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.
Al Stiles was temporarily based in Argentina and his wife was with him there. As he was aboard ship going around Cape Horn, she was hospitalized and he was allowed to leave the ship and go take care of her. They had been told they would not be able to have children because of other issues, but a miracle occurred after they returned to the States.
The Cuban Missile Crisis was resolved but the Cold War was heating up. The band at Fort Meade was broken up and Joseph Hudson had to return to more critical duties. He was sent to Germany for five years, where he worked in personnel, due to a surgically repaired back. He returned to Fort Benning to finish a twenty year career.
While participating in the atomic tests at Bikini Atoll, Don Lacy had to change to new clothes frequently because they became so radioactive. The second test was underwater, which contaminated the sea for miles around. His job was to inspect radio equipment on the target ships, so he was fortunate to have no lasting effects on his health.
He was a troubled youth, but Robert Walton thought his life might turn around in the Army. His GED wouldn't get him on active duty, but the National Guard was an ideal starting point. He was a talented mechanic, so he came in as a heavy equipment mechanic with an engineering company.
Going from the National Guard to active duty was difficult for Robert Walton. First, they wouldn't count his Guard experience toward promotion. Then, there was an abusive NCO. He had some good training experiences in Egypt, but, when his term was up, he went to work for Halliburton KBR.
At the Army port in Inchon, it was a 24 hour workday, with loading or offloading going around the clock until completed. Tom Pemberton started out as a stevedore officer, supervising the work on board. He later switched to the on shore job, coordinating the outflow of men and materials.
Fort Bragg was one of her favorite posts. What did Regena Herndon learn there? Endurance and taking initiative and how to deal with high ranking people. After her retirement, she worked with juvenile offenders and got a lot of satisfaction when lives were turned around.
He put his mechanical expertise to work in Afghanistan for Halliburton KBR, but Robert Walton returned to the Army with the Georgia National Guard and prepared to deploy to Iraq. He had grueling desert training in California, and then encountered an NCO who set his mind straight.
Regena Herndon wanted to join the military after talking to a recruiter at a high school career night. The fact that her brother would not talk about his experiences in Vietnam did not deter her. Basic training was tough, but she prevailed and became a soldier. Her first post at Fort Dix was a bad experience, but the next one, in Frankfurt made up for it.
She was young and alone, but the Navy made sure there was someone to meet Dionne Archibald at the airport in Japan as she began her first assignment. She had no problem re-enlisting after her initial four year hitch and went to an advanced communications course before her next post. She lucked out on that one.
The Austrians were very happy to see the American GI's, including Bob Nash, who was there as part of an MP battalion. He traded his cigarettes for some very nice souvenirs that he sent home. After his tour, he joined the reserve but quit over a pay dispute. Turned out he was just in time to miss something big.
Stan Seaman was an aircraft electrician on the USS Tarawa. In addition to those duties, he was assigned as a firefighter during emergencies. The ship performed anti-submarine patrols off the East Coast, along with a sister ship, each taking half the area. There was no shooting war, but the work was still dangerous.
When running convoys in Iraq, Robert Walton was a gunner on a Humvee. On his first mission, a local civilian in a Mazda took off at high speed and the commander gave chase. He tapped Walton on the leg and said, "Stop him!" The training kicked in.
Milton Kassel was called from the Naval Reserve into active duty during the Korean War. He was assigned to serve on a Merchant Marine vessel, going between the US and Korea, but through a stroke of luck, he wound up on a ship out of Charleston, SC and enjoyed a nice Med cruise.
After recovering from wounds received in Korea, William Moncus had a few stateside posts before it was time to re-up, or not. He fancied a tour in Japan and they gave it to him. He had a fondness for the Japanese kids and helped build an orphanage while he was there.
His ship was preparing for a NATO cruise, but Navy cutbacks led to the discharge of all personnel who were drafted. That meant that, after 21 months in the Navy, Stan Seaman was returning home. That was fine with him since he had a great job at Grumman, where he went on to a long career.