Harold R. King, Jr.
U. S. Marines
Dates of Service: 1965 - 08/1967
Radio Operator, 3rd Marine Division, Hq BN, Air Naval Gunfire Platoon

A native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Harold is the eldest of six children of Harold R. King, a B-24 co-pilot, World War II veteran and career U.S. Air Force officer, and Anna Merle Whitten King. "I never lived in Grand Rapids," he recalls. With his father posted to various air bases, Harold grew up in Alabama, California, Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, South Dakota, and Germany. While living in South Dakota from kindergarten through ninth grade, Harold joined Cub Scouts, then Boy Scouts, and Air Explorers. He went hiking and camping, and played baseball. He also recalls playing in his father's bombers. The family moved on to Alabama then to Massachusetts in 1963, where he graduated from South Hadley High School in South Hadley Falls. He attended The Pennsylvania State University, then enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in the fall of 1965. After completing boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina, he was posted to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina as a radio operator for a howitzer company. In his spare time he completed schools for forward observer, nuclear biological warfare, message center, and cryptology. He volunteered for duty in Vietnam and shipped out on December 7, 1966. After a month on Okinawa he was sent on to Vietnam where he was stationed at Phu Bai, headquarters for 3rd Marine Division, near the demilitarized zone. He worked as a radio operator in Fire Control Support Center, as a member of Air Naval Gunfire Platoon, which was composed of radio operators, and was part of 3rd Marine Division Headquarters Battalion. He recalls his station as "the nerve center of I Corps" where he helped monitor reconnaissance patrols, often working 12-hour shifts, seven days a week. When radio operators with infantry units were wounded, Harold replaced them in the field. He served on "five or six" reconnaissance patrols, and "a couple dozen" missions. In a night attack on Phu Bai he had to destroy radios in his trailer before sprinting to the command bunker. Once, his father, by then a colonel, visited him at his post. With about a month left in his Vietnam service, Harold was on a sweep with the infantry when a 50-caliber machine gun round hit the battery ledge of his radio pack and knocked him to the ground. While in Vietnam, he says, he missed "ice cold milk, seeing a highway with cars on it, and a toilet that flushed". Harold enjoyed a week of rest and recuperation in Tokyo. After completing his yearlong tour in Vietnam, he returned to America on a commercial jet. Upon arrival in San Francisco, he recalls, "there were people waiting for us because they knew when planes are coming with soldiers on them. And it wasn't a pleasant thing." Anti-war protestors were "yelling and carrying signs and spitting at people and stuff like that. And I was just coming home. I'm not a baby killer and all that kind of stuff. But I came home and went back to school," he says. After his discharge as a corporal in San Francisco he joined his parents in Texas and entered West Texas State University in Canyon. After earning a bachelor of arts degree, he took a master's in journalism at The University of Oklahoma in Norman, where he concentrated on fiction writing. While in Norman he wrote his first of nine novels. Harold married Elaine Tucker on September 9, 1974. (They would have one son.) He worked in newspapers for most of his career in Texas and Shreveport.