Mike Company               

Third Battalion, Fifth Marines

RVN, 1966 -1971
Home Up Operations Narrative Grady's Memoirs Bits and Pieces Mike McFerrin Review_Capo Haygood LaThap Op Earl Gerheim


Page Two

Grady Rainbow is writing a book, with help from his friends, of his memories of his time in the Marines, much of it with the 5th Marine Regiment. These pages are an excerpt from that effort. This is copyrighted material, and may not be reproduced for distribution without express written permission from the author.

�CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED COMICS� 1958 issue of �The United States Marines�, I just had to have it.  Twenty-five cents was a lot of money for an 8-year-old kid in 1958, but I paid it gladly.  Because there on the cover was a picture of a Marine in Dress Blues, a Sergeant with a chest full of ribbons, gleaming white hat and the gold insignia of a Marine.  I treasured that book and kept it safe above all others.  Superman, Batman, even the first issues of Spiderman, Avengers and the X-Men came and went, but the Marine stayed.  Inside it�s covers was the story of, to me anyway, real heroes.  Not fictional characters, not super heroes, real men who had lived and died as icons.

That book stayed in my possession until into the nineties, then suddenly disappeared.  Someone decided they wanted it more and �borrowed� it permanently.  That was my first taste of the mystique of the Corps, my first memory of anything Marine Corps related.


No one in my family had ever served in the Corps.  My father was in the Navy, 100th Torpedo Bomber Squadron TBF Avengers, in the Pacific campaigns of World War II.  One uncle died at the Battle of the Bulge as an infantry officer, one served with General Patton's Third Army in the Combat Engineers and another was wounded badly at Anzio in Italy.  But no Marines.  My mother�s one brother was a Chief Petty Officer in the Navy during Korea and Vietnam, the other a merchant marine supporting convoys to Europe; hell members of my family had served in every war since the Civil War and been wounded in action in almost every one.

But, there had been no Marines.  Army, Navy, Air Force even National Guard, just no Marines.  Someone asked me once why the Corps?  I really don�t know, it was the Corps or nothing.  Maybe it was that comic book, twenty-five cents worth of history. Maybe it was just because no one had done it before, I was the first.


I grew up on the south side of Oklahoma City in an area known as Capitol Hill.  A quiet middle class neighborhood, most of my family living close to one another.  Oklahoma City was sprawled out over several hundred square miles, but wasn�t a �Big� city as normally thought of.  It mainly consisted of several small communities surrounded by a larger city limits, and still does.  There were Warr Acres, Bethany, the Village, Nichols Hills, Midwest City, Del City and Capitol Hill.  It didn�t have a large built up downtown area, mostly small self-contained communities.  I was the oldest grandson; my sister was the oldest granddaughter in the Rainbow clan.  We had a large family, plenty of cousins, aunts and uncles to surround us.


  In Capitol Hill we used to joke that �you can�t swing a dead cat without hitting a Rainbow or a relative", pretty true statement.  Times were tough, but hard work solved most problems, we never noticed things we didn�t have as kids, we just had fun.  I remember my grandfather telling stories of his father and grandfather how they had been lawmen in the old west and in the Territory that became Oklahoma.  My grandmother and great grandmothers spoke of the Trail of Tears and how their ancestors were forced here from the Cherokee lands back east. Lots of stories of wagons, badmen and the making of a state, but from my Dad and uncles no stories of war.  I knew my family had served in World War II and I mean everyone served some way.  My Grandparents and my Great Grandmother worked at McDonnell Douglas (later to become Tinker Field AFB), all the sons and uncles served in the Armed Forces.


  Sometimes I would sneak into my garage and open the cigar box that held Dad�s medals from the war.  Or wear his old flight jacket, Navy issue made of goatskin with a fur collar; only I wasn�t allowed to play with these items.  And my father never talked of them.  I remember only one medal in the old cigar box; the Purple Heart, no citations, very few pictures, (the only one I really remember was one of a bare breasted Hawaiian girl on Oahu), nothing much to tell of his war.  They never told of their war, to us kids.  I did overhear conversations among themselves sometimes that mentioned the war, but was never really told what they saw or did.  Looking back I wish they had, it may have prepared me better for what I was to face.  But the World War II veteran was a silent generation at that time in the 50�s.


  The Korean War Vet was even more silent; they were the forgotten heroes of the first �war� we didn�t fight.  Maybe that�s why so many Vietnam Veterans write of their war, maybe we feel the need to let the next generation know what could lie ahead.


 Anyway my childhood was pretty normal for the times.  I went to school, played and worked with the family, as needed, nothing special. I was a skinny kid, dark hair and tanned complexion.  My appearance and last name made many think I was Indian.  I am about a quarter; 1/8 Cherokee and 1/8 Chippawa, but the name was pure English.  The Rainbows emigrated here in the early 1800�s, some say at the request of the Queens government; others say due to a forbidden marriage.  But either way it seems we had outlived our welcome in England.  My mothers people were the Yandells from Austria, �Black Dutch� they were called.


I was and am a prolific reader.  I read anything I could and my mother encouraged it greatly.  I remember her going to the library and signing a permission slip so I could check books out of the adult section, even though I was only 9 years old.  I read classics, novels and history with equal ease and pleasure.  �To Hell and Back�, �From Here to Eternity�, Bram Stoker�s �Dracula�, Gibbons �The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire� and anything by Edgar Rice Burroughs I read and loved.  I read Audie Murphy�s autobiography, �To Hell and Back� and was amazed at the description of war as an infantryman.


 I tried to talk to my father about it, the war I mean. He was vague concerning combat, but made one thing clear, I was to always show respect to any man who had fought for the country�s freedom.  And any man who had excelled in combat was to command the greatest respect.  The only thing I ever really remember my father being adamant about was the character and heroism of "Bull� Halsey, his former commander in the war.  My uncle, JD, had a box of Nazi buttons and medals he had captured in the war.  But he too was silent about what he had seen.  The only real reference to the war was talk of my Great Uncle Earl; he had died in the Battle of the Bulge, winning the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.  He had been only six months older than my father and his loss effected the family greatly.  He was the only Commissioned Officer in the family�s history that we knew of.  The rest of us served in the ranks with kind of a perverse snobbery, poor �gentlemen rankers�.


  Like most of my generation we played cowboy and Indians, cops and robbers and of course soldier.  Running through the neighborhood fighting the enemy, sneaking through the bushes, always dying in glory or winning in a mad rush through the foe.  We thought that going into the service was a rite of passage, something we all would have to do when our time came.  It was as normal as waking up in the morning.


It was great being a kid in the 50�s and early 60�s, there was peace all around and everyone just wanted to get better and better.  My folks moved around a lot, each house a little better than the last.  My father worked Civil Service and we did okay, I guess.  I seemed to go to a different school every year, so long term friends didn�t really exist.  I did have a few friends in grade school that eventually graduated high school with me, because they too had moved around.


I was in high school when Vietnam was really building up; the nightly news was full of this strange war.  None of us even knew where Vietnam was, or why we had troops there fighting.  We just decided it was another war to be fought.  Then came TET 1968, the war really came home, causalities rose and names of the dead became faces.


 One kid I grew up with in grade school, Robert Raymond, was killed in action that year, a Marine PFC. I discovered even Marines and heroes really die.  The Walkabout brothers, Warren and Billy were serving in the Army; Billy had been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.  Both had been wounded badly.  Carl Yousey, a good friend, was in the Corps and would in �68 lose his eye on Operation Meade River.  Along with his Purple Heart came the Silver Star Medal for valor in action.  It felt weird to watch a war on television, first hand.  The sight of men dragging the wounded through rice paddies and actual firefights flooded the news each night.  I remember seeing the battle for Hue City and the Fifth Marines fighting from destroyed house to destroyed house, vicious conflict every foot of the way.


  My class in school became divided; it was 1968 the election year of Nixon and McGovern.  Peaceniks and hippies began to come out.  We still didn�t see much of that in Oklahoma, but it seemed everywhere. I became confused about the whole thing.  If the country was fighting a war, then we went and served.  I could not understand any question of that.  The idea of burning a draft card or running away seemed like treason to me.  I even broke up with a childhood sweetheart over opinions of the war and who should be elected.


  From my family there was silence on the subject, not a word either way.  At least until my folks divorced in my senior year.  I moved into my own apartment and worked at Sears and Roebuck until graduation in May 1968.  I missed the prom and most other social events of my senior year; I was working.  Most of the kids in my class never knew I was on my own and having to support myself and go to school.  Guess they took me for some kind of a geek.


I drifted away from the mainstream of school social life and tried to plan what to do next.  I graduated in May 1968 and continued working at Sears.  On June 16th I wrecked my car when the brakes failed, I wasn�t hurt but I was fed up with many minor failures.  On June 17th I enlisted in the Marine Corps delayed entry program.  I with many others made the trip downtown to the American General Building; I remember the painting of George Washington on the roof.  The building was the home of an insurance company, but also housed the Armed Forces Examination and Entrance Station, AFEES. The building was later renamed the Journal Record Building, it was destroyed in the bombing of the Murrah building in 1995.  There, with a couple of hundred other young men, I stood with a number painted on my chest in iodine and was processed into the Marine Corps.  There were two guarantee programs, Air and Ground.  I couldn't qualify for Air as I didn't pass the color vision test, I didn�t care I wanted to be in the infantry.


 So I signed up for delayed entry, I would leave for active duty September 5th, 1968.  The next day I told my supervisor at work I had enlisted and was to leave in September; I was promptly fired.  It is illegal to fire someone for joining the service, but they can fire you if they declare it is something else.  In my case they said they didn�t like the way I dressed.  I was wearing the same clothes and suits I had been wearing for over two years.  But on that day it suddenly wasn�t appropriate.  So much for supporting our troops in uniform, thanks Sears.


 I probably would have continued to work and try to go to college and just wait my time out for the draft.  Then there was a chance comment from one of my aunts that Christmas.  She was talking about the future and said, "I suppose you will go on to college and avoid the draft also.� A comment concerning one of my cousin�s husbands who was worried about his deferment.  I didn�t understand, I had considered college and wanted to go after graduation.  But, �avoid� the draft?  Since when did a Rainbow �avoid� serving in uniform?  So the idea of college disappeared and the service became my only option as far as I was concerned.  I wasn�t scheduled for active duty until September 1968; so I had the summer to live it up.


I roofed houses with my new stepfather and partied the rest of the time.  I was able to move in with him and my mother that summer until I was to leave.  I felt about as welcome in his home as a stray dog.  I was something he hadn�t planned on having to put up with; he had his hands full of his own children and didn�t need me.  I tried to talk to him about my signing up, but although he seemed eager for me to enlist and leave; he had little interest. He thought dodging the draft was acceptable, he had managed to do it quite well himself.


  My own father had grown distant, his new wife made it very plain, and I was not wanted in her home, period.  Her children were to be the only children in that marriage.  So I spent the summer working, chasing girls and generally having a ball.  It was then I met the woman who became my first wife.  A foolish romance that lead to an early divorce, less than four years after we married.  But that is a story best left untold, Vietnam had many marriages as victims.  So I had the summer.  Enjoy my freedom while I could, that was soon to change.