FOs participating in the discussion

Background:  Using a "sample survey" of the Lieutenants who served as Forward Observers with the 2/9th, one might conclude that there was a move afoot to send OCS Artillery grads into the teeth of combat in Vietnam. The "scorecard" comparison was: OCS - 46   ROTC - 11  True? False? Maybe?

Here are some views of both ROTC and OCS grads.  {It is assumed that the West Pointers wanted to advance their careers.}



You probably know my position:  The Pentagon had too much invested in the ROTC program and its graduates.  Their goal was to get some/many to stay on for a career. Further, as (OCS) FO Don Keith can testify, he had to bust his balls to get into the "Bootstrap Program" (college-paid option) because his military career would be non-existent if he didn't get the mighty sheepskin. In other words, completing OCS, going to Nam, and coming home would not qualify an OCS grad for a military career.  In fact, Don had to bargain for a 2nd Tour in Nam in order to get a ride to a college diploma.  It "appears" that Arty ROTC lieutenants somehow stayed stateside. PS> I've written two (2) War Stories {"OH, BROTHER WHERE ART THOU?" and "THE OTHER REASON"} whereby I "tweaked the nose of authority" and could have earned my ticket to Nam.  Of course, that could be viewed as a little paranoid. 

---Webmaster FO Lt Dennis Dauphin (ROTC)


It looks like your original question / theory has been answered- that is that there were more OCS guys humping the boonies as FOs than ROTC guys- by a sizeable margin based on your sampling size.  How that came to be is way more difficult to answer, and not having any experience how the people at the Pentagon who handled branch assignments operated makes any attempt to answer highly speculative.  I don't know if other branches, Infantry in particular, would show a similar tendency.   I suppose one could make the case that OCS guys were so relieved to escape from Ft Sill that anyplace that had trees, rice paddies, mountains and a shoreline would be better than OK.  The vast majority of my OCS class had been there for AIT (13E) so had spent 8 months in that paradise.  Maybe we just weren't as bright as ROTC grads.  Please discuss.

-FO Lt Joe Hannigan (OCS)


The incredible imbalance between ROTC and OCS graduates out in the field staggers the imagination! Coming from ROTC, I was immediately told how I could never be equivalent to Ring Knockers but didn't believe it. 

Were officer assignments in the battery [non FOs] reflective of the same imbalance? 

FO Lt Bert Landau (ROTC)


Interesting reading.  Just wanted to comment on 2 things that started the whole discussion:
1.  Were OCS grads picked on to be FOs vs ROTC and WP ?  I can only speak for my class and maybe this wasnt your case, but when I went back to my OCS reunion, I found out that I was about the only one to go to Nam and be an FO.  Most of my class (3-66) were assigned ADA and went to Europe. They were very interested in my FO experiences because they had none.  When I arrived in VN (Jul 66-Apr 68) we had recon Sgts as FOs as no Lts were available.  I spent one night at Repl Depl Saigon and was sent to A 1/35 the next day and they were in contact.  I never went to Holloway (our first camp at Pleiku - BDE size.  Enari  was built for 4th ID) until a few weeks later when we went back to regroup and resupply.  Saigon didnt care if you were OCS, ROTC, WP or got your commission out of Cracker Jack box, anyone Arty was an FO.  As those numbers increased (previous discussion), then I noticed that ( I think ALL officers) officers were counseled about their careers.  Those with career ambitions were given priority on the good slots (in my opinion).  So, yes there were more OCS over there than either ROTC or WP combined and so there were more OCS FOs.
2.  From (2/9th Bn Commanders) Holbrook and Bobziens positions (and those following), both of them told me that they often had to use OCS FOs  and send them back out regularly, not because OCS were better FOs necessarily, but because many of the OCS FOs were prior Sgts and Infantrymen. They already knew something about what the infantry was doing and so could work more easily with their infantry counterparts (could this be politics?)  For example, Bill Farmer and I were both Infantry/Airborne sergeants before OCS.  I think many others were as well, but certainly not all.
Well, that is my 2 cents worth.  Best to all of you.
FO Lt Ed Thomas (OCS)


Here is another take on what happened.   The number of classes that graduated grew significantly as the war grew and waged on  as you'll see in the following table.  I graduated in class 4-65.  At that time there was one class starting each month.  My class started out with 120 candidates.   81 of us graduated and some of those were candidates who had been set back a class or two because of some academic or leadership deficiency.  Of the 120 originals only about 60 finished with our class.  The dropout rate and "booted out" rate was rather high.  Of those 81, about 20 of them were assigned to ADA. 
As you'll see the number of classes per year increased dramatically.  It reached a point in 1967 that a class started once a week or more.  My guess is that someone (who knows who?) decided that there would not be enough to fill the growth as the ROTC program diminished those years and of course West Point didn't produce many.  So maybe, just maybe, the main reason for the disparity was that through OCS the needs could be met easier.  The larger number of classes from 66-70 also had more graduates typically than previously as well.  There were much fewer dropouts and rarely was anyone booted.  "Crank out the cannon fodder through OCS?"  lol
FO Lt (Gary) Dean Springer (OCS)


I think your hypothesis is on point.  While I'm sure that West Point grads were given preference in terms of honoring their "dream sheets", facts such as the dramatic force buildup in 66-68, casualties during TET 68, and the decrease of ROTC due to anti-war feelings, all combined to leave OCS as the most viable means of meeting the demand. 
When I arrived in Nam in May of '68, I was immediately assigned as the FO to D/1/35. The company's CO was an Infantry branch 1st Lt. Leaders of the two rifle platoons were Armor 2Lts. The weapons platoon leader was an E7, and I was assigned leader of the 3rd rifle platoon as an additional duty. It was a sign of the times. 
As another example of how critical shortages existed:  during my assignment as Fire Support Coordinator (FSC) for the 2/35th after a 3 month stint as a BTRY XO, our BN Surgeon was an Air Force Cpt. named Walsh. You can imagine that he was not happy. 

FO Lt Carlton G. Epps, Sr. (OCS)


Hey Dean, I think you are spot on in your analysis. Just looking at the numbers, 1967 was a banner year for newly- minted Butter Bars of which I was one being class 33A - 67.  They threatened, but did not get rid of, many.  

FO Lt Mike Kurtgis (OCS)


I wasn't able to get college from the Army under ANY circumstances.  I finished my degree in night school and took the LSAT, scored in the top 5 per cent of the US and left the Army for law school (got offered Harvard but couldn't cut the $ 50K a year fee) at SMU. I wasn't the only one.

FO Lt Dave Whaley (OCS)


Great job, Dennis, as always.  Great to read all of your comments.  David Whaley replaced me after my first stint as FO.  

I  graduated from FAOCS in the Class of 9-65 after I set an "academic record".  I flunked both gunnery and communications and still graduated.  The MSG who served as our TAC 1SG congratulated me on being the first FAOCS grad ever that he knew of that flunked both gunnery and commo.  Just before I was due to graduate, they ordered me to report to the OCS Commandant, a LTC Marvel.  He would decide if I would graduate or take a 4-week academic setback.  On the way to his office I decided that I would be very positive no matter what when I reported to him.  His first question to me was whether or not I thought I could run a FDC.  I responded very firmly, "Yes sir, no problem, sir."  He said, "Very well candidate, go ahead and graduate."  That was it.  Just that simple.  So I did graduate.
My first assignment after OCS was to Ft. Benning to Jump School, and then straight on to the 164th MI BN at Ft. Bragg, N.C.  DA kept me at Ft. Bragg for one year and then sent me to Vietnam.  You guessed it, I never spent a day in an artillery, or combat arms, unit before Vietnam.  Enroute from Bragg to Vietnam they sent me to Jungle School where I made Jungle Expert, which was easy having grown up in the woods and swamps of Louisiana.
Upon arrival in Vietnam, I was sent out as an FO with Company "B", 1/14th Infantry on the Cambodian border (Aug 66).  We made an air assault into a swamp, so I felt right at home again.  Spent 5 months at this job.  Our BnCO, LtCol Bruce Holbrook, offered me two jobs so I could come out of the field.  His first offer was Btry XO, which I turned down.  Told him that job would be too confining, so I'd just stay out with the infantry where the action was.  It was.  Then he offered me the BN MAINT OFF slot.  I told him he was going from "bad to worse" with his offers.  My response made him a little hot.  He asked me, "What the hell do you want?"  So I told him AO.  A little while later he offered me the AO slot, which I gladly accepted. He let me serve as AO for five months, 180 missions.  By then the 3rd BDE/25 INF DIV was on the coast of the South China Sea.  When I hit ten months in country, Holbrook called me in again and told me he was going to have to send me back out with a rifle company.  Said that the butter bars had screwed up so badly that the infantry didn't even want to use our fire support, so he wanted me to turn that around even though I was a 1LT by then.  So I did.  Oh, I found out in recent years that my old friend Dennis Munden took my AO slot away from me.  Dennis pulled the same crap that I did to get the job.
During that last two months with the infantry rifle company, the Infantry Company Commander wrote me a Letter of Commendation for getting artillery fire (105 battery) on the enemy that fired on us in less than one minute after they started firing at our rifle company.  How?  First thing in the morning I'd call in a fire mission, do not load, one smoke round, out in front of our direction of march.  Then I'd give corrections all day in our direction of march.  Kept the firing battery busy.  When the enemy fire hit us,  I just said "load and fire."  TOF (time of flight) was only 13 seconds.  The smoke round hit the enemy's position, so I said, "Battery one round HE."  That firing battery was fast as lightning.  You guys can easily picture how fast they could slam those smoke/HE rounds in the tubes and fire.  Those poor bastards firing at us didn't know what the hell hit them so fast, so they stopped firing, and left the area (hauled ass in other words). of this is said just to show that I pretty much determined my own course the first ten months in Vietnam after my first FO assignment.  The last two months, according to Holbrook, in the field was because I was his most experienced FO/AO at that time having directed support fire for ten months straight.  While on the coast, I had seven fire support units that I could call in at one time, and did several times, both from the air and on the ground.  When calling seven units of support fire from the air at the same time while circling over the target, getting the direction of fire and time of flight correct was vital if you didn't want to shoot yourself down.  Having served as FO/AO never bothered me.  In fact, I have always felt very fortunate, and blessed, having had that opportunity (and survived without a scratch).
It seems that us OCS grads talked more about the West Point grads than the ROTC officers.  The saying was that you could always spot a West Point officer because when he picked his nose you could see his West Point ring.  When the RIF's hit, it appeared that the West Point, and ROTC, guys got the better end of that deal.  Of course that was due to the differences in the commissions we received when commissioned as officers. 

All of you guys take care.
FO Lt James A. Deloney (OCS)


This is interesting stuff. I graduated from OCS in Sept. of 67. I already had an MOS of 11B. My class 33-67 was the first (I believe) to choose either field artillery or ADA. Im sure "choose" is a bad term. I knew when I graduated that I was going to Vietnam within a year. It was on my orders and we were told that every day. In April of 68, I was assigned to the ROTC summer camp as the Assistant Adjutant. I was the only 2nd Lt. on the staff. The cadets were almost all older than me and they avoided contact with me usually. I was told by the Camp Commander early on that I should be an example for the soon to be Officers. I did 5 months as a FO in Vietnam. The Army ran out of Lts. for replacements in late 68. At one point I was the only FO in the Battalion. My first replacement was a ROTC graduate with a degree in Electronics, he told me he would never be a FO because he had a branch transfer for the Signal Corp pending. He got it and away he went. My second replacement was another ROTC guy and he was promoted to Captain before his boots got dirty and away he went. I took the FDO job in Feb. of 69 with still no replacement in place. I met a ROTC Lt. from Divarty that was DEROS-ing and had never been a FO or assigned to a firing Battery. Something was wrong with the system. We had 1st. Lt. LNOs and in staff positions and firing batteries with no FDOs or full time XOs. Myself and Lt. Owen and Lt. Stout left the 2/9 together in Aug of 69 and there was no Lts anywhere for replacements. Being a FO in late 68 - early 69 was like being in purgatory. Where did they all go? A lot of Arty guys were assigned to MAAG as Lts in advisory jobs. More of my classmates did this than filled FO slots. In Sept. of 68 myself, Kurtgis, Stout, Owen and Fulkerson were the 2/9th  FOs. Fulkerson was WP and the rest of us were OCS. Wallin replaced Kurtgis and he was OCS. I replaced Fulkerson when he was KIA. I left A/2/35 without a FO to go to C/2/35. Im sure the Army thought they had everything covered but clearly something was amiss with assignments. My OCS class had 6 KIAs in Vietnam. None were killed as FOs. It seems most of my classmates became pilots. One classmate made it to full Colonel after a branch change to JAG. The OCS guys were supposed to be the answer for Jr. Officer slots and there wasnt enough to go around even if you added ROTC and Military Colleges to the mix. You guys are the best, my favorite call sign was Boston Capon, go figure where that came from!!....PEACE.

FO Lt Donnie Blankin (OCS)


It may not be such command related insidiousness as it sounds. There could be a small group of monkeys operating the officer assignments for the entire artillery branch without much understanding or guidance from on high. For a while [2-3 years], I ran the officer assignments desk for STRATCOM - The US Army Strategic Communications Command. No one either reviewed or questioned my assignments but I was the single-handled person who made all officer assignments world wide for the entire Communications Command, world wide up to grade O6. Sure, every once in a while, the CG or Deputy CG would call me and order a change for a specific officer.....sometimes good; most of the time, not.

I think no one bothered to question my judgment because the prior 5 person group that handled it before my arrival did it all manually,
looking through about 9-12 feet of computer printouts. The printouts were in sorted by attribute, like listing of who was due for rotation back to the states in 3-6 months in one report and who had dependents with them in an overseas assignment in another. There was only one person there to 'teach' me how to do the job when I arrived. Since the Army was beginning to sharply downsize, I quickly learned that I was expected to do the job by myself, with only a secretary for support. 

I flunked the first first class I had at programming a FADAC. But I learned a lot about how computer coding worked. So I went down to the computer centre where the mountains of reports were generated and began asking questions about how to sort and index what later became known as a relational data base instead of just information files. With their help, we indexed all of the criteria needed to figure out the assignments. I didn't know how to actually code - yet - but after three months, you could ask the computer to list the officers by name, grade and dependent status who were DEROS back to the USA for the month of [what ever you wanted]. NO ONE understood what I had done it all sounded completely logical and data driven. The CG bragged about it incessantly to the point where other commands came by to see it for themselves. None of then could see that, in defining the selection criteria, my own biases and opinions became exactly what the computer reports reflected. Ahhhhh, life sure was fun before they wised up!

FO Lt Bert Landau (ROTC)

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