Winnie Winfield's Military Service
John Winfield (Winnie) Military Experience???
I was always the last at PA… I graduated in August 59… Probably the last from our class to do so… So my options for the fall of 59 were quite limited. No college for a while. I enlisted in the Army in September because I knew I had to get that out of the way sooner or later. At this, I had to be the first, that is the first in our class to do his military… I was sent to ASA School and from there to Chitose, Japan where I spent almost 2 years. It was cold as hell 6 months out of 12 and the Weasel was the preferred means of transportation when it snowed.
In late 1961 I was asked if I wanted to volunteer to go to Viet-Nam as an “advisor”. It meant reducing my service by about 3 months and a much warmer climate so I went arriving there just after New Years in 1962. I was assigned to the 3d RRU stationed at the air base outside Saigon. The first American killed in Viet-Nam, a member of my unit, died the month before I arrived. Of course I didn’t know anything about that when I volunteered to go. My only interest was in shortening my service, getting to a warmer climate and admission to college.
What duty… Civilian clothes… A room in an apartment hotel in downtown Saigon overlooking the Saigon River… Meals in nice restaurants… Then it suddenly ended…
There was an assault on President Diem’s Palace which was quite close to our living quarters… One morning we woke up to the concussion of bombs and sounds of machine gun fire… Of course we had to know what was happening so we all rushed to the roof of our building to see… Pretty stupid we were… Planes were bombing the palace. Ships and gunboats in the Saigon River were firing back at the planes… Tanks were flooding the streets. And we were in the middle between the palace and the boats on the top of an 11 story building… I will never forget the mayhem when it occurred to all of us that it was pretty dumb to be on the rooftop with guns firing at the planes which were then obligated to strafe the boats… Being the smallest I was pushed around pretty good as everyone fled for the stairs… Last again… Reality check!!! This was a war, not a party, and very dangerous…
So into uniforms all 600 of us went and back to sleeping on a secure base… It turned out to be a good thing because the VC announced any military American caught in civilian clothes would be shot as a spy… So much for beautiful Saigon…
I spent my time setting up an infrastructure for the masses of Americans to come… Wiring buildings and installing electronics equipment for radio detection work… In my spare time I applied to college… In June 1962 I was accepted into Dickinson College without SATs or an interview… Never even saw the campus… Count that a plus for being in the military.
In the fall of 1962 I arrived on campus as a 21 year old freshman. Found my dorm room and was introduced to my dorm advisor who when he learned my age was not shy about asking me to buy him some beer… What an introduction to college life.
My military service stint did me a world of good… I was really
motivated to do well in classes. There would be no more military service
for me. Four years later I graduated and for the first time was not last
in my class… I had grown up…