Interview with Phillip G. Cline
Interviewed by Terry Upson
Veterans History Project
Interviewed on May 6, 2003
at Phillip G. Cline’s house
TU: Today is Thursday, May 06, 2003, and this is the beginning of an interview with Phillip G. Cline at his home at 205 N. Park Avenue in Marion, Indiana. Mr. Cline is 47 Years old, having being born on February 13, 1956. My name is Terry Upson, and I’ll be the interviewer. Phillip G. Cline is a friend of the family. Phil, could you state for the recording, what branch of service you served in?
PC: During the Vietnam era in the Marine Core.
TU: What was your rank?
PC: My highest rank was corporal.
TU: Where did you serve?
PC: I started out at Paris Island. I went to Camp Legume. I’ve been to Viegas, Puerto Rico. I went back to Camp Legume, to Okinawa, Japan, to Pohang, Korea, back to Okinawa, and back to Quanico, Virginia.
TU: Were you drafted or did you enlist?
PC: I enlisted.
TU: Where were you living at the time you enlisted?
PC: In Jonesboro.
TU: Why did you join?
PC: Just to get away from home.
TU: Why did you pick the Marines?
PC: Toughest branch to go in. Make you or break you.
TU: Did you recall your fist days in the service?
PC: Yes, not to happy with them. First three days you don’t get any sleep.
TU: What did it feel like?
PC: Scared. Tiring. Fear of the unknown.
TU: So, what kind of experiences did you during boot camp? What did they put you through?
PC: The first three days you don’t get any sleep because they got you getting your head shaved and getting your uniforms, blankets, running your PT And just everything that they want you to have. They think for you, you don’t think for yourself. You do what you’re told, when you’re told, how you’re told. You basically have no life. Its part of what I call brainwash.
TU: Do you remember your instructors?
PC: Yes. We had three DI’s. And one was the good guy, one was the bad guy, and one would swing either way.
TU: So I see this was pretty tough. So how did you personally get through it?
PC: Just to do what I was told, when I was told, how I was told. Never get out of line with anybody.
TU: When did you serve in the Vietnam War?
PC: I wasn’t in the war; I was just in during that era, because I enlisted on the delayed program in January of 74. And as soon as I graduated from school, I left in June. I was in boot camp June 16.
TU: You said you were in Okinawa for a while. Do you remember arriving and what it was like there?
PC: Well, the trip to Okinawa I don’t very well remember because form the time the plane lifted off till it landed I was asleep. But when I got to Okinawa, they had a military transport to take me to my assigned unit. From Cadeene Air Base.
TU: What was your assigned unit?
PC: Headquarters company fourth Marines
TU: While you were in Okinawa was there any times where you were put on alert, threatened or told that you had to go into combat?
PC: Yes, after two-week exercise at Pohang, Korea, we went back to Okinawa. Two officers got killed over there around the DMZ and that when they put us on standby to go back there because they thought we was going into combat with North Korea. At the time, I was in a teletype room and we always kept a weapon there because it was a top-secret room. But at the time, we went on alert I not only had the weapon that was already in the com center room, but I had to carry another 45 and an M16 with my backpack; ready to pull out at any time.
TU: You said that those officers died. Were they part of your unit or were they stationed at another unit?
PC: They were stationed in Korea.
TU: So, was they’re anybody in your unit that died?
TU: So, what were some of your most memorable experiences while you were over in Okinawa?
PC: I guess I would have tom say it was when I had one amphibious vehicle. Some guys got drunk, stole it, and ended up in the ocean and drown. Then we had some other guys that decided to dispose of some ammo the wrong way and the only person that survived was the one right next to the blast. I had a bad spell and kicked a guy out of the top rack. About three times my size. The next day he got up and moved to the other end of the barracks. Boramiami is where I used to hang out at. Out in Kinido, Kisan. I guess other than that, that was pretty much it.
TU: So, you said you had a bad spell. When you say bad spell, does that mean you were in a bad mood or did you go through something else.
PC: No, while I was asleep I woke up unable to breathe. Because I couldn’t breathe, I kicked the guy out of the top bunk to get help and because of that, he move to the other end of the Barracks. He didn’t want to get kicked out of the top bunk again.
TU: Your breathing problem, not being able to breathe, was that because of a previous injury that you had sustained?
PC: I don’t know if it was because of a memory or what. I do remember that when that happened I was having a nightmare. And at the time of having a nightmare, it just stopped my breathing and that is when I woke up.
TU: So, while you were gone, how did you stay in touch with your family?
PC: Mail, phone.
TU: What was the food like there? Was it good enough or just go enough to sustain you? PC: Well, I guess it was like any place else. About like eating at a restaurant. The food was made up and in a large quantity for everybody. As far as sea rations in the field, we were using World War II sea rations in a can.
TU: That’s pretty old food. Do rations last pretty long?
PC: Yes, they were all vacuum-sealed.
TU: Interesting. You guys obviously had plenty of food. Did you guys ever run out of supplies?
TU: What about the mind sense there? Did you ever feel under pressure or stress?
PC: That was constant because you got so many people over you, watching what you’re doing. And they could write you for anything they wanted to. If they wanted to follow you around with the UCMJ, so you could get an article fifteen for anything. Spitting on the sidewalk, conduct unbecoming.
TU: What is an article fifteen?
PC: General court martial.
TU: So was they’re anything special you did while you were there for good luck or to make you fell better?
TU: How did you guys entertain yourselves while you were there?
PC: Go out into town. Wherever the closest town was, you would find a bar and have a party. Sometimes we would sit in the barracks and play cards. Other than that, we had a pool table in the main office and we could go play pool if we wanted to. But a lot of the time the sticks were busted up and everything. You had to learn to shoot without a tip. Because a drunk busted them up.
TU: So, did you ever go on leave during your term or were you on constantly?
PC: Yes, I ended up taking a thirty-day leave after boot camp. It’s like they give you two days per month leave time. Which amounts to about thirty days a year, but they give you two weeks to thirty days after you get out of boot camp before your next duty station. Then if you’re between duty stations, you can take leave, time to kind of relax before you go to the next duty station.
TU: What did you do when you were on leave? PC: Just run around town, seeing all the people that I had left behind. Seeing who was still around because I signed up on the buddy system and there was like six or seven that signed up on the buddy system but there was four left in one group and two or three left in the other group. I went to boot camp at different times; in fact, one of the guys that I enlisted with was in my platoon at boot camp. But it was like everybody that I signed up with got early discharges, either before the end of their first tour duty or even before, they got through boot camp. Except for one guy and I run into him at Camp Legume.
TU: So, you never went home during leave?
PC: Yes, I was home during leave. It was all right but I’d rather been back at base.
TU: Did you visit family while you were at home?
PC: I stayed with family while I was home but I would just as soon been back at base.
TU: When you were over in Okinawa and across the seas, did you travel anywhere else?
PC: Just to Pohang, Korea. We flew from Cadeene Air Base to Taiguo and took a train to Pohang. We pulled a little over two-week exercise with the rock marines. And after getting back to Okinawa from Korea, that is when I got a meritorious promotion to Corporal.
TU: Do you recall any unusual event or something that’s really funny that happened?
PC: About every duty station that I went to, there was a communicator in field wire. We used to fix up the officers phones with a little bit of black grease, so they would get that ear ring. A black ring around the ear from the ear set.
TU: Was there any other kind of pranks that you guys pulled on anybody.
PC: There was a bunch of them. We had some crazy idiots while I was there and somebody was coming up with something new all the time just to pull on somebody. One of the officers, staff, MCO. I f they would have got caught they would have got an article fifteen, more than likely, because they weren’t into joking around.
TU: What did you think of your fellow officers or soldiers?
PC: Well, most of them I respected. But like a Marine Core says, you got your ten- percent and I’m sure I had my ten- percent that I didn’t like. That’s enlisted and officers. Especially at my last duty station. There was one officer that I just did not get along with and he wanted to write me up for no doing what he wanted me do. I stuck to my guns though and wouldn’t back down form him. They just went up the chain of command to send someone to talk to me about it and before I knew it, I was in front of the Captain. I made a deal with the Captain that if things worked out my way, that he was to get the lieutenant away from me, and keep him away from me, and not say another word to me for anything. And if things didn’t work out the way, I done everything, they could write me up and I would agree to it. It ended up that everything worked out my way so the lieutenant got put away in his little cubby hole away from me.
TU: So, what happened between you to, to where you guys didn’t get along?
PC: He was wanting me to do a project his way after I had only three hours left into the project. I wouldn’t change anything to suit him because every time we was changing everything to suit him, Headquarters’ Marine Core would come down and review everything and deny it. So, being that I only had such a short time left to work on this project and he wanted to come in and make me back up and start doing things his way and I wouldn’t do it. That is when he wanted to write me up and that is when the argument started between me and him and it ended up in front of the captain. I finished my way; Headquarters’ Marine Core reviewed it, took it with them, and didn’t send it back so that’s how I got rid of the lieutenant. Making a deal with the captain.
TU: So, that is what you meant when you said your way. It was the project.
PC: Yes because on my second enlistment I reenlisted as a photographer, in which I was trained in motion picture, television, production special. I learned lighting, sound, directing, the whole nine yards. And even to this day, it is hard for me to watch a movie. I just as soon watch a news program, a talk show. But when it comes to movies, I just can’t get into it, because I know what it is like to be behind the camera, beside the camera, above the camera, and knowing what I know about the editing process and everything there is there, I lose interest in a movie because all I’m doing is sitting there looking for mistakes. It is kind of hard to explain. With talk shows and news, there is no real editing behind it. It is informative. They may make a mistake here and there, about what they are talking about but you won’t pick it up like if you were watching a movie.
TU: So, you said that you made movies yourself. Were there any movies that you made of the war or where you were at?
PC: No, everything that I worked on was kept by the Marine Core. Everything is on odd-sized tape and nobody in the civilian life can look at it. They are slowly doing away with the government sized recorders that we had during that time. And everything has to be transferred, re-recorded and it’s kept in an archive. At different bases, they have their own archive and like a storage warehouse. And they can take you clear back to when they got their first camera. They’ve got it stored away. In the photograph unit that I was in at the time, there was stuff about the JFK assassination that I run across and it bothers me to this day that they covered it up the way they did and why they didn’t release the information.
TU: When you were in the service, did you keep a personal journal?
PC: No, because if I would have kept a personal journal, a lot of the stuff that I would have wrote down would have been in violation of my security clearance. Even after I was discharged, three or four years after I was discharged I was going through some boxes and where the papers came from I had no idea. I don’t even remember picking them up and putting it in my stuff, but it was classified documents. And I took the papers straight to the barrels and burned them to keep them out of other peoples hands. There were copies of them but as far as for me to have them, I don’t know how I got them, I don’t know when I got them but when I seen the stuff written on them I knew what it was and destroyed them because there was nobody getting there hands on it. I ended up with a secret clearance during my tour, it was like when you go in and get security classification the y can either bump you up a step or back a step. I managed to go from classified to secret, but at the same time, I was working with top-secret documents. It is kind of funny how that works too, because one night we were getting a teletype that came across as top-secret and at the same time we were getting the teletype that said top secret, it was being broadcasted over the radio. AFRTS, which didn’t make sense.
TU: Do you recall the day your service ended?
PC: They sent me home awaiting discharge for medical reasons. And within about three days of getting home awaiting discharge, I got married. At one point in time, I didn’t think I was going to get sent home, so I quit trying to fight it.
TU: What was your disability?
PC: Possible seizure disorder and spinaloistesis and spinalspernosis of the back. Of course, after falling of the top of a telephone pole it probably messed my back up and after being hit in the head seven or eight times by various objects, that’s probably what kicked the seizures in. So they decided to discharge me.
TU: Where were you stationed at the time they decided to discharge you?
PC: Quanico, Virginia and I was on my second enlistment.
TU: You were discharged and had been married by then. What did you do afterwards for a little while as in shortly after you were discharged?
PC: Other than getting married, I worked as a painter for my father-in-law. Then I got a job with the VA in housekeeping. I put my application in for a job at a Forte Wayne television station. I requested a tape from my last unit to help get the job but they didn’t send it to me and that messed me over and everything went downhill from there. I had a job here. I had a job there.
TU: So, were there any close friendships that you made while in the service that you maintained after you were discharged?
PC: One. And that was with a guy from Headquarters’ Fourth Marines, In Japan. He lives in New York and what happened is that he bought his parents’ house and they moved to Florida. So, every couple of years we get in contact with one another. It’s just that I have not made a trip up there to see him, but we talk on the phone.
TU: Where does he live?
PC: Middletown, New York.
TU: So, you and your wife; did you guys have any children afterwards, once you were out of the service.
PC: One and we ended up getting a divorce when she was about three and a half years old. We got divorced and I should say I have and older daughter that is illegitimate and that happened while I was at Quanico, Virginia. But at the time, the way things were going I had to a lot of things that I felt were necessary to protect myself being that all the officers were over me. And did what I felt I had to do.
TU: So, did you keep in contact with your daughter from your ex-wife.
PC: Yes, I still talk to her now. In fact, I found my illegitimate daughter and proved to her that I was her father and we have a pretty strong relationship right now. It was just not knowing where she was at and who she was with. And I had been looking and looking and looking for years but I found her. By accident, I found her. I keep in touch with all my kids except for one and I can’t get her to talk to me because of her grandparents. They don’t want her to know me and her mother is deceased from cancer.
TU: Did you join a veteran organization.
PC: I don’t remember the legion. I used to be a member of the DAV’s but I dropped out of that and kept my dues paid with the legion. I’ve been wanting to sign up into the Marine Core League and I’ve got an application to do so. I just have to get it filled out and sent in. They have meetings twice a month.
TU: Have you received any awards or medals for your services?
PC: I have the National Service ribbon and the Good Conduct ribbon with three years no office hours. Qualified expert rifle and sharp shooter pistol. That’s it.
TU: Did you have to work really hard to get those awards for the sharp shooter and expert rifle?
PC: No, just being able to fire you weapon when you need to. Being able to hit your target.
TU: Thank you Phil for allowing me to interview you.
PC: That’s all right.
TU: And good luck with later life.