Fort Riley, Kansas

 

News

Vietnam-era ‘BRO’ commander talks about new book at annual reunion

By Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Wiley | 1ST INF. DIV. PUBLIC AFFAIRS | July 30, 2014

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. – Retired Col. William Haponski hasn’t commanded the 1st Squadron, 4th Calvary Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, since 1969, but the men under his charge 45 years ago in a Vietnamese jungle are never far from his mind.

Eight of the Soldiers and officers who served under him over four decades ago, along with a group of more than 40 other 1st Inf. Div. Vietnamera veterans, gathered and listened to Haponski speak about his new book, “Danger’s Dragoons,” June 27 at the 96th Society of the First Infantry Division reunion in Orange County, California.

“This is the second of three books I’ve written about Vietnam,” Haponski said. “This is an updated, revised version of a book I wrote called ‘One Hell of a Ride.’”

Both books cover the actions of cavalry units in Vietnam from 1965 to 1970, but Haponski said “Dragoons” is more comprehensive despite having fewer pages.

“This is a unique book because it interweaves our actions with the actions of the enemy we fought. I don’t know any other book that does that,” he said.

Haponski’s urge to write about Vietnam began 15 years ago.

“I fought the war so I wanted to know what the hell it’s all about,” he said.

Haponski was in Vietnam from July 1968 to July 1969. For the first six months he served in the 11th Cavalry Regiment before transferring to the 1st Sqdn., 4th Cav. Regt., which he commanded from January 1969 until the end of his time in country.

“In 1999 I pulled out a foot locker out of my storage shed that I kept in Vietnam. It had a very distinct musty, jungleish kind of a smell,” he said. “I still had a lot of concerns about Vietnam. I lost three troopers, so I went through this foot locker and pulled out my three notebooks that constituted my journal and put them on a bookshelf in my room.”

They sat for a year.

“I couldn’t even open them,” he said.

Under his command, 43 Soldiers died. An additional 69 died while he was in the 11th Cav. Regt. Thirty years after the war, Haponski was still struggling to come to terms with their deaths.

“Finally, I decided I have to look and see. I went back in time and read what I had written so many years ago, and I realized I needed to pull this whole thing together. That’s when I began researching in earnest,” he said.

Over the past 15 years, he has gone through 15,000 pages of records and has read hundreds of books in English and French.

Haponski’s book is part of the military history series published by the First Division Museum at Cantigny. To find out more or to obtain a copy, visit their website at www.firstdivisionmuseum.org.

Tag Society of the First Infantry Division   Tag Vietnam-era