Oscar "Wayne" Osborne, U.S. Army, 1965-67
Oscar "Wayne" Osborne was drafted into the U.S. Army while working for the Alaska Department of Education in June, 1965. He served with the 1st Signal Brigade in Saigon, Vietnam in various capacities, including Supply, Armor, Mail, Clerk, and guarding American prisoners.
During his basic training he was on the rifle range and had been issued deficient ear plugs. As a result, he was deaf in both ears for two days. Mr. Osborne didn’t report it and had a friend help him out so no one else would know. He did this because he didn’t want to get discharged and sent home. Mr. Osborne did not want to feel defeated.
While still stateside, he ended up leading four platoons, and says his ability to lead came from working on fishing boats with others. “Leadership came from fishing, telling people what to do.” Even though he had never made a speech to a group of people he had to face this troops and make one and found that it actually came kind of easy.
His plane ride into Vietnam was memorable; the plane had to make a nose dive to the airport in Saigon as it came in because the airport was being shot at with mortar rounds by the Viet Cong.
One day in Saigon he was sitting in a bar and saw a Native guy a few stools away- they were the only ones at the bar. Mr. Osborne asked him where he was from. “Alaska” was the reply. “Oh yeah? I’m from Alaska. Where in Alaska?” asked Mr. Osborne. “Hoonah” the man replied. “Hoonah!” It was Kenny Austin who he hadn’t seen for years and didn’t see again the rest of his tour.
His military test indicated that Infantry was his worst fit and Clerical was his best because in High School, he took bookkeeping, business math, and had taken a business course at Haskell College in Kansas.
One morning near where he was living in Saigon an explosive device went off. A woman who was walking by got blown in half. It was set there for Americans but got her instead. Oscar could hear the explosion from his place across the street.
He used to hear explosions at night from the compound down the street from people lobbing grenades over the walls as they drove by on motorcycles. This never happened to the residence where Mr. Osborne lived. When he questioned the local Vietnamese they told him it was because the mansion he was staying in was owned by a Frenchman (the French still owned many of the buildings in Saigon) who had paid the local Viet Cong not to blow up his house while he was away.
His Mom knew that he liked apple pie so she sent him one from Hoonah to Saigon. She used a type of wax paper and the stamps fell off so instead of airmail, it went by boat and arrived weeks later than it should. By the time he got it, it was all moldy and mashed up. He and the mail clerk got a big kick out of that.
Nobody ever bothered him when he went out because his skin was the same color as the Vietnamese. “Same same”, they would say.
Mamie Williams was the only person who welcomed Mr. Osborne back when he returned to Hoonah. He was walking near Ganty’s store and saw her get off her porch, walk right up and gave him a hug and welcomed him home. “That was good. I never forgot that.”