United States Army, Vietnam
MOS 0311 (Military Occupational Specialty)
Rifleman-Marine Term Grunt
Harold W. Adams, U.S. Army
Tactical Area of Responsibility - I Corps Most Northern Area
Medals, awards: Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign, Presidential Unit Citation, Combat Action Medal, Cross of Gallantry 2/Palms, Good Conduct Medal , Navy Meritorious Unit Medal, Sharp Shooter Medal M-14, Expert Medal 45 Pistol
Married: November 27, 1976 to Judith Nietupski at the home of Honorable Justice August Jankowski.
Children: Kimberly Blackburn, Janine Perez, Katherine Adams, Elizabeth Adams and Margaret Adams.
Grandchildren: Henry Hopkins, Cassidy Hopkins, Caleb Perez, Joshua Perez and Daniel Perez.
On a stormy, rainy night Harold W. Adams was born on Nov. 23, 1949, in Brooks Memorial Hospital in Dunkirk. Adams was the son of Christy and Dorothy Walsh. They lived at 125 King St. in Dunkirk.
While growing up in his King Street home, he shared his home with his parents; sisters, Barbara and Susan; and his brothers, David and Robert. He took his brother Robert under his wings and taught him things an older brother needed to teach. Like a mother hen, he never let his younger brother out of his sight.
His mother, Dorothy, recalled him always keeping busy and always doing things that made the home a better place to live.
Growing up in Dunkirk's Fourth Ward always kept the boys on the southside of the tracks. Very seldom did the group leave their area. He could always be found with his friends David Grabias, Tom and Tim Korzeniewski, Jimmy Sarzyniak, Martin Nalepa, Rick Majkowski, Peter Smyzcek, and Gary Kowalski, Dennis Fiegl (Harvey) and John Yonkie. Since this group of 10 boys was so big many baseball, football and basketball games were played at the playground at School 6.
When he wasn't hanging out with friends, he could be found scouting. He loved scouting and was always looking for ways to earn more merit badges and doing things even as a child for the community. Even after all these years, after being asked to repeat the Boy Scout laws, he spoke out: trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. When asked which law he felt he followed the best, his reply was being obedient and the law he followed the least he stated as being helpful. He feels getting a little older slowed him down a little.
When Adams was a little older he started a job as a paperboy for the early Sunday morning route. Later he found work as a dishwasher at the Dunkirk Diner on Main Street in Dunkirk. His boss, Terry Logan, at the time would let him work as a short order cook where he received some great reviews working the grill.
When school was over for the summer it wasn't over for Adams. After the semester ended he still got up and went back to school this time as summer help. He recalled working for Len Catalano who was the head custodian and in charge of the summer help whose jobs were to clean the school, stripping wax and rewaxing the floors. He recalled even to this day Catalano grabbing his ear.
During his high school years, he participated in all the track events the school offered. He was part of the track team and earned a school letter in track.
As a high school senior his big group of friends moved from School 6 playground to places like the Monument, Ho Bo Jungle and on some occasions a trip to Point Gratiot or the Wright Park Beach House.
Getting older for Adams definitely had its perks, such as going hunting. The more he hunted, the more he liked it. He knew all the hunter safety rules and the boys were constantly getting up before the milkman to get out in the woods for hunting. His best friend, Rick Bamonto and friends, Ray and Ray Sr. Budniewski were really good at hunting fox, coon and rabbit, bagging their limit.
Adams graduated in 1967 and found a job at Kraft Foods. He knew he might be getting a letter from Uncle Sam in Washington. He knew that soon he would be getting a free haircut and service number.
He did not want to leave his future up to someone else so he decided to enter the Marine Corps because his friend, Rick Bamonto was already a Marine serving in Vietnam. If the Marine Corps was good enough for Bamonto it was good enough for him. So he headed to Buffalo to sign a pile of papers an inch high. His title was now Pvt. Harold Adams and he headed for Parris Island for 13 weeks of hell.
When he arrived off the bus, he was still in shock when the drill instructor yelled out to go to his barracks until Monday which was three days away because his friend told him what to expect and that wasn't it. He soon found out that President Dwight D. Eisenhower had passed away so his training was put on hold until Monday. Monday rolled around and the 13 weeks of basic training was not fun at all. Then he was off to Camp Lejeune, N.C. where he learned how to use the M-1, M-60AN, and M-50 caliber machine guns. He also learned how to use the 60mm and 80mm mortars and finishing with the M-79 grenade launcher and the famous Marine Corp gas chamber which all marines had to go in, take off the mask and sing the entire Marine Corp hymn.
After Lejeune he received his 30-day leave before joining his brothers in Vietnam. While home on leave he enjoyed hunting snow shoe rabbits at Burnams Hollow. He recalled the day he got stuck and needed a farmer with two tractors to pull them out. On his last day, he recalled putting 62 cents worth of gas in his gas tank, enough to get him hunting and to the pick up point for the airport.
Adams headed to California on a United Airlines 727 for a small, little country in Southeast Asia that not many people heard of unless they had someone stationed there. He was thinking of the past, the good times in high school and the fun times with his friends the hunting and a smile popped up on his face when he would reminisce about the letters he would receive from his best friend Rick Bamonto who was serving with the 9th Marines in Vietnam always signing his letters to Adams "God bless your drill instructor, Bill." Bamonto I'm sure was in Vietnam with a smile knowing all his letters in boot camp were censored by his drill instructor. His boot camp days also brought a smile from Adams when one morning he was summoned to the drill instructor's office stating that the U.S. Army was looking for Adams to be drafted. He shook his head and wondered that at this time in life and being at Parris Island and going through a living hell that the Army might be good to take a shot at. As a Marine he was told where to go and made the decision to be happy where he was and what he was doing.
Adams landed at the Los Angeles airport for the first time and the Marine Corp had transportation for him to his base at Camp Joseph J. Pendleton. At Pendleton, he was trained for his assignment in Vietnam. After his training, he and the rest of his group headed for Vietnam and sent to the staging battalion where the marines of that era were trained in the country of Vietnam concerning its customs, climate, religions and basically any training needed if anyone got separated from their unit.
The flight from California to Vietnam took 23 hours and he got a chance to see Hawaii for a quick stop and a refueling in Wake Island and finally a stop in Okinawa, Japan. All Marines were stationed for around three days. This was the place to receive all shots that were needed and a place to store any equipment or clothing not needed for Vietnam. This place also took care of the Adams' physical and dental needs. Young Marines also made out their financial request, last wills and testaments. The next flight was a non-stop six hour flight to Da Nang, South Vietnam.
It was a totally different world when Adams landed in Da Nang, South Vietnam. It was loud, noisy, dirty and smelled like diesel fuel. It was the gathering place for all the Marines who were to spend their tour in Vietnam. Marines were selected and assigned to units as the need for replacements were needed. It was common in those days in Vietnam where certain infantry Marine units lost 20 to 25 Marines in one week.
No one actually knew for sure what unit or area of Vietnam they would be sent to. Adams knew he was a 0311 grunt and would be sent to a combat unit working the I Corp area. He received orders from his staff sgt. to Alpha Company, first battalion, first marine regiment. Many search and destroy patrols and combat operations took place during the next 13 months. This was credited to Adam's combat history page. It was a hard war to fight and he declared at times that he didn't know who the enemy really was. The weather in Vietnam was either 100 degrees or more or the non-stop monsoons which lasted over four continuous months and were hard to deal with.
At the end of his tour in Vietnam, Adams found it extremely hard to leave his brothers in harm's way. He didn't know why he was going back to the real world.
Adams returned from Vietnam and wanted to restart his life with the normal things everyone his age was going through. He landed his job back with the Kraft Co. and worked there until 1977. He next job was at Garheart Water Corp. working in the oil fields of Fort Worth, Texas. He later accepted a position in Meadville, Pa., with the same company. His duties were to oversee the fracking of oil wells. His job later took him and his family to Atlanta, Ga. which is where the Adams family calls home now.
Harold Adams visits home every year or so to see his family. He is so proud of his mother Dorothy's country. At one time, his mother held the rank of sergeant in the Canadian army. Her job consisted of working with captured enemy prisoners of war. She served from 1943 to 1946. When I heard he was back, I asked if he would give his story. He first said "Why my story? I just did what was asked of me." Adams went to a place that was not very popular for Americans to go. Our country was divided and to some people the ones who went were labeled as killers and monsters who were bad or no good. The people who went were the ones who were just doing their jobs and their duty. The governments make the wars; the military just fights them for us.
Adams left his life of hunting, fishing and enjoying life to do a job that his country had asked him to do. This makes Harold Adams our Hero of the Week.