SN - E3 - United States Navy - Seaman
20 Years Old
Born August 17, 1948 in Concordia, Kansas - September 28, 1968
Noel Nichols remembers Gary...
We honored Gary at our 2000 USS Hopewell DD-681 Association Reunion.
We held a memorial service aboard the USS Massachusetts in Fall River, MA.
As former crew we are all honored to know Gary better than when he was aboard.
Noel Nichols, MM3, 61-65, USS Hopewell
Mike Emmons remembers Gary...
While I arrived in country too late to know Gary, 11/3/68 to 11/3/69, it was my
assigned watch area (among others) to patrol that section of beach where that
tragedy occurred! I walked that area 1900 hours till 0700 hours many nights. The
wreckage and also some photos I have still live in my mind! For years I lived
with the memory of Vietnam as a source of fear and sadness thinking that was the
worst time of my life, little did I know that it would pale to losing my own son at
21 years of age, now I share some of your grief, though different in some ways, we both
lost a large part of our legacy, as it happens tomorrow 7/25/03 is the seventh
anniversary of my son Jayson's death and it still seems as real and painful in
many ways as that call we got the night he died! Putting a face and name with
the wreckage now gives me someone to remember when I reflect on those times
on the beach! Take Care.
Dale Stegmaier remembers his friend...
Gary was my best friend. We had alot of great times in high school.
I'll always remember him with that big smile on his face. He loved
to joke and have fun. He loved life. We were suppose to go into
the service about the same time. He went into the Navy, and I was
to go into the Army. I had a car wreck and was still stoved up, so
they deferred me for four or five months before they took me into the Army.
Gary was a great person, and I'll always remember him.
Gary and his mother, Betty
The war in Vietnam has a very significant meaning to us – Bob and Betty Collins. Our son,
Gary Dean, was a casualty there on September 28, 1968, on the Cua Viet River.
Gary was born on August 17, 1948, at St. Joseph Hospital in Concordia, Kansas.
Following graduation from Jamestown High School, Gary enlisted in the Navy on what
was called a minority cruise. The definition of this cruise was that you entered the Navy
the day before your eighteenth birthday and were discharged the day before your
twenty-first birthday. Actually, he had to leave on August 8, 1966, and was killed
just after his twentieth birthday.
He left by bus from Salina, Kansas to go to Kansas City, Missouri to be sworn into theSan Diego Navy Base for boot camp. Following boot
Navy. From there he went to
camp and the initial leave at home, he was assigned to the destroyer the USS Hopewell.
They sailed to the Gulf of Tonkin where they served as support to the military
We were fortunate to meet his ship when he came into San Diego at Christmas 1967. He
spent time with us and relatives in the Los Angeles, California area.
In June 1968, he was taken off the Hopewell and sent to a three-week survival training
school. This training was to teach them to survive if taken prisoners of war. During this
time they were familiarized with the Vietnamese language, money exchange, and
characteristics of the people. They were taken out on the desert and had to find
their way back to Freedom Village. Food was anything one could find in the desert.
Occasionally "rice water" was brought out to keep them from starving. Gary told of
being across the road from Freedom Village when a truck nearly backed over him.
I asked why he didn't try to get out of the way when he saw it backing. His reply
was that he would rather be killed than to go through what he had just been through.
They were also treated as actual prisoners of war by various methods. During
interrogations they were slapped, harshly, on the face for failing to give more than
their name and serial number. They were placed in individual plywood boxes in a
cramped sitting position. The boxes only had a small hole for ventilation. In another
situation, six men were placed in a similar box. I don't remember how long they were
required to be in the boxes; although I know it was dehumanizing.
This training was stopped shortly after Gary went through it because it was deemed
too harsh and cruel. There had been too many complaints in regard to the treatment.
Gary came home on leave following this training and returned to California for his
departure to Vietnam. He spent a few days with my uncle and aunt at Whittier,
California. They took him to Norton Air Force Base Debarkation Center for
the air trip to Vietnam.
He served on a LCM (landing craft) for a short time then was assigned to a Mike
Y1, a pusher boat, on September 1, 1968. The boat pushed jet fuel barges up to
the Qua Viet River from Cue Vie to Dong Ho. The trip was about nine miles one way
and was made on the average twice a day.
On September 28, 1968, they were at the mouth of the Cua Viet River when the fire and
explosion in which he died occurred. According to reports, contaminated fuel had
been pumped into the river. Some welding being done on a ship caused sparks to set
the fire and explosion. Three sailors were killed, two were missing, and three
Our memorial for Gary was held on October 12, 1968, at the Jamestown High School
with military committal at the Jamestown Cemetery.
Gary with his Uncle Don
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