Crawford Henry Traver
His friends called him "Butch". We grew to be close friends after graduation from Clio High School. Butch was in the class behind mine, in 1968.
Butch and I were quite close, we wrote back and forth to each other before every leave so we could hang out together back home. He was in the Army Airborne, I was in the Navy Seabees. We both went to Vietnam only three weeks apart, I in October 1970 and he in November. That last leave we were able to spend 2 weeks together before I flew out to join my Battalion for the trip to Vietnam in a C-141, via Anchorage and Yokasuka Japan. I went to Danang on a detachment and he went to Phu Bai (after the 90th Replacement Unit in Saigon) at Camp Eagle, quite a bit north of me.
Our last night together on leave was quite significant, in fact, I don't think I ever told his mom or dad, Ben and Betty that Butch had what we called in the service "The Feeling". In other words, he knew he was going to die in Vietnam.
That last night we were at the Montrose Bowling Alley at the bar knocking back a lot of mixed drinks and just talking and playing "Green-Eyed Lady" on the jukebox.
Late in the evening he began to get quiet in thought. Finally he looked at me real serious and told me he knew he was going to die in Vietnam. I poo-pooed what he said and told him it was just the drink talking. But he was very serious and I could tell I'd sort of hurt his feelings with my outburst. But he just quietly told me, "Yes, I've felt this way a long time."
We changed the subject and later ended the evening happy on all the drinks. But I couldn't shake what he had said--it wasn't like him to dream up stuff like that.
The next day he, his mom and dad, my dad, mom and step mother were there at Flint's Bishop airport to see me off on my return to Gulfport to join my Battalion. My memory of what was said is pretty much gone with time, but I do remember that his statement of the night before was on my mind. No doubt I wished him well and told him to write so we could see if we could somehow meet up "in-country".
My work in Danang came to an end in January 1971 when our detachment, Detail Yankee, closed Danang for any remaining Seabees and we were sent south to open a new detachment near Ham Tan, straight east of Saigon on the coast.
On the morning of April 6th,1971, my Detail Kilo OIC, Ensign Spoor, came to the laterite pit we had dug in the jungle and signaled me to shut down the front end loader. He shouted for me to come up to the rim of the pit, sat me on a log, and told me I had to go back to MCB 74's main camp at Bien Hoa, because I was to receive orders to immediately go back to THE WORLD as special escort for the remains of Crawford Traver, as he said it. He knew that he was talking to me about my home town best friend so the ensign was very diplomatic about tenderly breaking the news. I was just numb. The emotions wouldn't come till several days later: and even then it was private.
After much difficulty trying to get me from the bush back to Bien Hoa, I finally boarded the freedom flight at the Bien Hoa Airbase for the 13 or 14 hour flight to Travis Air Force Base near San Francisco, the Army Mortuary, where I would join Butch's body for the flight back to Flint.
After going through the brief class teaching me and 3 or 4 others about what to do and say at the funeral home and at the gravesite, I was given a motor pool driver with a military staff car and sent in to San Francisco to, of all things, put together a class A uniform with ribbons at various Army-Navy surplus stores. Is that wild or what?!! All the military there in the Bay area, and they had to do that because it would be too slow to go through channels. So they gave me some cash and a driver and told us to hurry up!
I had left Vietnam so quickly that I only had several sets of worn-out greens: I even had to buy white teeshirts--everything I had was green!
After the uniform parts were gathered from everywhere they had the base drycleaners make all the new uniforms look crisp, pinned on my eight ribbons, and drove me to the airport after dark that night because Butch was on a United Airlines Freight Liner and I had a jump seat in the cockpit for the first leg to Chicago.
I want to say that even now, over 33 years later, that probably was the most honorable duty I ever had was to escort my friend back to a hero's burial at Flint Memorial Park on April 10th, 1971, nearly two weeks after he was KIA somewhere out of Khe Sanh. I know the official Army line says, "Quang Tri" but we later got a letter from one of Butch's friends that they had actually been ambushed on a major ARVN push into Laos, that years later I found out was "Operation Lam San 719" or something like that. Butch's unit was supporting that major offensive, and when the NVA turned the attack into a rout of the ARVNS, Butch was one of the many American casualties in trying to stop the enemy from over running a lot of friendly territory at that time. No doubt many fellow veterans out there know a great deal more about this than I do.
I also wish to thank Ben and Betty for pushing so hard for me to be the escort and getting me out of Vietnam. I found out later that my orders had to originate at the Pentagon because it was unheard of to have a cross-service non-relative escort the remains (I hate that word, don't you?) of a combat death back to the next-of-kin.
Butch received a Heros' funeral. It was the biggest funeral procession I have ever seen, and in these many years since I have seen, and been in, a few large ones.
Finally to my good friend Butch: you have never been forgotten or "laid aside" in my thoughts. My wife of 32 years never knew you - but yet she knows you - because I have told her all about you. I have grown apart from your folks who are still alive and our other close friend Mike St John (life does that - makes folks grow apart sometimes; nobody is mad at anybody - just happens), who as an Army guy at the time could have been a more convenient escort, but I have never grown apart from your memory as a loyal and good friend who was swallowed up in war.
If anyone out there once knew Crawford H. Traver in Vietnam or the states, I'd like to talk to him. They say it isn't wise to do this, but my phone number is 810-715-1916 and the email address I've had for 3 years so far is
A Note from The Virtual WallE Company, 3/187th Infantry, lost two men on 29 March 1971 - SGT Crawford H. Traver and SGT Russell L. Clay of Los Angeles, California.
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