NO. 17532 • 21 May 1927 – 17 September 1969
Died September 17, 1969 in Vietnam, aged 42 years.
Interment: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.
"BE FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH, AND I
WILL GIVE THEE A CROWN OF LIFE"
DALE JACKSON CRITTENBERGER was born at Walter Reed General Hospital on 21 May 1927, the third son of Willis D. and Josephine W. Crittenberger.
Jack's boyhood was spent at the usual stations of the pre-World War II Army: Washington, Fort Bliss, Manila, Fort Knox, Fort Benning, San Antonio, and Panama; he attended schools at these locations, and in particular he enjoyed St. Albans in Washington; Alamo Heights High School in San Antonio, where Pookie and Jack met; and the University of Texas, where he was a third generation member of Sigma Chi Fraternity.
Jack entered the U.S. Military Academy with the Class of 1950 and spent four years in Company C2, where he did well in both the academic and tactical departments. He was one of ten cadets selected for an exchange trip to L'Ecole Polytechnique during "Cow" summer. He was a Cadet Corporal and later the Senior Lieutenant in his company.
Upon graduation Jack chose Armor and began his service as a Tanker in the 2d Armored Division at Fort Hood, Texas, which location facilitated Pookie's and his wedding on 28 September 1950, at Fort Sam Houston. Twelve days later Jack went to Korea, along with many others from the Class of 1950, joining the 1st Cavalry Division, first as an Infantry Platoon Leader, then as a Tank Platoon Leader. Later he was selected as Aide to Major General Hobart R. Gay, Division Commanding General, and returned to Headquarters, Fourth U. S. Army with him in 1951.
The Associate Company Officers' Course at Fort Knox, followed by a second tour at Fort Hood, this time as a Company Commander in the 1st Armored Division preceded another assignment with the 2d Armored Division, now located in Germany. Here Jack commanded D Company, 57th Tank Battalion, and later served in Headquarters, United States Army Europe, as a staff officer.
The Crittenbergers were recalled to the States in 1956, when Jack was assigned to the White House as the Assistant to the Military Aide to President Eisenhower for an exceptional three-year tour. The gold leaves of Major were pinned on a very surprised Jack by the President on 25 June 1959.
A year at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth broadened Jack's military education and professionalism and gave family and friends an opportunity to enjoy his great talent for piano playing, a hobby which brought as much pleasure to them as it did to the competent accompanist.
In 1960, Jack joined the 4th Armored Division in Germany as the G3 Operations Officer for eighteen months, before taking command, as a Major, of the 1/37th Armor at Crailsheim for a year and a half. Jack's knowledge of his equipment and tactics enabled him to march his Battalion through an aggressor enemy regiment without its knowledge.
From the 4th Armored Jack was ordered to the Military Academy for a rewarding tour in the Department of Tactics; one year was spent as the Senior Armor Instructor, Office of Military Instruction, followed by a year as the Executive Officer of the 1st Regiment, United States Corps of Cadets.
A move to Carlisle Barracks came next, where Jack graduated from the Army War College and received the degree of Master of Science in International Affairs from George Washington University.
From August 1966 to July 1968, Jack worked as Plans Officer, Military Assistance Command Thailand J3, where he was instrumental in the successful deployment of Thai armed forces personnel to Vietnam in support of Free World objectives.
In July 1968, the family returned to the United States and bought a house in McLean, Virginia, where Pookie und the children now live. Jack's second request for duty in Vietnam had been granted, and after attending the Senior Officers' Counterinsurgency arid Special Warfare Orientation at Fort Bragg, Jack reached Vietnam on 17 September 1968 and was assigned to II Field Force Vietnam Headquarters, as Senior US Liaison Officer to the Thai "Black Panther" Division. His continued service with the Thai forces had been requested by the Ministry of Defense.
On 1 May 1969, Jack received from Major General Harris W. Hollis the guidon symbolic of his assuming command of the 3d Brigade, 9th Infantry Division, operating in the important area between Saigon and Cambodia. He ardently wanted this command, extended his tour to accept it, and, as a tanker, was extremely proud when presented the Combat Infantryman Badge.
His Brigade had many visitors, since it was engaged both in combat operations and pacification projects in the hotly contested Hou Nghia - Long An area; all came away with praise for the "Go Devil" Brigade and its leader. Because of its capabilities and key location, the Brigade was selected to remain in Vietnam when the remainder of the Division was ordered home. Jack was inspired by his men, and often wrote of their competence, spirit, willingness, and "can do" attitude; similarly, his troops recognized in Jack a leader who looked out for their interests constantly, in action and in base camp, and who carefully considered all the eventualities before making a decision. Consequently this Brigade was known and admired for its ability to accomplish its missions quickly, with few casualties, and with more than a touch of the old elan of armor. Jack was aggressive in maintaining and exploiting a contact once gained, employing a combined arms team of air mobile and armored personnel carrier mounted Infantry, air support, gunships, and Artillery fire support. He achieved outstanding success in his relations with the various Vietnamese leaders and units in his area. This Brigade was used as an example of how things should be done.
On 17 September 1969, one of Jack's Battalions made a contact; in directing the engagement from his command ship, along with the engaged battalion's commander, and members of both staffs, Jack's helicopter collided with one of the incoming gunships. There were no survivors. Our understanding sympathy goes out to the families of these eleven valiant men - gallant soldiers, all of them.
Jack died doing what he most wanted to do - serve his country effectively and unhesitatingly, with pride and enthusiasm for the achievements of his command. His ardent dedication to the task at hand and his persuasive leadership motivated his officers and his men. His life is an inspiration to all who knew him, for he was a model son, cadet, officer, husband, brother, father and friend. He possessed attributes of love known to all of us - justice, consideration, unselfishness, and graciousness. He is irreplaceable to his family; the letters of sympathy from President to Platoon Sergeant reveal that many share our loss.
A dignified and moving Memorial Service was held at Tan An, Republic of Vietnam, on 19 September 1969, honoring Jack and his fallen comrades-in-arms and attesting to the esteem which the men of his Brigade had for "Colonel Critt."
His Division Commander has said of him, " When the challenge of supreme leadership was impelling on the field of battle, Colonel Jack Crittenberger was in no way found wanting. He gave so much to his Brigade. He brought so much inspiration - he won his battles while here because he won his men. He drained dry his Cup Of Valor."
The Commander of the US Naval Forces Vietnam, with whose men the 3d Brigade worked closely, wrote: "He was one of the truly great who stood out, not only in professional competence, but also in his compassion and understanding for his associates and subordinates."
Colonel Dale Jackson Crittenberger was buried at Arlington Cemetery on 22 September 1969, on a gentle slope overlooking the beautiful city of his birth, completing the circle of love and service that was his life. We who long for an equally confident and solid base of life aspire to the dedication, humility, and courage inherent in him.
Jack was awarded the Silver Star (with Oak Leaf Cluster), Legion of Merit (with Oak Leaf Cluster), Bronze Star Medal (with two Oak Leaf Clusters), Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal (with ten Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal (with two Oak Leaf Clusters), Combat lnfantryman’s Badge, the National Order of Vietnam Fifth Class, and the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Palm, and numerous theatre and service ribbons. Moreover, during his time in command, his Brigade was cited by the Vietnamese Government with the Cross of Gallantry with Palm, and the Civil Actions Honor Medal 1st Class.
Besides his parents, Lieutenant General (Ret.) and Mrs. W.D. Crittenberger, he is survived by his wife Pookie, the former Mildred Kelleher, and their eight children: Josephine, Kristina, Dale Jr., Juliet, William, Amelia, Kelly, and James; and a brother, Major General W. D. Crittenberger Jr. Another brother, Corporal T.W. Crittenberger, was killed at the Remagen Bridgehead in World War II.
Taking a small liberty with an appropriate song, "The Corps":
"It may be said 'Well Done'
Be Thou at Peace .........