Movie Nights In….

August 6, 2014



After another hot day toiling in the large metal building that comprised the Terminal Navy Post Office (TNPO) at Camp Tiensha, the U.S. Navy had, years before, learned to provide entertainment in the form of a relatively current movie for its sailors.

In order to do so properly, during the base-building infrastructure projects, the U.S. Navy included construction, by the Seabees, of a metal building, with seats and a stage, to be used as a theater and as a useful venue to run two movies per night. In order to keep everything “fresh,” the movie schedule was flip-flopped twice in order to make it seem like there was a new movie every night. (This seemed more like a morale-building “change of underwear” ploy, except that you had to change underwear with the sailor next to you, rather than getting a clean pair of underwear from the laundry).

Anyway, watching movies was always a good way to pass a couple of hours and the movie theater unintentionally provided a couple of evenings of real excitement far beyond what was on the screen.

For example, while seated in the center of the crowded theater on one memorable eveninb, red alert sirens began to wail way too early for the customary evening incoming schedule. Normally, a red alert siren was an opportunity to rapidly find a fortified bunker in order to avoid being killed or wounded by incoming enemy munitions. However, the immediate chaos in the aisles, created by sailors looking for safety, eliminated the possibility of easily seeking a nearby bunker.

Instead, my buddy and I consciously chose to remain in our seats, taking our chances with the mathematical probabilities of a direct hit by an un-aimed Russian rocket. In doing so, I likely avoided the far greater risk of injury in competing for the narrow exit door that was instantly jammed with fleeing sailors.

Eventually, the “all clear” siren confirmed my wisdom.

On another similar evening, I heard what sounded like a metal folding chair striking the metal walls of the theater. Out of curiosity or caution, I walked out to the small lobby, only to find a bloody mass of shipmates lying on the floor, including some who had lost  lower limbs from the impact of some type of munition.

Later on, we found out that a nearby Naval Advisory Detachment (NAD), a South Vietnamese military outfit with American advisers, had decided to fire an 81 mm illumination round from a mortar tube. The magnesium component which provides illumination is contained in a hardened, cement-like canister, which is launched from a mortar tube and, upon reaching its highest point, a parachute pops out and pulls the magnesium flare from the canister, which then ignites into a brief but bright mini sun.

Unfortunately, on this night, the NAD gunners did not consider where it’s cement canister might land. As a result, the canister traveled in a path, where it clipped the front roof edge of our theater and continued downward in its path, striking the ground at the front door to the theater, where it then ricocheted into the lobby to grievously wound young sailors waiting to enter the theater to watch a movie.

As the Vietnamese would often say, “Xin loi.” (Sorry ‘bout that)

In a similar incident on another night, the same naval advisory detachment fired another illumination round, where the cement canister struck our solid concrete helicopter pad adjacent to the post office, gouging a 2 inch divot out of the concrete surface, re-confirming the devastating effect of the projectile.

On a more humorous note, one of the movies provided was a “B-grade” movie starring Marshall Thompson.  Thompson, who had appeared in some epic World War II movies was attempting, in his old age, to depict the Vietnam War, using some Asian actors wearing “typical” black pajamas, who were terrorizing the indigenous population, especially young-Asian females. Right on schedule, according to the movie, the landing of Marines which was filmed on the obvious beaches of Camp Pendleton in beautiful Southern California, using outdated, obsolete M1 Garands, whose firing was simulated by electronic soundtrack, saved the day for the hapless and innocent peasants.

The portrayal was so poorly received that the catcalls and muttering from the audience brought the film to a standstill. When the lights suddenly went up in the theater, the audio-visual technician took over the center of the stage. When he quieted the audience, he asked, “Would you rather watch cartoons?” Needless to say, the cheers that erupted from the audience provided the obvious answer.

Xin loi, Mr. Thompson.

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More Vietnam…

August 3, 2014




July 1969-VC mortar attack on Marble Mountain Naval Hospital

 After completing my weeks-long recuperation from my near-death experience with a perforated appendix, and since I would be ending my tour of duty in Vietnam in September 1969, the Chief Petty Officer (CPO) at the Terminal Naval Post Office (TNPO) decided to permanently reassign me to the Post office detachment serving the Marble Mountain Navy Hospital as well as the Marines of the Marine Air Group 16 (MAG 16) and the occasional Green Beret from the nearby Green Beret B Camp.

 The Marble Mountain Naval Hospital was located on the opposite side of the sprawling Danang airbase complex from the primary US Navy lodging site on Camp Tiensha, putting Navy Postal Clerks, such as myself, within the reach of smaller VC units operating against the various US military attachments in and around Danang.

 The sounds and cadence of enemy activity were far different from what I had been used to.

 During a warm July night, at approximately 2:00 AM, I was asleep in my cot inside the metal World War II-era Quonset hut that contained all of the equipment and apparatus required to conduct business on behalf of sailors, marines and soldiers operating in the area. A small portion of the back end of the Quonset hut was our living quarters, which amounted to a government-issue cot and an upright metallic navy locker for our personal gear.

 Suddenly, I was awakened from my sleep by unfamiliar sounds. It was a repeated and hollow whumpfh whumpfh sound. I yelled across the room to my buddy George Mills Grant, who was fast asleep in his own rack.

 “That sounds like mortars!?

 In response, George simply said, “Hell yes!”

 Never one to hesitate in the face of “incoming,” and without any thought of pulling on my jungle boots, I rapidly exited the back of the Quonset, heading for the entry hole to our underground bunker, which was just outside the rear door of the Quonset.

 I had previously explored the bunker to familiarize myself with the bunker design, making note of the six stair treads that provided easy access to the sandy safety of the floor of the bunker. In true Navy preparedness, there was even a light switch that would provide some illumination for those utilizing the bunker once inside.

 However, upon hearing the repetitive launching of high-arcing enemy mortar rounds, when I reached the top stairs at the entrance to the underground bunker, I simply dove headfirst into the darkness below, presuming that whatever physical pain that I might suffer for my headlong dive would be far less than what I might experience from what potentially awaited me above ground.

 In the next few seconds, George joined me in the safety of the bunker, although I believe he took the time to properly use the stairs to join me.

 Over the next 15-20 seconds, we listened to, and counted, the impact and explosion of 11 VC mortars. Apparently, the VC mortar squad, which was operating from the far bank of the nearby river, after infiltrating from what we called “Indian country,” dropped their mortars in their mortar tube and quickly readjusted their aiming point.

 As a result, the VC were able to fire 11 mortars before the first 60 mm mortar landed on the northern end of the hospital facility compound. Each mortar that followed then landed south of the last mortar, until the last one impacted and exploded approximately 50 feet to the north of the bunker that we occupied.

Shortly thereafter, a U.S. Navy gunfire support ship, reportedly the USS Boston, a cruiser, conducted a retaliatory fire mission, their 8 inch shells flying overhead and impacting approximately 400 yards to the west of our position. Later, during the daylight, we were able to see the scorched and burnt grasses which had apparently been the launch site for the attack.

 I recall hoping that the Navy gunners, who may have been roused from their sleep for general quarters, were properly counting the powder bags used to propel their 8 inch shells, as a “short round” would be far more devastating than a VC mortar attack. Fortunately, the Navy gunners were on their game and every round landed where it was intended.

Approximately 3-4 minutes after the mortar attack, the rear door of the adjacent Quonset hut flew open and the “reaction team,” designated senior Chief Petty Officers, suddenly appeared in boots, un-buttoned flak jackets failing to cover their large abdomens, and helmets, apparently ready to take a position on the western perimeter, if ordered to do so, in order to repel any ground assault. Fortunately, the mortar attack was not accompanied by a ground assault.

 I later learned that an individual sailor, who had been brought to Receiving I, our emergency room, earlier that day had pulled the trigger on his .45 cal. side arm while sitting in his jeep, accidently shooting himself in the right foot. Fatefully, he had been injured again when one of the mortars struck the metal roof of the Quonset hut medical ward in which he was admitted earlier that day, spraying and wounding him with shards of the interior metal of the Quonset, causing additional injuries.

At the very least, he did earn and deserve a Purple Heart medal as result of the enemy action, but not for his accidental wound.

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Tet 1969, Another Chinese New Year

July 28, 2014


February 1969

Despite the repeated assurances  uttered by our senior non-commissioned petty officers that Camp Tiensha’s location on the peninsula that juts out from the City of Danang, and with the location of the Danang airbase on the opposite side of the city itself, generally put our base beyond the purported 7 mile range of the Russian-made 122 millimeter Katyusha  rockets, as we approached the upcoming Tet holiday, the Chinese new year, and the first anniversary of the Communist Tet Offensive in February 1968, base security conducted numerous “red alert” drills. The drill consisted of a dreadful wail of an old-fashioned air raid siren, whose changing pattern could also indicate a looming ground attack, rather than an attack through the air.

 The purpose of the red alert siren is to provide a few seconds of opportunity to move from one’s duty station, or if at night, one’s bunk to an aboveground bunker, which consisted of approximately 2 feet of sand sandwiched between sheets of plywood and which would presumably protect any fortunate occupants from the lethal effects of shrapnel from a nearby impact. A direct hit on the bunker itself provided little advantage whatsoever, due to the lethality of the attached warhead.

Generally speaking, the Danang airbase was the primary target for the Communist rocketeers, as the presence of expensive military aircraft, such as the F4 Phantoms belonging to the 366th Tactical Fighter Squadron, who called themselves, “The Gunfighters”  was an added inducement to the prospect of maiming and killing American personnel. In fact, we understood that the radar systems operating at the airbase could often pick up the presence of rockets just after they were launched, and a radio call to all  military commands in the immediate area of the air base would be advised “rockets in the air, rockets in the air,” resulting in most commands going on immediate red alert status.

 However, as fate would have it, the NVA rocketeers were able to re-position their launch sites in February 1969 in such a manner that their 7 mile range included Camp Tiensha and the entire warning system did not function whatsoever. The enemy troops  were able to launch five or six rockets during the early morning (2:00 AM) attack without ever being discovered by the radar system at the Danang airbase.

As a result, that night, there was no red alert warning.

 I was suddenly awakened by the sound of a very large explosion. Sitting upright in my rack, my initial confusion was ended by the shouting and screaming of a nearby postal clerk, who had recently transferred from the post office detachment on the Cua Viet river, which was located in the DMZ and subjected to repeated artillery barrages so he was familiar with such sounds.

 The shouting and screaming postal clerk began to enunciate more clearly until I could hear a distinct shout of the very motivating word, “incoming,” which made immediate sense to my sleep-numbed brain.

Needing little additional clarification or motivation, I jumped from my rack and ran out the back door of the barracks to where the above ground bunker was located.

As I stood on the bunker, barefoot and naked, save for my underwear, now fully alert, my hearing naturally focussed up the whooshing sound of additional rockets approaching our location. As each rocket slammed into the ground, the sound of the very loud explosions pushed my “fight or flight” level beyond the concept of fear into the as yet unexplored level of terror. They close proximity of the impacts caused of each of us in the bunker to throw ourselves flat onto the dirt “floor” of the bunker, in an attempt to present as little of a soft, fleshy target for the metal shrapnel that would spread out from the center of the impact.

 I recall (as if it were last night) lying facedown on the ground, being very scared and hoping that, if I were to be killed by one of these missiles, that my death would be instantaneous, and not painful.

In that moment, I thought to resort to prayer (then quite a devout Christian), but I could instead only repeatedly scream the name of God into the soil beneath my face. (Afterward, I wondered to myself if I had been praying or cursing. To this day, I’m not sure there’s any difference, in moments like that).

After approximately 20 seconds, the “incoming” portion of the evening was over, as the NVA rocketeers, had learned to “scoot and shoot” before there was any retaliatory 155 howitzer artillery fire from the Marine units stationed to the southwest of the Danang airbase on Hill 55.

 Unable to calm down sufficiently to go back to sleep, most of the postal clerks dressed and then congregated at the Terminal Naval Post Office, where we discovered a 6 foot deep crater in the asphalt roadway immediately behind the metal post office bulding. The shrapnel from the impact of the first rocket had put most of our trucks out of commission, by damaging the radiators with shrapnel. We watched as the Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) team climbed down into the crater and removed the remains of a rocket.  The size of the crater instantly confirmed the lethality of the rockets.

While standing nearby, I found a twisted “boltthat was a part of the shrapnel pattern from the impact and put the souvenir into my pocket, which I retain to this day.

From that evening forward, and for the next six months, until I rotated home in September 1969, Camp Tiensha sailors experienced up to four red alerts per evening, as the Danang airbase radar operators improved their capabilities. Once we were in our bunkers, we could tell from the sound of impact explosions, which element of the base of being struck.

Eventually, once we presumed that Camp Tiensha was not being struck, we returned to our racks and resumed our sleep.

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I salute those who experienced Tet 1968.

Stop Trying To Help Me So…

July 19, 2014


May 1969-Taking care of a buddy


A red alert siren wailed, the first of this particular night, shattering our sleep.

It always started at about 2 AM, back in May 1969, and it was repeated three or four times, night after night, usually when you just got back to sleep after the last “all clear.”

The launching of lethal 122 mm Russian-made Katyusha rockets were generally first observed by the Danang Airbase radar system as they lifted off from Vietcong-contested territory south of Danang.

“Rockets in the air!! Rockets in the air!!” radio warnings were broadcast to all units surrounding the sprawling air base putting everyone on alert.

As a result, all lights in all buildings went black.

Awakened by hoarse shouts of “incoming,” tired GIs, including myself, stumbled in the dark and ran for the safety of sandbag covered bunkers, wanting to be inside when the rockets ultimately struck, as they always did, somewhere.

He was tall and skinny, an awkward-looking boy from Georgia, only recently arrived in-country. His bunk assignment in the barracks was above my lower bunk. Earlier that week, I had told him what to do during a rocket attack. (Some “Vietnam-era” movies  and books suggest that new guys were expendable simply because they were new, but that wasn’t true in our outfit. We all wanted all of us to get back home alive).

Now, with precious few seconds of safety left, half asleep from fatigue, as we both had dismounted from our respective “racks.” I grabbed the new guy by his hand to lead him out the door to safety and finally pulled him in behind me into the bunker.

With my mind fogged by exhaustion, I then  inexplicably decided to leave the safety of the bunker and return to my bunk to grab my shower shoes. I didn’t need them, certainly not at the risk of my life, but one does odd things in times of  extreme stress. In the total darkness, and with enemy rockets flying through the air, I fumbled around my bunk, found my shower shoes and headed back to the bunker.

Returning to the safety of the bunker, my shower shoes in my left hand, I was now fully awake and suddenly aware of the foolishness and unnecessary stupidity of my actions.

Only then, at that moment, did I realize that the new guy had never once let go of my hand.

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The Impressive USS….

July 17, 2014


October 1968-Shelling by the USS New Jersey

Like so many in the U.S. Navy, I followed with interest the re-commissioning of the World War II battleship, USS New Jersey, anticipating that it’s massive 16 inch guns might be useful in supporting ground troops in action within range of their enormous capabilities.

In October 1968, the USS New Jersey made its first appearance in the Vietnam War.

Please click on the link for more New Jersey history, as follows:

During the early evening hours of another Terminal Naval Post Office sortie from Camp Tien Sha to the Danang airbase to unload a civilian cargo airliner of its personal mail and packages sent from stateside loved ones, headed for APO/FPO San Francisco mailing addresses, I was sitting on the end of the empty cargo bay of my 5 ton bobtail truck, which was parked in the cavernous, dilapidated Vietnamese hanger we used to break down mail pallets without having to deal with the usual monsoon-like rainstorms.

Suddenly, I felt the ground beneath me shake in the same manner as the earth shook back in Southern California during an earthquake. Moments after, what sounded like thunder was only the concussion from the firing of the large naval rifles. Apparently, the vibration from the impact of the 2000 pound projectiles traveled faster than the sound of firing the guns.

Apparently satisfied that this was not a Vietnamese version of an earthquake, I dismounted the back of my truck and was walking across the interior of the hanger, when another salvo from the impressive battleship reached its target, approximately 10 miles south of Danang. The vibrations from that salvo, then dislodged a large, steel lighting fixture weighing several hundred pounds (constructed in the form of a large grapefruit slicer) from the ceiling of the hanger, causing it to fall directly to the concrete slab below.

Unfortunately, the lighting fixture fell directly on to my intended path across the hanger. Fortunately, Fate had generously prevented me from taking one additional step as the fixture crashed to the ground in front of me. My immediate thought was, had I taken one more step, I would have been crushed and killed by the falling steel fixture. My next thought, after happily realizing that I was still alive, was, “Dang, I wouldn’t have gotten a Purple Heart for that!”

Despite the near miss, I was pleased that the great battleship was being used to destroy the enemy somewhere on that rainy night.

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First …..

July 9, 2014



September 1968-driving a truck through an unidentified shantytown in Danang, Republic of Vietnam

I was a newly assigned member of the Terminal Naval Post Office, which was a part of the vast Naval Support Activity-Danang, which provided all material goods (bullets, chow, and morale boosting mail) for the entire Third Marine Expeditionary Force (“III MAF”), the Marine fighting force positioned in I Corps (“Eye Core”), the northernmost province of the Republic of Vietnam, set hard against the supposed Demilitarized Zone  (“DMZ”) which divided the democratic Republic of Vietnam from the communist People’s Republic of North Vietnam.

 In addition, we distributed mail to  all in-country  naval detachments, including support ships and vessels  operating close off the coast of South Vietnam, such as LST’s and riverboat squadrons.

Clearly, the Marines were the “tip of the spear” in my generation’s post-World War II resolve to stem the progress of communism throughout Asia, but the tip could not function without significant resources in men and material to support their operations.

 Initially, the Marines came ashore at Danang in 1965 to provide security for the Danang airbase but their mission eventually evolved into more active “search and destroy” sorties into the countryside surrounding Danang, seeking to preemptively engage enemy combatants, such as the irregular Viet Cong guerrillas (“VC”), and their communist northern cousins, the better trained and equipped regular soldiers of the North Vietnamese Army (“NVA”).

 The VC were generally local indigenous farmer types, many who had been fighting since the early 1950s, originally against the French, who had returned to French Indochina to resume their colonial aspirations, following the defeat of the Japanese in World War II.

 Eventually, however, it became apparent to the communist hierarchy in North Vietnam, that the introduction of regular NVA troops would be required to overcome the introduction and presence of American military assets in South Vietnam. The NVA troops would utilize the Ho Chi Minh Trail to position themselves immediately west of I Corps, taking the “A Shau Valley” offramp in order to infiltrate the vicinity of Danang and to initiate military operations against the Marines and Navy personnel deployed in their mission to protect the people and government of the Republic of South Vietnam.

As a result of all of the geopolitics involved in the struggle against communism in South Vietnam, I found myself sitting in the driver’s seat of an empty 5 ton bobtail truck, headed for the Danang airbase to unload an incoming civilian transport carrying tons of personal mail, headed for the smaller bases and detachments throughout I Corps. My “shotgun” rider, Richard Mau, had arrived in-country a few weeks before I had, so we were both equally “green.”

 We were lightly armed; carrying M-16s and wearing .45 caliber Semi-automatic pistols strapped to our hips for personal protection in the event we were confronted by disgruntled “farmers.”

As usual, the night was dark as I slowly threaded my way through the unpaved and unlighted road that bisected another faceless, borderless shantytown village, whose “homes” consisted of  poorly nailed pieces of scrap lumber and sheet metal discarded by American military personnel.

 I was closely following an American-made four-door sedan, occupied by four Air Force personnel when Richard Mau and I heard the sound of a nearby explosion and felt the jarring concussion of the explosion a millisecond later. “What was that?,” I inquired of my slightly more experienced passenger.” I don’t know.,” Mau replied. At that exact point in time, we both observed all four occupants of the Air Force sedan throw open their doors and dismount headfirst into the ditches alongside the road, seemingly without touching the ground until reaching the bottom of the ditch, even as their sedan continued moving down the road, driverless and unoccupied.

Another explosion followed, close enough to physically shake our truck violently, and eliminating any further dumb questions as to what “that” was.

In the immediate hindsight of On The Job training (“OJT”), we quickly understood that we had both experienced our first close up episode of “incoming,” a term generally uttered by the first guy to hear it as a loud, intense shout and used to describe the sudden onset of enemy rocket fire, usually in the form of salvo of 5 to 6 122 mm Russian rockets, fired from anywhere in the surrounding countryside within a 7 mile arc. The aiming mechanism which was probably two tree branches, trimmed and formed in an X, with the rocket laid across the middle of the X, to elevate and launch the rocket in the general direction of the Danang airbase.

Needless to say, rockets fired in this manner were randomly “selecting” targets and were generally intended to disrupt the sleep and nighttime activities of American military personnel in the area, and hopefully killing and wounding a few Americans in the process.

 Fortunately, as was my experience throughout the coming year, each salvo was launched and landed within a matter of seconds. So once it was over, we continued past the Air Force sedan, which had completed its own unguided journey into the ditch and entered the “safety” of the Air Force Base and completed our own mission for the evening, which was to join with the Army and Marine postal clerks in breaking down the far less lethal pallets of “incoming” mail, breaking the pallets down to their individual bags of mail destined for individual units, as defined by their APO/FPO San Francisco addresses.

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Some Tidbits From My Planned Memoir….

July 6, 2014


One of the things that I’ve been doing since Sheryl and I moved from Wildomar, has been to put pen to paper (actually, dictating via Dragonspeak; it is,  after all, the 21st century ) some of the initial elements of a planned memoir of my brief but eventful military career for the benefit of my son, Tim and especially my grandson, Kent Roy Rasmussen, who is fascinated by my service in the Vietnam war and will be the eventual recipient of one of my cherished mementoes, my grungy jungle boots.

After I have memorialized specific events, I will then have to connect all of them in a readable context in order to help the eventual reader to gain some insights into the complexity of the times we who lived in the 1950s/60s faced as individuals. Adding my own voice to the Great Conversation about Vietnam, hopefully will provide a small piece of color to the tapestry of history.

Thanks for reading.

April 1968, Naval Air Station Adak, Alaska.

I was carelessly, if not curiously, flipping through a sheaf of mimeographed papers thumb-tacked to the Chief Master At Arms bulletin board, under a section entitled “Orders.” It was always interesting to see where some of my shipmates were headed after serving for a year on the barren, windswept Aleutian Island known as Adak. I was a 20-year-old E-3 Postal Clerk “striker,” meaning that my brief two-year naval career (I had enlisted in the Naval Reserve to avoid service in South Vietnam as a ground-pounding Army draftee) was destined to be served in a Navy Post Office.

Suddenly, and to my great surprise, I noticed an entry under “SN Gilbert R. Rasmussen, B532756” was on the order list. I permitted my eyes to slide to the next entry on the right, which said “Ordered to Naval Support Activity, Danang, Republic of Vietnam.”

Surely, I thought, there must be a mistake as I was not due for orders for several more months. In fact, I was in the process of preparing my “dream sheet,” a Naval device which lures young sailors into believing that they might actually have some positive influence on their own naval destiny.

I had already turned down an opportunity to stay on Adak for one more year, completing my two-year obligation in a place that was safe and familiar. My boss, a First Class Petty Officer who liked me, had an inside connection (most of them did) with the Bureau of Personnel (“BUPERS”) and could make that happen for me, no sweat.

But, alas, I had visions of serving on a Navy destroyer out of Long Beach California, my hometown, and enjoying one nine-month long (but safe) “Westpac” Cruise, presumably getting no closer to Vietnam than 5-10 miles offshore, before I was discharged back to civilian life.

As result of failing to accept the generous offer of my “lifer” rainmaker, I had unknowingly exposed myself to a “fleet draft,” where the U.S. Navy repositioned 1,500 non-rated sailors, just like me, for immediate service (we were told it was  riverboat duty)  in South Vietnam, to fulfill the military’s intention to put a total of 575,000 young Americans into service stopping communism in South Vietnam’s jungles, rivers, and cities before we had to deal with the same Communists invading the shores of America.

As a part of that great American military “build- up,” I soon found myself sitting alongside the runway at the Danang airbase, as the darkness of my first night in Vietnam began to overshadow me, leaving me full of fear and wonderment at how things had turned out so differently from my plans.

As Beatle John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”

With the perspective gained by being in my mid 60s, I can now see that I was unknowingly prepared, by Fate, for this journey through circumstances common to many young men of my age group.

And therein lay the start of my tale.

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There Were No Fireworks But….

July 4, 2014


I was experiencing personal pain, bordering on agony, until my  “frozen” intestines  (paralyzed  by the handling  of same by the medical  practitioners performing emergency life-saving surgery), voluntarily resumed their proper function.

And it had been ongoing and building for 3 days.

However,  I noticed that the  minute hand of the clock on the wall  had slowly crawled past the  number 12 on the dial,  officially, if not ironically,  making  the date to be July 04, 1969, at least on the side of the International date line.

For some unknown reason, my paralyzed innards finally begin to allow the passage  and release bowel gas into the enclosed environment of a post-surgical ward  at the Naval Support Activity  Hospital, located near the Marble Mountains in Danang, Vietnam.

Three days prior, after four days and nights of endless vomiting, the  hospital corpsmen assigned to the dispensary  (“sick bay”) at the Camp Tiensha  facility  finally elevated their  concerns for my well-being, moving  beyond the alternating, and utterly ineffective,  application of Maalox, liquid and/or chewables,  and had me shipped,  via ambulance, to the station hospital  for appropriate testing and treatment .

Less than an hour after arriving at Marble Mountain Hospital,  I was in surgery  for a perforated appendix, followed by several weeks  of treatment for the resultant  peritonitis, caused by the ongoing drippage of fluids from the organ perforation  into my abdominal cavity.

Unfortunately, the surgery was performed  by a hospital corpsman  under the direction of a medical doctor, applying  the medical  theory of “see one, do one, teach one.”   I know that this occurred  because the  anesthesiologist  did not provide enough substance to  render me unconscious throughout the entire  procedure.

As a result, I regained consciousness during surgery and briefly  observed the  verbal instruction  by the doctor to a young scalpel-armed hospital corpsman.  Fortunately, immediately thereafter, I resumed my blessed state of unconsciousness,  until  I woke up in the  recovery room.

Instead of the usual medical evacuation to  a Naval Hospital on the island of Guam, I was placed in a ward of young Marines, most of whom  were recovering from  wounds to their  abdomens and lungs.

The next day after surgery, during a routine follow-up  examination  by the medical doctor , he noticed an unusual swelling  at the incision  on my lower right abdomen.  Using a small wire cutter to cut the surgical wires used to close my original incision, followed by  a painless   “slice” of a scalpel to excise the  outermost surface of the  protrusion,  the doctor permitted the  copious abdominal fluids, collecting from the as-yet  undiagnosed peritonitis, to  spew from my abdominal cavity.

What followed was  six weeks of intense medical treatment for a physical emergency that  “normally”  is resolved,  and recovered from, in a matter of a week, without any complications.

Meanwhile, back to the Fourth of July fireworks.

As my body functions eventually allowed the prolific passage of  pent-up bowel gas, I  laughingly apologized to my nearby Marine  brothers-in-recovery, not wanting to add to their  to their suffering, even though I could do nothing to stop it.

Nor did I try!

In any event, despite the passage of 45 years since the “event,”  I’m always able to recall, with  exquisite  detail, what I was doing  at 12:10 AM, July 4 , 1969.

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Please join me in having a happy Fourth of July.

44 Years Later…

September 8, 2013

My beautiful picture


Recently, while attempting to secure a hunting license at Turners Outdoorsman in Temecula, I bumped headlong into  California’s computerized license format. Since I have not purchased a hunting license in the past four years, my previous status as a licensee was not “in the system.” As a result, I was required to dig into  my ancient personal archives, in order to find an old copy of my license.

Needless to say, I was annoyed by the inconvenience and eloquently expressed myself regarding our state government’s intractable new system.

As I left the store, there was a man of my  vintage, sitting in his parked vehicle, who addressed me as I walked by. Apparently, having seen the “Vietnam Veteran” cap that I usually wear, he inquired as to  the year of my service in Vietnam, as well as my locale. As it turned out, this Vietnam veteran “brother” served  at the same time and in the same locale,  separated by the narrow road between the U.S. Navy Marble Mountain Hospital and Marine Air Group 16 (“MAG 16”).

After discussing  mutual experiences, generally involving explosive devices,  we parted company as newfound friends and have since shared e-mails and photographs of those memorable experiences.

In particular,  I began to recall the night (not surprising since “The night belongs to Charlie”) of February 27, 1969, when we all heard a very large explosion that put everyone on alert status.

Apparently, an  enemy rocket struck the nearby “Bridge Ramp,”  where large amounts of ammunition were being loaded onto YFU 78, an 85 ton shallow-draft utility vessel, and a smaller vessel, LCU1500, which were both headed for a resupply mission of Marines engaged with the enemy near the Demilitarized Zone  (“DMZ”).

In the aftermath of the incident, we learned that 22  of our Navy shipmates had perished in the attack.

Please click on the following link  for additional, historical information :

The photograph attached to the top of this memory was taken by me the next morning while headed to the Danang airbase for duty.

Like many of those of our generation, we can all recall  where we were at the exact moment that we heard the news of the  assassination of  President Kennedy on November 22, 1963.

Far fewer of us can recall hearing the exact moment of death for 22 valiant, young sailors on the night of February 27, 1969.

Still, For me, it’s like yesterday.

By the way,September 8 marks the anniversary of my arriving in Vietnam in 1968 and leaving exactly one year later in 1969,  as a much different person. (Most folks would probably like the Pre-1968 Gil Rasmussen better than the  Post-1969 Gil Rasmussen, but  the earlier version no longer exists).

 Welcome home, Brother Rick. Thanks for stopping me to chat.

A Most Memorable Fourth Of July….

July 4, 2012



Well it certainly was for me.

I was still awake last evening when I realized and recalled an event which had occurred in my life exactly 43 years ago, to the minute.

At 15 minutes past the hour (00:15 in military time), July 04, 1969, my slender 21-year-old body (pictured above) was recovering from life-saving surgery performed by a Navy doctor at the Marble Mountain Naval Hospital, which was a part of the Naval Support Activity, Danang, Republic of Vietnam (“NAVSUPPACT Danang”).

The reason I can recall the exact time of this most memorable celebration is I recall looking at a clock on the wall of the hospital ward to confirm the time of the event, suddenly realizing the sweep of the minute hand on the clock had pushed me into July 4.

Generally, after any surgery involving the handling of one’s intestines said intestines tend to “freeze up” and deny the freedom of passage of ongoing bowel gasses, which each of us experience on a daily basis. (We are all adults here, so we’re able to discuss our humanity, if done tastefully).

In my case, I was three days post-surgery, and the “backlog” was significant. My lower abdomen, which  bore the markings and metallic stitching  of a medical intervention, was badly distended by the backlog.

The pain was excruciating. It’s why babies cry when they have “colic.”

Because the Fates must have a sense of humor, they chose that particular Fourth of July to restore my intestinal function.

The relief was immediate.

The “celebration” was noisy.

And obvious, to the young, wounded Marines, who were lying in nearby beds, and who shared the limited airspace of the hospital ward with me.

Ever the gentleman, I apologized profusely to my un-intended co-celebrants.

However,  despite my genuine and heartfelt apologies, I continued to celebrate  my newfound “freedom.”

Sorry, Bro.

On a side note, for context, of the 3 million veterans of the Great Patriotic War, I am certain that more than a few experienced the pain of a simple attack of appendicitis, normally resolved by a simple surgical procedure, yet still a procedure that is a medical emergency. It is likely that several of those medical emergencies involved a “ruptured appendix,” which requires immediate surgery or death will occur.

In my case, I was “twixt and tween” those two conditions. In fact, it is my belief that I am the only Vietnam veteran ever to experience a “perforated appendix.” Beyond the simple yet painful inflammation of that obsolete digestive gland, but not yet to the point where it has ruptured, my  dysfunctional appendix began to drip infected bile into my abdominal cavity, leading to peritonitis.

This medical condition  had been occurring over the previous four days and nights. I had repeatedly presented myself to “sick bay, ” but the Navy corpsmen were not trained to recognize the unique threat to my existence. As a result, I was repeatedly provided Maalox (both liquid and chewable pellets)  throughout that four day ordeal.

I would stagger across the base, in my underwear, in the middle of the night, staying close to the roadside ditch to use as an impromptu bunker, since 2:00 AM seemed to be the usual time chosen by the Viet Cong rocketeers to launch an attack of 122 mm Katyusha rockets from their hidden locations in the “bush” into the vast military complex that was Danang. The VC didn’t have to aim, as they were certain to hit something, or someone, each time they fired a rocket.

However, upon arrival at sick bay, the “next” Navy corpsman on duty would routinely hand me my bottle of Maalox.

After four days, I finally convinced the current corpsman that there was something “wrong with me.” He finally agreed and I was put on the “regular” ambulance run to the Marble Mountain hospital facility. Once there, I was placed in a bed and told that “someone” would come to see me for a medical checkup.

However, within the hour, I was doubled over in an excruciating pain, so I tried to gain the attention of any passing corpsman, routinely walking through the ward, of my self-recognized medical  emergency.

Finally, I was quickly taken to the Operating Room for my  long-overdue “emergency” surgery.

Unfortunately, despite the usual procedure of a “medevac” to a Navy hospital facility in Guam for recovery, someone decided to leave me where I was, and my as-yet undiagnosed peritonitis eventually resulted in a significant slice to my abdominal wall to permit the insertion of an industrial-sized syringe, filled with a medical-grade solution of bleach, which was pumped into my abdominal cavity and permitted to drain back out of my body through the gaping slice.

All of which contributed to my unusual July 04, 1969 celebration.

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Have a happy Fourth of July!