Original U.S. Vietnam War 101st Airborne Named Bowie Knife Grouping
Original Item: One-of-a-kind set. This is a fantastic grouping that belonged Sergeant Richard D. Eliassen who served as a member of 502nd Airborne Infantry Regiment where he served as squad leader and platoon sergeant. During his tenure with the Strike Force, he participated in 305 days of combat (July 1976- July 1968) during the following operations:
This grouping is comprised of the following items:
- Original Western Bowie USA knife with 101st Airborne insignia embedded in grip. 9.25 inch blade, 14.5 inches overall length. RICHARD D. ELIASSEN 10st ABN engraved into blade.
- Original leather sheath.
- 502nd Airborne Infantry Regiment patch.
- 502nd Airborne Infantry Regiment pin.
- 2 x original photos of Eiassen with his Mohawk hair cut, one photo shows him holding this very knife!
- Original Named Certificate of Service for the 502nd Airborne Infantry Regiment.
In June 1966 during Operation Hawthorne, Charlie Company, 2d Battalion, 502d Infantry Regiment was conducting a mission to locate elements of the North Vietnamese 24th Regiment. Charlie Company made contact with what was estimated to be a battalion-sized enemy element. Under heavy enemy fire and unable to maneuver in any direction, CPT William Carpenter called for air strikes on top of his position in an attempt to force the enemy to withdraw. "We might as well take some of them with us", he radioed to the 2nd Battalion command post. The napalm attack injured seven of Carpenter's men, but the enemy ceased fire long enough to allow Charlie Company to consolidate, reorganize and establish a position from which to defend and begin evacuation of wounded personnel. 1SG Walter Sabalauski, a World War II and Korea vet, played a critical role in the defense. For their extraordinary heroism in destroying the enemy and in evacuating the mass casualties, both Carpenter and Sabalauski received the Distinguished Service Cross. The Fort Campbell Air Assault School was named in Sabalauski's honor. Carpenter, despite a West Point football career ending with All-American honors that had two NFL teams awaiting his return from Vietnam, elected to stay in the Army and retired with three stars. Another member of 2/502 was CPT Tommy Taylor, son of General Maxwell Taylor, who wanted to serve with his father’s wartime command. Starting with Scout Platoon, and moving on to command of B Company, he left the Army, went to law school, and retired as a colonel in the Reserves.
In 1967, Operation EAGLE THRUST moved the rest of the division to Vietnam aboard chartered airliners as part of the American buildup. At that time it was the largest single airlift in US military history. Unfortunately the orders for it found the remainder of the division on Fort Campbell not ready to enter the fight. It was a skeletal formation that had been drained of personnel to support the war effort. To bring it up to full strength prior to deployment, it was necessary to fill it with non-airborne-qualified personnel from other units in the Third Army area. The division effectively ceased being an airborne unit, although the official transformation to the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile) did not take place until mid-1968.
2nd Battalion served almost seven years in the Republic of Vietnam. 1st Battalion did five years. Fighting scattered actions under two different brigade headquarters from the Mekong River delta in the south to the DMZ up north, they earned 27 campaign streamers, six American, and eight Vietnamese unit citations between them, including two Presidential Unit Citations earned by 2nd Battalion for An Khe and Dak To. 1/502 fought in the A Shau Valley and the Rescue of Dustoff 65. Three 2nd Battalion soldiers earned the Medal of Honor. Specialist Dale E. Wayrynen, Private First Class Milton A. Lee, and Corporal Frank R. Fratellenico all have Fort Campbell landmarks named for them. In December 1971, after having drawn down in country, the 101st began returning home to Fort Campbell.
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