Preserving The Oral HistorIES of Combat Veterans

COMBAT STORIES FROM Vietnam

Harold Sterrett | Directorate of Targets, 7th Air Force - Air Force

7:44   |   When Rollie Sterrett got to Vietnam, he initially had to squeeze with seven others into a Saigon hotel room while they waited for assignment. He was assigned to the Directorate of Targets at 7th Air Force HQ, where he learned the intricate inter-service politics at play in the air war. He also soon shared the frustration with the micro-management of the war coming from the White House.

More From Harold Sterrett

Keywords   :     Harold Rollie Sterrett    Vietnam    Saigon    Tan Son Nhut    7th Air Force    shower    Vietnamese    Vientiane    Laos    Intelligence (Intel)    ambassador    William H. Sullivan    Forward Air Controller (FAC)    Directorate of Targets    White House    Lockheed U-2    Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird    McDonnell F-101 Voodoo    McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II    RF-4C    RF-101C    William Westmoreland    Commander In Chief Pacific (CINCPAC)    Rolling Thunder

Videos ( 13 )
Vietnam
  • Harold Sterrett  |  Vietnam  |  Multiple Units  |  4:44

    It was a turbulent time to come of age in the 1960's. Rollie Sterrett majored in political science because of all the history unfolding around him and he was attracted to the military because he craved adventure.

  • Harold Sterrett  |  Vietnam  |  Multiple Units  |  5:40

    Rollie Sterrett was vaguely aware of the war in Vietnam, which was really just beginning. At the Air Intelligence Training Center, he learned photo interpretation using photos from the Cuban missile crisis. Upon graduation, the entire class was informed they were all going to Vietnam

  • Harold Sterrett  |  Vietnam  |  Directorate of Targets, 7th Air Force  |  5:44

    The air war over Vietnam was highly politicized. President Johnson was concerned that China could enter the war, the way they did in Korea. This led to every target requiring approval from the White House itself. Air Force intelligence officer Rollie Sterrett says this led to missed opportunities to easily destroy enemy capabilities.

  • Harold Sterrett  |  Vietnam  |  7th Air Force Headquarters  |  4:22

    Bomb damage assessments were important to the generals guiding the war in Vietnam. Photo interpreter Rollie Sterrett was trained to determine if targets had been destroyed and this led to his assignment as the 7th Air Force briefing officer to Gen. William Westmoreland, who was in command of all forces in Vietnam. The other briefers were flag officers, but he was just a lowly 2nd Lieutenant.

  • Harold Sterrett  |  Vietnam  |  7th Air Force Headquarters  |  6:02

    Each service was responsible for a certain part of the air war in Vietnam and the inter-service politics caused a lot of stress, recalls Air Force intelligence officer Rollie Sterrett. He was the Air Force's briefing officer for Gen. William Westmoreland's daily briefings. The famous general and the young lieutenant took a liking to each other.

  • Harold Sterrett  |  Vietnam  |  7th Air Force Headquarters  |  4:37

    As a young lieutenant, Rollie Sterrett's assignment put him in daily contact with Gen. William Westmoreland. He was overwhelmed by the man, at first, but a friendly, respectful relationship grew over time. He observed that the general was hampered by the extreme political restraints of the war and that he was undeserving of his treatment by the US news media.

  • Harold Sterrett  |  Vietnam  |  7th Air Force Headquarters  |  4:15

    If an air unit failed to take out the target in a strike over North Vietnam, the same unit was obligated to return and finish the job. Rollie Sterrett was only a Lieutenant as he elbowed his way through pilots, who were colonels, to get to a table full of photographs. He was a photo interpreter and Gen. Wesmoreland's briefing officer. They gave way. (Warning: strong language.)

  • Harold Sterrett  |  Vietnam  |  7th Air Force Headquarters  |  5:03

    The rules of engagement in Vietnam were frustrating, and the fact that it took 36 hours to get a target approved by the White House and precious few of them were approved, meant that we were fighting the war with our arms tied. That is the observation of Rollie Sterrett, who was there trying to get targets approved.

  • Harold Sterrett  |  Vietnam  |  Multiple Units  |  2:37

    Air Force photo interpreter and briefing officer Rollie Sterrett was fortunate to not experience any of the disrespect that many returning veterans had to face. He attributes this to going straight to an intense military environment right away, Strategic Air Command headquarters.

Cold War
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