Schmidt serves Navy as aerial photographer in Vietnam
To some people Bob Schmidt is a loving friend. To others he is a husband, father, and grandfather. Bob lives proudly knowing that he served his country honorably. We are proud of him too and are honored to tell his story.
Bob was born in Fort Scott, Kansas, to a military family. His father served in World War II and was the lone survivor of a plane crash in war. Bob’s brother was also in the military and served in the Vietnam War. Bob grew up with his father, mother, brother, and a sister in Dorrance, Kansas.
As a child, Bob enjoyed sports and riding bikes. He was a straight “A” student, graduating high school in 1964 from Dorrance. Bob had heard about the Vietnam War and that the government was drafting. He did not want to fight on the front lines, so he enlisted in the Navy, proudly knowing he was about to serve his country.
For training, Bob went to Great Lakes, Illinois, for boot camp. Bob proclaimed, “It totally sucked, and they just taught you how to wake up early in the morning.” After basic training, he went to Denver, Colorado, to Lowry Air Force Base for advanced training, where he was able to choose between becoming an aerial photographer or someone who worked on sonar equipment. He chose aerial photographer because he did not want to look at a screen all day. During this time Bob met his good friend, Charlie Thuma, who was a Golden Gloves boxer. Charlie would get into fights with people who knew jiu-jitsu and, “beat the fudge out of them,” as Bob mentioned.
After training Bob was stationed on a carrier known as the USS Hancock. He was in tiny quarters with up to forty bunks in them. Bob had to wear a little blue sailor suit. “I thought they looked stupid, but the chicks seemed to like them,” Bob recalled about the suits. Bob said the food was disgusting and they always had pork chops, but that he just lived off powdered milk and Sugar Crisp cereal.
On the USS Hancock men listened to orders without question. Bob worked the night shift from 7:00 P.M. to 7:00 A.M. as an aerial photographer. He looked at the sea for sixty to seventy days at a time. Bob’s duties also included looking for targets of North Vietnam. He also looked for enemy personnel, guns, supplies, and petroleum so their forces could then bomb the targets. Bob was thirty miles away from the fighting, watching it from the USS Hancock. Sadly, Bob did lose some friends during the war who were pilots. During the war, soldiers ran out of food fairly quickly so they ate a bunch of dried pork. The weather was either hot and humid or rainy and cold in Vietnam.
Overall, traveling was a fun experience for Bob. He enjoyed getting to see different parts of the world like Hong Kong and other places that many Americans did not get to see back then. Bob told us when he got to Vietnam he joked, “I’m not in Kansas anymore.”
When Bob was discharged from the war in the summer of 1969, there was no homecoming for him when he returned home. He had served during wartime for thirty-six months. At home, he first began working for a contractor. He then attended college at Kansas State University that fall, and he graduated in 1975. Bob met his spouse Julie in a bar, and they were married six months later. Bob and Julie had two children, Darsey and Heath, and Bob also inherited a stepson, Chad. Bob worked many jobs through the years, some in Concordia and some in Beloit. He later retired as the Dean of Administrative services from NCK Tech in Beloit. Bob now has eight grandchildren and works side jobs around his house.
Bob believes that in this day and age we need to be civil, disciplined, and care about our country. He also feels that it is good we have privileges and can do what we want. Bob informed us, “We need to be thankful that we have freedom because that is everything.” Furthermore, Bob told us, “Kids these days have a lot of room to grow up.” To conclude, one can see Bob Schmidt has a very unique story, and for that, we would like to thank him for his service.