Interview with Thomas J. Kubeck, August 10, 2017

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Personal background

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Partial Transcript: Alright, well let me get, let me get started here.

Segment Synopsis: Thomas Kubeck is introduced. He talks about his parents and siblings and their lives in Connecticut, as well as his grandparents and their family history. He talks about his own wife and children. He talks about the members of his family who have also served in the military.

Keywords: 1949; 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry, 25th Infantry Division; Connecticut; Fathers; Grandparents; Mothers; Parents; Relatives; Sergeants; Tank commanders; Tropic Lightning Division; U.S. Army

Subjects: Families.; Genealogy

00:07:34 - Childhood--Education

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Partial Transcript: Well tell me about your own educational background.

Segment Synopsis: Kubeck talks about where he went to school in Connecticut and mentions attending the University of Connecticut for one year before being drafted into the Vietnam War. He talks about his father's view on the importance of education.

Keywords: Air conditioning; College degrees; Connecticut; Elementary schools; Enjoyment; Enlisted; Fathers; Grade schools; High schools; Houses; Military draft; Military occupational specialty (MOS); NCO School; Parents; Student deferment; U.S. Army; University of Connecticut; Walking

Subjects: Childhood; Education; Families.; Military service, Voluntary--United States.

00:13:50 - Childhood--Sports

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned you played sports in schools. What, what did you--what sports did you play?

Segment Synopsis: Kubeck talks about the many sports he played as a child and mentions playing basketball at the University of Connecticut on the freshman team. He talks about the professional sports he followed. He talks about his current interest in snorkeling.

Keywords: Basketball; Boston Red Sox (Baseball team); Freshman; High schools; Immigrants; National Basketball Association (NBA); New York Knicks (Basketball team); New York Yankees (Baseball team); Snorkeling; Swimming; Tony Kubeck; Uncles; University of Connecticut; Vacations

Subjects: Childhood; Recreation; Sports

00:21:29 - Childhood--Neighborhood

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Partial Transcript: What was your address at that home?

Segment Synopsis: Kubeck talks about his relationship with his grandparents who lived in the upper part of the house he and his parents lived in. He describes his childhood neighborhood and playing with the other children. He says they did not watch much television.

Keywords: Children; Clotheslines; Friends; Grandparents; Houses; Kids; Mothers; Parents; Playing; Television; Television shows

Subjects: Childhood; Neighborhoods; Recreation

00:27:13 - Polish family background and language

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Partial Transcript: Did your family eat meals together at the dinner table?

Segment Synopsis: Kubeck talks more about his grandparents who lived upstairs, and his mother and grandmother's cooking. He talks about the benefits of learning other languages and being able to communicate with people, demonstrating by telling several stories about his travels.

Keywords: African Americans; Barriers; Family meals; Fathers; Favorite meals; Grandmothers; Jewish; Languages; Meeting people; Mothers; NCO reunions; Palestinians; Platoon leaders; Platoons; Polish; Rednecks; Talking; Vietnam

Subjects: Families; Immigrants; Immigration; Travel

00:36:39 - Culture during high school

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Partial Transcript: Did you date a lot in high school?

Segment Synopsis: Kubeck talks about dating in high school as well as the many jobs he held at the time. He talks about his interest in music, the popularity of the 'hippie scene', and the racial makeup of his town.

Keywords: African Americans; Alcohol; Awareness; Dating; Drinking; Drug use; Family; Friends; Hairstyles; High schools; Hippie scene; History; Jobs; McDonald's; Money; New York City (N.Y.); Prejudice; Puerto Ricans; Racetracks; Racism; Rock 'n' roll music; Tobacco fields; Towns; Work

Subjects: Employment; Neighborhoods; Occupations; Race relations

00:44:38 - Awareness of the news in the fifties and sixties

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Partial Transcript: Well, were you and your family pretty well-informed of what was going on in your community and the country as well as internationally during the nineteen fifties and nineteen sixties?

Segment Synopsis: Kubeck discusses his parents' as well as his own awareness of news and current events during his childhood and high school years. He mentions learning about the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Vietnam War.

Keywords: 1967; Americans; Assassinations; Awareness; Cars; Civil rights movement; Cuban Missile Crisis; Draft dodging; Drivers licenses; Fathers; Freshman; Friends; High schools; Jack Ruby; John F. Kennedy; Lyndon B. Johnson; Military draft; News; Nuclear wars; Opinions; Patriotism; Protests; Television; Tet Offensive; Well-informed

Subjects: News audiences; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Public opinion

00:52:37 - Reactions to being drafted during the Vietnam War

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Partial Transcript: When you were a senior in high school did you know or have an idea of what you wanted to do after you graduated?

Segment Synopsis: Kubeck talks about his original plans for his life after high school before he was drafted during his first year of college. He talks about why he chose to enlist in the Army, his friends' reactions to him being drafted, as well as his own reaction to the news.

Keywords: 1968; Away from home; Basketball; College majors; Colleges; Drafted; Enlisted; Friends; High schools; Life plans; Military draft; Physical examinations; Reactions; Student protests; Support; U.S. Army; Woodstock

Subjects: Anti-war demonstrations; Draft.; Military; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Public opinion

00:56:59 - Basic training

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Partial Transcript: And where were you sent for basic training?

Segment Synopsis: Kubeck talks about being sent to boot camp in Fort Jackson, South Carolina. He talks about his quick adjustment to military discipline, the most difficult parts of boot camp, and his drill instructors. He talks about a typical day in basic training and his job as a fireman.

Keywords: Adjustment; Advanced Infantry Training (AIT); Armored division; Barracks; Boot camp; Classes; Company commanders; Difficult; Drill instructors; Drill sergeants; Expectations; Family; Fireman; Fort Hood (Tex.); Fort Jackson (S.C.); Fort Knox (Ky.); Full Metal Jacket (Motion picture); Graduation; Imitations; Inspections; Kitchen patrol duty (KP duty); Making beds; Marines; Marksmanship; Mentality; Movies; NCO School; New England; Organized sports; Parades; Qualifying; Recruits; Rules; Scared; Shots (Injections); Trains; Typical day; Vietnam veterans; Weapons; Weather

Subjects: Basic training (Military education); Discipline; Leadership.; Military life.; Physical fitness.

01:13:18 - Learning about tanks in Advanced Infantry Training (AIT)

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Partial Transcript: Well after, uh, boot camp you mentioned you went to AIT training in Fort Knox?

Segment Synopsis: Kubeck talks about his education about tanks during AIT. He talks about the various types of tanks he has operated, the types of crew members in a tank, and discusses the effectiveness of tanks in Vietnam.

Keywords: Advanced Infantry Training (AIT); Ambushes; Armored division; Armored personnel carrier (APC); Cannons; Crew members; Diesel; Driving; Europe; Field; Fort Knox (Ky.); Germany; Impact; Jungle; Learning; M48 Patton tanks; M551 "Sheridan" AR/AAV (Armored Reconnaissance/Airborne Assault Vehicle); Machine guns; Military draft; Mini guns; NCO School; Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) School; Orders; Roles; Rounds; Speed; Support; Terrain; Tracks; Vietnam

Subjects: Military education.; Military life.; Tanks (Military science); Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Equipment and supplies.

01:23:33 - Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) School

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned why your dad told you to go to NC--NCO School.

Segment Synopsis: Kubeck talks about what he learned during NCO school and his leadership role as a tank commander. He talks more about the roles of each crew member in the tank. He mentions spending a little time off base. He talks about a friend he made in NCO school whose body he was responsible for returning to the man's parents when he was killed in action.

Keywords: Bodies; Command; Crew members; Crewmates; Death; Drivers; Fort Knox (Ky.); Friends; Gunners; Killed in action (KIA); Land mines; Learning; Limitations; Loaders; Louisville (Ky.); Mental; Military decorum; NCO School; Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) School; Off base; Physical; Protests; Reunions; Rocket-propelled grenade (RPG); Tank commanders; Training; Uniforms; Vietnam

Subjects: Combat.; Discipline; Leadership.; Military education.; Military life.; Tanks (Military science); Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Equipment and supplies.; War casualties.

01:33:11 - Orders to go to Vietnam

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Partial Transcript: When did you know for sure you were going to Vietnam?

Segment Synopsis: Kubeck talks about when he knew for sure he was being sent to Vietnam. He talks about his and his parents' reactions to the news. He talks about his time in San Francisco before flying to Vietnam. He talks about some of the training he received that was specific to conditions in Vietnam, which they called 'jungle school.'

Keywords: 1969; Awareness; Classes; Commercial airlines; Culture; Customs; Experience; Formation; Fort Hood (Tex.); Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam); Journey; Jungle school; Leave Home; New; Orders; Parents; Partying; Prisoners of war; Reactions; Saigon (Vietnam); San Francisco (Calif.); Scared; Training; Uniforms; Vietnam veterans; War games

Subjects: Military education.; Military life.; Travel; Vietnam War, 1961-1975.

01:45:31 - Missions in Vietnam

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Partial Transcript: So at the replacement center they put you on a helicopter, you find out where you're going.

Segment Synopsis: Kubeck briefly discusses what his troop was doing when he arrived in Vietnam and mentions some of the missions he was involved with during his time there.

Keywords: 3rd Corps; Cambodia; Củ Chi Base Camp; Death; Destruction; Hit; Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam); Invasions; Missions; Platoon sergeants; Reconnaissance; Saigon (Vietnam); Troops

Subjects: Combat.; Military life.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Destruction and pillage.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975.

01:52:04 - Base camp / Vietnamese allies and enemies

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Partial Transcript: Okay, I landed in Củ Chi, Vietnam.

Segment Synopsis: Kubeck describes the base camp in Củ Chi, which he says they did not stay at often. He talks about the nearby tunnels being used by the enemy, which he says the U.S. military was unaware of at the time. He talks about his relationship with some of the Vietnamese allies.

Keywords: Allies; Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN); Attacks; Barracks; Bounties; Củ Chi Base Camp; Enemies; Family; Field; Injured; Injuries; NCO reunions; Tank commanders; Troops; Tunnels; Vietnamese; Villages

Subjects: Civilians in war.; Combat.; Cooperation.; Military bases.; Military life.

01:58:49 - Locations in Vietnam

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Partial Transcript: What was, what was the, what was the Iron Triangle?

Segment Synopsis: Kubeck talks about the Iron Triangle and points out to the interviewer on a map some of the places he fought during the war. He describes the rubber plantations and some of the traps the enemy would set for them there. He talks about doing 'thunder runs' down a mountain to clear out traps each morning.

Keywords: 'Parrot's beak'; 'Thunder runs'; Attacks; Battles; Enemy headquarters; Iron Triangle; Maps; Rubber plantations; Rubber trees; Tet Offensive; Towns; Traps; Travel; Troops; Villages; Visiting

Subjects: Ambushes and surprises; Booby traps.; Combat.; Strategy.; Tactics

02:08:26 - 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry

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Partial Transcript: When you, when you arrived, what month was it?

Segment Synopsis: Kubeck talks about what it was like to be part of a tank troop and discusses how the reality in Vietnam differed from the 'standard' military organization. He talks more about the types of tanks they had and the roles of each crew member. He talks about a crew member he disliked as well as a medic who became his friend.

Keywords: 'By the book'; .); Armored personnel carrier (APC); B Troop; Companies; Convoy duty; Crew members; Daniel Wilkinson; Driving; Fragging; Headquarters; M48 Patton tanks; M551 "Sheridan" AR/AAV (Armored Reconnaissance/Airborne Assault Vehicle); Medics; Monsoon season; Organization; Platoons; Roads; Rotations; Squadrons; Standard; Tanks; Troops; Weapons; Work

Subjects: Artillery.; Combat.; Leadership.; Military life.; Military supplies; Morale.; Strategy.; Tactics; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Equipment and supplies.

02:17:13 - Night ambushes

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Partial Transcript: What kind of, uh--when you, when you joined, uh, your troop, um, what were, what were they out doing in the bush?

Segment Synopsis: Kubeck describes the attacks that would occur at night which were some of his worst experiences in Vietnam. He talks about the danger of these attacks and tells a story about how an inexperienced soldier was killed by a fellow American.

Keywords: Attacks; Death; Enemies; Fire support bases; Friendly fire; Jobs; Jungle; Killing; Night ambushes; Scary; Tanks; Thousand yard stare; Troops

Subjects: Ambushes and surprises; Combat.; Fighting (Psychology); Military life.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Destruction and pillage.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Psychological aspects; Vietnam War, 1961-1975.; War casualties.; War wounds.; Wounds and injuries.

02:21:15 - Worst combat experience and getting wounded

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Partial Transcript: But, that's where the night--and I said Christ man--that's where--that's the time I got hit and that was the worst shit I've ever seen.

Segment Synopsis: Kubeck describes the night he got hit with shrapnel as the worst attack he saw in Vietnam. He talks about the smells and sounds, seeing his fellow soldiers dying, and being hit himself by shrapnel from a grenade. He talks about his mentality during combat and his realizations after the battle was over. He talks about his lieutenant who earned a medal of honor for jumping on a grenade, and his captain who was relieved of his command after the battle for sending troops to save them.

Keywords: Armored division; Armored units; Attacks; Attitudes; Awareness; Battles; Bodies; Captains; Cohesion; Combat; Command; Crying; Dead; Death; Enemy; February 1, 1970; Fire fights; Fragments; Grenades; Hit; Injuries; Killed; Killing; Lieutenants; Medal of honor; Mentality; Noisy; Platoons; Reactions; Realization; Rotation systems; Russell A. Steindam; Shooting; Shrapnel; Smells; Sounds; Survival; Tanks; Troops; Trust; Under fire; Viet Cong; Wounded

Subjects: Ambushes and surprises; Attitude (Psychology); Combat.; Fighting (Psychology); Military life.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Destruction and pillage.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Psychological aspects; Vietnam War, 1961-1975.; War casualties.; War wounds.; Wounds and injuries.

02:38:13 - Mentality during the war

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Partial Transcript: How long did it take you, once you were in country, to not be looked at one of the FN--like one of the FNGs?

Segment Synopsis: Kubeck talks more about his and others' mentality during the war, including the nervousness leading up to one's final days in Vietnam, and his thoughts about whether the war was winnable. He talks more about the experience of being in a tank during the war.

Keywords: Agreements; Attitudes; Calendars; Days left; Duty; Experiences; Field; Guerilla warfare; Hit; Home; In country; Land mines; Mentality; Nervous; New; Tanks; Teachers; Tracks; Troops; Unwinnable; Viet Cong; Winning

Subjects: Ambushes and surprises; Attitude (Psychology); Combat.; Fighting (Psychology); Guerillas.; Military life.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Psychological aspects; Vietnam War, 1961-1975.; War casualties.; War wounds.; Wounds and injuries.

02:46:10 - Terrain in Vietnam

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned that, um, you were in the rubber plantations and you gave a, a good description of that.

Segment Synopsis: Kubeck describes the various types of terrain in Vietnam and the difficulty navigating them in a tank. He talks about the types of insects and animals they had to deal with. He tells a story about encountering a dead man in an enemy tunnel. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: Ant hills; Bamboo; Bugs; Cambodia; Dead; Enemies; Insects; Jungle; Rubber plantations; Snakes; Termite hills; Terrain; Trees; Tunnels

Subjects: Combat.; Strategy.; Tactics