12:32 | Bill Pearson had been to Vietnam twice and returned unscathed, but the Army wasn't done putting him in danger. He was assigned as an aviation consultant to Iran, advising the Shah's air force on it's supply of American aircraft. The day he arrived, martial law was declared and it wasn't long before there were mobs outside trying to burn down the building. The embassy was no help. Escape seemed impossible.
Keywords : Bill Pearson Western Kentucky University Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Pershing Rifles Command and General Staff College (CGSC) Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi Shah advisor Isfahan martial law Iranian embassy Revolutionary Guard roadblocks whiskey hostages political asylum
Anyone who's in the Army for an extended period can point to mentors who helped them or inspired them along the way. Bill Pearson remembers several, including Norman Schwarzkopf.
He wanted to fly. Three times Bill Pearson applied to the Air Force Academy and three times he was first alternate. He finally said to heck with it and finished college with ROTC and took an Army commission. He also joined the local Army Reserve unit. At Fort Benning, he was hardened with the infantry officer's basic course, Ranger school and jump school.
The 199th Light Infantry Brigade was forming up at Fort Benning to deploy to Vietnam. Bill Pearson was with them as a platoon leader. They went to Vietnam as a unit, which was not the norm. Once there, they spent weeks just acclimating and their first combat experience was against the local wildlife.
After a month guarding an ammo dump, the men of Bill Pearson's platoon were anxious to see some action. Their first real assignment was in the delta south of Saigon and it wasn't long before those same men missed the boredom of that guard duty.
After the war, Bill Pearson served as a JROTC instructor and he always got the question, "Did you ever kill anybody?" He would then relate a story about a dead Viet Cong, who had a letter from his fiance in his pocket.
Bill Pearson was walking along the top of a flooded rice paddy dike when the man in front of him stepped on a booby trap. The explosion wounded that man and the man behind him, but he was untouched. When his radioman was hit, he had to carry the litter through the deep muck.
Bill Pearson's platoon was on call as part of a rapid reaction force. Their base of operations was in the delta south of Saigon. They did not get into any hairy situations from that arrangement but they did have some dangerous moments jumping into the water from hovering choppers during their own operations.
Platoon leader Bill Pearson sent out a squad to set up a night ambush and when they made contact, it was with a much larger VC force. With the rest of the platoon, he set out to find them and bring them back. When he located the besieged squad, the battle became intense and they were in danger of being wiped out. In a desperation move, he called in artillery on his own position.
Near the end of his first tour in Vietnam, Bill Pearson was appointed Executive Officer of the unit. As XO, one of the things he had to manage was the daily helicopter flights to men in the field to deliver rations and supplies. On one of these trips, he had to make a decision about an overloaded aircraft that still haunts him.
After his first tour of Vietnam, Bill Pearson was assigned to a training unit which was preparing soldiers for deployment there. He was ready to return to private life and had submitted the paperwork when he got a call. How can we convince you to stay? Well, I always wanted to go to flight school.
He had been an infantry officer during his first tour, but now Bill Pearson was back as a Cobra gunship pilot. He literally climbed into a Cobra the moment he arrived and was immediately in a huge firefight. Thankfully, this pace did not continue.
Mac Armstrong recalls his time working in the Pentagon during Desert Storm and some of the decisions that they had to make. Having to navigate the intricacies of the Middle East during that time period was difficult but Armstrong and his team but they did an efficient job.
After his time in Honduras, Steve Hamlet spent time deployed all over Eastern Europe where he was a non-commissioned officer in charge of military intelligence detachment operations throughout different parts of Eastern Europe. He was primarily responsible for source operations, where he established working relationships.
He was the smallest guy in his Ranger class, so he got the heaviest loads. Owen Ditchfield found out how long he could go without sleep, food and water and still keep going. The testing was as much psychological as physical, as he found out when he was summoned to the front of the column in the middle of the night.
It was an exotic post, the Pacific atoll Kwajalein. Bob Wylie was an air traffic controller and worked search and rescue as well at the Naval air station there. Then it was back to Georgia for advanced school and further grounding in VFR, Visual Flight Rules. He was assigned to the Philippines just as a massive buildup of forces began in Southeast Asia.
When Air Force technician Bob Bruffey shipped out to Germany for the second time, he was sent to Libya for air/sea survival training. This involved being pulled through the water in a parachute. When the chute wouldn't release and he was pulled under, he experienced an eerie calm just at the edge of death.
What should a young man who wants to become a Ranger expect? General William F. "Buck" Kernan knows. They will learn what the Rangers stand for and have accomplished and they will will develop the skills to carry that forward. It is a life you will miss when it's over.
According to Intelligence Officer Bill Person, the Cuban Missile Crisis was a ploy by Nikita Khrushchev to get the United States to remove it's missiles from Turkey, no more and no less. He succeeded but his country was still in the cross hairs of American military might.
It was assumed to be a one day operation, but it was on the the third day of action on the island of Grenada that David Barno faced his first combat. The Ranger company commander took away many important lessons from that chaotic operation.
Patrick Malloy was first generation Irish American and he worked his way through Georgetown University in the Foreign Service school. He didn't think the draft would take him because of his football knees but, with rise of Communism, the physical standards were lowered and he found himself in basic training at Fort Dix.
Jack Martin finished out a long career as an Army engineer at Fort Belvoir where the engineering school is located. Once again, he participated in high level planning for war contingencies, as well as dealing with lower level problems like officers who wouldn't mow their grass. (This interview made possible with the support of BARBARA SHELDON in honor of Joseph Graham.)
After spending so much time in combat, Barry McCaffrey left with a very definitive outlook on the costs of global conflict. Although trust in the national government is low right now, McCaffrey maintains that a lot of government officials are good people who are just trying to do the right thing by their country. He holds Colin Powell to be the model for a good leader.
He never went to basic training but he knew how to march from ROTC. It hardly mattered for Salvador Sarmiento because all Filipino sailors in the US Navy were stewards and cooks. After making his peace with seasickness by signing on to kitchen duty, he was there at the Bikini atomic test.
His tests showed high aptitude for math and science so Bob Wylie was able to get into the Navy school he wanted, air traffic control. The federal regulations at the time fit on four pages. The contemporary ones fill a book. They also taught him air navigation when he got past the fundamentals.
The missions were so secret, that when the plane returned from the East with no insignia, our own fighters were scrambled to intercept it. Bob Bruffey maintained that plane and when one of the crew defected to the East, he had to go to Washington for debriefing. He couldn't help but laugh at his intelligence contacts there.
Career Marine Jay DeGraw served a tour as a recruiter. He had fourteen high schools in his area so he was good at it. He learned to keep a special group of potential recruits in his back pocket in case another station was running short. A boy asked how he could get some of those sharp pants. He said, "These are trousers. Girls and sailors wear pants!" That was good for six recruits and he used it again.
Jack Martin was having a fine time his first year at college when his father asked him this question, would he accept an appointment to West Point? Having answered the only way a real man could answer, he chose engineering school at Fort Belvoir upon graduation. (This interview made possible with the support of BARBARA SHELDON in honor of Joseph Graham.)
Stationed in Okinawa, Ruth Kulvi experiences multiple life-threatening typhoons. Her first priority is the safety of the soldiers and children whose lives are imperiled by the merciless storms. While attempting to relocate a sick GI, her team must brave intense winds and stubborn roads.