tv Oral Histories Vietnam War Veteran David Bockel CSPAN August 23, 2021 12:07am-1:38am EDT
conducted by the atlanta history center research center. >> born in dallas, 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, in 1952 and i actually grew up from age eight in jacksonville until i left to go to college in 1962. i tend university of alabama. i was in rotc because back in those days you were required any land-grant university to be enrolled in basic rotc the first two years, then the vietnam war broke out all i was in therd there's a lot of talk about the draft really come into play and a lot of folks getting called up and being sent to this place
called vietnam, or vietnam, depending on whether or not you are lyndon johnson. i along with a bunch of my friends enrolled in advance rotc. i graduated in 1966, in may 1966 and after a few months of waiting for my assignment orders i went back to jacksonville, florida, and had a temporary job trying to make a few bucks before i left. in august i received my orders assigned to the 25th infantry division in vietnam. first i had to go to school, nice states army quartermaster school at fort lee virginia. >> before we get into your military, tell us, do you have siblings and tell us about your family. >> okay. my dad was the son of immigrants. my grandfather was from russia. my grandmother was from romania. they emigrated to london england and my dad was born in london
england. they came to the united states. my dad and two of the sisters in 1906 i believe. settled in chicago. my mother born and raised in indiana, family, i could know them very well because when mother and grandfather on that side had passed away when us s old enough to know any better. but they were very soul of the earth middle american folks from south indiana. anyway, i have two older sisters and i had two older half-sisters, my mother had been married prior to marrying my father and the two half-sisters passed away several years ago. they were in the early '90s, if you can believe that. my two living searches, full al-sisi, my oldest sister judy is in atlantic beach florida where she is a retired educator.
my other sister donna lives outside of athens, georgia, but they lived all over the place. they lived a long time in louisiana women brother-in-law was a car dealer and they moved to monroe georgia because my niece stacy, was a schoolteacher in monroe and their son stayed in new orleans and works in automobile business there, so that's pretty much takes care of my siblings. my wife jane is also from jacksonville, florida. she was born in st. petersburg though. her father was an investment banker. we have two children, sarah who are lasting now is smith, born here, piedmont hospital, graduated from public school went to vanderbilt get my son david lives here. he is married to jane.
they have two children. they all range in age. david's oldest, lily, is the oldest of the four. sarah is next with abby and then david has zoe and then sarah has nora and the girls are big pals. sarah lives in savannah. her husband is a college professor at georgia southern, former marine, combat marine, sniper, interesting because people in the army don't necessarily know how to communicate with marines but we do the best we can. >> so you grew up in jacksonville, florida. talk about what you did there, and you're going up. did you have any jobs? >> i'll answer the last one first. it was far away from university of florida that i could get with parents with my parents money.
actually my sister went to university of alabama the window lives in monroe, georgia, and she loved it. i had a lot of friends from alabama who are going to university of alabama, and so 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 i got university of alabama university of alabama was a national champion in football. my whole perspective changed with bear bryant. anyhow, i had a typical childhood, attended public schools. i had a number of different jobs. i think my first job was delivering newspapers, the jacksonville journal which was up in the afternoon newspaper. then i worked at winn-dixie store, worst job i ever had in my life. i was a bag boy, and then i worked in a drugstore and that wasn't a bad job delivering
prescriptions and work stock come things like that. i read electric meters for a while. i worked on -- they reassessed all the households, homes in jacksonville, florida, and i work from the time i graduated from college in may of 1966 into august 1966 reassessing reevaluating homes in jacksonville, florida, for tax purposes. other than that, nothing, i is pretty much an average student. i didn't start excelling in my education and till i was a junior in college and i realized i needed to take it more seriously since it was a draft. and my dad managed a small department store. my mother, housewife her entire, her married life with my dad, although she did manage grocery
stores before, that's what she and my dad met. my dad while a student at northwestern university, he and one of his fraternity brothers i don't a chinese take-out restaurant, and, where my dad used to say that he used to deliver chop suey to john dillinger some on the southside 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 older sister, nephew ricky was 52 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 was his swimming coach at the university of georgia and he's getting ready to retire. my sister donna has come her
oldest is stacy, and next one is todd. todd is one who lives in new orleans and stacy lives in monroe not too far from my sister. that's pretty much my family. >> all right. let's now drift into, so you're in the rotc at the university of alabama and so drift from their into your military experiences. >> it's an interesting saga. i had a good time at rotc. i loved it. i excelled in it. i achieved the rank of cadet colonel, cadet lieutenant colonel, excuse me. commanded of the time. back in those days college rotc was a big deal. not so big anymore because there is not required to have rotc. and then i was, became a distinguished military graduate. with that particular honor you may then apply for a combat arm. i had been assigned to the
quartermaster corps before i became a distinguished military graduate. so this is okay, this is your big chance. you can now become a regular army officer, not a two-year rotc graduate. you can be and a combat arm, infantry armor or artillery, one. and i said, i'll take the quartermaster corps with the two-year program, please. because with the regular army commission was a three-year commitment, and at that time there was a concern that you're going to do more than one tour in vietnam. so i took the research side, and what happened after that is after i came back from vietnam i served the rest of active duty at redstone arsenal alabama, the army really probably thought it would drink themselves a favor by sending it to a post in alabama because it would have to pay a lot of travel. they did know that i was going to be in atlanta that it didn't
matter. it was a great deal. that was the home of the missile school and missile command and that's where they tested all the rockets to send satellites in outer space. it was really a neat place, right before it was time for me to get out my boss called me into his office and he said, bockel, , i've got a deal for y. what's that, sir? i can promote you to captain today. and i said, what do i have to do for that? i said i to go back to vietnam? he said yes. i said, no, i'll stay lieutenant. so left, came to atlanta, got a job with an advertising agency, local advertising agency. was a great job but things, after i'd been there about three years, my boss was getting further and further away from the advertising business and more into investments, a a coe
of radio stations and some real estate, and he brought into another country i thought i was going to be the heir apparent to the advertising agency but he brought in another guy, and so along with another person that i worked with we started david bockel and associates, an advertising agency in 1971, and took a few of our clients with us to get started. and from 1971 until 2003 i owned an advertising agency. we were, as a refer to it, a four agency, a respected respected advertising agency intent. actually we been in business longer than most local advertising agencies. now today most of those local advertising agencies are gone, replaced by regional, national agencies. >> talk about going back to after you went come after you graduated from university of alabama, talk about going into the military and talk about your
vietnam experience. >> okay. well, this is kind of an interesting side story. in that time between my graduation and the time is going on active duty i worked doing this tax assessor deal, and my dad, certain nights, was open late, and on this particular night my mother and i decided that we would go get some auvi q. -- barbecue. we're sitting in the barbecue restaurant and my mother says, well, what would you like to go in the army? what would you like to be? i said boy, i would love to be a wife. she says hawaii? they have an army into why? i said the 25th army division is an ally. we came home and will be got home my mother has me this fat envelope, department of the army, and open and there are my orders. now i've been asleep she'd seen
them, but looking, wendy on the orders everything using military orders before, a lot of gobbledygook but it gets to the bottom and it says, delay in route for lee virginia assignment 25th entry division, apo san francisco 96225, upon arrival in vietnam. report to such and such and such and such. that was how the whole thing started. finish my schooling at fort lee right before christmas of 1966 and left for vietnam. arrived after numerous stops on a c-141. the interesting thing about that is i went out to san francisco. i was supposed to leave from travis air force base and they had with the called mac flights, and they were all commercial
airliners, and what they said is you want to get a pan am flight because they have great food and they show movies and all this kind of stuff. i can't remember how they showed movies though. that one still escapes me. so anyway, and you may remember you had a port call and it had a number on it that was your flight number. they say that the pan am flight. unbeknownst to me when i got there a bunch of guys laying around in this waiting area, travis air force base, all these flights have been canceled because the government did not renew their contract with pan am. so i met this air force captain, and thinking maybe he would know what was going to happen. he says well, he said, we might be here for a while. or they might put us on a military plane, amec flight. and i said, what's that? he said, well, it could either be ac-130 or a c141. i said, what's the difference?
he said c-130 is a prop plane, got four engines, probably take us a while to get the vietnam. and i said, what's c-141? that's a jet kind of like a boeing 707. it's got four got four engine in it. i said, i hope i get lucky deputy says well, he says, if we're lucky people have a seat kit. i said, a seat kit? yeah, that's like airline seats but they face backwards. and it were not lucky they will have straps which is what they used for the guys that out of airplanes. it was a little after midnight that night, and sure enough it was a c-141. got in, had a seat kit in it and we took off. our first stop of all places was hawaii. to get gas, the middle of the night in hawaii. and after that we flew from there to wake island which was
about the size of this room. you landed thank you going to hit the water. you took off hoping you wouldn't hit the water. not much there. and we landed at clark field in the philippines, and from there, and every stop they changed crew. like we had a crew from travis air force base when they can't honolulu, change crews. the crew that was at travis spent the night and then flew back to travis, or they flew onto the next stop which could've been wake island or the philippines. we changed crews all the way over there and i'm thinking this is not bad dude if you're air force pilot flying these c-141 because you are home to a three days a week and the rest of the time you fly for however many hours and then you get the rest of the day off. anyway, the manila flight they flew, there landed at thompson newt, the airport in saigon and it didn't stay on the ground very long.
they turned around and took right back up again, went to minot and spent the night, this, that, and the other. i'll. when it was time for me to, for those of us who in the south part of vietnam, went to a place called and 90th replacement battalion and you waited for your flight, and things had heated up quite a bit. as of right before the tet offensive of 1968, and what would happen is the planes would come in and they would load you on buses and they would drive you to the air air force ba. now what was happening is a lot of times the convoys would get ambushed on the way. so the first thing had 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 person is on thin close the door and they will take off. i mean, they won't stay on the
ground because the vc were launching mortars into the airfields. that was my departure and my arrival in vietnam. i flew other times. i i did have my first ride on ac-130 going to pick up some supplies and tamron bay, which was big debt though, had a passenger a lot of helicopter rides. in fact, my first helicopter ride was kind of funny. second lieutenant just in country, it's almost comical. anyway, my company commander, i have to expand the story a little bit. we had a problem with regards sleeping on the perimeter. so in our area the sport command commander said you need to have somebody ride around every hour to every bunker and make sure that the guards are not asleep.
and also before they come back to their bunker they have to go and place the claymore mines out in the no man's land. now, if remember, claymore mines, they are convex pointing towards any. effective set on the claymore mine this side toward the enemy so you can't screw it up. and then they had a long wire that went back to a charging handle, and what they told you to do is take the charging handle with you when you place the mine so the bumper doesn't squeeze it. i remembered to do that. so every hour on the hour we had to go and check the bunker like to make sure they were not asleep. also we didn't have to do this but sometimes the vc would come and they return the mine around so that when they attack and a
squeeze, they would shoot themselves. anyhow, on this particular night, now the second lieutenants, we were all together in one can't, -- tent. it was this guard duty thing like every couple of days and so you'd be up 36 hours straight before you got any sleep and it was wearing out the folks. so the s2, intelligence guy in the battalion comes to me and he says, look, we're wearing you guys out so when you get off duty at 6 a.m. you can go sit, go to sleep in the rack, in your bed until noon. so i was the first guy. well, along about 7:00 company commander comes in and said, this is what i realized what my real first name was, lieutenant, get your back out of that rack and get over to your duty station. what in hell are you doing into?
i said major godwin told me that since we're all getting word out we could -- know you can't. i'm your commander. he's a staff officer. get out. anyway, he says you're going to the delta, well, mequon delta was kind of a hotspot. what i was supposed to go down there is supposed to evaluate the supply status and all those units down to the mequon delta and those were my first helicopter ride came from. and, therefore, i was supposed to go, this is what i learned to appreciate word officers for their sick since -- six of the few mcguirk were sitting around having a beer and this one old grizzled officer came up and said you got to go to the delta? i said yeah. like that. he said you're going to fly down in that helicopter command-and-control helicopter? yet picky says that's a chinook. yet picky says, you know we're
not too sure if they're shaking apart or if they're getting shot down. so anyway, so i go over to the helipad and then waiting for that chinook, edit and if you ever been and are chinook before, shake rattle and roll and make a lot of noise. so i get in there and there are two door gunners up there by the cockpit, so i'm sitting close to them so i can look and see what they're looking at. we get up and i'm looking, i can also see in the cockpit and i can see the ultimate efficacy were like at 15 feet and unthinking, surely they haven't got a rifle that can shoot 1500 feet and hit something. and so then i start getting accustomed to it. from there i had to go to several different spots, and in one particular case there was a road junction and there is a bunker over there with a couple of guys in it, and i'm supposed to wait for the next cnc
helicopter to take me to the next place. so what did i do? i stood up there on the road junction and a standing there waiting for the helicopter. all of a sudden some gunfire. i run into the muck and there are these two guys laughing. some stability is out there standing in the middle of the road waiting for a helicopter. that was kind of my indoctrination into vietnam as a second lieutenant. i couldn't wait to get promoted to first lieutenant. it took a while. i had to wait until september before i i get promoted to fit lieutenant because being a second lieutenant was one step below a private. and didn't get as much respect. but i learned an awful lot. the folks that i served with, particularly the older officers, were world war ii or korean war veterans, and so a lot of them have been in a lot of combat. the colonels, lieutenant colonels had already paid their dues. they were a lot easier to get along with than the captains, for example, and some of the
majors who have not served in any conflicts, who were in some cases were rotc guys or draftees or just need a job and joined the army. .. from march, february or march of 1967 until may on what was then the largest operation of the war, operation junction city. and that operation involved just about every unit in the southern portion of vietnam. 25th division was the focal point of it. we had elements of the 1st decision, elements of the 4th division, 196th light infantry brigade, we had one vietnamese marine battalion who, side note, they were an airborne unit with
the 173rd, the only combat jump in vietnam that i'm ware of was performed -- that i'm aware of was performed by those two outfits, and it wasn't successful. a lot of equipment scattered all over the area that was supposed to be the drop zone and had soldiers and a marines all over. lay didn't do it -- they didn't do it again. after that, if you couldn't get this there by helicopter, you had to find another way to get there. stayed on that operation. wasn't particularly stressful. the one war trophy if i brought back came from that operation -- >> it was the sword, the rifle -- >> the rifle. chinese communist type 53 caribbean. >> talk about that -- carbine. >> talk about that rifle, where it was. >> well, it was uncovered, one of the things that we uncovered a lot in south vietnam were
tunnels that were dug by the viet cong where they would stage their operations at night. and the 25th division, the tunnel complex under the base camp supposedly was more complicated than the new york subway with system. and right now if you were to go back on one of these junkets, the base camp isn't there, but the tunnels are. and friends of mine who have gone and taken that tour have gone into the tunnel complexes where they had, in addition to having storage facilities and places for them to sleep and eat, they had hospitals down there. and they had weapons caches and ammunition and mortars and all this kind of tough. that rifle was in a cache that was located near there's a mountain that's the only mountain in the southern part of
vietnam. you can see it for miles. it means black virgin, and we had a potential forces out-- special forces outfit on the top of that mountain. but between the top of the mountain and bottom of the mountain was all enemy-held stuff so didn't make any trips up the mountain but made a trip over to the tunnels. the story on that is our support commander, herbert lowe, came out to the support base one day and he said, hey, look, we just uncovered a big tunnel complex, and a bunch -- if you want to take my helicopter and go over and see it, you can. so i jumped in the helicopter. the helicopter was piloted by a warrant officer who could have been 18 years old. and the first lieutenant was the co-pilot. and we flew what they called noe
which was a called nap of the earth. we flew along a road 20 or 30 feet in the air, and every so often the door gunners in the 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, m-60 machine guns, and every so often the guy, the gunner on one side, his gun would hit a tree limb. and when we landed -- i wasn't going to talk to a warrant officer. he was just some kid. so i went over to the first lieutenant and i said, let me ask you a question. was the reason we were flying so low because by the time we got over the vc it was too late for them to shoot at us? he said, yeah. yeah, that makes sense. it's actually pilot had a bet
with the door gunner that he could hit his machine gun with a tree limb. [laughter] anyway, so we went on to this place called french forward, and that's where i got, got the rifle. and it's been, it was with me. and to bring it home, the process, first of all, had to go to the mi unit and get some kind of paperwork, and then you had to take it to the embassy in saigon, and it had to be tagged and all this other stuff. at one point i thought this is a pain, but it's going to be the only war trophy that 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, 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 i was on, and then i donated it to the secretary of
state of georgia who at that time was a guy named ben fordson. and he, on the second floor of the capitol, he had a big weapons collection going back, i don't know, civil war. and i donated it. and i have a document, very official with ribbons on it. anyway, and i just kind of forgot about it. well, several years later i was in the capitol for some reason. i went up and was kind of cruising around looking at the weapons collection, and i'm looking for my rifle. and finally i found it. and it identified it as a chinese communist type 53 carbine, source unknown. well, at that time, max cleveland was the secretary of state, and i sent him a note and i said, i donated this weapon, and it doesn't say who gave it. anyway, he wrote me back, he says i'll take care of it. next time i went up, donated by
captain david bockel. well, then my wife and i about seven or eight years ago -- oh, i was having a meeting with governor perdue, i think, about 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 -- asked somebody, what happened to all the collection? oh, they're in a storage facility in forest park. is so we went to the storage facility in forest pack, -- par, and i said i want my gun back. i produced the document from the secretary of state and the whole deal, and i got the gun back. but i didn't really need it, didn't want it. and then i realized through the atlanta vietnam veterans association and sue that i could donate it to the atlanta history
center for the vietnam collection. so a month or so ago i took the thing out of my gun cabinet, brought it in and left it. [laughter] hopefully never to see it again -- [laughter] except inside a case. i've taken you down a long path -- >> yeah, let's go back, when you were coming back at the end of your vietnam tour. is that your only vietnam tour in. >> 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 called rotation. the soldiers that went over there in the army, i don't know about the other services, it was a one-year tour. at the end of a year, you could go home. so what happened was the 25th infantry 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, basically, swapped soldiers.
not everybody had the same date eligible return from overseas. so they sent me to the 199th light infantry brigade which was in long bend which was, at that time, a saigon security force. we had three battalions, and they were stationed along the mekong delta along the outskirts of saigon, and i was called the material readiness expediter. and what i did, supply system in vietnam was really tragic. it was so bad. [laughter] every unit had a material readiness expediter. what we do, we take a fistful of requisitions, and we go to the depot in saigon. and if we could find what we were looking for in those warehouses, we would inventory them, get what we needed, go back to the stock control place, finish filling out the requisition with the number we took and then tell them how many were left, and that's how they did their inventory control.
so i did that. you'd have thought -- there were things in those, in that depot which was right on the saigon river, i was telling joe a while ago, there were cases of whitewall tire cleaner. i mean, what would happen was the depot in the philippines, they'd just load stuff up and ship it to saigon, to vietnam hoping that somebody could use with it. but it was a bad system. it's gotten a lot better now. used to be you could put in a requisition for something and never see it the entire year you were there. they didn't have this material readiness expediter thing. that's kind of where we were left. i don't believe in coincidences, but a couple of things that are interesting and what a small world it is particularly if you don't believe in coincidences. before i left for vietnam, my sainted late aunt june who lived in chicago sent me a letter and said, david, when your in vietnam, make sure that you look
up lou take -- lou faginburg. he is your cousin -- actually, it was her nephew. i said, aunt june, i doubt if i'll see him. there are 500,000 to service members in vietnam, so that's the odds, 1 in 500,000. when i'm on operation junction city supporting all these units, a guy shows up where my supply point is with a requisition, he's with the 196th light infantry brigade and says faginburg. i said, where are you from in he said, chicago. hi, i'm your cousin. [laughter] i didn't see him again until my dad's 80th, i think it was his 80th birthday in chicago. my aunt june had a party for him, and the lieutenant and his wife were there.
lieutenant faginburg, i think, had gained about 75 pounds and lost a lot of that hair. i would have never recognized him. and then the other thing i was telling joe a little while ago, when -- you remember this combat infusion program was in full force. and when it was time for me to leave, they went to the 1st infantry division and grabbed my college roommate and sent him to the 199th to take my place. they're coincidences. anyhow, so i'm done in vietnam. >> okay. >> and do you want to know what happened when i came back. >> yes. >> i'm assigned for the last six months of my two-year tour to the missile school that's in alabama. >> oh, okay. >> and i think the army thought, well, he's -- went to alabama, that's probably where we ought to send him back to so we don't have to pay so much money, you know? so we sent me like, oh, please
don't throw me that briar patch. tell me that i can get off every day and play golf on that golf coursesome. >> what did you do the? >> i was a material readiness officer. actually, almost my entire military career was spent not in the quartermaster corps, in the ordnance corps. when i was in the 25th division -- [inaudible] when i was in the 199th, worked on the maintenance company. redstone arsenal was a great time, great tour. but one day my boss, colonel -- amazing how i can remember these names, 50 years ago. >> i'm impressed how you're remembering all these names. >> bob shmedell, nice guy. he calls me in his office, bob,
i've got a deal. what's that, sir? i can promote you to captain. what do i have to do? go back to vietnam. i said, sir, i'll stay a first lieutenant, thank you very much. so i left, i came a back to atlanta settled where all my buddies were on buford highway and went to work in this advertising agency. one day i'd been back, this was august of '68. in, like, may of '69 i get a set of orders in the mail. now, they told me at redstone arsenal that because i went to vietnam, i wouldn't have to be in a reserve unit. i get assigned to the 301 quartermaster company in georgia, and i called the guy whose name was on the bottom of the orders. his name was paul barber. at that a time he was a staff
sergeant. a couple years later, he was a captain. and i said, 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 you would do this. so i went to the 303rd quartering master company, and i stayed in the 303rd -- >> this is in rome. >> in rome. went to summer camp. one year we went to camp shelby, mississippi, which was a national guard post. actually, the 199th trained and deployed from camp shelby. they were created at fort benning. anyway, i did that one year active duty at camp shelby, and then the next year annual training was many fort lee, virginia, a place in which i did pretty well. and then i had a friend, 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 located -- [inaudible] and i said, lee, if there is an opportunity for me to come into the headquarters, i'd like to do it because i don't see much value in me going up to rome where i'm just -- you know, they have a bunch of guys coming off active duty. so sure enough, there was a vacancy in the squad division. he was in the g4, the logistics office. and i went to the headquarters, and i stayed there from the time that i was a captain until the time i was a lieutenant colonel. in 1982. and i was selected to command a maintenance battalion in may. corporation georgia,3 52nd. i was assigned back to the -- actually, the training section. and then i was selected for
colonel, and i was sent to sham by to be the commandant of the 32 83rd u.s. army reserve school. and i did e that for a year, two years, and then i was selected to command the 449th area support group. 449th area support group was located right outside the gate at fort gill lam are. interesting thing this guy paul barber who sent me those orders? he was in the 449th field depo. at one time i had a boss who came over to command that outfit, and he says i want you to come with me. i said, no, i'll stay where i am. that's a bad outfit. and then i end up commanding it. [laughter] anyhow, i then am selected for brigadier general, and interestingly enough, i have a friend, his name's ron helmsly
are. at that time he was a colonel, and after i finished my command at forest park, i came back -- this is prior to being selected for brigadier general, and i'm the chief of staff of the 81st. and ron needed a colonel command to be a general. 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 helmly get his command time, and we'll make you chief of staff. so i said, okay. so ron, make a short story long, ron and i -- ron comes back to work at the 81st after the 449th is inactivated, and he goes to work as the head of personnel. and he's doing things that really aren't kosher. going behind my back, this, that and the other. so i sent him a note, and i did it -- i learned this when miller
was governor and he fired the adjutant general of the national guard. >> i remember that. >> he sent a letter through channels to the adjutant general is, i don't even remember who it was at the time, firing him. so i sent a letter through channels so everybody would see it to ron helmly, and i said don't ever go around my back again. anyway, 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 hired him back when i was in the desk log section. but ron was a civilian with, worked at fort pearson, and he was a big civilian -- so he kind of marched to his own drummer. anyhow, i said, ron, you know, 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 brigadier general, now, the way that works is you can't get
promoted until some other brigadier general dice or leaves or something like that -- dies or leaves, and it takes about a year before you get your star. so i'm what they call a colonel promotable. and i'm assigned to a delaware national guard unit that's going to transfer over to 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 of the army reserve has selected me to be his deputy, and i'm getting promoted to brigadier general next week. well, he was being what they call frocked. he wasn't really a brigadier general. he was being frocked so he would have the stars, wear the uniform, but he was still getting paid as a colonel. well, 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, retired. but we became reconnected as
great friends, great buddies. he served as the chief of the army reserve as a lieutenant general, and after after he finished his tours the chief of the army reserve, he then went to -- i think he went to pakistan. i want to say he went to pakistan and worked at the embassy there as a senior attache. nice guy. born and raised in georgia, from savannah. lives now in jackson, georgia now. spends most of his time fishing. when he's not fishing, the atlanta veterans association. vietnam veterans association. anyway, after i was promoted to brigadier general, i am basically taking this delaware national guard command and converting it to an army national reserve command. this is a very important signal command. it has, it had a forward section that operated out of hawaii, out
of honolulu, and then it had a forward element that operated out of seoul, korea. and they provided the theater signal operations for the pacific. basically, the korean peninsula. and i had to train these national guard guys how to speak army reserve. my boss who was a delaware national guard major general kept referring to the reserve center as an armory. sir, we don't have armories, wea reserve center. and i said we don't have a state mission. we only have one mission. and i was reminded of a story about, it's a true story. i had a young lady work for me in the advertising agency whose father commanded the 48th brigade at the georgia national guard, her name was leadership. and one day i said, lynning, do you know the difference between
the army reserve and the national guard? and i knew what she was thinking, i don't know and i don't care, but she said, no, i don't. [laughter] i said, let me tell you. the army reserve is the united states army, it's 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 participant of the united states army -- part of the united states army. oh, okay, that's interesting. anyway, a friend of mine was the adjutant general of georgia, guy by is name of terry necessary bit. and he and i used to go to harry's barbecue. it's not there anymore, but anyway, terry and i were having lunch down there one day, and i said, terry, general what's his name works for me, and i asked her if she knew the difference, and he said, what'd you tell her in i said, i told her that the army reserve and the united states army worked for the president and the national guard
was the state army, worked for the governor unless-federalized. he said, well, it's not right. i said, what do you mean? you're right the army reserve is part of the federal army. national guard is the confederate army. always thought that was good. i think a lot of, a lot of towardsmen in alabama and georgia -- guardsmen in alabama and georgia still think that. [laughter] anyhow, so i go to the central command, 3 11th signal command, was there for a year and a half and was promoted major general and was brought back to atlanta to be the deputy commanding general of the united states army reserve command. i am a, if you will, ima, they had a deputy commanding general. i was the part-teem deputy commanding general. but my second -- i had two jobs. that and i was also the commander of the army reserve readiness command if at fort jackson. i wasn't a traditional reservist. i didn't go to drills really.
i was on active duty, of course, whenever i went someplace, and that was a good assignment. and and i enjoyed that. the readiness command was a great 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 years, and then was a assigned as the commanding general of the 90th regional support command in little rock, arkansas. the 90th regional support command -- army reserve command that was located outside the gates at fort sam houston in san antonio. and what happened was there were 32 army reserve -- 22 army reserve commands, and general max barrett, very close friend of mine, decided we didn't need all that command and control, so he reduced it to ten. and the 90th ar-com went away. the flag moved to little rock
and became the 90th regional support command. and i was the second in command and first to command it. had been the 123rd army reserve command, and so those folks didn't know and didn't care about the 90th. well, the 90th has a storied history from world war i and world war ii, particularly world war ii. they were under patton, in patton's 3rd army. they spent more days in ground combat than any army unit in world war ii. it was an honor to command them. but i had to get all those arkansas people -- >> you still live in the atlanta area when you were doing this? >> yeah. >> okay. >> the 90th covered arkansas, louisiana, texas, oklahoma and new mexico. and they had been under a lot of different ar-coms and so i had to pretty much educate them in the history of the 90th regional support grant. then i connected, right after
i'd been there a few months, i went to, asked to come and speak at the reunion of the 90th infantry division. it was being held, i think, in indianapolis, indiana. i just knew a bunch of old men got with together, 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: to all the -- to at leaders in my command. 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 -- d-day it was, but the people of perrier, france, the peninsula down in normandy, and i don't speak french so we took
my daughter with us, and she turned out to be our interpretationer. anyway -- interpreter. anyway, we went down for the dedication of a monoqume in the center of this little town of perrier. we took three solders of the 90th division who had died in perrier or died in that. >> is that where the water comes from? perrier? >> no. not even spelled the same. i think perrier is spelled with two rs, and in france it's spelled with one. the reunions all of a sudden took on a different flavor. we had reunions. we invited all kinds of great people to come and speak. we had veterans the that hadn't seen each other god nose how long -- knows how long. i don't want to take more time than i'm allot ared here, but there's one gentleman by the name of ed hamilton who kind
of -- ed was a retired lieutenant kohl network medically retired. he was shot in the face in one of the battles after the invasion and lost his eye. he used to wear a patch over his eye. and they called him the one-eyed dragon. [laughter] but e went the that reunion, they told me to look him up. also there was a painting that i saw in the magazine of the 90th division, and one of the actions there at normandy. and i called the agent, the artist's agent, and he said, well, the guy who painted it lives in atlanta. really? rick collins. anyway, i bought a copy, a print, had it framed and hung in the hall at my headquarters. and then rick collins and i became close friends. and ed hamilton, his. [inaudible] , and i became close -- his father-in-law became close
friends. met a guy named jim flowers from right outside of dallas which is where i was born, so we had an affinity there. anyway, -- timeout. >> on camera. >> anyway, jim flowers was a tank commander. he 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 clips and things like that. but it was mostly farmland. and all the farmland was divided into plots. and the way they separated the plots was hedge rows. well, jim flowers brought his tank into one of these fields, was able to break through the hedge row. and his tank was shot by a,
their version of a rocket-propelled grenade. i can't think of the name of it. i'll think of it in a minute. but the bank blew up, 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, hit him in the other leg. he ended up losing both legs. and the guy who he was trying to save ended up dying in his arms. years later in dallas we had a reunion. the guy who saved him who recently passed away -- jim passed away ten years ago. they had not seen each over since that day in 199 44 -- had
not seen each other since that day in 1944. in that reunion that we had, i guess that must have been in 2002, 2001, had not seen each other since then. but that's -- 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 a film, the story of the 90th. and the museum, we were able to secure a lot of money as a result of the army has a program where where with it's a competition for who has the best headquarters. well, we won it one year. and the money that we got, it's like a half million dollars. we built the museum. and this guy that we brought in from louisiana, now works at
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. >> four-star general patton. daughter of two-star general patton. and helen and my wife and my daughter and i have been close ever since. helen has an older sister and three brothers. and one of the brothers, ben with, is a tv producer in new york. and we had ben and helen at one of the reunions. helen lives in france -- well, actually lives in germany now. 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 an itinerant but he authored a book on the history of the pattons, and it's a great book. learned all kinds of things about the patton family that i doubt anybody knows. i'll tell you one of 'em. general patton, george jr., after world war i was sent to hawaii to work in the territorial government. and he brought his wife with him, and they're living -- nothing to do. he becomes an alcoholic. and the mother decides this she's going to invite her niece to come over and stay with them to have some more company. young lady, maybe -- i'm going to guess maybe she's 19, 20 years old. well, george and his duties would go and visit the islands.
he started taking the niece with him. and this is all reported by brother bob. and he has an affair with this niece, and his wife, i think her name's beatrice. i don't know if that's helen's mother -- anyway, his wife sends the niece home. ultimately, the niece commits suicide. kind of a sad story. i now digress into general patton in world war i. he is working for general pershing in el paso as they're chasing pancho villa. and george jr. has an older sister, a spinster, and she comes to visit george jr. in el pass is -- el paso. and she starts having an affair with general pershing. world war i breaks out, and
pershing goes to europe. well, being the camp follower that she is, after a while she goes to europe to find him. he's already taken up with somebody else. [laughter] so she goes back home and lives with the family many california. the family was originally from virginia. in fact, general patton actually went to vmi first because with his grades weren't good enough to get into west point, if then he ultimately got accepted into west point. but he went to vmi. his grandfather went to vmi and fought in the civil war. anyhow, bill o'reilly wrote a book called killing patton. and in it, and i read it, there were some historical information that were not factual. first of all, the first thing was when they talked about patton's sister, they said that she was the one who came to europe, but she committed suicide there. well, that wasn't true, and i knew if it wasn't true.
and then i don't know if you remember, i'm sure you do, what happened to patton. after the war was over with, he was in germany, it was to poland or austria, something like that, and he was in a staff car, and he was in the backseat, and he was hit by an 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 he died in the united states -- anyway, he's buried in the american cemetery in luxembourg. o'reilly in his book says that eisenhower, bradley and marshall all wanted patton killed. nah, i don't believe that. expect truck running into the
car -- and the truck running into the car, he kind of left it open as to -- >> [inaudible] >> there's no record that this accident ever took place. and it leads you to believe that it was done intentionally. well, i'm talking to helen on the phone, and she says i read that, and i tried to get in touch with bill o'reilly to tell him that i have the report of the accident. but he wouldn't take my call. [laughter] so anyhow, so i stopped reading o'reilly's books. [laughter] >> okay. >> anyway, my time in the 90th was the best four years i ever spent in the army. 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 army reserve, active army and national guard generals that develop policy for things having to do with the reserve components. and on september 11th, 2001, this is another one where i don't believe in coincidences. i was at a meeting in the pentagon that day. i have a friend, and i have to digress to get to this point. his name is tim maude. and tim and i served in the 199th light infantry brigade together, and tim was several years younger than me, but he'd gone to ocs when he was, like, 18 years old. and he was a second lieutenant, i was a first lieutenant. but we both pretty much agreed that we had the worst attitudes of any lieutenants in the army. [laughter] he didn't take it, he was very funny. he didn't take too much
seriously, and neither did i. about 1998, i forget how i saw -- i think i saw it in the army times or something that lieutenant general -- no, major general timothy matted, the head of possessor -- maude, the head of personnel for the united states army 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. [laughter] i can't believe that you found me. anyway, and he couldn't believe that i was a general too. we were both major generals. two worst lieutenants in the army. he got his third star when he got to the pentagon. anyway, tim and i communicated
off and on for a couple years, and i met his wife terri, and it -- on september the 10th which was a monday, we have a pre-meeting for the actual -- [inaudible] excuse me. i was living in atlanta, and i was saying in a hotel in arlington, virginia. it was the crown plaza. that's where they put us up. and i was waiting for the band in the crown -- the van of the crown plaza to take me out in front. 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 if active army, came up and we were chatting in this, you know, where are you going, what's going on. and i, my wife calls me on my
cell phone, and i'm talking to her. and about the time that i'm talking to her, tim maude's car drives up, and he gets out. so it's the three of us guys and my wife. and i hand my, the phone to tony, and i said talk to jane for a minute because i'm talking to tim. and tim says, what are you here for, what are you doing. by the way, i'd taken my son when he was a senior in college, my wife and i took him up to d.c., and i took him on my own tour of the pentagon and introduced him to tim maude, went by his office. anyway, so tim and i are chatting, what are you doing. i said, i'm running the r-pick, this, that and the other. anyway, the connection of me and tony and tim maude, tim and i are connected because of vietnam. tony and i are connected because tony was the chief of staff at the army reserve command as a regular army officer when i was the deputy commanding general.
and tony actually worked in one of tim's operations at a family support center over in alexandria. so the three of us were connected for differenting reasons. anyway, so september 11th happens. i'm in a meeting out in the e-ring of the pentagon which is the outside run on corridor sick. the plane comes in -- corridor six. the plane comes in, corridors three, four and five were affected by it, and we evacuate. it's funny, the way -- it's not funny. the way it all went down is it's about 9:00 in the morning, and we were in a little conference room across from the g3 sitting
where the plane went in. so we all evacuated down that way. and as we're going down the long hallway, folks that are down in that direction of corridors three, four and five are coming into that corridor six. and we can, you know, they're in shock, tears, the whole deal. and i'll never forget, i'm walking with another general who was many that meeting with me, a female general, and her name's carol kennedy. i'm trying to walk along with carol because i can see she's visibly upset. but i couldn't, you know, come on, carol. anyway, so i ended up going on while she -- she 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, the park. people go there and have lunch. and that was the first time i
could see outside. and all i could see was billows of yellowish-white smoke. still don't know that it's an airplane, till think it's a bomb. still 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 -- [laughter] that announcement has ever been made since world war ii. and i had my cell phone, and i'm trying to call my wife and i figure, well, it doesn't work around the building. and it -- i get to the escalators that take you up to the south parking lot, and i know there are telephones there. and you've got -- and it used to be that the metro system came into the pentagon, you got out, you went up the escalator, and you were in the pentagon. there were no trains running in there. i was thinking, if i can just
get on the train, i can go back to crystal city and go to that crown plaza. but anyway, so i'm at the escalators, and i'm waiting to see if anybody's coming back down because if people are coming back down, must mean that there's something else going on up there. well, nobody was coming down, so i got on the escalator, and my phone didn't work. so there are a bank of telephone booths. i went in the telephone booth, and i was going to call the 1-800 number i had, my headquarters in little rock. and i couldn't make the call. so i ended up walking back to the crown plaza to hotel. i stopped at one point, and this was a reporter, a tv reporter, and he saw that i was in uniform and that i was coming from the pentagon, and he said do you know what happened. and i said, i assume a bomb went off. he says, no, an airplane flew into it. he said it was like a cessna
citation. [laughter] but anyway, made my way back to the crown plaza, and people were all huddled around the tv at the bar. and there was a guy named ralph shaw who was a civilian who worked for the army reserve office, and i, i made some comment -- i don't know how we got off of the subject of tim maude, but i mentioned that i saw tony yesterday with tim maude. and he said, he's dead. i said, who's dead? tim maude. airplane flew in his window. and i was stunned. and the other thing was tony and i had a conversation later on, he says 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, very strange. anyway, that was a difficult time. i was able finally to get true to my office -- 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. what was interesting was 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 of. i think he's in the pentagon and this person, carolyn babcock, said, no, i think he's there over there in a meeting at crystal city, so jane stopped worrying until my assistant betty called. and betty was in tears. and that was when she got, was introduced to ultimate surprise. it was a strange day. it was a chamber of commerce day. the sky was beautiful blue. it was maybe 70 degrees. there was nothing to do. i mean, it's in the afternoon.
so a bunch of us went out and ranch and there's -- and ranch and you're familiar, there's a trail that runs along the river by the airport, and that's what we did. you couldn't get -- no planes leaving, couldn't rent a car. you were stuck. and some of the guys that were in that meeting, national guard guys, had their own airplanes, and they were parked at andrews air force base, so they got to go home. >> how long were you there? >> i'm sorry? >> how long were you there in washington? >> well, what happened was the next morning -- i couldn't sleep that night. >> i can understand. >> the next morning i'm thinking, i gotta get out of here. so i called the hertz number, and i was a gold club member. and they said the hertz office downtown d.c., we can reserve a car for you there. so i said, fine. reserve the car. so 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, yeah. he says, are you going south? i said, yeah. he says, can i ride with you? i said, sure, you know? so i went over and i stood in line to get the car. what was really interesting was there's a big limousine pulls up, a stretch limousine. this guy runs in, he's got a couple guys waiting, okay, i got it. this guy, for $1,000, is going to drive us to west palm beach. and we just have have to figure out how we're going to pay him. and i said is, let me ask you a question. can you go, instead of going down i-95, could you go down i-85 and drop me off in atlanta? no, no, too much out of the way. [laughter] so i got my car, i trove back and i picked this -- i drove back and i picked this guy up. eric -- i've got to remember eric's last name.
i'll remember it in a minute. he was an air national guard colonel from mississippi, and he was up at a meeting, but he was a full-time guy in the air national guard. he flew out of the columbus air force base. and i said, eric, i'm only going to atlanta. he says, it's okay, you know? if head south, maybe the a airport will be open by then, something like that, maybe i can rent a car, whatever. so we drove to atlanta. we left at 1:00 in the afternoon, got in about 11 at night. >> yep. >> and glad to be there. i said, eric, there is 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 or 8:00 --? >> seven in the morning. >> he says, that's good. i can get my wife to to come and pick me up. it didn't go clue columbus --
>> hattiesburg with, somewhere in that area. >> 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 friends who was in alabama with me. [laughter] anyway, more of those no coincidences stuff. >> yes. >> eric, the interesting thing about eric is i'm jewish. eric converted to judaism. very unusual. anyway, i didn't see eric -- we communicated a little bit at first. but then eric knew that i was working in d.c.. and i got a call, i was the executive director of the reserve officers association in d.c. we went up there in 2003 til 2011. and it's about time for me to leave. i'd resigned, was going to come back, i was going to work in the governor's office. and eric said i want you to come to my retirement.
i said, what are you retiring from? he said is i work here at the pentagon, i'm a major general in the air force, and i'm retiring. i want you to come to my retirement. i said, eric, i'm going to be all the way to atlanta. he says come on over to the air force mess, and we'll have lunch. and so that's what we did. and it was neat to see him again. he'd made it to major general, and it was time for him to retire. one thing he told me though is the reason he was in such a hurry to get back from d.c. to mississippi on september the 12th, whatever the heck it was, is he was supposed to take a c-141 to the asores. he needed to make that flight. i'm thinking, asores, that's at the beach, isn't it? [laughter] >> we all have memories of what happens then. my daughter got married that next saturday here in the atlanta area.
>> yeah. >> and it was quite a challenge to figure out, because half of the people who said they weren't coming to the wedding because they were traveling, and half the people that were going to come to the wedding couldn't come to the wedding, so it was an interesting time for many of us. >> well, 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. >> oh, i can imagine there were too. >> boy, when they shut down washington national, i mean, i could have walked to my plane from where i was staying. >> planes weren't going anywhere. >> couldn't get anywhere. so i feel very fortunate i was able to rent a car. i hated that drive can. it was a 10, 11-hour drive -- >> yep. >> but i was never happier to be on the road -- >> be on the road. >> i wouldn't even let eric drive. i hadn't had any if sleep. >> but you could drive.
>> i wasn't going to sleep. so that's kind of the end of my military career. >> okay, okay. well, that's not too long ago. >> yeah. and then i came back in october of 2011. i was the secretary of the navy, a guy by the name of will ball, to be their guy in d.c., and will was working through a lobbying firm called hurt norton, and they kind of operate there. they put out those -- the problem with the military affairs coordinating committee, it was an ad hoc organization
made up 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 not a pleasant job. after that i went to work in the governor's office, work force development doing veterans programs. and then they moved that to economic development. and then somebody, and i think it wases chris carr who was the commissioner at the time, he's now attorney general -- >> right. >> -- he said what are we doing veterans hiring in economic development? it belongs over in department of labor. so it's time to retire, i'm 70 years old -- [laughter] >> so what was
the chief of staff for, that i had served in from 1968 until i went to that signal command. and they, when they con sol dated all those ar-cons, they went from 22 to 10, they moved it to birmingham. and then they consolidated all of those down to, like, four, and they moved the 81st to fort jackson which is where it was created in the first
rising sun. >> i did not read -- >> i don't know how much that was -- okay. but you gave me some insight there. is there any questions that you two would like to kick in? >> i have one question. this goes back to vietnam. if you remember. when you first landed, what was your first impression? >> the captain was describing what was going to happen when we got to the airport in sigh began. she says -- saigon. he says, they'll do an assault landing. what's that? they won't come in like this, they'll come in like this. [laughter] we did an assault landing. we thought that was pretty cool. and when i got off the plane, there was this army major, looked all spiffy and everything behind the wheel throwing up. [laughter]
>> i guess his by finesse -- spiffiness kind of toned down. >> that was my arrival in vietnam. by departure -- i had two departures on r&r. i went to hawaii and flew on that pan-am plane. had a steak, it was great. >> oh, my. [laughter] >> it was a john wayne movie. i don't remember which one, but you talk about remembering names and stuff like that, once you get going, you remember these things. i have a hard time remembering the names of the people i work with. i have a little contingent over at the national guard service, full time esgr people, and i have a hard time remembering some of their names. [inaudible conversations] >> thank you. you were fantastic. >> i think i told sue, if i didn't tell you, i told somebody -- maybe it was in the e-mail i sent you that i invented a story where i captured that weapon.
i got into hand to hand combat with a vc and killed him and i took his weapon away -- [laughter] >> yeah, i tell stories too. my wife lookeds at me -- looks at me and says that didn't really happen, did it? no, but that's what i wanted it the happen, that way. >> all i wanted to do was come home. and you know because you were there, we had the playboy of the month foldout? we created a 365-square calendar out of that, and every day you would color in concern. [laughter] >> got through it. >> on the calendar. had an awful lot of blank spaces in it when i got there. >> all right. well, thank you very much. >> okay. it was my honor. thank you. >> thank you. c-span.org/histor.