Central Texas Heroes: Bill Hearn Part 1

WACO, Texas (KWTX) Some leaders are brash and bold and some exude a quiet, humble strength.

You might say Bill Hearn of Waco is the latter.

As a young man Hearn quickly demonstrated himself as a selfless leader and he was given much responsibility in Vietnam.

That led to lives saved and even a Silver Star.

Bill Hearn was a proud Aggie, graduating as a second lieutenant from Texas A&M, and almost as soon as he stepped off campus his military experiences began shaping him for duty in Vietnam.

He was stationed in Panama for three years.

"I arrived in Vietnam as a very young captain but I had been in an infantry battalion the entire 3 years, had gone through jungle warfare school twice," Hearn told us, "so when I arrived in Vietnam I was so much better prepared than some young captains who were running a rifle range in the United States or something like that."

It was August 1967 and Hearn knew what he did not want to do, "I didn't want a job at division level, I was young and stupid and thought, 'I want to go be a rifle company commander. "

And he was, four days after arriving in the country.

He was assigned an area north of Saigon up to the Cambodian border.

"A big chunk of that was the Iron Triangle, no one had been in there prior to our first going in there," Hearn said, "every third day we would air assault into a new area, build a base camp, run patrols. They were called search and destroy missions so we would be out looking for the enemy."

But sometimes the enemy found them first.

"We had one really really bad ambush," he explained, "our battalion physician got killed that day and our company medic that I had transferred to our company got killed that day."

They took every precaution but even ambush patrol teams would get hit themselves.

Hearn was leading a mission to find out who was responsible for one of those attacks when tracker dogs picked up their scent.

"I operated a lot on intuition and that was one of those days that I had an overwhelming feeling there was a problem ahead, so I stopped movement." he said, "I made them slow down, put out some security and let them start down this little clearing and they got ambushed, and if we had kept moving the whole company would have been in the kill zone of the ambush. "

Dog handlers and their animals were wounded but lived.

But one of the most memorable battles proved he wasn't just intelligent but truly brave.

"The battle started at midnight, I was evacuating 3 wounded men and mortar rounds were falling," Hearn said.

In an upcoming report we'll explain how what he did during the Battle of Hill 172 earned him the Silver Star.