Chargin’ Charlie Beckwith
Through this e-list, the web site, and our reunions, many Chargin’ Charlie stories have surfaced: I wonder if there is a biography on him?
Our 327th website database has much info and memories about Beckwith.
He was well known for that 51 cal scar he liked to display, at one of the reunions, somebody told how Charlie had heard there were enemy tanks moving in the Ashau Valley. He grabbed a “volunteer” (the guy telling the story” who loaded up as many shells as he could carry. Charlie grabbed what must have been a recoiless rifle, probably a 90mm but maybe an old bazooka, and the two of them were airlifted to the valley floor, dropped off, and went tank hunting. The tanks got away but the ammo bearer had made a memory. I wish I knew his name.
Another Charlie story that surfaced from one of the reunions was told when some young sgt saw a man pissing into one of the many empty artillery cannisters used to outline the roads and paths of the firebase. The young soldier yelled at the pisser saying something like “you can’t piss there”. The old soldier looked up without missing a drip and said, “son, I can piss anywhere I want as I own this mountain”. I don’t remember his name either.
I wished I had met him, maybe even served under him but he might have got me and my men killed too. He expected none, and got no shit from his LTs and SGTs.
I think Beckworth was the Bn Cmdr of Lt Gardner when Gardner was ordered to cross on open field, platoon abreast, not allowing the man on the ground to decide how to make the movement. Gardner’s men were ambushed by three enemy machine gun nests and the rest is history in that Gardner and others died while Gardner earned the Medal of Honor. I was amazed w this Crossville reunion of last summer, I met one of the men of that platoon and got his side of the story. What a story. And, again, …I wish I knew, or could remember, who I was talking to.
Somewhere on the internet is photo of Charlie Beckwith’s headstone, a VA type….I found the web site address https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/9791/charles-alvin-beckwith
There is much about this man if you do a google search.
This past weekend I saw a book on tape “Leadership” by General George Patton. I hope to read/listen to it someday. I expect Patton and Beckwith had similar styles. I used to know a few of Patton’s men who have since died. They did not like Patton who was also known as “blood and guts” and his men knew it was Patton’s guts and their blood. I think Patton kept constant pressure on the enemy but at the high cost of what ever unit he had placed on the front. When that unit became combat ineffective, Patton would have the next unit push through and ahead. Patton had the third Army which, if I remember right, must have contained twenty or more divisions so he was not short of men and equipment.
Clarification reference Lt Gardner: I was with the Tiger Force when the action at My Canh II occurred. While I cannot verify who made the decision to cross the open rice paddy, nothing was ever said after the action that the charge was ordered by higher up. I always understood that Lt Gardner made that decision on his own. I think it would be very difficult for anyone alive to know the truth as both Lt Gardner and his RTO were killed. As for being ambushed: Nothing of the kind. We had been taking fire from machine guns long before the charge occurred. I know as I was on one of the M-60s and had to provide covering fire for the charge and then cross that same rice paddy with my team and no covering fire. We only lost one man dead on the charge and that was the other M-60 gunner. We lost 3 others later including Lt Gardner. Casualties during this engagement were 4 dead and 11 wounded out of 54 men who took part from the Tigers.
Phil Neel Tiger Force 66
Rgr. Tom, No, Dyke wasn’t working for Beckwith (he was the 2/327 XO but somehow was left in charge of the 1st battalion). The time I’m referring to was late ’65 and it involved Cobra Company, 1/327. Dyke ordered them to cross an open rice paddy much to the chagrin of the senior NCOs, but they followed orders and got the shit shot outta them. Top was in the rear area at the time and was unaware of the situation until it was too late.
hey hanniteacher, thanks for the insights…I didn’t remember the story coming from Tom Taylor and, as sometimes happens, especially with war stories, I remembered it differently than I heard it.
Also I was unaware of Ramrod working for Beckwith. Somewhere I read the story about being ordered to cross the open area. I just assumed it came from Beckwith.
I wish I knew who was telling me what he knew about the incident. I met him at the most recent Crossville reunion. He said things had been so quiet and routine up to that point that nobody gave the order a second thought. The way he described it, they casually crossed the open area like it was secure and quiet as had been the operation up to that point. Then the ambush was sprung and the platoon was caught in the open but exposed to overlapping enemy machine gun fire.
Charles Ramrod Dyke is on my top ten of the most respected men of my life. I do remember him and his loch giving orders as per his unique point of observation. I have heard of Ramrod really chewing ass but he never did mine. I think his MO was to have his captains do it. Captain Lester “Red” Walkley asked me a few years ago if I had ever heard Ramrod chew his ass. I told him no as I knew Ramrod was too professional to chew ass in the presence of one’s subordinates but … I added to Walkley, I could tell when Walkley got his ass chewed as he usually call in his LTs for their own personalized ass chewing. Usually I learned something from every ass chewing and became a better soldier from it.
Old tough as nails ABN Sarge: Come to think of it I can see it your way. Calling the Colonel “Chuckie” probably wouldn’t have been the best idea. That’s a funny story you told about him in the JFK parking lot. I can picture him being polite to your lady and gruff with you. BUT, I sure as hell ain’t gonna be gruff with you or any other bad-assed ABN Sarge. Ex Lieutenat Carpenter sure was privey to information that did not filter down to me whatsoever, though I had abscounded the territory. A PFC is told nothing anyway. Even if I was there when he was talking about I still wouldn’t have known six percent of that. I think the old Lieutenant was having a flashback when he wrote it though; it was that good! Sure enough sir I do know about Chargin’ Charlie starting the Delta Force, and that he led the Iran rescue mission that ended in flames in the desert or some damn thing I’m pretty sure, later. I didn’t know he initiated the LRRP but it seems he might have alright. Oh there ain’t no doubt that a guy would have had to have been hard as nails and dedicated in his mind to be a SF soldier and all. They are some whole other thing than a common kid walking down the trail swinging his arms like he’s in Chicago for damn sure. My Platoonie Gary Sievers who I call Machete Gary has a name for the kind of guy that Beckwith was and I’ll be damned if I can’t think of it. It’s the kind of person that people get killed around, usually a lot of them I gather. . Like Napoleon and folks who would get a lot of folks killed in Russia like that.
( Archtype,) that’s the word! Sarge, you look that word up in the Dictionary and it’ll describe Charlie Beckwith to a tee. If you read it wondering if it’s going to apply to him it’ll give you the wee-willies. ABN Sargents are the Baddest of the Bad.
I didn’t serve with Beckwith in Nam. However he wrote my efficiency reports when I was with Special Forces Schools Detachment at Fort Bragg. As an E-6 and E-7 He would have had me shipped North Viet Nam if I called him Chuck.
My wife parked in his slot at JFK one day. When we came out he said “Who in the hell is parked in my slot?” My wife replied, “I (wife) did because it was empty.” Charlie said, “Little lady, you can park there any time, Jeff that doesn’t mean you can.”
Regarding “I’d rather go down the river with seven studs than a hundred shit-heads.” When he was the Director of Special Forces School we had an average attrition rate of 48 to 50%. Again he would rather have X number of people who knew their job than have a lot of shit-heads around him.
Charlie initiated the LRRP concept in Nam when he was a Major. He formed Delta Force. He was an inspiration to many in SF and SF students. There were times though when SF guys did not want to serve directly under Beckwith in Nam – they considered him a little too aggressive.
Those Ky Guardsman, C Btry 138th Bn, on Hill 88 took pride in their firing. Several times they fired in support of Delta and each time they did, I was impressed with their fastness and accruacy and thankfull they were on our side. Several times their support fire came from behind and barely seemed to clear over the top of our heads but that is the way I call it in and directed it.
With the 155mm, when you said add/drop/shift 50, you knew it would happen. They would even adjust to 25 with accuracy. Once they drove us,in their self propelled ammo carriers, down hwy one, and along the beach so as to reinforce our sniper team that had successfully made contact but seemed outnumbered. One of the carriers crashed over the beach mound and got stuck and that sort of changed the mission, it didn’t change it but certainly made it more complicated. (I still carry a small scar from the pile of up men when the ammo carrier crashed over the sand berm and the sliding cable above us cut off the tip of my finger as it followed the path of least resistance).
CB, I remind me again, when were you with the NS? You may have even been on the mission I am to describe following.
The Ky Guardsman battery on Hill 88 had a CO named Captain Lyle Thompson (I think). He was always volunteering himself and his equipment and sometimes his people into situations that would help un infantry. Since I too was a National Guardsmand (I have volunteered for active duty via the Nebraska National Guard), Capt Thompson and I hit it off good.
It was sometime in March 69 when our our standown started, I think the 2/327 was relieved by the 1/327th but the 138th Artillery and their guns stayed in place on Hill 88. During the day, a cobra had been shot down on a mountain overlooking Hill 88’s AO. Capt Thompson volunteered to ride shotgun on a loach that went to look for the cobra. The loach too was lost. This was when Delta, and any other available unit was sent to look for anything on that huge mountain. I remember reading in Gary Linderer’s book, “Eyes of the Eagles”, his recon unit was placed into the middle of this operation.
For Delta and most of the No Slack, this was its first stand down in four or five months. In the middle of a movie (I think “the Flim Flam Man, BoJangles”), or maybe a uso band, the no slack Bn CO Charles Ramrod Dike jumped up onto the stage and annouced the standdown was over as two helicopters had been shot down and we were going to do a CA into the area where they were missing. Nobody moved or said anything as nobody believed it was true and that coming from Ramrod made it had to be part of an act and coming from Ramrod, it just nade it more a funnier joke. But nobody was laughing nor was anyone moving.
I don’t think any of us, including me, recognized that any unit on a stand down was the unit in reserve. Ramrod repeated the annoucement a second time and still nobody believed him. I think he then said something about us being able to take off in 15 minutes so we best get our gear and rucks and meet at the LZ pad. Finally it started to soak in that it was no joke. Hell I already knew that Ramrod had no sense of humor, at least with anybody below his rank of LTC. Most of us, by that time of the movie or show, were drunk which didn’t help our reaction time anyway.
Luckly, before the beer and booze was pased out earlier that day, we had our weapons and rucks cleaned up, inspected, and ready to go if needed.
My First platoon loaded into the ass end of a C-47 and then did the CA out of the C-47. This was the first and only time I did a CA out of a C-47. We CA’d to the base of a mountain just west of hwy one and the coastal plains
Before the mission was finished, the bodies were found but one, the wreckage found, three days in the fog, we had run out of water and food, told to walk off the mountain and evenually made it back to Hill 88 and… all this time we didn’t realize one of the men we were looking for was our friend from the Ky National Guard, Captain Thompson. Several enemy had been killed when trapped between several to the searching units.
After the Ky Guardsman were rotated back to the states, they had left their guns with the 101st and the unit was now manned by non Guardsman. I don’t know if, or what the unit degsignatin was changed to.
Ranger Tom: Yes, I was with C Co of the 2/327th from Oct 23rd of ’67 to Oct 23rd of ’68. Famous or infamous Col Charlie Beckwith took over as the Battalion Chief during the time when the Gyrenes were fighting for the Citadel in Hue. We lined up on a day stay at Bein Hoa behind deuce & a halves to get the same new rifles like the ARVN’s already had for long enough to rub all the bluing off. Then he marched all 400 of us down to a wall of dirt and had us fire them all at the same time for about three seconds into the target-free dirt-bank. And that’s how we went to Hue, without a single man in the Battalion with a rifle that was sighted in. I refer to us sometimes as “The Battalion of the Unsighted Rifles” for this reason, giving the outfit a colorful name like the English do. Because I’d grown up popping youthful cottontail bunnies and not quite full grown red and grey squirrels with a 22 rimfire rifle I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to hit a tent from inside it with my fine new M-16 without it being sighted in. I was just a young whippersnapper but should have walked right up to Col Beckwith and said———- “Hey Chucky, we’re not really going to Hue like this are we, all unsighted-in like this? Was there a pre-sighted target included in the box that I didn’t notice? And by the way you old war horse, where the hell were the boxes anyway? We ain’t makin’ no Corn-Flakes here you know, Chucky? Are you listening? Oh and by the way, would you mind wearing your GI issued shirt a little more often? That scar on your chest and the one in the middle of your back, the ones everybody swears was done to you with a 50 caliber machine-gun round? Well. it makes the low-ranking studs think you are some kind of a damn ghost or something. I mean who the hell could survive that kind of a hit and then still walk and talk the kind of shit that you do?” I think Col Beckwith was just the kind of guy who would have responded well to something like that. Calling him Chucky I’m pretty sure would have brought out the sweeter angels of his nature. One of his famous quotes was, “I’d rather go down the river with seven studs than a hundred shit-heads.” I just hope he didn’t say that when he was asked whether he wanted the 2/327th or a Special Forces A-Team. I sure didn’t know about these Nat’l Guardsmen in action like you describe, no doubt with great accuracy. Whoops, shit, that term “great accuracy” always gives me weird flashbacks, even when I mumble the words accidentally myself.
There are some good accounts of the actions you describe about Lt Gardner in Hackworth’s book “About Face”. I realize he is somewhat controversial but everyone can make up their own mind.
My tour was pretty much split down the middle with the two Bn commanders and my take was that Ramrod was the more articulate of the two but Charger was a good motivator in the locker room so to speak. Ramrod practised a good management technique as far as I’m concerned as he simply remember my name if we crossed paths. My experience has been that if you’re sitting between two guys and a name comes up the one on your left hates him and the one on the right loves him.
Charger definitely liked to walk around Son in the evening with no shirt and the 51 cal scar went diagonally across his chest.
According to David Hackworth in his book About Face (pp505-506), he was on the ground and ordered 1Lt Gardner to make the move at My Canh II.
265th RRC/101st Abn Div
The piss story is from Tom Taylor of D-2/327. But Charlin’ Charlie wasn’t pissin’ in the tube, he said he’d piss anywhere he wanted to. I think we were on Veghal at that time.
And you SURE the order to move out across that field didn’t come from Maj. Charles Dyke? Back then he was the 2nd Bn. XO and was on station with the 1st Bat for some reason. At least the time I’m describing applies to the orders given Cobra Company, maybe not Tiger Force. Ask Top about it, he’ll damn sure fill ya in.
I agree with you and read the account of the Seals in Panama some time ago. I was referring to the tacitly aggressive like some of the fine platoon leaders I served with. Sgt Arnold immediately comes to my mind and there are two others on the mail list who also fit that category. I would rather be with a Patton then a Montgomery as I’m sure you would want to be also…
I agree, but rappelling into a NVA base camp (yes, that was a possible operation considered by him) is a little much.
There is a movie about the SEALs in Panama in which they attacked the airfield to take out Noreiagans jet. The SEALs moved directly up the tarmac to the hanger instead of approaching the hanger from the sides, which a couple of the SEALs did. The team that was hit the worst was the direct approach team. It was like shooting people in a parking lot. Very bold and aggressive but not smart. One has to plan and think beyond the moment.
My 2¢ I would rather go into battle with a leader who was very aggressive as compared to a conservative or worse yet unsure leader. The aggressive leader takes casualties and completes the mission. The unsure leader takes casualties but they are wasted because the objective, which should always be victory, is never achieved. Put me down for an Archetype any day…
Charlie Beckwith only care about getting his ticket punched and getting medals with the lives and blood of his Men, as far as he was concerned we was Airstrike Bait,,,,,,,,,,I saw him rip his shirt of and start screaming “A Shau Valley” spit would fly out of his mouth. His promise for us medal and bodybag was all we got, when Lucky Eagle and Ramrod came on line, we started getting some respect and better care. The Purple Heart i got was signed by Barsonni, i have no other medals from Gen Barsonni and Charlie Beckwith. I never got my CIB, Air Medals, or other medals that i should have recieved. We should have received a medal at Hue City when we was attached to the Marines, they got there’s. When i was well I sent christmas cards to Charlie and Ramrod, the one to Charlie came back return to sender, and Gen Dyke would always send a card, Charlie would never come to any of the 101st functions, but he was the big bad wolf at SF fuctions,,,,,Charlie was at the bottom of the pecking order At SF, there was much better men than he. All the NCO’s was the ones that really was the ones that held Blue light together,,,,,and they all were proud of there time with the 101stAirborneDiv,,,82, 173, and all the other Airborne Units,,,,,,I found out all i needed to know ,,,kicking the dirt around the Bn Tent,,,,,,,Charlie was crazy and self centered Bastard……..Thats my 1 cent worth,,,,,,,,,,,,,,he doesn’t deserve 2,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
Airborne ,,,All the Way……..Lurch,,,,,,,,The Kentuckian,,,,,,,,,,,Daniel R. Hickman
Wow, it is funny how time changes people. I can’t vouch for Beckwith in the 2/327. However I know that when I was with Special Forces Schools and he was the Director he would talk to us and with us. He would explain things and share personal insights.
Incidentally, if the a letter comes back “Return to Sender” it is often times because the wrong address was provided. I would say that if Beckwith didn’t want to hear from you he would have just ditched the letter.
We each have our own perception of others. If you didn’t get a CIB that was not Beckwith’s fault. I can’t vouch for the other medals. Blue Light was held together by the NCOs as it should have been.
Guess I am a little bias. He rated me on my EER (Enlisted Efficiency Reports) and I always received a max evaluation from him.
Sounds like he pissed in your canteen cup.
Sorry about that I Was With Him All His Tour with 2/327, he was never close to my canteen cup, but I did get him and the Bull coffee. If he was such as wonderful man, He wouldn’t sent us into Reconed L Shaped Ambushes with a Regt or more of NVA, he should have been put in jail for murder, he would sit us down and rip his shirt open his shirt and say ” I know what war is about,,,don’t yell about ya getting killed and wounded, I’m going to give you a body bag and a damn Purple Heart…………!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I know all SF that was bull shitted by him and believed it loves him,,,,,,,I ‘m sorry for that also………..Daniel .(God Is My Judge) It don’t mean nothing anyway……not a thing,,,,,,,,,,,,,!!!!!!!!!!!!Their was a story about Charlie In SOF ,in the mid 80’s…This will be the last time I will speak of the man,,,I’ll put it in a book ,,,,and you can believe me or not……
Nothing to be sorry for. We both served with him and we both have different stories about him.
When he said , “I’m going to give you a body bag and a dam Purple Heart…………!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! .” he said what other commanders would not say. In many conventional tactical operations the commander has to determine what the acceptable losses will be. He then determines if he will let his men go in. I don’t believe that Beckwith intentionally sacrificed people. When Tiger Force was leaving to go to Song Be the BC told us there were going to be plenty of NVA who will only hit if they out number us. He said the NVA were good at their ambushes, mostly L shaped, and that they used flame throwers and big nasty claymores and shape charges to initiate ambushes. In short, we were going into an area where we would probably come out in a body bag. In either case we would get a Purple Heart. Perhaps with Beckwith saying this some would be more alert, watch out for their buddies, and be the aggressor. Like Patton said, “You don’t win wars by dying for your country, you make the other poor bastard die for his country.” “When you reach down a place your hand in goo that was once your buddies face, by God, you will know what to do.” In Tigers we would sometime joke about who gets the fruit cock tale if the other guy got wasted. Mike Corrigan, a very close friend in Tigers, and I would often joke like that. Unfortunately, Mike was killed just days before I got back to Nam. Did I regret saying those things? No because that was how mike and I did things.
In any case you have your memories and opinion and I have mine.
I came in contact with Charger up close and personal just once during my tour and it wasn’t a pleasant experience. While on a patrol with Delta company a wait-a -minute vine caught me across the throat and chin. And as luck would have it, it became infected. Our medic didn’t have anything that would clear it up but prevented it from getting worse. A couple of weeks later we happened to go in for a stand down at Eagle and I went in to see a doctor that prescribed some kind of creme, antibiotics and suggested I not shave until it healed. Cool! On my way back to the company area I crossed paths with Charger. Needless to say he put me at the brace and demanded an explanation why I had a beard…..short as it was. My explanation didn’t cut it. In no uncertain terms he made it clear that no sorry assed soldier in his battalion would be unshaven and that he knew better than any doctor what was best. Short answer is that I did shave (every day), though it hurt like hell, used the creme and antibiotics and it eventually cleared up. Not really sure if he really did know better or if he was just on a power trip.
That’s a whole lot I didn’t know about the fellows who kept things whistling in the air above us. Very interesting! And tragic too. I had artillery training for AIT and was in the 17th Cav at Bragg before going to VN to see if I could carry a ruck-sack All I knew how to do when I got there was follow the guy in front of me. The A Co CO included in this e:mail (A327NoSlack@aol.com) suggested I look at the 101st ABN Association for the guy too. The friend being sought out is the type of guy who would most certainly be there too. Thanks for the info and history. I was asked once if I wanted to go to an Artillery unit after being a line-doggie with the 2/327th for several months but I said, “No!” It appeared to be a bitch of a dangerous job to me.
The 320th was there, probably others but just waking up and cannot recall any others. Hope this helps.
Not long before March 21st of ’68 The Colonel told Gary Sievers that he was going to court martial him after hearing him recite ‘Into the Valley of Death Rode the Six-Hundred,’ or whatever was the famous title; to some other low ranking troops during some ass-sitting time on the trail.
Gary Sievers, 2005. 1st Plt.C Co, 2/327th, July ’67-March 21st ’68.
—–photo by: cb