SP5 CHARLES CHRIS HAGEMEISTER
Charles was born in Lincoln Nebraska 21 Aug 1946, having finished high school and enrolled into University of Nebraska, found himself bored with academics and dropped out to joint the workforce. He figured he could work for a year and then go back to college. Fate would have it, that the Army sent him a draft notice in May 1966. Hagemeister reported for induction and received his training as a Combat Medic and found himself at his permanent party duty station at the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile).
About 1830 the company, started the combat assault, came into a large open sandy area and deployed two platoons on line, the third platoon on the right, the second platoon that the first platoon that he was with was on the left, spread out on line, and then the other platoon was on the left flank of the company providing left flank and rear security. And then the headquarters and the weapons platoon was in the middle of the platoon.
They were advancing basically in an east-northeast direction, came into a tree line with a village, a cemetery and then another tree line. As they advanced through the cemetery one of the lead men of the platoon yelled that it was an ambush, he had spotted some people that were in dug-in positions which triggered an ambush. It was found out the next morning, when they went back and analyzed the position and everything. It was basically an NVA battalion, a regular North Vietnamese Army battalion that had dug in concrete positions, trenches, heavy weapons positions, .51 caliber machine guns, .57 recoilless rifles. They had .81 millimeter mortars dug in and basically it was our 27 man platoon against at least 150 that they could say were in the company.
The initial barrage left the platoon leader shot dead. One of the machine gunners was wounded and he died within minutes, before SP5 Hagemeister got to him he was dead. We had six or seven other wounds. The platoon sergeant was wounded, his RTO was wounded. Two of the men in the forward position, the ones that saw the ambush first were wounded, and then the rest of the platoon was pinned down. When I heard that the platoon leader was shot, I moved from where I was basically, about 10-15 yards behind him, up through the tree line and out into the middle. He was lying behind one of the Vietnamese graves, raised mound. He was trying to get back up. So I was holding him down and putting the dressing on his head. He was shot basically down the side of the head. And his RTO, who was one grave behind, was firing his weapon and SP5 Hagemeister was taken under fire at that time at very close range by a sniper, or what appeared to be a sniper, since he was not, he was not in the bunker positions, he was up in a tree almost.
SP5 Hagemeister took his platoon leader’s weapon and shot that man and then at that point in time you could see that the enemy was starting to move from in front of us around the flank of the position.
“We engaged the enemy that was moving around the flank and the report is that I shot three or four of that group.”
At that point in time SP5 Hagemeister went back with the platoon leader’s RTO and got on his radio and basically told the company commander what the situation is, how many wounded he had and that we needed help getting wounded out. SP5 Hagemeister moved over. On the left flank of the platoon there was a machine gun team out there and then a rifle squad that were holding our flank. SP5 Hagemeister’s weapons squad leader was wounded; he had had a mortar round go off very close to his head and was concussive. SP5 Hagemeister put him with another man to make sure he didn’t get into any trouble. SP5 Hagemeister told him to keep him there and medevac him as soon as they could.
SP5 Hagemeister killed the sniper by firing at the flashpoint in the tree. 3 other enemy soldiers who were attempting to encircle his position and silenced an enemy machine gun that covered the area with deadly fire. Unable to remove the wounded to a less exposed location and aware of the enemy’s efforts to isolate his unit, he dashed through the fusillade of fire to secure help from a nearby platoon. Returning with help, he placed men in positions to cover his advance as he moved to evacuate the wounded forward of his location.
These efforts successfully completed, he then moved to the other flank and evacuated additional wounded men despite the fact that his every move drew fire from the enemy. Sp5c. Hagemeister’s repeated heroic and selfless actions at the risk of his life saved the lives of many of his comrades and inspired their actions in repelling the enemy assault.
He killed three more North Vietnamese silhouetted against the burning village as they ran toward his flank. Using a rifle, Hagemeister took out a machine-gun nest a few yards away from some wounded GIs. He continued to move the injured soldiers out of harm’s way until about midnight, when his unit withdrew to a defensive position.
A little more than a year later, Hagemeister was back in the United States, a few days from being discharged from the Army. President Lyndon Johnson asked him, “How long do you have left in the service, son?” Hagemeister replied with a smile, “Seventy-two hours, sir.” The president turned to a member of the Army brass and said, “I want you to talk to this young man after we’re done here and change his mind.” The officer did. Hagemeister reenlisted and later became a commissioned officer. He stayed in the Army until 1990, when he retired as a lieutenant colonel.
Charles Hagemeister followed his military service by working as a defense contractor, conducting large-unit computer training simulations, in which he simulated capabilities a future enemy might present to Americans in battle. He currently lives in Leavenworth, Kansas with his wife Barbara.