ARCHIE LEE STRICKLAND
July 4, 1947 – September 22, 2019
The 4th of July in the Summer of 1947 in Blackshear, Georgia witnessed the birth of Archie Lee Strickland to the already large family created by father William Henry Strickland (1898-1975) and mother Ella Crawford Strickland (1906-1987). Ultimately there were 6 children whose births spanned 21 years. Eldest sister Lena was born in 1928 and his youngest sister Delphine, 1949. All, including his only brother, preceeded Archie’s passing. As the two boys grew to maturity, sons Charlie (1935-2015) and Archie followed their father’s footsteps and joined the U.S. Army after high school. Father William had served in the Army in 1918, during WWI and knew the strong “call to duty” could not be ignored by sons of his.
After the rigors of Basic Training and Infantry School, it was decided for Archie that the big, bad Central Highlands of Vietnam were to be his new home for an entire year. Archie chose not to simply endure his year, he decided to create havoc for our nation’s enemy. The warrior in his DNA saw him volunteer for the LRRPs (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol) of 3rd Bde, 4th Infantry Division. In the initial stages of the United States presence in Vietnam, the clear lack of real-time intelligence nearly allowed the NVA to overrun our forces in the Ia Drang, a battle related in the book and movie “We Were Soldiers Once….and Young”. Shortly after that hard-won battle, the 1/7th Cav was replaced by the 4th Infantry Division with the mission to “Tame the Ia Drang”. One of the first decisions was to determine how best to know the enemy. The solution was to insert 4-man teams of Rangers, then called LRRPs, to surreptitiously live in the jungle amongst the enemy. They would be inserted into the jungle for extended missions and patrol an area of suspected enemy concentration to uncover weaknesses and eliminate when possible. The 3rd Bde LRRPs, as was their counterparts in 1st Bde, 2nd Bde and E/58th LRRP, was to comprise a strategically important component of the 4th Infantry Division’s ability to wage effective war. Later, in 1969, an Army-wide re-designation of all LRRPs transitioned them into K Co., 75th Infantry Regiment (Ranger). His decision to volunteer was courageous and dangerous, but no young soldier who proudly wore the “Tiger Stripe Fatigues” ever regretted that decision.
Many of the missions concentrated in the Ya Krong Bolah Valley on the Kontum/Pleiku border. It was a remote and treacherous area, 24 km southwest of Kontum and 10 km northwest of Plei Mrong and close to the Cambodian border. Archie’s team, led by Sgt Art Young, included Dennis Crouse and Charlie Robbins. They hunted our nations enemies caused the elimination of many bad guys in late 68 into 1969. Theirs and other LRRP team’s intelligence gathering was, in no small part, responsible for the effective outcome of 4th Infantry Division’s “Operation Putnam Tiger”, inflicting 563 confirmed NVA KIA from April to September 1969 in the Plei Trap area. By all accounts, Archie was aggressive in the field, establishing early in his career he was a fierce combatant one could count upon when danger visited. He was as admired during “stand-down” for his good nature and willingness to “party”. Archie and his team mates set a high bar for LRRP/Rangers then and that same measure continues today to be the high standard Rangers strive to achieve. During his time spent artfully in Kontum and Pleiku Provinces, seeking bad guys, Archie earned the coveted Combat Infantryman’s Badge and numerous other awards and decorations.
As with all who wage war, Archie returned home aged much more than the year he was gone. Many Rangers remained in combat, some never finding peace, battling endless memories from their experience. Archie returned home and used his faith, Emanuel Baptist Church, and a loving wife, Mary Ann Strickland to help heal. Archie and Mary Ann were blessed to have two wonderful sons, Lee and Bryan who used the lessons of moral values and love they were raised with to pass on to their own families. At the time of Archie’s passing, he had 12 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren. Archie beat the curse many could not and spent a productive career at Gilman Paper Company before retiring. He was a skilled and passionate hobby woodworker, known for his handcrafted furniture. Archie discovered the fellowship of other veterans and was able to help and was helped with membership in American Legion Post 126 in Eastman, GA.
Archie Strickland, 72, of Eastman, GA passed away Sunday, September 22, 2019, in Savannah, GA. He was laid to rest in Woodlawn Cemetery, Eastman, Georgia with full military honors. May this Ranger rest in eternal peace he so courageously fought for in the Ia Drang.