Richard E. Bareiss

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Interview with Richard E. Bareiss

Interviewed by Kelly E. Whonsetler
Marion High School, US History AP

Interviewed on May 13, 2003
at College Wesleyan Church
Marion, Indiana

KW: Today is Tuesday May 13, 2003and this is the beginning of an interview with Richard Bareiss at College Wesleyan Church in Marion Indiana. Mr. Bareiss is seventy-five years old, being born on December 10, 1927. My name is Kelly Whonsetler and I will be the interviewer. Richard Bareiss attends my church And Mr. Bariess could you please state for the recording what war and branch of service you served in?

RB: I served in the United States Navy.

KW: What was your rank?

RB: Well, I was in twice. First time I was in the second class electronic technician and the second time I was a chaplain, and received the rank of commander.

KW: In what war did you serve in?

RB: I served in the Vietnam War.

KW: Were you drafted or did you enlist?

RB: I enlisted.

KW: How old were you when you enlisted?

RB: I went in as an enlisted man when I was seventeen. And I went in as a chaplain when I was twenty-six.

KW: What was your career or job before you joined?

RB: Well, I was a welder for a company that built trucks and wheels, but that was just a part-time job because I went in right after high school.

KW: Where were you living at this time?

RB: I was living in Palmer, Massachusetts.

KW: Who were you living with?

RB: With my parents.

KW: Why did you join?

RB: I was the thing to do. [Chuckles] The draft was on, if you didn’t join you were drafted. And no one was considered patriotic if you were drafted. So I joined.

KW: Was your father in it?

RB: My father was in the First World War and served in Germany.

KW: Did you have any brothers that were in it?

RB: I have a brother that was in the Navy. I have a brother-in-law who was in the Army. I have a brother who was in the Army; my sister was in the Army.

KW: What did your sister did in the Army?

RB: She was a nurse.

KW: For what war?

RB: She served at the end of the Second World War.

KW: So she is older than you?

RB: She is older than I am.

KW: Why did you pick the service branch you joined?

RB: Well, if you joined the Navy, you at least you have a bunk to sleep in instead of on the ground. And you get three square meals a day. [Both laugh] I was just enhanced by the Navy.

KW: Tell me about your boot camp or training experiences.

RB: Boot camp wasn’t all that bad. There was a wake up at five o’clock in the morning, go out marching and all kinds of things were going on in boot camp, but it wasn’t all that bad.

KW: It wasn’t … really strenuous--

RB: Well, you had to keep yourself physically fit because we went over the course that we had for physical fitness.

KW: Were you only allowed to take a certain amount on belongings on the ship.

RB: You could take anything with you except your wallet and your pen. [Chuckles]

KW: Do you remember your instructors or your commanders?

RB: No, I can’t remember them.

KW: How did you get through the war, through stress and everything that was going on?

RB: That was difficult. That was very difficult, in fact I suffered a little post-traumatic stress syndrome.

KW: After the war?

RB: After the war.

KW: You said you were in the Vietnam, but where exactly did you go, what seas were you in?

RB: Well, we were stationed in Hawaii for a while and I was in a couple ships that had just been all over the Pacific and all over the Atlantic and into the Mediterranean Sea.

KW: Do you remember arriving to be in the war, do you remember when you enlisted?

RB: Yes, I remember going to staging before we went and I remember arriving there.

KW: What was it like?

RB: Well, it was kind of a new experience and wondering what in the world was going to happen, but I was with people I knew so it was very easy.

KW: Out of your hometown?

RB: No, no people I knew in the Navy. I served with the Marine Corps because the Marine Corps does not have chaplains; they borrow them from the Navy. Like they borrow their doctors and the coremen from the Navy as well. Coremen are like the nurses.

KW: So were you in the Navy first and then in the Marine when you were a chaplain.

RB: I was in the Navy first, right. And then I had to do our duty in the Marines in Vietnam.

KW: What types of ships were you on?

RB: Oh my, lets see, I was on a squadron of eight destroyers, I was on the transport that transported people, men all over the Pacific, I was on a destroyer repair ship. And I guess those are the ships I served with.

KW: How many different ships were you on?

RB: Oh my goodness that would be hard to count. There are eight ships in a squadron and I served one ship to another I just rode with a different ship in squadron for a week or month or two, whatever he schedule was. And then the one transport and the one repair ship. So that would be three different types of ships.

KW: The schedule. Was there a certain schedule or did it come and go, they moved you just because.

RB: No we operated on a schedule. We had a seven month cruise in the Mediterranean with the destroyers and the transport operated out of San Fransisco we’d be out for twenty-seven days, twenty-eight days and come back in for four days and back out again.

KW: Did you ever come ashore or were you mainly at sea?

RB: Oh yes, whenever we came into a port we would go ashore.

KW: Were they ever in foreign countries or were they mainly in like Hawaii and in the United States,

RB: No most of the foreign countries. We went to Japan, Philippines, Guam, because that’s part of the US and then all over the Mediterranean Sea, France and Spain and Lebanon, all the Allies in the Mediterranean.

KW: What were the other countries like.

RB: What were they like?

KW: Yes.

RB: Well, it was rather interesting going to the Mediterranean because they are older towns than what we have here and it was rather interesting to see how they matched the older history had with the modern conveniences.

KW: What were your accommodations like where you sleeped and your housing.

RB: When I was in the Navy I always slept in my own bunk.

KW: What was your job and assignment in the war?

RB: In the war my job was chaplain. I was regimental chaplain. We had three battalions in the regiment and we had three chaplains in each one of the battalions and I was the senior chaplain for the regiment.

KW: During the war did you hold regular services?

RB: Oh we had services every day. We had no trouble getting people out for services but it was all services for small units. Wherever we found them.

KW: Did you see combat?

RB: Unfortunately I did.

KW: Were there many casualties in your unit?

RB: Well, many casualties. One casualty is one too many, but yes, but unfortunately we had a lot of people that were killed out of our outfit.

KW: Please share with me you experiences with the Tonkin Resolution.

RB: I was not serving during that time. It was not a problem for us.

KW: On November 21, 1970 there was a raid in Vietnam. Do you remember any experiences similar to this, like specific experiences that affected the Navy?

RB: I’m not sure what raid you are referring to. There were raids going on all the time.

KW: Yes. But did any of them specifically affect you.

RB: Well yes, our unit was constantly under fire. The bad guys had a bad habit of throwing rockets at us. They would set up ten or twenty rockets and set them off and take off. We couldn’t catch them. My chapel got hit one time, but I lived in a bunker that was, oh must’ve been three, four feet thick with sand bags and that would take a rocket.

KW: Did anybody die or get wounded when it was hit by the rocket?

RB: Oh, I was never got hit, the chapel got hit. I wasn’t in it at the time.

KW: Nobody was in it?

RB: Nobody was in it at the time.

KW: That’s good. Do you recall the Lai Massacre?

RB: Unfortunately I do.

KW: Were in service?

RB: I was in service at the time, right.

KW: What happened?

RB: Well, that’s a bad situation that’s part of the traumatic-stress syndrome. The press did a terrible job there. I’m surprised that more press people didn’t get killed. I was with the regimental chaplain at regiment and they stand in a briefing every morning with the colonel of an operation that we planned and executed and the evaluation of it. Well, two weeks later I read about the same operation I had in the press they had the name of the operation correct, but that’s all. And they did everything they could to make the American servicemen look bad. It was a bad situation. We couldn’t get them to write anything decent that we did.

KW: The American…

RB: We couldn’t get the press to write anything decent that we did.

KW: While you were in service did you meet any famous people or politicians?

RB: I met the Secretary of the Navy one time. That’s about all except the admirals.

KW: In this picture what are you receiving, what type of medal?

RB: Oh I guess that was the Vietnam combat ribbon I received. I don’t remember that, how about that.

KW: And also in this picture could you explain what is going on?

RB: Yes that was the most difficult part of the job. These rifles that are sitting in sandbags with a helmet on top represent a man who was killed. And it was my job to hold a memorial service, that’s me holding a memorial service for the rest of their outfit. And that was a difficult, difficult job because I knew those guys and the stupidity of war is seen in something like this. And I’m tore up inside because those guys were killed and I’m supposed to say something to help these guys and I say “Lord, I can’t handle this, I’m broken up myself.” But I got to keep my cool in order to help these other guys with the memorial service. That was the worst part of the job. I hated that with a purple passion, but I had to do it.

KW: Was there a lot of memorial services?

RB: Unfortunately there were a lot of memorial services.

KW: Do you recall the different president’s reactions and actions towards the war?

RB: Not really, the president is the commander in chief and whatever he says we do. If you’re a good military person you say “Yes, sir.” So there was no a conflict about the president at all.

KW: Do you remember Nixon being the president during the war at all?

RB: Yes, I remember Nixon very well.

KW: What were your thoughts or feelings towards the president. Did you agree with--

RB: I thought he was doing a good job. He didn’t tell me how to do my job so I didn’t tell him how to do his job. I knew he was concerned of the war. I knew he wanted to bring it to a screeching halt.

KW: During the war there were a lot of anti-war happenings. How did this affect the morale of the soldiers?

RB: That was bad, that was bad. That was real bad. I came home from Vietnam and people would spit at you, give you the finger, just call all kinds of things. The anti-war feelings were bad. And these guys were serving to do the hands of the call of the country to do this, they didn’t want to be there, but they had to be they had to answer the call and they come home and their country would spit on them. That was hard to take.

KW: During the war, you said before the publicity, how did that affect the soldiers.

RB: Oh, they hated the publicity that they were getting, because it was all bad. We built a house and a bomb-shelter for a lady who was a nurse and had an orphanage and we built a place for her. We tried to get the press to come down and cover it. The I-Core area governor was the governor of our state came, the kids were all dressed up. We had a big celebration, but we couldn’t get the press to come and cover it. But the next day there was an accident with killing but those slobs descended on us and drove to cover that and write that up. That was bad.

KW: Were you personally affected by these reactions towards the war?

RB: yes, I suffered some post-traumatic stress syndrome, which does not go away in time and I’ve had to go and see a counselor not too long ago because this stuff was coming back over and over again.

KW: Tell me about a couple memorable experiences.

RB: Most memorable experiences? I guess they were all holding church services I guess with the people coming forward and making profession of faith in Christ. There were a lot of guys in the Vietnam that became Christians. Another most memorable experience was getting out finally.

KW: Were any of your comrades a prisoner or war?

RB: No, none of the fifth Marines or the twenty-sixth Marines I served with to my knowledge were prisoners of war.

KW: Did you receive any medals or citations other than what was pictured?

RB: I have the World War Two Victory Ribbon, because I was in it before the war was declared over. The American Service Medal, I forget what that is and then three medals that came from Vietnam. And I don’t remember what they were anymore. I’d have to look at it.

KW: Do you remember who gave you these awards, or who issued them out?

RB: No I don’t remember. I was in my service jacket that I was given those medals so I could just pick them up and put them on.

KW: Do you still have your uniform that you wore?

RB: I still have my uniform

KW: Did you wear the same one or were there two different uniforms?

RB: Well we had several different kinds of uniforms. The whites with the shoulder boards on, blue with stripes on the sleeves, and I served in and air station so I bore the aviation greens and then I served with the combat uniforms, like these guys have [pointed at a picture], when I was in the Vietnam.

KW: On a lot of uniforms there are different stripes and colors, do the colors or stripes represent anything?

RB: Well, here this guy has four stripes on [again referring to a picture], he’ a captain. I had three full stripes, that’s commander. And two and a half stripes in a Lieutenant Commander Two stripes in lieutenant. And one and a half and then just half a stripe and a one stripe is a [unclear]

KW: Does the star--

RB: The star indicates that he’s a line officer. But a star on my uniform would be a cross on there.

KW: Because you were a chaplain?

RB: Because I was a chaplain. And there was a cross on the shoulder boards and had the stripes on them also. With a khaki uniform I wore a cross on the collar and the symbol of rank on the other collar.

KW: Do you remember when you became commander?

RB: Yes, I think I was in Hawaii at the time. When I was in Vietnam I had to turn my collar in because the bad guys had my name on the assassination list. As five came and told that “I got bad news for you.” I said, “What’s that?” “They got you name on the assassination list.” I said, “What I’d do that was so good?” “You’re spending too much time in the ville.” In the villages. They didn’t like that, the bad guys didn’t. So because hey had my name on the assassination list I had to turn my collar in so they couldn’t see the cross. That’s how they identified me. And wherever I went I had to go with a contingent of Marines as body guards and the Marines said, “ Ain’t nobody gonna kill our chaplain.” Cause I was their good luck charm. [chuckles] So we take some hits and we’d be on the ground and there’d be five Marines on top of me, to protect me. They were good guys to serve with.

KW: Do you still keep in touch with them?

RB: No, unfortunately I don’t.

KW: As a commander what were some of you regular duties?

RB: Well, the regular duties were obviously to hold services, to visit the troops and try to encourage them. When I was in Vietnam I found out where I could get some donuts, so I put a bunch of donuts in the back of my jeep and went up and down the lines giving donuts. One time I got a whole truckload of soda they were going to throw away, I got that and put ice in the back of the trailer and hauled that around. I even found some ice cream and used some dry ice to haul that around to the troops. But wherever we went we held church services all the time.

KW: In the villages too?

RB: Well, with the Marines, wherever they were stationed. Because there was a small contingent her and a small contingent there and Id go wherever they were and hold services there and talk with them.

KW: Were you ever injured or wounded during the war?

RB: No I don’t have a Purple Heart ribbon for trying and I’m very thankful.

KW: On the ships did you have any nurses?

RB: On the transport we had nurses because we were hauling dependents all over the Pacific. So we had one nurse and a couple of [unclear], and those were people who were nurse’s aids

KW: What are dependents?

RB: Military dependents, wives, children of the men that were stationed in the far east and they would go over by a plane or a ship or something and six months later when the housing was available we would haul their dependents over.

KW: Did you meet your wife during the war?

RB: No I met my wife in college. Long before that. She had the difficult job because she had to stay home with the four kids when I was gone for a year. And that was tough.

KW: Did she ever visit you when you were in Hawaii?

RB: Wherever the homeport of the ship I was serving on was we set up house there. She tells of an incident I came home on July 4th and says that it was Independence Day and she lost her independence that day.

KW: How did you like life in the service and at sea?

RB: I enjoyed it. I really enjoyed it. The separation from the family was bad, but I felt I was doing something worth while and it was enjoyable. And the people responded very, very well.

KW: How did you stay in touch with your family.

RB: I think the family grew while in that experience because they were exposed to different cultures by moving around and seeing different people in different areas, and I think they all grew by that.

KW: Did you write letters to you wife?

RB: Every day. We found a nice little thing to do was find those little tapes and we’d send tapes back and forth. So I’d turn on my bunk and turn on the tape and listen to what Eleanor had to say and then I’d write back to her. And we had an arrangement where we were having devotions and we’d do the same devotional thought. So when I was in Vietnam, I had my devotion in the evening and she had then in the morning, and I’d know what she was thinking when she was reading the same thing as I was. That was enjoyable.

KW: Did you get mail everyday or every week?

RB: Mail was fairly regular, except when you are sea, you had to wait till you were around a carrier, because all the mail was on the carrier an they’d fly it over to you.

KW: What was the food like?

RB: The food was good. Food in Vietnam was excellent. Except if you were around the boondox you had to eat sea rations. That was bad. But when you get back to the rear. The food was excellent.

KW: Did you have plenty of supplies? Did you ever have a shortage of supplies?

RB: No we had plenty of supplies.

KW: Did you have something special you did for good luck, or a good luck charm or anything during the war?

RB: No, I didn’t carry any good luck charms [laughs].

KW: How did people entertain themselves?

RB: How did people entertain themselves? Oh my goodness. These people are ingenious. They come up with all kinds of things to entertain themselves with. They were more interested in doing their job well.

KW: Were there any entertainers?

RB: Yes, Bob Hope came to the Nang one day when we were there, I didn’t go and see him though. We had USO people because I brought two USO girls to our contone when I was with the fifth Marines out in the boondox and took them around. The guys were gaga over these round eyes they called the slant eye girls.

KW: Did anybody get seasickness?

RB: Well, on the ships a lot of the soldiers got sick because we carried troops independents. Those guys got seasick. I felt sorry for some of those people.

KW: What did you do when on leave?

RB: On leave? If I was home, I didn’t leave, Time with my family. If I was on leave o foreign shore I’d go tour somewhere to see what the sights were in that particular country.

KW: How old were you children during the war?

RB: Nancy, the oldest, was twelve I guess and Shirley was eleven, Bob was eight and Kathy was about seven.

KW: So do they remember?

RB: Oh yes they remember being gone.

KW: Do you recall any particularly humorous or unusual event?

RB: Yes, I remember one in boot camp. Some red-headed [unclear] came by and gave an inspection and first they’d pick the barracks and then they inspect the troops and this one guy had tied his sea bag to the bunk with a granny know instead of a square knot. And he said, “How’s sea bag is this?” and this kid said, “Mine, sir.” And he said “ What are you a [unclear]’ and called him a nasty name. And the kid said, “No, sir. Are you, sir?” and just shocked us all. And when the [unclear] got done balling him out he said, “Did you ever heard article such and such for the Articles for the government of the Navy?” And it was before we had a uniform code that was called the rocks and shoals. And I shall quote in part; no person should use profane language of any of any of this at all. He was our hero, but he got all the KP and lousy duty from there on in.

KW: What were some of the pranks that you or others would pull?

RB: They’d pull all kinds of pranks. When they were meeting one another in the Mediterranean. Paint the name of another ship on the bottom of the ship. One day the captain called one of our ships and asked if he could borrow the commanders gig, that’s what the captain rides in, and they brought the boat alongside brought the guys up on deck and didn’t say anything. Called over, “ I thought you were going to send me gig over.” And he couldn’t see it. And the next thing you see is four or five helicopters going off the carrier looking for the gig. They were always pulling things like that.

KW: What did you think of the other officers or fellow soldiers that you served with?

RB: I respected them all and they respected me. We had a good relationship. But those people they are professionals, there’s no question about it, they knew what their job was and they did it well.

KW: Did you keep a personal diary?

RB: No I did not.

KW: Do you recall when the war ended?

RB: Yes, I remember. It really didn’t end; it just kind of wound down. Its still going on as a matter of fact, al they got is a truce. So, yes, I remember when it ended. And I remember when the prisoners of war got home. That was kind of a moving experience.

KW: Was there much publicity over that?

RB: The publicity was bad all the way through. I don’t have much respect for the press.

KW: Did you and you wife and kids celebrate after you came home from the war?

RB: Oh, I think we celebrated every day. That was a joyous experience.

KW: What did you do after you came home from the war?

RB: Let’s see where did I go from there? I went to the senior chaplain school for six months and from there I went to the Coast Guard. I served at the Coast Guard for a couple years because they don’t have chaplains either. And I retired after that.

KW: Where were you at for the Coats Guard?

RB: In Cape May, New Jersey, southern tip of New Jersey.

KW: Did you work after you got back?

RB: Yes, I served for ten years as chaplain for Houghton College and then ten years at IWU as chaplain. And I served four years as chaplain of the police department in Marion.

KW: Why did you move to Marion?

RB: Because I resigned from Houghton College. It was a stressful job that I didn’t like and I said, “That’s it I’m quitting.” And then Dr. Lucky was president out here, he was a friend of mine, and he was pinging on me to come to Marion that’s why I came.

[End of Side 1]

KW: How did the GI Bill help?

RB: Extremely helpful because when I got out the first time when I was enlisted and I went to college and got through college in three years. And then I had one year of seminary paid for buy the GI Bill. So I just had two years on my own.

KW: And did your own work help you support yourself or did your parents?

RB: No, by that time I was supporting myself. We got married one year after seminary so Eleanor worked.

KW: Where did you get married at?

RB: In Linbrook, New York, it’s on Long Island in her home church, 1952.

KW: There was a march down Broadway in Manhattan in 1985, did you participate in any marches?

RB: No I did not.

KW: Did you join a veteran’s organization?

RB: I belong to the Veteran’s Reform. We’re about sixty here in Marion.

KW: What does your family think of the war?

RB: Well, they were concerned about my welfare and my safety and they were extremely happy when I cam home obviously, but I’m sure they were concerned about it.

KW: Was your wife against the anti-war happenings?

RB: No, she didn’t join any of those anti-war things. She was loyal American.

KW: What did you do to go on as a career after the war, just being chaplain?

RB: College chaplain and police chaplain.

KW: When did you retire?

RB: Which time [laughs] I retired form the Navy in 1972 after twenty years.

KW: Did your military experience influence your thinking about war or the military in general?

RB: Well, I think anybody who has served in a combat situation is a passivist. I hate war with a purple passion. And if I could find a way not to fight a war, we’d do it, obviously, but freedom does not come cheap. And if you are to maintain your freedom then you are going o have to pay something for it.

KW: Do you think that the war situation going on now is in any relation to the Vietnam War?

RB: No, I don’t think it’s a relationship to the Vietnam War. It’s a different kind of war. They were sent in that war to win it. We were not sent into Vietnam to win a war. And they did a great job.

KW: In the veteran’s organization you talked about, what kind of activities did you do?

RB: This is a very small post and I don’t meet with them regular because they meet on Tuesday evenings and I have a men’s group. But I meet with them periodically. It’s just a small group. They don’t have a building at all. But they are involved in service projects and work with the VA hospital some.

KW: Did you attend any reunions?

RB: No, I did not attend a single reunion.

KW: How did your service and experiences affect your future life?

RB: Well, it’s hard to say. I retired and received retirement benefits obviously that’s a great blessing to say the least.

KW: Is there anything you would like to add that we have not covered in this interview?

RB: No I don’t think so.

KW: Thank you.