Charles F. “Skip” O’Donnell III was born into an Army family in Mount Kisco, New York. In 1954, when his father was assigned to West Point, he realized he wanted to attend the Military Academy. After qualifying, but failing to receive a nomination, he enlisted in the Army in June 1960. During his basic training he was named trainee of the cycle and given the opportunity to attend the United States Military Academy Preparatory School, later entering West Point in July 1961 with the Class of 1965. Upon graduation, he was commissioned as a Field Artillery Officer, and was assigned to the 1-10 Field Artillery in Schweinfurt, Germany, before being reassigned to the Infantry School’s Ranger Department at Fort Benning, Georgia in late 1966. In November 1967, he deployed with the 5-22 Field Artillery to An Khe, Vietnam. While in Vietnam, he commanded two field artillery batteries, primarily consisting of 175mm guns. Returning from Vietnam in November 1968, he transitioned into the Army’s nuclear missile program. During the Cold War, he served in the Army’s nuclear missile program, with assignments in Germany, Korea, the Field Artillery School, and the U.S. Readiness Command. He transitioned from active duty to the reserves in 1980, and retired from the military in 1991. He continued to work with nuclear missile technology as a civilian at Westinghouse Bechtel until retiring in 2001.
In this interview, he discusses family service, leadership, the Vietnam War, and the Cold War. He recalls serving in Vietnam at the same time as his father and his brother. He reflects on an incident in which Soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division were taking casualties from a North Vietnamese artillery unit, and his guns came to their rescue. Later, those Soldiers marched through his position and thanked his artillerymen for saving their lives, giving him the best feeling he ever had. Finally, he describes what West Point means to him.