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.
“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.
“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.”
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 there.
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.
Name: 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
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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ENGLEWOOD — Betty Sue Carroll has always been a strong and active voice on the issues facing South Manasota Key.
That voice is now silent.
Carroll, after fighting what her family called “a triple onslaught of diseases,” died Monday without pain and under hospice care.
Carroll served on the South Manasota Key Municipal Service Taxing Unit Advisory Board, and as a founding member of the Manasota and Sandpiper Key Advisory Committee. She also served on the board of the South Manasota/Sandpiper Key Association. Among her other causes, she acted as a watchdog opposing a landowner’s proposed development plans of a mangrove fringe on Beach Road, adjacent to Emil R. Swepston Bridge.
“She was a stalwart protector of Manasota Key,” said Andy Wing, a former member of the MSTU advisory committee and an active member with the South Manasota/Sandpiper Key Association.
“She’d let everyone know what she thought — even (her husband) Bob,” Wing said. “She will be greatly missed.”
Betsy McCullum and Carroll met 18 years ago socially. The two became best friends, McCullum said, and joined forces to ensure Charlotte County zoning on Manasota Key would not turn it into a canyon of high-rises. They shared the same vision that Manasota Key should maintain its small, beach town ambience.
McCullum and Carroll also formed a Solutions To Avoid Red Tide (START) chapter, a nonprofit grassroots group to support scientific research and increase public awareness about the importance of preserving the marine environment.
“I always found her energetic, loving, caring and dedicated to her community,” McCullum said.
“(Carroll) had a unique way of looking at things which broadened discussions,” Wayne Largent, a former Manasota Key association president, said.
Charlotte County Commissioner Bill Truex added, “She was one of the folks on the key who wanted to maintain its old Florida charm. She worked diligently to maintain that ideal.”
He also described Carroll as someone who spoke eloquently and had her views heard.
Her activism should not be surprising.
‘Following the sun’
Originally from Ann Arbor, Mich., and then West Field, N.J., where she finished high school, Carroll — then Betty Sue Garner — would go on to attend DePauw University in Indiana, majoring in English and earning Phi Beta Kappa Key honors.
After graduating from college, she taught English in an Indianapolis high school before migrating to New York City, where she freelanced as a media buyer for advertising firms.
Taking a hiatus from work, Carroll decided to take a year off to take what was inherently a solo trip around the world.
“She headed westward and followed the sun,” her husband of 43 years, Bob, said.
The Carrolls first met skiing in Vermont. Bob described how he spotted “this gorgeous gal talking to an older man” — at least, what was an older man then, someone in his 40s.
“She (told) the story I picked her up, and I tell the story she picked me up,” Bob said. “She was a very smart woman and an amazing writer. No matter what a person’s status was, she was interested in people.”
He was serving as a leadership instructor at West Point. The couple was married at West Point in 1972. Shortly after their marriage, Bob, like many servicemen of his generation, got orders for a tour in Vietnam.
An Army policy did not allow wives and other dependents to join service members in Vietnam. But that didn’t stop Carroll. She garnered a visa and went to Vietnam under a U.S. Agency for International Development program where she taught English to Vietnamese adults who were en route to the States for graduate schools.
The Army had denied Bob his exemption to the policy, but as a civilian, the Army could not order his wife to stay stateside. The Carrolls lived in a villa in downtown Saigon until June 1973.
Returning to the States, the Carrolls raised two sons, Kenneth Cooper “KC” and Cody, moving around until Bob retired as a colonel from the Army in 1983. The couple first settled in Buffalo, N.Y., where Carroll boarded and bred horses, including award-winning Hanoverian horses. They then headed to Youngstown, Ohio, in 1990.
After exploring Southwest Florida, the Carrolls bought a home on Manasota Key and lived as winter residents five years before settling in as year-round residents.
Carroll is survived by her husband, Bob; sons, Kenneth Cooper (Julie Gayle) Carroll and Robert Cody (Jennifer Louise) Carroll; brother, Robert Douglas Garner; three grandchildren, Cooper, Owen and London; as well as four brothers/sisters-in-law; and numerous nephews, nieces and cousins.
Later this year, Carroll’s cremated remains will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, awaiting her husband. Her family plans a private celebration of life at her home. Donations, in lieu of flowers, are requested to be made to Tidewell Hospice via hospice.
Arrangements were by Kays-Ponger & Uselton Funeral Home. Memories and condolences to the family may be made by clicking here.
Her family respected her last wish not to reveal her age.
Feb. 8, 2016
Betty Sue Carroll, of Englewood, FL, died on Feb. 8, 2016. Funeral arrangements by: Lemon Bay Funeral Home and Cremation Services.This wonderful lady passed away in Englewood FL on February 8, 2016 after valiantly fighting for several years a triple onslaught of diseases. She was under Hospice Care and felt no pain. As she lived her life, she died in ease and grace.
Betty Sue Garner grew up in Ann Arbor MI, shifting to West Field NJ for her High School senior year. A gifted student and avid reader, she pursued English honors courses at DePauw (Indiana) University, graduating with a Phi Beta Kappa Key. She taught High School in Indianapolis, then moved to NYC, and then transitioned into the advertising industry where she excelled as a media buyer for several large firms. On one extended break from work she decided to see the world and circled the globe in an exciting and educational year-long tour.
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.
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.
Bob I’m so sorry to hear of the loss of your beautiful wife Betty Sue. She was such a special special person. She taught me so much about life helping me with my Horsemanship. What a wonderful mentor and friend.
Bob, I know what you are going thru now with the loss of Betty Sue. I lost my wife Betty Sue Jones in 2008. I have since remarried to a lovely woman who is from The Netherlands. I would like to hear from you . I was the 1st Platoon leader and was there during that fight. Would you call me 931-320-3918
Bob Jones email@example.com. I would love to hear from you. I lost your phone number. Man I have the most respect for you.