11 o’clock. 20 Aug. 1967. The radio in the
operations center blurted. "Cougar six-five, this is
Thunderball five-zero-yankee. SITREP no change. We’re still
moving north about 1000 meters in from the beach."
"This is six-five, Roger, out."
Team Hocker, call sign "Thunderball,"
commanded by Captain Bill Hocker, a tanker, had evolved out of a
mutual admiration of Lieutenant Homer Krout’s reconnaissance
platoon and Hocker’s Company C, 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor. The
recon platoon. known as "Krout’s Killers," was an
elite bunch that would tackle any size fight with no holds
MAJOR BEN G. CROSBY, Infantry, the son of the
late Colonel Ben G. Crosby, Armor, was graduated
from the United States Military Academy in 1958. Following two
years with the 82d Airborne Division he served with the 1st
Cavalry Division in Korea where he was commandant of the division
NCO Academy. From 1962 to 1964 he was a company commander and
staff officer with the 2d Airborne Battle Group, 503d Combat Team
(now the 173d Airborne Brigade) in Okinawa. After graduation from
the Infantry Officers Advanced Course in 1965, he remained at Fort
Benning as an instructor in the Mobility Department. During his
recent tour in Vietnam he was S3 of the 2d Battalion, 35th
Infantry. Here he earned the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Bronze
Star (V) and 20 Air Medals. He is now assigned to the Doctrine
Directorate, Headquarters, U. S. Army Developments Command.
barred. They had developed a liking for the
tanks since the new CO had joined them in the field. "Old
Bill" Hocker and Homer Krout made quite a pair. Homer loved
the devastation the tanks left behind and Bill loved the way
Homer’s men would charge into the very jaws of death right
beside the iron monsters. They, together with Thunderball
five-zero-yankee, SSG Dieter Burger, the fighting operations
sergeant, made Team Hocker go. And a going concern it was.
"Cougar six-five, this is five-zero-yankee.
We’ve got a resupply bird coming in a few minutes and we’ll
be holding up until we get this resupply finished."
"Cougar six-five. OK, but move out on
that mission ASAP! Over?"
"Five-zero-yankee. Roger, out."
Team Hocker’s mission was unique for a
predominantly tank outfit. They were to move to the hamlet of An
Tho and conduct a detailed search of the area. This type mission
is one in which a unit is assigned a small area, such as An Tho
hamlet to search for spider holes and enemy. The techniques used
were developed by the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry, better
known as the "Cacti Blue," who
exercised operational control over Thunderball. LTC Norman L.
Tiller, or "Cougar six," CO of the Cacti Blue believed
that these small searches would eventually defeat the Viet Cong
by denying them their hiding places. The operations had, in
the past, been extremely successful. It was this "hole
hunting" technique that wedded Recon to Tank Company.
They made the perfect combination. The old
adage – likes repel – opposites attract – described Hocker’s
team. Recon platoon and the tank company were direct opposites -
but so were Krout and Hocker. Perhaps that’s what made the
team great. Hocker – quiet, reserved, a thinker, mature,
deliberate and Krout -