Us Air Force soldier Dave Patterson carries a heavy burden, after he came back home from the Vietnam War.

Dave Patterson

He was in Thailand. He took off to bomb North Vietnam, loosing part of his humanity. After coming home, he spent time to get it back. At now Dave is an anti-war activist.

To begin, may you introduce yourself to me? How old are you? What was your military corp, what was your rank in Vietnam? Decorations?  I am 59 years old.  I was in the Air Force where I fixed the weapons systems on the F4 fighter-bomber.  No decorations to speak of.

Where did you fight? I was in Thailand, not Vietnam, first Ubon, and the Udorn.

Then, when did you enlist, and what were your motivations? I enlisted in 1971.  My dad was in WWII and by brother had spent 2 years in Vietnam in the Marines.  I thought it was my turn to go.  To be in the Air Force or Navy you had to volunteer. The other services used drafted people.

What was your relation with Usa politics when you moved to Vietnam? In this way, what did you feel about your Nation before to move to  the war? I was of a conservative mindset, sure that the survival of an anti-Communist Vietnam was linked to America’s survival.

What was your first thought when you arrived in Thailand? What did you think to find and what did you really find? In Thailand I found the place exotic and exciting.  I thought then and many years later that they would fall to the Vietnamese or Chinese.

What were the conditions of this asiatic country when you were in, and what kinda war? Thailand was a bomb depot. From our bases we unloaded incredible amounts of munitions.

What did you feel about your milatary operations, and about enemies? I didn’t feel any empathy for those that we dropped bombs on. I had lost my humanity by then.

Dave during an action for peace

How did Usa military strategy change in front of a long war? At the time I left I think the startegy was to do as much damage as possible, and then leave. We were losing and everyone knew it.

Did you have close friendships during your military service? I met some people outside the bases, but was not a close friend.

By reading and watching movies, I saw that some Us soldier came crazy, and they used violence with local farmers. Is it real? Were you a witness of these situations?  We had some crazy people, but mostly they were filtered out before they got there. In the Army and Marines they needed grunts, so they took anyone.

When you came back home, what was the welcome? What about your feelings? I didn’t run into any hostility for the American people, mostly because I was isolated from the peace groups.  I didn’t believe that peace was a way at that time.

What was your sacriface and what did you loose in Vietnam? I lost my humanity temporarily. I think I’m getting it back now.

Did you follow a rehabilitation program after you came back home?  I was lucky and didn’t need any help.

Actually, what do you feel about your war experience? Your repentances? I realize now that I was the perfect war machine candidate. I was from a family where war was promoted as a necessity. They gave me small tasks at first, and eventually I was conditioned to help kill 10s of millions of people, as we almost did in 1973 when Nixon declared a DEFCOM 3.

Actually, are you an activist anti-war? I am a peace activist now.  I belong to veterans for peace and another peace group in my town of Ramona.

What’s your relation with the religion? Did it change after Vietnam? I am an athiest, but I don’t think it helps either way religion. I was shocked that supposed Christians were in such a hurry to bomb people, and while in Thailand I spoke my mind on the subject. I belittled the christians, but never took a good look at what I was doing. We killed 3 million people in Vietnam and the surrounding area. I carry a heavy burden.


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