School Days
 

 

Staff Sergeant
Robert Franklin Balsley , Jr.*
U. S. Army
54510851



May 16, 1945 - November 16, 1968

Roselawn Memorial Park
Van Vleck, Matagorda County, Texas


Gold Star Mother

Bertha Mae Keith Balsley


*Matagorda County War Memorial has his name as Robert J. Balsley.
 

Location on the
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Washington, D. C.

Panel 39W  Line 072


 

 


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 Bay City 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 Sergeant Balsley 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 its shape.

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 Ninh*). He 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.

Epilogue

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 all-important foxhole. 

The squad leader was one of the most dependable veterans in the company.  He was picked because he knew what he was doing.

                                                                             1st Cavalry Division Vietnam
                                                                           August 1965 – December 1969
                                                                                     
Published 1995

*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 War era.
 


 

SGT. Robert F. Balsley

Sgt. Robert F. Balsley, son of Mrs. Bertha Balsley of Bay City, has been nominated for the Bronze Star for bravery in the Vietnam war. A 1963 graduate of Bay City High School, Balsley has been in Vietnam since May 1. He is serving in the Army. Balsley played football at Bay City and at Wharton County Junior College, where he graduated in 1965

The Daily Tribune
 



 

 

  Former BCHS Student, Athlete Bob Balsley Killed In War

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..."

That is what S/Sgt. Bobby Balsley wrote home on Nov. 10. Saturday, the former Bay City High School and Wharton County Junior College football star was killed in action in South Vietnam. He is the 15th local serviceman to die in the war.

No details were available about his death, except that it was Saturday night and believed to be near the Cambodian border.

Balsley, the son of Mrs. Bertha Balsley, had been in Vietnam since May 1, 1968. He was serving as a sergeant with Co. B, 1st Bn., 7th Cav., 1st Air Cav. Div. He had been awarded the Bronze Star Medal in August for his performance during action at that time.

He was a 1962 graduate of Bay City High School and graduated from Wharton County Junior College in 1965.

His unit had been transferred from up north to 40 miles west of Saigon, near the Cambodian border, a couple of weeks ago.

Sgt. Balsley was engaged to marry Barbara Morrow, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Joel Morrow of Bay City. She is a Sam Houston State College student.

In his Nov. 10 letter Balsley said, "We celebrated Halloween the 31st, but it sure wasn't as much fun as it used to be back home. I'm anxious for Christmas to come. After Christmas I will start getting really short."

Funeral services are pending.

The Daily Tribune, November 18, 1968
 


Military Funeral Set for Sgt. Bob Balsley at 3 p.m. Sunday in Bay City

 

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

 

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

 

Robert Balsley, Insuranceman, Buried Monday

 

Funeral services were held Monday at Temple Baptist Church for Robert Franklin Balsley, 47, 217 Horn Road.

 

Balsley, who was born Oct. 17, 1913, died Friday in Matagorda General Hospital.

 

A resident of Bay City since January this year, he was engaged in the insurance business.

 

The Rev. W. H. Smith officiated followed by interment in Roselawn Memorial Park.

 

Surviving are his wife; daughters, Janet Balsley and Linda Fay Balsley;  sons, Robert F. Balsley, Jr., and Arthur C. Balsley, all of Bay City;  a sister Mrs. Peggy Littleton, San Antonio.

 

Pallbearers were Charles Willebanks, L. J. Pierce, Odwin Cates, Jim Bush, Chris Cole and R. C. Taylor.

 

The Daily Tribune,  Monday, August 21, 1961


 


 

Pictures courtesy of Linda Sprecher, Bobby's sister, and Kenneth L. Thames.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial rubbing courtesy of Anette Uher.


 

Copyright 2006 - Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
All rights reserved

Created
Feb. 5, 2006
Updated
Dec. 29, 2011
   

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