Was the Strauss part of a carrier battle
No, we operated independently, or occasionally in
In the Vietnam Theater, what type of action did a
destroyer such as yours typically find itself in? You
mentioned air intercepts. Were there any other
We had naval gunfire support, both in North and
South Vietnam. Which essentially means, in the case of
the North, we would run at flank speed towards land,
and then turn parallel to the coast, and fire. We had
five-inch 54-caliber guns with a range of twelve
miles, which meant we could fire at targets as far as
eleven miles inland. Normally the targets were chosen
by spotters in light aircraft.
They lost a lot of guys doing that.
Terrible. They wouldnít have gotten me to do that
job. Really dangerous job. If we were shot at we could
run away. In a sense we had it much easier than those
poor guys in-country who were potentially under fire
24 hours a day. We didnít have that kind of stress.
If were fired at, and chose to do so, we could run out
In the South we would do naval gunfire support as
well, but there was less danger to our ship. They
werenít guarding the coast like they were in the
We would also plane guard for carriers. This simply
means that when carriers in the Tonkin Gulf launched
or recovered aircraft, there would typically be a
destroyer one mile in front, and another destroyer one
mile to the rear to plane guard. That meant that if
aircraft landing or being catapulted went into the
water, we could be there to hopefully recover the
Did that ever occur while you were there?
Actually it did happen, but not under my watch.
We also did Search and Rescue off North Vietnam,
called SAR, in which our damaged aircraft over North
Vietnam would try to reach the water so they could
ditch and we could pick them up. We had activity in
that area. We even did some missions along the coast
of mainland China.
The Strauss didnít carry a helicopter,
No. The DDGs were designed for just what it sounds
like: missile defense. We had the standard TARTAR
missiles with a 20-mile range.
Iím not too familiar with the TARTARs. Are those
ship-to-air or ship-to-ground?
Ship-to-air. We also had five-inch rapid-fire guns,
ASROC rockets, which are for subs, and regular
What was life like for crews of destroyers deployed
in the Vietnam Theater? Was there a lot of waiting?
You have a certain amount of time transiting from
Pearl Harbor to the war zone. We would typically be on
the gun line, we called it, which would represent all
of those activities, for roughly 30 days at a time.
And then we would go for R&R (Rest and Relaxation)
to a port for a timeframe of usually four to seven
days. The R&R would be in places like Thailand,
the Philippines, Korea, and Japan. And then when we
returned from our deployments on the way back to Pearl
Harbor we did R&R in Australia and New Zealand. So
typically we were in the combat zone for 30 days at a
time, R&R for 4-7 days, and then back again. And
we would replenish at sea. We were constantly
replenishing fuel and supplies and ammunition in the
Did you enjoy the promotion from Damage Control to
Communications? Thatís a pretty big jump, isnít
Well, it was a jump, but remember I went from
Ensign to full lieutenant on that ship over the course
of three years. Looking back, I will tell you that my
time on the Strauss, although there were
moments of stress, was a wonderful experience. The war
itself was a terrible experience and it was completely
wrong for us to be there. But my experience on the
ship and the camaraderie with the guys I fought with
When did you leave the service?
I left active duty when I went to graduate school
in September of 1971.
Iím assuming the reason you left was to attend
Yes. I had been offered a long-term career in the
Navy, but, and it was a combination of things, I was
more interested in pursuing a career in business. And
my wife wasnít wild about the Navy life.
What values do you think you took away from your
I feel much of who I am today came from that
experience. Generally speaking, the officers in the
Navy were outstanding people. Outstanding people,
outstanding leaders. I canít comment on the other
services, Iím sure they had their share of good
officers, but I can say that I was privileged, and I
mean this, to serve under some super people on the Strauss.
I learned a great deal as a young guy. I was very
young and impressionable, and I learned a lot about
leading people and managing assets and I utilize so
much of that today. Itís a tremendous part of
whatever business success Iíve had.
That leads right into my next question: What values
that you learnt in the Navy do you apply on an
everyday basis in your business career?
Iíd say the values of leadership and how to lead
an organization. When youíre in the Navy youíre
given a lot of responsibility for a young person. As
an Officer of the Deck underway with fleet operations,
although the captain was on the bridge, I technically
had responsibility for the entire ship - 350 men, 400
feet long, 20,000 metric tons. This is a big piece of
machinery in times of extreme stress. How many 23
year-old guys get that chance? So I had a tremendous
amount of responsibility at a young age.
I donít think leaders are born. I truly believe
they learn leadership skills and principles both from
their parents and then from the people they work with.
Good leaders are made, not born.
I wonít put you on the spot by asking you about
comics, but I do wonder whether you feel that the
entertainment industry as a whole has been fair to the
military and those who serve in it.
I feel that the entertainment business over the
past five years has been very positive on the military
and has accurately portrayed how terrible war is. I
think of so many great productions. Certainly
Spielbergís Saving Private Ryan was a
wonderful movie but also brutally realistic. HBOís Band
of Brothers is one of the finest things Iíve
ever seen on television. Very accurate. Black Hawk
Down was very well done. Generally speaking,
Hollywood is treating the military very fairly.
This is a question nobody can really answer, but do
you think that the wave of patriotism that weíve
seen since September 11th will continue?
Iíd like to think so. For somebody who has been
in the military, and youíve heard this from many
Vietnam vets, my treatment when I was home on leave or
after Vietnam was pretty bad. I wonít go into the
details but being a Vietnam veteran was not very
popular. We were viewed as evil by many Americans.
And, of course, thatís not what we were thinking at
all. We may have been wrong politically, but we were
there to do something we thought was right for the
country. At least when we started we were generally
very idealistic. Once we got involved in the conflict,
of course, we all got a heavy dose of reality.
I think a certain portion of the country was very
down on the military for probably a generation. It
seemed to turn around during Desert Storm, which was
very positive in regard to the American publicís
view of the military. And, as horrible as it is to
say, I think 9/11 has given it an additional boost. Itís
a boost Iíd rather not have had. Iíd prefer that 9/11
not had happened.
On a closing note, what would you like people to
keep in mind as we enter the Memorial Day holiday?
In my opinion, Memorial Day takes on a little bit
of a different aura for most Americans because
Memorial Day, in the past has been, frankly, a long
weekend. There were some parades and such honoring our
servicemen, but I donít think many Americans,
particularly the newer generations, were particularly
emotional about it. When we go all the way back
through the history of America, certainly in the
militaryís role there have been mistakeís made,
but the military has been a very important part of
Americaís progress and our honor. If most Americans
can be a little emotional about Memorial Day in the
future, thatíd be wonderful.
Slush thanks Peter Cuneo both for his participation
in this interview and for his service to our
country. We implore everyone to do what Peter
suggests and remember what Memorial Day stands
for. Be sure to check out last year's interviews
with Doug Murray, Dan DeCarlo, Will Eisner, and Joe
Interview with Will Eisner
Interview with Joe Kubert
Interview with Dan DeCarlo
Interview with Doug Murray
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