Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Charles Booth, May 20, 1985

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


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00:00:07 - Brief background / joining the military / initial training

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Partial Transcript: Take one. Charlie let's, uh, let's start out by, by finding out a little about you and where you're from originally and, uh, a little about yourself prior to your going into the military service.

Segment Synopsis: Charles Booth shares his background prior to joining the Air Force. He describes the events that led to his education deferment being cancelled and his draft into the Air Force. He highlights his experiences during basic training.

Keywords: "Tank"; Air Force; Ashland (Ky.); Boyd County (Ky.); Conformity; Draft; Formal military education; Higher education; Orientation

Subjects: Air bases; Basic training; Military education; Vietnam War, 1961-1975.

GPS: Ashland (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.463889, -82.641667
00:07:47 - Tech school experience / leaving for Vietnam

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Partial Transcript: What about your specialized training?

Segment Synopsis: Booth explains the differences between his basic training and specialized training at technical school in the Air Force. He describes his deployment to Vietnam and his initial impression of Vietnam.

Keywords: "Unpopular war"; CP Pills; Chanute Air Force Base (Ill.); Colleges; Cryogenics; Cultural shock; Deployment; Family; Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam); Military attitudes; Saigon (Vietnam); Traveling

Subjects: Air bases; Military education; Vietnam War, 1961-1975

GPS: Chanute Air Base - Decommissioned (Rantoul (Ill.))
Map Coordinates: 40.288317, -88.141274
00:15:25 - First experiences in Saigon / responsibilities on base

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Partial Transcript: Tape two. Um, right in the last tape you were talking about, uh, the guys who were just leaving as you were coming in, and, and, and what their attitude was.

Segment Synopsis: Booth shares about his first three months in Vietnam. He describes the local hotspots in Saigon during his time in Vietnam. He then highlights his duties and responsibilities in the oxygen plant at his base.

Keywords: Aircraft; Bars; Chemical plants; Factories; Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam); Liquid oxygen; Local hangouts; Long Bình (Đồng Nai, Vietnam); Maintenance; Management; Night clubs; Saigon (Vietnam); Vietnamese civilians

Subjects: Chemical plants--Accidents; Civilians in war; Vietnam War, 1961-1975

GPS: Ho Chi Minh City - formerly Siagon (Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam)
Map Coordinates: 10.776889, 106.700806
00:20:27 - Morale of soldiers / relationship with South Vietnamese

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Partial Transcript: H, how was the morale in the unit? Di--how did people go about their business?

Segment Synopsis: Booth discusses the morale of the men at his base and their feelings about South Vietnamese soldiers and civilians.

Keywords: Daily life; Duties; Friendly fire; Safety; South Vietnamese; Theft; Treaties; Vietnamese women

Subjects: Air bases; Civilians in war; Morale; Race relations.

00:24:07 - Black market activities

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Partial Transcript: What about the black market activities?

Segment Synopsis: Booth recalls the common black market activities that occurred in Saigon. He explains the reason why American dollars were considered contraband.

Keywords: "Greenbacks"; Alcohol; American currency; Black market transactions; Dollar; Economy; Military payment currency (MPC); Military script; Vietnamese piaster

Subjects: Black market; Military supplies

00:28:17 - Marriage to Vietnamese women / children in war zone / attitudes toward officers

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Partial Transcript: What about, uh, personal involvements with Vietnamese women? Did friends of yours have, uh, more than casual, uh, relationships with Vietnamese women?

Segment Synopsis: Booth explains soldiers' romantic relationships with South Vietnamese women. He describes the marriage policies enforced by US military branches. He recalls the children he would meet in Saigon, and soldiers' negative attitudes toward officers.

Keywords: Aid; Attitudes; Children of soldiers; Disobedience; Injuries; Military leadership; Officers relations; Relief; Resisting policies; Vietnamese civilians

Subjects: Civilians in war.; Morale; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Children

00:35:25 - Soldiers on leave from fronts / alcohol and drug abuse

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Partial Transcript: Um, did you feel safe on the base?

Segment Synopsis: Booth remembers soldiers visiting Saigon from the fronts. He explains the drug and alcohol abuse that was common in Saigon and near bases. He also shares stories about his fellow soldiers' involvement in the sex industry.

Keywords: "33 beer"; "Junkie"; "R and R"; Attacks; Death; Drinking; Injuries; Leave; Marijuana; Massage parlors; Pot; Rockets; Sex industry; Sex work; Smoking; Stress

Subjects: Drug abuse; Leisure.; Prostitution

00:42:19 - Feelings about cultural experience in Vietnam / military censorship

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Partial Transcript: Did you ever wonder about the irony of this, Charlie, about being in the middle of all this, you know, um, th, that type of cultural situation and yet you were sent over by your country, to--you were in the middle of a war?

Segment Synopsis: Booth explains what his thoughts were about the culture that developed on bases during the war. He explains the extent of military censorship in Vietnam.

Keywords: Censored mail; Death; Homesick; Letters; Military attitudes; Phone calls; Protests; Stars and Stripes; War zone

Subjects: Military life.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Press coverage; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Protest movements; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Psychological aspects

00:47:09 - Returning to the United States

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Partial Transcript: Charlie, when did you start feeling that, uh, you could see the light at the end of the tunnel on your tour of duty over there?

Segment Synopsis: Booth recounts the negative attitudes he encountered toward soldiers when he returned to the United States. He describes having to adapt back to life in his home country.

Keywords: "Hippies"; "Shakes"; Ashland (Ky.); Boyd County (Ky.); Flights; Illness; Insults; Negative attitudes toward soldiers; Paranoia; Reunion; Travel; Treatment of veterans

Subjects: Health issues; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Public opinion; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Social aspects.

00:54:59 - Adjusting to military life in United States

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Partial Transcript: So you adjusted pretty well back to military life, as best you could?

Segment Synopsis: Booth explains his transition into military life in the United States. He recalls the issues he began having with Air Force leadership which lead to his early discharge.

Keywords: Air Force commanders; Conflict; Congressional inquiry; Military service; NCO leadership school

Subjects: Air bases--United States.; Discipline; Military discharge; Military life.

00:58:20 - Military discharge / adjusting to civilian life

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Partial Transcript: So after you were discharged, you went back to school?

Segment Synopsis: Booth touches again on his military discharge. He describes returning to college as a student. He explains his difficulty finding employment as a Vietnam veteran.

Keywords: Ashland Community College (ACC); Attitudes toward soldiers; Clinical psychology; Discharge; Eastern Kentucky University (EKU); Employment; Higher education; Steel work; Veteran preference

Subjects: Education; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Public opinion; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Social aspects.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Veterans--United States

GPS: Ashland Technical and Community College (Ashland (Ky.))
Map Coordinates: 38.469341, -82.650002
01:01:53 - Current attitude toward Vietnam War

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Partial Transcript: Tell me about, uh, your attitude toward the Vietnam War. You came back in 1970, August of '70. How did it change over the--over time, your attitude toward Vietnam?

Segment Synopsis: Booth describes his current attitude toward the Vietnam War and why it changed.

Keywords: "Right and wrong"; Casualties; Evacuation; Personal attitudes; Personal experience; Tactical retreat; Thoughts; Vietnam civilians

Subjects: Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Social aspects.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Veterans--United States

01:06:11 - Work of the Vietnam Veterans Association / treatment of veterans

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Partial Transcript: Now, you got involved in the Vietnam Veterans Association here in the Ashland area.

Segment Synopsis: Booth shares what the Vietnam Veterans Association in Ashland tries to do to support its local veterans. He explains the negative treatment Vietnam veterans had been facing.

Keywords: Agent Orange; Ashland (Ky.); Employment; Government positions; Lawsuit; Retraining; Stress clinics; Treatment of veterans; Veterans' bonus

Subjects: Health issues; Military pay; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Public opinion; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Social aspects.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Veterans--United States

01:10:10 - Message to Kentuckians about Vietnam veterans / photos from the war

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Partial Transcript: If you had a chance to just tell Kentuckians, uh, you know what is, um, what is it you would want Kentuckians to know about Vietnam veterans?

Segment Synopsis: Booth shares his personal message to Kentucky about veterans like himself. After this the film shows photos from Booth's time in Vietnam.

Keywords: Aspirations; Citizens; Kentucky; Military service; Public attitudes; Treatment of veterans

Subjects: Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Public opinion; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Social aspects.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Veterans--United States