Don Johnson, a second generation veteran, joined the Coast Guard on August 4, 1964, the same day President Lyndon B. Johnson announced that the USS Maddox had been fired on in the Gulf of Tonkin. Don was sent to Vietnam in 1967 and was stationed off the coast, patrolling the waters and inspecting vessels for contraband. His ship was also responsible for aiding with other missions, from fire support to emergency medical aid. Through his inspection duties, he interacted with locals, gaining an appreciation for the daily challenges they faced and the additional frustration brought on by the war. Don returned home in December of 1967. Today, he is active with local programs to help elderly and disabled veterans, including the VA’s “No Veteran Dies Alone” program.
In April 2014, Vietnam veteran Don Johnson joined fellow veterans Henry Hoffstot (WWII), Manuel Carvahlo (Vietnam), Dan Bonner (Vietnam), Howard Pfeifer (WWII), Joe Cirelli (Vietnam), Pete Longstreth (WWII), and Robert Harbula (Korea) for our second veterans oral history educational project at Winchester-Thurston School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
These veterans were part of our effort to work with teachers and students to provide an interesting workshop covering the oral history process, appropriate interview questions, special considerations when interviewing veterans, active listening skills, and oral history ethics.
KEYWORDS: AGENT ORANGE; BOSUN’S PIPE; SAIGON, VIETNAM; SLIPPERY ROCK UNIVERSITY; SWIFT BOAT; US COAST GUARD; VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS (VFW); VIETNAM; WINCHESTER THURSTON SCHOOL