John Gantz was born in 1949 several years after WWII ended and he grew
up on the Northeastern coast of the United States. Mr. Gantz’s
father served in World War II; however, Mr. Gantz’s family did not
pressure him to join the Vietnam War efforts. Mr. Gantz became eligible
for the draft after the new lottery system was installed in the late '60's. He was studying
to become a mechanic and engineer because he felt it was good to have
multiple skills, so if one didn’t work out he'd have something to
fall back on. Unfortunately for Mr. Gantz, when he was eligible for the
draft he got a low number in the lottery draft, and was most likely going
After getting a low lottery number Mr. Gantz decided to enlist on his
own so he could choose what section of the army he would prefer to join.
Mr. Gantz asked an official which section of the armed forces was least likely
to go to Vietnam, and he was told it was the construction battalion or
the CB’s. With that Mr. Gantz joined the Navy CB’s expecting to
stay in the United States. Mr. Gantz was not so fortunate and was shipped
to Vietnam in 1970. In Vietnam Mr. Gantz encountered violence, death,
comradeship, and he lives to tell his story.
Q: Could you just state your name for the record?
Mr. Gantz: John Gantz
Q: When were you born?
Mr. Gantz: I was born June 21, 1949. Oh my god.
Q: Could you describe what your childhood was like and where you grew
Mr. Gantz: I grew up in Audubon, New Jersey. Actually born in Philadelphia
and then I went through grammar school and moved from New Jersey to Huron,
up by Lake Huron in Canada, and then back down the Cape, and back to New
Jersey, and then back to Melrose, Massachusetts where I wound up in 6th
Q: So you moved around the east?
Mr. Gantz: Yeah.
Q: Did you have any siblings?
Mr. Gantz: Do I have any siblings? Yeah. I have a son Scott who graduated
last year from Wayland High School. He’s up at Franklin-Pierce right
now. He got out yesterday.
Q: When were you in high school and what were those days like for you?
Mr. Gantz: I graduated from high school in 1967. Let me look at my notes
here, it was a long time ago you know. They were a lot different then
they are today. You had to wear a tie in the middle two quarters and the
girls had to wear nylons and skirts everyday to school. The teachers were
very structured, you didn’t talk, leave the room, or sleep. None
of those kinds of things. I also played golf and hockey in high school.
Q: When you were a teenager how aware were you of world events?
Mr. Gantz: Well I was aware that things were going on, but you know I
didn’t get too involved when I was in high school.
Q: When did you first hear about the Cold War and did you fear or dislike
Mr. Gantz: Yeah, I think everybody was kind of [weeing] them type thing.
I mean the Cold War lasted till the Berlin Wall went down right? And what
was that, 1989 or something like that, around there, 1990 and then communism
ended in ’91 right? So that wasn’t that long ago, 14 years
ago. But yeah, I didn’t like the communists at all. I don’t
know why, I mean do you like the Iraqis? Maybe, right? But you know if
we were fighting against them, that was just the way it was. Everybody
didn’t like the communists cause they thought they were gonna take
over the world at that point.
Q: What do you recall about the general state of the country as you came
Mr. Gantz: It got pretty wild there. I mean everybody didn’t like
[the war]. People in the United States didn’t like it at all. They
didn’t think we should be there, and back then volunteering to go
into the service wasn’t the case. You got drafted and back then
they had what they call a lottery system. I may be getting a little ahead
of the questions hear, but they had a lottery system where 365 days were
pulled out, and you get a number depending on when your birthday was.
And I got number 60, and I think they went up to somewhere over 100 and
something, but I just didn’t hang to it cause I knew I was gonna
be going in. It was just a matter of when.
Q: When you knew you got 60, did you just wait to be drafted or did you
enlist so you could choose where you wanted to be stationed?
Mr. Gantz: Well it’s kind of a funny story because I went down and
volunteered to join the CBs. The CBs are a part of the navy.
Q: Is that construction battalion?
Mr. Gantz: Yeah the construction battalion, and I got my whole year book
here. I’ll show you all the pictures of what it was like and everybody;
we can get into that. But everybody that went into the army was going
to Vietnam. Guaranteed. Same with most of the Marine Core. So I went down
to the CB recruiter and I said “What’s the chances of going
to Vietnam if I join the CBs?” He said probably about 3%. He said
we’re not sending CBs over there. They’re going to New Zealand,
Guam you know and places to support. So I said ok. I signed up and three
months later I was sitting in Danang wondering what happened. But the
CB battalion that I joined wound up needing electricians and I’m
an electrical engineer, but I’m also a master electrician. So they
transferred me to the other battalion cause they needed electricians,
and I left the next day. So it was, well it was actually within two weeks.
It seemed like the next day.
Q: How did you view John F. Kennedy?
Mr. Gantz: He was an excellent president. He was from Massachusetts; he
was also the first catholic president. He really did a lot of good things
for the country back then.
Q: What were your plans upon graduating from high school?
Mr. Gantz: Well I graduated from high school in ’67 and I went to
Franklin Institute of Boston. Started there and decided that I’d
get my electrician’s license and my engineer’s license. I
figured that being a licensed engineer and a licensed electrician would
be very salable when I got into the market place, you know. And then also,
if I ever got laid off being an engineer I could always go back to being
an electrician or flip-flop depending on the market. Cause you find that
out there now a days, you might go into something and then find out you
got into IT, and now there are millions of the IT professionals, and you
don’t have a job you cant fall back on. So that’s why I always
tell people to go into something that you’re gonna have around no
matter what happens. I mean probably a lousy example to use is a barber,
or a hair stylist, or something like that to fall back on. People are
always gonna have to get their hair cut right. They’re always gonna
get their electricity worked on.
Q: When did you first hear about the conflict in Vietnam?
Mr. Gantz: Probably ’65, ’66. We heard about it while we
were in high school. And I actually didn’t, I went over in 1970
so I went over late, you know way past the Tet Offensive and all.
Q: When you heard about it were you scared how it might impact your
Mr. Gantz: Yeah. Yeah, its scary knowing what you know, you keep reading
in the paper that all these people that are dying. I mean you see it
today with Iraq right? People getting killed over there everyday. And
you just get scared. You don’t wanna go over there, and the deal
with it is, if you get drafted and they send you over there you’re
going. You know, its not like right now where if you don’t volunteer
your staying here, for the most part right? That was the scary part
cause you didn’t know from one day to the next where you’re
gonna be going.
Q: The Gulf of Tonkin incident led to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution
which gave LBJ war powers to dramatically escalate troop levels. When
did you learn about the controversy regarding the truthful nature of
the attack on the USS Maddox and how did this impact you?
Mr. Gantz: Well, what I heard was the gun boats over in North Vietnam
attacked the Maddox and another boat, but it turns out, I think it was
they didn’t actually attack the Maddox . They weren’t attacked
at all, which I think is one of the few times the president has ever
lied. It wasn’t till years later that I actually learned that
it was kinda made-up. But it kinda made me angry because that meant
that you went over there and you really didn’t have to, you know.
Cause I don’t think a lot of the troops would have gone over,
cause Kennedy was assassinated right before that right. I would say
because LBJ was right after him and Kennedy was trying to pull the people
out. And not send over troops.
Q: Would you have enlisted in the army if you had gotten a higher, a
lower, yeah a higher draft number?
Mr. Gantz: Would I have enlisted?
Mr. Gantz: No way.
Q: No? Ok. Was your father in World War II?
Mr. Gantz: He was.
Q: Would he have expected you to enlist or no?
Mr. Gantz: No. In these wars, you know like the Vietnam War, you really
aren’t threatened. I mean its not like battleships are driving
into Boston Harbor or that kinda thing. If that started to happen I’d
volunteer then, you know. It’s kinda fake when you see it overseas
and you read about it in a paper. Its really not affecting you. But
no I wouldn’t have volunteered.
Q: What was basic training like?
Mr. Gantz: Well I got my basic training book here. I brought that with
me. It shows you what we had to go through. Do we wanna do this while
we’re tapping or?
Q: Yeah, its good.
Mr. Gantz: Ok. That’s our group right there, that’s our
graduation group out of the CBs. Company 176. And that’s the Sea
Q: Are you in this picture?
Mr. Gantz: Yup.
Q: Where was your training?
Mr. Gantz: It was down in Gulf Port, Mississippi. Find me yet? (Referring
Q: No, I can’t.
Mr. Gantz: I think that’s me.
Q: I was gonna say that, but I didn’t wanna be wrong.
Mr. Gantz: And these are just some of the pictures of the center.
Q: Did you take there pictures yourself?
Mr. Gantz: No these are postcards.
Q: Oh, ok. What does that symbolize?
Mr. Gantz: That’s the fighting Sea Bee.
Q: Oh, ok. Oh I get it.
Mr. Gantz: CBs are actually mostly all construction workers. But they’re
fighting at the same time, so in a lot of cases we go in to build air
fields and everything for the troops coming.
Q: When you were building would they, would the VC be firing on you
Mr. Gantz: Yeah. I was fired on a few times while I was up on the top
of a telephone pole. And this is when I was with my parents when I was
getting ready to leave. And then this is the award I got while I was
in boot camp, I think.
Q: Did the CBs go through the same basic training as all military?
Mr. Gantz: Well they’re all kinda different. We were really going
over there to build, so they don’t really put you through boot
camp as stringently as they do for the Marines and some of the Army.
But, that’s what I looked like back then. That one too. I turned
21 in boot camp. So that was kinda sweet (Referring to card sent from
his mother for 21st birthday). And there’s a picture of when I
got out. So anyway, that’s just that.
Q: What was it like saying good-bye to your friends and loved ones?
Mr. Gantz: That was, that was kinda tough. Especially when you go, are
you saying when I went over to Vietnam or just?
Q: Right when you were about to go to Vietnam?
Mr. Gantz: Ok, because when you go to boot camp, I mean you fly down
to Gulf Port, Mississippi. They drop you off the plane all right, and
you know no one. I mean they just, they load you in a bus and next thing
you’re in and they shave all your hair off your head. We were
standing in a room like we’re standing in now, and when we got
back we would be all talk around a table, and then we all got shipped
over. You wouldn’t recognize anybody anymore cause everybody didn’t
have any hair. So everybody kinda looked the same. It’s weird
cause you know back then hair was all, I mean they shaved everybody’s
head. But saying good-bye to my loved ones and going to Vietnam that
was kinda tough. The thing was they came out and visited with me for
a couple days before I actually went over. I was in Port [Whynemi],
California, the CB base over there. There’s basically three of
them. There’s one in Rhode Island, there’s one in Gulf Port,
Mississippi and there’s another in Port [Whynemi], California.
And depending on where you are, you know the people from Rhode Island
would normally go to Europe, and Gulf Port, they’d go down to
the southern countries, and then the people out in California would
go to Guam and the Philippines and Vietnam that kinda stuff.
Q: What was it like for you leaving the United States?
Mr. Gantz: That was really different, especially when I landed in Vietnam.
I actually flew over. But it was like going back in a time warp. I mean
you go to the bathroom in a two-holler, everyday, and some of the places
there’s no running water. You couldn’t get a McDonalds hamburger
if your life depended on it. It’s hot, and I mean like unbearably
hot. Up in the 100s everyday, dry. And when you show up everybody knows
who you are cause you’re the white one, and everybody else is
black from being in the sun all day long. And its really funny cause
you could pick ‘em out just like that. But yeah it’s scary.
The planes have to come in so steep so that they don’t get shot
at from the ground. So here you’re flying in the plane, you know,
you don’t know whether or not they’re gonna be shooting
at you or what, and your scared.
Q: Broadly speaking, what did you think you were there for?
Mr. Gantz: To help the South Vietnamese defeat communists from North
Vietnam, basically. We wanted to keep the communists from taking over
Q: Did you believe in the domino theory that once one nation falls to
communism the neighboring ones would do so as well?
Mr. Gantz: Yeah. I believed that, in fact now I might ask you guys a
question ok. Do you think if the terrorists take over Iraq, all right,
and we pull out and leave they’ll continue to take over another
country and another country and another country? I don’t know
right. I mean that’s the way we were looking at it with the communists,
if they take over this one then they wont stop there. They’ll
just keep going. And next thing you know the whole world would be communist.
And when you look at the people that are running the country, they’re
probably around my age, a little older a little younger. They’ve
been through all this. And so when the terrorists start taking over
an area, they don’t want them to keep going. Whether they’re
in Iran and they were in all the Mideast. I don’t know. I think
we could be in trouble. Plus you don’t wanna fight it here right.
Better to fight ‘em over there.
Q: Yeah. The NVA and VC fought hard against US forces. Did you see them
primarily as communists seeking to spread their political system or
nationalists seeking to get rid of foreign presence?
Mr. Gantz: I would say they were trying to get rid of foreign presence
rather than communists seeking to spread their political system cause,
you know, the people that we saw and we fought against, they were just
out to basically get us out of the country. They didn’t want us
Q: While in Vietnam, what were your responsibilities? Just like to build
stuff as a CB or?
Mr. Gantz: Well, I was the ace electrician; that was what I did. I was
in charge of all the lighting and the generators and everything, to
keep everything going. The thing that’s interesting is when we
were being hit, when the enemy comes in, we shut all the lights off.
You’d think you’d turn ‘em on, but sometime we turn
‘em off so that you could see. You’d leave all the perimeter
lights on, but you’d shut all the lights off inside the base so
you couldn’t see where anybody was or where anybody was running
Q: When they attacked, did you just turn into a regular soldier?
Mr. Gantz: Yeah, absolutely yeah. We had bunkers; we had areas that
we went to, assignments. You had a certain weapon that you were to use,
and sometimes you were on watch when they came in. Other times you were
just in sleeping. Usually you didn’t know it was coming. All of
a sudden a mortar round would hit. And, I got an interesting story.
I was sleeping in like a [quanset] hut and there were five beds on each
side and we had some lights on. I was cleaning my camera believe it
or not cause I had taken some pictures and it got kinda dusty. And a
mortar round went off right out in the back and it hit the two-holler,
head on right. And we hear this enormous bang and the lights went out
immediately and I kinda put my, I took the time to put my camera down
and the guy that was next to me ran right by me. So I grabbed my flak
jacket and my M16 and I ran up and next thing you know this guy comes
flying at me, kinda knocks me back. I feel over the bed into the next
bed. I got up and ran around, ran out the door and went over and got
in my bunker and they fired three more rounds and then they were gone.
We sat in the bunker for about two or three hours and then I went back
into my [quanset] hut, and the guy that ran by me took a mortar round
right in the chest. And it didn’t go off. It went right through
him right into the ground and sat there in the dirt. It didn’t
go off. And if I hadn’t taken the time to get my camera under
there I would a gone out in front of him. SO I would a got the mortar
round rather than him get it you know. Its kinda, fates a strange thing.
Q: Was he still conscious?
Mr. Gantz: No, it killed him right on the spot. Went right through his
Q: Wow. When you weren’t, in battle how did you pass the time?
Mr. Gantz: You tried to read and write letters, and get some sleep;
most of the time you’re sleep deprived. You’d be up on standing
watches all night long then you’d come in and something would
happen during the day and wake you up, and its so hot and the mosquitoes
were wicked, you know. And in order to sleep with the mosquito netting
it had to go all the way down and around. You tucked it all the way
into your mattress. But then it got so hot inside, the mosquito netting
keeps any kind of air movement from coming through so you’d die
from the heat. So, it was just a really tough environment.
Q: Did you count the days until your departure?
Mr. Gantz: Oh yeah, absolutely. And we didn’t know when we were
gonna leave, we actually, Nixon’s pullback got us in 1971 I think
it was. I didn’t write that down. But he pulled us out early.
Q: How long was your tour of duty supposed to be for?
Mr. Gantz: I was supposed to be there for nine months and I was there
for seven months. Yeah CBs go out for nine months and then they come
back for six, normally, and then they go out for nine, come back for
Q: So if you went in earlier you could have been just rotating every
six months you would be back in it?
Mr. Gantz: Yeah. Well that’s the way CBs worked when I went in.
I volunteered and it was for two and a half years. It wasn’t four
years like standard Navy. And if you were back on the base in your six
months they wouldn’t send you out again, they’d let you
leave. So most of the people were serving anywhere from two years to
two years three months, two months that kinda thing. But that didn’t
work right for me.
Q: Can I interrupt John. Is there anything that I could scan? That would
be great. We have a slow scanner so I have to…
Mr. Gantz: Well, this is my, what you consider your year book from high
school right, of all the stuff we did while we were there. Now, what
happens is, and you’ll see it in here [Gemini, Hydra, Centrastareda],
they had the main base where we were in Danang. And then there was Alpha
Company, which is basically your mechanics. Bravo Company, the electricians.
Charlie Company, the plumbers and it goes right on through. But then
we went out on different CB teams. Here’s guys building bridges,
and this is where they’re setting up an air field, you know. This
was down in Borealis down south. I was an Aquarius, I think. Yeah Aquarius.
We were building depending housing for the South Vietnamese regular.
That’s the whole look of the base right there. So its, you know,
it just got, there’s pictures in there.
Q: Is there a picture of you in the year book?
Mr. Gantz: Yeah. I’m in here. Aquarius.
Q: We interviewed a CB the other day.
Mr. Gantz: Did you?
Q: Yeah. Mr. Kenny, Bill Kenny. Do you know him?
Mr. Gantz: No I don’t.
Q: One of the construction…
Mr. Gantz: Yeah here I am right here. Did you see this guy? Pretty cool.
Q: Yeah, you’ve changed a lot since then.
Mr. Gantz: Yeah I got teeth too.
Q: Did you take these?
Mr. Gantz: Well I took most of them. They took ‘em of me also,
some are appropriate and some not. (Laughter) Back in the 60’s
you know. But I got some money, did anybody talk to you about the money
over there? There was no change ok. Everything was a dollar bill. So
a nickel, dime, quarter, half dollar, dollar, five, ten, all paper ok.
So if you went out on the town, you’d come back in the next day
and you’d have like 70 dollars, 70 different kinds of dollars.
And I mean where do you put the stuff, you don’t have any change.
So yeah it was called FPC, and they didn’t have any change.
Q: I’m gonna go do a bit of scanning with your permission.
Mr. Gantz: Yeah. Do whatever you want. And I was showing them this.
This was our battalion right here when we graduated.
Q: And Totty is your mascot?
Mr. Gantz: No Totty was actually our commander. That’s him right
there and that’s me second one from the end over there. And then
these are just postcards I got while I was there, but that’s where
we did boot camp.
Q: What was the hardest part while you were in combat?
Mr. Gantz: Really, you know back then you didn’t have any intelligence.
You didn’t have night vision goggles; you didn’t have a
way of knowing whether 1,000 troops were coming at you or two right.
And you didn’t have the planes up in the air looking ahead. You
just didn’t know. So I think the thing that bothered me the most
is being out in watch, out in a bunker and just three of us out there,
you know. And you’re 300 yards from anybody else.
Q: You don’t know how many are coming at you.
Mr. Gantz: How many or if they were gonna. And the rivers, they used
to float bodies down the rivers with explosives in them. So the body
would come down the river, then it would come and go right over on to
the metal ship and set it off right when it came. So it was pretty disgusting
at times too. If we saw bodies over on the river, we had to go over
and fire six or seven rounds into them first to make sure they weren’t
full of explosives before we went over and got ‘em. Pretty sick
huh? But I mean you see somebody go over and pick somebody up and he
blows up with the guy.
Q: Were you ever yourself involved in combat?
Mr. Gantz: Well, it’s kind of a tough definition. I never went
out on a search and destroy mission. But as I said we got hit a few
Q: How did fear play into your state of mind?
Mr. Gantz: I don’t think you had time to figure out what your
state of mind was. You kinda get taught to react, and you just do what
you’ve been taught. I don’t know where you get it from,
but its there. But you’re scared the whole time. You know, I don’t
remember anybody not being scared, well maybe there’s a couple
people that like doing this kind of stuff, but that wasn’t where
Q: How did seeing people die around you impact you?
Mr. Gantz: It’s well, we’re gonna get into the My Lai incident
when we go further on down in the questions, but when you’re in
the service, you’re closer to that group of people than you’ll
ever be to your family. I mean you eat, you sleep, you work and you
fight with the same people everyday, 24 hours a day right. You don’t
do everything with your parents 24 hours a day, seven days a week for
years on end right. So you get really close to these guys, and then
when somebody gets killed you get really, really angry at the other
side. And a lot of times you cant do anything about it cause you don’t
know who shot him. You can’t see him and you don’t know
where it came from. They were pretty good. But I’d say yeah angry
probably, I had a real good, real close friend of mine get shot while
he was over there, then the guy who got hit with the mortar round, he
slept right next to me.
Q: Did you have any special way of distinguishing between VC and non
Mr. Gantz: No, that's one of the things that you couldn't tell, and
I think, I don't mean to go back into Iraq again, but how do Americans
over there know between terrorist Iraqi and regular Iraqi. It's the
same thing you just don't know. I guess the other thing is if you fight
in a country, and everybody over there normally doesn't speak the same
language it’s harder. We haven't fought to many English [wars]
or anything like that, but I mean if we were to fight the French they’d
look like us, so its easier even though they speak a different language.
You just couldn't tell between VC and non VC. We actually had a couple
of Boyson [young Vietnamese boys] who worked on the base the whole time
we were there, and then they blew up half the base the day after we
Q: When you went in the city on your days off how did people treat
Mr. Gantz: They were okay; people in the city were pretty good. Of
course you have to realize the tallest [Vietnamese] person is about
5 feet, so you know when you're the 5 foot 5 guys your walking around
going Yeah. Towering above everybody. Yeah they treated me okay.
Q: Were there incidents there how there are now in Iraq with car bombs
in the middle of cities?
Mr. Gantz: No, not really. These people weren't suicidal, that's one
of the hardest parts with the Iraq war, a guy comes up with a bomb and
blows himself up; we didn't have any of that. You'd have the kids though.
The kids were unbelievable. They would steal you blind. The little kids
maybe 9, 10 years old, they'd come up and they'd ask for something,
and there'd be 4 or 5 of them around you. You might have your camera,
and a kid would come up behind you and cut the strap, take the camera,
and take off, and the other kids would get in your way. So you try to
run and they'd get in your way, and start screaming, then the kid would
run in an ally and be gone. The same thing in trucks when we'd stop
at stop signs kids would come out in front of the truck, you know and
be going like this [hand motion] “feed me,” and so your
looking out at them and telling them to get out of the way, and meanwhile
8 or 10 of them are in the back of your truck taking everything you
got, and they just take it and throw it off to the other kids, and you'd
have a whole back full of supplies. You’d get where your were
going and you wouldn’t have anything in the back of your truck.
Q: Where you told not to give anything to the children that you saw
Mr. Gantz: Well no, that wasn't it. We could give candy and stuff to
the kids, and that kind of thing. Man, you didn't know who to trust,
you know. Most everyone wears these kinds of bands now [points to watch
band], but back then they used to have the type called twisto-O-Plex
bands and its like a metal band and you can twist it into a knot. It
flexed, and they'd [kids] run up to your truck and grab a hold of your
watch, and they'd jump off. you got two choices, let go and get that
watch off your wrist, or you know get your arm pulled out of the socket.
Q: What was troop moral like in Vietnam?
Mr. Gantz: I think it was pretty good, we worked well together, we
all wanted to go home I think, that’s difficult for anybody, and
uh I think moral was pretty good.
Q: During Johnson's term he greatly escalated troop levels to 520,000
in 1967/68, do you think he was doing enough to win the war?
Mr. Gantz: Well he wouldn't let us win the war, I don't know if you
heard that, but that war could have been won really easily in my opinion.
They wouldn't allow you to go into North Vietnam, and all they needed
to do was just let us loose, and go from South Vietnam up, invade Cambodia,
Thailand, and it would have been over in my opinion. It wouldn’t
have taken very long, but they wouldn't let us go into those countries.
Q: So do you agree that if people that were in Vietnam were running
the war it would have been a lot easier, than from 10,000 miles away?
Mr. Gantz: Yeah absolutely, and I'm not saying the war, the day to
day war stuff was run by troops over there [Vietnam], but there were
rules and regulations of what we could and couldn't do which was regulated
by the people at home. It was all political.
Q: How would you define winning the war as a soldier in Vietnam?
Mr. Gantz: I would have gone into North Vietnam right away, right into
Hanoi city. I'd hit that first and then it wouldn't take long.
Q: When you were on Leave what did you do in the city, in Saigon?
Mr. Gantz: I actually got to go to Australia on leave for a couple
of weeks, but I went into Saigon a few times also, and mostly got high
and drank beers, everybody did stuff like that.
Q: Back home during this time the civil rights movement was front page
news, was their any racial difference among the troops over in Vietnam?
Mr. Gantz: You know I didn't find that at all, I mean I would say that
the black people hung around together. Just like you know an ethnic
group would hang around together, you feel better with your own people.
But I had three real close friends that were black, they were great,
and we were all there for the same goal. You had to count on one guy
as much as you did the other guy, but I didn't see any racial tension
at all while I was there.
Q: During 1967/68 opposition against the war increasing here in the
U.S. so how did you perceive the anti-war protesters?
Mr. Gantz: Well I wasn't in the service in 67-68, but I saw them protesting
the war, and I agree with the protesting there was, but you know when
you get over there it's a different story. Its kinda like your parents
telling you something you have to do and you absolutely don't want to
do it. You do it because of the consequences. You might be court marshaled,
and that would ruin your life, so you just do it.
Q: Did you hear about protests while you were in Vietnam?
Mr. Gantz: Naw, we didn't get news, if you got a paper it was like
3 or four weeks later. We didn't know what was going on back here.
Q: So protesters back home didn't impact you while you were over there?
Mr. Gantz: No, they didn't impact me while I was there.
Q: What were the Vietnamese people like, did your views on them change
while you were there?
Mr. Gantz: No, they were very primitive; they did everything in the
river. I mean everything, they went to the bathroom in the river, got
their water in the river, and brushed their teeth in the river. I saw
kids there when I showed up 6 or 7 months ago and they had the same
clothes on when I was pulling out. And you know they'd go swimming in
the river and wash themselves and whatever, but they'd have the same
clothes on. Nobody wore shoes, and they had water buffaloes, which were
sacred. They did a little farming and that type of stuff, and they could
ride with about 9 kids on a motor scooter. Yeah very primitive.
Q: During the Tet Offensive were you still in high school?
Mr. Gantz: No I was out.
Q: What did you think of it?
Mr. Gantz: Well, I don't think it went off to well, and you have to
do something, you can't wait around, and wait for somebody to shoot
Q: The My Lie massacre in 1968 is often seen as the classic example
of problems with the American presence in Vietnam and our tactics. How
did you learn of this and what impact did it have on your views of the
Mr. Gantz: Well I think I had a different view back in '68 before I
went into the service than I had when I got out. I mean if right now
you look at Afghanistan all you know about what’s happening in
Afghanistan is what you've seen on the news or read in the newspaper.
You haven't been over there, well maybe you have, so you're just getting
the view of whoever wrote the newspaper or is doing the show on TV right.
So until you get over there and actually see what everyone's going through
day in and day out you can't put it into words. That's why a lot of
reporters go over there with the troops so they can report the story
while it's happening. I mean you were in a base, and every night somebody
from the town would come in and shoot one of your buddy's, then they
would go back into the town. When you went into the town looking for
them nobody [nobody would help]. “Nope nobody here”, “we
haven't seen anybody come through”, the next night somebody does
it again, does it again, I mean sooner or later somebody gets aggravated
enough to go in [the town] and say ok tell me where the guy is, and
they say we don't know where the guy is, then he goes bang and shoots
that person, and goes onto the next person and says tell me where that
guy is, and there comes a point with people in a war situation where
they, I dunno, lose it. They can't find a way to win. I think that's
what happened there [My Lie].
Q: When Nixon was elected in '68 he promised “peace with honor”
did you think that was a good strategy?
Mr. Gantz: That was good because it got me out of Vietnam early. But
ah it's like anything you don't want to leave until you finished the
job. And we left before we finished. It was the first war we ever lost
or “conflict” as they called it.
Q: The shootings of the Kent state students in a 1970 demonstration
caused a great deal of publicity. What did you make of this?
Mr. Gantz: I was over there when it happened, in Vietnam, so it was
just another protest that was going on. You know people got killed this
time in the protest.
Q: Did that change the mindset of the troops at all?
Mr. Gantz: No
Q: Were you happy people were protesting or did you find it disrespectful,
or did you not have an opinion on the protesting while you were there?
Mr. Gantz: Well, I think that I was ok with the people protesting.
I'm trying to put this right. We didn't want to be there, and they weren't
letting us do what we thought we needed to do to win the war, and people
at home were protesting because we were there and they were right. You
know that doesn't mean on your day to day job you would do it any different.
Q: What was it like when you found out you were going home soon?
Mr. Gantz: I was ready to put a calendar on the wall and start counting
down the days. They called you short timer, and the way they did it
was they had a picture of a guy, and by the time [he was ready to leave]
just his head was left sticking out of his boots and that's a real short
timer. We'd mark days off on the calendar as we went through.
Q: Do you think counting the days made it go by faster or slower?
Mr. Gantz: I don't think it really made a difference it was just kinda
nice to do, it was definitely something to look forward too. But I don't
think it made it go by faster. It couldn't have gone by faster you know.
Q: How were you treated right as you got off the plane in your uniform?
Mr. Gantz: There was defiantly not a band or anybody cheering. I got
off in California, but I of course lived back here in Massachusetts,
so we got off the planes and got into the cars of our friends and went
back to the base.
Q: Were there protesters there?
Mr. Gantz: No, well we were in Nixon's call back, so they started calling
troops home. But I did arrive back at Logan airport and when I left
for Vietnam I weighed 215 pounds, and when I got back I weighed 160.
And I had a full beard, and I looked like I was in a tanning booth for
about six months. And I got off the plane and walked right by my family,
and they didn't even recognize me. That's pretty weird huh? But it was
good to be home. First thing I got was a cheeseburger from McDonalds.
Q: What was it like to see your friends and family again when you got
Mr. Gantz: That was cool, it was very nice. My friends welcomed me
back and my parents were glad to see me because they were a wreck the
hole time I was gone.
Q: When you got back were there a lot of things that changed since you
were last here?
Mr. Gantz: No, because I was only really gone for you know seven months.
So there wasn't a lot of change.
Q: Have you ever gone to visit the war memorial wall in Washington?
Mr. Gantz: I haven't been to the war memorial in Washington. But they
have a traveling wall, have you ever heard of that? They bring the wall
around and set it up. I remember it came to Massachusetts, and it was
up in Burlington. I wanted to go see it because I hadn't seen it before
It took me almost a half an hour before, for me to have enough nerve
for me to walk out and see the wall. That's how bad it affected me.
I was crying in the car without even looking at the wall. There were
a lot of people on that wall, I mean think about it, and for what you
Q: How did you react to the role the Vietnam War played on the Presidential
Campaign in 2004?
Mr. Gantz: Oh with Kerry and the swift boats? Well I didn't vote for
Kerry because of the stuff he did while in Vietnam and his role he had
with Jane Fonda. It defiantly affected my decision on that. I mean,
I don't get into politics too much, but when it came to the thing on
the swift boat, I mean he jumped off the swift boat to save the guy
before they got to shore, and you never jump off a swift boat, never.
I mean that just compromises everybody on the boat, it compromises you,
your best bet is to pull away from shore to get out of the fire, and
fire with your long range weapons. They [swift boat] can't take off
cause your sitting there so everyone's just comprised.
Q: How has your view on the war changed since you've been here, and
as times gone by?
Mr. Gantz: That's a good question. Well I guess I don't know how old
you guys are, but you go in when your 18 years old, yea so figure a
year from now their gonna ship you away to Iraq and stick a gun in your
hands and tell you to go shoot somebody. It's different than it is now.
As I got older it became easier I guess to explain. I could hardly talk
about it a few years back, but now I'm talking to you guy about it.
Q: You mentioned Iraq a few times do you see any other parallels between
Iraq and Vietnam?
Mr. Gantz: Basically its what I said about the terrorist taking over.
I just try to tell people don't believe everything you read, because
people put in the newspapers and news what people will watch and what
people will read. You always got to keep that in mind. If it's something
that people won't read or it’s boring they just won't put it in
the newspaper. It won't sell papers. So that's my opinion on that. The
thing you got to do like your doing today is to ask somebody who was
over in Iraq.
Q: What lessons did you learn from your experience in Vietnam?
Mr. Gantz: Don't volunteer for anything. No, I guess I learned discipline
more than anything else. That's one of the few things its hard to learn
now a days.
Q: Do you think the U.S. learned any lessons from the conflict they
had in Vietnam?
Mr. Gantz: Yeah, I think they know they ought to have a real good reason
for doing what they do. Yet in my opinion was it the right thing to
do? Yes. Going with that same strategy of Vietnam are the terrorist
going to stop? No. Their gonna take over country after country after
country. And I really think they have Spain right now [terrorist] they
have France right now. They got them so scared they won't do anything