Tank battles the U.S. was spared from fighting
To the Editor:
Thank you, Editor, for the fine Veterans Day issue with its Sec. A contents of front-page articles, your Editorial, opinion columns and obits of former veterans, with an emphasis on those who served in combat. May I point out, though, that many veterans served our Nation well without ever being in combat?
Their non-combat service has had as much value in preserving our American way of life with its freedoms secured by the U.S. Constitution as the service of those who had been shot at. This is because the details of where and how those on active duty entered and served depended not on themselves so much, all of whom were willing to be deployed to combat zones, as on decisions by generals in their chains of command who decided who should go where and do what.
This assertion of equivalence in value to the Nation of service of a veteran, whether shot at or not by enemy forces, was validated for me as an Army Reserve officer during the Viet Nam Era when 2-1/2 of my three years (1964-1967) on active duty were served at White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), N.M. Part of that time was spent at the Small Missile Range where the Army test-fired prototypes of new anti-tank guided missiles intended for better defensive capabilities over the over-the-shoulder-fired bazookas used by infantry in WWII. These were (1) Ford Aeronutronic's "Shillelagh" and (2) Hughes Aircraft's much more successful "TOW" ironically first used in combat in Viet Nam in 1972 (according to Wikipedia), about five years after my Honorable Discharge from the Army in late 1967.
By "field" read for that era, for example, Western Europe, because of the possibility envisioned on both sides of the Iron Curtain during the Cold War then of a massive armored offensive launched west from Central Europe. Both the U.S. and NATO took this possibility seriously enough to consider new defensive means to counter potential attacks by tank columns (even in sub-Arctic zones). Memories of large-scale tank battles in World War II, for example, were still too fresh on the minds of military planners in the West. Fortunately, this possible scenario with its potential to start a World War III did not happen. Instead the "Berlin Wall" came down in the 1989-1990 time frame.
When on active duty in the 1960s, though, I was unaware of strategic overtones in my work at WSMR. Indeed, like many serving in the Armed Forces while stationed in "CONUS" then, I felt an urge to volunteer for Viet Nam, and in fact sent in the paperwork up my chain of command to that effect. However, it was returned, the request for transfer denied on the basis I was "essential personnel" in my 800-person outfit responsible for testing and evaluating Army guided missile systems at WSMR. So, I continued on with my work there, which led to being awarded the Army Commendation Medal for it, the certificate of award signed by WSMR's Commanding General.
Others at WSMR contributed in this way, too, such as other Army Reservists on active duty there who were also listed on the corresponding General Order authorizing the aforementioned award for themselves, too.