Vietnam War Commemoration


James R. (Jim) Free

Years of Service during the Vietnam War:

Three and one/half years.

Position and Branch of Service during the Vietnam War:

I served aboard the U.S. Navy on the U.S.S. Goldsborough DDG20. This was a Guided Missile Destroyer that was based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. It performed several reconnaissance and combat missions off the coast of Viet Nam. I served in the Tartar Surface to Air Missile Fire Control system, designated as an FTM in that missile and gun Fire Control Division. In that division, I was involved with the Target Selection and Tracking system, as we tracked incoming enemy planes to determine their level of threat. If they were considered a serious threat, we would then assign a Tartar Surface to Air Missile and/or a Gun Fire Control System to deflect or shoot down the incoming threat.

Where were you deployed:

I was one of the first enlisted men to be assigned to the U.S.S. Goldsborough as it was being constructed in Seattle Washington in an area called Woodward Island. As a result, I became known as a “Plank Owner” of that ship. After being commissioned, we were ultimately based in Pearl Harbor Hawaii, where we were designated as the Command Ship of the “Pineapple Fleet” during that time.

What caused you to join the military:

I joined the U.S. Navy about two years out of high school and as the Viet Nam War was then becoming a reality. After some testing and extensive training in Navy for several months, I was assigned to the U.S.S. Goldsborough in the Missile Fire Control Division. As noted above and I was quite happy and proud to serve in that capacity. It was, however, quite challenging and rewarding at the same time to work with such a talented group of enlisted men and officers and to have the comradery and support that we developed while working together during that time.

What was the transition like when you returned home?

It was somewhat difficult as I was enrolled full time in my college curriculum and working part time. I didn’t seem to have too much difficulty in the transition to civilian life as I was primarily concentrating on my college education. That was a time however, when much of the country was reacting in opposition to the Vietnam War. After some extensive time and thought, I became partially involved in that effort myself.

Most significant memory:

Serving onboard the U.S.S. Goldsborough. Shortly after I served on that ship, it took a direct hit from an offshore missile that landed on the rear (Fantail), and right over the Chief’s berthing area. As a result, It killed three of the Chief Petty Officers in that division. They were militarily ranked (E-7 to E-9.) I had worked under two of those men that were KIA (Killed in Action) during that unfortunate event.

What do you wish that civilians would understand about military service?

Going clear back to the Civil War, all of us Veterans raised our right hand and swore to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. And in that regard, we “wrote a check” to our Government and the American People for an amount up to and including our lives. In the recent past, General Colin Powell stated at the Memorial Day Service on the Grounds of the Capital Building in Washington D.C., “That approximately 1.6 million men and women have given their lives in the fulfillment of that pledge upon entry into the U.S. Military and in the defense of our Country.”