William "Don" Calbreath was born December 1921 in Nezperce, Lewis County, Idaho. Known as "Don" to family and friends, he was the youngest child of A. C. Calbreath of Idaho and F. Jane Campbell of Utah. Don spent the summer of 1938 at the Civilian Conservation Corps camp at Chatoolet, Idaho. He graduated from Nezperce High School in May 1939.
In February 1942, he enlisted into the Army at San Francisco. He attended Basic Training at Camp Walters, Texas, and emerged a BAR gunner. He then joined the 82nd Airborne and received training at Fort Benning, Georgia. A member of Company A, 505th Parachute Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division, he saw action during World War II in North Africa, Sicily, Italy in 1943. He was wounded for the first time in Sicily, by a piece of shrapnel that caught him in the mouth. In June of 1944 Don participated in the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France and saw combat action in The Netherlands (Holland), where he was wounded a second time. The 82nd Airborne participated in the Battle of the Bulge. Don was wounded the third time when a bullet pierced the radio he was carrying on his back. During World War II, Don was awarded the Purple Heart medal with oak leaf cluster, and the Good Conduct Medal. His three Bronze Stars were for service in the Rhineland, Ardennes, and Central Europe Campaigns. Pfc. Calbreath received an Honorable Discharge in September 1945.
Don married Betty G. Hollyer Robertson on June 7, 1946, in Berkeley, California. In September 1946, he reenlisted at San Francisco into the 82nd Airborne Division with the rank of Private First Class. He rejoined the 505th Parachute Infantry at Fort Bragg. In 1948, Sergeant Calbreath reenlisted for three years of Military Service. In July 1949, Don was transferred to Birmingham, Alabama, where he was stationed with the 3202nd ASU ROTC Instructors. He taught ROTC at Ramsey High School. June of 1952 found Don enroute to FECOM to serve in the Korean Operation. From August 1952 to March 1953 he was stationed with Company C, 9th Infantry Regiment. In March 1953, he was transferred to Company L, 34th Infantry Regiment. He served with the 24th Infantry Division in Japan after eight months of Korean duty and served with the Second Infantry Division in Korea. Returning from Korea in October 1954, Master Sergeant Calbreath was assigned to Headquarters Company, 1st Batallion, 30th Infantry Regiment, Fort Lewis, Washington. He then served in Headquarters Company 1st Batallion, 38th Infantry Regiment. There he reenlisted for six more years of active duty.
In March 1955, he participated in “Operation Surfboard”, a joint Army-Navy maneuver held off the coast of California. In June 1955, Don and his family flew from New York to Frankfurt, Germany. There he was assigned to B Company, 8th Infantry Regiment, at Butzbach, Germany. In May 1956, he transferred to Company C, 82nd Recon Batallion, at Mainz. July 1957, he transferred to 1st Recon Squadron, 15th Cavalry at Mainz. In December 1957, Don and his family departed from Bremenhaven, Germany, and arrived in New York for New Years 1958, on way to Fort Hood, Texas. He was assigned to C Troop, 1st Recon Squadron, 15th Cavalry, Second Armored Division at Fort Hood. In September 1958, he was transferred to Headquarters Company, Second Armored Division at Fort Hood. In August 1959, Don earned the Advanced Rifle Marksmanship Instructor Certification at Camp Perry, Ohio. From January to February 1960, Don was enrolled in Springfield, Massachusetts. He returned to Fort Hood qualified as a Light Weapons Infantryman. Don became a Life Member of the National Rifle Association in March 1960. That year he certified in Small Arms Repair, and 45 Pistol Qualification. In August 1960, he earned the Special Rifle Marksmanship Instructor Certification at Camp Perry.
Master Sergeant Calbreath reenlisted at Fort Hood for 3 additional years of military service. In March 1961, the National Rifle Association certified Don as a Rifle Marksmanship Instructor. In 1961, he was transferred to Headquarters Company, 1st ARB, 51st Infantry, Second Armored Division at Ft Hood. In December 1961, he qualified as Rifle M-1 Expert. In October 1962, he was assigned as Chief Rifle Instructor and qualified for the Advanced Marksmanship Unit at Ft Hood. January 1963, Don was transferred to Vietnam. Master Sergeant Calbreath arrived in Saigon in February 1963, serving with USA Elm MAAG. He reenlisted at Saigon for 3 additional years of military service. He transferred out of Vietnam in February 1964. March 1964, Don transferred to Company B, 1st Battalion, 3rd Brigade, Fort Ord, California. In June 1964, he earned the Rifle M-14 Qualification. July 1964, he was assigned to Headquarters, 3rd Brigade, Fort Ord. March 1965, Don transferred to Company B, 1st Battalion, 3rd Brigade, Fort Ord.
"Don" retired as a Master Sergeant (E-8) from the U.S. Army on June 1, 1965.
William Don Calbreath died May 31, 1980, in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is buried in Memory Gardens.
All photos and memorabilia courtesy of the William "Don" Calbreath family collection.
William D. Calbreath.
Fort Bragg, early 1942.
Transcription - Private Don Calbreath, right, 22, Nezperce, was wounded in Belgium for the third time.
His parents Mr.and Mrs. A. C. Calbreath have been informed. A Paratrooper, he has been injured in Sicly and Normandy.
Private Don Calbreath wounded in Belgium.
Don Calbreath in Korea 1952.
Staff Sergeant Don Calbreath with ROTC students 1949.
Staff Sergeant Don Calbreath 1948.