Donald W. Temple
1 LT
U. S. Army
Dates of Service: 08/28/1967 - 06/20/1970
Platoon Commander, 17th Cable Construction Platoon, 63rd Signal Battalion
Audio Samples

Don was born in Excelsior Springs, Missouri as one of two sons and a daughter to Gilbert and Lucille Temple. His brother is Don Temple and his sister, Sandra Elliott. Gilbert was working for "the school system" in Braymer, Missouri, where Don's memory begins. The family moved to Green Valley, Missouri, where Gilbert was superintendent of schools, with Lucille serving double-duty as both school secretary and homemaker. The family moved again, this time to Buckner, Missouri. At Fort Osage High School, Don participated in track, basketball and football. He graduated from high school in 1963 and enrolled at Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg. On 15 April 1967 he married his high school sweetheart, Sharon Fowler. (They would have two children, Garret and Stacey, and four grandchildren.) He graduated in 1967 with a degree in business. Two weeks after he enrolled in graduate school, he was drafted. "Actually I tried to get into the army reserve just to stay home because nobody really wanted to go to Vietnam that I knew of," he recalls. Don, however, discovered he could sign up for two years and ten months by going to Officer Candidate School (OCS), a preferable path to him rather than being drafted as an enlisted man. He chose the Signal Corps as his field. "I didn't know what Signal was for sure, but I knew I didn't want to be infantry," he exclaims. In August he left for basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey. Soon, at OCS in Fort Benning, Georgia, he learned that most officer candidates in signal and other classifications were changed to infantry. "So of my two years and ten months in the service I probably have the most memories of those six months of OCS than anything, because it was life changing in so many ways," he remembers. Don recalls the school's demanding regimen and the hard training meant to winnow out the weak. "They do everything they possibly could to make you quit," he says. He was placed in 50th Company, an experimental unit composed of college graduates. Training became tougher when he entered ranger school. "The training I did receive there not only prepared me for what I faced in Vietnam but it prepared me for life. The discipline, the attention to detail, the focus on your mission are things that you use your entire life," he recalls. Instead of infantry as his destination, however, he was sent to Signal School at Fort Gordon, Georgia, then was at Fort Sill, Oklahoma for about six months before ordered to Vietnam. Stationed at Phu Bai, about 20 miles south of the city of Hue, Don was executive officer of a headquarters company. His main job was to hire hooch mates--the local civilian women who cleaned quarters. His unit supported American forces in I Corps, the northern part of the Republic of South Vietnam. Race relations between black and white soldiers in his unit were "extremely bad", he recalls. "This culminated with a fragmentation grenade being thrown into a hooch with about six guys in it and three of them were killed. And I think of a couple of them were getting ready to go home." He recalls, "You had to be concerned more about being killed by some of your own troops than by the VC or the enemy. I know it sounds strange but that's just the way it was. There was an area of our battalion headquarters that the military police would not go into at night because it was so dangerous." He recalls after the "fragging" incident a group of the suspects were shipped out and "sent out all over the country". Afterwards relations "got a little better", he recalls. He remembers monsoon season when he recorded 52 inches of rain in a 48-hour period. Monsoon also brought cooler weather. "I can remember that when the temperature would get down to sixty degrees I would sleep in my bunk with three blankets on me, plus a sheet because it was cold at sixty degrees." For entertainment "we drank a lot" and also recorded music on new tape players. Meanwhile, Sharon wrote letters, sent her own, recorded messages, and mailed food packages. She was a member of the Waiting Wives Club, an organization of women whose husbands were overseas. After six months he took R&R in Hawaii where he met Sharon for a week. For nine months Don worked as part of a cable construction platoon, consisting of 60 men, "almost all of them high school dropouts" and "good kids. And when I say kids, they were eighteen and nineteen and here I was an old man of twenty-three," he remarks. Don says he was "pretty much ignored" when he flew home, although he did go through "a period of adjustment" when he got home. He went to work for Montgomery Ward, where he began his tax career. After 13 years he moved to Dallas as part of a consulting company, then spent 23 years with Xerox Corporation in property tax.