Mike Crabtree

11/18/1967  Mike Crabtree, Wife Lynne and Daughter Chris 
Football Plebe Year – Numerials

Company Commander 4/503 Infantry, Killed in Combat 18 November 1967. Glen Blumhardt arranged for Classmates attending the Infantry Advance Coarse to fly to West Point for Mike’s Burial. It Hurt.


Cullum No. 24340-1962 | November 18, 1967 | Died in Vietnam

Interred in West Point Cemetery, West Point, NY

Mike must have reminded his teachers at Cleveland High School in Portland, Oregon, of a German shepherd puppy when he was growing up, because even after he was fully matured, his bones still sprouted out into heavy hands and feet. He was physically overpowering—standing over six foot four, with wide shoulders and narrow hips, he looked the athlete he was. A veteran of many football practices, he was nearly a major league baseball pitcher also (a touchy subject which he would never discuss). His taste for athletics was extremely catholic; after his intercollegiate hopes were frustrated by injuries, he managed to cauliflower an ear playing “hall ball” in the “West Point Hilton” (the old West Academic Building which became the first set of barracks at the Academy with real corridors).

Mike had a devastating air of well scrubbed schoolboyishness around women which was in opposition to his huge file of Playboy magazines. He had a kind of John Wayne appeal, but big as he was, there was a certain air of fragility about him. He was instantly ready to fight for the pure pleasure of it, but he was also the most easily injured among his friends. It was Mike who ran headlong into the goal post at Fort Benning . . . it was Crabtree who had his leg partially crushed between two cars by a slightly tipsy buddy . . . it was Mike who carried a dirty mouth guard and a baseball bat in his car “just in case.”

Crabtree went airborne after graduation, and he logged a total of seventy-seven jumps to back up his Master jump wings. Being a paratrooper was instinctive with him. For Mike, there were not fifty-seven varieties of fighters. There were only two. There was the infinitesimal minority who really attack and the others. Paratroops attack.

Mike inherited an honest, simplistic code for living from his dad, a tough Portland police lieutenant who boxed his way through college. As General Robert A. Linvill’s aide, he showed that he could handle himself very gracefully in any social situation, but his likes and dislikes were never muddled. He guarded a down to earth approach to people and problem solving which made him a very effective troop leader and which would have made him a superior general officer. His troop sense was not studied. It emanated from his whole composition. He communicated his personality to others. General Bruce Palmer captured a bit of his spirit and his fate when he autographed a picture to Mike in Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic, in July 1965: “To Lieutenant Mike Crabtree with my admiration and esteem for a fine soldier who is marching to the sound of the guns. Keep your head down in Vietnam. The best of luck and Happy Landings.”

Mike marched to the sound of the guns at the head of his airborne rifle company, and was there slain by those guns. He had already fought for his flag in the Dominican Republic and in Vietnam when he volunteered to return to combat. He knew the score when he applied. He had been permanently deafened in one ear during his first tour in Vietnam by a command detonated mine which narrowly missed killing him. Still, he left Lynne to care for Christine and Jay while he marched off in the awesome tradition of all our nation’s heroes. It was life rather than courage which abandoned him within the mountainous Annamite Cordillera, in the former French protectorate of Annam, near a village called Dak To.

Why did he choose to go? This is as inexplicable as the fact that Lynn found her wedding veil twined in the strap of an airborne helmet when she unpacked their household for the last time. I suppose it was a feeling rather than a reason that drove him back. A sentiment which is reflected in the Scottish National War Memorial in Edinburgh Castle, Scotland:

They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old

Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn at the going down of the sun

And in the morning we shall remember them

Whether their fame centuries long should ring they cared not over much

But cared greatly to serve God and the King

When Infantrymen gather and discuss one another, the harshest test they demand of each other is to ask: “Well, would you want him on either your right or your left in combat?” With Mike Crabtree the answer came easily. It was an honor to have him by our side. Now, Lord, we respectfully commend him to Yours.

Captain Crabtree is survived by his wife, Lynne; their two children, Christine and Jay; and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Andrew F. Crabtree. His awards and decorations include: the Bronze Star Medal (with two oak leaf clusters), the Purple Heart with cluster, the Air Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Expert Infantryman Badge, the Master Parachutist Badge, the Ranger Arc Tab, and the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm.

—Alan P. Armstrong ’61

Dave Phillips – – Christine the B1 guys will talk your ear off at the 50th as your dad was legendary. One story he told me was when he got injured at plebe football practice and was being carried off on a stretcher, he saw his teammates coming over to him and thought, “What a wonderful gesture. All my buddies coming over to see if I am ok.” When the others got to Mike, all they did was scavenge his helmet, shoes, and hip pads.


  1. Christine Crabtree-Stetegman
    Posted March 5, 2014 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    This story makes me giggle every time I think it. Thanks for sharing it.———Christine Crabtree-Stegeman

  2. forwhattheygave
    Posted March 24, 2014 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    Your Dad was a Good Man

  3. Christine Crabtree-Stegeman
    Posted April 4, 2014 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    It’s spring now and I’m thinking of you and of the all the wonderful stories your friends have shared. You were a man of integrity, leadership and someone who was always up for a good prank. Love and miss you always.

  4. forwhattheygave
    Posted April 4, 2014 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Christine – select some of the comments, check with the author and post on your Dad’s site. Phil

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