Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Edmond J. Cubbage, April 5, 2022

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


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00:00:00 - Introduction

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Partial Transcript: All right, so my name is Adam Nitch, and today is April 5th, 2022, and I'm interviewing Mr. Edmond Cubbage about his time in Vietnam.

Segment Synopsis: Edmond Cubbage is introduced to the interview by Adam Nitch.

Subjects: Oral histories; Vietnam; Vietnam War, 1961-1975

00:00:23 - Family and childhood before draft

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Partial Transcript: What was growing up in Swampoodle like?

Segment Synopsis: Cubbage discusses his early childhood playing sports with other kids in streets of the Swampoodle neighborhood of North Philadelphia. Due to grades and discipline problems, Cubbage mentions that he attended two high schools before officially dropping out. Cubbage says that shortly after he received his notice of Selective Service, and at basic training Cubbage ran into a friend who talked him into becoming a Paratrooper.

Keywords: Allegheny West; Jump school; Paratroopers; Selective Service (military draft); Swampoodle

Subjects: California; Canada; Delaware; Draft; Flordia; High school dropouts; Johnson, Lyndon B. (Lyndon Baines), 1908-1973.; New Jersey; Parachute troops; Pennsylvania; Philadelphia (Pa.); United States. Army.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975; Virginia; West Chester (Pa.)

00:08:15 - Draft notice and emotions

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Partial Transcript: Before you went to Vietnam, what was your impression of communism?

Segment Synopsis: Cubbage shares his personal thoughts on communism. He recalls his parents' emotions as they were proud of his service, but disappointed their son was headed to Vietnam. Cubbage remembers having no idea where Vietnam was located before being sent there, and tells the story of receiving his selective service letter in the mail and how it made him feel.

Keywords: Advanced Infantry Training (AIT); Bootcamps; KIA (killed in action); Sergeants

Subjects: Asia; China; Combat; Communism; Vietnam; Vietnam War, 1961-1975

GPS: North Broad St. Philadelphia, PA.
Map Coordinates: 39.959825, -75.161222
00:15:43 - Book and basic training

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Partial Transcript: In your book, you wrote about an experience you had on your way to bootcamp, when you stopped in Washington, D.C. with a few buddies and you had one last hurrah before you went down?

Segment Synopsis: Nitch refers to a moment in Cubbage's book 'Just a Kid from Swampoodle to Vietnam' the night before basic training in D.C., and Cubbage explains that he showed up to bootcamp a tad hungover. Cubbage recalls the physical training they were forced to do from drill instructors during basic training and the friendships he made at the time. He also mentions troubles he had with African American soldiers and refers to the Civil Rights Movement during the time.

Keywords: 'Just a Kid from Swampoodle to Vietnam'; Article 15; Bootcamp; Fatigues

Subjects: African Americans; Christmas; Civil Rights movement; Civil rights.; Fort Jackson (S.C.); Germany; Military uniforms.; Pearl Harbor (Hawaii); South Carolina; United States. Marines.; Washington, D.C.

GPS: Fort Jackson, South Carolina
Map Coordinates: 34.012249, -80.933087
00:34:53 - Advanced Infantry Training and Jump School

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Partial Transcript: Once you went to AIT, how was that different from bootcamp? What did you have to do there?

Segment Synopsis: Cubbage discusses his time in AIT & jump school, how it differed from basic training, and all the valuable information they learned. He also talks about the exhilarating moments jumping from a plane during jump school. Cubbage reflects on his time at beer gardens with friends talking about their fun experiences before being sent to Vietnam, or other lucky draftees that got sent elsewhere.

Keywords: Advanced Infantry Training (AIT); Beer Gardens; Bootcamps; Jump School; Paratroopers

Subjects: Basic training; California; Fort Benning (Ga.); Hawaii; Parachute troops; Vietnam; Vietnam, 1961-1975

GPS: Fort Benning, GA,
Map Coordinates: 32.40811, -84.89827
00:43:36 - Early days in Vietnam

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Partial Transcript: After you completed all this training and you stopped in California, how were you feeling when you were on the plane going over to Vietnam?

Segment Synopsis: Cubbage remembers flying to Vietnam with an African American friend from Philadelphia who was killed in action during their tour. He talks about Vietnam being pretty when he landed, and how it reminded him of Ireland due to how green it was. Cubbage explains that when he arrived he was put into a different company, the 1st Infantry Division.

Keywords: 1st Infantry Division; Advanced Infantry Training (AIT); Camp Alpha; EM Club; Jump School; Monsoon season; Paratroopers

Subjects: Helicopters; Ireland; Monsoons.; Parachute troops; Philadelphia (Pa.); Vietnam; Vietnam War, 1961-1975

GPS: Camp Alpha now named Tan Son Nhut Airport in Saigon, Vietnam
Map Coordinates: 10.816237, 106.664048
00:51:30 - Vietnam countryside and jungle patrols

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Partial Transcript: Where were you serving with the First Infantry Division, like in Vietnam, maybe in terms of geography?

Segment Synopsis: Cubbage explains his geographical location in Vietnam. He also mentions spending most of his time in the jungle, sometimes as long as 30 days at a time, sleeping in foxholes. Cubbage opens up about soldiers' mental health struggles, such as soldiers shooting themselves in order to leave Vietnam.

Keywords: 1st Infantry Division; 98 C rations; Foxholes; Iodine tablets; Mặt trận dân tộc giải phóng miền nam Việt Nam.; Phuoc Vinh (Bình Dương, Vietnam); Self-harm; Uncle Sam; Viet Cong; Việt-Cộng

Subjects: England; Intrenchments; Jungles; Mental Health; Phu Giáo (Bình Dương, Vietnam); Russia; Sam, Uncle; Ukraine; Vietnam; Vietnam War, 1961-1975

GPS: Phuoc Vinh - U.S. Army Base in Vietnam
Map Coordinates: 11.395224, 105.946652
01:07:39 - Making friends and receiving letters from home

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Partial Transcript: And as, as you said earlier, I mean, friendship was super important.

Segment Synopsis: Cubbage recalls the friendships he made during Vietnam and how they would joke with officers to decompress. Cubbage also talks about writing and receiving letters during his time away, even his Dear John letter.

Keywords: Dear John letters; Viet Cong; Việt-Cộng

Subjects: Combat; Mặt trận dân tộc giải phóng miền nam Việt Nam.; Military police; Vietnam; Vietnam War, 1961-1975

01:16:26 - Combat

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Partial Transcript: While you were in Vietnam, how like, over the course of the year and you were, you know, walking through the jungle, how often did you see combat, would you say?

Segment Synopsis: Cubbage briefly discusses some of the combat he experienced in Vietnam. He explains the stress and difficulties dealing with landmines. He mentions focusing on getting home and counting down the 365 days required of his tour.

Keywords: Hand grenades; Landmines

Subjects: Combat; Grenades; Jungles; Land mines; Vietnam; Vietnam War, 1961-1975

01:19:45 - Emotional damage and injuries

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Partial Transcript: So, over the course of your year in Vietnam and you know, going towards the end, how would you say your emotions changed from when you landed to when you were leaving?

Segment Synopsis: Cubbage recalls a memory in Vietnam when his time was coming to an end and he refused to go out on jungle patrols. He explains some soldiers received medical profiles prohibiting them from going in the jungle or others shot themselves in the leg. Cubbage also mentions the present day complexities with Agent Orange, noting that he could barely breathe when he contracted COVID-19.

Keywords: Base Camp; Jungle patrols

Subjects: Agent Orange; COVID-19 (Disease); Cancer; Combat; Jungles; Vietnam; Vietnam War, 1961-1975

01:27:16 - Returning home

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Partial Transcript: Good to hear. So, um, when you came back and, you know, you’re in the states again, how were you feeling, you know, after your service was complete?

Segment Synopsis: Cubbage tells Nitch about coming home from Vietnam and struggling with minor anger outbursts. He then recalls a cross country trip he took with friends traveling to California, Mexico, and Florida.

Keywords: Cross country trips; PTSD

Subjects: California; Florida; Mental Health; Mexico; Post-traumatic stress disorder; United States; Vietnam; Vietnam War, 1961-1975; World War II

01:34:29 - Working as a motivational speaker

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Partial Transcript: And when did you, when did you start talking about your experiences as a motivational speaker?

Segment Synopsis: Cubbage explains how he got started as a speaker sharing his stories from Vietnam. Cubbage also recalls friends sharing kind thoughts about his book.

Keywords: Just a Kid from Swampoodle to Vietnam; Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)

Subjects: American Legion.; Basic training; COVID-19 (Disease); Motivational speakers; Pandemics; Vietnam; Vietnam War, 1961-1975

01:41:25 - Friendships and elder life

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Partial Transcript: So nowadays, how do you stay in touch with the friends you made from?

Segment Synopsis: Cubbage talks about staying in touch with friends over the phone from different places like Chicago. He recalls how serving in the Army changed his life in a positive way. Cubbage now resides at the beach in New Jersey.

Subjects: Chicago (Ill.); Stone Harbor (N.J.); Tennessee; United States. Army.

GPS: Stone Harbor, New Jersey
Map Coordinates: 39.05386, -74.75811