Berry Law

Captain Berry (right) receiving his Bronze Star at II Field Force.

Before he founded Berry Law Firm, John Berry Sr. served three tours in Vietnam, where he earned the Bronze Star.

During his service, John transferred from Infantry to the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps and worked as chief defense counsel for Vietnam’s largest general court martial jurisdiction.

John’s role took him throughout Vietnam, protecting the rights of GIs. His journeys included successfully defending members of the 5th Special Forces against murder charges.

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Standing on the deck of my father's ship

A visit to my father's ship from WWII that was still on active duty in 1971.

     Imagine my surprise seeing my dad’s old World War II ship still on active duty. USS Mataco, ATF-86 was coming into San Diego harbor while my ship, the USS Tripoli, LPH-10, was heading out for refresher training, before heading to Vietnam later in the year. I happened to be on the flight deck when the two ships passed. We had to do a salute between the ships. I don’t remember which captain was senior, but it was the only time I remember having to do that in all the times we entered or exited the port.

     After we returned, I checked to find that the Mataco was docked several piers from us. I went aboard and visited with a couple of the crew. They gave me a couple of photos of the ship and I left. Should have asked for a tour, but just being on the same ship was enough for a young whippersnapper. I mailed the photos to my dad.

     All my father told me about his service was the two ships he was on and that he was an ambulance driver for awhile. I believe this was while with the Seabees cause his diary stated he was in the medical unit. It was after he died that I was going through his Navy stuff for his eulogy and I found his diary with dates and locations. He served from Oct. 1944 through Oct. 1947.

     He was part of CUB 18 after boot camp. While with this group he rode out a typhoon for three days in Okinawa. After this he transferred to the supply ship, USS Cybelle AKS-10. On this ship, he went to Saipan, China, Korea, and the Marshall Islands. He then served on LST #926 a short time before ending up on the Mataco. This was the ship he had actually mentioned the most when pushed about his service. This only came after I was in the Navy.

     The Mataco was an ocean going tugboat. His diary talked about different tows they had and once breaking a tow line. The one entry that I am including here was something that I would talk about if had I been him.

“Jan 7, 1947. Arrived at abandoned YTB 369. 4 men & myself put adrift in life raft to go aboard abandoned YTB. Got aboard the YTB at 0930. Put on the bridal towe (sic) wire from the ATF-86. Then left the YTB in raft drifting back to the ATF-86.”

     In March of that year, he made entries about two suicide missions. I did an internet search and found that this was during the first A-bomb tests. They had to tow two ships back to one of the islands. The rest of his entries on the Mataco was all the ships they towed all over the Pacific to different islands.

Both of us had different ships, ratings, and ranks, but we both shared a couple of ports of call. We both served our country in the Pacific at different times and conflicts. I wouldn’t go back and change anything about the time I served. At times I wish I had kept a diary but I never did anything that I thought was important enough to write down. Now I see that my being on board ship, I became a deep footnote in history, as was my father.