Willam Albracht graduated from Catholic high school in June of 1966. Like so many other young men, he and a friend joined the Army enamored with the myths of bravado, chivalry and war. And like all those who did so before him and after him, he would find the reality nothing like those myths and legends.
He would go to Fort Benning, GA for Infantry training and Officer Candidate School. He would eventually become a Green Beret and was then sent to Vietnam where he was made a Special Forces, Green Beret, O3 Captain. He was the youngest man to have made that rank in the Army while serving in Vietnam. While in Vietnam he was stationed in the highlands in the southern part of the II Corps area, at a place called Fire Base Kate.
FB Kate was situated atop a hill. It was the end of the rainy season and the NVA were gathering in large numbers around the FB Kate. Albracht could see that he and his men were in an ever more precarious position there.
They were aware of large NVA movements in the area and it was clear that they were severely outnumbered. These large enemy forces were getting closer to FB Kate every day.
He radioed in for permission to abandon FB Kate before it would be too late to get his men out. In a short while that permission was denied. He wrote a short message and handed it to his radioman to be sent back to his superiors immediately. It said simply, “We’re leaving.”
He then instructed his men to begin to destroy important documents and rig any weapons and ammunition supplies that they could not carry to be destroyed as they left the base and to do it as surreptitiously as possible, because he knew the enemy was close enough to observe what was happening on the base.
And they finally came.
Their escape route was down a piece of terrain that already had earned a troubling name, “Ambush Hill.” Here is where you will see and hear in the video the reality of combat.
Albracht describes what it was like inside his head. He admits his fear. He explains how he was trying to speak on the radio to his only possible air support, a “Spooky” that was in the area and wasn’t getting any reply. He got nothing but silence.
Then his radio operator told him something like, “Sir, you have to push the key when you want to talk.”
He was scared enough that he wasn’t aware of that simple action. Albracht knew at that moment that he was going to have to get himself together if he was going to get his men off that hill.
He did what all of us did in that circumstance; he prayed a fervent prayer to God. He was certain that he was going to die somewhere on that hill that day, but he suddenly became OK with that thought. Instead, he asked God to help him at least get his men off that hill and to safety. And he ordered the march out to begin.
In the end he would be credited with saving 150 men evacuating Fire Base Kate that day. Over the course of his time in Vietnam, he would recieve three Silver Stars, 5 Bronze Stars, three Purple Hearts and many other awards.
This video and Captain William Albracht’s story reveal the truth about combat as clearly as any you may have seen. The fact is that we were all scared. Scared to the point of panic at times. We had to dig deep to find the courage to act in spite of our fears.
And we did.
We “faced the tiger” so to speak and somehow, by the grace of God and the company and encouragement of our brothers, we fought the good fight.
The Veterans Site sends its respect and its thanks to Capt. William Albracht for his dedication to his men and his skills as a leader. We thank you for telling it like it is here in this video too.
Hooah, good soldier!
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.