In high school I won the class Citizenship Award in 1965 and 1966. I was also a class officer two years, a member of the student senate for three years, and captain of the cross country team. As a senior I was cited for achievement in mathematics, and won a New York State Regents Scholarship. When I told an older Vietnam veteran I had made two trips to the Marine Corps recruitment office, he exclaimed, “Jimmy! Vietnam is not for you! Go to college!” I graduated from high school in June 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War, a year some call “the worst year in American history.”
I went to Syracuse University, thirty miles from my hometown of Fulton, New York. Syracuse was one of the most anti-war campuses in the United States. Syracuse was one of the few major universities to “shut down” after the Kent State shootings. I grew to hate war protesters. I wrote a letter to the National Security Agency saying I wanted to join after graduation. In 1970 I joined the New York State Conservative Party. In February 1972 a television commercial said, “If you have a 4 year college degree, you can become an Army officer.” In March I signed a delayed-entry contract with the Army to attend Infantry Officers Candidate School after graduation. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science in June 1972.
I went on active duty on August 15, 1972, attending basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Ten years later, eight years after going off active duty, VA psychologist David Murray recorded that I suffered “schizophrenia, undifferentiated type,” immediately after starting basic training. I had undergone counseling sessions with Murray since 1978. In his VA document of August 1982, Murray states that this schizophrenia began in September 1972, at Fort Jackson. Murray further noted, “There has been no significant change since Mr. Bevacqua left military service. I see no reason to expect a change in the future.”
Nonetheless, after basic training in late October 1972, I began the six-months Infantry OCS program at Fort Benning, Georgia. Because the Vietnam War officially ended halfway through the program, in January 1973, most of us were directed to branches other than Infantry after graduation in April 1973. At Fort Bliss, Texas I was retrained in the Air Defense Artillery branch, with a specialty in the Nike Hercules missile. Then I took a 30-days leave, followed by Airborne School at Fort Benning, then I drove to my first, and what turned out to be my last, permanent duty station.
The 31st Air Defense Brigade was the only Army unit at Homestead Air Force Base. I arrived on October 12, 1973. The Nike Hercules battalion personnel officer, MAJ Thelmer Moe, assigned me to Alpha Battery, located in the Everglades National Park. The Alpha Battery commander was CPT Jim D’artenay. For the first six weeks I was the assistant launching platoon leader at Alpha Battery. During this time I mainly studied technical manuals in preparation to take the Battery Control Officer written examination. At the end of November, CPT D’artenay was replaced by 1LT Casey Levy.
Levy immediately appointed me launching platoon leader. He also appointed me Battery Security Officer, Battery Badge Control Officer, Battery Health and Welfare Officer, and Battery Mess Officer, and I still had to study a dozen technical manuals, some classified, in preparation for the Battery Control Officer written examination. I suddenly had more demands placed on me than at any point during six months of Infantry OCS. Levy later signed a three-page Sworn Statement calling me “irresponsible” 14 times. CPT D’artenay had been a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. Levy had been just promoted to first lieutenant, was not a combat veteran, and he had never been a battery commander.
Levy had spent the previous few months at battalion headquarters before being assigned to a battery. Three days after Levy appointed me launching platoon leader, battalion staff officer MAJ George Williams stormed through the main gate of the launching platoon. Regulations required anyone entering the area to be accompanied by the platoon leader, but over a telephone line the gate MP informed me, “MAJ Williams said he does not want you to accompany him.” About forty-five minutes later Williams stormed out, having informed the MP to tell me to report to the common area in the administration building with my section leaders, one-half mile away.
Williams’ outbriefing of his inspection was exceptionally short, hurried and superficial. He again refused to acknowledge my presence. Rather than hand me his inspection sheet, Williams had an enlisted man do it. Then, just before he bolted out of the room, Williams turned to me, and yelled, “AND YOU! Lieutenant Bevacqua! You better watch your step or you are going to find yourself in big trouble!” On the walk back to the launching platoon, a sergeant said, “I’ve been in the Army for ten years and I served two tours in Vietnam, and I’ve never seen a field grade officer chew out a brand new second lieutenant like that in front of his men. They just don’t do it. If you ask me, battalion has it in for you.”
William’s one-page inspection sheet concluded, “Not Combat Ready.” This conclusion was based on only one criteria, “seven missiles out of action.” Seven happened to the tipping point causing an automatic inspection failure, regardless of how perfect the rest of the platoon. Four of the missiles were obviously out of action, and each for a different reason, but three of the seven missiles labeled by Williams were for the same reason, “foreign particles in the ram pressure probes.”
Ram pressure probes were hollow, pencil-size aluminum tubes jutting out of the stabilizing fins on each missile. The probes were protected with tiny aluminum covers that were removed and replaced on a daily basis. The covers were spray painted white. Upon investigation, I noticed that the probes on all 18 missiles contained dust-like specks of white paint that had worn off the protective covers. A ring of shiny aluminum appeared on the inside of the cover that contacted the sharp rim of the probe. Based on this criteria, Williams should have failed all 18 missiles, but he only needed to fail three missiles to reach seven and thereby automatically fail my platoon.
Two days later I learned what a legitimate Nike Hercules launching platoon inspection was like when two warrant officers appeared at COB, “Close Of Business,” 4:30 PM. They were from brigade, and said they were going to conduct an inspection. For the next six hours I accompanied them as they meticulously inspected everything. At midnight they said, “We’re not done. We’ll be back in the morning.” The next morning they spent three more hours inspecting. At 10:30 AM they handed me their inspection sheet, which read, “Combat Ready.” Most significantly, they had labeled only four missiles out of action, the four that were obviously out of action. They did not say that one missile was out of action because of “foreign particles in ram pressure probes.” The brigade’s “Combat Ready” inspection proved that MAJ Williams’ “Not Combat Ready” inspection was a fraud.
But the next morning 1LT Levy called me to his office. He said that the brigade commander, Brigadier General Edward Hirsch, was coming to Alpha Battery to see why my platoon had failed MAJ Williams’ inspection. Even ignoring that Williams had conducted a false inspection, I asked Levy, “Why would BG Hirsch be concerned about an earlier, brief, lower-level, battalion inspection by a staff officer, when my platoon has just passed a more recent, lengthy, higher-level brigade inspection by a two-man warrant officer team trained to conduct Nike Hercules inspections?” Levy said, “I don’t know.” When I asked Levy if BG Hirsch knew about the successful brigade inspection, Levy answered, “I don’t know.”
The next day Levy and I accompanied BG Hirsch as he walked around the launching platoon area. Just before he left, BG Hirsch turned to me and asked, “Lieutenant, do you have anything to say?” Standing behind BG Hirsch was Levy, wildly shaking his head left-to-right in a “keep quiet” motion. I ignored Levy. I said, “Yes.” Since we were standing next to a missile, I removed one of the aluminum protective covers. I showed BG Hirsch the exposed metallic circular pattern where the paint had worn away from the cover being constantly removed and replaced. Then I said, “All of the ram pressure probes have dust-like specks of white paint. I would not spray paint the protective covers, or least not the side that sits against the sharp edge of the ram pressure probe.” BG Hirsch thought this was great idea. He immediately turned to a warrant officer, and said, “Make that a change in the maintenance manual!”
When BG Hirsch left, Levy exploded. He exclaimed, “Don’t you know you are never suppose to speak to an officer of general rank??!!” I said, “BG Hirsch asked me a direct question, I gave him a direct answer, and my answer was good enough to have him change the maintenance manual on the spot.” Levy then kicked me out of his office.
During my second week as launching platoon leader, MAJ James Kress appeared at Alpha Battery. He had replaced MAJ Moe as battalion personnel officer. The rumor spread, “MAJ Kress was fragged in Vietnam, and he hates enlisted men.” Another rumor was that Kress had been a Golden Gloves boxer. One day Kress came to Alpha Battery to look around. Like MAJ Williams, MAJ Kress also ignored me except for one brief moment. Walking around, he suddenly bee-lined up to me and said, “Lieutenant, we’re not playing off the same sheet of music.” Then he turned around and walked away.
A few days later Kress ordered me to take the Battery Control Officers written examination. I failed, which was common the first time, but Kress restricted me to the Everglades missile site until I passed the test, which I did a week later. While restricted, an enlisted man said, “I didn’t know they restricted officers.” During that restriction, LTC Martinelli of the Inspectors General’s office spent the better part of a morning inspecting my launching platoon and questioning me. Late in the morning, he said, “Well, I’m satisfied. I don’t see any problems.” Just as somebody had told BG Hirsch about the fake battalion inspection but not the successful brigade inspection, somebody had informed the Inspector General office that I was “having problems.” But the IG didn’t see any problems.
Nonetheless, just before Christmas 1973, 1LT Levy called me to his office. He said, “LTC Hipps has heard stories about you.” When I asked what these stories were, Levy claimed ignorance of both the stories and where they could have come from. Then he said, “And so LTC Hipps is going to transfer you to Delta Battery after the holiday’s to give you a fresh start. I asked, “Why do I need a fresh start at Delta Battery?” Levy said, “Because LTC Hipps thinks you haven’t adjusted to Alpha Battery.”
Four days before the transfer, on January 11, 1974, MAJ Kress ordered me to his office. He was sitting behind his desk. He said, “Close the door.” Then he said, “Do you know what I hear enlisted men saying as they walk the halls in this headquarters building?” I answered that I did not. He said, “They’re saying that Lieutenant Bevacqua is a great guy. Do you know what that means?” I answered that I did not. His response was to jump to his feet, pound his desk with his fists, yelling, “That means you are not doing your job! If your men don’t hate you, you are not doing your job! What are you running down there, a popularity contest?!”
Once Kress had shot back down into his chair, I said, “My launching platoon was found “Combat Ready” after an exhaustive two-day brigade-level inspection; a lieutenant colonel from the Inspector General’s office concluded, “I don’t see any problems;” I passed the Battery Control Officer written examination with a grade higher than the average passing grade; the brigade commander changed the maintenance manual based on my suggestion, and I don’t have any personnel problems, so how am I not doing my job?” Incensed, Kress shot back to his feet, and again pounding his desk, yelled, “That doesn’t matter! If your men don’t hate you, you are not doing your job! Where do you think you are, back on the college campus?!”
Shooting back down into his chair, Kress finished by asking, “Why did you let your dog handlers paint a Snoopy Dog on their building? Don’t you know that’s a security violation?” The dog handler “building” was really a four by four shed that contained dog muzzles. I answered, “I did it for esprit de corps. How is painting Snoopy on the door of a dog shed a security violation?” Kress made no response, and dismissed me from his office. A few months later, Kress would write a fantasy Sworn Statement describing himself as a father figure that tried to help me. Not one word of the statement is true.
On January 15, 1974 I was transferred to Delta Battery, a missile site twenty miles north of Miami. I was demoted to assistant platoon leader of the radar platoon, the radar platoon leader being 2LT Geary Flack. Delta Battery was commanded by CPT Russell Smith. The executive officer was 1LT Bruce Henning. Smith, Henning and Flack were suppose to prepare me to take the Battery Control Officer practical examination. They never did. All three later wrote Sworn Statements saying I was not ready to take the test.
However, I wrote a diary at the time which I still have in my possession. In this diary, I noted that the practical examination was scheduled and cancelled three times, which means I was never allowed to take the test. I also noted in the diary that I was never given a mail box at Delta Battery, which means they never intended to keep me around.
On Friday, March 7, 1974, Smith called me to his office. He handed me a pamphlet. He said, “Take a look through that pamphlet. It’s stamped ‘Secret’ on the cover, but you can look at it because you have a Secret-level security clearance. It’s the Modes and Codes Indicator pamphlet for the month of February 1974.” The pamphlet contained columns of randomly generated letters and numbers which changed every five minutes for the entire month of February 1974. Smith continued, “Because a new pamphlet is issued each month, the one you are holding is expired. Expired classified material has to be destroyed, but we don’t destroy classified material at the battery. That’s done by the STRATCOM office in the Army headquarters building on Homestead Air Force Base.”
Continuing, he said, “2LT Flack is the designated Battery Classified Documents Custodian, and he normally handles this, but I have him doing something else today, and I want you to deliver the expired February pamphlet to STRATCOM.” He then asked for the pamphlet back, and I handed it to him. He then placed the small pamphlet in a brown manila envelope and sealed it, saying, “When we transport classified material, it must be carried in a closed sealed container, and this(brown manila envelope) is what we use.” Then he handed me the envelope, saying, “Keep the envelope in your possession at all times until you are relieved of it by someone at STRATCOM.”
Homestead AFB was 20 miles from Delta battery. My car was down at the battery because of a leaking radiator, so I rode with our battery courier. The couriers from all four batteries scattered around Southeast Florida left their respective batteries at 11 AM, conducted their battery business on base, then met at 3:30PM in the mail room in the Army headquarters building, the same building where the STRATCOM office was located.
The Delta Battery courier and I arrived in the parking lot of the Army headquarters building at noon. Since I had been hearing, “CYA(cover your ass),” and, “Bring a witness,” I asked the courier if he had time to accompany me to the STRATCOM office, until someone there relieved me of the envelope. We walked into the building, and up the hall to the STRATCOM office. The door was a Dutch door, closed and locked on the bottom, open at the top. SPC Eshelman appeared in the door.
SPC Eshelman said a number of odd things. First, “We don’t destroy classified material here. I thought that was done at the battery,” the exact opposite of what CPT Smith had said. Second, “I never heard of CPT Smith.” Third, “I’m not authorized to accept the envelope.” Fourth, “I’m the only one here, everyone else is out to lunch.” Finally, he said, “Maybe SGT Brown will know something about this, but he won’t be back until one or one thirty.” I told Eshelman I would return after lunch.
When I turned around, 1LT Leo Cates was standing a few feet away in the hallway watching me. I knew him from the officer’s club. I also knew he was an assistant lawyer in the Judge Advocate General(JAG) office. I asked him, “Do you know anything about where classified material is destroyed?” He said, “Sorry. I don’t know anything about that.”
So I left the building with the envelope still in my possession. I walked three blocks to the Visiting Officers Quarters(VOQ) where I had a private room. I placed the brown manila envelope with the expired pamphlet on my desk. Then I left the room, locking the door behind me, and went next door to the officer’s club pool for lunch.
At 1 PM the phone at the pool rang, and I was paged. The caller was SGT Brown from STRATCOM. First, he apologized, saying SPC Eshelman should have accepted the envelope with the expired classified document. Then he asked, “When are you bringing it over?” I answered, “I can be there in ten minutes.” He said, “There’s no hurry. We are only going to destroy document. As long as we have it by COB(Close Of Business, 4:30 PM).” I said, “My next assignment is night duty officer at Alpha Battery. I’m using the couriers to get around. I’m going to meet the Alpha Battery courier in the mail room at 3:30 PM and ride with him to Alpha Battery. I’ll bring the document then.” SGT Brown answered, “No problem. As long as we have it by COB.”
Fifteen minutes later a staff car drove up to the pool. MAJ Kress got out, walked up to the pool fence, and ordered me into the car. He then told the driver to go around the block to the VOQ. Then Kress ordered me to take him to my room. When I opened the door, he leaped inside, frantically yelling, “Where’s the document!? Where’s the document!?” I said, “Right there.” He shrieked, “Right where!?” I said, “Right there on my desk.” He bolted to the desk, grabbed the envelope, and exclaimed, “Consider yourself under suspicion for having violated security regulations vital to the defense of the United States!”
At headquarters, I was forced to sit in a chair outside the office of battalion commander LTC Hipps. I sat there for three or four hours. During that time, numerous staff officers and armed Criminal Investigation Division(CID) agents walked in and out, all ignoring me. Finally, Hipps called me in. He said, “You are under base arrest for the weekend. If you leave base, you will be arrested. We are conducting an investigation to see if there has been a security breach. Report to this office on Monday morning at 07:30. Dismissed.”
The next morning, Saturday, March 8, 1974, an unknown enlisted man knocked on my door at the VOQ. He said, “Sir, I think you should know this. Major Kress has been running around headquarters all morning saying, “I’m going to find a way to court martial that Lieutenant Bevacqua! I’m going to find a way to court martial that lieutenant!”
On Monday morning Hipps plopped an Article 15 in front of me and said, “Sign it.” The Article 15 read, “You were derelict in the performance of your duties in that you failed to properly safeguard classified documents entrusted to your custody, and failed to obey specific instructions regarding the destruction of the said documents as it was your duty to do.” There was nothing about “violating security regulations vital to the defense of the United States.” It was an Article 92 violation, “failure to obey a lawful order.” I said I could not sign because I had in fact obeyed CPT Smith’s order, but unforeseen circumstances in the form of SPC Eshelman and MAJ Kress had prevented me from making the delivery.
Angered, LTC Hipps said, “If you don’t sign it, there will be a court martial and you will go to jail.” When I still hesitated, Hipps changed his tune to that of a salesman, saying, “Look, only by signing will you be afforded a hearing in front of the brigade commander who will have the authority to remove the Article 15 from your personnel file. At the hearing you may bring witnesses. In preparation for the hearing, you will be assisted by our JAG office. But you can’t have a brigade hearing unless you sign this today.” Fearing court martial and jail, and hoping the brigade commander would be reasonable, I signed the Article 15.
I also assumed I would be getting sound legal advise. That was not to be. This was not an Army base with a large JAG section. When I walked into the tiny legal department office, the head of the JAG section, CPT Raymond K. Costello, was sitting behind his desk. No one else was in the room. Calmly and flatly Costello said, “I can’t help you because LTC Hipps signs my efficiency reports.” That was it. What he meant was, “LTC Hipps does not want me to help you, so I can’t.” Nor was 1LT Leo Cates allowed to help me. The JAG office did not give me one iota of legal advise.
Having replaced BG Edward Hirsch, the new brigade commander was COL Gary Mahan. At the brigade hearing, my three witnesses were the Delta Battery courier, SPC Eshelman, and 1LT Cates. The courier admitted that we had gone straight to the STRATCOM office, then Mahan dismissed him from the room. Eshelman admitted that he had made a mistake, and should have accepted the envelope, then Mahan dismissed him. Cates admitted that I had turned to him for help before leaving the headquarters building, then Mahan dismissed him.
Now standing alone in front of his desk, Mahan asked, “When you left the headquarters building, why did you not lock the classified material in a secret safe?” Surprised, I answered, “A secret safe? I’ve never transported classified material before. I’ve never used a secret safe. I don’t have access to any secret safe. I don’t know where the secret safes are located. Furthermore, Captain Smith told me to maintain personal possession of the classified material until somebody at STRATCOM relieved me of the envelope.” Mahan said, “No matter. When you left the Army headquarters building with the classified material still in your possession, that’s where you went wrong. The Article 15 will stay in your personnel folder. Dismissed.” The entire hearing took about ten minutes.
I had not yet had an Officers Efficiency Report(OER) written, but now one was created. I was told, “This OER has to be an ‘adverse OER’ because you were relieved of line duty, and your Secret-level security clearance was revoked.” In this OER, the Rater gave me 5 points out of a possible 70, and the Endorser gave me 0 points. Shocked by the severity of the adverse OER, on March 20, 1974 I submitted a rebuttal of the adverse OER, which was ignored.
LTC Hipps then collected six Sworn Statements. These were from Smith, Henning and Flack in Delta Battery, from Levy and 2LT Joe Boyle in Alpha Battery, and from MAJ Kress. All of the statements said I was unfit to be an officer, even unfit to be in the military. When I realized these statements were half truths and lies, on April 23, 1974 I submitted a rebuttal of the Sworn Statements, which also fell on deaf ears. My rebuttal included my own set of Sworn Statements on my behalf, every one of which had lines blacked out. Hipps took the six Sworn Statements he collected, plus the Article 15 and the adverse OER, placed his own cover letter on top, and sent this hastily-created evidence package to the Military Personnel Center, requesting that I be eliminated from active duty for substandard performance, or “transferred out of this organization.” The nine documents were:
I was then pressured to resign, which led to my submitting a short, final, rebuttal letter, dated May 15, 1974. I was being pressured to resign at the exact same time the Commander In Chief was being pressured to resign for Watergate. Despite my frantic efforts, in a letter dated July 26, 1974, MILPERCEN concurred with LTC Hipps’ request, and I was ordered off active duty for substandard performance of duty, effective November 4, 1974. Although I received an Honorable Discharge, my life was ruined. I never again held a professional position. The rest of my life has been characterized by underemployment, a chronic lack of income, recurring trips to VA medical facilities for mental health counseling, always living alone, no marriage, no children, and no social associations whatsoever.