Wilkie, Robert L.

Robert Leon Wilkie was born on 15 March 1938 in Monroe, Louisiana and entered active duty in 1961. Second Lieutenant Wilkie finished Field Artillery basic training in 1961, followed by Airborne and Ranger training at the end of 1961. By 1970, then Major Wilkie was serving as an advisor with the South Vietnamese Army. On 30 June 1970, Major Wilkie was serving as the Airborne Commander of a night Hunter/Killer Team operating in support of friendly ground forces engaged in defense of their beleaguered compound. Major Wilkie had his command and control ship alternate as a gunship making strikes against the enemy mortar and heavy machine-gun positions. To place effective fire on the entrenched enemy troops, Major Wilkie had his aircraft continuously fly at treetop level, exposing his aircraft to intense ground fire and plunging heavy machine-gun fire from a mountain crest in the near vicinity. Through his interpreter, Major Wilkie coordinated an artillery screen to prevent the enemy forces from reinforcing from his base area and coordinated Vietnamese gunship strikes on enemy positions. By having his aircraft hover and mark enemy positions with tracers, Major Wilkie guided Navy Seawolf gun strikes with heavy ordnance on the enemy positions within 100 meters of the compound. To add firepower, due to the other aircraft having expended their ordnance, Major Wilkie manned the aircraft's machine gun and grenade launcher during the air strikes, placing accurate and suppressive fire on the enemy positions. As a result of Major Wilkie's heroic actions and personal skills, the enemy attack was repulsed, inflicting numerous casualties on the hostile enemy force. For his heroic actions on this date, Major Robert Wilkie was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the nations highest valor medal for heroism while participating in an aerial flight against an enemy force. On 21 July 1970, Major Wilkie was returning to his compound when he observed a helicopter gunship crash and overturn in a water-flooded field. Dismounting from his vehicle, Major Wilkie unhesitatingly plunged into an adjacent canal and swam to the other side. Then wading 200 meters through the water-flooded field, he reached the smoking aircraft. Observing that upon overturning, fuel from the aircraft had been discharged around the immediate area, and knowing that ordnance was aboard the aircraft, Major Wilkie, with complete disregard for his own safety, entered the smoking aircraft and extracted the unconscious and critically injured copilot from the submerged cockpit. Because of Major Wilkie's courageous act at the risk of his life, an American soldier was saved from certain drowning. Major Robert Wilkie's heroic actions earned him the Soldier's Medal for heroism not involving actual conflict with an armed enemy. By August of 1970, Major Wilkie was serving as the Senior Advisor of government Forces in the vicinity of the village of Ba Chuc, Tinh Bien District, Chau Doc Province, Republic of Vietnam. On 24 August, Major Wilkie was assigned the mission of defending the village of Ba Chuc and its surrounding area and of clearning the village of suspected enemy forces. An estimated enemy force of two companies attacked the village from three directions. Although knocked down by the impact of a grenade during the initial phase of the attack, Major Wilkie unhesitatingly and fearlessly exposed himself to intense enemy ground fire as he moved about the perimeter encouraging his Vietnamese comrades, repositioning the Vietnamese forces to counter enemy probes, and directing fields of fire. Concurrently he coordinated and controlled the activities of the two outposts which were simultaneously under attack as well as directed air strikes on suspected enemy positions. Following the attack, he displayed exemplary leadership as he planned coordinated the night movement of several Vietnamese forces into blocking positions in an attempt to entrap the enemy. The next day, 25 August, a second attack was launched upon the village by an enemy force using intense mortar fire and small unit probes. Realizing the intensity of the enemy attack, Major Wilkie moved through the withering fire to again consolidate his defensive positions and personally directed an orderly evacuation of the friendly casualties. Following his salient and courageous example, the Vietnamese forces stubbornly held their positions and ultimately disorganized the enemy forces. For his heroism in connection with military operations against a hostile force, Major Robert Wilkie was awarded the Bronze Star with V Device for heroism. After retirement, LTC Wilkie moved to the Huntsville, AL area and continued to serve the defense sector, managing the Space and Missile Defense Conference and as a member of the National Defense Industrial Association Board of Directors. Robert Leon Wilkie passed away on 3 May 2017.