Joseph B. Cobb, III
Spec 5
U. S. Army
Dates of Service: 12/20/1967 - 12/1970
Helicopter Crew Chief, 1st Cavalry Division
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Joe was born at LSU Medical Center in Shreveport as one of four sons to Joseph B. Cobb and Geneva Weldon Cobb. His father was a Navy veteran of World War II who worked in construction and later became superintendent of the recreation department of the City of Shreveport. Joseph attended Woodlawn High School, where a classmate was Terry Bradshaw, later quarterback of the Pittsburg Steelers. "When he moved to Kingston, I cut his hair in Mansfield," Joe said. "Because he made it big didn't mean a whole lot. He was still just good old Terry." Joe enjoyed attending performances of Louisiana Hayride on Saturday nights. While in high school, he played football and worked at a Dairy Queen and at Ford Park on weekends, holidays, and in summer. Joe graduated in May of 1967 and on December 20, that year he entered service when he was drafted and sent to Fort Polk near Leesville, Louisiana for training, living in barracks that dated to World War II. "I liked it," he remarks of basic training. "They were not training soldiers. They were making them because you were a replacement body in Vietnam," he states. He entered basic training weighing 210 pounds and graduated eight weeks later at 135. Joe went to Fort Rucker, Alabama, initially for helicopter training but was switched to aviation maintenance. He arrived in South Vietnam on June 6, 1968 and was assigned to 1st Cavalry Division, headquartered at An Khe. "When you got to Vietnam there was no doubt you were not coming home alive. Everybody felt that way," he says. From there he was sent to 1st Brigade headquarters at LZ (Landing Zone) Evans, a hilltop of red clay, he recalls. His first night there the LZ was hit by a mortar attack. After his processing into the brigade he was sent to LZ Betty, serving in Headquarters Company of 1st Brigade. He had to "prove himself" in maintenance, first washing aircraft and windshields before performing maintenance. Later he flew as crew chief in a UH-1 Huey for the brigade commander. He later requested and received duty in an OH-13 scout helicopter, which searched out the enemy. As a crew chief, he oversaw the aircraft assigned to him. "You got a pilot and co-pilot. They were employed by you. You call the shots," he said. He remarked he "got along pretty good" with the Vietnamese people, but adds that he never knew if they were Vietnamese or Viet Cong or NVA. "Never, never did I learn to trust them," he says. Once, he entered a village where Viet Cong had murdered all the adults. The children were hidden under sleeping mats that covered holes. Twenty-one children were alive. Joe helped transport them back to the American compound and fed them for two weeks and saw they went to school. But the oldest boy among them, who was 13, was killed with a satchel charge. "He had left the tent coming to try and kill us. And we're feeding them. We're taking food out of our mouths to feed him," Joe states. Among his many duties, he flew as security for Bob Hope, circling three hours above Da Nang while Hope performed. He also saw President Lyndon Johnson. Joe was wounded twice, once in a mortar attack on LZ Betty, and again when shrapnel hit his helicopter in flight. On his last night in the company he flew as a gunner on an UH-1 to carry ammunition and pick up wounded from an LZ that was being attacked. Although his chopper was on the ground for only seven seconds, he nearly lost his life from enemy fire. Along with "another fellow", he wrote the words to the song "You Don't Have to Call Me Darling, Darling," while in Vietnam. The "other fellow" was a guitarist from Florida nicknamed "Moonshine". "He said, `You know if we could get the perfect country-western song we could buy our way out of Vietnam,'" Joseph recalls. Joseph wrote the words. "Now the fellow that supposedly wrote it and sent it to him, his name is Steve Goodman. Moonshine might have given it to Steve Goodman and he in turn sent it to this producer. But I wrote the words to that song," he states. Joe finally came home, although he never thought he would. When he flew home "hippies" accosted him and some other soldiers outside the San Francisco airport screaming "Baby Killers! Baby Killers!" He experienced several other similar encounters in the airport but found, "if I ignored them they would leave me alone." After taking a leave, Joe was stationed at Hunter Army Air Field near Savannah, where he worked on Cobra helicopters. He was then sent to Germany for nine months, and was released from the military at Fort Dix, New Jersey on December 10, 1970. Joe worked in aviation for awhile, then became a barber. "I had always wanted to cut hair," he remarks. After barber school and an apprenticeship in Shreveport, he purchased a shop in Keithville. In 1975 he married Kathy Littlejohn. (They would have three children: Tammy, Kenneth, and Casey, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.) After eight-and-a-half years he moved to Mansfield, where he spent 35 years as a barber.