The 15th Almost Had Them
It turns out that just before the 15th CEB shipped from Ft. Riley to Vietnam an assigned unit was transferred and did not deploy with the unit.
The following was recently sent to me by Dr. Robert L. Price (Baptist Minister in Texas for the past 20 years). Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
As a college graduate from University of Kentucky with two degrees in Mechanical Engineering, my 201 File was "tagged" when I went through the basic Officer Engineering School at Fort Belvoir Virginia in January of 1966. After I graduated I was told that they were not going to assign me to a unit but there was another school they wanted me to attend. I had been working for Pratt and Whitney Aircraft in West Palm Beach Florida just before I came on active duty and had a "top secret" clearance. I was informed by the Army that the school they were going to send me to required that clearance.
The school was for the operation and deployment of an ADM (Atomic Demolition Munition). During schooling I learned that "on paper" there was to be an ADM Unit assigned to every Infantry Division through it's Engineering Battalion.
This munition was definitely the "mushroom cloud" type. The destruction capability was devastating. It was about the size of a "steamer trunk" and had the capability of being dropped with a couple of men from a plane. They would position the munition at the appropriate place and then I could detonate it from miles away (hopefully up-wind of the target site.) This munition was not intended for "killing" but was intended for destruction of land and property. We could divert a river and wipe out a town or village. We could completely collapse a mountain or close a gap. Again with the atomic mushroom cloud capability, the destruction could be quite staggering
After graduation from that school in the spring of 1966 I was assigned to the 15th Engineer Battalion which was part of the 9th Division that was being reactivated and thus to be deployed in the Mekong Delta in Viet Nam.
My unit (which had been hand picked) was awaiting me when I got to Ft. Riley. We immediately began the necessary training to become "ready" for combat. We became completely equipped for "life" in the Mekong Delta. Most of my input and direction came from Division level and not through my Brigade commander. Although I was only a 1st Lt. most of my communication was via a high ranking officer. Most "junior" officers did not have the security clearance to be able to direct or communicate with us.
We had been issued everything for combat and were ready to be deployed with the 9th Division. The shipping date was set and we were all waiting on ready. Approximately 3 weeks before deployment, I received orders from Washington--straight out of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara's office-- that my unit (The ADM Platoon of the 15th Engineer Battalion) was to be immediately reassigned to the 31st Engineer Battalion in Ft. Bliss Texas. The bottom line was that the 9th Division was one ---if not the first unit---to be sent into the Delta and McNamara was not convinced that we would be able to "hold a line." He was adamant about not allowing "Charlie" to get this munition and thus turn it against our own men. So adamant, that we never deployed this munition (to my knowledge) during the Viet Nam War.
Thus, my ADM platoon....all my men, equipment, and munitions were quickly shipped to Ft. Bliss. It turned out that the 31st Engineer Battalion was also gearing up for deployment. We went through the same training and preparation again and the same thing happened. Approximately 3 weeks before deployment, I got orders again from McNamara and my unit was "pulled" and we stayed in Ft. Bliss. Therefore, I spent two years training and getting ready to go to Viet Nam and never made it.
Richard, as I look back on all of this, I get quite melancholy. You see, I know now that there was a great possibility that my unit could have made a significant difference in the longevity of the war. We spent almost "every day" bombing the main supply line from the north --Ho-Chei-Mein (?) Trail--with B-52's. However, "Charlie" could dig out of that in just a matter of days. I tell you with a few strategically placed ADM's I would have been able complexly close that artery. We're not just talking about holes in the ground from the B-52 bombing---but such devastation that travel would be impossible.
Well, I've never really sat down and put this story together before. Your e-mail sure brought back memories and I went to the 15th web-site and experienced an unusual emotional pull.
I'll be 60 this summer. After the Army, I went back to P&WA and assisted in designing the controls for the F-14 and F-15. I hold a patent for part of the control system on the SR-71 commonly known as the "Black Bird"----the highest flying and fastest flying plane ever built.
When I went past 30 years...I really began to question a lot of things. The bottom line is that in the spring of 1972, I became a Christian. I left engineering and brought my family to Texas. I enrolled at SouthWestern Baptist Theological Seminary and got another Masters degree---this time in theology. I have since received a Doctors degree also. I'm a pastor and have been at my current church for 20 years.
Richard, my dad served in World War II and my older brother was a Nike Base Commander during the "cold war." I get tears in my eyes when the Star Spangled Banner is played and feel honored to have served my country.
Well, I'm sure this wasn't what you had in mind when you mentioned a "side-bar" in your e-mail. However, when I got started...it just seemed I needed to do this. I plan on making a copy of this e-mail and giving it to my grown children...they've never heard this story.
Thanks for the push.......
Dr. Bob Price