Harry G. Cramer, Hank Cramer’s father, was the first soldier to die in the Vietnam War. Cramer discusses how losing his father in the war helped him shape his own military career.
One day it occurred to me that my father was a better father in death than many fathers are in life. He left me an example of what a man is like.
My father’s name was Captain Harry G. Cramer. He was a captain is the US Army Special Forces. In 1957, my father was in command of the very first US Special Forces detachment, and they deployed to Vietnam in June of 1957. And my father was killed near Nha Trang, Vietnam on October 21, 1957. He was the first US Army soldier to die in the Vietnam War.
I can’t really recall when I decided to follow in Dad’s footsteps and be a soldier, and maybe I can’t recall because, maybe, that’s what I always intended to do. I wanted to be a paratrooper just like Dad, and so I went to the Airborne school in Ft. Benning, Georgia. And after the Vietnam War, Dad’s unit, the 1st Special Forces group, had been disbanded.
I volunteered several times to serve in Special Forces, but there were hardly any Special Forces units left. So my volunteer application was never accepted until there was a large expansion of US military underway and a refocus on the Pacific and Asia. And Dad’s old unit, the 1st Special Forces group, Airborne, was reactivated at Ft. Lewis Washington, and a few months prior to activation I got a call from the Pentagon saying, “We need a signal captain, for the 1st Special Forces group, “to command all the communications troops. “Is your volunteer statement still valid?” and I said, “You tell me where to be when.” so, in 1984 I stood in ranks of the 1st Special Forces group as Dad’s old unit was reactivated.
Share a story, there were one or two old sergeants who looked at me, with my rank, captain, and my name tag, Cramer, and said, “Are you Captain Cramer’s son?” I said, “Yes, I am,” and then, after a moment, one of them cracked a smile and said, “You’ll be all right.” and so, that felt really good, it was like coming home to Dad’s unit.