Vietnam veteran Dudley “Dud” Fagan is used to adapting on short notice. When then Missile Command Commander Maj. Gen. William Chen needed someone to deploy for Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1990-91, he assigned Fagan, the inspector general. Of course, Fagan had to leave the next morning.
Chen knew Fagan had the necessary air defense and ordnance missile experience. He became the first person to deploy from Redstone for the war.
A year after returning home, Fagan retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel in 1992. The Bronx, New York, native had 24 years of service.
Fagan received his commission in 1968 through ROTC at the University of Houston. He was the distinguished military graduate and earned his bachelor’s in industrial education with a minor in architecture.
His first wartime experience came in October 1970 when he went to Vietnam as a 25-year-old captain.
“It was very intense,” Fagan said of his yearlong tour. “It opened your eyes to what the Army really needs when it’s in a combat situation.”
He served with Headquarters XXIV Corps which was based in Da Nang. Fagan was the logistics officer for ammo, major end items and repair parts. He would visit the fire support bases within I Corps to help manage their requirements for ammo, major end items and repair parts.
“In Da Nang we’d get routinely attacked by rockets and by mortars. Probably every third or fourth night, by 122mm rockets and mortars,” he said.
“I was in two helicopters that got shot down by enemy fire. I was lucky. We were able to autorotate to the ground, and I sustained only bruising injuries.”
His unit was involved in two major operations: Lam Son 719 in January-February 1971 and Lam Son 720 in April-May 1971.
Lam Son 719 was the reopening of the Khe Son combat base. “It was supporting the Army of the Republic of Vietnam in their incursion into Laos to cut the Ho Chi Minh trail,” Fagan said. “The interesting fact about reopening Khe Son was we flew more tonnage of supplies into Khe Son than they did in the Berlin Airlift.”
In Lam Son 720, they helped the 101st Airmobile Division in the A Shah Valley. “It was trying to get the North Vietnamese army out of that area,” Fagan said.
His new bride, Dollie, waited for him in Houston with her mother and grandmother. They were married in Houston on Dec. 27, 1968.
In February 1971, while in Vietnam, Fagan received a telegram from the Red Cross that his wife had delivered their first baby, and mother and baby were doing fine. Fagan didn’t know his newborn was a girl until he was finally able to call home. “For three days I didn’t know what I had,” he recalled, laughing.
The missile materiel management officer received two Bronze Star Medals for his year in Vietnam.
“I was hot and sweaty most of the time. But I remember the monsoons were so bloody cold and wet,” he said.
Fagan returned home in October 1971, but he was spat on and physically assaulted while traveling in uniform at the San Francisco airport and the Houston airport. The protesters tried to beat him, but he broke a man’s nose.
The oldest of four children – three boys and a girl – of a World War II veteran, Fagan had first come to Redstone for six months in 1969-70 for the missile maintenance officers course at the Ordnance school. He put Redstone as his desired Army destination. But he didn’t get his wish until 1987 when he arrived as the assistant inspector general and then as the IG. He stayed until deploying for Desert Shield/Desert Storm from early August 1990 to February 1991. Fagan has a master’s in systems management from the University of Southern California in 1980. He retired from Raytheon in 2012.
Dollie, his wife of 54 years, worked at Redstone from 1987-92. She worked at the Ordnance school, the Threat Management Office and finally with the Defense Logistics Agency. The couple and their daughter, Heather, reside in Madison. Their son, Ryan, is a mechanical engineer with Medtronic in Erie, Colorado. They have four grandchildren.
Fagan, 77, enjoys helping people find jobs through the St. Joseph the Worker Job Networking Club at St. John Catholic Church in Madison. He also enjoys photography and camping.
He has a 50% disability rating from Veterans Affairs. Fagan shared his thoughts on this nation’s commemoration of 50 years since the Vietnam War.
“I think it’s a little muted because of the overall discontent about the war to begin with from the civilian population,” he said. “I appreciate those who thank us for our service but I can tell that people from our generation still have resentment for the Soldiers that went there. I can still see that.
“I really appreciate that those of us that came back from Desert Storm had a much better welcome than those that came back from Vietnam at the time. And that is very much noticed and appreciated.”
Editor’s note: This is the 387th in a series of articles about Vietnam veterans as the United States commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.