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.
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.)
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.
Kulvi's Army career lasts well into her later years, taking her from Kentucky to Germany to Walter Reed in D.C. She works her way to a Masters Degree, endures a serious back injury, and navigates the challenges of being a woman in a rapidly changing military - all the while raising her departed sister's children.
Frank Aiken joined the Army to go fight in Korea, but the Army wouldn't cooperate. They tried to get him to stay on as an instructor and then they sent him to Germany. Disillusioned, he left the service after that tour. But he rejoined and finally made it to Korea as a post-war advisor. After two tours there and another in Germany, he would taste combat in Vietnam.
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.
Owen Ditchfield was a brand new infantry officer when he was sent to an infantry battalion in the 1st Armored Division. He was immediately sent on maneuvers, which didn't go so well. His unit was activated during the Cuban missile crisis and sent to Fort Stewart in Georgia to prepare for action. What they really prepared for was a visit by the President.
Frank Noonan owed the Navy another year. That's how he wound up at the Bikini Atoll for Operation Crossroads, the first post-war nuclear weapons tests. There were two detonations, an air burst and an underwater burst. He describes the scene and the devastating effects on the target ships. (This interview made possible with the support of JANIS HAUSER In Memory Of Alfred W. Hauser, Army Air Corps.)
At the end of the Big War, Bill Bates served as commander at two Marine barracks including Lakehurst, New Jersey, where airships were stationed and where a famous zeppelin had crashed. Then it was back to Quantico for amphibious warfare school, where he learned the complex and difficult aspects of landing troops on an unfriendly beach.
His final service in Vietnam was not for the Army but for the State Department. Kenneth Moorefield was in Hanoi to open the US embassy and served there from 1995 to 1998. He says that the government officials who had been in combat were much easier to deal with due to their mutual respect as soldiers.
Bob Bruffey returned from Korea and continued to work on airplanes, adding the C-47 to his list. Then it was off to Cold War work in Weisbaden, where everyone scattered when he asked what kind of outfit this was. "You were never here. This never existed."
The battle at the Rumaila oil field came during a cease fire. Chuck Ware was directing a small group of tanks and supporting vehicles moving to investigate an Iraqi armored formation right in front of them. What he saw was that his unit was greatly outnumbered and his flanks were exposed.
Kenneth Moorefield came out of West Point expecting to go to Vietnam, but instead was posted to the Dominican Republic, where he underwent his first medical evacuation in the wake of a riot. He already had a sense of what he would face once he got to Vietnam from the writing of Bernard Fall.
Steve Hamlet gives an account of his experience during basic training. He recalls his most difficult experiences and discusses how he felt those were necessary for his growth as a soldier. After basic, he went on to Advanced Individual Training where he eventually became a Chaplain's assistant.
General William F. "Buck" Kernan's biggest heroes are the troops and NCO's that helped develop him into an effective leader. He feels privileged to have served with the Rangers. They are still the role models for the rest of the Army and that is why they lead the way.
Bill McCowen enjoyed flying the B-52 and it was a good thing because the Chrome Dome flights for SAC during the Cold War lasted 24 hrs. He describes the strategy for attacking Moscow, including the plan for surviving after the strike. He also circled Cuba during the Missile Crisis and his description of this lends some credence to the tales of the Bermuda Triangle.
On his way out of Iraq, Chuck Ware passed under a black sky filled with smoke from the burning Rumaila Oil Field. No one thought that it was over. The other shoe must drop. He recounts a story about General Barry McCaffrey accepting the surrender of a ditch full of Iraqis, and he talks about the period of adjustment once he returned to Fort Stewart.
Patrick Sauer remembers his training at Fort Knox and later his stationing in Germany during the era of the Berlin Wall. The presence of communism in the areas he was stationed helped to give him a will to keep fighting for American values.
He had made Master Sergeant in El Toro and was, once again, back in Hawaii when Jay DeGraw was offered the chance to become an officer. He declined, but another NCO at a larger organization took the offer and that assignment became his. He had been Motor Transport Chief of one unit. Now he had thirty two to manage.
He entered the Army with an ROTC commission and a journalism degree. During college, he was in the Pershing Rifles, who enjoyed firing a blank round during their drill routine to get everyone's attention. At Fort Benning, he moved right through the basic course, jump school and Ranger school.
Returning to Germany after a mission in Somalia, Pilot Fred Mills was off to another important Air Ambulance operation, this time in Iran following an earthquake. Told to protect his passenger, Princess Pahlavi, he nervously felt the 45 on his hip.
According to Intelligence Officer Bill Person, we had World War III won before it started. That was because he had figured out every Russian target in the United States and the routes of the bombers which would hit them. Then, for good measure, he calculated when and where Russian spy satellites would be looking down.