“V” in Vieler stands for Valor; career has unusual twists
As the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence historians prepare to launch a new Military Intelligence Hall of Fame website and modernize the Hall of Fame display in Alvarado Hall, it is our hope that we can reintroduce to the MI Corps some of the 241 people whose names and stories are highlighted there. Their stories are our stories; this is our shared heritage.
Pork Chop Hill… Triangle Hill… Old Baldy. These are names that should inspire awe and fear in anyone who experienced the conflict in Korea.
For Lt. Eric Vieler, they represented his story, or the beginning of it anyway. He lay in his hospital bed in the Army’s Walter Reed Medical Center recovering from multiple wounds he received during the “police action” in Korea. This combat tour in 1952 and 1953 earned him for valor, a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with “V” Device; for his wounds, a Purple Heart with two oak leaf clusters, and for his service, a medical retirement. As he contemplated his short life and military career, he must have relived the unusual path that got him to that point.
Eric Vieler was born on Dec. 7, 1931, in New York City to German parents. His family returned to Germany in 1934 where he attended German schools, living in Westfalia during World War II. Only 13 when the Allied Forces triumphed over the Nazis, he became an interpreter first for the Americans and then for the British occupation forces in Germany. Two years later, he returned to the United States, living again in New York City.
War broke out in Korea in 1950 and Vieler enlisted in the Army, needing to fight for his new country and the land of his birth. He attended Infantry Officer Candidate School in 1951 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the infantry at 19.
The 7th Infantry Division became Vieler’s home for the next two years, leading up to the hospitalization in Washington, D.C. and an early retirement. He accepted the medals, but refused the retirement, instead signing a waiver that allowed him to keep on serving. When he had healed sufficiently, he became an intelligence officer.
Vieler`s intelligence career began in 1954 when he was assigned as assistant G2, Headquarters, Fort Devens, Massachusetts. In that role, he traded in his weapons for a typewriter, patiently conducting security inspections, reviewing personnel security investigations, issuing clearances and investigating violations of security regulations. His patience paid off.
Two years later, Vieler was invited to join the Field Operations Intelligence program. He attended specialized training at Fort Holabird, Maryland, and was assigned to the 522nd MI Battalion in Germany, with duty stations at Bad Kissingen and Wurzburg. Promoted to Captain, he was the team chief of a highly successful collection team, conducting cross-border operations against military targets in East Germany.
Vieler returned to the United States in 1960 and became an instructor in the Field Operations Intelligence department at Fort Holabird. He taught Human Intelligence, HUMINT, collection techniques to more than 100 military and Department of the Army Civilians over the next two years, often developing course material based on his personal experience.
Major Vieler returned to Germany in 1963 as operations officer of the Frankfurt Station of the 513th MI Group. In addition to supervising the collection, counterintelligence and liaison missions of the organization, he conducted sensitive collection missions from western European bases against Soviet bloc targets. In 1965 he became chief of collection of the 513th MI Group at Camp King, where he supervised all the Group`s special collection and counter-espionage operations.
Until 1966, Vieler had been a reserve officer serving on active duty. He was considered unqualified for a Regular Army commission due to blindness in his right eye, incurred in combat. In an extraordinary show of support, his commanders went to bat for him, resulting in the Surgeon General signing a medical waiver in 1966 which allowed him to receive a commission in the Regular Army. It was a small but significant victory in Vieler’s unusual career.
In 1967, the Army Intelligence and Security Branch was renamed the Military Intelligence Branch and given the designation of a combat support branch. Lieutenant Colonel Vieler served as one of the first assignments officers for the new MI Branch from 1966 to 1969. As such, he was responsible for the career management and assignment of all MI officers in the grades of major and lieutenant colonel worldwide. In 1969 he was designated a Foreign Area Officer with specialization in Western Europe.
Vieler would return to a combat zone in 1970, to the 525th MI Group in Vietnam as commander of both its 5th and 3rd Battalions. These units conducted unilateral and bilateral (with Vietnamese Army units) tactical collection operations in direct support of combat forces in Vietnam and Cambodia. One of the units in his command was responsible for strategic collection, producing information which accurately predicted the overthrow of the government in Cambodia. That report was briefed to the White House and resulted in a special commendation.
When he returned (unharmed) from Vietnam, Vieler was assigned to the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, at Headquarters, Department of the Army, where he developed HUMINT doctrine and represented the Army on policy committees with Department of State, Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency and other military departments. He attended Army War College in 1971 and then as a newly promoted colonel, commanded the 115th MI Group with headquarters at the Presidio of San Francisco, California.
With more than 50 offices located throughout the 13 western states and Alaska, this counterintelligence organization conducted personnel security investigations and investigated allegations in support of Army and industrial security programs; investigated allegations of disloyalty, espionage, sabotage and subversion related to military personnel and installations; and provided security to sensitive installations and weapons storage depots. In 1974 the group was redesignated the 525th MI Group as part of a realignment of the Army Intelligence and Security Command.
Vieler was the first MI officer selected to become a Corps G2. He served as assistant chief of staff, G2, at VII Corps in Stuttgart, Germany, from 1974 until 1976. VII Corps was the Army`s largest, most modern tactical organization and Vieler modernized its intelligence collection, production and dissemination functions.
During his tenure as G2, the Corps experimented with all-source intelligence integration and began testing and employing a variety of new tactical reconnaissance systems. Vieler developed Project FOCUS, a concept of focusing the total intelligence assets, including those from the national level, to satisfy the needs of the tactical commanders from battalion to corps.
Vieler retired in 1976 with 26 years of active military service. He has written two autobiographies: “Destination Evil: Remembering the Korean War,” in 2004; and “A Journey on My Own: A Youth from Hitler’s Germany Strives to Claim His American Identity,” in 2009, describing his early life. His latest book, a novella titled “Trust and Betrayal: Tales of Cold War Espionage,” 2014, was inspired by events which took place in Germany in the late 50s and early 60s in which the author himself participated. He was inducted in the MI Hall of Fame in 1988.