“Luck Is When Preparedness And Opportunity Meet”: An Infantry Company Commander In Vietnam Becomes A Nuclear Weapons Specialist

George Dials


George Dials grew up in coal country in West Virginia. His father died in a mining accident when he was very young, leaving his mother to raise him and a younger sister alone. From the age of 12, George worked in a variety of jobs, but still found time to excel in academics and sports. When he was in 7th grade, he entered an accelerated academic program started by the Appalachian Regional Commission, which he found to be rewardingly competitive. A visiting Cadet from West Point sparked his interest and he realized that the service academies were the only way he could afford a college education. By his first class year, he was the Company Commander in A-3, and upon graduation he branched Infantry. His first assignment was in the Airborne Brigade in Germany. Even though he was on the cutting edge of the Cold War in Europe, he felt called to volunteer for service in Vietnam. In February 1969, he returned to Ft. Benning for a refresher course with follow-on orders to Vietnam, where he was assigned to C Company, 4th Battalion, 12th Infantry in the 199th Light Infantry Brigade. Initially, they were assigned south of Saigon, interdicting VC routes into the capital. Later, after he became the company commander, they moved into an area around Dinh Quan and Gia Ray, northeast of Saigon. After returning home, he attended the Advanced Course and entered a Masters’ Program in Nuclear Engineering and Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He went on to serve at the Los Alamos laboratory before an assignment on General Stillwell’s staff in Korea. After leaving the military, he worked in the energy field, at various times in the coal, oil, and nuclear industries. He also worked in the Senior Executive Service as the Commissioner of Energy for the government of West Virginia before accepting a job at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, managing nuclear weapons maintenance and dismantling in accordance with the SALT Treaty. In this interview, he talks about his childhood, his service in the Army, and his career in the energy industry. He describes his path to West Point, including the testing he had to complete at Ft. Meade, Maryland, and discusses his deployment to Vietnam. Finally, he covers his work with nuclear weapons, and the state of disarmament. Throughout, he reflects on important leadership lessons he learned along the way.


conflicts Vietnam War Cold War
topics Leadership Camaraderie Teamwork Military Techniques West Point History Honor Ethics Nuclear Power Nuclear Weapons
interviewer Todd Brewster
date 30 April 2007


name George Dials
institution USMA
graduation year 1967
service Infantry
unit Airborne Brigade, 8th Infantry Division; C/4-12 Infantry, 199th Infantry Brigade
specialty Nuclear Engineering, Nuclear Weapons, Energy
service dates 1967 1977