Military Order of the Purple Heart

Texas Capital Chapter 1919 Austin, Texas

 

TED ACHESON

 

 

 


 

DASPO

Shoulder Patch


THEODORE T. (Ted) ACHESON

Patriot, Chapter 1919

 Army, Vietnam

 

Theodore Acheson was born in Flint, Michigan, in 1945.  He grew up there, graduated from Bentley High School in the Class of 1964 and, in the fall of that year enrolled at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After completing two and one-half years at Marquette, Ted enlisted in the Army and entered active duty on January 2, 1967.  After Basic Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, he was sent to the Army Signal Corps School at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey for Advanced Individual Training as a Motion Picture Photographer. After graduation, Ted was shipped to Hawaii in July 1967.

 

Private Acheson arrived at Fort Shafter, Oahu, and reported in to the Department of Army Special Photographic Office (DASPO), Pacific Detachment.  DASPO was organized with five-man photographic teams that served 90-day temporary duty (TDY) assignments, in rotation, filming at various locations wherever United States troops were serving throughout the Pacific; but naturally, most of the action was in Vietnam at that time.  His first rotation was to Thailand where he filmed Thai troops training for deployment to Vietnam. He also filmed munitions being unloaded from ships and various military operations going on at the time at Korat and U-Tapao.  When that initial 90 day TDY was completed, the team returned to Hawaii.

 

SP4 Acheson arrived in Saigon February 11, 1968 on his second TDY, ideal timing for a new Combat Photographer looking for combat to photograph.  TET-68 had begun only days earlier as desperate fighting erupted simultaneously practically everywhere in South Vietnam.  Ted’s team arrived and rented a house in the city for the photographers to operate from as they travelled around the country for the coming 90 days.  (DASPO photographers carried a Press Pass and functioned in the same way as civilian press news reporting teams; free to pursue their work, with a directive signed by General Westmoreland that granted them assistance and travel priority as they moved about to film at unit locations.)  Ted filmed successively at Khe Sanh and in the Aschau Valley, as TET-68 fighting continued in those places. Later, he was near Hue with only a week remaining before his team was to redeploy from Saigon when a “Mini TET” (5-12 May 1968) broke out in both those places. Ted was wounded on May 6th, and here are some details of his Purple Heart experience.

 

Acheson was photographing the action of an Infantry squad of B Troop, 2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalry, 101st Airborne Division, as they were clearing the area in and around Cha Lau, a previously bombed out and deserted village about five kilometers Northwest of Hue.  A North Vietnamese Army (NVA) battalion had strong defenses in and around the village and clearing them out was difficult, slow work. (Meanwhile, just outside the town, SP4 Robert Patterson later received the Medal of Honor for his actions during B Troop’s fighting that day, so interested readers can find much published material describing the environment Ted was in at the time.)  Photographer Acheson had been sticking really close to his squad all day, he wouldn’t have been doing his job otherwise. A good motion picture shot requires the combat photographer to stand fully exposed to the action being recorded while holding the camera perfectly still for at least ten seconds no matter what is happening.  Ted was filming near a Temple building when a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) detonated close by.  He says, “I was blown about 20 feet by the blast but luckily had no visible wounds and I stayed with the men in the squad as they continued on for another two hours, clearing buildings and bunkers and starting forward, only to begin receiving fire from previously cleared locations, so progress was slow.  Daylight was fading late in the afternoon when I was wounded.  One of the troops threw a grenade into a bunker, only to have it immediately tossed back out into the middle of us. Six or seven of us were hit.  I had grenade fragments in a leg and my buttocks.  Several of the other wounded were in far worse condition than I was, but, we all remained together during the night because we were still in close contact with the NVA.  Early in the morning, about 2:00 am, the enemy disengaged and withdrew. We walked out the next morning (May 7th).  The other wounded went on their way to the Aid Station, but I caught a helicopter going to Phu Bai and my wounds were dressed at the 22nd Surgical Hospital there as soon as I arrived.  My good luck continued, and that same day I was able to get on an Air America flight into Saigon.

 

Fighting (Mini-TET) was still going on in the city streets of Saigon when I arrived back at our team’s house.  We could film combat action without having to travel around the country to find it, we went out in the mornings, filmed until noon, went home for lunch, then went back out and filmed again in the afternoon.  In those days before satellite communication, our film was all flown to the U.S. and processed by the Army Pictorial Center in New York.  So, at best, the news would be several days old before it could be seen by the public.”

 

After a brief stay back in Hawaii, Ted did his third TDY doing some fairly routine work, filming ammunition renovation and fuel storage facilities on Okinawa, Taiwan, and in Japan.  But, it was in his next rotation, a TDY in late 1968 in Korea, that history making events happened and Ted was there to film it.  He had barely gotten settled in Seoul when a large force, 135 North Korean Commandos, infiltrated into the South, but were promptly discovered and wiped out by ROK forces.  After it was over Ted was escorted by the South Korean troops to film the remains. Then shortly before the end of that TDY rotation, the crew of the U.S.S. PUEBLO which had been held captive for eleven months was suddenly released without advance warning on December 23, 1968.  Ted was the only cameraman in the Press Pool allowed to meet them and film the event (Ted’s film, for the first time ever, was processed in Japan and beamed back to the United States by satellite).  Then it was back to Hawaii.  He would do two more rotations, both in Vietnam and, now that he was more experienced and more senior, he would be doing documentary work.

 

In February 1969, SP5 Acheson returned to Vietnam. His first task was documentary filming of the M551 Sheridan Tank, an entirely new tank that was fielded even though it had acknowledged problems.  Ted filmed the M551’s of the 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. The regimental commander was Colonel George S. Patton, son of the famous WWII general of the same name, and that made for an interesting experience.  Ted’s next project was to produce film for a documentary on “how to set up a fire base,” and he must have done that really well because he later received three letters of commendation from general officers for his work.  Later, he documented Special Forces conducting airborne training for Cambodians, and then spent time with the Americal Division filming various spraying methods that were used to apply the defoliant Agent Orange.  He then returned to DASPO at Fort Shafter for a few days, and proceeded on to the Army Personnel Center in Oakland, California where he was discharged on December 29, 1969.  As his Army career came to an end and he was returning to his parents’ home to Flint, Michigan, he could look back with pride in having had much of his work, film clips from his recordings, televised nationwide on the nightly news broadcasts during his time in service. 

 

He promptly resumed his college career, enrolling at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. He earned an undergraduate degree in communication and a master’s degree in speech communication. Two events of great significance in his life happened during that time.  He met his wife Cynthia and they were married in Milwaukee in 1973.  Also, for his work as a combat photographer, Ted was announced as the recipient of the “Cinematographer of the Year” award for 1969 from the National Press Photographers Association and the Department of Defense, and he says, “That award really opened doors for me.”

 

Ted began his career in Detroit.  He worked in the advertising production business, working primarily for automobile advertising agencies in Detroit and Los Angeles, and working directly for the car companies as well.  In 1981 he went into business for himself, forming Adam Productions, mainly working for Honda and Acura.  He traveled to Asia, producing and directing advertisements for these companies.  His single most enjoyable work was doing a training film on how to sell cars that featured baseball legend Mickey Mantle.  They worked closely together and Ted grew to greatly admire the man.   Ted’s company was highly successful and like many leaders in industry, he was also an active leader in community service.

 

Ted was selected to the board of Henry Ford Hospital, Heart and Vascular Institute in 1994 and chaired it for three years, 1998-2001.  He was also active in Boy Scouts of America for ten years.  He served as President of DASPO* Combat Photographers Association, and was also a member of the International Combat Cameramen Association.  After owning Adam Productions for 28 years, Ted Acheson retired in 2006 and moved from Detroit to Central Texas.  Since his arrival he has served on the school board of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Austin, and most recently, after discovering us he has become a life member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, and appeared as principal speaker for Chapter 1919’s 2011 George Washington’s Birthday Dinner Party in the Austin Club.  This month PATRIOT BULLETIN proudly salutes Patriot Ted Acheson.

 


Ted Acheson at Ashau Valley

101st Airborne

Ted Acheson Filming in Delta

The 1,000,000 R&R Story

Ted Acheson Filming

In the Michelin Rubber Plantation

With the 25th Infantry Division

Ted Acheson Filming Tracks

With the Americal Division

Spraying Agent Orange

Classroom Filming

Chaplins' Story Filming

In the Highlands

 

Ted Acheson

Filming the Pueblo Crew Release

Ted Acheson, Powell & Ed Walsh

The 1,000,000 R&R Story

 

Ted Acheson and Joe Primeau

Filming a Training Film on How To Set Up an

Artillery Base for Ft. Sill

Ted Acheson and Degario

At Khe San

The Vietnam Stamp

Combat Photo by Sgt. Harry Breedlove

Ted Acheson's Civilian Photo

Car Advertisement

 

Our own Ted Acheson will be on an interview about DASPO combat photography on CBS national news in the near future, watch this area for change in program time. Here is one segment

War Stories WGNTV


TOP PHOTO

 

SP4 Ted Acheson

Vietnam, 1968


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