King Of The Hill: A 101st Pathfinder On Firebase Ripcord

Jimmy Howton


Jimmy Howton grew up in Oak Harbor, Ohio, near Lake Erie. His mother was a homemaker, and his father was a firing line coordinator and communications specialist for the Erie Army Depot, testing big guns. He lived in a house made of the wood from ammunition crates salvaged from the depot. After high school, he attended Bowling Green State University with the intention of becoming an English teacher and coach before dropping out to volunteer for the draft. After Basic Training, he completed Airborne and Pathfinder School, and was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division. In December 1969, he deployed to Vietnam, linking up with the Division at Camp Eagle, where he attended SERTS (Screaming Eagle Replacement Training School). On July 23, 1970, he served as a Pathfinder on Firebase Ripcord in the A Shau Valley, responsible for evacuating the Soldiers from the hilltop. He was one of the last Americans on the firebase. After returning from Vietnam, he struggled to readjust to civilian life. Eventually, he became a Police Officer. He served 19 years on patrol and 16 years in SWAT before becoming the Deputy Chief, retiring in 2005. In this interview, he talks about his childhood, joining the Army, and his service in Vietnam. He describes typical Pathfinder operations and recalls, in detail, his experiences on Firebase Ripcord. He discusses returning from Vietnam and reintegrating into American society. He recalls his service in the police force, and concludes by reflecting on what his service means to him.


conflicts Vietnam War
topics Pathfinder Leadership Courage Morale Teamwork Military Techniques Military Family
interviewer David Siry
date 23 July 2019


name Jimmy Howton
service Infantry
unit 101st Airborne Division; 101st Aviation Group
specialty Pathfinder
service dates 1969 1970