In Memory of Lt./Captain Charles "Chuck" Hawkins .... 2nd & 3rd Platoon and Alpha Company Commander


Charles F. Hawkins ..... 73

Died: September 13th, 2019 in Ninilchick, AK

Born: August 1st, 1946 in Carmel, CA



Distinguished Member of the 506th Infantry Regiment (DMOR)
Charles F Hawkins

Charles F Hawkins is nominated to be a Distinguished Member of the 506th Infantry Regiment in recognition of his exemplary combat service in the Vietnam War as a rifle company commander of A company 2nd Battalion 506th Infantry and later in his career for his continued contributions to our Nation as a senior Chinese policy analyst and consultant for the Department of Defense. ____________________________
Chuck Hawkins served in 2nd Battalion 506th Infantry from March 1970 to March 1971.  During this time, his assignments included Rifle Platoon Leader in C Company, and then, after promotion to Captain, command of A Company.  During the Ripcord campaign, Chuck Hawkins received the Silver Star for valor along with the Purple Heart for his wounds. ______________________________________________________
After the Vietnam War, Chuck continued active duty service and then transitioned into the Army Reserves, serving until retirement in many key positions in the 29th Division in Virginia. ________________________________________________________________________________
Chuck Hawkins was one of the founders of the Ripcord Association.  This association was formed to serve as a gathering point for the 101st Airborne veterans of the Ripcord campaign. His genuine leadership and sincere commitment to the 506th Infantry and other 101st Airborne Division veterans of the Ripcord battles in the spring and summer of 1970 was a key factor in the continued growth of this association which earnestly reaches out to Vietnam veterans and their families. For many years, Chuck was the chief editor for the Ripcord Newsletter. ________
Chuck Hawkins has become one of the foremost senior policy analysts addressing Chinese military policy and their professional education and training.  He travels frequently to China, along with other countries in the northeast Asia region, and has written extensively on current trends of military operations.

Eulogy: A War Horse Remembered:

It was with great sadness that I received notice of  the sudden death of Captain Chuck Hawkins on September 13, 2019 from a heart attack while en route to his home in Alaska.  It caused me to reflect deeply on my own times spent with Chuck when we were both young platoon leaders in C/2/506th.

Chuck was a lover of the great outdoors as he was raised in the little town of Ninilchik, Alaska. Chuck’s parents were both school teachers.  His father had been an infantry officer and served with distinction in the 10th Mountain Division during  World War II.  The example of his father gave Chuck the impetus to become a combat infantry officer.  He applied to and was accepted to West Point.  He graduated from West Point as a member of the class of 1968 and selected infantry as his branch in the army.  After completion of the Basic Infantry Course, Airborne school , and Ranger School, he was assigned to Germany where he served as a second and first lieutenant prior to his assignment to Vietnam.

Chuck joined Charlie Company in Mid March of 1970 soon after his arrival in Vietnam.  Captain Vazquez was the then Company Commander, and the company was comprised of four platoons.  Chuck initially replaced Charlie Lieb as the second platoon leader.  The company was then operating in the Rocket Ridge area.  Not long afterwards, Captain Vazquez reorganized the company into three platoons with Bob Wallace commanding the first platoon, myself commanding the second platoon, and Chuck commanding the third platoon.

In late March of 1970, Charlie Company  combat assaulted in to a hilltop and commenced building Firebase Gladiator upon which a 105 battery was placed to support the Bravo Company April Fool’s Day attack on Ripcord.  After the failure of that attack, Charlie Company was ordered to combat assault into the LZ just east of Ripcord.  Chuck was the acting Company Commander during this attack as Cpt. Vazquez left to go on R&R the day before the assault.  After completing this assault, one of the other Charlie Company platoons engaged in an intense fire fight with the enemy in the valley due east of Firebase Ripcord.  After this firefight ended, the next day Charlie Company assembled in the jungle to prepare for a ground assault of Firebase Ripcord up the eastern slope of the firebase.  Chuck and I were discussing our ideas about the best way to assault the hill, when I looked up off in the sky to see a cobra gunship shooting off to the east of our location.  We had not called for the use of gunships at this point and didn’t know why the gunship was so close to us or who the pilot was firing missions for.  Soon after, the pilot of the gunship begins to position himself for an attack on our position and commences to dive on our location.  We immediately threw out some yellow smoke grenades to warn the pilot that we were friendly’s and scrambled for the radio to call the pilot off from shooting us up.  The gunfire from the gunship went right through the middle of Charlie Company’s perimeter not more than five meters from Chuck and I.  Chuck got on the radio and raised holy hell with the TOC about what had happened, while I checked to see if we had any injured soldiers.  Miraculously, no one in Charlie Company was injured.

The next day Charlie Company assaulted Ripcord from the east side and secured the hilltop. Chuck, Bob Wallace and myself split the perimeter of the Firebase into three sectors.  Each sector to be covered by one of the three platoons building new fighting positions with interlocking fields of fire in each sector.  Captain Vazquez soon returned from R & R and Charlie Company slaved like dogs to get the defensive installations in place to his satisfaction.

After 30 days of working on the firebase, Charlie company was inserted  well to the southeast of Ripcord and operated back toward the area south of Ripcord.  Chuck was soon promoted to Captain and was then assigned to be the Company Commander of Alpha Company just before the company returned for the June stand-down.

Alpha Company returned with the rest of the battalion to the Ripcord AO  in mid June, and it was not long after that Alpha Company was given the mission to secure Firebase O’Reilly.  On or about July 10, 1970 a full strength Alpha Company assaulted into the little LZ just east of Ripcord with orders to move down the ridgeline toward Hill 805.  I spoke briefly with Chuck on the LZ as what was left of Charlie Company was being extracted to secure Firebase O’Reilly.  I told him the situation had changed radically in the AO and that the enemy was everywhere.  I remember saying to myself that Chuck was as eager as anyone I had ever seen to get in the fight.  He was superbly trained for his job by the army and together with the combat experience he had acquired under the tutelage of Captain Vazquez, Chuck was extremely confident that he and his men could perform the missions given to them.

The details of Alpha Company’s magnificent performance in the Ripcord Battle have been recounted on numerous occasions, and I will not reiterate them again in this writing , except to summarize my feelings about the Alpha Company fight and its Company Commander.
Chuck Hawkins was given the toughest mission in the Ripcord Battle when he was ordered by his commander to take his Company down into the valley from the Hill 805 area after several days of fighting there.  This movement evolved into the fiercest fight of the Ripcord Battle.  This kind of fight was a classic battle for survival requiring  first rate leadership to address the total chaos that results from only a battle of this sort.  For Chuck it was a battle of wills and who could soldier the best.  Chuck knew his Alpha company soldiers would fight to the end.  Chuck utilized all the tools that he possessed, together with his iron will to withstand the fierce and repeated enemy attacks.  He continually moved his men to realign them in positions to best meet the enemy attacks and protect his wounded soldiers. His direction and use of artillery and fire support was text book and close in.  Chuck directed all of the air strikes in the lengthy fight and had the balls to call in danger close missions which eventually broke the enemies back and saved the lives of many of his men.

General George Patton once said ”to be a good leader, you must understand history.” Chuck had studied military history with a passion and was familiar with the tactics used by commanders in past battles.  Chuck analyzed the battle of Ripcord in all respects and  knew all the nuances of the battle .  He saw the battle as a replica of the tactics utilized by the enemy in defeating the French at Dien Bien Phu. When I first saw him 27 years later at my first reunion to attend, Chuck pulled out the Ripcord AO map and we spent four hours one evening as he related to me the graphic details of the big fight.  Chuck could be an intense man when the occasion called for it.  He was that night as intense and emotional  as I had ever seen him, as he explained the sequences of the battle and what went on at different stages of the fight.  He could not be prouder of his soldiers who fought so hard against the enemy.

Chuck returned to the States after his tour in Vietnam and served on active duty for several years before resigning from the active duty Army and enlisting in the Georgia National Guard and later in the Virginia National Guard.  After retiring from the Guard, Chuck found his calling as a defense analyst and consultant working for the Defense Department and other contractors.  He would travel two or three times a year to China and Korea as part of his duties.  Chuck became one of the foremost senior policy analysts addressing Chinese military policy and their professional education and training.  He thoroughly enjoyed this kind of work.

Chuck was one of the early founders and organizers of the Ripcord Association, a gathering point for the veterans of the Ripcord campaign. His sincere commitment to these veterans was a key factor in the growth of this association which earnestly reaches out to veterans and their families.  For many years Chuck was the chief editor of the Ripcord Newsletter.

Chuck was predeceased by his wife Glenda who died earlier this year.  He is survived by his daughter Jonelle Erichsen and his granddaughter Sloane, and by his brother Richard and his family, and a host of collateral relatives.  In his later years. Chuck enjoyed regular visits back to the old homestead in Alaska reconnecting with his relatives and friends there.  He was on his way back to the land he loved so much to establish a permanent residence there when he crossed over.

Chuck loved coming to the reunions and visiting with everyone.  After a few pops, he would come up to me and say “Jim, let’s go outside for a smoke and a drink and enjoy some good BS”.

Chuck should be remembered for being a hardcore combat leader who (1) who remained steadfast in the performance of his duties in the face of the enemy, (2) who retained a deep commitment and admiration for his Alpha Company soldiers, (3) who maintained the mental flexibility under fire to positively adjust to the chaos of battle, and (4) who endured the rigors of the campaign trail with great enthusiasm and without complaint.  He fulfilled the oath he took on the plain of West Point to defend the nation against its enemies and his courageous performance on the battlefield brought great honor to himself, West Point, the Army, the Nation and his soldiers.

God bless this gallant cavalier and comrade who now rests in the Valhalla Section of the  Heavenly Kingdom reserved for “Magnificent Warriors”

Currahee, Jim Campbell

Obituary: Charles Farring Hawkins
Aug. 1, 1946 – Sept. 13, 2019

Chuck was born to Jim and Mary Hawkins in Carmel, California. In August 1950 Chuck arrived in Ninilchik, Alaska with his mother, father and younger brother. Within a year Ninilchik became Chuck’s home. By 1953 Chuck’s father and mother had established a homestead at Mile 126 of the Sterling Hwy. Chuck lived in Dillingham and Juneau before returning to Ninilchik with his mother and brother in 1959 to make this his home.

Chuck was salutatorian of his Ninilchik high school class of 1964, and in July of that year he entered the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. He graduated from West Point in June of 1968 and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army.
His initial posting was in Germany where he stayed for one year. In early 1970 he went to Vietnam. He was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division. He was promoted to the rank of Captain and became the commander of A Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment. In early 1970 his battalion established Fire Support Base Ripcord. It was the last battle in the Vietnam war that was fought between the U.S. and North Vietnamese Regulars. It was because of Chuck’s actions during the Battle of Ripcord that Chuck received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star with V (for Valor) device, the Purple Heart and several other accommodations.

After returning from Vietnam he spent some time at Ft. Leavenworth as a company commander, then separated from the active army and finished a distinguished career with the Georgia Army National Guard and finally the Virginia Army National Guard.
Chuck struggled for a few years trying to find his place in the civilian world. Being a talented writer, he utilized his skills working as a defense analyst with the Department of Defense and other contractors. His specialty became China and the Korean Peninsula. His first trip to China was in March 1997, followed by 50 trips total during the next 22 years. He worked with various Chinese Universities and PLA groups at conferences.

In the early 2000s, he began to divide his time between Maryland, Ninilchik, and work related locations. Re-establishing a life in Ninilchik, living in the family homestead was his deepest desire. He truly loved reconnecting with many friends and Bro and Sis. His joy of “jamming” with local musicians was without measure.

He was also involved with several charitable activities, his favorite being his efforts to raise money for North Korean refugees in China and helping them to reach freedom in South Korea. His latest project was establishing an organization entitled The Kenai Institute for Strategic Studies (KISS). He did like to keep it simple, always planning and building dreams … living life to the fullest each day.

Chuck is survived by his daughter, Jonelle Erichsen and husband Troels; granddaughter Sloane; his brother Richard (Dick) and wife Linda; his aunt, Mary Hackman; his uncle, George Pollard; nieces Rebecca Fender and Tamara Hawkins; cousins John and Susie Hackman (Gabe and Liza), Laura Hackman and husband Mike, (Jack and Ben), Ann Hackman and husband Mike, (Caitlin and Molly).



"Thank you brother for a job well done".  Until we meet again my friend ..... "Currahee"......"Stands Alone"

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