Document Type

Oral History

Interviewee name

Charles Runnels


Gary Waters

Interview date


Interview location

Abbot, Maine





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Charles Runnels, interviewed by Gary Waters in Abbot, Maine on June 22, 1999. Runnels discusses growing up in Bethel, Maine and attending Gould Academy; being recruited to play football at UMaine but losing the offer due to a low SAT score; graduating on June 13, 1965, and going on active duty with the Marine Corps on August 30, 1965. He relates his experience meeting his new drill sergeant and wondering “when the bad stuff starts;” and taking comfort in the rule that “even if they do kill you they aren’t allowed to eat you…;” graduating as an infantry rifleman; and going through tactical training. Runnels tells of being assigned to the 1st MP [Military Police] Battalion; going through MP training in California; receiving physical training in a steam-filled hold aboard ship; landing off Red Beach at Danang; feeling the soles of his boots sticking to the hot steel of the ship’s deck; and the smell of Vietnam; the process of setting up the battalion base camp; the difficulty men faced adjusting to the climate, heavy work, and disrupted sleep cycles; staking “scud showers;” going on patrol near the Danang River and frequently being appointed to walk point. Runnels speaks extensively about reassignment of Charlie Company following Prairie One and being sent to occupy Hill 43 and the surrender of a group of North Vietnamese soldiers sick with typhus; the use of signal flares—green flares marking friendlies and red marking enemy troops; his feelings about the ARVN in comparison to “Montagnard” troops; being sent to Okinawa to refit; going to the Philippines; his experience in Operation Deckhouse IV and Operation Beacon Hill; and memories of the White House Bar. Text: 61 pp. transcript, 2 pp. administrative. Audio: mfc_na4506_01A&B, mfc_na4506_02A&B. Time: 02:19:28. Restrictions: No restrictions.


Part 1: mfc_na4506_01A
Part 2: mfc_na4506_01B
Part 3: mfc_na4506_02A


Military History | Oral History | United States History


Bethel, Oxford County, Maine

Nation of origin

United States

Home state/Territory







Law Enforcement

Branch of service

U.S. Marine Corps

Service Unit

Company A, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines; 1st Battalion 4th Marines

Dates of service

August 30, 1965-(?) ; 1966-1967, Vietnam

Date of entry

May 10, 1965

Service entry


Location of Service

Da Nang, Vietnam; Phu Bai, Vietnam

Awards & Ribbons

Purple Heart

Wars & Conflicts

Vietnam War

Battles & Engagements

Operation Deckhouse VI; Operation Beacon Hill; Operation Prairie [Operation Firebreak]

Entry Rank

E-1 Private

Highest Rank

E-4 Corporal

Exit Rank

E-4 Corporal


Walter Grover; Henry Godwin; Phil; Paul C.; Lionel Luther Lorenzo Laurence Lawson, III; Walt Smith; Greg “Doc” Long; Bob Broils; Ralph Grant; Sgt. York; Sgt. John Somanski; Lt. Larry Dickenson; Doug Dickie (Medal of Honor); Jerry Ejack; Lyle “Jock” Mahoney; Col. Weston; Melvin Cole; Camillio; Larry Dickenson; Kirk Hanson; Skip Bayer; Lt. House; Bob Bryson; Larry Larson; Heider; Greg Nichols; Lt. Dooley; Lt. Deavitt; Charlie Burgess; Laramie; Benny Grant; Ralph Grant; Gordon Cardinal; Lt. Debert; Phil Avis; Roser; Greg Lyons; Mike Vodie


Bethel, Maine; Mayville, Maine; Boston; Buford Naval Air Station, Parris Island; Camp Geiger; Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; Camp Margarita; Camp Pendleton; California; San Diego; Japan; Hawaii; Okinawa; Taiwan; Da Nang, Vietnam; Red Beach; Tamaqua, Pennsylvania; Phu Bai; the Rockpile; Wisconsin; Hill 43; Idaho; Bangkok; White Beach, Okimawa; Camp Swab; Delaware; Kin Village; Keelung harbor, China; Subic Bay, Philippines; Quang Ngai ; Chu Lai; My Lai; Cồn Tiên; Ohio; El Toro, California; Rumford; Portland, Maine; Racine Wisconsin


Vietnam War, 1961-1975; Basic training; Flares; Montagnard; Booby traps; Military casualties; Operational rations

Collection name

Maine Vietnam Veterans Oral History

Collection number


Item number


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Charles Runnels, interviewed by Gary Waters, Part 1



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