Striking Eight Bells: A Vietnam Memoir

About the Book


In Striking Eight Bells, George Trowbridge recounts his journey from the Midwest to a warship in the Gulf of Tonkin during the closing months of the Vietnam War. Choosing to enlist in the Navy at 19, versus being drafted into the military, Trowbridge left a wife and newborn son in the States as he traversed the oceans of the globe to fight in America’s most unpopular war. George shares the details of the living conditions on board a naval destroyer during this era, what it was like going through training, the grind for his ship’s crew in supporting ground forces with naval gunfire, as well as the strike attacks his ship made on enemy coastal defenses, and finally coming home at the end of the war. This emotional story is not only historically focused, but it also is informative about life in the military, all filtered through the personal lens of a firsthand perspective.

The Author

TrowbridgeGeorge (2)

I ended up serving twenty years in the U.S. Navy retiring from active service in 1992, as a Master Chief Petty Officer, Quartermaster, with the Surface Warfare (SW) designation. Including USS Rich, I served at sea in five different destroyers or fast frigates and on coastal-river fast patrol boats. I completed seven overseas deployments starting with Vietnam and ending with Desert Shield/Desert Storm. My two shore tours were as a Navy recruiter in the Chicago metro area and later as a ship control and navigation instructor at the Navy’s Officer Candidate School.

After retiring from the Navy, I sailed for several years as a Merchant Marine Officer in the positions of Chief Mate and Mate on board various commercial vessels. My post-navy experiences working on merchant vessels, prompted me to become the founder of my own private maritime training institutions. During the intervening years, I have founded two private maritime training institutions and have managed two other major maritime training institutions in the Gulf of Mexico region.

My Thoughts

Even though my husband is an AF Vietnam veteran. and a cousin’s husband is a Navy Vietnam veteran, I’d never read about the naval war against North Vietnam. George Trowbridge grew up on an Iowa farm and, although married and with a child, enlisted in the Navy rather than be drafted. He takes the reader through his training and explains fascinating navigation details.

You find out the unusual reason a ship would maneuver INTO a rain squall, why sailors voted for Nixon, what it was like to be underway on the open ocean during a typhoon. You learn what it’s like to endure day after day of combat, the team spirit and comradeship afterwards of the battle tested, and an unfortunate bar brawl on Christmas.

The title comes from a poignant tradition marking the end of war.

The USS Rich DD-820, a Gearing-class destroyer, was deployed just four months before entering Hong Kong, where the ship made a surprising deal with Hong Kong Mary Soo to paint the ship!

U.S. Naval Photograph NH 99848

An important memoir about what it was like to be part of naval gun lines off North Vietnam, and to later be a Naval recruiter in Chicago during the regrettable years after the Vietnam War when it was dangerous to be seen in uniform.


  1. My father was a Vietnam veteran but he never talked about his time over there so I don’t imagine it was a pleasant subject for him. He suffered from depression and PTSD for my whole life but at his funeral I heard his brothers talk about how he used to be so lively and active before the war. Must have done something to him.

    • Wars change the trajectory of whole families, don’t they? Was your father in the Army? My husband joined the Air Force so he wouldn’t have to carry a weapon through the jungles, although he did get sent to Vietnam his last year.

  2. Earlier this week we listened to a veteran of the Vietnam war, who has settled in our town, tell of his experiences as a naval corpsman and the PTSD he still suffers from. It was hugely enlightening and very emotional.

    • My husband has a friend who still suffers from the effects of Agent Orange, and we know another–who was a Marine–who deals with PTSD. I also know a young couple whose parents were able to escape from Korea.

  3. My cousin was in ‘Nam. Never talked about it. When I came back from the Gulf, one day he and I were sitting on the back porch, each of us with a beer, and he said, “Well, now that someone else in the family has seen the elephant, here’s my story . . .”

    • You know, you’re right. I just went to a program Sunday about six Iowa brothers who lost their lives as a result of the Civil War. All six brothers, leaving four sisters. Their parents had already died. The family may have been mulatto, as well. Book forthcoming–I’d been watching for it ever since the story surfaced in the Iowa History Journal in 2014.

  4. I have seen so many films and read so many books about the Vietnam War. They all sadden me beyond belief. I simply lost way too many friends in those rice patties.

  5. I remember one kid (and he was a kid) from Enosburg who came back from Vietnam addicted to heroin. He went from being the all-American boy to this lost, wraith-like figure we’d catch glimpses of from time to time. I don’t know what ever happened to him.

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