Allen C. Woods
First Sergeant
U. S. Army
Platoon Sergeant, H Troop, 17th Cav, 198th Light Infantry
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Allen was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, as the youngest of ten children of William Russell Woods, Sr. and Emma Clarabelle Hurlburt Woods. His father spent much of his career at a Chevrolet dealership, but farmed in his time off. The family lived in the country where his father raised a truck garden and hogs for meat. His mother canned vegetables and stored them in the basement, and kept milk in a springhouse. Allen spent his childhood mainly during the World War II in which his brother, Bill, served in the Navy, while his sister, Billie. joined the Women's Army Corps. Allen's formal education began at Still Creek Elementary School. He completed Piedmont Junior High School and the tenth grade at Central High School when he dropped out at age 16. For income he mowed yards, worked as a drugstore soda jerk and an attendant at a Sunoco service station. He also ran a miniature golf course. Often, he watched stock car races at the Mecklenburg County Fairgrounds. "Those were good times, simple times," he says. The family attended Still Creek Presbyterian Church while living in the country, then they moved into town where they attended Caldwell Memorial Presbyterian. Allen joined the army and went into airborne training. "My brother-in-law was a paratrooper and I wanted to be a paratrooper," he remarks. He took airborne training at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, but was injured in a jump that curtailed his airborne career. He then was assigned to B Company of the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team. It was folded into the 101st Airborne Division when that storied unit was brought to Fort Campbell. Allen was placed in the United States Army Garrison Company and its publications department. "We handled all the blank forms, all the training manuals. Anything that was written we handled it," he remarks. Later he was transferred to transportation as a truck driver. By 1958 he was serving at Fort Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska, where he worked in a quartermaster service company and in a POL (Petroleums, Oils and Lubricants) unit. He oversaw 200,000-gallon storage tanks as a POL specialist, and drove trucks delivering the fluids. Alaska, still a territory, was a strategic point in the Cold War, with the Soviet Union just across the Bering Strait. He recalls Anchorage as a town still "rough around the edges". The army allowed the men to carry side arms into town. In January of 1959 he was discharged in Seattle, Washington. Back in Charlotte he worked as a shoe salesman and for a company making electrical transformers, then re-enlisted in the fall of 1961. He went through basic training, again, this time at Fort Jackson and as a private first class. After basic he was stationed at Fort Bragg and put in transportation, driving trucks. Sent to Korea in 1963 he was stationed at Camp Beard near the DMZ, first with the 1st Cavalry Division, then the 2nd Battalion, 15th Armor, 2nd Infantry Division. Placed in a tank company he was in charge of securing the compound's gates and checking guards patrolling the fences. In 1964 he returned to the States to Camp Roberts, California as part of a combat developments command that tested tactics, weapons and equipment from starlight scopes to uniforms. At Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, he trained on quad 50s--four 50-caliber machine guns mounted on a deuce and a half truck, and on twin 40-calibers mounted on a M-41 tank chassis. Two years later at Fort Hood, Texas he helped organize H Troop, 17th Cavalry, 198th Light Infantry Brigade. This armored cavalry unit featured armored personnel carriers, or "tracks". Each infantry track carried a squad of infantry--about 11 men. There were also mortar tracks with 4.2-inch mortars. In all, H Troop was comprised of 135 men, along with headquarters, maintenance, and supply personnel. The unit sailed on the USNS Upshur from Oakland in October of 1967, and arrived in Vietnam at Da Nang Harbor on 4 November 1967. From there, the troop boarded LSTs and sailed south to Chu Lai, site of a Marine base. Setting up on the beach they trained in tactics before moving onto LZ Bayonet. That movement began a year of operations in the field. The unit was responsible for the security of Chu Lai, and performed constant reconnaissance. Often they did "dismounted" patrols in which teams were dropped into the field by helicopter. They patrolled an area, usually for two days, calling in air strikes and artillery when they found enemy positions. On 2 January 1968, while he was in a Special Forces compound, North Vietnam Army regulars and Viet Cong attacked elements of H Troop. From the hatch of his armored personnel carrier Allen laid down fire with his .50 caliber machine gun, his sight aided by flares. He and two others were hit from shrapnel after a recoilless rifle round and an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) round pierced the armor of his track. "That was the one they were aiming at me," Allen says. Later, they learned one of the Vietnamese militiamen working with the Americans was actually Viet Cong and had led the attacking force through the compound's barbed wire perimeter. The battle lasted "two or three hours," he recalls, but remarks that it seemed more like 48 hours. Soon after the action he was transferred to B Troop, 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry, a unit south of Chu Lai. There he returned to tank warfare. Allen was in a firefight when a helicopter landed with a chaplain. "He said, `Sergeant Woods, I need you to get on that helicopter. We're going back.' He told me what had happened; that I'd lost my family." In the rest of his career he pulled two hitches in Germany. He met his present wife, Joanne Sours, and married her in 1970. He has four stepchildren with her. Allen served at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he taught at the United States Army Armor School, and then at Fort Hood with the Tank Gunnery Assistance Team, 2nd Armored Division. He retired 30 November 1981. Allen remained in Killeen, Texas for a year, coordinating delivery services for the local newspaper, then moved to Florence, Texas, where he serves as a city judge.