Charles “Woody” Woodward
67 Years Old
Born April 1949 in Fort Wayne, Indiana
Currently living in Fairmont, MN
U.S. Navy Vietnam War and Korean War Veteran
With a father who served in the Merchant Marine before joining the U.S. Army, Charles “Woody” Woodward inherited his dad's love of the sea, and radio. But getting his sea legs would have to wait several years. At 13 years-old, Woody was enrolled by his parents in the St. John's Military Academy in Wisconsin, where he took Army ROTC training. He graduated in 1967 and headed to Minnesota to take classes at Mankato College, as it was known back then.
Woodward says college wasn't really for him and he left school. That decision also changed his draft status. The United States involvement in the Vietnam war was in full swing at that time. When he asked the local draft board how long he'd have until his number came up, he was told “about a week or so.” The decision to follow his mariner father's footsteps came quickly and Woodward joined the U.S. Navy. “I got out of basic in 1968 and I noticed I was getting a lot more shots than the other sailors,” Woodward recalls. “When I asked why, they told me that's because in about six months, you'll be in Vietnam.”
Woodward shipped out from the States to the Philippines and was shuttled out to his new home away from home, the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Kitty Hawk CV-63, joining 5,600 other sailors and air wing personnel on board. The ship quickly headed back out to the war zone. “It was 1968 and the Tet Offensive was underway. The Kitty Hawk was one of four U.S. Carriers on the battle lines,” he remembers. “We went back for another 40 days at sea, sending our aircraft out on bombing missions 24 hours a day for 40 days straight.” The Kitty Hawk was the flagship of the West Pac group and carried U.S. Navy Admiral Cousins on board.
“When a U.S. spy plane was shot down over North Korea, we pulled our ship out of Hong Kong harbor and were sent towards Korea,” Woodward tells. “So I actually became a Korean War Vet as well.” He was awarded an Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for his involvement.
Another interesting story Woodward relates is the time they got word five North Vietnam MiG 21 fighter jets were picked up on radar about 200 miles out from the aircraft carrier. “We sent out 25 of our F-4 Phantom jets from the carrier towards the enemy aircraft.” Apparently the enemy fighters found out. “They decided they didn't want to visit us after all,” Woodward jokes.
Woodward spent nearly three complete tours of duty during the Vietnam War, the entire time stationed on the 80,000 ton USS Kitty Hawk. He got his discharge from the Navy in December 1971, about 90 days early. “The ship was getting ready to go back overseas, and I opted out,” he says. He returned to the Fairmont, MN area where his father owned and operated the local radio stations. Woodward found work in sales before taking over the family-run radio group.
“I'm very proud of my service during the war,” he concludes. “Out at sea during those years, we weren't aware of the protests and the other (anti-war) things that were going on back in the Untied States. I got to see a lot of things and visit countries, that being from the Midwest, I normally wouldn't have gotten to see.”