tv Oral Histories Vietnam War Veteran David Bockel CSPAN August 14, 2021 12:06pm-1:36pm EDT
the u.s. army during the vietnam war. next he describes his training in the military action codenamed operation junction city. later in his career, while serving in the u.s. army reserves he was at the pentagon during the september 11 terrorist attacks. he recounts hearing the explosion in the mass confusion that followed. this interview is from the veterans history project it was conducted by the atlanta street center research center. >> moved briefly to chicago which is where my dad was from. my mom was from indiana. but then my dad got transferred to jacksonville, florida 1952 i grew up from age eight and jacksonville until i left to go to college in 1962. i attended the university of alabama.
i was in rotc because back in those days you were required at a land grant university to be enrolled in basic rotc your first two years. and then the vietnam war broke out while i was there there's a lot of talk about the draft really coming into play. a lot of folks getting called up and being sent to this place called vietnam, depending whether not you and lyndon johnson. i along with a bunch of my friends enrolled in advance rotc pretty graduated in 1966 in may of 1966 and after a few months of waiting for my assignment orders i went back to jacksonville, florida had a temporary job tried to make a few bucks before i left. in august i received my orders assigning me to the 25th infantry division and vietnam. first i had to go to school in
virginia. >> before we get into your military tell us about your family. >> well, my dad is the son of immigrants. my grandfather was from russia. my grandmother was from romania. they immigrated to england. my dad was born in london, england. they came to the united states my dad and two of his sisters in 19 oh six i believe. settled in chicago. my mother born and raised in indiana, family i did not know them very well because grandmother and grandfather on that site had passed away when i was old enough to know any better. they were salt of the earth american folks from south indiana.
anyway, i have two older sisters. i had two older half sisters my mother had been married prior to marrying my father. the two half sisters passed away several years ago. they were in the early 90s if you can believe that. my two living sisters, full sisters my oldest sister judy lives in atlantic beach florida where she is it a retired educator. my other sister, donna lives outside of athens, georgia. they have lived all over the place. they lived a long time and louisiana when my brother-in-law was a car dealer. they move to monroe, georgia because my niece, stacy is a schoolteacher in monroe. and their son stayed in new orleans, he works in the automobile business there. that pretty much takes care of my siblings. my wife, jane is also from jacksonville, florida.
she was born in st. petersburg her father was an investment banker. we have two children. sarah whose last name is now smith, born here at piedmont hospital. graduate from the lubbock school and went to vanderbilt. my son david lives here. he is married to jane so you have david and jane senior and david and jane junior. they had two children. they all range in age and david's oldest, lily is the oldest of the four. sarah is next and then abby and david has zoe and sarah has nora. the four girls are big pals. sarah lives in savannah. her husband is a college professor georgia southern former marine combat marine, sniper, interesting because
people in the army don't necessarily know how to communicate with the marines. [laughter] we do the best we can. >> grew up in jacksonville, florida patel us a little bit about what you did there when you're growing up. did you have any jobs in what influence you to go to the university of alabama? i was far away from the university of florida i can get with my parents money. actually my sister went to the university of alabama the one that lives in monroe, georgia. she loved it. i had a lot of friends from alabama were going to the university of alabama. i was very happy to be there. also my high school football team my senior year in high school 11 football game. the year before he got to the university of alabama was the national champion in football. my whole perspective changed. but anyhow i had a typical
childhood, i attended public schools. i had a number of different jobs. my first job was delivering newspapers to the jacksonville journal which was in the afternoon newspaper. then i worked at it winn-dixie store the first job i ever had in my life. i was a bad boy. then i worked in a drugstore, that was not a bad job. i delivered prescriptions and worked stock and things like that pretty red electric meters for a while, i worked, they reassessed the households in homes and jacksonville, florida. i worked from the time i graduated from college in may of 1966 until august of 1966 reassessing, reevaluating homes in jacksonville, florida for tax purposes. other than that, i was pretty much an average student. i did not start excelling in
my education until it was a junior in college and i realized i needed to take it more seriously since there is a draft. [laughter] my dad managed a small department store. my mother was a housewife her entire married life to my dad. although she did manage a grocery store before. that is where she and my dad met. my dad will a student at northwest university he and one of his fraternity brothers had the only chinese take-out restaurant. my dad used to say he used to deliver chopped silly to john dillinger was on the outside of chicago. but anyway my dad used to go into the grocery store where my mother was the manager and buy supplies for the chinese restaurant. i have two nephews by my
oldest sister and nephew rick who is 52 years old now. and his brother jeff who was an all-american swimmer at the university of georgia. he is now the assistant swimming coach at the university of florida and possibly will be the head swimming coach because the swimming coach there that the university of georgia he's getting ready to retire. my sister donna her oldest is stacy. the next one is todd. todd lives in new orleans and stacy lives in monroe not too far from my sister. that is pretty much my family. >> let's now drift into, you are in rotc at the university of alabama. so drift from there into your military experience. >> it's an interesting saga. i do good time rotc. i loved it, i excelled in it, i achieved the rank of cadet
colonel cadet lieutenant colonel excuse me, commanded a battalion. back in those days college rotc was a big deal, not so big anymore. they are not required to have rotc. and then i became a distinguished military graduate. with that particular honor you made then apply for a combat arm. i had been assigned to the quartermaster corps before i became a distinguished military graduate. they said okay, this is your big chance for you can now become a regular army officer not a two-year rotc graduate. you can be in a combat arm infantry or artillery pick one. i said i'll take the quartermaster and they two-year program please. because with the regular army commission was a three year commitment. at that time there is a concern you're going to do more than one tour in vietnam.
so i took the reserve side. what happened after that is after i came back from vietnam i served the rest of my active duty in alabama, the army really probably thought they were doing themselves a favor by sending me too a post in alabama because they would not have to be a lot of travel. they did not know i was going to be in atlanta but it did not matter. it was the home of the missile school and missile command. that is where they tested all of the rockets to send satellites in outer space. it is a really neat place. but right before it's time for me too get out my boss called me into his office and he said, i have got a deal for you. what is that sir? i can promote you to captain today. i said what do i have to do for that do i have to go back to vietnam? he said yes.
i said no i'll stay as a first lieutenant. [laughter] so left, came to atlanta, got a job with an advertising agency. a local advertising agency. it was a great job. after i had been there about three years my boss was getting further and further away from the advertising business and more into investments. he owned a couple of radio stations and some real estate pretty brought in another guy. i thought is going to be the parents of the advertising agency but he brought in another guy. along with another person i worked with we started david buckle and associates an advertising agency in 1971. took a few of our clients with us to get started. and from 1971 until 2003 i owned an advertising agency. we were a 48 agency. we are a respected advertising
in town. we had been in business longer than most local advertising agencies. now today most of those local advertising agencies are gone and been replaced by regional and national agencies. >> talk about going back after you graduate from the university of alabama. talk about going into the military and talk about your vietnam experience. >> this is an interesting side story. in that period between my graduation and the time i was going on active duty i worked doing the tax assessor deal. my dad on certain nights was open late. on this particular night my mother and i decided we would go get some barbecue. we were sitting in the barbecue restaurant and my mother says well, where would
you like to go in the army? where would you like to be? i said i would love to be in hawaii. she said hawaii they have army in hawaii? i said 25th infantry division is in hawaii. anyway we came home and will make got home my mother handsome this fat envelope from the department of the army. and there are my orders. unbeknownst to me she already seen them. but i'm going down the orders, everything seen and military orders before is a lot of gobbledygook. a gift to the bottom and it says a delay in route assignment 25th infantry division san francisco 96225. upon arrival in vietnam report to such and such and such and such. that's how the whole thing started. finished my schooling right before christmas of 1966 and
left for vietnam. arrived after numerous stops on a c1 41 the interesting thing about that as i went out to san francisco, i was supposed to leave from travis air force base. they have what they called a. >> flight. they were all commercial airliners. with a sitter she went to get a pan and my flights that they have great food, they show movies, cap remember how they showed movies that one still escapes me. anyway, you may remember you had a port call in at eight number on it that was your flight number. they said that that is eight pan am flight. unbeknownst to me a bunch of guys laying around in this waiting area, all of these flights have been canceled because the government did not renew their contract with pan am.
so, i met this air force captain. i'm thinking maybe he would know what was going to happen. he says well, we might be here for a while. or they might put us on a military flight. i said what is that and he said well, they could either be a c1 30 or a c1 41. i said what's the difference? he said a c-130 is a prop plane, it's got four engines. probably take us a while to get to vietnam. i said what is a c1 41 question ricky said that's a jet it's kind of like a boeing 707 scott four engines in it and i said well hope we lucky there pretty sidwell, the fourth lucky will have a seat kit. [laughter] i sit see katy said yes it's like airline seats but they face backwards. and if we are not lucky they will have straps which is what they use for the guys who jump out of the airplanes.
it was a little after midnight that night. sure enough it was a c1 41, got in had a seat kit in it. and then we took off. a first stop of all places was hawaii. to get gas it was the middle of the nights in hawaii. and after that we flew from there to wake island which is about the size of this room. you landed thinking you're going to hit the water, you took off hoping you would not hit the water. not much there. then we landed in the philippines. from there, every stop they change crews. we had a crew from travis air force base they would change crews. or they flew onto the next stop which could've been wake island or the philippines. so we changed crews all the way over there. this is not bad duty if you
are in air force pilots. it's home until two or three days a week. you fly for however many hours you get the rest of the day off. they flew, they landed it was the airport in saigon. they did not stay on the ground very long. they took right back off again. when i was time for me too come home those of us in the south part of vietnam went to a place called the 90th replacement battalion. you waited for your flight. things heated up quite a bit. this is right before 1958. what would happen is the planes would come in and they would load you on buses and they would drive you to the air force base. now what was happening his a
lot of times the convoys would get ambushed on the way. so the first thing you have to do is make it to the air force base. we made it without a problem. but the plane had not arrived yet. now the deal was when that plane lands you get on the plane, they don't shut the engines off. and as soon as the last persons on the close the door and take off they will not stay on the ground. launching mortars into the airfield. that was my departure and my arrival in vietnam. i flew other times, i did have my first ride on the c-130 going to pick up some supplies and can run ebay which is a big depot. i was a passenger in a lot of helicopter rides. in fact my first helicopter ride was kind of funny. the second lieutenant it is almost comical. anyway my company commander,
have to expand the story a little bit. we had a problem with guards sleeping on the perimeter. and so in our area the commander said you need to have somebody to ride around every hour to every bunker and make sure the guards are not asleep. and also, before they come back to their bunker, they have to go and place the mines out in no man's land. now, if you remember claymore mines they are convex pointing towards the enemy it said on the mind this side toward the enemy. so you cannot screw it up. they had a long wire that went back to a charging handle. but they told you to do is
take the charging handle with you when you place the mind so the guy in the bunker does not squeeze it. i remember to do that. every hour on the hour we had to go and check the bunker line and make sure they are not asleep. we did not have to do this but sometime they would come in and turn the mine around. so when they attacked and squeeze it they would issue it to themselves. on this particular night the second lieutenants we were all together and one tenth. was this guard duty thing like every couple of days. you would be up 36 hours straight before you got any sleep. it was wearing out the folks. so the s to the intelligence guy in the battalion comes to me and says look, we are wearing you guys out. when you get off duty at
6:00 a.m. you can go to sleep in iraq, in your bed, until noon. i was the first guy. long about 7:00 o'clock company commander comes in and says this is when i realized that my real first name was. lieutenant, get your out of that rack and get over to your duty station. what are you doing in here? i said cert major told me we are all getting worn out, no you can't i am the commander he is a staff officer get out of there. anyway he said you're going to the delta. will me calling delta is kind of a hotspot. i was supposed to go down there as i'm supposed to evaluate the supply status and all of the units that is where my first helicopter ride came from. well, the night before i was supposed to go this is where i learned to appreciate warrant officers with a sick sense of
humor. her sitting on having a beer mr. perry comes up and says you've got to go to the delta and i said yeah said you're going to fly down and that helicopter yes that's a chinook. he said you know we are not too sure if they are shaking apart or for getting shot down. [laughter] anyway i go over and i'm waiting for that on if you've ever been in one before, shake rattle and roll make a lot of noise. i get in there and there are two door gunners up there by the cockpit. i'm sitting close to them so i can look and see what they are looking at. and we get up i'm looking i could also see in the cockpit. i see the altimeter i see we are up to 1500 feet.
i am thinking surely they've not got a rifle that can shoot 1500 feet and hit something. then i started getting accustomed to it. from there i had to go to several different spots. in one particular case there is a road junction. there is a bunker over there for couple guys in it. i'm supposed to wait for the next cnc helicopter to take me to the next place. so what do i do i stood out there and i am standing there waiting and some gunfire so a quick run into the bunker there these two guys laughing. some >> lieutenant is out there standing in the middle of the road waiting for helicopter. that was my indoctrination into vietnam as a second lieutenant. i cannot wait to get promoted to first lieutenant. and it took a while i had to wait until september before i could get promoted to first lieutenant. being a second lieutenant was one step below a private.
it did not get as much respect. but i learned an awful lot. the folks that i served with particularly the older officers or world war ii or korean war veterans. a lot of them had been and a lot of combat. the lieutenant, lieutenant colonel's have already paid their dues. they were a lot easier to get along with than the captains for example some of the majors who had not served in any complex who were in some cases rotc guys. or draftees or just needed a job to join the army. i kind of stayed that way. i ended up being friendlier with the higher ranking officers. although i did have a lot of friends among lieutenants. anyway, i spent from march february or march of 1967 until may on what was then the largest operation, operation junction city. that operation involve just
>> that was the sword? >> the communist. >> talk about that. >> it was uncovered. one of the things that we uncovered a lot in south vietnam were tunnels that were dug where they would stage their operations at night and some of these like in 25th division, the base camp was supposedly was more complicated than the new york subway system and right now if you were to go back on one of that they have from time to time, and you go to kushi the base camp isn't there but the tunnels are. friends of mine who have gone and taken the tour have gone into the tunnel complexes where they had, in addition to having storage facilities and places to
sleep and eat, they have hospitals down there. and they had weapons and ammunition and that kind of stuff. that rifle was in a case that was located. there's a mountain, the only mountain in the southern part of vietnam. you can see it for miles. black virgin. we had a special force's outfit from a top of that mountain. didn't make any trips of the mountains but made trip to the tunnels. a story on that is herbert lowe came out to the support base one day and he said, look, we are just -- uncovered a big tunnel
complex near and if a bunch of you want to take my helicopter and go over and see it, you can. i jumped in the helicopter but piloted by an officer that could have been 18 years old. we flew along a road, maybe 20 or 30 feet in the air and every so often, you know, the door gunners and helicopters had to have their guns at the ready when they were flying at low altitude. once they got up, like 1500 feet, they could let go of the machine gun and rest. well, these guys had their machine guns out there, every so often, the guy, the gun owner on one side, his gun would hit a
tree limb and when we landed, i wasn't going to talk to the warren officer. was the reason we were flying so low by the time we got over the bc it was too late for them to shoot at us. he said, yeah, that makes sense. it's actually the pilot had a bet with the door gunner, anyway, so we went on -- we went onto this place called french port and that's where i got the rifle. and it was with me to bring it home the process -- first of all, it had to go to mi unit and get some kind of paperwork and then you had to take it to embassy in sygone and had to be tagged and all this other stuff. at one point this is a pain but this is the only war trophy i
have. and then when it was time to go home, i had to give the rifle to the pilot of that eastern airlines by the way, dc8 and he kept it with him up front. and then when i got to atlanta, that was another story. i retrieved the thing from the delta flight. and then i donated it to the secretary of state of georgia who at the time a guy named ben and he on the second floor of the capital, he had a big weapon's collection going back, i don't know, civil war and i donated it and i have a docket, very official with ribbons on it and anyway, i kind of forgot about it. several years later i was in the capital for some reason and i was going of cruising around looking at the weapon's collection and i'm looking for my rifle and finally i found it
and i identified it as chinese communist-type 53 source unknown. well, at that time max was secretary of state and i sent him a note and i said, i said, i donated this weapon and it doesn't say who gave it to me. anyway, he said i will take care of it. it said donated by captain david, well, then my wife and i -- that's 7 or 8 years ago were -- oh, i was having a meeting with governor perdue, i think of a possible position. and i said, come on, i want to show you this rifle and so i take her upstairs and there's stuffed birds, no weapons. so i go down. i said ask somebody. what happened to all ben ford's collection, oh, they are in a storage facility in forest park.
we went to the storage facility and said i want my gun back and i produced document from the secretary of state and i got the gun back but i didn't really need it and didn't want it and then i realized from the -- vietnam veterans association in seoul that i could donate and i took the thing out and brought it in and left it. hopefully never to see it again. [laughter] >> inside a case or something like that. >> okay. i've taken you had a long path and need to get back to -- >> when you were coming. at the end of your vietnam tour. was that your only tour in vietnam? >> let me back up in the 25th division. i was in the 25th division from january until june of '67 and they had a program back then because i was in the first
rotation, the soldiers that went over there in the army, i don't know what the other services, one-year tour. at the end of the year you could go home. so what happened is the 25th division, everybody came over at the same time which meant everybody was going to go home at the same time, well, the same thing existed in other units that were there so they created a program that -- that basically swapped soldiers, so that not everybody had the same date eligible to return from overseas. so they sent me to the 199th infantry brigade in long bend which was at the time a sygone security force. we had 3 battalions in outskirts of sygone and i served there until time to come home. and i was a readiness expediter and was really tragic. every unit had a material
i had a couple of situations, i don't believe in coincidences but they are interesting and what a small world it is because you don't believe in coincidences. before i left to vietnam my late aunt june who lived in chicago sent me a letter and she said, david, when you're in vietnam make sure that you look up lou fagenburg. he's your uncle. it was my uncle. i doubt that i will see them. there's 500,000 service members in vietnam. so that's 1 in 500,000. when i'm in operation junction city and supporting all of the units a guy shows up and he's from the 196th brigade and says,
fagenburg and i said where are you from and said chicago and i said i'm your cousin. i didn't see him again until my dad's -- i think it was 80th birthday in chicago. my aunt june had a byrd party for him and lieutenant fagenburg and his wife were there. lieutenant fagenburg had gained about 75 pounds and didn't lost a lot of the hair. i would have never recognized him. and then the other thing, when -- remember the combat infusion program was in full force and when it was time for me to leave they went to the first infantry division and grabbed my college roommate and sent him over to 199th to take my place. so, yes. no coincidences. anyhow, i'm done in vietnam.
>> okay. >> and you want to know what happened when i came back? >> yeah. i was assigned for the last six months of my two-year tour to the missile school in alabama and he went to alabama, that's probably where we have to send him back to so we don't have to pay so much money. please don't throw me in the patch. you told me that i get off every day and i can play golf at the golf course. >> what did you do? >> my entire military career was sent in ordinance core, maintenance. when i was in the 25th division i ran a motor pool and when i was in 199 the officer worked for repair parts side in the maintenance company. but anyhow, so i was material
readiness officer. it was a great tour. one day my boss colonel -- amazing how i can remember these names 50 years. >> i'm impressed how you remember all the name. >> bob schmidel. nice guy. he calls me into his office. i can promote you to captain tomorrow. i said, what do i have to do. he said go back to vietnam. i said, sir, i will stay first lieutenant, thank you very much and i so left, i came back to atlanta, all of my buddies were, and went to work in advertising agency. one day i'd been back, august of '68 in like may of '69. i get a set of orders in the mail.
they told me when i processed out because i went to vietnam i wouldn't have to be in a reserve unit for the remaining four years of my tour. i said, okay. but i get a set of orders, assigned company in georgia. and i called the guy whose name was on the bottom of the orders, his name was paul barber. at that time he was a staff sergeant. a couple of later he was a captain. you don't understand, i'm a vietnam veteran i don't have to be in a reserve unit. he said you can either be in this reserve unit or you can go to jail. you signed a contract that said that you would do this. so i went to the 303 quarter master company and i stayed in the 303rd -- in rome. went to summer camp with him. one year we went to camp shelby, mississippi which was a national guard post. 199th trained at camp shelby. they deployed from camp shelby.
created at fort bend and deployed to camp shelby. i did that. one year active duty at camp shelby and then next year annual training in virginia which i knew pretty well. and then i had a friend and the guy by the name of lee morris who was the general sales manager at wsb radio and lee was a lieutenant colonel in the army reserve in the headquarters of the 81st army reserve command which is located on avenue at the time. lee, if there's an opportunity for me to come into headquarters, i'd like to do it because i don't see much value in me going up the rome where they had a bunch guys coming back and sure enough there was a vacancy in the division. g4, logistics office, and i went -- went to headquarters and i stayed there from the time that
i was a captain until the time i was lieutenant colonel in 1982 and i was selected to command a maintenance battalion in georgia, maintenance battalion and i did that, when i came back i was assigned to the 81st, the training section, not the desk log. and then i was selected for colonel and i was sent to be u.s. army reserve school and i did that for a year, two years and then i was select today command the full 449. the support group is located at forest park right outside the gate. interesting thing about it, paul barber who sent me those orders, he was in the 449th field depo, changed to group. at one time i had a boss who
came over to command that outfit. he said i want you to come with me. i said, no, i will stay where i am. that's a bad outfit and i ended up commanding it. anyhow, i then am selected for general and interestingly enough i have a friend who is ron, ron is a retired lieutenant general, 3-star general but at the time he was a colonel and i was the -- after i finished my command at forest park, i came back, this is prior to being selected for general and i'm the chief of staff and ron needed a colonel command to be a general when he didn't have one. so my boss at the time general ross said, okay, david, you've had two years of command there, why don't you step down and let ron get his command time and then we will make you chief of staff. so i said, okay.
so ron making short story long, ron and i -- ron comes back to work at the 81st after 449th is enact visited and he goes to work as the head of personnel and he's doing things that really aren't kosher. going behind me back and this and the other. i sent him a note and i did it, i learned when miller was governor and he fired the general of the national guard. >> i remember that. >> he sent letter through channels. i don't know who it was at the time firing him. i sent a letter through channels so that everybody would see it to ron and i said don't ever go around my back again. he came in to my office with a three-page letter written just moaning and groaning and ron and i had been close friends. i had hired him back in desk log
section but ron was civilian life worked at port mcpearson so he marched to his own drummer. ron, we've been friends for a long time. you know better than to do that, don't ever do it again. well, right after i get selected for general, now the way that works you can't get promoted until some of the general dies or leaves or something like that and takes about a year before you'll get your star. so i'm what they call a colonel promoter and i'm assigned to delaware national guard unit that's going to transfer over into the army reserve. but anyway, right after that happens, ron calls me on the phone, he said, david, i just want you to know that the chief in the army reserve has selected me to be his deputy and i'm getting promoted to general next week.
well, he was being what they call flocked. he wasn't really a general, he was being flocked so he would have the stars and wear the uniform but still getting paid as colonel. anyway, bottom line, ron is the incoming president of the atlanta vietnam veterans business association which is why i'm here. he's a lieutenant general retiree, but we became reconnected as gate friends, great buddies. he served as the chief of the army reserve as lieutenant general and after he finished his tour, the chief of the army reserve, he then went to -- he went to pakistan. i want to say pakistan and worked in the embassy there. nice guy. born and raised in georgia from savannah, lives down in jackson georgia. spends most of his time fishing.
anyway, after i was promoted to general, i'm talking the national signal command and converting it to army reserve signal command. i've never never served a single unit in my life but this is a very important signal command that had a section that operated out of hawaii and honolulu and they provided the signal operations for the pacific, basically the korean peninsula. and i had to train these national guard guys how the speak army reserve. so my boss who was a delaware national guard general kept referring to the reserve center as armor, i said, sir, we don't have armories, we have a reserve
center. i was reminded about a story -- well, a true story. i had a young lady work for me in the agency whose father commanded the 48th brigade and it was lynn, lynn, do you know the difference between army reserve and the national guard and i know she was thinking, i don't know and i don't care, but she says, no, i don't. let me tell you, the army reserve is the united states army, the federal army, we work for the president of the united states. the national guard is the state army and it works for the governor unless it is federalized by the president and then it's part of the united states army versus the president. oh, okay, that's interesting and she walks off. anyway, the friend of mine, he and i used to go down to
harold's barbecue by the penitentiary. i told her, what did you tell her, i told her that the united states -- the army reserveses, the united states army worked for the president and the national guard was a state army and worked for the governor unless federalized. that's not right. he says that's not right. you're right the army reserve is part of the federal army. the national army is confederate army. i think a lot of -- a lot of the guardsmen in alabama and georgia still think that. anyhow, so i go to the signal command. 311 signal command and was there for year and a half and promote today major general and was brought back to atlanta to be the deputy commanding general.
the united states army reserve command. ima, a full-time deputy commanding general. i was the part time commanding general. i was commander of the army reserve at fort jackson. i wasn't a traditional. i was on active duties orders and that was a good assignment and i enjoyed that. the command was a gate job. i enjoyed being part of the army reserve command. the senior, the top leadership in the army reserve and was there for a couple of years and then assigned as the regional of support command in little rock, arkansas. the 90th regional support command headed reserve command that was located outside of the
gates sam houston in san antonio and what happened there were 22 army reserve demands and general max barrettes, close friend of mine in the federal reserve thought we didn't need command and control so reduced it to ten. the flag moved to little rock and it became the 90th regional support command and i was the second command and had been the -- i think 123rd army reserve command and so those folks didn't know and didn't care about the 90th. the 90th has history from world war i and world war ii. particularly world war ii. they spent more days in ground combat than any army unit in world war ii. it was honor to command them but i had to give arkansas people.
>> you still live in the atlanta area while doing this? >> yeah. arkansas, louisiana, texas, new mexico and they had been under a lot of different and had to pretty much educate them in the history of the 90th reserve command, regional support command. i connected after i had been there a few months i went to come and ask to speak in the infantry division and it was being held in indianapolis, indiana. didn't know anything about them. that was where i developed my respect for the 90th infantry division and i was able to impart that respect for all the leaders in my command and i don't want to go into too much
detail but we ended up being a part of their reunions. i took a contingent to france on -- i can't remember what anniversary of d day it was but the people of perierre france, it was liberated by the 90th division down in normandy. and i don't speak french so we took our daughter with us and she turned out to be our interpreter but any way we went to the dedication of a monument in the center of this little town of perriere, 3 soldiers of the 90th division who had died in perrier or died in that. >> is that where the water comes from? perriere water? >> not even spell the same. >> great friends among the french.
the reunions all of a sudden took on a different flavor. we had reunions and we invited all kinds of great people to come and speak. we had veterans that hadn't seen each other, in god knows how long. i don't want to take more time than i'm allotted here. there's one gentleman by the name ed hamilton. he was shot in the face in one of the battles after the invasion and lost his eye they called him the one-eyed dragon. they told me to look him up. also there was a painting that i saw in a magazine of the 90th division. one of the actions in normandy and i called the -- the agent, the agent and he said, well, the
guy who painted it lives in atlanta. and i said, really, he told me his name, collins. anyway, i bought a copy, a print, had frame and hung in the hall in my headquarters and then ruth collins and i became close friends and hamilton, his father and i became close friends and i met some really fantastic people. i met a guy named jim flowers, jim flowers from right outside of dallas which is where i was born. we have an affinity there. anyway, time-out. >> on camera. >> jim flowers was a tank commander. it was a lieutenant in that part of the invasion and i don't know how much you know about the normandy invasion, usually you think of it in terms of the quotes and things like that, mostly farmland and all of the farmland was divided into plot
and the way they separated the plots was through -- hedge rose. well, jim flowers brought his tank into one of these fields, was able to breakthrough the hedge road and as tank was shot by their version of a grenade, i can't think of -- i will think of it in a minute. the tank blew up and killed everybody in the crew except jim and one guy and they laid out there on the field and jim had lost at that point one of his legs. while he's laying out there in the field i think it's friendly fire. it hit him in the other leg and
ended up losing both legs and the guy who he tried to save ended up dying in his arms. years later in dallas, we had a reunion, the guy who saved him, the guy by the name of claude, recently passed away. jim passed away ten years ago, they had not seen each other since that day in 1944 in that reunion that we had. i guess that reunion must have been in 2002, 2001. we had not seen each other since then. we got so connected, we had -- we brought in a guy to be our historian. we did two things. we created a museum and we did -- we did a film, a story of the 90th and -- and the museum, we were able to secure a lot of
money as a result of a -- the army has a program where it's competition for who has the best run headquarters, well, we won it one year and the money that we got, half a million dollars, we built a museum and the guy that we brought in is from louisiana and now louisiana national guard. he designed it, created it, it was fantastic, just fantastic. i met a lovely young lady by the name of helen patton. helen patton granddaughter of -- >> general patton. helen, my wife and my daughter have been close ever since. helen has an older sister and 3 brothers and one of the brothers, a tv producer in new
york and we had been in helen in one of the reunions. helen was in france, germany now but her mother and siblings lived in the northeast new york, massachusetts. so she was over fairly frequently. anyhow, another brother bob, i think he was kind of -- he authored the book in the history of the patents and it's a great book, learned all kinds of things about the patton family that i don't think anybody knows. i will tell you one of them, general patton after world war i was sent to hawaii to work in the territorial government and brought his wife with him and
nothing to do and he becomes an alcoholic and the mother decides that she's going to invite her niece to come over and stay with them, have some more company, the young ladies, maybe she's 19, 20 year's old, well george and his duties would go and visit the islands and he started taking the niece with him. and this is all recorded by brother bob and he has an affair and i don't know if it's helen's mother. anyway, his wife sends niece home and ultimately the niece commits suicide. kind of a sad story. i digress into general patton in world war i.
he's working for general in el paso as they're chasing pancho villa and has older sister and visits george, jr. in el paso. and she start having an affair with general persian. world war i breaks out and goes to europe. being the camp follower after a while she goes to europe to find him. well, he's already taken up with somebody else. [laughter] >> and so she goes back home and lives with the family in california. the family was originally from virginia. in fact, general patton actually went to bmi first because the grades weren't good enough for west point and he ultimately got to accepted to west point but his grandfather went to bmi and fought in the civil war. anyhow, bill oh riley wrote a
book called killing patton and in it and i read it, there were some historical information that was not factual. first of all, when they talked about patton's sister, they said that she was the one who came to europe and she committed suicide there. that wasn't true and i knew it wasn't true and i don't know if you remember, i'm sure you remember what happened to patton, after the war was over with, he was in -- not germany, poland and austria and he was in a staff car and hit by american army truck. and he was the only person in the car that was injured and his neck was broken and they sent him back to the united states and he -- for some reason he ended up back in germany. maybe died in the united states.
he's buried in lexingburg, his grave is the first one. o'reilly in his book says that eisenhower, bradley and marshal all wanted patton killed. man, i don't believe that. and the truck running into the car, you know, he kind of lifted. no record of this accident ever taking place and that lead you to believe that it was done intentionally. i'm talking to helen on the phone and said i read that and i tried to get in contact with bill o'reilly that i had the report of the accident and i stopped reading o'reilly's book. >> okay.
>> great friends that i still keep up with. i had the opportunity, i had a great position, i did a lot of other things in the army besides commanding the 90th while i was a major general, but one of them was i was the chairman of the army reserve force's policy committee which was a group of -- of army reserve active army and national guard generals that developed policy for things having to do with the reserve components and on september the 11th, 2011, this is another one where i don't believe in incidents. i was at a meeting in the pentagon that day and i have a friend and i have to digress to get to this point. tim and i served in the 199th
infantry brigade together and he had gone to ocs, 18 year's old and he was a second lieutenant and i was a first lieutenant. we both pretty much agreed that we had the worst attitudes of any lieutenant in the army. it was very comical. he didn't take it. he didn't take so much seriously and neither did i. about 1998, i forgot how i saw this. i think i saw it in the army or something that lieutenant gem, major general timothy, the head of personnel in europe is coming to the pentagon to be the chief of personnel for the army. i got his e-mail address from a fellow general who worked forces command and i sent him an e-mail and it came back, wow, i can't
believe that you found me. anyway, he couldn't believe that i was a general too. we were both major generals. he got promoted and got his third star when he got to the pentagon. anyway, tim and i communicated off and on for a couple of and -- and i met his wife terry and -- on september the tenth which was a monday, we have a premeeting before the actual -- our fixed start and -- excuse me, i was living in atlanta and i was staying at a hotel in arlington, virginia. it was a crown plaza and that's where they put us up and i was waiting for the van from the crown plaza to take me back to the hotel. i was waiting out in front of the pentagon where the vans come
in and another friend of mine, a guy by the name of tony who was an army major general he was in the active army came up and we were -- we were having this, you know, where are you going, what's going on and my wife calls me on the cell phone and i'm talking to her and about the time that i'm talking to her, car drives up and he gets out. there's the 3 of us guys and my wife and i hand the phone to tony. i said talk to james for a minute and tim, what are you here for and what are you doing. i've taken my son when he was a senior in college, my wife took him up to dc and i had a meeting up there and i took them on my own tour of the pentagon and introduced to tim, we went by his office. anyway, so tim and i were
chatting. i'm running and this and the other. the connection of me and tony and tim, tim and i are connected because of vietnam. tony and i are connected because tony was the chief of staff of the army reserve command. a regular army officer. when i was deputy commanding general and tony actually worked in one of tim's operation of the family support center over in alexandria so we were all -- the 3 of us were connected for different reasons. anyway, so september 11th happens and i'm in a meeting out in the e ring of the pentagon, corridor 6. the plane comes in, corridors 3, 4 and 5 were affected. we evacuate. it's funny, it's not funny, the way that it all went down, it's
about 9:00 o'clock in the morning and we were in a little conference room across from the g3 of the army's officer, a guy by the name of larry ellis. he lives here. anyway, about 9:00 o'clock, a little after 9:00 o'clock, somebody from his office comes over and says an airplane just flew in to the world raid center. commercial airplane, don't know. so we are, wow. how do you get it that far off course and few minutes later it comes back and says another plane flew in so we get up and we walk across the hall and we are watching this on tv and then we go back and everybody is saying this isn't an accident. we go back into this little meeting room and we are sitting there and i said it was no
accident. about that time we hear the loud boom and we all look at one another. and we got to go. we figured somebody has exploded a bomb in the building. we walk out in the hall and already pentagon security officer standing there directing us to corridor 6, not to go to corridor 5 because that's where the bomb went in. we all evacuated in that way and as we were going down the long hall way, folks that are down in that direction corridor of 3, 4 and 5 are coming into corridor 6 and shocked, tears, the whole deal. i'm walking with another general who was in the meeting with me, a female general and name is carol kennedy and i'm trying to walk along with carol because i could see she's visibly upset, but i couldn't, you know, come
on, carol, anyway, so i ended up going on while he -- he worked in the pentagon. that was her full-time job, a civilian in the army reserve. and i -- in the middle of the pentagon, if you've been there you know what i'm talking about there's a park. people go there and have lunch and go to lunch and that was the first time i could see outside and all i could see yellowish smoke, still don't know that it's an airplane, some think it's a bomb and there's a loud speaker system in the pentagon. the pentagon is no longer secure. head for an exit immediately. i'm sure that's the only time that the announcement has ever been made since world war ii. i had my cell phone and i'm trying to call my wife and i figure, it doesn't work in building and i get to the
escalators that take you to south parking lot and i know there are telephones there and you -- and they've already shut down, used to be that the metro system came into the pentagon. you got out and went up the escalator and you were in the pentagon. there were no trains running in there. i was thinking, i can get on the train and go back to crystal city and go to the crown plaza. but anyway, so at the escalators and i'm waiting to see if anybody is coming back down because people are coming back down, must mean something is going on. i got in the escalator and i went up, the phone will work now. i didn't work. so there were a bank of telephone booths and i went in the telephone booth and i was going to call 1800 number that i had was my headquarters in little rock. and i couldn't make the call. so i ended up walking back to
the crown plaza hotel. i stopped at one point and there was a reporter, tv reporter and saw i was on the uniform and he said, do you know what happened, a bomb, no a plane blew into it. no, but anyway, made my way back to crown plaza and people were all huddled around tv in a bar and there was a guy named ralph and i -- i don't know how he got off on the subject of tim but i mentioned that -- i saw tony yesterday with tim and he said, he's dead. i said who is dead, tim, the
airplane flew in his window. i was stunned and the other thing was tony and i had a conversation later on, he said i was in his office and i excused myself to go to the bathroom and that's when the plane hit. so it's very -- >> it was a difficult time. i was able to finally get through to my office in little rock and they called my wife and then ultimately i was able to get -- make a connection later in the day and what was interesting is my wife when she heard about it, she called my office in little rock and one of the secretaries answered the phone and she said, i'm worried about david. i think she's in -- he's in the pentagon. no, i think he's in the meeting over there in crystal city. jane stopped worrying until betty any assistant called and
betty was in tears and that was when -- was introduced to the element of surprise. it was a strange day. sky was beautiful beautiful. maybe 70 degrees and there's nothing to do. it's in the afternoon, so a bunch of us went out and ran. and if you're familiar with a trail that runs along the river by the airport, and that's where it did. no planes -- couldn't run a car. some of the guys in the meeting, national guard guys had their own airplanes and they were parked at andrews air force base, they got to go home. >> how long were you there? >> i'm sorry, say again? >> how long were you there in washington? >> well, what happened was the
next morning i couldn't sleep that night. the next morning i'm thinking, i have to get out of here and i called the hertz. we can reserve for you there. fine, reserved the car. i'm getting ready to leave the hotel, take a cab downtown and there's this guy in civilian clothes and he says, are you renting a car, he said, are you going south? i said, yeah. can i ride with you? i said, sure. so i went over and i stood in line to get the car, what was interesting is there's a big limousine pulls, stretch limousine and the guy, a couple of guys in the line waiting to get a car. okay. i've got it. this guy for a thousand dollars is going to drive us to west palm beach and we just have to figure out how we are going to pay him. and i said, let me ask you a
question, can you go instead of going i95, could you go down i85 and drop me off in atlanta, no, no. that's too much out of the way. so i got my car and drove back and i pick this guy up. eric -- i can't remember eric's last name. i will remember in a minute. eric is a national guard colonel from mississippi. he was up in a meeting and but he was a full-time guy in the international guard and he flew out of the columbus air force base. and i said, eric, i'm only going to atlanta. he said, okay, that's south, maybe the airport will be open by then. maybe i can rent a car or whatever. so we drove to atlanta. we left at 1:00 o'clock in the morning. got in at 11:00 at night and glad to be there.
i said, eric, there's a train that goes from new york to new orleans and it goes through mississippi. and i can put you on that train in the morning, it leaves about 7:00 or 8:00 o'clock. >> 7:00 in the morning. >> that's good, i can get my wife to pick me up and -- it didn't go through columbus. something like that. so we stayed up and talked a little bit. turned out eric had a crush when he was in high school with one of my wife's best friend who was at the university of alabama with me. anyway. i'm jewish, eric converted to judaism because he liked it, very unusual. anyway, i didn't see eric. we communicated a little bit at
first but then eric knew that i was working in dc and i got a call and executive director of the officer's association in dc, we went up there in 2003 till 2011 and it's about time for me to leave. i resigned and was going to come back and work in the governor's office and eric said i want you to come to my retirement. i said, what are you retiring from? i work in the pentagon and major guard in the air force and i'm retired and i want you to come to my retirement. eric, i'm going to be home on way to atlanta. come on over to pentagon, i will take you to general the officer air force and we will have lunch. that's what we did. it was neat to see him again. he made it to major general.
it was supposed to take a c141 and he needed to make the flight. i'm thinking, that's at the beach, isn't it or something like that? [laughter] >> we all have memories of what happened then. my daughter got married that next saturday. here in the atlanta area and it was quite a challenge to figure out because half of the people who said weren't coming to the wedding were traveling, and half of the people who were coming couldn't get to the wedding. it was an interesting time for many of us. >> i don't know what it was like at the atlanta airport but i can imagine there were a lot of people sleeping on the floor. >> i can imagine. >> when they shut down washington national i can walk to my plane from where i was
staying. >> and, yeah, i hated that drive. it was a 10, 11-hour drive but i was never happier to be on the road. i wouldn't let eric drive. i wasn't going to sleep. that's kind of the end of my military career. >> okay. okay. >> well, that's not too long ago. >> then i came back in october of 20111, i was the executive director of the georgia military affairs coordinating committee and it had been on the governor's office and they moved it to the georgia chamber of commerce and then they put the function over the economic development. strange place. >> strange place. >> they brought in a guy who had been secretary of the navy by the name of will ball to be
their guy in dc and will was working through a lobbying firm called norton and they kind of operate there and they put out all the news. the problem with the george military affairs coordinating committee. it was an ad hoc organization made of ad hoc committees from the towns and communities around the military installations. some were pretty good, some were awful. there was always a food fight. it was -- it was a pleasant job. what happened after that is that i went to work in the governor's office, workforce development doing veterans programs and they moved that to economic development and then somebody and i think it was chris carr who was commissioner at the time, he's now attorney general said what are we doing in veterans hiring an economic development. it belongs over at the
department of labor. so it's time to retire. i'm 70 year's old. i think it's okay. >> so what are you doing these days? >> well i'm on the board of fidelity bank. it keeps me in the business world and another source of income. i'm the state chairman for the army reserve. i'm one of three army reserve ambassadors in the state. and strangely enough, we are managed by what used to be the 81st army reserve command that i was the chief of staff for that i had served in from 1968 until i went to that signal command and they -- they -- when they consolidated, they went from 22 to 10, they moved to birmingham. and then they consolidated all of those down to like four and they moved the 81st to fort jackson which is where i was created in the first place. so the 81st now manages me as an
army reserve ambassador and i'm the longest serving person that they've had in the 81st. [laughter] >> that's fascinating. that's what i'm doing. i'm vice chair of uso georgia. >> okay. >> i'm on the board of directors of the military association atlanta chapter. >> okay. >> and i think i told you that from 2003 to 2011 we sold the advertising agency in 2003 and when i had to retire from the army, i retired from that. i was offered this position, reserve officer associations, the director of army affairs and ultimately became the executive director and -- >> okay. >> left early to come back to georgia. >> you have a fascinating. you know what impresses me about the story? >> what's that? >> you can remember all the names and all the numbers and i'm going back to my service, i
have a hard time remembering where i was much less the names of people and the all the numbers and all that sort of stuff. you have a -- thank you. thank you from my benefit. i learned tons of stuff just listening to you. >> really? >> like i don't know if i want to read bill o'reilly's book anymore. killing the rising sun. i don't know how much -- you gave me some insight there. is there any questions that you too would like to kick in? >> i have one question. this goes back to your vietnam experience and if you remember. when you first landed, got off the plane, what was your first impression? >> i have to tell you the captain that i met at travis air force base was on the flight with me and he was describing what was going to happen when we got to thompson, the airport in
sygone. they'll do an assault landing. what's an assault landing, they won't come in like this but come in like this. we did an assault landing. we thought that was pretty cool. when i got off the plane, there was this army major and everything behind the wheel throwing up. [laughter] >> i guess kind of tone down a little bit. >> that was -- that was my arrival in vietnam and i had two departures. >> it was a john wayne movie. once you get going you remember these things but i have a hard time remembering the person i worked with -- i have a little contingent over there at the national guard center at davins
that our full-time people and i have a hard time remembering similar names, so -- >> you're good? >> fantastic. >> i think i sold sue -- maybe it was in the e-mail i sent you that i invented a story where i captured that weapon and got hand in hand combat with vc and killed him and i took his weapon away. [laughter] >> yeah, i tell stories too and my wife looks at me and says, that didn't really happen, no, but that's what i wanted it to happen. >> all i wanted to do is come home. you know because you were there. we had the playboy of the month. we created calendar out of that and every day you would color in. >> color in.
>> familiar with those. awful lot of blank spaces when i got there. >> yes. >> okay. >> thank you very much. >> it was my honor. >> thank you for coming. >> weekends bring you the best in american history and nonfiction books, saturday on american history tv, on the presidency. a discussion on the results of c-span's fourth historian survey of presidential leadership with historians richard norton smith, douglas and medford and the survey ranks presidents from best to worst in ten different categories. on lectures in history, turn of the century women journalist such as nelly and dorothy dix faced societal pressure and having a career in journalism. iowa state university professor tracee luke talks about the challenges these pioneering
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