Bounced At Least Once
(Entertaining Tribute to Bob Dalton by close friend Will Clifford)
(Previously published in Sgt. Grit Newsletter of March 07, 2013 and submitted by Nick Kosturos)
I attended OCS and The Basic School 1965-1966, (it was the Warrant Officer's 7th annual class, average age was 31, average time in service was 10 years, some Corporals, a few more Sergeants, most of us were SNCOs). There were 2428 applicants and 343 of us were selected, 280 passed muster and upon completion of The Basic School in May, 1966, were commissioned 2d Lts (something about a war heating up in Vietnam).
My bunk mate at the above events was Robert J. Dalton; during a junk on the bunk inspection at OCS, I observed his ID card on his bunk and picked it up to comment on what an ugly (something or other) he was and he snatched it out of my grip rather quickly, but not before I noted his date of birth, Dec 16, 1934. My birthdate is Nov 12, 1935, so it was not too difficult to realize that something was amiss. I knew that in 1950, he participated in the Inchon Landing, battle for Seoul, and the Chosin Reservoir campaigns, and other actions. Also, he was assigned to San Diego as a Drill Instructor upon return to CONUS in 1951, (by this time he was a 18 year old Sergeant). He accepted his discharge in 1952, upon completion of 4 years of active duty that began in 1948... at the age of 14. He had broken time, came back to active duty in 1957, served total of 31 1/2 years, retired as a Lieutenant Colonel.
To add to this saga, after I retired Nov '73 after 20+ years, I was initially in North Carolina to finish my higher education, Bob would visit my wife and I from time to time and it was interesting to observe his rise in rank. By 1975 he was a Major, on CG, ForTrps staff. One evening when I got home from work, my wife said, "Honey, Bob called from the Naval Hospital at Camp Lejeune, would like us to visit him." So off we went, to discover him in a body cast from neck to toe. He knew that I had served with 2dANGLICO (Air and Naval Gunfire Liaison Company) at CLNC and thought that I would be interested in his tale of woe. Seems that on his fourth parachute jump from a perfectly good aircraft at Fort Benning, GA, his main canopy Roman Candled, and when he deployed his reserve chute the shroud lines sort of kinda entangled with what was already collapsed on the main canopy, and with memorable words of "Oh, sh-t," he did a magnificent PLF (practice landing fall) from about 1400 feet, more or less.
Now, I am rather observant, and noticed his blouse hanging on a door knob, and presiding over about 6 or 7 rows of ribbons (two tours in Vietnam) was the U.S. Army parachute badge which represents the successful completion of five (5) jumps. Of course, I mentioned that to him, being that he mentioned the malfunction occurred on his fourth jump. Well, he said, when he was reasonably stabilized at the Ft Benning hospital the CG came into his room, with clip board in hand, and looked rather severe, as he began speaking to Bob (who was thinking, Cripes, they are going to make me pay for the parachute). Anyway, the General mumbled something about having sworn depositions from several witnesses, and they all swore, under oath (and probably under their breath) that they observed Bob hit the deck and he bounced at least once, therefore, the command decided that the bounce would count as a fifth jump and so awarded him the jump wings, with the caveat that under no circumstances was he to return to Ft Benning for additional training... ever. And that old sea dog went on to serve for many more years.
We saw Bob at the first reunion in 46 years of The Warrant Officer Basic Course of 1966, at Quantico, VA, 26 Aug 2012. He looked good, healthy and as full of the dickens as ever. And I would like to add, the gathering enjoyed the freebies that Sgt Grit showered on our little band of brothers, 34 in attendance, in wheelchairs, canes, and on two feet... more or less.
Capt., USMC (Ret)
Jul '67 - Aug '68
P.S. I was recalled to active duty Feb 1988 after 15 years of "retirement" which reminded me of why I got out on 20!