CENTER FOR U.S. WAR
VETERANS' ORAL HISTORIES
Francis A. Grimm Jr
Vietnam War Oral History Interview
US Air Force, 818th Defense Squadron
Date: August 29, 2018
Interviewer: Carol Fowler
Summarizer: Nicholas Testa
Francis A. Grimm Jr., also known as Bucky, was born in February 1943. He grew up in Long Branch, New Jersey in a military family. His father and uncle both served in the military during World War II, and his brother served in Vietnam. After high school, Grimm got as a job as a bank teller, but was drafted in December of 1963. He exercised the option to join the US Air Force. Grimm was sworn into that service in February 1964. He was sent to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas for basic training,
After five months in Lackland, Grimm was sent to Lincoln Air Force Base in Nebraska, where he served as a member of the 818th Defense Squadron and was trained as a dog handler. Initially, he did not want to be anywhere near the dogs, because he thought they were dangerous. Grimm’s fear of dogs was heightened when he was bit twice during his K-9 training. As he spent more time with the dogs, however, he grew to like them; although, he noted that he still has scars from the bites.
Grimm remembered how the dogs were trained every day; and, how important it was that they not be gun-shy. In June 1965, having completed his K-9 training, he officially became a dog handler and received his war dog, Duke – as well as orders for Vietnam. Grimm had a brief leave before going, and recalled that he was glad to have had the chance to do so before being shipped off to Vietnam.
Before landing in Vietnam in January 1966, Grimm remembered that he had an incredible view of the country from his plane. He said it was one of the most beautiful places outside the U.S that he had ever seen. On arrival at Da Nang Air Base, Grimm began his year of service in Vietnam. His assignment was to assist in defending the base and its aircraft from the Viet Cong, as well as deal with any possible threats from Vietnamese workers on the base.
Grimm recalled that morale in Vietnam at the time was good, and that everyone was feeling optimistic about the conduct of the war. One of the issues that many soldiers had was a lack of mail from home. He told a story about how each of the rifle ammunition magazines that the airmen had in their rifles had the bullet of the cartridge at the top painted red. That round still had to be visible when the man went off duty, assuring that there was not a round in the chamber ready to fire. Grimm usually removed that cartridge and returned it to the magazine when going off duty.
On one occasion, Grimm was on the tarmac and there were people outside searching for a bomb that was not dropped when a plane was on its bombing run, but was not attached to the aircraft on landing. It was eventually discovered on the runway and safely removed, but the incident was unsettling.
Many of the war dogs that served in Vietnam contracted a disease called Leptospirosis, which can result in fever, sluggish behavior, weight loss, and anorexia among other problems. Fortunately, Grimm’s dog, Duke, did not contract this disease. He fed Duke and always made sure that he was healthy. Grimm and Duke were always together, and they patrolled throughout the base.
Towards the end of his time at Da Nang, Grimm heard about how tensions in the U.S were rising with the protests against the war, and people insulting returning soldiers for doing their duty. Before he left Vietnam, he was told not to speak about his time in Vietnam, or wear his uniform, because of the way that he might be treated by his fellow Americans. Sadly, Grimm left; he had no choice but to leave Duke behind to be given to another handler. He did not want to leave Duke; and, he noted that he thought about him all the time. When Grimm left Vietnam in January of 1967, he received a promotion to the highest rank he received in his service, E-4, which he did not know until he had landed at the Strategic Air Command in Langley, Virginia.
When Grimm returned to New Jersey, he said that he was very happy, and he reunited with his fiancée. He married her, and they were very happy together. Shortly after returning, Grimm got a job at Fort Monmouth, thanks to a friend from his days in Vietnam. While working at Fort Monmouth, he found friends that he had served with in Vietnam, which he was very excited about. Fort Monmouth is now closed, but Grimm said that he keeps in contact with the people that he worked with there.
Since leaving Vietnam, Grimm also joined the Vietnam Veterans of America, which helped him talk about his time in country. Until that point, it all had been bottled up inside of him. He is glad that he did this; because, he is able to share his stories for people to listen to for years to come. In 2006, Grimm attended the dedication of the US War Dogs Memorial at the New Jersey Vietnam Memorial in Holmdel, NJ.