Just a little over two months after Akos Szekely, a non-infantryman, was killed leading a Twenty-fifth Infantry Division
infantry company in battle it happened again. Armor Captain Carl J. Winter, Jr., Zek’s classmate and good friend, died while
serving his country on 23 November 1968, also while leading an infantry company of the Twenty-fifth. Like Zek, Carl was a true
patriot and a team player. Knowing that there were not enough qualified infantry captains to command the division’s thirty-six
infantry companies, he volunteered to take command of one, despite the danger of heavy enemy activity in the division’s area
around Cu Chi. After all, Carl had already been a successful company commander and he was Airborne and Ranger qualified —
definite pluses for infantry command duty. Besides, Carl was proud to be a part of the “Tropic Lightning” Division and its
honorable combat history in the Pacific theatre. After being formed on 10 October 1941 in Hawaii, it participated in
Guadalcanal and several other island campaigns in Word War II, and later also took part in the Korean conflict.
The Twenty-fifth began deployment to Vietnam in late March 1966 and a few weeks later KB Kindleberger became its first ’64
KIA. Its second ’64 victim was David Bujalski, the following year. As it was throughout the country, 1968 was the most active
year for combat for the “Tropic Lightning” Division in Vietnam as it lost Akos and Carl. Jim Kotrc (Chapter 20) would fall in
1969, also while commanding an infantry company (although he was an infantryman). On 8 December 1970 the division began
deployment back to Hawaii where it has remained. Between 1993 – 1995 its commander was Major General George Fisher, USMA 1964.
Interestingly enough, Zek and Carl and the subsequent fallen warriors of the class died while on extended time in the army.
(David Ramsey, U.S. Air Force, Chapter 23, did not fall into this category.) What happened was that when the class graduated,
all those who were commissioned in the army faced a four-year commitment (a few years before it had been a three-year commitment
and several years later it would go up to five years). However, before any officers could resign their commission at the four-
year point, the army put out a directive adding eighteen months to the commitment (that was done because of the manpower
requirements of Vietnam). It is not known who in the class may have left the army after four years, but technically speaking,
service after June 1968 was considered an extension. Although the extension applies to other officer groups as well, for the
Class of ’64 it turned out to be another “surprise in store for ’64.”
Although he was born in Saginaw, Michigan, Carl was raised nearby, on a small farm in Hemlock, a tiny town of 800 people. His
father, Carl, Sr., after serving in World War II as a technical sergeant in the Army Air Corps, bought the eighty-acre farm from
his father, Conrad. He also worked for General Motors, and as a consequence, relied heavily on his children to help with the many
farm chores. He was a lucky father, for Carl, the oldest, loved the farm and virtually ran the entire operation, including a
small dairy herd, during his high school years. Carl was able to practice his leadership skills as he supervised his younger
brothers, Dan and Chuck, and his sister, Mary, as they shared their numerous responsibilities beginning at dawn every day. Carl
still had enough energy and strength left to earn letters on the football and golf teams and served as vice president and
salutatorian of his 1960 graduating class at Hemlock High School.
Unlike his Iowa farmer classmate, Jim Powers, who was militarily motivated by a junior ROTC officer, Carl had never been exposed
to the military nor did he have strong guidance counseling. By chance, however, the counselor had just received information from
West Point shortly before talking to Carl about college plans and suggested that he might consider applying since he met all the
selection criteria. Carl’s dad had always spoken highly of his military days and their small Midwestern town was about as
mid-American and patriotic as they come, so Carl applied, but figured his chances were slim since only about ten percent of
applicants gained entrance and no one in his school district had ever even applied to any academy. Needless to say, it was a
grand event in the small high school and town when Carl received notification of his acceptance.
Despite his lack of a military background, Carl adjusted quite smoothly to academy life. In fact, after rising before dawn his
entire life on the farm, sleeping until 5:50 A.M. was a luxury for him. Carl was well liked by all and his cadet resume was
ample. Noteworthy was his membership in the Debate Council and Forum (along with eleven other fallen warriors of the class) and
his captaincy of the Bowling Club. He was also a Dean’s List student and graduated in the top thirty percent of the class. Fred
Pope, Carl’s roommate for part of their time together in Company F-1 during firstie year, recalls the pleasure of knowing Carl
and the sadness of his death: “It was hard to believe that Carl was killed in Vietnam. To those of us who knew him, he was the
kind of person that should never have had anything bad happen to him—he was so good! He was tall, smart, athletic, and
personable. Carl would do anything for his family and friends—and he always did it with a smile. He was extremely well rounded
and fit easily into any situation whether it be an athletic contest, coaching academics, drinking beer, or going to church. He
was the first loss of our cow and firstie bunch in F-1 and it really hurt. Then later when Bill Black, also of F-1, died three
and a half months later, it just didn’t seem fair.”
A month after Carl graduated and was commissioned in the armor, his brother Dan followed in his footsteps and joined the Class
of 1968. Dan had always been tremendously proud of his older brother and looked on him as a mentor and example. Through Carl’s
letters he learned a lot about the academy and developed a keen interest in becoming a member of the corps. During his junior
year in high school Dan visited his brother at West Point, and after that, there was no doubt in his mind about where he wanted
to attend college. You see, during that visit Dan lived the life of a cadet for a week—Carl and his classmates put him up in
various rooms (to keep him away from the authorities) and kept him dressed in the appropriate uniform as he marched to meals
and other activities. It was Carl’s way of sharing his academy experience with his brother and helping to prepare him to decide
on his future. The sixteen-year-old from the small farm in Michigan was completely sold. Of course, that week he lived the life
of an upperclassman. As such, when he later suffered through the tough times of “Beast Barracks” and RECONDO Week, he at least
was able to realize that life as a cadet would get better.
When Dan graduated in 1968, younger brother Chuck entered the Air Force Academy and later graduated with the Class of 1972. As
with Dan, the main inspiration for Chuck was Carl, whom he had the opportunity to see as a cadet and as a professional officer.
Carl fit the mold perfectly—tall, dark, handsome, physically fit, intelligent, and with a smile as big as Michigan.
Beverly Richards, from Bay City, Michigan, was impressed with that package when she happened to meet Carl at the swimming pool
of a small golf club in Hemlock during the summer of 1963. Carl was immediately smitten and asked her out. From that point on
there was no one else for Carl and they were married a year later. After Airborne and Ranger Schools, the happy young couple
spent an exciting year and a half in Germany as Carl patrolled the East German border with the Second Squadron, Ninth Armored
Cavalry Regiment. Despite Carl’s small paycheck, the exchange rate at that time of four marks to a dollar enabled them to enjoy
The Winters returned from Germany in the summer of 1966 and were stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington, where Carl served as a
company commander of a basic training company. He had such short notice to take over that job that he and Beverly were not able
to wait for their car (1964 Corvair Monza convertible) to arrive in port on the East Coast and then drive it across the country.
So, Carl had Dan pick it up at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and drive it to Highland Falls where he hid it in a rented garage while
he served as a squad leader in “Beast Barracks.” After that, while on summer leave in August, Dan drove the car to Michigan,
picked up little brother Chuck, continued the drive across the top of the country and delivered it intact to Carl and Beverly.
It was a great experience for Dan and Chuck, and although the mission was accomplished, Dan wondered, “Would I have been willing
to let my younger brothers do that with the new car I got when I graduated?”
Carl was recognized as a truly outstanding company commander, and he and Beverly enjoyed living in the great Northwest. The
highlight of their stay there was the birth of their son, Curt. As an infant, Curt was unique in that he would only go to sleep
if Carl put him in the car and drove him around the block—over and over until he dozed off. Curt has since grown up to be a fine
young man. He was graduated from Michigan State University and at the time of this writing works in sales in Lansing, Michigan.
His father would be extremely proud.
In late summer of 1967 Carl was designated to attend the Armor Officer Advanced Course at Fort Knox. One of his classmates there
was Jeff Louis, who was also a classmate from West Point. Jeff remembers those days well: “We had a lot of classes together at
the Armor School, and Patt and I lived about two blocks from Bev and Carl on the post. I hadn’t known Carl well as a cadet, but
at Fort Knox it didn’t take long for me to realize that he was a rock-solid guy, a true family man, and an ideal representative
of West Point and the Class of ’64. He was a pleasure to be with, both in the classroom and socially. Curt was a baby while we
were there and since Patt was pregnant with our first child we paid close attention to the way Bev and Carl took care of him.
We learned a lot about loving care!
“One thing that stands out in my memory is our league bowling team. We had a great team and shared lots of laughs during the
friendly competition. But fate was not on our side because not long after we all departed Fort Knox, Carl and another officer,
half of our four-man team, were killed in combat.
“Patt and I were stationed at Fort Carson when we got the bad news in November. We dropped everything and made the trip to
Hemlock. The whole town turned out for the funeral, despite the bitter cold. The Winter family displayed their strength and
stoicism but we knew how they must have hurt inside. We all hurt.
“Patt and I have maintained contact with Beverly over the years. We’re happy that she has adjusted and has a new life. For us
it has been a way to keep Carl in our hearts.”
After the course, Carl swore Dan in as a second lieutenant during June Week, 1968, at West Point. He then settled Beverly and
Curt in Bay City, near her family, and headed for Vietnam where he initially was assigned as the S-3 Air of the Fourth Battalion,
Ninth Infantry, for two months. Carl then had a choice of being a general’s aide or an infantry company commander. He opted for
the more risky challenge of commanding a company in combat. Company C had had the reputation of being the worst company in the
battalion, but Carl quickly got it in shape and the unit participated in several successful combat operations. Misfortune struck,
however, on 23 November, when, after an airmobile assault, C Company was pinned down in an open, dry rice paddy by a larger
enemy force in an adjacent wooded area. The fighting was fierce and Carl and his men held the enemy off long enough until a
friendly unit was able to reinforce C Company and together they overcame the Viet Cong. C Company suffered several casualties,
though, because of a lack of protection in the rice paddy. Most significant among them was the commander, Captain Carl Winter,
who was killed instantly by a hail of bullets. It was a tough way to earn the Bronze Star with “V” and the Purple Heart. Carl
had already been awarded several other medals to include the Combat Infantryman’s Badge.
Carl’s death was a great shock to his small hometown and especially to his parents. As the oldest son, he was their hero and
their strength. Their lives were never the same again. They sold the farm and now live in an apartment in Saginaw. Beverly and
Carl’s brothers and sister have had to go on. Beverly eventually remarried and she raised Curt to be a model citizen.
Years after Carl’s death, Dan, in writing his brother’s obituary, expressed concern that he would not be able to do justice to
someone so special: “…an older brother who you knew cared about you and would always be there when you needed him.” Dan summed
it up as follows: “Carl’s life is best described by one word: Love. He had a deep and abiding love of life, love of family, and
love of God and Country. It permeated every aspect of his life, and everyone who had the privilege of knowing him was touched
by it in some way. I have often asked myself how a person with so much to give could be taken from us so early. The answer to
that question has eluded me for many years. As the years have passed the answer has slowly emerged—he has never really left us.
Yes, he is gone from us physically, but he has left an indelible watermark by which we can measure the successes and failures
of our lives. Carl was sent to us for a very special purpose and left us having completely and wonderfully accomplished it. …
We feel your presence constantly among us and realize that for all things there is a purpose. For twenty-five years the earth
was a better place because you were here, and it will be a better place for many years to come because of what you left behind.
The memories of our times together are treasures which can never be lost.
“Farewell, my dear brother, until we meet again.”
~ Fallen Warriors The West Point Class of 1964 by John Murray