Roland Charles LabonteCaptain
HHB, 3RD BN, 197TH ARTY RGT, 2 FIELD FORCE
Army of the United States
28 July 1935 - 19 April 1969
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The database page for Roland Charles Labonte
Captain Roland Labonte was my Commanding Officer when I joined B Battery, 3rd Battalion, 197th Artillery in February 1969. Like most of the 197th at that time, Capt. Labonte was a member of the National Guard. Most of the men in the unit were from the Nashua, NH/Lowell, MA area. I was among the first regular Army personnel to join B battery as part of an infusion program, the goal of which was to gradually replace Guardsmen, whose obligations had been completed, with regular Army soldiers so that, over time, the unit would become regular Army. That happened in the Fall of 1969, when all Guardsmen from the 197th had departed Vietnam. The men of B Battery were consummate professionals and true gentlemen. They knew field artillery inside and out and it was a pleasure to serve with them.
Captain Labonte set the standard for B Battery and, although I knew him for only a short time, I repected him. Early in my days with the 197th, it became part of the famed "Jungle Battery." This unique unit came into service when the 23rd Artillery Group combined three 155-mm howitzers from B Battery 2nd Battalion, 197th Artillery with three 105-mm howitzers from A Battery 2nd Battalion, 13th Artillery to form D Battery, 2nd Battalion, 13th Artillery, which came to be known as the Jungle Battery. It provided fire support for Special Forces units during most of its existence. Later, after the 197th departed country, the three 155-mm howitzers were provided by B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 12th Artillery.
I remember that Captain Labonte liked to ride around the battery area in his command Jeep. That is what he was doing the day a mortar round exploded near his Jeep and took his life. I lost a Commanding Officer and a First Sergeant during my 14 months in Vietnam and their losses affected me greatly. I am writing this as part of a project to commemorate fallen artillerymen of the Jungle Battery. Captain Labonte served faithfully with the Battery and I, along with other members of the Battery, greatly regret his loss. His memory lives on with those who served with him.
Notes from The Virtual WallThe 3rd Battalion, 197th Artillery, was a New Hampshire National Guard unit activated for deployment to Vietnam. 3/197's men and 155mm howitzers arrived in-country on 20 September 1968 and were assigned to the 23rd Artillery Group under the 2nd Field Force. A year later the National Guardsmen of 3/197 returned home, but their guns, equipment, and "infused" personnel were used to form the 2nd Battalion, 12th Artillery, activated in Vietnam on 13 Sep 1969.
During its year of service, the 197th lost nine men, five of them in a mortar attack on 26 August 1969, only a few days before the unit returned to the United States (03 Sep 1969). One, Sergeant William G. Gray, was Regular Army; one, Captain Labonte, was a reservist activated with the 3/197; and seven were New Hampshire National Guardsmen.
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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Channing Prothro, former CAP Marine
Last updated 08/10/2009