Sgt. Jim Baier at his artillery station in Vietnam. Submitted photo
Sgt. Jim Baier at his artillery station in Vietnam. Submitted photo

ELMWOOD, WI – “This has bugged me for years,” said Joanne, Vietnam Veteran Jim Baier’s wife in relating how she worked with her friend Marilyn Galoff to get the paper processed for Jim’s long overdue Bronze Star Medal. This was to be a surprise for Jim. Just one problem, he had to sign the paper work and Joanne, knowing how humble her hubby is didn’t think he would want to sign the papers. But gladly he did.

In 1966, Jim “Cubby” Baier was a student at the University of Wisconsin River Falls as well as a star fullback on the Falcons football team. He was chosen by NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) as their All-American Fullback and was #1 in the nation for small college rushing. He was the team’s most valuable player and best offensive player of the year.

“Cubby” established the NAIA single game national rushing record; scored the most touchdowns in a single season (17), earned the career rushing yardage record (3,154) made the most rushes in a single season, scored the most points in a single season, and held the Conference record for the most touchdowns scored in a single game. He is a charter member of the UW/RF Athletic Hall of Fame, and an inductee in the NAIA District #14 Hall of Fame. One of his national records still stands.  He was being scouted by the NFL, but all that changed when Jim lost his student deferment and was drafted into the United States Army on June 8, 1967 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

From his induction in Minneapolis, Baier went on to Fort Campbell, Kentucky for boot camp and was trained for heavy artillery. He served at Fort Sill, Oklahoma and was then deployed to serve in the Vietnam War where he first flew into Cam Ranh Bay, he was subsequently shuttled to the large base at Pleiku and went from there to be with his unit the A Battery, 6th Battalion, 92nd Artillery, 2nd Armor Division of the US Army, “The King of Battle,” in Dak To.

Jim said they were there for quite a while doing filtration of the Ho Chi Minh trail that ran along the Laos and Cambodia Kingdom’s borders as the supply line of men and materials from the North Vietnam Republic’s Army to the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) to the enemy troops of Viet Cong (VC) and the North Vietnamese Army. The trail was a rugged mountain path through thick jungle in many areas.

The four big guns of “The King of Battle,” unit; two 175 Howitzers with a 26-mile range and the two 8-inch smaller ones with a 12-mile range, faced into Vietnam during the day and many times illegally into Laos at night.

“We received infra-red photos of our targets, bridges, etc. that we would blow-up and they would be rebuilt by the next day,” Jim said.

After 13 or 14 months Jim Baier was made a “Buck” three-stripe Sergeant First Class. He slept through his commissioning ceremony in the field as he had been up all night in the field manning a big gun. And he led a gunnery squad of 12 (including Jim).

“You know it’s funny I can only remember the names of two or three of those guys. They were the ones that had problems, like the guy from New Jersey who got married the day before he shipped out to Vietnam and his wife left him. We had to work with him to get his head back on straight.”

This article continues next week.