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Louis DiCerbo, Oral History
Recorded: April 23, 2020
Interviewed by Benjamin V. Allison
Transcribed by Liz Campion, May 4 Archivist
[Interviewer]: This is Ben Allison speaking on April 23, 2020, at Newton, New Jersey, for a remote phone interview as part of the May 4th Kent State Shootings Oral History Project. Could you please state your name for the recording?
[Louis DiCerbo]: My name is Louis DiCerbo.
[Interviewer]: Thank you very much. Well, first of all we wanted to thank you for taking part in this oral history project. Your story is important and we can’t wait to hear it. So, I would like to begin with some brief information about your background so that we can get to know you a little better. Could you tell us where you were born and grew up?
[Louis DiCerbo]: I was born in Schenectady, New York, and at the age of thirteen I moved to a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where I grew up through high school, college, graduate school, marriage, draft, everything.
[Interviewer]: Okay, so where did you go to college and graduate school?
[Louis DiCerbo]: College, I went to Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, at graduate school I went to the University of Pittsburgh, majoring in economics.
[Interviewer]: Excellent and when did you graduate from both of those institutions?
[Louis DiCerbo]: I graduated from college in 1967 and I went for three trimesters at the University of Pittsburgh with the draft—military draft very much in the background. I did not get my master’s degree until I returned from Vietnam. So, I got my master’s degree in 1970.
[Interviewer]: All right, thank you very much. And do you have any connection to Kent State University or the town of Kent—or the City of Kent, I should say.
[Louis DiCerbo]: None whatsoever.
Interviewer]: All right.
[Louis DiCerbo]: Other than, you know, what I know about it through history.
[Interviewer]: Yes, sir. So, how did you come to join the military and what branch did you serve in?
[Louis DiCerbo]: I was drafted into the military and, if you want me to go into details on how the draft worked, I can. But I was in the Army.
[Interviewer]: When were you drafted?
[Louis DiCerbo]: Well, they pursued me from the minute I got my 2-S as a freshman in college, they would send me my notice for a physical and, if you had a 2-S, you can call them collect and tell them you have a 2-S and have your college send a paper. So, I went to graduate school as just a means to put the draft off because I kept getting the requests for a physical, for a year. I only put in for three trimesters, one school year at Pitt. I went at the start of my second trimester, which would have been the spring of 1968 and told them my 2-S would expire at the end of the third trimester, which would have been September. And she told me, at that time, what day—she told me in May—when I would get my notice, and when I would report for the draft. So, I reported on the 2nd of December, 1968.
[Interviewer]: Okay, and so, by she, do you mean someone who works at the University of Pittsburgh?
[Louis DiCerbo]: No, no, this was my local Board, Federal building in Pittsburgh [unintelligible]. She was more concerned, she made several phone calls and, all of a sudden, recruiting officers were showing up from the Air Force and the Navy, you know, to lay the words on me.
[Interviewer]: So, did you want to serve, were you ambivalent towards it, or what did you think about this?
[Louis DiCerbo]: I would say more or less ambivalent. When you’re a senior in college in 1967, you’ve got choices to either join the Peace Corps, go to Canada, extend your education, try to get a job in a critical industry—which were few and far between—or enlist in a military branch, or just wait out the draft. You didn’t have a whole lot of choices. You couldn’t just do nothing. Something was going to happen to you.
[Interviewer]: What were your perceptions of the war before being drafted?
[Louis DiCerbo]: Not—I was not ever pro-military. I did some minor protesting in college because in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was the home of Hamilton Watch and everybody said they made timing devices for bombs, you know, delayed, and all that stuff and a lot of the guys with the fraternity house would go down and protest Hamilton Watch, it was active protest. I never did that. But, when I got to graduate school, one of the professors—the head of the Economics Department at Pitt was a full colonel in the Reserve and the professor I had was a young—name was Houston—and he was a young professor, very anti-war, that recruited bus riders to go to all the protests in Washington, D.C., in which I didn’t participate. I was not afraid of the draft, but I wasn’t going to avoid it either.
[Interviewer]: Could you share some of your training experience?
[Louis DiCerbo]: It would be typical of the Army, in basic training, which is an eight-week program, the vast majority were Army Reserve National Guard. There was three general things you were: AR, Army Reserve—it was your service numbers back then before social security numbers—if you had an AR number, you were Army Reserve; if you had an RA number, you were in the regular Army which means you’re enlisted; if you were an NG, you were in the National Guard; and if you were drafted, you were US. So, my military number started with US. Those four main things. And we were a definite minority in basic training because people in the National Guard, Army Reserve, only had to do basic training, then they’d go back to their units. And I went on to AIT, advanced training, and from advanced training, they picked candidates with an education to go on to the NCO Academy [Noncommissioned Officer Academy]. So, my basic training—not my basic, wrong word to use—my military training mostly, in the United States, consisted of me being trained to be an Operations and Intelligence Sergeant to work at a Tactical Operations Center, TOC. Unfortunately, that existed only—can I use military terms, do you understand what I’m talking about?
[Interviewer]: Oh, please do.
[Louis DiCerbo]: Okay, that only existed in the MTO&E—Modified Table of Organization and Equipment and the upper echelons in the military worked off the TO&E—Table of Organization and Equipment, which I was trained to be an 11 Foxtrot [11F] at a Tactical Operations Center which, in the minds of the upper echelons, the WWII veterans and the Korean War veterans, that didn’t exist.
[Interviewer]: Okay, so what did being an 11 Foxtrot entail?
[Louis DiCerbo]: What I was trying to be was an Operations and Intelligence Sergeant. In other words, your Tactical Operations Centers were a small group, like a captain and several NCOs that took intelligence and dissected it and planned missions. Like, Hey this is what happened in the last three or four days, you know, there’s been activity, you know, just do the intelligence and to translate it into missions. But, in the TO&E [unintelligible], an 11 Foxtrot was a dog handler, he was a sniper, or he was in a recon platoon [reconnaissance platoon], which would be the people that went out and found trouble and called in the heavy weights to deal with the trouble. That’s what I ended up doing. Through my entire ninety days at Fort Benning being trained, I never drew a—I drew a weapon one time, for one afternoon when a senator came down and we all had to look like we were militaristic. Never had any infantry training or any combat training whatsoever. When I got assigned to OJT, On-the-Job Training, they never heard of it and, basically, I just became a company clerk with an E-5. Very little training, I had no training to be an E-5 squad leader, as I was made when I got to Vietnam.
[Interviewer]: Okay, so when you were training, you were basically—you were preparing to be, more or less, in intelligence but then, when you got there, you were thrown into the Infantry. Am I understanding that correctly?
[Louis DiCerbo]: You are exactly correct. I was interviewed and set to go into this—what I was trained for, Tactical Operations Center, and the guy said, “I’ll be here tomorrow morning.” Because we all—from our, you know, when you go over, you go to a Replacement Center and then you get sent to your unit. I was sent to the 9th Division [9th Infantry Division], which had already pulled out of Vietnam, so there was only the 3rd Brigade left, and I was interviewed and told to wait. He never came and finally, they came and said, “What are you doing here, Sarge?” “So, I’m waiting, I’m supposed to be going.” He said, “No, you’re in the Infantry.” Never a colonel always a captain! So, I, after I was picked to do what I was trained to do, I ended up in the recon platoon—Company E.
[Interviewer]: So, when were you first sent to Vietnam?
[Louis DiCerbo]: Of all things, I can never forget it. My first day in Vietnam was Veterans Day of 1969.
[Interviewer]: Wow, so how long were you there for?
[Louis DiCerbo]: I got an early out to go back to graduate school, which consists of seventy-two days, so I left Vietnam the first day or two of September 1970. And I was out of the field, I was a supply sergeant, I had put my time in as a platoon sergeant, airmobile.
[Interviewer]: Is there anything that you would like to share about your family and friends’ reaction to your being sent for active duty in Vietnam?
[Louis DiCerbo]: If you know what an Italian family is—I’m first generation American, my father was born in Italy, he was the oldest of eleven children. I could bore you with a two minute—minute dissertation here.
[Louis DiCerbo]: He came to this country at four years old, with two younger brothers. Grandpa had already come over, got a job, had a place to live, and sent back for his wife who couldn’t come with him because she was pregnant. So, once she had another of my uncles, the three boys and my grandmother came over and my dad—one of his younger brothers, Louis, was drafted into WWII and he was killed in action. He was [unintelligible] a waist gunner on a twin-engine bomber and it was shot down on an unknown island, Dutch East Indies. And I can picture all the Italian ladies in the neighborhood going to the library to see where this Dutch East Indies was because nobody knew about it. So, my name was picked because mom was pregnant at the time and, in an Italian family, you’re named after a grandfather, you know, nobody has passed away or died, and then, if not, you’re named after your father. I was the fourth male born and my mom was pregnant, I was born in April, he was killed in February—and he was only twenty years old.
[Interviewer]: Ah, jeez.
[Louis DiCerbo]: So, I was named after him and I, for my generation of Italians—there was a lot of them, I was the only one that was in the active military. It was, that’s so tough on my mother, being named after my father and going to this place called Vietnam that not a whole lot of people knew that much about Vietnam at that time. It was tough, tough on the family.
[Interviewer]: Did they—
[Louis DiCerbo]: My wife—I was married in August, and I reported for the draft in December  and my daughter was three and a half months old when I went overseas.
[Interviewer]: Wow. So—
[Louis DiCerbo]: So, my wife left the apartment and moved back in with her parents so, between her parents and my parents, she was the only grandchild on both sides. You know, say she got spoiled, but that’s well, that’s fine, she turned out great.
[Interviewer]: So, did—when you were drafted, did anyone in your family encourage you to try to dodge or anything like that? Or ask you—
[Louis DiCerbo]: Oh, absolutely not, absolutely not. That’s not my way. I’m going to do what I’m asked to do or told to do. I knew it was going to happen, I did not fight it in any way. I went, and it’s like they say on the first day, you can make it the best two years of your life or the worst two years of your life, it depends on what you want to do. I didn’t want to be gung-ho, I didn’t want to set the world on fire, but I wanted to do my job and do the best I could and that’s what I did.
[Interviewer]: That makes sense.
[Louis DiCerbo]: Yes, and E-5—the 25th Division, who we were attached to, because we were only a brigade—had a class, a time or two a year, where you had to go through some training, it was all textbook type stuff. You did one ambush type thing, and this was after I had been in the field for two months. The top graduate of that class, and it was from all over the section of Vietnam, got promoted one grade in rank and I, by far—I aced it. I became an E-6 at thirteen months in the service.
[Louis DiCerbo]: Unheard of, unheard of.
[Interviewer]: Yeah. That’s impressive. Did that sort of success make you wonder if maybe this was something that you would want to try to do long-term and make a career out of it, or was that distinctively unattractive to you? Or what did you think about that?
[Louis DiCerbo]: I was just going to continue doing what I was doing with Echo Company and the recon platoon. Not particularly—we airmobiled, but they weren’t like a line, like—Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta—the three-line—four-line companies. We’re on a three-day rotation, airmobile, day one, with a night ambush; night ambush from ground transportation, day two; stand down base camp security, day three. I didn’t have to participate in that as an E-6 in Echo Company. We did some airmobiling, but we did an ambush, you know, pretty much every night. We did not have to do base camp security.
[Louis DiCerbo]: It’s a touching ceremony, after I had been with them for three weeks. I don’t want to digress.
[Interviewer]: In what part of the country were you in at this point in time?
[Louis DiCerbo]: I was in the Delta. Over the course of Vietnam, I was in the bottom, well the bottom corps was pretty well gone. Was it the fourth corps, was that the bottom corps? Was I Corps the top corps? No, they left. I know they went, one, two, three, four and the bottom one was pretty much turned over to the Vietnamese. I was between Saigon and Cambodia at the shortest point—Parrot’s Beak.
[Interviewer]: Oh, yeah, okay.
[Louis DiCerbo]: Pan Am was our brigade base and Luck was our battalion base camp. And that was all on Long An Province. The Plain of Reeds was mostly one of our stomping grounds. That would be just flat, no mountains, flat from horizon to horizon with plenty of waterways and plenty of Navy boats. We did a lot of work with helicopters, [if they] were in demand elsewhere, we could always go out on the Navy boats—PBRs, Patrol Boat, Riverines, "Pabst Blue Ribbons.”
[Interviewer]: Where were you on the day that President Nixon announced the invasion into Cambodia? That was April 30th of 1970, as I’m sure you know.
[Louis DiCerbo]: It’s my birthday, April 20th, so it was just earlier this week.
[Interviewer]: Well, happy birthday.
[Louis DiCerbo]: To build up to it, a little bit, and I’m going to argue a little bit with calling it an invasion, because we did not invade Cambodia. And I was on the forefront of the troops that were Americans that were inserted in that country. But, for many weeks before the whole thing occurred, our base camp was just off the main route. To get from battalion to brigade, we had to go on a main highway—it was between Saigon and Cambodia. And being an E-6, I had camp privileges so, even though I was in the field on my day off, I would accompany the driver because I didn’t need a pass, I could just go with him. The captain would send me to take the laundry and pick up beer and pop and sometimes we would have to wait for hours while continuous convoys of brand-new vehicles, all would be—covers on them and trailers with covers on them—would be going. It’s stuff that we never saw—brand new stuff. There was a humongous build-up before an ARVN [Army of the Republic of Vietnam] invasion into Cambodia, on the far side of Cambodia. And the plan was—it was just a humongous build-up for them.
And our colonel called a battalion meeting outside in—in a no-man’s-land—outside our base camp. Unheard of, to assemble a whole battalion. And he gave a speech on a morning and the speech was that we were going to be the blocking force, the ARVN and all of the equipment was going to the far side of Vietnam, and they were going to sweep back toward Vietnam, through Cambodia, and push all the enemy toward us and his exact words were, “We’re going to cut them down and stack them up like cordwood.” There were guys that hit the rice paddy laughing at him.
And that was the day that we were picked to go and we were airmobiled to be the blocking force. So, on my birthday, which would have been April 20th, we were, they said, on the border of Cambodia in Vietnam, but when you have WWII French printed maps, that’s a little suspicious—and that’s what we had. So, we think we might have been in Vietnam, we don’t know. It was not a friendly place, there was a lot of action and we were there for maybe three or four days and then we got pulled back into Vietnam and all the assets, helicopters and that stuff, were tied up with the ARVN.
So, we knew that stuff was going on in the States, because we still got our letters and stuff, so we knew something bad was going on in America. And then we got worried that we were going to be leaving in a day or two, as soon as we get the assets to pull us out. And we were protecting an artillery battalion, a group of guys that had never been out in the rough before they were used to being in their base camps. They had artillery shells for their 105, 155, stacked up to the clouds. They fired for over two days, nonstop shells, with a minimum charge just to get them out where they wouldn’t blow up on us. They weren’t trying to hit any targets or anything. They were expending the rounds and they told us that’s because the Chinooks could pick up the guns but they couldn’t pick up the ammo. I don’t know what an artillery shell costs but, I mean, but it was nonstop.
[Interviewer]: Yeah, no, that is wild.
[Louis DiCerbo]: Just some of the waste, you know. We did find a lot of our weapons that the ARVN had abandoned, trying to start a couple of vehicles and get back. We did not do anything about Kent State because things were so hectic, all the helicopters being used, we didn’t get our mail for like two to three days and then we did get picked up and we’re taken back to our base camp and when we got off the helicopters and landed, the rear people from my company were waiting for us. You know, the mail clerk, we got our mail. This would have been maybe the 8th, 9th [of May], something like that, and virtually half the guys in my—my platoon was like twenty-seven guys—more than half had the front page of their hometown newspaper. It hit us like a ton of bricks.
[Interviewer]: What emotions do you remember feeling when you learned about that?
[Louis DiCerbo]: Crushed. Everybody’s looking around—yeah, some of the guys wanted to go crazy, wanted to come back and fight the Ohio National Guard. They’re bigger targets and they’re out in the open and they’re not going to be like Viet Cong or NVA [North Vietnamese Army]. We weren’t afraid of the Viet Cong, it was the NVA that was our enemy. Like I told Kate [Medicus], we were crushed, we had to sit down at the chopper pad. You know, we’re back and we didn’t run for a beer or a pop or food, we just had to sit down and take it all in for a minute. We were crushed at how somebody could do that.
[Interviewer]: Yeah, so were you—what do you recall, based on the conversations within your platoon, about the shootings? You said that some of your comrades there wanted to kind of—they were really upset at the National Guard, like what was the tenor? Was that the general tenor?
[Louis DiCerbo]: They wanted to go back and protect students. They said, “Hey, why don’t we go back and just protect people at some of the colleges?” Because you know, the papers also had—there was protests all over the country. You know, there had been a lot of unrest. One of the units that I was attached to—Fort Collins was my airmobile [unintelligible]—Fifth Division and they were on alert the whole time for any domestic uprisings. So, there was a lot of tension about domestic uprisings before anyone went overseas. But no, the guys—there wasn’t anybody, to my recollection, that said, Those punks got what they deserved. That was not the feelings at all. I guess the biggest thing was, how could it happen?
[Interviewer]: Yeah, so, was there any—was the blame or the anger, was that primarily directed at the National Guard or was it kind of, was any of it directed up at, like higher up the chain of command?
[Louis DiCerbo]: Higher ups. I think it would have been more the higher ups, not particularly the National Guard that did the shooting. I think—well, nobody was in favor of Nixon. It was a tough thing, especially with me being assigned to the Ninth Division, [unintelligible] because that was the first division that got pulled out of Vietnam and one brigade stayed back, so one third of them, basically, stayed back. And what they do when that happens is, they take all the old-timers, the people with the most time in country, pull them back and then redistribute everything [unintelligible] from the other brigades to fill up that brigade. Right before we went into Cambodia—right about that time, The Big Red One, the First Division, got pulled out of Vietnam.
But no, there was no animosity toward the National Guard, most of it was about our policies. Definitely—I was there to do my job. When you go airmobile, they tell you where you’re at, they tell you what direction and how far you’re going to go. You know, Go on an azimuth of 270, you’re going to go for 100 mikes—meters—and beware of some hooches at 70 mikes. So, you’d sweep through and then set up for—to be picked up at the other end of it unless we made contact. And I faithfully did my job, I never ever cheated on doing what I was told to do, but I didn’t go looking for trouble. I didn’t say, Hey—I didn’t call back to the colonel and say, Hey, if I divert over here, I think there’s something—no. We just went straight ahead—not with blinders, if we saw something we would have engaged it, but we didn’t go looking for it. And he knew when we were coming, each hooch in the field, where the people lived—there might be a grouping of three or four—had a bunker, a bomb shelter type of thing—but inside, [unintelligible] when they would go in there, and I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of Zippo lighters and you know, burning down and all that stuff. That was one hundred percent forbidden when I was there. If you even did damage to something, a helicopter would come and pick you up and take you back to Saigon. They were strict, you know. We weren’t friendly to them, but we were respectful. We did have to search their hooches and stuff, that’s what we had to do. But destroy stuff, no.
[Interviewer]: Did the shootings change your perception or experience of the war, or anything like that?
[Louis DiCerbo]: You just never know. My first night in my unit, once I got assigned to Echo Company, I was on ambush and we made contact. So, I was welcomed my first night—first mission. We totally dominated the thing, the Cobras came in and blew the whole area away. And there was three KIAs, but they were drunk, I think, and they were—when the sun went down and we were in our night position, they fired shots over our heads just to see where we were, to see if we’d fire back but they were shooting crazy, it wasn’t at us. We ignored it and they came, they walked right into us, and we could hear them laughing and giggling and they could see them. The sergeant blew two of them—I was only an E-5 at that time—blew three of them away, [unintelligible]. And it just made you realize, that you know, I’m here for the duration, buckle down and get serious.
[Interviewer]: Yeah, so, in particular, when you learned about the Kent State Shootings, did that event, did that change how you saw your role there? Did it change your view of the world? Did it just kind of increase, like you were talking about earlier, your criticism or your anger at the policy makers, or—?
[Louis DiCerbo]: No, because that was just like an icing-on- the-cake type thing. It made me more determined to protect my platoon and to make sure that—you know, that was our goal, to do our job and to get back at the end of our one year. Not to take any shortcuts. You’ve heard stories, and I saw it happen a time or two where they were assigned a location to set up a night ambush and they would call in a different location. I heard of people doing that and ending up in the free-fire zone, which is the last place you want to be in Vietnam. You know, anything in that area is the enemy and anybody can fire on it. But we never did anything like that. And it didn’t change our feelings, it just made us more determined to see it out. We didn’t turn against the United States, I guess is what I’m saying.
[Interviewer]: Yeah, that makes sense. Would you like to share any of your experiences from when you first returned home from the war?
[Louis DiCerbo]: Like I said, I got early out to go back to graduate school. And my captain—I was all set, interviewed, he knew that, as I told Kate [Medicus], I was kind of the odd guy in the field. Number one, I was twenty-five years old, I was [unintelligible]. Everybody in my platoon, with the exception of one or two guys, was a draftee that was nineteen to twenty years old. And I had—I was one course and one paper short of a master’s degree, so I had an education. Which made me different, right there. To be in the field, to be jumping off helicopters, and I had the respect of the guys, because I didn’t talk down to them, I was one of them, really.
So, when I got my early out, it was Labor Day weekend type thing and I got back to Pittsburgh, I want to say it was on a Saturday, but the trimester had already started, been in session for like two or three days. And I did go to class on Monday. I walked into class and it was not a graduate level course, I had to take just to—I had to be a full-time student to get early out, so I signed up for like two courses, three courses. And, you know, when this guy walks in with short hair and a very deep tan, the first week of September, and everybody knew—I was late—and he made an announcement, it kind of embarrassed me. That, you know, that I’d like to welcome our new student who was delayed—wasn’t like I got a standing ovation—I didn’t get booed either.
Like at the airport, when you land in America for the first time—we’re at California and the two—an outgoing flight and an incoming flight, a returning flight, cannot cross paths and they had already started to board a flight when we landed at the airport. They took us to the side and we had to just sit in the airplane and wait while the balance of that departing flight for Vietnam boarded. And guys were going crazy on the airplane—you know, you’re so close, you’re back, and you just want to get off and kiss the ground in America. And they started getting up and yelling and pounding on the windows because they could see them, way off in the distance, we could see the gate where they were leaving and getting on the airplane. And before I know it, one of those portable ladders, you know, we could see it coming through the windows, and that door opened and they took all the civilians, the pilot, the co-pilot, the flight attendants, which most of them were females, took them off the plane, and about six MPs came running. They were monsters, they could have been professional football players. And they just said, “Everybody’s going to sit in their seat and be quiet,” and that was the end of that. Then, we finally did get to taxi over, get off, and process out.
But I adjusted, you know, once I got through going with my wife—I married an Italian also, with a large Italian family, suburbs of Pittsburgh—I think I was booked up for a month and a half with Sunday dinner invitations. We had to go to all the relatives. But, it was fun.
[Interviewer]: Good. Is there anything else you would like to talk about that we haven’t covered?
[Louis DiCerbo]: No, I think I’ve talked too much. Haven’t I?
[Interviewer]: No, this has been very informative.
[Louis DiCerbo]: Yes. It was tough. And I said this a couple times before, if I have 1,000 memories of Vietnam and easily I do, being there for ten months, 950 of them are fantastic, fun, you had to be there, just guys doing things. And fifty of them were of stuff I’d like to forget and those fifty far outweigh, are on my mind, more than the happy ones. A lot of things remind me of it, just like the WWII veterans, you know. Going on R&R to Hawaii with my wife. Unfortunately, we were there on the July 4th weekend and there was too many firecrackers thrown off balconies—it was not a fun time. But, got to see Don Ho and get a standing ovation, because most of the tourists in Hawaii, at that time, were WWII people that had made it their goal, their life’s ambition, to get back to Hawaii because they were there, you know, either going through, or were there stationed during WWII, so there was a lot of that. A lot of fun times.
[Interviewer]: Well, thank you so much for your willingness to share your story with us. We really appreciate it. If that’s all, then I guess I can, I’ll stop the recording, if that’s all right with you?
[Louis DiCerbo]: Yeah, and if it ever exists, that there’s a meeting or an event going on where there are some of the wounded survivors—you know, I’ve been saving all the articles from the paper here—I would love to sit down and talk to some of those.
[Interviewer]: Yes, sir.
[Louis DiCerbo]: You know, any of those types of survivors, like I said, one of the articles in the paper, the Columbus Dispatch has a thing, “This Day in History”—when it got cancelled and we finally firmed it up with Kate [Medicus], that this day in history was the Boston Massacre. Are you familiar with that? Everybody studies about that in elementary school through high school. And I asked Kate if she knew how many people were killed in the Boston Massacre. Do you know?
[Interviewer]: I believe it was six.
[Louis DiCerbo]: It was five.
[Interviewer]: That’s right.
[Louis DiCerbo]: That’s what the paper said. Yeah, that just boggled my mind that that can be studied so much and such an emphasis was put on that and they were killed by an unfriendly type people. And, what did four people killed at Kent State and, can I say this, kind of brings it home to me. Yeah, fifty years later.
[Interviewer]: Yes, sir.
[Louis DiCerbo]: But—my overall impression of the military and of the army is very, very positive. They took excellent care of us, they went the extra mile when we were overseas to bring our mail out and, when we were on ambush, a helicopter would come out with mail—cold beer, cold Coke. You know, there was never a disregard that I experienced in Vietnam. We did some crazy missions, stupid things that the colonel dreamed up that we knew were going to fail and they did fail—but you’ve got to try things. My overall impression is it was a very positive experience—the military. I think that Vietnam was an unfortunate, I think, experience and maybe it was because there was an awful lot of WWII and Korean veterans that were looking at retirement and wanted to get an extra bar, an extra stripe, an extra star, you know. That was their way of doing it. There was definitely not many NCOs in the field. Definitely. There was a lot of, you know, the CIBs, Combat Infantry Badge, there was a lot of people that had the two stars which meant they were combat infantry in WWII and Korea and they weren’t in the field, unfortunately, they were back at base camps. So, it was a war fought by draftees.
[Interviewer]: Yes, sir.
[Louis DiCerbo]: Good or bad, that’s just the way it was.
[Interviewer]: All right, well thank you. Yeah, thank you so much, we really appreciate you sharing your story with us and, yeah, I hope that you stay well and that you have a great rest of your week.
[Louis DiCerbo]: Thank you, you too.
[Interviewer]: Thank you.
Vietnam veteran on active duty in 1970
|Date of Interview||
Louis DiCerbo had been drafted into the Army and was on active duty in Vietnam in 1970. He discusses his training and some of his experiences during the war. He was a platoon sergeant during the Cambodian incursion and shares his memories from when they returned to their base camp in Vietnam around May 9, 1970. When they were given their mail from home, more than half the men in his platoon had been sent the front page from their hometown newpaper with headlines about the shootings at Kent State. Mr. DiCerbo describes the men's reactions to this news and the effect it had on them.
|Length of Interview||
Fort Benning (Ga.)
|Time Period discussed||
Kent State Shootings, Kent, Ohio, 1970
Kent State Shootings, Kent, Ohio, 1970--Press coverage
Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994
United States. Army
Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Protest movements
Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Veterans--Interviews
Special Collections and Archives
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Kent State University
|DPLA Rights Statement||
|Format of Original||
audio digital file
The content of oral history interviews, written narratives and commentaries is personal and interpretive in nature, relying on memories, experiences, perceptions, and opinions of individuals. They do not represent the policy, views or official history of Kent State University and the University makes no assertions about the veracity of statements made by individuals participating in the project. Users are urged to independently corroborate and further research the factual elements of these narratives especially in works of scholarship and journalism based in whole or in part upon the narratives shared in the May 4 Collection and the Kent State Shootings Oral History Project.
May 4 Collection