Sunday, May 3, 2009

Ten Weird, But True Facts About Myself

1) I spent first seven years of my life, 1953 to 1960, in Alaska. I DID NOT LIVE IN AN IGLOO. My Dad was in the USAF. During those seven years, I saw a lot of snow, was on a local kiddie show, and saw President Eisenhower (from a distance).

2) During the next ten years, my brother and I would be enrolled in about six different schools. Dad was still in USAF and we were always on the move. Never in one place more than two years. One of those moves took the entire family to Tehran, Iran. This was from 1966 to 1968 when the Shah was still in power and (supposedly) still loved by the masses.

3) Whether because of all these moves or my own laziness, my school grades suffered. I was a poor student. I had to take summer school in order to get my high school diploma. I did not graduate with my class.

4) In 1972, against the advice of my Dad and Uncle Roy, I joined US NAVY. They both wanted me to join the Air Farce, but I said screw that. I always had a fascination for the sea and I had read a lot of swashbuckling stories of adventure on the high seas. That was for me.

5) It was in the Navy that I learned the facts of life. I was a Mid-western boy on my own and was quick to fall to the temptations of sex, drugs, and rock n' roll. I spent 30 days in the brig for possession of Mary Jane.

6) It was while I was in the Navy and aboard the USS OKLAHOMA CITY CLG-5, that I experienced my only brush with the war in Vietnam. It was April 1975. I was 22 years old. Our ship was part of huge armada sent offshore to rescue evacuees from Saigon. My brother was a Marine aboard another ship in the armada. What I witnessed of the 'bug-out from Saigon' was dozens upon dozens of helicopters, mostly private, landing aboard various ships of the fleet and unloading refugees. Our own ship took on a couple hundred people. Most were South Vietnamese, plus a few white men from Embassy, maybe CIA?

After the refugees unloaded, the helicopters were pushed off the ship to land in the drink. These were all privately owned helos and they could not go back to Saigon. No room to store non-military craft, so off the ship they went with a SPLASH! I saw a helo hover not one hundred yards from our ship, then drop as the engine was shut off. A motor whaleboat was sent to pick up pilot. Later I exchanged a dollar bill for some VC currency.

7) I could write a whole volume on my service in Dick Nixon's Navy, but suffice to say, I wasted the three years I served. I was too busy getting laid, stoned, or whatever to care about any Naval future. Other than the debauchery I subjected myself to, I enjoyed life on the high seas. I did get seasick once going through the Taiwan Straits during a typhoon-hell everyone was sick. During my tenure, I got to man the helm up on the bridge, stand lookout with binoculars and sound powered phones, got to swab the decks, polish brass, and paint the bulkheads. I was honorably discharged with a pay grade no higher than E-3 or a PFC.

8) After I returned to 'the world', in 1976, I went to a community college by using my G.I. Bill money. Soon I met a pretty young girl who worked at the local hospital and within a year she had me going to church, where I cleansed myself of my past sins and we soon married.

9) While going to college, I took a class in Civil War History. I was unfamiliar with all the battles, but became fascinated with the instructor. Spellbound by his lectures, I resolved to learn about the war in more detail. During my research, I discovered an ancestor who'd fought on the side of the Union. It was about the same time I discovered reenacting.

10) In 1980, I attended my first Civil War reenactment. It was a farb fest, but I thought it fascinating. Over the last 27 years, I met many great people. I'm proud to have developed lasting friendships. I can share feelings, fears, and frustrations with these guys than I can my own blood family. I understand how a bond can be formed because of soldiering even we don't spill each other's blood as the real combat soldiers did.

Adventures of a Young Sailor In Dick Nixon’s Navy

I served aboard the USS Oklahoma City, CLG-5 from Sept 1973 to Sept 1975. The Okie City had a 5 inch gun turret, a 6 inch gun turret, and a TALOS missile system which was situated aft of the ship (for you landlubber's aft mean rear). The two turrets were forward under the bridge (look at picture in my profile).

We were also the flagship of the seventh fleet. We had a rear admiral. He had his own boat called the Admiral's Barge and the Captain of the ship had the Captain's Gig. Go figure.

Since we had the admiral, we traveled quite a bit. In the two years I was aboard, we visited the Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, and Guam. Our homeport (where we spent most of our days) was Yokosuka, Japan.

Twice while in Yokosuka, the ship was in dry dock. Technically, the ship sets on blocks and the water is all pumped out. Always amazed that it didn't tip over. Once water is out, Japanese workers run all up and down doing maintenance work. Good thing they didn't hold a grudge. I guess after WWII, they needed all the work they could get. I'll wager some of these workers were old vets themselves. Anyway, no sabotage.

I served under two skippers. First was William A. Kannakaneu, a Hawaiian dude. He was pretty laid back and didn't work us too hard. I think he was skipper during Vietnam and was pretty tired, because in 1974, we got a new skipper, Paul D. Butcher.

It wasn't long before the new skipper earned the nickname, GQ Butcher.

He liked pulling General Quarters Drills and at all hours. Sometimes at night! He even timed us!

All stations had to be manned and ready within a certain time or he'd throw a fit and make us do it again.

By this time Vietnam was over (or so we thought). It had ended April 1973.

Anyway, my GQ station varied.

Sometimes I would serve in the powder magazine. This was an area about five decks below the turret.

About a dozen guys would manhandle fifty-pound canisters of black powder from one area to a pneumatic hoist. The hoist would take the canisters up five decks.

Another time I worked in the shell deck. This was where the shells were stored. Six guys in a round room would manhandle fifty-pound shells to another hoist. This area was a deck above the powder magazine. Watertight doors could seal off these areas from each other.

Sometimes I served on the bridge, either as a helmsman, operating the engine order telegraph, or as a lookout with binoculars and sound powered phones.

A lookout had to be alert, sweep the whole area assigned him, and if a ship spotted, he had to sound off in the phones to the bridge where it was spotted. The lookout had to know that a circle was 360 degrees and any object in the circle was plotted at being so many degrees port or starboard.

For example, if a ship were spotted in the three o'clock position, you'd say that it was at 045 degrees off the starboard side, or some such nonsense. I think you catch my drift.

Despite all the GQ drills, live on the sea was fun.

Earlier, I said we had the admiral.

Well, he liked showing the flag at different ports.

Of all the places we visited, the sailor's favorite was Olongapo City, Philippines inside Subic Bay. Just outside main gate was a living and breathing Sin City filled with many vices to tempt a young serviceman and his wallet. Problem with Philippines was there was a curfew. Had to off streets by midnight. Filipino army was on the streets at 12:01. Made the mistake once in being out past midnight in Manila. Two Filipino soldiers pulled up in an army jeep. Both were strapped with sidearms. A 50 caliber machine gun was mounted on the jeep. Looked right out of Rat Patrol, but these boys weren't grinning. However, they would accept a bribe. My buddy and I had a couple B girls with us. The girls and the soldiers jipper jappered in that monkey language for a few minutes, then the girls gave the two soldiers about $100 US dollars to look the other way. We all could've ended up in a nasty Filipino jail cell that night, but greed won out.

Twice we sailed into Hong Kong. It was quite the modern city. I took a tour with a few guys on a bus that went all around the island. We took a boat across the bay and had lunch in a floating restuarant. It was my first taste with Mongolian BBQ. I fell in love with Oriental cooking and learned to use chopsticks with some dexterity. In Hong Kong there are dozens of tailor shops. I had a pair of bell bottom pants, a silk shirt, and a pair of snake skin boots made. That's right! Snake skin boots. I had seen a pair worn by a member of Three Dog Night and I wanted a pair. They were the size of Beatle boots, just barely went up to mid calf. They had a zipper on the side and 4 inch platform heels. I don't recall the price, but probably half a paycheck. I was looking sweet! I knew one guy that had a pair of blue suede shoes made and another guy who got a leather motor cycle jacket. By some twist of fate, I now own that biker jacket.

Hong Kong was also were guys could buy heroin. I never did any of that crap, but knew a couple of guys who O.D. 'd on board the ship because they were using H.

We had a lot of drugs pass through the ship. Heroin, pot, LSD,coke, and speed. We had an officer, a LTJG, who was busted for having grass in his overnight bag. Instead of jail time, I think he was asked to resign from the Navy. I was caught with a gram of hashish in my possession and I served 30 days in the ship's brig. But that is for a later tale.

I told you that our ship's homeport was Yokosuka, Japan. Homeport means were the ship spent most of its time. Some guys had bought homes and apartments in Japan. A buddy and I had an apartment for a few months. It was best discribed as a flophouse. Only one room, no furniture. It was a place to crash after an all night binge. To heat the place in winter we had a kerosene heater. Stinky!

Outside the main gate at Yokosuka Naval Station, and up a block or two, was the Strip. There were about two dozen bars that catered to sailors and Marines. It was similar to Strip outside base in Olongapo City, Philippines except no midnight curfew. One of the fav bars was called the ZIGZAG after the reefer paper. Rock and roll music played in most of these bars. In Olongapo City, there were live bands. These were Filipinos who played American Music. Some of these Filipino bands adopted a particular band and music to showcase. What today we call a cover band. One band would play nothing but Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple music all night. Smoke On the Water was played so often by so many Oriental bands, I grew to hate that song. One Filipino bar had a lady that sang like Janis Joplin and another group of Flips that played Alice Cooper music-I kid you not!

Back to Japan. Sometimes a few of us would take the Japanese light rail into Tokyo were we'd look at a few bars or just cruise. They had a McDonald's and a couple other American eatery's in Tokyo. This was '73-'74. There was also a lot of Picinkco machines. This were silly little silver marble machines that played like a slot machine. Hundreds of them. In Japan I discovered the first video game, PONG.

Sometimes a buddy and I would go to a rock concert in Tokyo, then stay in a fancy hotel for the night. In Tokyo I saw Three Dog Night, Eric Clapton, and Rod Stewart.

A favorite night club in Tokyo was called Moogans. It had an upper and lower floor. On the upper floor you could look down on the dancers. They also played live music. One band I saw a couple times was Edwin Starr. This was the guy who did "War, what is it good for, absolutely nothing." Saw him a couple times at Moogans. Saw the Exorcist in Tokyo. In was in English with Japanese subtitles. I remember a friend was grosses out and wanted to leave. I just laughted through most of the flick. A lot of Japs left the theatre at same time as my buddy.

On the Yokosuka Naval Station there was the usual on base entertainments, a bowling alley, a gym, a library, a PX, a cafeteria/snack bar, and a movie theatre. Used to smuggle Sloe Gin into movie house then mix with soda pop. Another time about six of us had just smoked some Thai stick Mary Jane. After that we all went into movie house to see Blazing Saddles. Needeless to say, we all laughed till we either cried or pissed ourselves or both.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Lincoln soldiers enter Missouri town and abuse citizens-an after action report

From the journal of the 14th Kansas Enrolled Militia
April 5

It was a crisp and windy early spring day. Our detachment had been sent into Clay County, Missouri to confirm an illegal and unlawful assembly in the township of Shoal Creek. It was rumored that a group of pro-southern agitators was stirring up the populace with anti-government speeches.
Upon entering the town, we found a crowd of old men, women, and children assembled near the square. The people seemed spellbound or perhaps hypnotized by the sharp serpent's tongues of three overly dressed and red-faced gentlemen. It seems the men took turns speaking to the crowd. As soon as one fellow got out of breath, another agitator would jump in and continue the sermon.
Upon seeing our arrival, the pro-southern agitators got even more excited, waving their arms like pinwheels and shouted for the crowd to resist the Northern invasion. After so much preaching, the crowd had a glazed look in their eyes, as if they'd been sniffing paint fumes too long.
"Beware the devils in blue uniform," one fat-faced agitator spat," the vile damn Kansans will burn your homes, ravage your women, and eat your children." The spittle flew from his lips like morning rain.
Our captain, a veteran of war with Mexico and with the Plains Indian, calmly announced that the assembly was illegal and must be disbanded at once. He warned that arrest was the alternative.
Someone in the crowd shouted some nonsense about the Constitution and freedom of speech and some other silliness, but our captain would have no room for debate.
At a command, our company fixed bayonets and stepped forward.
As expected, the townspeople scattered like frightened sheep. In the confusion, a few citizens suffered some bruising and broken bones. Women fainted and children bawled. But not one Federal soldier was molested.
The three agitators were arrested and thrown into the local jail and the town was placed under martial law.
Within the hour, another detachment of Kansas militia came in and between the two of us, we had the town pretty well bottled up. No one could leave or enter the town except with a written pass.
All roads were guarded and anyone traveling was subject to having their belongings searched.
A few of the more foolhardy tried to sneak out of town by taking to the woods. These Rebel sympathizers were hunted down and were given a rough treatment when our boys found them.
Later in the day, some guerrillas attempted to bushwhack our boys that were gathered at the mill.
A skirmish line was thrown out and a brisk gun battle went on for a brief time. One or two of our boys were mortally wounded and some others suffered broken bones as the result of pistol balls. The guerrillas tried to drive us out of town but we were too well armed and all good shots. That evening we could hear the wild hogs having supper. Pity the poor lad who met an untimely fate all because he fell under the spell of anti-Lincoln gibberish.
I must end this page of my journal because it's my turn to interrogate the wounded prisoner.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


From 1966 to 1968, my family and I spent two years living in Tehran, Iran. How did this come about you ask?
My father was in the US Air Force and as a result we rarely stayed in one place more than two years. I attended eight different schools from K-12
My brother Bill and I were both born in Anchorage, Alaska. Another brother, Mark, was born at Scott Air Force Base, near Belleville, Illinois.
Growing up in a military family, my father was rarely at home. Either on base working late or on temporary detached duty (TDY) in some remote part of the world. He was in Pakistan for about two years.
When Dad came back it was to take us to Maryland where we spent the better part of another two years. In the summer of 1966, he announced that he'd been ordered to go to Iran and that he wanted to take all of us.
At the time of this move, I was 13, my brother Bill was 11, and Mark was 4.

We all had to get passports, then after that we flew out of JFK to London, spent one night here, flew in Germany, then caught a plane to Tehran, Iran.
Our first month in Tehran was spent in a hotel while Dad arranged a house for us. I remember we all had the runs from drinking the water.

After a month, we moved into the local neighborhood. There was no 'on base housing' because there was no US Military Base. I think the US military, at this time, was in cooperation with the Iranian military. There was some US facilities for us to visit, like the PX, the Enlisted Men's Club, and of course the American Embassy. I don't recall much about the embassy.
Inside the Enlisted Men's Club, there was a four star restaurant, a casual diner, a barbershop, a bookstore, a bowling alley, a bar, and a movie cinema. Might have been more business's, but these are all I recall.

Our home was in the local neighborhood. Dad had a jeep that we all rode in. Our home was concrete and surrounded by a concrete wall on all sides (walls were thick enough to stop an RPG round I'd wager). Plus our home had a swimming pool. All the US military people lived in the same type homes, but we were the only US family living in this neighborhood. The nearest other white people were about a mile away. It was while living in Iran that sister Carolyn was born. She arrived in October 1966, just a few months after moving into our home.

So we lived with the ragheads and even made friends with a couple young boys. On occasion, my brother and I would walk up to the corner grocery store (about a quarter mile away) and buy soda pop or flat bread. Sometimes we'd play ball in a nearby sandlot or shoot pellet guns at birds or tin cans

I remember Iran as being dry, dirty, and looking like a desert. Only the wealthy lived in garden spots. This was the time of the Shah and his coronation on the peacock throne. Everyone loved the Shah, or so I thought.
There was a drainage ditch that lines both sides of the dirt road. The ditch is usually filled with running water flowing from somewhere. Not uncommon to see the ragheads wash their clothes, bath, and defecate in the same ditch water.
While most Americans living here were with the military, some worked for the oil company. Most brought their kids and the kids began attending the Tehran American School, or TAS for short.

TAS offered education for American kids from grades K-12.
I still have my 1968 yearbook from TAS.
To get to school, one had to take the bus. Ragheads were hired by the school to drive kids to and from school every day. The buses drove through the heart of the city and I think it took us about a half-hour to get to school.

The bus drivers were ragheads, as were the school custodians.
We even had a raghead woman working in our home as a maid or 'bodgee'. I don't know what her real name was, but we called her Mary. She came in every morning and cooked and cleaned for a meager wage. All the American people had a 'bodgee'.

The women who came to work for the Americans were pretty hard looking
characters. Under all those black shawls, it was hard to tell how old they were. They could have been twenty or seventy. They all looked about the same. One step above the poor house. They were happy to get the work and the few dollars that came their way. The alternative would be to beg in the streets. I saw a lot of beggars. My brother Bill and I took a garden hose to one who came scratching at our back gate.

There was the Rod and Gun Club that Dad took us to. It might have been near the EM club. Once Dad took Bill and I wild boar hunting with a couple of his Air Force buddies. We spent a weekend and we fished a little and Dad and his buddies fired their M-1 Garand's. But they did not bring down any wild boars.

Near the Rod and Club club was a paperback book swap store here and it was here in Iran that I picked up book reading. With very little in the way of amusements in Iran, I buried myself in books; mostly true life WWII stories. Favorite was the air war series by Martin Caiden and those published by Ballantine Books that I bought from a catalog. I was even reading WWII stuff from the school library. At this time I wasn't interested or aware of Civil War.

Sometimes there'd be parties. Other Air Force people would have a shindig at their house or we'd have one at ours. A lot of drinking and socializing went on. Of course all the kids would get together and amuse themselves some how while the parents got corned. If the weather was nice (it was usually hot all the time) we'd all go swimming in someone's backyard pool.

There was TV, but it only had one channel. The AFRTS, Armed Forces Radio and Television Service, played old shows and old movies. The popular stuff of the day like Batman or Star Trek, we could not get. We could get some syndicated radio shows, but nothing great. One TAS student aired a one-hour rock and roll show. He spun pop records that were hip but not too far out or anti-social. For example, Jan and Dean, the Beach Boys, Herman's Hermits, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, etc. were thought of as 'safe music'. I think AFRTS had its thumb on his play list. The radio mostly featured mellow music or country. Rock and roll was mostly taboo.
This is about all I have to post at this time on life in Iran.

In the summer of 1968, we returned to the USA, Dad retired from the US Air Force, our family settled down in Sedalia, Missouri, I finished High School, my parents divorced, I joined the USNavy in 1972, came home and in 1976 I married. And the rest is history.
If I can recall any other tidbits about Iran, I'll update this blog.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Civil War Letters of Henry Stark Carroll Orderly Sergeant, Co. D, 33rd Missouri Vols., Inf., US


Twenty years ago, I began to research the civil war record of my great-great grandfather, John Robinson Hodges. I wanted to learn as much as I could about him and his unit, the 33rd Missouri Infantry US, and it was during this research that I discovered the Henry Stark Carroll letters. A total of 32 letters were donated to the US Army Military History Institute at Carlisle Barracks, PA. by a grandson, Henry C. Carroll. Written between Aug 31, 1862 and Sep 3, 1863, the Carroll letters offer an interesting glimpse into the life of a common soldier in the Trans-Mississippi arena of the Civil War. Mostly it is a simple tale of camp life, on the march, and on the river aboard steamer's. A few letters tell of skirmishes with the enemy at Fort Pemberton, MS and Helena, AR. Interestingly enough, Henry Stark Carroll was 18 years old when he joined the 33rd Missouri, but he must have impressed all the officers and men, because he was appointed first sergeant of Company D almost immediately. During the June 6, 1864 Battle of Lake Chicot, Arkansas, Henry was wounded in the left foot, which caused him to be hospitalized in Memphis until November 8th of that year. The severity of the wound is not mentioned, nor is covered in these letters, but when he did return to his unit is was as regimental sergeant major and he served in that capacity till the end of the war. I hope you enjoy these letters, because I think they fill a void in an area that is not discussed as commonly as the more popular "war out east".

In the following letter, Henry writes about the 4th of July action at Helena, Arkansas

Helena, Ark July 5th 1863
Dear Mother
I take my pen in hand this morning in haste to inform you that I am in excellent health. You will probably have heard before this reaches you that we have a fight here. And most a bloody one it was too. Yesterday morning we were attacked at half past four o’clock by the rebels under Price, Marmaduke, and Holmes. We were expecting an attack and as I mentioned to Edna the other day in my letter, we were ordered into line every morning before daylight. Yesterday morning, I was up at two o’clock and was engaged in delivering some tools to be used in the rifle pits. I remained up the balance of the night. At half past three the captain ordered me to get the company into line.

Everything was calm and serene and we began to think the rebs had concluded not to attack us. I divided the men into gun squads and scarcely had the men taken their posts ere an officer rode up and ordered us to fire an alarm gun which we did. In ten minutes afterward the enemy attacked our batteries on the left, almost as the fight opened on the right and center. I think the rebels had their whole force engaged.

Our center was headed by two companies of our regiment who were protected by some earthworks in which were planted two brass field pieces. A rebel brigade charged upon this work. They were composed of the 7th, 8th, and 12 Missouri rebel regiments. The ground over which they charged was very broken and the two guns and the infantry in the rifle pits made fearful havoc around them. The fight by this time was raging fearfully all around the lines. All this time, we were standing at our guns. I commanded gun no.6 in Fort Curtis. We loaded first with a shell. The fog was so thick that at the distance or six or seven hundred yards, we could not distinguish our men from the rebels. This was just at sunrise.

Gradually as the sun arose, the fog lifted and cleared away and I could see them coming in to flank the battery on the hill opposite us. I asked the captain if I could give them a Fourth of July salute. He replied to give it to them and thus opened the most murderous fire from our guns that ever men withstood. But nothing seemed to daunt the foolhardiness of the rebels; they came on yelling like Indians all the time. Our men at the batteries were overpowered and compelled to retreat. They retreated to Fort Curtis. The rebs rushed to the top of the hill and formed a new line. They seemed to think they had gained the day, but they were woefully mistaken.

While they were forming, we were throwing shot and shell into them that told fearfully. Their colors were posted in a very conspicuous place and time after time they dropped to the ground (and ) men would rush up and hoist them again but only to be shot down. As soon as they had formed they began to advance toward us. They had to cross seven hundred yards of open ground. They seemed as they intended to take us at the bayonet point. They advanced steadily and briskly while six heavy guns from one fort and also several companies of infantry that had been driven in from the outer works were mowing them down under this murderous fire.
They advanced four hundred yards. They were so close, the day seemed lost in spite of all we could do.

At this distance we poured in a double charge of grape that made them reel and stagger. Their officers waved their swords and tried to urge the men forward but it was of no use. It was not human to stand it. They broke and began to retreat and such a slaughter was never greater on any battlefield west of the Mississippi. They started up a road and I trained my gun upon it, as also did two other gunners in the fort. We all fired at once and when the smoke cleared away, not a man was to be seen within a rod of the place. Dead, dying and wounded were strewed thickly on the ground. This charge was made down a hill and so perilous was it to retreat that they fell closer to us in a hollow, and the way we did slaughter them was something. They soon raised a white flag and all of the eighth and tenth Missouri rebels regiments surrendered but what lay on the field dead and wounded. We captured one thousand prisoners, two colonels, 7 captains, 14 lieutenants, and guns and accouterments by the card.

I could not give you all the minute details if I were write two days, but will do so in a few days. By eleven o’clock they had retreated and the firing had ceased. And such a looking set of fellows as we were; all as black with powder as Negroes and well we might be for we had fired 103 rounds from our gun during that time. Every one of our company behaved nobly, we are all heroes. Old Pike may well be proud of her representatives here yesterday. Our Colonel who was at Pittsburg Landing and Corinth and many other battles of this war says the 33rd are every one heroes. General Salamon says he never saw artillery used more effectively than we did ours yesterday.

Not one of us was hurt, though the fort is sickening full of balls. The gun carriages (are damaged?), but no one was hurt inside the fort. But the enemy were slaughtered. It was supposed yesterday evening that there were two hundred of their dead on the (field), but our men have been burying them since three o’clock yesterday. We find them behind logs and stumps and in hollows. Every one seems to think that there are at least four hundred of their dead on the field.

I have just been over the battlefield and no language can describe its horrors. It was a scene I shall never forget. Men were torn and mutilated in every possible manner. They were all Missourians. Numbers of them surrendered that could easily have escaped. There happened to be a steamboat (TYLER) here at the time and we put six hundred on board of her and started them to Memphis in one hour after the surrender. I suppose you will see an account of it in the papers before I write again. I must close as the mail is ready.
We expect they will attack us again.
I received a letter from Edna this morning.
Our whole loss was 50 killed.
33rd loss-20 killed and some forty wounded.
So good bye
Henry S. Carroll