Riverside Public Library
Interview with Daryl Brock
Interviewed on 22 March, 2005 at the home of Mr. Brock in Riverside, California
My name is James Klein and today is March 22, 2005. This interview is taking place at Riverside, California, as part of the Riverside Veterans History Project, a Riverside Public Library partnership with the Library of Congress.
Klein: Now, Daryl, please give us your full name.
Brock: My name is Daryl Edwin Brock and I was born in Carlsbad, New Mexico on November 11, 1948. I lived there for most of my life until around 1958 when my parents moved to Silver City, New Mexico. Then in 1960 we moved to Riverside, California. I was a student in Ramona High School in Riverside. After graduation I attended California State College in San Bernardino, California. At that time, because I was goofing off in college and not doing what I was supposed to, I was classified 1A by my draft board. That took place in November of '67. Then in February of '68 I enlisted in the inactive reserves of the U.S. Navy in order to beat the draft so that I wouldn't get drafted into the Army or the Marine Corps. Then in June of '68 I went into active naval service and started boot camp in San Diego.
Klein: O.K. What kind of training were you given in boot camp?
Brock: Well, I was fortunate enough to be one of the squadron NCOs. I was the Master at Arms so I got most of the standard basic training that almost everyone got in boot camp, as it pertained to Navy requirements: understanding how ships were designed and how you find your way around on ships, and some knot tying; most of the basics that took place. If I remember correctly, at that time, boot camp was only eight weeks long. Much of my time was out of the classroom, managing the barracks for daily inspections and things of that nature, but I was able to attend most of the basic classes that they taught to all the camp recruits.
After I got out of boot camp . . . well, actually, while I was in boot camp, I was classified as being able to go for any type of schooling that I wanted to. At the time that I enlisted, I enlisted as a Corpsman, which kind of bothered my parents a little bit because my dad had been in the Marine Corps during the Second World War. I had two cousins who were Corpsmen in the Second World War . . . one in the Army and one in the Navy. One of my reasons for enlisting was to avoid service in the Marine Corps or the Army, so they told me: "Don't you realize Corpsmen are going to be assigned with the Marines?" I said, "Yes, but I think I'll have a better opportunity going in the Navy."
Once I found out what schools were available to me, I agreed to extend my enlistment two additional years from the initial four years in order to get the additional schooling that I got. I was assigned to Basic Electricity School in San Diego. Then I was assigned to the Electronics Technician Radar School at Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay area. From that point later on in my educational career, I spent six months in Vallejo, California, going to Nuclear Power School. Then I spent six months in Idaho Falls, Idaho, going to Naval nuclear prototype training, learning how to operate a nuclear reactor. Then I spent a month-and-a-half in submarine school in New London, Connecticut. That was most of the schooling that I got, with additional small classes throughout the six years I was in.
Klein: O.K. Now, what were your principle duties during your military career?
Brock: Initially, my principle duty was as an electronic technician. I was assigned to the USS Bon Homme Richard, CVA-31, which was an attack aircraft carrier off of the coast of North Vietnam, during 1969. I spent eight or nine months on the carrier. My principle duties there were to monitor and maintain the radar repeaters that were used in combat, and also work in flight recovery operations as an electronics technician. Once I finished my nuclear power training, my primary duties were as a reactor operator on board a nuclear submarine. I served on the USS Nathan Hale, (SSBN 623) which was a Polaris submarine. So I was responsible in that particular field for the actual operation and maintenance of all of the nuclear instrumentation for the operation of the reactor, and any additional instrumentation that were required to be monitored, repaired and corrected. Those were my primary duties during the time I was in service.
Klein: What was your highest rank?
Brock: I eventually made E5. I went in as a seaman apprentice and eventually, after two years, made E5 - Electronics Radar Second Class. I ultimately qualified on submarines so I was able to put the SS after ETR2 as my ranking.
Klein: I see. Now, can you tell me in which campaigns, battles or theaters of operation you served?
Brock: The major one that I'm aware of was when I was on the aircraft carrier. We spent most of the time during the months of August and September in 1969 in the Tonkin Gulf for flight operations for bombing and weapons attacks on North Vietnam and South Vietnam during that period of time. That was the only primary military theater that I served in. I was in a variety of areas when I made four patrols on a submarine, but not being involved in navigations, I don't know exactly where we were. My understanding is that most of the time was spent in the South Pacific.
Klein: What medals, ribbons or other individual citations were you awarded?
Brock: Well, I was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation, the Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for Korea and the Vietnam Service Medal.
Klein: Were there any incidents or engagements in which you received these awards or citations? Or was it just for your general duty?
Brock: Three of them were for my general duty. The Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal and the Vietnam Service Medal were just general purpose provisions for being in the military during the Vietnam War. The Meritorious Unit Commendation came as a result of service on the aircraft carrier and what we did in the Tonkin Gulf. I don't know the specific declarations as to the reasons for that award. Then the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal . . . I have not yet been able to figure out the background for that, but, according to my DD214 I am authorized for that one. I believe it had something to do with the fact that we were on a patrol somewhere around North Korea during late '72, but I'm not positive.
Klein: I see. How did you feel about the war in your military service?
Brock: Different feelings in two different areas. I was somewhat lazy by nature, I believe, growing up as a teenager with a lot of advantages. I didn't want to walk so I decided that the best thing to do was to either fly or ride. I tried to get in the Air Force but their slots were full when I tried to enlist. During Vietnam, as soon as I graduated from high school, about thirty-five of my classmates enlisted in the military immediately out of high school and were serving in Vietnam from basically '66 to '68, when I enlisted. A number of them never made it back.
I was not politically aware of what was going on during the war, the reasons for it or why we were there. Military service was something that, having done some genealogical research on my family background, was not something that was discounted very seriously. I have family ancestors who have served in every major conflict since the Revolutionary War. So, having had a father who served in the Second World War, and an uncle and two cousins, it was just one of those options that was out there and I chose to make the option my choice and my desire. Ultimately I had two things I wanted to do. I wanted to serve on submarine service and I wanted to earn a Good Conduct Medal, both of which I did, successfully.
The third thing I wanted to do but never had the opportunity, was to winter over in Antarctica, but because of my rating, I was not allowed to go down there.
The attitude that I had was service to country is important and it's critical. It's something that we all should do. If we don't have to, we should still consider it. So it was not something that I thought was "bad." It was just one of those things that my family grew up with and that's what you do.
Klein: Now I'm sure that you're going to say that your experiences were worthwhile.
Brock: I think in looking back, almost all of them were worthwhile. I did a lot of growing up. I did a lot of things that I probably would never even have thought of doing. I saw a part of the world that I would never have even thought to see. I saw a lot of Southeast Asia. I saw a lot of different things that, in many cases, are what drives me in my current job as a director for a non-profit assisting people. But, I think, overall, it was beneficial. It was worthwhile. I had some harrowing experiences from time to time, but that comes with the territory.
Klein: Can you tell us who were some of the most memorable persons that you served with?
Brock: I really don't have any memorable people that I served with specifically. There were a lot of people that I worked with in a lot of areas. I lived with a bunch of guys in a house in Idaho for six months. We got to know each other well, but, to be honest with you, not very many of my fellow shipmates have maintained contact to any great extent with most of the people that I saw. A lot of my time was focused around the submarine service and training and preparation for that.
Probably the one memorable thing I remember was when our class left Vallejo, California. There were about three hundred of us. We were transferred to training duty in Idaho and, about two weeks after we got there, about a hundred and twenty of the fellows in the class were called in and shipped out because they had allegedly been involved in drug use, or parties where drug use had been involved. One of those individuals happened to be the son of a fellow by the name of Jimmy Carter who, at the time, was Governor of the State of Georgia. Many of the people literally within twenty-four to forty-eight hours disappeared and we never heard from them again, because that's not an acceptable practice, particularly in nuclear power submarine service.
I remember that one of the commanding officers that I served under, the first commanding officer of the submarine that I served on, was probably the most memorable individual I can remember. Although he knew us, we didn't know him well, but he would go beyond what anyone would expect on behalf of his crew. He did that two or three times on behalf of us. We came back off of our first patrol. The submarine tender was a spit and polish submarine tender that had just come from the east coast. We'd been out on patrol for ninety-some days and hadn't had a haircut or a shave or a beard trim, or anything like that, and the chief petty officer on the quarterdeck would not let us go ashore until we had a haircut. Six o'clock in the evening the barbershop on the tender was closed and nothing was open on the base. This commanding officer made a phone call to the Submarine PAC Headquarters in Pearl Harbor and, within ten minutes, the Admiral had called the quarterdeck and ordered them to allow us to go ashore for the first time in ninety-some days. So, those types of things stick in my mind.
I worked with a lot of people who had a tremendous amount of respect and team-player attitudes. I respected them and I hope that they respected me.
Klein: I gather that, from where you're talking about, that you were back in Guam at that time. Is that correct?
Brock: Yes, that's correct. We actually were stationed in Pearl Harbor. When we got ready to make the patrol, we would go down to the Honolulu International Airport, fly to Guam, fly into Anderson Air Force Base, and then travel down to the submarine base, pick up the boat, do some repair work on it for about twenty to thirty days, then go out on patrol, come back in and come back to Anderson and fly back to Honolulu.
Klein: And you said you were out for ninety days?
Brock: The longest patrol was a hundred days.
Klein: A hundred days. Now, you've mentioned some of the people . . . did you happen to keep track of them? Do you know where they are now?
Brock: We were friends. We got together and did a lot of things, off work, as well as on work. I've maintained some contact with two or three people. One of them is still in the nuclear power field and is living in the state of Washington and actually works in the Hanford Nuclear Processing Facility for all of the materials that are processed up there. There are a couple of other people I maintain random contact with but I don't think that I really had any "this is my best friend that I will maintain for life-type of a relationship" with most of the people. It was one of the jobs that we did, and we maintained good relationships during that time but we kind of frittered away. Quite a different attitude than what my father had with his squadron in the Marine Corps. They still get together every year for a squadron reunion. We didn't seem to have that type of a rapport.
Klein: How about events or experiences which remain most vivid in your memory? Can you give me one or two of them?
Brock: Probably two stick in my mind substantially. Maybe three. One was on the aircraft carrier. We had a group of pilots coming back from a mission. One of them was coming close to landing on the carrier. He was a little bit low so they gave him a wave off and his engine quit just about that point in time. His plane crashed into the round down on the fantail. It completely disintegrated and he was killed. The reason that sticks in my memory is because one of the first things I learned when I got on the carrier was: fires have to be out in three minutes or we go to general quarters. And anytime there was a fire on an aircraft carrier, that was a major thing. Fortunately the fire was put out and we didn't have to do that. We didn't have a major disaster like some of the other carriers have been known to have.
The other major situation I remember was on the submarine. We had come up for a periscope depth and what apparently was a Russian trawler came across and snagged our floating wire antennae, which was our primary communication tool. It created a tremendous amount of chaos for about two or three hours until we got that antennae reconnected and set back up. I happened to be lying in my bunk and I heard the screws churn over. We did an "emergency deep" from coming up to periscope depth. So, those are the two big things I think that stick in my mind.
It was interesting that a lot of people had a lot of different views on Vietnam. What I remember most vividly was all of the launches on the aircraft that we did and all of the planes that left fully armed and fully loaded, and came back empty . . . without any ammunition. So I knew they were doing something. It was one of the roles that we played.
Klein: Were you ever wounded during your military service?
Brock: No. I was never wounded, fortunately.
Klein: O.K. How about your home community response to your military service? What kind of support did you receive from your family and community?
Brock: I think I got a tremendous amount of support from my parents. They both appreciated the fact that after I got into boot camp and got the training, that I was not going to be a medical corpsman with the Marine Corps. I don't think I ever heard anyone put me down for having served in the military. I did a lot of traveling in the first three-and-a-half years I was in the Navy. I remember hearing stories about people being antagonistic towards the military in uniform. I was very fortunate in the travels that I did while I was in uniform. I never had anyone make any comments derogatorily to me. I never had anyone antagonize me, spit on my uniform or anything like that. I know that did take place but I never saw it. I guess I was treated with respect. I know that when I did come back on leave from home I was invited to my old high school to make presentations to some of the history classes. There seemed to be a tremendous amount of curiosity about what I did and how I did things. During those years, most of the students were not only curiously interested, but very respectful.
Two weeks ago I was at the Martin Luther King High School Remembers process where they provided the veterans an opportunity to explain their service and what they did. I think it was probably the first real positive reinforcement that I experienced as a participant in that. A great amount of appreciation for service . . . whatever the service was was felt there at that meeting.
Attitudes may have changed a little bit. I don't believe that we were treated with the same amount of support that Desert Storm and the current Iraqi situation has for the troops that are over there now. I think that's part of the political environment that we were in.
Klein: You know, we hear so often about the problems that the Vietnam veterans had as they came back, but you didn't experience any of that.
Brock: I was fortunate. I didn't experience any of that. I think part of it was because of the fact that I was actually only on the ground in Vietnam for three days in Danang while I was waiting for a flight out to the carrier for duty assignment. I wasn't involved in actual ground combat. I wasn't involved in anything other than on the carrier. I think the last three years I was in I was on a nuclear powered submarine, and the year before that I had been in school, training, so had been completely away from that. But, no, I really didn't experience that negative feeling and antagonism towards Vietnam veterans. I was very fortunate in not having experienced that.
Klein: That is indeed the truth. Now, what impact did your military service have on your life?
Brock: One of the first things that I remember when I was on the carrier . . . and I think the period of duty that I served on the aircraft carrier . . . was the one that probably had the most impact on my life. We came into port one time for six days in Hong Kong and I saw a tremendous amount of just devastating poverty in the outskirts of Hong Kong. We were in Sasebo, Japan. I didn't see it as much there. We were in the Philippines, in around Subic Bay and saw a tremendous amount of just devastating poverty. All of those things combined to make me aware of how well off we were in the United States, and how, if I ever got back, I needed to make sure that that never appeared here.
The other thing that took place was one of the trips that we made when we were in Japan was to Nagasaki, and to tour the memorial there for the nuclear bomb that was dropped and in Hiroshima, but we were in Nagasaki. It was a very peculiar situation in feeling because we were not allowed to leave the ship unless we were in uniform. So these three busloads of American sailors came into this museum, touring and visiting. The Japanese population was very quiet, very calm. They didn't say anything. I'm sure there were some antagonistic feelings there, but it was not in the Japanese culture to make that known or visible. There was a real unique situation there. I tie that type of behavior into being stationed on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor for two years, and, where, literally, almost on a daily basis, I went by the Arizona Memorial and to the Utah Memorial. I saw and heard comments made on the submarine base and on the naval base there by Americans to a number of Japanese tourists who had come to visit the Arizona Memorial. There just seemed to be a lot different attitude in Americans . . . "How dare they come back here to this location after having done the devastation they did during Pearl Harbor!"
So, it gave me kind of an insight in comparing those two things that there is a lot of outlooks in the world and not everyone's is the right one. You kind of need to balance off a little bit of common sense as to how to treat people after history has taken its role, and things have happened and you're in a different environment now.
Klein: How about occupations that you've held since your release from active duty?
Brock: Well, my father wanted me to go into the nuclear power industry in southern California after I got out because I was so qualified. Actually, when I got out, I got married in August after I was discharged in June. I immediately went back to school for approximately two years. The only occupation I've held for the last twenty-six years has been executive director of a non-profit organization. I have not done anything that I was trained for in the Navy, but a lot of things that happened to me are the driving force behind what I've done in the last twenty-six years for my job.
Klein: O.K. Now, I asked you before if you'd maintained contact with the other veterans with whom you served, and your answer was not . . .
Brock: Not in detail. No. I've had contact with a lot of veterans, both from Vietnam as well as Desert Storm, because I have a cousin who served in Desert Storm. I have a cousin who just got back from Iraq. I maintain relationships with some of the people I've known, but not in any great detail.
Klein: O.K. Then I think, lastly, we asked you, would you consider your military service as a positive or negative experience?
Brock: I think in the whole it was a positive experience. It helped me to understand why I'm an American. It helped me to understand how I grew. Looking back on it after the passage of time, I feel like I matured substantially in those six years, that I probably would not have done had I not been in the military. So, it was very beneficial for me.
Klein: Very good. Well, thank you for participating in this important project, and for sharing your military experiences. Your interview will be reviewed and you will receive your own personal copy. Copies of today's interview will be placed in the Riverside Public Library, as well as the Library of Congress in the Archives of the National Veterans' History Project. I thank you very much, and this concludes the interview.
Brock: Thank you. I appreciate it.