COL Timothy Donovan, NU 1962, Oral History Interview
October 22, 2013
Sullivan Museum and History Center, Norwich University
Interviewed by Jennifer K. Payne
Transcribed by C.T. Haywood, December 19, 2014
JP: This is Jennifer Payne with the Norwich Voices Oral History Project. Today'sdate is Wednesday, October 2, 2013, and I am with Colonel Timothy Donovan. Welcome, Colonel Donovan.
TD: Thank you, Jennifer
JP: Let's start with some basic biographical information. Um what class are you?
TD: Class of 1962
JP: And how old are you?
JP: And where were you born?
TD: Bristol, Connecticut
JP: Okay, uh, did you have a nickname when you were at Norwich?
TD: Ah Timmy.
TF: Yup. [pause] And they still call me that. President Schneider still calls methat [both laugh]
JP: That's great, um what made you decide to choose Norwich?
TD: Ah. Well that's kind of a funny story [chair creaks and pauses]. When I wasyounger, a young teen, my brother Bob lived in New London, Connecticut, next to the Coast Guard Academy. So when I would visit him I'd look from the balcony of his house onto the Coast Guard Academy and look out on the Thames River and see the, the Coast Guard barque Eagle, and that's where I really want to go to school. So one thing lead to another. I applied to the Coast Guard Academy, was provisionally accepted. I was also accepted at, ah, Yale, and Purdue 'cause I really wanted to be an engineer and one thing and another. To make a long story short, when I took the physical for the Coast Guard Academy they found out that I had a calcium deposit on my heel that was a result of from an injury when I was like six-years-old, something like that, and the Coast Guard determined that I could not wear service shoes and therefore would not be accepted. So I went back to my high school guidance counselor and he said "Well," he said, "With your grades and all you could probably, ah, go to West Point or" and that was about the only option at the time or Annapolis, and I said "I want nothing to do with those federal academies." He said, "Well there's a military college in Vermont." I said, "Vermont?" because I skied. We used to spend two weeks every summer at my cousin's place at Vergennes on Lake Champlain. I loved Vermont, I knew Vermont. So I said, 'This sounds perfect.' So I came to Norwich, never having set eyes on the place, until I reported as a Rook.
JP: Wow [pause and laughter on both people]
TD: So it was ironic. 'I want nothing to do with those federal places,' and Ihad never heard of Norwich.
JP: Oh my
TD: Never. Now, being from Connecticut in 1958, it was a little tricky, whenpeople would say, and where are you from now? Because if I said Norwich, and you lived in Connecticut, Norwich was the home for the criminally insane.
TD: So I got some kind of funny looks like, you're at Norwich? [laughter]
JP: What are you doing now? [laughter]
JP: Oh my gosh. What was your major? You said you were interested in engineering?
TD: Yeah that's kind of a twist too. I was a civil engineer for two years of myNorwich career and then Gordon Piper my faculty advisor for engineering and I had a long talk at the end of my sophomore year because I was taking a course in statics but my grades were getting dynamic, as in, as in going down. And he said "what do you really enjoy doing?" I said "I really enjoy reading and I don't have enough time to read as an engineer." And I wae cadre corporal, one thing or another, and he says "Why don't you do what you like to do?" So in my junior year I became an English major.
TD: And I ended up taking 26 credits each semester for my junior and senioryear. I had to take a, I had to start a language so I had taken some German in high school, so I took German and made it. Didn't go to summer school. Never made Dean's List, but came close. But 26 credit hours a semester didn't leave a lot of time. And it's, it's kind of ironic too how things happen and how things work out. My mother always said "everything happens for the best." My senior year I needed to take one more course, 3 credit course, and the only one that would fit in with it, you can imagine trying to instead of taking five courses, five three credit courses, taking eight three credit courses, taking eight of them or more. There was one course that would fit in, that would give me the number of hours I needed and it was in the history of art taught by Monsignor Sutvin, who was the Catholic Church expert on Church art, icons, etcetera. Wrote I don't know how many articles for or part of Encyclopædia Britannica on the history of art, etcetera. And that course was just amazing as it turns out. I mean I really liked it, loved it. Wrote my term paper on, on Vincent van Gogh. Then after graduation in the Army, I'm in Europe and all of a sudden I'm going to the museum which has van Gogh. I go and look at the Mona Lisa and I understand the importance of light in the painting. I go to churches and I understand the architecture and how it evolved because of that one course. I mean you just don't know how these little things can affect your life. So--
JP: That's amazing. So I can go right down the list or I'm kind of curious,what, who was your favorite professor here, did you have a favorite?
TD: Uh[pause] perhaps [laughs] my favorite professor is the one we're gonna havedinner with tonight - Professor Al Kloeckner. Al had the dubious distinction of being my faculty advisor when I became an English major from an engineer and had to help me through all these courses, and scheduling, and one thing or another. He's also a Shakespearean scholar, uh and, [pause] you know read some Shakespeare in high school in one thing or another, but now it was with a totally different view and understanding of the importance of words and their impact. And the other courses we had in the English Department, we had some real characters back in ah '60 and '61,'62. But it was just, it was just wonderful and it was funny, you know Al Kloeckner was just, he was just incredible scholar, Columbia graduate, and, and I still kept up with besides the 24-5-6 hours of credits every semester. I was a cadet first sergeant, cadet company commander in you know did all that and I was always you know typical Norwich cadet, a little bit behind. So now we gotta fast forward 25 years almost, yup 25 years, and I'm coming out of the Commandant's office, we're having a presentation at 7:00 in the Milano Ballroom and I get down there about two minutes before it starts, you know rapidly writing some notes down on a piece a paper what I'm supposed to say in a couple of minutes to this group. And Al comes up behind me, slaps me on the back and he says "Timmy, some things never change," [laughter] "you're still running behind."
JP: Did you uhm, who was your roommate?
TD: uh, Skip Larson,
JP: The whole?
TD: Well, I, he was my, my roommate at one time. I had, I had other roommates. Ihad three roommates in Alumni Hall my freshman year. They all dropped out. One of 'em, Hermensen, who I was still in touch with, he dropped out his junior year but he comes back to our reunions in ah, yeah.
TD: Herbie, Herbie's a really good guy. But and Skip was my roommate for a shorttime but I always referred to him as my roommate.
JP: He was?
JP: And you, which fraternity? I know you pointed it out earlier?
TD: Sigma Alpha Epsilon
TD: First I was in Hotel Company, uh and then Golf Company as a sophomore andthen my junior year and senior year I was in Kilo Company, K Company.
JP: Did you play any sports?
JP: What activities [interrupted]
TD: I, I thought about, I ran track and cross country in high school but when Icame here as a freshmen with engineering, I just, just couldn't do it all.
JP: Wow, yeah
JP: Especially with 26 hours
JP: So what did you did you do to relax under that kind of pressure?
TD: Well we, I skied a lot. And I, I think we did our relaxing, I don't know,Saturday nights after 12 in Alumni barracks sitting around talking to the guys, that sort of thing.
JP: Did you play cards? Or?
TD: I did not. Some guys did, but I never, never play cards.
JP: No? Any stories about being a rook that you recall?
TD: [laughs] Yeah I, we, we were in the freshman, in fact starting with ourclass in, I guess it was September of '58, they decided that instead of having the freshmen integrated in the companies that they would have a separate Rook battalion like they do today. 1958 this was something new that General Harmon wanted to start 'cause they were so concerned about the six fraternities going after the freshmen to pledge their fraternities and one thing and another that there was a big concern about fraternization with fraternities, and one thing and another, so they put all the freshmen off into that one battalion. Running late to formation one morning, little bit of ice on the road out in front of Alumni, and as I came flying out the door of Alumni Hall with my M1 rifle in my hand, I slipped and I wiped out an entire platoon. [laughter] I mean just like ten pins, took 'em out [laughter].
JP: The whole platoon?
JP: Single-handedly, oh my goodness. So what was your least favorite class atNorwich did you have one you didn't like? or more?
TD: [Pause] Uh, I can't really. German. German was an absolute pain [pause]. Ituh, it was taught by a professor from Czechoslovakia and he was just, it was just tough. He passed almost nobody. I had the highest grade in the class and I had a C. And my senior year he nominated me for a Fulbright Scholarship.
TD: I went to the interviews and this was a Fulbright Scholarship to go toGermany and teach English in a, in a German school, university. And I went through all the interview process in New York City and they found out I was in ROTC and gonna be commissioned and they said I was ineligible because of that.
JP: Oh my
TD: Yeah. Nowadays it's common for, I mean we have Fulbright Scholars here atNorwich now that, that spend a semester overseas for a year. But yeah in those days. So, it was fine. [laughter]
JP: But to be nominated, that's something
TD: But he was, yeah, he was just tough, I mean, just a, you know, perfectionwas the minimum. So.
JP: Wow, um, so was discipline, were you disciplined a lot as a Rook or did youavoid that?
TD: I, in four years at Norwich, I never walked a tour.
TD: I had one month, when I had, got, we walked tours after 12 demerits. I got10 demerits the second of the month [laughter from JP] and I made it.
JP: Do you remember what they were for?
TD: Something stupid. I missed a formation or something or -
JP: Never walked a tour? That's astonishing, wow! What was the most importantthing that Norwich taught you?
TD: [pause] Leadership. And that, and that the biggest part of leadership islistening. [pause]. Did not realize at the time but we had, our ROTC instructors were all Army officers. We had a couple that were Norwich graduates. We had several that were West Point graduates. We had one, and those, and I'll tell you an interesting story in a minute about one of those how he was the antithesis of leadership, and our class still feels that way today about him. And I've been talking to some of my Norwich kids who are coming in the next couple of days with their 20th, the kids, my Norwich kids are class, these are class of '93. The most important thing we learned about leadership here was listen to your soldiers, and listen especially to your NCOs, your non-commissioned officers. [Pause] We had, when we were here, we had Master Sergeant Richardson, who had 4 tanks shot out from underneath him in one day in combat in World War II. Sergeant Hurley, Don Jennings, Sergeant Ke[inaudible], I could go on and on about the NCOs, Clem Confessore. Two of his sons have graduated from here. Great people. Sergeant Confessore just died a few years ago. His wife is still alive, she's 100 and something.
TD: And he was brought here because of Harmon. He wanted Clem Confessore, whohad been in the horse cavalry with him in World War II. Wanted him here. I can, one of our classmates, Russ Sands, was an NCO that Harmon brought here. He graduated with us, you know, this, this, NCO from World War II, and taught in school in Texas and just passed away a couple of years ago. And little did we realize 55 years ago how much we were learning from these NCOs about being platoon leaders or being company commanders, listening to those NCOs. And they, they were [pause] they were the professionals. Now I've taught at West Point. I've been so many times to VMI. My son's a Citadel graduate. They're all fine institutions, but they don't teach what we do here. I'm talking to the kids of the class of '93. They're coming back for their 20th and they're talking about, maybe they can see Sergeant, Sergeant Major Mott, who was their Ranger instructor when he was here. He was my Sergeant Major in the ROTC Department. And Sergeant Mooney, who was the Mountain and Cold Weather NCO. But that's who they talk about, "If we could only see them and tell them thank you for what we learned." It's just so incredible what in a passing casual conversation Richardson or one of those guys said, "Remember, remember, to ask them where they're from, what their hometown is and remember it." "Why?" "You'll find out, it's important to 'em." I still do that today. I'm president of homeowner's association, and people tell me, "Well we came here from Waynesboro." And a year later I'll say, "You're from Waynesboro, aren't you?" "Well, how do you, how do you do that?" and it makes such a difference, it's such an impact. And I learned that when I was a lieutenant in the Army. Now I got to tell you a funny story about that. I had gray hair when I was 22, 21, so I looked older and I walked into the orderly room one day and First Sergeant Hoar, had a Silver Star from Korea, was working on the morning report, Army form DA-1. He said, "Dammit, I can only figure-" I said, "Well First Sergeant, when I was first sergeant, this is how I did it, put that entry in." He said "oh yeah, you're right. Yeah you're right." So a couple of days later, I'm in the orderly room and it's just the two of us and he says "Hey First Sergeant how are you doing?" [Laughing]. Laugh. And I said, "I gotta, I gotta tell ya, I was a cadet first sergeant." He says, "Oh, don't tell the sergeant major, because I told him you were a first sergeant." [laughs] So that was our little secret. We had more fun with that! [laughter] But yeah, little things like that.
JP: What, who, what was, there was somebody who was the antithesis of leadership?
TD: Uh, yes. Major Jack Albree, Norwich Class of 1951. He was just the worstinstructor and example of an Army officer you could possibly be. Ah, he was [pause] I was about to receive a Regular Army commission in Armor. And I looked around and saw if Albree represents the Army, I want no part of it. I had graduated number one in the country at the Armor Summer Camp at Fort, at Fort Knox. I still have the trophy.
TD: I was rated number one in the country and I came back to Norwich and I'm acompany commander and Albree calls me up and says, "You've given too many demerits to your troops, in your company." I said "Major Albree, I haven't given any." "You've given 100" and he said "Well!" I mean just that kind of thing. So I resigned. Took a job in Connecticut, was gonna take my reserve commission, go on active duty for two years, one thing and another. While I got on active duty and got around real officers, real soldiers, and went volunteer indefinite and then eventually my battalion commander said, you know, "you've gotta go RA," so I put in for my RA and got it back and stayed 30 years 10 months and 17 days [laughs].
JP: But who's counting?
TD: Now, tell you how, how deeply that feeling goes? Jackie and I were comingback from a tour, our second tour in Germany, I'm being reassigned in Washington, D.C. I'm gonna be the Chief of Armor Branch and I think I'm the only Norwich graduate that has - Gordy Sullivan was an assignment officer, Billy Streeter was an assignment officer - but I think I was the only Chief of Armor Branch that's a, that's a Norwich grad.
TD: Anyways we've looked at this house three times, we're about to buy it and Ilook down at the lower right hand corner and saw it was listed by John A. Albree, I tore it up and walked out of the house. [laughs]
JP: Made an impression?
JP: Oh my gosh! Um so what did you do after graduation? Let's, let's hear alittle bit about that.
TD: Uh, [laughs]
JP: 30 years, 17 days. It's kind of hard to summarize, but -
TD: Well, again it's
JP: We have all the time you want
TD: Things happen for the best. So I went back to my hometown, where I got a jobas a product engineer in ah, Associated Spring Corporation in Bristol, Connecticut. They made all, they had for hundreds of years made all the springs, small medals, stampings, and all. But because I had minors in math, physics, chemistry, had all those engineering courses, and was an English major who could write, [laughs] I got a job as a product engineer working on a defense project and working the night shift. I went to work at 11:00 at night and worked until 7, came home, slept until noon, and then I had the afternoon and most of the evening. So one of my buddies who was a, a phys ed teacher in Bristol and that I, ah, used to lifeguard with in the summer wanted to start a ski school for the park department for little kids. So I said, "Yeah, I'd love to do that, that would be great, take the afternoon." So we figured out a place to do it up in the park, started the program and called for volunteers to come as ski instructors. And this Jackie Carter who is teaching [laughs], teaching first grade there and is a good skier was, uh, was one of my instructors, and a friend of hers who I'd grown up with, and another teacher was one of the instructors, and they introduced us at the end of February in 1963. I asked her out on a date. On the second date I told her we were going to get married. And it's the end of February. We went skiing up at Stratton. I went into the Army the thirteenth of April, and we got married in June.
JP: And that year was?
TD; 1963. We've been married fifty years
JP: Wow, congratulations
TD: It all turns out for the best
JP: It sure does. When you went into the military, where did you go and what didyou do?
TD: Ah, this is a great Norwich story. My first assignment was to Germany, tothe 1st Battalion, 32nd Armor in Friedberg, Germany. I've been told what to expect, you know, being the new lieutenant and how important it was to make a good impression reporting to that battalion commander. So I was in my, my TW uniform ready to go. So I walk in to Lieutenant Colonel Donn A. Starry's office, and he's sitting there. This is July of 1963, he's got a baseball cap on, an OD baseball cap, when the Army didn't wear baseball caps
TD: This was two years before the Army went to baseball, baseball caps.Lieutenant Colonel Donn found a cigar, feet up on the desk. I walk in, I report and say, "Sir, Second Lieutenant Timothy H. Donovan, reporting for duty." He takes a cigar out, gives me a salute and he says, "Okay, lieutenant, ah, what's your source of commission?" And instead of saying ROTC, I snap my heels together and I said, "Sir, I'm Norwich graduate," and he said, "Goddamn it!" and he throws the cigar on the floor, throws his hat down on the ground and says, "They promised me they'd never send me another me one!" And then he said, "Get out of here! I got more important things to do." So my whole life is flashing in front of my eyes, so I go and see the adjutant and he says, "Yeah well he's got something on his mind," and so he goes out a little bit later and what's more important is he's got an officer/NCO softball game and he's pitching. And then the more I think about it, he had my records he knew I, where I had gone to school. This was all an act. Donn Starry later is a four star general. Donn Albert Starry is the guy who calls me in and says, "You gotta stay in the Army." Donn - if I had gone to any other battalion, who knows what would have happened. Donn Starry, I'm wounded in the first of November 1969. I get a letter from Donn Starry dated from Snuol, Cambodia, because he lead the Cambodian incursion in the 1970, saying "Timmy, we're gonna get the bastards."
TD: The guy next to him was a major by the name of Freddie Franks and while theywere in Snuol the bad guys threw a grenade at Starry and Freddie. You know, Freddie, kicks it away and it goes off and he loses his leg. Okay? Freddie Franks retired as a four star. Freddie Franks and I served together. I was a colonel at the time, he was a one-star. I was responsible for bringing the Abrams and Bradleys through Europe and issuing them to troops and putting them in the reserve sights, and one thing and another. Uh I'm gonna digress but this is, this is worth it.
JP: You're fine
TD: And so we knew each other really well. West Point graduate. So everySaturday afternoon for a year and a half we would have "codels," congressional delegations, and we'd meet them at the, at the heliport and they'd come in and get wine and dine while they did their European tour and we'd tell them the status of the tank and the, and the Bradley and all that. And before we got started, Freddie's come up and he says, "Well Timmy how you doing?" I said, "I'm doing fine, General, how are you?" And he said, "Well I'm kind of on my last leg." [laughter] Terrible joke, I'd go, "Oh God," you know. So, okay, now we've gotta to fast forward again. [clears throat] Mentioned Tom Clancy. I got to know when I was Commandant and Professor of Military Science here, Clancy comes on our board. He smoked five packs a day, I smoked three at the time, so they always put us together at dinners and one thing or another, so we could walk outside and have a cigarette break. So I got to know Clancy pretty well and, you know, I said, "You know, you got, I can't believe you're using classified information in your novel like, Hunt for Red October," and he says, "I don't, It's all open." So we got to be pretty tight through, through Norwich. Freddie Franks in Desert Storm was a lieutenant general that commanded the VII Corps. My son was in that Corps, so they, so Clancy and Freddie combined to write a book called Into the Storm, the story of VII Corps in Desert Storm, and they're having a book signing at Crown Books in McLean, Virginia. So I stood in line with 800 other people to get a book signed for me and one for my son. And, ah, so the Crown Book people when I finally got into the store are saying, "There are no dedications, just autographs, no dedication, just autographs." Got it. Until I got up to the desk where they are and Freddie looks up and he says, "Timmy, how ya doing, guy?" and Clancy who's smoking, got a cigarette, not supposed to in the store, put his cigarette down and says, "Colonel, I need to talk to you about a story you told me one night at Tot's about what happened to you." And all of a sudden the Crown Book people are saying, "Sir if you give us your card, we'll make sure that the dedication is spelled correctly," and Freddie says, "I know how to spell his name," and then Clancy says to [not audible] these two books and I say, "This one is for Mike," and "How's he doing?" You know it all happens for a reason. [laughs]
TD: One other time, we're at, uh, General Todd had a meeting down in D.C. rightafter Desert Storm about, you know, the future of military colleges and what's gonna happen in all this other stuff. So we got, he had some of the trustees come, he had me go down with him and some other folks. So I end up at this little table with Clancy. Clancy was there 'cause you know he and I could take a cigarette break. So Clancy and I, Jake Shapiro, Shapiro Fieldhouse, uh Goodyear Tire and Rubber [inaudible], and General Al Gray, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and there was, there was someone else. And you know the question is, well you know what's happening with the schools now, and one thing. So I said a couple of times, "Well my experience as cadet commandant is this," and probably about the third time I said that, Gray said, "Goddammit Colonel, there's only one frigging commandant at this table and that's me!" And Clancy is saying, "What?" "Never mind." [laughter] So.
JP: Oh my gosh, did your son go here?
JP: He went
TD: He went to the Citadel
JP: He went, that's right you said this
TD: Oldest daughter, Kristen, uh, graduated in '84 from Vermont College, and itwas Vermont College at Norwich University and she was class president, etcetera. Ah, you know Gary Atwood?
JP: I know the name, yes
TD: Buildings and Grounds?
TD: Gary Atwood's daughter, Lori, was my daughter Kristen's roommate.
JP: I think I know it
TD: At Vermont College
JP: I think I'm thinking of the same person.
TD: Yeah. And Gary Atwood was Sergeant Atwood when I was a cadet down in theNational Guard downtown, so, yeah, known him for ever and ever. And Lauren Wobby was also a classmate of Kristen's.
JP: Oh my goodness
TD: Yeah and then our youngest daughter graduated from Notre Dame with a degreein, in Communications the same year we came here. So she came, she was looking for a job, came and stayed with us, took some courses at Norwich. Joe Sabol liked Kimmie so when his [pause] the, the person who handles public relations for athletics
TD: No, but back then, quit, so Joe offered Kimmie, you know they had graduatescholarships in those days, so he offered her a master's in sports administration if she'd come and be his sports information director
JP: Oh, that's wonderful
TD: So now, listen to this, she graduates from Notre Dame, she has a master'sfrom Norwich in '92, she's been Vice President of the Norwich Alumni Club in D.C. She comes to the '92 Homecomings. Norwich, Norwich, yup.
JP: They can pick the cream of the crop [laughter]. Um, can we go back a little,little bit, you talked about being wounded, you were wounded in Vietnam?
JP: Do you mind talking about what happened?
TD: No, not at all
TD: Again, it all happens for a reason. Ah, I was commanding C Troop out in mysecond tour in Vietnam. My, my first, can I tell you about my first tour?
JP: Please do.
TD: Because this is kind of a funny story. I got pulled out of [pause]. OnChristmas Eve 1965 I got a letter from Armor Branch saying that my request for a one year extension in Germany was approved so I could command a tank company. No mail on Christmas. The day after I got a letter from Armor Branch telling me I have five days to clear post and leave for some, APO San Francisco, which I think is, think is Vietnam. So we just found out that Jackie was pregnant again so, you know, I couldn't get out, couldn't make things work that, that fast. So, so we, we get home I go to Travis Air Force Base in San Francisco saying, you know, I'm going to, I guess I'm going to Vietnam. Oh, so I called Armor Branch to see if I could get a, get an extension and this Major Ulmer and he said "no, we'll see what I can do." And I say "under the circumstances, one thing and anoth-" he says "where are you calling from?" "I said ah General, Major I'm in Bristol, Connecticut right now." He says, "Bristol, Connecticut?" He says, "I'm gonna do you a favor Lieutenant, I'm gonna make you go now!" So well that doesn't work, so anyways I called Travis and got, I got an extension from an E-3 airman out there. So I, I get there and I said you know, going to Vietnam and they said, "No you're not. That ah, those orders are for Thailand," So I end up in Thailand and I'm goin' "what am I doing?" So I walked around JUSMAG, the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group in Thailand for four days, three or four days trying to figure out why am I here and finally in this attic at JUSMAG 37th this Air Force major says, "Well maybe you're one of mine." "One of yours?" He said "Are you Special Forces qualified?" "No." "Ranger, Airborne qualified?" "No, none of the above." "Had any rescue experience?" "Why?" When we first formed the Rescue Team here we had a rescue on Camel's Hump where we, we rescued two people literally pulled them off the mountain at a night climb in February.
JP: You were part of that?
TD: Yup, and Jennings and Hurley wrote us up a couple of us for Soldier's Medalsfor saving those, those people. That was in my file. They couldn't, we weren't eligible for a Soldier's Medal, but that was in my file so the Army's looking for rescue people, the Air Force. And what this was, was I was gonna have the fifth rescue team jumping out of a black C-130 over Laos or North Vietnam to rescue downed pilots. They never heard from the first two teams after they left the aircraft. Five man teams.
JP: Five men
TD: I mean I was going back to my hotel in, you know, and getting the GideonBible out literally. And then they canceled the mission. They just cancelled it. A major general, Major General Dick Stilwell, was the JUSMAG commander who cancelled the mission. These names come back. So then they send me to Vietnam and they manifest me on a, on a flight that's going from, from Bangkok back to the States with 180 some odd Air Force guys who just spent eighteen months in Thailand. And they put me on this flight and they gotta stop in Saigon. If those guys found out who they had to stop for in Saigon they would have let me out at 30,000 feet [laughs]. So we land two o'clock in the morning, we land on the middle of the, we didn't even go near the, the terminal. The MP's came out and picked me up in a jeep, literally dropped the ladder down. And so it I get to, I get to Vietnam and they're saying "What's your, ah, what's your military specialty?" And I said, "Recon, you know, cavalry recon" and they said, "Oh here, Long Range Reconnaissance Company." So they make, make me an advisor to a mountain yard LRRP company up in, up in Turkor. So as I go up through the different headquarters working my way upcountry, they keep saying, "Well there are three NVA divisions surrounding Chereo" and you know all of this and, and finally, finally, finally this colonel up in Quin Yang says, "Why are you smiling? Don't you understand?" I said, "Sir, you oughta see the job I just lived, left? [laughs] At least I got a chance on this one." So I get to this, this small advisory thing and I meet the, the mountain yards and we start going around and they used them as, as kind of a reaction, quick reaction for any Special Forces camps they got in trouble in the Turkor, the central highlands. Ok. It was commanded by a West Point graduate again, lieutenant colonel, we were all captains. Ah, and eventually we had seven officers on that team commanded by the West Point guy, and three out of his five captains were Norwich guys. John Jorgenson, my classmate and I, Charlie Nason whose name is going up on the wall on Friday. I mean, and we gave, we just gave poor Dwight Eds fits, and he, Norwich was a four letter word in his before we got done. And he carried a bullet in the - he was class of '50 - so he went from graduation to Korea and he still carried a bullet near his heart in '66.
TD: Uh, now, I'm rambling figure this out later that Major Ulmer
JP: Uh hmm.
TD: From Bristol, Connecticut? When I end up teaching at West Point, I run intohim, first of all I run into his wife at a picnic and find out that his connection with Bristol, Connecticut, is he married the girl that lived across the street from me [laughs]. That was his, and he later became, it was commandant at West Point and Walt Ulmer ended up with three stars. Uh and was just a hero to everybody. But one day after we met, met Marty at that picnic the next day, the next Monday I went in the office I got a call from the commandant's office and he said, "What did you say to her? She hasn't spoke to me all week." [laughs]
JP: What did you say to her?
TD: [Laughter] "You know what your husband did?" And then Major General DickStilwell [pauses] many years later in 1983 I ended up working for him. He promotes me to full colonel and one of his, one of his trips I took him on was to bring him to Norwich to be the leadership speaker to the Corps of Cadets. And we had lunch with my daughter who was president of the senior class in, you know Joyce Sweeney in the admissions office?
JP: I know -
TD: Her husband, John, was the professor of aerospace science
JP: Oh my gosh. Wow, what a small tight little world.
TD: And I thanked, I thanked General Stilwell, I said, "You saved my life whenyou cancelled that rescue mission." And he says, "I didn't do it for that reason, I did it because they hadn't told me that there were doing that, the Air Force just did it."
JP: Holy cow
JP: Holy cow [pause]. So how did you get wounded?
TD: [laughs] Oh yeah. So my second tour I'm commanding C Troop - this is a greatNorwich story - I'm commanding C Troop of the 10th Cav, 4th Infantry Division, 1969. My father had served in the 4th Division in World War I, 1917 to 1919, so I presented the 4th Infantry Division a patch, a 4th Division patch that my mother had made for him because you couldn't go to the PX and buy 'em in those days. And that patch is still in the 4th Infantry Division Museum. Okay? So that was my combat patch that I wore was the 4th Division patch.
JP: I've seen pictures of that
TD: Okay? [pause] Saturday night, this coming Saturday night, Jackie and I aregoing to be the guests of honor at the Class of 1993, 20th Reunion. On their Ring there's a 4th Division patch.
TD: They dedicated their Ring to me and they didn't know that my father servedon the 4th Division, my mother had something to do with that patch, the design of it.
JP: That's amazing, that's really amazing
TD: So when I see those kids, my kids [chokes up]
TD: So, so anyways, first of November '69 around the Cambodian border near theIa Drang Valley and one of my platoons runs into an ambush. So I responded with the other two platoons and ironically I had registered artillery battery on practically the spot where this took place earlier that day. So we, we uh, go down, responded to the, to the ambush. I got out of my armored cav vehicle and I had on my flak jacket, which we were supposed to do, and looked around and saw that there was some North Vietnamese casualties, no US casualties. And I started wave some more tanks across and this, uh, very brave soldier from North Vietnam jumps out of a spider hole about sixty feet away and shoots me through the seam of the flak jacket, not, not through the padding, but through the cloth. And, and it uh severed a rib, took out my left lung, nicked a pulmonary artery, tumbled along my spine so we had three compound fractures of the spine, severed my diaphragm, and ended up in my spleen. So Jennifer, I'm explaining this to a young Navy doctor about six weeks later [clears his throat] and he's looking at my chart and says, "I don't see how it missed your heart." I said, "Have you ever been shot at?" he said, "Of course not! I'm a Navy doctor," I said, "When some SOB is shooting at you, your heart's up about here so it didn't come close." [laughter from both people] So.
JP: Oh my word.
TD: Yeah. So. So I was, I was down on the ground and I knew something was wrongbecause I couldn't feel my legs
TD: Uh and my lungs are collapsed
TD: And because of the spleen and the arteries and everything I'm bleeding outinside. Oh and, and, the same bullet that went in my side went just through the fleshy part of my elbow. So I knew if I, if I passed out I wasn't coming back. So I, I fought to stay awake and they brought in a, and when he shot me it just it started to trigger a whole new ambush and one thing or another. So the, they brought in a helicopter, got my guys, put me on board the helicopter, got to the evac hospital in Pleiku. They, they bring me in and the, the doc on, on ca-, you know, on the scene, "He's got no pulse, and no respiration," so he says, "You're too late with this one." So with my, the one arm, that still worked [laughter] I grabbed him and he [makes gasping sound]. Becau-, I mean. And the priest told me later that they gave me the Last Rites and that during the operation they did give me open heart massage three times. And that was it. Eventually, oh, and Jackie and the doctors told me that I was paralyzed from the waist down and I wouldn't walk again. And then Jackie mentioned it to one of, uh, Army wives who said, "Oh I know someone who can help." And you know, I don't know, one o'clock in the morning the phone rings on the ward in Pleiku and the nurse answers the phone and I could see it. She was, the Army wife called the Deputy Chief of Staff Operations for the U.S. Army who was a friend of hers [laughs] whose husband, and he placed a call from Jackie to me in that hospital in Pleiku. And so she's talking and I'm "duh" and I'm correcting her, you know, proper radio telephone procedure, you know I'm sayin' "You're supposed to say over," [laughs] "duh." So anyways, so we go back, I finally ended up in the Boston Navy Hospital in beautiful downtown Chelsea, Mass. right on the Niantic River. And I was the only person to make it out of there back on active duty. My, ah, my neurosurgeon was Dr. Zimmerman who was a Navy Reservist from Beverly Hills. He was a Beverly Hills neurosurgeon [laughs]. Worked on, he invented an operation for Patricia Neal after she had her stroke. They got her back into acting. And after I was there a week, a week or so and he stopped sticking pins in me, and saw that I had a reaction, he says, "You're gonna be alright." Never did another operation, never did anything. You know there was nothing they could do but, ah, I just got stubborn. And I had been selected to teach at West Point and they said, you know, "We'll give you some, the time you need." I was supposed to go to Temple in beautiful downtown Philly and they figured out I couldn't outrun the muggers so, so they sent me to Rice in Houston and I started, started, getting better. They call it "return," return, you know of feeling and muscle strength and one thing or another. And, um, went to grad school. Went, got selected for Command and Staff College. Went to West Point and taught from '73 to '76
JP: What is, what is your master's, what is your graduate degree in?
TD: History. I went from Engineer to English, to History. And I went, I went to,to Rice with one history course, which is a U.S. history course, and a saying from a famous Harvard historian Samuel Eliot Morison: "History is a literary art." So, ah. But the people I had, I taught at West Point - one of the first things, I was the only Norwich guy there and they didn't forget that. And I made a statement that the Congress was about to defund the war, gonna leave our guys over there and defund them. And I made a statement that politicians can do that, you know, we fight the war, we win it but you know there are other things that could, can steal the victory. So a couple of days after, uh, they had all these different sections. They're all seniors, all these different sections based on their class standing in one thing or another. I always got the ones at the bottom. So this young guy comes in, into my carrel and said, uh, "Major, did you, is this what you said?" and I said, "Yeah it is." And he said, "How can, how can I find out more about, you know, national strategy and politics and how this all works?" And I said, "You can take Major Esposito's course in Revolutionary Warfare and Counterinsurgency and you'll see how this all fits together." And I said, "How, you know, you gotta have national will, you gotta have, you know, the will to win and you know politics does play a part in it." And I said, "I'm sure you can get in, it's an elective course, but I am sure with your standing, your class standing you won't have a problem." And he said, "I'm gonna, I'm gonna sign up for the course right now. Thanks very much." I said, "Mr. Petraeus, good luck." [chair creaks]
JP: Mr. Petraeus, Mr. Petraeus,
JP: The same?
JP: I guess he did have good luck.
TD: And listen to this, another one of the kids I remember distinctly was a guyby the name of Marty Dempsey who I have seen run across through from the time he was a company commander out in Fort Carson, for a Norwich guy [laughs]. When he was Chief of Armor Branch and I used to remind him that I was Chief of Armor Branch. Yeah that Marty Dempsey. And Ray Ordierno, current Chief of Staff of the Army, whose two sons went to West Point. I remember Ordierno 'cause he was a football player
JP: Oh my goodness
TD: And, and we used to talk about poor Coach Cahil making the statement that heand the coach from Navy were the only two coaches in the country who could say that their players had a higher I.Q. than their body weight. [Both laugh] Yeah.
TD: Yeah. And another kid by the name of Brian Haig whose dad was Al Haig.
JP: Oh my.
TD: Yeah. And Brian was, was in the running to be the goat of the class, thebottom, and he and Frank Boorman's son - Brian Haig, Boorman, and one other guy, got so turned on to the study of history that they got A's in my class and they were all in the bottom of their class. Yeah and, and Brian now is, is, he retired. He was a speechwriter for Charlie Casvelli, when Charlie was the chief, or the chairman and now he's uh, he's uh, headmaster at uh the Lawrenceville School.
JP: What did you do that made you such a good teacher?
TD: Listen to my NCOs. The same thing that you do to teach soldiers to get theirattention, and I used to do it differently. Like, like, you know teaching a course on Napoleon and you know they said, "What are the?" and I said, "No, no, let's listen to the music," the 1812 Overture, the Duke [of] Wellington march, the effect that Napoleon had on science, the Napoleonic Code, all of this stuff. I mean it's not just this little guy. Oh I got a funny story. Go back to Germany after West Point. I do my research I find within from here to your computer the exact spot that Napoleon was during of the Battle of Waterloo.
TD: I mean, I got it right. So we got a loaf of bread, some cheese, bottle ofwine sitting there, it's, it's perfect. Across the field a single rider on a white horse comes out of Wellington's Woods and he looks at us, and he marches, trots across the field, "bu dump" right to us and in this awful Brooklyn accent says, "what's the mattah your car broke down?" [both laughs] Shattered.
JP: Totally, what's the mattah. Brooklyn.
TD: Some guy from the embassy.
JP: There's an illusion, oh gosh, so, wow, you just have so much history in you,sir. Um uh, gosh, uh I just, there's so much I want to ask you, um, awards and citations you received for service. This is for the people who don't know you, so this is for the record this.
TD: Ah, Silver Star, a couple of Legions of Merit. Ah, two Bronze Stars. AirMedal and a Combat Infantryman Badge.
TD: Remember the, the West Point infantry guy that I told you that we drove crazy?
TD: Well there was one day that we were ambushed by mountain yards, we wereambushed, we were mortared, ran into a mine field, just a bad day, And Colonel Adams came out he said, "Well you're Armor but if you have another 29 days like this, I'll put you in for the CIB." And the rule was if you had 30 days in-country and you, under fire once, you got the CIB. So
TD: He gave me my CIB. [laughs]
JP: Oh my gosh. So your rank at discharge or retirement, sorry, Colonel?
JP: Yes. And--
TD: I didn't realize at the time, but when I went down to Fort Devens to, tofinish my paper, I found out that I was, the day I retired was the senior colonel in the Army.
JP: Really? Wow, um, what other jobs did you hold after that, did you doanything after?
TD: Oh yes,
JP: What did you do?
TD: Norwich. [Both laugh] No, I ah--
JP: You were commandant in the 80s?
TD: I was the last active duty commandant. So I was both Commandant andProfessor of Military Science. And I told General Todd at the time, you can't, you cannot do that
TD: You just, too much, you can't do
JP: Too much?
TD: Yeah, you just can't do it, do it right, so
JP: So they stopped that
TD: So when I retired, I went to work for Electronic Warfare Associates who,that was owned by a classmate of mine, and a member of the Rescue Team with me, Carl Guerrerri. And Carl as a senior buck was in my company, my, our senior year and his executive vice president was Doug Armstrong, who was a Rook in my squad.
JP: No kidding
TD: So when I left here, I told the Corps of Cadets, be kind to those seniorbucks and those rooks, because someday you may be working for 'em. So yeah. So I worked for EWA, uh, sixteen years and when I left I was vice president for strategic planning
JP: Wow, wow
TD: And, and again writing business proposals and business plans and when Carlwould have a meeting with a potential partner, he'd say, "Well I'm Carl Guerrerri, I'm a double e from Norwich, and, and Dr. Frank Blake is a double e from UVA, and Ed Connolly is a double e from Pittsburgh. And it'd come to me and I'd say, I'm a double e too, elementary English, so I can write down what these guys want to say. [laughter]
JP: It's a double e. Oh my gosh, um, any other jobs you held or after that?
JP: How did your training prepare you for your worklife? I guess, do you haveanything you want to say to that?
TD: No, it's what we teach about leadership.
JP: Um, do you belong to any professional organizations?
TD: Ah, no, not really
JP: Um. Do you stay in touch with your classmates?
TD: Yes, I'm a class agent
JP: You're a class agent. Do you follow Norwich sports or other activities?
TD: Yes, thanks, thanks to Charlie Crosby, and the great job that he does.
JP: What advice would you give a Rook today about how to survive and thrive?
TD: Keep your sense of humor, 'cause if you can't laugh at this, you don'tunderstand it.
JP: That's good advice. Do you have any relatives at Norwich? I guess I've askedthat already, ok, um, what does I Will Try mean to you, now?
TD: You keep trying, you don't give up. You don't give up.
JP: Do you have anything else you would like to add?
TD: I've been trying to explain Norwich to people for 55 years now, and it'shard to do. I mean, you almost, you have to, it's hard to do. But it's interesting, I see what's some of these young, younger folks, classes in the 90s and the early 2000s are, are beginning to do. There's an article a few weeks ago by Frank Miniter in Forbes magazine about Norwich.
JP: I saw it, yup
TD: I have sent that to everybody I can.
JP: Really? It's about leadership
TD: Yes. Bingo. Yup, 'cause we do something about leadership up here that's notdone any place else.
JP: Very special, very special people, the alums, very special
JP: Well, is, um, I would like to thank you for your time, so
TD: Well thank you
JP: Very, very much, it's really been a pleasure and with that if you havenothing else to say, I'll turn off the recorder off.