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Army Pilots Wings

"About the Author"

Thomas Nesbitt, III was born in Cordele, GA August 4, 1941 about 4 months before Pearl Harbor was attacked. His Father had been called to active duty a year earlier with the local National Guard unit, and was then a 2nd LT stationed at Fort Jackson, SC. Tommy being the first grandchild on both sides of the Family received more than his share of attention from proud relatives, but that all kind of sputtered out a year and a half later when his sister was born.

After WWII, Tommy was brought up in a typical Mayberry U.S.A. atmosphere when neighborhoods were what they should be, no TV., and nobody locked their doors or even took the keys out of their cars. What happened to that ideal life style is obvious to anyone with a brain larger than a peanut. It started in the sixties, and has been snowballing down hill every since.

Tommy graduated from A.B.A.C., a small junior college in Tifton, GA, with an A.S. Degree in Agriculture. There he met and married a south west Georgia girl. Three children later he worked at several jobs in order to support his family, finally graduating from Georgia Southwestern University with a B.S. Degree in History.

Having joined the National Guard in 1960 at age 18, he attended the required six months active duty training (basic at Ft. Jackson , then Armor training at Ft. Knox) and worked his way up to the rank of E-5 before attending Officer Candidate school at Georgia Military Institute for 18 months. He was now a brand new 2nd LT. and his Father was his battalion commander. This he considered a liability rather than an asset, and brought on a lot of friendly ribbing.

In 1965 while on bivouac at Camp Swampy (FT. Stewart), Tommy (now called Tom by most) was called out of the field late one night and told by the Chaplain that his Father (now retired from the Guard) was ill. The closest phone being in the small town of Pembroke, GA he took a jeep there and called his Father in a Macon hospital. Colonel Tom told his Son that he was dying of cancer, and ask him if he would like to come to work at the Family cotton warehouses and farm. Of course this is exactly what LT Tom had always wanted to do, but his Father was determined that he make it on his own up until this point. ("When you marry, you're on your own")

At last Tom was doing what he loved most, especially the farm and livestock part. However by early 1968 the cotton business was dealt a set back when the government stopped subsidizing the warehouse storage of cotton. Of the 23,000 bales of cotton on storage in the NESBITT COTTON WAREHOUSES, most were shipped out that year.

Meanwhile the 11th Air Assault Division, part of which had done some of their training out of the local airfield during the early sixties, had resulted in Tom being smitten by the helicopter bug. Patriotism being alive and well in South Georgia, he saw an opportunity to ease the load on his Family, as well as scratch his own itch. In early 1968 the Army had sent a letter to local Guard units asking for volunteers. It seems some place in S.E. Asia he had never heard of, was putting Uncle Sam in a bind. Feeling young (27) and infallible, Tom called the Pentagon, offering himself up for sacrifice, providing he could attend helicopter training. It worked.

During the 3rd week of Ranger school (which due to some genetic defect he volunteered for) he was injured in a training accident. Two weeks later he began the Infantry Officers Basic Course, after which he attended the Airborne school becoming the "Outstanding Student Graduate" (a little statue and a "good" letter in his files.)

Finally Flight school at Ft. Wolters, TX and Hunter Army Airfield at Savannah and then Vietnam. Reality was not the six o'clock news or John Wayne movies.

Upon arriving in Vietnam Tom was immediately assigned to the 335th Assault Helicopter Company (COWBOYS) at Bearcat about 25 miles from Long Binh. He served there as Executive Officer until late August when the unit moved to Dong Tam in the central delta.

After arriving at Dong Tam, a new Captain came in with date of rank on Tom, therefore taking over the XO position. This put Tom as 1st Platoon leader (RAMRODS) and he was able to get in much more flying time which is what everybody wanted anyway. Nightly mortar and 122 mm rocket attacks were the norm at Dong Tam, which was considerably more remote and less secure than Bearcat had been. The U.S. 9th Infantry Division had recently left Dong Tam and rotated back to the States as part of the gradual withdrawal plan for U.S. Infantry units. The 7th ARVN Division was now responsible for base security. I'm sure this made Charlie very happy.

In mid December, Tom was transferred to the 114th Assault Helicopter Company (KNIGHTS) at Vinh Long further up the Mekong River. Here he was assigned to the RED KNIGHTS flying slicks on combat assaults in the same general area of operations as before. In mid February he was offered the job as assistant airfield commander at Vinh Long Airfield. This is not as important a job as it sounds, but was a shortimers dream. The most hazardous duty Tom did here was to police up dud mortar rounds from the airstrip in the mornings and haul them by jeep off the airfield to the EOD for disposal. The mortar rounds were so rusty that many failed to detonate on impact. After all they had probably been hand carried from Hanoi all the way down the Ho Chi Minh Trail to the southern most part of Vietnam. He still got in some good flying time though.

The calendar countdown began and Tom found himself on the way back to the real world on 15 May 1970. After about a year with the 82nd Airborne Division at Ft. Bragg, he was honorably discharged from service and returned with his family to his home town of Cordele in south Georgia.

Here he was employed by the U.S. Postal Service until his retirement in August of 1986. He still resides in his old home town of Cordele, GA.


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