Michael Thomas Waymire Sr. Interview
Interview: Michael Thomas Waymire Sr. (mtw) Medium: Audio and video tape Date: May 1, 2011 Place: Our house in Marion, Indiana Collected by: Mary Waymire (mw)
mtw: My name is Michael Thomas Waymire. Uh, I enlisted into the Marine Corps 29 September 1970 and spent four years there uh until 28 September 1974. And uh from uh September uh 29, 1970 to the graduation day of boot camp and which was December 10th of 1970, I was at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. This is a copy of our graduation photograph uh that uh we had the option to buy. Um we was in uh the Platoon 1138 uh down at uh Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, which is in Southern California. Uh, this was a was a uh pretty enjoyable time but it had its drawbacks being the first time being away from home and the uh Recruit Depot place was right next to the San Diego Airport. Every time a plane took off or landed you could see it. Uh, the next photograph is one later on after um uh boot camp uh its uh from ITR, which is um Infantry Training Regiment. It's around the San Onofre Area on Camp Pendleton. That was north of San Diego. Kind of about half way in between San Diego San Diego and Los Angeles. Uh, it they just instilled in you about basic infantry tactics. Uh, we did a lot of uh marching up and down hills to go to different areas to to outside classrooms and uh they just uh we learned a lot about different types of uh small arms weapons and stuff like that. Stuff that we would need to know and to have knowledge of later on if we needed them in a uh uh infantry combat situation. (nodded head)
mw: Were you drafted or did you enlist?
mtw: I enlisted. Uh, on uh 29 September 1970 into the Marine Corps.
mw: Where were you living at the time?
mtw: I was living with my dad. It's uh on Montpelier Pike. It was uh on the south side of Hickory Hills, just east of Marion.
mw: Why did you join?
mtw: I I joined because I uh consider myself more patriotic than some of the people that was around at the time. It was a time of uh a lot of uh of protests against the war, uh, a lot of demonstrations, people were getting hurt, and some of them they even had the uh uh 1968 um Democratic National Convention in Chicago where Richard Mayor Richard Daley was accused on uh tv for using Gestapo Gestapo tactics with the police department outside the convention on the streets. Um, there was a lot of demonstrations all the way across this country. People were excising their uh constitutional rights to demonstrate against a war. Uh uh you seen it daily on the news. Uh it seemed like uh you didn’t see a lot of the positive side of the news. It was just a lot of it was negative uh uh you seen uh a lot of the devastation and the and the hurt that was being cause by uh the war because for the first time the war was being uh taped on a daily basis and it was pumped almost immediately (coughed) into our front rooms. Uh but uh I I didn’t go along with all that uh anti-war stuff. Uh I uh always uh was more patriotic I thought. I I believed in what America stood for and I also thought that uh it was important to uh back the United States especially when with the spread of communism and it needed to be stopped. That’s how I believed at the time.
mw: Do you recall your first days in the service?
mtw: I remember uh when I first um I got on a plane in Indianapolis to fly out to uh San Diego. I remember um uh flying into San Diego and from there they took us on a on a bus to uh San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot. And uh we was on the bus for a little while and then we seen a DI walking up to the bus and he told us that we had two minutes to get off the bus and a minute and a half was already gone. We had people almost going over other people to try and get off that bus. And we were told when we got out they had footprints, yellow footprints on the on the ground on the asphalt outside the bus and we were suppose to park ourselves on one of them. And um the first night uh uh we uh we was required we'd take our everything we brought with us, the clothes we had on, they had us put them in a box. And we would address the box and we sent it home. Um, and then we uh they would issue us clothes to wear and um they we went through a lot of um induction type stuff that uh uh dealt with clothes and and other items that were just general information that we needed to know. Um and um there was uh one situation where we was in the uh um dispensary where they were taking blood and we had this old Corpsman that was there. And um we we were lined up in two rows and they were taking our blood, for whatever reason uh whether it was blood typing or or other things. And uh one line, the other line not the one I was in, they were making a lot of noise and talking and stuff and he got tired of it and he just said well if you guys don't stop I can take blood the easy or I can take it the hard way. Meaning that uh he could use a bigger needle to get that blood out of your arm if you didn't behave and they did. And I'm glad that I wasn't over in that line because he had ended up using a bigger needle to get the get the get the blood out, uh that was required. Um, I remember other situations uh in boot camp which uh the first time people are away from home they do a lot of weird stuff. Uh, they don't know how to react to authority and many times and do what they are told. So but there's always uh uh a situation that uh um that you come across uh but a lot of it had to deal with um learning the uh the ways of the military instead of civilian which was different. You learned the uh the history of the Marine Corps and the different subjects like first aid and a lot of other things while we was in there. Uh, boot camp only went from uh 29 uh September until 10 December when we graduated. So during that time there was a lot of uh time there was a lot of stuff that really packed in there uh. (head nodded)
mw: Tell me about your boot camp training experiences.
mtw: The boot camp experience. I just said some of it but you know a lot of it uh you could uh once you got in there uh if you ever heard of anybody say anything about the military, boot camp didn't matter what branch it was in, they had they had a phrase that they always say. It was just hurry up and wait. You you knew how to wait in line, if you was in the service. You would walk to where ever you was going on the base to go to a classroom or another required situation whether it was medical or or um or just general knowledge about something. They whenever they took you it was always in formation. Uh, and they would take you and you would always have to wait in line. And uh if your last name started with a W, like mine did, lot of the time you was at the last of the line. Um, so they they tell you about um teach you about the military history, they would teach you about uh a lot of subjects that you you needed to know as you went along in the service. It was just uh they taught you how to react as a as a team instead as an individual. That's what the uh uh the uh marching you would do in platoon formation would be. They would teach you drill, different commands, they would teach you uh uh if they said something as you were marching they gave you a command, everybody would react at the same time or at least they would try get you to react at the same time. And over time you would learn how to do that, you would just respond, and everybody would respond. Occasionally uh whoever would make the wrong move you know they would stick out like a sore thumb because they would look, it it wouldn't look like uh everybody else. But uh the biggest thing in all the training or the biggest part of the training, especially the uh close order drill, and they they wanted the people to learn how to react as a unit as a team instead of uh going out and doing things on your own. Um. (head nodded)
mw: How did you get through boot camp?
mtw: Well I I thought that uh my personal uh belief was as I learned it wasn't the easiest thing but I thought that uh boot camp was something like ten percent uh physical and about ninety percent mental. Uh, if you could handle it and uh mentally uh you'd be alright you know because all you have to do is learn how to do what you was told. And it went on the entire time you was up during the day and from one day to the next and from one week to the next until you got out of uh the boot camp because in boot camp they control almost every waking minute of your day. But you just it was it wasn't really that hard it's just learning to do what you was told because uh that's what they did. They kept constantly telling you to do this and do that even the minor things uh that we would take for granted that we knew how to do. But they would tell you how they wanted it done so.
mw: Were you a part of any war?
mtw: No I was not a part of any war but I was in the service during the Vietnam War. I was in from 70 to 74 and that on the tail end of it. Uh, I I remember uh being in uh Staging Battalion which is training prior to a combat zone. I remember around April Fool's Day of 71that uh orders came down and everybody that was in there except for maybe a handle full, five or six, couple went to uh Japan, the Marine Corps station Japan, couple went to supply maybe in uh Okinawa, and maybe one or two maybe went to military police uh in Vietnam uh that could uh been uh reversed around. But the as far as the infantry we were going through the training uh we didn't go. Almost everybody got state side. But I can still remember um calling my dad one and I told him not to expect me home till you see me because I didn't expect to come home. Uh, too many people uh were getting killed over there, too many people would be within a very few days, even the day before many times, of coming home and they would get killed the day before they came home. So uh I you know I always thought well you know you don't look forward, you got to look forward to come home but at the same time uh um you know your time to come home is, when it gets here, not not even the day before. I mean because so much stuff can happen you never know what's going to happen next over there.
mw: What were a couple of your most memorable experiences?
mtw: (pause) I I I remember um um (pause) I remember that uh what question was that? Might have to start over.
mw: What were a couple of your most memorable experiences?
mtw: I remember one time, one might be a little humorous but, I remember uh being in boot camp, it was around uh the holidays, it was around Thanksgiving I believe, um in boot camp, especially in Marine Corps boot camp, you don't get candy, you don't get cookies, you don't get anything like that. And uh really the worst thing a parent or somebody that could do to a recruit is to send them a box of candy, a box of cookies or something like that. And this uh we were in our Quonset hut, and a Quonset hut is one like if you ever seen the comedy series Gomer Pile you know it was those metal uh Quonset huts that we stayed in as well. And um we was kinda in a semi-circle for mail call and this one recruit got a uh a uh one of these old um fruitcake tin cans full of loose candy. And uh the DI that was there says uh well he told the recruit that you could either eat it all himself right there basically or or he could give it to everybody that was here, there at the time. And uh the recruit finally decided that he would give it to everybody that was there and I was in the back of the group watching everything. And when um uh he said he would give it to everybody there I was just kinda was sitting there in amazement I just happen to see everybody kinda jumping after that, their hands going up in the air after that tin can, the tin can going up in the air, and that candy, the can opened up, and the candy just went everywhere. They just acted like kids in a candy store. And I never seen it, I kept looking at the DI kinda looking at how he was going to react you know. So uh but it was kinda of uh not quite a early uh present or something but you know they got some candy which they normally uh wouldn't have gotten. Um, I remember uh also during boot camp uh if we'd go to eat or something that um we always uh had to keep our eye on the uh uh DI when we was eating. Because we was required to be out in formation when um he was got out there. If he was going out that door, we had problems. We had to learn to uh almost sometimes eat while we was line to the trash can to throw it away. Uh because of the fact that we was required to be out there as I said in formation when he got there. So we kept our eyes on him. Um, I also remember one time I was going through a line, I was I was hungry but the food wasn't too bad but you know sometimes you didn't know what it was just by looking at it. I I remember one time uh uh looking getting a piece of meat, I thought it was a hamburger. It was round just like a hamburger you would get out at a fast food chain. But uh I bit into and it was liver and I throw it away. And about the only other food I throw away was uh some corn beef uh a couple of things I never ate while I was in the service. But uh there was, we was, our boot camp training, it was right next to the San Diego Airport. And it wasn't the easiest thing to uh uh see those planes take off and land everyday you know you could hear them at night and uh you could uh see them take off during the day and land and it would make you home sick. But you know you just had to get over that and get your mind off that. Um, because that was just constantly there because where the airport was located right next to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego there. (head nodded)
mw: Were you awarded any medals or citations?
mtw: Well I had some um they sent me to um Non Commission Officer School one time. It was a uh infantry training school for NCO's enlisted and I came out number one in the class. And and because of that I had uh the Commanding General of the base, of the First Marine Division, uh issue me a Meritorious Mast. It was a letter of uh commendation basically. I also at the same time had my Battalion Battalion Commander issue me one for the for the same thing. I I later got one or two other uh uh letters of uh appreciation uh or Meritorious Mast as well. I got uh also a um Good Conduct Medal which is for a period, goes for a period of three years and you can earn multiple ones depending on how long you're in the service. Uh it just has to do with you staying out of trouble while you're in. No office hours, no court martial's, and stuff like that. Uh if you basically stay out of trouble you get those.
mw: How did people entertain themselves?
mtw: People uh entertain themselves uh in in boot camp you know they'd uh if they had some time they might sit outside smoking cigarettes or they might uh write letters home. If they was out in the uh regular Marine Corps, which is after all your training and everything, that your that your day is kinda like a regular work job out in civilian life. You know you don't really have too many restrictions except for uh if something is required of you, you have to be back on the base. I mean you could do anything, you could go to uh football games, any kind of sporting events, any any theater, you could go out in town and just do anything any civilian could would do. So uh it just depends on uh where you was at, if you were overseas in in a more restrictive situation it would be a lot different. Uh, but you still have uh uh liberty let's say on different ports if you was there. But but as far as uh your time to do stuff, uh only really time of restriction is when you're in boot camp and they control you 24 hours a day. After like I said after you get out of all your training and everything, it's just like a a regular job and you can do anything you want.
mw: Did you travel while in the service?
mtw: I I spent my entire time in southern California, it was on Camp Pendleton. It was a base kinda about half way in between San Diego and Los Angeles. Uh I uh spent three or four days one day one time on uh a carrier of the USS New Orleans. It was a helicopter carrier, it was off the coast of California. Um, that was an experience in itself as well. Uh, when we got done there, uh we uh flew off the helicopter uh carrier on helicopters and they took us, landed us on an area back on our base. Then we spent the rest of the time marching back to our area un that we was from. Um, uh I spent, went a couple place, other places maybe like uh up to Ventura, California which is up north to see my aunt a few times. Uh uh I went to Tijuana, Mexico one time. Uh, went to uh Las Vegas and Reno a couple different times. I I spent some time in cold weather training which included repelling off cliffs in Bridgeport, California. It was a real nice uh scenic area up there yet it was military base and you never really knew what was around you. It had a nice crystal clear uh river going down the center of the mountains from the melting snow and stuff. Uh, it was uh a real interesting time. (head nodded)
mw: Do you recall the day your service ended?
mtw: I remember uh 29 uh September 1974 uh I uh got out of of the service at Camp Pendleton. I uh I kinda made a mistake. I I had my uh Volkswagen Bug and and all I had in my mind was to get to take off and go home. Um I took off about noon time on Friday. If I had really been thinking, I would have probably waited till about six that evening because uh of what happened when I woke, when I didn't wake, not when I woke up but when the sun came up the next day, all the mountains were behind me. I had gone about 70 miles an hour in my Volkswagen Bug, all the way through the mountains, at night time. I didn't get to see any of it and I still haven't seen any of it to this day. Um, I drove uh basically for about 26 straight hours. I think I stopped in Salt Lake City, got me something to eat real quick. Um but as far as stopping and uh uh finally stopping and getting some rest, I didn't stop till I got to Big Springs, Nebraska, which took me about 26 hours. And uh coming across the um country on highway 80 is uh its basically straight. It's probably the most boring highway you'll ever run into. You'll run you'll see a sign that says something like Omaha 500 miles. And then you'll go for a little and you'll think you went somewhere, as far as distance goes, and all of a sudden you'll see another sign saying Omaha 495 miles. Well, you know that that just makes time go pretty slow. But uh uh but when I got out, uh they had a favorite song, had a popular song at the time, a part of the lyrics of it was I'm going home I've done my time. Uh, when I went into the service a popular song with the lyrics of that one was I got on board West bound 747 didn't think before deciding what to do. Uh, those two kinda might seem kinda comical but I those two uh songs or lyrics that are part of songs I remember uh uh from my time in the service and my time getting out.
mw: What did you do in the days and weeks afterward?
mtw: My time spent after I got out I um when I was in the service I'd been out um in the um um out in uh a training exercise situation on base one time and I had ran into the uh um Regimental Chaplin and I had him uh put in write me a recommendation to go to Marion College. And I actually didn't know that he had. I didn't know that I'd even been accepted cause I never got a letter or anything. And here I didn't go and here I got a letter from um the college out here saying that they was disappointed or whatever however they phrased it saying that I didn't attend. But I had also put in to go to Ball State University which I later went and graduated with a degree in accounting. So uh uh that's basically what kept my time up, starting March 11 of 1971, is my time going to school because I went to school the year round. I drove back and forth every school day from Muncie to Marion. Uh I didn't uh stay over there. I uh tried to uh arrange my uh classes as close together as I could. So uh and the other people I rode with would do the same so we might at some times have a couple hours between classes and I would spend my time sitting in the library uh studying or doing something like that just to pass the time before I had to come home with them.
mw: Did you make any close friendships while in the service?
mtw: I only had one uh close friend that uh still I have conduct with today. That's uh guy named of Ken Brown. He's in the uh he lives up in North Manchester. We use to run around together and watch movies and uh he was a good card player out there. We'd go different places. We went and seen the uh the Yan-Yankees play the uh California Angels one time. We went to see uh um the San the San Diego uh uh Chargers play one time. That was the last year that Johnny Unitas played and also the year that OJ Simpson went over the 2000 yard mark in rushing. That game he ran in that day was the only game that year that he had less than a hundred yards. He had 62 yards that day. Um we we'd go different places and together and uh so um but um you know we uh he's the only one that uh I still have uh contact with today. The rest of them I just never got involved with or just didn't um really do much with.
mw: Did your military experience influence your thinking about war or about the military in general?
mtw: My military experience probably uh re-reinforced what I thought before I went in. I was uh I considered myself patriotic. I did not go along with all the uh anti-war demonstration at the time that was going on in the late 60's, which people would watch every day on the local news. Um, I believe that uh we if during your time in the service that uh you was there to serve your country and you did the best job that you were called to do no matter what that was or where it was to go. I believe that uh it uh the uh the way they would uh teach you, you know uh being patriotic that uh later one the same type of thinking you know would be with you the rest of your life really. Because um you would you would uh you would want to serve your country not just in the military sense, you would want to uh be the best you can for your country if the opportunity every arose. Whatever job you did you'd do the best job you can in your everyday life too. So um, it I believe it had an influence on my job, my life since then.
mw: How did your service and experiences experiences affect your life?
mtw: You just asked me that.
mw: No I didn't.
mtw: (laughing cause I asked the same question)