Skip to comments."Twins Platoon" honored by Minnesota Twins
Posted on 07/03/2006 12:33:35 PM PDT by From The Deer Stand
The Vietnam War was heating up when 150 soldiers were inducted into the Marines 39 years ago before a Twins game at the old Metropolitan Stadium. Sunday, a special salute awaited as they returned.
A small contingent of the 150 Minnesotans who were sworn into duty with the U.S. Marines before a June 1967 Twins home game and became known as the "Twins Platoons" met on Sunday for a reunion. The former Marines, now in their fifties, were recognized on the Metrodome field with a standing ovation during pre-game ceremonies before the Twins victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.
"At least I'll get to see the whole game this time," said Wayne Bauer of Hastings, who doesn't have any recollection of the four innings he saw 39 years ago just after the men lined up along the first and third base lines at the old Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington and were inducted into the Marine Corps.
"We kind of lost ourselves in the game for a few hours," said Rod Leick, who grew up in White Bear Lake and now works for the city of Vadnais Heights.
Four innings of the Twins-Boston Red Sox game was all they saw before the young enlistees most of whom were just 17 and 18 years old were hustled out, onto buses and into hard reality. It would be a long, sleepless night as they boarded planes and flew to San Diego for three months of boot camp. After advanced training, they were spread in all different directions on the ground in Vietnam.
John Sanft, a retired corrections officer who now lives in Washington state, recalled it took six months before he learned the outcome of the game in a letter from his mother. The Twins won 3-2. By the time he found out the score, the Twins had already lost the pennant race to Boston, which went on to play in the World Series.
The men recalled the names of the most admired players on that 1967 team: Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva and Bob Allison. It was Rod Carew's inaugural season with the Twins.
Far away from baseball in the Midwest, the members of the "Twins Platoons" were fighting in some of the most intense battles of the war. Many arrived just before the start of the Tet Offensive, which later became a turning point in public opinion about the Vietnam War.
They watched their comrades die. Others were injured. At least one committed suicide when he returned home.
Sanft, who fired howitzers, was wounded in a mortar attack during the Tet Offensive and spent three months recovering in a hospital in Okinawa, Japan.
Paul Ennis, of Mora, Minn., who fought in Vietnam's jungles, made it through his first 13-month tour of duty and re-enlisted.
"He believed (in) what the country was doing and he thought he could be of help," said his wife, Barb Ennis. "There were so many new guys coming over and they knew they needed someone with his experience, so he stayed."
In his second tour, Ennis was shot in the stomach while pulling two other wounded marines from a fire, said his family, who attended the reunion and Sunday ball game.
The shot went straight through to his spine, shattering his vertebrae. Ennis did eventually recover, married and had three sons. About 20 years after being shot, in the late 1980s, a spinal infection related to his war wound turned him into a quadriplegic.
On Sunday, while Ennis was at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Minneapolis with a skin ulcer from his wheelchair, Barb and two of their three sons attended the game and met Ennis' fellow former training platoon members at a reunion picnic beforehand. About 30 men and a few women showed up.
Steve, 27, who stood in for his father during the ceremony on the field, said he was gratified many of the former Marines whom he had never met before introduced themselves with phrases like, "Your dad was such as nice guy and we were proud to serve with him."
As the nation finds itself at war again, the Twins set out to
As the nation finds itself at war again, the Twins set out to honor those who have served the country. It would be the first reunion of the Twins Platoons who through all the years remain connected to the team. Before the game, the men streamed into a tent outside the Metrodome for lunch. They clapped hands, slapped shoulders and laughed in amazement when they recognized a name or a face. Most have not kept in touch and went about trying to build normal lives and forget about Vietnam. Richard Strong, of Isanti, brought along a platoon-training photo album and pointed out individual pictures of the men in their dress blues with a circle forming around him. "Anyone see this guy around?" he asked, pointing to one. "I haven't seen this guy since boot camp." The meeting was remarkable because the men had become so close during the three months of intense training but, from there even though many were within 10 miles of each other in Vietnam many never saw each other as their jobs varied from the infantry to maintaining trucks or driving tanks. When they got back from their tours of duty, many just wanted to forget about the military and the experiences they had. Bauer thought back to June 28, 1967. He recalled spending the day at Fort Snelling, learning how to march correctly for the induction ceremony. The enlistees had a meal and then boarded buses for the baseball game. Once there, Bauer remembers how he stood along the third base line. After the ceremony, he couldn't keep his mind on the game and remembers nothing about it. "I was pretty nervous." At the time, he was 17. "It was either that or get drafted or go to school and I would not have gone to school." He got to Vietnam in December 1967, just as the Tet Offensive was starting. In Hue, a Vietnamese city that suffered considerable damage, he fired 350-pound assault rifles, knocking out tanks and bunkers.
Win 20 of 22 games and only gain a game and half on the leader.
Geez, whats a team gotta do.
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