Stephen Tyler

Artillery Captain

Profilers: Colin Kreditor, James Lee, Patrick Gevargiz

Overcoming Difficulties


Were there any difficulties that you had to overcome during your service? Like I knew you said you enjoyed your time there but was there anything…?

Of my twenty six and a half years I spent at least sixteen of them in command positions so I had people overcoming the difficulties that I may have been providing them by being their commander… sure… you get to a balancing of time vs mission vs personal life vs the rest of the world around you. I don’t know if that is a difficulty but it can certainly be a challenge from time to time… Also being in the command structure or in command of something, depending whether it’s your unit or my case different units from different branches and then it filled our artillery battalion… You’re required from time to time to deal with personal issues, not every person you’re forced to serve with has an attitude or a desire to be in the military and a few of time from time to time can do misguided things.. when they do you get to deal with them and… and again as much as it sounds a little bit maudlin it is one-sided. Their opinion of what they’d like to do in their privatizing of their sector doesn’t matter – they’re going to do it the military way or you will have a conflict. Occasionally you run into those conflicts, as a commander you’re required to solve them each time you do and they are usually easy to solve… you know… it doesn’t turn out very often to be anything overly strenuous or overly mentally taxing – its ok…

Attitudes toward the war


What were the attitudes of you and your fellow soldiers towards the war at the time? How did you guys think about it? Cause obviously we have a very different perception now way after…

Sure… For the year that I served in the Northern I Corps person of South Vietnam… the artillery soldiers that I served with – with very few exceptions and I say very few meaning maybe four people at most – was very positive very impactive… we did not have drug issues we did not have disobedient issues, we had exceptionally well-trained troops that did a damn good job period… We were very fortunate some of the units have spent more in the field as opposed to on fire bases… perhaps didn’t have quite as close of a communication control with their folks, but we did and… we had very few difficulties, we had very positive attitudes, we knew why we were there, we knew that if… if the people in the United States would tone down their anti-war rhetoric and leave us alone… there was virtually no doubt that the commitment there would have been completed in half the time and the US forces were certainly more than sufficient to be completed successfully… and looking back at it today many years later, there wouldn’t be a North or South Vietnam – North Vietnam would not exist… so it’s unfortunate that the public sentiment was allowed to go in the direction that it went for as long as it was allowed to go there and … and that the support and control of our troops was adversely affected by it because we had pretty open communication, we heard the news, we had daily reports so we knew what was going on and that was all the way down to the last private so it was unfortunate but… be that as it is that’s the way it is… they’re still trying to figure out a way to welcome us home…

Coming Home


Would you like to tell us any stories about after the war?

My birthday is 5 December and on 8 December, I was sent from my fire base down to Cam Ranh Bay to be sent back to the United States… It was about a 110 to 115 degrees in Vietnam so we were in short sleeve light weight uniforms… we flew from there to McChord Air Force Base which is co-located with Fort Lewis Washington… Washington in the middle of December is snowing and there were four feet of snow on the ground at McChord when we landed so it was a pretty pretty violent change from very warm to very cold. We were fed a steak breakfast. We were paid in cash currency; had a big bag of cash and change. We were fed a steak breakfast and given a one-way ticket from SeaTac to where we wanted to go, in my case Los Angeles. Walked into SeaTac, two halves of a story.

First half, two relatively not necessarily terribly bright young males walked over to me said a few disruptive things about my service and so forth and one kid spit on me… and I looked at him and said “you have about a second to get you and your friend away from me or they’re going to take you to the hospital because I’m going to damage you really badly…” Along the way I went through quick kill in the army and unfortunately or fortunately I know some pretty damaging moves. His friend apparently believed that what I said was true and dragged this stupid kid that spit on me away… that’s half the story… Kinda standing there a little tiny bit in shock… you know I’m in army green uniform wiping spit off my face… and I’m 28 years old at the time and a lady who was old enough to be my grandmother’s mother probably in her eighties walked up to me in a black long sleeve dress, pulled a handkerchief out of her sleeve and wiped all the spit off my face and said “oh sonny, I’m so sorry thank you for your service” and walked away… I had no idea who she is and I’ve obviously never seen her since… but it indubitably inscribed in my mind the total difference in the societies of the United States of America between young kids who generally speaking didn’t even understand the commitment to the Vietnam issue and therefore reacted, in my own opinion of course, rather poorly to it versus the older people who had either relatives that served in the Second World War or Korea who understood it completely… and understand the US’ commitment to overseas’ activities.

So it’s something that obviously I’m sitting here 50 years later and I still remember it almost as though it were yesterday and I will never forget it so there’s the turnkey thought… on my service in Vietnam and my return from service in Vietnam and… as an attendant to that I will say that several of the Vietnamese people that I met during the course of my tour… were just remarkably wonderful people and… and I’ll feel forever remorseful that – I’m sure their lives turned very poorly when the US association pulled out and South Vietnamese army fell… I’m sure their life became pretty nearly grim on earth…

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