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Memorial Day 2022
Larson served with soldiers who didn't come home
Art Larson

He saw soldiers get shot and killed right next to him during two tours of duty in the jungles of Vietnam.


Sgt. Major Arthur C. Larson will be the keynote speaker for Warren County’s annual Memorial Day observance at the airport Monday morning at 8 a.m.


“There were three or four situations where the guy next to me was killed and I’d wonder why it wasn’t me,” said Larson, who was standing next to his battalion commander when he was shot through the head. “If you sat there and worried what might happen, you’d lose your mind. I did my job and was fortunate enough to come home.”


Sgt. Major Larson served two tours in Vietnam and was bombarded by attacks from the air and ground. His first tour was from January 1967 to January 1968.


“I was with a battalion and we spent all our time in the jungle,” said Larson, a longtime McMinnville resident. “We stayed in constant contact with the enemy and were over 100 men strong.”


His second tour from May 1970 to May 1971 was with a five-member advisory team. Larson admitted this was an assignment that kept him on edge.


“The advisory team was really tough because there were just five of us and we were living with the Vietnamese in the jungle so that was scary,” said Larson. “You never knew who your friends were. We ate rat and monkey and I ended up eating my dog because they fed it to me and I didn’t know it.”


Larson lived in a small home that was built with sandbags for walls because sandbags were viewed as the best protection against mortar shells. He said all five men had a private sleeping area.


Larson said there was one barber who betrayed local troops and gave information to the Vietcong.


“He was seen stepping off steps between buildings,” said Larson. “You can get really accurate with the mortar if you know where to aim and those two buildings were targeted.”


The Memorial Day observe will feature American Legion Post 173 Commander Kenny Sweeton as master of ceremonies. It will include a memorial prayer by Chuck Catalfu, posting of colors, the national anthem sung by Mary Wanamaker, and reading of Warren County’s fallen war heroes by County Executive Jimmy Haley.


In traditional fashion, the ceremony will conclude with the playing of “Taps.”


ABOUT LARSON


Sgt. Major Arthur C. Larson enlisted in the United States Army on Aug. 25, 1958. After completing Basic and Advanced Individual Training, he was assigned to Field Artillery in Germany.


In 1961, SGM Larson was assigned to Fort Knox, Ky., as an instructor at the Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical School.


Returning to Germany in 1964, SGM Larson was assigned as the Chemical NCO in the 8th Aviation Battalion. In 1966, he moved to Fort Riley, Kansas where he helped train the 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry and 9th Infantry Divisions for deployment to Vietnam.


In 1967, SMG Larson received a Purple Heart after the vehicle he was driving detonated a mine. Three days later, he was back on the job as the Operations Sergeant for the Battalion. He returned to the U.S. in 1968 assigned to Fort Campbell, Ky.


In May 1970, SGM Larson returned to Vietnam. He served as the Infantry Advisor for a five-man advisory team, living with the Vietnamese in the jungle. Surviving that experience, he was assigned in 1971 to Fort Ord, California as the Senior Instructor at the Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical School.


In 1975, he transferred to Fort Sill, Okla., and was promoted to First Sergeant. Returning to Germany in 1978, First Sergeant reverted to his original MOS of Artillery Sergeant. In 1981, SGM Larson was assigned as the Senior enlisted Advisor for the Wyoming National Guard.


On December 31, 1984, SMG Larson retired from the service.


He married his childhood sweetheart, Elaine, on Sept. 9, 1961. They have three children, Art. Jr., Michael, and Gwendolyn. Art and Elaine reside in McMinnville.