CENTER FOR U.S. WAR
VETERANS' ORAL HISTORIES
Vietnam War Oral History Interview
US Army, 1st Aviation Brigade
Date: April 29, 2015
Interviewer: Carol Fowler
Summarizer: Alexis Martin
Ted Zabohonski is a United States Army veteran who served on active duty from July 1967 to February 1969 in the Vietnam War. During his duty, he was assigned to the 129 Assault Helicopter Company, and later to the 1st Aviation Brigade. Zabohonski is a true patriot whose story reflects a sense of nationalistic pride and civic duty. No one in his family had served before him; although, his two brothers, Pete and Frank, were members of the National Guard. Zabohonski’s motivation for enlisting was derived from a sense of duty. He sent a request to his draft board to have his number moved up, resulting in his induction being advanced six weeks. Zabohonski describes the request as being viewed as “gung-ho” in the eyes of the recruiters.
Arriving at the induction center in July 1967 on the same day of the Newark Riots, Zabohonski’s experience began with an aura of violence from the very start. He went to basic training at Fort Dix, in the barracks closest to McGuire Air Force Base. Zabohonski described the training as rigorous – dictated sleep schedules, mealtimes and every other aspect of his base life. After basic training, he was assigned to Fort Polk, Louisiana, for advanced infantry training. Ten weeks later, however, a preexisting knee injury resurfaced and changed his military specialty to that of a clerk typist, which ultimately kept him off the battlefield.
Traveling from San Francisco to Long Binh, Vietnam, Zabohonski eventually ended up in Qui Nhon, where he worked in the unit arms room. His job included handling captured weapons, issuing new weapons, retrieving returned weapons and keeping an inventory of the arms. He spent his last months in charge of all the unit’s arms as well as other clerical tasks. Zabohonski’s return home came with an unexpected wave of emotions. In his oral history interview, he described being initially unable to exit his charter plane, frozen with newfound emotions about being home. Zabohonski’s return home led to his eventual involvement in the Rolling Thunder veteran’s group, of which he is now a board member. Visiting other veterans in nursing homes and hospitals to provide comfort and support is a huge focus of Rolling Thunder, and a source of great joy for him since being home.
Zabohonski’s oral history interview captured the firsthand accounts of his wartime experience. It was a time when, he recalled:
Everyone had a tie to the war even if they were not directly involved themselves; they did not have to be in serving or have a member of their family or a friend in the service to have been affected. Ted Zabohonski’s personal anecdotes are an account of patriotism and pride in the United States Army during the Vietnam War.