James J. Satterwhite
U. S. Army
Born: February 6, 1937
Interview Date: October 13, 2009
Interviewed By: Gregg Cerosky
00: 00: 00 Introduction
00: 01: 30 James describes what it was like to attend and graduate from the United States Military Academy ( 1955- 1959). His class started with 729 students and ended with 499.
00: 05: 30 The man who graduated at the bottom of the class [ known as the “ goat”] was as important as the one who finished at the top and the entire class would contribute a dollar each to give to that individual.
00: 05: 55 James was able to receive his commission in the Corps. of Engineers and his first assignment was in Hawaii. He went through the Corps of Engineering school at Fort Belvoir, Virginia and flight school at Fort Rucker, Alabama. 00: 07: 10 He was stationed in Hawaii for three years. The first year and a half was spent flying fixed wing aircraft as an artillery spotter [ Division Aviation Company of the 25th Infantry Division] and spent the remaining year and a half in the 65th Combat Engineer Battalion achieving the rank of company commander [ captain] at the end of his assignment period.
00: 08: 40 He and his wife were married in his home town in Sedalia, Missouri before he was stationed in Hawaii and she moved there with him. His two children were born while he was in Hawaii.
00: 09: 35 A lot of time was spent training in the jungles in Hawaii in preparation for deployment to “ unknown” locations in the Far East.
00: 11: 50 His aviation experience entailed directing artillery fire to targets at the artillery range on Oahu.
00: 14: 25 He changed branches after his assignment on Oahu. He went into the Transportation Corps., because it was more compatible with aviation. He was sent to graduate school while in the Transportation Corps. He attended M. I. T and received a Masters Degree in Aeronautical Engineering. He finished a two year course of study in fifteen months and was assigned to Vietnam in mid- 1966 and served with the “ Army Concept Team”, testing experimental equipment [ one year tour].
00: 19: 48 Of the 499 graduates from West Point with James, fifteen were killed in action serving in Vietnam [ 1962- 1969].
00: 20: 35 James contrasts the difference in “ attitude” about winning the war between his two tours in Vietnam. When he was there in 1966- 67, the overall feeling was that the war could be one. When he was there in 1971, the feeling was that, given the parameters of how the war was being fought, there was no possibility of achieving victory.
00: 22: 10 In 1971, he was in command of an Army Aircraft Maintenance and Supply Company [ 604th Transportation Company of the 14th Transportation Battalion] at Camp Holloway in the Central Highlands [ six month assignment]. He then spent six months with the 34th General Support Group Headquarters in Saigon where he was the Aircraft Maintenance Officer for all of the aircraft in Vietnam and ultimately the Director of Planning and Operations where he put in place the plans to evacuate all of the aircraft from Vietnam and the end of the war.
00: 24: 40 James describes the environment in Saigon during his two tours of duty there.
00: 28: 40 One of the fifteen West Point graduates [ from his graduating class] who was killed in action in Vietnam was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously. He was a P. O. W. in North Vietnam and went out of his way to make things difficult for his captors and was ultimately killed by them.
00: 30: 31 End of Part One.
00: 00: 00 Part Two begins.
00: 00: 25 James discusses what it was like for his wife and children while he was serving in Vietnam.
00: 02: 06 Between tours of duty in Vietnam, James applied for and was selected for test pilot training at the Naval Test Pilot School at Pawtuxet River, Maryland. Upon completion, he served as a NASA test pilot at Moffett Naval Air Station, San Jose, California. He was stationed there for two years and then returned to Vietnam in 1971.
00: 09: 00 The typhoon story.
00: 10: 25 After his second tour in Vietnam, James was assigned as an instructor [ fluid mechanics and thermodynamics] at West Point.
00: 14: 18 After teaching at West Point, he was assigned to the Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell AFB, and then was assigned to the Pentagon for five years after which he retired from the Army as a Lt. Colonel [ 1980].
00: 19: 16 Upon retiring from the Army, James was hired by Sikorsky Helicopter as the Program Manager of the Navy Seahawk Helicopter Program and served in progressive positions at Sikorsky attaining the position of Senior Vice President, which he held when he retired in 2002 [ after 22 years with Sikorsky].
00: 25: 35 The experience of being verbally abused while back in the United States after serving in Vietnam: The street crossing story.
00: 29: 59 End of Interview.
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