Ripcord Association

Bill Kohr  Pathfinder

William (Hard Core) Kohr was raised in central Pennsylvania and like many that graduated from high school in the 1960’s ended up in the Army. Bill was different from most since he seemed to enjoy the army life and soon went on to jump school at Fort Gordon in 1969. His training completed, he arrived in Vietnam and was assigned as a Pathfinder directing the Chinook CH-47 helicopters on and off Firebase Ripcord.

On the final day of Ripcord he was there working with Lt. Caballero, SSgt. Samuel Williams and Cpl. Jimmy Howton making sure the choppers got in and loaded quickly and away before the mortars could take them out. He and the Pathfinder Team helped keep a lot of the guys on Ripcord safe and sound during the evacuation. For their valiant efforts that day, they all received Silver Stars.

When Bill was discharged from the Army, he returned to work at the trailer plant where he was earlier employed. He then attended a community college and received a degree in Forestry. Subsequently he found employment at a lumberyard cutting pulpwood. In November of 1975 he married Susan Franz. Together they had a daughter, Jennifer who was born in 1977.

During this overall time frame he joined the 228th Transportation Unit of the Pennsylvania Nation Guard to continue his dedication to the Army and became part of the new pathfinders unit that was being established in Harrisburg. When the regular job hours at the lumberyard interfered with being a pathfinder, he went into subcontracting which allowed him time to spend with his pathfinder unit and still earn enough to support his family.

His unit was quite active and was called up to help in the Johnstown, PA flood of 1977. In 1978 they were called to assist the First Coast Guard District in Portland, Maine by ferrying supplies during a severe February storm and then moving pre-fabricated homes onto devastated islands along the coast. In all cases Bill was recognized for his dedication and professionalism as a soldier and a Pathfinder. While this was taking his time he did not neglect his fledgling family.

In the summer of 1978 he took them on an auto trip out west to visit Mount Rushmore, tour Montana, see the Grand Canyon, experience Texas and return home. He and Sue having finished their big trip proceeded to build a new home. By 1979, his love for the Pathfinders and the military and his exemplary work caused his superiors to convince him to attend Officers Candidate School. Things were going well for Bill in early 1979. His house was completed awaiting the electric, a second daughter was on the way and OCS was to start in March. 

While returning home from a guard meeting in early February, Bill lost his life in an automobile accident. He was buried on Valentine’s Day, 1979 which holds the meteorological record for the coldest Valentine’s Day in the area and an even colder day for his loved ones. Eight months later his daughter, Kristen was born. He is survived by his mother, wife and two daughters and missed even years later. His daughters are now grown and would love to hear from people who knew their father when he served in Vietnam.