Cerro Gordo County Iowa
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 The Globe-Gazette
Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa

They Served With Honor

The Globe Gazette will publish 50 stories — starting on Veterans Day — about North Iowa’s Vietnam Veterans. The stories will appear on Sundays and Wednesdays.

We’ll culminate this "They Served With Honor" project with a special section (publishing on the day before Memorial Day) that will include all of the profiles. It will be great keepsake and resource for family members, educators and part-time historians.

They Served With Honor: George Bennett, Mason City
by Mary Pieper, December 23, 2015

MASON CITY — George Bennett was stationed on Operation Sea Float — a bunch of barges tied together in the middle of the Cau Lon River — during the Vietnam War.

“It was nuts,” said the 66-year-old Mason City resident. The worst part was “not knowing when you were going to be attacked,” he said.

The Viet Cong would come out of the jungle north of the river and “all hell would break loose,” he said.

At night it was so dark that “you couldn’t see your hand,” Bennett said.

The Viet Cong could see them, but they couldn’t see the Viet Cong, he said.

Bennett was born and raised in Pasedena, California. He said he got a letter to be drafted but enlisted in the Navy in March 1969 “thinking it would be cooler” than the Army.

When he first arrived in Vietnam, Bennett was with a naval support activity unit in Donq Tam.

After two months there he got orders to go to Operation Sea Float. Construction was just beginning on Solid Anchor, the portion of Operation Sea Float that was on land, when he arrived. The purpose of Operation Sea Float/Solid Anchor was to extend control over the Nam Can region of the Ca Mau peninsula.

Bennett, an electrician, went on a few outings in gun boats.

Transportation would not come in for two weeks at a time. Small cargo ships would come with supplies and fuel to keep them going.

Bennett was discharged in May 1971. When he arrived in San Francisco after being discharged, he said felt like he was all alone. When returning Vietnam vets went to a restaurant, “they would ignore us more or less,” he said. He said some people “were kind of sorry for us” but as for the rest, “It was like you didn’t exit. They didn’t want anything to do with us.”

Bennett said the way Vietnam veterans were treated didn’t get better until the early 1980s.

Bennett worked as a mechanic after returning from Vietnam. He didn’t stay in one place for long.

Later he built towers for a power company and put in lines for cable TV.

Bennett has four children, two in California and two in Iowa.

He has lived in Iowa since 1998. At first he lived in Wesley. He moved to Mason City six years ago.

Bennett said the war “messed me up.” He doesn’t like crowds, so he goes to the grocery store at 5:30 or 6 a.m. when fewer people are there.

Bennett said he doesn’t go to a lot of functions with his kids, but they understand why.

The war was “a really big mistake,” according to Bennett. He said the United States should have realized this in the early 1960s and just got out.

“(It was) a lot of people dying for no reason,” he said.

Bennett went to Operation LZ, a homecoming event for Vietnam veterans that took place in August in Forest City.

“It was amazing,” he said. There were “a lot of guys who were crying” and a lot of people saying, “Thank you, thank you for your service,” Bennett said. “It was a long time coming.”

Photograph courtesy of Globe-Gazette
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, November of 2016


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