Mitchell, David (Interview transcript and video), 2017


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Mitchell, David (Interview transcript and video), 2017


Smither, James (Interviewer)


David Mitchell was born in Auburn, Indiana, in 1949 where he graduated high school in 1967 before attending Purdue University. Unfortunately, Mitchell did not acclimate well to college life and soon left the university and was drafted into the Army in April of 1969. He was then sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for Basic Training where he was first introduced to regimented discipline. After Basic, Mitchell was transferred to Fort Polk, Louisiana, for Advanced Individual Training. He then volunteered to go to Noncommissioned Officer School at Fort Benning, Georgia, to learn tactics and leadership geared toward Vietnam. Before deployment, Mitchell briefly served as a Drill Sergeant at Fort Polk before he was shipped out to a replacement company in Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam. He was then assigned to D Company, 2nd Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. He received his first Purple Heart after receiving rocket shrapnel during a firefight. As a ‘Swing Battalion,’ D Company encountered a lot of firefights and, thus, had lots of soldier turnover. His Company Commander stated that the Battalion managed to stay alive by doing the unexpected, navigating the jungle and avoiding official trails when possible. During the fight for Hill 805, there was no enemy response during the day, but at night, his Battalion was hit regularly, forcing the men to stay awake at night. Mitchell, again, was hit by rocket shrapnel during the fight and received his second Purple Heart. Overall, Mitchell recalled how morale was low amongst his men and that the monsoon season left them wet and miserable for months. He remembered only seeing North Vietnamese civilians while in the rear or while moving by villages in the field. Most racial and political divisions were only seen in the rear base camps. Toward the end of his tour, Mitchell requested and received an early-out of the military to go back to school, leaving Vietnam in January of 1971. Landing in Fort Lewis, Washington, he was officially discharged and quickly shed his military dress uniform for civilian clothing to evade antiwar protesters and instigators. Mitchell went back to Purdue University, married in June of 1971, and then transferred to a smaller tri-state university campus where he graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering. He then went to work for Dow Chemical Company in Midland, Michigan, BP Exploration Incorporated in Alaska, and several other mechanical engineering jobs before retiring.




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Grand Valley State University Libraries, Special Collections & University Archives, 1 Campus Drive, Allendale, MI, 49401.


Veterans History Project (U.S.)






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Mitchell, Charles David, “Mitchell, David (Interview transcript and video), 2017,” Digital Collections, accessed April 17, 2024,
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