Michael Finlay Field
Major, United States Army
Courtesy of his classmates, United States Military Academy
Michael Finlay Field, Cullum No. 23247. Died 16 October 1967 in Vietnam, aged 30 years. Interment: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.
Michael Finlay Field was born into the United States Army on 7 August 1937 at St. Joseph, Missouri. Mike was raised in the Cavalry as Mike’s dad received numerous troop assignments throughout the continental United States.. Mike’s grade school list looked like that of most other “Army brats” – long. His dad was stationed with the 10th Cavalry, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the 4th Cavalry, Fort Meade, South Dakota, the United States Cavalry School, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and the 8th Cavalry, then stationed in Japan.
Normally it is customary that “Army brats” received experience from their varied trips that carry them around the world following the footsteps of their fathers, but Michael Field was an exception – an exception because what Mike learned was something that very few men in the United States can master and become known in international competition. Mike learned to become an expert horseman. Ever since Mike could gain his own equilibrium and firmly grip a pair of reins, he was in the saddle. He became a protégé of Colonel Kito and General USA of the old Japanese Court. These distinguished equestrians were two of Japan’s finest and internationally known through competition. These gentlemen were highly respected for their competitive horsemanship. The very fact that Mike was able to study, to be accepted as a pupil, and to be specially coached under these men was a tribute to the ability Mike displayed at that early age.
Mike entered competitive jumping in Japan and before long won practically every jumper class competition held in Tokyo. At this time Mike was competing against grown men, and his winning performances delighted his coaches and his dad who spent many long hours helping to train Mike. Mike soon became a master of horses, and in 1950 he won the Olympic open jumping trials against the finest riders in all Japan.
When Mike’s family returned to the United States, his dad was assigned to the Command and General Staff School faculty, and Mike then entered his first year of High School at Immaculata in Leavenworth. Mike then demonstrated another athletic ability by making the varsity football team as a 155-pound guard. This was Mike, not the biggest man but cool, calm, and fearless; able to use his head when others resort to brawn alone. Others recognized Mike’s ability as an athlete, but more so as a young man and contemporary with a promising future. They elected him president of his high school class.
During his two-year tenure at Immaculata, Mike bought and trained his own horse. “Autocrat” was an 11-year-old and Mike was the talk of the hunt club as other more experienced equestrians tried to talk Mike out of wasting his time and efforts on such an old horse. Mike always had a way with animals, and he worked himself and his horse to a fine peak. They were a synchronized team, and they competed against all of the finest riders in the midwest. Mike and “Autocrat” soon had another wall of ribbons (mostly blue) which filled the wall opposite the one which was filled previously in Japan.
In 1953, Mike spent the entire summer with the United States Equestrian Team at Rimrock Farms in Kansas. Again, in 1954 Mike joined the USET team in Nashville, Tennessee, and competed against the finest riders in the United States. Many of these people were the same ones who advised Mike to give up on “Autocrat.” Mike Field won the Pan American three-day event on “Autocrat” and in so doing was invited to represent the United States of America on the United States Olympic Team to compete in Mexico City that same year. Mike could not accept the invitation because of school which he realized was important. Mike’s one true ambition was to go to West Point, and to achieve this gal he knew that he had to continue on in high school without the break which participation in the Olympics would have given him.
Mike Field realized his dream to become a cadet and joined the Class of 1960 on 3 July 1956. Mike had to forgo competitive riding when he entered the Military Academy; however, he soon found himself a home by becoming a mule rider. Again, Mike excelled as a rider and as a leader. Mike was chosen Captain of the mule riders his First Class year. Mike’s ability to lead and to create lasting friendships blossomed during his cadet years and he found friends among classmates, upper and lower classmen. Mike was admired and respected by all because he was a man’s man and a true leader. This ability fully matured when Mike commanded troops since he was a highly successful commander.
After graduation Mike elected the 101st Airborne Division for his first assignment. After his successful completion of Airborne and Ranger School and graduation from OBC at Fort Benning, Mike joined the 1st Airborne Battle Group, 506th Infantry, Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Mike served there for two years as a platoon leader and then was selected personally by the battle group commander to command the Reconnaissance Platoon, a highly selective position reserved for the best platoon leader in the group.
Mike then went on to become the Assistant S2 and later became the S2 as a first lieutenant. Mike was an outstanding commander and seemed to accomplish difficult tasks with ease. There was no doubt that Mike had a way with his men that instilled a desire in them to go all the way with their young commander. Mike was the type of soldier who stood out from others. Many officers took notes and filed them in the back of their heads as they watched Mike work. He was that good.
Mike must have been filled at birth with an insatiable desire to try everything exciting like had to offer as he caught the skydiving bug at Fort Campbell and was a familiar sight on the drop zone every weekend. The only time I can remember Mike’s being caught in a flagrant misjudgment was Armed Forces Day, 1962. Mike jumped from a Beaver and was caught in some strong winds which were prevalent at Yamoto DZ and always seemed to prevail after troopers had made their exit. Mike made a perfect standup landing with one leg in half of a beer keg filled with mustard and located to the rear of the hot dog stand which was vending to the mobs of awed spectators whose attention had been captured by the wayward skydiver.
Mike achieved a D license in skydiving and amassed several hundred free falls. Most likely it was here that Mike developed his love for the sky as he filed his request to attend flight school. Mike’s application was accepted, and he departed the 101st and reported to Fort Rucker, Alabama, graduating from flight school and receiving his aviator’s wings in fixed wing aircraft.
Soon after, Mike was ordered to Vietnam and piloted L-19’s, helping many an advisor out of tough scrapes. In his L-19 Mike assisted units on the ground and outposts by directing air strikes, adjusting artillery, conducting low level visual reconnaissance missions, and dropping and adjusting flares at night. During his first tour in Vietnam Mike demonstrated his ability as a pilot and as a soldier. Tim Schatzman, a classmate, will never forget Mike the night his unit was under heavy attack. For hours Mike flew above Tim helping adjust the flares, relaying important messages, and directing support for Tim’s Vietnamese unit. For his actions during his first tour in Vietnam, Mike was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star Medal, the Air Medal with 25 oak leaf clusters, the Purple Heart and Commendation Medal.
When Mike returned to the States he decided to take the big step and get married. On 13 April 1965, Mike took the hand of the lovely Patricia Jones in marriage. Pat was a Navy Junior whom Mike had known throughout high school years. Mike and Pat then went to Fort Wolters, Texas, to attend helicopter school and become dual rated. After that, Mike, Patty, and a new addition, Megan moved to Fort Benning, Georgia where Mike was to attend the Infantry Officers Advanced Course. After graduation from the Advanced Course, Mike was assigned to Benning as an instructor in the Company Tactics Department.
As soon as Mike settled the house, he went to the stables at Fort Benning to arrange to purchase a horse. No wife of Mike could go through life with her not being able to ride. This was wonderful for Pat, as she could spend hours with Mike at the sport he loved the most, and they could introduce Megan to the Hunt Club at an early age. Mike became quite active in the Hunt Club and as an accredited judge he was called upon to officiate numerous shows at Fort Benning and throughout George and Alabama.
Mike, in addition to being a licensed skydiver and pilot, was an avid gun enthusiast. He had a fine collection of guns and was a fine skeet shooter. He also had another love and that was sports cars. Having owned several MG’s and Triumphs, Mike had to order a station wagon when he acquired his family. Settled at Benning, he then got another TR and joined the sports car club there. When the weather was not fit for riding, Patty assumed the role as navigator, and they were off together to a rally. It was a common sight at Fort Benning to the other occupants of Custer Terrance to see the Field family moving out for the weekend with a sports car filled with Pat, Megan, and their little dog Adam, pulling a horse trailer and seeking excitement somewhere in the area.
After a year at Benning as an instructor, Mike received orders assigning him to Headquarters Troop, 19th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam. Mike left Benning in December and in early January departed for Vietnam while Patty, pregnant again, joined her parents, Rear Admiral and Mrs. C.B. Jones in Guam. This was fortunate for Mike for he was able to go on leave and R and R in Guam to see Pat and the family. It was in Guam in September that Michael Jr. was born. Mike saw his young son in early October and returned to Vietnam to finish the last few months as a staff officer.
On 16 October 1967, God decided that “He” needed Mike with “Him.” It was on this day that Mike’s jeep was destroyed by a command-detonated mine. God took one of our best soldiers with “Him” for a purpose that only “He” knows. With this in mind it helps to ease our sorrow in losing such a fine soldier destined for a fine future, a good Christian, a devoted husband and proud father, and beloved friend.
General Omar Bradley once said: “To live by beliefs that give freedom, justice and dignity to all – we must sometimes be prepared to defend those beliefs with our lives.”
Mike’s many decorations include: the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters, the Bronze Star, the Air Medal with 39 oak leaf clusters, the Army Commendation Medal, the Purple Heart with three oak leaf clusters. From the grateful government of the Republic of Vietnam, Mike received two Gallantry Crosses with Silver Stars. Mike was also awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge, Army Aviators Wings and Senior Paratrooper Wings. A grateful nation promoted Mike to the rank of Major and in so doing, to the best of my knowledge, promoted the first Major in the Class of 1960.
Mike is survived by his wife Patricia, his daughter Megan, his son Michael Jr., his mother and father, Colonel and Mrs. Eugene Field (Ret.) and his sister Patricia.
Sleep peacefully Michael, for in your short lifetime you accomplished more than most could do in their entire lives. The world is better from having known you Mike, and your sacrifice and the sacrifice of your family will help millions to become free. Farewell for now dear friend, “Be thou at peace.”
FIELD, MICHAEL F
Posted: 15 January 2001 Updated: 22 November 2001 Updated: 5 March 2003 Updated: 1 October 2004 Updated: 17 December 2005