Military Order of the Purple Heart

Texas Capital Chapter 1919 Austin, Texas

 

Robert A. Hefford

 

Robert A. Hefford

Patriot, Chapter 1919

 (ARMY, Vietnam) Article May 2004

 

Robert A. Hefford was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1933. His family lived in Melrose, north of Boston throughout his childhood years.  After graduating from Melrose High School, Bob then went through Northeastern University, in Boston, where he graduated in June 1957 as a Distinguished Military Graduate of the Army ROTC program.  He was commissioned as a Regular Army Second Lieutenant, Signal Corps. After Officers Basic Course he was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he went through Airborne training and received his parachutist’s badge.   He was then accepted for flight training, received his Army Aviator rating at Fort Rucker, Alabama in 1958, and qualified as a helicopter pilot in 1959.

 

He then served a three-year European tour where he commanded the Headquarters Troop to the 14th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Fulda, Germany.  Upon return to the United States, he attended the Armor Officer Advanced Course, and after graduation in 1964, he served the first of his two tours in Vietnam as an Army Aviator. Captain Hefford served that year, during 1964 and 1965, assigned to the 13th Aviation (Delta) Battalion where he flew armed UH-1B (the “B-Model Huey gunship”) helicopters with the 121st Aviation Company in Soc Trang.

 

Upon return to the U.S., Bob was an instructor pilot at the Aviation Center in Fort Rucker until his reassignment to Vietnam in 1967. During this second tour, Major Robert Hefford commanded B Troop, 7th Squadron (Air), 17th Cavalry.

 

During his two assignments as a pilot, and later as commander of a unit of “gunship” helicopters, there were many intense engagements with the enemy; that being the nature of their work.  The aircraft that he flew were hit and damaged by enemy fire on numerous occasions.  By the time he had seen his last combat he had received the Purple Heart and multiple awards for valor, including the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism, the Silver Star with Oak Leaf   Cluster, the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Army Commendation Medal with V-Device.  The citation for one of those is shown here.

 

 

CITATION  

The Silver Star

Date of action: 21 January 1968

Robert A Hefford, Major, Armor, Troop B, 7th Squadron, 17th Air Cavalry, is awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action, 21 January 1968 while serving as a mission commander during the “TET” offensive, an enemy force attacked the provincial capital of Kontum.  He was performing low level recon in advance of the friendly force when he engaged enemy forces.  In an attempt to force the enemy into an exposed position he made repeated firing passes with rockets and mini-guns to protect friendly ground forces.  As his aircraft received seven hits from hostile fire, which (also) wounded him in the face, hand, leg and one eye, he observed an OH-6A helicopter hit by hostile fire which wounded the pilot and killed the scout observer.  He placed his helicopter between them and the hostile forces in order to draw enemy fire onto himself.  After the extraction he landed at Kontum airfield and transferred the wounded personnel to his aircraft and delivered them to…the hospital at Pleiku despite his wounds he continued to perform his mission.  His extraordinary heroism in close combat against a large enemy force was in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army.

 

After returning from Vietnam for the last time in 1968, Robert Hefford had additional noteworthy assignments.  He served a Pentagon assignment in the Army Aviation Directorate, then as a Lt Col he was Commander, 1st Sqdn (Air), 17th Cavalry, 82nd Airborne Division.  He later served as Commander of the Dallas District of the Recruiting Command. His first position after promotion to Colonel in 1979 was Director of Armor Aviation of the Armor Center at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  In 1981 he became Senior Army Advisor to the Adjutant General, Texas Army National Guard in Austin.  He retired from the military there in 1984. 

Following military service, Bob was employed by the Texas Department of Public Safety as Plans and Operations Officer for the Governor’s Division of Emergency Management, and by the Texas Department of Insurance as Director of Research and Special Projects, retiring in 1994.  He is married to the former Valerie Ann Mitchell of Providence, Rhode Island, they have five children, and seven grandchildren.

 

 

CAPTAIN BOB IN FLAK JACKET AT SOC TRANG SOMETIME IN LATE 1965,  AS HIS UH-1B HELICOPTER GUNSHIP OF THE 121st AVIATION COMPANY IS BEING RE-ARMED

7/17th CAV VIEW OF CAMP ENARI AT PLEIKU

MAJOR HEFFORD BACK IN THE B TROOP AREA IN LATE JAN 1968  IT WOULD TAKE TWO WEEKS BEFORE HE COULD TAKE OFF THE EYE BANDAGE AND FLY AGAIN

COL. HEFFORD WITH MAJOR GENERAL GUY S. MELOY, III AT THE NORTH FORT HOOD CANTONMENT AREA IN THE EARLY 1980's.  MG MELOY (ALSO NOW RETIRED) IS ALSO A MEMBER OF CHAPTER 1919, MOPH.

CITATION  

The Distinguished Flying Cross

Date of action: 7 July 1965

For heroism while participating in aerial flight; Captain Hefford distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions on 7 July 1965 while serving as aircraft commander on an armed UH-1B helicopter providing covering fire for a medical evacuation helicopter in the vicinity of Tra Vinh, Republic of Vietnam. Vietnamese forces were conducting an assault against the Viet Cong and sustained several casualties, including a Vietnamese battalion commander. Upon request for an immediate medical evacuation, Captain Hefford led the unarmed evacuation aircraft to the extraction site. As the medical evacuation ship touched down in the landing zone, it became the target of intense hostile fire. Immediately, Captain Hefford took the hostile positions under attack. Despite the heavy volume of insurgent fire, he delivered the necessary suppressive fire on the Viet Cong to allow the medical evacuation ship to successfully complete the evacuation of the wounded. He was later called upon to escort another evacuation ship into the same area. Once again he dauntlessly exposed himself to the intense automatic weapons and small arms fire to effectively direct his suppressive fire into the Viet Cong positions. During the course of action, a burst of fire from an insurgent's automatic weapon struck his aircraft and nearly struck him in the head. In spite of this, Captain Hefford continued to assault the insurgent positions. His suppressive fire again enabled the medical evacuation aircraft to success­fully complete the evacuation. The heroic actions of Captain Hefford were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

 

 

CITATION  

The Silver Star

Date of action: 18 April 1968

For gallantry in action in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force: Major Hefford distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions while serving as aircraft commander of a UH-1H helicopter on a combat operation. Having monitored a transmission that an OH-6A scout helicopter had been shot down, he immediately volunteered to fly into the battle area in order to provide an a1ternate command and control aircraft. He began searching for a possible landing zone to insert a twenty man force to attempt a rescue of the downed crew. By flying over the hostile positions, he continually placed his aircraft in the direct firing line of five enemy .50 caliber locations. Despite intense enemy fire, he selected a landing zone, escorted in the lift ships in his unarmed helicopter and directed the suppressive fires of armed helicopters on the hostile positions. When the ground commander reported that his small force was in danger of being overwhelmed, Major Hefford attacked the advancing enemy, flying through airstrikes that were exploding on all sides of his ship. As the airstrikes continued, the ground commander radioed that napalm was dropping too close to the friendly position. Major Hefford hovered his aircraft in the direct path of an Air Force fighter on short final for a napalm strike, thus causing the pilot to divert just seconds prior to the strike. As the enemy began to retreat, he pursued and attacked relentlessly. Monitoring a call from the lift helicopters that they were unable to make a complete extraction of the ground forces, he maneuvered his air­craft into the extremely small landing zone, picked up the remaining infantry elements, and flew through intense hostile ground fire to safety. His actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

 
 

CAPTAIN ROBERT A. HEFFORD SOMETIME IN THE MID 1960’s DURING THE DAYS OF THE STARCHED FATIGUES WITH BRIGHT PATCHES AND INSIGNIA

Ever Seen A Vietnamese Driver's License?
 

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