Tuesday, June 4, 1968
The passing tropical storm was lingering, and grey clouds promised more rain. It was very humid with drizzle and mist. Many of the Marines in line at lunch were wearing ponchos, but the moisture buildup underneath counteracted any attempt to stay dry. There was a commotion outside, and someone was having a loud conversation with Captain Robb.
It soon became apparent the person arguing with Robb was his brother-in-law, Army Specialist Patrick Nugent (Luci Baines’ husband). He had been flown in from Da Nang so the two could be photographed together in a “chance meeting.” Nugent had no business on Hill 65; this was strictly a staged event with a professional photographer.
The issue of their disagreement was the seating arrangements in the mess hall . . . Nugent refused to sit in the officers mess as a guest, and Robb would not sit in the enlisted part of the mess deck. In the end they ate separately, and the photo was taken somewhere else on the hill. The enlisted Marines respected Nugent for his actions, and there was a lively interaction with him. The facade of this prearranged event was obvious . . . the idea was to show the American public the sacrifice and patriotism of these two Presidential family husbands.
Politics wasn’t a big topic of discussion, and most young Marines were oblivious to the subject. This whole incident was offensive to the troops, and finally when the pair of husbands-in-law left, someone called it out: “F**K**G Propaganda!” It was embarrassing to both Robb and Nugent. In their defense, I don’t think either one of them wanted to participate in this photo event; I never saw a picture of the two together in Vietnam.
Next Edition: “By Your Leave”