In Vietnam

Burial at Sea (Guest Blog) – CherriesWriter – Vietnam War website

This account is certainly one of a sort.  An impressive one who touches your center.  Difficult accountability again then – as it’s now.  Those are remembrances of a Casualty Notification Officer.


via Lt Col George Goodson, USMC (Ret)

In my 76th yr, the occasions of my lifestyles seem to me, now and again, as a sequence of vignettes. Some have been vital; maximum have been trivial. Battle is the seminal tournament within the lifetime of everybody that has persevered it. Regardless that I fought in Korea and the Dominican Republic and used to be wounded there, Vietnam used to be my battle.


Lt. Col. George Goodson (Ret) and circle of relatives

Now 42 years have handed, and fortunately, I infrequently call to mind the ones days in Cambodia , Laos, and the panhandle of North Vietnam the place small groups of American citizens and Montagnards fought a lot higher parts of the North Vietnamese Military.

As a substitute I see vignettes: some unique, some mundane:

*The odor of Nuc Mam

*The warmth, mud, and humidity

*The blue exhaust of cycles clogging the streets

*Elephants shifting silently in the course of the tall grass

*Arduous eyes in the back of the servile smiles of the villagers

*Status on a mountain in Laos and listening to a tiger roar

*A tender lady squeezing my hand as my medic delivered her child

*The flowing Ao Dais of the younger girls cycling down Tran Hung Dao


*My two years as Casualty Notification Officer in North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland

It used to be past due 1967. I had simply returned after 18 months in Vietnam.  Casualties have been expanding. I moved my circle of relatives from Indianapolis to Norfolk, rented a space, enrolled my youngsters of their 5th or 6th new faculty, and acquired a 2d automobile. Per week later, I placed on my uniform and drove 10 miles to Little Creek, Virginia. I hesitated earlier than coming into my new administrative center. Look is essential to occupation Marines. I used to be not, if ever, a poster Marine. I had returned from my 3rd excursion in Vietnam simplest 30 days earlier than. At 5’9″, I now weighed 128 kilos, 37 kilos underneath my commonplace weight. My uniforms are compatible ludicrously, my pores and skin used to be yellow from malaria drugs, and I believe I had a twitch or two.


I straightened my shoulders, walked into the administrative center, seemed on the nameplate on a Body of workers Sergeant’s table and mentioned, “Sergeant Jolly, I’m Lieutenant Colonel Goodson. Listed below are my orders and my Qualification Jacket.” Sergeant Jolly stood, seemed moderately at me, took my orders, caught out his hand; we shook and he requested, “How lengthy have been you there, Colonel?” I answered “18 months this time.”

Jolly breathed, “You will have to be a gradual learner Colonel.” I smiled. Jolly mentioned, “Colonel, I’ll  display you for your administrative center and convey within the Sergeant Primary. I mentioned, “No, let’s simply move directly to his administrative center.” Jolly nodded, hesitated, and reduced his voice, “Colonel, the Sergeant Primary. He’s been on this task two years. He’s packed lovely tight. I’m anxious about him.” I nodded.

Jolly escorted me into the Sergeant Primary’s administrative center. “Sergeant Primary, that is Colonel Goodson, the brand new Commanding Workplace. The Sergeant Primary stood, prolonged his hand and mentioned, “Just right to peer you once more, Colonel.” I replied, “Hi Walt, how are you?”

Jolly checked out me, raised an eyebrow, walked out, and closed the door. I sat down with the Sergeant Primary. We had the necessary cup of espresso and mentioned mutual acquaintances. Walt’s pressure used to be palpable. In spite of everything, I mentioned, “Walt, what the h-ll’s fallacious?” He grew to become his chair, seemed out the window and mentioned, “George, you’re going to pray you have been again in Nam earlier than you permit right here. I’ve been within the Marine Corps since 1939. I used to be within the Pacific 36 months, Korea for 14 months, and Vietnam for one year. Now I come right here to bury those children. I’m hanging my letter in. I will be able to’t take it anymore.”

I mentioned, “Ok Walt. If that’s what you wish to have, I’ll endorse your request for retirement and do what I will be able to to push it via Headquarters Marine Corps.” Sergeant Primary Walt Xxxxx retired 12 weeks later. He have been a excellent Marine for 28 years, however he had observed an excessive amount of loss of life and an excessive amount of struggling. He used to be used up.

Over the following 16 months, I made 28 loss of life notifications, performed 28 army funerals, and made 30 notifications to the households of Marines that have been critically wounded or lacking in motion. Lots of the main points of the ones casualty notifications have now, fortunately, pale from reminiscence.

4, alternatively, stay.


My 3rd or fourth day in Norfolk, I used to be notified of the loss of life of a 19 yr outdated Marine. This notification got here via phone from Headquarters Marine Corps. The tips detailed:

*Identify, rank, and serial quantity.

*Identify, cope with, and call choice of subsequent of family.

*Date of and restricted information about the Marine’s loss of life.

*Approximate date the frame would arrive on the Norfolk Naval Air  Station.

*A powerful advice on whether or not the casket will have to be opened or closed.

The boy’s circle of relatives lived over the border in North Carolina, about 60 miles away. I drove there in a Marine Corps personnel automobile. Crossing the state line into North Carolina , I finished at a small nation retailer / provider station / Publish Workplace. I went in to invite instructions.


3 other people have been within the retailer. A person and girl approached the small Publish Workplace window. The person held a package deal. The Retailer proprietor walked up and addressed them via identify, “Hi John. Just right morning Mrs. Cooper.”

I used to be surprised. My casualty’s next-of-kin’s identify used to be John Cooper!

I hesitated, then stepped ahead and mentioned, “I urge your pardon. Are you Mr. and Mrs. John Cooper of (cope with.)

The daddy checked out me – I used to be in uniform – after which, shaking, bent on the waist, he vomited. His spouse seemed horrified at him after which at me. Working out got here into her eyes and she or he collapsed in gradual movement.

I believe I stuck her earlier than she hit the ground.

The landlord took a bottle of whiskey out of a drawer and passed it to Mr. Cooper who drank. I replied their questions for a couple of mins. Then I drove them house in my personnel automobile. The shop proprietor locked the shop and adopted of their truck. We stayed an hour or so till the circle of relatives started arriving.

I returned the shop proprietor to his trade. He thanked me and mentioned, “Mister, I wouldn’t have your task for one million greenbacks.” I shook his hand and mentioned; “Neither would I.”

I vaguely take into account the power again to Norfolk. Violating about 5 Marine Corps laws, I drove the personnel automobile directly to my space.  I sat with my circle of relatives whilst they ate dinner, went into the den, closed the door, and sat there all night time, by myself.

My Marines suggested transparent of me for days. I had made my first loss of life notification


Weeks handed with extra notifications and extra funerals. I borrowed Marines from the native Marine Corps Reserve and taught them to habits an army funeral: the best way to lift a casket, the best way to fireplace the volleys and the best way to fold the flag.


After I offered the flag to the mummy, spouse, or father, I at all times mentioned, “All Marines percentage to your grief.” I have been advised to mention, “On behalf of a thankful country….” I didn’t assume the country used to be thankful, so I didn’t say that.


Infrequently, my feelings were given the most productive of me and I couldn’t talk. When that took place, I simply passed them the flag and touched a shoulder.

They’d have a look at me and nod. As soon as a mom mentioned to me, “I’m so sorry you might have this horrible task.” My eyes full of tears and I leaned over and kissed her.


Six weeks after my first notification, I had every other. This used to be a tender PFC. I drove to his mom’s space. As at all times, I used to be in uniform and riding a Marine Corps personnel automobile. I parked in entrance of the home, took a deep breath, and walked in opposition to the home. the door flew open, a middle-aged girl rushed out. She checked out me and ran around the backyard, screaming “No! No! No! No!! I hesitated. Neighbors got here out.

I ran to her, grabbed her, and whispered silly issues to reassure her. She collapsed. I picked her up and carried her into the home.  8 or 9 neighbors adopted. Ten or fifteen mins later, the daddy got here in adopted via ambulance workforce. I don’t have any recollection of leaving.


The funeral came about about two weeks later. We went in the course of the drill. The mum by no means checked out me. The daddy checked out me as soon as and shook his head unfortunately.


One morning as I walked into the administrative center, the telephone used to be ringing.  Sergeant Jolly held the telephone up and mentioned, “You’ve were given every other one, Colonel.” I nodded, walked into my administrative center, picked up the telephone, took notes, thanked the officer making the decision and hung up. Jolly, who had listened, got here in with a different phone listing that interprets phone numbers into the individual’s cope with and position of employment.

The daddy of this casualty used to be a longshoreman. He lived a mile from my administrative center. I known as the Longshoreman’s Union Workplace and requested for the trade supervisor. He replied the telephone, I advised him who I used to be, and requested for the daddy’s time table. The trade supervisor requested, “Is it his son?” I mentioned not anything. After a second, he mentioned, in a low voice, “Tom is at house nowadays.” I mentioned, “Don’t name him. I’ll handle that.” The trade supervisor mentioned, “Aye, Aye Sir,” after which defined, “Tom and I have been Marines in WWII.”


I were given in my personnel automobile and drove to the home. I used to be in uniform. I knocked and a lady in her early forties replied the door. I noticed right away that she used to be clueless. I requested, “Is Mr. Smith house?” She smiled pleasantly and replied, “Sure, however he’s consuming breakfast now.  Are you able to come again later?” I mentioned, “I’m sorry. It’s essential. I want to see him now.” She nodded, stepped again into the seaside space and mentioned, “Tom, it’s for you.” A second later, a ruddy guy in his past due forties, seemed on the door. He checked out me, grew to become completely faded, steadied himself, and mentioned, “Jesus Christ guy, he’s simplest been there 3 weeks!”


Months handed. Extra notifications and extra funerals. Then someday whilst I used to be working, Sergeant Jolly stepped outdoor the development and gave a noisy whistle, two palms in his mouth and held an imaginary telephone to his ear.

Some other name from Headquarters Marine Corps. I took notes, mentioned, “Were given it.” and hung up. I had stopped pronouncing “Thank You” way back.

Jolly, “The place?”

Me, “Jap Shore of Maryland . The daddy is a retired Leader Petty Officer. His brother will accompany the frame again from Vietnam.” Jolly shook his head slowly, straightened, after which mentioned, “This time of day, it’ll take 3 hours to get there and again. I’ll name the Naval Air Station and borrow a helicopter. And I’ll have Captain Tolliver get certainly one of his males to satisfy you and power you to the Leader’s house.”

He did, and 40 mins later, I used to be knocking at the father’s door. He opened the door, checked out me, then seemed on the Marine status at parade leisure beside the automobile, and requested, “Which certainly one of my boys used to be it, Colonel?” I stayed a few hours, gave him the entire data, my administrative center and residential telephone quantity and advised him to name me, anytime. He known as me that night about 2300 (11:00 PM). “I’ve long past via my boy’s papers and located his will. He requested to be buried at sea. Are you able to make that occur?” I mentioned, “Sure I will be able to, Leader. I will be able to and I will be able to.”

My spouse who have been listening mentioned, “Are you able to do this?” I advised her, “I do not know. However I’m going to die attempting.” I known as Lieutenant Basic Alpha Bowser, Commanding Basic, Fleet Marine Drive Atlantic, at house about 2330, defined the location, and requested, “Basic, are you able to get me a snappy appointment with the Admiral at Atlantic Fleet Headquarters?” Basic Bowser mentioned,” George, you be there the following day at 0900. He’ll see you. I used to be and the Admiral did. He mentioned coldly, “How can the Army assist the Marine Corps, Colonel.” I advised him the tale. He grew to become to his Leader of Body of workers and mentioned, “Which is the sharpest destroyer in port?” The Leader of Body of workers replied with a reputation.

The Admiral known as the send, “Captain, you’re going to do a burial at sea. You’ll report back to a Marine Lieutenant Colonel Goodson till this challenge is finished.” He hung up, checked out me, and mentioned, “The following time you want a boat, Colonel, name me. You don’t need to sic Al Bowser on me.” I replied, “Aye Aye, Sir” and were given out of his administrative center in a rush.

050716-N-0555B-033 San Diego (July 16, 2005) - Pallbearers of the Ceremonial Honor Guard carry the casket of retired Vice Adm. James B. Stockdale during a memorial service held aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). Hundreds of friends, family members and shipmates gathered to remember the former prisoner of war and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient who passed away July 5 in Coronado, Calif. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate Airman Apprentice Christopher D. Blachly (RELEASED)

I went to the send and met with the Captain, Government Officer, and the Senior Leader. Sergeant Jolly and I skilled the send’s staff for 4 days. Then Jolly raised a query none folks had considered. He mentioned, “Those executive caskets are air tight. How can we stay it from floating?” The entire prime priced assist together with me sat there taking a look dumb. Then the Senior Leader stood and mentioned, “Come on Jolly. I do know a bar the place the retired guys from International Battle II hang around.” They returned a few hours later, somewhat the more severe for put on, and mentioned, “It’s easy; we reduce 4 12″ holes within the outer shell of the casket on every facet and insert 300 lbs. of lead within the foot finish of the casket. We will be able to maintain that, no sweat.”

The day arrived. The send and the sailors seemed razor sharp. Basic Bowser, the Admiral, a US Senator, and a Army Band have been on board. The sealed casket used to be introduced aboard and brought underneath for amendment. The send were given underway to the 12-fathom intensity.


The solar used to be scorching. The sea flat. The casket used to be introduced aft and put on a catafalque. The chaplain spoke. The volleys have been fired. The flag used to be got rid of, folded, and I gave it to the daddy. The band performed “Everlasting Father Robust to Save.” The casket used to be raised somewhat on the head and it slid into the ocean. The heavy casket plunged directly down about six ft. The incoming water collided with the air wallet within the outer shell. The casket stopped all of a sudden, rose directly out of the water about 3 ft, stopped, and slowly slipped again into the ocean.  The air bubbles emerging from the sinking casket sparkled within the within the daylight because the casket disappeared from sight eternally.


The following morning I known as a private pal, Lieutenant Basic Oscar Peatross, at Headquarters Marine Corps and mentioned, “Basic, get me out of right here. I will be able to’t take this anymore.” I used to be transferred two weeks later. I used to be a excellent Marine however, after 17 years, I had observed an excessive amount of loss of life and an excessive amount of struggling. I used to be used up.

Vacating the home, my circle of relatives and I drove to the administrative center in a two-car convoy. I mentioned my goodbyes. Sergeant Jolly walked out with me. He waved at my circle of relatives, checked out me with tears in his eyes, got here to consideration, saluted, and mentioned, “Smartly accomplished, Colonel. Smartly accomplished.”

I felt as though I had gained the Medal of Honor!

A veteran is anyone who, at one level, wrote a clean test made payable to ‘America of The us’ for an quantity of as much as and together with his or her lifestyles.


This text in the beginning printed in The Marine Corps Gazette, Sept. 2007 and used to be re-posted on a number of different blogs and boards since then.  All photos are taken from the cyber web and added for emphasis.

Learn Extra:…

Click on the hyperlink underneath for an interview with Retired Lt. Col George Goodson – posted December twenty second, 2009 Posted in The SandGram v1.0


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