Oklahomans and the Vietnam War
Many Oklahomans served in the Vietnam War, whether they were drafted or they volunteered. One Oklahoman that fought in Vietnam is Bob Ford. Born in Shawnee, Oklahoma, on August 4, 1944, Bob Ford enrolled at the University of Oklahoma in 1962. He joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program, and started his military training. Ford graduated on June 5, 1966, and was the only person to wear his military uniform where he sat at the University of Oklahoma football stadium. That same day, he received his orders from the US Army. On July 16, 1966, Bob Ford was officially active-duty in the Army and started his training. All Ford wanted to do was fly a helicopter and he would get his chance by training at Fort Wolters in Texas. Once he started flying without assistance, he was called "one of the best" by his commanding officer.
Soon Ford went to Vietnam after insisting to his officers that his where he needed to be. While in Vietnam from July 1967 to July 1968, Bob Ford would fly his Huey helicopter in more than one-thousand missions, including retrieving a group of men from the ground by just the light of a zippo lighter! His call sign was Black Cat 2-1 and a black cat was displayed on the front of his helicopter. During the war Ford would write his wife Diane and his parents and brother back in Oklahoma. Once Bob Ford's tour in Vietnam was over, he returned to Fort Wolters and became a flight instructor. In 1969 Bob Ford returned to Oklahoma and moved to the town of Okeene. Bob Ford continues to speak about his experience in Vietnam and organizes the Veteran's Day celebration in Okeene.
Bob Ford in Vietnam (image courtesy of Stars and Stripes and Bob Ford).6
Many students at the University of Oklahoma were ROTC. Prior to the Vietnam War, cadet enrollment was extremely high. One of those cadets was James Robert Kalsu. Kalsu was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on April 13, 1945, and worked hard to become a football player. Kalsu attended Del City High School and was recruited to play football at the University of Oklahoma. During his playing years from 1964 to 1967, he was a star athlete and he received the honor of All-American in 1967. As well as being a leader on the football field, Kalsu was a Cadet Colonel in the ROTC. After finishing college, Bob Kalsu was drafted to play for the Buffalo Bills in New York in 1968.
Soon after moving to Buffalo, Kalsu was called to serve his two-year commitment in the US Army. While training at Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma, Bob Kalsu learned he would be sent to fight in Vietnam. While overseas Kalsu was a popular presence at the army bases. He was a great leader and would try to make everyone laugh while dealing with the high pressure of combat. On July 21, 1970, around five in the afternoon, an enemy mortar was dropped near his bunker. Bob Kalsu was killed during the attack. The Del City football stadium and post office are named in his honor. The University of Oklahoma created The Bob Kalsu Award, which is given to those who show great leadership, just as Kalsu did.
Bob Kalsu while playing football at the University of Oklahoma (OHS Collections).7