Jack Day's Worlds

Vietnam Chaplain

S01 Photo taken while in jeep on QL 14 between Pleiku and Dak To, 1968

"Before Vietnam"

Photo taken June 3, 1963, graduation and commissioning
Western Maryland College, Westminster, MD

ROTC Commission, 1963

Many chaplains had no military training or experience and were given the rank of captain on their very first day of active duty. I took a longer route. After four years of ROTC in college, I was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Medical Service Corps, but received a delay in active duty in order to attend seminary to become a minister. My last year in seminary, I put in for orders for two weeks of summer training at Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. As a seminary student, I was basically qualified only to watch chaplains. I spent the two weeks inventorying chapels and closing them for the winter after the summer training season. The next year I graduated from seminary, was ordained, and transferred to the Chaplain Corps, going on active duty in 1967.

New York, 1967

The first stop was Fort Hamilton, New York, where the U. S. Army Chaplain School was then located. We house-sat a townhouse on 14th Street on Manhattan for the pastor of the Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village July and August while I attended the Chaplain Officer Basic Orientation Course. Even though the military was already becoming unpopular, I was proud of the uniform and, disregarding advice, wore it on the streets of New York City. That experience gave these words to "Don't Look for Me in the Picture Show":

You, stranger with long yellow hair,
You did not know me four years later
as the lights changed on 42nd Street and we stepped off the curb.

You looked at me, dressed in green, and saw a picture.
Murderer, you called to the picture.
Not meeting my eye, speaking to my clothing.

Fort Eustis, 1967-1968

My first duty station was the U. S. Army Transportation Center at Fort Eustis, Virginia. With the Vietnam buildup at its height, some of the school programs, especially those teaching helicopter repair, worked around the clock with three shifts. At Fort Eustis in 1968, my first marriage ended. Next stop was Vietnam.

Chronology of events happening elsewhere:

  • January 21, 1968. Siege of the U.S. base at Khe Sahn begins.

  • January 30, 1968. Tet (Lunar New Year) Offensive in Vietnam: Communist forces launch surprise attacks against South Vietnamese provincial capitals.

  • February 1, 1968. Famous photo taken of Nguyen Ngoc Loan, Saigon police chief, executing Viet Cong Officer with pistol shot to the head. President Nguyen Van Thieu declares martial law.

  • February 7, 1968. North Vietnamese with 11 Soviet-built light tanks overrun U. S. Special Forces camp at Langvei after 18 hour seige.

  • February 8, 1968. Three college students in civil rights protest against whites-only bowling alley killed in confrontation with highway patrolmen in Orangeburg, South Carolina. Robert F. Kennedy says that the U.S. cannot win the Vietnam War.

  • February 18, 1968. 10,000 in West Berlin demonstrate against Vietnam War.
  • February 29, 1968. President Johnson's National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (also known as the Kerner Commission) warns that racism is causing America to move "toward two societies, one black, one white -- separate and unequal.". Defense Secretary Robert McNamara resigns after concluding that the U.S. cannot win the Vietnam War.

  • March 31, 1968. President Johnson announces a virtual halt to all bombing of North Vietnam in a unilateral gesture of peace; discusses Vietnam for nearly 40 minutes, then announces "I shall not seek, and I will not accept the nomination of my party for another term as your president."

  • April 3, 1968. North Vietnam agrees to preliminary conversations with U. S. representatives for peace talks.

  • April 4, 1968. Martin Luther King, Jr, age 39, shot to death in Memphis, Tennessee, where he had gone to support a strike by sanitation workers.

  • April 5, 1968. Violence erupts in American cities.

  • April 6, 1968. Federal troops and National Guardsmen ordered out in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Detroit.

  • April 23, 1968. The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church merged to form the United Methodist Church.

  • June 5, 1968. Robert F. Kennedy Assassinated.

    <------ Home Page | Vietnam: July 1968------>

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    ©1999-2004 Jackson H. Day. All photos taken by Jackson Day or by Chaplain Assistant Danny Warshauer unless otherwise noted. All Rights Reserved. Updated June 23, 2004