Robin M. Cathcart, Vietnam Veteran


My name is Robin M. Cathcart, and I am a Vietnam Veteran.

Several members of my family served in the military with an uncle serving in a US Army Machine Gun Battalion in France during WW I and another uncle served as a US Army Infantryman in the Pacific Theater in WW II. My eldest half-brother served as WW II US Army Air Forces Technical Sergeant (E-6) and rated Aerial Gunner on a Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress heavy bomber. My other half-brother, a Chief Petty Officer (E-7), was a rated-Naval Aircrewman. He served three cruises off “Yankee Station” with VA-113, a Douglas A-4D Skyhawk bomber Squadron, first off the USS KITTY HAWK (CV-63) and later off the USS ENTERPRISE (CVN-65). “Yankee Station” was waters off North Vietnam. Aircraft from these carriers launched against the North, while aircraft from carriers off “Dixie Station” launched against targets in South Vietnam. My family never spoke of their wartime experiences.

I had been a Cadet Lieutenant Colonel and Cadet Group Commander of Buffalo Group, New York Wing, Civil Air Patrol and enlisted in the US Air Force on 10 July 1969 and attended USAF Basic Training at Lackland AFB, near San Antonio, Texas. My first operational assignment was to the 320th Security Police Squadron, Mather AFB, near Sacramento, California. Our mission: Guard nuclear-armed Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bombers on alert duty with a war mission. I volunteered for service in the Republic of Vietnam immediately after arriving at Mather AFB.

I was assigned to the 35th Security Police Squadron, Phan Rang Airbase, Republic of Vietnam and departed for RVN on 1 May 1970, the day of the “Kent State Massacre.” For the first three months of my tour I spent about five days a week manning a machine gun tower on the perimeter of the airbase and one day a week riding vehicle patrol in an M151A1 Jeep mounting a 7.62 mm machine gun. We also carried two M16 rifles, one with a grenade launching attachment, and two .38 caliber revolvers.

Following a 30-day emergency leave, I returned to my Squadron. We had a new First Sergeant. He learned that I had been nominated three times for appointment to the US Air Force Academy and once for West Point. The First Sergeant decided that I ought to work as a clerk in the Orderly Room. I had taken typing in high school so that gave me “added appeal” in his eyes. The worst part of my service occurred because I was rejected and constantly harassed and insulted by my fellow first-term Security Policemen, because I wanted to make the military a career.

I developed heart disease due to exposure to herbicides in Vietnam and had a bad experience when dealing with the Veterans Administration. When a VA employee saw that I served in Vietnam, he said, “Humpf! I AM A WORLD WAR II VETERAN. WE WON OUR WAR!” I later decided to avoid dealing with the VA for 30 years, and lost thousands of dollars in VA disability compensation. Some of the men who protested directly against the war were committed to ending the war, but participating in the war protest was a great way for a young man to meet young women. However, when the draft came to an end and college students knew they could avoid military service, the protests did, too. Some of these men were just cowards! 
To find out what happened after the war, just talk to a Vietnamese-American who lived through it: Death for all RVN General Officers, jail time for all other military officers, and forbidding professional men who supported the RVN from practicing their professions.

General Võ Nguyên Giáp, Commander-in-Chief of the People’s Army of Vietnam, wrote after the war saying that the North was on the verge of surrendering, until they realized the war protestors like Jane Fonda and John Kerry (our current Secretary of State), could force America out of the war, thus ensuring their victory. 
~ Robin M. Cathcart, Vietnam Veteran