Stanley Albert Cameron
1944 - 1982
Stanley A. Cameron was born in
Catskill, Greene County, New York
on September 27, 1944.
He served in the Army from November 15, 1965 to November 14, 1967.
He was married on February 12, 1966.
He died at Gloversville, Fulton County, New York on October 12, 1982.
Stanley Cameron My RTO
Stanley Cameron made an impression on me from the first week he joined our company at Fort Lewis. His appearance was much the same
as many of the new people who came to us for Advanced Individual Training (AIT) - slim, wiry, and much younger looking than his
nineteen years. He was different because he was not afraid to talk to officers. He was very comfortable asking questions, answering
questions, and generally showed an ease about him that many of the new people did not have. Also, he was one of only two men
who were married and had their wives with them.
I had to pick a radio-telephone operator (RTO) from our group of new people. It was an easy choice since he seemed comfortable
with me and appeared to have the makings of a good soldier. He was eager to learn and it quickly became apparent my choice
had been a good one. He seemed happy with the additional responsibility of being my RTO as well as going through the
normal training and trying to find time occasionally to spend with his wife, Laura.
Stanley did extremely well in all our marksmanship training. It was obvious he had grown up with a rifle in his hands and had
a lifetime of hunting experience. After he qualified as the best shot in the company with the automatic rifle, I went along with
his request to transfer from RTO to automatic rifleman in one of my squads. It seemed like a waste to have a man with that
uncanny shooting ability carrying a radio. He finished the rest of AIT and our unit training as an automatic rifleman in my
first squad and was an exemplary soldier.
My first indication of a problem was when we returned to Fort Lewis from leave and were preparing to board the ship for Vietnam.
He came to me with a simple statement, Sir, I am not going to Vietnam because I am a conscientious objector.
I was dumbfounded by the statement. My response was, Stanley, you do not have a choice. You are not a conscientious objector.
If you wanted to declare that, you should have done it when you first entered the Army, not now. You have been talking to your
Mother too much. We are all scared but we are all going to Vietnam. Including you. Now cut out that foolishness and get back to work.
The problem was not going to be solved that easily. He told his squad leader, the platoon sergeant, the first sergeant, and kept
repeating it to me. He was a conscientious objector and was not going to Vietnam. I talked to Lieutenant Fiacco. He agreed Stanley
was just scared and would get over it. My job was to get him on the ship with the rest of the people.
On the morning we were to board the ship, we went to the arms room to be issued our rifles. As the troops filed by to get their
M16s, Cameron refused to take his. I signed for it, gave it to another soldier to carry, and once again told him he was going.
He again told me he was not. At that point, I assigned a guard to him. I did not think he would run off, he was too levelheaded
to do something like that, but I wanted to be sure.
As we got to the dock and prepared to board the ship, he told me again he was not going. At that point, I decided to personally
stick with him to make sure he got aboard. As we approached the gangplank, he turned to me and said, Sir, I refuse to board
this ship on grounds I am a conscientious objector. Through gritted teeth, I growled at him, Cameron, get your ass on that boat!
Without further incident, he followed my order and walked up the gangplank.
I felt sorry for him on the sixteen-day trip to Vietnam. The other men in the platoon avoided him like he had the plague.
They were all convinced he was a coward. Only one man, Bill Bukovec, the other married man in the platoon, would even talk to him.
Bill tried at great length to talk him out of his foolishness, but to no avail. Sergeant Roath and I both tried to talk some sense into him
but we did not have any luck, either. But, we were both convinced that when we got to Vietnam where they were shooting real bullets,
he would pick up a rifle.
As we got to our new base camp on our first day in country, Sergeant Baez, the first squad leader, approached me. Sir, what are
you going to do with Cameron? My response was simple, Sergeant Baez, he is an automatic rifleman in your squad.
Put him on the perimeter with everyone else.
But, sir, that isnt fair to the other people. They cant count on him.
I bet he will have a rifle in his hand before the night is over. Lets keep the pressure on him. With reluctance, Sergeant Baez
returned to his squad. Rather than put him with two other men, Sergeant Baez did the right thing and put him in his bunker
so he could keep an eye on him and not burden the others.
Several days passed and Cameron still had not wavered from his absolute refusal to pick up a weapon. He did everything
he was told but steadfastly refused to carry a rifle. As we prepared for our first patrol, Sergeant Baez approached me again.
Youre going to leave Cameron here, arent you?
Absolutely not. He is going with you, that is his job. Get your men ready and lets go.
Sir, I do not like having the responsibility for a man without a weapon. Cant you transfer him to some other job?
I replied, He will come around. Saddle up and lets go.
As we moved through the countryside on our patrol, it amazed me to look up and see Cameron walking along with his squad,
like he was on a Sunday stroll. I am sure his gut was churning but he kept it well hidden. I kept hoping for some shots to be fired
to see how he would react, but we worked the whole day without finding the VC.
Cameron continued to refuse to carry a rifle. Sergeant Baez kept trying to convince me to transfer him to some other job.
I could see it was causing a morale problem in the first squad so I knew I had to do something different.
On our first patrol after we got to Tuy Hoa, Sergeant Roath needed a radio operator. Since Cameron had been a good RTO,
Sergeant Roath suggested he use him to carry the radio. When we called Cameron over and told him what he was going to do,
his response to Sergeant Roath was, I may forget how to use this thing. Sergeant Roaths response was classic,
And if you get wounded, I may forget how to do first aid. We did not have any problems with Cameron handling the radio.
The man who had been my RTO was not doing a good job. I decided to solve everyones problem and bring Cameron back
to being my full-time RTO. As we talked, it was obvious he was relieved to get away from the automatic riflemans job,
but he did have some concerns. Sir, I cannot call artillery fire in on the enemy. I do not believe in killing anyone.
Cameron, dont you worry about that. It is my job to call in artillery, all you have to do is have the radio there
for me to use whenever I need it.
Things worked out well. For the first time since Cameron had left the RTO job in the States, I could count on reaching behind me
and having the radio handset thrust into my hand. He stuck with me wherever I went and did a good job of helping me do my job.
The RTO job was one of the most dangerous jobs in the unit but he handled it like a pro.
One day while we were patrolling in the hills above Mosquito Valley south of Tuy Hoa, sniper fire broke the calm as bullets
ricocheted off a large boulder behind us. We all jumped for cover. I got behind one big rock and Cameron got behind
another one, about ten yards away. I shouted at him the normal command under such a situation, Cameron, fire mission!
Normally, he would be right there to hand me the handset so I could call in the mission. But this time there were ten yards
of open ground between us - and the sniper had us in his sights. Using the good common sense he had been born with,
Cameron stayed behind his rock, keyed the handset and relayed to the artillery fire base the fire mission I shouted to him.
From that day forward, I still called most of the fire missions. But if the situation warranted, Stanley relayed my orders without hesitation.
We became more and more comfortable working with each other. It was obvious Stanley had spent his life in the woods
of his upstate New York homeland. He was observant, sure footed, and consistently brought things to my attention
that others had passed without noticing.
One day when we were deep in the jungles, bringing up the rear of the company movement, he found a cache of NVA
82mm mortar rounds off to the side of the trail. The entire company had passed by without seeing them.
Because of his keen senses, those rounds were not used to kill Americans.
Stanley made his way through the jungle like a deer. He had the weight of the radio on his back, in addition to the normal
pack we all carried, but never seemed to stumble. Seldom a day went by without most of us getting hung up in a vine or
falling down a hill or over a rock. It became a running challenge for me to try to go a day without falling just to show him
I was not clumsy. (I was not really clumsy; he was just unusually agile.) I cannot recall a time I had to help him
after he fell, but he helped me frequently.
We spent many nights together laying under the stars and talking about anything and everything. Stanley, Sergeant Roath,
and I became close friends and learned to anticipate each other very well. Each afternoon when we stopped, we shared
the daily responsibilities of digging our bunker and getting set up for the night. Stanley built our sleeping hootch and
consistently built it to withstand any wind or rain that might come our way. During a late night rainstorm, it was not unusual
to hear troops cursing as their hootch collapsed or leaked. We always stayed dry in the hootch Stanley built.
It was no longer an issue that Stanley did not carry a rifle. He was always there with the radio when I needed him.
Captain Fiacco learned to trust and respect him and frequently passed detailed instructions to him when
I was not close to the radio. He knew Stanley would be sure I got them accurately.
When I moved to executive officer from my platoon leader job, it was an easy sell to get Lieutenant Dean, my replacement,
to keep Stanley as his radio operator. Stanley continued to do an outstanding job. Fortunately, Roy Dean recognized
a good thing when he saw it and did not let the absence of a rifle get in the way of good judgment.
On March 3, 1967, Stanley showed how smart we had all been in overlooking his unwillingness to carry a rifle. The company
had come under heavy small arms and mortar fire by a dug in NVA force. Lieutenant Dean was seriously wounded by a
mortar round. Intense small arms fire pinned the platoon down. Though shaken by the impact of the mortar round,
Stanley coolly and calmly took charge of the situation. He radioed the status back to Captain Ator, supervised the
evacuation of Lieutenant Dean, relayed orders from Captain Ator, and controlled the platoon until the platoon sergeant
could work his way to the front to assume command. For his reaction under fire, Stanley Cameron was later awarded
the Bronze Star for Valor by General William Peers.
When I heard about the fire fight, I flew to the artillery fire base to meet my platoon when they came in from the jungle,
knowing I could have a calming effect on them. As they filed into the fire base, Stanley came over and handed me
Roy Deans rifle. Here, Sir, I dont need this. I have often wondered if Stanley would have used that rifle if they
had been hit again as they moved back toward the fire base. My guess is he would not have.
I learned he was very sincere in his religious beliefs and did not have a touch of cowardice in his body.
Conversely, he had the courage to stand up for his beliefs when he was getting heavy pressure from his peers,
as well as the authorities above him.
Stanley Cameron died suddenly of
a brain aneurism on October 12, 1982. I have talked with his
wife, his brother,
and his three children (now adults) and relayed to them the respect I had for him as a soldier and as a person.
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