Bismarck veteran William Teply is proud to have served aboard a destroyer during the Vietnam War, with tours of duty that had him travel along the coast of several countries in the region during the conflict.
Teply, 64, joined the U.S. Navy out of high school in Wolsey, S.D.
“I had two uncles in the Navy, so I figured that’d be the place to go,” said Teply, who enlisted on Dec. 7, 1970, and was trained at Naval Station Great Lakes in Great Lakes, Ill.
He was trained as a boiler technician, being assigned to the U.S.S. King. Boiler technicians are the individuals who work to maintain the engines and other machinery aboard ships.
“Six hours on, six hours off,” Teply said of the work, which he described as very hot and tiring down inside the ship.
“We shelled the coast night and day,” said Teply, who had multiple tours of duty off the coast of Vietnam.
He said the ship would be sent to Southeast Asia for six to eight months at a time. During his tours, he also spent time off the coast of the Philippines, Japan and Taiwan.
The most dangerous event during his time served occurred while the U.S.S. King was docked in San Diego prior to embarking on another tour of Southeast Asia.
In April 1972, Teply was ordered to let the steam off one of the boilers in preparation for shipping out. He said doing so resulted in an explosion and he sustained moderate injuries.
“It could’ve been worse,” Teply said. “When you’re young like that, you think you’re invincible.”
Teply said he was unable to work in the boiler room after the accident; he said he couldn’t take going down there and he’ll never forget that day.
“I can still hear them coming down to get me,” Teply said of the accident.
After recovering from his injuries, Teply was reassigned and, for the rest of his time serving, he oversaw the ship’s storeroom.
When he was discharged in 1974, Teply returned to South Dakota and worked as a truck driver before joining the U.S. Postal Service in Aberdeen.
He was a part-owner of a salvage yard in Dickinson with his brother for a few years in the mid-1980s before moving to Bismarck in 1989. He worked for the Postal Service in Bismarck until taking an early retirement in 2011.
Today, he owns and manages a few apartment units in Bismarck.