We Should Remember Them
By Clayton Adams
We should remember the two men from Arkansas who gave their lives in the first major battle of Vietnam involving American military and the North Vietnamese Army.
We should remember the fifteen men from Crittenden County who gave their lives in the Vietnam War, unfortunately only a small part of their life stories are told in this writing.
We should remember the 585 others from Arkansas who gave their lives in this war.
We must remember and honor all of the men and women who served our country in the Vietnam War.
It is my sincerest hope that providing just a short glimpse into these men’s lives we’ll honor each man and their families.
How We Got Involved
It was as simple as choosing sides for any team sport. Two self-appointed captains representing two opposing sides. One captain, North Vietnam picked China as their first key player and the other captain, South Vietnam picked the United States as their first key player.
We must remember that in the 1950’s and the 1960’s America was fresh from saving the world in World War Two, the “Cold War” had its grip on the world and the sting of the Korean War, a war in which my father served was the beginning of the Vietnam War.
America foresaw North Vietnam taking over South Vietnam, another country lost to freedoms that we enjoy and subject to the iron-fisted rule of communism. American leaders just couldn’t let that happen.
President Eisenhower believed that South Vietnam was the foundation for freedom into Southeast Asia. Led by Democratic President Robert Kennedy who also believed that South Vietnam was the key to spreading democracy, free and open societies in Southeast Asia, a commitment was made to send military advisors into Vietnam. These advisors, were not to be involved in direct fighting, they were to train the South Vietnamese Army. But circumstances changed quickly.
President Kennedy wanted to show force on the heels for the failure of the Bay of Pigs Invasion in Cuba and the communists who divided the German city of Berlin with a wall. The Berlin Wall was brought down by Republican President Ronald Reagan who triumphed freedom and who led the charge to end the Cold War.
Unfortunately, South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem was assassinated just three weeks before President Kennedy was assassinated. From these two assassinations the conflict boiled until in 1965, America officially entered the war in the Central Highlands surrounding a dry creek bed and a small area called Ia Drang Valley.
“X-ray” and “Albany”, were the two Landing Zones (LZ’s) for the Americans in this first ferocious battle.
Two men from East Arkansas were involved in this battle, we should know and remember them and we should learn from them.
Ia Drang Valley, (The Valley of Death) 14 November – 17 November 1965
A powerful and moving book We Were Soldiers Once…And Young written by the commander of the American Army, Lt. General Hal Moore and news reporter Joe Galloway, who, not only was an observer to these four days but was a combatant at times.
The Ia Drang Valley referred to as the Valley of Death because it was the place the American Army met for the first time the Peoples Army of Vietnam (North Vietnamese Army).
234 Americans were killed in the four days of this battle. It was a part of a larger, 35 day long campaign in Pleiku Valley of Vietnam (South Vietnam, then). Figures for the North Vietnamese soldiers varies greatly depending on the source used but suffice to say, they lost 559 to 3,561 soldiers during the battle.
The battle of Ia Drang required the lives of good soldiers from both sides and it taught costly, powerful lessons to both sides. The Americans, for the first time, used helicopters to ferry men and equipment into a battle zone and used those same helicopters to evacuate the wounded and dead.
This new “Cavalry” proved its worth. The North Vietnamese proved their fighting tactics were true too. They got close to the Americans, proved they could meet the feared American military and fight. If the Americans were agile and quick with their helicopters the North Vietnamese would be close and swift. Two men from eastern Arkansas were part of this battle. Sergeant Floyd Lardino Reed, Jr. of Heth, and Warrant Officer, Billy J. Talley of McCrory. Both men gave their lives in this valley of death.
Floyd L. Reed, Jr. of Heth, Arkansas was born on 3 November 1938 and was killed in action on 15 November 1965 in the battle of Ia Drang.
Sargeant Reed was assigned to A Battery, 1st Battalion, 21St Artillery, 1st Cavalry Division. SGT Reed is buried in Paradise Gardens, Edmondson, Arkansas.
According to the official Report of Casualty dated 22 November 1965, SGT Reed “died… as a result of fragment wound of the head received in hostile ground action.”
Sergeant Reed was not married and had no children. His parents, living in Heth, Arkansas were notified of their son’s death.
SGT. Reed, Jr. was awarded the Purple Heart and Good Conduct Medal and is memorialized on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, Panel 03E Line 061.
Billy J. Talley, of McCrory, was born on 31 May 1938 and was killed in action on 16 November 1965.
Warrant Officer Talley, was a helicopter pilot assigned to C Troop, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division, USARV and is buried in the Fort Lewis Post Cemetery, Fort Lewis, Washington.
According to the official Report of Casualty dated 25 January 1966; WO Talley “died… as a result of extreme multiple injuries incurred while co-pilot of UH-1B helicopter on combat assault mission when aircraft crashed and burned. Death is result of hostile action.”
WO Talley was married and at the time of his death, his wife was living in Auburn, WA, she was notified of his death.
WO Talley was awarded the Purple Heart and Air Medal and is memorialized on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, Panel 03E Line 067.
Richard W. Perry of Marion, was born was born on 2 February 1942 and was killed in action on 19 September 1966.
Sergeant Perry was assigned to E Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, III MAF and is buried in Paradise Gardens, Edmondson, Arkansas.
According to the official Report of Casualty dated 28 September 1966, Sergeant Perry was killed resulting from “gunshot wounds to the left side of the neck and head sustained while participating in an operation against hostile forces.”
It is footnoted on the Report of Casualty, that Sergeant Perry at the time of his death had a brother, Pvt. Arthur L. Perry in the Army.
Sergeant Perry was not married and had no children. His parents living in Marion, were notified of his death.
Sergeant Perry was awarded the Silver Star, Purple Heart and Good Conduct Medal. Sergeant Perry is memorialized on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, Panel 10E Line 121.
Gary C. Cupples of Marion, was born on 27 April 1946 and was killed in action on 1 June 1967.
Corporal Cupples was a Rifleman assigned to L Company, 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, III MAF and is buried in Crittenden Memorial Park, Marion, AR.
According to the official Report of Casualty dated 16 June 1967; Cpl. Cupples died as the “result of an unknown fragmentation wound to the neck from unknown hostile explosive device and gunshot wound right back from hostile rifle fire while engaged in actions against hostile forces during operation.”
Corporal Cupples was not married and had no children. His parents living in Marion were notified of their son’s death.
CPL Cupples was awarded the Purple Heart and is memorialized on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, Panel 21E Line 026.
Robert T. Harris of Earle, was born on 16 December 1946 and killed in action on 17 June 1967.
Private First Class Harris was an Infantryman assigned to A Company, 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division, USARV and is buried in Paradise Gardens, Edmondson, AR.
According to the official Report of Casualty dated 20 June 1967; PFC Harris was “on combat operation preparing light defense perimeter in landing zone when he engaged hostile force in firefight.”
Private First Class Harris was not married and had no children. His parents, living in Earle were notified of their son’s death.
PFC Harris was awarded the Purple Heart and is memorialized on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, Panel 21E Line 121.
Henry Johnson, of West Memphis, was born on 22 November 1946 and died on duty on 8 October 1967.
Lance Corporal Johnson was a Rifleman assigned to Headquarters Company, 7th Command Battalion, 1st Marine Division, III MAF. LCPL Johnson’s burial location is unknown according to official record.
According to the official Report of Casualty dated 11 October 1967; LCPL Johnson died as the “result of a crushing wound to chest sustained during storm when his shelter collapsed while in a defensive position.”
Lance Corporal Johnson was not married and had no children. His father, living in Turrell and his mother living in West Memphis were notified of their son’s death.
LCPL Johnson is memorialized on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, Panel 27E Line 069.
Eli J.B. King of Earle, was born on 29 May 1944 and was killed in action on 22 June 1967.
Lance Corporal King was a Rifleman assigned to L Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, III MAF and is buried at Russell Cemetery in Earle, Arkansas.
According to the official Report of Casualty dated 1 July 1967; LCPL King was killed in action as the “result of fragmentation wounds to the neck, right shoulder and both legs from hostile mine while on patrol during operation.”
Lance Corporal King was not married and had no children. His mother, was deceased, his father’s location was unknown and his sister, Corine Wiley, living in Milwaukee, WI was notified of his death.
LCPL King was awarded the Purple Heart and is memorialized on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, Panel 22E Line 043.
Clarence Varnado of Marion, was born on 27 November 1941 and was killed in action on 27 February 1967.
Staff Sergeant Varnado was an Infantryman assigned to C Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division, USARV and is buried in Memphis National Cemetery, Memphis, Tennessee.
According to the official Report of Casualty dated 27 February 1967 at 1930 hours, SSG. Varnado was killed when he was struck in his neck by shrapnel from hostile fire while on combat operation.
Staff Sergeant Varnado was not married and had no children. His parents, living in Marion were notified of their son’s death.
SSG Varnado was awarded the Bronze Star (Merit), Purple Heart and the Good Conduct Medal and is memorialized on the Vietnam Memorial Panel 15E Line 111.
1968 – TET
1968 would prove to be the bloodiest year with 16,899 Americans losing their life in the war.
In English it is TET, in Vietnamese it is T_t and it begins the Vietnamese New Year. It is the most important celebration in the Vietnamese culture. The word is a shortened form of T_t Nguyên _án, which is Sino-Vietnamese for “Feast of the First Morning of the First Day”.
31 January is when the North Vietnamese began their TET Offensive against South Vietnamese Army and the American military while South Vietnam began celebrating the New Year.
The TET Offensive was an unquestionable military defeat for the North Vietnamese but it was the turning point for anti-war protestors and changed the way Americans viewed Vietnam.
Though it was a defeat for the North Vietnamese militarily, it was an unquestionable victory because it turned the American psyche against the war. It would take another seven years to officially end but the end started with the beginning of TET. Perhaps the greatest single comment about Vietnam came from the trusted, respected and experienced CBS Evening News Anchor, Walter Cronkite who said; “To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion. On the off chance that military and political analysts are right, in the next few months we must test the enemy’s intentions, in case this is indeed his last big gasp before negotiations. But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could. This is Walter Cronkite; good night.” (27 February 1968, CBS Evening News)Undoubtedly, his commentary, the news about the TET Offensive and the total surprise in which the North Vietnamese executed the offensive convinced politicians, protestors and the American people it was time to leave Vietnam. It would take another seven years to leave and thousands more American lives.
Charles H. Graham of West Memphis, was born on 22 January 1952 and was killed in action on 4 February 1971.
Corporal Graham was an Indirect Fire Infantryman assigned to C Company, 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division, USARV and is buried in the Nevada Municipal Cemetery, Nevada, Iowa.
According to the official Report of Casualty dated 5 March 1968; CPL Graham “died from wounds received while on combat operation when engaged hostile force in firefight.”
Corporal Graham was married and his wife lived in Nevada, Iowa was notified of her husband’s death. They had no children. Corporal Graham’s parents lived in West Memphis were notified of their son’s death.
CPL Graham was awarded the Purple Heart and is memorialized on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, Panel 37E Line 022
Otis E. Isbell of West Memphis, was born on 21 October 1948 and was killed on 16 May 1968.
Private First Class (Promoted Posthumously to Corporal) was an Infantryman assigned to HHC (Headquarters and Headquarters Company), 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division, USARV and is buried in Mount Moriah Cemetery, Iuka, Mississippi.
According to the official Military Casualty in Vietnam as the Result of Hostile Action dated 20 May, 1968, CPL Isbell “died from wounds received while in base camp when engaged hostile force in a firefight.” Six other soldiers were also killed that night in the intense firefight.
Corporal Isbell was not married and had no children. His parents living in West Memphis, were notified of their son’s death.
Corporal Isbell was awarded the Purple Heart and is memorialized on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, Panel 61E Line 012.
John Washington of Earle, was born on 25 April 1947 and was killed in action on 20 January 1968.
Private First Class Washington was a Rifleman assigned to A Company, 1st Amtrac Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III MAF and is buried in Paradise Gardens, Edmondson, Arkansas.
According to the official Report of Casualty dated 24 January 1968; PFC Washington died as the “result gunshot wound to the head from hostile rifle fire while engaged in action against hostile forces.”
Private First Class Washington was not married and had no children. His father was deceased and his mother, step-father, sister, and a friend, all living in Earle were notified of his death.
PFC Washington was awarded the Purple Heart and is memorialized on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, Panel 35E Line 001
Louis Brown of West Memphis, was born on 7 June 1947 and was killed in action on 5 April 1969.
Private First Class (Promoted Posthumously to Corporal) was assigned to D Company, 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry, 4th Infantry Division, USARV and is buried in Marion Memorial Cemetery, Marion, Arkansas.
According to the official Military Casualty Report, Corporal Brown was “killed while on combat operation when a hostile force was engaged.” A footnote states; “Individual was previously reported missing on 5 April 1969 and changed to dead on 13 April 60. NOK notified of death on 14 April 69.”
Corporal Brown was not married and had no children. Corporal Brown’s mother, living in West Memphis was notified of her son’s death.
Corporal Brown was awarded the Bronze Star (Merit) and the Purple Heart and is memorialized on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, Panel 27W Line 015.
Houston F. Thomas of West Memphis, was born on 27 November 1941 and died on 4 February 1969 from injuries received on 16 January 1969.
Lance Corporal Thomas was assigned to E Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, 3rd Marine Division, III MAF and is buried in Paradise Gardens, Edmondson, Arkansas.
According to the official Report of Casualty dated 10 February 1969, Lance Corporal Thomas “died at 1650 hours 4 February 1969 aboard United State Navy Hospital ship USS Repose as a result of wounds he sustained 1415 hours 16 January 1969 Quang Tri Province when a hostile mine exploded while on patrol.”
Lance Corporal Thomas was not married and had no children. Lance Corporal Thomas’s parents living in West Memphis were notified of their son’s death.
LCPL Thomas was awarded the Purple Heart and is memorialized on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, Panel 33W Line 059.
Ralph Phillip Hardin of Marion, was born on 5 September 1950 and was killed in action on 6 May 1970.
Lance Corporal Hardin was a Rifleman assigned to A Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, III MAF. Lance Corporal Hardin is buried in Crittenden Memorial Park in Marion, Arkansas.
According to the official Report of Casualty dated 14 May 1970; LCPL Hardin was “killed in action 6 May 1970 in Quang Nam Province.”
Lance Corporal Hardin was not married and had no children. Lance Corporal Hardin’s mother was deceased and his father, living on Old Millington Road in Memphis was notified of his son’s death.
In the September 11, 2017, page 3 of the Times, Crittenden County newspaper there is a photograph from 1963 of the ‘Boys of Summer ’63’ in which LCPL Hardin is pictured in the front row, fifth from the left (he was about 12 or 13 at the time of the picture).
LCPL Hardin was awarded the Purple Heart and 2 Gold Stars and is memorialized on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, Panel 11W Line 112.
Randall L. Harris of West Memphis, was born on 13 July 1952 and was killed in action on 8 February 1971.
Private First Class Harris (Promoted Posthumously to Corporal) was a Food Service Specialist assigned to C Battery, 6th Battalion, 11th Artillery, 11th Infantry Brigade, Americal Division, USARV and is buried in Crittenden Memorial Park, Marion, Arkansas.
According to the official Report of Casualty dated 14 February 1971; Corporal Harris, “was killed while the assistant driver of a military vehicle on a military mission when a mine detonated.”
Corporal Harris was married and had no children. His wife, living in Hot Springs, Arkansas was notified of her husband’s death. Corporal Harris’s parents living in West Memphis were notified of their son’s death.
CPL Harris was awarded the Bronze Star (Merit) and the Purple Heart and is memorialized on the Vietnam Memorial Wall Panel 05W Line 088.
Richard Wilson, Jr. of Crawfordsville, was born on 8 November 1947 and was killed on 15 June 1971.
Private First Class Wilson was a heavy vehicle driver assigned to the 523rd Transport Company, 39th Transportation Battalion, 26th Ground Service Group, Army SPT Command Danang, 1st Logistics Command, USARV.
According to official Report of Casualty dated 27 September 1971 PFC Wilson, “was killed while the driver of a military vehicle on a military mission when the vehicle ran off a bridge and into a river.”
Additional military records state; “On 15 June 1971 PFC Richard Wilson, Jr., was serving as a truck driver in South Vietnam. At about 1655 hours that day his truck went out of control while crossing the AN LO Bridge in a rainstorm, located in the vicinity of grid coordinates (left blank) and went off the bridge. On 17 June divers inspected the truck and were unable to locate PFC Wilson. 20 June the truck was recovered but no trace of PFC Wilson could be found in the truck cab. On or about the 20th, a Vietnamese youth reported seeing a body similar to PFC Wilson in appearance downstream from the bridge in the river. Efforts to relocate this body were unsuccessful. During this entire period of time U.S. and Vietnamese personnel assisted by helicopter made extensive searches in the area of the accident and downstream. All efforts were unsuccessful.” PFC Wilson’s body was never recovered.
A footnote in the Report of Casualty dated 27 September 1971 states;
“Previously reported missing on 15 June 1971 and changed to dead on 23 September 1971.”
Private First Class Wilson was not married and had no children. Private First Class Wilson’s mother living in Crawfordsville, was notified of her son’s death.
Private First Class Wilson is memorialized on the Vietnam Memorial Wall Panel 03W Line 077.
My father had enlisted in the Army at a very young age and served in the Korean War. He left the Army and entered the Air Force from which he retired in 1970. As many military families did and continue to do, we lived on the many different air bases my father was assigned to.
Anchorage, San Antonio, Biloxi, Jacksonville are all cities that shaped my life for they are all locations of Air Force bases my family has lived. I remember particularly in Biloxi and Jacksonville we used to watch helicopters and jets arrive and take off – their destination was unknown but no doubt many of them ended up in Vietnam. Then, Jacksonville was a Strategic Air Command (SAC) base and the activity on the airfield never ended.
My brothers, sisters and I were born in different states but always on a base. I look back with fond memories of my childhood, a great life! Every time we moved from one base to another we always had new furniture. I thought we were rich! I didn’t know until my teen years that most of our furniture was rented.
I remember watching the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite and the other news reporters in Vietnam, the “body counts” of dead Viet Cong or North Vietnamese. I remember the protests and protestors. I thought it was wrong to protest and particularly for draft dodgers to do what they did.
It is true that we are shaped by our experiences and my experiences were rooted deeply in the military. One thing I learned, no matter if I agree or disagree with the war – I will always do all I can to support, encourage and defend the ones on the front line – it is their lives at stake, not the protestor, not the politician – if involved in a war – do everything to win.
Following the American Civil War there is not another more confusing, destructive and questionable time than our involvement in Vietnam. But… we continue to learn lessons and reflect on the very short path into Vietnam but the very long and terrible rode through and out of our experience in Vietnam.
I honor all the men and women who serve in our military. I am grateful for those who voluntarily enlisted and those who were drafted and served.
For the over 58,193 men and women who paid for our freedom with their lives, I am forever thankful.
James Lathon of Earle, was born 17 May 1949 and died on 17 May 1972 (His Birthday) while saving an Air Force crew and removing them from harms way.
Sergeant Lathon was a Fire Protection Specialist assigned to the 388th CE Squadron, 388th Combat Support Group, 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, 7th Air Force and based in Thua Thien province of Thailand at Korat Republic of Thailand Air Force Base.
According to the official Report of Casualty dated 19 May 1972, SGT Lathon died of “Shrapnel wounds combat related.” According to the Virtual Wall project at http://www.VirtualWall.org it states; “Member of the USAF Crash Rescue crew stationed at Korat Air Base in Thailand during Operation Linebacker. At about 0710, a fully-armed F-150G “Wild Weasel” aircraft carrying AGM-45 Shrike Missiles, made a crash landing at Korat RTAFB. Due to a left main gear collapse, the aircraft slid to a stop igniting its fuel in the 450 gallon left inboard tank.
SGT Lathon, along with other crash crew members, were instrumental in getting the cockpit canopies off and unbuckling the crew. They yanked the crew out and got them safely away from the burning aircraft, and suppressed most of the fire. However, after about 8 minutes following the arrival of the fire crew, the AGM-45 warhead on the left side of the aircraft detonated. In the blast and shrapnel, Sergeant Lathon, Staff Sergeant Daubendiek and four Royal Thai Air Force personnel were killed outright.
Sergeant Lathon was not married and had no children. Sergeant Lathon’s parents living Earle were notified of their son’s death.
SGT Lathon is buried in Paradise Gardens, Edmondson, Arkansas.
SGT Lathon is memorialized on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, Panel 21E Line 121.
The First and the Last
The First American soldier killed in the Vietnam War was Air Force Technical Sergeant (T-SGT) Richard B. Fitzgibbon Jr. Tech Sergeant Fitzgibbon, Jr. was born 21 June 1920 and was shot and killed by another American soldier on 8 June 1956.
Technical Sergeant Fitzgibbon Jr. had a son named Richard Bernard Fitzgibbon, who was a Lance Corporal assigned to the 3rd Platoon, C Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, III MAF and was killed in action on 7 September 1965.
Both father and son are memorialized on the Vietnam Memorial Wall.
There were three fathers and their sons killed in the Vietnam War.
The First Battlefield fatality was Army Specialist 4 James T. Davis was from Livingston, Tennessee. He was born on 1 June 1936 and was killed on 22 December 1961.
Specialist Davis was a Radio Direction Finder assigned to the 3rd Radio Research Unit, Army Sec Group Vietnam, MAAGV.
According to an official document; “on 22 December 1961 at approximately 1140 hours, Specialist Davis was riding in the front of a _ ton truck, which was proceeding west on Viet Nam provincial highway Number 10. An electrically controlled mine was exploded under the rear of the truck and immediately after the explosion approximately 10 Viet Cong rebels opened fire with rifles, automatic machine guns and hand grenades. Specialist Davis managed to open the door and escape from the vehicle; however, approximately 50 feet from the truck, he was hit in the head by a bullet. He died as the result of a laceration of the brain, due to a bullet wound. Death apparently was instantaneous.”
Specialist James T. Davis was awarded the Purple Heart. Specialist James T. Davis is memorialized on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, Panel 01E Line 004.
The Last American killed in the Vietnam War was Private First Class Kelton Rena Turner, an 18-year old Marine. He born on 15 July 1956 and was killed in action on 15 May 1975, two weeks after the evacuation of Saigon, in what became known as the Mayaguez incident.
Private First Class Turner was a rifleman assigned to G Company, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, III MAF. According to official documents his body was not recovered when his helicopter crashed but his remains were repatriated on 6 December 1995 but not identified until 8 May 2000. He is buried in the Los Angeles National Cemetery, Los Angeles, California.
PFC Turner is memorialized on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, Panel 01W Line 130.
Private First Class Turner served with three others who have never been accounted for after the Mayaguez incident.
According to an official Extract from an MIA investigation report for PFC Gary L. Hall; LCPL Joseph N. Hargrove; PVT Danny G. Marshall (date unknown);
“That Hall, Hargrove and Marshall landed on Koh Tang Island, Cambodia at about 1230 on 15 May 1975. That Hall, Hargrove and Marshall comprised an M-60 machine gun team which was attached to the 3rd Platoon, Company “E”, 2nd Battalion, Ninth Marines. That the machine gun team formed by these three Marines was positioned on the extreme right portion consisted of the 3d Platoon of Company “E”…. That during the daylight hours of 15 May 1975; Hall, Hargrove and Marshall were observed in their defensive position by several members of Company “E”. That between 1830 and 1900 a prearranged signal was sounded initiating withdrawal of the defensive perimeter toward the beach, to execute the extraction of all Marine forces from Koh Tang Island. That prior to initiation of the preplanned withdrawal Hall, Hargrove and Marshall had been briefed on the sequence of events which would culminate with the extraction of all Marine forces from Koh Tang Island. That when the signal was sounded to begin withdrawing toward the beach area, PFC Rios, who was located about 5 meters from Hall, Hargrove and Marshall, shouted to the three Marines telling them to pull back, whereupon Rios withdrew and did not see the three men again.”
They were last seen together but unfortunately to date, their fate is unknown. They are memorialized on the Vietnam Memorial Wall on Panel 1W Lines 103-131.
1975 – The End
The Soldiers, Airmen, Marines, Sailors and others regardless of being drafted or volunteering had accomplished what they were sent to South Vietnam to do. They trained the South Vietnamese Army, they fought the battles to keep another country free of communism.
If America lost the war it wasn’t the military, it was the politicians who lost the war. The United States was “officially” out of the war in January 1973 but the fighting kept going between North and South Vietnam until April 1975 when South Vietnam was finally conquered by North Vietnam. To this day many veterans suffer from Agent Orange, a defoliant used to destroy the lush forest and dense jungles by stripping their leaves. Many more suffer from the terrible way they were mistreated when they arrived back home from Vietnam. Many of our Veterans continue to suffer from the poor medical services delivered through the Veterans Administration and the delays in getting these Veterans the services and benefits they were promised and earned. It is a tragedy that must be resolved.
In 1982 the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was completed and unveiled in Washington, D.C. The Memorial has inscribed on its black marble panels the names of 58,286 (Names are continuously added when appropriate) of men and women killed in Vietnam or dying of the wounds received while serving in Vietnam.
It is a humbling experience to walk past the Memorial, to see the names, to see Veterans standing, gazing at names of their friends, to see the memorials left behind in honor of so many.
If you should have the opportunity to visit the Vietnam Memorial Wall I encourage you to do so – it is hallowed ground and a place for healing the American soul. What once divided us as a people can now unite us.
Perhaps a simple and sobering view of the war is to consider the inscription on the tombstone of Major James Carl Payne, from Marked Tree buried in the Oaklawn Cemetery, Jonesboro, Arkansas.
Major Payne was an Operations & Training Staff Officer assigned to ADV Team 4, Headquarters, MACV Advisors, MACV in the Quang Tri Province of South Vietnam.
According to the official Report of Casualty dated 21 February 1968; “Individual died as the result of wound received while in base camp which came under hostile mortar and rocket attack.”
Major Payne was married and had two sons living at the time of his death in Trumann, Arkansas. Major Payne’s wife and sons were notified of his death. Major Payne was awarded the Purple Heart and is memorialized on the Vietnam Memorial Wall on Panel 36E Line 081.
Major Payne’s headstone, reads; “James Carl Payne, Major Army Artillery, Born July 27, 1936 Died Defending The Right of Men To Choose Their Own Destiny And To Live In Dignity And Freedom, Died February 2, 1968.
This is the ideal that this country was founded upon. This is the reason why so many gave their lives in Vietnam or any war – for the purpose of enabling others to “Choose Their Own Destiny And To Live In Dignity And Freedom.”
Many died to give us the ability to choose our destiny. I pray we make wise choices with the freedom we have been provided.
In honor of the 2 men killed in Ia Drang; The 15 killed from Crittenden County and,
The 585 other men from Arkansas and, The 2,709,918 Americans who served in uniform in Vietnam and, The 9,087,000 military men and women who served on active duty during the official Vietnam era from 5 August 1964 to 7 May 1975 – You have not been forgotten and, Thank You for serving!
To the men and women serving now – Thank You!
To the families who lost sons, fathers, uncles, cousins, grandfathers and friends, your loss has never left your heart and the memories of your loved ones will never die. By honoring your loved ones we also honor you.
Clayton Adams, Earle, AR
Statement of attribution and accuracy.
To the best of my ability I researched dates, facts and figures using various sources all of which are listed here, if I have made a mistake it was accidental and I would be happy to correct any mistake if I am made aware of the mistake and given the correct information.
• My Father, Victor L. Adams, whom I want to be like when I grow up.
• Men who served in Vietnam and I look up to: Billy Rogers, Manual Clouse, Eddie Carlock, Richard Fritz, George Turnbo and many others.
• To the many men whose funerals I have conducted and who served in Vietnam, Europe, The Pacific, Korea and the Middle East – they have all been good teachers.
• The Coffelt Data Base of Vietnam Casualties at http://www.coffeltdatabase.org. This is perhaps the best source of information for researching individuals who were killed in Vietnam. Much of their information is taken directly from the LBJ Presidential Library located in Texas. It is copyrighted.
• Find A Grave at http://www.findagrave.com
• Wikipedia at http://www.wikipedia.org
• The Wall-USA at http://www.thewall-usa.com
• U.S. Wings at http://www.uswings.com
• History at http://www.history.com
• We Were Soldiers Once…And Young by LT. General Harold G. Moore (Ret) and Joseph L. Galloway. New York, Random House, 1992.
• The National Archives at http://www.archives.gov/research/military/vietnam.
• The United States Census at http://www.census.gov
• Honor States.org at http://www.honorstates.org.
• If someone knows of the burial location of LCPL Henry Johnson of West Memphis, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
• If someone has a photograph of one of these men, please contact me at email@example.com to complete the official record for each man from Crittenden County. The completed record will be donated to the Crittenden County Museum.
• If someone knows of the burial location of Sergeant James Lathon of Earle, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• If someone knows of a memorial site for Private First Class Richard Wilson, Jr. of Crawfordsville, please contact me at email@example.com. His body was never recovered and if there is no known Memorial for him currently, one will be created and a service conducted on his behalf and with any family members known.
• To these Vietnam Veterans who did not enjoy a hero’s welcome home, perhaps we can have one soon for you in Crittenden County – you haven’t been forgotten.