The son of an Army officer, Dennis Foley was born in 1944 at Camp Chaffee, Arkansas. After WWII, his family spent time in Germany and Japan. At one point, his father was in charge of security for the prisoners at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, and Dennis recalls walking through the corridors of the prison. In 1962, he was drafted, attending basic training at Ft. Dix, New Jersey, and signal school at Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey. A formative moment in basic training was the briefing his class received from an airborne Soldier and a Green Beret, which inspired him to serve in both the airborne and special forces. While he was a Sergeant serving in the Signal Corps in Germany, he was selected for Officer Candidate School and returned to Ft. Benning, Georgia, for OCS and Airborne School. In December of 1965, he deployed to Vietnam with the 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry in the 101st Airborne Division, and volunteered for David Hackworth’s “Tiger Force,” an all-volunteer unit designed to learn how to “out-guerilla the guerillas.” In the summer of 1966, he was wounded, and spent time on the battalion staff. Eventually, he commanded several units in Vietnam, including a Long Range Patrol Company in II Field Force, before his mentor, Hackworth, requested that he assume command of D Co, 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry, in the 9th Infantry Division. After Vietnam, he volunteered for the Special Forces, deployed to Cambodia to train their Special Forces, and spent time writing the “Air-Land Battle” doctrine at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. After his wife was killed by a drunk driver, he accepted a public relations position with the Army Information Program, working in Hollywood as a liaison to the entertainment industry, working on shows like “MASH” and movies like “Private Benjamin.” His final assignment in the Army was commanding a battalion in Germany. Following retirement from the Army in 1982, he became a writer and screenwriter.
In this interview, Dennis Foley talks about growing up around the world, and serving in the military and in Hollywood. He reflects on some of the influential people he worked with, and describes several memorable missions. He discusses leadership, both in the military and in Hollywood, and recalls that Goldie Hawn demonstrated some of the best leadership he’s ever seen. Finally, he explains the importance of reunions, and what his service means to him.