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Mr. Inferrere: 1960's Mr. Inferrere: 2006
Mr. Inferrere explains his feelings during the Tet offensive. Mr. Inferrere describes the constant shelling by the VC.


Mr.Inferrere was born March 18th, 1948 and grew up in the town of Natick. When he graduated in 1966, he volunteered for the army because he there was no room for him at the aviation school he wanted to go to, so he picked aviation in the army. He served about 25 years in the army, and spent over 800 hours in combat. He also has 2083.2 hours of flying time in Huey helicopters.

In his time during the war he faced being shot at, and rocketed at during the night, and has received numerous medals for his service in Vietnam. Mr. Inferrere experiences take you into the Huey Helicopters, and the whole aviation branch of the army which is not talked about a lot. He knows a lot, and hi stories were very interesting. 

Inferrere Gallery



Q: Please state your name.

Mr. Inferrere:: It’s Sergeant John Inferrere. Retired.


Q: And when were you born?

Mr. Inferrere: March 18th, 1948.


Q: Can you describe where you grew up and what you’re childhood was like?

Mr. Inferrere: I sure can. I grew up in Natick, Massachusetts. I grew up right near Coolidge Field, which is off the center of town. Very average family, I had a younger brother and an older sister. Went through all the grade schools there. Went to Coolidge Junior High School, went to Natick High School. Graduated from Natick High School in 1966 and along with a little over half of the guys in my class, I went into the army, or some went to the Air Force, some Marine Core. In other words, the year that I graduated from high school was a big pivotal year for recruitment and/or drafting for the services during the Vietnam War.


Q: Wait, so you volunteered?

Mr. Inferrere: I enlisted. Only because they said if I enlisted then I could choose what I wanted to do. If you got drafted the feeling was that if you got drafted that you didn’t have much of a choice in the matter, like they could put you in the infantry or make you a truck driver, but you didn’t wanna be whatever that was, you know. So the idea was that if you enlisted, you got to do- go into the branch that you wanted to go into. So in other words, there was that perception. However, I also found out through guys that I met along the way that they got drafter and they still got to do what they wanted to do. Now the difference being, when you enlist- when you enlisted back in those days you were in for three years of active duty. If you got drafted, you were in for two years, twenty-four months, of active duty. So they did one year less. And then the feeling is- and then the commitment was over, you know, you’re free to go. So, that was the thing, but it wasn’t always the case.


Q: As a teenager, how aware were you of the world events?

Mr. Inferrere: I was aware of what was going on, but I hadn’t a clue as to where Vietnam was. You know, I heard about it, I heard what was going- you know, things that were happening there. But, I mean, we studied current events. We had a class called modern problems, and our teacher was really cool. He ended up becoming a life long friend of mine; yeah he was a really cool guy. He had hair down to here; we all called him Surfer Joe. He’d go off to like Dylan concerts on the weekends and stuff; you know he was really like a real cool guy. You know, he just didn’t act like a teacher. And we would talk about the issues of the day: fashion, music, politics, everything, everything and anything. Current events, what was going on here and- locally, in the States, in the country, in the world. We covered everything… that was a really cool class. So we got an inkling on what was going on outside of the walls of high school.


Q: When did you first hear about the Cold War and did you fear or dislike the Communists?

Mr. Inferrere: Yeah, 1962, when I was in- what was I starting Junior High School? Yeah, it was probably in the first year of Junior High School. The Cuban missile crisis, I don’t know if you’re aware of that… It’s when Russia was shipping inter continental missiles down to Cuba, and they were setting up missile bases in Cuba so that they could launch them into this country, cause Cuba is only like ninety miles away from Miami. So these things had a range of like thousands of miles, so they could like hit D.C. if they wanted to. They were shipping them in on ships, and our intelligence picked up the fact that they were doing this with Reconnaissance photos. So President Kennedy says: Nope, were not gonna let them do it. So they set up a picket line around Cuba with our Navy and said: Ok, the next ship that tries to pass through, we’re gonna sink it, and you better move the missiles out cause we’re not gonna let this happen. And there was this long pause of silent from the Soviet Union, you know, and everyone was sorta like waiting to see what was gonna happen. And this ship came along; this Russian ship came along, and came up to the picket line of our destroyers, and cruisers, and whatever the hell we had out there. And it stopped and it turned around, and it went back to Russia. And at that point they started disassembling all the missile bases that they set up- started setting up and they sent everything back to Russia and they said: Nope, we’re not gonna do it. So we were that close to turning into a Hot War rather than a Cold War. That’s when I really took notice of the Cold War. Everyone was like- you know, I remember like everyone in my neighborhood was going to church and talking about it, and being really religious, because this was like too close to the end. So, yeah, I remember the Cold War. That came screaming home, its like: Oh, ok this is what it’s about. No shooting but, too close to shooting.


Q: What do you recall about the general state of the country as you came of age?

Mr. Inferrere: When I was growing up, I grew up as a school kid, like grade school late fifties, and then junior high into the early sixties. And it was a really- it was a happy time. It was like the general mood of the country was pretty good. We weren’t in any war, you know Korea was over with, that was back in early fifties. So it was like that window of happy time and it was really great. It was a good time to grow up cause the mood of the country was good, economy was sort of okay, people were working. There weren’t any real issues to speak of that were really bad. So it was a good time, as I remember it, it was a pretty good time.


Q: Do you remember anything about the Korean War and President Eisenhower?

Mr. Inferrere: Yeah, as a kid, as a little, little kid, I can remember sitting at the dinner table and I wouldn’t wanna eat my broccoli or something, and my dad would go: Well just remember the poor starving kids in Korea. So you know, they’d like to have your broccoli. And who are those people? I didn’t know- I didn’t even know what Korea was. You know, but, that’s all I remember about Korea, I was too small to really understand it. It was before my time.


Q: What were your plans upon graduating from high school?

Mr. Inferrere: I originally wanted to go to, right from high school, wanted to go to East Coast Aero-Tech, which is in Bedford, at Hanscom Airbase. I originally wanted to go there, but all the classes were full, I couldn’t get in. So my only other choice- my only other option was to go into the Army and go into aviation cause that’s what I wanted anyways. So that was my second choice and so I took my second choice first.


Q: Wait you heard about the first conflicts in Vietnam in high school, right?

Mr. Inferrere: In high school, yeah. Probably about- first reference to Vietnam I heard was probably like sixty-five, the year before I graduated and I heard there were some really heated battles that had taken place by then cause Vietnam was really starting to heat up by about late sixty-five. It was starting to get to where it was in the news everyday. By the time I graduated it was all that anybody was talking about.


Q: Were you worried that it would affect your future?

Mr. Inferrere: No, I had no clue, no clue on what was gonna happen to me, no.


Q: Sorry, how did you actually enlist in the army?

Mr. Inferrere: I went down to the recruiter cause back when I was in school we had- this country had a draft and, in fact, even today when you hit eighteen you still have to register for the draft even though there isn’t one. That’s a whole other- we can probably talk all afternoon just about draft issues cause if they initiate the draft now they’re gonna have to address women as well. Anyways, I registered with the draft and then I decided, well O.K. I need to go into one of the services first before I go to Aviation School, you know, Civilian School. So I went down and talked to the Army Recruiter and he said: Fine, no problem. So I signed up for three years and was due to go in- I graduated from High School in June and I was due to go in off to basic in the middle of August. It was as simple as that. Of course, back then the army would take everyone and anyone. You know, it didn’t matter like it does today, were you have to take a test and they decide whether they want you or not.


Q: What was the training like?

Mr. Inferrere: Well the first thing you do is go for Boot Camp, and that is eight weeks, and they kinda turn you into a soldier in that eight week period. You know, you do a lot of push-ups and every time you get something wrong you end up doing push-ups. But you see the goal is all to get you into physical condition. So they train you in all the basic soldiering skills cause basically everyone, no matter what their job is in the army, everyone is a foot soldier. Yeah, I mean, you can be an infantry man also, but in going through Boot Camp you have to learn how to break down a rifle and be able to shoot it reasonably well, and take care of the equipment associated in being in the field, you know, all your field gear and stuff. They teach you about how to march, and how to take care of your uniform, and military code of justice, you know, all the rules they have in military, field survival techniques. Just about everything and anything associated with the army you’ll learn in basic training. And I came out of that eight weeks in pretty good shape, I would say probably the best physical shape of my entire life. If I could draw a graph of how it looked there would be this big swoop up and it would be this big pinnacle right at the end of that eight week period and then a long down hill slide to today.


Q: Did it make you feel really prepared for Vietnam?

Mr. Inferrere: Well, I didn’t go right off to Vietnam. From base boot camp, basic training, I went to Helicopter School and that’s where I learned how to take care of helicopters and do the maintenance and all things associated with Huey helicopters. That school was originally twenty two weeks of training, but because of the war they cut the class down to twelve weeks because they couldn’t push enough guys through the course fast enough, they needed some crew men. So they squeezed it into twelve weeks. In fact, when I went to school, I went to school at night because the classes were all full during the day, so they started night classes to get more people through the course as fast as they could. So I went through basic training in like October and went off to {Fort Hustous} Virginia, for helicopter school and I was there until just around Christmas. So I got to be home for Christmas and New Years, that was fall and winter of sixty six, and then I was due to go to my first duty assignment in January third or something. I had to report to ( ) Kansas, from my helicopter unit that I was going to be in. So it was not an immediate process to go from basic training school and off to Vietnam. But, I ended up in a unit that was starting up out there, and I was number twelve in the whole unit. I can remember to this day, getting there on a Sunday afternoon, I get off the bus and I’m looking at this Air-field, nobody around, this tumble weed rolling across the runway. I was like: Now what do I do? There’s nobody to talk to, there was nobody there cause it was a remote Air-field, it was not part of the Fort that I was at. I had to look around for a while to find somebody to sign in, and I was the twelfth person there, so it was really desolate. But by the time I left there in September of that same year, we were like three hundred people. So it went from nobody to everybody. So, I trained in Kansas the summer of sixty seven. We trained up there and it was a great place to fly, cause like everything is flat up there. So you could like fly right down to the grass top and just zip along and it was so much fun, you know, you can never do that back in Massachusetts.

Q: What was it like saying goodbye to your family and loved ones?

Mr. Inferrere: Wow, these are some tough questions. It was obviously tough to do because there was that uncertainty of going off to the unknown and not knowing whether you’d see them again. I’ve got a photo somewhere and it shows me and my brother and my sister and my dad. It was taken at Logan Airport, just before I left to get on the plane, and the faces tell the whole story. I probably should have looked for that photo to show you, that would have answered your whole question. The grim looks on everyone’s face, it was just a tough time. My girlfriend was breaking up with me- well I didn’t really know until I got on the plane because her best friend gave me a bunch of letters to read. This is really high school stuff. Her best friend gave me a bunch of letters to read, but she didn’t wanna give them to me, but she thought I should know. So she gave me the letters and I didn’t have time to read them so I just took them with me. And I got on the plane, and finally had time to read them, and I’m at the end of the runway waiting to take off to go off to whatever. And I’m reading about she’s dating this one and that one, and all my friends, so it was a bad day. And then to make matters worse, this was 1967, we stopped in St. Louis to change planes and they had just beat the Red Sox. On that same day, I’m going: Ah man, what else could happen? I get back to the Fort just in time to find out that I missed pay day, and I was going overseas with a dollar in my pocket. I missed pay day, so I was gonna have to wait another thirty days to get any cash.


Q: Where did you go once you left the United States?

Mr. Inferrere: First of all we took a military flight from Kansas to San Francisco, and then we got off the plane and onto a bus, and they drove us down to Oakland Navy Terminal, which is part of San Francisco Bay, and we got on a ship. I went overseas on a trip ship, just like a World War II movie, you know, John Wayne movie, off to where the sunset, with all the troops on board. So, the only good thing about that was that as soon as we left the dock in Oakland, my time at Vietnam started. And it took twenty-one days to get from Oakland to Cameron Bay, which is in the center, like on the coast of Vietnam. So, twenty-one days already out of the way, and that was just at sea for twenty-one days.


Q: What did you do at sea?

Mr. Inferrere: Not much. Watched a movie at night, usually they were playing movies, just read books, looked at the ocean, watched the dolphins…


Q: Were you nervous?

Mr. Inferrere: Well, it was all that talk and that apprehension, you know, the closer we go. Yeah, of course we were nervous, but no one ever expressed that. That kind of emotion is always propelled, you know, you didn’t say: Jeez, I’m really scared. Because when you’re nineteen, you’re just like a young lion pup, you don’t know what to fear. And the majority of the people were my age, there were just a few N.C.O.’s, sergeants that would be a little over, the occasional person that might be in their thirties. It was like a big high school class.


Q: What was it like when you arrived in Vietnam, and how was the transition?

Mr. Inferrere: Well, it was a small learning curve because you are thrust into a different environment, and that is weather-wise, economically, socially, in all aspects it was a different atmosphere. So there was a lot to learn, a lot to not do as opposed to do. You know, you don’t walk there, you don’t do this, how do you react with the people of South Vietnam?  You know, what’s not accepted? What is accepted? That sort of thing, you know, how do you conduct yourself. It was a lot to learn there, and the perception was that if you got through the first month to six-eight weeks, you probably were O.K. because then you got savvy about the situation, you knew what you needed to do or not do. So there’s a huge learning curve there, as far as conducting yourself and trying to keep yourself safe, and not do anything stupid like go for a walk on the country-side all by yourself.


Q: What type of things did you do in Vietnam?

Mr. Inferrere: Well, when I first went over there I was a helicopter mechanic, and I did that from September of ‘67 until January of ’68, so it was about four or five months. And then I switched platoons. I went from maintenance platoon to flight platoon. I became a crew chief and a door gunner. So I had different jobs while I was there. Then I flew from January of ’68 until August of ’68. And then I got transferred because my company, which was about two-three hundred guys, we all went over together and as a result we were all going to go home together, so they wouldn’t have a unit left, there wouldn’t have been anybody left. So what they did was split us up into thirds. A third of us went to another unit, another third went to another unit and another third stayed in place. So I went off to this other unit for like three months before I came home, and I took one look at the aircrafts. They were a much older unit, they’d been there a long time and the aircrafts were beat up and they needed a lot of work, and I said: Nah, I’m don’t think I’ll fly, so all the guys that went with me, that were flying said: Nah, we’ll do maintenance. And the maintenance guys that came with us said: Oh, I think I’ll fly. So we like switched sides, because you could do either, it didn’t matter, we were interchangeable. You could be a maintenance guy one day and a door gunner or a crew chief the next day, you know, it didn’t matter because you could do the job.


Q: Which one did you prefer?

Mr. Inferrere: Well, the safer job was maintenance. You just worked in the hanger and you did inspections, you changed out parts that were damaged or had failed, and you’re just like a car mechanic, except with helicopters. So we just changed all the parts and got them flying again. So that was the easy job as far as danger, the worst thing that could happen was if you’d trip over a toolbox. But flying was fun, it was exciting. We got to see a lot of the countryside. It was a beautiful country, absolutely gorgeous. I mean, we’d fly off the coast line and to the right was all the South China Sea, and you’d look of to the left and there would be the Central Highlands of Mountains of Vietnam, big, big vacation spot now. Like where I was stationed, was all sand with beach grass with a big high bluff overlooking the ocean. It looked a lot like Nauseate Beach in Cape Cod, it looks similar to that, but the sand was a little redder. But, environmentally it was a harsh environment to live in, because we lived in tents with wooden platforms, so we were not quite a hut, but not on the ground either. That same place today has two luxury hotels with swimming pools, and an 18-hole golf course, and its all luxury, they re-did everything to accommodate tourists.


Q: Have you been back to Vietnam yet?

Mr. Inferrere:  No, I haven’t yet, no. I’d like to go.


Q: How did you pass time when you were in Vietnam?

Mr. Inferrere: We had a lot of activities that we could do. We had volleyball, and we had what they called a Bay Room that had a pool table in it, and you could read, write letters. You could go into town, although it was kind of dangerous. You had to be careful and you had to go in groups, just so you wouldn’t get hauled off into the jungle, I mean, it was risky.

Q: Did you ever go into Town?

Mr. Inferrere: Oh yeah, just to see what it was like, but you had to be kind of savvy about what was going on. And there was always something else to do, like sleep. That was a big time off pass time just sleeping and getting caught up. I went for the longest period ever without sleeping when I was in Vietnam; I think I went something like 26 hours without sleeping. I remember them pulling me out from underneath the helicopter because I was unscrewing a panel underneath in the belly of the helicopter, I had been up for a whole day plus. I remember unscrewing some of the screws, and I don’t remember what happened after that. I woke up and I looked up and saw all these faces looking down at me going “Are you ok?” I was a little embarrassed, but they just sent me off to the barracks to sleep. 


Q: Did you write and receive a lot of letters?

Mr. Inferrere: Oh yeah, a lot.


Q: Who did you write to?

Mr. Inferrere: Oh my dad and my mom. My dad wrote me a letter everyday because he was in WWII so he knew what it was like to get mail. Getting mail was the best thing that could happen; a letter from home was so great for moral. He wrote me a letter every day. Some days I might not get one, but generally I did. Other days I would get like, three or four of them together and I would have to line them up in order to find out what was going on back there. And I also got the Natick bulletin, which I don’t think is in circulation anymore. So I got the newspaper, friends wrote to me, my girlfriend who broke up with me wrote to me a lot, she was pretty civil about it. It’s still an issue today. She lives in New Hampshire somewhere. If I ever saw her, I have a few words for her, so yeah, it’s still a sore subject. Things like that don’t go away. When you care about someone a lot, and then they dump you the one time in your life when you need their support, you remember things like that.


Q: Did you feel like you could be honest to your parents about the events taking place in Vietnam?

Mr. Inferrere: No. No, I couldn’t. My dad was smart because he would be following the war religiously. And he would write “Well I heard you guys had a lot of action going on right near you” and I’d write back “Oh, I ran into a guy from Massachusetts today, and the weather has been really good, and we had steak today.” So the questions didn’t match the answers that were given. My dad didn’t even know that I flew, he thought I was a mechanic. I never told him that I flew, but when I came home, I had all these metals on my uniform and he goes “Well they gave you all those metals for being a mechanic?” and I said “well… no” and then I told him because it was ok, I told him “look, I didn’t want you to worry”

Q: How many combat hours did you serve?

Mr. Inferrere: I have 800 official hours of air combat time, it’s probably closer to like, 1000, but there was some that was undocumented. But I had official 800. My life time total of huey hours is 2083.2 hours of flying time. See once I got out of the army back in ‘69 I was a civilian from ‘69 to ‘85 and then I went back into the Army Guard. The Army Guard is now like the Army, there is no difference. The new National Guard is called Homeland Defense. My unit from Cape, they are in Kuwait now flying missions into Iraq. So, sorry, I’m drifting, so it was about 800 combat hours.


Q: When did you finally retire?

Mr. Inferrere: May 2004.


Q: What did you do in the last years?

Mr. Inferrere: Not much, actually the last year I tried to fly as much as I could. Actually on my very last flight, I planned a mini reunion of…. (he got a phone call)

….So the last weekend of duty time, at least as a crew chief, I had a reunion of some of the people I flew with in Vietnam. I had about 12 guys come from all over the country down to the Cape, down to Falmouth, and I got them all rooms at a hotel and we had a mini reunion. I had my crew mate whom I flew with in Vietnam fly with me on my very last flight out of the Cape. That was the neatest thing, he came out from New Jersey, I got a flight suit and a helmet and all the flight gear and we took my last flight together, it was kind of neat.


Q: Are you still close?

Mr. Inferrere: Oh yeah, oh yeah. I haven’t talked to him for a couple months, but I just pick up the phone and talk to him, and it’s like I talked to him yesterday.


Q: What was the hardest part of combat?

Mr. Inferrere: Getting shot at. Oh no wait, the worst of it was probably the last three months I was there. I was in a place called {Bambituit} it was out by Cambodia, right next to Cambodia. They would shoot at the airfield with rockets, these big rockets, they were called 1-22’s. They were pretty good size rockets. It was a little further range than a mortar, a mortar would be several hundred yards, this could be a couple miles. And they didn’t make any noise, but they would shell the airfield and it was most often at night, most of the time at night, and I would be sound asleep. I was such a good sleeper that I would wake up, and I would look down, at that point I was living in this little tin hut, it was kind of cozy not bad, and I would get up and I would look down in the little bunks and there wouldn’t be anybody in their bed. They would be in the bunker and they would be yelling for me to get up and get in the bunker because we were getting shelled and things would go off and it was “oh, oh that’s why everyone’s up.” So it was kind of scary, the worst of combat was getting rocketed because you didn’t hear them coming and there was no warning at all. But getting shot at personally, you take that pretty personally too.

Q: What were search and destroy missions like?

Mr. Inferrere: I didn’t do that, that was an infantry kind of job. The guys that we would fly into the combat zones and drop off, that’s what they do.


Q: Did you ever fly planes?

Mr. Inferrere: I was just helicopter, I was a huey guy, do you know what a huey is?
            “I have a picture”
Yeah, it is. That’s a huey, oh it’s an air force version of the huey. The one I flew in was a little bit bigger than that.


Q: What was it like in the helicopter?

Mr. Inferrere: Physically?


Q: Was it spacious or cramped?

Mr. Inferrere: It was probably the space of a large van, or maybe a little bit bigger. We could seat up to, well it had seats for twelve but realistically we could probably seat about ten. A lot of the time we didn’t even use the seats, we would fold the seats up and sit on the floor because they could fit better because all the infantry guys had backpacks, weapons, and extra ammo and all that stuff so it was fairly spacious for a medium size helicopter. It could carry about 4000 pounds of payload. Most of the time we were over there we would fly with doors open because we had the door guns out the sides so it was pretty noisy just from the air rushing fast, not even mentioning the turban engine winding away, it was about ear level behind you, so it was pretty noisy, that’s why I don’t have very good hearing


Q: You didn’t wear anything to cover?

Mr. Inferrere: Well we had a flight helmet but back in those days in Vietnam, we didn’t wear ear plugs. The more recent years we always wore earplugs, and then the helmet. It was the high pitch sounds that would kill you’re hearing, the stuff that would come through the radios, not so much the engine sound or the transmission, any other noise was secondary. It was the radios that would kill your hearing all the high pitched going through your ears. As a result, my very last flight physical which was March of 2004, I flunked the hearing in one ear, my left ear didn’t pass, and they were going to send me down to some navel hospital in Rhode Island for re-evaluation, and I told them just to take their time scheduling it because I was getting out in May, and they never even bothered scheduling it because by may I was out. But yeah it was pretty noisy, it was a noisy environment.


Q: What was the moral of the troops while you were there?

Mr. Inferrere: It changed. It was pretty upbeat when I first got there, but by the time I left there were a lot of troops that were doubting why we were there. The mood was changing while we were there. Course in ‘68 here in this country the mood changed significantly while I was away, so by the time I got home it was not the same place that I left in a lot of different ways. Not so much for me but for the folks that lived here changed, so the mood of the troops was changing along with that. Think about it, if you were an infantry man and you were fighting this war that nobody cared about and you would get letters from home saying “people are marching on Washington saying you shouldn’t be there” and “why are you putting your life on the line when no body cares,” that’s got to effect you, its got to do something to you. So the mood was defiantly changing. By the time we left, I was even doubting the war. Even though, I always did what I was ordered to do, I was dissenting. I was not happy with what was happening there but I was still obeying order, and that’s where the whole problem with that war was. People got confused because they didn’t like the war, but they had loved ones there fighting it. They knew they were doing their duty but they were questioning that duty.


Q: Did you agree with the anti war protest, like Kent State?

Mr. Inferrere: That’s just stupid out of control. That happened after I was out. I was already a civilian, and my hair was already starting to get long, growing my hair long and playing in a band, I remember hearing that and saying “boy we have done it now, that’s so stupid.” That whole situation, if you read into that whole scenario where that culminated in that gun fire, I don’t know if you read about the accounts, but it shouldn’t have happened. There were enough safe guards in place for that not to happen yet people just let it happen, it was a stupid, stupid move. But it kind of really got a lot of other people that were otherwise not really sure about how this was all going, to say “hey enough, time out” and that’s when they had a moratorium. And it was just a stupid move, stupid, stupid move.


Q: What was leave like?

Mr. Inferrere: Oh god, it was great. It was wonderful just to be back in the states. I remember getting off the plane coming home from Vietnam, landing in Seattle, a lot of guys and soon as they got off the plane, they kissed the ground. It was just wonderful being home seeing family again. Of course there was no band playing, and welcoming home, but my family was happy to see me and all my friends were. It took a while to realize "yeah I have changed". I thought I was the same old John, but you tend to look at things a little different. Like little simple things, like where you live, the amount of food available for you to eat, the safety of family and friends and home. It was nice being home. I had this image when I was in Vietnam. I had this image, I could picture down town Natick, because I grew up in Natick. And the Natick common, I had this picture in my mind, so once I saw the Natick common I was home. So when I got home I had the taxi driver drive me to my girlfriend's best friends house, because my ex-girlfriend was a away at college so I went to visit Karen and I said "Karen I got to get down town"  so she got me, put me in her car, and drove me down town and I said "yeah I'm home". And then I went home to visit my parents.


Q: Did you think leave was enough?

Mr. Inferrere: Oh yeah, I had a month. I had a whole month of leave before I had to report back, and I still had another ten months to go before I was out of the army. That was probably the longest ten months of my whole time in the army because state side army life was harder than being in Vietnam as far as discipline and all the army stuff. That all came back, like spiting polish to get your brass polished and uniforms starched and you had to look right. I was in a barracks full of Vietnam vets; they were all in the same situation as me. Just back from the war, that was a whole other experience. If you can image a barracks with probably 50-60 guys on the floor, all back from the war it was like a zoo. The nightmares with guys yelling and screaming, that was tough it was probably the hardest part, because then it was like stupidity. We would be standing for inspections with some young lieutenant walking around acting like he is real tough. He is standing in front of a corporal or young sargent with the purple heart, bronze star, silver star sometimes, you know, highly decorated guys and most of them were aviation because I ended up back at the school that I went through, and working for that school. And all these highly decorated guys would be ratting them for a shoe that wasn’t shined just right. That’s when the stupidity of the army set in, there were a lot of guys considering staying in, and I went through that whole period, and I was like "naw, I'm out of here". So the last ten months of the army was, I don’t know, I just wanted to get out and get on with my life. So I started at East Coast Aero Tech, the place where I wanted to go. I started, only because of timing, I started school the day after I got out of the army. So I got on a plane in Virginia, flew back to Boston, home, slept one night, got up the next morning and went to school. It turned out to be a big mistake, because I was like that old battery that was ready to die, just didn’t know it, I was just all worn out. I lasted until August of '69, by thanksgiving I was deathly ill. I had the worst case of mono that my doctor had ever seen. I was down for months, I was like an old battery, all the juices run out, nothing left.


Q: What are those for? (Pointing to artifacts Mr. Inferrere had on his desk). 

Mr. Inferrere: These are just some things I brought along. This is just a belt of ammo that went through that machine gun I used. This is a belt of ammo, they are all empty, just empty shells. So don’t tell your folks you saw a belt of ammo today, you saw a belt of empty cartridges. We don’t want to get in any trouble. This is what the foot solider, carried, an M-16 rifle, this is what an M-16 round looks like, very, very small, but high velocity.


Q: How fast do they go?

Mr. Inferrere: I had one of them for a short while when I was in Vietnam, but that rifle was fairly new when I went to Vietnam. The first couple years that they were out they had a lot of problems with the rifle, they would jam, not a good thing for combat. And I had one of the bad ones, so I would take a magazine, or 20 rounds put it in the chamber, cock it, and I could fire the whole 20 rounds right off, put another 20 in, cock it, go to shoot and it would jam. Not a good thing for combat. But the army fixed to problem. Part of the problem was that the weapon was so finely milled together that it couldn’t withstand any dirt, or if it over heated, the metal would expand just enough and it would stop the marker, so they fixed the problem. But it started to become a problem in the field because now we have a bunch of men out there shooting going "gee what happens if the weapon jams", "what are we going to do". There are a few documented cases where we lost some guys because the weapon jammed and there wasn’t anybody else to help them. So I had this weapon for a very shoot while. This shell is from a 38-caliber smithionwesen revolver, and that is what I carried as a side arm. My main weapon was this M-60 machine gun, I carried one of these as a side arm on my waist and I also had an M-1 carbine. The round looked similar to this, it was another automatic weapon made popular during the Korean War. This was part of stock and trade of an air crew man. M-18 smoke grenade. This one is empty, you would pull this pin, release this, and this little cap here would fly over and hit a firing pin, and would ignite the smoke inside the grenade, and start spewing yellow smoke. What we used these for was marking targets or marking what we called an LZ, landing zone, for any trips that we may be picking up or dropping off. So we would fly over this area, when we spot something we drop the smoke grenade, so this was part of the stock and trade of being a crew chief on a helicopter. I have probably let a dozen of these fly over my course of Vietnam. It was a device you used regularly. I didn’t bring the fragmentation grenades only because I couldn't fine them. I had other stuff I wanted to show you and I put them away carefully, and couldn’t remember where I put them. I could come in another time if you want. I had a piece of shrapboard that almost got me, I’ve got a v pipe, a pair of Ho Chi Min sandals, a cross bow, little odds and ends I picked up over there. I have always been a student of WWII history and I was fascinated by the area that I was in because battle fields get recycled. That huey station I had which was called {fanthiat} which was right on the coast, the air field that we used was built by British and American POWs of the Japanese during WWII. Sure enough I was digging outside my tent trying to dig whole to dig some of my shaving water in, and I found a Japanese army canteen in the sand. I couldn’t keep it, they wouldn’t let me take something like that home. They had strict rules about what you could bring home and what you couldn’t. This was not from Vietnam, this was from Cape Cod, only because I used to be one of the gunnery instructors seeing that I had previous experience.
            Because when I went back into the army in ‘85 I did exactly the same job that I did in Vietnam, I was a crew chief, a door gunner. I had all this experience.


(Talking about a picture of bunks)

Mr. Inferrere: It’s called the Walker, and it’s a WWII transport. The Nelson Walker. A guy just recently wrote a book about it because all these canvases you see. See how the guys are sleeping, and they are right underneath the next guy, and above them. Kinds wrote graffiti on the canvases about all these stories and designs. This crew ship was recently decommissioned and sent off to be strapped, it’s down in Texas now. And a guy went through this because they filmed a scene of a movie, A Thin Red Line, with Sean Penn, on this ship. And this guy went along with his neighbor who was on the crew for the filming, and he realized he saw this graffiti and said “hey this is archive stuff, we got to save this”. So it’s in several museums now. So I got the book, and actually talked to the author, he lives down in Virginia.
            (Talking about a picture of airplanes in the sky)
            This is a typical scene of what it would look like when we were dropping the troops off. We would flying in groups of anywhere from sometimes a single ship, to we would be in a string of nine helicopters together. We would be so close that I could tell what color their eyes were in the air craft next to me, we would be that close. But that’s typically what it would look like. I think I even know where this was taken, I was on this lift because I remember the smoke, flying through the smoke. This is what a formation might look like.

            (Flipped Tape)


Mr. Inferrere: We did this because we flew into a place and we were taken fire, or having to suppress fire with our machine guns. It left the side, the complete right side of all these helicopters open to shoot. So it increased our fire power by having them staggered out rather than all next to each other. We also did what was called a ‘Trail Formation’. Every one of these helicopters, nose to tail, nose to tail and that allowed for all the guns, there was a machine gun on each side of the helicopter, all the guns would be free to shoot that way, so we covered more space. The only trouble with that was that it took up a lot of space to put everything nose to tail, so we most often did this formation.


Q: How many formations did you have?

Mr. Inferrere: Sometimes it would be, like the sky would be dark with Huey’s. I would be in one formation of nine, and I would look to my right, and there would be another formation of nine, or look off to my left and there would be another formation of nine and there would be a formation on nine above me, and some in front of me. There would be hundreds of aircrafts all going the same direction, its amazing the feeling of power that gives you, there would be literally hundreds of flying the same place and this is what wreckage looks like, that was a gunship. A gunship is a huey also. It had a short cabin with one window in the cabin door, and they would have rockets mounted on the sides, and what’s called a mini gun. It’s a motorized machine gun and it could fire up to 4000 rounds per minute. You could cover, with one mini gun you could cover every square inch of a football field in a about 6 seconds. SO that’s what this did, it was a helicopter designed just to shoot. They went wherever the trouble was.


Q: Were you ever in one of those?

Mr. Inferrere: I of course was in one once, but of course never injured. On the same flight though, we did lose a couple pilots.


Q: When you rejoined the service in 1985, did you play any part in the Gulf War?

Mr. Inferrere: We were in a transition at the time, Gulf One which I think is the one you are referring too, we were in a transition, we were changing from one type of unit to another at the time. I remember them telling us that the Guard Burrow in Washington called to see if we were ready to go, and we really weren’t, but we told them that we were and as I remember it was a very short time later that the war started and 99 hours later it was over. So we wouldn’t have even gotten to packing, we wouldn’t have gotten anything done given the time frame, it was over so quick.


Q: Did you have a picture of Vietnamese children?

Mr. Inferrere: Oh yeah, there’s a kid.


Q: What were they like, how did they act?

Mr. Inferrere: They were always looking for money and food. Wherever we landed kids would show up, and they would be looking for a hand out because they always knew the GIs had something. It was like that in WWII, orphan kids were opportunists. They were always looking for candy because they knew we had it. I had an ammo box on the helicopter, and we used to get what they called {Sumdry} rations because we didn’t have a PX or any place to buy stuff, so it would just be given to us. Like razor blades and soap, shaving cream, candy, and cigarettes for free. We would get this box about every week, this big huge box with cartons and cartons of cigarettes and candy, hard candy. And we would take the candy, because not to many guys ate it, and we would just fill up the ammo box with candy, and wherever we went we would play Santa Clause, and just hand out candy to the kids just to be nice guys. And they liked that, and I felt good doing that, I was doing something positive.

Q: What did you make of the famous Tet Offensive?

Mr. Inferrere: I was scared. We didn’t know it was coming. At least not where I was, we had no clue, they just started shooting. We were on duty constantly for three or four days and no let up at all. And I remember because it was right in broad daylight. The Vietcong, the enemy liked to fight at night, and this was in the middle of the day and we were trying to take our airfield so everybody was on the perimeter shooting. We had our gunship shooting all the time, and they were trying to over take the city that was next to us all that stuff, and, it was pretty scary.
            Now we had 31 helicopters and I remember I just happened to be standing in front of the maintenance officer who was the ranking officer who was in charge of all the mechanics and he was giving Operation officer, the guy that was in charge of putting the missions together, and he was asking how many helicopters we had for the morning. The maintenance officer told him “we got four slicks, troop carrying helicopters, and one gunship out of 31”. Now the next day, the numbers came right back up again because we had to many down with bullet holes, and battle damage, things wrong with them so that they couldn’t fly, but we were down to five helicopters total out of 31. And that scared me, that’s what really scared me. It was a really tough time, tough time.


Q: How did you learn about the My Lai Massacre?

Mr. Inferrere: That happened after I left Vietnam, I was in Virginia, on duty there when that happened. And you know, I heard about it, but it didn’t really register, it was like “oh, ok”, it just happened, it wasn’t that big of deal because stuff like that happened to our people, and I know that it went on there from time to time. But it didn’t seem like anything when it happened. When Lt. Calley, who was kind of like the scapegoat for the whole thing, was put on trial, then it seemed to hit home. That was much later that was like, 1970 I think it was when they put him on trial. Or ’71 even. That seemed to hit home more than the actual event itself. Because now people were talking about the actual event, and what happened. Who was responsible for what, how did it all transpire. Almost everyone in the army, pretty universally agreed that Lt. Calley was the scape goat for the whole thing. He really didn’t have anything to do with it, but because he was a ranking officer, they put it on his shoulders.


Q: What did you think of the ‘Peace with Honor’ promise that Nixon made?

Mr. Inferrere: It was a way to get out, a way of saving face as it were. Other words, ok we are doing this honorably but it’s just like, let’s get out.


Q: Did you agree with it?

Mr. Inferrere: Yeah, I suppose. We weren’t going to win, there was no way we were going to win that war, no way. It was just going to go on and on and on. And my thinking was, let’s just get everybody out because we are just going to continue dying, and for what? But when Saigon finally fell, the communists finally took Saigon in ’75, spring of ’75. When they took that city, I felt there was a level of emotion I wasn’t prepared for. It was like, “oh, game over”. We lost.


Q: When you returned home, did a lot of people disrespect you for serving in Vietnam?

Mr. Inferrere: Naw, they didn’t give me that. It happened but I didn’t get any of that.


Q: Have you been to the Vietnam Memorial Wall?

Mr. Inferrere: Yeah.


Q: What was it like?

Mr. Inferrere: Very emotional.


Q: Did you recognize a lot of names?

Mr. Inferrere: Yeah, it was pretty emotional. I remember going there in ’91. I just took a week vacation just to go to D.C. because aviation has been my interest and the Air and Space Museum there is fabulous, I don’t know if you have seen it or not. It’s just incredible if you are into aviation or space. Oh yeah, it’s beautiful, and part of my week was just to go to the wall and visit some of my buddies. One guy from my platoon and another guy from my class in high school. And I remember just being overwhelmed by all the names. I was looking up and down trying to find the names, and this women comes to me, and she has this huge book, like a bible thing, and she goes “can I help you sir?” and I go “oh, I’m just looking for one of my friends”. And she says “what year did he die” and I say “1968”. And she says “what’s his last name?” and I told her and she goes oh, that’s on panel 44 North. She goes “oh, it’s right here”. I was standing next to his name and I couldn’t see it because I was so overwhelmed with the names. All I had to do was turn my head and his name was right there. It’s just over whelming. If you have ever seen that, it’s just, ah. Amazing.


Q: After you have reflected the war over the years, how do you view it differently than when you were younger?

Mr. Inferrere: Well when you are 19, you are ready for that adventure, bug adventure. I wasn’t much older than you are right now, I was just a couple years older than you are now. Picture yourself going off to a different country that you have never been too, a different culture you know very little about. And fight the war. It was like “yeah, let’s go and kill the enemy” by the time I got home it was like “oh, yeah, can’t they find a way to get out of this”. So yeah, my attitude changed over the years, sure. But still, if you are in the service, you do your duty, because you are a soldier and you do your duty for god and country, and politics of the whole situation, you shouldn’t enter into it. If you are sent there, ordered to go there and do that, it’s not your job to question it. So that’s what I really learned. It’s ok to do your duty, and you should be honored for that but not chastised because you went and killed babies, if you did that, I don’t know, I never did that.


Q: Do you see any parallels between the Vietnam War, and the war we are at now?

Mr. Inferrere: I’m glad you asked because as I see it now, we are in a Vietnam type of situation. We are loosing troop’s day in and day out and there doesn’t seem any end to it. So yeah, I see a lot of parallels there. And some of my friends who are over there now, who are flying missions into Iraq that flew in Vietnam are seeing the same parallel. It’s like the fatality of it. Although the government says things are getting better, I don’t know. I just view it as a civilian now, I don’t view it as a soldier. So it looks a little different from where I am standing, but that’s how I feel about it. And everyone is entitled to their opinion, even soldiers, you know the old thing with the soldiers, soldiers are always allowed to complain. As long as he does his duty, complain all he wants.


Q: Did you learn any lessons in Vietnam?

Mr. Inferrere: I would have to say that government policy as opposed to army policy isn’t always the same. The government wanted us to rid that country of communist threat and we were doing what they were telling us to do, however the army wasn’t always handling it the way it should have been handled, at least in my mind. So did I learn anything, yeah, it’s not always cut and dry the way it’s supposed to go. There is always that gray area and that gray area should be a world apart from what’s supposed to be opposed to what it is. The reality is what the government wants us to do is this, and they are not always the same. That’s probably the biggest thing I took away from the whole thing because I kept thinking ‘why are we doing this’, well it’s not a clean question. It’s just my job as a solider to do what I’ve been ordered to do. 


Q: How did it change you?

Mr. Inferrere: Well I certainly value life now more than I ever did, combat will change you and there is no way to get around you it just changes you. You know, you certainly respect life a lot more after you have been in combat. The fatality of war is such that it just does that to you.


Q: What’s the silver medal you got?

Mr. Inferrere: This is the air crew wings for crew chief. When I was in Vietnam I had just this. That was the air crew wings. After 7 years of flight status I had the star added to my wings and after 15 years of flying I got the wreath around the star. So it’s a senior master aircrew wings, the highest you can go. It’s a lot of years in this one thing. I didn’t wear all of my medal today because it’s way to overwhelming.


Q: What other medals did you get?

Mr. Inferrere: Lets see. I can’t even remember all of them. The air medal, which is flying, for every 25 combat mission’s you get an air medal, the army commendation medal, army achievement medal, the Vietnam service medal, the Vietnam campaign medal, which shows you how many months, it’s broken up into 6 month sections. I got the Vietnamese {Causet} Gallantry Award from the Vietnamese government for the Tet Offensive. The whole unit got that medal, I guess they were very grateful we helped save their city. I got a host of others that I can’t even remember. Some of them are just service related, not having to do with Vietnam, stuff like the National Defense Ribbon, which was the first one I got in the army. I got that after the second or third week of basic training, and it’s something that is just awarded to you if you are in the service during the time of a war. So the guys that are in now, get the National Defense Ribbon. In fact I was in during the Gulf War, both one and two, so I was awarded the medal again, but nothing changed, I already had it so it didn’t matter.


Q: Do you have anything you want to add?

Mr. Inferrere: Well gee, you didn’t ask me anything, or very little about the helicopter itself, or the performance, what it was like to fly in a crew. I mean, a huey is a neat thing, it’s a really neat thing.
            Having flown for 18 years down in Cape Cod, it’s really a neat thing. You can’t even imagine all the beaches that you can cover in an afternoon in a huey.


Q: How fast do they go?

Mr. Inferrere: About 126 knots is top speed, so about 119 miles per an hour, something like that. I mean there is no greater thrill than to fly down the beach. I mean its great fun. It has a Lacombe T-53 L-13 engine in it and that’s about 4500 horse power. So take about 12 corvettes and take the power of all those corvettes, that’s how much power it generates. So it’s a very powerful helicopter. Very reliable, doesn’t break very often, and when it does it is easily fixed. It’s like the jeep, you know, very simple, relatively simple, easy to repair. And that’s why it was so good in Vietnam, we were very often able to pick up a wreak someone, piece it back together, and get it flying again. Or at the very least, pick up the wreak, fly it back to the base, drop it off and take all the pieces off of it and use it for another air craft. So it was a very, very resilient air craft.


Q: How was the technology on them, where they new at the time?

Mr. Inferrere: Well even when I retired in 2004, the technology was still pretty much 60’s technology. However, some things have been upgraded, like the radios, that sort of thing. Some of the instruments, for instance, we had radar altimeters, which would give us a little bit more of an accurate reading from the distance from the helicopter to the ground, which was very useful when you are trying to pick up, when you are flying low level trying to pick up the ground height, you know because the normal altimeter wouldn’t really be that accurate that low to the ground. So we had radar altimeters which were much more accurate. So you can tell, below 50 ft. These were much more accurate. And we had GPS, we ended up with GPS, which is a blast. First weekend I went on a flight, we marked out a root to go, and we just used the GPS, nothing else, no map, not anything. And I was following the map just to see how we were doing and they picked some bridge head out by Athol Mass, out in the western, northwestern part of the state, and that was our target from Cape Cod. So we are flying this heading, and as you are getting towards this bridge head, the middle of no place. You know, it was counting down the nautical miles to the target and I’m looking at it, looking at it, looking at it and 30 seconds and I’m looking, I’m looking and I don’t see anything and 10 seconds away “there it is”. So we hit the mark, and we had we called a ‘way point,’ that was to direct us to the next target we had to hit on this course and it immediately flashed the next course we had to take, so we wheel the formation around and headed into the next one. It was somewhere almost into Connecticut from, there and we hit that point, and BAM, right on, and ‘wow this is great’ and then we went all the was down the CT river to New London and hung a left and as soon as we did that, the thing kicked in the course to get back to Cape Cod, and it was amazing. We never went over 500 feet. So its new technology added to old technology.


Q: What was your longest flight?

Mr. Inferrere: Well the huey only carries 209 gallons of fuel, so we were good for, depending on the winds, that was the defining factor, if it was really windy or flying into a head wind, we would get maybe less than 200 miles. But if the wind was with us, we could do, like, 400 miles on one tank. And some of the time, we had auxiliary tanks that added another 125 gallons on each side of the air craft, those things we could take off and put on as needed, except now we couldn’t hold as many passengers because all of the sudden we have all this weight, because fuel weighs like, 6 point something pounds per gallon. So it added a lot of weight.  So then we could extend the rage that way. I remember flying from the Cape to Lake Hurst, New Jersey on one tank, so it’s quite a distance. But it was an amazing air craft. Sorry they are gone, but now we are onto the Black Hawk, that’s the new machine they have.


Q: Have you flown those?

Mr. Inferrere: No. One of the pilots talked me into a run up, when we were transitioning from Huey’s to Black Hawks we had Black Hawks, and Huey’s and one year we were a Huey unit that happened to have a couple Black Hawks and then the very next year we were a Black Hawk unit that happened to have a couple of Huey’s. One of the test pilots talking me into a run up and the first thing I did when climbing aboard was bang my knee on landing gear. You know how you hit your knee and you see stars, so sitting through the whole run up rubbing my knee thinking ‘this is not good.’ They never sold me the Black Hawk. At the point I had 22 years in and I said ‘naw, that’s enough’.