Military Hall of Fame honors Minden man
Louisiana Military Hall of Fame and Museum inducted 15 service cross recipients at a ceremony in Abbeville recently, including one from Minden. The various branch's service cross awards are second only to the Medal of Honor.
Army Captain Allen Ross Culpepper was awarded the Purple Heart and Distinguished Service Cross posthumously on Aug. 4, 1969 "for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force."
Culpepper was commander of a 105mm howitzer battery at Fire Support Base (FSB) HUSKY located just outside Xuan Loc in Long Khanh Province, Vietnam.
FSB HUSKY came under heavy barrage of rockets, mortars and sappers shortly after midnight on May 18, 1969. Viet Cong ground troops then began to overrun portions of the base. Without regard for his own safety, Culpepper rallied U.S. forces to resist the assault and aide wounded soldiers.
His citation describes the action:
"Without hesitation, Captain Culpepper moved through the battery area to organize his troops. He quickly deployed a reaction force and directed the retaliatory fusillade of his men.
"When one of the howitzer emplacements was struck by rocket-propelled grenade fire wounding the section members, Captain Culpepper immediately proceeded to the damaged gun section to assist in removing the casualties.
"As he left his vehicle and heroically ran through the hostile barrage toward a wounded soldier, he was fatally wounded by enemy fire."
Thirteen other U.S. service men lost their lives that morning.
Allen was born July 21, 1944 in Alabama, to Steve C. and Marjorie Stephens Culpepper. His father was an Army Air Corps instructor pilot at the famous Tuskegee base during World War II.
His family moved to Minden in 1954, taking up residence on Berry Drive. Allen was a paper delivery boy for Minden Press and Herald, which were separate papers at the time.
"First he rode his bicycle," Allen's brother Orville, a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, wrote in an email to the Press-Herald. "Then when he had saved enough money, he bought a motor scooter to deliver the papers."
Allen was known to his friends as generous, encouraging, intelligent, forthright, honest and all-American.
"We met in junior high school," Dr. Robert Benefield, Professor of Psychology and Criminal Justice at East Texas Baptist University in Marshall, said. "I did well in school, and he did well, too, so we got to know each other.
"He was as good a friend as I had. He encouraged me a lot and essentially shared his wealth with me, but mainly he encouraged me to go to college. He was a good guy."
Allen's leadership and creativity blossomed in high school.
"Allen held various offices in the MHS student council, culminating with the office of president his senior year," Orville wrote.
Allen was also selected to Pelican Boys State that year.
While in high school, he was published in the Anthology of High School Poetry and won an American Legion oratory contest.
Upon graduating in 1962, Allen received an appointment to West Point Military Academy from Congressman Joe Waggoner.
According to an article from West Point, he earned the nickname "Panther" due to his love of roaming the halls in search of lively debate.
"The 'Panther' brought vitality and humor to cadet life," the article reads. "Perhaps one of his more notable accomplishments in challenging the austere formality of cadet life (...) was to help coordinate those still unresolved nocturnal raids conducted by the notorious 'Phantom.'"
Three days after graduating West Point in 1966, Allen married his wife Nancy. They then moved to Germany where their daughter Rebecca was born. There, he served with the 1-28 Artillery.
In 1968, Allen was transferred to Viet Nam and served in a battalion staff job with 7th Battalion, 9th Artillery, 54th Artillery Group in Bearcat. Allen then received his first command with C Battery, 7-9 Artillery.
Pfc. Jack L. King was at an adjacent battery to Allen's on the morning of the attack. King's words come from an email to Dr. Thomas Carey of Ruston:
"I was one of the men who volunteered to follow him into battle on 5/18/69. He was a very brave man that night; that he gave the ultimate sacrifice for his fellow men. He will forever be a Hero in my heart. I was by his side to the end," King wrote.
King was awarded the Silver Star, the third highest Army award, for his part in the action that night.
Cpt. Allen Ross Culpepper was survived by his mother, his father who passed away in 1972, his sister Caren, his brother Orville, his wife Nancy and their daughter Rebecca.