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.
Communications engineer Mac McCahan caught the eye of the White House when he successfully managed two projects for the White House Communications Agency. The first was extending coverage of the first moon landing to Alaska and the second was managing the satellite link for a presidential trip to Asia.
Barry McCaffrey remembers being astonished at the low casualties sustained during Desert Storm and was thankful as soon as they started to take troops out. After his time there, he stepped into a position working for Colin Powell and eventually President Clinton working in the drug policy division.
At the end of the war, Val Archer was part of the Tuskegee Airmen as a ground crew member. In 1947, the Army Air Corps became the United States Air Force and began the gradual process of desegregation. His unit was broken up in twos and threes, and scattered to desegregate all-white bases everywhere. He says the true desegregation of the armed forces wasn't really complete until the Vietnam era.
Reorganization was swirling around Mac McCahan at the 101st Airborne and he was nearly made battalion commander. After a European exercise where he met two Medal of Honor recipients, he found out that a communications plan for a hospital he'd drawn up had achieved some distinction.
After a short bit of shore duty, Frank Noonan was assigned to the USS John R. Craig, a destroyer that was bound for a goodwill tour in the Pacific. It berthed in some unlikely places, including up the Irrawaddy River at Rangoon. (This interview made possible with the support of JANIS HAUSER In Memory Of Alfred W. Hauser, Army Air Corps.)
Chuck Ware was selected for battalion command, but he deployed to Iraq as an Inspector General for General Barry McCaffrey. He soon had his battalion and was a little unnerved to find out that there were forty Lieutenant Colonels in the rear as replacements for battalion commanders who were killed. Saddam Hussein had been built up to be almost formidable.
The Generals kept asking, why do we lose our satellite link during the heavy tropical rain in the Philippines? The answer, according to communications engineer Mac McCahan, is in the true shape of a raindrop, a shape which is not what you might think.
He always wanted to fly. In fact, Al Muller was building model airplanes before he could read. This naturally led him to the Air Force and after basic training and a first assignment transporting troops, he entered the Air Force Institute and became an Aeronautical Engineer.
After the war, Bob Baker was sent to the 82nd Airborne and received glider training and jump training. It was a supply job he was interested in and he was disappointed when he didn't get it. He landed another assignment and found out that a supply clerk could get into some real shenanigans.
At the Air Force Safety Office on his last assignment, Al Muller worked for two legendary fliers, Robin Olds and Chuck Yeager, each with colorful stories surrounding them. Those two embodied an esprit de corps that Al found lacking when he visited bases in his post-service career.
After his deployment to Korea, Joe Estores came back to the States and spent time stationed at Fort Dix, New Jersey. On his next assignment abroad, he got to experience the Cold War through his patrol of the East & West German border.
Al Muller had a nice assignment recovering satellites and their film but the switch to video ended that mission. Before he left Honolulu, a chance encounter with a lost pilot led to a stuffed alligator hanging on the wall. This began an amazing odyssey for the trophy.
Vietnam forced a great change in Army training and operations. Conditions and equipment were upgraded and the quality of the soldiers improved with the advent of the all volunteer force. Chuck Ware was stationed in Cold War Germany when the new attitude swept in.
There was no doubt Mac McCahan was a problem solver. He developed a scheme for bit stuffing that made incompatible gear work together. Should have been a patent right there. Then he encountered a problem that was projected to cost one million dollars and take a year to fix. Would he do it in half the time for half the money? Think again.
In Korea, he had switched from Radio Operator to Radio Repairman with a little on-the-job training. After that tour, Arthur served at Ft. Hood for a while and then tried his hand at civilian work. He reenlisted and learned avionics repair and then applied for air traffic control school to learn that valuable skill.
His job was to keep the tanks going in Cold War Germany and he did just that, including going to school just on turrets. Bill Morris recalls that school in the foothills of the Swiss Alps and also remembers the all night engine overhauls on the mighty tanks. There was even some excitement when he made a wrong turn and drove his maintenance truck into East Berlin.
After his Air Force career, Al Muller worked on some very interesting research, including a burning wing that squirted the craft forward like the squeezing of a watermelon seed and a non-aerodynamic rotating wing that puffed air out through slits.
Following the harrowing experience of covering the Vietnam war, Joe Galloway spent three years in Cold War Moscow. He had to play private eye just to get mundane information and he playfully told them about some advice he was going to give Washington after he left.
At the onset of Operation Desert Storm, Ernest Banasau is a Logistics Coordinator in Germany. He contacts the command to offer his services in the war effort, and is stationed in Turkey to play a coordinating role in Operation Provide Comfort, protecting Kurdish refugees from Saddam Hussein's army.
Pilot Bill Hanna returned to service for the Berlin Airlift and remained in Europe to provide transportation for the Cold War effort. He remembers a little wine-based detente in Italy when Communists marched on his picnic. Also, he explains why he decided on a career in the Air Force as a result of walking into a clothesline.
Mac McCahan relates the story of a Chinook that mistakenly strayed into the Korean DMZ and was shot down. Closer to home, as North Korean armor was massing across the border, he tells why his wife became suddenly upset and convinced that another war was imminent. It turned out to be a case of Loose Lips.