“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Colonel "Eric" Happersett - A Real American Warrior

Colonel "Eric" Happersett - A Real American Warrior
by the Desert Rat

It was a cold night in Denver Co. when he was left at a hotel, in a shoe box. Not long afterward, a couple that had already raised a family, spotted Newlin R. Happersett at a State Orphanage. They gave him a life and he spent his younger years on a cattle ranch in Buffalo Wyoming where he developed a life long love of animals.

After his father passed on, Newlin joined the US Army, he’d just turned seventeen. It took a year of training but soon he was over Europe, a tail gunner in a B-17. New Years Eve, 1943, the squadron took flight. All twenty-eight of the aircraft cleared the trees at the end of the runway, headed to France. Over the Bay of Biscay the squadron was jumped by Germans, in Faulkwolf 109s.

The young Sergeant was seated in his bubble, manning the two machines, while all around him the sky lit red as B-17s explode in flames, while others plowed into the ocean, below. With grim determination and a burning hate burst after burst was unleashed from his guns, they were over France. In less then a moment Happersett took shrapnel wounds to his legs, the bomber had taken a hit. Two engines out and then a third, but still the B-17 flew on, abandoning the mission the pilot turned west, heading for the Channel and England.

But it was not to be. The plane had taken so much damage, the rudder jammed and they crashed into the sea. All twenty-eight planes were lost that day.

As they ditched the plane, the crew scrambled to the doors and threw out their rubber rafts which opened upside down, sending their survival gear to Davy Jone's locker. With no radio or flares, they watched as Allied aircraft streamed steadily across the sky. It was just after midnight when a French fishing boat spotted the raft and took the aircrew aboard. As per SOP the airmen turned their weapons over to the Frenchmen, as the boat made the pier, the exhausted airmen were stunned when they were delivered to the SS in Boudreaux, France.

After being interrogated by men who appeared to be Gestapo, Happersett and fifty-five other US airmen were in a cattle car headed east, to Austria. It was late, well past dark thirty while parked in a rail yard the RAF began raining bombs down upon the depot. It was a heavy pucker factor moment for fifty-six Americans locked in a cattle car.

Newlin “Eric” Happersett spent the next seventeen months in Krems, Austria, where he and four-thousand US and Russian POWs were housed in frighteningly poor conditions. There was, though, an occasional Red Cross package containing that universal barter medium, chocolate. This they traded German guards for radio crystals and built receivers to listen to the BBC. Each barracks of prisoners had it’s radio, hidden from the guards in the walls. Each night, the men would get their war news, great for morale.

In the Spring of ‘45 the guards separated the healthy prisoners and took them out the gates on a forced march into the Austrian Alps. The Germans were pushing hard, 500 miles in sixteen days. The prisoners only hope was to believe their guards, they were headed to the Front, for release. Fear overcame them, when after several days they arrived at Buchenwald. Hungry and exhausted the prisoners pushed on, to stop was to die, as evidenced by the corpses of holocaust victims, stacked fourteen feet high and soaked in creosote. Soon the bodies were out of sight, but the smell of the dead stayed with them as they climbed higher into the mountains.

On the morning of the sixteenth day of the march, the raggedy column stopped, below in a large meadow were Sherman tanks of Patton’s 3rd Army. The Germans had kept their word but salvation was not so easy, as that as Happersett's weight was only 95 lbs. The tankers were out of food & gas, but were willing to share. He found a farm house and barn, in it a tired old mare, swayed back and tired. Then he and two buddies commandeered that horse, as well as a single axle hay wagon and headed west, again.

WWII was over, but Eric Happersett had found a home in the Army, before he knew it he was in Korea, an Infantry Platoon leader, on Heartbreak Ridge. It was there that he witnessed great loss of life by American servicemen. “Those that survived the first two weeks had a good chance of making it home” claimed Happersett, whose favorite past-time was ordering 4.2” mortar bombardments at 0300 to keep the enemy awake. It was during these nightly light shows that he became impressed by some British troops, from Nepal; the Gurkha. Using their heavy curved knives, more like machetes, these men liked to do their work, up close & personal. They’d cross over no-mans land, behind enemy lines at night, on foot, where they would behead North Koreans. Happersett thought it odd, they’d bring the heads home, each night, in burlap bags, like they’d been out trophy hunting.

It was 1958 when Newlin “Eric” Happersett was selected for the first group of Special Forces candidates. Already a hardened vet of two war, Eric was the oldest man in the Group, at 36. He was 5’7’ of bone & sinew, could run seventeen miles and survive on grass & grubs. At first Happersett faced mild mocking from his younger classmates, men who thought him “to old”, as the training got tougher the “old man” turned it up, the only candidate with serious combat experience, he overcame obstacles to win the admiration of the others that made the grade.

Colonel Happersett was one of the first US Advisors set to Vietnam. He quickly came to realize just how difficult and dangerous the mission there would become. This battle hardened vet was going to be given huge responsibilities in the coming war against the Communists. It was 1965 when the Colonel went to Korea, a ROK Army Battalion was heading to ’Nam and the US Army was going to prepare those troops for combat. The Colonel deployed with the Koreans and would often go on patrol with them.

As a Special Forces officer he served three tours in Vietnam where he served as Senior Province Advisor & Commanding Officer Special Forces, Vietnam.

The one-time orphan used language skills learned at the Presidio at Monterey in Burmese, Vietnamese and French to lead many missions. The Colonel and his Teams went out nightly, to seek and destroy the VC or NVA. His successful leadership of many high-risk mission lead to his being assigned to his Laos Command, where he was directed by the State Department and advised the CIA Station Chief in Laos. For seventeen months the Colonel was involved in classified missions, while riding with Air America all over Laos. He shepherded Air America shipments of supplies, arms and cash to Green Beret teams across the country. His work in Laos was highly dangerous and still classified. Commanding a clandestine war effort the Colonel stayed one step ahead of the Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese who had place a cash bounty on his head, they wanted him, dead.

His Teams, working as State Department operatives trained Laotian troops, they struck hard blows against the communists. It was not enough, though and over time the communists overtook Laos. The Colonel stayed to the end, evacuating with his last Team, under fire, in a C46 Air America special, full of women and children they rescued at the fall of Namta.

Back in Nam the Colonel was ordered to head a select team of operatives in what was code named the Phoenix Project. He and his men eliminated double agents, North Vietnamese officials and other targets by selected assassination, Working directly under Central Command, Colonel Happersett took his men out on high risk operations, well beyond the confines of regular infantry or even Special Forces A Teams.

During one of his early tours the Colonel was tasked with defending a mountaintop, Nui Ba Den, situated in a dense banana forest the Colonel and his men faced real danger and possible death. They were surrounded by companies of Viet Cong regulars, his ST Team and their South Vietnamese troopers were perched precariously on the high ground. The South Vietnamese had killed a , by throwing him down the water well. Now without potable water inside the wire his men had to sneak outside the perimeter to collect it.

The Colonel felt like Davy Crockett at the Alamo, cut off, with the only water outside the walls. As the VC tightened the noose the Americans dug in, ever deeper. The Viet Cong were crawling ever closer, all around the shrinking defensive lines. The Colonel realized the Camp was about to be overrun. In the final moments the thumping of Hueys reverberated across the valley. Air support had arrived, ordering air strikes “Danger Close”. The mountain shook like a volcano, hot metal and shrapnel from the gun ships coming within yards of his troops. The heavy fire from the air saved the day at Nui Ba Den as the VC assault was broken and their forces killed or scattered.

Once, while commanding two Teams of Special Forces the Colonel went upriver, almost to Cambodia to blow up some communists sampans. By this time the Colonel had spent years in the jungles of Southeast Asia. He and his men felt invincible, almost bullet proof, and took ever greater risks while out on missions. The targeted sampans were near a small village, with huts up and down the river, after the explosions the river banks seemed to come alive. Enemy fired raked the Americans’ boats, tracers red and green filled the air. The Americans were returning fire, but it wasn’t enough, the Colonels boat, riddled with holes, was taking on water. Shot in the leg, the Colonel called for support and out of the firefight, a second boat with a South Vietnamese crew helped turn the tide and together they fought their way, down river to safety.

After recovering from his wounds Colonel Happersett was sent to Okinawa to command a Special Forces Detachment, there. In 1970 Colonel Newlin “Eric” Happersett retired from the US Army. Colonel Happersett had been awarded two Legion of Merit, two Bronze Stars, three South Vietnamese Crosses for Gallantry and an unspecified number of Purple Hearts.

Settling in Phoenix the Colonel was recruited by the Maricopa County Sheriffs Department to develop the County’s first SWAT Team.


  1. If guns are outlawed, only us outlaws will have them?

  2. "You can't go into a Seven Eleven or a Dunkin Donuts without an Indian accent,"
    - slo Joe Biden

  3. Guns don't kill people, it's those pesky little bullets!

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. He's a truly dangerous man, rufus.
    Pleasant, polite and courtious, generous to a fault and a stone cold killer.

    My Fist Sergeant in Panama had told me he'd been up on the Plain of Jars, back in the day. So I mention this to the Colonel one afternoon, he says "What was his name?" Magnaleno said I.
    "Maggie? Why he was up there with "Guerilla" Pete, hell of a demo man" replies the Colonel.

    When you're at his place, hard bodied men show up, last year some in uniform stopped to talk and seek advise, others in street clothes to just to meet him and pay their respects.

    When he ran the Sheriff SWAT Team he had the Scottsdale PD scared to death. The SWAT Team would pull up in trucks, then storm the front door, guns ablazin', flash bangs a poppin'. He wasn't much for negotiating a reconciliation.

  6. She does have a way with words...

  7. She does have a way with words...

    Actually, the overuse of that word is a sign that you do not have a way with words. What we have here is the Lady and the Tramp, without the Lady part.

  8. Oh, Ms T, it seemed so obvious to me, that her eloquence knew no bounds or bonds, when I read this quote from Ms Clinton:

    "You know, I'm going to start thanking the woman who cleans the restroom in the building I work in. I'm going to start thinking of her as a human being"

    It struck my soul, her way with words to describe that epiphany, of her new found respect for the "little people" in her life, she knows now, of course, that they are humans, too.

  9. DR, her new-found respect for the little people probably went something like this little scene on the Simpsons:

    Mayor Quimby
    : You're just a bunch of low-income nobodies! Who are you to demand anything?

    (Quietly) Election in November. Election in November.

    Mayor Quimby:
    What? Again? This stupid country.

  10. I can understand Rudy's position on using the gun control laws available to him as Mayor.

    To not have utilized the law would have been more empowering to the criminals, on balance. Self imposed RoE that would have led to innocent loss of life.

    Gun control is a State issue. Arguably to be regulated at the State level. So if the State of New York regulates firearms it is well within its' Constitutionally provide Rights.

    'A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State

    The security of the free State may require that firearms be regulated or the unregulated militias could become a threat to the freedoms guarenteed by the State.

    The second half of the verbage
    the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
    limits the powers of the Federal authority. Not prohibition of the States regulation of militias.

  11. In AZ the regulation is described this way, in our State Constitution:
    Arizona Constitution, in article II, section 26

    The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself or the State shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain, or employ an armed body of men.

  12. That guy's full of shit, Rufus:
    Brewers and Winemakers have selected yeasts for floculation and sedimentation for centuries.

    I guess the should have advertised that they used genetically modified yeasts...
    ...except people back then had enough common sense that they would have called them on their Bs.

    I'll believe in the magical alcohol that behaves differently in solution than "normal alcohol" when I see it!

  13. Happersetts kick ass forever
    Much respect for the Colonel