Robert A. Spangler
Specialist 5th Class
U. S. Army
Dates of Service: 06/18/1969 - 01/06/1972
NCOIC 196th Inf Information Detachment, Americal Division
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Robert was born in Fort Worth, Texas, one of four sons of John Henry Spangler III and Evelyn Lurlene Forrester Spangler. His father, an Army officer in World War II, worked as an accountant at Carswell Air Force Base near Fort Worth. The family later moved to Mineral Wells where Robert worked in a grocery store while attending high school. "I loved working. I never was much of a student," he says. He graduated from Mineral Wells High School in 1966, attended North Texas State University in Denton for a summer, then enrolled at Weatherford Junior College, where he began work on a campus newspaper. He served as a photographer, sold advertising, and eventually became editor. At Cook County Junior College in Gainesville he enrolled in a photography course and "fell in love with photography", he recalls. Believing he would soon get drafted, Robert enlisted in the U.S. Army in the summer of 1969, hoping to work in some form of military journalism. He completed basic training at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, then was sent to advanced individual training as a clerk/typist at Fort Huachuca in Arizona. There he worked on the post newspaper until receiving orders for Vietnam, where he arrived in "May or June" of 1970. From Chu Lai, headquarters for 23rd Infantry Division (Americal), he was sent to LZ Hawk Hill and the 196th Infantry Brigade, as part of 10th Public Information Detachment. Robert, who rose to the rank of Specialist 5, wrote articles (often human interest stories) and took photographs. His work was submitted to editors in division headquarters, who would then send them on to publications such as Stars and Stripes, Army Reporter, Army Times, and The Southern Cross, the newspaper for the Americal Division. He used an Army-issue Topcon,, and his personal Minolta, both 35-mm cameras. He processed his negatives and printed his photographs in a makeshift darkroom he fashioned out of a shipping crate. "Sometimes they would get printed and sometimes they wouldn't," he recalls of his stories. "But sometimes they would give you a byline where they actually put your name on it and then sometimes you wouldn't get any credit at all." Robert flew aboard helicopter gunships, medevac helicopters, and troop carriers and "went out on the ground with the grunts. Although he accompanied several missions, he reports he "never really was in a firefight." Robert took his week of rest and recuperation in Hong Kong in the fall of 1970. He finished his tour of 11 months, returned home for a 30-day leave, then was assigned to 2nd General Hospital at Landstuhl, Germany. Robert was discharged in January of 1972. He entered Southwestern Assembly of God Bible College in Waxahachie, Texas. While there, he was hired to write for The Cross and The Switchblade, a publication of the David Wilkerson Youth Crusade. In the summer of 1972 he photographed and wrote stories on Teen Challenge, a drug rehabilitation effort in New York. Robert then entered North Texas State University, going to school in the mornings and working in Wilkerson's Dallas headquarters. On April 20, 1973 he married Ruth Ann Horne. He earned a degree in religion and philosophy at Dallas Baptist College, then served with Ruth as associate ministers at Lakewood Assembly of God Church in Dallas. He later became a licensed irrigator, working with a sprinkler company that he and Ruth eventually purchased and ran for ten years. He also worked for Sears and then with Lowe's in retail.