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Interview with Ray Ernest Adams [11/8/2008]

Ricky Bakosh:

My name is Ricky Bakosh, my interviewees name is Ray Adams. Today is Saturday November 8th, 2008, and we are in the VFW of Downers Grove Illinois. The branch of military that you were in?

Ray Ernest Adams:

Marine Corps.

Ricky Bakosh:

And the war that you served in?

Ray Ernest Adams:

Vietnam.

Ricky Bakosh:

And your years of service?

Ray Ernest Adams:

From February 1965 until February of 71 .

Ricky Bakosh:

Your year of birth?

Ray Ernest Adams:

1946

Ricky Bakosh:

Place of birth?

Ray Ernest Adams:

San Francisco, California.

Ricky Bakosh:

Where you were raised?

Ray Ernest Adams:

I was raised in Santa Cruise California and San Francisco.

Ricky Bakosh:

Do you know your father's place of birth?

Ray Ernest Adams:

Yes, it was Duke Oklahoma.

Ricky Bakosh:

And your mothers?

Ray Ernest Adams:

She was born in Santa Cruise California.

Ricky Bakosh:

Okay, so now that stuff is out of the way we will get to the actual real questions. So, what year were you born?

Ray Ernest Adams:

[laughter] 1946.

Ricky Bakosh:

What state were you born in?

Ray Ernest Adams:

California.

Ricky Bakosh:

Do you know how you got your name?

Ray Ernest Adams:

I was named after my grandmother. Same spelling too. R-A-Y.

Ricky Bakosh:

Where were you raised throughout your childhood?

Ray Ernest Adams:

Santa Cruise California and San Francisco.

Ricky Bakosh:

What were your rules towards adults while you were growing up? I

Ray Ernest Adams:

My rules towards adults. Follow them. Do whatever they told you to do. Or get beat. Actually I was raised by my grandparents for a great deal of the time, through that grew to have a lot of respect for elder adults and adults in general.

Ricky Bakosh:

What was your socio-economic status while you were grow up? Middle, low-

Ray Ernest Adams:

[clears throat] low, when I lived with my father and mother it was pretty much middle class, but with my grandparents it was uh, they weren't, very rich, they came out from the dust bowl from Texas. Pick fruit in California to get started and then my grandfather started fishing. And he and his he owned a boat and he would take people out fishing and that's how he earned a living.

Ricky Bakosh:

Did you want to grow up anywhere else besides where you did?

Ray Ernest Adams:

No. I wanted to stay in Santa Cruise; I didn't want to go to San Francisco.

Ricky Bakosh:

What types of people where your parents?

Ray Ernest Adams:

Hardworking. My father was a master carpenter. He was a B-24 pilot in world war two, my mother was a bookkeeper, and then she became a media director for an advertising agency, and then she went back to bookkeeping for an exclusive ladies club in San Francisco. My father worked for several construction companies, two different construction companies in San Francisco, at two different times.

Ricky Bakosh:

What were the rules and guidelines that you were raised by?

Ray Ernest Adams:

Pretty much the Ten Commandments.

Ricky Bakosh:

What religion where you brought up under, or where you?

Ray Ernest Adams:

nothing specific. My mother and her parents were Methodist, my grandmother, who pretty much raised me was Baptist, southern Baptist, and at one point during while we were living with them and we would go to church every Sunday and go to Sunday school I conceited to be baptized. It was just the feeling that I had when the opportunity arose, and ive been a Baptist ever since. Non-practicing. [Laughter]

Ricky Bakosh:

How much of a roll did that, uh, religion play on your life?

Ray Ernest Adams:

that religion didn't really playa roll, other than introducing me to god I guess. I never really put much stock in god [cell phone rings] until after the war or during the war. Sorry about that.

Ricky Bakosh:

Okay, childhood and youth period. What did you do for entertainment?

Ray Ernest Adams:

I hung out at the beach. Went fishing with my grandfather [cell phone noise] I'd get paid for that sort of. I would just go out with him and the people he would be chartering to, they would always tip me because I would cut their bait and all that. I loved to fish. Uh, swimming, playing baseball.

Ricky Bakosh:

What did you listen to on the radio?

Ray Ernest Adams:

The beach boys [laughter] in their youth. Yup. Pretty much that.

Ricky Bakosh:

Did you have a favorite book or author when you were growing up?

Ray Ernest Adams:

I don't remember the author, but Love of Markey. It was about iron men and wooden ships. Privateering, and uh, I loved the sea [cell phone noise] it's a part of my life. One of the best parts, actually.

Ricky Bakosh:

What kinds of magazines did you look at?

Ray Ernest Adams:

Mad. [laughter] and various comic books like maybe superman and stuff like that. Nothing serious.

Ricky Bakosh:

What kinds of sports where you active in?

Ray Ernest Adams:

Baseball, sailing, track, that's about it.

Ricky Bakosh:

Where there any types of extra curricular activities that you were involved in with your school?

Ray Ernest Adams:

No.

Ricky Bakosh:

What was your favorite subject in school?

Ray Ernest Adams:

[laughter] lunch. Id say math. I enjoyed math.

Ricky Bakosh:

And your least favorite subject?

Ray Ernest Adams:

History.

Ricky Bakosh:

Why's that?

Ray Ernest Adams:

I had a hard time correlating dates and names and for some reason there was never any real flow to the curriculum. You'd be moving along and then all the sudden you'd jump back to somebody else in a different point in time. I didn't have any real appreciation for history until I became part of it. [Laughter]

Ricky Bakosh:

irony. [Laughter]

Ray Ernest Adams:

exactly. [Laughter] now ya know I wish that id focused more and had learned more now. But, should-a could-a.

Ricky Bakosh:

Exactly. uh, what high school did you attend?

Ray Ernest Adams:

two of them. Santa Cruise High School through my freshman year and then from my junior year because my grandmother and my grandfather passed away, I had to uh, move back with my parents back in San Francisco, and then I went to ?Poly Technic? High School in San Francisco.

Ricky Bakosh:

Would you say high school was a big turning point in your life?

Ray Ernest Adams:

uhh .. mmm ... yeah. well, yes. Actually moving to San Francisco was a turning point. The school didn't help me a lot. It did in some sense because when I was there I was in ROTC, and that gave me some insight as to the military and the requirements there.

Ricky Bakosh:

Who was your favorite sports team?

Ray Ernest Adams:

probably the, they were called the San Francisco Sea Otters I think [laughter]

Ricky Bakosh:

Did you have a favorite athlete?

Ray Ernest Adams:

Willy Mayze

Ricky Bakosh:

Did you have a hero, when you were in high school? Someone who you idolized?

Ray Ernest Adams:

just pretty much my dad. Because of his carpentry skills and abilities.

Ricky Bakosh:

What were your uh, lifelong plans once graduating, once you were coming up to it.

Ray Ernest Adams:

I really didn't have any plans. I was pretty aloof back then. [Laughter] especially in San Francisco in the early 60's. My high school was maybe 4 blocks away from ?Hate Ashbury? Interesting area. Anyway.

Ricky Bakosh:

Pre military period. What made you decide that enlisting was the next step?

Ray Ernest Adams:

[laughter] my girlfriend didn't want to be married to a gas station attendant. So I figured I'd better do something, actually I dropped out of high school and I was working at a gas station changing oil, pumping gas, washing windows back when they did that sort of thing. And uh I had this girlfriend she just she had graduated and had higher aspirations so I figured id better do something. And the kid who was the leader of our group in high school had joined the Marine Corps. And when he came back he was like a changed person. Id impressed me. So when I had to do something, and I was doing nothing, I really wasn't doing anything I had to do something. I thought that would be a good thing to do.

Ricky Bakosh:

At what point did you fully realize that we, the USA, were at war?

Ray Ernest Adams:

actually not really until I got over there. I mean, it is, war was just something that I didn't think about growing up as a kid. I loved stuff like that when I was a little kid and everything, and we uh yeah. It was a lot of fun, I enjoyed it, I had an ROTC, but the realities of war didn't, you have no concept until you're there. So. That's why every one of our politicians should have to spend uh a few months participating in that war if, and then, that's before they become a politician, and then ill bet you that they don't vote for the war. Because when you see your, these kids getting blown up and maimed and, its not a pretty sight. Anyway.

Ricky Bakosh:

What did you think of the Vietnamese before enlisting, or did you?

Ray Ernest Adams:

I didn't. Well, different people, different place. You know, when I went into the military, well, when I went into the marine corps, um went through boot camp, then advanced infantry training, and then got assigned to sea school. So. Uh. Which meant, out of tradition there is a detachment of marines on board every significant navel battle. Which significant is a light cruiser and above. Okay. Um. I went on board a light cruiser called the USS Topica, and we had a compliment of fifty-two marines on board. The aircraft carriers have quite a few more, the battleships have more. Depends on the size of the ship and how many they support.

Ricky Bakosh:

Did you know about the communist leader Ho Chi Minh before?

Ray Ernest Adams:

just name only. I mean, you know how it is.

Ricky Bakosh:

And the capitalist Diem Dihn?

Ray Ernest Adams:

no, didn't know anything about him. But I guess he is the guy who invited us over there. [laughter]

Ricky Bakosh:

How was the media portraying the events before enlisting, coming up to the point?

Ray Ernest Adams:

just that we were, actually we were advisors over there at that point, and it was beginning to escalate, ya know. And I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to it. I didn't join to go over there and fight for the United States, I just joined to try and get my life together [laughter] do something maybe my girlfriend would be proud of me for [laughter].

Ricky Bakosh:

Okay, what were your initial feelings upon making the decision to enlist?

Ray Ernest Adams:

[sigh] I was excited I think. New adventure kind of a thing, you know.

Ricky Bakosh:

What was your opinion on the government before you enlisted?

Ray Ernest Adams:

didn't have one. It was just, I mean they were the people that set the rules, you know. But I had no concept of what the government really was all about.

Ricky Bakosh:

Was it the same feeling towards the president? or did you have a-?

Ray Ernest Adams:

yeah, pretty much. Yeah, obscure, they were just up there, ya know.

Ricky Bakosh:

Military service period. How did you family react when you enlisted?

Ray Ernest Adams:

They were surprised. The thing I remember most is uh, I went through all the preparation and everything the thing that I remember most was the day that I had to leave to go to boot camp my mother drove me down to the federal building in San Francisco, and, uh, she cried. And that's the first time I've ever seen her cry, and it touched me.

Ricky Bakosh:

Your friends, how did they react?

Ray Ernest Adams:

my friends? They were like 'uh, okay. You're going off to war.' My girlfriend, she was 'uh. Well you made a decision.' But during boot camp she went and found someone else [laughter]

Ricky Bakosh:

[laughter] oh. Oh typical.

Ray Ernest Adams:

Yeah. Now I had six years I had to fulfill [laughter] and she's gone.

Ricky Bakosh:

Oh yeah. How many of your friends enlisted with you?

Ray Ernest Adams:

Back then they had a deal where you go in on a buddy program. Marine corps offered it, they might still have it but uh, one. I went with the kid I grew up with in Santa Cruise. He was in college at this point and I went down there and talked to him said 'hey, why don't you come? They say you can stay we can go through it together.' Well he did. He quit and he quite college. His parents were a little upset with me I think but uh in the end they understood. In the end it turned out great so.

Ricky Bakosh:

Which branch of military did you want to enlist with?

Ray Ernest Adams:

I think I wanted the Marine Corps.

Ricky Bakosh:

And that's who you ended up enlisting with?

Ray Ernest Adams:

That's who I ended up. Yeah.

Ricky Bakosh:

What was your first impression of the military when you got there?

Ray Ernest Adams:

[snorting laughter]

Ricky Bakosh:

well there you go [laughter]

Ray Ernest Adams:

yeah. Actually I have a hard time remembering what happened the first couple of weeks because it was so traumatic. I remember getting off the plane, and San Diego they flew us from San Francisco to San Diego, we, well you know where the depot is then.

Ricky Bakosh:

I don't know it well.

Ray Ernest Adams:

Yeah, well anyway, we got off the plane and we were standing around, standing around, finally this old, what they call cattle car, it's a old drab semi trailer that's really low in the middle its for like hauling pigs and cattle and stuff. It came up and tore open and this little guy gets out 'you guys are all going to the marine corps?' they herded us into this thing, slammed and locked the doors and rumbled off. All these young kids are 'oh, here we go.' We pulled into the uh depot, the door flies open and you hear people screaming at you 'GET OUT! LETS GO! GET OUTTA HERE!' and from that point on for two weeks constant screaming and yelling. [Laugher] Yellow footprints. They make you get out, and stand on these yellow footprints. You've got to be right on those foot prints. I mean, it's just like unbelievable [laughter] I never felt like nothing before. But it was like nothing. Yeah. They just [laughter] from there they take you in; they cut all your hair off immediately. Zip. Right down to nothing. Move you around, they fed us I think, and I just but it was hectic. And they were always yelling at us, and we never did anything right. [Laughter] so, but, it was traumatic, very very traumatic.

Ricky Bakosh:

What did you bring with you; to the military?

Ray Ernest Adams:

The thing I can't remember. Just normal. I think I might have brought a change of clothes one change of clothes. We ended up having to send all that back. I do remember that on the plane going down there we were flying PSA, and the sturdiests' knew we were going to boot camp. And they were real friendly with us. And gave us some cigarettes. Back then they had these little complimentary packs of five cigarettes each they would pass out on airplanes. Oh yeah, yeah. Complimentary. [Laughter] they gave each of us, me and my buddy, a whole case of those. Well we think 'oh man, they must really like us!' when were unpacking and having to sort everything out they make you take, they've got tables and you everything you've brought you put up on these tables. You're there in your skivies with all your bags and everything up there. They give you a box. You have to send everything home that they don't want you to have, when they sawall these cigarettes that we had I mean, they would find any excuse, the DI's would find any excuse to harass you. And well, here we are with all these stupid cigarettes. We caught hell for that. That's, ya know. That's what I took with me.

Ricky Bakosh:

How did you deal with the hardship of training and boot camp?

Ray Ernest Adams:

I went in with the attitude, they say 'jump' you say 'how high and when can ya come down.' That's what my buddy who had gone in previously told me. You stick with that attitude. And when it would get tough I would just think 'hey, a lot of other guys have done this before me, and I know I can, if they can do it I know I can'. Ya know. And that's what the Military, the Marine Corps did for me. Cause I dropped out of high school, I was not a good person. And I was going the wrong direction. They kind of brought, put me back, got my refocused, gave me some self-confidence. I got my GED within the first year of the Marine Corps. Just because it was important I realized it was important. yeah. That's it.

Ricky Bakosh:

How quickly were friendships formed within your unit, or, I'm sorry, your boot camp training?

Ray Ernest Adams:

Pretty quick. I mean everyone is in the same boat. You start off not knowing anybody's name, and pretty soon you know fifty something guys's names ya know. And uh. You don't know their whole names, you don't know their history, you don't know where their from, but it doesn't take long. By the end of the thirteen weeks of boot camp you know everybody in there. You know their strengths, their weaknesses, and pretty much everything. Ya know.

Ricky Bakosh:

What method of training was used for you at the start?

Ray Ernest Adams:

[Laughter] me- what do you mean, method?

Ricky Bakosh:

What were some routines that you had to run though? What was, run me through a normal day. Waking up, to-

Ray Ernest Adams:

You get up at 5:30, first thing you do is get out on the road and do calisthenics. They usually gave you two minutes to get dressed, when you wake up you get two minutes to get up, get dressed, make up your bunk, get- fall out on the road. And your do your calisthenics, and then you'd go to mess hall, and then you'd come out of mess hall and you'd either do more physical training or you would do go to some classes and learn about rifles or some tactics. But most of the time they had, ya know, fifty percent of the time they were just harassing you and you were doing physical activities to strengthen. And for the first, probably the first four weeks they did nothing but degrade you and put you down, and just break you down. And they spend the rest of the time teaching you and building you back up an trying to reprogram you so that when you are in a situation, and they give an order, you follow that order.

Ricky Bakosh:

What were the main weapons that you trained with?

Ray Ernest Adams:

Trained with was an M-14.

Ricky Bakosh:

That was the only one?

Ray Ernest Adams:

Hm? Yeah.

Ricky Bakosh:

Did you train with any others?

Ray Ernest Adams:

No, that was it. M-14.

Ricky Bakosh:

Did you have the chance to get involved with covert training?

Ray Ernest Adams:

No.

Ricky Bakosh:

How segregated was the military, from your opinion?

Ray Ernest Adams:

While I was in the, going through boot camp. It wasn't segregated. We were all in there together. I had, our platoon commander, was a black staff sergeant, one of the delta drill instructors was a uh black corporeal, or no a black lance corporal, and we had a uh Mexican corporal as a drill instructor, and those were our permanently assigned Ol's.

Ricky Bakosh:

So was, it wasn't segregated, it was mixed.

Ray Ernest Adams:

yeah it was mixed., the marine corps was mixed yeah, at that point that I saw it.

Ricky Bakosh:

What method did you use to get to Vietnam? Boat obviously, right?

Ray Ernest Adams:

Flew. Well, first time, I was on a boat, I was on a ship. But the second time we flew over.

Ricky Bakosh:

Where was your first post, once arriving?

Ray Ernest Adams:

I was on board that ship, and that was my post for two years. Lets see, I was onboard that ship. Stationed on that ship. Your normal tour is two years of duty on board that ship for sea duty the day after I boarded that ship after I went through the sea school program, which was a four week program in San Diego and they teach you how to exist on a ship and how to do firefighting and teach you how to shoot the guns, cause we man one of the five inch thirty-eight twin mounts that they have on the cruiser. We, meaning the marine detachment. Then I went on board that ship for two years the first six months the day after I boarded we left and went over to the orient. Our homeport over there was the Subic Bay in the Philippines, and we operated out of there. We'd go into South China Sea, and cruise up and down the coast and perform fire missions there and stuff like that, then after that we'd came back to the states and we spent uh about id say six months in the states and uh around late sixty six the Israelis, Israel strafed one of our Liberty ships over in the Mediterranean, one of our spy ships called the Liberty. They shot it up, killed a bunch of people. They sent our ship down the canal and we got to go over to the Mediterranean in support of that, and we spend six months over there. That was pretty nice. We got to France, Italy, Spain, Malta, Greece, real nice. But we would cruise over there and we were always monitored, we were always shadowed by these Russian warships. But uh, yeah. After that we came back to the states and uh I was transferred over to secret confidential files in EI Toro Marine Air station in Orange County. Yeah, I was there for about six months, in charge of a xerox machine. And I had to drive back and forth between the main base to a place that they called L T A, it was an old blimp hanger where they kept all the helicopters and the main base was there all the jets were. The secret confidential files were over at the helicopter base so id go over to the main base and pick up any new files and bring them back and file them. Pretty boring, except for the drive in the orange orchards in the morning in the jeep. That was nice. Smelled good.

Ricky Bakosh:

When you first got there, did you feel you were prepared to go into battle?

Ray Ernest Adams:

yeah. Oh yeah.

Ricky Bakosh:

Training was definitely successful?

Ray Ernest Adams:

Yeah, well. On board that ship yeah. I was prepared then, and later on, weill was there in uh sixty-eight, early sixty-eight I got orders over in Vietnam for the infantry cos I was a sergeant at this time. Before they sent me over there I went through a preparation training down in, jungle training down in camp Pendalton, that took us about two weeks I think, they took us down there and taught us what was going on in Vietnam, booby traps, what kinds of booby traps to look out for and things like that. So again, I think I was pretty much prepared when I was sent over there the second time. When I did get there there was, they weren't sure what they were going to do with me. Finally they sent me off to alpha company first battalion seventh marines and uh and they gave me a rifle, you didn't really get to snap in with it, you just go out and shoot at stumps and hopefully you'd see if you hit it. If you didn't really get any accuracy with it, uh, and uh, yeah I was responsible for forty-some guys. Three squads of guys and uh, I reported to a second lieutenant and I just kind of helped the second lieutenant run the platoon. I would go out, everyyeach night we were stationed outside of De Nang up in lo-Core and uh we'd have to run patrols into the valleys to stop the infiltration of these either MVA or the Vietcong cause they would shoot rockets into De Nang, so would try to prevent that, and uh, like I said each night I would go out with a different squad so I could get to know the guys and everything and every now and then we would get special assignments where we would go off on an operation of some form and serve either as a blocking force or they'd send us off as a blocking force for a Cordon Operation, we did that once. Where we were set up on a river just waiting, and they, what'd they do is they'd take and they'd drop all these guys out there in this big half circle and they'd just sweep through the area and close it in and uh trying to capture as many MVA or Vietcong as they could. It was kind of shitty because as they were closing in on them and shooting at them you're sitting back here making sure they don't cross the river while they're shooting you too, ya know? Anyway. And we'd guard bridges. My platoon, for some reason they'd always choose us to do all the crappy stuff. You'd have to guard a bridge between De Nang and headquarters, uh, hill fifty-five one time I was there for two weeks having to ride shotgun on convoys moving the twenty-sixth marines out of Fu Bi down to De Nang to evacuate them out of De Nang. One day up, going up highway one, and the gooks would know you were going up, and they'd know what time, and they'd know every day that try and blow up the trucks as you're trying to go back and forth. And then we had our, the most significant operation I was involved in was operation Mead River. It was one of those Cordon Operations, however this time I wasn't in the blocking force I was in the, we were in the, Cordon, and uh, in the sweep. And it was one of the most it, was it was a really tough operation. I went out with forty-three guys and came back with thirteen after picking up three replacement corpsmen. And uh, it sucked. It was, we, uh encountered a lot of resistance, but I really got bad when we got everybody close. Ya know, the tighter you get it, these guys have no place to go, and they weren't going to surrender. Once particular, oh, actually two and a half days we spent trying to get across a rice patty that was probably a quarter of a mile wide, with a big tree line on the other side and they found a lot of concrete bunkers on the other side of machine guns, and uh, several times we'd try and cross that rice patty and when we got about half way across the middle and the machine guns would open up on us and kill a bunch more guys and wound them. And you had to crawl back through the rice patty, trying to keep your head down, without drowning, you lift it up you'd get shot, you put it down and you'd get your face in this race patty. Crawl back to the tree line call for air-support try see if they can take care of it. They never seemed to hit the tree line, they'd always hit behind it, so. That's a management challenge trying to get a bunch of guys that know that they, cause you're sitting and watching these air strikes, and they're not hitting the tree line where these guys are, and then you get the command that you've got to go back out there. Ya know? Cause there's already a bunch of, fortunately there was a patty dike going down the middle of that quarter mile thing, and there were a lot of bodies lined up along cause that's about where, they'd wait till we'd get over that. Once we got past that. They'd open up on us. That was the worst experience over there.

Ricky Bakosh:

How much culture shock did you experience upon arriving?

Ray Ernest Adams:

A lot. Not culture so much, but uh, having been raised in California, I had no clue what humidity was. And uh, Vietnam has got to be one of the most humid places in the world. I couldn't breathe when I got there. Sort of like here on a hundred degree, hundred percent humidity day. It was just horrible. That was what surprised me. I just couldn't understand how people could exist in that but as you're there for a while you get used to it. Or as used it as you can.

Ricky Bakosh:

What kinds of food did you eat?

Ray Ernest Adams:

Sea rations. Except after- if we- once we finish a good operation they'd always have a nice steak bar-b-que or something like that of course. All the beer you can drink, and um, so you sit around and gorge yourself and get drunk say goodbye to the guys who didn't come back with ya.

Ricky Bakosh:

What were your sleeping arrangements like?

Ray Ernest Adams:

[laughter] everybody had cots and tents. I had my own facility. I was in a separate tent from the rest of the platoon, and the lieutenant was in a separate tent from me. But uh, mine was good because they had a tent where they had all the sea rations, weill had one end of it so I could lift up and get me some food anytime I wanted it. [Laughter] it was good.

Ricky Bakosh:

Did you pick up anything from the Vietnamese culture and take it back with you?

Ray Ernest Adams:

No, no. the uh, the people who were there that we were trying to help uh had been at war for all their lives probably, um, what I did learn was what I didn't understand why we were there why we there was one point where they had us go out and confiscate everybody's' rice bring it all to a central area and give these people a receipt for the rice that we took from them, that they had raise, they had harvested, they had stored. We went out, confiscated all this, gave them a receipt, brought it in to a centralized warehouse place, and told them they could go get it there. That's so they wouldn't supply the Vietcong of the MVA with the rice. At least that's the logic behind it. All it did was piss them off. Cause they- yeah. Ya know. I didn't come away with anything other than they didn't know how to prepare fish very well because they just have these little bowls with these little bitty fish in it and their all slimy and they eat it. Oh god. We'd get to know the kids though every now and then. We'd go out on patrols and stuff we'd be crossing rivers everywhere and the kids would always follow us out so uh we'd cross a river and kids would go downstream and we'd take a grenade and throw it in and boom. All the fish would float up and all the kids would gather up all the fish wed help them. It was kind of neat. There was another experience when I first got there going out on patrols with these guys and we went through this village. In the village they've got these boxes, these little kids had them. They're wooden boxes packed with Styrofoam, and inside that they'd have all this frozen ice cream, or ice cream stuff. It was like frozen flavored ice. And they'd sell that to you for almost nothing. Well the first time I bought it 'mmm, that's good.' Cause it's hot. [Laughter] oh, ice, great! [Laughter] but, then my mouth started bleeding. There was ice- er, there was glass in it. Somebody had put glass in the shit. Cut the shit out of my tongue. That was the last time for that.

Ricky Bakosh:

How much down time did your unit see?

Ray Ernest Adams:

We had two days. At the end of um, moving the uh twenty-six marines out of Fu Si back and forth back and forth every day, and getting shot up so bad. They gave us two days in De Nang, down at the beach at China Club. Just kind of a little time off thing. That was it. Rest of time you're in country, and there is no safe place there. Ya know. Probably just like Iraq, there is no safe place there.

Ricky Bakosh:

How often did your unit see combat then?

Ray Ernest Adams:

Oh, you were there. Everyday. You were on patrols, yeah. Its not a, you know. If you were in Vietnam, you were in a war situation twenty-four seven. Ya know, you never knew if someone was going to try and come in and breach the wire. Constant alert. You might have your time off, but, like we would rotate patrols, I had three squads, everybody'd get two days off, one day on, or one night, basically. We'd have to go do some short day patrols, but for the most part the ambushes and stuff like that were all set up a night trying to catch these guys infiltrating in. When we'd go out on the ops, like the Mead River operation, um, that's constant war. I mean it's just, and you're living in the field in tents or whatever not have time to set up tents cause you're moving every day. You'd take your poncho, you're poncho liner and make a, like a sleeping bag out of it and sleep in that, and try and stay dry. That was the toughest thing. It was constantly wet.

Ricky Bakosh:

What was the most terrifying moment during your service?

Ray Ernest Adams:

The day I got shot, I guess. It was when we were trying to cross that rice patty. We had tried to cross it a couple times the day before, and uh we'd set up and pulling back and set up on the tree line on our side, and uh that night the squad leader who was on, they opened up they were shooting at a bunch of stuff, so the next morning you wanted to get, to take his squad up, maybe they got something out there, they wanted to go see what they got. All right, well, go for it. So they settled up, and went out into the patty, and as soon as they got out there halfway, the machine guns opened up again. And I tried to- and they're calling back on the radio, screaming and yelling- a lot of them had been wounded, so I had to saddle up the rest of the guys and get them to go out there. And uh, trying to get everyone up and motivated to go, its one of those scenarios where to get them to go I had to lead them. And uh, as we were getting ready to go out around this mound of trees to go out into the paddy, this kid named Pachinco he says 'Sarge, you can't go point, I'm point. That's my job.' 'all right.' So I let him move ahead of me. So he is probably from here to the wall in front of me when we moved around, we went around these trees and we went out and are just about to step into the patty and the machine gun opened up on us, killed him, shot me in the side, and uh, everybody else was back around behind the trees, so they stayed there. After id realized that id been shot, and I was still alive, we were down in tall grass, and I saw him go down, Pachinco go down, so I crawled up to him, and he was laying there dead. And uh, it's probably the scardest I've ever been. Most traumatic point ill never forget.

Ricky Bakosh:

How did you deal with terror before you were about to go into an actual battle or situation?

Ray Ernest Adams:

Suppress it. You don't. Just do your job, the way you've been trained, like Pachino did there. He did his job, I'm not supposed to be point, that was his job. He did it, he took it. You're concerned, but you don't think its going to- you're going to die. Most of the kids that were worried about dying over there did, because, for whatever reason. It's hard to explain. I am very calm today, I was calm then. It's just something you don't have any control over it, ya know. So you'd just better do your job over there and do the best you can so that you do stand the best chance of survival. It doesn't do you any good to panic. [Laughter] we were, it was the same time. We were pulled back there, one of those nights. We were sitting in this fox hole, actually it was a bomb crater that we used as a fox hole, and uh, I was sitting there with a lieutenant, a couple of the squad leaders, and this lieutenants aid was in there with us and we were just kind of kicked back wondering what's going on just talking about the situation and how we were going to handle it, all of the sudden poof, right there. It's a fucking gook. [Laughter] nobody has a gun, well you've got your gun, but you're like, 'oh my god!' and this uh, aid, I cant remember his name, he looked up, he screamed, and he just kept screaming 'Ahh! Ahh! Ahh!' this gook, he- 'oh shit' and he took off down the line, well, our guys are down the line and you cant shoot down the line anyway cause your in this big cordon thing and the gook took off that way and this aid 'Ahh! Ahh! Ahh!' for five minutes. We couldn't stop him. I mean, he just lost it. Snapped. Cause we were under a lot of pressure and he's so worried about dying. Yeah, it just- it happened with a lot of guys over there. Not that way, but the ones who were worried the most about dying, ususally did. The ones that were more cavalier about it just, calm and maintained their wits about them would usually react appropriately in different situations. Just an interesting observance.

Ricky Bakosh:

My name is Ricky Sakosh, and I am hosting the interview.

Ray Ernest Adams:

And my name is Ray Adams, uh- [technical problems]

Ray Ernest Adams:

--relievied, but nervous. Because you always hear the stories about the guys who get the news that they're going on home and then something happens to them. Ya know.

Ricky Bakosh:

How did you feel about getting the news you were getting to go home?

Ray Ernest Adams:

my luetentant informed me. He got the news.

Ricky Bakosh:

How long was it between when you heard that you were leaving until you actually you actually left?

Ray Ernest Adams:

I think it was a couple weeks notice. I cant rmembver exactly, but-

Ricky Bakosh:

How long was it from when you heard that you were leaving until you left?

Ricky Bakosh:

How did you get home?

Ray Ernest Adams:

Had to fly out of De Nang, and flew into Okinawa to pick up my sea bags and all the uniforms that I didn't need over in Vietnam. Then from Okinawa we flew non-stop back to uh, well actually we had to stop in San Francisco for fuel, and then we flew to uh EI Toro Marine Air Station for discharge.

Ricky Bakosh:

What were your emotions on leaving? When you were actually on the way, what were you feeling?

Ray Ernest Adams:

I was hoping that our six-bio we were riding in didn't hit a mine on the way to De Nang. [Laughter]

Ricky Bakosh:

Once you arrived at home, how was it adapting back to normalcy?

Ray Ernest Adams:

It really wasn't very easy. I mean I, they flew us into the marine air station, and I had to stay there for a couple of days, and uh, then uh, then I was released and free to go. There was no counseling, nothing. I think they did a physical on me, but it was a brief physical if anything. Yeah, then I just went home. I was discharged. Not discharged, but I was, at that point, I was discharged from active duty and went into the reserves for two yeas. Yeah, just from Vietnam to back to being a civilian. Ya know. Pretty weird. That was February of uh, sixty-nine, and I stayed in Long Beach, I was going- went to Long Beach City College and uh I remember most traumatic point was the fourth of July. We were down- went down to the beach in Long Beach to watch the fireworks, and the explosions just were coming back to me. They were really- I just sat on the beach and kind of cowered. Ya know, I didn't- It was bringing everything back. Cause when we were over there we were got hit a lot by our own artillery and mortars and stuff, and it just, it really made me freaky [laughter]

Ricky Bakosh:

Did it sound, did they sound very similar?

Ray Ernest Adams:

Oh yes, yes. The sharp explosions, the reports. Yeah. Scary. It just brought all that back.

Ricky Bakosh:

Who was the first person that you saw and talked to once you were back home?

Ray Ernest Adams:

I think it was my wife at that point. I don't know, I can't remember. I don't know, but I remember wanting to see her.

Ricky Bakosh:

How long do you think it took you to fully, somewhat fully, acclimate back to civilian life, once you were back?

Ray Ernest Adams:

Quite honestly, I don't know if you ever do, cause you always have those memories. I mean, I think about it today especially on the Fourth of July, I think about it a lot. Um, but, again, you know, you just- you do your job when you're there, it's just a job, when you realize how lucky you are to be back you move forward. A lot of guys didn't make it back a lot of guys made it back but they aren't the same. I didn't do any drugs when I was over there or anything. I didn't get hung up like a lot of guys did because I was responsible for forty-some guys. You cant do that.

Ricky Bakosh:

How did you find a job once you came back?

Ray Ernest Adams:

[Laughter] Weill went to Long Beach City College, and was going to school full time, and I got a part time job cause I had a wife, she worked for EDS, um, Ross Borrows company, electronic data systems. She was a data entry operator, but a friend of mine told me that I should get into data processing. This was back in the early seventies. So I was working a part time job at a lumberyard, going to school full time, and I went to this business college for computer programming in the evenings. And I successfully completed that, and got serious about getting a job, or finding a job in data processing. Looking all over the LA area, Long Beach and LA area, looking for a job for a programmer trainee, with the only practical experience I had in life was killing people [laughter] so, uhh, nobody down there was able to help me. My parents were still living in San Francisco, I thought id feel more comfortable searching up there so 1- my wife was able to transfer, cause EDS had an office up there, so we transferred up and I lived with my parents for a while, looking for a job in San Francisco. Finally I gave up trying to find a job as a programmer and went to Crocker Citizens National Bank and said just give me a job in data processing. I've had these programming courses, I just got our of the service, can you help me, and they did. So I got a job as a computer-tape librarian-trainee, working third shift, in the bowels of the bank. Yes, and I was working with a lady, her name was Simone, and a- she was French, and this gentleman who was French, his name was Andre, he was in the French Army and he was in the same area of Vietnam that I was in. yes, amazing, small world. Yes. And here we are down in the bowels of this bank together at midnight. Yeah. But anyways, they were both very nice people, but they were older, I guess. I was in my early twenties then, and they were probably into their thirties and forties. But uh, working there I learned the job, and learned it quickly and then they wanted to transition from a manual system to a computerized system. These people who have been doing that all their careers had no concept. I got involved with that, we made that conversion, I helped with that, and uh, while I was doing this I got to know a bunch of the computer operators, they were all young guys like me. I got to a point where I could finish all my tape library work real quick and I'd go out and learn how to run the computers. While I was out there I met a whole bunch of people from technical support from upstairs and they were getting involved in this new concept called database and data communications, in an IBM environment. Which would have meant ISM CICS. And uh, I got them to get me all the technical names on it, I read those, within five years at the bank, I was an online systems supervisor down in the operations area. I had gone through I got out of the library and was a computer operator, and I learned all this online stuff and data base stuff and performing that, one of the tech support guys upstairs was uh having political issues with some of his peers up there, he quit, and went to work for a consulting firm in Washington DC, and that firm was hired by Wilson Sporting Goods here in um Chicago, to come in and help them get their databases and data communications systems under control, well he gave them my name. [Laughter] 'Contact this guy, he can help you.' Cause their operation here was really sad. And uh, so that's how I got out of there. That's the story of my career.

Ricky Bakosh:

Did anything feel the same when you came back home?

Ray Ernest Adams:

The love that I got from my parents, actually it wasn't the same, it was stronger, and the respect was stronger. The only thing that was the same was the was the war still going on. But I had changed, I wasn't the same. I was now a free man, no longer obligated to the marine corps, and had a wife, and a future that seemed to go any place that I would take it. Ya know, it was working out. My other girlfriend had disappeared, and I heard she got pregnant. Who knows where she was. [Laughter]

Ricky Bakosh:

What was the most pronounced change that you noticed when you came back? The biggest difference.

Ray Ernest Adams:

People were against the war, really significantly. I mean, and they were being very vocal about it, I mean, um, they just snuck me in, ya know, into the marine air station and then let me go. There's no- not like today, today there are committees that go out and meet all these soldiers that are coming home to make sure they feel welcome. Back then; Vietnam veteran's wereepeople didn't want them. It was bad. They didn't appreciate them. That had changed, but all my family was really happy to see me and happy to support me and everything and I think its because I had changed, ya know, throughout my career my years in the Marine Corps.

Ricky Bakosh:

Okay. The reflection period. How do you feel about the Vietnamese people today?

Ray Ernest Adams:

Today, is different than yesterday in that yesterday when I was living in California after the war, the Vietnamese immigrated here, a lot of them did, and California- they uh, pretty much ruined the uh sport fishing out there because they would go out- disregard our rules for commercial fishing and just rape the uh costal waters of all the sport fish. And I hated them. Because that's how I grew up. That's how my grandfather made his living and all that. Uh, yeah, id go back and visit my folks in San Francisco and go out fishing and- out of half moon bay- which is just south of San Francisco, there were charter captains there who'd kill them if they could. And I share that with them, because they shouldn't- if they're going to come immigrate here, they should at least follow our laws. Yeah. But, today, I don't, they are just another victim of capitalism.

Ricky Bakosh:

What are your feelings on war now?

Ray Ernest Adams:

Same as it was right after I got out. 'There should never be another one, there is no reason for it.' I thought that we'd become so enlightened that we'd be able to avoid it. Ya know. There are situations where you're going to have conflict, but it should never get to the point where it becomes a declared war. Especially with this Iraq bullshit. That was the biggest fiasco. I can't believe the American people allowed that to happen.

Ricky Bakosh:

I can't believe we've allowed a lot to happen. If you could serve again, would you?

Ray Ernest Adams:

Yes. Especially to save my son from having to serve, or my daughter. Take a cranky old man over there [laughter] you'll get a lot more killing done than you would with these kids. These kids have too much to live for.

Ricky Bakosh:

Would you support a family member going to serve today?

Ray Ernest Adams:

Mhmm. Yes. It's an obligation that every American has. And I think that if anyone wants to become a citizen of this country they should have to somehow serve this country and the people of this country because- it's the people in this country that have made it great. And you cant just walk in after every body has sacrificed so much and expect to have something just- learn how to recite the constitution and be able to- yeah. No. And what I am most frustrated about is the illegal immigration. I mean, how- our government has really let us down there.

Ricky Bakosh:

How do you feel about people being protestors of war? War protestors, how do you feel about them?

Ray Ernest Adams:

That's what we fought for. Freedom of Speech.

Ricky Bakosh:

What is your stance on our current military position?

Ray Ernest Adams:

Military is just doing what uh- well- what is that question?

Ricky Bakosh:

What is your stance on our current military position?

Ray Ernest Adams:

Afghanistan is correct, only we are a bit reserved, but we have to be positioned correctly to be able- the whole thing was misguided over there. Afghanistan when there were Taliban to go after, we should have gone after them, but we should have done more I think politically to try and work with the different governments over there so that we would be more welcome in the fight against the radical terrorists that are causing the problems out there today, basically. The military position in Iraq is all-wrong and they never should have been there.

Ricky Bakosh:

What is a normal day for you like today?

Ray Ernest Adams:

I'm worried about the economy. It's affected me. My wife and I are both self-employed. And average day for me today. I get up in the morning; brush my teeth, workout with my wife if I'm feeling up to it. Go to work. Come back here, I'm the commander here, so- see if I got any mail, and then uh, just go home, cook dinner, wait for the next day to start all over again.

Ricky Bakosh:

Does anything still haunt you from your service time?

Ray Ernest Adams:

The memories, ya know. It think it bothers me the most right now. I hope one of these days I can pursue it- I would like to get in touch with that guy Pachincko's family. I haven't seen the wall, I'd be afraid to see the wall. A member here, somehow came up with a list of all the marines names and dates that they were killed in Vietnam. And uh, reading through that, it was December seventh when we had all those causalities. It was the biggest day- December seventh and eighth. And all those names were in there. You regret it. War is not; we shouldn't have any more wars. There is no point in killing other human beings.

Ricky Bakosh:

Are you proud of your conduct during the war experience?

Ray Ernest Adams:

Yes. Very.

Ricky Bakosh:

What is your stance on religion, since the war?

Ray Ernest Adams:

I'm more religious. [Laughter] I've realized that there is a God. And uh, well they say that there are no Atheists in foxholes, and that's pretty true. [Laughter] I mean you're looking for any help you can get to get through it.

Ricky Bakosh:

I've never heard that.

Ray Ernest Adams:

No?

Ricky Bakosh:

I like that expression though.

Ray Ernest Adams:

It's true.

Ricky Bakosh:

How have you been compensated for your service time?

Ray Ernest Adams:

For my service time? Well, uh, I really haven't. I mean other than the satisfaction of knowing that I did it. Uh, I do have some compensation from my purple heart that entitles me to have uh VA medical benefits without any co pay. Which, thank God, because my health- I couldn't afford health insurance for myself today. Cause that- I'm sixty-two and uh, they want to charge me over five hundred a month, just five hundred deductable per occurrence, its ridiculous. I had to yeahhso I couldn't afford it. So I had to drop myself off, I can barely afford to keep my wife and kids on there. Well my daughter, weill can't keep her on, she's not a student anymore so.

Ricky Bakosh:

If you could go back in time and choose to not enlist, would you? or would you enlist again?

Ray Ernest Adams:

No, I think I would, and I think I would stay in this time. It's not a bad career if you're not- I mean, it is today. These poor kids. They don't have a choice either. They are forcing them to go back over to Iraq ya know three, four times. And that's not right at all. No, but i- I wish I'd stay in. the guy I went in with, he retired from the Marine Corps, after twenty-some years. Yeah. When I was working down there in um, EI Toro, in the secret and confidential files he had gone into sea duty also, but he was on the Coral Sea, an aircraft carrier, and after he got off about the same time I did, well he was stationed over in Seal Beach, Navel Weapons Station, which was not very far from EI Toro. So, we got together. His parents, they gave my wife and lour wedding. And he and I were hanging out when I met her. But, at the same time, when I got my orders back to Vietnam, he got his orders back to data possessing school in Cherry Point, South Carolina. He went into data processing, and that's been the rest of his- lets see at that point it was about, seventeen years gaining experience in data processing in the Marine Corps, and I went to Vietnam and spent a year there, got out, he stayed in. I went to his last Marine Corps ball with him. [Laughter] yes. We were really good friends.

Ricky Bakosh:

You still are now?

Ray Ernest Adams:

yeah, he is back in West Virginia now, he just got out- well, he's been out a couple years now, he works for the IRS. Yeah. So, he's got it made. Got it made.

Ricky Bakosh:

How otten do you reflect on your service time?

Ray Ernest Adams:

Everyday. I am here everyday. Its, uh, I really enjoy being here because we really do do a lot for the community. We really try to do a lot for the community, veterans, families of veterans. Every day I think about it.

Ricky Bakosh:

What is the most important thing you learned from your experience?

Ray Ernest Adams:

[pauses] I guess never take anything for granted. Just- stay calm. [Laughter] don't panic, or you could die. What did we learn from Vietnam and Iraq? Bad stuff too. Vietnam was a political war; Iraq was more political than anything, who knows. History will tell us. You will find out what the real stuff was behind Iraq. But uh, as long as George Bush is alive I don't think anybody will know.

Ricky Bakosh:

Who has asked you about your wartime experience?

Ray Ernest Adams:

Well I've had uh, students, high school students from Hinsdale, Downers Grove, and uh, Naperville. That have, ya know, every now and then- they'll call here and if no one is available, I will sit down and interview with them. To be able to know- I got tested for Agent Orange last week, they're checking that out now. Its just old age, but a lot of things are starting to go wrong now, so will see if there is anything there for Agent Orange that might be relevant.

Ricky Bakosh:

And who have you chosen to speak to about your war experience?

Ray Ernest Adams:

Anybody who would ask. You. [Laughter] and the high schools. I think it's important. Yeah this has been the most comprehensive. All the others are different levels, ya know, but uh, yeah. When I first started doing them I kind of got a little emotional, but now, its really- it's helped to talk about it and share it. Um, yeah.

Ricky Bakosh:

Any finishing thoughts or anything that you'd like to leave on?

Ray Ernest Adams:

Just what I mentioned earlier. There is no need for war. I'm glad to see what has just transitioned here through out elections. I am, I am. It's a- it's showing the world that America is not what it seems to have become in the last eight years. Okay.

Ricky Bakosh:

It feels like a new hope.

Ray Ernest Adams:

Oh, my god. We knew it was going to happen. And you know what, this election was the first time that we have been able to vote for two candidates, instead of against somebody, because bother candidates were good. And I think both candidates would have accomplished change to the status quo, because the status quo was so fucked up. [Laughter]

Ricky Bakosh:

Yeah. The bar. [Laughter]

Ray Ernest Adams:

Very low. But uh, no. My wife made that revelation to me. I didn't even think about it. Both candidates were good. The reason I am glad to see Obama there is because he doesn't have the same administration behind him. The Rand C has gotten way of base, way off base, I am more than an independent than a democrat, because there is good to both sides. I don't want to make my money and then give it away to people who don't want to work, or I don't want- I mean- I don't want illegal aliens coming in here and having access to our social security funds. We've got to somehow figure out how to cut back on our government. We do a lot better when we don't have so much of it. But that's going to require an awful lot of stepping up from every body in terms of honesty, integrity, and willingness to accept responsibility for their own actions and their own future.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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