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The Life of Stanley Sapp


 

In March of 1947, a skinny, restless 17 year old high school student from Amarillo, Texas reported for service with the US Army. He had used his father’s forged signature and notary public seal, unbeknownst to anyone else, including his father, to certify the permission form necessary to allow a 17 year old to enter the service. 
 

After boot camp and basic field artillery training, Private Stanley Louis Sapp was sent to Japan via troop ship to serve in America’s Army of Occupation with the 1st Cavalry Division’s 61st Field Artillery Battalion.  He joined many thousands of other American troops who had occupied the Japanese homeland since the Pacific War had ended with the dropping of two atomic bombs in August of 1945.  Here Private Sapp remained for 3 years, by which time he had been promoted to the rank of corporal, then sergeant. 
 
After a time, Sergeant Sapp was transferred to the 24th Infantry Division’s 337th Field Artillery Battalion, which was ultimately sent into the rapidly expanding conflict in Korea.  He was to serve 19 months in combat in the Korean conflict and would receive the Army Commendation Medal for his expertise in artillery tactics.  After the conflict was over, the young man traveled home to marry his hometown sweetheart, Billie Hall, of Amarillo.  He spent a period of several months out of the Army after his enlistment ended and his first child was born. 
 
Sergeant Sapp reenlisted and was assigned to the 3rd Armored Division’s artillery unit.  During his time in this organization, Sergeant Sapp was assigned to several locations stateside and he was promoted to Staff Sergeant, then Sergeant First Class. While stationed at Tuscaloosa, Alabama where he served as an artillery instructor at the University of Alabama’s Army ROTC program, Sergeant Sapp was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army Reserves while simultaneously retaining his enlisted rank on active duty.  Sergeant Sapp also took 47 semester hours of college classes at the University during this period. 
 
Sergeant Sapp was then transferred to the 2nd Rocket/Howitzer Battalion, 73rd Artillery in Butzbaugh, West Germany, taking his wife and four children with him.  After a couple of years, he was given an active duty commission directly to 1st Lieutenant (since he had maintained a reserve commission as a 2nd Lieutenant for some time).  After spending a total of almost 4 years in Europe, Lt. Sapp was sent to Ft. Chaffee, Arkansas to undergo training in Air Defense Artillery (all of his service to this point had been with Field Artillery units).  As usual, his family accompanied him. Following his training and brief service with the 6/27th Field Artillery, Lt. Sapp was then transferred to Ft. Bragg, North Carolina as an Air Defense Artillery officer.  Not long afterward, he was promoted to the rank of Captain and took command of an Artillery Battery (consisting of about 125 men).  Now in his mid-30’s, Stanley Sapp’s family consisted of a wife and 5 children (4 boys and 1 girl).  He had ascended from private third class to a relatively respectable, comfortable position within the Army hierarchy as an Air Defense Artillery battery commander. 
 
But Captain Sapp was still restless.  He applied for transfer into the US Army Special Forces (“Green Berets”), who were based in Ft. Bragg and experiencing solid growth due in no small part to cold war pressures arising in a small Asian country called Vietnam.  Captain Sapp was accepted into the Special Forces.  At the age of 34, he was required to endure the rigorous training necessary for the Special Forces, including jump school, self-defense, infantry and survival training.  He was then assigned to the 7th, then 3rd Special Forces Groups at Ft. Bragg in various capacities, including Detachment Commander.
 
As is often the case with Special Forces troops, Captain Sapp was called upon to provide training for and coordination with forces allied with the United States.  He was sent to the African nation of Nigeria, which was beginning to deal with Biafran separatists considered by US analysts to be susceptible to communist influence.  He was to work with a group of native officers and non-commissioned officers in their use of newly acquired field guns.  Captain Sapp spent several months in this role, his stay being extended by a bout with malaria.  He then returned to his wife and five children in Ft. Bragg.  For his efforts in Nigeria, Captain Sapp received a 2nd Army Commendation Medal for the training he provided to the Nigerian Army in artillery tactics.
 
Several months after returning from Nigeria, Captain Sapp received orders to proceed to Vietnam.  After spending a few weeks settling his family in Amarillo, Captain Sapp made his way to the 5th Special Forces Group headquarters in Da Nang. There he was assigned command of the A Detachment (A Team) in the village of Gia Vuc – Team A-103.  Within a month of assuming command, Captain Sapp was fatally struck by machine gun fire while leading a patrol across the Song Re River outside Gia Vuc.  His body was found in an irrigation canal downriver two weeks later.  
 
Captain Sapp’s body was returned to his grieving family in Amarillo for burial.  He was interred in January, 1966.  He is still remembered today as a loving husband, father, son and brother. 
 
  
 
 
 

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