Sometimes improbable connections are right under your nose and you don’t see them.
It happened to me recently when I got back in touch with a retired Army officer who figures in the book I’m writing about my cousin Nicky, an Army helicopter pilot who was killed in Vietnam. I had been out of touch with former Lt. Col. Robert Bacon for seven years.
A few weeks ago I wrote to Bobby, who is 78 and lives in Columbia, S.C., and sent him a copy of my book War Stories: In Their Own Words, published last fall by The Morning Call in Allentown.
A few days later, Bobby called to thank me, and a few days after that, he called again, this time to say excitedly that one of the three Vietnam stories in the book was an account by a soldier who had served in his unit – the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 196th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division, based at Chu Lai.
The soldier is Eric Shimer, who served in B Company and now is about to retire as an attorney in Bethlehem. His account is set in 1969, the year Nicky was killed.
Briefly that summer, Bobby was commandant of the 23rd Adjutant General Replacement Company, which ran the Americal Combat Center at Chu Lai, where Nicky was undergoing orientation and training. On July 10, an instructor accidentally set off a grenade that mortally wounded Nicky. Bobby’s name appears on a condolence letter sent the next month to Nicky’s dad, my Uncle Louie.
Bobby left the Americal Combat Center to take over the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry. Its previous commander, Lt. Col. Eli Howard, was killed Aug. 19 when his helicopter was shot down southwest of Da Nang.
Eric wrote his Vietnam account for my Morning Call “War Stories” series in 2005 to mark the 30th anniversary of the war’s end. I did the editing. Then in 2011, I included the story in my book.
All these years, I had never connected Bobby and Eric. Now they’ll have a chance to talk. I hooked them up by giving them each other’s phone numbers. I’ll check back with them and see how it went.