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25066 Kindleberger, Harold P.
October 31, 1940 - May 11, 1966

Harold P. Kindleberger   

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Personal Eulogy

John Ward's Directory Entry

K.B., a native of El Paso and the city across the river, came to West Point from the Army and poop school, with a yen for hard work, some of the time and wine, women and song, all of the time. After graduation – Airborne, Ranger, Special Forces, all the way.

~ USMA 1964 Howitzer

KB Kindleberger had it all. From his early youth it was obvious that he epitomized the ideal combination of leadership, intelligence, integrity and devotion to duty. As his classmate and good friend, Carl Dye has said, “KB had GENERAL OFFICER stamped on him when he first put on a uniform.” Unfortunately, though, KB was still a junior first lieutenant when he made the ultimate sacrifice, only six months after Operation Hump.

KB, or “butch,” as he was called within the family, was born on 31 October 1940 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Sister Suzanne was already five years old and brother Jim would come along five years later. In 1948 the family moved to El Paso, Texas, where KB later attended Burgess High School, along with future West Point classmate Al Carver. According to Al, “KB decided early in life that West Point and an army career were what he wanted. When we were in high school together, we traveled 100 miles from El Paso in the wee hours of the morning to hunt ducks. I remember many hours of good conversation and warm companionship. On one of these hunts, KB mentioned that from his earliest days of his youth he aspired to attend West Point.”

While in high school KB began to prepare for his army career. He excelled in ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) and served as the battalion commander for his high school detachment. Later he was selected as the cadet colonel for all of the high school ROTC programs in El Paso. He looked the soldier; his bearing was ramrod straight. He was a fierce competitor, succeeding in all that he did. Although he wasn’t the biggest or the fastest athlete in the league, he was one of the toughest and made Burgess High School history by scoring the winning touchdown in the school’s first ever victory.

Shortly before graduation KB received a third alternate appointment to West point from Senator Rutherford. That was too far down for selection, however, so he joined the Regular Army. Somewhat later he wrote to the senator again in an effort to confirm the status of his appointments. The senator confirmed that his service academy appointments were still committed and offered testing for the U.S. Naval Academy. KB complied and once again was selected as a third alternate.

Now a Private First Class (PFC), KB and his unit were sent to Germany by ship. After only two days in Germany, KB was notified that he was being sent to Maryland, to the Naval Academy Prep School. His army green in a sea of blue and white attracted severe harassment there. His mother recounts that he was accepted to the Naval Academy, subject to the approval of a waiver for a slight sight problem. When so informed by a navy officer, KB replied, “No sir, never mind the waiver. I will remain a soldier.” Shortly afterward, he was accepted to the U.S. Military Academy Prep School at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, (now located at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, this school prepares qualified active-duty military personnel for acceptance to West point) and subsequently joined the Class of 1964 on the plain at West Point in the summer of 1960. KB was one of three of the class’s fallen warriors who attended the USMA Prep School. David Ramsay, and John Graham were the other two.

West Point was the ideal place for KB; it was what he had prepared for and he quickly distinguished himself as a natural leader. He was a dean’s-list student and a member of several clubs, including the Parachute Club, where he became good friends with Hal Kaufman, Martin Green, Bob Walters, and John Graham, who would also meet their fates in Vietnam. By the time he became a first classman (firstie), KB had so impressed his peers and superiors that he was selected to be the commander of the Second Regiment, one of only three men in the class to wear six stripes.

I remember him as a firstie. KB was a cut above, more dedicated than the rest of us. One rainy weekend when we were sitting around reading contemporary novels, I asked him what he was reading and he showed me the cover. His book was Night Drop, the story of an airborne operation of the Second World War. KB was also a strong admirer of General Douglas MacArthur and read all he could about him. He was thrilled to meet MacArthur that year and later carried the general’s flag at his funeral.

Another new experiment for the Class of ’64 brought two of its fallen warriors together during firstie year. Until that year, the first-class chain of command had been permanent for the entire academic year. But in 1963 – 1964 it was decided to have three different leadership slates, except for the brigade staff and the two regimental commanders and their executive officers, who stayed in position all year. As such, KB had three different groups of his classmates filling the positions of adjutant, assistant adjutant, training officer, and supply officer. The final group, from mid-March until graduation, saw Bob Serio live across the hall from KB as the adjutant. The two worked together harmoniously as their friendship grew. Who would have ever thought that these two class leaders would perish in a far-off land only a few years later?

After graduation, KB headed west in his Corvette to visit his family and was stopped several times for speeding. On one occasion, in Arizona, the patrolman ascertained that KB had just graduated from West Point and let him continue, on the condition that he see the justice of the peace and pay his fine en route, which, of course, he did.

Before reporting to the Airborne and Ranger courses at Fort Benning, KB drove to the Marine Corps Base in El Toro, California, to visit his brother, Jim, a nineteen-year-old PFC. Their relationship had grown strong over the years, as Jim later recalled: “During our school years at home, the difference in our ages had us all going in different directions. Our common interest during those days was watching war movies on TV late at night, mostly on weekends. KB would help me talk our mom into letting me stay up, then we would walk to the local minute market for Pepsi and Clover Club barbecue potato chips, getting ready for the big night. His spot was always lying on his back in front of the TV, head propped up on his football. Funny how such small things bring back the best memories.

“Growing up in El Paso, our dad had an old 1940 or so Dodge in our backyard. I never remember it running. But Butch and I would spend many afternoons ‘driving’ that car around the U.S.A., kind of like an early ‘Route 66’ – maybe planting the seed for the Corvette he would purchase upon graduation.

“…and the time he talked me into sticking my tongue on the metal freezer door because it tasted so good – I think our sister had done the same to him.

“Our favorite pastime during the holidays was taking turns emptying the whipped cream cans into each other’s mouth. We always got in trouble, but it was too good to resist!

“I went into the Marine Corps in 1963, coming home after boot camp later that year. Butch was home from West point on leave and a little bit of rivalry existed. I thought I was pretty tough, besides being bigger than KB. I was firmly entrenched in Marine Corps doctrine. He kicked my butt all over the front yard – my mom yelling at him not to hurt my contributed to my embarrassment. He spent most of the time laughing; I spent most of the time on the ground.

“When he came to visit me in El Toro in August 1964 he offered me the use of his Corvette while he was at Fort Benning. We drove to Las Vegas, then to El Paso where I dropped him off. I headed back to El Toro, a nineteen-year-old PFC with a new Corvette and my brother’s gas credit card.

“In 1965 KB was my best man when I got married. We both were in our uniforms, he, the army second lieutenant and I, the marine corporal. I was proud to stand by him.

“KB came to El Toro on the way to Travis Air Force Base en route to Vietnam. After spending a night or two with my wife and me, we drove him to Travis. The evening we arrived at Travis we decided to have a farewell drink. Standing in front of the Officers Club, both in civvies, we wouldn’t have had any problem except for the fact that he knew I was enlisted. He wouldn’t break the rules. It was either right or wrong with KB. No compromises. He always kept his word. I never dreamed that I would never see him again. … He was always there to help me. He was a homebody, a stable force. He taught me a lot.”

Al Carver continues describing how well rounded KB was: “Serious as he was in attending to business, KB loved life and he knew how to enjoy it. Early one morning when he was a young private in the army, KB livened up Fourteenth Street, near Pennsylvania Avenue, in D.C., with a spirited touch football game. On another occasion, KB added some suspense and excitement to the wedding of one of his West Point classmates. KB was the best man. One of his responsibilities was to ensure that, following the reception, the newlyweds’ car would be in place, ready for a quick, no fuss departure. But when the newlyweds rushed from the church after the reception, their car was nowhere to be seen. After an appropriate delay, just enough for the prank to have the intended effect, KB appeared with the car and sent the newlyweds, Joan and me, on their way.”

KB’s first assignment was with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Stationed there with him was fellow infantryman, Carl Dye. In fact, KB and Carl bought a trailer off post together so that they wouldn’t be saddled with the post’s Bachelor Officers Quarters rules. They both enjoyed the airborne duty with the 101st but there was one problem. Although one brigade (not theirs) of the 101st deployed to Vietnam in July 1965, the remainder of the division wasn’t scheduled to go for awhile, and these two patriotic young officers felt they had to go to Southeast Asia as soon as possible and make their contribution. After all, that is what they had been trained for. So, they cut short their tours with the 101st and volunteered for assignment to the Twenty-fifth Infantry Division, which was in Hawaii, preparing to deploy to Vietnam.

They joined the Second Battalion, Fourteenth Infantry, trained rigorously for a short while, and embarked via ship to Vietnam in April 1966. The Twenty-fifth was part of the build-up which saw U.S. troop strength climb from 180,000 to 280,000 during 1966. Carl remembers those days: “The days on board ship were spent rather laid back by most of us, but KB was mostly with his men – exercising and just getting to know them better. In just over three months, he became the most respected platoon leader in the battalion. This became clear when, on 11 May, after only ten days in country, KB stepped on a land mine and lost both of his legs. Several of his men, including his platoon sergeant, died trying to get to him, all to no avail. A dustoff helicopter eventually evacuated him, but he died on the way to the hospital. I was on the radio in the S-3 tent when the incident took place. I knew what was happening, but I couldn’t do a thing about it except pray he’d make it. Maybe it’s best some prayers aren’t answered, but this is one that should have been.

“We lost a truly great man that day, and I, for one, will always feel the world is a lesser place without his presence. I doubt we will ever know why some of us are chosen so early in life to pay the ultimate price for our country. We can only pray that it was necessary.”

First Lieutenant Harold P. Kindleberger was a living example of the West point motto, “Duty, Honor, Country.” They were not just words with KB. They were KB.

~ Fallen Warriors The West Point Class of 1964 by John Murray


These are the photos from Gwen's and my visit with KB at Ft Bliss on 21 Aug. Unfortunately, I think we have lost contact with KB's mother and his brother. My letter to her was returned with "moved" indicated on the envelope and I have gotten no response from his brother in the month since I mailed the letters.

Gwen and Charlie Revie

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