Alan Campora

As Interviewed by Eve Gottsman, March 18, 2018

Alan Campora: In His Own Words

Hi , my name is Eve Gottsman, and in this podcast I will be interviewing my Grandfather, Alan Campora, about his time in the Vietnam War, including how the draft works and how returning Vietnam Veterans were treated when they got home.

My name is Alan Campora. I was stationed in Vietnam for one year, from May of 1968 to May of 1969. When I was in Vietnam, I was stationed in an area called Bin H. The company I was in was called the 125th Air Traffic Control Company. Our company was the headquarters company, which means we had, all over the south of Vietnam, we had smaller companies and platoons and their responsibility was to set up these small radio towers to help guide in helicopters and small planes into various little airports all over the country.

I was drafted. Since I was drafted, I only had to serve two years. So, the draft was something that was started for the 2nd World War and never stopped until after the Vietnam War. The way the draft worked was: when every male reached the age of 18, they were required to go down to what they referred to as the local draft board and sign up for the draft. That doesn't mean you would be drafted, it just means you signed up for the draft and you got a card, which they called a draft card, which was a form of identification. Shortly after I was drafted, later on as the war progressed, to make it more fair, I guess, they had what they called a lottery system. The lottery system was based on your date of birth. So what they did was they put down January 1st thru December 31st and they started pulling these birthdays out of a hat. So some people lucked out. Like, I knew of a person whose lottery number was like 340 or so out of 365, which pretty well had good chance that you werent gonna be drafted. And that worked for a while, eh, and that seemed to work until the end of the War. The other thing was it then seemed where towards the end of the War, a lot of the American soldiers who were stationed over there were... really were not as active as wanting to be there as earlier, you know, in the War. And a lot of of it, I think, had to do with the bad publicity that was being portrayed by there of the American soldiers that were over there.

An American soldier who fought in Vietnam got very bad coverage. It was not a very popular war. A lot of the people felt we shouldn't have been there -- and our Country just didn't accept the fact that we had the right to do what we did over there to help out. When I came home from the War, I flew...we flew...I flew from Bin Ha, the first stop was Anchorage, Alaska. Then from Anchorage we flew down to Seattle in Washington, and then from Seattle, Washington we flew to Fort Dix/ McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey where I was discharged from.

When we got to Alaska it was early in the morning, there was nobody there, so then we had nothing to worry about. We came down -- we flew down to Seattle, Washington, we had about a two-hour layover, and we were able to walk around the airport and there was people there. And there were people yelling at us: Baby killers! And actually, I was spit upon by people, who really... It was when we came back... I mean -- we werent very well liked -- and the American Soldiers who fought in Vietnam... we came back -- we were really badly treated and portrayed. And I can remember, there were a lot of times when soldiers that came back from Vietnam, if they were looking for a job, they wouldn't even put down that they were a Vietnam Veteran coming back. They might have put down they were in the Army or the Navy or something, but they were afraid to put down that they fought in Vietnam because of the bad attitude that a lot of people had against us.

Our whole involvement over there wasn't very well accepted. First, it was handled really haphazardly. Kennedy was assassinated, Johnson took over, and he really didn't seem like... he really didn't know how or what to do about it. Nixon took over and he did other things. It was really, in my opinion, it was not a very well thought out War. You know, the way the Second World War was handled and so on was a lot different then the way Vietnam was handled -- and it created a lot of problems and it wasn't very good. You know it's a big difference -- the acceptance of the American GI today is: we're being honored more, thank God, than we were back when I came home in 1969 from Vietnam.