Honoring & Remembering: Master Sergeant William R. Barta


Master Sergeant William (Bill) R. Barta was born Jan. 23, 1936, to Sylvester and Lillian Barta at their home in Lesterville during a snowstorm. 

Bill enlisted in June 1954 in Vermillion, at the Clay County Courthouse.  From there, he went to Sioux Falls where he was inducted.

He spent 10 weeks in basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo. Then he was in Combat Engineering School, which lasted about five months when he changed to Supply School at Fort Lee Virginia for another 10 weeks.

During his time of training, Bill married his high school sweetheart, Jeanne Burton, from Meckling.  They were married at the Catholic Base Chapel in October, 1954.

His unit was transferred to Fort Myer, Va., but his duty was at Arlington Hall Station. After doing supply for a while, Bill became a recreation specialist for four years.

In 1958, he was sent to Kagnew Station, Asmara, Ethiopia, as recreation supervisor for four more years.  During this time, he took for his R&R 52 three-day safaris.  While there, some Air Force officers came for R&R. When Bill walked into the bowling alley, Robert Armstrong, a friend from Meckling, was there with that group.

The purpose of the base in Ethiopia was satellite tracking which included Army and Navy.  Their mission was rapid relay tracking provided by the Army Security Agency.  On Bill's second tour of duty in Ethiopia, they couldn't use guns on the safaris because of the unrest. The Ethiopian government forbid them to carry weapons.

Haile Selassie, the emperor of Ethiopia, would come to the base once a year.  While there he would go to the bowling alley.  He always had a milk shake and bowled at least one frame.  Due to some fancy finagling, he always got a strike!  He and his entourages would come in two large cars, stop at the Commissary and buy everything on the shelves.  Nearly 10 years later, the Communists took over the base.

Bill left Ethiopia in 1966 and headed for San Francisco.  He was recreation director at the Letterman Army Hospital until 1968.

Vietnam was his next stop. They arrived in the middle of the TET Offensive. It was a very treacherous situation. They were in a commercial aircraft.  It was flying at 3,500 feet and suddenly dropped to 1,500 feet and in a very short time it was on the ground. While they were landing, there was a fighter jet flying each wing for their protection. While they were exiting the aircraft, their plane was being loaded for immediate take off.  In fact, that plane took off before they arrived at their staging area.  We were at war!

After about four days in the staging area, Bill took a jeep to Saigon. On the way, he realized he was in his first war. While going across the bridge, he and others were caught in the cross fire of ARSN and Viet Cong.  He didn't even have his weapon yet. They got to Saigon and were assigned to the First Logistical Command in Recreation Supply for half the portion of South Vietnam.

There he helped manage all the USO Shows, transportation and hotel reservations. He would fly to all the New Division Areas and lay out the area that recreation needed and the engineers would go from there. 

From Vietnam, Bill flew to Oakland Army Base in 1969. He spent five years supervising the recreation programs.

In 1974, he received orders to go to Okinawa.  Six months later, he came home on emergency leave because his mother was ill. He decided it was time to retire. He had served his country for 21 years.

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