Military Review English Edition September-October 2014 - Page 48

Photo found at four-star general. Beyond all that, there was something very special and down-to-earth about Glenn Otis; hence, my quest to find out more about this great soldier whose character seemed so exceptional. Lt. Col. Otis with the troops from 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1968. I found proof of Otis’ character in his service as a combat commander in 1967 and 1968 in Vietnam. In my view, nothing exemplifies the personal attributes of Glenn Otis more than his combat experiences in Vietnam, where he commanded the 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, and where he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for gallantry in action during the Tet Offensive in 1968. 25th Division Cavalry Squadron. Otis took command of the squadron in December 1967. The 25th Division’s cavalry squadron was a mobile force consisting mostly of tanks and armored personnel carriers. Each M48 tank had a powerful 90 mm gun, a .50-caliber machine gun mounted on top of the turret, and an M60 machine gun mounted near the main gun. The M113 armored personnel carriers carried troops, and each carrier included a mounted .50-caliber machine gun and one M60 machine gun mounted on each side of the vehicle. In addition to three cavalry troops (A, B, and C Troops), there was an aviation unit (D Troop), consisting of light observation helicopters, troop carriers, gunships, and an aero-rifle platoon. The 25th Division was located in III Corps, an area including the capital city of Saigon. The squadron’s mission was to secure the northwest main supply route from Saigon to Cu Chi (the division’s base camp) and then from Cu Chi to Tay Ninh, a span of some 80 kilometers. I knew the area well based on my first tour in Vietnam in 1966. Moreover, my younger brother, a 46 member of the division, was wounded in the area—at a place called the Hobo Woods. The units that made up the cavalry squadron were mobile, packed a lot of firepower, and could operate independently. The road from Saigon to Tay Ninh. When the Vietnamese launched the Tet Offensive in January 1968, the elements of then Lt. Col. Otis’ squadron were distributed at key points along the approximately 50 miles of highway from Saigon to Tay Ninh. In no way were Otis’ fighting elements consolidated in a position to respond promptly to what turned out to be a country-wide, major North Vietnamese offensive. Nevertheless, 3-4 Cavalry played a vital role in preventing the air base from being overrun during the major battle of the war. In their book A Hundred Miles of Bad Road, authors Dwight W. Birdwell and Keith William Nolan narrate several stories that illustrate Otis’ leadership style.1 Author Birdwell served in the 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, under Otis. Some of the stories recounted here come from Birdwell’s book and some from interviews and correspondence with veterans of the squadron.2 Some information comes from Otis’ account, recorded when he was a student at the Army War College.3 Early in his assignment, it seemed Otis made a personal impression on all the members of the squadron. A tank commander reported that he could not remember the squadron commander they had before Otis arrived. In fact, he could no longer picture the former commander, but he said everyone knew and remembered Otis because he was nearly always with the soldiers checking to see how they were doing and what they needed. To secure the highway, the squadron was spread out in smaller units at key points on the long, dangerous road. Otis would cruise up to their location in his command track, without an escort, just to be sure they were alert and okay. Otis’ frequent presence was unlike that of a micromanager; he trusted his subordinates and made sure they had what they needed to perform their tasks. The tank commander reported that as part of the road security mission, there were places where the main supply route passed through local villages. In those cases, at night the infantry squads would dismount from their carriers and provide flank security September-October 2014  MILITARY REVIEW