Riverside Public Library
Interview with Anthony G. D'Aprile
Anthony G. D'Aprile
Interviewed on February 20, 2006 at the home of Mr. D'Aprile in Riverside, California
This is an interview with Anthony G. D'Aprile and I am Bob Fitch, the interviewer. Today is February 20, 2006 and this interview is taking place at Mr. D'Aprile's home as part of the Riverside Veteran's History Project, a Riverside Public Library partnership with the Library of Congress.
Fitch: May we call you Tony?
Fitch: Let's begin by telling us your full name.
D'Aprile: My full name is Anthony Gregory D'Aprile.
Fitch: Where were you born and raised?
D'Aprile: I was born in Albany, New York and I was raised in Utica, New York.
Fitch: On what date were you born?
D'Aprile: I was born June 29, 1949.
Fitch: O.K. And your family background -- what was your father's business?
D'Aprile: He was a laborer.
Fitch: Where was that?
D'Aprile: In New York.
Fitch: Was your mother employed or was she just a housewife?
D'Aprile: No. Housewife.
Fitch: Did you have any siblings?
D'Aprile: I have one brother and one sister.
Fitch: What is your educational background?
D'Aprile: I have an AA degree.
Fitch: Where did you go to high school?
D'Aprile: I went to Proctor High School in Utica, New York.
Fitch: Proctor High School?
Fitch: O.K. You then went on to a junior college?
D'Aprile: Here in Riverside. Riverside . . . RCC.
Fitch: When did you receive your AA degree? Approximately how long ago?
D'Aprile: Ten years ago.
Fitch: Let's go to your military service. How were you recruited?
D'Aprile: I joined.
Fitch: What branch of service?
D'Aprile: United States Marine Corps.
Fitch: In what year?
D'Aprile: I joined June 29, 1966.
Fitch: Where did you take your basic training?
D'Aprile: Paris Island, South Carolina. Then I went on to North Carolina for ITR training.
Fitch: What kind of training?
D'Aprile: ITR - that's Advanced Infantry Training, North Carolina.
Fitch: How would you consider your experience in basic training?
D'Aprile: Great! I really enjoyed it. I think it did a lot for me.
Fitch: Was it difficult?
D'Aprile: Very difficult. Very difficult. I thought I knew it all but I didn't.
Fitch: Then what did you do after the Advanced Infantry Training?
D'Aprile: I was stationed in Kaneohe Air Base in Hawaii for about a year. Then I went to Vietnam after that.
Fitch: What year was that?
D'Aprile: 1967 and 1968. I was there as a machine gunner. O331 machine gunner.
Fitch: That organization at that time was . . .
D'Aprile: I was with Third Battalion Third Marine Division. Mike Company.
Fitch: And your station that time in Vietnam?
D'Aprile: Well, basically, the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone). I landed in Da Nang for one day, then the same day or the next day I took a truck to Dong Ha on the DMZ. Other Fire Bases that I was at were Con Thien (Hill of Angels), Gio Linh, Khe Sanh, and Alpha Threy.
Fitch: What was your primary duty?
D'Aprile: Search and destroy.
Fitch: What kind of a rifle did you have?
D'Aprile: M-60 machine gun.
Fitch: How many were in your particular squad?
D'Aprile: Usually around thirteen people but we were lucky to have seven or eight due to Marines getting killed or wounded.
Fitch: How many days were you up on the frontline, so to speak?
D'Aprile: A marine's tour duty is thirteen months but I did catch malaria and I was on a hospital ship for thirty days so that was a month I was gone there. Then after I got wounded and they didn't know what to do with me, so they made me an MP for thirty days. So I was in the field about twelve months, you know, if not counting the MP duty and the Marine Corps malaria duty . . . I call that duty.
Fitch: Would you care to describe the circumstances surrounding your first injury?
D'Aprile: Just shrapnel. I was wounded twice and I didn't even have to get medivaced . . . they were just scratches. I wouldn't even call them injuries but somebody turned them in and somebody tried to make . . . you know, you've got to get a medal for it and I don't believe it's really cool. I think the ones who got a major injury should get a Purple Heart. A lot of people get scratches. I get scratches here at work.
Fitch: Yes, I know. I was confined in a hospital in France during World War II for dysentery and they went up and down the hospital aisles with Purple Hearts and I respectfully declined. So your total time in Vietnam was thirteen months. And you were obviously wounded several times because you have several stars on your . . .
D'Aprile: Two Purple Hearts.
Fitch: Can you describe what general arrangements you had in Vietnam? Your food? Your accommodations? What was it like out on the frontlines?
D'Aprile: Well, in my case we spent most of the time in the bush. We were always on search and destroy missions. We'd be gone three weeks . . . a month . . . with a big company size . . . two, three hundred men and we'd sweep an area. We'd be in the jungle most of the time. Either it would be hot, sticky, muddy during the monsoons . . . lots of mosquitoes. One time I had thirty-eight leeches on me, going through Leech Valley. Then when it's dry, you get jungle rot between your toes. But somehow we survived and we just got used to it after a while. Mainly our food was C rations. Thank God for helicopters. They'd just drop off cases of supplies. Otherwise we never would have made it. But that's basically what it was. It was just a lot of jungle. A lot of banana leaves, a lot of elephant grass and a lot of C rations.
Fitch: Speaking of helicopters . . . I suppose you think very highly of the work that they did for you folks, not only providing food but taking care of the wounded.
D'Aprile: Without helicopters I don't think we would have lasted . . . America wouldn't have lasted two months in Vietnam. Those people have been fighting that war all their lives and that's their turf . . . their ground . . . and without the helicopters big bad America would have got heat up.
Fitch: There were a number of casualties were there not?
D'Aprile: Every day it seemed like. But it wasn't really every day but it just seemed that way. There was always casualties and Thank God for helicopters again because not only did they bring our mail and food, they also took our Medivacs out.
Fitch: What then was your general impression of your service in Vietnam?
D'Aprile: Well, that's the reason I joined the Marine Corps to go there, number one and number two, I'm glad I did go and I went for the reason, you know, I wanted to help other people 'cause that's the type of person I am. I like to help people. I don't think America was right by leaving them like that, but that's just my opinion.
Fitch: O.K. What, if anything, do you feel you've gained from your experience in Vietnam?
D'Aprile: Gained from my experience? Well, how lucky American people are. They have running water and electricity, food in stores and we could go get it. You know, I think American people are very spoiled.
Fitch: What year did you return from Vietnam?
D'Aprile: The last part of '68. I think December or something like that . . . November or December.
Fitch: And your impressions of the reception that you got when you returned home?
D'Aprile: I don't remember any receptions other than negative stuff. But it was very negative to the Vietnam vet. I know I joined the VFW three different times and the first two times I joined they just didn't like Vietnam vets. So it wasn't comfortable and they made it well-known that we were not liked or wanted there, because, you know, in the vet's eyes at that time, they thought we lost the war and we were nothing but baby killers and all that kind of stuff. It was very negative but, I think, just like most of us, we survived and we just kept quiet - low profile - and moved on.
Fitch: Would you do it again?
D'Aprile: Oh, in a heart beat! No question. I would go right now. I love America but I do not like politicians. I do not like politicians. They lied before I went to Vietnam, they lied while I was in Vietnam, and they're lying today. So I'm not proud to be an American.
Fitch: Regarding your wounds -- are you receiving any on-going treatment?
D'Aprile: My major wound is PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder). Post-traumatic Stress Syndrome. They call it shell shock or whatever. They have different names for it. So, yes. I go to the VA Hospital and I was going to two different Vet centers. Corona Vet Center and I was going to a Loma Linda PTSD class. Then I have a psychiatrist down there and a psychologist so I meet with a psychologist and a psychiatrist.
Fitch: Do you think that treatment is helping ?
D'Aprile: Oh, yes. It helps a lot. I used to be a real angry person at one time, but I'm real mellow now.
Fitch: Thanks for that. (D'Aprile: Yes.) You have given me a list of the organizations to which you are a member of. All of them are related to your experience in Vietnam and during your service in the Marine Corps. Life member, for example, of the Disabled American Veterans. Ten different organizations, so you remain very active in your post-Vietnam life.
D'Aprile: Right. It's something I don't want to forget. There's too many people that died over there, just to let them be forgotten.
Fitch: The first time I met you was at a meeting called by the County Director of Veterans Affairs. Are you affiliated in any way with that department?
D'Aprile: No, not really.
Fitch: O.K. Concerning any of your buddies from Vietnam --- do you ever get together with them individually or as a group?
D'Aprile: No. Having PTSD . . . there's a lot of things you don't remember and I don't really remember anybody's names, except for maybe three people I remember. But one of them is in New York, but he wasn't actually with me there. He was in Vietnam the same time I was and we went through the same training in Hawaii. I did see him in Nam one time for one day, but as far as guys I fought with . . . no. I remember another guy's name . . . Dale, but I don't know where he's at. But that's about it. I remember incidents . . . different things that happened, you know. I get a lot of memories -- bad dreams.
Fitch: Sure. Well, let's talk about your family. Where did you meet your wife?
D'Aprile: I met my wife while I was stationed in Hawaii.
Fitch: She's Hawaiian?
Fitch: You were married while you were there in Hawaii?
D'Aprile: No, not until we got back. I got married after I got back from Vietnam.
Fitch: Do you have children?
D'Aprile: I have two boys.
Fitch: How old are they now?
D'Aprile: Thirty-three and thirty-four.
Fitch: Did they serve in the military service in any way?
Fitch: Let me refer to your citations and medals. You've given me a list so, for the benefit of this tape, let me just read some of them:
National Defense Service Medal
Vietnam Service Medal with one star
Vietnam Campaign Medal with device
Two Purple Hearts
Good Conduct Medal
Marksman Badge Rifle -- Is that a difficult medal to obtain?
Combat Action Ribbon
D'Aprile: Actually there's three different medals you get for marksmanship rifle. The best one being Expert, then Sharpshooter, and then Marksman. I just barely qualified. That's why they gave me the machine gun. They figured I had a better chance of living 'cause I couldn't hit nothing with a rifle! (Laughing) Marksman is about the lowest you get with a rifle.
Fitch: You have also provided me with a list of ten organizations to which you belong and, for the benefit of the tape, let me read these:
The American Legion
Life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars
Life member of the Marine Corps League
Life member of the Military Order of the Cootie -- what is that?
D'Aprile: That's an honor society of the VFW. They specialize in hospital work and I'm the Chaplain for the Cooties.
Fitch: That's very good. Life member of the Mountford Point Marine Association - what is that?
D'Aprile: That's your first black marines that ever joined the Marine Corps and they got their organization.
Life member of Am Vets
Life member of Military Order of the Purple Heart
Life member of the Disabled American Veterans
Life member of Vietnam Veterans of America
Life member of the 1st marine Division Association.
D'Aprile: There's another one on the back of the page.
Fitch: Oh, there's one more.
Life member of the Third Marine Division Association.
You are a joiner! But I'm sure that your affiliation with these organizations is very meaningful to you.
D'Aprile: Yes, I like to keep up with what's going on in the world because you never know what's going to happen and what places you can go to support other veterans.
Fitch: You told me you have also been involved with young marines called The Green Knights.
D'Aprile: Right. They're from Norco, California and they're eight to eighteen years old -- boys and girls -- and they mainly learn how to drill, march and they learn military etiquette and history. They're all over the United States and a lot of them go on to be young marines.
Fitch: And I see their motto is: Strengthening the lives of America's youth.
D'Aprile: And, with the Marine Corps League right now I am Junior Vice-Commandant for the Marine Corps League.
Fitch: O.K. After leaving Vietnam, did you remain in the Marine Corps for a while?
D'Aprile: Well, first thing . . . I never did leave Vietnam. I'm still in Vietnam right now. So I don't know how to answer that one. No . . . I spent three years in the Marine Corps and I got out and went down to the Army National Guard here in Riverside, Fairmount Park, and I joined the Army National Guard. I lasted about three months because there was not enough discipline so I just walked out on them. I said that the Boy Scouts were more disciplined. So, funny . . . they sent me an Honorable Discharge anyway. And life since then has just basically been working, working, working, so I just don't have to remember anything. The busier I am the less I have to remember. And now that I'm getting to retire pretty soon I'm finding I've got more time on my hands and I remember more -- so --
Fitch: You'll be retiring obviously from your current position.
D'Aprile: I'm planning on December.
Fitch: And you're working now for what organization?
D'Aprile: The County of Riverside, Department of Information Technology.
Fitch: And what is your job there?
Fitch: Do you find that job challenging?
D'Aprile: Not at all. But it's easy -- close to home -- I don't have to think. I don't have to deal with the public. It's a good place for me.
Fitch: Do you have any hobbies or other activities?
D'Aprile: No. I'm constantly on the internet -- reading about Vietnam.
Fitch: O.K. Is there anything else that you'd like to say before we close this interview?
D'Aprile: No. All of that stuff would be too gory.
Fitch: O.K. Well, thank you for participating in this important project and sharing your experience in Vietnam. 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 and some of them will be transmitted on to the Library of Congress in the Archives of the National Veterans History Project. This concludes the interview. Thank you very much.
D'Aprile: Thank you.
* Footnote: During the interview with "Tony" D'Aprile, he stated that he is still under treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of nearly a year under combat in Vietnam. He respectfully declined to reveal any details of his experiences encountered during his many "search and destroy" sorties. A poem recently composed by Tony appears on the following page. It tells the story. It is a heart-rendering blend of Marine Corp pride and sheer futility.
"Need To Get It Out"
There was no honor nor pride
For the Marines who lived and died.
We didn't hold our heads up high
We just came home to cry.
All the suffering and the pain
And 30 years later we are still going insane.
The feeling's deep inside
I just want to hide.
I now have a broken heart
But I am very proud that I did my part.
There is no hope for me
It's been way too long you see.
Why don't I keep learning? I don't know
There is so much out there that would enable me to grow.
The horror and all the thought in my mind
I can't stand to see them. Oh, how I wish I were blind.
Problems we all have, need someone to tell
Can't you listen to me? That would be swell.
I bet there is someone I can trust
Some where, some how, I must.
I must keep moving ahead
Because I have no more tears to shed.
I want everyone to understand my pain
And that my brother Marines didn't die in vain.
I fought for our Country, I did this well
As sure as there is a God in Heaven
I know that I did my time in Hell.
Marines did what others didn't want to do
Because they were true to Red, White and Blue.