pounder or infantry. So no matter what your MOS, they call it, whether you're a Remington Raider, which we used to call -- which used to be a typewriter -- we call them Remington Raiders because back then all the typewriters were made by Remington, so -- or if you were a nurse, a doctor, a cook, if they needed you out there in the bush -- {clears throat} excuse me. "The bush" is what they called -- was the jungle, so if you're out -- if they needed you out there in the bush then that's where you went. At least you knew how to fire all the weapons without questioning.

Henry Robinson:

Did you see any combat? If yes, could you explain briefly.

Thomas H. Hodge:

Yes. I was stationed up on the -- call it the Demilitarized Zone in South Vietnam, where North and South Vietnam split. Up there they slept in -- we slept in bunkers underground up in the highlands, and usually in the Marine Corps, you usually try to get the high grounds for security reasons. It was better to look down on the enemy than look up. Most of my time I spent over there was above the places like Quang Tri, Dong Ha, Vandergrift, Rock Pile, Khe Sanh, Cam Lo. These are places that we -- it was my home base.

Henry Robinson:

Did you ever get shot at while you were driving the truck?

Thomas H. Hodge:

No, I didn't. A few of my fellow buddies did, you know, like I said, when they say life expectancy of a truck driver in Vietnam --

Henry Robinson:

Was that true?

Thomas H. Hodge:

Is very --

Henry Robinson:

Three days?

Thomas H. Hodge:

Very true. It's like you go to a amusement park, and you have the ducks running along in a line and you're shooting at them, and that's about the size of a truck driver in Vietnam. If you're not doing that then you're doing duty that is comparable, and you're carrying explosives. So, I have a picture here that I can kind of show you of -- this is the -- we're running convoys, and the convoys always had machine gunners every fifth truck. We run about a 30, 40 truck convoy. We have maybe three tanks. Three tanks at the beginning of the convoy, maybe two tanks in the middle of the convoy, and two or three tanks at the end of the convoy. Above our heads we have these helicopters -- the Cobras -- human gunships.

Henry Robinson:

They fly over you guys every time?

Thomas H. Hodge:

Every time you go on a convoy they fly with us. We call it the "suicide convoy" because a lot of times on these convoys -- you probably can't see it that well in the pictures we have -- the artillery rounds, ammunition on the back of the -- back of the trucks.

Henry Robinson:

Oh, yeah.

Thomas H. Hodge:

And if one of the -- if a round hits one of the artillery rounds, something like that, the whole convoy goes up in a row. We also haul aviation fuel, JP-4, for the helicopters. And this was a everyday thing, 365 days of the year we run convoys, there wasn't no Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday.

Henry Robinson:

Every day.

Thomas H. Hodge:

We never kept track of the days. It was just a survival every day.

Henry Robinson:

How'd you cope with that, knowing that everyday you had to try to stay{coughing}_?

Thomas H. Hodge:

Well, it's something you don't learn from school. It's something that you get into and once it's -- your mind has to get -- you have to go into a cold mind. You know, when I say that, you know, if a buddy of yours gets shot and killed, you have some guys flip out, and once you see this happen day in, day out -- other -- the enemy getting killed, you got bodies laying here and there. Your mind starts to get cold.

Henry Robinson:

You get desensitized to it?

Thomas H. Hodge:

Right.

Henry Robinson:

And you taught yourself to do that?

Thomas H. Hodge:

You know, it's -- right. You know, it's a common factor, just like smoking a cigarette butt, you know.

Henry Robinson:

Just everyday?

Thomas H. Hodge:

Every -- every day. Doing truck driving, we run 18-hour days. In the Marine Corps you're guaranteed one hour of sleep a day and one meal.

Henry Robinson:

Every day that's all you have?

Thomas H. Hodge:

Every day. That's what you're guaranteed, so this was all part of the training that we got. It wasn't really the training, when you come up to boot camp, you got three meals a day. Once they say you hit Vietnam, you're guaranteed one meal a day, and that was it. And one hour of sleep a day. Some days I would go for two, sometimes three days without getting sleep.

Henry Robinson:

How'd you work like that, without being rested and fed?

Thomas H. Hodge:

You know, if you got a little man called Charlie chasing you, you don't worry about sleep.

Henry Robinson:

Can you tell me about some of your most memorable experiences?

Thomas H. Hodge:

I think, probably, one experience is when they had what they called a "monsoon season." Monsoon season over there is usually November, December. It rains --

Henry Robinson:

Oh, yeah. _+.

Thomas H. Hodge:

-- 30 days-- 30 days out of the month. The temperature drops down, we have to put on our field jackets, and the temperature drops down to about 85 degrees -- 85, 90 degrees, that's cold.

Henry Robinson:

For there, 85 degrees?

Thomas H. Hodge:

Eighty-five, and the temperature, basically, over there was 115, 120 degrees and probably about 10 times as humid as it was in this -- in -- in Baker City, you know, so. In dealing with the heat, the terrain, the bugs -- I mean, the mosquitos over there were -- they call them birds. They were that big.

Henry Robinson:

They were big?

Thomas H. Hodge:

They were big. They had roaches over there that fly, you know, so. Snakes --

Henry Robinson:

Yeah, what were the animals did you see? Did you see a lot of animals over there?

Thomas H. Hodge:

There's only one animal that I used to get a kick out of. It's what they call a rock ape. You see them up in the mountains; little, short, probably about four feet high, something like that, you know, and if we -- it wasn't a matter of us shooting them, so we tried to throw stones at them or, you know, to get them out of our area, and they would pick them up and throw them back at you, you know, so those were the apes.

Henry Robinson:

The apes would?

Thomas H. Hodge:

The apes would, yeah. So these were part of the, you know, those were the only ones that we saw that were -- they did have -- what do you call it -- your Bengal tigers over there. I didn't see any of them, but I've heard of them killing some of our troops over there, especially at nighttime. Sometimes we'd go out and parole at nighttime and no lights, no cigarettes. The man in front of you is probably about two feet in front of you, so you don't really know what's out there, and here you are 10, 12 thousand miles from home walking in somebody else's backyard that you don't know and you're thinking about -- it's, you know, it's -- very scared.

Henry Robinson:

What was day-to-day life like?

Thomas H. Hodge:

Well, as a truck driver, you get up about 6 o'clock in the morning. We go check our tires, check the truck and everything, make sure we go to a "rendezvous area" -- what we call a "staging area," and all the trucks with all the equipment we're hauling, where we're hauling, we'll line up and then we make this -- make this move to where we're going. Sometimes we come back. We have minesweepers that run the road before us so that we don't hit any mines.

Henry Robinson:

How long -- how long did it take to check in the mines?

Thomas H. Hodge:

Minesweepers usually go out about 20 minutes, half an hour before the convoy pulls out, and usually you don't find mines. It's usually when we come back is when we find mines. Because what happens is, Charlie used to let them ignore and come out with minesweepers every day, and when we go out in convoy and we drop our goods off and we're coming back -- while we're gone, they put mines in the road, and when we're coming back, you know, our trucks would hit a mine. They have what they call pressure-detonated mines that, let's say, one of our B-52s would drop a bomb, and the bomb didn't go off, they would pick up this bomb, maybe take about 30 of them, but they'll pick up this 500-pound bomb and they'll bury it in the ground, and maybe a Jeep might roll over this mine and it won't go off, but a truck carrying ammunition weighs more than, you know, two, three tons, it would set this mine off and, you know, blow the truck up.

Henry Robinson:

Did you ever see a truck -- did you ever see a mine go off?

Thomas H. Hodge:

Oh, yes. Many times.

Henry Robinson:

Did -- you never had -- your truck never?

Thomas H. Hodge:

I used to like to ride -- try to ride what they call the "lead truck." The lead truck of the convoy would sandbag, so if it hit a mine, you know, you really wouldn't get killed, you'd get shaken up but, you know.

Henry Robinson:

Yeah. Just rattle the truck?

Thomas H. Hodge:

Blow the engine. You know, like I said, these big 5-ton tractor-trailers and stuff, they'll blow the front end off the truck just like no problem.

Henry Robinson:

Where'd you sleep when -- like, how did guys sleep? Did you just have tents?

Thomas H. Hodge:

We slept anywhere we could find.

Henry Robinson:

Just anywhere?

Thomas H. Hodge:

You say we're guaranteed an hour of sleep. Here's a picture of me, I was taking a -- I was taking a nap here, and like I said, I was -- I'm out in the bush here and we always stayed very, you know, camouflaged, and you see if I put my finger over my face with my hand, you probably wouldn't even, you know, be able tell I'm out there in the bush. And this is how green the terrain was out there, and if we can camouflage this well, a person who lives in that country can do even better. So we were -- so we're guaranteed one hour of sleep a day. Sometimes we'd come in off the convoys, we would have to load the truck up. If you had a flat tire, we had to take the tires off, fix them, and patch them back up, put them back on, load the trucks up. Sometimes we'd be out there 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning,

Henry Robinson:

Umhum.

Thomas H. Hodge:

And we -- we don't even-- sometimes we don't even take our clothes off for four or five days, you know. If it's monsoon season we're getting soaking wet. We weren't wet from sweat, we're wet from the rain, so sometimes I've been-- I've been where I haven't taken by boots off for like two weeks.

Henry Robinson:

Did your feet get --

Thomas H. Hodge:

Your boots, once you get them off, you can't get them back on because they're wet, and you can't get them back on, so you just leave them on.

Henry Robinson:

What kind of equipment did you carry, like on yourself?

Thomas H. Hodge:

Each man, when we go out on patrols, each man would have to carry ammunition for machine guns, so each man, we probably carried about 400 rounds of machine gun bullets, plus we all carry our own grenades, three cans of -- three canteens of water. The average Marine carries about 60, 70 pounds of equipment on his back, which he calls his home.

Henry Robinson:

Yeah.

Thomas H. Hodge:

You know, so wherever we used to lay down, that's our home, you know, and this is like -- this is like a picture of we're getting ready to go into -- go into the bush on patrol here. This tall grass that you can see, this is elephant grass. Once you disappear in there, you're lost, you don't see, so you really have to stay like five feet in front of, you know, don't let your man get no more than five feet in front of you. Once you disappear into there, you know, and get lost they have the -- this is bamboo, and one of the deadliest snakes in the world camouflage his self under bamboo, which is the called the bamboo viper, and they're not very long, but they're very deadly. You know, some of the things that we have to deal with the -- the heat.

Henry Robinson:

It was a lot more than just men you were fighting with.

Thomas H. Hodge:

Right. We had to deal with -- right. The men we were fighting with knew this, and it was just some of the things that -- it was to our disadvantage, you know, so, but our -- our everyday lifestyle, a lot of times we would get -- we would come back to our -- our rear. This is in a place called Chu -- called Chu Lai, and this is what we stayed in, these little "hooches," we call. The only thing about staying in these little hooches, they were little just boards put up and stuff, but we used to get hit with these 81 mike-mikes, 81-millimeter rockets, every -- every day, every morning, so you never knew, and this -- this is the outcome of a rocket that hits.

Henry Robinson:

Just one who you would do that?

Thomas H. Hodge:

One rocket would do this, you know, and this particular one I had five of my buddies get killed in this one, and this is what one -- one rocket did and this was every, you know, every day.

Henry Robinson:

Every day that you were there?

Thomas H. Hodge:

Every day occurrence. You don't know when they come. The rockets, you really don't know when they're coming. Mortar rounds, you can hear them. You hear like a whispering -- a whistling sound, the mortars. Only thing is, you don't know where they're going to hit at, so you don't know where do run.

Henry Robinson:

Yeah.

Thomas H. Hodge:

Yeah. The best thing to do is get down on the ground. Like I said, this is a -- a every day occurrence over there also. So whether you're a truck driver, or whether you're put out in the bush on patrol, night patrol -- even sometimes we'd come in off convoys and, okay, you got -- you got perimeter duty. So we're on perimeter duty all night.

Henry Robinson:

So you just walk around?

Thomas H. Hodge:

Like, we're really like line zombies, you know.

Henry Robinson:

What kind of civilians did you encounter? Did you have any contact with them?

Thomas H. Hodge:

The civilians over there or --

Henry Robinson:

Yeah, over there.

Thomas H. Hodge:

No. No civilians.

Henry Robinson:

You didn't see any?

Thomas H. Hodge:

No. Only civilians we saw there that really were people, which was hardly ever, when I went really south, down to a place called Da Nang. They have places like, Zenith Television was over there in South Vietnam. That's the only place we'd run into civilians, who most of the time, we didn't even -- we just saw the sign, we didn't see the people or even talk to them.

Henry Robinson:

What was it like the day you came home?

Thomas H. Hodge:

When I got back from Vietnam, it was --

Henry Robinson:

Do you know what year or --

Thomas H. Hodge:

I got back from Vietnam in 1970, and I've seen war stories on TV of how guys come back home with their seabag, and stuff like that in the movies and stuff, and it was the same. I came home the same way. I come back through California, and then California -- California went to North Carolina, and then I came home with my seabag, took a taxi home, you know, there's nobody to greet you at the airport, nobody to -- even knew I was coming home. Difference with Vietnam versus the other wars, everybody came back as individuals, you know, I came home today, maybe somebody else come home two weeks later. When I got to Vietnam, one of the -- one of the guys would say, "Oh, here comes my replacement," you know. I got two days in the wake-up and they would kind of, you know, laugh and chuckle, and say, "Oh, this guy's got -- he's a newbie, he's got 396 days." That's how many days -- a Marine had to stay 13 months, we had to stay in Vietnam unless we were seriously wounded. If you were partially wounded -- your neck or something like that, they'd put you on a hospital ship or either pat you up and send you back out to the, you know, to the field.

Henry Robinson:

Did you get any wounds there?

Thomas H. Hodge:

No, I didn't get any -- I didn't get shot up. I got in a Jeep accident that rolled over and, you know, cracked my bone in my leg, you know, but. No, I was just happy to be in the wrong place at the right time. You know, you say, you see a lot of your friends, your buddies get shot, you know, and you become used to these -- the best thing you can say is that I'm glad it didn't happen to me, even though there's some people who might say that's cold to say, but you have to be that way, you know. If one of your buddies got killed you're going to say, well, you know, better him than me, you know, and --

Henry Robinson:

Is that the way, like, every soldier thought?

Thomas H. Hodge:

You just have to, you know, think that way, you know, and other than that, your -- you can flip out. I still have friends right today that, you know, Vietnam has really messed them up. I think about Vietnam, it's almost a everyday thing, you know. War is something that somebody -- you can't have war and nobody gets killed. That's the way I look at it. It's not a war, but it's not a fun war either. It's not a -- it's no game out there, it's survival. While I was in Vietnam, I was watching the -- these kids, you know. These little kids that were, you know, come up to you and it's, "Hey, Joe," you know, "Give me a cigarette, give me a cigarette." And these kids are probably no more than eight, ten years old, you know, smoking a cigarette, and --

Henry Robinson:

Yeah, that kid's smoking on that thing.

Thomas H. Hodge:

He's smoking -- I don't know if it was a cigarette -- I don't know if it was a cigarette or marijuana. I mean, you know, they had -- you can get marijuana over there just like bending down, picking up a cigarette butt over there, you know, the drugs over there were --

Henry Robinson:

A lot of soldiers used?

Thomas H. Hodge:

Oh, yes, you know. A lot of them do drugs to keep their mind, you know, your mind sane.

Henry Robinson:

So --

Thomas H. Hodge:

It's like, and you can say, a lot of them come back to the States and do the same thing, so -- and none of them, you know -- when we got back from Vietnam, there was nobody out here to greet us, to help us from the trauma that we know we went through.

Henry Robinson:

Umhum.

Thomas H. Hodge:

Today when they have -- something happens in the school system -- something -- they have to send a bunch of people out to -- psychiatrists to help you --

Henry Robinson:

Yeah.

Thomas H. Hodge:

-- get over this trauma. This is -- this was a one day incident they sent, but we were over there for 13 months, and when we got back nobody came, you know.

Henry Robinson:

Were you upset about that, that the Government didn't arrange anything?

Thomas H. Hodge:

I was upset then and I'm still upset, you know. I've had buddies of mine since I've been back have died, you know, from the war, and I'm still upset with the Government, you know. Vietnam was never a "declared war," and I believe this is the reason why a lot of our veterans are not, you know, getting treatment. Since it was never declared, it was what you call a "police action." We lost almost 60,000 guys in Vietnam, you know, so that's why I say that, you know, I'm still upset, you know. I've had some very close buddies, you know, since I've been back, you know, die. But, just to show you what, you know, what it would looked like if a bomb, you know, hit one -- this is the lifestyle we had to live while we were running convoys. This was the front end of a truck that was blown off from the mine, so, this stuff goes through your mind every time you run on a convoy and come back, you know, you always say, is it going to be my day to come back?

Henry Robinson:

And it was every day you went out, so.

Thomas H. Hodge:

This is every day. This is every day, you know, and people used to say, "Well, you was a truck driver, you guys got it made," you know.

Henry Robinson:

Did you guys go out like _+?

Thomas H. Hodge:

We were -- it's just like now, if you look at -- this country survives on truck drivers -- bring the food and stuff, you see them on the highways all the time. Same thing in Vietnam; we brought the troops to the frontline, we stayed on the frontline with them.

Henry Robinson:

Without you it just --

Thomas H. Hodge:

Right.

Henry Robinson:

-- doesn't work.

Thomas H. Hodge:

You know, we bring bodies back in the truck, you know.

Henry Robinson:

What was that like?

Thomas H. Hodge:

We put them in a -- put them in a plastic bag, you know, put them in on the back of the truck, and haul them back to the rears. You know, this is just, you know -- truck drivers, you know, like I said, they see it all, you're in it -- you're in it all, and there's no way -- they say _ told me in boot camp, your life expectancy is three days. I thought it was a joke, at first. When I hit Vietnam and they assigned me to a truck company, we got a chance to see firsthand what everything was like. Like I said, these pictures that, you know, I took these pictures just to have something to --

Henry Robinson:

To remember?

Thomas H. Hodge:

-- to remember. A lot of people said, "Oh, gee, you always carry a camera around." But I've always liked to take pictures and, you know, someday that, you know, they would, you know, be of help to some of the students and stuff, you know, in the schools, you know.

Henry Robinson:

Do you wish you took more pictures then?

Thomas H. Hodge:

I took some pictures of -- I had taken pictures of bodies and stuff laying around, but I felt that I didn't need to bring those back to the States, but in memory, I can remember that from today as it was 30 years ago. So I can remember that, but other people, you know, I don't think it's no excitement seeing bodies laying around here and there, saw enough of that, you know, over there.

Henry Robinson:

Have you been back to Vietnam ever?

Thomas H. Hodge:

No, I haven't been back to Vietnam. I thought about going back to Vietnam. Vietnam used to be, or probably still is, probably one of the cleaner air countries in the, you know, the -- outside of the war, the -- the lifestyle over there -- well, not the lifestyle -- the -- the area where it's nice and green, they grow a lot of rice over there. A lot of times we had to walk through rice patties. Rice patties have water moccasins in there, stuff like that, so you really don't know what's what. But usually rice patties, probably two or three feet of -- two feet of water, mud -- that's how rice grows over there. But the -- the vegetation over there is really green, just like you see in the jungles, everything is nice and green over there, they don't have pollution, you know.

Henry Robinson:

There's no, like, factories?

Thomas H. Hodge:

No, the factories are not -- factories are way down in the bigger cities, maybe in Saigon, places like that, and I've never been to Saigon. I don't think there's been too many Marines that been to Saigon. Saigon is the capitol of South Vietnam, and, so, Marines usually never go that far south, they're always left in the -- in the mountains or the jungles.

Henry Robinson:

Did people treat you differently when you came back? Did you --

Thomas H. Hodge:

Yes. Most of the people -- I really couldn't associate myself with some, you know, a lot of people because they really didn't know where I had been. After I had started at a job when got back and one of the people asked me about the job, he asked me had, you know, had I been into the military. I told him yes. He told me, "Well, have you been to Vietnam?" I says, "Yeah, I was in Vietnam." So he says, "You must -- you're one of Uncle Tom's hired assassins," you know.

Henry Robinson:

Did you -- did you take offense to that when he said that?

Thomas H. Hodge:

Yes. I had took, you know, I told him straight up, I says, you know, "If you had been back in Vietnam," you know, "some of these guys would have sent you back in a box," you know. And, you know, we didn't ask to go to that war, you know, we were sent there because we had a uniform on and that was, you know -- we went over there to do our -- to try to do our duty. We were more or less fighting three wars. We were fighting war against the enemy that we hardly ever saw. It was more or less like the Boston Tea Party, when you actually hit and run, and see, we were fighting a guy over there that's -- that's his homeland. The Vietnam -- the French had to pull out of Vietnam because they didn't win. And, so, the United States went over there, you know, they -- all the power the United States had, we had to pull out from over there. You have a little man that doesn't have the -- the tanks, you don't have the air support, and they, you know -- and, so, we didn't win the war, and that's why I believe that Vietnam is not -- much of Vietnam is not in the history books, even though, I mean, it's just my own personal belief, but I feel that if, you know, you lose 60,000 guys, you know, something should be, you know, said about it, you know. These guys didn't die for nothing, you know.

Henry Robinson:

Have you been to the War Memorial in Washington?

Thomas H. Hodge:

On Washington? Yeah, I've been down to the -- to the Wall, you know, and it's -- so I got buddies on the Wall, and, you know, it's a very -- it's the feeling is very -- it's -- it's sad you go down there, it's just a -- a quiet, you know, type thing for me, you know, to go down there. I've been down, you know, two or three times, you know, I've taken by children down there when they were younger and, you know, and explained to them just what's, you know, this wall is for. And I've explained a lot to them about Vietnam and they understand the reasons, you know, that the book will probably never, you know, put into prospective.

Henry Robinson:

Do you feel some satisfaction from, like, the Monument they put up?

Thomas H. Hodge:

I -- I feel it's -- the Monument was well for the guys who got killed in Vietnam, but it doesn't show the veterans who died since the war, you know, who've gotten -- who died from wounds that they received in Vietnam. See, these vet -- these veterans aren't recognized. We had lost 60,000 -- close to 60,000 on the Wall, but probably another 200,000 veterans are -- have died since the war, or in VA hospitals, mental institutions, and, see, these veterans are never even brought up, they're forgotten, you know. This is some of the things you know, that the Government is not doing. We have a lot of homeless veterans out here, and, you know, there shouldn't be no homeless veteran in this country, you know.

Henry Robinson:

It's true. What have you learned from war or about war?

Thomas H. Hodge:

Well, like I said, war is -- is -- you can't have war if nobody gets killed. The war is run by somebody in the higher up offices, we're just servants. We go out there and we do what they tell us to do. The other wars that we had since Vietnam, you know, they've learned a lot from Vietnam. I can go to places now and, more -- most times, if I go to big places, maybe the civic center or a big function, I have to stand at the back of the event because I can keep an eye on everybody else. Nobody else has got by back, so, therefore, I have to watch everybody else.

Henry Robinson:

So you don't really trust people?

Thomas H. Hodge:

I -- no. I don't try. I didn't -- when I was in Vietnam, if you were 3 or 93, I didn't trust you. North Vietnamese, South Vietnamese, it's just like West Springfield, Springfield; you don't know who you're fighting. You don't trust nobody over there, you know, and even back here, you know, in the country here, the -- the -- there's a lot of people here, you know, the Government, you know, they didn't do us right when we got back from Vietnam, and, you know, so if somebody don't do you right, you just don't -- just don't trust them, you know. And, like I said, I'm speaking for myself but I know there's hundreds and thousands of other veterans think the same way, and, like I said, with nothing being in the history books about Vietnam, you know, to me, it goes to show you, the Government is not trying to help the veterans or -- if you didn't win the war, I felt that we won the war because we lost troops over there.

Henry Robinson:

Umhum.

Thomas H. Hodge:

But anytime you lose troops, you send troops 12, 14 thousand miles away from home to fight a -- in a war that's never declared, then they should get recognition.

Henry Robinson:

It's true. Do you feel that not being able to trust people has hurt you much since then?

Thomas H. Hodge:

No. Not being -- not being able to trust people has helped me because, and see, a lot of people get caught up in things, and even at an early of 19, we went from high school right into war, and we used to say that we went from your mother's dress tail to a man's uniform, you know, and we learned how to take out people, they say, we come back here -- a lot of people we had, what they call post-traumatic stress, PTSD. And a lot of people have ask me what is PTSD, and I throw it back at them, I says, you know, incidents that happen in school, somebody gets shot, stabbed in school, and you see the reactions on the people around this incident, it traumatizes them, and that's what PTSD is, something that traumatizes you for -- for a while. And, just what I was saying before, they send counselors in to help the people incorporate that incident that happened for. They get PTSD for one that day, and maybe it may last for a little longer. We were out there for 396 days in Vietnam, and you see trauma every day. When we come back there's nobody there to, you know, to help us. You know, and, even probably 10 years later, you know, that's when they start saying, oh, these guys got -- there's something wrong with Vietnam veterans, you know, they're not the same guys that left here. You know, but, unless you actually been into the war then you'll never know or feel what it's like.

Henry Robinson:

Is there anything that you'd like to add to this? Any pictures?

Thomas H. Hodge:

No. And see the -- most of the pictures that I have here -- this is like -- so this is -- this is one of my times when I was -- this one's called "Looking Over My Albums." So this picture here is on the front of my album I have at home. This is looking over -- looking over Vietnam, and this is one of the times I was back in the rear. I had gotten injured there, I had a -- I broke my thumb and finger, and the _ sent _, so they put me in the rear for three -- three weeks, you know. But you have to use yourself in Vietnam, you know. There's nothing over there that was funny. I have it on this picture here, I have a buddy of mine that I grew up with from two-years-old, you know, he lives here in Springfield, named Tom Dalton(ph). I grew up here in Springfield with him. We lived in the same duplex houses, we went to high school at the old Tech High School, both were in the Marines, and we ended up in Vietnam, you know, strangely over there together, so. This is the area that we were in, it was a place called, you know, Dong Ha, which would be called the "Dust Bowl." The reason they called it the Dust Bowl is because they had sprayed -- we would call "Agent Orange."

Henry Robinson:

Isn't that like -- it's bad, right?

Thomas H. Hodge:

Agent Orange is a chemical that they used to clear the foliage -- the jungles from, you know, kill the foliage to -- so they'd find the enemy. But five ounces of -- five or six ounce of this chemical, Agent Orange, which is made of dioxin, can wipe out the city of Springfield. So when they're talking about chemical warfare coming from Iraq and these other countries, you know, we're not prepared for it, you know, and, this is what we used in Vietnam, the -- the Agent Orange, as they say, dioxin, it's a very deadly chemical. But I learned from the war you have to become your own, even in the war. One thing about the Marine Corps, if you were a private or a major, you could still -- they taught you -- that you could still be a troop of a company over men into battle if you have to. You going to have to call in air strikes, whether it be from a -- jets, Navy ship out in the ocean, or from artillery. You know how -- you know, get your grid coordinates on the -- on the maps, you know. So there's a lot of self-discipline, you know, I learned in the -- from war, and just, hopefully, well, I'm not going back to war again, but, hopefully, nobody else really has to go back. But as history repeats itself, United States has always been in conflict every 15, 20 years, and the economy picks up in war. People get jobs, and it's sad to say, but this is what really happens when war goes on. We need ammunition, we need equipment for the men that's in the war, so jobs pick up. And if -- if you go back and look at the some of the histories and see every 15, 20 years, you know, we've been into a skirmish or into an act of war.

Henry Robinson:

That's it. Thank you. Thank you very much.

Thomas H. Hodge:

Thank you.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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