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Interview with William E. Vicars [2/13/2003]

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Hi. My name is Tim Salleah and I'm going to be interviewing Sergeant Major William E. Vicars. First of all, I want to thank you very much at the outset for sharing your military experience with me today. You're aware that we are making an audio recording of this conversation?

William E. Vicars:

Yes.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Today's date is 13 February '03 and we're conducting the interview at Irvin High School, El Paso, Texas. Bill, where -- when and where were you born?

William E. Vicars:

I was born in Paris, Illinois, May the 14th, 1940.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

And what schools did you attend?

William E. Vicars:

Okay, I -- actually after a year, my parents moved from Illinois to El Paso, Texas, where I grew up and went to school here. I went to Austin High School. That's where I met my wife. We got married and have been married for 44 years.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

What were your reasons for joining the military?

William E. Vicars:

At that time I was living in __. After I graduated from high school almost a year and was making very little money, and my father-in-law, who at that time was in the military, I had talked to him and I just kind of made up my mind that I wanted to join the military.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

So you weren't drafted?

William E. Vicars:

No.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

What was the country like when you enlisted or you entered the military?

William E. Vicars:

The country was in good shape at that time. It was in the 50's.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Who was president?

William E. Vicars:

At that time --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Ike?

William E. Vicars:

Ike? Eisenhower. No, he wasn't either.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Truman?

William E. Vicars:

No, it was after Truman --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Where did you go for basic training?

William E. Vicars:

I went from here -- in 1959 I joined the service, and was shipped from El Paso to Fort Ord, California, where I took basic and AIT, infantry training.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

And did you like basic training?

William E. Vicars:

I loved it.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

You loved it?

William E. Vicars:

Yes. I was in good shape, believe it or not.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

So it wasn't difficult for you?

William E. Vicars:

No. I was running 10 miles every weekend and probably doing 150 push-ups every night, so it was kind of easy.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

So AIT was also at Fort Ord?

William E. Vicars:

Yes, Fort Ord, California.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

So you loved that?

William E. Vicars:

Loved it. At that time it was one-one-one.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

And you liked AIT, too?

William E. Vicars:

Yes, yes, I did.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Did you get moved? After AIT, what did you do?

William E. Vicars:

Okay, from AIT they sent me to -- I volunteered to go on job status so they sent me to the 101st, where I was assigned to Charlie Company 327, Infantry, and I spent two weeks in preback (phonetic), which was nothing but PT from 8:00 in the morning till noon, and then from 1:00 until 5:00 in the afternoon we did nothing but PT for two weeks, and by the time I got into job school itself, it was kind of -- kind of a snap.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

__+

William E. Vicars:

Before that __+

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

So were you off or on post?

William E. Vicars:

At that time I was living on post but my wife came after about -- I don't know, I think I was there about six months and they allowed us to move off post. It was 10 miles to Clarksville from Fort Campbell and it was kind of difficult to get back and forth. However, they had reveille at 6:00 in the morning and you didn't miss reveille.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

No.

William E. Vicars:

No, not back then.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

So what did you do after Fort Campbell?

William E. Vicars:

Well, while I was at Fort Campbell, we went to Puerto Rico and it was called Operation Puerto Pine. First time I really got to fly on a big airplane. Went down and came back in about two weeks. We also jumped in at Fort Carson. After -- after I got 18 months, I got orders to go to Germany, to the 18th Infantry, Sandhofen, Germany. We were stationed at Coleman Barracks in Mannheim.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

What was that like?

William E. Vicars:

That was one of the worst units I think I ever stepped into.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

How come?

William E. Vicars:

Because there was people that had been in that units -- they had rotated from Fort Riley, Kansas, to Germany, back to Fort Riley, Kansas, back to Germany. They started out as privates in that unit, were platoon sergeants and first sergeants, and I was there about -- we didn't even have reveille. They -- they -- the NCOs, a lot of the NCOs were coming in at 9:00 in the morning and some of them leaving at 3:00 in the afternoon, even. It was -- it was a terrible unit.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Where was the mission there?

William E. Vicars:

It was a regular infantry unit.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

__+

William E. Vicars:

Yes, and in the company I was in -- all the companies were not like that. The particular one that I was in, D Company, was probably the worst company I'd ever -- well, I hadn't seen many, but coming from the 101st, it was a real letdown.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Oh, wow.

William E. Vicars:

And --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

It was a leadership problem?

William E. Vicars:

It was a leadership problem, and I guess about six months, a captain came in -- didn't know his name at the time -- spent about two weeks with us, never said a word, never said nothing. Two weeks had went by, he took command, and people went in 50 directions, and his name was David Hackworth, Captain, and he turned that unit from probably the worst to the best unit that I had ever served with, and I served with Captain Hackworth for another 18 months. We went on the Berlin crisis. We were the first unit to go into Berlin. While we were in Berlin, we spent five months up there, and we were at Tempelhof Air Force Base in Berlin, Germany, then we came back to Mannheim. I made E4 and E5 in that unit, and then I was discharged and came back to the United States.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

How did that happen?

William E. Vicars:

How did that happen? I got out. I just decided to get out of the service. I spent 35 days out before reenlisting, and when I reenlisted, right here in El Paso, back to Fort Polk, Louisiana, where I trained troops for three years.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

__+. Can we go back -- what can you tell me about Hackworth in Germany? You said he was outstanding?

William E. Vicars:

Yes.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

What was he really like? How was he different?

William E. Vicars:

The biggest difference was he looked out for the young -- the little guys, you know. He was off with the soldiers. He also -- you had to respect him. He was hard but he was fair, and he was probably one of the ones that inspired me to stay my time in the military service.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

What year about would that have been?

William E. Vicars:

That was about 1961, '62.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

And he was a captain?

William E. Vicars:

He was a captain at that time. I understand that he was in the Korean War. He had five Silver Stars that he wore at that time and he had a CIB, and those were the only two awards that I ever remember seeing on his uniform. I understand he was a master sergeant and then took a battlefield commission, but he was a great man, as far as I'm concerned.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

What about the incident -- can you tell us about that incident in -- that one incident you had going into the -- eastern Germany? What went on with that?

William E. Vicars:

Okay, when we got -- when we got stationed at Tempelhof Air Force Base, we were there as a reaction force and also a show of force, that was really our mission, but we were called on alert constantly, and what happened was about the third or fourth time that we were called, Captain Hackworth said there'll be no more of this, and he said tonight we're going to go through the border, and so he got hold of all the tankers and everybody was involved. They called the alert and we started forward. Colonel Johns, who was a battle group commander at that time, happened to stop us at the gate, but -- and it's a good thing he did because it would probably have been World War III, and so when he stopped us, that -- also, we spent five months up there and never went on another alert the whole time we were there __+.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

So __+ a character?

William E. Vicars:

Captain Hackworth was the guy that -- yes, and he would -- he would -- even -- when we got back to Mannheim, when we'd go to the field, he would take our company to the field and we'd stay 30 days, we'd come back, the rest of the battle group would go out. We'd go to town, have a good time, while the rest of the people were down and out in the field, and he stepped on a lot of people's toes. But he looked out for the company, you know, and the people that were in it.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

What was __+ you were a squad leader?

William E. Vicars:

I was a squad leader.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Okay, after you left Germany, you were saying --

William E. Vicars:

I --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

After a while __+

William E. Vicars:

I got out in 45 days, then went to Fort Polk, Louisiana, and I trained troops down there from 1962 to 1965, and at that time they were going to send me to the first drill sergeant school. However, I got orders to go to Okinawa, to the 173rd Airborne Brigade, and so I left Fort Polk and spent a whole lot of time on a boat going over to Okinawa. It was a long trip on that boat. People were sick, and once we got into Okinawa -- I spent time in Okinawa with the 173rd. I was in A Company, 503rd, 173rd Airborne Brigade, separate, only one brigade but there was only two battalions in that brigade, the first and second battalion, and we only had three companies, A, B, C and D Company -- or A, B and C Company, and sometime in March of that year, of '65, March -- and I don't remember the exact date -- they started calling us on alert. They started -- a little at a time, it seemed like we started backing air-e-barbs (phonetic) and then it was a C-box (phonetic) and we had to address the C-box (phonetic), and this went on, you know, all the way up until around the 4th of May. On the 4th of May, they were already donating everything that was in there to the incoming unit, so we knew we were going someplace but we had no idea, and so when the company commander came out that night, talked to us, told us I can't tell you where you're going, but if you listen to the 8:00 news, you'll know where you're going. And 8:00 news went by and nothing was on there. 10:00 news came and we were already starting to move out. It said the 173rd Airborne Division had landed in South Vietnam, and so we knew where we were going.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

So what was that like? What was your first tour in Vietnam like?

William E. Vicars:

It wasn't -- it was a nightmare to me and I'm sure to most of the people that was in that unit because we had no idea -- even though we were tailing (phonetic) the outfit, and we had a lot of togetherness, when we got there in the month of May -- we landed May the 5th of '65 and started in Vung Tau, and we stayed down there for just a little while and then we moved into Ben Hoa. That was our home base. However, in the month of May, we were sent out on search and destroy missions anywhere in Vietnam that they needed us. Anybody that was having any kind of problem --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

You __+

William E. Vicars:

They pulled us in. In the month of May alone, we were ambushed 17 times. I mean, you know.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Almost every day?

William E. Vicars:

Yeah, almost every day we'd get hit with something. You know, it wasn't no picnic. Then I was there when we moved into Ben Hoa, we set up our -- actually, we set up a big old perimeter. I guess our mission was somewhat to defend a air base in Ben Hoa. However, we didn't stay there more than a week at a time, it seemed like, because every time, they would call us and send us somewhere. When the 25th came over, we had to go help the 25th out. When the 1st came over, we had to help them out. I guess the -- and the 4th Infantry Division, we also, and Americal. The only ones that was in the cav, and I wasn't there because I had gotten wounded in November of '65 and sent back to the States, and I think they just had got in the country, and --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

So how did you get wounded?

William E. Vicars:

Well, we were in War Zone D and there was a lot of -- they were building, at that time. They said they were really -- the battalions were -- they were building battalions and regiments out there in War Zone D, and General Westmoreland had told General Ericson (phonetic), who was the brigade commander, to get us out of the field, and -- but before he could do that, we had a couple of companies that was completely wiped out, and we were doing -- we were getting hit with some pretty heavy, heavy artillery and mortars and everything else and -- and so I -- it just so happened I was in the wrong place at the wrong time when one of them mortars hit and I got wounded, and that's what sent me back to the States.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

So were you hurt pretty bad?

William E. Vicars:

I got hit in the stomach. They had cut me wide open. I have a big scar here. And they opened me up and pulled everything out. They had to clean me out because -- I got wounded at 8:00 in the morning on November the 8th and I didn't get back in until almost 3:00 in the afternoon because they were taking all the people -- see, they thought I just had superficial wounds and really didn't know that I was even hurt, and we were taking everybody else out, the ones that were really --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Really hurt?

William E. Vicars:

And those that were dead, and I was one of the last ones to get evac'ed, and when I got back, they took me for -- well, they took me for X-rays but I passed out, and when I came to they were trying to shove tubes down my nose and they had stuff in my arms, and anyway, when the doctor said count to a hundred backwards, I think I got to 99, that was it. I was out of it again, and then when I woke up the next morning, they had -- they had me in recovery, but I didn't -- you know, they had me gooped up or, you know, shot up, and I had tubes hanging out of my nose, I had a 14-day growth beard, and so the first thing I asked for was a razor, and so I started shaving and they run me out of there. They told me get out, so I had to go to a regular -- like a ward, okay, but it was tents, all right? They had no buildings over there. It was all tents. And so I stayed there for -- well, they kept me there. That was on a Monday. I remember Tuesday, Wednesday, I was walking. Thursday, there was a kid that was laying right next door -- or right next to me at that particular time and he was shot the same way I was but I didn't know it, see, because I really didn't know what was wrong with me, and the doctor told me that -- he'd been there for two weeks and still was out of it, and the doctor said well, you got the same wounds he's got. When he pulled that bandage off and I seen that cut down through there, the next -- that afternoon I couldn't walk, I couldn't get out of bed, and it was all psychological, you know. But the next day I did get up, and the following day was when they started shipping me back to the States. That was on a Friday.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

And when you worked -- what, you were still an E5 or E6?

William E. Vicars:

I was an E6 at that time.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

E6?

William E. Vicars:

Yeah.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Still a squad leader?

William E. Vicars:

Still a squad leader. I was a machine gun squad leader.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Machine gun squad leader, weapons squad?

William E. Vicars:

Weapons squad, right.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

You say you started the mortars and --

William E. Vicars:

Oh, yeah, we had all of that stuff.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

All that stuff in your squad?

William E. Vicars:

No, not my squad.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

No?

William E. Vicars:

That's -- that's another -- that's --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

__+.

William E. Vicars:

A machine gun squad is in a regular infantry platoon. We got three line platoons and one weapons squad.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Okay.

William E. Vicars:

Okay? And the mortar platoon is separate.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Is separate?

William E. Vicars:

Yeah.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Okay. So when you came back, what was it like?

William E. Vicars:

It wasn't too bad here in the United States at that time because the war -- they weren't protesting in '65 as bad as --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

It was too new?

William E. Vicars:

Yes, it was too new and there wasn't a lot of people being sent back, I guess, dead, like, you know, later on. So I was sent to Fort Sam while I recovered, and while I was at Fort Sam, the doctor told me I would be there for 60 to 90, maybe even longer. I spent the time from November to the first of December, and I talked them into giving me a convalescent leave for 30 days. When I got back, he wasn't there, there was another doctor, and I told that doctor that they told me I was going to be released, and I got out, believe it or not, and they called DA and I talked to DA at that time and they asked me where I wanted to be stationed and I said Fort Bliss. I was just --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Yeah, right.

William E. Vicars:

You know, I never dreamed that I'd get stationed here, but they did send me here and I got stationed at Fort -- or at Meyer Range out at McGregor.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Okay.

William E. Vicars:

There was 25 infantrymen out there. We were out on the rifle range.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

You were in the rifle range, huh?

William E. Vicars:

And then I -- and then in -- I guess I was there maybe a year, and we did that training, and -- but basic training was going on right here, okay --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

__+ and stuff like that, right?

William E. Vicars:

No, regular basic.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Oh, yeah.

William E. Vicars:

Not just the Nike, but regular basic, and so I changed from out there to training troops again, but they sent me to committee group, where I was on -- right back out, ride the ranges, and then I went to map reading and I taught map reading.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

You liked that?

William E. Vicars:

Yes, yes. And I guess after I was here for, let's see, '66, '67, '68 -- in 1969 I got orders to go right back to Vietnam again, this time with the First Air Cav, yes, and when I got there in '65, they sent me -- they sent us to -- I think it was Quan Loi was our home base.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Okay, in '65 or --

William E. Vicars:

No, this is '69.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

'69. Okay.

William E. Vicars:

Yes. Quan Loi was our home base, and I went through there because you have to go through the ord (phonetic) room and all that. I was an E7 by then.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Okay,

William E. Vicars:

Okay? Platoon sergeant, and they shipped me out of there to LZ Ellen, where the company was armed, occupying at that time, and we got hit about 1:30 in the morning. I mean, it was my first day in the field and we got hit by a pretty good group. Now I know that the book says, I think, 35 was killed on LZ Ellen.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Oh, my.

William E. Vicars:

And we -- I took a 50-caliber machine gun and put it on the back end of a mule and ran it around that perimeter that night until daybreak, and at daybreak -- you know, they had carried, I'm sure -- you know, we had all of the -- the air support that we needed, and of course the artillery was on there. They lowered those 155s and 105s right over our heads and shot the shet (phonetic) rounds and --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Almost direct rounds?

William E. Vicars:

Oh, yeah, I --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Instead of indirect fire, it was direct fire.

William E. Vicars:

And blow your air guns out.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Oh, my.

William E. Vicars:

And so right after that, we went -- because we only stayed on there for about a week, okay, but that was the only time we got hit on the LZ, and that was my first day, and then we left there, went in the field. The company commander told me at that time that we had 70 -- I think we had 78 people in the company.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

That's it?

William E. Vicars:

Yeah, that was it, and we got out there and he gave me the Third Platoon, so I took the platoon and I --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

How many guys were in your platoon?

William E. Vicars:

I had 20.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

That's it?

William E. Vicars:

That was it, 20. 20. And he told me to go out -- I think it was the third day we were in the field, go out about a thousand meters and set up an ambush. If you find a trail or if you don't, then just come on back or whatever. He said just go out a thousand meters and come back. I said okay. We were out about a thousand meters when I called back in and told him I had found an autobahn, which was a trail, you know, hard run --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Yes.

William E. Vicars:

Fresh.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

__+

William E. Vicars:

Yes, and it was -- well, it's like that red clay that you see and it's packed.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Uh-huh.

William E. Vicars:

Well, that's the way it was, and so I set up an ambush and I was -- I headed off the trail because these kids that I had -- they were all kids. I was the oldest person in that whole company, I was 29 years old, and they called me an old man, and anyway, I walked the trail because they were -- they were out -- out in front of the trees, you know. The trees were all huge, and -- but they parked their selves in front like nothing was going to happen, because most of them had never seen -- other than the LZ, never seen a shot fired in --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Ever?

William E. Vicars:

Ever, you know.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

I bet.

William E. Vicars:

And so as I walked there, I put everybody in position, and I told them be quiet and don't say nothing, just play it cool. Anyway, I got back in the center and I looked up and believe it or not I thought it was some of our guys that had got back on the trail themselves, and there was four of them standing right in front of me, and guess what? It sounded like the world broke loose. Everybody shot at the same time. So we killed -- actually killed five in that kill zone. One did get away, and they brought on -- look, I had -- I was talking to the company commander, I was talking to the battalion commander, I was talking to division commanders, I was talking to birds, I was talking to -- you know, everybody and his brother was -- you know, and I'm trying to get -- I'm trying to get everything straightened out so, you know, I don't get killed out there. Anyway...

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

You didn't lose any of your guys, did you?

William E. Vicars:

No, no, we didn't lose any on Ellen, either. But the high bird said -- I told 'em -- I knew one of them had got away, I didn't know how far he was or anything else, and it was like, you know, it was way down. It looked like it was 2- or 3000 meters down in there. We were sitting right on top of this hill and that road ran around on top and it went way down, and he said let me follow the road, and he had a Loach, and he just followed that road and he said man, that -- is hauling some tail, and he said one shot with that mini gun and he said he ain't hauling no more. That was -- that was -- we had 70 -- 78, I think, is what the company commander said, and as I stayed there, you know -- and again, we switched company commanders. I had three different company commanders over there and tons of platoon leaders. They came in, they spent their six months and went off, you know, and all of them got their little awards, they held out their hands and got a Bronze Star, or, you know, air medal, whatever, and left, and I was really the guy that controlled and held that company, and believe it or not, in about -- I guess I was there about six months, we had at least 250 people in my company. Nixon decided that we were going into Cambodia. They called us. We were one of the first units in, and --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

What year was this, about?

William E. Vicars:

This is in '70, 1970, and they called us and I told them that we needed X amount of -- of birds to get us from there to there, and they said no way, there's nobody in Vietnam that's got a company that big. I said you send 'em and we'll fill 'em, and we did. They had to do a round-robin thing to get us into Cambodia, but they got us in there, and we hit -- and I was -- you know, I thought I was fighting -- you know, 'cause Vietnam was supposed to be a stepping stone, you know, and we were supposed to stop the communists and --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Aggression, right.

William E. Vicars:

Uh-huh, and really when I got into Cambodia I was very disappointed. On the Ho Chi Minh trail, there was trucks, almost brand new, I'd say they were a few years old, but brand new, Chevy, Ford, Dodge.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

What kind of trucks? Pickup trucks?

William E. Vicars:

No. Deuce-and-a-halfs.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Oh, Deuce-and-a-halfs.

William E. Vicars:

Uh-huh, yeah, hauling them from North Vietnam to South Vietnam. They had brand new Jeeps. I had Jeeps in my motor school, from what I understand, that didn't even have wheels on them. Couldn't get no parts for them, but yet they had better stuff than we had. Also, we hit the biggest cache of rice since 1965 in there, and they made us stay in that area for two weeks, but I didn't get anybody hurt. They were -- the north regulars were in there, but every day they didn't -- they didn't show their face. We had a few firefights with them, but nothing serious, and we'd kill a few here and they would kill -- you know, they didn't kill any of us, but --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Who was your commander there?

William E. Vicars:

I have no idea. I don't even remember his name.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

And you were a platoon --

William E. Vicars:

I was a first sergeant.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Oh, you were a first sergeant?

William E. Vicars:

Platoon sergeant. They pulled me back after that ambush.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Okay. (Exchange indecipherable.)

William E. Vicars:

They wouldn't let me go out no more. But anyway, we were pulled out of the area at night time because I -- they would mortar us, and, you know, I had to keep them alive, and that cache had 100-pound sacks and it was donated by CARE, New York, New York, and you think I wasn't upset? Yes, I was. What am I fighting for, you know? Somebody -- you know, and, again, politics plays a big part of that war.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Oh, yeah.

William E. Vicars:

But I spent the rest of the time -- when we did finally get back out of Cambodia, we ran into a training camp --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Uh-hum.

William E. Vicars:

-- with the north regulars, and that was hot. We had -- I had 200 -- like I said, I had 250 people, plus I had a mortar in the field with me. I kept a --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

A mortar?

William E. Vicars:

A mortar platoon, yes, and every time that thing would pop -- if they hit us, that mortar would pop, they were gone. They would not stick around.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Oh, my.

William E. Vicars:

The north regulars would move out. For some reason, they'd never --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Would not engage?

William E. Vicars:

No, and so we were in this training facility of theirs, and of course they hit us first and then they backed off, and then that particular week, we had picked up a first lieutenant, ranger airborne, gung-ho. You know, he wanted to high diddle-diddle with the troops right up the middle, and so he -- you know, he was going to get a bunch of my people killed. And I told the company commander, I said we need to get rid of him somehow because he's going to try to take one -- one of these platoons and run it up someplace where it's going to be killed. So Echo Company, which was a recon, part of a recon platoon, they had the recon platoon and the mortars on the LZ, and it was all E Company, and anyway, the recon platoon was losing the platoon leader, and this guy was ready to go, and so we volunteered him to take the recon platoon, which was a mistake, okay, just to be honest with you, because the battalion commander did not like what we were doing. You know, in other words, we weren't getting enough body count, okay, and the -- the recon platoon was his baby and, you know, and they were making X amount of kills here and X amount of kills there, and they were -- at that present time they were supposed to be in a bunker complex, okay, and they'd already killed a bunch of people, and so what the battalion commander decided to do is to move that lieutenant to take over that --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

The platoon?

William E. Vicars:

But at the same time, rotate us. We would take --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

The bunker?

William E. Vicars:

The bunker complex and they would move in to the area that we were in.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Okay.

William E. Vicars:

And that night, on a -- on a -- we wiped out that whole platoon, to include that platoon leader, out. And we were in an area that the bunkers had been there for many, many years, and they were caved in and, you know, I could go on and on, you know, but it wasn't really --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Good?

William E. Vicars:

They were sending back false reports, is what they were doing, and a lot of that went on over there. Even some of the officers, because just like when I went out on my recon that first day, okay, the first time I went out to go out a thousand meters, I went out, I did what I was supposed to and came back. At the same time he had sent out another platoon and I had gone out about 50 or 60 meters, and that platoon leader and his platoon would sit down talking about they'd been out 200 meters, and then the next time I heard them talk, they were out 300 meters and, you know, and, again, they never went far, and I think this reason why I was pulled as first sergeant because I actually did what I was supposed to do.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Wow. Now, do you want to comment about tactics and whether or not or -- do you think that our tactics were flawed or --

William E. Vicars:

Well, one of the problems -- one of our problems that we had in Vietnam after -- at least after the real units, you know, the 173rd and First Air Cav and the Americal and all the others were intact, you know, you had senior NCOs, you had officers, and everybody had been together for a long time. When I got over there in '69, I took over a company that had a bunch of youngsters in it. You had shake-and-bakes, which were at Fort Benning for six months, okay, and then they sent them to Vietnam and they become E5's and E6's in those platoons, and, again, I was the oldest person. I was 29 years old at the time, 30, actually, in '70. They were so young that they needed guidance and there was no senior NCOs in the field. I don't know where they were at but they weren't out where I was. Now, some of the other units might have had them, but in my particular unit, we had no real hard-stripers. They were all shake-and-bakes, and then the officers came in, spent a little -- some of them didn't even spend six months. I mean, some of them come out there for two or three months and they were sent right back in and somebody else come in and all of them just to get their --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Time in?

William E. Vicars:

Time, get their CIBs, get their little medals and get on back.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Did you get a chance to do a lot of training there or not?

William E. Vicars:

No, you didn't train.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Didn't train?

William E. Vicars:

No, uh-uh. We were in the field the whole time. The training you did was, you know --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

The mission?

William E. Vicars:

The mission, search and destroy, search and destroy, search and destroy.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Now, did your platoon leader go with -- when you had platoons, was he out there with you in the open?

William E. Vicars:

Platoon leaders.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

No?

William E. Vicars:

They all -- I didn't have one. I was the platoon leader. Platoon squad, platoon leader, squad leaders. You know, it was like taking a brand new platoon or a brand new basic training unit and you have to train these kids, you know.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Step by step?

William E. Vicars:

Yes. It was the same thing. They got their basic AIT and was sent straight to Vietnam.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Vietnam.

William E. Vicars:

And there was a lot of problems because of the race problems, not only here in the United States but as well over there. We had a lot of problems, and I think that's why everybody's companies were like 50, 60 --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

__+

William E. Vicars:

Not mine, no. I -- see, the problem was I think when you had a company of, say, 80 or 90 people and they sent you back in to build or set up an LZ, or to defend it, you lost a lot of them when you went back in there.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Sure.

William E. Vicars:

Okay, but you were given replacements every day.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

__+

William E. Vicars:

Well, see, I didn't go back in.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

You stayed up front?

William E. Vicars:

I stayed out in the field for at least eight straight months. I mean, we never came back in.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

You never came back in?

William E. Vicars:

And we ate C rations and got very few hot meals.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Bill, what can you tell me about the M16 rifle? What's your opinion? Did you like it or didn't like it or --

William E. Vicars:

I liked it. I never had any problems with it. If you keep it clean and fire it in the morning times, or at least keep something over the barrel, keep that thing from -- the moisture out of it, it was a great weapon. Never had a problem with it.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Now, did you allow your soldiers as first sergeant to take enemy weapons and use those or not?

William E. Vicars:

No.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

So just the M16's and --

William E. Vicars:

M16's and 60's and --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

And M60's?

William E. Vicars:

That's it, and the mortars that we used.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

And mortars?

William E. Vicars:

Yeah, a lot of clay mortars. Sent up a lot of clay mortars.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Clay mortars?

William E. Vicars:

Yeah.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Okay. So your second tour of Vietnam, anything else significant about that? __+ So you never saw Hackworth again over there, did you?

William E. Vicars:

No, but I had -- he was there because he used to write these little -- it was like a newsletter.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Right.

William E. Vicars:

And you'd get them in the units, and his comment was this war was made for squad and __+

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

And --

William E. Vicars:

And it was true, the tactics part of it. You didn't want to send out a large unit to do something that a squad could take care of, but that's the way they ran them over there, you know.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

__+

William E. Vicars:

Yeah, didn't run 'em like they should have. That's about all I remember about Hackworth, as far as him being in -- he was there in Vietnam but --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Well, did you have a sense of winning or losing in 1970, or '65, when you got there first in '65?

William E. Vicars:

I thought we was going to win the war.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

In '65?

William E. Vicars:

Yes.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

And 1970 also?

William E. Vicars:

No.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Okay, in '65 you were sure you were going to win?

William E. Vicars:

Yes, and we would have, had we went north, okay, and they kept us in there for the duration. But, no.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

__+

William E. Vicars:

No. There was no way you could win that war in the south. No way. We were just wasting our time and getting people killed. Wasn't worth it.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Now, do you blame Johnson for the --

William E. Vicars:

No.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

No, you don't?

William E. Vicars:

I don't think he knew what was going on. He thought he did, but I don't think he really knew what was going on.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

So you never saw the mucky-mucks come over, McNamara and all those guys.

William E. Vicars:

No, no. The only one I ever seen was Westmoreland.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Westmoreland?

William E. Vicars:

Yes.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

__+. Tell me about your time with Westmoreland?

William E. Vicars:

Westmoreland, the first I remember was in the 101st, because he was the division commander.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Sure.

William E. Vicars:

And I'm sitting in a foxhole and he comes right up to -- you know, and talks to you, just like, you know.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Were you a private?

William E. Vicars:

I was a private then.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

You were a private?

William E. Vicars:

I was a private then. Now, in Vietnam, he came to our units in the field a lot of times. He would drop in on you, but that's the way Westmoreland was, you know.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

__+.

William E. Vicars:

Wherever you are, you know -- oh, yes, I did. They didn't let him fight the war like he wanted to. Again, the politics involved. You know, turn the generals loose and they'd win the war. You know. That's the politics.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

What else about Vietnam? Anything else? Logistics, you were okay?

William E. Vicars:

Yes.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

You got uniforms and they took care of you most of the time?

William E. Vicars:

Most of the time we got taken good care of, yeah.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

__+. Okay. When you came back from Vietnam, when was that, late '70?

William E. Vicars:

Late '70, and I was sent to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. I was with the Polar Bears, the 31st Infantry. We supported the OCS there at Fort Sill.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Okay. What about that? Did you like that or not?

William E. Vicars:

It was different, okay? A lot different. But we had a lot of problems because we were getting out of Vietnam, the 90-day people, and a lot of those were drug addicts and they weren't the greatest people in the world.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Okay. I want to back up just one second. Now, you were first sergeant -- actually, you were a platoon sergeant -- you were a squad leader, platoon sergeant and first sergeant in Vietnam?

William E. Vicars:

Uh-hum.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

And you were in two different units, at least?

William E. Vicars:

Uh-hum.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Now, what's your impression? Were there hard drugs and alcohol and --

William E. Vicars:

Okay, in '65 there was none, that I know of, okay? Now, in '69 and '70, if you was on far bases or you were, you know, someplace where, you know, there was no action or any -- from what I understand, there was a lot of drugs and there was a lot of people that were getting grenades thrown at them and all kinds of racial problems.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

__+.

William E. Vicars:

Yes, but in the field, I mean, when you were out in the field, there was no drugs out there that I know of. Now, we did get a kid in, believe it or not, from the States and he was a heroin user. He lasted three days with us and he -- and we had a log, what they -- that's when they brought in your rations --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Sure.

William E. Vicars:

And all the stuff that you needed. He ran out and got on that helicopter and I never seen him again. I don't know where he went. He went AWOL right out of the field because he couldn't handle it anymore. But there was no drugs in the unit or in my company, okay?

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

As far as a platoon sergeant, first sergeant --

William E. Vicars:

Nope.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

-- didn't have any problems?

William E. Vicars:

Never had any problems with it. We never had any problems with kids following orders or none of that. You know, there was some people over there that had problems with --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

With __ and stuff?

William E. Vicars:

Yes.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

But you didn't? They listened to you?

William E. Vicars:

I was the old man in the company.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

And it was kind of like family, you think?

William E. Vicars:

Yes, it was.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

It was?

William E. Vicars:

It was. They were good. They did what they were supposed to do. They stayed alive.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Okay, back to Fort Sill --

William E. Vicars:

Okay, Fort Sill. I was there for a long time. I made E8 at Fort Sill. I was a headquarters first sergeant.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

So in Vietnam you were an E7, first sergeant?

William E. Vicars:

Yes.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Did they have E7 first sergeants, or not too much?

William E. Vicars:

I didn't see too many of them.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

But __+

William E. Vicars:

I'm sure they were there.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

__+

William E. Vicars:

Because they were rotating back and forth. Again, the unit that I happened to be in did not have NCOs, not hard-stripe NCOs.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Wow.

William E. Vicars:

What can I say? I don't know -- they tried to get me out of the field two or three times, they didn't want me out there. I guess they didn't want -- they wanted more kills or something. I don't know.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Because you had some common sense?

William E. Vicars:

Kept them alive, yeah. But anyway, about Fort Sill, I made E8 at Fort Sill in DA. You know, that's when they first started those selection lists, and I had a sergeant major by the name of Van Landingham (phonetic), George Van Landingham. He probably was one of the -- he went through class, too, and he told me at that time get ready because you're going to go to sergeant major academy. I didn't believe him because I only had 13 years in the military at that time. 13 years. I said nah, no way, and yet two years, I was sent -- I had 15 years in when I did. I told you the other day it was 13 when it was 15. I was young. There was -- there was -- you know, most of those guys had over 20 years.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Sure.

William E. Vicars:

And I always felt kind of strange being among 'em, but there was -- you know, there was -- there was the greatest time. The six months that I spent there around that table was the greatest time that I think you could ever spend with a bunch of guys. You know, they talked about all of the things they did, they talked about their war stories, you know --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Right.

William E. Vicars:

Hey, all of the things that, you know, went on, and we had a good time and I enjoyed my six months in sergeant major academy. Of course, it was home again.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

You were in El Paso.

William E. Vicars:

I tell you what, we graduated. I never seen so many people on the phone to DA. They all had orders going someplace. They called DA like crazy.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

__+

William E. Vicars:

And the __+ they don't want to go where they wanted to send them. I got mine to Germany and I said I'll just go --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Go.

William E. Vicars:

Yeah, so --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

So did your wife go with you to Germany?

William E. Vicars:

No.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

No?

William E. Vicars:

No. She did follow me but --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Eventually.

William E. Vicars:

That was another thing that upset me, you know. I guess I was just unlucky. Even Okinawa, see. I was on Okinawa, she was supposed to get to Okinawa. Never made it. I was in Germany, the Berlin crisis broke loose, didn't get her to Germany, either. But this time, and I guess it was in '76 when they sent me to Germany, I went to the 26th -- or 28th infantry? 28th, I guess it was, 28th.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Where was that?

William E. Vicars:

Gilhausen, Germany, and I took over a company, a headquarters company again. I spent a total of seven years in a headquarters company.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

As a first sergeant or --

William E. Vicars:

First sergeant.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

First sergeant. Oh, no.

William E. Vicars:

And so orders came down to make me E9, and at the same time the orders came down, CSM come down at the same time, same list. My name was on both of them, and so they pulled me out of headquarters company for a change and told me I could go up in the S3. I'd never been up there anyway. I had to go through an IG, but believe it or not, that unit had not passed -- and Fort Sill is the same way -- hadn't passed IG's until I took over them companies, and it was the first time, you know, in like 1965 they had passed one, and I went up to battalion and the S3 hadn't passed __+

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

__+

William E. Vicars:

No, uh-uh, and I took over that place and I had the __+, and anyway, I got them through another IG inspection. First time it had passed. We had 16 commendable areas.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Gee.

William E. Vicars:

After -- after Germany, I was sent to Fort Carson, Colorado, First Battalion, Eighth Infantry. I spent three years at Fort Carson before I retired. It was a mec unit.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

They had M60's? A3's?

William E. Vicars:

The -- I had -- I was in Infantry Unit, first the Eighth, and then we had two armored units that made up the brigade.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Okay.

William E. Vicars:

And I was -- it was infantry light, and you got tank heavy, which we were, and then infantry heavy, which is two infantry battalion and one tank battalion. I just lucked out and got stuck between two tank battalions.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

So you had __+ (END OF TAPE 1, START OF TAPE 2.)

William E. Vicars:

Fort Carson, I was battalion commander -- or battalion sergeant major. I had three battalion commanders while I was there and tons of officers coming in and out, you know, XO's and what have you. We had a regular TONE (phonetic) infantry battalion. Went to the field just like any other MT units and tank units and pulled our maneuvers, and I went to Fort Ord, California, on ARTEPS.

William E. Vicars:

Yes, I did, first one. First one out there. First unit out. Seemed like I was always in that one that went first.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Now, somebody told me that that was run by the National Guard to begin with. Is that -- do you remember --

William E. Vicars:

Yes, it was, and they had -- believe it or not they had old gasser 113s out there, okay, but we were lucky enough that we did take most of our own equipment out there. It broke down out there but we had good maintenance people and they could put that stuff right back together fast, and so we did a good job as far as being one of the first units in there. We did get a pilot -- a pilot did crash out there while I was there.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

So you had the diesel 113s, right?

William E. Vicars:

Yes.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

The diesel 113s?

William E. Vicars:

Yes.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

And the A60, M68-V tanks or A2s.

William E. Vicars:

Yeah. They had most of that stuff. They were -- at that time the Bradley, I think it was, and what was the other one?

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Our new one? You mean the --

William E. Vicars:

I know the 113s changed to --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

The --

William E. Vicars:

Okay. Yeah. The first -- the 10th Infantry at Fort Carson was testing them at that time.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Oh, wow.

William E. Vicars:

And they recommended that they not accept them. But you know how those recommendations go.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Well, they weren't that good to begin with.

William E. Vicars:

No, they weren't.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

I know they were not that good.

William E. Vicars:

They were sorry.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

So you didn't see the Abrams __+

William E. Vicars:

No.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

That was a couple years later.

William E. Vicars:

Yes.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Obviously.

William E. Vicars:

Yes. When I got out we were still in fatigues.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Sure.

William E. Vicars:

I stayed there at Fort Carson three years and just did what I was supposed to do.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Now, did your family live on base and stuff?

William E. Vicars:

At that time, yes, yes.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

And did you like Colorado, pretty much, or --

William E. Vicars:

I like Colorado. I don't like Fort Carson.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

How come? What don't you like about Fort Carson?

William E. Vicars:

Too cold. Man, you go in the field out there it's -- and not only that, when -- in the summertime when you go downfield, if you don't have your field jacket with you, when the sun goes behind those mountains, you're going to freeze. Yes, it's cold at nighttime, and I wasn't used to it, and the first time they sent me down -- down range, is what they called it, out in the field, I didn't take a field jacket because it was summertime.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

You froze.

William E. Vicars:

I learned a lesson fast.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Were you a first sergeant then?

William E. Vicars:

No, I was a battalion sergeant major.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Battalion sergeant major.

William E. Vicars:

Yes, CSM.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

CSM?

William E. Vicars:

Yeah. Three years at Fort Carson, and that was enough for me. I had 21 years in the military and decided that I was going to retire. I retired in July of 1980 and came to El Paso, got a job first at a finance company and worked for almost a year before I could get a job teaching ROTC, and started in 1981 at Austin High School for five years, and I've been here at Irvin now for 22 years -- or 17 years -- yeah, 17 years, total of 22 years.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Wow. So tell me a little bit about your rifle teams and stuff.

William E. Vicars:

Well, let's see. I've had a rifle team since 1981. First three years that I was in district, we only placed third in district. There's seven high schools that shoot against each other, and then for the next two years, my rifle team was in first place. When I came to Irvin, it was still in first place, and it was hard to beat myself -- or beat them with, you know, somemore of the students that I had trained, and for -- out of 17 years that I've been here at Irvin, my rifle team has went to Houston, and they only take the top teams from here. I missed two years.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Out of 17?

William E. Vicars:

Out of 17, so I went 15 years to Houston.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

So what do you relate that to, Bill?

William E. Vicars:

A lot of patience and a lot of love for the kids,

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Yeah

William E. Vicars:

And -- I don't know. Everybody that has a rifle team talks about my rifle team.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Why do you suppose that is?

William E. Vicars:

I guess because I beat 'em all the time. I don't know. It's a lot of hard work. You spend -- you know, a lot of people don't understand ROTC, but it's not a job that you get and retire on, you know. That's what a lot of people think, and we lose a lot of people coming and going. If you're -- you know, you've got to love to do this. You've got to love the kids or you're not going to stay long, and you work -- some mornings I get here at 6:30, some mornings, then I don't get home until 10:00, 11:00 at night some nights. You know, depends on what's going on. You have color guards and drill meets and rifle meets and parades that you march in on the weekends and other things that you do on the weekends. But it's quite a rewarding job because I -- just like yesterday, I was riding down the street and this guy opens up his window. We were stopped at a stoplight, and sticks his head out the window and says you remember me? You know, I was with you 10 years ago. You know, and guys come back, and of course you have gang members that are turned over and become -- like one right now is an E5 or E6 in the Marine Corps, is a drill sergeant out in San Diego. His wife also went to school here with us. She was one of my shooters. Both of them were shooters for me. He is a E6 in the Marine Corps, drill sergeant, and she is a lawyer.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Wow.

William E. Vicars:

Just completed her seventh year.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Wow. So that makes you feel pretty good, doesn't it?

William E. Vicars:

Yes, and they e-mail me all the time and they talk to you. You get them coming back constantly and telling you, you know, if it wasn't for you guys, I probably wouldn't have made it through high school.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Wow.

William E. Vicars:

So it does make you feel good. And of course we put a lot into the military, you know, we got a lot at West Point, we got a lot at the Air Force Academy.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Is that right?

William E. Vicars:

Yep, and so, you know, and they all come back. Some of them -- in fact, not even -- I think it was last year, one of the majors came in from West Point who had graduated in 1990, I think it was, right here at --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Irvin High School?

William E. Vicars:

Yes, already a major in the Army.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Wow.

William E. Vicars:

Got another girl that's a major also in the Army. Got a couple of them out of the Air Force that are majors already. So, you know, we're still working and helping the Army as much as we can.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Wow, that's fantastic.

William E. Vicars:

But, you know, we help the other branches as well because you know --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

They go over?

William E. Vicars:

Some of them go over, right, they're not just -- we're not just geared for strictly the Army, but we try to help all the branches, but we have a lot of success with the Army team.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

So when people criticize the youth of today, what do you say about that?

William E. Vicars:

Well, they --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Are they different than --

William E. Vicars:

Yeah, they're different, but, you know, most of them think that you owe them something, okay, but still, you know, they're just kids, and I tell you, you work with them, you can get them to change a lot of things, but you've got to have some patience because some of them takes a little bit longer than others. As long as you got the patience, they turn out all right.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

I've only been coming here a few months. I notice that your soldiers here are very enthusiastic, they're smiling, they seem to be happy to come --

William E. Vicars:

Yes.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

And you seem to not have to talk to -- supervisor, they seem to be very well-motivated just on their own.

William E. Vicars:

Yes.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

What causes that? I mean, what's your secret?

William E. Vicars:

I like spending a lot of time with them.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

-- before that?

William E. Vicars:

Yeah, we spend a lot of time with them and you start them out from scratch and then you move them into leadership positions and then, you know, they learn from the one before them and so it's a carry-on thing, and most of the kids that join ROTC at Irvin will stay with us for, you know, at least two or three years. Some of them stay for the full four years.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Is that right? Seniors and --

William E. Vicars:

Oh, yes, we got seniors right down to freshmen, yep, and they stay with us as long as they can and love every minute of it, some of them.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

What do you think they like most about ROTC?

William E. Vicars:

What do I like most?

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

What do they like?

William E. Vicars:

What do I think they like? Well, they like the drill team, the rifle teams, the color guards.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

The camaraderie?

William E. Vicars:

Yes, and the togetherness.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Togetherness?

William E. Vicars:

Yeah, because they belong to something, okay, and that's what most of the kids are looking for, something to belong to, and this is a good starting point for them and they enjoy it.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

And what do you like most about the ROTC?

William E. Vicars:

What do I like most about it, after 22 years? I just love it. I want to tell you, I love every day that I put in. I get up in the morning and I come to work. It's not like I was in the military them last three years where sometimes I didn't want to come to work, but here, I enjoy it. I really do. All of it, you know. I enjoy the teaching, I enjoy the rifle teams, the drill teams, the color guards that we have to do at nighttime, so you name it.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

And you've got a dynamite partner, right?

William E. Vicars:

Oh, I've got a great partner. Me and him has been together for 12 straight years. And you can't -- you know, I don't care what anybody says, there's no way that you can put two people together and not -- you know, and be as good as me and him has. We've never even argued. We never argued.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Wow.

William E. Vicars:

We might disagree sometimes, okay, but still at the same time we don't argue about it. If I -- you know, if I don't agree with something that he says and he don't agree with something I say, you know, we say it and that's the end of it.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

You mutually --

William E. Vicars:

We agree to not agree. That's right. And we've got along great, and the kids can tell the difference, because I worked for five years with an officer, Kirk (phonetic), and I'm gonna tell you, we were at each other's throats constantly over stuff and the kids could see it.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Oh, absolutely.

William E. Vicars:

You know, and he wouldn't -- he thought I was supposed to do all the work and him sit back and take all the glory, you know. And, hey, there's two of us here. We've got to do this stuff together, and that's why me and Sergeant Major Wright (phonetic) get along so well, because if I see something that needs to be done, it gets done. If he sees something that needs to be done, you know, we do it together. It's great.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Sergeant Major, were there any soldiers besides Hackworth that had an influence on you, do you think, that molded your leadership styles or made you the way you are?

William E. Vicars:

Oh, yes, I'm sure there was a couple. I had a platoon sergeant by the name of Holmes (phonetic) when I was a private, and he was a black guy that just was great. You know, he took me under his wing. After I left Fort Campbell, of course, I never -- I lost touch with him.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

You lost touch?

William E. Vicars:

Yeah, and then I had a master sergeant at the time, at the time I made E7 -- we were working my range -- by the name of Bowen, and he was another one because he was the NCO in charge and we had no officers, and --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

He ran the show?

William E. Vicars:

He ran the show and I learned a lot of things from him that you -- you know, you can talk to the general, okay, and you can tell him, you know, but as captain you can't talk to him because he thinks he knows everything, you know.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

That's right.

William E. Vicars:

And so it -- you know, he was one of those kind of guys that could go talk straight to the general and get anything he wanted done, you know, and I learned that.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

You learned that?

William E. Vicars:

I learned that. He was -- he was all right, too. That's about the only ones that I can remember. There was probably others, but names, you know, after years, escape you, and just like Captain Hackworth, I don't think I'll ever forget his name. There was a lot of things that he did that I remember that I can't talk about, you know, but he was great and I'll never forget him.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

You'll never forget him.

William E. Vicars:

I'll never forget him, and, you know, I haven't talked to him since Germany or any other time.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

But he made a profound influence on your life, profound.

William E. Vicars:

That's right. Great. You bet.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Well, I really appreciate you sharing your military experience with -- with America. I really appreciate it.

William E. Vicars:

Hopefully they'll like it.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

And I'm glad you sure did it. Anything else you'd like to say?

William E. Vicars:

Not really. I've been married 44 years and still married to the same lady I met in high school.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

So what does that mean?

William E. Vicars:

That means I still love her as much as I did then.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

So it shows marriages can work.

William E. Vicars:

Yes.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

You've got to work at it, even in the military.

William E. Vicars:

That's right.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

You know, they have so many divorces --

William E. Vicars:

Problems --

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

-- and stuff in the military because it's so off tempo, but you're obviously the same way, all over the world and --

William E. Vicars:

And she stuck by me, 44 years.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

She stuck by you.

William E. Vicars:

Yeah. Still sticking by me, even though I don't come home at night sometimes until late, she's still there. Always will be.

Timothy L. Sallaeh:

Well, again, thank you very, very much for --

William E. Vicars:

No problem. I hope it turns out all right for you. (END OF AUDIO CD)

 
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  October 26, 2011
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