Vaughn Russell
Vaughn Russell

Service Record

1943-1949 • Enlisted • Marine Corps • Company I, 3rd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division • Guam (Mariana Islands); Iwo Jima • Private First Class


Vaughn Brown Russell:

My name is Vaughn Brown Russell. I was born in Bridgeville, September 28, 1925. I had two brothers and a sister. I went to Bridgeville High School. In the 11th grade, I — on my birthday on the 28th of September in ’42, I went to Philly and enlisted in the Marines. On the way home, my mother and sister had planned to take me out to dinner and ironically picked me up and they begin to demand explanations why I wasn’t in school. And so I explained and my mother emphatically said, I will not sign.

Well, there was a fellow had a contract for piling in Baltimore and he took it over to the shipyard there and we’d take 80, 90-foot piling and I’d meet him down at corner store 8:30 in the morning and get home 3:30, school hours. I did that for the whole month. One day we went over to Baltimore and got lost and got to downtown Baltimore and I had to get a wrecker to lift the rear wheels off to go forward. Net result, I got home 8:00 o’clock at night.

So explanation was needed. And you didn’t lie to my father. When you confront him, he looked you in your soul. He said — I told him I hadn’t been there the whole month. Well, he said to me, he said, If you’ll get your education, when you get out, I’ll sign for you to go. Well, we went up to Philly and I — the day I was sworn in and he had a long and lengthy talk with the doctor and I didn’t know till after the war when I got home, he knew the doctor and the doctor said I can keep him in the States till he’s 18.

Well, I went to Marine Corps Boot Camp and was sent to Boston, Massachusetts. I — every time a volunteer list came out, I volunteer for the Marine Raiders the Paramarines, I mean everything. I couldn’t get out of the place. I didn’t know what in the Sam Hill was going on, I just couldn’t get out. And I didn’t know till after the war he had made this arrangement.

When I was 18 and a half, gone. Up until that time, couldn’t get out of the place. While I was there, I was honor guard for President Roosevelt, James Cagney, Duke and Duchess of Windsor. She came up to me said where have you been. And I couldn’t help but laugh. I said that’s not Baltimore language. She was from Baltimore and also made acquaintance with, oh, I can’t think of it, one of the movie stars was in the Coast Guard came into their Navy Yard at one time and I got some stories.

I don’t now how long this is supposed to go, but I’ve got some stories I could tell about that, but I’ll fast forward and go to when I got 18 and a half — oh, in the interim, our colonel had his son go into Marine Corps out of college. 90 days, he was landing on Tarawa and was killed. So he decreed every man under his command would know all the fine points of Marine Corps when they went overseas.

When I went overseas, I was one of the better trained people because I had had it all. I had gone to this school and I’ll tell you this quick one. I was in map reading class and it was ugh (sic), so I sat in the back seat and I guess the lieutenant sensed that I wasn’t paying attention. He said to me, Russell, What’s the technical definition of a map? I said a map is a means by which you gain direction. He said wrong. Stay after class.

After class, he gave me a stack of chalk that high and he said, Fill these three black rollers at a right angle, three, three. He drew down two inches and this is what he made me write, I wrote left-handed, right-handed, printed, “A map is a conventional representation of the portion of the earth surface as a plane surface.” So I went back to the barracks and I thought some smart alec will go over there and erase it. In the middle of the night I went over to look and was still there. I was safe.

Next morning he confronted me. He said, you think you will remember? I said, Yes, sir, till they slam the old lid on the box, I’ll be reciting it. Again, I went to over Duke River, North Carolina and got fine-tuned for things that I had already known. I checked out every weapon the Marine Corps had except artillery. I never got involved with artillery.

I had gone down to the first sergeant’s office one day and he had — had a black eye, been in a fight with one of the other Marines. He said I’ve just gotta make up a list to go to Judo school and you were on it. I still knew Judo professional to some degree. I was on Border Patrol later in life. I was instructor there because they didn’t have any such program.

Anyway, we shipped cross-country in pretty primitive means. It was like a freight car, wasn’t as plush as a Pullman. It was a freight car. And when we got to Arizona, we ran out of food and all they had left, they had butter. So I — guy bet me that I wouldn’t eat a pound of butter for five dollars. Well, five dollars is a lot of money and I ate that pound of butter, but I tell you, it was hard going that way. I ate that whole pound of butter and I won’t tell you for this interview what he said about anybody would eat a pound of butter.

So we went into Camp Pendleton and we were in casualty company there waiting to go overseas and Kay Kaiser came in there with his — who later was his wife maybe at that time, votin’ Martha Tilton, he said. I said to guy, you cover me while I go get a good seat for this — this Kay Kaiser thing at night. So he did. Only the guy was counting and he came up couple guys short, me and another guy. And he says so he had ’em, he called their name, everybody stepped forward and I came up short.

So it was the last weekend in the States. And I was put on confined to barracks. Well, we had a crap game going me, and some more, and the captain came in and the captain had been a — in the Marine Air Wing and he flew under Brooklyn Bridge, so they grounded him, took his wings away and put him in the fleet in the assault force. And he was — and he’s winning all the money. And he says, Aren’t you two guys the guys that got caught short muster last night? Everybody had left 8:00 o’clock in the morning. It was about noon-ish, one o’clock. He says, Go ahead, head to town. Get out.

So he let us go out. We whipped it up pretty good. I had some people in Hollywood come down with a — with something the hotel lobby at night. You couldn’t get a room, of course, we were late. And this limousine came, this chauffeur limousine, says, I’m looking for some guys to take to one of the stars wants to entertain him at his estate. Nah, we don’t want to go to that. So I’ve often reflected back I might have made a contact there, but I passed on it.

We got out — we sailed out of — a guy had told me if you give your military specialty, I think it was 9:45, you will man the secondary batteries on the ship, you will get into chow call before anybody else and you’ll — there’s a benefit there. So I went in they said, What’s your specialty? I told them, they assigned me to secondary batteries. Didn’t know beans about a 40-millimeter, but here I am up there on 40- millimeter. I got a colored chow card so I didn’t wait in line forever. I just went on in. And everybody, the guy on the bottom rack was the biggest guy. I don’t remember how many racks, maybe four, five, I don’t know, but he get seasick. I didn’t get seasick.

We got in a hurricane out of San Diego, between there and Hawaii. I tell you, I walked out on the deck one time. They had a guard posted and I snuck out, have a look. I saw all I wanted to see, the bow of that ship was going down, you see this trough of water, I came back inside. But I never got sick.

And I remember you had tables and they had strong arms with seats. And I just sat down, I waited and got my chow and I remember I had a orange and I had pork chops. I just got this down when this guy next to me here got upset and he’s — he threw up in my chow and by the time I made that garbage barrel, I was sick. But I was one of the last ones to get sick.

We waited Aguiguan and they were making a landing on Guam and Saipan. So everybody down to the letter M or N went to the Second or Fourth Division up on Saipan and everybody from there down went to, uh, Guam. So we went down to Guam and we’re walking down there and this lieutenant came up, put his arm around my shoulder and said, How ‘ya doing, Russ. And I had had a run-in with him a few times. And I thought, You want to be friends now, do you. That’s what I’m thinking, I didn’t say that. But he sat there and we got assigned.

And I went to this company and I was kind of a happy-go-lucky kid. I didn’t take anything serious. Why I had barely got in the company and Guam was loaded with Japs. They had ’em there clear into the late ’60s.

And they told us at the time, I don’t know how true, Guam jungles were the thickest in the world. And we had been out on patrols and I was on a patrol one time and I saw a little lagoon in there and the streamers of light and I said this — this looks like a setting for Tarzan movie and I stopped momentarily and I was the last man in that patrol and my patrol had gone. I couldn’t even hear ’em. That’s how quick that jungle absorbed that sound. And I ran up and I probably didn’t go 30 feet, what I just stopped and hesitate on, last man, Japs were everywhere.

I remember Christmas of ’44 we got called out on Christmas day, spent the whole day, the First Platoon. I thought they — this Marine Corps only knows the First Platoon ’cause anything came up, it was the First Platoon. And so we went out and we — it was all day long and we always got a fight started ’cause we started — stopped at a submarine rest camp and they were settin’ there drinking beer with, uh, you can see the beads of sweat coming down the cans to indicate they had been cooled.

In our beer, we got two cans a week, ten dollars a can they sold for. Lucky Lager had across on it, Lucky Lager. And we — the guys say, Don’t you wish you had joined the Navy and all that and man, they always got a fight started. But they didn’t. And we kept rehearsing for Iwo Jima and we didn’t know it at the time, rumor had it we were going up to Rota. The next island had plenty of Japs on it and they said our regiment was gonna take it. They thought that.

And always — in all of this thing, Suribachi was down here which turned out to be Suribachi and we always attacked this way towards Suribachi and we had a few rounds fall short, kill a few people and I was on — when we were on that particular program, I was on sentry duty and this guy was walking, tall guy. I knew he was no Japanese ’cause he had to be — he had been, as it turned out, a professional basketball player. And his name — I had his name for years. I can’t think of it at the moment. But he was somebody that you’d recognize. And I called to him, halt. He didn’t halt. And I said halt. He didn’t halt. So I took the rifle, I thought I’ll fire one over his head. He was sleep walkin’. And he — he got sent home because of that, for sleep walkin’. Well, we — trying to think of everything.

Thomas J. Healy II:

You’re still in Guam.

Vaughn Brown Russell:

Still in Guam. We were out on another patrol and I was looking at a Japanese and a tank and bazooka that made it and looked in the hole. When I looked in the hole, there were body parts all over the place, just tore ’em up. We went in a patrol and when we came under fire, one guy go here and one guy go here and I was automatic rifle assistant at the time. We’d switch off ’cause it was so heavy, a BAR opened up, automatic rifle. So we all dove. And what it was, a Jap straggler on the islands was yielding to the call of nature and he had his rifle stacked beside a tree and he reached for it and when this guy seen that movement, he shot him with this BAR. So that’s what it turned out.

And couple patrols, we went out and we — we’d find where they had been ’cause the matting that they used in the caves for where they slept, it was warm where they had — somebody had been there. In fact — and I never did figure out unless it was coming from Rota. They had clean uniforms and rifles, had all the equipment — it all looked pretty good shape as though they were being resupplied. And I figured — found out after the war that they were coming over from Rota, this island that we was supposed to take.

So our guys, for the most part, had been overseas 33 months. And they — I went to the theater. It was hard to concentrate on the movie ’cause that moon would come right up out of that water, it was awesome. And the theater screen was there and I’m trying to watch a movie and I’m watching this moon thinking, that’s the same moon we got back home. And this major came out, the lights came on. Usually it was an air raid. And he came out and said, There’s been a break-through in Europe and the German armies are running unchecked toward the French coast. Rumor had it, our old-timers, 33-month guys were gonna go back to the States for Christmas.

So the movie started again and in our tent we had kerosene lamps and me and another guy were only two there. Everybody left. And I thought well, it’s bad news, there’s nothing I can do about it, so in — the movie was “Arsenic and Old Lace.” I never seen it before and I’ve seen it, part of it since. And I just remember that guy charging up the stairs all the time or down the stairs, whichever, and so I remember that.

The next thing New Years rolled around and they gave everybody a case of beer. We had no way to cool it. Everybody got bombed out of their skull, including me. And we had a formation every morning 6:00 o’clock. In our platoon two guys were out, me and another guy. Next platoon had three or four and finally the skipper said, Get back to your tent area and boost your buddies out. We got — that’s the sorriest lookin’ formation I ever seen in the Marine Corps.

So we came out and then he read a list of what had happened. Guys were in the brig, guys were in the hospital. They took a mortar and almost hit a picket boat. They did everything. So right after that, we had Bob Hope come to Guam and skipper wouldn’t let us go. He said, You need training worse than you need entertaining. I always thought that was ’cause a lot of our guys got balls.

We had final inspection and colonel came up to me and if you can imagine, he had a handle — had a mustache and it was waxed-out points. He look — he’s a tough-lookin’ bird. And he sat there and they talked to you and he’s doing this to you (indicating). He said, Son, do those shoes fit? I said, Yes, sir. You sure those shoes fit? I said, Yes, sir. So we got off. I said that guy’s got a case on shoes for some reason. I don’t know what his — what his problem is.

Well, we soon, because I was a wisenheimer, I was always makin’ smart remark and I got every duty that there was out there. I was left to clean up the camp and the rumor had it we gonna get to ride to board ship to go on — as it turned out to be Iwo. It didn’t turn out. We had to catch up. We had to double-time to catch up with the rest that had marched across the island and we had to get there before it was dark because the Japs owned the darkness.

And we got over there and we were stopped by Seabee camp and theys guys knew how to live. They had wooden platforms in their tents, electric lights, all the perks of home and water coolers. I saw this water cooler over there. And this — I said the kid, I said — came by, I said, Go down fill my canteens; everybody had two. And the guy said to me, He’ll run off with your canteens. I said, No, he won’t ’cause I’m gonna run him down and get ’em. He brought ’em back. When he brought mine back, uh, everybody gave him canteens to fill ’cause we did not have like — we didn’t know what ice water was.

I’m smart enough to know you just wet your lips with ice water, as hot as it was. As soon as they guys got back, we moved forward, and we moved to an open field right opposite a Seabee camp. Well, this one guy who I later known — who I never knew was named Jobe out of the Bible. He puts his canteen up and drink this ice water and goes into shock and falls down. Corpsman recognized symptoms, came and shot him and he passed out.

But it was enough disturbance that the colonel came over and a Seabee commander and he said, Colonel, my cooks have volunteered — I know you guys are going off on a hard campaign and we volunteer to cook. And the colonel says, Marines always took care of theirself and I’m posting sentries. Nobody goes to the Seabee camp. We sat out in the field and ate K-rations and his cooks had volunteered to cook us a hot meal. That’s the way they ran things.

Of course, after dark we snuck over to movies anyway. And next day we shipped out. Well, we were kinda down because our platoon leader, Lt. Jones from Yorkville, Tennessee, he’s — his mother was only one I wrote to after the war and he was in Pearl Harbor with a hernia and he hitchhiked back. I’m on — like they had me doing, I had all the details.

I was on deck and I saw this Higgins boat, it was real hot and humid. We were ready to pull out for Iwo and I saw this Higgins boat coming out and it was Lieutenant. He had hitchhiked his way back and everybody’s morale was boosted. You know, your comfortable old shoes, he led ’em through Bougainville and Guam. And he — well, I — we were on a fire problem on Guam. I’d fire BAR clips and throw ’em away hopin’ we would get new ones. It was World War I — I was trying — end of day he came on — going back pickin’ ’em up and he say, You know, we can’t get new supplies. I thought a lot of that guy.

And we boarded ship, went up to Saipan and I got bombed up Saipan one time. It was a real interesting night ’cause I hadn’t had any mail. We had been on board ship for 38 days and I woke up at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. I heard this plane, so I went up there and looked out and tracers all over. It was a bad scene. Then we went up to Iwo and we went in, I think it was Day 4. The flag was up, both flags were up, and we — I had found that by taking my pack straps off and puttin’ across my larynx here, I could get out of this weight. And I had a 72-pound pack, two hand grenades, 340 rounds of ammunition. I had 240 BAR ammunition clips and two bandoleers and one — because the weapon was so heavy, we’d switch it off.

And we had rehearsals and we were in line to disembark and I had known — oh, I’m gettin’ ahead of my story. We had a three-dimensional mock-up on the fantail of the ship. They said this is a 72-hour operation. Well, I had known better when they said that ’cause I had gone with this special chow card, I had gone down and listened to radio room reports. And I — I knew they were calling for fire support. They were crying on the beach and they ran me out of there ’cause it was demoralizing to hear this. They were crying for fire support.

And waiting to disembark there was a battle ship came up alongside us and merchant vessel. They unloaded ammunition must have been a whole day. Then they pulled back off a slot and they fired broadside. That ship actually moved in the water and it — that is an awesome, awesome thing. And noticed this destroyer right at the base of Suribachi just throwing ’em in. I thought what guts, that guy has really got guts, but he’s puttin’ his whole ship at risk.

I saw another thing that struck me. Planes — planes were diving on the island all the time and I saw this one plane get off the black puff under the plane and he kinda waved his wings a little bit and there were ships everywhere. Had he abandoned his plane, he — probably is a good chance of hittin’ a ship. And I always felt like he rode it down, ’cause I kept saying, Come on, Guy, get out of there, and he never did. Came right down between two ships.

Well, we were ready — we were in line to disembark, but the night before, this Jobe who I alluded to earlier came to me and he says, Russ, you’re near Washington, D.C., aren’t you? I said yeah. He says, Why don’t you look my girl — fiancee up. I said, Why aren’t you gonna look her up? He says, I’m not coming out. I said, Look, I have no attachments. You at least got a fiancee. And I said, You’re — I’ll be the one to buy the farm. No, I’m not coming out. And I kept pushing his hand away and he had this address on it.

And ironically enough, later I got stationed at Marine Corps Headquarters. That’s where I ended my Marine Corps service, active duty. And so that was the night before. Well, next morning while we were in line, we had all this equipment on, of course. The corpsman up in front of me and, like I said, I was kinda lighthearted and I reached up and slapped him back of the — under the helmet and he turned around and punched the next guy right in the mouth. They had a heck of a fight. I said hey, hey. It made no difference, kept right at it.

Well, we get up to the landing. That guy standing there with a box of chewing gum, giving us chewing gum as we get down the net. If you ever get stressed, chewing gum is the way to go. I don’t know whatever happened to that chewing gum, I expect I swallowed it. But anyway, I started down the net and there was vertical chains and wooden slats. Well, three of those wooden slats broke going down that chain and I — when I hit — I grabbed on — I was holding on that chain when I — this boat was up and down like that (indicating).

When I hit, I hit with a thud and I thought, Man, I — this deal I had arranged to get out of that in a hurry would have been in good stead. We rode in boats, you know, you ride around in big circle in boats, then the beachmaster sends you in. When we came in, surf was so rough, we had to transfer from a landing boat personnel to a landing boat tank which had a gunnel about that much higher (indicating), and we fell into that. And they kept saying to me, Look at him, he’s gettin’ sea — everybody seasick but me.

And it would come up to these straps I had across my throat and I was swallowing. I said, No, I’m not sick; no, I’m not, I’m not sick. And they kept saying, He’s sick. They’re all sick. I’m the only one not sick riding around in this surf was rough. We hit the beach and I went there — that gangway went in there. I fell down on one knee. Lieutenant came up with the side of the foot, hit me in the butt said, What’s your problem? I said, Man, I’m sick. He said you gonna be a lot sicker if you don’t get off this beach, it’s hot.

Well, we pulled in and I’m little rusty on — this is not in chronological order. I went up and we — I don’t remember what we did, but we — there was somebody had dug some fox holes. So I dug a fox — I took the fox hole already been dug and this assistant BAR was over here and I was here (indicating) and I went to sleep. We supposed to be on fifteen minutes off, fifteen minutes on. I went to sleep slept all night. Next morning I had stones all over me. He wouldn’t get out of his hole, but he threw a stone. He was using some pretty strong adjectives, I can’t believe anybody — they shelled us all night long and I could hear you snoring all night long.

I said, Well, I was tired. He said, I don’t believe anybody could be that tired. I said I was tired. I slept through that first night’s shelling and it was awful. And I got up that next morning and they shelled us again and I looked over, I heard this sound and looked over and a dog handler had a Doberman with him and that fox hole was not deep enough. That Doberman was making that dirt fly. He was gettin’ in deeper. Here I am laughing and I said that dog’s not so dumb, he’s digging that hole.

So we went immediately up to the line and the guy who wanted me to take that paper was killed by sniper right off the get-go. He was killed. I’ve had to live with that for a long time. But honest, with God as my witness, I thought I was boosting his morale and I just thought if you — if you got a death thought, it doesn’t serve you. So we went on, we begin to move up and they begin to shell again.

So we took cover and it — it would — when they got quiet, it would get eery quiet. So much is made of war and movies and all but they don’t get in some of the things that actually happen like the smell of war, the smell of dying and burning flesh. And I — it got real quiet and I sensed something and I kicked my safety off and I looked up and here’s a sailor standing there and they had just been shelling minutes before. He had a dye — he didn’t have a white hat. He had a dyed blue hat, I had a finger on the trigger and it’s sensitive trigger. If he’s alive today, he’ll never know how close he was to be dispatched.

I said to him, Where the Sam Hill did you come from? He said, I was one of these rocket firing OSTs and I came ashore to get a souvenir. I said, Well, you almost bought the final souvenir, ’cause I almost shot that guy.

About that time, or — these were events that I can recall — a tank moved through our lines and I thought, Man, I should have been in tanks, they got a lot thicker exterior than I got in these dungarees and that tank hit something big. And it blew off the ground, both tracks blew off and the whole body of the tank probably blew two, three foot off the ground. And the turret went all up another 15 or 20 feet. And the guys legs was standing out there. And I remember that tank’s name to this day. It was Hell’s-A-Poppin; had it written on the turret, Hell’s-A-Poppin.

And so right after that, we moved up and I remember a machine gun opening up on me and I dove into a tank. There was a tank indentation in the sand and the guy in back of me landed with his helmet right in the middle of my back. Well, you can run a lot faster without a pack. I reached around on my knife and just cut my pack right off. Every time I’d get up, he’d open up with that machine gun. He had me right in his sight. They used smokeless powder. You couldn’t see where it was coming from. I knew it was in this direction.

And so I said to this guy, Hey, it’s gettin’ dark, we can’t be crawled out of here where we’re known to be after dark. We got — I said I spotted a hole and there’s pretty good- size shell hole up in front of me and I said — before I dove in this track, so I said, I’ll count three, you go, then I’ll count three more and then I’ll go. He said okay.

And all the time his — his helmet, edge of it was cuttin’ in my back. I thought what you gonna do. You under fire and the guy’s laying right on top of you. So he went and nothing happened. So I knew just exactly how far I had to go. And I dove. I was right in midair. I wasn’t even on the ground. And a sniper fired and I could feel that bullet go right across my — I could feel that bullet went — that’s how close he was to my — if I hadn’t been in midair, he’d have got me for sure. So when I got in that shell hole, he said did he getcha? And I tried to tell him a couple times, I just shook my head no.

And the next thing that I can remember, we — we had taken some casualties. Each time they shelled, they got some of us. We were right in the center of the lines and we entered that combat with between 240, 250 men. I never could get the exact figure down, but I remember the — the platoon sergeant saying we — we took a hill and we were out the furthest — Fifth Division was here, the Fourth Division was here and the Third Division, we were fresh troops. We punched a hole in this line and took the wrong hill. We were supposed to take, I don’t remember the name. I think it was 62 — 462 or something like that.

And you would wonder after all these years how I remember all this. I can remember these items but I can’t remember where I put my glasses or my hearing aid. And we took this hill and the gunny — our platoon — no, he was gunny sergeant then. He came — he said, Russ, you cover us, said because this hill’s too hot, it’s the wrong hill and they got Jones, they got the skipper. We gotta leave ’em. We’ll go back in the morning and get him.

And — so at one point in that campaign, I was the furthest out of anybody. I was up — he said, You cover us. When the last man comes out, he’ll tell you. Well, the last man says, I’m it. And he came by and, of course, it’s noisy. You have to use hand signals mostly. And so — and a artillery shell has a relatively looping trajectory whereas a mortar or bomb, they both sound like wherever you’re at, it’s coming right for you. It’s got your number on it, it’s what it sounds like.

And so when the last man came out, I gave him a few minutes to clear and I saw a knocked-out American tank there. They started running in mortars. So I started to run for that tank and I thought, no, I don’t want to do that. I might draw fire. I’m only one person. I don’t know whether they would waste a shell, but I ain’t gonna risk it.

I dove for a hole and it eased up and I started for another hole and they — it was too crowded and the guys in there said, Find another hole, it’s too many here, you’ll draw fire. Well, I started for this next 16-inch shell hole and a 16-inch shell, even in the sand, makes a considerable hole. It’s all these guys that I had just covered for were in this big hole and I heard incoming. I heard a mortar come in. So I dove back for this first hole and they put three in, bloop, bloop, bloop, just like that.

So when the third one — they had been running in series of threes, ’cause what they do, they fire one and correct on that and then they fired a second one and you better not be there when that third one came, ’cause it — so something wet hit me side the face and I looked and it was whole ear off a guy. It stuck to my face. And I disdainly chucked — threw it away and you know, in doing this, I — I didn’t have any emotion about it, you know, I should have had. And I said what’s wrong with me, I should show emotion and I’m not. I didn’t show emotion.

I went to that next hole and it — there was nothing in this hole bigger than your fist. There was probably 15, 16 men destroyed. Well, I ran past there and I fell to my knees and said the Lord’s prayer. I didn’t know what else. Then I was talking to a guy, I don’t know who the guy was and he had a word right on his lips and he put his hand up and felt little hole below his helmet. Sniper had gotten him, and his heart beat and blood would gush out. He just fell over.

Well, another guy came running up there and there was a little cut in that area and he stopped at the same spot where this other guy is and I tackled him just in time for that sniper to fire again or he’d have got him. And all I remember his — the whites of his eyes, scared the livin’ tar out of him. He was from Tampa. Name was Blacky. We called him Blacky. And he died of cancer in ’89. So I thought well, I bought him a few years. And he made the — he was able to make the full campaign.

So he — like I say, these events are not necessarily in order. I’m recalling and I saw a stretcher team. They — they were shelling us and we were scattered like chickens and it’s hard to maintain contact when you’re in an intense fire like that. And as I know today, as I found out when I went back in ’95, all these caves, you couldn’t see anything. They were all camouflaged, you couldn’t see anything. And we — we — I saw this stretcher team in trouble and they shoot one of the guys on the rear. So I ran over and gave him — and — I — as I did, another guy ran over and took — so there was two on the back, one on the front. And he was trying to get up the airfield (unintelligible).

We started across there and I kept telling him, Zigzag, don’t run straight, zigzag, because machine gun came right to my shoe top and I kept watching these bullets and he — he didn’t hit me. He didn’t hit me. I got over to the side and I was out of puff. We sat stretcher down but he got the guy on the stretcher, he chewed him up pretty bad. So the guy just cut off his dog tag and rolled the stretcher up and went on. And then I saw a guy — this femur bone, both ends sticking through the skin. He’s in state of shock, he didn’t know up from down. So I had — on each cartridge belt you had a little Band-Aid and sulfur powder, so I opened it and took that sulfur powder and sprinkled it on that bone.

I knew I didn’t stand a chance of — of bandaging it, so I took his rifle, took my belt and his belt and strapped it to make his leg rigid like that and then two guys go by my company, Armstrong who was sergeant. He was my squad sergeant and in a squad you had a squad sergeant, three-striper, you had a corporal who’s a fire team leader, BAR, automatic rifle, assistant BAR and rifleman. And you had it three times plus a scout in each squad.

So my sergeant went by and the procedure was when you ran into a pill box or armored cave, you would fire at the slit with a BAR. Somebody would run up with a flamethrower and shoot the box and then you’d go up and set a satchel charge and blow the box. And Armstrong’s flamethrower, shot the box. Armstrong went up there, he jumped off the box, he was on top of the box and he threw that satchel charge, jumped off right on a mine and he just — he had the dumbest look on his face. He just squatted down and died right there.

The only thing, I get vague on things after this, because something big hit and I was just about ear level because they had this mound of dirt in the airfield and I’m walking along there and the last thing that I remember is I wake up in a hospital, in a tent. I had no rifle, one dog tag was missing and it startled me, ’cause I figured I’ll be reported dead ’cause I had just seen a guy cut a dog tag off somebody day or so earlier, whenever. I had no rifle, no helmet, nothing. I’m settin’ in a hospital tent. I didn’t know anything. My mind was very sharp, really sharp.

My adrenaline was really flowing, but I couldn’t hear anything, my ears were whining and my — every time I leaned back, I tried to get sick to my stomach and pass out. So I had to set up straight. I don’t know how long — I remember seeing a Seabee grading — filling in the airfield for planes to land and he had a carbine set on the back of a bulldozer and I heard this crim — I heard a shot and this crimson red going on him. He took the rifle carbine off and bang, bang, bang, the nip planes all knocked out. They would push ’em off the airfield so somebody — a sniper crawled in. And this happened all the time at night, they’d crawl in there.

Speaking of night, that was the worst time because flares would go up; their flares, then our flares. And invariably somebody would be crying and you want to go to ’em and you knew it was — it was trying to draw you out. It was pretty hard to take. That was one of the worst moments. You had to listen to this cries of pain, guys wounded and you couldn’t go to ’em. You knew better than go to ’em. You knew if you knew exactly where to go, you’d have gone anyway. But you didn’t know where they were. And you just hear this.

And so — oh, I digressed on that bulldozer. That guy I said, You got a trip home. Sometime later he’s back all patched up, he’s going again. So next thing I remember is walking aboard a troop ship and some officer taking his shirt off. He had — a big guy, had a shirt like this (indicating), puttin’ it on me, ’cause I didn’t have anything else and it was raining a little bit. And he put it on me. Only washed it one time and it fit. It was a wool shirt. I never forget that.

And I’m a little vague on what happened in between. I think it’s like a surreal atmosphere. It’s happening but it really isn’t happening. It’s like a — then I got back on a ship and you hear a guy here and there crying a little bit and that’s when it got to me. Up until then I had — I had — I kept control all the time. I never lost control. And then I don’t remember — I remember getting back to Guam. I don’t remember the time. I don’t remember — just on a ship, hospital ship and this — we came in at night and they went around the next day. Okinawa casualties were startin’ to come in. They had invaded Okinawa. And casualties were flooding hospital facilities.

I had about a ten-week time to recoup and I had been back to duty. And I didn’t know, but both eardrums were ruptured and they pushed me back to Pearl Harbor. And then when Okinawa overflowed — casualties overflowed Pearl Harbor, they pushed me back to the States. So I got home. And I got back to the East Coast and I had never had any leave in three years. So they gave me 90 days leave. And so I come into — after my 30 — 90-day leave, I get into Philly and my mother — I’d lose anything there is, if it ain’t — when St. Peter calls the roll, I say I got another 30 years because I spent that much time lookin’ for things I lost. And so I had given her my papers. She had ’em home and I was supposed to report R and R in Philly and it was about the time Japanese surrendered and I come — come in on a train this way and a buddy comes in this way and he says, Where you going? I says, R and R. He says, Let’s go to New York. I said, I gotta report in. He says, Where your papers? I said, Don’t have it.

He says, Come on, let’s go to New York. We went on to New York, whooped it up for two, three days and the war didn’t end. So I got chicken and I took the train back to Philly and I reported in and the corporal says, Where’s your papers? I said my mother got ’em in the pocketbook and I came off without. He said, What’s your name? He went over, got clipboard, made a phone call to OD, came out and said you’re a prisoner at large. So that night the war ended and the barrack phone rang off the hook.

Parties in Philly inviting you, I couldn’t go anywhere. So I was there a couple days and he said commandant of the Marine Corps says, If you were on Iwo, you can go anywhere you want to go. So I — they had schools at Marine Corps Headquarters, so I remember telling that I’ll go down there and get my education. Oh, incidentally, I was selected for OCS and I was all stenciled up back — I was in Boston at this time and I was ready to go out and I was telling all the guys, You better shape up or ship out ’cause I’m coming back for duty here and I run a tight ship. And I was really pouring it on. And the gunny came running down said, Russ, you’re a high school graduate? I said no, I quit in the 11th grade. Oh, gotta pull your papers.

So I’ve often reflected back where I would have been. Officers had a high fatality rate on Iwo Jima. I had pictures to bring up here of a — our company commander was a private first class because he was the ranking person in the company. We went in with 240, 250 men and came out with 27; 17 of the original men, the rest were replacements. And for a period, we had this PFC and he was wounded in the head and in the shoulder and in the leg. We’ve tried for years — we still have little get-togethers. There’s only about 11 or 12 of us Iwo guys left and we’re assorted bag; one’s blind, I’m deaf.

We’re all messed up, but we still manage to meet once a year. This one guy I just got word at Christmas was PFC, senior PFC. We didn’t even have a corporal. And he should have got a medal but nobody of rank — only ones that could attest to it are the guys of lower rank and he never got his just reward. And Christmas I found out he’s got cancer. Last summer he got heart bypasses and all that mess. And the poor guy, it’s a miscarriage of justice. This guy deserve his reward and never got it.

Thomas J. Healy II:

Where is he from?

Vaughn Brown Russell:

He’s from Illinois right outside of St. Louis and he’s typical hero; very modest, very quiet. Sat in here, wouldn’t say a word unless you asked — he’d answer you but he’s very quiet, unassuming. And spent his life being a cement finisher. Went up to Alaska pipeline and worked on that. He’s good people. It’s a shame — name’s Ford. And he — it’s just a cross you gotta bear.

Here’s a guy that was a genuine hero, could have gone out — he had three wounds, he could have gone out on his own, there they was firing away. Got zilch, got three purple hearts. He’s gonna go to his grave without honorable mention. It’s a shame. I had a copy of my presidential citation and it’s only thing I got and it makes mention of the fact that we suffered 2,089 casualties out of 3,000 men, so testifies to the intense — it was men — it was men against metal is what it amounted to. And I’ve read about the Charge of the Light Brigade and others in the Civil War, that Civil War battle where 7,000 were killed in ten minutes. I know exactly where they were coming from. I know what it was about.

Because it just — I never saw a man take a backwards step. Such guts. Such guts. I’ve had people over the years — I went on the Border Patrol. I got shot at on the Border Patrol, so I been shot at in the States, but I’ve had people say, Weren’t you afraid? I said, Look, after Iwo Jima, what are you gonna be afraid of? And that’s always been a catch phrase of mine, what are you gonna be afraid of. I been afraid. So that’s my story, good, bad or indifferent.

Thomas J. Healy II:

Are you sticking to it?

Vaughn Brown Russell:

I’m sticking to it, yeah. I have left out things that I could have said, but that would give you an insight to what went on. And then, you know, time had no meaning up on that island. Minutes were hours, hours were days, days were weeks. It just — and you know, I can’t remember eating. I remember one time settin’ staring at a dead Japanese and maggots are all over him and I’m settin’ there eatin’.

And I had a K-ration and after — after the war, first thing I did, my dad was taking me to Gawacha, Florida. We waitin’ for a truck shipment of strawberries to Chicago. One of the old truckers said, If everybody chip in five dollars — I think it was a lot of money in those days — I’ll rent the boat, the fishing rods, and we’ll go fishing trip and we’ll the get the food. So there was about five or six of us. We get out on Tampa Bay. They had the beer and everyone drinking beer, you get that salt water, well, you gettin’ hungry. And I said, Hey, what did you get to eat? And this guy pulls out K-rations. I was about ready to throw him overboard. I said, Oh, I don’t believe this. I’m in the middle of Tampa Bay and he’s got K-rations. I don’t believe this. I said where did you — he was an old-timer — old-timer, he was a lot younger than I was. But anyway, he says, I went by Army Navy Store, they said they only gave the military the best. And so he bought ’em and we had K-rations and I didn’t eat nothing. I said get that mess away from me, I don’t want that. That’s just a little side note.

Thomas J. Healy II:

They say — what, that go on for 60 days? 72 days? How long did Iwo Jima go on?

Vaughn Brown Russell:

The initial landing was the 19th and March 16th was official end date.

Thomas J. Healy II:

You raised the flag on the 23rd?

Vaughn Brown Russell:

That was Thursday or Friday. I don’t remember which. So that would be, you see, Monday, 19, 20, 21, 22. Must have been Friday the 23rd. Because I remember seeing — and the ships were all blowing their horns, everybody was excited and you could just see something up there. I couldn’t make it out as American flag. Of course, I was still on ship. And they put the bigger flag up, then you could make it out pretty much what —

Thomas J. Healy II:

You know what the story is between the little flag and the big flag?

Vaughn Brown Russell:

Oh, yeah, Harry the Horse — I forget his name. That was his nickname. He was lieutenant colonel, gave a little flag to go up there. And the ships said we want that flag. He said they ain’t gettin’ that flag, that’s my flag.

Thomas J. Healy II:

No. Apparently the Secretary of the Navy — Secretary of the Navy —

Vaughn Brown Russell:

Yeah, he was there. Forrestal.

Thomas J. Healy II:

Yeah. And they came and told the colonel, they said — they said, The Secretary of the Navy wants that flag.

Vaughn Brown Russell:

He said —

Thomas J. Healy II:

What the story was, he says, Not when you get up there, if you get up there.

Vaughn Brown Russell:

And so they went over to LST and got a larger flag. And that was the one that was sent —

Thomas J. Healy II:

He told him, he said, Don’t take it because, apparently, I guess they were watching the whole thing. Colonel said now, don’t take the other one down till you get the other one up.

Vaughn Brown Russell:

Yeah. That was a photographer, Marine Corps sergeant who was later killed in the campaign and he was newsreel photographer. He got newsreel filmage of the exact photograph of Joe Rosenthal and in sequence. And it laid dormant for years because all the acclaim was given to this one picture, so his film, it just — it just drug out of the archives a few years back.

Oh, I meant to tell you this little story about on Guam. Our regiment, let’s see, the Third Marines landed here, 21st Marines and Light. And we only lost about two or three guys on Guam. We had a few wounded, but whereas the First Brigade ran it over here and they took the whole Guam Marine Corps barracks. And the first flag that was flown was the original flag.

The Japanese had made it into a pillow, and they carefully unstitched it and flew it — it was the first flag we raised on a fight. When I went back to Guam, one of these park rangers, a young woman, was telling — I said, I’ll give you one, I said what happened to the Marine Corps barracks flag? She says, I haven’t heard that one. So I told her this story. I said I would strongly suspect it’s in the archives at Quantico or at Marine Corps Headquarters someplace. I said it was carefully unstitched. It was worn, dirty, it — that was the first flag that was reflown on Guam. So I gave you my best shot, I don’t know.

Thomas J. Healy II:

How did you get in the Border Patrol?

Vaughn Brown Russell:

Well, I came out and it — my father was a strong figure and I was — every day the guys are all gettin’ home. We’d meet at the local pub and beer was in bottles. We’d take — ease the label off, lay it on our pocketbook and throw it up to the ceiling and waitress couldn’t figure it out. There was a little alcove there. She couldn’t see. We’d spot a lookout down there, say here she comes, and she couldn’t see it and we quit. It was tall ceiling and all these labels gettin’ on the ceiling and she couldn’t figure it out how.

We meet there every day and one day a hand grenade came rolling in the front door, rolling in and, man, I dove behind the bar. This one guy who jumped on paratroopers ran out the back door, they got him stopped about half a block away. And it — it didn’t explode. I waited and waited. I said, This is gonna explode. Now, I went over there and it was a cigarette lighter.

Who argues with a hand grenade? So if I had found that, I would have beat somebody’s hide over that. But I threw that cigarette lighter out there. The cigarette lighter got tore up because I threw it just as hard as I could. And my dad said to me, I heard today — now, I had been home five or six months. I hadn’t done anything. Drink. He came to me, he says, I want to tell you something, young man, they told me today at ten o’clock you were half drunk. He said now, I want to tell you something, other men went to war, they saw a lot more than you did, stayed a lot longer and said they’ve come home, picked up their lives and are going on.

He said, Now, you get a job and straighten up or get out. It was pretty hard words. Went right out and got a job and picked up and went on. But I always had the feeling I had survivor’s guilt. I didn’t know what it was. Survivor’s guilt. And I couldn’t understand so much better men than me were killed and would have — who knows, maybe the guy that cured cancer would have been and I just couldn’t get it out of my — it took me about five years to shake things out.

In the meantime, I’m in the Reserve for four years. About the time I got straightened out, I joined the Border Patrol and they went down there and says — they greeted us, You 72 men represent over 5,000 that took the exam. And he goes on and on. And my wife, I came — I took a leave of absence came down. My wife was a widow of a B-17 pilot who crashed, of course. And I met her and we got married and then I got motivated for school. Then I went to New Mexico State College. I went to Wesley. I went to — I graduated from ICS, NRI, went to night school at the University of Pennsylvania.

I’ve got enough college time to have a doctorate if I had stayed in one direction. But I had electronics and chemistry. So I ended up working at Getty Oil. Ended there as a ship foreman. And then came back to Seafort after living in Newcastle for 20 years and became a — had my own auto parts.

My hearing begin to go about — since ’59 I’ve had to wear hearing aids but this ear is gone completely (indicating). And now, 25th of January of last year I went to bed normal, got up 26th, I couldn’t even carry on a conversation, my hearing had gone so bad. I’ve had to pay a price for all that.

And I wrote a letter to — I alluded to earlier, Lt. Jones’ mother. She had a letter in the “Leatherneck,” and it says, Anyone who knew my son. And I thought like I owed him that much. And I wrote her and the gist of the message was, he died without pain, ’cause a sniper got him right under the helmet and it was instant death. And he was a big guy too. And he — I said I just told her — she wrote back and she signed it, “A brokenhearted mother,” and said, I’ve heard from some of his officer friends and men of the outfit what says you were closer to him than anyone I know and said I feel at rest now because you were there, you seen it and there wasn’t any suffering. I said there definitely was no suffering. I didn’t tell her we had to go back and get him the next day.

Thomas J. Healy II:

Do you still have the letter?

Vaughn Brown Russell:


Thomas J. Healy II:

Do you still have the letter?

Vaughn Brown Russell:

Yeah, I still have the letter. And I never — I — when I was on the Border Patrol, I get time off and you wouldn’t be surprised how I come home in a few days back in — I spent the whole time riding. I went through Tennessee midnight within 30 miles of York — Yorktown — Yorkville, Yorktown, Yorkville, I think it was. It was named after Alvin York, I think he was from there. And I didn’t stop. And that’s when — and her other son was a legislator in the legislature of Tennessee and somehow he got wind that I had written his mother and he was gonna get in touch with me and the guy said you ought to get in touch with him.

Well, as it turned out, he got Alzheimer’s and I never made — so I never made the contact. But I still remember the last — first letter I wrote home. I wrote home when I was — whenever, I don’t know, probably on Guam. I said, Mom, I’m alive and well, in one piece for one reason and one reason only, the will and grace of God. She died at the age of 99 in 2000. She got to live in two centuries and she’s — there were things — I never found it.

I’m sure she got that letter around there someplace. I’d like to have had it back but I still know what it said. You know, we get to San Francisco to receiving hospital and they said now, we’re gonna stop the bus, nobody — they had all these phones in a circle, back-to-back telephones all around this circle, no one is to call home until muster is held. And as soon as that bus door was open I was the first one at the — at the phone and I called home and I called, Mom, I’m back in the States. She started crying. I said to her, Look, if you don’t quit crying, I’m gonna hang up. But she bawled.

Thomas J. Healy II:

Where was — that was at Presidio, was the hospital?

Vaughn Brown Russell:

I —

Thomas J. Healy II:

Or was it over at Fort Baker?

Vaughn Brown Russell:

I have no idea. That’s another story: While in Boston, I was armed escort to — we had two freight cars and a canvas that high (indicating) and we took ’em from Boston to Port Chicago. And I was only there relatively short time before that place blew up. It blew up and we had these cars and I had submachine gun and any time the train stopped, we —

Thomas J. Healy II:

Where was Port Chicago, in Texas?

Vaughn Brown Russell:

No, it’s around San Francisco someplace.

Thomas J. Healy II:

Oh, okay.

Vaughn Brown Russell:

And we took — every time you’d change railroads, you’d get a new caboose, you would have to load all this stuff out. We would ride mostly at night. When we got out west, it was single track and on the daytime you pull on the side, would be standing on it, so you would be standing there guarding your car. We get to Salt Lake City, lieutenant was from Salt Lake City. We had lieutenant, corporal, three PFCs guarding this. This is the guard detail. One guy would ride up in front in the — in the engine and this lieutenant got — we got to Salt Lake City and he said, Man, I wish I could stay here a few days.

This corporal said, You want to stay here a few days? Now, they told us these cars would blow a hole city block square. This was the potential. And he took the packing. You know, a railroad that flap up, they got cotton packing in there and there’s oil that oil the hub. He took all that packing out there. We hadn’t even got out of the yard before flames and it was coming — we had flames going up city block. It was coming up the side and it was stopped and because it was priority cargo, they didn’t shift it to another car. Wouldn’t let ’em touch that car. They had to put a new dolly. Had to put a big wrecker, pull that car up, put new wheels on it.

So we got another three, four days in Salt Lake City. While we got there this lieutenant — I never heard, but I — I — for sure, but I heard he had been killed overseas. Officers had a high fatality rate. We didn’t end up with any officers in our company. They had — they’d send up a replacement lieutenant and he wouldn’t make the day out. Somebody would have it — anybody that looked like they was — were in authority, bang, they was gone.

And so they — and I — one time in Boston I fell out for guard mount. And I had this submachine gun and this lieutenant said — he pulled it, grabbed it, said, You didn’t clean this weapon. I said, Beg pardon, sir, I did. He says, You didn’t. I say, Beg pardon, I did. He said, See me after guard mount. He said, Open the weapon. I opened the ejector, had little strand from a patch, little strand of string. What’s that? That’s clean? Well, I ran it pass — you run a pass through it. Sergeant — not first sergeant, company commander, he says, You know, you were at the point of being insubordinate. I said, I did not mean to be sir, I felt like I did clean it. You didn’t clean it. I said yes, in strictest terms, I did. He says, Well, I’m busting you to private and you got 76 hours extra police duty.

So I reported in to the first sergeant and he says you — that guy blankety blank, if you do all the windows in the barracks, I’ll mark that 72 hours off the books. So I had a four-story barracks that had been the British. It was one, two, three — yeah, it was four stories. And it was — I had to hang out the window and wash all those windows and I did ’em all. Some of them were on — had a deck on this side, you could get ’em easy, but the north side, I had to hang out the window to do it.

And so it had been a — so I went out on liberty and I’m in a bar and this guy was settin’ here sideways, been a professional middleweight fighter. And I knew him, he’s a buck sergeant. I’m settin’ aside him and a arm came around and it’s this lieutenant, drunk as a skunk. And he said, Russ, you know I had to run you up. And I can’t quote what this sergeant said. They were kibbutzing back and forth. And I said I knew this bar was the wrong bar, have a little alley in back. And I said why don’t you two go out in the alley and settle this, nobody will be around. I said okay.

So lieutenant gave me his hat to hold and officer had a cross woven on his hat. That dated back to Revolutionary War when the officers had it on their hat so snipers in the rigging wouldn’t get the officers. They care about listening to officer. So I go out back and I knew this guy had been a professional fighter. And he says, He hit that lieutenant. Lieutenant was a lot bigger than they was but he was drunk and down he went. Well, he say, Come on, let’s go. I said, No, I ain’t gonna beat him like that. I went in, got paper towel, wet it, his eye was bleeding. So I said, Come on, I’ll get you a cab. Well, he couldn’t get up. He’s on the ground. Well, I got him in a fireman’s carry and I walked down the alley and hailed a cab and the cab just shaking his head. I get him in the cab and put him in the cab and I stopped by ?wake tower?, put a cup coffee in him. Took him down to the officer’s gate. I didn’t hear nothing from him.

There had been a fight over Navy PX. They said somebody — no Marines in the Navy PX. Lights went out, everybody was hungry, I went over to get coffee and these little turnover — apple turnovers and all that, cherry turnovers, and I had two bags of them and I’m coming back, run right smack into this lieutenant again. He’s — he says to me, he says, Come here. He took me back says, What’s that sign on that door say? So I read it, “No Marines Allowed in the PX.” Oh, you can read, can you? I’m thinking, Pal, next time, you stay in the alley. I’ll leave you in the alley next time. Then he said, Oh, he said just a good thing I caught you and don’t go over there no more. And by the way, thanks for the other night. I didn’t even think he remembered what he did. And the poor guy went over Saipan, got killed. So I got a lot of stories like that and things that I’ve —

Thomas J. Healy II:

Tell me, what would you tell — what would you tell if you had a message for other — for generations to come about World War II, what would you say?

Vaughn Brown Russell:

What would I say, in a few words, well, from my own perspective, I grew up in the Marine Corps. I was a happy-go-lucky kid and I easily would have made the Marine Corps my — I would have stayed there. My intent was to get out and get my commission and go back. I didn’t want to go back as enlisted man. And I would just say that no matter what your situation, it will work out.

No matter what your given situation, it will work out and how do I know, because it always has for me. And there are times when you don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, when you say it’s an impossible situation. But I’m living proof. I went through hell of the worst sort and even when I went back in ’95, the sulfur plumes are still coming up and I thought, I said every picture ever painted of hell was sulfur. I said they got it all. They had it all.

It was — and when I went back this time and looked in those caves and I went down in ?Kurabachi’s? cave and thought well, they had us under their gun sight every — at the time I thought they were whoop — they were foreign. I was blaming the other divisions for firing on us. Wasn’t them at all. It was Japanese crawling underground, coming back to positions we had already knocked out, coming back and firing from the rear.

You never knew where the fire was coming from. I didn’t mean to — I’m digressing. Whatever your situation, World War II was a bad war and the only difference from one war to another is the weaponry. The horror — stark horror and all stays the same. The bloodshed stays the same, the weaponry changes. Now, so war is — is mankind at his very worst and we were fortunate in World War II that the politicians allowed us to win the war and they messed up the peace.

But war, since the UN got involved, has saw the politicians mess up the war and the peace with few exceptions. The politicians get in the way and micromanage the war and we end up with a thing like Vietnam. I had my nephew came, Uncle Vaughn, you were in the Marines, I’d like to join the Marines, about ’69. I said, Jack, I’d love for you to join the Marines but you asked me and I’m gonna tell you, this war is a no-win war. There are no defined goals. My advice to you, you’ve studied electronics, go in the Navy and get your schooling. So that’s what he did. And I’ve never regretted that.

My son was settin’ at the table for Thanksgiving and he was crying and moaning about he had to go back to Fort Campbell, Kentucky and it was Thanksgiving. His girl was there. And I said, I want to tell you something, Mister, at this table you don’t say that. I said, You took the easy way out. You didn’t go to Canada but you joined the National Guard and gotta put in a year duty and you’re back home. There’s many a boy in Vietnam would love to be home, but he can’t be home. You’re home. Don’t you ever at this table ever say that again. And my inlaws were there and my wife said, Oh, you really upset mom. I said well — mom and dad, I said, Well, I’m sorry I upset ’em, but he had to be told and I told him. So —

Thomas J. Healy II:

Well, good job.

Vaughn Brown Russell:

I was blessed with a good memory and a good memory stands in good stead sometimes and sometimes it doesn’t because I have to live with this garbage in my head. And sometimes it gets hard to live with. But I can look in the mirror and said I did my thing. I did it. And I never took a backwards step, I never saw anyone that did. So I guess I had something going for me.

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