Col. Bob Carroll received ‘Silver Star’ fighting with 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam War

Col. Bob Carroll never mentioned he was awarded a “Silver Star” in Vietnam “For Gallantry in Action.” The Manasota Key, Fla. resident also has an 8 X 10, black and white, framed photograph of President Lyndon Johnson pinning the medal on him at Fort Benning, Ga. The commendation accompanying the medal says it all.

It reads:

“Capt. Carroll distinguished himself by gallantry in action while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam on 5 Feb. 1967 while serving as Commanding Officer, Company A, 1st Battalion (Airborne) 503rd Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade.
“On this date, Capt. Carroll was directing his company on a search and destroy mission in War Zone D, near a suspected Viet Cong prisoner of war camp when his lead platoon encountered a well fortified and determined enemy force employing command-detonated mines and armed with automatic and small arms weapons.
“He immediately moved to the scene of the battle. Constantly exposing himself to the intense hostile fire, Capt. Carroll courageously directed the action of his men and helped pull the wounded from exposed positions to safety without regard to his own danger.
“Ordering a withdrawal of one hundred meters, he called in an artillery concentration and air strikes against the enemy lines. Aggressively leading a determined counterattack, he was forced to withdraw again because of approaching darkness and undiminished hostile fire.
“Learning of several unsuccessful attempts to rescue two severely wounded soldiers from exposed positions, Capt. Carroll personally led a final attempt through the intense and accurate hostile fire and returned with the two soldiers without further casualties. “Capt. Carroll’s extraordinary courage, aggressive leadership and determination were in keeping with the highest tradition of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and he United States Army.”

The colonel is a 1962 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, as was his father before him. His dad graduated from “The Point” in 1933. He fought his way across France, Belgium and into Germany with Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army during World War II.

“He had the distinction of working for three of the nine, five-star generals durng the Second World War and afterwords–George Marshall, Dwight Eisenhower and Omar Bradley,” the younger Carroll recalled recently.

Bob Carroll of Manasota Key is a West Point graduate Class of ’62. He is a member of “The Long Gray Line” and so was his father. Photo provided

“As a kid I knew Ike. He used to like to watch cowboy movies. On one occasion (during the war) in France at this magnificent hotel in Versailles five of us kids and Ike were all in our P.J.s watching a western,” he said.

“George Marshall was looking for a combat veteran who knew the Pentagon. He selected my father and pulled him out of combat in 1944 to go to work there for him,” Carroll said. “He also worked for Gen. Bradley.

“After the war, my father went to work for Eisenhower. He was the Secretary for the General Staff working in the White House,” he explained. “Eisenhower had very few military men working for him in the White House.”

His father died of a heart attack at 44. He was a brigadier general.

One of Carroll’s favorite pictures is of Gen. Eisenhower pinning a “Silver Star” on his dad. He received two “Silver Stars” for bravery during the Second World War.

“I had a little trouble getting into West Point. I passed the exam, but I had no appointment,” he said. “I got a Presidential Appointment as the son of a deceased veteran.

“My first year at ‘The Point’ was tough, but I did pretty well academically. I’m one of those people who really loved it after my first year,” he said. “When I graduated in ’62 I went into the Infantry like my dad. If you’re going to be as soldier you might as well be an infantryman.

“Once I got out I went through a series of schools at Fort Benning–Airborne, Ranger School and then I was posted to Hawaii for two years. In November 1965 I volunteered for Vietnam.

“I was put in Ranger Command over there and sent to a place in Two Corps called Duc My. It was a Vietnamese Army training center. I became the advisor to the Vietnamese Ranger group,” Carroll said. “I just made captain when I arrived there. I was told if you’re going to be an advisor to the Vietnamese Ranger School you’ve got to go through the school. I did.”

A young Capt. Carroll relaxes shirtless with a couple of buddies in Vietnam. Photo provided

A young Capt. Carroll relaxes shirtless with a couple of buddies in Vietnam. Photo provided

He spent his first six months in Vietnam at the ranger school. Then he joined the American 173rd Airborne Brigade at Bien Hoa, South Vietnam. Carroll became the commander of a six-man “LORPS Unit” dropped behind enemy lines to spy on the Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army troops.

That’s when he got in a firefight with enemy forcers and received a “Silver Star” for his efforts.

His last six months in country during his first tour he commanded Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry. His unit was stationed in “The Iron Triangle.”

Carroll returned to the States in June 1967.

After graduating from Northwestern’s graduate school he taught a course in leadership at West Point for two years.
By June of 1972 he was back in Saigon on his second tour of Vietnam. By then he was a 32-year-old Army major.

“I was the executive officer of a brigade in charge of all ground operations,” he said. “I was one of 50 people who stayed on at the American Embassy in Saigon after the last American G.I. left Vietnam.”

Upon returning from Southeast Asia, Carroll was stationed in Fort Carson, Colo. as commander of 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry, Mechanized–part of the 4th Infantry Division. He took the division to Germany and spent three years with the unit over threre.

His final four years in the military was spent working in the Pentagon. He retired as a full colonel in 1983 after 21 years of service to his country.

“When I got out of the service I went into banking for about 10 years. Then I got back into the leadership training business. I worked for a California consulting firm that provides leadership workshops for Fortune 500 companies. I also teach leadership at ‘The Point’ periodically.

Carroll and his wife, Betty Sue, moved to the Englewood area and Manasota Key 20 years ago. They have two grown sons: K.C. and Cody.

Carroll’s File

This is Bob Carroll today at 75 at his Manasota Key home. Sun photo by Don MooreName: Robert Cooper Carroll
D.O.B: 12 March 1940
Hometown: Fort Benning, Ga.
Currently: Englewood, Fla.
Entered Service: 6 June 1962
Discharged: 31 July 1983
Rank: Colonel
Unit: 173rd Airborne Brigade, 1st Battalion (Airborne) 503rd Infantry
Commendations: Silver Star, Bronze Star with V for Valor with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, Meritorious Service Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Bars (5)/Combat, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Gold Star, Legion of Merit
Battles/Campaigns: Vietnam War

This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, June 22, 2015 and is republished with permission.

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  1. I was there on 5 Feb ’67 with the two severely wounded soldiers, the three of us on line advancing through a bunker complex. We separated at some very dense foliage I going to the left and the other two, one headed straight thru it and the other to the right. They both died.

    The Company Medic Ken “Doc” Rypka went past me to help one of them and returned saying he needed help so he and I went out to Sp/4 Jimmy Spittler who had been severely wounded. I left my weapon (M-16) back where I was when Doc asked for my help as I wasn’t going to fight but to help with Spittler.

    On the way we passed my friend, the third Trooper Bob Ecker who appeared to be dead lying against a large termite mound. As we moved into position to help, Doc pointed past a large anthill or termite mound on our right and said he thought firing was coming from that direction. Doc got to the right side of Spittler while I grabbed his hands and pulled.

    Spittler looked me in the face and his eyes are with me yet. The bullets “snapped” past us, no wooshing sound, actually dropping some leaves from the brush and I also on occasion felt Spittler “bump” from what felt were bullets hitting him. A third Trooper came out, “Smith” I think, to assist. Doc told him to reach under Spittler, who was on his stomach, and release his web belt and gear as it was getting tangled in the brush.

    Smith replied it wasn’t his gear but his intestines. Up to this time my “tunnel vision” had me focused on either Spittler or the jungle past the termite mound to my right. When Smith made that statement my eyes turned to him and at that moment, as it was getting darker, I saw muzzle flashes from an automatic weapon in what appeared to be a bunker about 7-10 yards directly in front of us.

    Immediately I turned my head to the right, squinted my eyes and said “fuck”. I was then literally knocked off me feet head over heels with pain in my right calf. I happened to land on Spittler’s M-16, picked it up and emptied the 7 or 8 rounds remaining in his magazine into the muzzle flashes. When the magazine emptied I could not see either Doc or Smith, knew Spittler was dead and headed back to where my own weapon was – from there I has a good view of the bunker and saw no more fire coming from it.

    Soon afterwards they asked for volunteers to help retrieve the two bodies and I was since then told by the Doc that he was one who went and brought Spittler in. There was certainly more to that fight that I recall that is not here but this is what pertains directly to the article that you wrote about Col Carroll.

    I had heard we three had been submitted for the Bronze Star at that moment by a fellow trooper – during the heat of battle – but it was apparently lost in the fog of war in the days that followed as neither Don nor I have gotten them.

    Tho I have been in touch with two Smiths from the Company at that time, neither was the one involved. Anyhow – that’s what I saw.

    I was having one of me VietNam nights wen I typed “VietNam fight 5 Feb 67 173rd” and came up with this. I have always hoped I would eventually locate someone who picked my camera up from the battle sight and retrieve the photos of Bob and others of the company at the beginning of that fight. Being a lowly E-5 at the time I did not have any personal knowledge of Col Bob beyond him being our C.O. until some years back when we communicated a couple of times.

    • I guess I should have mentioned that what blew me head over heels was not a gunshot wound as I had thought for 20 years but was actually a grenade that was dropped on us. Doc said that he saw it coming and put his right arm to to block it and both he and Smith were also hit with shrapnel.

  2. I was there and Capt. Corral did not retrieve those men. The Silver Star belongs to the men that retrieved the bodies which was not Capt. Corral.
    Luigi P. Muzzin R.T.O. first platoon.

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