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.

5 comments:

Sharon L. (Crouch) Mace said...

My name is Sharon (Crouch) Mace. I teach business and computers in Casa Grande, AZ. I was teaching my students about using search engines when I decided to type in my brothers name, Albert B. Crouch and up came this article! What a surprise to me to find what you had written about Albert. Everything you wrote was accurate. Albert was an All American guy. His roots go back to a one room school house called "Brushy School". Because our parent farmed and had no one to take care of him he was sent to school at the early age of four. He was our over achiever! He not only graduated as student body president and salutatorian of his class, but lettered all four years in all four sports (football, basketball, track and baseball). While playing basketball his senior year, he received a "cross body block" and suffered damage to his right knee. The did not do surgery at that time. He periodically went in to have fluid removed from his knee and kept it wrapped when he was doing any strenuous activates. He dreamed of on day flying airplanes. His room had all kinds of model airplanes flying from the ceiling. He was an avid New York Yankee’s fan. Everyone loved him and he had a karma about him. The church where the funeral was held was filled to the rafters with people who lives he had touched.
He was so determined to fly that he enlisted in the Army. He would never have had to go to war due to the damage he had done to his knee. That didn't stop him. He knew this was the only way he could fly and he was willing to take the risk. A risk that cost him his life. His original order to be deployed to Vietnam were lost and he continued to dig into the system until so that he could go out with his troop. He was successful and met up with his fellow crew in Washington.(I think.)
A few years ago a young man contacted me and said that he was the lead pilot in the Huey that Albert was co-piloting. He wanted to talk about Albert and asked if he and the Battalion leader could come to Arizona and visit with my family. It was good to meet up with him and listen to the few stories that he recalled about Albert. They were all so young. Both of the other soldiers were only 21 years of age.
Albert left behind a wife of less than one year, his mother and father, and two sisters. He so touched our lives and is remembered by my four children by the stories and pictures I share. Albert lives on by the many lives he has touched.
I would like to know more about the friend who knew of Albert and if he our family.
Thank you for the special words you said about Albert. He lived up to everyone of them and more.

Pam Hunter said...

I am Pamela Branz Crouch Hunter. I have stayed in touch with Sharon over the years. Not a day goes by that I don't miss Albert my first love and first husband. We met at a dance at Texas Woman's University in Denton Tx. He was attending helicopter school at Ft. Walters in Mineral Wells Tx. When TWU had a dance the WOC's (Warrant Officer Candidates) would invade the campus. The weekend after that dance ....Al and about 6 of his friends showed up at the dorm.... I was working the front desk (to help with college cost)and there he was--wanting me to find dates for him and his friends. I worked things out so that I ended up with him. We got serious enough over the next few months that when school was out I went to Iowa with him to meet his parents and attend Sharon and Dale's wedding. His Dad must have asked me 10 times if we did not want to make it a double wedding. We said no we wanted to wait till after Viet Nam. I went home to San Antonio and he went to Ft. Rucker to finish his training. I was calling and crying almost every night so he arranged for me to fly to Iowa .....his folks and I drove his 57 chevy and his parents car to Alabama (his Dad was always giving me a hard time about how much easier the whole process would have been in Iowa weeks before). We had a wonderful little ceremony at Ft. Rucker (I did use Sharon's dress). Albert got a state side extension for six months and we were based at Ft. Riley Kansas after Ft. Rucker. He was loved by everyone and we had a good time. We went to San Antonio.I was going to live with my parents -get a job and save money while he was in Viet Nam. From the time the officers showed up at the front door to deliver the news until well after the service my memories are foggy. I think it has to be some kind of psych thing. I managed to pull myself together and go back to school. I remarried - had a good job- two daughters- and now my husband Jeff and I are living our retirment dream fulltiming in a motorhome. I think of Albert often and wonder "what if" . You never get over a loss like that but you learn to cope,enjoy life and be thankful for all of your blessings. I have stayed in touch with Sharon over the years and now call "Mom" Crouch weekly. We talk about the here and now; but I will never forget the past. I enjoyed the article and feel great empathy for everyone who has lost a loved one. Thank you for remembering Albert.

Tut said...

My name is Marvin Tuttle and I was a friend of Albert's in high school. He was a senior and I was a sophomore which would have made a big difference to many in high school, but not for Albert. He took me under his wing and treated me as an equal. The difference in age wasn't a factor for him. I will always remember his zest for life. He made me laugh and as I told his sister, Sharon, he had a ornery streak in him. Don't get me wrong. That streak was a positive one that made people laugh and enjoy themselves. Albert had the ability to be a friend to all. I will always remember him as an upper classman who took the time to be one of my best friends. I miss him a lot and often wonder how things would have been different had he lived. He does live on in the lives of the people that he touched - mine being one. Thank you for your kind words about Albert. He is well-deserving of them.

Dave Foster said...

My name is Dave Foster. I was the crewchief on the helicopter Albert was killed in. It will be 40 years since Albert was killed next month. Not a day goes by that I don't relive that day. I can still see as if it happened yesterday. B Troop 7/1 Air cav lost people on the 10th, 25th and Albert on the 18th of May.
That day started as a typical day, troop insertions into an enemy stronghold. We teamed up that day with the 135th AHC Emu's, this was a combined unit made up of Australian Navy and U.S. Army aviators. The landing zone we were going to was near an area known as Go Cong. The NVA/VC had over run a fire support base and were heavily armed from the weapons they had captured. My helicopter was number three in the flight. I can still see the LZ as we came in across the Mekong River, it was so green and beautiful. Then we started to recieve heavy automatic weapons fire from the treelines. Our Cobra gunships provided us cover as we went in and we returned fire at the muzzle flashes in the trees. There were red and green tracers everywhere. We went in and kicked out our load of troops and then turned 180 degrees and departed the LZ to go and get another load. We went into the LZ three times under very heavy autmic weapons fire. As we were turning around I was standing in the door and returning fire as we lifted off. I turned forward and saw Albert bent over forward in his seat. After we were safely clear, I went forward to help Albert. He was bleeding heavily and it was evident he felt no pain. We headed for the aid station at a place called Tan An. I lifted Albert out of his seat and laid him on the stretcher and they took him away. It was the last time I saw him.
We returned to our base in Vinh Long and cleaned my ship and myself. The airframe shop came and put a patch over the hole in the windshield. I saw that patch everyday for the next 5 months until I left Vietnam.
I have had Albert with me everyday since then. I didn't even know him and I miss him so much. I hope his wife and family have found peace. He is not forgotten.

Dave Foster
Crewchief Helicopter 680
B Troop 7/1 Air Cavalry

Jeanie Inskeep said...

My name is Jeanie Inskeep. I was a dear friend of Albert's. Albert and I were classmates from 7th grade through high school. I went to the senior banquet with him. Albert and I were co-editors of our yearbook in 1966. He was a great guy, and everyone loved him. I kept in touch with Albert after high school, and he came to Rockford, Illinois to visit me before he enlisted. When my Mom called and told me he had been killed in Viet Nam, I lost it. The next day at work some one said to me, looked like I had lost my best friend, and I said, "I did". I went home to Seymour and my Mother and I attened his funeral. He was a great friend, and I miss him daily. When I go home to Seymour, I visit his grave and tell him everything that is going on in my life. I have his picture on my wall, and will always remember the good times, the fun things we did. He was my first love. Thank you for the touching article on Albert.