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Interview with Clark McPhail, March 26, 2008 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Clark McPhail, March 26, 2008
May 26, 2008
Interview with retired Navy chaplain Clark McPhail, in which he discusses his background, education, and military career, including serving with the U.S. Marines in Vietnam.
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Interviewee:  McPhail, Clark Interviewer:  Zarbock, Paul Date of Interview:  3/26/2008 Series:  Military Chaplains Length  60 minutes


Zarbock: Good afternoon. Today is the 26th of March in the year 2008. I'm Paul Zarbock, a staff person with the University of North Carolina Wilmington's Randall Library. This video tape is part of the Military Chaplains Oral History Project. We are in the general area of Jacksonville, Florida. And my interviewee today is retired chaplain, Clark McPhail. Good afternoon sir.

McPhail: Good afternoon.

Zarbock: Well, what individuals or series of individuals, or events or series of events, led you into selecting the ministry as your goal?

McPhail: My maternal grandmother was from Prussia. She was barely five feet tall and she ran the whole family and decided we'd all be Lutheran. I was really blessed, going to a series of Lutheran churches where there were just some fine programs for kids and all that sort of thing, so, along the line of some great role models. And then later when I was off serving in the Marine Corps, I ran into a number of Lutheran chaplains who kind of became mentors of mine as time went on.

Zarbock: Tell me about your military career. You started off in the military, not as a chaplain.

McPhail: That is correct. When I was in college, a small school in Columbus, Ohio, Capital University, an American Lutheran Church School, had an opportunity to bring Marine recruiters on board and I got into the PLC program, the Platoon Leaders Course, and went one summer to Parris Island and the next summer to Quantico and then we were commissioned by graduation and went to The Basic School, then we moved out into the Fleet Marine Force. So that was kind of the beginning of it all, and along the way I had just some very fine Lutheran chaplains that had a big influence on me.

Zarbock: What year were you commissioned, sir?

McPhail: I was commissioned in 1953.

Zarbock: As a Second Lieutenant?

McPhail: That is correct.

Zarbock: How did you meet these chaplains?

McPhail: Well, some were assigned to the area where I was serving. I served with the 1st Division for awhile in Camp Pendleton, then the 3rd Division in South Camp Fuji Japan, and then back to Camp Pendleton until I was released from active duty in 1955, and some were Base Chaplains, some just were guest preachers. When I was in college, one of my college classmates, her father was the Fleet Chaplain in Norfolk at the time and I had a chance to know him during my college days. So they kind of put a lot of the puzzle together for me in terms of what I might want to do. But I was a pre-law student in college and it wasn't until I was in the Marine Corps that I decided to enter the ministry.

Zarbock: Was it a road to Damascus event or just a-?

McPhail: No, I think it was a lot of nudges along the way. When I went to Capital University, the Seminary was adjacent to the College. I had a lot of good friends there and just kind of watching people and what they were doing and it was kind of a tossup at the time between Law School and going into the ministry. And at that time, Capital University had a marvelous connection with the University of Michigan Law School. Capital now has its own law school, but they had in a sense kind of a number of seats that they were able to get you into depending on your grades and that sort of thing. So it was the last-- the second year I was on active duty that I finally made up my mind and put my papers in.

Zarbock: What do you mean by putting your papers in?

McPhail: Well, I had to-- it was the spring of '55, yeah '55, and I finally wrote to the seminary. I made that, I'd been praying about this, made that commitment, and I'll never forget walking into my company commander's office, who was an old mustang, a terrific guy named GG Sweet.

Zarbock: Sorry, why was he called a mustang?

McPhail: Well, he was a former enlisted Marine. He and his buddies had helped put together the flame thrower tanks in the South Pacific in World War II. Interesting guy. And we had several of those people with us. The tank battalion in the Marine Corps was relatively small and, at any rate, I went in there to talk to Sweet and he said, "Sit down." And I hadn't even opened my mouth yet and he said, "We've been talking with some of these other fellows and we're going to put you in for a regular commission in the Marine Corps." And I said, "Captain, I've got something to show you. I've been accepted to the Seminary." And I gave him these things. He about fell off his chair. He didn't go to church or anything like that, but he gave me, of course, his blessing. And I went to the Seminary and wanted to come back in the Navy as a chaplain, but at that time, the Seminary, or the ALC, and it was a wise move, said you had to have served at least two or three years in a parish before you come on active duty. Prior to that, people would go to Seminary and go right on active duty and they didn't have any parish experience, so that's how I got there. One interesting aspect of this, when I got out of the Marine Corps, well I was still in the Marine Corps, I'm with the Seminary and I was in the Reserves and went through all the procedures to transfer over to the Navy, they lost my papers for a year or so. I finally got on board, but one of the qualifiers, you had to be interviewed by an 06, captain type chaplain, reserve or active duty. So I just waited and this letter arrived from the-- I can't think of the man's title, but he ran Xavier University in Cincinnati. And I was to report at the appointed hour which I did, and I'll never forget it because I had never been in an office that large. It was one of these-- I thought it was an English Gentlemen's Club. It was one of these big paneled rooms, and he was way across the room, his secretary took me in, and there's a chair right in front of the desk and I was wondering whether this was an interrogation or an interview. And he grabbed his chair and came right around next to me and sat down, delightful guy. He'd been a Navy chaplain in World War II. He was still in the reserves. Served in Guadalcanal, and went right on through the invasions with the Marines, and we just had a great time talking. And finally he stopped and he looked at me and he said, "Well, Clark, what do you think your role, your major role-- or why are you becoming a Navy chaplain? What are you in for?" And in the Seminary, the first six months or so I'd been hearing this phrase, you know, our primary mission is to preach the mission of Jesus Christ and all that that implies, and I bought into that completely. In fact, it kind of helped me condense some of my feelings. And so I said that to him in a very genuine way. And he was very still for a moment and he looked me and this big finger came out and he said, "Clark, don't you ever forget that." And we had a great conclusion to this, but it was a wonderful introduction to the real world as far as, you know, former Navy chaplains. It was just great.

Zarbock: Okay. What happened after that?

McPhail: Well, that was my first year in the Seminary so I had two more years at Columbus, Ohio. And then I went to an internship for nine months out in Faith Lutheran Church in Portland, Oregon. Just prior to that I got married to Diane and that was kind of our honeymoon en route out there. Something kind of funny, just backing up a little bit, when I was registering the first day for classes in the Seminary, there was this great big guy ahead of me in line. And we were sort of in the back of the line and we had some time and we started talking. And his name was Jack Hendricks. He had just come out of the Army. He was an airborne officer, went to the University of Wisconsin, played football there. And he said "Where were you in Japan?" And I said, "I was in South Camp Fuji." And he, then he said, "Well, did you know so and so?" This was his college roommate, he was a basketball player at the University of Wisconsin, and we were platoon leaders in opposite companies. I mean, it was a small world. Jack always wanted to come back on active duty, but he got involved in a prison ministry and then he went out and started three brand new churches in the ALC. And then we, Pat and I, my present wife, I just saw his widow, Jack died a year ago, but, marvelous guy, and it was just one of those little connections, you know, along the line.

Zarbock: Where did you serve your first parish?

McPhail: I started, what they call a package mission in those days, outside of Pontiac, Michigan, a brand new suburban church. And the dean of the Seminary knew I wanted to go on active duty as soon as I got through those first two or three years and he said, "You promise me you'll stay for about four?" Which was fine, it was a marvelous time. We had our first two children there. We finally had four children, three girls and a boy. But I left there in 1963 and went to Norfolk, Virginia for my first tour of duty as a Navy chaplain.

Zarbock: And you're how old at this time?

McPhail: I am 77.

Zarbock: No at that time.

McPhail: Oh, at that time. Oh my gosh, I'm going to have to do the math. You can do the math for me on this one, but I was born in '31 and this was '63 so whatever that is.

Zarbock: Okay. Good enough. What was it about the parish ministry that you liked or didn't like?

McPhail: I know this sounds-- probably people think I'm crazy, I liked all of it. I really did. There was a number of pastors who were probably five or six years older than I was. We were all products of the Seminary in Columbus, Ohio. These fellows were-- they had some really fine churches. They all loved serving as pastors. They were very open people. I mean there were no, you know, closed minds around there, and these fellows were a great influence on me. In fact, even getting into the ministry because the Seminary was across the street, but I really enjoyed every aspect of it. I think that I probably would have moved along in a couple of more years. There were new missions opening just north of us. The whole-Pontiac, Michigan is north of Detroit, probably twenty miles. And the whole northern perimeter of the Detroit metropolitan area was starting to develop, so it was kind of exciting in those days. And this was in a time a lot of people were still going to church on a regular basis and you didn't have this feeling being disenfranchised or folks not having any experience of church.

Zarbock: Well, let's put you into the Navy chaplain seat. How do you become a Navy chaplain? You had military experience before. But assume that you didn't, somebody has to show you this is your right foot, this is your left foot. This is how you wear a uniform. These are the histories and traditions. Did you have to go through that?

McPhail: Yeah, they, in 19-- I was in the, while in the Seminary I was in what was called the Instant Probationary Program. I'm not sure that that thing still exists now. The end of the experience in Portland, Oregon, or that internship here in '58, we went up to Newport, Rhode Island for, I think, an eight-week school. And you were brought together with all kinds of folks, Catholics and Protestants, so we had no Rabbis in our class at that time. And it was a great summer. And you just got a chance to kind of go through it. And then the left foot, right foot thing, we did some close order drill and I think the Marine Gunnery Sergeant became very discouraged. But we had several people that just, you know, had been on active duty as Army officers, some Navy officers, one-- I think we had one Marine. But it was a well run school. It hit all the basics. Pretty much reflected the view from World War II and obviously Korea because of the timing. They had a marvelous phrase which I still think it is a great phrase, "Cooperation without compromise." And we really worked at it and it was a different kind of setting obviously than it is today because we had pretty much mainline churches, one of the Protestants. So everything was rather predictable as to what your theology was and you could cooperate up to a point and then you had to be yourself, and that, and that was acceptable. And that was just changing when I retired.

Zarbock: You know, that is so interesting because the interview yesterday with Chaplain Jack Haney.

McPhail: I know Jack very well.

Zarbock: Oh, he spent a fair amount of time talking about this phrase. It's origin. What it meant to him. It's a unifying concept. Instead of saying "I'm different from you, it said, "Rejoice in the fact that we're different." And I respect the fact that we are different. Let's go about it. What a, by the way, what a great phrase.

McPhail: It is, it's true.

Zarbock: And why has it disappeared?

McPhail: Well, I, that's maybe going to far to say it's disappeared, but I-- the last two years that I was on active duty which would have been '87, '88, we had a lot of-- and I don't mean this in a real negative way, but we had a lot of folks coming aboard from smaller denominations who were very structured in their approach to things. And they didn't have the leeway that I think a lot of us in some of the larger denominations were could experience. However, those of us who came from Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist backgrounds, we had predecessors we could emulate. They didn't have any of that, and so it was kind of a hunt and peck for these folks. And I think some of my other colleagues of the era, you know, we had to understand that. And it's a process.

Zarbock: Well when you got out of Rhode Island, Chaplain School, where were you assigned?

McPhail: Well, this was, I was still in the interim probationary programs. Some of the fellows that got out of that school, they had graduated from the Seminary. They had been ordained. They went on to active duty. I had one more year in the Seminary. So after that, then, I, that's when I went in to start this new mission congregation in 1959.

Zarbock: How was it?

McPhail: Well, it was great. It was a growing experience. We had some absolutely wonderful, wonderful people. Many of them were really lapsed Lutherans. Everybody was starting, everybody. The major denominations were starting a lot of new suburban congregations. We got in our area a little late, so there was an Episcopal mission just down the road and there was a Presbyterian mission a little farther south of here. But those were days when, you know, people-- and I'm not saying that it doesn't happen today but I don't hear a lot about it, where people, the pastors, would go seek out one another and you'd go to lunch, and you'd do all this kind of stuff. And we'd share Ash Wednesday services and all that sort of stuff. And I spent twelve-and-a-half years after the Navy serving in our local area up here and I watched ministerial groups just kind of disintegrate. And I don't know the whole reason for that, but everybody seems to be so darn busy with their, you know, program, and unless a disaster came along or whatever, they didn't really circulate, you know, and be among the clergy in the community.

Zarbock: But you have some thoughts as to possibly the origin of that?

McPhail: Well, I think our world has become so complex. I again was a recipient of what my predecessors did in the church, and worked. And I just, we continued that on, and times have kind of changed. I'm sure there are all kinds of reasons but it's just not the same ballpark. The first duty station was NAS Norfolk, Virginia. We were stationed down there, which is a wonderful introduction to the Navy. It was an easy pace, and I was there about six months. And then I got orders across town to the Destroyer Piers and served with the Destroyer Division, Destroyer Division 182, and I was with them for two years. We made med-cruises. They were new missile ships, so we went down to Puerto Rico to the missile range a lot. And it was the first time. now having four children, that, you know, I was leaving somebody behind. My wife was a very, very industrious gal and very well organized, and she, as the years went on, turned into a marvelous Navy wife. And you've probably heard before, it was about twenty years ago they came out with bags in the commissary saying, "The toughest job in the Navy is being a Navy wife." And the Navy got smart along the way and developed Family Service Centers and a whole rafter of support mechanisms for families. But it was a real learning curve, again, to do that. And, something I'll never forget. We were steaming south to the Caribbean. And this may be the second or third short little cruise for about two or three months. And I was talking to a grizzly old Navy chief. It was nighttime and we were watching the flying fish in the Caribbean and we're just steaming along. And he said, "You know, Padre," he said, "I cry for two days every time we go to sea." And he'd been doing this for twenty years. Then finally he said, "I click them out. I love them but I click them out most of the day so I get my job done." And I have a son-in-law who was a Naval Aviator and this was then now the day of computers. He was a Squadron Commander of a Hornet Squadron. And when they would deploy anywhere in the world, he was emailing his wife back and forth. And we used to stand in line to use the old Mars radio thing, which was a real pain because it was an over, kind of and you know, out and all that sort of stuff. So that end of it has changed, and I think it's been a lot, at least it makes communication much more beneficial for folks.

Zarbock: How would the children handle your deployment?

McPhail: I think they did very well. As I say, Diane, my wife, was really an exceptional gal, and she was very highly organized and she got them in a routine and they marched along. And of course they didn't know anything, any different. They were very young. We got down to Norfolk, I had just reported in. Diane was great with child. For a month we were looking for housing and we had camped out on, on by Port Henry, east of Norfolk proper. And she had been living in a tent trailer. And I would come back and forth. And so we, she finally got to a doctor after we got into a house. And this doc said, "Well, Mrs. McPhail...," and I was doing something else on base that day and she came in and my clerk said, "Your wife came in earlier. She's crying and she's in your office." And I go, "Oh gee." And I got in there and I said, "What's going on?" And she's still crying. And she just got the word she's having twins. So we had a boy and a girl at that time, and the two others were about four and two. So she had a group of people to take care of. But again, other chaplains' families were wonderful to us. We had very few difficult experiences with our fellow chaplains. And it was a real commentary.

Zarbock: Chaplain, in addition to being deployed on destroyers, did you serve time with the Marines?

McPhail: Yes I did.

Zarbock: Tell me about that. I--

McPhail: In 1967, I was at Camp Pendleton. I knew I was going to be going to Vietnam. I was with the 5th Marine Division at that time. They were just forming up again as a backup.

Zarbock: Let me interrupt again for the purpose of this videotape. When a Naval chaplain serves with the Marines, does he ask to do that or is he ordered to do that?

McPhail: Both end. Some chaplains would never ask to serve with the Marines. You know, it's their prerogative. But it's a need of the service obviously and they, whether they want it, like it or not, it's going to happen. In my case I volunteered, but I approached it from a little different perspective than a lot of people would have. There were a lot of chaplains that I met in Chaplain School that summer in '58, some going on active duty, who requested-- I mean, they'd never had any time in the service. Catholic and Protestant, alike, would request going to serve with the Marines, because we had a wonderful gunnery sergeant who really had spread, had kind of his own form of Marine Evangelism. And they went with the Marines. And with the Catholic priests in particular, they would really distinguish themselves in World War II in Korea that served in the Marines. And I think this was part of the-- just the history of those fellows and this was sort of shared in a lot of communities. Particularly as I recall, in the Boston area, a lot of those Boston priests were in the Pacific in World War II who wanted to serve. But over the years as a Navy chaplain, or as a Marine, I had served with the 1st and 3rd Divisions, and then as a Navy chaplain I served again with the 1st Division, the 2nd Division and the 5th Division. So I pretty much touched everything. In World War II, they had a 4th Division which was never reactivated. I'm not sure if we had a 6th Division. But it was nice to kind of know the history of some of those organizations. But when we got to Camp Pendleton, I knew I was going to be going to Vietnam. I'd been at Great Lakes before and I had volunteered to go. So we settled in outside the back gate, and this was a solid-- this was a civilian community but it was pretty much all Marine. And one day, my wife's niece and nephew came out from our home in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, they were little kids. And we took them up to Disneyland or World, whatever it is up there. And I joke about this, but when I came home I was ready to go anywhere after-- with our four and those two. And when I got back it was probably about 6:00, 7:00 at night, and I had a phone message tucked under the door for me from a Navy chaplain friend of mine. We served together in Camp Margarita with the Fifth Marines. And it was, I should call our detailer. And the detailer is the fellow who cuts the orders for the Navy chaplains. He is a chaplain. So I called Washington and this guy was still working. It was late. And, his name was Carl Auel. And Carl had been a friend of mine for years, he was about...

Zarbock: How do you spell his name?

McPhail: A-U-E-L. Carl was a tall drink of water, probably one of the smartest guys I've ever known. And I didn't have a car in the days of college so Carl-- I would ride back and forth to Detroit with Carl, he was from that area. And Carl had gone on active duty as a Navy chaplain. And, in fact before I left Japan as a Marine officer, he was at Camp McGill with a Marine group, and I got down there to see him and all that sort of stuff. So anyhow, I, Carl-- I called him and he said, "Can you be in country in five days?"

Zarbock: In country?

McPhail: In Vietnam. And again, my wife, she knew this was coming, and we were just ready. In fact, we were getting to the point like, let's do it and get this thing going. And so after doing all my shots and that sort of stuff, she took me to the airport in San Diego, and I flew commercially up to San Francisco and spent a few days with the fellow who had been the best man at my wedding. He was an OBGYN guy there, later to become an Air Force doctor. And then I flew out of the Air Force base, I can't remember the name, up north of San Francisco, and, Paul, a really funny thing happened at that airport that day. When we got there they had a line, and we we were all getting on designated-- Braniff was the outfit. It was a designated flight. And I got into the end of this line with guys with their sea bags and all this in there. Navy Corpsman, there were Marines, enlisted and so forth. And there was a Marine, or a Navy chaplain that came walking by. I didn't know him and I stopped him and introduced myself to him. And he had a Marine captain with him. And he said he was on his way to-- he was going to go to the 3rd Division, I was going to the 1st Division in Vietnam. And the Marine Captain had just been home on humanitarian leave so he had been in country and all that sort of stuff. And the chaplain said, "Well, come on with us. We're going to the head of the line." And I thought-- I said, "No, I'm going to stay here." And this Marine captain said, "Marine officers don't wait in line." And I thought, that's a new twist. And there must have been twenty guys in front of us. They went down to the end of the line, and the next time I knew, they were fifteen people behind me. They were told to get back in line. And so this chaplain will remain nameless but, they, the two of them sat in front of me as we flew into Okinawa. And I ended up staying in the- sharing the same part of a BOQ bedroom with them. And there were a couple other chaplains behind us, and we had an adjoining head, and they were on their way there too. But this particular guy keep talking about oh, it's going to be great to be over there serving and doing our thing, and combat and all this sort of stuff. And I didn't know if he had a screw loose or not. But I had gone out that night with a wonderful guy named Chick Kelly who was a Navy chaplain, a priest serving, and this is our last night in Okinawa, and he had been in Okinawa for quite awhile. He was out of Philadelphia, his dad ran a tavern in Philadelphia. And later Chick was severely wounded himself when he went into Vietnam. But I come back to the BOQ, it's probably 1:00 in the morning. And this other guy's not asleep, and I'm really tired and I'm rolling over and he said, "Hey Clark, are you awake?" And I said, "Yeah." And he said, "Do you realize we could get killed over there?" And I thought, I don't know where you've been, you know. And I thought, oh my God. So the next morning we got on a plane to go to, to fly into Okinawa, and there was a wonderful guy named Archie Van Winkle that was a Marine officer. I had met Archie up on the slopes of Mount Fuji in 1954 when he was a-- he had his company up there, but they were doing tank infantry problems with us. And as a matter of fact, I looked out of the vision block of my tank that day and I saw one of my high school buddies who we graduated together. A guy named Bill Bearsely [ph?] who was a Second Lieutenant going through the same PLC program. But Archie Van Winkle had been, earned a Medal of Honor in the first stages of the Korean War. And Archie went back and we ended up in the same regiment. I was a Regimental Chaplain for the 1st Marines and he had the 2nd Battalion. And then that outfit eventually went up to-- I was out of the picture by them, but it went up and fought in the Battle of Huê City. And my friend-- oh I got wounded over there, and I was med-evaced. My friend Carl Auel, who's the detail who sent me there felt so bad he went to see the chief of chaplains, he came in and took my place. So he was up at the Battle of Huê City and it was just kind of amazing the way all this worked out.

Zarbock: Tell me about, if you please, the events surrounding your wound.

McPhail: I, when I got to Vietnam in June of '67, the, it was pretty much of a kind of a stalemate. Everybody was-- there were operations going on at different places. But the 1st Marines had been really active and now they were sort of-- not in a stand down but they were just holding their ground. And we had a large tactical area of operations. We were south of Da Nang, I don't know, maybe eight, ten miles, and then our operational area went much farther south. Down towards the southern part of it was a place called Hanoi, which was really a very active place. And in between there was a very historic place in Vietnam called Hôi An. And there was a pacification program that the Marine Corps was part of and they would take something like a squad of Marines and put them in a little mill and try to protect these people. And they were always getting chewed up at night, and it was very difficult to call in artillery and airstrikes because of the proximity of the civilian population. Excuse me. And I would average about 50 miles a day. I'd go by helicopter or hook a ride on a tank or- and I had a little vehicle. It was smaller than a Jeep, it was called a Mite. And I may be incorrect in this but my assumption is the Army sort of let the Marine Corps take these things because they were made of magnesium, they had a lot of magnesium in them. And every time that I would approach one of these small villages, we would do it from a different direction so we didn't set a pattern, you know, one of those things. And in my little hooch where I lived up in the Regimental Headquarters, the, we had the Regimental Surgeon. And I can't remember Jim's last name now but Jim and-- and when I left he and Carl all became great friends. And Jim became the most-- at that point in time one of the most highly decorated Navy doctor in the history of medicine and the Navy. But he was a wonderful guy. And the Battalion Doctor down at-- I'm not sure which battalion, I'm going to say 1-1, was a Jewish fellow, really nice guy. But every time I saw him he wanted to discuss theology. And I just didn't really want to go there because he had some very strong views and we never settled anything. So to make a long story short, that particular day, I left there and my driver, McManagul [ph?] was a good guy. He'd been an infantryman before. They were sort of rewarding him so he could ride around with a Padre and be his bodyguard. And then we had another fellow in the hooch, Vern Lyons, who had been in World War II in the Air Force, and he retired as something like a master sergeant. And wonderful guy and he was serving at the Red Cross. So he, Vern, said, "Could I get a ride down to 1-1 because we've got some kids...," he's got to do some paperwork with for the Red Cross and emergency leave stuff. And I said, "Sure." So we got down to the 1-1 and we went in, he had lunch, and sure enough here's my buddy the doctor, with his buddy the doctor, and I talked theology at lunch with this other guy. So we finally picked up our gear and, I had been riding in the front seat all morning and Vern was in the back. And Vern was-- he had to be 20 older than I was maybe, something like that. He had been an old guy when he had got in the Air Force in World War II and just a wonderful man. And so I said-- we got ready to get in and we're putting our flak jackets on and our pots, and I said, "Vern, you ride in the front and I'll get in the back." So, we weren't going very far. It wasn't very magnanimous of me. And we took off, and we went down the road for awhile and cut through Hôi An and we went down this little back road. And we were going through a rice paddy which had a set of little wooden bridges that you could drive vehicles over. We had been down that way weeks before. And someone in the rice paddy electronically command detonated about 80 pounds underneath us when we got up-- when Mack put that thing in four wheel drive. I didn't, I didn't remember anything until I kind of came to, but Vern and McManagul were killed instantly. The vehicle, I've seen pictures of the vehicle and it was just shriveled up. But I was laying on the edge of the rice paddy, and unbeknownst to me there was a Marine patrol when this happened in the tree line. So God knows what would have happened otherwise. And so my buddies, the two doctors, of course the radio went off right away and they knew something happened and they knew where we were going, so they rushed over there. And I got this story second hand so it may not be proper, but the Jewish doctor insisted on carrying one end of the stretcher, and he dropped the damn thing and I went into a, you know a rice paddy with all that stuff. So they got a helicopter in and med-evacted me up to Da Nang. We had a Quonset hut hospital up there, several Quonset huts. And again, I got this story secondhand but they, when they bring you into triage, it was all outside, and I had a lip dangling, like dangling, I mean I was so fortunate I had a lot of superficial crap and stuff on my face and eyes and all that, but not like losing an arm or leg or a gut wound. But somebody told me later on that the corpsman who was going to work on me initially looked at my dog tags and realized I was a chaplain and he yelled over to the doc, "Do you want me to sew him up or do you want to sew him up?" And he made some snide remark about he'd probably need to use his lips again and he took care of me. And I couldn't see. They kept my eyes dilated for a long time. So I really couldn't focus on anything.

Zarbock: Were you in pain?

McPhail: Oh, yeah, I had some pain. I mean my ankles were shot, and, I mean, everything was sprained and that sort of thing, but nothing broken. And I could hear people to a degree. But if there was any background noise, I lost everything completely. And about, I guess, the second night in that hospital, I could hear this woman talking, and I made an assumption that she was a nurse. Well she gets up really close to me and I had never smelled a nurse like that before. She had perfume on and, she said, "My name is Lucy." And I later learned this was a gal named Lucy Caldwell who had been married to Charlie Caldwell. She was his widow and Charlie was a coach at, a football coach at Princeton. And Lucy would play a big part in my life as time went on but I didn't know it then, and I really never could see her. But she wrote the first several letters home to my wife. And I think probably my scariest night in Vietnam was, the hospital was hit by mortars. I mean, our building was not hit but the compound in there took hits. And there's nothing like a cement slab and a linoleum floor to try to dig into, you know, there was nowhere to go. I mean people hopped under the bed and all that stuff. But then I got moved out to the Repose, a hospital ship. And I was out there maybe two weeks and they pulled a lot of crap out of my eyes. They didn't want to go any further with that. They kept my eyes dilated again. I couldn't hear and the--, because of my injuries, the technical side of my injuries, they wanted to get me back to a hospital in the states because both eardrums were completely shot. And so I came back to Da Nang and then we caught a flight, we were med-evacted down to Clark Air Force base.

Zarbock: In the Philippines?

McPhail: In the Philippines. And we got down there, stayed down there overnight. There was another wounded chaplain who was down there with me. And the next day they had configured a big C-141 Air Force transport and they loaded us on there. And I was sitting on a litter on the side of the plane and I don't know how, the litters must have gone up four, six levels. And there was a guy next to me, and I was asking him to tell me what it all looked like because I could see images but I couldn't focus on anything. I'm still dilated. And he said, "Well you know, it's really funny." He said, "There's a whole row of seats in the middle, center of the plane, and there's a guy, he looks like a Navy petty officer and he's strapped into his chair, can't move. And the guy wasn't saying anything." So the nurses were absolutely wonderful. You couldn't have asked for any better. And this one nurse gets on the hook and she goes through the pre-flight thing and "if something happens these oxygen masks will come down" and all this sort of stuff, and they close up the plane and the guys are really happy to get going. Well, we find out that this fellow that's strapped in there is a psychiatric patient and he thinks he's Jesus Christ. So as the plane is beginning to taxi down the runway, this guy yells out, "I am Jesus Christ and this plane ain't going to fly." Well, the Marines needed to focus on somebody, and the obscenities, I don't think the Lord had ever heard words like that but He heard them that day. And the plane took off and we're in-- and this kind of an attitude yet. We're up there quite aways now. And there was this horrendous boom. And I'm not sure, there was kind of a Plexiglas thing on the side up at the top by the cockpit. And I'm not certain what happened, but we lost all of our pressurization. And out come these oxygen masks. And you know, the guys are yelling, you know, "What did she say? What did she say? How do you get these things on? "So the pilot had to go back and land and reconfigure. Two days later we get another plane and take off, and this guy is still sitting down there, strapped in now, and as we're taxing down the runway and he says, "This one ain't going to fly either." Nobody said a word on the plane and away we went to Hawaii, you know, we were fine. I have no idea whatever happened to him. Went back to Camp Pendleton. I was a patient, from start to finish, about five months. Got back to Camp Pendleton, had several surgeries on my ears and eyes and then I was-- I came back to duty in late January I think, and then we went across country and visited our families and reported for duty, with the Tenth Marines at Camp Lejeune. But you know, I was just so blessed in all of that. And I say that, and it's kind of a hard way to say it because two other guys are dead, but it was something else. And my wife, the rumor mill was really bad news, and somebody had told my wife I had lost a leg and maybe an arm. So she didn't-- communication was kind of hard. She really didn't know quite what to expect. But the beauty of all of this at that point of time was that the hospital was only fifteen minutes from the house out the back gate of Pendleton, so it made it very easy. And I wasn't an inpatient all that long at Camp Pendleton, maybe a month or so. A friend of mine, Harry McCall a Presbyterian, was the Protestant chaplain there, and a fellow by the name of Bill Lane was the Catholic priest. And Bill was a neighbor of ours. And the day that I had surgery on my ears and I came out of surgery, I had my head all bandaged up and the nurses-- you know, God bless them, they were actually wonderful. Harry started laughing at me later on because one of the nurses put a Star of David on my there. But I recuperated and went back to duty and then we kind of moved on from there. After Camp Lejeune I was very fortunate, I spent a year in Princeton in a PG program, got a Master's in Homiletics. And then we were very fortunate. We went to Scotland for duty and then back to Newport and then down to I guess Jacksonville, and it just kept going. We had some wonderful, wonderful tours of duty. After Jacksonville came a really special tour of duty back to Quantico, Virginia which was my second time, well third time actually in Quantico. And I served as command chaplain there for three years, and just, it was kind of like coming home and it was a wonderful time. And then after that I got orders to go to London as a fleet chaplain for CINCUSNAVEUR.

Zarbock: For what?

McPhail: For the Commander of Chief U.S. Naval Forces Europe. And it was a-- that was a wonderful tour. My kids, by that time-- we had lost a daughter back in Orange Park when she was 18-years old in high school. But our other older daughter now, Katherine had grad--was in her last year of Lenore-Rhyne College in the Carolinas. And our twins, the night before we flew out for England, graduated from the Marine Corps-- the high school on the Marine Corps base in Quantico. And they ended up going to a two year program at the McGraw Kaserne Army Base in Munich, Germany and they had a marvelous study travel program and all that, and they came back here and all of their credits transferred so we were very blessed. And then I finished my time up at the Naval Station in Jacksonville, and spent 12-1/2 years with Edmonds Lutheran Church. I think, one of the things that has amazed me over the years, and it's just a blessing. The majority of chaplains that I've known personally, regardless of denomination, have all-- no I shouldn't say all but the vast majority of them have found a ministry when they left the military instead of just kind of just calling it a day. And I think it's remarkable.

Zarbock: It truly is and unlike many other professions that say I've had enough of that, no more. Law may be an exception. The older you get, as an attorney, the more you are sought after. Remember the old cliché, if you are innocent and can prove it, get a young attorney because they know the law. If you are accused of something and you can't prove your innocence, get an old attorney because they know everybody. (laughs) You've had some very painful times and you've had some rewarding, rejoicing times.

McPhail: Oh there is no question, and I wouldn't hesitate to do it all again. And the friendships that have accrued over those years have been just amazing, and the circumstances. Coming back for a moment to Lucy Caldwell, when I, we did that time in Princeton, we rented a farmhouse. This farmhouse was about, I don't know, 130 years old at the time. And we, the four kids and Diane and I, had the majority of the house. And there was sort of another wing with an upstairs downstairs, had a portion of the upstairs. And soon to arrive a Japanese plasma physicist about age 30, named Taki Kawate who worked at the Forrestal laboratories, and we sort of adopted him. But when we got to Princeton, we were having some friends over and there was another chaplain in PG school with me at that time, my old friend Harry McCall from the Naval Hospital at Camp Pendleton. So we both rented in kind of rural settings. And Harry was over with his wife and his five kids and-- or maybe there's six, I know I'm going to be in trouble for that one. But the newspaper was laying on the porch. And I picked it up and I opened it up and here's this picture of this woman talking about all the volunteer work she does. And it's the gal named Lucy Caldwell. And I thought my God. And I wrote down her address and I got to the Seminary the next day and I realized it was right across the street from the Seminary parking lot. And she had a beautiful home on the golf course at Princeton, with a pool in the back and all this sort of stuff so I went over and rang the bell. And her maid came to the door and said, well, Lucy was not in town and she would give her my message. And I thanked her. Never heard a word. And I kind of scribbled out a little bit of the thing. And I couldn't figure that out. So finally one day we took all the kids bike riding in Princeton. We threw them all in the back of our station wagon, the bikes, and away we went. And I thought, you know we're going to go back there and just to find out what is going on. I rang the doorbell and again, I had not seen Lucy except for this picture in the paper now. And I opened, she opened the door, the front door, and she said, and I said, "I'm Clark McPhail." And she said, "My God, it's you." And I didn't know what that meant. Well, she had spent something like 36 months on and off in country. Lucy was pretty well connected with a lot of people in the New England area. And I don't know how much medical aid she sent into country through these agencies and organizations. She just did some terrific things, and then she'd come home and rest. And then when she'd come home she'd talk to groups and she had all this ground swell going. And she got adopted by the Fifth Marine Regiment over there and had all kinds of stuff like that. And we became really good friends. And as a matter of fact, we had about a week, we had to get out of our farmhouse when we were getting ready to fly to Scotland, and she was going away, we stayed at her place. Coming back just for a moment to Taki Kawabe, my wife kind of adopted him because he'd never been away from Japan in his life. He spoke pretty good English. His father taught at a University. And one day she was over there and he wanted to know if she could iron a pair of his trousers. And he brought the trousers out and he's holding them and she can't really see them. And she said, "Well, Taki, what's wrong with the trousers?" And he said, "There are two lines." And she looks and there were two lines. Well he couldn't iron this properly at all. So she had been talking to me and I said, you know, just kind of cool it. She wanted to talk to him about the Christian faith, and if he'd like to go to church with us. And Taki looked at her and then finally she mustered her courage and she said, "Taki, are you a Christian or are you a Buddhist?" And he looked at her with a very, you know, solid face and said, "I'm plasma physicist." He went to church with us. The second Sunday he was in church, we were a mission congregation and we're meeting in a school and, you know, you put up chairs, you take down chairs. And I had just finished putting up a bunch of chairs and Taki had sat down with my oldest daughter, Michelle. And a couple sat next to them, just came in, I didn't recognize them at all. And a little later Michelle came running over and said, "Daddy, those people are talking Japanese to Taki." And I said, "Oh come on." Turns out there names were Newding [ph?], Norm Newding and I can't think, Barb, Norm and Barb Newding. They had just come back from fifteen years in Japan as missionaries. He headed up for the old ELCA, I mean, the LCA, their missions programs. That was his job in New York at that point in time. It was just a very strange thing. Lucy became part of the family and came down and would stay with us on a number of occasions and we'd all go to the zoo or wherever else together. And Diane got her to give talks at the Officer's Club about what went on in Vietnam. She wrote a book called Sin: One Way which was Singapore One Way. She paid for her own travel over and back to country. She just did remarkable things. And she was kind of like an Auntie Mame sort of a gal. And she that beautiful home in Princeton and we went there for a number of parties with people, and she would have faculty and a bunch of other folks, and a number of young men that were Marine officers and that played football for Charlie before he passed away. She had a wall in her house, it was a white wall with kind of like bricks in it, and people would come in and sign their names and they thought that was so cool. And we would stay after the party, because the thing we wanted to see was whose name Lucy would erase because she didn't like them, (laughs) you know. I was kind of a sin board. But she was a really remarkable gal, and the Marine Corps General Walt was a great friend of hers. And these people, it was just kind of an amazing connection with them.

Zarbock: Chaplain, all of the, what a terrific life you have had. What a wonderful, a life filled with wonder. How would you put this all together as your credo?

McPhail: Oh gosh.

Zarbock: I'm going to walk you to the wall, you're going to turn around and you're going to tell the world.

McPhail: I think it would be kind of a thank God. And that applied on a daily basis and it applies now. And thinking about a lot of my really close friends that were chaplains, I think they'd say the same thing. You know, nobody wants to experience pain again or anything like that, and all of the other things, but I think I have had the pleasure of serving with a heck of a lot of Godly optimists.

Zarbock: And you'd do it again?

McPhail: Oh yeah.

Zarbock: Thank you, Chaplain.

McPhail: Thank you, Paul.

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