More detail on this person: One Of A&M's Most
Decorated Graduates, He Never Talked About It
Robert Livingston "Bob" Acklen '63 was a "frog," a mid-term freshman in Company A-2 of Texas A&M's Corps of Cadets in January of 1960. He'd already spent a year and a half as an Army enlisted man, so the military lifestyle was nothing new to him. In fact his proficiency in close order drill gained him the coveted post of unit guidon bearer the next fall.
A quiet individual, he never talked much about himself. In fact, until shortly before he died of a brain tumor on New Year's Eve, Bob had never even told his family he was a war hero and had received numerous awards as a helicopter pilot and infantry commander in Vietnam.
Bob laid out of school for several years before returning to complete a degree in history in 1967. He was commissioned a U.S. Army 2nd Lieutenant upon graduation. Just over a year later he was in Vietnam. Except for a brief stint on staff and 10 months as an infantry company commander, he piloted helicopters with the 1st Aviation Brigade and the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile) until he was shot down near Cheo Reo on May 8, 1971.
He received one of his Bronze Stars for valor when he grabbed a satchel bomb tossed near his helicopter and threw it back at the enemy in January of 1969. In May of 1970, he earned a Silver Star for leading a ground assault on an enemy village in Cambodia. In November of that year, he earned an Air Medal for maneuvering his helicopter between an evacuation chopper and enemy positions so other aircraft could rescue a ranger team. A Distinguished Flying Cross was awarded him when, in February of 1971, he provided covering fire to extract a reconnaissance team being attacked at night in adverse weather.
Told he would never walk again after his helicopter crashed, he spent almost two years rehabilitating a back injury. He then completed requirements for a business degree at the University of Texas and returned to active duty, earning a Ranger Tab and completing paratrooper training before being assigned to a one-year tour in Korea.
Acklen received more than 60 awards and badges including the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, six Bronze Stars, 40 Air Medals, four Army Commendation Medals, and a Purple Heart. Fourteen of the awards were for valor. He also was presented nine decorations from the Republic of Vietnam, including three for valor.
He retired as a captain in 1978 with a 70 percent disability because of his combat injuries and earned a computer science degree at North Texas State University in 1989. He taught computer science at the University of North Texas and wrote software programs for private companies. He also produced a newsletter for the 101st Airborne Division.
From 1994 to 1996 he traveled at his own expense to analyze computer needs for an Israeli eye hospital sponsored by the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. In December he was honored for his humanitarian work by The Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus and was in the process of being nominated to become the only American ever presented the Special Gold Medal of the Royal House of Savoy at the time of his death.
Acklen was survived by his father, Robert L. Acklen, Sr. of Dallas, two sisters and a brother.
c 1998 The Association of Former Students, Texas A&M University All rights reserved.
Bonze Stars, 40 Air Medals, four ACMs and a Purple Heart. Fourteen of the decorations were for valor. He once jumped from his helicopter, picked up a satchel charge and threw it back at the enemy.
This information was last updated 05/18/2016
Please send additions or corrections to: HQ@vhpa.org VHPA Headquarters
Return to the Helicopter Pilot DAT name list
Return to VHPA web site
Date posted on this site: 07/05/2021
Copyright © 1998 - 2020 Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association