In some of the posts were we have looked at the Vietnam War, it has been mostly through photos taken by a man who was engaged in that war. That is him above. Not the most flattering photo, but one of the few where he is not behind the camera. His name is William (Bill) Hatfield, and he is my father. These pictures that I share on this site are his and a part of our family legacy and I Thought it was time to share a little about the man.
Bill was a US Navy corpsmen during the war. He graduated High School and found himself in the Navy very soon after. After graduating boot camp he was assigned to submarines, with a decent sized land war going it seemed like the safest place for a young man to do his time. It did not take him long to decide that being shot at was a much better option than being in an actual submarine so he switched specialties. The Navy was short of Corpsmen so the encouraged it. He underwent six weeks of Corps school before being sent to Vietnam.
Why were they short of Corpsmen? It’s the navy, they stay on ships and do out to sea things. Right? Not those guys. See the Corpsmen server as the medics for the Marines, they go where the Marines go. So Bill spent a lot of times with the Marines in country. Medics and Corpsmen are usually called Doc, and for the longest time I really believed that was his name.
He survived the war and spent almost twenty-five years in the Navy before calling it a career. He never really talked much about the war. It weighed on him and had an effect on him, it is easy to see that now. Talking to family and his friends that knew him before and after, they all saw it.
These pictures, that he took and converted to slides (which are why some are reversed if you look close) were somewhat of a family legend. Every couple of years he would find them in a closet break out the project and screen (which I have now also) and take us for a tour, He remembered names and places, had stories for everything. He was not afraid to talk about it, just never saw much point. As he got older and we grew older the shows became fewer and fewer. When they did happen the names did not come so easily and the places all melded together. Just a few years ago we decided we were going to scan in all the slides, and he would go through and write down everything he remembered about them. We never got the chance to finish the project. So most of the stories are second-hand, the names lost to time.
When I see pictures like the one above I have a hard time imagining myself doing what he did at that age. He did it though, he survived and he never let the war tear him down. Now all I can do is my best to keep that young man above alive, even if just as words on the page.