Frank Falcone, US Navy

Interview with Frank Falcone, US Navy

Name: Frank Falcone

Military Branch & Rank: US Navy, Captain

Dates of Service: May 1970 – June 2000

Date of Interview: May 23, 2019

Interviewer: Michael D. Brown

Audio Producer: Laura Bang

Length of Interview: 43 minutes

Transcribed by: Nicholas Coscarelli

Edited and annotated by: Meg Piorko

Audio URL:


MICHAEL BROWN (INTRO): Thank you for joining us today. My name is Michael Brown and we’re here today at Villanova University, recording another installment of the Voices of Villanova’s Veterans.

BROWN: Welcome back to another segment of the Voices of Villanova’s Veterans. Today, it is May 23rd of 2019. We are here in the Rare Book Room inside of Falvey Library on the campus of Villanova University, and I am very happy to be joined by:

FRANK FALCONE: Captain Frank Falcone, United States Navy, retired and Professor[1] in the College of Engineering here at Villanova University.

BROWN: Fantastic. Frank Falcone will be joining us today, and he, like he said, is a professor here, but there is a long gap of time between that and being a professor. As he said, he was a captain retired, so there’s some time he spent in the United States Navy, and we will be talking a little bit about that. But before we talk about the Navy, talk to me about when and where you were born and a little bit about your childhood.

FALCONE: Thank you, Mike. I’m originally from Camden, New Jersey right across the river here, and my family is pretty much blue collar, factory workers. My dad and all of my uncles were World War II veterans, and so when I was being raised in the ‘50s there, it was apparent to me – it was somewhat subliminal, it was never pushed on me – but it was apparent to me that I should serve our nation and the military. I mean, and my dad and my uncles would continuously talk about their service, and I just became convinced that I ought to do something along those lines. My father was in the Army, I had uncles in the Air Force – Army Air Corps at the time – and also in the Navy at the time, and one of my uncles was killed in Europe in World War II. So, in our family it became a very patriotic thing that we all should do something in service to our nation, and I think that was pretty common in those days. It was most of my friends all sort of felt the same way about it. So, for me to want to join the service was not an uncommon thing, and you did it out of patriotic reason. There were basic love of nation and service to nation was the thought process that led me to join the Navy when I came to Villanova. I’ve been interested. Somewhat funny story about all of that. Shall I share that with you?

BROWN: Yeah, please.

FALCONE: So, my parents, especially my mother said, you know, the way you increase your economic state in life back then was you go to college. So, I was the first person in my family to go to college among all of my cousins. Many of them never went, but some of them did. I was the first one to go to college. And in the back of my mind, when I got accepted to Villanova here, I thought well gee whiz, I’m not going to achieve this other goal, which was to serve to join the Navy. That’s what I wanted to do. My godfather was in the Navy, so he was a lot of influence on me. And so, I came to Villanova, but back of my mind is, “I’m not going to achieve this other goal.” So, I was here starting classes in September of 1965, like right after Labor Day. And down at the ROTC unit in John Barry Hall, they were signing people up, because remember the Vietnam War was raging at the time. And at the time, there were two programs in the ROTC program. The regular program, which you’ve got a scholarship for. And the contract program; and the contract program was you just applied and joined up. And if you were accepted into the program, that’s how you got in. It wasn’t scholarship-based. You just joined the Navy. You had to apply and be accepted, but you joined. So, like the third day I’m here, I said to myself, “This is the way I can achieve this other goal. I’m going to join the Navy! So, I joined.” [laughs] I joined up. I go home that night, because I was living at home. We weren’t living on campus. We couldn’t afford for me to live here on campus. So, we’re having dinner and my father says, “So, what’d you do at Villanova today?” I said, “I joined the Navy.” My parents went through the roof because, I guess in the back of their mind, they’re thinking “World War II, my son’s going to get killed.” That was what they were thinking. They were very upset with me. And in fact, I remember my mother saying – this is September of ’65 – she said, “You’re going to end up going to Vietnam.” And I said, “Mom, by that time, that war is going to be over.” But it wasn’t over. It wasn’t over. And by ‘69, 1970, the war was still going on, which is where I went afterward. But anyway, that’s my funny story, but they calmed down after that. And after a short time, they think they’d be proud of me that I did join up. And they were very supportive of me for my whole time at the ROTC.

BROWN: So, what did you come here to Villanova to study initially?

FALCONE: Civil engineering. I came as a civil engineering student. I chose civil engineering because my uncles and my dad, after they got out of the service,they were all tradesmen of various kinds. My dad was an electrician. My uncles were brick layers and concrete workers and carpenters. And so that was the world that I was exposed to. And so therefore, at least in their mind, the natural extension of that, if you’re going to college, is civil engineering. That was the natural extension. So, they told me, “That’s what you’re going to do.” I’m like, “Aye, aye, sir.”  And so that’s what I came here for, basically. Now at the time, if you were in engineering and in the NROTC unit, that was a five-year undergraduate program. It’s four now, but it was five at the time. So, I say, I would have graduated in ‘69, but because of the five-year program, I was here for another year. So graduated in 1970.

BROWN: And we’ve talked to a couple folks who were on campus around this same time. So, I wanted to get your impression of what Villanova was like during that time on campus. Was it tumultuous? Was there, you know, people yelling about the Vietnam War? Or was it just a great place to be? You know, so talk to me about campus life.

FALCONE: Yeah, that’s a great question, Mike. It was, I’ll say somewhat tumultuous here in those years. I mean, first of all, across the nation in the late ‘60s, it was a very, it was a very tumultuous time. You know, people talk about tumultuous situations now, but it was nothing like that, at least from my experience. Most campuses around the university were having these sorts of anti-war demonstrations on a fairly regular basis. There was an organization called the SDS, Students for Democratic Society. There was a chapter here at Villanova, which was an anti-war, a violent anti-war organization. They weren’t the passive hold a sign up. I mean, they were pretty violent. Now, here at Villanova, because of the Catholic Augustinian heritage, it was somewhat tampered down. But, and you probably heard people tell you this before, when we would go out on Mendel Field to drill on to Tuesday afternoons, sometimes, I don’t remember how many time, but enough to sear it into my head, you’d have the students dressed in like skeleton outfits, planting crosses around Mendel Field. They would plant them all around the field in protest to what we were doing. And so, that was pretty prevalent in ‘68 and ’69, and ‘70. The ‘65, -6, and -7 were building up to that, but ‘68 and ‘69 were, I’ll say, pretty bad around you. There were even a couple of sit-ins, you know, in Tolentine Hall, near the President’s office. I remember walking over, students who were just sitting in. I’m not sure what they were sitting in about, but it was in general protest of the Vietnam War, which by that time, it was pretty unpopular nationwide. By 1970, it was pretty unpopular nationwide. We could talk about the Vietnam War for hours here. I could talk about it for hours. But by 1970, nationally, it was pretty unpopular, and it was unpopular here on campus.

BROWN: Sure.

FALCONE: In fact, we were told as students don’t wear your uniform around campus, by ‘68 and ‘69. ‘65, -6 and -7, you could. Drill day was Tuesday, right? So, I would wear my uniform all day. And that was no problem. By ‘68 and ‘69, you had to go in the John Berry Hall and change into your uniform for drill and then get out of it when you were going to go home. So, that was the situation then, and that was the situation around. So, I would characterize it as tumultuous, but not out of control. Not like some of the other schools. Certainly, Kent State[2] occurred. I mean, we had that happen since 1969 or ‘70. I mean, that was the height of bad things happening on campus because of the war.

BROWN: Sure. So, what was academic life for you? Were you graduating number one in your class?

FALCONE: No, I wasn’t number one in my class. I always had pretty good grades, but I was never number one in my classes.

BROWN: And did you enjoy your classes and professors here?

FALCONE: I loved it. Yeah, we had great professors. Fantastic. In fact, Lou Mathers, who just passed away a couple of weeks ago, was my mentor here. And after I completed active duty, I wrote a letter because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do then. I wrote him a letter and said, “I need some guidance.” And he said, “If you come back to Villanova as a graduate student, I’ll give you a graduate assistantship” and he’ll be my mentor. And so that’s what I did. So, I returned to Villanova and got my master’s degree in civil engineering with a specialty in water resources, hydraulics, hydrology, dam, all that sort of stuff. And he was my mentor. So, our professors here were outstanding. And Mathers became my lifelong mentor. You know, like I said, he just passed away a couple of weeks ago. And we stayed in touch with him all of these years.

BROWN: Sure.

FALCONE: Yeah. So, campus life was pretty good around here. It was very different than now. We wore jackets and ties to class. We would have mixers on Friday nights because, you know, remember, in the ‘60s, Villanova was all men’s school and I guess in ‘68, they had opened it up to women. But a lot of them didn’t start coming for many years after that. Prior to ‘68, the only women on campus were in the nursing school. And they were isolated in the other part. Like, if you wanted to see a girl, you had to look through a microscope. [laughs] So, we had these mixers on Friday nights, you know, down at the Jake Nevin Field. And then the girls from Rosemont were there and, you know, the Immaculata and Cabrini. And that’s how we were able to meet girls, you know? I mean, in my case, my wife Linda was from Camden as well. I was Bishop Eustice High School; she was at Camden Catholic High School. She was a year younger than me. So, we met in high school, and we dated all through college. She went to Rutgers and Douglas, which is a girls’ campus of Rutgers up in New Brunswick.

BROWN: Sure.

FALCONE: So, that was the situation.

BROWN: Yeah, that sounds good. You know, I just wanted to get a grand picture of, you know, 10,000 feet up what Villanova knows—

FALCONE: Villanova then and now.

BROWN: Yeah, I appreciate that. Yeah. So now it’s time to, you know, you’re finishing your time here at Villanova. And so, what’s next for you? What’s your first taste of the real Navy?

FALCONE: So, it’s funny, when we’re talking about the Seabees[3] and the Civil Engineer Corps. So, there was a group of us engineering students that said, you know what, we’re going to apply for the Civil Engineer Corps. We’re going to the Seabees. You didn’t have to only be a civil engineer, you could be any engineer, mechanical, electrical, or whatever. So, there were six of us that applied for the Civil Engineer Corps while we were still here. Our senior advisor said, “Forget about it. You guys, you’re going to Vietnam.” And at the end of that story, like, all right. So, we applied, but none of us were accepted. So, I went my next thing on the line with sea duty as a black shoe, the term was, just line officer, unrestricted line officer in the Navy. So, I was assigned to the USS Kilauea. It’s another funny story. So, Kilauea is an ammunition ship, AE-26. So, I got these orders to the USS Kilauea. Now, we’re going to get married, my wife and I. We have set our date for June 6th right of that year. So, Lieutenant Goggins, who’s my – my senior advisor says, “I got great orders for you going to board the USS Kilauea. This ship is in Pascagoula, Mississippi. It’s brand new. It’s not even no sea trials, you’re going to be there for the next two years. You’re not going anywhere. I got you these orders because I know you’re getting married.” I’ll get something. This is fantastic, right? I go, I tell my future wife, “We’re going to Mississippi.” She’s all happy. We’re not gonna have to go to war and all that stuff. I’m kind of happy about all of this. So now, graduation is happening, right? I’m getting ready to leave to go start my active duty. I get this letter from my assigned big brother from the ship. This is a Lieutenant JG Smith Naval Academy guy, handwritten letter. “Welcome aboard Frank. We’re happy to have you looking forward to…we’re in Westpac now.” I’m like, whoa, wait a minute. Let me read that sentence again. So the information that my senior advisor had given me was way off. Kilauea was already commissioned. It was already in the Western Pacific. And so, my orders, I had to get a ticket. You know, anyway, I was going there. So, I told Linda, I said, here’s what’s going to happen. We decided not to tell our parents at all until after our wedding. So, we got married on June 6th. We told them on June 7th, what was really going on. And on June 8th, we left for California, my wife and I did. And the Navy’s put me through five weeks of school there, machinists, mate, and boilers, because I was going to be an engineering officer on the ship. And then I went overseas for a year.

BROWN: And so, you know, when you told your parents you were joining the Navy, they went through the roof. When you told your parents that you just got married, did they again go –

FALCONE: [laughs] they did go through the roof again.  But I think by that time, they resigned to the fact that whatever is going to happen is going to happen, you know? And so, Linda and I went to California for five weeks. I was in school there down in San Diego. And then I went overseas for a year. And I said to her, you ought to go home, you know? Now, we had some other friends that were in similar boats to us, so to speak, and other friends that were graduating from Villanova also got married. So their wives were also there. So, Linda decided to stay out there. And she got a little job in state in California for most, she came back here a couple of times, but most of the time she stayed out there. And I was assigned as an engineering officer aboard the USS Kilauea, AE-26, an ammunition ship. And our job basically was to go up and down the gun line, as it was called, the cruisers and carriers and destroyers were on the line, supporting the war effort. And our job was to transfer ammunition to them, you know? And the typical line swing was about 40 to 50 days, you’d be on the line transferring ammunition. And then we’d go back into Subic Bay and the Philippines and for about five or six days on load again.

BROWN: What kind of ammunition are you at?

FALCONE: We carried everything, everything you can imagine, from bullets to large. I’m not even sure I’m permitted to say everything where we carry, but we carried everything.

BROWN: From missiles to bullets.

FALCONE: Yeah, from everything, everything we carry, everything. Yeah. And we would say on the line until we were empty, basically, and then we’d go back and load up at Subic Bay and go back on the line. That was basically our job.

BROWN: And you did that for a year?

FALCONE: Yeah. And then came back and we were training in the US for three months. The whole ship came back. It was three months of training along the western coast of the US. And we went back again for a second tour. The second tour wasn’t quite another year, but it was almost another year. So, I did two full tours over there.

BROWN: And you were considered a Blue Water Vietnam veteran,[4] is that right?

FALCONE: Yeah, that’s correct. Yeah, that’s right. I mean, I was in Da Nang once for a short time. I had to go in there for like a business purpose associated with our trip. But I was never involved in the shooting war, per se, over in Vietnam. I never saw that part.

BROWN: Sure. Were you on the same ship for both tours?

FALCONE: Yes, abord the Kilauea or both.

BROWN: What was life like out on the line? Were you sleeping in the, was it like a Marriott? Was it like Motel Six?

FALCONE: It was like Motel Six. I mean, the officers’ quarters were pretty nice. No complaints there. The food was great. Our bunks were great. We had stewards taking care of us. It was fine. Nothing to complain about at all. The line swings got long and boring after a while. But the only thing I would say there, your typical day at sea was about 20 hours, because you had to stand watches every three watches. You had four on eight off, four on eight off. That was around the clock. And then on your eight off, you had your regular job to do. So, I had two divisions. I had the machinist mates and the boiler technicians. I had about 50 enlisted that reported to me. Plus, down in the engine room, everything’s breaking all the time, machinery is breaking continuously. So, it was nonstop trying to keep up with the demand of your ship is ordered to be at a certain place, a certain time you have to be there right. So, the demands of the job were pretty substantial. So, a 20 hour day was pretty common at sea, pretty common. So, when we would pull into port between line swings, everybody would just kind of relax for a while. It had a lot of work to do there too, but it wasn’t like being at sea.

BROWN: Sure.

FALCONE: But I don’t I mean, it was great. I loved all of it. I didn’t have any problem with any of it. Yeah, I was never a complainer about any of it. The guys were complaining, but I really didn’t have a problem with any of it. I really felt that we were doing what our nation asked us to do. I know it’s sounds sometimes pretty idealistic, but at least that was way I viewed the whole war of Vietnam, where the many people that I graduated high school with were on the opposite political side of that. Even to this day, when I see my friends, we talk about this stuff, kind of in jest at this point, but and they still are feeling that the whole thing was unjustified and we’re on the wrong side of history and all of that. So, it was a very tumultuous time in the nation. It really was.

BROWN Sure, yeah. So, you did two tours. What years were those two tours?

FALCONE: ‘70 through ‘72.

BROWN: Okay.

FALCONE: Get out of here in May of ’70, and that rest of ‘70 and all of ’71, and a little bit into ‘72.

BROWN: And so, the war is coming to an end?

FALCONE: Well, so then I came back and finished out my active-duty time in California after I got off of the Kilauea. That’s another whole story. Let me tell that story.

BROWN: Yeah, please.

FALCONE: So, this is an interesting story. So now, when you’re at sea all the time in the Navy, you’re getting all these qualifications, right? I mean, I was qualified and everything because we were at sea all the time. So, into my second tour, I’m saying to myself, “I’m way ahead of the game here.” Also, in those days, it was 12 months from ensign to JG and 12 months from JG[5] to Lieutenant. That’s unheard of now. So, within a two year period, you’re in O-3,[6] I mean, that was really if you’re thinking about the military as a career, it is pretty good. You know, so I called my wife from the Philippines, because what the Navy was doing then is they were augmenting. If you are USNR,[7] which I was, they were saying if you stay in on active duty and don’t get out – because a lot of people were getting out as soon as their initial tour was completed –if you stay in, you can augment, become USN,[8] make this a career. So, I said to myself, “I’m going to do this.” Now that meant a lot of days at sea, and my wife was like, you know, so I called her from the Philippines. So, “this is what I think I’m going to do.” I knew she was not happy about that. She’s like, “We were going to start a family and you’re going to be at sea all the time.” I said, “Look, I think I’m going to take it,” I mean, anyway, I hung up the phone with her. I knew she wasn’t happy about that. So, this is on my mind. A couple of days later, I called my detailer in Washington, right, because he’s going to assign me to another ship because I’m going to augment. I said, “I’m going to do this.” He said, “This is great. All these other guys are getting out. You’re staying in. We love you. You’re going to be USN. We’re going to take the ‘R’ away. You’re going to go ‘USN.’” And I’m like, okay, that’s fine. I said, “Look, do me a favor. Give me shore duty for two years so I can get my family and my wife. I want to get at least my personal life.” He said, no. He said, no.

BROWN: [laughs]

FALCONE: Yeah, he said, “I’m going to take you off the Kilauea. You’re going to go on the White Plains,” which was one of our sister ships on our squadron. He said, “White Plains, we need an engineering officer on the White Plains. You’re going to go to the White Plains. It’s going right back to Westpac for another year.” I said, “I don’t want to do that, man.” I said, you know, give me a break here. I said, look, send me to destroyer school. I even had a letter my CO[9] wrote for me so that I could go to destroyer school, which was about a year long. I said, “Send me to destroyer school. I’ll have that year get my family established and then I’ll go back.” He said, no. [laughs] And I couldn’t come with any – he told me, the famous line from those days, “If the Navy wanted you to have a wife, they’d have issued you one,” you know? [laughs] I’m like, this isn’t good. And actually, I think he did give me some good advice. He said, “Look, if you’re placing your family above the Navy, then you want to get out now. Why don’t you get out and stay in the reserves?” And, you know what? I thought about my phone call with my wife and I thought about this and I said, “You know, I think I’m going to do that.” Then after talking, but he was I was not budging on this issue. Even though I had the letter from my CO that said, “Send this guy to destroyer school.” So, I said, “You know what? I’m going to come off active duty.” And so, I did and joined the Reserves and then I’m back here in this area, now going completing my master’s degree. And I joined the surface line reserve unit in Philadelphia, with some of my friends who were still my friends that were in that unit at the time. One of my friends was Ray Kane, Ray graduated class of ’67 here. Did you go to the commissioning the other day?

BROWN: I couldn’t.

FALCONE: Okay. Fallon was there. Fallon was Ray’s classmate. So, Ray was a good friend of mine. So, Ray had his career path very similar to mine. He came off active duty and got into the Civil Engineer Corps. So, he called me. He said, “Why don’t you come over here with us? Get in the Seabees with us.” So, I’ll make a long story short. I’m cutting out a lot of details. That’s what I did. So, I got off my surface line unit and I joined the civil engine engineer corps. And by that time, they were looking for people both on the active side and the reserve side in the Civil Engineer Corps. So, it was an easy transition for me to do that. And I was assigned to NMCB-21,[10] which was in Lakehurst, New Jersey, as a Reserve unit. And I spent the next 25 years in the CB Reserves. Most of my time, and I had a wonderful career there. I became a CO of four different units in the CB Reserves, and a wonderful career.

BROWN: Talk to me about some of your typical drills as a CB.

FALCONE: A normal drill weekend in the Seabees was located at the Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Center, which was what it was called at the time. And we had detachments around the region. Wilmington was one of them. There were a whole bunch of them. And so, we had the Seabees in these different locations that were working on projects. And the projects were normally at a naval installation or a Marine Corps installation. And basically, it was and still is horizontal construction. Airstrips, helicopter pads, messing, birthing facilities for enlisted people. I’ll call it “basic construction.” A lot of woodworking, electricians- oriented work plumbing, pretty basic stuff though. Nothing more than two stories that with our work. A lot of concrete work and a lot of, like I say, runway repair work, a lot of that kind of stuff. Building schools, more schools for children, things like that. A lot of painting and repair, that kind of work, pretty much that sort of stuff. That was our typical drill weekend. And then two weeks a year, we would go generally training with the Marine Corps. We would go down to Camp Lejeune on the East Coast. We went to Pendleton a couple of times on the West Coast, but most of it was at Lejeune. And that was military training with the Marines, which I enjoyed very much. I like that.

BROWN: And did you ever get called back into active duty for a deployment?

FALCONE: No, but that’s another interesting question. Vietnam ended in ‘75, right? The whole thing that we’re dealing with now in Iraq and Iran didn’t start until 2001 when the World Trade Center, all of that changed the whole world again, but from ‘75 all the way through the ‘90s, there was almost no opportunities for a call-up. With the exception of the First Gulf War, which was 1991. So, in ‘91, I had my own unit then. It was an engineering like a design unit. And we were told that we’re all getting called up. Everybody’s getting called, so you better tell your wife, tell whoever you need to tell you getting called. I went home, I said, “Linda, we’re all going to get called up here.” And we were told within a couple of weeks that’s going to happen. But the war ended. It ended so fast that all of those call-ups were truncated. But I was probably about a week or two weeks from getting called. I told everybody here at Villanova that I’m going to get called back to active duty. But I never did. I never did. So, I completed it. Now, another interesting thing has occurred in my naval unit, in the latter part of my naval unit – so, to answer your question, I never got called up again – in the late ‘90s, there was a program established called AMEC, which stood for Arctic Military Environmental Cooperative. And it was an international program between, by that time, the Soviet Union had fallen apart. So, it was between the Russian Federation, the Kingdom of Norway and the United States. And it was to address decaying Russian nuclear submarines up in the Murmansk region in that part of the world. What had happened was, when the Soviet Union fell apart, a lot of the Russian military just walked off the job. They just walked away. And they left these nuclear subs just decaying there. So, the concern was going to be this radiation getting into the water. The U.S. got involved at the request of the Kingdom of Norway to get into that. By that time, I had been involved in the environmental engineering world in my consulting job, and also here at Villanova. So, the Navy said to me, Frank, you got to be in that program. It was wonderful. So, I was in that program ‘98, ‘99, and 2000. And I was going to the Pentagon all summer. I would leave Villanova like now, the middle of May, and I would go to the Pentagon and work there all summer to the beginning of September to come back here at Villanova. So, I did that for three summers, ‘98, ‘99, and 2000 on this AMEC program, and had a chance to go to Russia once, and to Norway twice, and dealing with this whole issue of decaying Russian nuclear submarines.

BROWN: Interesting.

FALCONE: It was very interesting. And one of the most interesting things for me was when I went to Russia, I had a chance to meet – I was on O-6[11] at the time – I had a chance to meet O-6 level Russian naval officers. Same age as me, right? And we, of course, they’re drinking all the time.

BROWN: [laughs]

FALCONE: I mean, whoa, man, oh man, you can keep up with those guys. But anyway, we had translators, and I got to know these guys pretty well, because I was working with them, corresponding with them all the time. And then when I went with them, was with them for seven days straight on my trip to Russia. And it was very interesting to talk to them, because we were talking about the Cold War. And I was telling them that, you know, when I was a kid in the ‘50s, we would do these air raid drills. We had to get under your desk because the Russians were going to bomb us any day. They said, “We were doing the same thing over here!” [laughs] They said, “We were scared to death of you guys. It was the same thing over here.” And we kind of got a chuckle out of that. But I found that to be pretty interesting that that culture was viewing the U.S. as the big ogre. And we were reviewing them as the big ogre. And they got to be friends actually. They were pretty interesting guys to talk to. Completely different philosophy on most things. But that was pretty interesting.

BROWN: Absolutely. That’s a good story. I like that.

FALCONE: So, at the end in 2000, I was in zone for promotion to flag. I didn’t get it, but I was in zone and I was close, because I wanted to continue to work on that program. And so,  I told my colleagues down in Washington, you know, “If you choose to promote me, I want to stay involved with that program.” But I didn’t get selected. So that was the end. So, I did stay involved, but on a peripheral basis for a while. Later on, Britain got involved with that program. So, there were four countries involved. And I think now, I think it’s pretty much over now. But the U.S., we paid for most of everything. We paid for the cleanup. The U.S. paid for almost all of that cleanup of these decaying Russian nuclear subs up in that Russia. The Russian said to us, “Hey, you won the Cold War. You got the spoils of war. You paid a price.” And we did. And the U.S. cleaned up that whole area. You know, Norway didn’t put much money in nor did England. The U.S. paid for most, as usual.

BROWN: Sure. And so, while you’re serving in the reserves, what’s your day-to-day job like?

FALCONE: Another great question you’re asking, Mike, because up through the O-4[12] level, it’s pretty much one weekend a month, you know, Saturday and Sunday, one weekend a month, and then two weeks a year in the summer. But after the O-4 level, at O-5[13] and O-6, I was three weekends a month. I was doing Navy stuff, and it was Friday night through Sunday night. And then it and then it was all summer long. It was all summer long. And so even, I was lucky to be at the university here because you know, we have a fall break and a spring break. I was going on active duty right after Christmas for two weeks. And in the spring break and the fall, all that stuff was within the Navy. So, at the O-5, O-6 level, it almost became my full-time job again. Mentally, it was like my full-time job. You know?

BROWN: But you were here?

FALCONE: I was here. I was here at Villanova.

BROWN: So, two full-time jobs?

FALCONE: Full-time job. But mentally, I guess my, my focus was on this AMEC program and the other. But I was a regiment, eighth NCR,[14] Naval regiment commander there in the late ‘80s. We had hundreds of projects going on all the time. So, it was way more than two weeks a year and one weekend a month at the O-5 and O-6 level.

BROWN: And what was that doing to your, was your, how was your wife feeling about it?

FALCONE: She was good with the whole thing. Linda’s, she’s a saint on all of this. She, you know, because also at that level, the social interaction is also pretty nice. You get invited to many events and she loved all of that. And she became very well-tied in with the other Navy wives and Marine Corps wives. So, she loved all of it. We often talk about it a lot. We, neither of us regret one second that we spent in the service. We have friends all over the country now that we still talk to into that were friends from when I was an ensign, you know, even friends here. We had lunch with our friends there last week. He was in Vietnam with me, you know. There were many other of the wives complained a lot. I was a fortunate guy that after I made the decision not to stay on active duty, I guess Linda said, well, I won’t, I won’t bug them to get out of the reserve, you know. So, we spent 30 years together.

BROWN: [laughs] It sounds like a good, you know, good fit for you. You had a loving wife, you had a good job, two full-time jobs. And it sounds like you like both of those full-time jobs.

FALCONE: I’ve been a fortunate guy, Mike. There’s no question about it. I really have been, you know, to be here at Villanova and to have all those, you know. Villanova’s very supportive of the U.S. military, especially Navy Marine Corps team. So, there’s never been a problem here at the university with, “Hey, we’re Frank, where you are going?” Or no political backlash or pushback. I’ve never felt any of that here. Like I said, we had a little bit of that in the late ‘60s, but that was pretty prevalent across the whole country at the time. It’s all been good for me. All been good.

BROWN: And you’ve been a professor here for how long?

FALCONE: Well, I started teaching here part-time right after active duty in ’74, part-time. And I was working in the engineering consulting industry. And I taught here, part-time, from ‘74 to ‘96. And then in ‘96, Bob Lynch, who was the Dean of Engineering at the time, asked me to come full-time. He was also a graduate of the NROTC program at Villanova; he was in the Navy. So, he asked me to come full-time. So, by that time, that was great. He wanted me to help start an institute here, which we did. So, the answer to the question is ‘74 part-time and full-time starting in ‘96.

BROWN: And how has Villanova changed from your perspective as a professor from 1974 to today?

FALCONE: That’s a very interesting question. I think our students are certainly smarter. I mean, our students now are brilliant kids. So, they have that. On the other side, they’re, because of the dependence on electronic gadgetry and things like that; and because I think a lot of them come from very, very affluent families, the work ethic issue is the one that I struggle with and that we get. It’s hard to get the students to do what we want them to do simply from a “nose to the grindstone” idea, that sort of, that’s what’s changed. In our world, it was, as students, just study your brains out, just do whatever needs to be done. It doesn’t seem to be, we’re making it a little too easy for the students, I think, these days. That’s my perspective.

BROWN: Sure.

FALCONE: The younger faculty, they might not have the same perspective. But I’m trying to answer your question from ‘74 till now. That’s what I see. Well, on the positive side of that, I mean, these, we have a 97 to 98% placement rate. I mean, the feedback we get from the companies that hire our students, that these are terrific young people, highly ethical, highly motivated, good human beings. So, I’m happy, I hear all of that, you know. So maybe some of my negative comments just from being an old guy now. Maybe it’s just that.

BROWN: And what about Villanova as a whole? What is your perspective on campus as a whole, leadership, the look and feel of the university?

FALCONE: First of all, the basic culture here. The basic culture, in my opinion, hasn’t changed from when I was a student here. That’s the concept of community, the focus on truth, unity, and love. It’s still there. It was there when I was a student that helped to shape me as a person. I believe it’s still helping to shape our students as people today. And I mean, I know faculty members from other institutions and other universities, and we talk about this a lot. And in many places, they say, “Frank, there’s no, there’s no family culture here where we,” you know, in different university, “these kids just come take their classes and they’re done.” It isn’t the same as it is here at Villanova. Here’s an example. One of the students that got commissioned this year, got commissioned at Widener from the Army program that’s here at Villanova. His father is a very good friend of mine, Bob Pizano from class of ‘71, a year after me. He went to his son’s commissioning at Widener, and then he was at our commissioning at Villanova. And he said, “Frank, it’s night and day.” The Widener commissioning was nice. It was a very nice civil event, but there was no spiritual aspect to it at all. You come here and Father Peter says Mass for these students who are graduating and receiving their commission. It’s much deeper, and that’s always been the case here at Villanova. So, I mean, in my case, Villanova was part of our lives. So, if you want to look at a bias that I happen to have, it’s there. There’s no question about it. But I think the culture here is great. I’ve always thought it was great. If you want to look at the military, I mean, Villanova has the greatest number of flag officers from the NR. Any program in the country with the exception of the military academies is our NROTC program here at Villanova. So, that says a lot for the culture here, and the focus on ethical behavior and patriotism and leadership and management and all those things we hold important here. I mean, that’s a good metric, right?

BROWN: Sure.

FALCONE: The most flag officers other than the academies.

BROWN: And one more thing I want to talk to you about before part ways is that jacket you have on today. For those who cannot see it as a Villanova University jacket and the “V” happens to be in a very deep, dark red, which, I think as most of Villanova’s will notice, is not necessarily our colors. So, talk to me a little bit about how that “V” became red.

FALCONE: So, how did the “V” become red? So, I mean, the story, as I understand it, is that in the late 1980s, after the Villanova basketball team won the national championship in 1985 – which, remind me, I’ll go back to a story related to that in a minute. But after that in ‘85, the basketball program, of course, was very popular then. Still is now, but it was very popular in the late ‘80s as well. And as I understand it, our basketball coach at the time, Raleigh Massamino, was very fond of this color red. And as I’ve been told, sort of made a unilateral decision to add this color into the university colors. And so, it was part of the Villanova color scheme, blue, white, and this red, for a couple of years. I don’t remember exactly how many years, but there was a lot of pushback from alumni, because they didn’t view that as the standard Villanova, blue and white. So, the red only lasted for a short time. I don’t know how many years, but maybe three or four years, that was so. So therefore, this jacket is a collector’s item now, which I’m not partying with me.

BROWN: We should hang it next to General Sherman’s jacket here in the Rare Book Room to make it a collector’s item. [laughs]

FALCONE: OK. And one other related basketball-slash-military thing. In 1971, I was overseas in Vietnam, right? In 1971, Villanova also made it to the NCAA Championship, the Villanova UCLA. Well, on my ship, the guys on the ship knew I was a Villanova grad, right? And so, we were playing UCLA. And so Armed Forces Radio carried that game and they broadcasted the game throughout the ship, you know, because they knew there were no UCLA grads on the ship, but they knew I was a Villanova grad. So, the game was on our whole ship. Of course, we didn’t win that game, and we all know it happened. But I always, I love the guys in our little radio station that we had on the ship to broadcast the game for them.

BROWN: Yeah, that’s nice. That’s good stuff. Well, I appreciate your time here today with us, Frank. When I hear your story and reflect back at, you know, what I hear most is your pride in your service in the Navy, and your pride to being a Villanova.

FALCONE: I’m a fortunate guy to have both of those things. There’s no question about it. Now, our naval service. If Linda were here with me, she’d agree, we wouldn’t change it. We wouldn’t change one second of it. Was there struggling? Was there suffering? Sure, that’s all, but that’s true in anything you do in your life, right? But I wouldn’t change that for anything. Nor would I change any time here at Villanova for anything. It’s just the greatest. I’ve been a very lucky guy.

BROWN: Well, good. I appreciate you spending some time with us sharing your story. It’s a good story.

FALCONE: It is a good story.

BROWN: I appreciate it. Is there anything else you’d like to add before we part ways for the audience?

FALCONE: I just want to say, I think what the university has done a lot of great things lately. But one thing they’ve done, it includes Mike’s position, your position, here. The deal with veteran affairs at Villanova, we never had that before. So, when I heard that they were going to institute this position, I was so happy about this. So, we’re very happy to have both you guys here with us. And if I’m on your committee, anything I can do to help you, Mike, just please let me know. I was on an honor flight recently that I was telling you about. And I think we ought to do something like that, getting with the university involved in that. But I’m so happy that the university has instituted this veterans’ program on our campus.

BROWN: Well, we’re happy to be here too, Frank. And this is part of the programming we’re offering to our student veterans, our faculty, our staff, our alumni, everyone, because we want to hear all those stories. And you’re being a part of that is very meaningful. So, thank you very much for sharing today.

FALCONE: And thank you, Mike.

BROWN: We’ll talk to you soon.

FALCONE: Thank you, guys. Have a great Villanova day.

BROWN (OUTRO): That concludes this installment of the Voices of Villanova’s Veterans, a joint project of the Villanova University Office of Veterans and Military Service Members, and Falvey Memorial Library’s Distinctive Collections and Digital Engagement Departments. Thank you for listening. For more information and to listen to more interviews, please visit us online at



[1] Full Professor is the highest rank that a faculty can achieve.

[2] The Kent State shootings, also known as the May 4 massacre and the Kent State massacre, resulted in the killing of four, and wounding of nine unarmed college students by the Ohio National Guard, on the Kent State University campus. The shootings took place on May 4, 1970, during a peace rally opposing the expanding involvement of the Vietnam War into Cambodia by United States military forces, as well as protesting the National Guard presence on campus. This incident marked the first time a student was killed in an anti-war gathering in United States history.

[3] The United States Naval Construction Battalions (CBs), better known as the Navy Seabees, form the U.S. Naval Construction Force.

[4] Veterans who served on open sea ships off the shore of Vietnam during the Vietnam War are referred to as “Blue Water Navy Veterans.

[5] JG: Junior grade. A junior grade is a subdivision of a military rank, lower than the corresponding rank without that qualification. In the U.S. armed forces, the Army formerly appointed warrant officers (junior grade), and the Navy’s lieutenants, junior grade are commissioned officers.

[6] O-3: Usually a division officer or service head on some smaller ships, in aircraft squadrons, submarines and ships, lieutenants serve as division officers.

[7] USNR: United State Navy Reserve.

[8] USN: United States Navy.

[9] CO: Commanding Officer.

[10] NMCB: Naval Mobile Construction Battalion.

[11] O-6: Naval rank, Captain.

[12] O-4: Junior grade Lieutenant.

[13] O-5: Commander.

[14] NCR: Naval Construction Regiments.

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