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Interview with Kenneth R. Sizemore [5/31/2004]

Shawna Williams:

Today is Monday, May 31st, 2004. This is the beginning of an interview with Kenneth Sizemore at the Veterans Memorial Park in Ocala, Florida. Mr. Sizemore is 68 years old, having been born on 8/26/1935. My name is Shawna Williams. I will be the interviewer. Mr. Sizemore, if you could, state for the recording what war and branch of service you served in.

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

I served in the United States Army and I was in Korea and two times in Vietnam and the Dominican Republic.

Shawna Williams:

What was your rank?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

I went in as a private and retired as a chief warrant officer.

Shawna Williams:

Where did you serve?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

Well, I started out in Fort Bliss, Texas, from there to Panama to the West Coast at Fort McCarver, California, to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, back to Fort Hollenburg, Maryland, and Fort Devens, Massachusetts, to Hokkaido, Japan, to Okinawa, to Vietnam, to Thailand, to Germany, I would imagine, and then back to Thailand for the second time and retired.

Shawna Williams:

Were you drafted or did you enlist?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

I enlisted.

Shawna Williams:

Where were you living at the time?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

In Texas.

Shawna Williams:

Why did you join?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

Well, to be honest with you, my brother had just returned as being a POW in Korea. Jessie L. Sizemore. He spent 38 months as a POW. He can tell you something about torture. It is not making you go undressed. He would tell you something about torture. I asked him what he was going to do. He said he thought he would stay in the Army. I thought he was crazy. I didn't know anybody stayed in the Army. He had all kinds of job opportunities. I said, well, if you are going to stay, I am going to go. That is when I joined the military.

Shawna Williams:

Why did you pick the Army?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

I picked the Army because I had a stepdad in the Air Force, a brother in the Navy, my other brother in the Army. I was going to join the Marine Corps. I think he had his quota filled and he didn't much want to talk to me. He said I would never make it in the Marine Corps, a big master sergeant. He might have been right. So I went down to a recruiting sergeant named John Faith. We didn't have an Army recruiter. And I joined the Army.

Shawna Williams:

Do you recall your first days in service?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

Yes, I do.

Shawna Williams:

What did it feel like?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

Well, it felt pretty bad because out of 230 people there was only two of us that was regular Army. The rest of them had been drafted. So every time they had some kind of a detail, they would say, Where is them volunteers? Where is them volunteers?

Shawna Williams:

Tell me about the boot camp.

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

You might just say -- Actually, all the way through eight weeks there was harassment because we had enlisted. Even some of the cadre there were draftees. They hated it. They more or less acted like they hated us. But, anyway, the day we graduated and left they were still looking for me to put me on KP that night so I couldn't even leave. Be honest with you, I hid from them.

Shawna Williams:

Do you remember your instructors?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

Well, Lebreaux -- There was a Louisiana boy, Beaudreax, I think his name was. LeBlanc? LeBlanc. Corporal LeBlanc was one of them. That's all I can remember.

Shawna Williams:

How did you get through it?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

I just want to tell you something. I looked out there while ago. There was a ceremony today that says they are going to have some Medal of Honor winners. I went in there -- Honest to goodness. I wasn't trying to attain the rank of general. But some way or another I said, man, I want to try to get a Medal of Honor out of this. You shoot for the highest things. Of course, my brother he got a hero's welcome when he came back, big parade and all that jazz. As a matter of fact, last year we celebrated the 50th anniversary of him coming back in our hometown of Henrietta, Texas. You know, I just wanted to be -- I thought I had to live up to him because I thought he was a hero. Come to find out later, actually a few years later, he didn't volunteer to be a POW. I mean, he did not volunteer to be a POW. Them Chinese overran them with supposed to have been two tanks -- The Koreans. The Chinese weren't in there then. Their intelligence said they, you know, got about 100 people there, two old rundown tanks. They hit them with about a division and 32 tanks my brother just told me the other day. So our intelligence was sort of as bad as it is right now on certain things.

Shawna Williams:

What war did you serve in?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

Well, two in Vietnam and in the Dominican Republic. I wasn't in World War II or none of that.

Shawna Williams:

Where exactly did you go?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

Where did I serve?

Shawna Williams:

Uh-huh.

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

I just kind of went through that while ago when I said -- when I went in to Fort Bliss, Texas.

Shawna Williams:

No. In Vietnam. Where exactly did you go there?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

Oh, gosh. We were all over. I was with special forces. There is no front lines in Vietnam. You are everywhere. We were at, gosh, Phu Tho, Bametuit, Fanrang, and out in the Mekong Delta.

Shawna Williams:

Do you remember arriving and what it was like?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

Actually, it was peaceful the first time I went over there. Matter of fact, in '62 there wasn't anything going on until everybody got it settled as to how they were going to do this thing, I think. They just geared up. LBJ, he wanted his -- what did he call it? Guns and butter or whatever at the same time. That is sort of the way that thing went. No. I was in the Army Security Agency Task of Special Forces intercept in military intelligence. The second tour I was with the 129th Assault Helicopter Unit.

Shawna Williams:

What was your job assignment?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

I was a supply officer for the 129th Assault Helicopter Unit. They had been there 14 months. The man that I replaced I won't mention his name. I don't reckon I have to. It was Captain Harry. I won't mention his last name. That was their first casualty. He got killed the day he got orders to go to Germany. He was trying to go to Germany instead of Fort Walter, Texas. He extended 30 days. Anyway, he got killed the day he got orders to go to Germany. That's their first casualty, the guy I replaced.

Shawna Williams:

Did you see combat?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

Well, combats everywhere. I wasn't a rifleman. I wasn't out there shooting. Well, I mean, I shot at people.

Shawna Williams:

Were there many casualties in your unit?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

When I left there, there was two, Harry and then another warrant officer that overloaded the helicopter when he was extracting long range reconnaissance. He overloaded and he crashed. When I left, there was two. We lost a lot of aircraft up in Phu Tho though. Mortars destroyed a bunch of aircraft up there.

Shawna Williams:

What was your most memorable experience?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

In Vietnam?

Shawna Williams:

Uh-huh.

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

It would have been -- When I was down at _______ I went down there to get a whole bunch of supplies. We got kind of wiped out, our outfit did. I went down and I looked down on the airstrip and lined up dressed right and covered down was body bags. They were arctic body bags, not tropical. I guess somebody missed the stock number or they ran out because of so many casualties. So they sent arctic evacuation bags. There they were just lined up on that runway. I asked this Air Force sergeant. I said, What in the world -- What is that? He looked at me and he said, That is bodies. I said, Whose bodies? Americans. It was after that -- It had to be 900 to 1,000 just lined up on that runway just -- temperature was 100 degrees. You have got to know that that's the most memorable thing I saw.

Shawna Williams:

Were you awarded any medals or citations?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

Bronze Star.

Shawna Williams:

For what?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

Meritorious service. Above and beyond meritorious service.

Shawna Williams:

Okay. How did you stay in touch with your family?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

They were in the States. I had them go to Bangkok. I got over to Bangkok to see them. My wife is from Thailand. Josephine, Jenny, and Kenny. I was pretty fortunate. I could get on the 130 going back and forth and I could be there in an hour and a half, two hours at the most from the airport to my house. That is pretty fortunate in that case.

Shawna Williams:

What was the food like during Vietnam?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

Vietnam? We had good food. Can't complain. As a matter of fact, that second tour over there -- It was good the second tour. I had a guy pick up lobster tail down in Fanrang. The captain would fly down. He would bring back -- One time he brought back 110 lobster. I was going to pay for it for the people that had come back for a roundup. I said, How much do I owe you? He looked at me and he started grinning. I said, No, how much is it? It cost -- They were -- Let's see. They were 10 cents apiece. There was 100 of them. 110. It was 11 dollars. 10 cents apiece.

Shawna Williams:

For lobsters?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

Lobster. I am talking about lobster. I ain't talking about these little old babies they sell over here at this store. I am talking about lobsters. I have got a picture of one where I am holding up that tail. That tail was about -- golly Moses, it must have been 10 inches long. I am holding it up sitting on a sandbag. I sent it to my brother. I told him, well, LBJ and Dean Rusk and McNamara, I bet they ain't eating any better than I am.

Shawna Williams:

Did you have plenty of supplies?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

Yes. I am the supply man. If it wasn't nailed down, I got it. There was no problem at all. They would probably give it to you because they didn't have it in the computer, all this, that, and the other. I would just go get it. Somebody would either give it to me or I would get it.

Shawna Williams:

Did you feel any pressure or stress?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

Yes. I mean, I was the only man that supplied that whole Helicopter Unit. It was my job to as supply man. It wasn't repair parts because we had another detachment for that. But yes, for clothing and ways to cook and cooking utensils and all that stuff.

Shawna Williams:

How did people entertain themselves?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

Well, everybody in my outfit just about, the pilots, the warrant officers, captains, they all had tape decks and speakers and stereos they drug around with them. Everywhere we would relocate you could see them sitting up on the side of the hill up there. You could walk through there and they would be having Bach, Beethoven, Johnny Cash, whatever you wanted, Meryl Haggard, it would be there. Just sitting out there. It put a burden on me to get the generators to kick up the power for that. We had ice making machines. Every officer in the outfit had a refrigerator. We lived pretty good that last year over there.

Shawna Williams:

Were there any entertainers?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

Oh, gosh. Yes. I have got a videotape of that. There were some entertainers, some of them that would be rated XXX over here. They were out of Australia. Yes. That was the entertainment I saw. We got to see Bob Hope one time. He was there. I saw him in Thailand, though. What a great man. What a great man.

Shawna Williams:

Do you have photographs?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

I have got a complete video of that gal out of Australia you can't show. It is XXX rated.

Shawna Williams:

What do you think of the officers or fellow soldiers?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

They were great as far as I'm concerned. There is no problem at all. That is a different Army back there in the '70s than what we have got now. We still had some draftees in. Moving into that modern volunteer Army. It was -- The transition was a little rough. But it's a different Army.

Shawna Williams:

Did you keep a personal diary?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

No, I didn't.

Shawna Williams:

Do you recall the day your service ended?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

Oh, did I?

Shawna Williams:

Where were you?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

Fort Sill, Oklahoma. I had come back from Thailand. I had finished my 20 years in Thailand and could process out to Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Shawna Williams:

What did you do in the days and weeks afterwards? Did you go to work? Go back to school?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

I went immediately down to my brother that had retired to Mississippi. A short time later I came to Ocala, Florida, and opened a business here on the boulevard, a Chinese restaurant. Everybody in town knows about it, The Mandarin House.

Shawna Williams:

Did you make close friends while in the service?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

Yes, you make some close friends.

Shawna Williams:

Did you continue any of the relationships?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

Yes.

Shawna Williams:

How long?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

We still correspond.

Shawna Williams:

Even until today?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

Yes.

Shawna Williams:

Did you join the Veterans organization?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

That I didn't do. I may be incorrect about that. I went and visited. I decided not to join for my own personal reasons.

Shawna Williams:

Did your military experience influence your thinking about war or about the military in general?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

It has to influence it some way. But it's in a positive way. Nothing negative about it. We sit back and we don't understand why they fight like they do now. We have a no-win policy, I believe. We are not trying to win. We go so far. We could resolve any military conflict around with our superpower, but we just have the policy for everybody trying to love us. We are going to come over here and kill you, but if you will just love us, we will build your place up and leave it to you. I don't understand all that. I don't think anybody else does.

Shawna Williams:

How did your service and experiences affect your life?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

Well, I think it makes me more appreciative of our country and our way of life and makes you more tolerant. One thing about it, the military -- The Army was a testing ground for this abomination we had of segregation in this country. They forced integration back in the '50s. I met a colonel, a lieutenant colonel out there at Fort Sill, one of the finest I have ever run across, Colonel Drummond. I will just mention his name. He was -- When he first went in the military he had to stay on the other side of the base there at Fort Sill. It was bad for our society to be that way. It was everything. We were the ones -- We were integrated before the world -- Right now there is still a problem in this country, but there is not in the military. In the Army. I don't know about anything else. Because it's -- Everybody wears the same uniform and their blood is the same color. When you are called upon to serve, you serve. And you expect that guy to not look at you because of the color of your skin and this, that, and the other because you depend on each other. That's the attitude that -- I didn't go in with that attitude because I came from a segregated society. I will be honest with you. But I am glad I did because it is wrong. Everything we did was wrong in those days. Everything was wrong. That's what opened my eyes.

Shawna Williams:

Is there anything you would like to add that we have not covered during this interview?

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

No. Except I believe there is people trying to destroy our country. And I believe God established it, blessed it, sustained it. You can get some arguments over that. There is people that want to deny that there is a God, a creator. I just -- I am prepared -- It is just -- I can recall the -- What do they call? The Articles of -- I an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in its defense. If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith in my fellow prisoners and I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape. So forth along down the line. Code of Conduct is what that is called. I just think that -- There is more to it. I just can't remember them. More Americans ought to love their country. We ought to love this country. And we ought to stop bringing people in here that don't love this country. I mean, when they say I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States, there is people that can't truly do that because they are not pledging allegiance to us if they are certain religious backgrounds and affiliations. I am writing congressmen and senators and attorney generals because that is another story. That is what I would like to say. Love this country. Protect our country. Otherwise -- You can be places where you have got a pocket full of money and there is nothing to buy. Here you can buy anything you want if you have got the money. Get out there and get with it. There is job opportunities for any and everybody. So love your country and be faithful and loyal and love Jesus first and everything will be fine.

Shawna Williams:

All right. Thank you, Mr. Sizemore.

Kenneth R. Sizemore:

You are welcome.

 
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