Thomas Dulhanty

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Interview with Thomas Dulhanty
Interviewed by Christina Dulhanty
Interviewed on May 14, 2003
at Thomas Dulhanty’s house
Marion, Indiana

Today is May 14, 2003 and this is the beginning of the interview with Thomas Dulhanty at his home at 928 North Washington Street, Marion, Indiana. Mr. Dulhanty is fifty-seven years old being born on March 27, 1946. My name is Christina Dulhanty and I am the interviewer. Thomas Dulhanty is my father.

CD: Would you state for the recording what war and what branch you served in?

TD: I served during the Vietnam War in the United States Air Force.

CD: What was your rank?

TD: I was a sergeant E-4.

CD: You were stationed on Guam, correct?

TD: That is correct.

CD: In the beginning of you career, were you drafted or were you enlisted?

TD: I volunteered.

CD: Where were you living at the time that you volunteered?

TD: Marion, Indiana.

CD: Do you recall your first days in service?

TD: Yes.

CD: What were they like?

TD: Very hectic, you didn’t get much rest. You were hustled from one place to another. You had to march when you didn’t know how to march- you were yelled at constantly. The first haircut was quite an experience, and standing in the shot line was always fun. It was…definitely different.

CD: Where were you during your boot camp, is it in Texas?

TD: Yes, I was at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.

CD: Do you remember your instructors?

TD: I remember them, but I don’t remember their names.

CD: So, why did you join, why did you volunteer?

TD: Well, I was fresh out of high school, wasn’t going to go to college, so my only choices were to find a factory job or go join the service. I tried the factory jobs, and I didn’t really care for it, so I joined the service.

CD: Well, the generations of your father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were all enlisted during a war, correct?

TD: That’s right.

CD: Which wars were they in?

TD: My great-grandfather was in the Civil War; he was a drummer boy in the infantry division. He joined the Union army when he was fifteen years old.

CD: …and your father and grandfather were…

TD: My grandfather and father joined the Navy together. They were the first father-son duo to join from the state of Indiana during the outset of World War II.

CD: Why did you pick the Air National Guard as your service branch? Excuse me, Air Force.

TD: I just didn’t like the thought of the Army or the Marines. I initially tried the Navy, but the Navy didn’t offer the type of work that I wanted to do, so I went to the Air Force recruiter and he signed me up.

CD: When did you serve?

TD: From August of 1964 to August of 1968.

CD: What is the difference between the Air Force and the Air National Guard?

TD: Well, the Air Force you’re full time, you work for the Air Force every day, five days a week, and you really belong to them 24/7. Whereas with the Air National Guard you only serve one weekend a month, two weeks during the summer, and you’re strictly there to train.

CD: So, the Air Force is more of a job, really.

TD: Right. We do the same things and the same jobs in the Air National Guard as the Air Force; it’s just that we do it on a part time basis. We are a ready reserve basically.

CD: During you’re experiences in Vietnam you were stationed on Guam. What was your position in the war?

TD: During the war I was a carpenter; I was in civil engineers. We did mainly construction and building maintenance.

CD: Do you remember arriving there and what it was like? Was it a lot different that America?

TD: Yes, when I left the United States it was in October and it was cool. When I got to Guam it was about 85 degrees and it was like 85 degrees every day. There was very little change in the weather.

CD: Even during the winter?

TD: All yearlong. It’s all the same; the only difference in the weather is that you have to put up with Typhoons. I went through three of those while I was there for eighteen months.

CD: Did you ever see any combat while you were there?

TD: No.

CD: Were you awarded any medals?

TD: Yes, I was awarded the Air National Defense medal, Commendation medal, the Outstanding Unit Situation medal, and expert marksmen. That’s about it for when I was in the Air Force.

CD: What was each medal for? Were they just self-explanatory?

TD: Yes.

CD: How did you stay in touch with your family while over there?

TD: Letters. A long distance phone call was a very rare thing back then and very expensive. An air-mail stamp was only about 4 cents, if I remember right, back then so that’s how we kept in touch. It took ten days to get a letter from the United States.

CD: What was the food like there?

TD: On Guam, we had Philipeanos that worked in our mess hall and they cooked an awful lot of rice- rice at least three meals a day along with everything else that we had, but we always had rice. To this day it’s hard for me to stomach rice.

CD: Did your certain base have plenty of supplies?

TD: Yes, we had everything we needed there.

CD: Did you ever feel any pressure or stress while you were there at all, or was it more laid-back there?

TD: Yes, it was very laid-back on Guam. Guam was a B-52 base. They were bombing North and South Vietnam the whole time I was there and I had received bomb-loading training when I was at my first Air Force base in Washington. When I got to Guam, they found out that I had this training so whenever they needed extra help during the Linebacker 2 and the Archlight campaigns they came and got me and I helped load bombs and we worked twelve hour shifts then; seven days a week. But it was only for a week or two and the campaigns were over. It wasn’t too bad since it gave me a break from my normal carpentry duties.

CD: Speaking of home, was there any thing you brought from home for good luck?

TD: No.

CD: No? Any possessions to remind you of home, any pictures?

TD: Well, one thing I did carry with me all the time- my wife made a little round thing that I carried on my key ring and it said “I love you and miss you” and I carried that the whole eighteen months that I was over there.

CD: How many people were with you on your base?

TD: There were several thousand people on Anderson Air Force base in Guam.

CD: How did you all entertain yourselves?

TD: We had movie theaters there, a bowling alley and I belonged to a bowling team, and I belonged to a softball team for our unit squadron. We pretty much entertained ourselves that way. We played a lot of cards at night. We were either bowling, watching movies, or playing cards, it seemed like that was about the extent of it.

CD: Where there ever any entertainers that came?

TD: Yes, Bob Hope and his troop came one time. I can’t remember all of the stars. I know he brought Rockwell Welsh, she was a big hit. Quite a few other entertainers came with him but I can’t remember who they were.

CD: Do you ever recall any particularly humorous or unusual events among your troops?

TD: Not really.

CD: What did you think of the officers or your fellow soldiers while you were there? Where you ever close to any of them?

TD: I had several good friends that I didn’t get to stay in contact with because we all went to different parts of the world. I did have some good friendships. The Lieutenant in my squadron was the captain of our softball team and I made a good acquaintance out of him.

CD: What did you do when you were on leave?

TD: Mainly just went home. I went home to see my wife and my parents and other relatives.

CD: Do you recall the day that your service ended?

TD: Yes, very vividly. Me and my wife were sitting there, anxiously awaited for the day to come. So we just got in our car, went out the gate, and headed back to Indiana.

CD: Where were you?

TD: We were at West Over Air Force base in Massachusetts.

CD: How long were you there?

TD: I was there for three months.

CD: With your wife?

TD: Yes.

CD: What did you do in the days and weeks afterwards, when you came back home?

TD: I got a job working for General Tire. I worked for them for two years.

CD: Did the G.I. Bill support your education?

TD: Yes, after working for General Tire, I went to Lincoln Tech mechanic school down in Indianapolis for a year. It was a forty-week course. The G.I Bill supported it when I was going.

CD: After Vietnam, you decided to rejoin the military. What made you decide to do that?

TD: I had been out of the Air Force for twelve years, and I actually considered going back into the Air Force. So, I went and talked to the recruiter and at that time he said I was already passed the age limit- which at that time was twenty-eight. I was in my early thirty’s and he said to go talk to the Air National Guard recruiter because they were always looking for prior service people. So, I went and talked to the recruiter and they were more than anxious to have me and so I joined up.

CD: And when you joined the Air National Guard, were you activated for Desert Storm?

TD: Almost. My unit was called up to go to Turkey and fly over Northern Iraq at that time during the war. But by the time we could get our planes ready to go and our selves ready to go, the war was over.

CD: Could you tell me what year that was?

TD: That was in 1991.

CD: Tell me about your tours to Saudi Arabia during Desert Shield.

TD: I took two tours there. The first one was for two weeks and the second one was for thirty days. Both times it was during the spring and the weather was not as bad as the summer time. We had 125-degree days but I heard that in the actual summer time it could up to about 130-135 degrees. At 120, you can’t catch your breath hardly. We experienced the sand storms. Our planes flew over southern Iraq and were actually shot at and actually went in and dropped bombs on Iraq at that time. This was in 2000 and 2001.

CD: Was the food there as bad as it was in Guam?

TD: No. Actually, the people serving the food in Saudi Arabia were nationals from Jordan, Syria, places like that…they still served a lot of rice but there was also potatoes which we didn’t get on Guam so you had your choice. Plus we had a hamburger line and, yeah, the food was a lot better in Saudi Arabia than it was on Guam.

CD: What are some of the places you have traveled while in the Air National Guard besides Saudi Arabia?

TD: I’ve been to a lot of different bases in the United States. I’ve been to Davis Mothen numerous times which is in Tuscan, Arizona. We go down there for winter basing so that the pilots can get experience flying over the desert. We go to upper Michigan, where the pilots fly over Lake Superior a lot. We go up there quite often, that’s our regular summer camp base. I’ve been to New Mexico, Nevada, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama-I’ve been to quite a few places.

CD: Have you been stationed on any other countries?

TD: Just Saudi Arabia.

CD: What is your current position in the Air National Guard.

TD: Currently, I am the First Sergeant for my squadron. I have 182 personnel that I take care of. For the last twenty years I have been a weapon’s mechanic, working on the bomb racks and missile launchers on the F-4 Phantom and the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

CD: So, what does the First Sergeant do? What is his job?

TD: My job is basically I am the commander’s right hand. I take care of the squadron for him; I take care of my people. I take care of their family care, keep up the date on what the people are needing, I get whatever they need, I interact with the commander to take care of the weight management program, I do the birth month weigh-ins. The commander relies on me to give him the feedback, the moral, and the condition of the people under us.

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

TD: No, not really. I’ve always been of the opinion that whatever my country needed of me I was willing to give.

CD: Did you ever join a veteran’s organization?

TD: Yes, I belong to the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.

CD: What type of activities do they have?

TD: The American Legion has a car show and both of them have people that go around and take veterans to different hospitals in the area, whether it’s in Indianapolis or Fort Wayne and see to it that they get to their doctors appointments and just help fellow veterans out.

CD: Do you attend reunions?

TD: No.

CD: How have your services and experiences affected your life?

TD: I think my life would be more boring without it. Getting to do the job that I do now, and the job that I’ve done for the past twenty years has been very fulfilling. I feel like I was doing a job that was needed to be done, and during the twenty years that I’ve worked in release shop, I have never had a single failure. A bomb never failed to drop on its target and a missile never failed to launch when the pilot needed it to go-and that is something I have always been proud of. I felt like that’s what I was there for-and I accomplished that.

CD: Is there anything that you would like to add that was not covered in this interview?

TD: Not really.

CD: Okay, thank you.