Carl Peterson

(Disclaimer: To the best of our knowledge, the information provided in this oral history interview is accurate. We do not make any representation or warranty as to the accuracy or completeness of the information.)

Oral Interview with Carl Peterson

Conducted by Dan Hartman, Veterans’ Memorial Hall Program, St. Louis County Historical Society

Recording Date: July 14, 2011

Recording Place: Bayshore Health Center

Transcriber: Susan Schwanekamp, St. Louis County Historical Society

Transcription process funded by a grant from the Lloyd K. Johnson Foundation

DH: Today we are conducting an interview with Carl Peterson, on July 14, 2011. My name is Dan Hartman and I’ll be the one conducting the interview today, and yeah, I’ll start out with the easiest of all questions. Can you say you first, middle and last name? And can you spell out your last name?

CP: Carl Herbert Peterson, Jr. P-E-T-E-R-S-O-N.

DH: OK. And what was your father’s name?

CP: Carl Herbert Peterson.

DH: That would make sense! And how about your mother?

CP: Agnes Delores Peterson. Her maiden name was Dandy.

DH: And how do you spell that?

CP: D-A-N-D-Y.

DH: Just like it sounds. And were they both from Duluth, as well?

CP: Well, he was from down around West Sweden, Wisconsin, near Louis, and my mother – I think she was born up by Two Harbors, but they moved down here when she was so young that basically she was a Duluthian.

DH: And, okay, do you know what neighborhood in Duluth she grew up in? Woodland, Lakeside, Denfeld?

CP: Gary.

DH: And how about you? What neighborhood in Duluth did you grow up in?

CP: Central Hillside. 12th Ave. E. and 4th St.

DH: I’m a Hillsider, as well. So – were you born and raised in Central Hillside, then?

CP: Yeah. I was born in St. Luke’s Hospital and pretty much, except for the time I was in the Service, and from the time I was two years old I lived in the same house.

DH: Wow! Incredible! And a very easy question now, day-wise: When were you born?

CP: February 20, 1948.

DH: OK. And so, obviously, you’ve enjoyed growing and living in Duluth, then?

CP: Oh, yeah. It’s an interesting place to live. The climate is never the same.

DH: No. So, when you were really young, as a kid growing up in the Hillside, what were some of the things you guys did for fun?

CP: Well, we played baseball at Jefferson. In the parking lot, mostly. We called it “the big field”. The football field at Leif Erickson, which is now the Rose Garden. And after a little while, when I started getting older, I started riding bicycle.

DH: And where would you guys ride to – all over? Or just…

CP: Well, usually we’d…back then, you know, it wasn’t like now. Like, a big trip would have been like Seven Bridges Road. Or out to Lester River.

DH: And how often would you guys take a big trip like that?

CP: Ah, not very often.

DH: So, when you were just casually driving around, where would you guys go?

CP: Oh, around 12th Ave. E., up to around 18th Ave. E. and out to about 6th Ave. E. It was about a mile, a little over two mile. These were old-fashioned, heavy bikes.

DH: I imagine going up those hills weren’t exactly a fun thing then, either.

CP: No, but going down ‘em was even wilder because the brake would …. and you had the coaster brake, and the coaster brake would start not working.

DH: A hairy ordeal?

CP: Yeah.

DH: Do you remember any of the kids you used to play with, as a kid?

CP: Henry Juro (?), Greg Bean, my younger brother, Roger Peterson, the Byers family, _____ (inaudible few words) ___, it was Anthony, Tommy, Billy, and Jerry, and the whole bunch.

DH: Wow, that’s pretty good. And do you ever talk with any of those guys today or ever heard from them over the years, or…?

CP: Yeah. I just had a call from Greg. Well, Greg Bean and I are calling each other. He lives down in Louisville, KY_________he calls up and _______feel bad.

DH: And did any of these guys serve in the Service with you, later, too?

CP: No. Greg was in the Army and an MP in Washington, D.C., or Baltimore._______was Baltimore. And Tony Beyers was Marine Corps in Vietnam. He was about four years younger than I was. And so he came into it later on. But no, I never served with any of the guys that I ---my good friends—we wound up getting split up.

DH: OK. And – so – as a kid, it sounds like you played a lot of sports, though - ?

CP: Yeah, I was bad at a lot of sports. I couldn’t skate, so I played goalie.


DH: And where would you guys play hockey at?

CP: Lower Chester.

DH: Lower Chester.

CP: Yeah, if they let us out on the rink.

DH: And has anything changed in the Hillside since you were a kid?

CP: Oh, there’s a lot of businesses that have closed, and, yeah, people, the population is entirely different. Almost nobody that was, that I went to school with, or any of their parents….course I am 63 years old, so we’re talking about a generation turnover.

DH: Yeah. A couple. And what were some of that business that you remember?

CP: Oh…the Avenue Market. Uh, what was the other? Used to be, it’s now a liquor store, used to be a laundry, or dry cleaning place, on 13th Ave. E. and 4th St. I forget the name of it.

DH: Shanty Bottle Shop now.

CP: Shanty Bottle Shop now.

DH: And that used to be a laundry.

CP: And then it was a doughnut place. The House of Doughnuts, before they moved over to 6th Ave. E. They were in the parking lot, by the Casa de Roma.

DH: And how was the House of Doughnuts back then?

CP: Fattening. (Laughter) I never met a doughnut I didn’t like.

DH: Did you ever play in Chester Creek a lot, or…?

CP: Our folks didn’t like us to.


CP: They were worried about our) falling in and drowning.

DH: Makes sense. And so, as you got older, as you got more into your teenage years, did you guys start doing any different activities, at all, or…..?

CP: You know, the one thing that I looked forward to when I was in school, when I was in school and my Dad was in the hospital – we had a dog that loved to walk. Every Wednesday I came back from school, or whatever I was doing, and took him for a walk up to Chester Bowl and back and he loved it.

DH: And what was the dog’s name?

CP: Pumpkin. We got him around Halloween.

DH: And what kind of dog was he?

CP: Labrador and Shorthaired Fox Terrier cross.

DH: Do you remember, as a kid growing up, were there any funny stories that you had as kids, or…?

CP: Oh…I’m sure there’s about a million. We did some – most of the stuff was crazy stunts.

DH: Like what?

CP: We’d build ramps and jump our bikes off ‘em. Usually somebody lost it and skidded across the ground and ruined a good pair of pants. And some of our football games led to people getting hurt.

DH: So you played tackle football, then?

CP: Oh, yeah. Look at my hands. I was the center.

DH: So as you got older, did any of your friends get cars?

CP: Yeah, a couple of them had - one of our friends had a car and we went places. His mother had to approve….we generally were pretty well behaved.

DH: What are some of the places you would go?

CP: The Shore Drive. We’d end up on the Shore Drive down London Road. It was the place to be seen. You’d see people parading around with their older brother’s car. Trying to impress people.

DH: I’d imagine most – mostly women? So what were some of the, what were the names of the vehicles you guys were driving?

CP: 1950. He had a 1950 Plymouth (?) And that was the only---well, later on ----my buddy, when I came back from the Service, he had a ’63 or ’64 – oh, I forget the name of it – it was Pontiac, equivalent of a Nova. A small to mid-size Pontiac. And there were a few other people…I never drove.

DH: But still, it was kind of fun to hang out, though?

CP: Oh yeah.

DH: And what occupations did your parents have, growing up?

CP: My father worked in the Board of Trade building. He was the second engineer.

DH: At that neat building, too.

CP: Oh, yes.

DH: And do you remember going to it a lot as a kid?

CP: Oh, yeah. He used to take us up to the trading floor, where the Ballet (now) works out. That thing was big and it was beautiful – it had a lot of wood in it.

DH: So what was beautiful about it?

CP: It was stately and it was just a nice big room – a big area to do things in.

DH: And so when there was trading, was that room packed with people, or…?

CP: I don’t know. I never saw them trade. They wouldn’t let you up there. Basically, they were trading grain. People would ask for samples, and they would bring in maybe somebody from Kellogg’s, or whoever came in bid on the grain. Or maybe some other grain merchant came in and bid on it for somebody overseas. But it was quite the building.

DH: It still is.

CP: Oh, yeah.

DH: And – how about your mother? Did your mother work, too, or was she..?

CP: Housewife.

DH: So she was home whenever you guys got in trouble.

CP: Oh, yeah.

DH: Um – is there anything else about growing up in the Hillside that you want to mention, or…?

CP: It was interesting – an interesting place to live. It had - the whole idea was that you could go from my house on 12th Ave. E. and 4th St. and walk about a block and a half east, to 14th Ave., turn across 4th St., and be almost in the wilderness. Chester and now the ___??__ walk way, I believe. It was a path up to Chester Bowl. Walk up to the top or down to the bottom along the side. It was a great place. I don’t know if it’s very much appreciated now. It was when I was in my early 20’s. It was appreciated by a lot of people.

DH: Yeah, it’s a great place.

CP: Such a beautiful place.

DH: So, at what point in your life did you know you wanted to join the Navy?

CP: Well, I joined the Navy because I figured I less chance of going to Vietnam. As it was, I went to Vietnam anyway.

DH: That was why you joined the Navy originally, then?

CP: Well, actually I joined the Navy because I was a food freak. I joined the battle of my chow hall. It’s kind of a weird reason to say you joined. Plus the Navy Reserve unit was just a couple of blocks down the road. It was a pretty nice house there.

DH: So what year did you sign up with the Naval Reserve?

CP: 1965.

DH: And tell me a little bit…where did you sign up at? Did you sign up down here?

CP: Yeah, at the Navy Reserve Center. I did the papers at my house and they mustered me in down the Navy Reserve Center.

DH: And – tell me a little bit about the Reserve Center. What was it like?

CP: It was a bunch of buildings. A bunch of rooms and a building. They had a center square with a Quad 40 cannon and a bunch of other gear for firefighting and stuff like that. And some other….It was kind of a combination drill hall and place to work out your, practice your practical factors.

DH: Was the Marine Reserve, was that attached?

CP: No.

DH: Already gone?

CP: Yeah.

DH: OK. And the Navy Reserve Center – who was – do you remember the guy who signed you up originally, or the…?

CP: No, I don’t.

DH: OK. And..

CP: It seems to me the commanding officer was a Commander Shellenberger, I think.


CP: And I forget his first name. I met him after I was out of the Service and he had retired from the Reserve. And I recognized him, but he was rather… going someplace in a hurry and I wouldn’t have gone “Hi, I remember meeting you!” You know… (laughter)

DH: So you joined in 1965?

CP: Mmhm.

DH: And how long did it take you…

CP: Well, you had 18 months in the Reserve. You could enlist when you were 17. After a year and a half you went on active duty for two years. Then you had to…..oh, let’s see…attend Reserve meetings for the next 2 ½ …..a total of 6 years. You had at least 2 ½ years of Reserve meetings. But that got cancelled out by the Defense Department decided that if you had served in Vietnam you didn’t have to fulfill your obligation of serving out the last part of your Reserve enlistment.

DH: Oh, how was the first 18 months in the Reserve?

CP: Interesting.

DH: What did you do?

CP: Trained. At boot camp.

DH: Did you train mostly here or did they send you to Great Lakes?

CP: No, I was in boot camp in San Diego. And I was the one, they send at least one person every quarter for recruit training. So I got nominated.

DH: Were you happy with that, or…?

CP: Oh, yeah.


CP: I got to go to California or [unintelligible]

DH: What was that about?

CP: Well, I had the guy who, his idea of command was he could carry a bayonet. He would sit there and push me with a bayonet, in the ribs, and that was not funny. He would kind of think that was jolly, great fun. The fellows would say I should tell him to stop. He did, because I hit him with a Spring___ rifle. (??)

DH: He was some character, then.

CP: Oh yeah. He was a classic California surfer dude.

DH: And how was your life in California, otherwise?

CP: Oh, it was nice! The weather was permittable. (??) Well, San Diego is a little tricky.

DH: Why?

CP: San Diego can be 80-90 degrees in the daytime and it will drop to 50 degrees at night. So you are forever deciding “what should I wear?”

DH: And what was the camp that they had you at?

CP: Oh, it was San Diego Naval Training Center. It was originally….the place I was at in 1966 was temporary barracks that were built temporary, right before the war. [WWII?] And they were still using them.

DH: OK. So, not real temporary.

CP: No.

DH: Um, at what point did, what were some of the training things they had you do in San Diego?

CP: Oh you had to qualify – you had to know which end of a pistol a bullet came out of. Which end of a rifle a bullet came out of. They taught you position, position target shooting. And they taught you how to obey orders, how to keep yourself clean, how to clean things up. And, oh, basic seamanship, also.

DH: And did they ever put you on boats at that point, at all, or…?

CP: That was after boot camp. There were two week reserve crews.

DH: And where did you go?

CP: Mazatlan, Mexico.

DH: How was that?

CP: Hoo! That was fun. Specially when you’re 18 years old.

DH: Yeah. I take it you went ashore, then..?

CP: Oh, yeah.

DH: So, what were some of the things you did on shore? Anything fun?

CP: Well, I walked around with the tourists for a while. Didn’t have a camera. Didn’t take any pictures. I survived one heck of a….. when they get rained on, it’s almost like the inundation of Biblical proportions. I wondered why they had curbs that were that high off the ground. Off the roads. And I found out why, because the water was running over the curbs. It just came down so hard, so fast. I was sitting under a little bus stop thing, like a kiosk, and I was going “Oh, boy! I’m glad I didn’t get caught in that!”

DH: Just a huge amount of rain.

CP: Yeah. All of a sudden, it just started raining.

DH: And how long did you stay in…?

CP: We were in Mazatlan for a couple of days.

DH: OK. And so what were some of the things you did on your two week cruise?
What did they teach you on the boat?

CP: Oh – how to clean. I was – they put me in the wrong division. I was supposed to be in the engineering department. They put me in the torpedo room so I was basically cleaning the torpedo deck and polishing all the bright work. All those little brass ___?__ and brass plates on the had to keep those things spotlessly shining.

DH: And were you happy about the mistake, or …?

CP: Oh, it was interesting.

DH: And did they ever correct the mistake, or…?

CP: No. They didn’t find out about it until …..What happened was the guy named Peterson from California or Oregon or someplace. He broke his arm. He couldn’t really expect him…so they put him on light duty e less engineer. It’s a lot more comfortable on a WWII destroyer on the torpedo deck than it is in the engine room.

DH: Condition wise and just….

CP: Just hot.

DH: So just explain the conditions of the torpedo room. How was that?

CP: The torpedo room was above deck. Those old fashioned torpedo tubes you see on WWII movies, because it was a WWII destroyer…
DH: What was the name of the destroyer?

CP: USS Heels (??) DE596

DH: And this was just on your two week cruise?

CP: Yeah.

DH: Did this end up being kind of what you did the rest of your time?

CP: No. Basically when I went on active duty they put me on LSD (???) – Landing Assault Transport Ship. Or whatever.

DH: And how much longer did it take you to get to that after your two week cruise?

CP: Well, I had to wait until I…I went on active duty 18 months after I enlisted. And so, let’s see, March of ’65 to September of ’66. It was 18 months and you were – had to make yourself available for active service. I just got my orders and went to Philadelphia and they had a receiving station and waited for them to decide what kind of ship they wanted to get me on.

DH: And what was the ship again?


DH: And do you know what that stands for?

CP: Dock landing ship. SS Hermitage SSD 34.

DH: And what era was this ship? Was this a newer one?

CP: It was from the ‘50s. It was relatively new considering it was (then) ’67 or “66, I mean.

DH: And were you happy on this newer ship?

CP: Oh yeah. It was interesting. It was pretty good size. It was 500 feet long and 88 feet wide and had a big old well deck (??).

DH: How many guys….

CP: 300. 300 officers and crew.

DH: And what was your role on that ship, then?

CP: I was allegedly an engineman.

DH: Allegedly?

CP: I was supposed to be a seaside ___(?) operator but for some reason I served on a 3” gun mount and handled lines during amphibious operations. I was down in the engine room, standing engine room watches. I was generally the…what do you call ‘em…the gear head or the cog wheel, where if they need somebody to do something, I got stuck with it.

DH: And of all those random things you got to do, what was your favorite one to do?

CP: Oh, I would say it was probably…it wasn’t very comfortable, but I was travel man (??) in the engine room.

DH: And what does that mean, exactly?

CP: You’ve got this big old valve and you control the amount of steam coming to the turbine, which ran the reduction to the front propeller. SO you had to…they would ring up a number, _____ ring up by 1/3. You would ring up ___rpms ____. So you had to match the rpms with two screws. You had one guy going 20 rpm faster than the other one. Ship had a tendency…moving, yawing.

DH: It definitely seems like an important job, though.

CP: Yeah, it was.

DH: So I’m going to back you up a little bit. So when you left on the USS Hermitage, when you got on the ship, where did you guys first go?

CP: We were home ported in Little Creek, Virginia. We went down to the Caribbean. The first place I ever saw was Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, then San Juan. And we always went to St. Thomas so they could get duty-free booze.

DH: And how was that? Did you guys have some fun nights, or…?

CP: Oh yeah. Now some people saw an awful lot of action and a lot of us saw an awful lot of drinks.

DH: Were there any certain drinks you liked a lot down there, or…?

CP: Vodka Collins.

DH: Who were some of the guys you were hanging out with back then, on the boat?

CP: Oh, my goodness…I’m thinking. It was Wes Fayson, Itchy Williams, good old Sam Hoover – he was a second class engine room, with a most unique way of getting transportation back to the ship when he was drunk. He’d step out in front of the cab…he’d try to grab my belt before the cab driver did. (??) He was ____ in Spanish, then ____.

DH: Did a lot of guys know Spanish, then?

CP: The only way to learn Spanish was over a beer. I got taught that in Mazatlan. Uno, dos, tres, quatros – taught me how to order four beers. If you wanted eight, you ordered two fours.

DH: When you went out with the guys, how big of a group was it?

CP: Could be as much as 10 or 12, but usually it was a couple, three of us. And once you got to a certain point at night, certain guys had certain places they hung out at. I was always in the bar, _______San Juan, in fact, it was a mile and a half from the El Moral (or immoral?) castle. The famous….It’s got all these old cannon lined up along it and it kept San Juan from seaward invasion. That was in the 1600s by the Spaniards. A beautiful piece of work and I never saw it. I was always….drunk.

DH: But it sounds like you had a good time, though.

CP: Oh, yeah. When I woke up the next morning…whooo, whoo, whoo, whoo.

DH: Were you guys just kind of hanging out or did you go out at night and have to do a bunch of Navy stuff?

CP: No, we just basically partied.

DH: And how long did this last for?

CP: Well, you had to be back at the ship by….it varied….if you were an E3, like I was most of the time, you got until midnight. E4 got to 1:00. E5 and E6 got ‘til 2:00 and after that the only people out on the town were the _____officers and the chiefs.

DH: But every night they had you back at the ship.

CP: Yeah. Unless you had a good reason not to be.

DH: And what happened if you didn’t show up, or if you didn’t have a good reason?

CP: They put you on “authorized absence”. And you got up before the Captain and he was asking you “why” you did this…and if you didn’t have a sufficiently, let’s say “humanitarian” reason, you wound up doing extra duty or…they never threw anybody in the brig, but there was always the threat of it.

DH:: But all you guys, I imagine, came back a little late…

CP: Oh, yeah.

DH: Did you ever come back a little late?

CP: No. I don’t know how I did it, but I always got back on time. I don’t remember how I did it sometimes, but….

DH: So the Caribbean sounds like it was a _________.

CP: Oh yeah, it was fun.

DH: Any islands that were your favorite? Was San Juan probably your favorite one?

CP: Well, San Juan was where we…I think it was the 11th Naval District headquarters that was in San Juan, Puerto Rico. So it was kind of your home away from home port. We went to Panama, the Dutch East Indies, Nassau. Nassau was a fun place. Hmm, what else was there?

DH: How was the ocean?

CP: The Atlantic at Cape Hatteras is not very nice. Hatteras is similar to Park Point right here. I think Cape Hatteras is 32 miles long and it has a big…the St. Louis Bay would be about….the widest point is 34 miles wide. So Cape Hatteras tends to suck storms in. So what’s why when you hear about tornados, no not tornados, tropical storms hit that area, the Cape Hatteras area, North Carolina gets hammered.

DH: And I imagine that to be on a ship like that….

CP: Oh yeah. Especially a ship like the one that I was on….it wasn’t flat bottomed, but it had a kind of sink (or kink?) in the bottom of the hull. Because if we sunk the back end of the ship and ballasted it down to let the landing craft out.

DH: So that causes a lot more movement, then, or…?

CP: Well, yeah, it would sit there and go from side to side…

DH: A lot of you guys got sick, I would imagine.

CP: Yeah, there was some, but the thing was, if you were in the forward end of the ship, and you had a rough sea, you would feel like you were getting sucked out of your bunk, because the ship would ____out from under you. You would slam down into your bunk and “I don’t feel too good”.

DH: And how about you? Did you handle it pretty good or did you get sick?

CP: Naw. I got queasy, but not that bad.

DH: OK. And, so how long did you spend in the Caribbean?

CP: Well, we only spent from ’66 until the time we found out we were going to Vietnam. Maybe a month or two in the Caribbean. We went from about February or early…started for Vietnam.

DH: Were you worried about going to Vietnam, or…?

CP: Ah, kind of, but the Vietnamese had no navy, as such, and they didn’t have a whole lot of stuff on the beach that was going to take shots at us, though they did get one shot off.

DH: Only one shot?

CP: One 55 Howitzer.

DH: Pretty good shot. We’ll go into that a little bit later. So you spent a month in the Caribbean and then how did you go to Vietnam? Did you go across and then take another boat to…?

CP: No, when…we shipped along down the coast to Charlestown, S.C., picked up a load of cargo, dropped the cargo in San Diego…

DH: So you went through the Panama Canal, and then out to San Diego?

CP: Dropped us off at San Diego and Long Beach. From Long Beach to Pearl Harbor.

DH: And did you get any time to stay in any of these places?

CP: We got six hours in Pearl.

DH: How was that?

CP: Wild. Expensive. Everything was shipped in by plane, so you’d look in and…the only thing that was on ship was…beer was a quarter, or so. And if you were in a bar, it was like $1.50.

DH: Do you remember what kind of beer you were drinking on Pearl Harbor?

CP: I tried a little bit of everything – Olympia, that’s the one I remember the most….oh, Lucky Lager or something, terrible tasting stuff with a cute name.


DH: And how did you get to know…you were only there for six hours in Hawaii, correct?

CP: We were in there long enough to refuel and get stuff, you know, get food and goodies on board the ship. Then we basically went straight shot to Vietnam.

DH: Wow. And how long did it take you to go from South Carolina to San Diego?

CP: Oh, my goodness. I don’t remember how many days.

DH: But like was it a month, or…?

CP: I don’t think it was a month. Let’s see, at 20knots, we’d travel 480 nautical miles a day.

DH: So, yeah.

CP: So it was one of those. Say, a couple, three weeks, maybe.

DH: DH: And any bad storms through that at all, or…?

CP: Not very much.

DH: And how was the Caribbean, say, different from the Pacific?

CP: The Pacific was bigger and definitely had bigger, more nasty tropical storms, cyclones, as we called hurricanes.

DH: So the Caribbean was a lot more friendly at sea?

CP: Yeah, it was, although it could get kind of rough at times. Especially when you came out of the Caribbean and the Caribbean joined the Atlantic – a little place called the Bermuda Triangle.

DH: Yeah, and with that kind of…

CP: I didn’t know anything about it. Besides, you know, we didn’t see any flying saucers. Nobody tried to highjack our ship.

DH: But you remember going through it, though.

CP: Oh yeah. In order to get through the Caribbean and go back up to the North Atlantic you had to go through the Bermuda Triangle. Just a fact of life.

DH: So when you had gone through Panama, been at San Diego, gone to Hawaii, you went straight to Vietnam.

CP: Yep.

DH: And where did you land in Vietnam?

CP: Da Nang.

DH: Is that where you spent most of your…

CP: We docked at it. For most of our time we were up on the DMZ or cruising around the DMZ> we had a fleet Marine force that was kind of like the flying reserve. From what I understand they were basically…when they needed them…most of the Marines were on the helicopter ship, the actual combat Marines. We had Marine armored and Navy landing craft teams and CBs (or Seabees?) and basically we had specialized stuff that had to be loaded into landing crafts. So we would lower them in the well deck. And load them out the back end when it was ballasted down. And so basically it was like launching a boat out of your pickup truck, only your pickup truck was 500 feet long.

DH: And how many things would you drop out at once?

CP: Well, you only had room for one, or two at the most. If it had been something small, it could have gone out___. It wasn’t entirely, it was thought originally that they would bring the landing craft out, they would circle them around like in The Longest Day. You would circle Station 6 and they would tell you to bring your landing craft in and the crew, the troops would climb down the cargo net. That was the way they originally intended to use it. They wanted to be able to transfer a lot more heavy stuff. We usually ran using LCMs and ECUs and the troops went by helicopter off the, off the, I think it was from Iwo Jima.

DH: Off the island, you mean?

CP: No, the name of the ship was the Iwo Jima.

DH: And were you still on the Hermitage?

CP: Yeah. And the first ship I saw when I got out of Vietnam? It was the USS Duluth. LPD 6. The second ship I saw was the USS St. Paul. Heavy cruiser.

DH: And do you remember much about the USS Duluth?

CP: It was beautiful. It was nothing like the ship I was on.

DH: And what kind of ship was that?

CP: It was an LPD. It was slightly like a LSD but there were different…one thing was that they had a full flight deck aft. We had a flight deck_____. And then an open spot where you could run stuff down or up, using a 50 ton crane.

DH: So did you have a crane on yours, then?

CP: Two.

DH: The USS Duluth – that had a crane, too, didn’t it?

CP: Two of them also, but these worked a little differently. Thing was, the LPD was sent for a different mission than the LSD. They were newer and the LPD was probably in the early ‘60s. The first LSD was launched during the second World War. It was just a modern improvement…and they wound up using them side by side. They still do.

DH: How many helicopters could land on your ship?

CP: One at a time. And we wouldn’t have any place to store it.

DH: So once it was there, it stayed there, and then it flew off.

CP: Yeah. We could land one and then we moved it off the flight deck area, over to the edge of the flight deck and then land another one. But maybe the most we ever had on was two or three. And only one of these was ______.

DH: And what was your duty on that ship?

CP: Oh, I did everything. I was on the firefighting crew, magnesium helicopter, wooden flight deck. You could burn right through. The exercise was, you ____one out, and hook a….we had a tractor. One the carrier ship. These tractors. Someone would jump in the tractor and push the burning ______off the….

DH: Off the deck? Or…..

CP: Right off the front, like in the water. Magnesium burns so hot and so fast that if you try to put it out with just taking the fire hose and shooting it like___would….like somebody would use as a prank all it would do is just bubble the…the burning magnesium would turn into balls of fire and roll happily down the deck and set other fires.

DH: Your boat was mostly steel and steel wouldn’t…

CP: Yeah, the steel with a wooden flight deck, but magnesium is possible, if you don’t put it out, it will burn right through the deck, right through to the ocean, because it burns rather hot. It burns fast and furious.

DH: and how was it stationed out in DMZ? Were you guys worried about people shooting at you, or…?

CP: Not very much. We were a thousand yards off the beach there and snipers could have done, but pretty much…

DH: And you never had any snipers?

CP: No. It’s like trying to sneak a sniper crew onto the sandy beach of Park Point and then have them start shooting at the ship. You would have….shell fire [at them].

DH: What sort of guns did you guys have on the boat?

CP: Three inch cannon. 6 and 830 caliber machine guns. And small arms: shot guns, rifles, pistols.

DH: So they’d see a reaction pretty quickly. Did you guys ever have to use any of the guns? Did you use them often, or…?

CP: No, never. We never had to fire at anything. WE just kept them there because it looked good. (Growls) You growl at the camera.

DH: We talked about earlier that you did actually have a Howitzer that was shot towards you guys. And how did that…did miss, or…?

CP: Yeah. Well, it only got one shot, so it kind of aimed for the middle of the riding (??) group and in the open spot.

DH: And that’s where they hit.

CP: Well, yeah, and they promptly got plastered by U4s (or E4s?). They called it an air strike and bombed the heck out of the cave they put the gun in. They took the gun apart and carried it up the side of the mountain in pieces. And put it together in a limestone cave for one shot. It was big. I mean, a 155 Howitzer, it’s fairly good size and you’ve got that deal with the trail on the frame, the actual gun mechanism is rather heavy and they figured they’d carry it up with people, by hand. I figured they wanted to win the war better than we did.

DH: That’s a lot of work.

CP: Oh yeah.

DH: Do you have any idea of how many guys did it, or…?

CP: No. All I know is they told us what happened after.

DH: They pretty much took the one shot and they got away, or….?

CP: No. They took the one shot and the A4s and the heavy cruisers started shooting at ‘em and they basically barked out (??) and left the gun there.

DH: The A4, is that anything with the War Hawk, too?

CP: No. The A4 is a tiny little aircraft with delta wings. Heck, it was the kind of plane that Admiral Cain (??) flew. That got shot down. Called a Sky Hawk, I believe. It was rather a small, one-man, multi-purpose attack aircraft.

DH: OK. And how many other ships were surrounding yours, or were you…?

CP: Well, there was, let’s see, LST< LSD, LPD, LPH – I don’t know if we had an AKA with us.

DH: Well, a pretty good group of people there. (??)

CP: __________group was pretty fair sized.

DH: And how long did you stay out there?

CP: We were out for – it depended. We usually came back at_______. And every so often, every three weeks or so, at the longest, they would rotate you back, unless something happened that you were required to stay there.

DH: Did you guys ever have an R & R at all in Vietnam, or…?

CP. No. I spent two minutes in Vietnam. I ran around on a pier and almost got hit by a drunk driving a forklift and I ran back to the ship and asked them about getting a Purple Heart if I had gotten hit! The guy looked it up and said “no”., He said I would have been hit by a non-combatant in a combat zone, so forget it.

DH: So, you spent time in the Philippines, though, it sounds like…?

CP: Oh yeah.

DH: How was that?

CP: We had all kinds of fun going on in the Philippines.

DH: What sort of fun?

CP: Oh, we had _____(sounds like “fair long a po”) city, which was right outside the city, where you cross the river and out through the fencing. And it was just wall to wall cat houses, bars, and brothels, and people selling every weird thing under the sun. One guy bought a blow gun and a couple of….He took the blow gun home and it was a souvenir. And they would sell all kinds of weird stuff. And every so often the Huks (?) would come along and shoot at the bars. That’s the local communists. The ones that Ferdinand Marcos for his entire career was allegedly fighting so that he could say he was fighting the communists.

DH: The Huks?

CP: Yeah, that was H-U-K-S, or H-U-C-S, or something with “Communists” in it. That was what the C was. And the S was plural. Probably how they have these long drawn out names like Society of Peace and Friendship.

DH: I imagine you guys had some stories from when you were out in the boat?

CP: Oh yeah.

DH: What were some of the things that happened out there?

CP: We almost sunk ourselves.

DH: Tell us the story about that.

CP: Well, we spent a week in a ____pipe (??). And once the ship started filling up with water, ____water came in. Once you think of _______filling the aft engine room with a hundred thousand gallons of water a minute, you put it down on the sand, on a sand bar and the ______. Otherwise, we would have gotten survivors papers (??) sinking it. (Laughter) Then we had to pump it all out and went back to the Philippines and cleaned the thing up.

DH: And what happened to the guy that made that decision?

CP: It wasn’t anybody’s fault. _____magnaflux …..or X-ray the pipe and we were supposed to go to Field (or Philly, for Philadelphia? Naval shipyards and have it replaced. Just about the time that blew out in Vietnam we were supposed to go and replace it in Philly. Well, we forgot about it and they sent us to Vietnam. And we started practicing damage control.

DH: So, any other stories like that or anything else that you remember that you used to do for fun on the ship or…?

CP: Oh, we tried. We had people at their…instruments and they’d sit there and play rock music. We’d listen to that. And oh, one thing about being on ship, you could flood the well deck and make a big swimming pool.

DH: Did you guys do that a lot, or…?

CP: Oh, every so often.

DH: What type of music were you guys listening to back then?

CP: Oh, rock ‘n roll – I did. Mostly British invasion.

DH: Any certain bands?

CP: Los ________. “Black is black. I want my baby back.” If I had a dime for every time I heard that song in that six months I was over there, I’d be rich.

DH: And did you guys ever talk about, what were your feelings at the time you were getting sent over about the war itself? Did you____at all, or was that…?

CP: No. We would, pretty much we were there, so we were going to do our duty. They had people who were very calm, who were trying to put sand in the reduction gears, sabotage the ship so it wouldn’t go to Vietnam. We never had any problems that I knew of, with that. Basically the people who were there, we were going to do the best we can. Hopefully, we won’t get ourselves killed or court-martialed.

DH: It sounds like you had a lot of good times while you were over there, too.

CP: Oh yeah.

DH: Are there any of the stories over there that I’ve passed over, that you wanna…?

CP: Well, we had a wild beach party.

DH: What happened?

CP: Well, in the Philippines. It was on, heck, it was on the area, you remember China Beach? From the movie, ________(Medico/Medivac?)____series – it was right near the area where China Beach was where we had the party, in ’67. And it was beautiful. Nice smooth, soft beach. A good place to rehab, especially if you just got your leg shot off. But it was, we had a wild party. I got thrown out of a football game. I was a little bit on the happy side and the officer, the squadron chaplain, was refereeing the game. And, uh, he was being influenced by the other officer, who was quarterback on the USS Duluth team. (You couldn’t tell he was??) an officer because he was in civilian clothes. So, I was sittin’ there and I looked out on my four point stance right over the center. And I saw his legs and the guy flinched and I just brought my arms up and knocked him back on his can and said “OK, we’re playing CFL football, not NFL football.” The referee looked ______. I said “But CFL football it’s _____backs in motion. But NFL football, it’s 5 yards from the actual motion. And on the Duluth, if we’re playing CFL football, it’s on the third ______on me.” He said “Get out of there.” He called us sea lawyers.

DH: Why did they call you that?

CP: Well, you found a little thing, regulations or loopholes that would ruin the grand plan.

DH: Sea lawyers?

CP: Yeah.

DH: And did you ever run into anyone overseas that you knew from back in Duluth, or…?

CP: Yeah, I ran into two guys that graduated from Central exactly one year after graduation, at the enlisted men’s ….bathroom….in Pacific Bay, up on the destroyer.

DH: Do you remember their names, or…?

CP: Don Green was one of them, I think. (Unintelligible next name). It was really funny. We had – wait a minute – Don….discussing old home week, in the bathroom!

DH: I apologize for not asking you about this earlier, but you joined the Navy partly because you wanted good food…how was it?

CP: Well yeah. Great food, but lousy cooks. See volunteering to be a cook was easier than being a boiler _____. They tried to get transferred to being a cook. Which meant they weren’t necessarily, they weren’t culinary, they weren’t (sounds like “emeralds”). They were closer to Paula Dean.

DH: But the food was….

CP: It was really great.

DH: What did you eat?

CP: Depends on…they had…oh, breakfast was usually choices of cold cereal or hot cereal, bacon, eggs, ham, or whatever. Sometimes they’d throw in hash browns. On Sundays you got eggs cooked to order. Like over easy, or scrambled or over hard or however you liked ‘em – sunny side up. They would cook the eggs….

DH: And how would you get ‘em?

CP: I would just get ‘em fried. Sometimes you could have steak, though. Steak and eggs was kind of popular on Sunday. ________________that will give you steak and eggs.

DH: And so, at what point did you know that you would be coming back?

CP: When they told us we were coming back!

DH: So it just kind of happened, then.

CP: Yeah. Well, we had a six-month commitment. We were over there for six months and they said that after six months, they would relieve us. And they did. We turned around and went home. We cruised through Japan for the _____(yard?) period. Then we went to Hon Kong. That’s where we got our R and R.

DH: How was that?

CP: Beautiful. They call it the Pearl of the Orient. It was fabulous.

DH: What was so beautiful about it?

CP: It was just the…well, it was on a bay, and everything had this big long, on a hillside, it was kind of looking up from here onto Enger Tower in Duluth. It had a natural harbor and big hills and lots of houses and lots of people. And it just looked to…at night when it had all of the lights on, it was beautiful.

DH: Was that one of your favorite places that you went to over there?

CP: Yeah.

DH: And how long did you have over there?

CP: We had a week.


CP: Then we turned around and left there and went (packing all ahead, panicked??) to the Canal Zone. We stopped at Pearl Harbor to get food. We couldn’t…we basically refueled at sea. Like we did over there.

DH: And then did you go to the Panama Canal and back up to…?

CP: Yeah, back up to Norfolk. WE came up right before Christmas and there was one heck of a storm in Cape Hatteras. Anyone who… old salts….got sick on that one.

DH: So did you ever go up on deck at all, then, or…?

CP: No.

DH: I imagine pretty…

CP: Well, you didn’t go out on deck unless you had to.

DH: So was it a tropical storm that you ran into or…?

CP: I don’t know what it was. We just ran into a stretch of bad weather. It could have just been a winter storm.

DH: Yeah.

CP: There it hit like it does sometimes out here. A winter storm can get downright nasty.

DH: Oh yeah. And how long did you stay in Norfolk, when you finally got there?

CP: Well, we stayed there until, let’s see, from Christmas, until maybe February. And then we had to go back down to the Caribbean.

DH: That was kind of a nice thing to go back to…?

CP: Oh yeah. Hard to take! The climate was a lot better. Virginia during the summertime is hot and humid. It’s like our worst days here, all the time.

DH: And the Caribbean is a lot better than that?

CP: It’s more comfortable. You kind of…you’re just used to it. ______________it isn’t variable. Pretty much San Juan is the same all year round.

DH: Yeah. So it sounds like you…had a good time.

CP: Oh yeah. One of the best things I ever did was I played Santa Claus when we came back from Vietnam. We were coming back on the 21st of December, so the people couldn’t go out and buy their kids any toys. _______we bought a whole bunch of toys, wrapped ‘em up and put ‘em in toy bags. So Santa Claus…”little girl, how hold are you?” For a six-year-old girl present. I was the only nominated person of large proportions. I was the only enlisted fat folk who was _____coming down. So the captain sent me to his______room and pretty soon the steward come in and said “The Captain wants to see you.” And I said “Can you make me do this? And he said “No, but I can sure make you wish you did.” I volunteered.
DH: Did you enjoy doing it, or…?

CP: Oh yeah. It was fun. Although I did give a six-year-old-girl a Tonka truck by mistake. __________see what happens. It happened that my ______original _____officer’s nickname was “Moose.” He was 6’5” with hands the size of catcher’s mitts.

DH: Very cool. Did I miss any stories or anything you wanted to talk about, or….?

CP: No. I look on Vietnam as a lot of happy times, interspersed with lots of, lots of work. I mean, you were there to do a job, you weren’t there to be tourists. You weren’t there to…in fact, we would sit out on the gun mount when we were holding amphibious operations and the captain made us stop bringing our cameras. With so many cameras hanging off the gun mount, if we’d tried to put the gun mount into operations we’d have killed ourselves with our own cameras.

DH: Did you take a lot of photos, then, over there?

CP: Oh, I have a bag, ______standard _____ bag full of slides. You could buy slides from Kodachrome. Kodachrome was our favorite stuff. You could buy it for $3.50 a roll, with the processing. You could take your 36 pictures. I learned the old fashioned…you just take a ton of pictures and you find one you like and that’s the one you show everybody. Which is really not the right way to take a photography class.

DH: No. But you get some good shots out of that stuff.

CP: Oh yeah. I have tons of pictures of like, refueling at sea and some of my favorite ones are sunsets. And _____the subject, they are beautiful. I don’t know whether it’s the humidity or the climate, or what. As soon as the sun goes down it turns the whole, like everything along Park Point would just turn red at the horizon. Probably the length of the whole _____.

DH: And I imagine you got to see places of the world you probably wouldn’t have got to see otherwise.

CP: Oh yeah.

DH: And so when you got back to Norfolk, how did you end up coming back home? Did they…take a train or…was it a …?

CP: I flew back. I went on leave on February…down in the Caribbean and I was separated in November. I took a plane back here from Norfolk to Duluth. You know, one of those hip-hop airlines. They’re all united, but you flew a plane from Norfolk to Baltimore. Got on a plane that flew Baltimore to Chicago and then went to San Francisco. You got on a plane going to San Francisco and caught the plane that left Norfolk to go to the Twin Cities, via Washington and Chicago.

DH: You aren’t kidding. That’s really hip-hopping all over.

CP: Yeah. Then we flew into Chicago and then to the Cities and then flew up (to Duluth) on North Central Airlines.

DH: And so, when you came back, when you got off the plane, coming back to Duluth, was there anything that surprised you at all, how people treated you, or…?

CP: No, people did not…Duluth was pretty, kind of, you know, they didn’t really, most of the people, who didn’t get up near the campus, didn’t care. People down in the Cities, or Norfolk, or California, saw those two ribbons, those two things meaning you’ve been in Vietnam. They called you baby killers. Basically they didn’t treat us with any respect.

DH: So you ran into some of that yourself, then?

CP: Oh, a little bit. I had, people would see me sitting in a window seat in a row and the next two seats alongside of me were always empty. Unless somebody had to absolutely sit there. “I don’t want to sit next to the baby killer.” They never really said it, but they kind of implied it.

DH: I’m sorry to hear that.

CP: Vietnam was not popular. I mean you had people my age who…it was a poor man’s war. Anybody who could get into a college and hold a deferment, did. And people who couldn’t, served.

DH: And how was the…from your point of view…Duluthians, for the most part…?

CP: They were kind of blandly indifferent. The only time I wore my uniform was when I landed. When I got off the plane. Then it went into storage.


CP: I remember once when I saw someone leave, the Washington librarian…they worked for the special interest library…she said she wanted to see me. I donned my uniform (??) and I was walking down the hallway, a place you’re not supposed to walk. The principal says, “I’m sorry, but you’re not supposed to walk there.” I was in the shadows, turned around and stepped into the sunlight, said “Sorry, sir, I had to go visit the librarian…and the only way I can get there is through this hallway.” He said “Okay, you can go.” I walked up there in my uniform and it was interesting. That was before I went to Vietnam. So I was wearing a red and yellow National Defense…everybody got that. National Defense basically meant that you were a warm body! (Laughs)

DH: ___Vietnam____?

CP: Vietnam service, the Vietnam campaign…meritorious______citation.

DH: I guess I’m kind of getting that Duluth wasn’t too bad of a …?

CP: No, it wasn’t. I mean there was people who were anti-Vietnam War. But they didn’t have any riots or we didn’t have anybody protesting the National Guard Center.

DH: It’s not like Duluthians were anti-veterans.

CP: No.

DH: It’s good to hear, so….

CP: Pretty much, you did serve, and you were out_________killed their kids or something. _____post-Vietnam stress syndrome. You left it alone and it pretty much left you alone. Like Duluth does a lot of the time.

DH: Yeah.

CP: I mean it’s pretty much a town where everybody seems to just kind of mellow out. It’s not like down in the Cities, in some parts of the Cities.

DH: And one of my last questions, did a lot of your friends who served in Vietnam, did they come back with a lot of PTSD and…?

CP: I don’t know. A couple of guys that were over at UWS> And the unemployment commission gave this class on…only two guys that managed to….the shrinks managed to talk them into give them 40- 50% compensation for post-traumatic stress syndrome. One guy said it was because he was on a flight crew that had to work any time they needed him. I asked him “how far out at sea were you?” The Tonkin Gulf______they just steamed the ships around in a circle and launched the aircraft. We were a thousand yards off the beach. We could smell Vietnam.

DH: I just want to say thank you so much for doing this interview.

CP: No problem. I feel a little stress, I bring back a few memories. It was interesting. I mean, it was an interesting time in my life and I don’t think…if I had to trade it, I probably wouldn’t. An awful lot of the guys in the Navy, they came out and they (or we?) wanted to cut their heads off! They were not exactly nice people. And there were a lot of people who were nice.

DH: Well, thank you again.

CP: Thank you. Thank you very much.

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