SSG ROBERT FRANKLIN BALSLEY, JR.
UNITED STATES ARMY
Affectionately known to his family, friends and
acquaintances as Bobby, he was born on May 16, 1945 at Freeport, Brazoria
County, Texas, the third of four children
born to Robert Franklin Balsley, Sr. [October 17, 1913 – August 18, 1961] and
Bertha Mae (Keith) Balsley who was born in 1920. Robert and Bertha were married
on August 31, 1939 in Freeport, Texas.
Bobby’s dad was a geologist who worked for
Texas Gulf Sulphur Company; after Bobby's birth in Freeport, the family,
following his dad’s assignments, moved to Carlsbad, NM (1950-53), Lafayette, LA
(1954–58), Bellaire (a suburb of Houston, TX) (1959–60) and Bay City in 1961.
While in grade school he was a Little League
All Star pitcher. He played football for the Jane
Long Junior High Longhorns in Bellaire. At
High School, he was a Blackcat All-District football player and a baseball
player. At Wharton County Junior College (WCJC) he played tackle and linebacker
for the Pioneers and was named to the All-Conference football team and was also
involved in baseball. He graduated from Bay City High School in 1962 and WCJC in
1965. While at Bay City High School he not only excelled in football and
baseball, but also was a member of the Key Club, a student-led organization
whose goal is to teach leadership through serving others. It is a part of the
Kiwanis International family of service-leadership programs.
Following his education at WCJC,
Bobby then attended the University of Texas at Austin.
His studies were interrupted at the end of his first semester when he was
drafted into the U.S. Army.
After entering the Army he was
assigned to Fort Polk, LA for basic training, and later attended the
Non-Commissioned Officers School
at Fort Benning, GA Class #8-68.
On May 1, 1968
arrived in Vietnam, and was assigned to Co. B, 1st Battalion, 7th
Cavalry (Garry Owen), 1st Air Cavalry Division (Airmobile)
(most likely at Camp Evans, north of Hue, in the I
Corps Tactical Zone.) In the autumn of 1968, the 1st Cavalry
Division relocated south to the III Corps Tactical Zone, northwest of Saigon,
adjacent to a Cambodian region commonly referred to as the “Parrots Beak” due to
At about the time his unit moved
into the Tay Ninh area he was promoted to Staff Sergeant. An interesting
excerpt from a letter Bobby had written on November 10th to his
mother identifies his unit had recently moved into this region: “Things are
pretty calm around here so far. We just moved into a new area and as yet don’t
know exactly what to expect….”.
On November 15, 1968, while
serving as a platoon sergeant with Co. B, during a search and clear mission, his
unit came under heavy enemy sniper fire from a large hostile force. An excerpt
from his Silver Star award best explains what occurred: “Sergeant Balsley
exposed himself to the enemy fire as he moved from position to position to
direct the retaliatory fire of his men. Although enemy rocket fire was directed
at his position, he continued to lead his men as well as engage the insurgents
himself. While encouraging his men, Sergeant Balsley was mortally wounded, but
his heroism under fire was instrumental in inspiring his men to repel the
hostile attack.” Bobby died of his wounds at a field hospital on November 16th
(most likely this was the 45th Surgical Hospital located at Tay
was the 15th Matagorda County casualty of the Vietnam War. His awards
include: Silver Star, 2 Bronze Star Medals, Purple Heart, Army Commendation
Medal, Air Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Service Medal (Vietnamese
award), National Defense Service Medal and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge.
Staff Sergeant Balsley was
returned to Bay City where funeral services were held at the First Baptist
Church under the auspices of Rev. A.J. Pate and interment with full military
honors was held at Roselawn Memorial Park, Van Vleck, Texas. He was buried near
his father. At the time of his death he was survived by his mother: Bertha
Mae; his sisters: Janet Ella
and Linda Faye and his brother Arthur
Clyde. He was also survived by Miss Barbara
Kay Morrow, of whom he was engaged to marry. She was a student at Sam Houston
State College and the daughter of Joel and Ruth Morrow of Bay City.
Often in the rush of movements,
operations and battles, the day to day life of the Skytrooper is overlooked.
The individual infantryman depends heavily on his squad leader for guidance,
tips to help make life in the bush a little more bearable, and alertness in case
of attack. When a new Garry Owen trooper arrived in his company it was his
squad leader who taught him the ropes. His squad leader showed him how to set a
good perimeter with claymore mines, trip flares, and of course, how to dig the
The squad leader was one of the
most dependable veterans in the company. He was picked because he knew what he
1st Cavalry Division Vietnam
August 1965 – December 1969
*The 45th Surgical Hospital (MUST**)
was located at the Base Camp of the 196th Light Infantry Brigade near
Tay Ninh. Though well marked as a hospital, the unit came under frequent and
heavy mortar and rocket attacks which resulted in many casualties and deaths.
**MUST = Medical Unit Self-Contained
Transportable similar to the MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) of the Korean
Military Funeral Set for Sgt. Bob Balsley at 3 p.m. Sunday in Bay
Staff Sgt. Bobby Balsley, a former Bay City High School athlete who had been
awarded two Bronze Star Medals -- the nation's fourth highest military honor --
for service in the Vietnam war, will be buried with full military honors Sunday.
Sgt. Balsley, 23, died Saturday night in a field hospital after being wounded in action that afternoon. He was serving as a platoon sergeant with Co. B, 1st Bn., 7th Cav., 1st Air Cav. Div., about 40 miles west of Saigon near the Cambodian border. He was stationed at Tay Ninh.
Funeral services are set at 3 p.m. Sunday at the First Baptist Church, the Rev. R. J. Pate of Houston officiating. Burial will be in Roselawn Memorial Park, under the direction of Taylor Brothers Funeral Home.
Sgt. Balsley is survived by his mother, Mrs. Bertha Balsley of Houston; one brother, Clyde Balsley of Houston, and two sisters, Mrs. Janet Neff of Houston and Mrs. Linda Traylor of Goliad, Tex.
Pallbearers will be Melvin Newsom, Robert Little, Gerald Hansik, Tommy Anderson, Lawrence Morrow, Larry Head, Mike Duncan and Dennis Clements. Honorary pallbearers will be Bobby Helflin, Howard Crain and Randall Parker.
Sgt. Balsley had been in the Army for 1 1/2 years. He had been in Vietnam since May 1, 1968, and had recently been promoted to sergeant (E-6).
A 1962 graduate of Bay City High School, Sgt. Balsley was an All-District football player and also played baseball. He was a member of the Key Club at Bay City High School.
He graduated from Wharton County Junior College in 1965, playing tackle and linebacker for the Pioneers and was named to the All-Conference football team. He attended the University of Texas for one semester after finishing Wharton County Junior College.
His family moved to Bay City when Sgt. Balsley was in high school. He was born in Freeport and had attended schools in Freeport, Louisiana and Houston. Sgt. Balsley played football at Jane Long Junior High School in Houston and Bellaire High School.
He received basic training at Fort Polk, La., and attended non commissioned officer school at Fort Benning, Ga.
Sgt. Balsley is the 15th local serviceman to die in the Vietnam War.
The Daily Tribune, November 22, 1968
BALSLEY, Bobby Sgt., 23, died Saturday in a Vietnam field hospital
from wounds. Funeral services set for 3 p.m. Sunday at the First
Baptist Church, Bay City, the Rev. A. J. Pate officiating. Burial
with full military honors in Roselawn Memorial Park, under the
direction of Taylor Bros. Funeral Home. Survivors include Sgt.
Balsley’s mother, Mrs. Bertha Balsley of Houston; one brother Clyde
Balsley of Houston, and two sisters, Mrs. Linda Traylor of Goliad
and Mrs. Janet Neff of Houston. Pallbearers will be Melvin Newsom,
Robert Little, Gerald Hansik, Tommy Anderson, Lawrence Morrow, Larry
Head, Mike Duncan and Dennis Clements. Honorary pallbearers will be
Bobby Helflin, Howard Crain and Randall Parker.
The Daily Tribune, Friday, November 22, 1968