Neil Allen Kroger
Neil was very proud of his Ranger and Airborne training, but especially Ranger training and the award of the Ranger Tab. Neil's brother, Jeffrey, met Walter (Joe) Marm, one of the Congressional Medal of Honor recipients from the battle of LZ-Xray at several of unit reunions. Walter was in Ranger training with Neil and said "He was the best in the class."
Neil told his brother on leave that he had completed all of the tower jumps for his Airborne training but did not complete the Fairchild C-119 "Flying Boxcar" jump and was very disappointed he had not completed it.
Upon his assignment to the 11th Air Assault Division (Test), he received his unit badge below. This "Original Air Assault Badge", is an Unofficial Badge (meaning the Army never formally approved it), but it could officially be worn by members of the 11th Air Assault Division (Test), who earned them in 1964 to 1965.
In addition, when Neil completed his weapons qualification on 5 November 1964, he qualfied Expert with the M-14 Rifle and Pistol and was a 2nd Class Machine Gunner. He would have been authorized to wear the following badges on his left jacket pocket flap:
November 7, 2014
In our family there are two books: the Bible; and "We were Soldiers Once ... And Young".
The rest of our library is mostly that of retired teachers. My wife and I taught school for over thirty years. It took me over forty years to realize that I was meant to be a teacher and my brother Neil was meant to be a warror. It was not until the book came out some thirty years after Neil was killed that I realized how my brother could have been killed.
1963 - - just before Neil entered the service
Neil joined the Army and trained for over 2 1/2 years. He had made it through basic Training, Advanced Infantry school, Officer's Candidate School, Airborne, and Ranger schools. He was in-country for two months and yet with all that training and experience, he was killed in action. You need to read the book to understand how it happened.
Neil was one of six new lieutenants that came to 1st Battalion, Seventh Cavalry Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Division just before they deployed to Vietnam. Three of the six were killed in action on 15 November 1965. (2Lt. Henry Toro Herrick, B Company, 2Lt. Robert 'Bob' Edmund Taft A Company and 2Lt. Neil Allen Kroger, C Company).
2Lt. John 'Jack' L Geoghegan, C Company, who was also killed that day, had been with 1st Cavalry at Fort Benning for a while before my brother arrived. They all were infantry platoon leaders together. The First Battalion has a reunion of the survivors of the battle every spring. I was invited to attend, and have attended the last fifteen years. It was by meeting these men my brother fought and died for, that I was finally able to accept my brothers death.
I had a Sole Surviving Son Deferment, and felt guilty for years. There were a lot of heroes that day. Some were given medals, some were not. The Army gave out three Medals of Honor to individuals that fought that day. After meeting these men, I am quite sure they could have given out many more.
I have some photos and more information I will gather and send to you. Please be patient while I work on this project.
- - Jeff Kroger, Brother
November 10, 2014
In the bottom of a box hidden away in a closet I found some pictures, a copy of Neil's service record with a copy of the Bronze Star Citation, and the original Western Union Telegram that a poor taxi driver had to deliver to my mom from the Secretary of the Army's office signed by Major General J C Lambert. (Nov.17 1965)
[NOTE: During WWII notification was done be means of a telegram ("The Secretary of War/Navy regrets to inform you..."). Usually the most senior person in the telegraph office (instead of the teenage boy that delivered most stuff) would deliver it person. This was an impersonal way of doing this and was to be abolished after the war. However, it was still that way into the Viet Nam war. Although the movie used poetic license, what was depicted in We Were Soldiers was basically true. LTC Hal Moore's wife, Julia Moore (along with the wife of the 1st Cav Division commander), was instrumental in changing the Army's policy after the significant losses in the Ia Drang Campaign. The policy was changed to notify the family in person. - - TVW]
I have some yearly observances to do tomorrow. Thank you for all your help.
- - Jeff Kroger, Brother
November 21, 2014
Neil was a buddy of 2Lt. Robert 'Bob' Edmund Taft. They trained together, drank beer at the Officer's Club, fought together and died together. Their friend, George Jennings who survived the battle told me of their friendship.
I have been asked by Neil and Bob's surviving friends to try and find any of Bob Taft's family to invite them to the 50th reunion next summer. He has a sister (Linda) Mrs. Robert Manning who I am trying to locate.
- - Jeff Kroger, Brother
Bronze Star Presentation
The Bronze Star with V device for valor posthumously awarded to Lieutenant Neil A. Kroger for heroic action in Vietnam, November 15, 1965 is accepted by his parents, Mr and Mrs Carl H Kroger, 1537 North Belmont Avenue, Arlington Heights, Illinois. The Medal is delivered here by Second Lieutenant James H. ???dy, representative of the Post Commander, Fort Sheridan, Illinois. Vietnamese awards were also delivered to the family of Lieutenant Kroger.
1st Cavalry Division General Order 338, dated 26 January 1966, awarded the Bronze Star for Valor and the "Reason" paragraph of the order read:
For heroism in connection with military operations against a hostile force. As a Platoon Leader, C Company 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, Second Lieutenant Kroger distinguished himself by heroic actions on 15 November 1965 in the battle of the la Drang Valley, Republic of Vietnam. On this date Company C, in defense of a portion of the battalion perimeter, was attacked by an estimated three companies of North Vietnamese. Through out the ensuing battle Second Lieutenant Kroger, while directing the defense of his platoon, exposed himself repeatedly to intense enemy fire. Second Lieutenant Kroger displayed outstanding courage and professional competence and inspired his men to a successful defense of their positions. It was while directing his platoon that Second Lieutenant Kroger was mortally wounded. This outstanding display of aggressiveness, devotion to duty, and personal bravery is in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit upon Second Lieutenant Kroger, his unit, and the United States Army.
On 15 November 1965, there were 39 men from Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry who were killed in action in the Ia Drang Valley. They were:
Other units and other battle dates in the Ia Drang Valley:
Ia Drang Valley Memorial,
October - November 1965
Ia Drang Valley,
Duc Co (1966)
1st Battalion, 12th Infantry,
Ia Drang Valley,
12 July 1967
Landing Zone X-Ray
Lt Neil Kroger, the oldest child of Ruth K and Carl H Kroger, was buried in Mount Carmel Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois.
His mother, Mrs Ruth Kroger, died on January 19, 1986, and his father, Mr. Carl H. Kroger, died on September 1, 1987. They are buried in Queen of Heaven Cemetery close by. They never were able to read the book "We Were Soldiers Once and young" which was published in 1992 and gave the details of Neil's valor.
During World War II , Neil's father, had a deferment to work for the vital railroad industry. He worked as a fireman on the steam locomotives of the Soo Line, moving war materials around the Chicago rail hub.
- - The Virtual Wall, March 19, 2015
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