Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Larry Thomas, April 30, 1985

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries

 

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00:00:13 - Childhood and growing up

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Partial Transcript: Uh, Larry why don't we start off the day, and uh--by just finding out, uh, where you're from originally and a little bit about your family, uh, when you were growing up. Your early education. That type of thing?

Segment Synopsis: Larry Thomas introduces himself and talks about his childhood. Thomas then talks about how he first heard about the Vietnam War and how it first affected him.

Keywords: Ashland (Ky.); Birth; Childhood; Employment; Family; Fort Campbell (Ky.); Parents; Physical diagnosis

Subjects: Draft.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975.

GPS: Fort Campbell (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 36.65, -87.466667
00:05:14 - Fort Campbell

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Partial Transcript: Uh, tell me about arriving at Fort Campbell. What you, what you did there.

Segment Synopsis: Thomas talks about his time in basic training and the kind of experiences he had in his daily life as a soldier in training. He also talks about how he decided to go to helicopter school as part of his military training.

Keywords: CH-47 (Military transport helicopter); Combat; Flying; Military life; Military service; Military service experience; Policy

Subjects: Basic training (Military education); Fort Eustis (Va.); Helicopter pilots; Military helicopters

GPS: Fort Campbell (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 36.65, -87.466667
00:10:44 - Helicopter school

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Partial Transcript: Let me back up for just a moment. Did you, did you get a chance then to come home back to Mount Sterling prior to going to Virginia?

Segment Synopsis: Thomas talks about going to helicopter school, what he learned there, and his daily life in the military.

Keywords: Emotions; Employment; Family; Health; Recreation; Volunteers; War stories.; Work

Subjects: Fort Lewis (Wash.); Fort Sill (Okla.); Helicopter pilots; Vietnam War, 1961-1975.

00:15:34 - Public opinions on the war / traveling to Vietnam

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Partial Transcript: Now by this time in '69 there was already building up some opposition to the war, even in, even in Kentucky.

Segment Synopsis: Thomas mentions the protests and general public opinion of the Vietnam War. Thomas then talks travelling from Kentucky to Vietnam.

Keywords: Air travel; Emotions; Flying; Homesickness; Movies; Nonviolent protests; Promotions; Recreation; Student protests; Transportation

Subjects: Anti-war demonstrations; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Protest movements; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Public opinion; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Social aspects.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975.; Yokota Air Force Base (Japan)

00:20:49 - First impressions of Vietnam

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Partial Transcript: Well what were your first impressions of Vietnam when you, when you landed?

Segment Synopsis: Thomas talks about his arrival in Vietnam in Cam Ranh Bay and his first impressions upon arriving in the country.

Keywords: Basic training (Military education); Climate; Emotions; Fear; Hercules (Turboprop transports); Management; Military; Military life; Odors; Organization; Training; Transportation

Subjects: Cam Ranh (Vietnam); Chu Lai (Vietnam); Vietnam War, 1961-1975.

GPS: Cam Ranh Bay (Vietnam)
Map Coordinates: 11.893, 109.170
00:25:32 - Base camp

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Partial Transcript: Now, uh, what--describe that physically. What did that look like when you drove into that?

Segment Synopsis: Thomas talks about his first impressions being at base camp in Vietnam and what his work was like as a door gunner.

Keywords: Acclimation; Combat; Employment; Management; Missions; Officers club; Opinions; Organization; Recreation; Replacements; Training; Work

Subjects: Helicopter pilots; Military helicopters; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Personal narratives, American; Vietnam War, 1961-1975.

00:31:54 - Size of base camp

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Partial Transcript: So how many people would be at this base camp?

Segment Synopsis: Thomas describes the daily life of a soldier at his base camp as well as his work as the crew chief of a combat helicopter in Vietnam.

Keywords: Emotions; Fear; Fellowship; Friends; Military helicopters; Work

Subjects: Combat.; Helicopter pilots; Officer; Soldiers.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Personal narratives, American; War casualties.

00:36:12 - First experience with combat

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Partial Transcript: When were you first involved in a combat situation?

Segment Synopsis: Thomas describes the first incident in which he found himself in direct combat, when his fire base came under attack from a Viet Cong rocket attack.

Keywords: Leave of absence; Military bases--maintenance; Military helicopters; Military service; Responsibility; Training

Subjects: Combat.; Emotions; Fear; Safety; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Personal narratives, American

00:42:16 - Danger in combat

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Partial Transcript: What's the most dangerous combat situation you found yourself in?

Segment Synopsis: Thomas describes the most dangerous combat situation he found himself in and describes further danger in working with military helicopters.

Keywords: Combat infantry tactics; Deaths; Instinct; Military helicopters; Military service; Military service experience

Subjects: Combat.; Emotions.; Fear.; Vietnam; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Personal narratives, American

00:48:25 - South Vietnamese civilians

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Partial Transcript: What did you think of the civilians? Uh, what was your attitude towards them?

Segment Synopsis: Thomas talks about his interactions with the South Vietnamese civilians, and his opinions on their lives and his impressions of them from his time in Vietnam.

Keywords: Donations; Living conditions; Living conditions on base camp; Medical care; Medical services; Military service; Military service experience; Money; Orphans; South Vietnamese

Subjects: Civilians in war.; Vietnam; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Civilian relief

00:52:55 - Safe jobs and employment

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Partial Transcript: So in terms of, uh, safe jobs in Vietnam, especially at the place you were, you were located, uh, getting back and being the, the company clerk, those types of things were things that guys might want to try and, uh, get into towards the end of their--

Segment Synopsis: Thomas talks about the different kinds of missions that he flew in Vietnam and his opinion on the greater impact of his actions.

Keywords: Accidents; Achievements; Deaths; Emotions; Employment; Medics; Morale; Rockets (ordnance); Sickness; Surface-to-surface missiles; Transportation; War casualties

Subjects: Fear.; Safety.; Vietnam; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Personal narratives, American; Vietnam War, 1961-1975.

00:58:05 - Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army as enemies

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Partial Transcript: What was your opinion of the, of the Viet Cong, or, you know, the Vietnamese as enemies?

Segment Synopsis: Thomas talks about what it was like to fight against the Viet Cong and NVA. He talks about life on base and correspondence with his friends and family at home.

Keywords: Christmas; Civilians; Draft; Guerrilla warfare; Leave of absence; Letters; North Vietnamese; Politics; Prostitution; Viet Cong; Vietnam-era drafts

Subjects: Absence without leave; Correspondence.; Morale.; Parents.; Veterans.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Veterans--United States

01:05:03 - Drug use

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Partial Transcript: What about drugs? Were, were they prevalent?

Segment Synopsis: Thomas discusses the kind of substances and illegal drugs that his fellow soldiers would use and tells a few stories about those soldiers.

Keywords: Alcohol; Alcoholism; Barter system; Black market; Coke; Drug addiction; Drugs; Fighting; Illegal drugs; Marijuana; Military logistics; Prostitution; Recreation; Recreational activities; Relationships; Women

Subjects: Alcohol.; Drugs.; Marijuana.

01:10:02 - Vietnamese women

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Partial Transcript: Tape five. We were talking about, uh, American soldiers and Vietnamese women. Were there guys you knew in your, your unit who, uh, developed, uh, serious relationships with, uh, any of the Vietnamese women?

Segment Synopsis: Thomas tells about some of the soldiers in his unit who became involved in relationships with the civilian Vietnamese women.

Keywords: Adopted children; Deaths; Experience in the army; Friends; Killing; Living conditions; Living conditions on base camp; Memorials; Military service experience; Relationships

Subjects: Civilians in war.; Patriotism.; Viet Cong; Vietnam; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Children; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Veterans--United States; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Women

01:17:36 - Returning home

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Partial Transcript: I wanna talk about your, your return home, and you said something earlier that, uh, might sound strange but you felt like you didn't want to leave in some ways.

Segment Synopsis: Thomas talks about the end of his tour of duty in Vietnam and how he felt about returning home. He also talks about the differences between military life in a combat zone and military life in the United States.

Keywords: Alcohol; Booby traps; Discipline; Drugs; Friends; Land mines; Morale; Nonviolent protests; Officers Candidate School; Regulations, Military; Returning veterans; Rockets (ordnance); Surface-to-surface missiles

Subjects: Military life.; My Lai Massacre, Vietnam, 1968.; Vietnam; Vietnam War, 1961-1975.

01:27:21 - Concerns of coming home

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Partial Transcript: So, um, so tell me about your coming back to the States then and, uh, what your--some of your concerns were and, and what your experiences were getting back home?

Segment Synopsis: Thomas talks about finally returning to the United States after being in Vietnam and the end of his military career.

Keywords: Employment; Family; Management; Parents; Training; Transportation; Work

Subjects: Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Veterans--United States

01:33:06 - Parents

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Partial Transcript: Did your parents try to talk to you to see what they could do to help you?

Segment Synopsis: Thomas talks about some of the difficulties he had with being home and how he got over them. He also talks about how he met his wife and how his life changed after that.

Keywords: Christmas; Church; Church community; Emotions; Friends; Marriage; Memorials; Relationships; Reunions; Veterans; Vietnam-era drafts

Subjects: Draft resisters.; Draft.; Veterans.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Psychological aspects; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Veterans--United States

01:40:58 - President Nixon and "peace with honor"

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Partial Transcript: How did you feel toward President Nixon when he announced--(coughs)--you know, that, uh--

Segment Synopsis: Thomas talks about his feelings toward the larger politics of the war, the end of the war, and the treatment of veterans after the war.

Keywords: Community; Donations; Newspapers; Vietnam-era drafts

Subjects: Vietnam; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Press coverage.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Veterans--United States; War memorials.

01:46:39 - Opinions on the war

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Partial Transcript: Do you think the United States should have been involved in Vietnam?

Segment Synopsis: Thomas talks about the larger politics of the Vietnam war, and how he feels about the Vietnam war and what was accomplished there.

Keywords: Combat related stress; Combat stress; Communism; Military service; Military service experience; Politics; Prisoners of war; Serving in the military; Stress; United States Military; Vietnam

Subjects: Prisoner of war.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Prisoners and prisons; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Psychological aspects; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Veterans--United States

01:52:46 - Additional comments

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Partial Transcript: Well that's uh, that's about all I have. Uh, is there anything you'd like to add in terms of, uh--you know, this, uh, this tape's going to be for future generations to hopefully better understand what this country went through during the Vietnam experiences.

Segment Synopsis: Thomas closes with his thoughts on his emotional understanding of the Vietnam War. He also talks about his work on a Vietnam Veterans memorial in Kentucky.

Keywords: Children; Family; Friends; Patriotism; Politics

Subjects: United States. Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Veterans--United States; War memorials.