“You Know It’s Serious When You Fix Bayonets”: A Tiger Battling In Vietnam

William "Bill" Crook


Bill Crook was born in December 1944 and grew up in southern California with six sisters and one brother. His father was in furniture sales, and his mother raised the children. He remembers his childhood as “good family life.” Bill enjoyed sports, worked at a restaurant, and liked driving around in his 1949 Ford (he was “more of a car guy than a beach guy”). In October 1963 he enlisted because he wanted the challenge and, during that time, if you were 18, you served. He recalls President Kennedy’s assassination as a formative memory during his Basic Training experience. He volunteered for the Airborne and jumped out of C-119s and C-130s during his training. In the spring of 1963, he reported to C Company, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry at Ft. Campbell, and learned that the unit was preparing for a training deployment. After loading up and flying, with stops in Spain and Turkey, he jumped into Iran (his sixth jump) in a joint operation with Iranian Paratroopers during a week-long exercise. Back at Ft. Campbell, Bill adjusted to the spit-and-polish routine of the Army in the early 60s. He recalls that most of his NCOs were World War II or Korean War veterans, notably First Sergeant Leo B. Smith. In July 1965, the 1st Brigade of the 101st was one of the first units to deploy to Vietnam. They sailed aboard USS General LeRoy Eltinge and they referred to themselves as “the boat people.” Initially, his experience consisted of patrolling with recon jeeps and escorting convoys, but they soon received their first contact with the enemy. As they gained more experience, each Battalion in the Brigade developed recon teams and LRRPs (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols). 2-327 had the Hawks, 2-502 had the Recondo, and 1-327 had Tiger Force. As a unit, Tiger Force was comprised of two platoons consisting of recon teams of 5 to 6 Soldiers, but they were never full strength. On February 7, 1966, Bill participated in the Battle of Tiger Field near My Canh, southwest of Tuy Hoa (Operation Van Buren). They first thought they were fighting VC, but quickly realized it was the NVA. Fighting was at such close range that some of it was hand to hand. During the battle, 1LT James A. Gardner was mortally wounded, and later received the Medal of Honor posthumously for his actions. 1LT Dennis Foley took command after Gardner was killed. In June 1966, Bill participated in an amphibious assault at Phan Rang. He discusses the types of missions Tiger Force was assigned, including the first night helicopter insertion to come to the aid of Abu Company near My Thu. He remembers watching tracers coming at him, knowing that he could not do anything about it, and then setting up a perimeter to secure the LZ for the next helicopter. Next the Tigers moved to the Central Highlands where the terrain was better. In June 1966 near Dak To, he was involved in a week’s worth of day and night battles. Dak To was his last operation and he returned to the States shortly after. He remembers it was not a good climate to return to in America, encountering protestors when he initially landed. He attended school on the G.I. Bill and was hired at the Sheriff’s Office. He served on the security detail for Bobby Kennedy the night before he was assassinated. During the Isla Vista Riot in 1970, he was nearly killed. He says he experiences Post Traumatic Stress, but he is disciplined in dealing with it. In the Sheriff’s Office, he served as a detective, a sergeant, and a lieutenant before eventually commanding the detectives after completing the FBI Academy. In 2000, he began attending unit reunions, and feels that it is the best thing that ever happened to him, because people at reunions can relate. In this interview, he talks about his childhood, his wartime service, and his career in law enforcement following Vietnam. He discusses the importance of training with the Soldiers he deployed with and how he formed bonds with them and their families. He recalls feeling an Arc Light strike come in (he was that close). He describes lightening his load as much as possible so he could carry more water and ammunition. At the end of the interview, he reflects on his service, stating, “It formed me as a person.”


conflicts Vietnam War
topics Leadership Teamwork Camaraderie Military Techniques Life After Military Returning from War
interviewer David Siry
date 06 December 2019


name William "Bill" Crook
service Infantry
unit C Company & Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry, Tiger Force, 101st Airborne Division
specialty Tiger Force
service dates 1963 1966