Below are a collection of comments, stories, and memories from the men who served with our father in the 1st 8″ Howitzer Battery.
My deepest sympathy to the Townsend family.
I served under Capt. Townsend in 1968 and interacted with him almost on a daily basis. He and Gunny Giesler brought a new sense of sanity to the Battery and he was true leader. Unfortunately, I could not attend this years reunion but will regret that even more.
He will not be forgotten.
Sleep well Marine, you have earned your rest.
David Rafferty Cpl USMC 1968
I was a Navy corpsman under Pat’s command in Vietnam. He was a CO that won true respect because he cared about his men in the field. He knew us and what we were capable of doing. He pushed us to excel but never tried to break us. Because of his leadership we were the best.
It was so nice to run into him once again after 42 years. I am sorry that is the last time I will be able to see him. My sincere condolences to Joan and family.
I recently met Pat Townsend and his lovely wife Joan at the reunion of the 1st 8″ Howitzer Battery in August. I was leaving Vietnam in 1968 just as he was arriving, so I didn’t know him then. Meeting Pat and Joan at the reunion was a great experience. I was instantly an old friend and I felt that way about them.
I was looking forward to seeing him again in two years and I am shocked that he’s gone. My sympathies to Joan, family, and friends.
I was a “cannon-cocker” w/ 1st 8″ Howitzer Battery from July ’67 through July ’68, and I believe Pat Townsend was the battery CO during my last month or two. I never met him since the battery was split into three platoons (two guns each) and spread out across the DMZ.
I first met Pat and his lovely wife Joan just a few weeks ago at the battery reunion in Ohio. Despite the fact that they were meeting many of us (if not all) for the first time, there was no transition – it was instant “we’re one big family.” They were warm, congenial, funny, caring and even concerned for some who had hit a bump or two on the way to the reunion.
My wife mentioned to Joan that I was my family’s genealogist and we hit it off like long lost friends. As we discussed our research achievements and stumbling blocks, I was stunned by the amount of family knowledge she could discuss at length. She is truly a walking encyclopedia.
As the reunion wound down on the last day, I felt the usual, “Darn, I have to wait two years to see all these great friends again.” On the other hand, it gave me something to really look forward to. Sadly, it will just not be the same without Pat.
His life’s accomplishments, both personal and professional, speak for themselves. An unbelievably full and inspiring life that one has to wonder how he did it all in just 68 years. My deepest sympathies go out to Joan and to all the Townsend family members.
Semper Fi …
I was the 1st 8″ Howitzer Battery Mess Sgt from Nov’67-Dec’68.
Seeing the Captain, as we still new him, again was a rewarding experience. Meeting his lovely bride was a true pleasure.
Being the Mess Sgt, I did not know the artillery side of him. What I did know was the caring leader side of him. I saw how he was concerned about how his men were supported and taken care of , that they were fed, got the mail, beer, soda and movies that sound like little things but meant the morale of the unit.
He did care about his men. I still have a note that he gave to me wishing me a happy birthday in 1968. It was accompanied by a cigar, that I smoked. I sent that note home to my mother and it now rests in my book of Vietnam memories. At the reunion I showed it to Joan and the Captain and I am sure that I saw his eyes spring a leak.
A story was told at the reunion about how he insured that every member of the unit had a piece of Marine Corps Birthday Cake on 10 November. He arranged for a helicopter to pick up and deliver cakes to Gio lynh and Con Thien. He sat in the back of a jeep holding a cake on his lap as it was delivered from Cam Lo up a very dangerous stretch of rt#9 to the Rockpile.
I saw in one of the other postings that he was called amoung many other accomplishments, a Master Baker. This makes me question whether all of the credit that he gave to my cook, Cpl Poteet, for baking and decorating those cakes at 0230 in the AM should have been shared by the Captain. I now have suspicions that he was in that mess tent helping Cpl Poteet.
It is difficult at times like this to find the words to console and show that you care about the loss a person is feeling. In the Marine Corps Family, of which Joan is a very much appreciated member, there is a saying that covers it all. Joan understands why every Marine posting their thoughts here ends by saying,
I opened this e-mail this morning and was shocked and very saddened. I was at Khe Sahn when Captain Townsend took over the Battery so I did not meet him until our reunion last month. I drove for his predessor.
Bob Marino and I were very close friends in Viet Nam and a couple of years ago we re-established contact. Bob was Captain Townsends driver for some time after I left the Battery. He told me a lot about him but I didn’t know why he thought so much of the Captain. He said being his driver was a very strong, good influence on his life and he could not say enough good about him.
As soon as I met Captain Townsend at our reunion I understood. What an incredibly friendly, happy, intelligent, kind and decent man! What an honor to have served even briefly under such a great Commander. We chatted at length a number of times and I am very greatful for the opportunity to meet him and get to know him as I did.
I pray for God’s peace and love, for all of his family and friends. Please do as I will do; cling to the great memories as the pain of loss subsides with time.
We will see him on the streets of gold.
Semper Fi, Stan Reed -Tacoma, Wa
At this year’s reunion I was waiting for Capt. Townsend to arrive when someone asked if I recognized a new arrival. Time for him to arrive, but not sure-it had been 42 years and my memory has slipped slightly. Then I heard his voice, no question it was him. As I approached him I was ready to salute (old habits never die). He turned around and saw me standing waiting, stuck out his hand and introduced himself as Pat. Shake an officer’s hand and call him by his first name? Yeah, I’m enlisted.
I’m pretty sure my old bearded face was not recognized, after all I had one of him to remember and he had hundreds, but after several minutes of conversation and some stories (mostly about Sgt. Jenkins in the motor pool) I knew that he knew who I was. Suprised me how good that made me feel.
I always asked the others at reunions if they remembered the Captain-most did not know him due to being out on the gun sites or rotating prior to his taking command, but in speaking to them at the reunion they now know why I have referred to him as the best boss I have ever had.
Pat also vindicated me-I used to tell stories of when he came down the the motor pool to find out why the trucks were not getting back on the road fast enough to supply his gun crews and he was told all the wheel bearing needed to be re-packed after the trucks ran through the river. What can I do to help? he asked. I was instructed to teach him to pack wheel bearings. Me teach the C.O. that? He did, quite expertly in a short time too. Anyway Pat remembered and verified this story for me. He did it again once or twice – I think he needed to get away from the admin. side of his job.
Pat never talked down to us, never demanded, just told us what needed to be done, in person. Not a common method for an officer. So I am sure that what Chet Knight thinks about his helping bake those Birthday cakes is quite true.
He had a sense of humor, as when he had me driving him and the Gunny around in the incoming so he could measure craters and collect shrapnel so some one in Washington knew what they were throwing at us (who cared its all incoming). He had his foot on the dash, broom in his right hand like a battle standard, saying “my wife will never believe this” (Pat also verified this story to my nonbeliever friends)
It was amazing to see Pat again, and Joanie it was absolutely wonderful to meet you.
I’ll miss not seeing him again, but am so glad I got to one last time, and to see how every one at the reunion was experiencing in such a short time what I had 42 years ago.
And it still feels strange to call him Pat instead of Skipper, but he did order me to!
Semper Fi Sir !
1st 8″ HowBat (SP) motor t
I always told everyone at the reunions that Capt. Townsend was the best boss I ever had. Some doubters, after all he was an officer and we enlisted. After meeting him at this year’s reunion they no longer doubt but know the man I knew.
The Skipper never talked down to us, never demanded, just let us know what was needed and left to us to do the job he expected. He was the only officer I knew who would come to us in the motor pool instead of sending a runner to get who he wanted. And he was not afraid to get his hands dirty-literally. He had me teach him to pack wheel bearings so we could get trucks on the road faster to supply his gun crews. He got quite good at it, too ! Scared hell out of me at first, getting a captain all greasy.
So I am sure that Chet is right in his suspicions that he was right there helping bake those Birthday cakes.
He had a sense of humor too. He had me driving him and the Gunny around sweeping up shrapnel and measuring the holes so some pencil pusher in Washington would know what was being thrown at us. He had hs foot on the dash, holding the broom like a battle standard saying “my wife will never believe this!”
A true gentleman, a great person. It was amazing how quickly he connected with all his troops at the reunion, many who had not met him previously.
Joanie, it was a joy to meet you. You are the perfect match to the Skipper (still have trouble calling him Pat) I look forward to seeing you again
Semper Fi Sir!
1st 8″ Howitzer Battery RVN 1968
I didn’t know Pat in V.N. because I was on the guns as gunner,almost untill I left in July of 1968. I met Pat for the first time at the renioun in August. And Iam glad that I did. He was very happy go lucky and a very good personatly. I am glad to have met Him. I give you my depest Condolence. Robert W. Piette
Robert Piette of the 1st 8″ Howitzer Battery – 67 to 68 July