JAMES B. (JIM) DEETER
Patriot, Chapter 1919
James B. Deeter was
born in Logansport, Indiana in 1938. He moved around frequently and
attended ten different public schools during his growing-up years. When he
enlisted in the Army in 1955 he entered active duty on July 22nd from
Logansport. Patriot James B. Deeter passed away November 9, 2012 at age 74.
He signed up for service in the 3rd Armored Division at
Fort Knox, Kentucky because it had been designated as a “gyroscope” division
being prepared for deployment to Germany and that’s where he wanted to go.
Upon arrival in the division, Jim was further assigned to the 45th Armored
Medical Battalion and after his Basic Training at Fort Knox he went to Fort
Sam Houston, Texas for Advanced Individual Training as a Dental Assistant.
After graduation, he returned to his unit just in time for the division to
make the move to Germany.
3rd Armored Division was stationed at Frankfurt and
served out his initial three-year overseas tour there. At that same time,
Elvis Presley was also in 3rd Armored Division; but Jim never had a chance
to see the famous rock and roll star during his assignment there. Upon his
return from Germany, Jim was stationed at Fort Sheridan, Illinois.
While at Fort Sheridan, he took up Scuba Diving as a
hobby. Many of the members of the local club were in the Explosive Ordnance
Disposal (EOD) unit there and because Jim was impressed with the
professionalism of the EOD men and spent a lot of time with them, he applied
for EOD training himself. It took time for the background investigation to
be completed and for the granting of the required security clearance and for
the other prerequisites for the specialty before he could be sent to the
training course. Upon graduation, James
Deeter received his Explosive Ordnance Disposal
Specialist skill rating on November 11, 1961, and he would stay in that
career specialty for the remainder of his time in the Army.
Because the EOD function is to evaluate, render safe, and
remove explosive devices that pose a safety threat, those units are depended
upon to perform that hazardous work in peacetime as well as wartime.
Specially trained units support first responders at the local, state and
federal levels and EOD operators are called upon as needed by the FBI and
other federal agencies.
During his career, Jim had many interesting experiences
and he recounted one of his most memorable ones in this way, “While
serving with an Army team providing protection for Secretary Henry Kissinger
during a conference in 1974 in Spain, the Spanish Minister of Defense,
Admiral Carrero Blanco, was assassinated by a bomb detonated beneath his
vehicle by Basque separatists. The explosion was only two blocks from our
hotel, and Vice President Gerald Ford came to represent the United States at
Minister Blanco’s state funeral. Our team was extended to support that
unexpected and unplanned mission and after it was over there were delays in
getting us back home. The State Department finally put us on a Lufthansa
plane for a flight back to Germany.” Jim still has a souvenir
ballpoint pen given to him then by Vice President Ford. But all of this
happened after his time in Vietnam and that is getting ahead of his purple
James Deeter served a
tour with the 25th EOD Detachment in Vietnam from April 1967 – April 1968.
The 25th EOD was located at An Khe, base camp of the 1st Cavalry Division
headquarters, but deployed to whatever locations were required whenever the
need arose. Sizeable missions taking several weeks to complete included the
disposal of unexploded munitions remaining after a large ammunition dump had
blown up at “LZ Guadalcanal” near Qui Nhon on the coast in June 1967, and
again after similar events had occurred at “LZ English” near Bong Son, and
Jim was wounded at Quang Tri on January 14, 1968. He
says, “The 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division had called us for a mission
there. Their troops had captured some ammunition, an assortment of various
types and calibers, probably cached by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) in
preparation for the TET Offensive which began only days later, but, we did
not know that at the time. We had a platoon of Infantry providing security
and were in the process of disposal of the ammunition “on-site” where it had
been captured. A large shell crater was chosen for the disposal and I was
in the bottom of the hole, filling it with the munitions. As I was placing
a Chicom mortar fuze on a claymore mine, the fuze detonated also triggering
a low-order detonation of the mine. Initially stunned and disoriented, I
was unconsciously throwing smoking munitions out of the hole as I slowly
regained awareness of where I was and what had happened. My first memory is
of the Medic and hearing him say, “You are dead,” as he was looking down in
the crater at me bleeding all over and with my uniform in tatters.”
Taken back to the Aid Station, his wounds were
treated and his face was bandaged to protect the open wound to his jaw, but
Jim had not even had time to change into a clean set of jungle fatigues
before an emergency call came for his services from a brigade of the 101st
Airborne Division. A 500 lb. Bomb was just outside the brigade’s Tactical
Operations Center (TOC) and before it could be removed and destroyed at a
safe location, twenty-four hours had passed after being wounded before Jim
was off duty and had a chance to clean up and change clothes. He never did
have time to check back in with the medics and, until being prepped for a
knee replacement operation in 1993, some 25 years later, he hadn’t known he
still had shrapnel in his right leg all that time.
First Sergeant of the 47th Ordnance Detachment (EOD) at Fort Hood, Texas,
retired to Austin. He had a partnership in a Motorcycle Shop for seven
years, was with the Post Office for another 18 years after that, and is
currently retired . He is an active member of Chapter 1919, he rarely
misses a meeting and he is one of our volunteer servers that takes turns
working shifts at the Purple Heart Coffee Bar in the Austin VA Outpatient
Clinic on Montopolis Drive.