Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with William "Bill" White, April 14, 2022

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


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00:00:00 - Introduction to interview

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Partial Transcript: My name is Chelsey Moore and I am interviewing William "Bill" White.

Segment Synopsis: Moore introduces White for the interview. Moore states the date, time and location of the interview.

Subjects: Oral histories

00:01:35 - Family life and upbringing

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Partial Transcript: Where did you grow up?

Segment Synopsis: White describes his childhood growing up in Coatesville with seven siblings, and parents who worked multiple jobs. He recalled that his parents’ political viewpoints were in opposition to one another and that their votes canceled each other out. At the time when White joined the Marines, the Gulf of Tonkin incident had just occurred, and his parents had fairly neutral feelings about the war.

Keywords: Siblings; Political parties

Subjects: Coatesville (Pa.); Unites States. Marine Corps.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975; Tonkin, Gulf of

00:03:19 - Joining the Military

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Partial Transcript: What were you doing when you decided to join the military?

Segment Synopsis: White shares that he intended to join the Air Force when he arrived at the military recruiter's office, but the Air Force representative was not there, so he decided to instead join the Marines when the recruiter told them that Marines also flew airplanes. White came from a military family, with his older brother in the Army and younger one in the Air Force. His fourth brother moved to Canada to avoid the draft. White describes the war as in its “early stages” at the time of his enlistment while still in high school, and he thus did not know much about what was going on in the war.

Keywords: Military recruiters; Politics

Subjects: Canada; Drafts; Military families; Tonkin, Gulf of.; United States. Marine Corps.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975; United States. Air Force.

00:06:22 - Bootcamp

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Partial Transcript: Where did you go to bootcamp?

Segment Synopsis: White discusses his time and experiences at Marine bootcamp in Parris Island, South Carolina. He also discusses how he knew he would be deployed to Vietnam.

Keywords: Bootcamp; Drill instructors

Subjects: South Carolina; Vietnam; Vietnam War, 1961-1975; Parris Island (S.C.)

00:07:31 - First deployment to Vietnam

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Partial Transcript: You were deployed on your birthday which is on October 21st, 1946.

Segment Synopsis: He discusses how he was deployed on his birthday to Vietnam and his feelings while being transported to Vietnam. He mentions being a part of the Batman Squadron during his first deployment where he learned how to take care of the planes at Oceania Naval Air Base in Virginia Beach. He also discusses his day-to-day life while being in Vietnam for his first deployment, including twelve-hour shifts to patrol the base and his free time where he and ten other men in their "hut" had personal spaces and items. He recalls how his base was attacked by rockets, which happened every couple of weeks, and recalls how he filmed one such incident.

Keywords: De Nang; Deployment; Duty Sections; Elemendorf Air Force Base; Ho Chi Minh Trail; Huts; Marine A6 Squadron; Oceania Naval Air Base; Okinawa; Patrols; Rocket attack; Virginia Beach; Batman Squadron

Subjects: Alaska; Japan; Laos; Philippines; Tet Offensive, 1968; Vietnam; Vietnam War, 1961-1975; Cherry Point (N.C.)

GPS: GPS Coordinates for Da Nang, Vietnam
Map Coordinates: 16.0545, 108.0717
GPS: Coordinates for Da Nang Air Base where he was attacked by rockets
Map Coordinates: 16.0397, 108.1930
00:22:04 - Coming home after first deployment

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Partial Transcript: When did you come back from Vietnam after your first rotation and how were you feeling when you left Vietnam?

Segment Synopsis: White describes his transition from leaving Vietnam and coming back home to the United States after his first deployment in September of 1967. Within this transition he felt relieved to come home, discuses his travel where he spent several weeks in Okinawa, Japan before going to the states and suitcases. He also talks about his Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) training that he went through before his second deployment in Vietnam.

Keywords: Okinawa; Tactical Air Control Party (TACP); Unit rotations; North Philadelphia

Subjects: Airports; Philadelphia (Pa.); Vietnam; Vietnam War, 1961-1975; San Francisco (Calif.)

GPS: Okinawa, Japan
Map Coordinates: 26.1202, 127.7025
GPS: San Francisco International Airport
Map Coordinates: 37.6213, 122.3790
00:24:33 - Second deployment to Vietnam

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Partial Transcript: On the transition over there, I went through training for almost a month.

Segment Synopsis: White describes his second deployment in Vietnam in October 1967 where is took up another MOS or job, Tactical Air Control Party (TACP). In this second deployment, he talks about the effects of the Test Offensive and how much more active this deployment was compared to his first. He described how he was apart of a unit that would guide in helicopters into areas of small clearance as well as take over as a door gunner if the door gunner was killed. He also discusses the incidents he was attacked and hurt while deployed in Vietnam.

Keywords: Casualties; Convoy; Door gunners; KIA (killed in action); Khe Sanh; Marine Fire Team; Marine Recon Team; Military Occupational Specialty (MOS); Tactical Air Control Party (TACP); Cam Lo

Subjects: Helicopters; Reconnaissance; Tet Offensive, 1968; Vietnam War, 1961-1975; Vietnam

00:34:08 - Leaving Vietnam for the second time

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Partial Transcript: When were you told you were leaving Vietnam for the second time?

Segment Synopsis: White talks about when he was told he was leaving Vietnam for the second time. White discusses his recon work and patrols after his base closed and how he was shipped around before finally finding out in Da Nang he was being sent home in June 1968. He talks about his hesitation to go back to the States because of the shooting of Martin Luther King Jr. and President John F. Kennedy and how he had to stay for his full enlistment. White says that once he was home he wanted to relax even though he still had to be on base for three months and thirty day leave, but he was able to go to the beaches in Delaware, North Carolina, and Virginia Beach on the weekends.

Keywords: Demilitarized Zone (DMZ); I Corp Area; Khe Sanh Incident; Martin Luther King, Jr.; Recon work; Robert F Kennedy assassination; De Nang

Subjects: Delaware; Dover (Del.); Khé Sanh (Vietnam); North Carolina; Vietnam Demilitarized Zone (Vietnam); Tet Offensive, 1968

00:38:04 - Joining the Reserves and coming home from Vietnam

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Partial Transcript: I joined the Reserves like I didn't have enough military.

Segment Synopsis: White discusses the how he went to a Naval base, Willow Grove, for his reserve duties and how he became a "normal person." White also talks about his flights back home stopping in LA first before Philadelphia. He also talks about how he did not experience any hardships returning back to civil life and how other men in his unit came home at different times.

Keywords: Okinawa; Willow Grove; Los Angeles Airport

Subjects: United States. Marine Corps.; Philadelphia (Pa.)

00:40:50 - Transition from active military to civilian life

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Partial Transcript: I was still in the military. I joined the reserves so I was still in the military, but I had no trouble.

Segment Synopsis: White talks about his transition from active military life to civilian life. He talks about how in the beginning of his transition he struggled to find a job due to reserve duty requirements but otherwise had no trouble adjusting to civilian life. He reflects on his five years of military service and how our elected officials handled the Vietnam War. White talks about Johnson and Westmoreland and how the Marines did not like either as a leader and how Johnson acted like a general. He also discusses how you cannot make sense of the Vietnam War and we should learn from our mistakes in the war.

Keywords: Dwight Eisenhower; Gulf War; Harry Truman; John F Kennedy; Lyndon B Johnson; Marine Reserves; Pepperidge Farm; Vietnam Memorial; Walter Cronkite; Willie Westmoreland; Car accidents

Subjects: Agent Orange; United States. Marine Corps.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975; Tet Offensive, 1968

00:57:29 - Conclusion of interview

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Partial Transcript: Well, I'm just gonna, uh, give a little summary of what we did today.

Segment Synopsis: Moore summarizes the purpose of and plans for the interview with William "Bill" White.

Subjects: Oral histories; Vietnam War, 1961-1975