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Smither, James (Interviewer)

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Van Cleve, Charles

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Chuck VanCleve was born in Linwood, California in 1950. He grew up in Linwood, California and enlisted in the Army on May 6, 1968. He qualified for officer training despite his young age, and received his commission on June 17, 1969, and went to Helicopter School at Fort Walters, Texas. He completed the entire course, but was forced to wash out on the final check ride due to colorblindness. From there he went to Jungle Training in Panama to prepare for a deployment to Vietnam. Upon completing that he was sent to Vietnam in late 1969. After travelling to Camp Eagle he was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division and travelled from there to Camp Evans where he was assigned to B Company of the 2nd Battalion of the 319th Field Artillery Regiment attached to D Company of the 2nd Battalion of the 506th Infantry Regiment as a forward observer for artillery. He served under Captain Rollinson and took part in patrols of the area around Firebase Jack and later around Firebase Ripcord. On July 1, 1970 he was reassigned to C Company of the 2nd of the 506th under the command of Captain Hewitt. On July 2nd Hill 902 came under attack by North Vietnamese forces and he was wounded in the initial rocket barrage. Despite being wounded he assumed the role of acting company commander (Captain Hewitt was killed immediately in the barrage) and directed mortar fire and flares to ward off the North Vietnamese onslaught. After the battle he was evacuated to Camp Evans where he was awarded the Purple Heart and later the Distinguished Service Cross and then eventually to Japan and finally to Fort Bliss, Texas to receive treatment for the wound on his hand, and served as an ROTC instructor at Fort Sill, Oklahoma until he left the Army in 1974.

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Veterans History Project collection, (RHC-27)