Submitted by Dick Martin
Fragging – “to kill, wound or assault (especially an unpopular or overzealous superior)
with a fragmentation grenade.”
I was in company A3 in the Class of 1970 at West Point. In my company A3, the class that graduated one year before my class, the Class of 1969, was a cadet by the name of Tom Dellwo who was from a small town in Montana. He was a star man, which meant he was ranked at the top of his class and got to wear a gold star on his collar to display his lofty status. It was quite an accomplishment, considering he was competing against all the prep-schoolers from the East. He was totally unaffected by his lofty status, taught Sunday school, and could not have been a finer example of what West Point wanted its cadets to be. I did not know anyone who did not think the highest of Tom. I certainly looked up to him.
The class of 1969 was the last class at West Point to be impacted by the Vietnam War. After Tom graduated, he was shipped out to Bien Hoa Army Base in Vietnam. My class, 1970, spent our summers training for Vietnam and expected that is where we would be headed; but by the time we had graduated, the war had wound down enough to the point that the only members of my class to go to Vietnam were cadets anticipating a military career and wanting to “punch their ticket,” by volunteering for a tour in Vietnam.
In the early hours of March 15, 1971, a disgruntled enlisted man, Private Billy Dean Smith mistakenly thinking his commanding officer was billeting where Lt Dellwo and two other officers were sleeping, lobbed a fragmentation grenade into their sleeping quarters, killing Lt Dellwo, a fellow Lieutenant, and wounding a third. Smith’s commanding officer was believed to be the target; but not knowing the sleeping arrangements of the officers, Smith mistakenly targeted the wrong officers. Earlier in the day, Smith had been heard to threaten his CO for beginning “less than honorable” discharge procedures against him. In addition, Private Smith had the used fragmentation grenade pin in his possession. It should have been an “open and shut case.” Instead, Smith became a “cause celebre” of the Left and got his trial changed to Los Angeles, Smith’s home town, and a place where OJ Simpson had found juries very friendly to Black defendants.
I heard this story years ago and hoped his classmates would have taken care of it by now. I recently read George Lepre’s book, “Fragging,” and have learned, not unexpectedly, Smith has been in jail at least twice since then for “assault with a deadly weapon?” I have not been able to determine his whereabouts now or even if he is alive. My unsuccessful searches seem to suggest that Private Billy Dean Smith is no longer alive. I also learned from Lepre’s book that in describing the events leading up to the trial and expressing opinions about what was going on during the trial, the Left leaning periodicals and individuals, as usual, covered themselves with shame with the gutter language they used. It is hard to see the advantage of using such language among civilized people, but it is hard to understand anything the Left does.
Whether you like it or not, we will all have to live with the knowledge that a person who offered nothing positive to the world now or in the future indiscriminately took the life of an individual; who, by all accounts, would have contributed greatly to others and to society. Instead, Lieutenant Dellwo is gone, and we are left with the Left’s “cause celebre,” Billy Dean Smith, whose contribution to society has been negative and who has spent much of his life behind bars. Thank you, Angela Davis, Bert Lancaster and the rest of the amoral Leftists involved.
The Left would like to see this issue as a product of our involvement in Vietnam. That excuse is lame. All wars have dubious beginnings and disgruntled soldiers. This problem stands by itself as an unnecessary violent act by a disgruntled soldier, set free by a system vulnerable to the acts of the Left.