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Ashe County Veterans History Project: Wayne Nance

Wayne Nance's name on a blue background with red stars

Wayne Nance's Photos

Wayne Nance in military uniform
Wayne Nance in military uniform

Wayne Nance's Story

Wayne Nance was born on December 31, 1943, in Denton, NC. His father, a WWII veteran, was a builder and his mother worked in textiles. He has one brother and one sister, neither served in the military.

Wayne attended Denton Elementary and High School, then graduated from Western Carolina University in July 1966. While in school, he held a number of summer jobs (Cotton Mill Worker, Furniture Factory Worker, Construction Worker, and Farm Hand).

Approximately 3 weeks after college graduation, Wayne joined the Army. There was some apprehension on his family’s part when Wayne joined the Army because Vietnam was ongoing.

I knew I would probably be drafted, so I took a battery of tests prior to graduation which gave me the opportunity to attend Officer Candidate School when I joined up. When I joined, the army provided me with a bus ticket from Denton to the induction center in Charlotte. I left behind my father, mother, brother, sister, a pet dog, and my fiancé, who later became my wife.

Following induction, I took basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo.; following that, advanced individual training (artillery fire direction) at Ft. Sill, Okla.; then officer candidate school at Ft. Sill; then target acquisition school at Ft. Sill. After returning from Vietnam, I was an instructor in the target acquisition department for one year and was then assigned to the field artillery career course for one year.

My most vivid memory of training was the complexity of determining how to put an artillery shell on a selected target. During my service years, I qualified as an expert with the M-14 rifle, M-16 rifle, .45 caliber pistol, and a range of military radios.

I was promoted following basic and advanced individual training. I was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant after graduating from O.C.S. and was promoted to 1st Lieutenant while in Vietnam. I was promoted to Captain after returning from Vietnam.

I adapted to military life without any problems.

Wayne served in Vietnam from May 1968 – May 1969.

I was assigned to the 27th Field Artillery Battalion, 51st artillery group. I arrived at my battery, which was set up just outside the Chinese district in Saigon. (Tet Offensive had been winding down. However, a soldier in my unit had been killed by a sniper the day before I arrived). I was a fire direction officer for only 3 weeks and was then assigned as an artillery forward observer with a South Vietnamese airborne unit. My reconnaissance sergeant, radio telephone operator and I were the only Americans with this unit. I stayed with them for 5 months providing artillery fire when needed. We basically lived in the jungles and ate rice 3 meals a day for 5 months, and we engaged the enemy on many occasions.

After returning to my assigned battery, I was called to battalion headquarters and assigned as the aerial observer for the battalion (an aerial observer calls for and adjusts artillery fire while flying above the target in a 2-seater plane or helicopter.) I performed this job for 6 months. I flew from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and then 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. every day and night.

Following my return from Vietnam, I was an instructor at Ft. Sill, Okla., and then attended the artillery officer’s career course. This was a one-year course that trained field grade officers in all aspects of artillery. The most interesting part for me was 2 months in the nuclear weapons department. Training included how to put together/assemble a nuclear artillery shell, how to determine what size weapon is needed when the commander requires it, and to learn the job of a division nuclear weapons officer.

Following completion of the career course, I was assigned to the 18th Airborne Corps Artillery at Ft. Bragg, N.C., as the Assistant Corps Artillery Intelligence Officer. Then during the last 2 years of my service I commanded a 155mm artillery battery at Ft. Bragg.

Military service was a positive experience for me (although I do not relish getting shot at –on the ground and in the air). Military service provides the opportunity to see other places and cultures and provides one with a well-rounded education if taken advantage of.

The military affected my life for 7 years. For the most part it was a positive experience and one that everyone should consider. I found that I do not relish war, although I found it fascinating to learn tactics and other aspects of carrying out wartime functions. Following my service time, I have not fired nor have any desire to fire a weapon. It is my opinion now that all guns should be required to be kept in an armory and checked in and out when used. (I realize this is not a popular opinion with 2nd amendment worshippers, who frankly do not understand the 2nd amendment).

I have not joined a veteran’s organization. I attended a couple of meetings years ago and found that the people in the ones I visited were more interested in drinking and telling lies about what heroes they were in the war than doing anything positive. I’m sure that many organizations are different...

During his time in the army, Wayne was awarded a National Defense Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Bronze Star, Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal, and Aircraft Crewmans Wings.