Viet Cong attack on the U. S. Embassy

Article Gregg Hall | Photography Janie Jones


Wilburn “Bud” Meador was born in 1946  into a hard working farming family who hailed from rural north central Tennessee. It was from those roots that Bud would learn many of the traits that helped shape him into the man he is today.

At the outset of World War II, Bud’s dad took a job in Charleston, South Carolina, where he rendered service in the war industry of ship building and repair.  In Bud’s own words, his parents, like many citizens in that era’s farming world, were not formally educated to a high level; bucking hay, planting and harvesting crops took precedence over Math and Science. And, yet, although Bud’s mother and father only completed the 8th grade,  they possessed abundant native intelligence, were very bright, modeling for him a work ethic that set the standard for his own life.

May 24, 1965, was graduation day at Scottsdale High School, Scottsdale, Arizona, Bud’s new home; Bud enlisted in the Marines that very day.  He had known virtually his whole life that he wanted to serve his county and do so in the Marines.  He hails from a long line of relatives dating back to the American civil War who also served, and Bud said, “My family was very patriotic. It was almost expected by my parents that I would serve our country, and it was something I gladly chose to do. While growing up, my friends and I would often play Cowboys and Indians, but when I would join them, I would always play the part of a Marine.”

In his first four years of active service, Bud served twenty-four months in Vietnam.  To be more precise, Bud said, “I spent twenty-four months, twelve days, two hours, and five minutes in Vietnam.”  While there, he spent his first twelve months as a Watch Stander in the U.S. diplomatic community where he and his fellow Marines protected classified material, and U.S. lives and property.  It was in this portion of his tour of duty that a significant moment in the war’s history occurred:  the Viet Cong attack on the U. S. Embassy during the Tet Offensive at 2:50 a.m., January 31, 1968.  He points out that the Embassy chancery was never penetrated by the Viet Cong, and 19 of the known 20 attackers were killed in the fight with the remaining Viet Cong survivor taken captive.   Five Americans were lost in that fight, and more than a score wounded.   Bud soberly accepts that the U.S. tactical victory was offset by the Viet Cong’s strategic success, particularly as it was presented to the American public by the media.
Moreover, although the size and scale of the attack was insignificant, its political ramifications were huge.  The international headlines around the world incorrectly stated that the United States Embassy in Saigon had been seized.  This was an enormous political success for the enemy, and proved to be a major consideration in President Lyndon B. Johnson’s decision to leave the presidency at the end of his term.

Bud speaks of how his training during boot camp prepared him and his fellow Marines to handle the events of that day.  The Marines, seemingly intuitively, knew how to maneuver, how to cover themselves, how to fight and how to defend.  In many ways, he knows he is sitting here today enjoying his life as a result of all he learned during those dog days of boot camp.  His unit was never more tightly knit than at the end of that experience.

Although the country was deeply divided about the Vietnam War, Bud says within his unit there was no division of which he was aware.  They were unified and focused on their mission.  They were voluntarily serving in the military, because they loved the United States and were willing to give their lives to protect her freedom.  He and his fellows were keenly aware of the protests occurring in the states and recognized the right to protest.  But, even though the current fight was in Viet Nam, they were aware that the larger fight was against expansionist communism directed, aided and abetted, by Moscow.  That being said, they understood the battle was much bigger than many realized, or could articulate..

Bud retired from active service as a Lieutenant Colonel after serving for over twenty-six years.  He lives with his wife, Jane, and he teaches at Fort Leavenworth at the Command and General Staff College, where he says he has the privilege to teach and influence some very good and sharp, young minds.  He says if he could only impart a few things to future students it would be this: 1.  Know your stuff.  2.  Be ethically sound, because every morning it is only yourself you will see in the mirror.  3.  Take care of yourself.  If you can’t take care of number one, you can’t take care of others.

These are characteristic Bud Meador strives to live up to in his own life, and they have been a guiding force for him for many years.  It is because of men like Bud that I get to sit here and sip my iced tea while writing this article, and the time he has given to serve you and me is why I, along with many others, consider him to be a true “Hometown Hero”.