This free blog has been converted into a poor man's web site. Read it from top to bottom, then hit the link to the bottom of each page for Older Posts, and keep repeating this as you read on to the end of it.


The Thank You Dance

Photographs by Spec. 4 David R. Crews

The kids did a traditional dance for us American GIs as a thank you for the baseball backstops.

I was amazed at how my first professional grade camera had frozen the action on the sand kicking up from the shoe of the girl in the front. This was the first time I had taken shots of people while they were moving around. Photography is all about learning something new every time you try something new.

If you take a good look at these photos you will see how the left sides are lighter than the rest of the photo and are slightly out of focus. This was because the enlarger in my photo lab had the wrong lens for it. But I couldn't do anything about that because the 30th Artillery Brigade was not authorized a photographer so I could not order any of the right equipment through my supply sergeant. This photo is actually a first print reject; I made several other prints that had the light part darkened by me 'burning in' that area, that's custom photo lab work. The schools we gave backstops to and the Army all got 4x5 and 8x10 prints of all the photos in this series.


The Big Pile Up

Photography by Spec. 4 David R. Crews

The way this wild-fun-mayhem got started was, after the official ceremony and Thank You Dance were all over, I began taking a few candid photos out in the school yard which the kids all wanted to be in. They were being very happily competitive amongst themselves about this, the girls got squeezed out right away, so I came up with a quick idea to make it a whole lotta’ fun for the boys who lasted through the first round of competition.

I had the guys in the front line of the group stand there with their arms outstretched and holding the rest of the boys back; then I stepped back about twenty feet, stopping to draw a line in the dirt at ten feet; and then at twenty feet away from the group I focused my lens on that ten foot mark; then, as I watched through my camera, I raised my arm and dropped it suddenly to signal them all to dive in at the ten foot mark, where I photographed them at here in this shot. I did that three or four times till they almost got too wild.

I seriously doubt that any of them ever completely forgot this day, because in their society children are taught to be quiet and polite most of the time when they're around grownups. I was very aware of this while doing the photo assignment and was careful not to let the kids get too wild for too long. In fact, right after this shot was taken I began to slowly, carefully (cause they had almost surrounded me by then) retreat backwards towards the Army car that I had ridden there in with the crew of GIs who had taken the baseball backstops off the trucks and set them up. Those GIs were already sitting in the car, over there about seventy-five feet from me and my mayhem; they were having a great time watching all this fun and had noticed when I started backing up towards them. I was nearly tripping over krazy-kids while damn near falling down laughing, and those GIs were all grinning and smiling and laughing and loving life at that moment too.

I turned around towards them and yelled, "Hey man! I gotta get outa here!"

The driver hollered back, "Yeah, we can see that, hold on, we're comin'!"

Then he slowly inched the car towards me.

The other guys in the car were all bouncing around inside there and laughing and poking each other with elbows (while remembering bits and pieces of what it had been like some years before that day when they were just school boys too). As the car eased on towards me, while avoiding touching any of the krazy-but sweet and wonderful-kids, the guys were laughing uproariously and hollering stuff like, "Hold on Crews, we're coming, hold on there man, we'll getcha'. Don’t let ‘um knock ya down there buddy, stay on yer’ feet! We’ll getcha’ outa’ there." Them GI buddies of mine were bouncing around in the car and hootin’ and hollerin’ like a buncha’ krazy-kids themselves.

I was getting all tangled up in, and nearly pulled down on the ground by, hilariously laughing little Okinawan school kids when one of my buddies opened the back left side car door and jumped out and sorta' rescued my (nearly falling down from laughing) GI butt from the escalating mayhem.

Everyone who was there that afternoon in that dusty school yard on the subtropical Island of Okinawa had a great, memorable time.


The Kids Had to All Wash Their Hands Before Eating Lunch

Photography by Spec. 4 David R. Crews

I thought it was great how the children had settled right down after that fun-filled-wild-mayhem, when their teachers told them it was time to wash their hands for lunch. They were back to being well disciplined, quiet and polite in the company of grownups again - as is 'the norm' in Asian societies.

I remember that while printing copies of this shot, I was fascinated by how I had frozen the water in mid-stream like that, because I was learning about what my new professional grade camera equipment was capable of.

The Kids Sit Down for Lunch

Photography by Spec. 4 Crews

After I took this shot, the Okinawan interpreter came over to the Army Officer in charge and told him to go tell me that I could not use this photo for official publication, because the school lunches were substandard even though they were 50% subsidized by the U.S. Government.

Later, in my photo lab, I had to make myself one 4x5 print of it to see what the problem was, but the lunch doesn't show up well because all the other shots I had taken that day were outside so I was not using a flash when I grabbed this shot real quick. The second after I took this shot, as I lowered my camera from my face, I was deeply moved by the gentle, sweet looks on their faces; they must have felt surprised, honored, and pleased to be photographed so many times by an official American Army Photographer that day. That really made me feel warm inside; this made me want to take some more shots, so I had stepped back from the classroom door and was kneeling down and pulling my flash out of my camera bag when I was told not to take anymore photographs of the school kids and their lunches. The officer was very discrete about, and he cupped his hand halfway over his mouth as he bent down towards me to half whisper the official command, he had a genuinely friendly-hey army buddy smile on his face, and was thoroughly polite about it.

Growing Up with Nuclear War Fears in America

So far, this web site has shown you the kind of a US Army photographer that I was. I also have a story of military madness to tell you. But before I get into the meat-of-the-matter, I am going to tell you how I grew up to be the full-blooded, Anti-Communist, Anti-Taliban, Anti-Al-Qaeda, Anti-Fascist, tried and true Soldier of Freedom that I sure-as-hell always will be.

Part One: The Home Show

I have lived in fear of nuclear holocaust my entire life.

When I was six years old, in 1956, my parents took me to a “home show,” which is one of those convention center kinds of affairs where all things new and fantastic, for the modern home, are demonstrated and sold. There was a family sized fallout shelter on display there that we took a salesman’s demonstration tour of. It was a cement block, above ground model of an underground bunker that was smaller inside than my bedroom. It had a little hand crank air intake filter that I thought was really neat. There were suggested supplies, in there, that should be stored in one, like board games, books, food and water.

I was a modest child, I saw that there was no place to pee and poop in private, so I asked the salesman about that. He said that you would have to use a bucket to pee in and have a small, lidded barrel to pour it into, and that you had to take a dump in the corner.

I blurted out, “Right in front of everybody!?”

My father laughed and asked the salesman, “Yeah, well then what do you do with it.”

The salesman showed us a tin container of chemicals that would cut down on the - offensive to humans but attractive to flies - fragrance from the feces and help to decompose that solid human waste.

That created a fearful, indelible impression upon my maturing young psyche.

During my elementary school days, we had monthly air raid drills in school. The first few years, we students had to craw up into a ball under our desks. That was the best protection if bombs and roofs began falling down all around you.

Then a new directive came down through guv'ment channels. This is what we children of the 1950s were taught:

The United States Government had realized that it wouldn’t be plane loads of traditional bombs that our enemies would drop on us anymore; it would be one, modern, muti-megaton nuclear bomb per wide geographic area. There would be no danger of multiples of bombs falling and crashing in school roofs down upon students and teachers any more. If a nuclear bomb fell in our area, it would be a giant horizontal shock wave blast with super heated gasses that got us. So instead of hiding under desks during monthly air raid drills, we went out into the hallway to "duck and cover."

If a nuclear bomb detonated real close to us, then we all instantly fried and died - in a mighty, mighty intense flash - right there sitting in our schoolroom seats. There would not be enough time to run out into the hallway to duck and cover.

If the nuke detonated far enough away, and we kids had time to run out into the hallway to duck and cover, the bomb blast's horrific shock wave would blow in all of the windows on the side of the building that the blast came from, pass over and around the school, and then deadly shattering glass of the windows on the other side of the building would blast back into the schoolrooms when the shock wave came back through on its return trip that is caused by a vacuum effect sucking it back towards the point of where the nuclear bomb detonated.

If we schoolkids survived that by being out in the hallway, we had to head for the basement, where fallout shelter supplies were stored. There are still fallout shelter signs on the elementary school building where I attended first through sixth grade.

We were all taught the new air raid response technique and the reasons for it in a school assembly one day. After that, during air raid drills, everyone went out into the hallway to duck and cover.

Eventually, schools stopped having air raid drills; people figured out that it was useless to try to survive a nuclear blast, due to the deadly nuclear contamination of everything and everyone anywhere near the where the blast had occurred. Everyone was probably going to be dead within two weeks, anyway.

Part Two: Better Dead Than Red

I have been prepared to defend my country, my family and every American’s freedom ever since I got a grasp on what it all meant.

That was way back when I was in elementary school.

The Cuban Missile Crisis, of October 1962, occurred while I was twelve years of age and in the sixth grade in elementary school.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, I remember very clearly watching my father watch TV way more intensely than ever before. It was in the olden days, before TV remote controls were popular. So when my dad was changing the station dial on the TV, to choose which show to watch, he often sat on a foot stool right there in front of the TV. But, during the terrifying Cuban Missile Crisis, he stayed there sitting on that stool instead of getting up and going to sit on the sofa and watch the TV show, that he had chosen to watch, as was his normal habit. He sat there all zeroed in on the TV like a cat watching a mouse hole.

He wouldn’t move.

It got weird to me, so I asked my Dad what all that stuff on TV about the underwater missiles being pointed at us and the Communist Cubans and Russians and Khrushchev vs. Kennedy really meant. I had always known that for my entire twelve years on earth we had had Communist Nuclear Missiles pointed at us every split-second of the day, from somewhere; so I was wondering what was so important about these new missiles being found only ninety miles from the southern shores of America.

My Father turned on his stool, looked me square in my eyes, his face never before and never again had such a soul draining seriousness about it, and he said to me, “It means that we may be going to war.”

Dad knew that it wasn’t going to be like World War Two, when he had spent so many harrowing moments, months and years at sea fighting in the US Navy, over in the South Pacific. This new kind of 1962 war was comin’ right there to him on that stool he was sitting on, with his family all around him, in the form of nuclear fire and brimstone raining down hell on earth.

When I was attending elementary school - Merritt Elementary School in Dundalk, Maryland - I had a male sixth grade teacher who was a twenty-six year old, recently discharged Air Force Veteran. He was the first male classroom teacher that we had ever had in my school. He had done his four years of college, then four years in the Boy Scouts, I mean Air Force (sorry, accidental slip on inter-service rivalry from an old soldier), then he came to teach at our elementary school. We children in the class liked the teacher a lot.

Sometime shortly after the Cuban Missile Crisis ended, one day during class, in the sixth grade, our male teacher gave us a lecture on capitalism vs. communism.

He went up to the black board and started writing:

Capitalism vs. Communism

Better Dead Than Red (this is still my favorite)

It’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees. (I have always admired this sentiment)

Kill or be Killed (then as now, you betcha)

Meat Eaters vs. Rice Eaters (I fell for this one)

And maybe a few others, that I can’t remember.

I don’t know if he had been lectured on or brain washed with this subject in the Air Force, or else he had been enamored with the ideals when once spealled out during a lecture, when he had heard it in the military or somewhere, or it had come from his favorite American capitalistic propaganda pamphlet.

When my classmates and I had been about three years younger, we had had that air raid drill change of tactics school assembly, when American schools changed from practicing reacting to the threat of conventional bombs being dropped on them to the threat of one humongously powerful nuclear bomb being dropped near them.

Then we had three more years of worsening nuclear fears, as we read more about nuke warfare in magazines and newspapers and also saw TV news stories about America’s nuclear war race with Russia and China.

When that male teacher started in on that capitalism vs. commie-ism lecture, we were ready to listen to that man. We students sat straight up in our chairs, then sat still, silent and serious the entire time he spoke to us.

Most of the capitalism vs. commie-ism lecture points, that the teacher spoke of that day, have fairly well stood the test of time. He had read the entire English language version of the Russian Commie Hand Book On How To Overthrow Capitalist Governments, and he pulled his copy of it out and showed us some of the written propaganda that is in it. He declared that it was all commie crap, and, basically, it was. I think? I don’t know. Was it a true translation of an actual Russian Commie pamphlet?

Even back then, I suspected that it may not have been a true translation or even a genuine copy of commie crap. It was written in the forceful style of all hard core propaganda that was a natural turn off to me back then and makes me laugh today.

I remember him showing us one page in it that had instructions for commie infiltrators and agitators. It instructed them to lie, cheat, steal, murder, commit acts of sabotage, disrupt the economy anyway that they could and do what ever else that they had to do to destroy capitalism in America and forcibly install a communist government on us here. Considering all that I have learned in my adult life about communist societies, that book definitely had some realistic facts in it. Not only are communist governing tactics miserable to have imposed on you, the gross national products of communist countries are dismal failures.

There was a part in the commie hand book that said that the best way to have a top notch nation is:

“From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs. If one person drives a garbage truck, and another person is a doctor, as long as they both do their jobs the best that they can, then they each deserve the same rate of pay and to live in the same kind of houses.”

But the teacher said that life doesn’t work very well that way.

As a kid, that was confusing, because I thought that that meant that if everyone worked hard and shared everything equally, like we were taught to do all through elementary school, then the whole world would get along just peachy keen.

Oh my goodness!

That shows the juvenile truth about communism!

Well dog my cats!

You are a capitalist like me. You know that we humans need to be inspired by our food-clothing-shelter basic needs plus a desire to better ourselves and live finer lives, with our loved ones, in order for us to have the inner drive to be able to establish and maintain a good, safe, secure, prosperous society. That set of facts was in the pro-capitalist section of our teacher’s lecture.

“It’s better to live on your feet or die on your knees” (not according to that old guy in the hotel in Catch 22), and “better dead than red” are debatable ideals, and each has its time and place, but that all laid some heavy thoughts upon the minds of us sixth graders.

Although “kill or be killed” is always right in any situation that absolutely is a kill or be killed situation, it is not something that most twelve year old minds can think through to the point of knowing when to do what to whom.

That “rice eater vs. meat eater” bit in his lecture certainly fell short of its declarations, though.

That teacher assured all of us young Euro-American children, in our little segregated school house, that: we would always win wars against Asians; they are smaller in stature than us, and they live off of a diet that often consists mainly of rice, so therefore they are weaker than us; we are big, muscular, strong, healthy meat eaters; we will always beat little rice eaters in war.

That sure as hell ain’t so! Ask any Nam Vet. Before their first one year tour in Vietnam was over, many of them were calling that little lifetime rice eater called Charlie Cong: Mr. Charles or Sir Charles.

All in all though, on that day in 1962, my sixth grade teacher effectively instilled in me an already growing firm conviction to kill commies for American Mommies, until I was fed to the worms.

Part Three: The Blue Room

From as far back as I can recall - in my near-60-years of living on God's Good Earth - I have been aware of the hard, cold, brutal fact that communist controlled missiles are pointed at me anywhere I may be in the United States of America. Though the Cold War of American freedom loving countries verses freedom mangling communist countries has been declared to be over, there are still communist and other missiles that have their guidance systems programed to strike targets all over the USA.

When I was in the eighth grade, during 1963-64, at Dundalk Junior High School in Baltimore County Maryland, one of our teachers took our one class on a field trip to "The Blue Room" in Fort Meade, Maryland - where her husband was a captain in the US Army. He served as officer in charge of The Blue Room. It was a pleasantly lit room with all blue lights, no white lights, lots of radar screens with Army operators steadily watching them, and a clear, thick glass wall with a soldier on the other side very quickly and deftly - quite amazingly - writing backwards on his side of the glass - words which were frontwards on our side - then very quickly erasing some of the words and then deftly writing some more stuff backwards that we could all read frontwards from where we were standing.

First, it was explained to us schoolkids that blue lights are the easiest artificial light on the eyes and that is best for the army guys spending long hours everyday carefully watching the radar screens. Those soldiers were keeping track of the radar blips of every airplane flying in the Baltimore Washington flight corridor.

Then we were told about the guy writing backwards. It was then that we noticed several soldiers seated behind the backwards-writing soldier and the seated soldiers were talking on telephones. The captain said that the guys on the phones were talking to air traffic controllers at (what was then) Friendship Airport. The air traffic controllers were steadily telling the men on the phones the flight numbers and other pertinent info of planes that the air traffic controllers were in contact with. The men on the phones were telling the man writing backwards what the info was, so that he could write it on the glass wall for the radar operators on the other side of the clear wall to see and compare with what they saw as blips on their radar screens. Hence, any flying plane not double checked like that would be considered to be possible enemy aircraft sneaking around up there either spying on or ready to attack Americans.

It was right about then that I noticed right next to the closest radar operator man's hand there was a four inch wide, red, translucent, plastic, double hinged, safety cover over top of a three inch wide, solid black plastic button that had FIRE written in white on it. It was obvious that all the radar operator had to do was to move his hand a few short inches, flip that double hinged red, translucent, plastic, safety cover off of the top of that black plastic button with FIRE written in white on it and he could push the FIRE button down with the heel of his hand and shoot a missile up into the air. It was obvious, but I was so stunned at seeing it - THEE! BUTTON! (one that could begin a war) - there so readily accessible (I could have reached over and very easily had FIRED the missile me-own-young-self) that I blurted out, "You can push down on that button right now and shoot off a missile!?!?!"

The radar guy sitting there in a chair at the radar screen looked up into my quite animate, adolescent face, he smiled rather sheepishly, and with an ever-so-slight nod of his young-American-man's head and in a restrained, mild voice he said, "Yes."

I knew right then and there that he did not want to ever have to flip that red safety button off and push down on that black FIRE button. Everyone in that room was feeling the exact, precise, same train of thought as the young soldier by THE BUTTON.

Then the captain told us young, adolescent, eighth graders something that I could never forget. He told us that the missiles controlled by THE BUTTONS in the Blue Room were all located in hidden, buried underground missile bunkers all over Maryland. The captain said that at that very minute a farmer may be may be riding on his tractor, whilst plowing his farm field that is located over top of one of those buried bunkers, and if the missile in it had to be fired then the two feet or so of topsoil on top of the bunker would begin to quake and shake and slide off the bunker doors as the thick, heavy, steel, bomb blast proof doors spread open upwards and flipped the farmer and his tractor off to the side as the missile raised up and shot off into the wild blue yonder - at enemy aircraft that wasn't crafty enough to fool our radar systems and the dedicated soldier radar operators.

But that is not the most unforgettable aspect of the day.

The most unforgettable information we junior high school kids were given privy to, that afternoon in Ft. Meade, was that the US Army had missiles pointed at Fort Holabird in my great American hometown of Dundalk, Md. and some where also pointed at the Bethlehem Steel Mills in Sparrows Point, Md. a few easy miles from Dundalk and where I went several times a month during my entire growing up years, because my grandparents lived in the small American mill town there and my family went to church in that wonderful, family friendly mill town named Sparrows Point.

On that 1963-64 day in Ft. Meade's Blue Room, we junior high school children from Dundalk, Maryland were hit with the brutal realization that we not only lived 'under the gun' of commie-rat missiles - as we had always known - we lived with the very real possibility that American missiles would one final day wipe us and our families, friends and neighbors right off the face of the earth.

I accepted then, and still do, as completely reasonable and sensible why our own missiles had been pointed at me and mine during the entire time that I was growing up in Dundalk and Sparrows Point.

Fort Holabird contained the - top secretive and also positively pertinent to America's well being - U.S. Army Intelligence School. Bethlehem Steel was known for producing war armaments for America and our allies. If the United States' enemies were to set off one of the newest modern war terrors - The Neutron Bomb - over the Dundalk and Sparrows Point areas - the effects of a Neutron Bomb is to kill all life below its detonation area but not break a single twig on a tree - the enemy would capture Ft. Holabird and Beth Steel intact. They'd only have to conquer a small section of the East Coast of the USA in and around Maryland at first, then get the intel files, fact books, spy equipment and other Top Secret stuff from Holabird to know a whole lot more about how to conquer the rest of the United States, along with the entire world; in-depth intel files on America's friends as well as our enemies were maintained and stored at Fort Holabird; and the enemy would also have been able to produce fresh armaments made at Beth Steel to do the rest of the conquering with.

The enemy could not be allowed to capture Fort Holabird and the Bethlehem Steel Mills. I preferred, and still do prefer, death over the losses of such supremely valuable assets to my enemies.

Fug it. When ya gotta go, ya gotta go.

Introduction to A True Tale of Military Madness

I grew up believing in just about everything that had ever been taught to me by my family and by my public education. Too many of those beliefs were smashed to bits and soon dissipated into thin air, while I served in the United States Army as ‘Official’ Brigade Photographer for the 30th Artillery Brigade Air Defense missile unit on Okinawa.

I was serious about soldiering, dedicated to doing a great job at my assigned tasks; I zoomed from Private E-1 up to Specialist Fourth Class in the first ten months of my military service; I knew that I had become an excellent photographer and was going to be one for the rest of life.

Unfortunately, I was illegally assigned to the 30th Artillery Brigade on Okinawa, in 1970.

I was shattered by the facts that: I was never issued any camera gear to do army photo assignments; I could not order photography equipment or supplies; nor could I earn an advance in rank; and the hard, horrible fact that the photo lab I worked in was set up in a nuclear fallout emergency decontamination chamber was an intensely screwed up situation that had the very real potential of allowing millions of American casualties to occur during a nuclear war.

What was a young 20-year-old kid supposed to do about that?

Not one single US Army order ever given to me while stationed with the 30th Arty Bgde was legal. Not even the army discharge they gave me was legal. I am quite certain that, technically, I am still in the Army.

Keep on reading through this web site. I completely qualify, and provide witness information for, everything written here.

The Illegality and Immorality of My Assignment to the 30th Artillery Brigade on Okinawa

My first day at the US Army Photographic Laboratory Technician School in Ft. Monmouth New Jersey. Our first class assignment was for us brand new, and very happy, students to pair off and take a photo of each other. That's a 4 x 5 Graflex Speed Graphics large format camera, and at my feet is the rest of the issued gear plus the tripod that was mine to use for the next fifteen weeks. I loved every minute of photography school.

That's Specialist Fourth Class Crews there - yours truly - at the left side of this shot heading into position to photograph an approaching parade of 30th Artillery Brigade missilemen and all the other guys - every cook, clerk, and driver, etc. - who were my comrades-in-arms. The soldiers you see in the photo are the 30th Arty Bgde officers and their families. It was part of an all day change of command ceremony for our brigade commander. And I worked hard at photographing it all day then spent the the evening, till after 11 PM, developing film and custom, hand printing 90 4 x 5 photos of the event that were given out to all of the officers there.

I did several photo assignments of formal, 30th Arty Bgde events held at the largest officers' club on Okinawa. Those were quite relaxing and very tuned-in times for me; I was tuned in to any great photo op that popped up. My photographic specialty was - and always will be - candid photos with everyone in the shots looking their natural best selves and obviously enjoying each others' company. And I always got to sit down to eat the big, formal meal with the officers and their wives. It was the same with 30th Arty Bgde events held at the enlisted men's club. I also photographed the 30th Arty Bgde's family picnics, some command inspections, soldier of the month awards, and promotion in rank ceremonies. Everyone who asked, not just those who had the power to order me to, were given photos I custom hand printed for them. I was happy to do that - for the moral of the troops. It made those guys, along with their wives and children, feel good to send photos of themselves to their loved ones back home.

When I enlisted into the Army, in 1969, I signed up for three years - which was one year over the military draft’s requirement of two years of service. I voluntarily enlisted for a third year so that I could go to the US Army Photographic Laboratory Technician School at Ft. Monmouth, NJ.. After graduating from Photo Lab Tech School, I attained the rank of Specialist Fourth Class (E-4 after only ten months of military service, three months inactive - before I had to report to basic training - plus seven months active duty and I made E4 is an awesome accomplishment, which required hard work and dedication to duty). I had become a damned good soldier. Then I was sent to Okinawa.

My assignment to Okinawa was great news to me. Because, during the time that I was in Army basic training and studying at Photo Lab Tech School in Ft. Monmouth, not one soldier, whom I ever knew of, wanted to be sent to Vietnam. Neither did I.

Besides being trained in a set of professional skills, that I had an interest in, and natural talent at making good use of, the one thing that I wanted most, to get to do while serving my country in the military, was to be sent as far away from the East Coast of the United States as possible. I had lived all of my nineteen years on Earth there, and it was time for a change; I wanted to travel, and see some of the rest of world.

On Okinawa, the Army assigned me to Headquarters Battery 30th Artillery Brigade as ‘Official’ Brigade Photographer.

The 30th Arty Bgde was a missile unit. We had great big Nike Hercules Nuclear Missiles on some of my unit’s thirteen missile sites! And, we had smaller Hawk Missiles on some of our missile sites too.

Our brigade motto was, "Always On Target."

The Island of Okinawa sets way out from Communist China’s coast line, at just exactly the right spot for an alert, fully prepared missile brigade to be able to steadfastly maintain a 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year missile defense shield. The 30th Artillery Air Defense Brigade was assigned to be there, on Okinawa, to help defend the free world from Communist Chinese nuclear attack.

I was the first Army trained photographer to be assigned to work as the 30th Arty Brigade’s ‘official photographer’. The 30th Arty had finagled paperwork to get themselves a real photographer. They wanted their-picture-taken as often as possible. The entire situation thoroughly violated countless Army Rules and Regulations. I do not know what I was listed as on the unit roster, or if I was listed at all.

Before I was assigned to the 30th Arty Bgde, their photographers had been soldiers from the brigade who were supposed to be working there as radar techs, company clerks or whatever their original jobs had been in the brigade. But they wanted to be photographers, so they eagerly volunteered to shoot and print photos of the 30th Arty personnel at work and play.

The man whom I was replacing, as brigade photographer, was Spec 5 Swigget (Swiggert? I’m not sure of the spelling). Swigget told me that his mother owned the franchises to three Pepsi Cola bottling plants somewhere in the Mid-West States, and that she used to send him a check every month that equaled half of his Army pay, so that she could declare him as a deduction on her income tax. His mother used to donate tons of Pepsi Cola to political campaigns. She used those political connections to help her son in the Army get away with lots of crap that no one else could. Swigget told me that he had "HAS POLITICAL INFLUENCE" stamped on his Army record folders, so that everyone knew not to mess with him and to outright coddle the guy.

When Swiggett gave me my inaugural tour of the 30th Arty Bgde photo lab, I was stunned by the real crotch kicker in this historic narrative == the brigade's photo lab was not only illegal, it was set up in the nuclear fallout decontamination chamber for an underground nuclear fallout shelter communications bunker called "The Mole Hole." That secretive bunker was hidden in a hillside next to the 30th Artillery Brigade Headquarters office building.

Holy cow chips Batman!!

That photo lab compromised our stated military mission!!!

The Mole Hole was snuggled into that hillside right next to headquarters, because if America got into a nuclear boxing match with Communist China, the 30th Arty would need a safe, secure nuclear fallout chamber full of radio gear and other equipment that we would need to be able to coordinate offensive and defensive strikes with our missiles, along with the missiles of stateside military units, US Navy submarines and other war ships, US Air Force and US Marine jet planes, etcetteras, against enemy aircraft with nuclear bombs aboard and passing overhead of us on their way to obliterate my family, friends, neighbors, former school teachers and school mates and everyone else in America.

If the area immediately around brigade headquarters and the Mole Hole bunker was not obliterated by a direct hit from an enemy nuclear war head, the area might be contaminated with nuclear fallout snow from war heads that had dropped on other parts of the island. In the case of that scenario, certain, pertinent 30th Arty technicians and command personnel, who were authorized and trained to use secret codes and all that stuff, had to be in the bunker. They had to be able to verify who they were when they contacted outside military commands to inform them of what condition the Okinawan US Military’s Bases were in and to supply any info that the Mole Hole guys had on enemy movements, casualty figures and all that jazz. If any of those pertinent personnel were not in the bunker at the time of the nuclear attack, they would have to hightail it over to the bunker; but before they could be allowed into the bunker, they would have had to have been decontaminated of any nuclear snow that may have fallen on them.

The main door that we used to enter the Mole Hole, to go to work everyday, was a large, thick, steel, bank vault style door that was to be closed, locked and guarded if a nuke attack occurred. About thirty feet from the vault door, there was a regular sized steel door that was the entrance to the decontamination chamber. That second door was never used and was always padlocked inside and out. In the case of a nuclear attack, there would have been armed guards at that door too, after the two padlocks on it - one inside and one outside - were removed.

When the hightailing technicians and command personnel made it to the Mole Hole, they were to identify themselves to the guards, then step through the regular sized door and into an outer chamber, disrobe, and step into a shower to wash off the nuclear snow - so that they did not contaminate the other soldiers who were already in the Mole Hole; then the authorized personnel stepped into an inner chamber to receive some of the clothing that was kept in the bunker in large wooden crates that were full of necessaries and were always kept there for a two week stay underground.

The lab’s photo enlarger and print developing trays were on a tall, heavy metal table that blocked the padlocked door which gave access from the outside into the tiny outer room of the decontamination chamber. There was also a refrigerator in that cramped space for keeping film and photo paper in. Black curtains were hung across both open sides of the decontamination shower, so that we could keep white light (it ruins photo paper) out of the enlarging area of the darkroom. Then, in a small, janitorial closet sized inner chamber, where the decontaminated soldiers were to be given clean clothes, was where the photographers' print washing and drying equipment was located. There was also shelving in there for photo supply storage. There is no doubt that all of that negated any possibility of any quick, efficient use of the nuclear emergency decontamination aspect of the chamber.

Had that decontamination chamber ever been needed in an emergency, it would have been quite a frantic mess when the Mole Hole guys would have had to try disassembling and moving all of those heavy metal photo lab furnishings, the darkroom and other photo equipment plus the photo developing chemical supplies out of their way while dealing with freaked out, semi-nuked soldiers who were trying to get past armed guards and into the relative safety of the underground bunker. Of course, there would have also been all kind'sa unauthorized personnel trying to bust their way in with their wives and kids and all. "JUST TAKE MY BABY; PLEASE LET MY LITTLE BABY IN THERE!!"

Clearly, my photo lab was against Army Rules and Regulations.

Then Swiggett informed me that I could neither order any photo equipment nor any kinds of supplies - at all - to do my Army photo assignments. I had to find some way to scrounge them up somehow. That really took me aback.

In those days, both photo and stereo equipment that was sold on Okinawa usually cost no more than 40% of its stateside prices. Naturally, at those low prices on Okinawa, I intended to buy myself some top notch professional camera equipment anyway, so I ended up using my personal camera gear, and sometimes my money for film, to do all of my Army photo assignments.

On my second or third day at the 30th Arty Bgde, Swigget informed me that I could not advance in rank while I was there.

I was assigned to that unit for eighteen months, and, at that time, in the US Army, anyone who was posted overseas for a year or more usually got a promotion in rank if they did just a half-decent job at their MOS (Military Occupation Specialty -official job). So, I asked him why I could never advance in rank at the 30th Arty.

He told me that his MOS was not photography, but that he was being paid, by the Army, to work in an office in the 30th Arty Bgde’s headquarters office building. Then it sure enough shocked me, when the next thing that he informed me of was the hard, cold fact that there was no slot for a photographer anywhere in the 30th Arty Bgde. Consequently, when promotion opportunities came down from above, I could not apply for one.

Swiggert told me that when opportunities for promotion came down they would be distributed amongst the various army units something like this: three soldiers in a unit get to go from E2 up to E3, one soldier gets to go from E3 up to E4, and so on. The individual soldiers in each unit then had to compete for the promotions by proving that they were most worthy for them through their personal conduct and efficiency ratings, their MOS evaluations, maybe recommendations from their sergeants and officers. I don’t recall all of the exact terms or requirements that he cited, but it was by achieving requirements like that that a soldier had to show that they were worthy of the prize of a promotion in rank. Swiggert informed me that it was the fact that I could never receive an evaluation of my MOS that prevented me from getting a promotion, because my MOS was not authorized to be in the 30th Brigade.

I received my discharge from the Army while in the 30th Arty, and I can show you on my discharge records this official statement: “Soldier has no record of evaluation in his MOS.”

There were two guys working as photographers for the 30th, when I was first assigned to work there. One was Swiggert and the other was named Medley (not sure of the spelling). They were about as lackadaisical, nonproductive and sloppy about their photography as could be. Medley turned in 8×10 photos printed backwards and with white, photo chemical thumb prints all over them. Medley was off photographing, then in the lab developing and printing, his own stuff more than the 30th Arty’s; because he had a contract with a travel magazine that had paid him to do travel photos of Okinawa. It infuriated me. Swiggert just didn’t give a damn. Them two individuals had reputations for taking three months to get photos printed after they had shot an Army assignment. But when I took over the lab, it averaged me three days from assignment to handing in a full set of prints.

I asked Swiggert how he got away with being the way he was in the Army. He replied, while pointing his finger over at the 30th Brigade Headquarters office building, “I’ve got too much on too many of them for them to do anything about it.” My immediate guess at the time was that he meant the ins and outs of our illegal photo lab situation.

I later figured out it had as much to do with his mother and her political connections as anything else. But I have heard that he had been selling Army photo supplies to certain officers - including medical officers who would write him fake medical excuses, so he could get out of being a real soldier.

Those two clerks/jerks masquerading as official photographers had been in the Army, and assigned to the 30th Arty, for long enough times for them to acquire the army know-how and contacts to scrounge up photo supplies. Unfortunately for me, they never took the time and made the effort to introduce me to the right supply clerks or photographers in other units who could help me to get into a photo equipment and supply scrounging and swapping circuit. Those two Army jerks didn’t mind using their own camera equipment to do the job, because to them it was much better than working at a desk tap-tap-tapping their days away on an Army issue typewriter, or whatever their official jobs were.

I have natural abilities and compulsions to work hard at photography, and I did that for the 30th Arty, despite my film stock running low, then running out at times. I had to buy some film with my own money now and then, and then my film stock would be replenished with any old stuff that my 30th Artillery Brigade Headquarters Battery Public Information Office bosses (non-coms and commissioned officers) could scrounge up for me. I had no choice on the black and white film types that I had to use, and most of it was past its expiration date. No professional photographer wants to have to go shoot a sunny, outdoor job using high speed film that is designed for low light conditions, or visa versa. Nor do we want to use any expired film at all to do a job, unless we want some hazy, muddy looking negatives to print artistic, special effects photographs from.

The Army had trained me for fifteen good weeks, five days a week for seven-eight hours a day to be a photographer. It was top notch training, no doubt about it. I loved that training.

But, when I enlisted and signed up for the United States Army Photographic Laboratory Technician School, my recruiter informed me that the Army only guaranteed that I be trained as a photographer, not that I would work as one. The Army could have assigned me to do any job that they needed me in. The 30th Arty Bgde could have made me work for them as a clerk, a cook, a missile crewman, garbage can scrubber or anything else where they had a slot to fill, but there was no slot for a photographer there. I would have accepted working at any MOS they needed me in, as long as it was legal, there was a slot for me there and they supplied the equipment and supplies.

Despite all of that illegality and immorality, I kept up my good photography work until those gross infractions of rules and regulations caused me too many unnecessary and insurmountable problems.

When a person is in the military, they are government property. If I had taken any kind of legal military action against the 30th Arty for stealing me, in order to make me their personal photographer, or if I had contacted my Congressman about it, or had done anything like that back then, it would have meant the probability of retaliation from the personnel at 30th Arty who were guilty of stealing me as government property. I knew that if they could finagle the paperwork to get me there when it was against Army Rules and Regulations, then they would most likely pull a fast one and send me to the worst duty station possible, or something, before I could do anything about it.

Despite all of that illegality and immorality of my assignment to the 30th Artillery Brigade HHB on Okinawa, I worked hard at being the best photographer that I could be for the 30th Artillery Brigade Air Defense Hawk and Nike Hercules missile unit on Okinawa, during 1970-71. The 30th Arty Brigade personnel were thrilled by my printed photographs due to the way that my photos of them at work and play turned out real nice.

I had to print photos for publication in our brigade monthly magazine and other army publications, plus for display on our brigade’s bulletin boards. Also, I was always ordered to print extra copies of my photos that were to be given to the troops who were pictured in them. That made me feel quite complete inside, because I knew that my work would be important to those comrades of mine and their families for years and decades to come.

The 30th Arty’s photo lab had been set up, several years before I got there, by a guy named Jim Whitcomb of Houston, Texas. I found Jim through Internet searches using – ”30th Artillery Brigade” + photographer – as a search term. Jim is a successful photographer, and he had been featured in an issue of the American Society of Media Photographer’s magazine, which was on the Internet.

I spoke to Jim on the phone about a year or so ago; we talked for over an hour about how he had scrounged photo equipment and supplies through contacts that he already had had in the military and about the lab being set up illegally in the decontamination chamber, etc.. Not only had Jim been in the 30th Arty Bgde for awhile before he set up the lab, his father was a career soldier. I didn't ask what rank his dad had held, but Jim was an enlisted man who hung out after work on Okinawa with officers, not the enlisted men in the 30th Arty Headquarters Battery, where he had a private room in the barracks. When Jim could not get a promotion in rank, because there was no slot for a photographer in the 30th, an Army General - who was a drinking buddy of Jim's, personally saw that Jim received a promotion.

You can contact Jim at:
Studio Houston Digital Photography
5401 Mitchelldale Suite B2
Houston, Texas
Phone 713 682 0067
Fax 713 682 0067

I have sent numerous emails to Jim Witcomb, but he does not reply. The important ones are posted further along on this web site, and sending them constitutes direct action in the direction of having him help me to prove my case here. Other emails were sent so he knows who and what kind of a person I honestly am.

Because Jim refuses to help me, things are going to get real rough, one day soon. He will have to deal with it and admit the truth. I do not know why he hides from it, except maybe he feels extremely guilty for how he set up a photo lab that negated the prescribed - extremely important - use of the nuclear fallout emergency decontamination chamber.

Though most likely impossible, I prefer to be friends with Jim, not a guy who has to make him do something he does not want to. Jim is an excellent, successful digital photographer, and he could be very helpful in coaching me on digital photography - I need to become fully adept at it but do not know much about it at all. I have solid plans for how to make good use of digital photography.

I believe that there is government evidence to prove that there was no authorization for the 30th Arty to have any photographers. The evidence is in the morning reports and unit rosters for the 30th Arty Bgde that are on file at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, MO.. The evidence could possibly be the lack of any entries that state a person with a photography MOS was assigned to the 30th Arty.

Something that can help me must be there. I tried to get all of the 30th Arty Bgde HHB morning reports and unit rosters, but I cannot afford to pay for the research, copying and shipping of them.

I did manage to order an official list of the number of clerks, cooks, etc. that my army unit was composed of, I have a copy of the Table Of Organization and Equipment dated 31 July 1967 for Headquarters and Headquarters Battery Air Defense Artillery Brigade, and there is no slot for a photographer on it.

Depression Sets In

I had arrived on Okinawa during the last week of June in 1970. Previous to that point in time, I had made it through the Army’s basic training and then their Photographic Laboratory Technician School with high enough class work grades, plus excellent Conduct and Efficiency Ratings, to earn me the rank of Specialist Fourth Class with only ten months of military service to my name — three months inactive prior to entering basic and seven active. That is a very quick rise from the rank of E-1 to E-4.

Then, beginning in the late summer of 1970, I began to suffer from severe depression and some troubling anxiety. It screwed up my sleep patterns something fierce; I couldn’t get to sleep till near daybreak, my dreams became so intense that they exhausted me, and I had trouble waking up in the morning. I never would have made it through basic and photo training if I had been like that previously. I was now suffering from an acquired sleep disorder.

My depression and problems getting to sleep had something to do with the anxiety which I experienced because of my reasonable concerns about that damned photo lab negating the intended use of the decontamination chamber during a possible nuclear attack on Okinawa. I did not possess unreasonable fears of immediate nuclear war, but the 30th Arty was part of the chain of defense against nuclear war - a chain is only as strong as it's weakest link - and the photo lab in that decontamination chamber rendered the 30th Arty into a very weak link, indeed.

I may have some kind of an anxiety disorder, but it has always helped me to be a safer person, it has never kept me from doing dangerous things that were either necessary or just for the thrilling fun and/or accomplishment of it. I just pay more attention to safety than most other people do when doing daring things.

Several times, when I was a kid setting on a beach watching all of the other beach goers playing and swimming around in the water, I was struck by deep, wrenching concerns for their safety out there. I wondered what I would do if any of them needed my help in the event that any of them had begun drowning. The consequence of those wrenching concerns was that I took Red Cross Swimming Lessons as soon as I was old enough to and finished up four swimming seasons later with a Red Cross Junior Life Saving Certificate, at the age of fourteen.

You had to be sixteen to take the Senior Life Saving Course, but I never got to take the Senior Life Saving Course because the beach down the street from my house - where I had to take my swimming lessons - was closed because of water pollution when I was fifteen years old. But the only difference in Junior and Senior Life Saving was the number of laps swum during training and the distance we had to swim during our final exam, when we had to "save" a lifeguard who was pretending to drown.

The point is here that although I may have an anxiety disorder, any extra anxiety which I may possess has usually served me well during my life, because it spurs me to be a safer minded and acting person.

Unfortunately, I was apparently the only soldier in the 30th Artillery Brigade who felt anxious about the photo lab being illegally and immorally set up in the underground communication bunker's decontamination chamber.

I sure as hell was the victim of too much unprecedented anxiety when I lay awake, tossing and turning, in my bunk at night in the 30th Arty Brigade Headquarters barracks while trying to figure out how my had life become so insane, how could I be the only soldier in the brigade not allowed to get a promotion, why do I have to buy camera gear and sometimes film to do army work, and if the Communists attack will my photo lab being in the decontamination chamber cause tens of millions of deaths in America?

Now hold on there, that tens of millions of deaths fear truly does sound nuts. Doesn’t it? It does to the Veterans Administration.

The decontamination chamber had to be there for a military reason. Right?

If the 30th Arty Brigade Headquarters Battery did not get instantly nuked to crispy cinders by an airborne Communist nuclear attack on the island, then we might get an indirect hit from a nuclear war head. In that case, the chamber was there so that any brigade personnel who were pertinent to the operation of the Mole Hole’s equipment, but who were not in the Mole Hole at the time of the attack, could wash any nuclear snow off of themselves, and then go underground for two weeks to complete their assigned mission of coordinating defensive strikes with other U.S Army units, and the other branches of the United States Armed Forces. The 30th Arty Bgde Mole Hole was part of a chain of defense that was designed to stop the Commie Rats who had nuked Okinawa from flying their bombers all the way across the Pacific Ocean and nukin’ the freakin’ United States and killing tens of millions of Americans.

Well, anyway, that’s sort of the way that Swigget explained it to me on my first day in the 30th Arty Bgde photo lab — the facts are from him, but the flavor of it is mine.

Hey! Think about this: if you were alive when that photo lab was in the decontamination chamber, then that tens of millions of deaths number could have included you.

Too many people feel that because the nuclear war didn’t happen, it could not have happened; consequently, to their way of thinking, my problems with the lab being in that decontamination chamber are simply bullcrap. Which also means that - to their way of thinking - America's entire nuclear defense system is unnecessary and worthless.

If the war had happened, and the decontamination chamber had been needed, but the photo lab had negated the use of it, then most likely everyone in the 30th Arty Bgde would have died. So the individuals who were responsible for allowing that photo lab to be there had nothing to worry about.

The degree of probability of the decontamination chamber being needed in a nuclear emergency does not matter. What matters is that I believed that because the 30th Arty put the decontamination chamber there, it needed be maintained so that it was ready to do what the rest of the United States Armed Forces expected it to do. To me, it was a weak link in our chain of defense; and a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

Therefore, I still say that I was right, that it was healthy thinking, when I became deeply disturbed, shocked and depressed that the entire command staff and cadre of non-commissioned officers of the 30th Artillery Brigade allowed the photo lab to function in the nuclear fallout emergency decontamination chamber. I can not make it any plainer than that.

It seems that nobody but me, back then or today, was or is shocked about learning that the photo lab was set up in the nuclear fallout emergency decontamination chamber.

For many 30th Brigade personnel, it may be because by 1970-71 many of the soldiers serving in the 30th knew that at least one of the missile systems we manned was obsolete. We had medium sized, single stage Hawk, and larger, two stage Nike-Hercules Missiles.

I was not privy to any information about our missiles being obsolete, until after I had spent over six, long, frustrating, angry, demoralizing, depressing months worrying about the potential consequences of my photo lab being in that damned decontamination chamber.

The way that one of my 30th Arty comrades, and a few other guys who were relaxing with us in our barracks after work one day, explained it to me was that our Hawk and our nuclear war head armed Nike-Hercules missile systems couldn’t react fast enough to raise, aim, and fire any missiles before one of Communist China’s or Russia’s Air Forces’ newest, swiftest nuclear bombers could fly in on Okinawa, and do more damage to the island - in a few flashing moments - than the horrific World War Two Battle of Okinawa did in a month. Then the aircraft could head straight for the United States of America, where our families lived and were incorrectly, but proudly, believing that our military jobs were supporting and helping to maintain an around the clock - alert and ready - defensive position that was an important part of America’s chain of defense against Communist world domination, during the Cold War.

[I just searched the Internet for a web page to link to which explained that the missiles were obsolete. According to the web sites I saw, it was the development of intercontinental ballistics missiles that made the Nike-Hercules obsolete, not enemy Air Force bombers. The Nikes could not shoot down other missiles very well. I am leaving in what I was told by the guys who were part of our 30th Arty Bgde Nike-Hercules system, because that was all I had to go on back then. There still must have been at least some chance of enemy bombers coming at us at any time. Either way, in 1970-71, many of the soldiers of the 30th Arty knew that our missiles were obsolete.

However, the strategic landscape was changing and by the mid-1960s it was clear that massed Soviet bombers were no longer a credible threat while Intercontinental Ballistics Missiles (ICBMs) were. The U.S. defense posture shifted to deterrence and the Nike became obsolete. Most Nike sites were closed by the end of 1974, with the exception of batteries in Alaska and Florida that stayed active until the late 1970s. The last U.S. Army Nike Hercules sites continued on duty in West Germany and South Korea until 1984.

If our 30th Artillery Brigade air defense missiles were obsolete, when I was in that unit, it appears that we weren’t a reliable part of any defense. We may have been able to provide some help in thwarting a nuclear attack though; some 30th Arty Bgde missile sites may have gotten off a shot or two at incoming enemy aircraft; we may have had some chance of completing the part of our brigade’s mission that the Mole Hole was there for, even if we did not get to shoot down any attacking aircraft.

The problem was, the soldiers who had set up that photo lab and then the ones who had kept functioning, where it was in the decontamination chamber, may have figured that the fact that our missiles were obsolete meant that the photo lab wasn’t ever going to cause any deaths at all.

Was I a fool to at first believe that the 30th Arty Bgde was an integral part of the free world’s chain of defense against Communist military aggression, and was I a fool for fully believing that having the photo lab in the decontamination chamber jeopardized tens of millions of lives?

Maybe I was.

But, I didn’t hear that stunning tid-bit about our obsolete missiles till I was already real angry, deeply depressed and thoroughly stressed out to the max about my whole 30th Arty Bgde situation.

It bothers me that I may have had it wrong as to exactly why the Nikes were obsolete, and it will bother certain other veterans more. The Hawks may not have been obsolete, but they were upgraded in 1971 to keep up with our enemies developments in aircraft. What those guys told me in the barracks that day was all I had to go on, though, up till today. It was barracks scuttlebutt, but we all felt like we had been crapped on when we were talking about it. My buddies were correct about the Nike-Hercs being obsolete, that is what matters most.

Today, September 6, 2006, (I am adding this to my blog posting today) I found out, during more searching for historical facts about Nike-Hercs, that they were obsolete when the 30th Arty Bgde set up that photo lab in their Mole Hole’s nuclear fallout emergency decontamination chamber.

What I found just now on the Internet, during my second search for obsolete Nike-Herc and Hawk info, is the following:

After 1955, Hanford’s air defensive installations began the transition to Nike Ajax missiles; later replaced by Nike Hercules missiles. By the late 1950’s, the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles had rendered Nike missiles obsolete.

The Nike Hercules replaced the Ajax missiles in the late 1950’s. By 1960, however, the development of the intercontinental ballistic missiles had rendered Nike missiles obsolete, and the Nike sites were abandoned when Camp Hanford was deactivated in 1960 and closed in 1961.

Basic HAWK was developed in the 1950s and initially fielded in 1960. The system has been upgraded through a series of product improvements beginning with the Improved HAWK in 1970.

I have not been able to find info on the Internet to support a claim that the 30th Arty Bgde’s Hawk Missiles were obsolete in 1970-71, but there is historical info that the Hawk system was improved during 1970-71. On December 21, 1971, over a month after my discharge from the Army, the improved Hawk system was type classified Standard A. It appears that this means the improved Hawk was given a stamp of approval by the U.S. Military. Then, in May 1972, improved Hawk support items were first deployed to Germany. This historical info may mean that the improvements were made because the Hawks were more or less obsolete in early 1971, when my buddies first told me about any of our missiles being obsolete.

The 30th Arty’s photo lab was set up in their Mole Hole around 1968, so it probably never endangered anyone’s life. It is doubtful that the Mole Hole was ever going to be used in any nuclear confrontation during the time in which the lab was set up in there, because the missiles were not going to be used, because, after 1960 any Communist airborne attack would have most likely been by intercontinental ballistic missiles, not bombers.

This historical information just might exonerate Jim Whitcomb, and all the others responsible for that photo lab being where it was, from being considered negligent in their U.S. Army roles as defenders of the free world.

These newly discovered, to me, historical facts sure as flyin’ f### don’t help me to deal with what happened during my U.S. Army tour of duty in the 30th Arty though. It makes me feel worse to think that certain U.S Army and Government leaders knew these facts for ten g**damn years previous to my assignment to work in a Nike-Herc brigade.

I don’t know what to think. One Internet source claims that our Nike-Hercs known to be obsolete by 1960, others say it was in the mid 1960s. Either way, they were obsolete before I was ever assigned to the 30th Arty Bgde.

Now knowing that serving my country in the 30th Arty Bgde had been known to be a possible waste of everyone’s time, and tax payer’s money, for several years before my military service began, angers me even more than I have ever been.


I Applied for A Transfer Out of the 30th Arty Bgde

Back in August or September of 1970, after several months of doing a great job at photographing the 30th Artillery Brigade personnel at work and play, because I loved doing it, I had spent all that I was willing to of my own money on the photographic equipment and supplies needed to do those photo assignments. Not only that, I couldn’t deal with the guilt of knowing that my photo lab’s location in the nuclear fallout decontamination chamber compromised our military mission - a mission which I believed in deeply enough to be willing to sacrifice my life for.

Consequently, I applied for an inner-island transfer out of 30th Arty Bgde. An inner island transfer request meant that they couldn’t use my request to send me to some place that I didn’t want to go - like: Vietnam, or back to the states.

When I joined the Army at age nineteen, my entire young life had been lived on the East Coast of the USA. I had hoped to be stationed anywhere about as far away from the East Coast as they could send me, and somewhere overseas. I'd rather have been stationed in Vietnam than on the Eastern Seaboard of America.

I waited about a week for the transfer paperwork to go through proper channels, and then I went into the 30th Arty Bgde Headquarters Battery First Sergeant’s Office and inquired as to the status of my transfer request. The First Sergeant told me that I was “too valuable” and had been denied a transfer.

An E-6 sergeant, army lifer, clerk, working in the office, showed me a printed piece of paper in his hand and said, “But, here, you can sign this, and we can get you to Vietnam in less then two weeks, if you want to put in for that transfer.” Him saying that really pissed-me-off, because he was an army lifer who had never been in, and probably was never going to be in, any war zone.

There happened to be three army office clerk lifers in the First Sergeant’s office on the day that they offered me a transfer to Vietnam, and not one of them had been to, or probably ever going to volunteer for, Vietnam. Each of the three with 6, 8, maybe 12 years of army time behind them, if they were willing to go get into the Vietnam War they would have done so already. I couldn't figure out how anyone could be living their lives completing a 20 or 30 year hitch in the military with a war going on and not go get into that war for at least one tour of duty and help fight that war. The way that one of those three army office clerk lifers in the First Sergeant’s office, who was a Specialist 6th Class, looked back over his shoulder and snickered to number two clerk, an E6 Staff Sergeant, who grinned snidely back at the Spec 6 clerk, and then glanced at the First Sergeant and grinned at him, and then the way that the First Sergeant reacted to them other two clerks by snickering into his cupped hand as he walked away from us and over to the other side of the room, indicated to me that a veiled threat had just been delivered to me.

The unspoken, veiled threat amounted to this: "Crews, you better shut up and get it into your thick head that we ain’t letting you go. We can’t replace you. If you don’t do what we say, no matter whether we get you any camera equipment and photo supplies or not, and especially if you go above our heads out of this brigade to try for a transfer, or if you are stupid enough to complain about your situation to the Army Inspector General or to your Congressman, if you keep it up and push this request for a transfer any further, then we will illegally finagle the paperwork to get you sent to Vietnam just like we illegally finagled the paperwork to get you here in the 30th Arty Bgde. Even though the 1970 Army was only allowed to make you do one overseas tour per three year enlistment, and you are legally allowed to stay on Okinawa if you transfer out of this brigade."

About 99% of the guys who went into the Army, when I did, were terrified of going to Vietnam. I wasn’t exactly terrified of it myself, the intense action and surging adrenaline aspects of war intrigued me. After all, during the year before I had enlisted into the Army I had been a Registered Maine Hunting Guide who specialized in guiding Black Bear hunters. I was familiar with firearms, but we guides had to leave our guns at the hunting lodge when we tracked wounded bears at night, or else we could have been arrested for illegal hunting at night. Of course, by the time we found them wounded bears, we were always hoping to find that they had finally dropped dead from the wounds which they had received from bullets fired by our paying hunters, whom we were guiding at the time. Between June 1st and late October of 1969, I walked unarmed into the deep, dark, nighttime Northern Maine woods, whilst in pursuit of wounded bears, 30 or 40 times while helping other more experienced Maine Guides, and at least 15 to 20 times all-by-me-lonesome. And I 'dug' it.

Some GIs think they will always make it through any war - that they fight in - without receiving any wounds (neither physical nor psychological) and without being taken prisoner by the enemy. Not me though, ever since I was a teenager in high school, I figured that I could be taken prisoner, be wounded, loose limbs, go nuts or die.

I did believe in the Domino Theory, which I had been taught, early on, sometime during my school days. In case that you're not familiar with the Domino Theory, it stated that if the country of Vietnam fully fell into communist hands, so would its neighboring countries. Then the commies would keep taking over more and more countries that are next to or near Vietnam, till they had enough communist soldiers and industrial workers to build up enough strength and power to take over the entire free world.

I have always wanted the whole world to live free. I put my life on the line for that cause, when I enlisted into the Army.

But, I was confused by the news reports I had seen about the deaths of my peers in Vietnam, and the protests against that war. Especially when I learned that Nam War Vets were protesting against the war - I figured that they knew what was really going on over there and whether it was worth Americans being involved in or not. When I was first stationed on Okinawa as an American GI, I wasn’t sure whether or not that the war in Vietnam was helping anyone in any way. That damned war was, and the history of it still is, to say the least, controversial. Because that confusing controversy was muddlin’ up my mind, when I was turned down for that inter-island transfer, I turned down the 30th Arty Bgde’s office clerk's 'kind, generous' offer to allow me to go take my chances in the Vietnam War.

The Army could only make a soldier do one overseas tour of duty per two or three year hitch, so I had the Nam scare beat when the Army assigned me to Okinawa for 18 months.

I am going to share this with you, and if you say that I’m lying, we can "step outside and discuss it":

One day, a few weeks after that 'kind, generous' offer to allow me to transfer to Vietnam, I decided to take them up on it. I had had it. It was over. I was no longer willing to pay my own way through my military service, and could not deal with any more of their photo-lab-in-a-nuclear-fallout-decontamination-chamber-horse-manure.

I went to the PX that evening, after dinner, and bought two cases of cold beer, then went back to my barracks. A friend, who lived in my barracks, had driven me to the PX, and when we walked into our barracks, I told my friend to go ask anyone hanging out in the dayroom if they wanted to drink a beer, I asked two guys coming down the stairs, when I was walking up them, to join us, told them two to check for other thirsty fellows, I banged on some doors and yelled into those rooms about the cold beer offer as I walked down the hallway and then went into my two-man semi-private barracks room and set the beer down on the floor.

It didn’t take but a few minutes for eight or nine of my old and new army buddies to come on into my room. Every guy gratefully grabbed a beer and found a place to sit or stand and lean against something, while they settled in for a welcomed session of sipping suds, swapping stories and relaxing.

Beer can tops popped, and we all took a few sips.

I allowed my guests the comfort of sitting on my bed and my roommate’s bed, he didn’t care if they sat there, others sat on the floor or leaned against a wall, and I casually leaned back against my dresser top.

“I’m going to volunteer for Vietnam in the morning,” I said.

The entire room, uncomfortably, shifted position slightly, with a deep, pained groan.

I didn’t actually know all of the guys whom I was speaking to. Two or three were close friends who were the type of men whom I knew I could trust beside me in combat. That is a measure that most warriors take of their brethren. A few fellows were known by me, but we hadn’t had many conversations together. A few had been on some wild time, Okinawa bar hoppin’ and brothel boppin’ excursions with me. One or two I had never spoken to before. Three of those men had just gotten back from Vietnam, or had been discharged from the U.S. Military Hospital on Okinawa after recovering from war wounds, and had been assigned to the 30th Arty Bgde in the previous several days or weeks.

When I told them all that I was volunteering for Vietnam in the morning, those three Nam Vets instantly became livid with me. One stopped looking at me, or anyone else; he was leaning against the inside of the closed door to my room, and he appeared to nearly curl up into a defensive ball and almost slide down to the floor. Another Nam Vet was standing close to the first, sort of in the corner of the room near the door’s hinges; he folded his arms - tightly - across his chest, twisted his body and looked away from me at a ninety-degree angle, and occasionally glanced sideways at me, in sheer disbelief. The third Nam Vet looked up at me, from where he was sitting on my bed, expelled a deep, tight breath, then barely inhaled another, and angrily said, “Do you know what you’re saying? DO, YOU, KNOW, WHAT, YOU’RE, SAYING? If you volunteer for Nam, and if you survive a year, IF you survive a year, then ALL that you will have done IS to survive a year; and you will have had your buddy’s guts blown all over you, AND you’ll have to kill people you don’t even WANT to kill. Now do you REALLY wanna go to Vietnam?”

My second Nam Vet buddy standing there in the corner of my room, barely muttered single word agreements with the third Nam Vet sitting on my bed, and that second Nam Vet punctuated his own curt, one word statements with hard, serious glances in my direction. The first Nam Vet buddy, who was leaning against my door, never moved or made a sound. He had nearly completely blocked me out of his, pained, conciseness. F.N.G. syndrome - in Vietnam, F-ing New Guys often didn’t live very long; if a guy who had been in Nam for awhile didn’t get to know any new guys, it wasn’t so bad for him when the new guys got wounded or killed. If I was going to volunteer for duty in Vietnam and maybe go off and get myself killed, for what the Nam Vets had devastatingly learned wasn’t worth it, then that Nam Vet leaning against my door didn’t want to know me, either.

My other five or six buddies sitting and standing around there in my room mostly looked down at the floor and barely breathed, because they were, perceptively, quite uptight with me. I had bummed them out.

My reply - to all of those friends in my room - was, “No, no you’re right. I really didn’t understand. I won’t do it. I won’t volunteer."

Their reaction to what I had said about volunteering for Vietnam convinced me that it would have been a foolish waste, of at least part of my young life, if I had volunteered to go to Vietnam, in the late summer of 1970.

Those eight or nine true friends of mine probably saved my life that day.

The fact that Okinawa was a safer and much more fun place to do my overseas tour, than what Vietnam was, has sometimes been and still often is thrown up in my face when I explain to certain people about my illegal assignment to the 30th Arty Bgde. They always say, “You coulda’ gone to Vietnam; what’s your problem?”

I am lucky that the United States Army sent me to Okinawa instead of to Vietnam. This is true.

The only thing is, for me to have passively gone to work everyday, as a photographer for the 30th Artillery Brigade on Okinawa, and to have kept on paying out a big chunk of my personal paycheck money to produce my excellent photographs of them, at work and play, always having to use my own camera gear, would have meant that either I was bribing them or giving into extortion. I couldn’t have lived with that shame.

I was born a soldier - just like many millions of people before me and many millions more to come.

A short time before that evening in my barracks room, when I was talked out of volunteering for duty in Vietnam, I had begun to have problems sleeping. I couldn’t get to sleep until close to daybreak, and my sleep was not restful. A good, solid, restful sleep each night would have been the best possible way to get some relief from the daily insanity of being ordered to complete photographic assignments without the benefits of being given enough equipment and supplies to complete my assignments, and from my deepening, disturbing guilt which came from knowing that the photo lab I worked in negated my missile unit’s ability to respond in full to every conceivable scenario of a communist nuclear attack that the United States Government expected us to be able to respond to, and, hopefully, help thwart.

From that time on, it was a steady slide off the edge for me.


Some Kind Of An Emotional Breakdown

At 10:00 hours on October 20, 1970 I had some kind of a nervous breakdown. It was an emotional breakdown of some kind. I do not know the exact psychiatric term for it. Numerous times, the VA has dismissed what I say about what happened on that day, because if it isn’t diagnosed in their official terminology, than they don’t have to recognize it as real mental health event. They refuse, by they I mean many VA employees over the years, they refuse to make a psychiatric determination on what happened to me that on awful day.

On that day in October, the First Sergeant woke me up in my bunk at approximately 09:30 hours. I should have been at work by then, and he ordered me to get up and report to his office. He was pissed off at me for the problems caused by my acquired sleep disorder; and I was becoming more and more pissed off everyday, as I struggled to understand how in the hell I had gotten into such a lousy situation as that 30th Arty photographer’s job was.

In the First Sergeant’s office he asked me what my problem was that he had to go wake me up after I should have been at work.

I more or less said, I requested a transfer out of the brigade, you said that I was too valuable, so you won’t transfer me. I can’t order equipment or supplies. I don't have what I need to do my photography assignments. Now I can’t get to sleep, then I can’t wake up. Just let me transfer out.

The First Sergeant told me to move out of my semi-private two man room in the barracks and move down the hall into the twenty man squad bay. "Maybe when the lights there go on in the morning and all those other guys get up for work then you will too," he said.

On my way down the stairs to the First Sergeant’s office on that October 20th morning, I had become determined to fight for my rights and not leave the First Sergeant’s office without an agreement to allow me to transfer out of the brigade. Instead, I gave in, tossed my self respect into the small, olive-drab green trash can sitting down there beside of his desk, walked back up stairs to my room, and on the way had a nervous breakdown of some kind. It was brain battering, gut grinding and soul crushing. It culminated with me punching my fist through a barracks window. It was the most humiliating, devastating and embarrassing thing that ever happened to me.

I still haven’t completely recovered from that trauma. Something snapped inside of me that day — some circuit breakers went off, and they have never been reset. I have pleaded, begged, threatened and calmly explained to many employees of the Veterans Administration that I need help resetting those circuit breakers, but none of them have ever believed my 30th Arty Bgde story.

I think about these things everyday. Sometimes at night I rehash the individual parts of this story over and over again. They are on my mind first thing on some mornings. I think through the details of them during daily activities. I don’t see or hear parts of TV shows and movies at times when these memories overwhelm me. I think about how to get these truths acknowledged by the Veterans Administration.

My sleep patterns are still horrible, sheer horror at times and debilitating. I sometimes wake up in a cold sweat, and I have to change my frigid, dripping wet undershirt. I hate living like this. It is humiliating.

I had disturbing dreams about Okinawa for over twenty years after I was discharged from the Army. Over and over again I dreamed that I was trying to get back to the 30th Arty Brigade to finish doing something. I love doing photography, and I just wanted to do my job, but ran out of supplies and couldn't.

At any time during my assignment as a photographer for the 30th Arty Bgde, I could have taken the chance of writing my Congressman about the situation.

You must know very damned well that ‘whistle blowers’ are often retaliated against by the individuals or entities whom they had ‘blown the whistle on’. Had I ‘blown the whistle’, and consequently screwed with the careers of the lifer soldiers who were responsible for having that photo lab in the decontamination chamber, and then finagling the paperwork to scam the Army into sending them a real photographer to be their personal property - all soldiers are government property - those lifers would have done all that they could to retaliate against me and try to send me to the worst duty station possible; that probably meant getting me sent so far up into the jungles of Vietnam that I’d never get back home again.

At this point in my story, I will again receive the usual feedback, from some people, who will say that my assignment to the 30th Arty Bgde was better than being sent to Vietnam and getting wounded or killed or captured by the enemy and held as a Prisoner of War. Yep, that’s probably true, but it does not make what happened to me in the 30th Arty any more right, or less devastating. I took the chance of being sent to ‘Nam when I enlisted, same as everyone else. If the cards would have played out that way, and I had survived fighting in that war, I might be much more proud of my military service today.

My Efficiency Ratings and an Article 15 for Breaking A Barracks Window

Here are my efficiency ratings from my army discharge papers. Number 1 rating is from basic training, and as you see my conduct and efficiency was EXCELLENT. Number 2is from early in Photographic Laboratory Technician School. It says my conduct was EXCELLENT but has nothing about efficiency. Number 3 I do not understand, but it was at the end of my photography school, and I came out high enough at the top of my class to earn the rank of Specialist Fourth Class at graduation; and that was only after I had been on active duty in the Army for seven months and there were three months of inactive duty before I had to report to basic training. That proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that both my conduct and efficiency were EXCELLENT. Number 4 has CASUAL ratings, because it was during the time I was home on leave, traveling to Okinawa and waiting there for my permanent station to be assigned. Number 5 covers from when I was first assigned to the 30th Artillery Brigade until I suffered that life ruining emotional breakdown that caused me to put my fist through a window in my barracks room. From then on, as number 6says, both my conduct and efficiency was rated as UNSATISFACTORY - which was due to me gradually refusing more and more illegal orders from the 30th Arty personnel and gradually refusing to pay for photographic supplies and to use my own camera equipment for completing illegal 30th Arty photo assignments and gradually refusing to work in that damned illegal and immoral photo lab set up in the nuclear fallout emergency decontamination chamber. Eventually, I ran out of photo paper, could not order any because I was illegally assigned to the 30th, no one else in the 30th knew where to get me the right photo paper, and it nearly destroyed me not being able to do my dedicated photography work. I ended up nearly completely depressed beyond all hope of recovery. I still am - forty fucking years later. I hate it.

This is part of the Article 15 non-judicial punishment papers I received for breaking that barracks window.