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First Name: Dale

Last Name: Crittenberger

Birthplace: Washington, DC, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: Jackson

Date of Birth: 21 May 1927

Date of Death: 17 September 1969

Rank: Colonel

Years Served: 1950 - 1969 (19)
Dale Jackson Crittenberger

Graduate, U.S. Military Academy, Class of 1950

•  Korean War (1950 - 1953)
•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)


Dale Jackson "Jack" Crittenberger
Colonel, U.S. Army

Dale Jackson Crittenberger was born on 21 May 1927 at Walter Reed General Hospital, Washington, DC, the third son of Willis D. and Josephine Frost Woodhull Crittenberger. His father is a retired Lieutenant General in the U.S. Army. His brother, Townsend Woodhull Crittenberger, Corporal, U.S. Army, was killed at the Remagen Bridgehead in World War II. His other brother is Major General W. D. Crittenberger Jr. (U.S. Army, Retired).

Crittenberger's boyhood was spent at the usual stations of the pre-World War II Army: Washington, Fort Bliss, Manila, Fort Knox, Fort Benning, San Antonio, and Panama. He attended schools at these locations and he particularly enjoyed St. Albans in Washington; Alamo Heights High School in San Antonio, where his future wife, Mildred "Pookie" Kelleher, and Jack met; and the University of Texas, where he was a third generation  member of Sigma Chi Fraternity.

He entered the U.S. Military Academy with the Class of 1950 and spent four years in Company C2, where he did well in both the academic and tactical departments. He was one of ten cadets selected for an exchange trip to L'Ecole Polytechnique during "Cow" summer. He was a Cadet Corporal and later the Senior Lieutenant in his company.

Upon graduation, Crittenberger chose Armor and began his service as a Tanker in the 2d Armored Division at Fort Hood, TX. That location facilitated his and Pookie's wedding on 28 September 1950, at Fort Sam Houston. Twelve days later he went to Korea, along with many others from the Class of 1950, and joined the 1st Cavalry Division, first as an Infantry Platoon Leader, then as a Tank Platoon Leader. He was later selected as Aide-de-Camp to Major General Hobart R. Gay, Division Commanding General, and returned to Headquarters, Fourth U. S. Army with him in 1951.

The Associate Company Officers' Course at Fort Knox, followed by a second tour at Fort Hood, this time as a Company Commander in the 1st Armored Division, preceded another assignment with the 2d Armored Division, now located in Germany. Here, he commanded D Company, 57th Tank Battalion, and later served in Headquarters, U.S. Army Europe, as a staff officer.

The Crittenbergers were recalled to the States in 1956, when he was assigned to the White House as the Assistant to the Military Aide to President Eisenhower for an exceptional three-year tour. The gold leaves of Major were pinned on a very surprised Jack Crittenberger by President Eisenhower on 25 June 1959.

A year at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth broadened his military education and professionalism and gave family and friends an opportunity to enjoy his great talent for piano playing, a hobby which brought as much pleasure to them as it did to the competent accompanist.

In 1960, Crittenberger joined the 4th Armored Division in Germany as the G-3 Operations Officer for eighteen months, before taking command, as a Major, of the 1/37th Armor at Crailsheim for a year and a half. His knowledge of his equipment and tactics enabled him to march his Battalion through an aggressor enemy regiment without its knowledge.

From the 4th Armored he was ordered to the Military Academy for a rewarding tour in the Department of Tactics; one year was spent as the Senior Armor Instructor, Office of Military Instruction, followed by a year as the Executive Officer of the 1st Regiment, U.S. Corps of Cadets.

A move to Carlisle Barracks came next, where Crittenberger graduated from the Army War College and received the degree of Master of Science in International Affairs from George Washington University.

From August 1966 to July 1968, Crittenberger worked as Plans Officer, Military Assistance Command Thailand J-3, where he was instrumental in the successful deployment of Thai armed forces personnel to Vietnam in support of Free World objectives.

Vietnam War

In July 1968, the Crittenberger family returned to the U.S. and bought a house in McLean, VA, where Pookie and the children now live. His second request for duty in Vietnam had been granted, and after attending the Senior Officers' Counterinsurgency and Special Warfare Orientation at Fort Bragg, he reached Vietnam on 17 September 1968 and was assigned to II Field Force Vietnam Headquarters, as Senior US Liaison Officer to the Thai "Black Panther" Division. His continued service with the Thai forces had been requested by the Ministry of Defense.

On 1 May 1969, Crittenberger received, from Major General Harris W. Hollis, the guidon symbolic of his assuming command of the 3d Brigade, 9th Infantry Division, operating in the important area between Saigon and Cambodia. He ardently wanted this command, extended his tour to accept it, and, as a tanker, was extremely proud when he was presented with the Combat Infantryman Badge.

The 3d Brigade had many visitors, since it was engaged both in combat operations and pacification projects in the hotly contested Hou Nghia - Long An area; all came away with praise for the "Go Devil" Brigade and its leader. Because of its capabilities and key location, the Brigade was selected to remain in Vietnam when the remainder of the Division was ordered home. He was inspired by his men, and often wrote of their competence, spirit, willingness, and "can do" attitude; similarly, his troops recognized in him a leader who looked out for their interests constantly, in action and in base camp, and who carefully considered all the eventualities before making a decision. Consequently this Brigade was known and admired for its ability to accomplish its missions quickly, with few casualties, and with more than a touch of the old élan of Armor. Jack was aggressive in maintaining and exploiting a contact once gained, employing a combined arms team of air mobile and armored personnel carrier mounted Infantry, air support, gunships, and Artillery fire support. He achieved outstanding success in his relations with the various Vietnamese leaders and units in his area. This Brigade was used as an example of how things should be done.

On 17 September 1969, one of Crittenberger's battalions made a contact with the enemy. While directing the engagement from his command ship, along with the engaged battalion's commander and members of both their staffs, his helicopter collided with one of the incoming gunships. There were no survivors: Twelve men - all of them brave soldiers, died that day.

Newspaper Article


SAIGON, September 19, 1969 - Colonel Dale J. Crittenberger, a United States Army brigade commander and the son a noted World War II general, was killed in a helicopter collision in the Mekong Delta, the Army announced today.

Colonel Crittenberger, 42 years old, and 11 other Americans died when two helicopters collided in the air Wednesday 18 miles southwest of Saigon. There were no survivors.

Also killed in the crash was Lieutenant Colonel Leo P. Sikorski, 36.

Colonel Crittenberger, a 1950 graduate of West Point, was Commander of the Ninth Infantry Division's Third Brigade and had been scheduled to go home in 35 days.  He was the son of Lieutenant General Willis D. Crittenberger, who commanded the Fourth Army Corps in its drive from Rome up the Italian peninsula in World War II.

Medals and Awards

Silver Star Medal (2 Awards)
Legion of Merit (2 Awards)
Bronze Star Medal (3 Awards)
Distinguished Flying Cross
Air Medal (11 Awards)
Purple Heart
Army Commendation Medal (3 Awards)
National Order of Vietnam Fifth Class
Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Palm


Combat Infantryman Badge

During his time in command of the 3d Brigade, it was cited by the Vietnamese Government with the Cross of Gallantry with Palm, and the Civil Actions Honor Medal 1st Class.

Remarks from Classmates, USMA Class of 1950

Jack died doing what he most wanted to do - serve his country effectively and unhesitatingly, with pride and enthusiasm for the achievements of his command. His ardent dedication to the task at hand and his persuasive leadership motivated his officers and his men. His life is an inspiration to all who knew him, for he was a model son, cadet, officer, husband, brother, father and friend. He possessed attributes of love known to all of us - justice, consideration, unselfishness, and graciousness. He is irreplaceable to his family; the letters of sympathy from President to Platoon Sergeant reveal that many share our loss.

A dignified and moving Memorial Service was held at Tan An, Republic of  Vietnam, on 19 September 1969, honoring Jack and his fallen comrades-in-arms and attesting to the esteem which the men of his Brigade had for "Colonel Critt."

His Division Commander has said of him, "When the challenge of supreme leadership was impelling on the field of battle, Colonel Jack Crittenberger was in no way found wanting. He gave so much to his Brigade. He brought so much inspiration - he won his battles while here because he won his men. He drained dry his Cup Of Valor."

The Commander of the US Naval Forces Vietnam, with whose men the 3d Brigade worked closely, wrote: "He was one of the truly great who stood out, not only in professional competence, but also in his compassion and understanding for his associates and subordinates."

Colonel Dale Jackson Crittenberger was buried at Arlington Cemetery on 22 September 1969, on a gentle slope overlooking the beautiful city of his birth, completing the circle of love and service that was his life. We who long for an equally confident and solid base of life aspire to the dedication, humility, and courage inherent in him.

Death and Burial

Colonel Dale Jackson Crittenberger died on 17 September 1969 in a mid-air helicopter collision in the Mekong Delta of South Vietnam. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA, in Section 2 with his brother, Corporal Townsend W. Crittenberger.

Crittenberger's name is inscribed on Panel 18W Row 101 at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Besides his parents, Lieutenant General (Ret.) and Mrs. W.D. Crittenberger, he is survived by his wife Pookie, the former Mildred Kelleher, and their eight children: Josephine, Kristina, Dale Jr., Juliet, William, Amelia, Kelly, and James; and a brother, Major General W. D. Crittenberger Jr. Another brother, Corporal T.W. Crittenberger, was killed at the Remagen Bridgehead in World War II.

(After their deaths, his mother and father were buried next to their sons. His wife Pookie died on 26 November 1980 and is buried with her husband.)

Honoree ID: 2392   Created by: MHOH




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