Newton Digital Collections

History resources digitized by the Newton Public Library

Dean Herbel Interview


Dean Herbel Interview


Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Veterans--United States


Audio interview with Vietnam veteran Dean Herbel...


Herbel, Dean


Newton Public Library, Newton, Kansas










Herbel, Dean, “Dean Herbel Interview,” Newton Digital Collections, accessed October 3, 2022,

Dan Eells


Dean Herbel


We are recording now. My name is Dan Eells. I am the Adult Services supervisor at Newton Public Library. I am with Dean Herbel and it is June fifth. We are at the Newton Public Library. I am supposed to ask you to not disclose private information; so, just home address, military serial number, social security number, passwords. So, let’s see here. Dean, can you give me just your name again.
Mr Herbel: My name is Dean Herbel.
Mr Eells: And what rank were you?
Herbel: Spec-4 in the Army, an engineer.
Eells: All right, Dean; and where were you born?
Herbel: In Lehigh Kansas
Eells: Okay, and when you said. I think you told me ahead of time, previously, that you were drafted.
Herbel: Yes, I was.
Eells: And do you know when, about, you were drafted?
Herbel: In ’67. I was a junior in high school.
Eells What were your parents’ and siblings’ feelings when you were…
Herbel: They said serve ???? in Kansas.
Eells: You said in your introduction that you worked with trucks?
Herbel: Yes, I did.
Eells: What type of vehicles did you work with?
Herbel: During the fall before, mostly dump trucks, learned how to drive trucks. Then, I went into the military.
Eells: Can you walk me through a day when you were in the military, what you did with the trucks. For example, you got up and…
Hempel: You got up, ate our meal, roll call, and we went to our trucks, serviced them, checked the oil, gas, and all of that. Then, I helped collect rock.
Eells: And, what was the rock used for?
Hempel: Roads.
Eells: Did you have to do any specialized training to use the trucks, or was it in your basic training?
Herbel: Just through our basic training.
Eells: Could you remind me just what truck you were certified to work on? Herbel: Jeep, three-quarter ton, Deuce and a half, three-quarter ton, and twenty-ton.
Eells: Just going to change gears here. What was the hardest part of your training, either in basic or when you got over there?
Herbel: The first thought there was the roughest. They bothered the guys coming in.
Eells When you got to Vietnam?
Herbel: Yes.
Eells: I forgot to ask this: What was the base camp you served at? Herbel: It’s out of Long Binh. It’s a little rock quarry. They called it Zum-Zum, about twenty miles south of Long Binh.
Eells: Do you have any recollections of your experience there that still stick out to you today?
Herbel: Get up for guard duty. [Both laughing]
Eells: Was the rock quarry near any of the combat zones?
Herbel: No, it was not. When they said we were there it was like serving stateside, so it was…
Eells: pretty mellow Herbel: When they hit us, when they bothered us, a tank come inaudible
Eells: Were there any unusual events that happened while you were there, like “Well, that was strange”? or, was it all pretty much what you expected?
Herbel: Oh, pretty well what ...expected.
Eells: Did you have a best part of your service, like something you would say, I mean that was really a great experience for me?
Herbel: I listened to the world series late in the evening. When the Cardinals played Detroit.
Eells: So, you got to listen to the world series while you were there?
Herbel: Yeah.
Eells: Did you listen to a lot of sports when you were there?
Herbel: Oh, yeah. It was a day later, but…[laughing]
Eells: Was there one sport in particular you looked forward to when you were over there, overall?
Herbel: Baseball.
Eells: Baseball.
Herbel: We learned to play ping pong when we were there. I was a good ping pong ball player.
Eells: Did you guys have any tournaments against the other people while you were there?
[Both laughing]
Eells: Did you get letters from family and care packages while you were there?
Herbel: Oh, yes, yes. Yes, I did. We got care packages and we had a lot of cookies. One guy come over and liked the crumbs a lot. We gave him our crumbs.
Eells: So, you saved your crumbs for him. Is there anything ever, were they always like chocolate chip cookies or were they based on the season.
Herbel: Answer inaudible
Eells: Did you ever get anything special on holidays from your family, like on Thanksgiving? Would they send extra cookies?
Herbal: I served over there while my sister got married. I got pictures back I could show everybody what went on. It was the best thing…
Eells: So you got some pictures of your sister’s wedding.
Herbel: Uh-huh
Eells: Was that helpful for you?
Herbel: Yes, yes it was.
Eells: Do you recall the day your service ended, like when you got your letter that you were going home? Did you get a letter, or was it like you commanding officer was just like, You’re going home?
Eells: All right, it’s recording again now. Let’s see here, …
Herbel: uh, okay
Eells: Was your family excited when you got home?
Herbal: Yes, they was, yes.
Eells: Did you have; did they throw you a big party?
Herbal: No, no…
Eells: No, [both laughing]
Herbel: When I was coming home, we flew home, I guess we flew to Wichita, yeah.
Eells: Yeah. {Pause}
You know, I had some of the other people I talked to…Was it kind of hard when you came back being in the structured environment over there to kind of having…
Herbel: Got to learn somethings again. Some of the people you used to know weren’t around.
Eells: Uh-huh. Yeah. Did your service change you from like when you came back to now?
Herbel: It changed me a little bit. I learned responsibility.
Eells: And that helped, like when you got your job?
Herbel: Yes, yes, yes.
Eells: Did you work as soon as you came back, or did you go back to school.?
Herbel: Couple weeks before I come back, I worked for Hesston Corporation for five years, 30 years at the creamery, and ten years at Norcraft.
Eells: Did you have any friends while you were over there?
Herbal: Yes.
Eells: And do you keep in touch with any of them?
Herbel: No. I should have, but, Nope.
Eells: Is there any experiences with your friends over there that stick out to you?
Herbel: Had a good time at the bar…I’m the one who didn’t get drunk
Eells: Yeah… [both laughing]
Did your time in the service affect the way you relate to other people? Is it easier for you…?
Herbal: Yeah, it did. It helped over here a little bit. It give myself out talking over. I usually kept this all to myself.
Eells: Did you have any other siblings who were in the Service.
Herbel: No, no, I didn’t. Well, my dad was in World War II, was an ambulance driver.
Eells: Mu-huh. Did you have any commanding officers who stuck out to you? Herbel: Yes, he’s a sergeant who made warrant officer, Inaudible, a helicopter…
Eells: Yes, he was really nice.
Herbel: Yes.
Eells: And he was when you were over there?
Herbel: Yes.
Eells: And did you receive any promotions when you were over there, at all?
Herbel: He tried to make me a sergeant, but I didn’t quite make it. I had to drive a D-9, but I don’t know how to run one, so they kept me where I was at.
Eells: Just some end questions: Do you remember what the hardest part of the military life was for you to adapt to when you were kind of learning, adapting to all that?
Herbel: Oh, waking up every morning.
[Both laugh]
Eells: And what was the easiest part for you to get used to?
Herbel: In the evening when we were all done with…
Eells: Yeah. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Herbel: There was good. We never had KP duty. They had the Vietnamese cook for us. Inaudible exchange
Eells: Did you have any interactions with the people around you”
Herbel: Yes, I had a friend there who was…
Eells: And, what type of things did you and your friend do? As much as you want to tell me.
Herbel: We saw the temple there, just off where I worked, and we checked out the trucks.
Eells: And what was your friend’s name?
Herbel: Kim.
Eells: And they lived next to your camp?
Herbel: Near
Eells: Near to it
Herbel: Yes.
Eells: And I’m going to do one from our previous conversation; you said that they would recycle waste, like your throw-away, what…
Herbel: Yes.
Eells: What type did you eat that they…
Herbel: They had trash from our, the guys threw out. They said we had good trash because the kids picked out some of the trash whenever we dumped…
Eells: And what would they do with it?
Herbel: They used it for some of the houses…
Eells: Oh, yeah, I guess patches.
Herbel: Yes, yes.
Eells: Well, I will go ahead and call it good.
Herbel: Good.
Eells: That was pretty much what we had done before. So, I guess I will say I’ve got your signed release form here and then I’ll do my thing with it. The Library will get a copy. We’ll actually give a copy to the Historical Society. I’ll give you a copy so you’ll have it. And, we’ll have it for previous generations.
So, I just want to thank you for coming and sharing your story with us, and I will be in touch with your photos and anything else. Thank you.

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