Military service in the Roberts clan is a family tradition. Family legend and pass-along stories go back to deeds of honor and bravery to the battles in England and Wales, but actual records go back to the Revolutionary War when Craig's ancestor (6th level great grandfather) Corporal Robert Shields (1749-1802) fought against the British with Washington's army.
Nothing was recorded about his subsequent generations until the Civil War when Roberts' great-grandfather, William Wesley Matlock enlisted on October 1st, 1861 at age 17 in the 8th Kentucky Infantry. The family records state:
"Pvt. William Wesley Matlock enlisted in Captain Mayhews company, Company A, 1st Brigade, Kentucky Volunteers, at Barboursville, Kentucky on Sept 1, 1861. He attended training at Fort Robinson on October 2nd, 1861."
Pvt. William Wesley Matlock, 8th Kentucky Infantry (1861-1864)
Pvt. Matlock fought with the 8th Kentucky until November 5, 1862 when he, like so many other farmers, "went absent from duty" to go home and attend crops for the family. When the farm was readied for the winter, he returned to his regiment on December 26, 1862, wherein he was "Fined one months tobacco ration and two weeks pay, and then reinstated by Col. Beaty, Comdg 3rd Division, and assigned to Company E." He served with Company E until November 17, 1864 whereon he was discharged at Chattanooga, Tennessee. He had fought in several campaigns including Stone's River (Murfresboro), Tullahoma, Chickamauga (where 79 were killed or wounded including now-Col. Mayhew), and finally the battles of Chattanooga and Lookout Mountain, where the 8th was the first to reach the crest and "ran up the Stars and Stripes." The 8th began the Atlanta March, but was sent back to Chattanooga to guard the railhead. It was disbanded in November, 1864. (My grandmother, Lucy Mae Roberts, was his 15th child and, passing at age 96 in 2012, was one of the last living daughters of a civil war veteran!)
Cpl. John Wesley Roberts
Company H, 9th Tennessee Cavalry
Union Army, Civil War
Cpl. John Wesley Roberts jointed Company H, 9th Tennessee Volunteer Cavalry (Union) in 1863. The 9th Tennessee Cavalry (V) participated in 41 operations and engagements between 1863 and 1865 in Eastern Tennessee, North Carolina, and raids into Virginia. The regiment was mustered out of the army on 11 Sept, 1865.
(No photo available for John A. Roberts.)
Little is known about Confederate soldier John A. Roberts except an excerpt from a historical document that states that "John A. Roberts carried the last message from Robert E. Lee to Stonewall Jackson before Jackson was killed". John A. Roberts, being a "rebel" was not spoken of by the family in East Tennessee as most mountain people around the Great Smoky Mountains joined the Union.
Pvt. Tom Matlock, 10th Infantry (1898-99)
One of Lucy's older brothers was Thomas Matlock. One of "Wes" Matlock's sons, (he had three wives and fifteen children!) served in the Spanish American War (1898) in Cuba. He was with H Company, 10th Infantry. The 10th fought alongside other famous regiments including the 1st Volunteer U.S. Cavalry (Rough Riders) and the 10th Cavalry (Buffalo Soldiers) and was instrumental in the Battle for Santiago and the final defeat of the Spanish. Tom Matlock went on to fight in the Philippines where he contacted "the fever," (Yellow Fever) and died while overseas.
Uncle Johnny during Pilot Training during World War II
Craig's Uncle Johnny Roessel (his Mother's cousin) served as a pilot in World War II, flying B-25s in the Pacific for the Army Air Corps. He later served as a navigator in B-26C "Invader" attack bombers in the 13th Bombardment Squadron during the Korean war, and was shot down in North Korea, where they belly landed near a North Korean village in a dry rice paddy. The crew was captured and taken to a Chinese prison camp. He was never heard from again and became one of over 5000 MIAs that disappeared during the Korean War into the Chinese and Russian POW camps. See Craig's book "The Medusa File" for more on the POW/MIA coverups of WWII, Korea and Vietnam.
PFC William Floyd Roberts, Jr. USMC (1944-46)
Craig's father, William Floyd "Bill" Roberts, Jr., enlisted in the US Marine Corps in 1944 upon graduation from high school. His enlistment was for "the duration." After Boot Camp at Parris Island, he was assigned to a new division that was being formed for the invasion of the Japanese home islands when the Atomic Bombs were dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
He was in the Fleet Marine Force (infantry) and was working at "Mainside" at Camp Pendleton, California, as a legal assistant to the base Judge Advocate when the war ended. His regiment had just packed their seabags to be transported to San Diego to load troopships when the Japanese surrendered. However, he did meet a young California "beach girl" blonde, Norlyn Lois Hoff, the daughter of Norwegian immigrants, who was working as a telephone operator on Camp Pendleton. They were married in June, 1945. The end result was William Craig Roberts, born in November 1946, and his brother Brent, born four years later. Bill's service in the Marines would influence both Craig and his brother to enlist in the Corps during the war in Vietnam.
Cleo Whaley, USMC WWII
Craig's Uncle Cleo Whaley served in the Marines in the Pacific in WWII. This photo taken before going overseas. He is wearing the Rifle Sharpshooter medal, and Marksman medals and ladder for other weapons (pistol, rocket launcher and machine gun).
Bill with brother "A.B." (1945)
Bill's younger brother, Andrew Bailey Roberts, (Uncle "A.B.") enlisted in the US Navy during the Korean war. He was the first to not go into the infantry, and managed to successfully complete the schooling required to become a communications technician (Radio Operator) and was proficient at both voice communications and Morse Code. He was one of the radio operators on the Battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) on both of the ship's Korean deployments
He rose to the rank of 1st Class Electronics Technician and was discharged in 1954. He later went to work for the telephone company in Maryville, Tennessee, and was killed when he was working on a telephone pole that broke on the 23rd of November, 1963--the day after JFK was assassinated.
Petty Officer 1st Class Andrew Bailey "A.B." Roberts, US Navy (1950-54)
Pvt. William Craig Roberts, MCRD San Diego, 1964
William Craig Roberts enlisted in the US Marine Corps and entered recruit training at San Diego, California on September 30, 1964. After "Boot Camp" and Infantry Training Regiment, he was "awarded" the MOS of 0300--basic rifleman. It was back to the infantry for the Roberts clan. His first assignment was to D Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines (D/1/5) on Camp Pendleton, which was just entering "Lock On" training for deployment to WestPac (Okinawa).
In May of 1965, 1/5 was taken by ship (USNS Breckinridge) to Okinawa where the battalion was re-designated 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines. After two months of training in counter-guerrilla warfare at the jungle training school at NTA (Northern Training Area), 2/9 was transported by ship to Vietnam. For the next 11 months Roberts served in various capacities and operations as an 0311 (infantryman) in the areas south and southwest of Da Nang, RVN. Wounded in action and eventually medevaced back to the States, Roberts was eventually transferred to the Temporary Disability Retired List (TDRL) and remained there until medical findings on injuries determined that he would be discharged. Removal from TDRL and discharge occurred on 28 February, 1968.
L/Cpl Roberts in photo taken after return to the States in June, 1966
He would later (1972) enlist in the Oklahoma Army National Guard (who would waive his Marine Corps Disability rating) as a SP4, where he served in the Scout Platoon, 1/279 Infantry, as a sniper and later, after being promoted to sergeant, served as a squad leader and sniper instructor.
Scout Platoon squad leader, Sgt Roberts, keeping the Lieutenant in line at Fort Carson, Colorado (1973)
Roberts serving as a sniper in the Scout Platoon, 1/279th Infantry.
After being promoted to Staff Sergeant, he was eventually selected for Officer Candidate School. Over the next 24 years he would serve in various officer capacities from Rifle Platoon Leader, Scout Platoon Leader, Officer Candidate Tactical Officer, Rifle Company Executive Officer, Detachment Commander, and Company Commander, to Battalion S-2 and S3 (Air).
2nd Lt. Roberts as Scout Platoon Leader at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas in July 1976. The old green fatigues had been replaced by the new camouflaged fatigues.
Rapelling Training at Fort Chaffee. (Disco nights were in vogue, and so were mustaches!)
1st Lt. Roberts as a TAC officer at Officer Candidate School, 1978.
Planning a mission with another company commander, newly promoted Captain Roberts is wearing British DPM camouflage while working with the Queen's Regiment and receiving an honorary commission as a "leftenant" in the British Army for helping train the 6/7 Queens in counter-guerrilla warfare and anti-tank (TOW) weapons systems. (1980)
In 1985 Roberts transferred to the Army Reserve (95th Division) and served in various battalion and division assignments. In 1987 he transferred to he IRR to obtain a Major's slot and began working as a tactical intelligence officer out of ARPERCEN, attached to the 138th Tactical Fighter Group. His military officer schooling included Officer Candidate School, Infantry Officer Basic Course, Infantry Officer Advanced Course, Air-Ground Operations School (Intel) and Command and General Staff College of the US Army. Roberts retired in 1999 as a lieutenant colonel, Infantry/Air Operations (11A5U). His last 12 years were working as the Ground Liaison Officer in the Intelligence Section of the 138th Tactical Fighter Group.
Photo taken while undergoing chemotherapy for colon cancer. (Weight when photo was taken: 165 lbs!) Roberts survived cancer that was stage II and had metastasized. (1997). Roberts beat the odds and has survived past the five-year "remission" point, dodging yet another bullet...