April 7, 2005
Vietnam War Interview
By Genovevo Robles
INTERVIEWEE: Wade Kaleikini
April 7, 2005
Vietnam War Interview
Iím interviewing Wade Kaleikini on April 7, 2005 at 206 Alta Vista; Iím interviewing him about his Air Force career and his time in the Vietnam War. This interview covers before, during, and after he went to the Vietnam War different situations he went through during these times. I interviewed him not only because it was a grade in your class but because he is the grandfather of my daughter Alana and I was really interested to hear some of his experiences to see what made the man in front of me.
GR: Todayís date is April 7, 2005 Iím here at 206 Alta Vista interviewing Wade Kaleikini his birthday is March 7, 1948.
GR: Okay Mr. Kal what branch did you serve you in?
WK: I was in the Air Force.
GR: Okay and what rank did you hold?
WK: At that time I was there an E3 uh a two strip.
GR: And where did you serve?
WK: Uh um in Vietnam.
GR: Were you drafted or did you enlist?
WK: [laughing] I enlisted in the Air Force but only because, the day before no during that same week that I had enlisted I had to take induction physical for the Army I knew what was going to happen and no way I was going to be a ground ponder, so right after I finished with my induction physical I went straight to the Air Force and begged them to take me in and they gave me three choices and I jumped on the one I ended up with.
GR: Where were you living at the time?
WK: I lived in at the time my home Honolulu Hawaii.
GR: Do you remember your first days in the service?
WK: Oh, shot yes! They were eight of us who left Hawaii for the Air Force uh it was December naturally itís always warm in Hawaii all of us had aloha shirts on and pants except for one who had shorts we arrived in Lackland Air Force Base it mustíve been a chilly fifty degrees or so but we were made to stand outside the building at attention for about a half hour before our drill instructor came along and took us away but during that time we were all freezing and it was us guys from Hawaii who didnít have warm clothes on, it was also like two oíclock in the morning when we arrived there.
GR: Um how did you get through basics?
WK: To me basics was easy because I was an athlete in high school so the runs the obstacle courses that they had it was a synch I didnít have any problems in fact I finished basic training with a certificate stating that I was highly qualified physically.
GR: Switch it up a little here but uh where exactly did you go?
WK: Essentially I was at two an air base called Tue Wa named after the city it was in just along the sea. And the second base a very small base really a radar site called Bamituee in the central highlands.
GR: And um what was your job assignment?
WK: I was a security police or back then we were called air police men and uh as you can guess we manned the perimeters ran patrols things of that nature.
GR: And uh at that time did you guys see any combat?
WK: Yea uh twice at Tue Wa but it really didnít effect me they motored or tried to motor our petroleum depo where the jet fuel was stored they didnít succeed. Uh second time was a ground attack and ugh none who made the attack survived we killed I think it was 27 Viet cong it happened along the perimeter where I was at. I canít say I sh.. killed anybody out right because um this perimeter this section of the perimeter ran for three quarters of a mile where the penetrated was I say a hundred fifty yards to the right of me. Um how it went down was like in three or four oíclock in the morning the tower or one of our towers had called in that flares were going off along the fence line ugh whatís called trip flares but, it happens especially um when the wind is blowing that will set it off but what ugh what ugh made it definite that we were under attack was that one of the Viet cong had stood up and ugh and he apparently shot one of his men for setting off the flare and after that all hell broke loose everybody along that perimeter that section of the perimeter opened up just as I did machine guns and ugh were talking about maybe lets see three quarters of a mile long we had maybe ten bunkers I was in one and five towers along there so as you can imagine everyone and his brother shooting every weapon that they had it looked like the Fourth of July.
GR: Were there many casualties in your unit?
WK: Ugh at Tue Wa no ugh Bamituee we lost two people but the werenít air police men just that you know itís one of those things a motor round hit the bunker that they were in um we also shipped out one air police men form Bamituee um he caught scrap metal from a rocket, rocket attack that we had one night.
GR: Um what would be one of your most memorable experiences?
WK: It would have to be Bamituee. And actually there were two occasions, one occasion we had just arrived there um we were placed in the same hooch, hooch is the word used for barracks, ugh same hooch as our engineers and cooks they didnít want us there because uh the general word throughout Vietnam was that where ever the air police bunked down it was almost guaranteed that uh the v.c. would aim there motors uh at our hoochís. Uh anyway the first night that we were there sure enough we got motored they hit the hooch that we were in and ugh thatís how we lost those two guys. Um but what was funny was that we were all sleeping and I happened to be sleeping in white underwear so when this thing went off all the lights went out I dropped myself out of bed and ugh made my way out of the hooch and made my way to the next bunker, but uh white and night is like a neon sign but anyway I got into the bunker and my best friend made it in right after me and it happened to be when the Vietnamese air force um were well we had an argument with them because they had weapons and we didnít have any and yet they were all huddled at the bottom of the bunker, the bunker could accommodate um maybe twelve to fifteen people well long story short we ended up punching out two of the v naps as we call Vietnamese ugh air force people and taking the m-16ís from them so that we could man the ports on the bunker. Second time we were sent on a milk run literally because the site we were at the radar site ran out of milk so we volunteered three of us to go to army camp to pick up some milk which we did while there we decided to drink the local booze with the army guys well we go drunk started back to our site which maybe was three miles away and while driving one of the guys driving I was in the back seat we got motored so as you can image three dumb g.i.ís all young all drunk laughing because we got motored we all bailed out of the jeep after it went into a deep ditch but it kept on rolling the funny part I didnít have my weapon my best friend Thomas Lamb didnít have his weapon Hagarty didnít have his weapon and there was the jeep still going.
GR: Were you rewarded any medals?
WK: I got what is called the everybody medals in other words the medal that everybody gets the standard one for serving there but nothing like the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Silver Star, marritionial service star nothing like that although my friend Thomas Lamb got the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
GR: Iím going to ask you more about yourself like how did you stay in touch with your family?
WK: I wrote at least once a week to my mom and mailing letters was free.
GR: And how was the food over there?
WK:[laughing]We had small post exchange in both places in Tue Wa and Bamituee one thing you learn real quick when you got in country you make a run to the BX before anybody else does and you buy all the ketchup and soy you can unless you want the bad taste of what is called C rations to stick in your mouth. Essentially I ate C ration because we worked just at night we would go out to post six oíclock in the evening and we come in from post about seven oíclock the next morning so the majority of us existed on C rations, C like the letter C and nothing more then can goods lime beans, eggs and something else, franks and beans things like that but with ketchup it helps kill the taste it makes it taste better.
GR: Did you feel any pressure or any stress?
WK: A lot of times you just try to cope with it your out on a post on a bunker or tower or worst yet if your NCO doesnít like you heíll send you out to the field to what you called a listening post, which Thomas and I did a lot of a listening post is nothing more then two men with all the ammunition that they can possible carry and enough water in rations and go off base perimeter just before sun set and go off the most to two clicks. A click is a kilometer so point six miles is a kilometer, what it is we find a place some where in the bushes in the boonies like we use to call it predestinated before weíd go out we would have a briefing and look over the maps and we would pick out general areas where we would stay the night just the two of you and weíd disperse throughout the base well outside the base itís pitch black anything that would moves you count as danger and our job was essential to listen and report avoid contact and let Charlie (Viet cong) pass by and just give directions so they would know were to place orders and thatís why we only went out so far from the base, having us having heavy weapons and air police for the eighty one mores with the maximum range of three miles so this way we were well within the umbrella if by chance a team had to evacuate there spot and make it to a safe staging area they would within the scoop of artillery protection a lot of nights like that we would come back in and want to hurt something. In fact my friend Thomas Lamb, we had a bad night one night they had hit one of the teams about three miles from us and anyway they killed them out there when we got back in we had maybe ten minutes to make it to the chow hall to eat real food, real food over there consisted of something they call fries and powdered eggs and powder milk and all cereal that you wanted. Well Lamb was big on cornflakes we went in there they didnít have any cornflakes my friend demanded some the cook said screw you guys just eat what we got out here that was the wrong thing to say to Lamb unlike other Air Force people nine out of ten days were living with our weapons we go to sleep with our weapons we leave or hooch and go to work with our weapons Lamb did what is called a lock and load he put his magazine in cranked it back pointed it at the cook and said I want some beep beep cornflakes there was a slight riot and we got reprimanded put in extra duty but he got his cornflakes [laughing]
GR: How did you entertain your self?
WK: The biggest thing was drinking I will not lie to you like I said we spent on average twelve to fourteen hours down on the line as we call it we got off it wasnít unusual for the majority of us ended up at the club it was either the club or the chow hall first but eventually everybody ended up at the club, the club was huge and we sat there and drank and we would leave there, by the time we would leave there sun would up and it would be hot we had to track about a quarter of a mile to our hoochís and if you can imagine g.i.ís drunk staggering home dragging there M-16 along the way other Air Force people not Air Police men looking at us but thinking to themselves if they said something there would be a possibility we would go off on them and we would have a M-16 accident [laughing] so everybody shut up and just let us go on our way. At Tue Wa we had roughly 615 cops air police men working at night gives you an idea of how big that base was it was huge at yet it was small compared to Hunsinu Camon Bay where one section of a perimeter might run five miles compared to like I said three quarters of a mile from one section of our base, our base at Tue Wa maybe ran about five miles total.
GR: In the service serve?
WK: I started off after basic training and air police training in Lackland, I went to Altus Air Force Base down in south west Oklahoma, then from there I eventually made my way to Vietnam, after Vietnam I think I got screwed the word was no matter what assignment you put in for youíll get it so I put in for the Netherlands and I ended up back in Hawaii and I couldnít figure it out, after Hawaii I went to Greece ,and after Greece I ended up here, and from here with my wife and our two sons we went to Omaha, Nebraska that thatís where we retired.
GR: Do you recall the day your service ended?
WK: Oh yes the last day of December 1987 and I was so glad I was already tired of the service as you can imagine I made it a career I loved it but it was time to get out.
GR: What did you do in the days and weeks after you retired?
WK: Nothing really. Just so happens we had a bit of money in savings and my wife and I discussed it and she told me if I wanted to I could lay around the house for a couple of months three months is what she said but I only lasted a week I was climbing the walls just out of boredom so, just by coincidence an old first sergeant of mine herd that I retired and he happened to be running security in Brackettville so he called me and asked me if Iíd like to work out there with him in security which I did. Just shortly after that first week that I had gotten out the next week in fact I went to work out there. I stayed there for I think it was two or three months because again coincidentally another boss of mine who also retired and was also in Vietnam with me retired here and he retired here in the Air Force and went to work with the school district and he called me up and said he could put in a good word for me to work security here at the school and thatís how I ended up at the school and been there ever since.
GR: Did you make close relationships in the service?
WK: Oh yes. Like I mentioned the guy who I spent my entire tour with in Vietnam with Thomas Lamb heís from Colorado. We got to become real close, Vietnam a war zone did that to people you form bonds over there. Bonds that arenít like any bonds what so ever like anything else. More so if you go through how did he call it adventures thatís what Lamb called it we had adventures. Yeah right, adventures that almost got us killed and got him a purple heart for being a idiot (laughing).
GR: Did you continue with that relationship?
WK: You know we did I remember the day I left Vietnam I felt strange I felt ashamed because I was leaving the rest of the guys werenít my time was up. And we tried to say good-bye but we couldnít look each other in the face the things that we had shared for a solid year if you ever seen that move Forest Gump that brings back a lot of memories. The things that you put up with and itís usually one person that you get close too and anyway after I left nam we kept in contact for maybe a two or three year period I get post cards from him especially around Christmas time he had gone back to Colorado and married his girl friend who happened to be a Mexican and she happened to have his child before they got married and before he went to Vietnam but weíve lost contact.
GR: Did you join ant veterans organizations?
WK: No I thought about it once a friend of mine tried to get me to join the VFW in fact he took me to there meeting house I meet some of the people there and as you can imagine we swapped war stories but for me I didnít want to unlike the guys in the Army and Marines yeah I saw a little bit of action not much but I didnít want to hear it anymore because their were a lot of nights that I was scared I mean very scared especially when flares went up or motor rounds were coming in or like in the case of Lamb when he, his bunker got hit with a rocket and I was just one bunker over from him things like that stick in your mind I just didnít want to hear it anymore, made me sad.
GR: Did your military experience influence your thinking about war or about the military in general?
WK: Yeah it did. I made the military my life I love every bit of time that I had in the military but Vietnam taught has me that I knew before I went there I felt the same way when I left it wasnít a justifiable war we were there for big business thatís all.
GR: How did your service and experiences affect your life?
WK: It had in many ways a lot of stuff I donít talk about this is the first time Iíve talked about it or as much about what I did over there outside of my wife I just didnít like talking about it I made a lot of good friends had a lot of good times but there were just as many scary times out there. And I was in the Air Force not the Army or Marines Bamituee was essentially an Army post fourth infantry we had a radar site I happened to make friends with some of the Army guys and I happened to be there when the died out on patrol. Wars are lousy.
GR: Now at days people coming back from war and when yaíll came back from war what is the major difference?
WK: The biggest difference that I see is that when we came back we werenít greeted with cheers in fact I remember when I got off the plane at Honolulu International I was in uniform my parents my family didnít know I had arrived, hey, I didnít know I was gonna be there that day. Because our flight was supposed to stay in the Philippines for a two day lay over but anyway coming back to Hawaii and I remembered going through the terminal and some people my age as well as the other guys who were walking along with me that we were baby killers and we were a disgrace to the human race.
GR: Is there any thing that you would like to add that I have not covered in the interview?
WK: No, just that war is traumatic experience and it took me ten years into my marriage for my wife to tell me I quit having the dreams.
GR: Well Mr. Kal I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time for this interview.
WK: You're welcome son.