Duke R. Bischoff


As Interviewed by Anthony Carlos, March 4, 2019

Duke R. Bischoff: In His Own Words

I, Anthony Carlos, interview my neighbor, Duke, about the Vietnam War.

What was happening with the average American at that time?

Before Vietnam? Yes. I was the oldest of twelve children, in a large Catholic family. I didnít smoke or drink, and I went to the Marine Corps at nineteen years old to serve my country. I spent a couple of time in the States, then went to Vietnam. Upon arriving in Vietnam, it kinda caught up like with everyone else. We couldnít believe what was going on over there. It changed my world completely. After coming back I was one of the lucky ones because I had a large family to go back to. Iíll tell you no one talked about Vietnam when you came back. It was old thoughts of wars gone by that you didnít ask about what happened, so, you just kinda lived your own life and stayed quiet about.

Alright, so, how did you end up a soldier? Were you drafted or did you enlist?

No, I volunteered for the Marine Corps in 1965, before actually anything started happening. And in '67 -- I volunteered to go to Vietnam in July of '67.

So what was the average life for a soldier?

Average life, in Vietnam? Easy, quiet, most of the time, on base behind the wire. Very, very hectic on the outside of the wire.

Alright now, I kinda know a little about this one because you were in Khe Sanh*, but were you in any other major conflicts of the war?

Yes. I happened to be a Marine, and I went with a group of Marines at the First Battalion and Ninth Battalion. Those Marines happened to be the first combat troops in the Vietnam, and in February of '65. Being the first combat Marines in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh* said that he would annihilate them. So we became ďThe Walking DeadĒ at that time. And we spent four years in country. I didnít spend four years, my unit spent four years, the longest of any Vietnam -- any Marine tour ever.

Alright this one might be a little personal, do you remember any specific soldiers that fought with you or you remember that are relevant?

Yes I do. Iíve got very good friends- friends I remember and friends I see. Not many. Two that I see, three-four-five that I think about a lot.

Alright so how long did you spend in the war itself?

I was there for twelve and a half months.

So what was your overall opinion on the war. Were you pro or anti?

At the time since I volunteered, I was like many Americans going to stop communism in 1967. By '68 or '69, the country was against the war -- well the country was already against the war, but it got really bad January of '68 during the Tet Offensive* something changed in the whole country. That was half way through my tour. Go head.

Now, I understand it must have been very hard -- because, when you got back cause the people who were Pro, for it, were mad with you or upset with you because you guys lost, or the people who were against the war were mad at you because you fought in the war.

Right. It was-there was a lot of people that were obviously against the war, my own personal instance was I went back to a large family who didnít speak about the war. Everybody in my family -- many people -- the older people had the mindset of the fact that after WWII, they didnít talk about it. They just went on with their lives, and so that applied to me. I went back and didnít talk about it with my family, they went on with their lives. Iíll give you an interesting note though. About ten years later I saw on an application. It asked if you were a Vietnam veteran, and that actually concerned me -- it scared me. "Why do you want to know that?"

Yes. During the time and during Vietnam you were either for the war or against (as previously mentioned). So you were either ďMake Peace Not WarĒ and that whole slogan and belief. Or you were against the communists. And, I understand that at the end of the war, both sides were kinda angry at you. One of the sides being because you fought in the war which they didnít really like, and the other people were upset with you because we lost at the end, which is what I read. can you please elaborate?

Yeah, run it by me one more I didnít quite catch all that.

So when you came back a lot of people were mad at you for fighting in the war, or they were mad at you for losing it.

Ok, how would I address that? I guess I can just give you how it worked out for me. When I came back, like I said, I was able to join a large family that didnít talk much about we just went on about life. But I did notice I became a bit of an -- to be frank and honest -- an alcoholic. Started drinking heavy, very heavy, for about ten years. Which was what most veterans did.

Veterans that were tense and had issues to come back with -- thatís always been a problem for them. But I was lucky enough to be able to just blend in there and not talk about it so to speak. I didnít go anywhere where people werenít happy with it. I didnít protest the war. I think I did my part and left it. I didnít have feelings about the war being as wrong as it was. I didnít realize that until later when I looked back on it and see what really happened. And thatís a whole other story. So, does that help your question at all?

Yes.

Was that all you wanted me to answer?

I think I just need one more question. What was the Vietnam War fought over?

What was it fought over?

That was kind of unclear.

OK. First of all, the war was being fought over to protect that part of the world from communism. So that communism didnít spread, something we were taught ever since the end of WWII to Korea: to stop communism. So of course we were there to stop communism. But it turns out the tactics and methods that we used just didnít work. The reason why they didnít work was because, in my own belief system, is because you canít take a country away from its people. So you canít go in and fight and tell them what to do -- itís been that way forever, ever since the Revolutionary War.

So the military and Korean forces, they used a chemical called Agent Orange* so that they could draw out some of the VCs* out of the forests. Now, I understand that a lot of other American and Korean troops were also afflicted by it. So are you or have you ever currently been afflicted by Agent Orange today?

No. I donít have any diseases attributed from Agent Orange.

[Afterwards, Duke then showed me some souvenirs he had brought back from Vietnam]

They had to come up with bullets and band-aids and beans, you know, to keep everybody going, right? And this war was so well-supplied. I bought cameras to take pictures on the DMC. They had tape recorders up there. So everybody -- so the manufacturers made a lot of money shipping it to Vietnam, out to the veterans. So itís a big deal, you know.

Here, see the poverty? And whatís that there?

Alcohol?

Liquor being sold on the side of the road -- this is taken by the side of a truck. Where did they get that liquor?

America?

The black market, yeah. And so it ships into Nha Trang*, goes out the back door, itís all duh, duh, duh, duh, duh. Understand?

So yeah. Thatís what it was. A whole lot of people making a whole lot of money.

[Podcast ends]

*Khe Sanh - One of the most bloody battles in the Vietnam war.
*Ho Chi Minh - Communist leader of North Vietnam
*Agent Orange - A chemical that was used to draw out out N. Vietnamese troops. Unfortunately it causes many diseases. Many Vietnam veterans had to be treated due to its toxic effects.
*VCs - an abbreviation for the word VietCong, the name given to the communist forces from Northern Vietnam.
*Nha Trang - A major port city in Vietnam.