Cliff Lanham was born in Oklahoma, but grew up in Dothan, Alabama, where his father was a flight instructor during World War II. At 16, Cliff enlisted in the Air National Guard and took basic training at Lackland Air Force Base. He switched to the Army National Guard and served on a 75mm anti-aircraft artillery piece. He attended college at Jacksonville State University, majoring in History and earning an ROTC commission as an Infantry Officer in 1962. His first assignment was in a training unit at Fort Ord, California. In 1965, he was stationed in Germany, where he served in a Mechanized Infantry company in the 8th Infantry Division. He enjoyed interacting with the German people and liked the intense Cold War mission along the Fulda Gap. In 1966, he returned to the United States and the 1st Infantry Division, and in March 1967 he attended Ranger School prior to deploying to Vietnam. Arriving in Southeast Asia in June 1967, he completed the MATA Course (Military Advisor Training Academy) before being assigned to Team 99 in the ARVN 25th Infantry Division, stationed near the Parrot’s Beak in Duc Hoa. After rebuilding his team, which had been nearly wiped out in an ambush prior to his arrival, he focused on training for night operations. He fought alongside the Vietnamese during the Tet Offensive, and respected the ARVN Troops he served with. He returned to America in 1968 and transitioned to the Ordnance Corps, assigned to a Nike missile battery before returning to Long Binh, Vietnam in 1970. During his second tour, he was responsible for retrograde operations and moving equipment back to America during the process of Vietnamization. His second tour was different from his first, presenting challenges such as racial issues and drug use among his soldiers. After the Vietnam War, he served once again in Germany as an Inspector General before retiring in 1985. He then worked in computers and printing before teaching high school chemistry and physics.
In this interview, he talks about his childhood in Alabama, and serving in both the Air National Guard and Army National Guard before attending college. He discusses his experiences in the Army in a variety of units. He describes working with the South Vietnamese Soldiers, and calling for close air support from the South Vietnamese Air Force. He discusses his experience working with the Vietnamese people and fighting during the Tet Offensive. He explains how his second tour in Vietnam required creative leadership to solve problems in his unit. Finally, he expresses what his service means to him.