“Everyone Was A Volunteer”: Service With The 1st Cavalry And The 101st Airborne In Vietnam

Lee Sanders


Lee Sanders was born into a military family in Denver, Colorado, in March 1942. His father was in the Army Air Corps and his mother was a nurse. Growing up, he lived in San Antonio and Waco, Texas, Goose Bay, Labrador, and California. He chose to attend Texas A&M for college, and joined the Corps of Cadets there. After graduating, he completed the Infantry Basic Course, Ranger school, and Airborne training. He then served at Ft. Polk, Louisiana, as a basic training executive officer for a year before deploying to Vietnam. Arriving in-country, he was assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division and became a pathfinder (airborne qualified) in the Central Highlands. The unit enjoyed high morale because everyone in the airborne was a volunteer, and they respected their North Vietnamese enemy. Between his tours in Vietnam, he served as an instructor at Ranger School in the swamp phase. He deployed again in December 1968 and was assigned to 3rd Battalion of the 187th Infantry in the 101st Airborne Division. When the battalion moved into the A Shau Valley, his unit reinforced A Company. During the Battle of Hamburger Hill (Dong Ap Bia), his was the lead company advancing up the hill. He was critically wounded in the fight on the hill, and had to wait three hours before being evacuated. After leaving the military, he earned a Masters’ Degree in political science. In this interview, he talks about growing up in a military family, being a member of the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M, and his military service. He describes, in detail, his experiences with both the 1st Cavalry Division and the 101st Airborne Division. He discusses typical patrols, life on firebases, and incidents during combat. Finally, he reflects on what his service means to him.


conflicts Vietnam War
topics Courage Leadership Morale Military Techniques Wartime Decisions Taking on a New Command Patriotism
interviewer David Siry
date 16 May 2017


name Lee Sanders
institution Texas A&M
graduation year 1964
service Infantry
unit 1st Cavalry Division; D / 3-187, 101st Airborne Division
specialty Hamburger Hill Company Commander
service dates 1964 1971