Articles compiled by Steve Milbourn, VFW
Puckett’s 3 Bn., 506th Infantry, 101st Airborne
was in Viet Cong’s Crow Foot Mountains
As an infantryman in the bush, the daily grind consisted of cleaning your weapon, making sure you had ammo and the other items needed to make it through the day as well as search and destroy missions. Showers and baths were all but non-existent and especially in the jungles of South Vietnam.
Sgt. Gail K. (G.K.) Puckett’s time in Vietnam was with Company C, 3rd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry, 101st Airborne Division. He served in 1969 and 1970. In April 1970 his company was assigned to the Crow’s Foot Mountain area which had been held by the Viet Cong (VC) for years before the U.S. intervened.
Puckett who was from Fairfield, Ill. was sent to Ft. Leonard Wood for basic Training and on to Ft. Lewis Washington for his infantry training. After arriving in Vietnam his battalion continued finding small caches of weapons, ammunition and even recent graves of North Vietnamese regulars. Incoming mortar rounds were regular each evening causing harassment rather than killing many soldiers.
After being in the field for two weeks, Puckett’s platoon persuaded his platoon leader, a lieutenant, to take a bath in a stream near the base of a mountain. Each squad from the platoon took turns bathing while the others waited patiently on guard for enemy soldiers. Puckett’s squad went last in the rotation. As his squad was taking a bath, a U.S. Air Force jet flew over their position. The jet came back around and made a second pass over their position.
As they were getting out of the water to gather their clothes and equipment the jet flew over for the third time. “This time (the jet) was moving faster and lower”, Puckett said. “On this run he dropped napalm and it exploded on impact, dropping flames all around us” he stated. The trees at the stream’s edge blocked much of the flames. No one was burned, however one soldier cut his foot on a rock as they were all running away from the napalm.
The incident ended when the young lieutenant got on the radio and tried to call off the jet. The jet did make two additional passes over the area. Puckett remarked, “Just another day in Vietnam”.
Commander has overseen Bingo each Wednesday at VFW for last six years
Nearly every Wednesday throughout the year you will find Bill Clark, outgoing Commander at VFW 5864 in the banquet room with the bingo volunteers. Clark remarked, “I have been doing bingo about six years and I really enjoy our crowd. We have fun”. He is completing his second term as Commander of VFW Post 5864.
Clark served on the U.S.S. Saratoga aircraft carrier CV-60 from November 1971 until March 1973. He worked on the flight deck and served in the waters off Vietnam from May of 1972 until February 1973. The sailors were on a 28-day rotation, however, their first rotation was 58 days to allow some of the other ships in the area to stand down and get some needed rest. While stationed on the ship they visited Singapore, Hong Kong and the Philippines.
Recently at a District meeting in Brazil, Indiana Bill accepted the U. G. Stewart award on behalf of the Post. The award is a “travelling trophy” and is presented to the best all-around Post in District 7 annually.
During the month of May Bill works at the Indianapolis 500 as a “yellow shirt” to assist the public on the grounds. He is also busy five days a week working as a maintenance man at the Indiana School for the Deaf near the fairgrounds in Indianapolis. Lastly Bill recently earned a “white hat” for his role in being one of the best Commanders in the State of Indiana. He has been named as the Chairman of the Teacher of the Year Award for 2013-2014 by incoming Dept. Commander Greg Baker.
Although Bill’s term as Commander of the Greenwood Post has concluded after two years, he is continuing to help the VFW in other ways.
Former WW-II prisoner of war
remembers capture by Germans
Purple Heart recipient, Ewing Franklin Napier was drafted into the U.S. Army just three days shy of his 21st birthday, on Sept. 19, 1943. From fighting in the Battle of the Bulge to being captured as a Prisoner of War (POW), nothing could have prepared the Kentucky native, who had moved to Indianapolis in 1941, for the experiences he would have during the second world war.
Napier spent 15 months in the United States training for combat duty overseas, learning to fire an automatic rifle, survival techniques and hand-to-hand combat as well as other infantry techniques. Napier was an Expert Marksman. He served with the 179th Infantry Regiment which was attached to the 45th Infantry Division. His division began the war in Italy and moved westward by ship to the shores of Normandy in Southern France where he landed on July 15, 1944. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and on the hills and in valleys throughout France. Little did PFC Napier know that 138 days later he would become a POW and be placed in a German POW camp near the German-Czechoslovakian border. The camp, Stalag 4b Muhlberg Sachsen 51-13 was home to over 8,400 soldiers and civilians through the years.
Although he was released on May 30, 1945, his six months of grueling captivity, slave-labor work and starvation took him from 179 pounds to a mere 119 pounds. Napier says, “From the prison camp we walked 6 miles to and from our work area every day. Our job was to clear train tracks of snow so the Germans could resupply their troops in the European Theatre of operation. The railroad tracks were at the bottom of a mountain and strong winds and snows would pile the snow up as high as six to eight feet over night and we would be moving snow from the same area day after day.” He said the American soldiers weren’t equipped with the proper clothing to handle the extreme cold and harsh winters. Breakfast consisted of a piece of bread, there was no lunch and supper was a bowl of soup after returning to the POW camp. They worked 10 to 12 hours daily.
“One night we were all hauled off to large barns and locked inside and told not to open the doors nor leave the area,” Napier says. “At the break of day on May 30, 1945 I went to the barn door and slowly pushed it open, and a few people in the area said the war was over.” The prisoners marched night and day to get to Prague, Czechoslovakia. They were then transported by U.S. Air Force C-119’s to France where they were taken to a hospital and checked out. A ship took the soldiers to Norfolk, Va. and Napier was sent home on a 75-day furlough. He was given a 15-day extension and then reported to Ft. Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis to complete his time in the military.
He is also the recipient of the Combat Infantry Badge, American Theater Ribbon, European Theatre of Operations Ribbon with one bronze star, Good Conduct Medal and the World War Victory Medal.
Napier worked at General Motors and Allison in Indianapolis prior to his retirement. His wife Dean and he were proud parents of a son, Jeffery; and two daughters. The daughters, Linda Napier Wilson and Sharon Napier Riggles survive. At 90 years of age he enjoys going out to eat and an occasional trip to a home he owns in Scottsville, Ky.
He is a member of Greenwood VFW Post 5864 and the Disabled American Veterans.
Hudson receives Purple Heart
for wounds during Vietnam tour
Bobby Hudson, a Center Grove High School graduate was drafted right out of high school in 1966.
After his Basic and Advanced Individual Training (AIT) at Fort Hood, Texas he was transferred to the 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Armored Division, Troop B. Hudson had trained in armor (M-48A1 tanks).
Upon completion of his AIT training he was sent to Vietnam in Sept. of 1967 until Aug. of 1968.
He was a PFC E-3 and a loader on tanks the first three months of his tour, then he promoted to driver of a tank. After that he was made a gunner. Hudson served in Chu Lai and Tam Ky, South Vietnam.
Once he was promoted to Spec.-5 in May 1968 he was the tank commander.
A North Vietnamese mortar round struck near the tank he was in on March 9, 1968 and he received a Purple Heart for facial wounds. Hudson’s tour of duty ended in Vietnam in August 1968 and he returned to Greenwood.
Chaplain helps soldiers find solace in Bosnia and Afghanistan conflicts
Rick Ebb began his military career in 1977 after graduating from high school in Waupun, Wisconsin. During his Basic Training stint he volunteered to become a paratrooper and spent the next four years in the 82nd Airborne Division.
Although never being deployed during that part of his military service, Rick’s unit was alerted twice; once to put down an uprising in Zaire in 1978 and again in 1979 when the U.S. Embassy was over-taken over in Iran. Following his tour with the 82nd, Rick enrolled in college in Wisconsin. He attended the Wisconsin Military Academy’s Officer Candidate School and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in 1983. Ebb spent the next 14 years as an Armor officer in the United States Army Reserves in Wisconsin.
In 1999 he graduated from seminary and joined the Indiana Army National Guard as a Chaplain. In 2004 Chaplain Ebb deployed with the Indiana National Guard to Bosnia as a part of the Stabilization Forces. Following that deployment he was sent immediately to Afghanistan where he provided ministry to forward bases returning to the United States in July of 2005.
In 2006 he again returned to Afghanistan as the Base Chaplain at Bagram Airfield as the major staging base in the country. Upon return from overseas duty Chaplain Ebb became the Installation Chaplain for Camp Atterbury, south of Indianapolis, supervising the religious support for thousands of Guard and Reserve soldiers heading to Iraq or Afghanistan.
Rick joined Greenwood VFW Post 5864 in 2008. Ever since he was a small child he had always wanted to be a member of a veterans’ organization. Seeing veterans handing out ‘Buddy Poppies’ in front of stores on Memorial and Veterans Day always had a strong impact on him. His grandfather served in World War I as an aerial photographer and later became a Post Commander of his local American Legion Post. Becoming a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars has been an honor to Rick as he sees himself following in the footsteps of his grandfather, father, uncles, and cousins.
Vietnam vets celebrate 58 years of friendship
Steve Milbourn and Danny Wilson met in the late summer of 1955 just before they entered Public School 27 in Indianapolis. Steve was going into the fourth grade and Danny was entering the third grade.
The two young men walked about seven blocks to school each morning, home for lunch, back to school and then home again. Their time together consisted of playing cowboys and Indians and soldiers in the Army. When the other neighborhood kids came out – basketball, football and baseball were on the venue.
In 1963 when he was a freshman at Tech High School, Danny’s mother was involved in a terrible accident while visiting relatives in Kentucky and Danny and his sisters moved there. Steve’s family had moved to 79th and White River Dr., but the two found the means and time to see each other before Danny left for Kentucky. Steve then moved just over the state line into Illinois where his family had originally came from. The next summer Danny would start his senior year and Steve had graduated. Danny decided to join the U.S. Army in June 1964 and Steve followed suit in December of the same year.
Both met up in Danny’s hometown of Glasgow, Ky. near Christmas 1964. Neither would see the other nor know what each had done until June 1966 when Danny was sent to Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division and was based at Phan Rang. Steve was already there having arrived in April of the same year. Danny’s tour ended in August 1967 and Steve had extended his tour to October 1967. Both returned to Indianapolis after their military service.
Upon arriving “in country” both took a refresher course which was around two weeks long to get acclimated to the heat and the new M-16 rifles. They even learned some Vietnamese. The first several months they pulled guard duty around the base in sand-bag bunkers. The North Vietnamese would shoot mortar rounds most of the night from a hill on the other side of the base to keep us awake. In addition, they helped clear the perimeter around the base, walked patrol and travelled in convoys on numerous occasions hauling supplies and ammunition to forward operating bases.
In December 1966 both men made a non-combat parachute jump in Kontum Province with the 327th Infantry of the 101st Airborne. Being young and impressionable, neither knew what to expect. They had never endured not taking a shower for over two weeks, eating cold food out of cans, getting mail once or twice a month and the extreme heat. During their tour they also spent time in Con Thien, Cu Chi, Chu Lai and Nha Trang.
Danny returned home to marry as did Steve and the two couples ended up living in Greentree Apartments on S. Madison Ave. In 1969 Danny and wife Linda Napier purchased a home in Greenwood and Steve and his wife bought a small house in New Whiteland. Steve moved to the Columbus, Ohio area a couple of years later, but still made several trips a year back to visit his friend. Danny was blessed with two sons and Steve has three daughters.
In April 2012, Steve and Patti found a condo next door to his old friend Danny, bought it and moved in late December. Now the two see each other almost daily as they did when they were much younger.
Clandestine “Black Ops” group operated in
North, South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia
Although 19-year-old Hoosier Steven H. Keever had no idea of what to expect when he joined the U.S. Army, he knew he would probably be “in the thick of it.” He was specially trained as a Special Forces (Green Beret) soldier and was airborne qualified and subsequently sent to South Vietnam to be a part of the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observation Group (MACV-SOG). The group was a highly classified, multi-service United States special operations unit which conducted covert and unconventional warfare operations prior to and during the Vietnam War.
Established on Jan. 24, 1964, the unit conducted strategic reconnaissance missions in South Vietnam, the North Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia; carried out the capture of enemy prisoners, rescued downed pilots, and conducted rescue operations to retrieve prisoners of war throughout Southeast Asia; and conducted clandestine agent team activities and psychological operations.
The Special Operations Group was controlled by the Special Assistant for Counterinsurgency and Special Activities (SACSA) and his staff at the Pentagon. This command arrangement through SACSA allowed tight control (up to the presidential level) of the scope and scale of the organization’s operations. The mission of the organization was “to execute an intensified program of harassment, diversion, political pressure, capture of prisoners, physical destruction, acquisition of intelligence, generation of propaganda, and diversion of resources, against North Vietnam.”
The unit participated in most of the significant campaigns of the Vietnam War, including the Gulf of Tonkin incident which precipitated increased American involvement, Operation Steel Tiger, Operation Tiger Hound, the Tet Offensive, Operation Commando Hunt, the Cambodian Campaign, Operation Lam Son 719, and the Easter Offensive. The unit was formally disbanded and replaced by the Strategic Technical Directorate Assistance Team 158 on 1 May 1972.
In Oct. 1967, MACV-SOG had 275 U.S. personnel and 7,615 South Vietnamese personnel. According to one study, MACV-SOG achieved a 100-1 kill ratio. In nine years of fighting, 163 MACV-SOG personnel were killed.
By the end of 1969, SOG was authorized 394 U.S. personnel and a support contingency of over 10,000 military and civilian personnel either assigned to or working for MACV-SOG. Keever was assigned to Recon Team Illinois at Forward Operating Base 2 and Command and Control Central 351 with their headquarters in Kontum Province, South Vietnam. He was one of 38 team members in 1970 and 1971.
He stayed on that team until March 1971 when he was reassigned to the Launch Site as a Covey Rider. Keever was the team leader from May 1970 to March 1971. Covey Riders rode back seat of Air Force piloted planes as a Forward Airborne Controller to provide communication and air support to recon teams and hatchet force elements on the ground in Laos. Keever left Vietnam in August 1971.
He is a member of Greenwood VFW Post 5864 and serves as Chairman of the House Committee.
Civil War Encampment
Take a step back in time to 1863. Our country was in the midst of the Civil War and the future of our fledgling nation was at stake. To experience what life was like during that historic period, come out to Greenwood VFW Post 5864 on the weekend of June 28 through the 30. In conjunction with Greenwood’s Freedom Festival, the Greenwood VFW at 333 S. Washington St. (behind the Bureau of Motor Vehicles) will host its second annual Civil War encampment featuring units of the 44th Tennessee, 4th Virginia, 42nd Indiana, 19th Indiana plus a U.S. Army Medical unit.
The festival begins on Friday night when the Civil War re-enactors will present historical music and period comedy at the Post. For those who are history buffs, this is a great opportunity to hear and experience the life of a Civil War soldier through music and entertainment. The festivities continue all day Saturday where spectators can stroll among Civil War tent sites and speak with members portraying historic individuals.
The goal of a Civil War re-enactor is to experience the 19th century soldier’s lifestyle. The majority of units attend one or two re-enactments or encampments a month during the season which begins around April and continues until October. In addition to re-enactments, groups and individuals provide educational presentations at schools and community events. Most units try to attend at least one national event where re-enactors from all over the world participate. The units that will be participating in this year’s Freedom Festival come from Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg and many re-enactors will be celebrating in Pennsylvania.
At re-enactments you only see history – modern items are hidden. Re-enactors eat the same food the Civil War soldiers did, wear the same wool uniforms, shoes, weapons and gear. Equipment is all reproduced from the original equipment. Uniforms are based on original patterns. Most often they are purchased but may be custom made after research of the unit the re-enactor chooses to portray. Everything they use is real during the re-enactment – except no bullets. You will see the difference in material used in the eastern forces verses the west. For example, many western troops wore wide brim hats – they were farm boys and they knew how to keep the sun off their faces. Medical surgeons use replicated instruments and reenact medical activities just as they occurred on or off the battlefield. This year’s encampment will include a surgeon’s tent where people will be able to witness recreations of medical procedures.
Civil War re-enacting is a family hobby. Many of the wives and children are involved in re-enactments but as civilians. They wear period costumes and only do things that people in the 19th century would do. That means no electronic devices for the kids. To entertain themselves they can only use what children would have played with 150 years ago.
The Civil War event at the VFW is free and open to the public. In addition to the displays, the VFW Ladies Auxiliary will be hosting their annual Fish Fry.
A soldier’s remembrance of Martha “Col. Maggie” Raye
Many soldiers had the privilege of meeting Martha Raye, or Col. Maggie as she was known to Special Forces soldiers, during the Thanksgiving weekend of 1970. The location was an obscure forward launch site known as Dak To, South Vietnam. This site was used as a departure point for reconnaissance teams to be transported by helicopter to various locations within enemy territory to perform a variety of missions of intelligence gathering nature. At any given time there were only a handful of personnel at this location: only a team to provide security and assistance when necessary, other teams ready to insert or which had been extracted from their mission and the helicopter pilots who supplied the transportation.
That particular week had been uneventful due to the monsoon climate having the entire area immersed in clouds and rain. An accommodating commander had a helicopter “low level” underneath the clouds along a highway to ensure the team received a hot, traditional Thanksgiving Day meal. The following day brought the departure of the rain and the resumption of normal operations. The rain during the week also suppressed the activities of the North Vietnamese Army but with good weather the pursuit of locating our teams escalated. By Saturday their efforts had proved successful. A number of teams were in trouble and requiring air support assistance. For those involved, it was a highly intense situation.
Unbeknown to the soldiers, Col. Maggie had come to the base compound to do what she did best, provide entertainment and moral support to those troops she so dearly loved. She had come without fanfare or ostentatious entourage. Upon learning of the heightened activities at Dak To, and disregarding any personal safety considerations, she arranged for a helicopter to take her to see the action first hand. She arrived to find the Special Forces team of two other Americans and five Montagnards preparing for insertion to assist a team which was in enemy contact, had an American killed and other team members wounded and was having difficulty defending itself while retrieving the body. Without reservation or question she offered her assistance and support wherever needed. This elegant lady was quite a novelty to those indigenous team members with whom she had no commonality of language or culture. She lifted their spirits and lessened their fears in true vaudevillian fashion.
Col. Maggie stayed around a few days. She participated in the memorial remembrance of a fallen comrade and hurt as we did when a fellow warrior had given his life in the performance of his duty. She lived and socialized among us soldiers because she was one of us.
Her lifetime of service to our country’s veterans was duly recognized when she was awarded the Medal of Freedom. For all those who had experienced her love and camaraderie, it was an accolade long overdue.
We will miss you Col. Maggie. You were one sweet lady!
-Steven H. Keever, Greenwood