Captain “Rusty” Wallace
Researched and written by DC
Captain, Infantry. Commanding Officer, B (“Bravo”) Company, 3/44th Infantry Regiment, 196th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division. Firebase Ladybird, I Corps.
He is from Waterloo, Iowa.
Age: Late 20s, possibly 30.
Physical attributes: Rusty is a tall, lean man, approximately 6’4″, handsome and well built with reddish blonde hair and blue eyes.
- Firebase Ladybird, I Corps (Late summer 1967 until he was killed in action December 9th, 1967)
- Army, enlisted, 1960-61.
- College ROTC (to pay for his tuition) 1962-1965
- Stateside, 1 year, 2nd LT. Infantry officer (1965-1966)
- Korea, 1 year, 1st LT. Infantry officer (1966-1967) (Promoted to Captain- 1967, assigned to Vietnam)
Awards and Decorations:
- Silver Star
- Bronze Star
- Purple Heart- received for a wound sustained not long after he came to Vietnam. Received again (posthumously) after he was killed on December 9th, 1967.
- National Defence Service Medal
- Vietnam Campaign Medal
- Vietnam Service Medal
- Combat Infantry Badge
We meet Captain “Rusty” Wallace in the pilot episode, when during the night Firebase Ladybird is nearly overrun by the NVA. The next day he sends Sgt. Anderson into Chu-lai to report what has happened, and to also bring back new recruits to replace those men killed in the attack. He appears in a limited role in the first twelve episodes before the character is killed in action in the episode “Pushin’ Too Hard”.
He smokes a pipe.
He is married with a family (although his wife is apparently leaving him at the time of his death).
He mentions he was wounded sometime earlier while in Vietnam.
His father played baseball, he chose to play football instead.
He would be killed in action on December 9th, 1967.
Rusty is a quiet and perceptive man, with a gentle sense of humor. He has an almost indulgent manner about him when it comes to the men of his command, and lets Anderson handle most matters.
When Lt. Goldman arrives and reports to him, there is little about the young man that misses the captain’s attention. He tactfully mentions Myron’s father, a hero from WWII, watching and weighing the reactions of the younger man.
Rusty relies on and trusts Sgt. Anderson, and knows Zeke has what it will take to bring Myron around and make him into a good officer. Goldman is fresh from the States, and doesn’t trust easily. On top of that, Myron has a temper- all of which Wallace recognizes. He knows that Anderson has the patience to win the young man’s trust and to show him how to survive. The two men make a lively confrontation and match that even Wallace has to sit back and watch with quiet amusement.
There are times, though, when Wallace is clearly pressed. He enjoys Anderson’s blunt honesty, but recognizes that Zeke doesn’t always express it at the right moments. Ladybird is also undermanned, and often under attack. And on a more personal note, his marriage appears to have failed, as he is carrying a “Dear John” letter from his wife.
For the most part, we only get glimpses of Rusty throughout the first twelve episodes. In the final episode this character appears in, it is much clearer just how pressed this man was when the brass order that he show a lady reporter (Vicky Adams) around Ladybird and allow her to accompany them on a patrol. Possibly trying too hard to impress someone, he ends up completely at odds with Goldman and Anderson. Eventually things would go from bad to worse when the platoon is pinned down and Rusty realizes that he has gone too far. Almost as if knowing he will not come out of the situation alive, he asks Anderson to forgive him. But as he retreats, he is killed, leaving Goldman now in command.
Captain Wallace is the first “regular” character killed in the series.
Points of interest by episode (not an episode synopsis):
Pilot Episode: First appearance. After the base is nearly overrun, Wallace talks with Anderson about the dead NVA they are looking over, and about how close they came to losing the base. Wallace orders Anderson to Chu-lai, and tells Zeke to bring back new men. Later, he greets and quickly assesses Lt. Myron Goldman. He informs Myron he will be going out on an operation first thing tomorrow, and that Anderson is his platoon sergeant. He gives Myron the advice that he should trust his sergeant and then dismisses him. The next day he advises Goldman’s men of the operation. After Goldman’s platoon locates and destroys the NVA encampment they were looking for, he is pleased with the way Anderson and Goldman had worked together.
Notes From the Underground (Ep #2): Speaks with Anderson and Goldman about what went wrong when Myron’s men almost kill Second Squad. Agrees with Anderson that they should check out a nearby ville to see what it holds. Later gives Goldman a can of gas to toss down into the tunnel entrance that is located. Watches the encounter between Goldman and Anderson, then bemusedly regards Goldman as the younger man storms by him and starts to climb into the tunnels. After Goldman and Anderson get out, he orders the platoon to leave the village, stating the colonel could climb down there himself and check it out but he wasn’t sending anyone else down.
Dislocations (Ep #3): Isn’t exactly thrilled with Anderson’s sarcasm to Major Rigby in reference to Dep and relocating the village of Ben Duc.
The War Lover (Ep #4): Discusses an operation to blow a bridge with visiting Sergeant Earl Ray Michaels and Goldman. Has to rein in Anderson and his temper when Zeke’s anger with Michaels gets the best of him.
Sitting Ducks (Ep #5): Does not appear in this episode.
Burn, Baby, Burn (Ep #6): Tells Goldman and Anderson they need to get a handle on the men and the racial tensions that were starting to surface. Refuses to transfer Innis and Tucker out, telling Goldman they could get worse. He is regretful later when he informs Johnson that things were out of his hands concerning the investigation of Innis’s death.
Brothers, Fathers and Sons (Ep #7): Briefly appears with Goldman to discuss the search efforts for a downed Huey with Anderson, Johnson and Baker aboard.
The Good, The Bad and The Dead (Ep #8): Does not appear in this episode.
Battling Baker Brothers (Ep #9): Anderson and Goldman convince Wallace to hold off listing Scott Baker as AWOL, and to let them go out and look for him the next day. He is annoyed, saying the last thing he wants to do is write their mother and tell her that one son was dead and the other is MIA. Frustrated, he snaps that he doesn’t understand why the Army would let both brothers come to Vietnam in the first place, and then finally agrees to let Goldman and Anderson go looking for them. As Anderson leaves, he tells Wallace he’d do the same if it were his brother. Wallace pauses, frustrated, and says aloud to himself that he doesn’t have a brother.
Nowhere to Run (Ep #10): Clearly annoyed and probably exhausted from the attack from the previous night, he snaps at Goldman to get the body count right this time. And that Goldman’s platoon was still going to secure the bridges.
Roadrunner (Ep #11): Does not appear in this episode.
Pushin’ Too Hard (Ep #12): After watching a flamethrower demonstration, Rusty informs Goldman and Anderson that a reporter was coming to visit the firebase. And that they were going to look really good on TV. He decides to name the mission Operation Vicky. Before they leave on the mission, Wallace is seen reading a letter, which he then quietly burns. Wallace goes out on the patrol with Goldman’s platoon. Tells Vicky about a boy from Kentucky who had his legs blown off by a mine. Gets into it repeatedly with Goldman and Anderson as he makes bad judgement calls on how the mission should go. He tells them that they are under orders to make good P.R. Instead of extracting a prisoner they capture, Wallace decides to keep the NVA with them as they continue the patrol. The prisoner would later escape, and after Anderson destroys the cameraman’s film, Wallace becomes furious and dresses down Anderson in front of the entire platoon. Later, after finding what appears to be a bunker, Wallace leads Anderson and Third Squad along with Vicky and her cameraman up the side of the hill and in closer. Things go badly, though, when Wallace steps on punji sticks and the squad is ambushed. They are then pinned down and Wallace realizes what a mess he has made of everything. He tries to explain to Anderson, wanting to make things right. But it would be too late for him. As he tries to retreat down the hill, he is shot several times and dies.