This is the second installment of an interview with Barry Standeford, which Joe Todd conducted on Nov. 29, 2018, in Bartlesville.


(The interview picks up with Standeford describing his assignment to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina.)


Todd: From Beaufort, where did you go?


Standeford: I came home on Christmas leave in December of 1967 and when I reported back in, they told me I had orders for WESTPAC, which meant going to Vietnam.


T: How did you go to Vietnam?


S: Flew all the way. Flew out of Tulsa to Los Angeles and caught a bus to San Bernardino to Norton Air Force Base. We flew out of Norton to Kadena, Okinawa. We landed at Kadena and they processed us for Vietnam there. We left all our dress uniforms and the only thing we took were our utilities, the work clothes.


T: When did you land in Vietnam?


S: Landed there Feb. 28, 1968, at Da Nang.


T: Was Tet still going on?


S: Tet was still going on. We got off the plane and there was still stuff burning.


T: What did you think?


S: What did we get our self into here. When we got the plane, there were two semi-trailers with coffins with flags on them, stacked two high. I didn’t count; I didn’t want to count. They were all Marines and they were waiting for a flight back to the United States. Welcome to Vietnam.


T: What unit were you assigned to?


S: I was processed through the First Marine Air Wing Group and they assigned me to VMA 121 at Chu Lai, about 60 miles south of Da Nang. It was in I Corps.


T: How did you get to Chu Lai?


S: C-130, hopped a ride. You go to the transit part of the airfield and show them your orders and they book you on a flight.


T: What did you do at Chu Lai?


S: Checked into a squadron there, and the new guys were going on some kind of detail for the first 30 days you are there. This is to climatize you to the heat, and it was hot. Instead of 30 days, I pulled almost 70 days on perimeter guard. It is a separate deal from your squadron. There were infantry mixed with air wing guys. No matter what you do in the Marines, you are still a rifleman.


T: What type of installation did you have on the perimeter?


S: There was a main bunker every 100 yards around the entire perimeter. We had the first 20 bunkers on the northeast corner of the perimeter, which were assigned to MAG 12, Marine Air Group 12. There were Army units, Navy units and Seabees that filled in the entire perimeter.


T: Were you on perimeter guard day or night?


S: Depended on the situation. There were three guys to a bunker and if you were on green alert, everything was all right, two of them could be asleep and one awake. If you went on yellow, you had to have two guys up and if you went red, everybody was up.


T: How large was your bunker?


S: About 10 feet by 10 feet and made of sandbags covered with runway matting. You put the matting on the bunker walls, which were 3 feet thick and put sandbags on top of the matting.


T: Anything happen while you were on perimeter guard?


S: Yes, we got hit several times. They probed the perimeter looking for a weak place of checking if anybody was asleep. They wanted to get to those aircraft. We were hurting them bad, at that time, napalm was still legal and we flew a lot of napalm.


T: What is your most vivid memory of your perimeter guard?


S: The 101st Airborne was coming in at that time and a road went in front of our bunkers, and it went around to the south and the next string of bunkers were the Army’s and they assigned the 101st Airborne those bunkers. About 2 o’clock in the morning, they hit that part of the perimeter. They hit every Army bunker with RPGs and machine gun fire and never fired one round at the Marine bunkers. They were welcoming the 101st Airborne. The enemy knew everything that was going on. Their intelligence was pretty good.


T: After perimeter guard, what did you do?


S: Went to routine aircraft maintenance and we worked 12-hour shifts. For seven months, I was on the night shift from 6 in the evening until 6 in the morning.


T: On the A-4?


S: Yes. We did the same thing we trained for except you had more bullet holes to patch.


T: Did you know many of the pilots?


S: Oh, yes.


T: Any of them not come back?


S: Yes.


T: When one didn’t come back, what was your reaction?


S: This one young pilot, the morning he went out, I had come out of the revetments, doing some work on an aircraft when he was taxiing out to go up on the DMZ. I looked up at him and saluted him and he saluted me back, and he never made it back. I can still visually see his face in that cockpit. He had the cockpit open at that time. You got pretty close to all the pilots, and we lost five in my 13 months there. We lost a few on the ground from mortar attacks. We were a sitting duck. The infantry units are constantly on the move and we were at the same place every day and they zeroed in on us and were extremely accurate.


T: Were you at Chu Lai the whole time?


S: I was at Chu Lai the whole time I was in Vietnam. I did make parts runs, but it was always to Da Nang.


T: Did you have any contact with the local people?


S: Yes, I went out with what the call Civic Action. They would go out in the villages, and churches in the United States would send clothes and items and we took that stuff out to schools and orphanages. The basic Vietnamese people were hard working and trying to make a living and trying to keep from being killed.


T: What was their attitude towards you?


S: There were a couple of places I went on the Civic Action that I didn’t feel comfortable because you could feel something just wasn’t right. The people were not extremely friendly and we were on alert.


T: Who was your commanding officer?


S: In VMA 121 was Col. Marlow.


T: Tell me about him.


S: He was an older gentleman, maybe 40. He was like an old man to us. It seemed you felt more at ease around the older officers in the Marine Corps. It was like being around your dad or your grandfather. He was a real nice guy.


T: What is your best memory of Vietnam?


S: My best memory is when that plane lifted off bringing me home. When it actually got in the air, I knew I was going to make it back.


T: When did you leave Vietnam?


S: March 1969. It was the 7th or 8th.


T: What is your worst memory of Vietnam?


S: The worst memory is one day we were on the flight line working on the aircraft and a C-123 took off from the north end of the runway going south, and when he got airborne we could tell something wasn’t right. He flamed out in both engines and rolled to the left and crashed right outside the perimeter wire. We all took off to go down there and we see a guy walking from the aircraft and he was totally burned. We got him to lay down and flesh was falling off of him. I didn’t recognize him, and by the time the Navy corpsmen got there, he had already died. He was the only one that got out of the airplane. I found out later, it was the mess sergeant that ran the mess hall for Marine Air Group 12. He was going home on Christmas leave 1968. He was going to have to come back but he was going home because he had been there over a year. That was Sgt. Malcolm.