Friday, April 04, 2008
Albert B. Crouch, 1948-1970
I first learned of Albert B. Crouch, who brought me to Appanoose County's ghost town of Livingston some 35 years after he died, a few years ago when an old friend of his told me that I’d omitted Albert's name from a list of the Vietnam War dead who had connections to nearby Seymour. I had put that list together for an online memorial dedicated to Jerry Hickerson, a Corydon High School graduate who is buried in Seymour’s South Lawn Cemetery. My omission now has been rectified by that friend at the Virtual Wall.
Albert, an honors student full of promise, had been in Vietnam only 19 days when the UH-1H (Huey) helecopter he was piloting took ground fire on 18 May 1970 and he died at the age of 21.
During January of 2006, I heard via the Virtual Wall from the crew chief of that helicopter. He had witnessed the death and although he did not know Albert well, had carried his memory with him for 35 years. He wanted to know more, where Albert had lived and where he had been buried, all a part of the process of putting his mind to rest.
Looking for that information took me first to the Corydon Public Library, then to Livingston --- carrying a small flag.
I had learned from Albert’s obituary that he was the only son of Floyd and Carma Crouch, born Dec. 6, 1948, in San Diego, Calif., but had called the rolling hills of southwestern Appanoose County, not far from Numa, home. He had two sisters, Sharon and Bonnie.
A 1966 graduate of Seymour High School, Albert was student body president his senior year and salutatorian of his class.
In 1968, he graduated from Centerville Community College (now a campus of Ottumwa-based Indian Hills Community College). While enrolled there, he had served as editor of the yearbook, was a member of the Phi Beta Lambda business fraternity, National Rifle Association and Photo Club and had participated in intra-mural athletics. An academic standout, he was named to “Who’s Who in American Junior Colleges.”
Following his junior college graduation, Albert had enlisted in the U.S. Army for training as a helicopter pilot; had married Pamela Lynn Branz of San Antonio, Texas, on June 23, 1969, at Fort Rucker, Alabama; and had received his wings and the rank of Warrant Officer 1 during October of that year.
Assigned to Troop B, 7th Squadron, 1st Air Cavalry Division, Albert began his tour of duty in Vietnam on 30 April 1970. Eighteen days later, he was dead.
Albert's obituary states that the helicopter he was piloting on 18 May 1970 was being used to evacuate wounded, but that was not the case.
The HU-1H (Huey) was a powerful single-engine craft capable of transporting up to 13 troops at a time and Albert's was being used that day to deliver Vietnamese troops to a landing zone in Kien Hoa Province.
On this flight, troops were dropped off, Albert lifted his craft, did a hovering 180-degree turn low to the ground and while at hover, the craft was struck by small arms fire. A bullet hit Albert in the head, killing him instantly. No one else was injured and the Huey was brought under control and flown away.
In all, during bloody Vietnam, 2,202 Huey pilots were killed.
When Albert’s body was returned to Seymour, funeral services were held at the Fifth Street United Methodist Church, then burial followed on this peaceful hillside at Livingston with a view of the woods beyond.
Quite recently, the war in Iraq claimed its 4,000th U.S. life. Just last night we learned here in North Iowa of the death of a young man from Hampton that was related to wounds he had received in Iraq last year.
It is very odd to look at photographs of Albert Crouch’s grave, ask why he died and speculate about how many lives his death affected adversely and how many lives he might have affected positively had he lived --- then remember that in a few days we’ll be covering the military funeral of another young man, dead in another war, leaving another generation to ask the same questions.
There are no satisfactory answers, not a single one. But may they all --- Albert B. Crouch especially now near the 38th anniversary of his death --- rest in peace, rise in glory and never be forgotten.
This is the government-issue tombstone giving details of Albert's service that has been placed at his feet.