By Julie Titone
This is my candidate for the most unlikely and smile-inducing photo from the Vietnam War, a cross between Beach Blanket Bingo and China Beach. My excuse for posting it is to help locate that second soldier from the right, Tim Crowder.
Tim's high school buddy Ray Heltsley is looking for him. Ray joined me at a recent reading from "Boocoo Dinky Dow: My short, crazy Vietnam War." He brought along a boonie hat that was worn through two tours in Vietnam -- first by Tim, the Marine; then by Ray, the Army Ranger.
When Tim passed the hat along, he said he'd won it in a surfing contest at Da Nang. Ray wasn't quite sure whether to believe that, even though the word SURF is stitched on the boonie. But last week Ray searched the Web for Tim's whereabouts and came across the Marine Corps photo from the National Archives. Its caption:
Surfing--Captain Rodney Bothelo, 1st Shore Party Battalion, and Miss Elli Vade Bon Cowur, Associate Director USO, judges for the OSO sponsored surfing contest held September 25, 1966, are shown with Private First Class Robert D. Binkley, FLSG-B, who took first place in the event; Corporal Tim A. Crowder, Communications Company, Headquarters Battalion, second place winner, and Lance Corporal Steven C. Richardson, 1st medical Battalion, third place winner.
Tim and Ray were classmates at Seattle's Bishop O'Dea High School.
"Tim graduated from O'Dea in 1963," says Ray. "I left O'Dea at the end of my junior year, and graduated in 1963 from Chief Sealth High School. I recall that he tried to contact me some time around 1990-ish, but I missed that info and found out about it from my Dad later. I never managed to hook up with him, and he probably thought I didn't care at the time. I'm hoping that he would be receptive to a contact now."
When Tim returned from Vietnam, he gave Ray the hat and then "disappeared into California." If you know where that surfer dude is hanging 10 or just hanging out these days, drop us a note.
We'd also like to know where those other folks in the picture ended up, and learn the scoop on that surfing contest. Was it a one-time thing? Ray read that it may actually have been at Chu Lai southeast of Da Nang, though an undated video clip of soldiers on R&R prominently shows a "no surfing" sign there.
Julie Titone is co-author of the Grady Myers memoir "Boocoo Dinky Dow: My short, crazy Vietnam War." Grady was an M-60 machine gunner in The U.S. Army's Company C’s 2nd Platoon, 1st Battalion, 8th Regiment, 4th Infantry Division in late 1968 and early 1969. His Charlie Company comrades knew him as Hoss. Thoughts, comments? Send Julie an email.