SURFING VIETNAM ON THE GOVERNMENT’S DIME! – PART THREE
With Memorial Day this month and with Roark’s current season set in Vietnam for Volume 10: “Strange Daze In A Hanoi Haze” we wanted to honor one of our U.S. Veteran’s who served during the conflict. Ron Sizemore won the West Coast Surfing Championships off Huntington Beach Pier in 1961 and then the United States went to war in Vietnam and he was drafted in 1966. Sizemore is the real life surfing champion character that was in Apocalypse Now who shared with Roark his experience surfing on the government’s dime during the Vietnam War.
Ron Sizemore – U.S. Veteran from Between The Lines a documentary on surfing solders during the Vietnam War.
STATESIDE – After Vietnam and in Conclusion
August 1968 I left Vung Tau, Vietnam and returned stateside to Ft. Dix, New Jersey. I still had just short of two years left. As you recall I had a total of three years on my re-enlistment commitment in Vietnam and I spent one of those years surfing at Vung Tau.
I was eased over to Vietnam with my “Band of Brothers” in the 9th. Inf. Div. and eased out as I wasn’t discharged upon my arrival stateside but still in the Army. At Ft. Dix I was assigned to (are you ready for this?) USAOSREPLSTA or United States Army Over Seas Replacement Station. I was working in Data Processing/Flight Orientation. What I did was process troops to be sent to Europe and Vietnam as REPLACEMENTS! Remember the Infusion Program I had mention earlier? I processed the replacements and then bused them next door to McGuire Air Force Base where they were then flown to their destination. Guess what? I had my days to myself again much like Vung Tau and on top of that numerous days off.
I bought a 1967 VW Van. I took up the Ancient & Royal sport of golf at Ft. Dix with my new smaller “Band of Brothers.” I also skied with them in the winter in Vernon Valley, N.J. The Camelbacks in Penn. and Milton Snow Bowl in Mass. My small “Band of Brothers” did not surf so I did that alone. I surfed Seaside Heights and Manasquan, N.J. I had found a small surf shop near Manasquan and when I told them I was from California they almost gave the shop to me. Well in truth they loaned me a board.
I made trips into New York City visiting the museums, Central Park, and Times Square. I even took in an Army/Navy game in Philadelphia (Army lost as they have most of the time). I entertained the idea of going to the Woodstock Music Festival, as it was only two and a half hours away. Turned out to be rain and mud and had I gone and not returned to the USAOSREPLSTA as I was assigned the Army would have had a fit. So I missed Woodstock by a stones throw (no play on words).
In 1970 I received a two-month “early-out” to return to Orange Coast Junior College in Costa Mesa, California and continue my education where I had left off. I then went on to California State College, Fullerton using the GI Bill. Total time in the service–four years and I had the opportunity to: “service targets” surf, ski and enjoy the sights and sounds of the Mekong Delta, Saigon, Vung Tau, Sydney, Australia, Missouri, Kansas and the East coast and all on the governments dime.
High School Interview
A couple of years ago Jackie McMahon a Laguna Beach High School student had a class assignment to interview a veteran. She asked many questions of my experience in the service and Vietnam but what caught me short was when she asked, “Were you ever afraid?” After a moment I replied, “No, we were well trained.” and I meant it.
Alex Baker (a good Varsity Baseball player) and his classmate John Odgen (Laguna Beach High School students) a year or two later for the same assignment asked the same question and I gave the same answer but did not hesitate to think about it. (Youtube: Ron Sizemore LBHS interview or Google Ron Sizemore surfer and look for it among the other stuff on the Internet under my name).
It is refreshing in this day and age to see there is an interest in our schools with our involvement in Vietnam so many years ago. Maybe the next generation will learn something from it. Who knows?
When I returned from Vietnam in 1968 we were not well received. The negative attitude from the general public back then did not filter into the “surfing world” or the “beach people” which was and still is a big part of my life. Today I do not mind the “Veteran discounts” or the “Thank You for serving” but the ones who really should be “Thanked” are todays Servicemen and Women as they have volunteered for the duty that I was drafted for. The Draft was our civic duty, right or wrong it was expected of all that were called to serve.
Sometimes in life the journey becomes as big a part as the destination. You can board a flight and within hours after a snack and a drink be in warm water surfing at an exotic spot somewhere on the face of the earth.My journey to the destination of Vung Tau and surf took a total time of a year and two months. Would I do it again given the opportunity? Yes, but just a tad different the next time.
Warm waters and good surf
Laguna Beach, California
1 Vietnam 1967 “Remembering” The True Life Of Jones’s Tornados by William A. Weber p26 (self published)
2 Riverine Warfare On The Rach Nui, VFW Magazine Nov/Dec 2005 p36 Duty Honor Sacrifice, Ralph Christopher, Author House, p170, 2007
3 Between The Lines-The Story Of Surfers During The Vietnam War, In Their Own Words, Tom Woods p94