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Ashe County Veterans History Project: James Bieber


James Bieber's Photos

James Bieber's Story

James Bieber was drafted into the Army in June 1965 and served through 1978.  His basic training took place in Fort Polk, Louisiana, where was trained for infantry and advanced training in artillery (105 Howitzer).

Going from a 105 Howitzer to a HAWK unit was a bit difficult and required on-the-job training.  Later when re-enlisting James signed up for welding school in Aberdeen, Maryland. After he completed this training, James traveled to Fort Hood, Texas, and worked as a welder, taking care of everything from tanks to BBQ pits.

While working in Bad Hersfeld, Germany, at McPheeters Barracks, James celebrated Christmas with his platoon.  The menu was festive and extensive to lift spirits and satisfy appetites.  The soldiers enjoyed, shrimp cocktail with cocktail sauce and lemon wedges, crackers, roast turkey with giblet gravy, bread or cornbread dressing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, candied sweet potatoes, buttered peas, a tossed salad with choice of dressing, celery strips  and tomato wedges, assorted olives, sweet pickles, hot buttered rolls, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, mincemeat pie, coffee, tea, fresh milk or chocolate milk, apples, bananas, grapes, oranges, assorted candy and nuts!

While out in the field the winters were so cold that everything was frozen.  James worked two 24-hour shifts and then would have three days off.

Cards were a favorite activity during downtime.  When in Germany, James and his fellow soldiers would rent rooms in town and eat German food: schnitzels, bratwurst, and boots of beer. 

Aunt Norine and Uncle Jerry Trncak took care of James since he was five years old.  They were very proud of him and attended his basic training graduation in Fort Polk.  They would make the trip to see him there whenever they had time.

James met Margaret, the woman who would become his wife, in Fort Hood, when his unit was supporting the mechanized infantry where her brother was stationed.  Three days before their wedding in November 1969, anti-Vietnam demonstrators where causing a stir and the company was on lockdown in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.  No honeymoon, but Margaret shined his boots and pressed his uniform the next day so he could go to supply duty.  James said the supply sergeant was his best man and Margaret cooked spaghetti. Everyone loved her cooking.

In 1968, James was sent to Chicago for the Democratic Convention to assist in riot control.  He recalls sleeping in a tent in the park for stand-by.  He was packed with weapons but luckily didn't need to use them. Two weeks later James was sent notice to go to Vietnam.  While on a mission to build sleeping camps for the South Vietnamese soldiers his convoy was ambushed and had to call in the 1st Cavalry to assist. 

His unit 20th Engineer Battalion (Combat) arrived in Vietnam January 1,1966, and departed on August 31, 1971.  During his years in service he was awarded a Good Conduct Medal, Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions Honor Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal with Device Marksman Gage & Sharp Shooter (rifle).