William Fernau describes being drafted into the United States Army during the 1960s, which put his college career on hold, and getting shipped to Vietnam. He talks about basic training at Fort Lewis, advanced infantry training [AIT] at Fort Polk, then being accepted to Officers Candidate School [OCS]. Fernau details his combat experiences, starting with landing in Bien Hoa, Vietnam, and trying to find his unit, the 4th Infantry Division. He recalls the chaos and lack of supplies, and he notes that he had to borrow a gun and other combat equipment from friends in the 1st Infantry Division. Fernau discusses how dirty the entire unit became because they couldn’t bathe for months. He also talks about digging fox holes, manning listening posts, and getting caught in an ambush firefight with the North Vietnamese that resulted in physical injuries. Fernau describes coming back to the States and encountering the anti-war sentiment of the counter-culture movement. He also details his struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD] and shares his thoughts on the legacy of the war and his service.
U.S. Military; U.S. Armed Forces; Military draft; Vietnam War (1955-1975); Post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD]; Dak To, Vietnam; Bien Hoa, Vietnam; TET Offensive; Military veterans; War veterans; Active duty injury; University of Washington, Seattle; Basic training; Advanced infantry training [AIT]; Fort Lewis; Fort Polk; Officers Candidate School [OCS]; Counter-culture movement; Anti-war protests
The Veteran’s Experience Oral History Project, OH 472
University of Montana. Mansfield Library. Archives and Special Collections
University of Montana--Missoula. Mansfield Library
Copyright to this collection is held by the interview participants and by the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, University of Montana-Missoula. Permission may be required for use. For further information please contact Archives and Special Collections at the University of Montana, Mansfield Library.
Oral History Number
1 MP3 file (01:05:33): digital + 1 transcript (16 pp.: 28 cm.)
Fernau, William, "William Fernau Interview, March 17, 2020" (2020). The Veteran’s Experience Oral History Project. 9.