For last year's Memorial Day, I decided to do something different: interview comic industry members
solely about their military experiences. In May of 2001, I interviewed Will Eisner,
Dan DeCarlo, Joe Kubert, and Doug Murray. The
reaction was fantastic, and hopefully reminded Slush
readers to remember what the holiday is supposed to
be about. This year I decided on a slightly
different tact: Instead of interviewing a creator, I
would interview an executive.
Marvel Enterprises CEO Peter Cuneo is more than a
brilliant businessman who has turned around such
well-known brand names as Remington and Marvel, he's
also a decorated Vietnam Veteran. Following a
family tradition, he joined the Navy as a young
ensign, and entered the Vietnam fray on a guided
Peter's is one of many stories from millions of
American ex-servicemen. On this day of
remembrence, Slush urges you to keep in mind why we
have Memorial Day, what it means, and what the United
States military has done to protect the free interests
of the entire world.
You were born at Alameda Naval Air Station in World
War II. What did your father do in the Navy?
My father was a Navy fighter pilot in WWII.
How much of an influence was your father on you in
your decision to join the Navy?
My father was a big influence. There was a
tradition in my father of service in the Navy during
wartime. So, for example, my father and my uncle, who
Iím very close with, both served in World War II and
So many Navy brats grow up and join the Army, but
you followed through.
Well, I had very positive feelings about the Navy
from my childhood. I had followed my father around to
a number of naval bases. Of course, I lived at Alameda
in Oakland, California, but I had also lived in San
Diego, where there is a big navy base, and also in
Pensacola, Florida, Bremerton, Washington, and
Philadelphia. Actually he was at the Philadelphia
Naval Yard for a while perfecting the steam catapult
for carriers. And I had a chance as a young kid to go
aboard many navy ships, where I was always treated
like a king. So I had a very positive feeling.
Was it a positive experience growing up on navy
When you eventually joined the Navy you went in
through the Officer Candidate School. Why did you go
that route as opposed to the ROTC?
I did my undergraduate at Alfred University in
upstate New York and they didnít have a Navy ROTC
Where did you complete your OCS training?
Newport, Rhode Island. It was 16 weeks.
When you graduated from OCS were you allowed to
pick your specialty?
No, but if you were in the top 10% of the class you
were able to pick your assignment.
What did you pick?
I wanted to be on destroyers in the Pacific. So I
got an assignment to the USS Joseph Strauss, a
guided missile destroyer homeported in Pearl Harbor.
And who exactly was Joseph Strauss?
Joseph Strauss was the father of mine warfare in
the United States Navy. He was an admiral who had a
very distinguished career around the First World War.
Iím assuming you realized when you picked your
specialty that you would be deployed to Southeast
Absolutely, I assumed it.
How long after you received your commission were
you deployed to the Vietnam Theater?
Three months. On the way to my ship I did
additional training in San Diego and Treasure Island
in San Francisco Bay.
I know a few things about the Navy, one being that
new officers to a ship are typically assigned to
Yes, that was my assignment.
It must have been interesting serving as Damage
Control Officer while the ship was engaged in active
It was a very positive experience. Luckily the ship
wasnít hit while I was Damage Control Officer. It
was mostly drills.
In 1965, two F-4 Phantoms under
the control of the Joseph Strauss downed two
MiGs, accounting for the first hostile aircraft shot
down by the US since 1953.
That occurred before I got to the ship. I got there
in 1968. And I was also an air-intercept controller.
Did that fall under your Communications Officer
That was part of my collateral duties. In other
words, on a Navy ship, you really have three sets of
duties. You have a ship-driving duty: for example, youíre
on the bridge. There are various qualifications to go
through, and eventually you want to become qualified
for whatís called Officer of the Deck (Fleet), which
means you are qualified to drive the ship during fleet
operations. Thatís the highest qualification.
When the ship is in port, thereís also a
qualification called Command Duty Officer, which in
effect allows you to become captain of the ship in
port when the captain has gone ashore. Those are the
two big ship-driving and ship-wide responsibilities
that you want to obtain, and which I did obtain.
You also have a functional job, and I was Damage
Control Officer and later Communications Officer.
Thirdly, you also have what are called collateral
duties, which could be treasurer of the officerís
mess, or keeper of registered publications - these are
all the secret codes, which was one of my collateral
duties because I was Communications Officer. Another
collateral duty is to be an air-intercept controller.
My responsibility was basically to send our jets
against the MiGs over North Vietnam.
I spent three years on Strauss. You fall in
love with your ship in the navy. Itís an inanimate
object, but because of your experiences you generate
love for the ship and a strong bond with your
What were some additional duties you fulfilled in
your role as Communications Officer?
Itís really just what you would think. The ship
has various forms of communications, primarily radio,
but also signaling, so we have a signal bridge where
we would signal to other ships. I was in charge of
making sure that we had qualified people to run those
functions. I also insured that the secret codes were
protected, and maintained appropriately, as well as
understanding the equipment functionally.
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