The Vietnam War is one of the longest wars in American history, lasting for well over a decade. Fixing an exact date on the beginning of the Vietnam War for the United States can be difficult as the first U.S. military advisors arrived in South Vietnam in 1950. U.S. involvement escalated in the early 1960s with the first combat troops arriving in 1965. U.S. involvement in the war reached its high-water mark in 1968-1969 with about 500,000 troops engaged. Following the Tet Offensive in 1968, the U.S. began reducing troop levels through a policy called "Vietnamization" in late 1969. The last Americans officially left Vietnam on 29 April 1975 when North Vietnamese troops captured and overran Saigon and the U.S. Embassy. During this war which lasted for almost two decades, 58,000 Americans were killed in action. Below are some of their stories.
Pfc. Coleman's Bronze Star, Purple Heart and other medals.
Pfc. James E. Coleman, 55984729, 25th Infantry Division, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion, Company A. Killed in Action on 26 May 1967 by a gun shot wound to the head near Cu Chi, South Vietnam. Born on 25 September 1947, he entered the Army on 31 October 1966 from Kansas City, Missouri. His tour in Vietnam began on 19 April 1967.
He is buried at the White Chapel Memorial Gardens Cemetery, Kansas City, Missouri. He was 19 years old.
Pfc. Coleman's Basic Training Photo
Pfc. Coleman's headstone at White Chapel Memorial Gardens Cemetery.
Lt. Jerome's Purple Heart, Bronze Star and other medals.
Lt. Jerome's Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medals.
|1st Lt. Paul A. Jerome, Jr., O-5253312, Company B, 70th Engineer Battalion, 937th Engineer Group, 18th Engineer Brigade. Killed in Action on 22 August 1968 near Pleiku, South Vietnam when the jeep in which he was riding hit a mine. Born on 27 February 1944, he entered the service on 10 December 1965 as an enlisted man from Tiverton, Rhode Island. |
He is buried in Rhode Island. He was 24 years old and married.
Pfc. Keitt's Purple Heart medal.
|Pfc. Charles J. Keitt, 094369808, 1st Cavalry Division, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Battalion, Company C. Killed in Action on 11 November 1969 at Fire Support Base Jerri, Phouc Long Provence, Republic of South Vietnam by mortar fire. Born on 25 June 1947, he entered the service from Kings County, New York. He entered began his Tour of Duty in Vietnam on 7 December 1968. |
On 11 November 1969, heavy enemy shelling rained down on Fire Support Base Jerri. Five servicemen were killed during the attack, including Pfc. Keitt and Spec/4. Clark Douglas, a medic, who received the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions during the attack.
Pfc. Keitt is buried in New York. He was 22 years old and had never been married.
Pfc. Charles J. Keitt.
Capt. Lasater's Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Air Medal, Army Commendation medal, Vietnam Service Medal and Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Star..
|Capt. Luther M. Lasater, III, 462-xx-7173, 1st Cavalry Division, 3rd Brigade, 9th Cavalry Regiment, F Troop, Pilot OH-6A Scout Helicopter. Killed in Action on 13 February 1972 near Bien Hoa, South Vietnam. Born on 16 February 1947, he was from Garland, Texas. His tour in Vietnam began on 21 November 1971. |
Capt. Lasater was recommended for the Congressional Medal of Honor for the action which cost him his life. The narrative for the action reads as follows: "On the afternoon of 13 February 1972, Company 'B', 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry, made contact with a force of undetermined size in a bunker complex, and requested that a Hunter-Killer team be sent to their assistance.
The weather was clear and sunny and the terrain was thin, single canopy jungle with low, dense bamboo thickets and gently rolling hills. The enemy morale was high and they were protecting their positions by firing at all aircraft and personnel entering the area.
When the Hunter-Killer team arrived on station, the mission commander coordinated with the ground unit and made rocket runs in his AH-1G to suppress the area. Then the OH-6A Scout aircraft, piloted by CPT Luther M. Lasater, entered the contact area at treetop level to mark the enemy positions for the AH-1G to destroy. CPT Lasater flew through the area several times, each time taking heavy small arms and machine gun fire, before he was satisfied that he could put out an accurate mark. He then put out a white phosphorous grenade to mark the enemy positions for the Cobra, which made rocket runs as CPT Lasater moved away.
At this time, an aerial field artillery section arrived on station fully armed and CPT Lasater, despite the heavy volume of enemy ground to air fire, offered to re-mark the enemy positions so their rockets would be of the most benefit to the ground unit. CPT Lasater entered the area and immediately became the target of the enemy gunners, who were able to hit his aircraft, shooting out his main generator. CPT Lasater, however, was not satisfied with his mark and returned to put another grenade on the location. On this pass, CPT Lasater's aircraft was critically hit by enemy fire and crashed between the enemy and friendly ground unit.
SP4 Keith A. Delahoy, CPT Lasater's gunner, was able to escape the aircraft and made an attempt to rescue CPT Lasater. At that time, however, the aircraft exploded, burning SP4 Delahoy painfully and killing CPT Lasater.
Because CPT Lasater's actions diverted enemy fire, the command and control element of the company in contact was able to disengage from an untenable location where it was pinned down by enemy fire. The company command element thus obtained a superior command and control position from which to successfully direct the remaining battle.
The facts contained in the proposed citation and this narrative have been substantiated by the statements of eyewitnesses."
Capt. Lasater's Medal of Honor recommendation was downgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross. He also received a posthumous Bronze Star and Air Medal.
He was 24 years old. married and is buried at Resland Cemetery, Richardson, Texas, Space 3, Lot 37, Block P, Field of Honor.
Capt. Luther Lasater in a 1972 newspaper photograph.
Capt. Lasater's headstone at the Resland Cemetery.
SP4 Morgan's Bronze Star, Purple Heart and other medals.
|SP4 Theodore Morgan Jr., 14941853, 1st Infantry Division, 28th Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion, Company D, LIMA Platoon. Killed in Action on 29 November 1967 near Bu Dop, Bo Duc District, Phuoc Long Province, South Vietnam by multiple fragmentation wounds when a 122mm rocket hit the top of the LIMA Platoon Command Bunker. Born on 9 July 1947, he entered the service from Toledo, Ohio. He began his tour of duty in Vietnam on 27 February 1967. |
SP4 Morgan was awarded the Bronze Star with "V" posthumously for the action in which he was killed. The citation reads, "For heroism in connections with military operations against a hostile force: On this date (29 November 1967) Specialist Morgan was serving as a rifleman at his battalion's night defensive positions near Bu Dop, 3000 meters from the Cambodian border. His company was entrenched on the southern edge of an airstrip and an Army of the Republic of Vietnam compound was to the east. An ARVN unit returning from an afternoon patrol was unknowingly being followed from the border area by a reinforced Viet Cong battalion. At approximately 2200 hours, the enemy launched a vicious attack against the two friendly positions. The airstrip and the surrounding area were raked with heavy rocket, mortar , machine gun, small arms, and automatic weapons fire. Specialist Morgan unhesitatingly left the cover of his foxhole and ran through a hail of shrapnel and debris to reach the perimeter. Two enemy mortar tubes were placing relentless fire on his section of the perimeter. With complete disregard for his personal safety, he remained in the open and directed devastating fire onto the hostile mortar emplacements. He killed several of the crewmembers and forced the others to retreat, leaving their weapons behind. He was engaging other targets when he was mortally wounded by an insurgent mortar round which made a direct hit on his position. His resolute purpose and exemplary courage significantly contributed to the defeat of the enemy. Specialist Four Morgan's outstanding display of aggressiveness, devotion to duty, and personal bravery is in keeping with the finest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit upon himself, the 1st Infantry Division, and the United States Army."
He was 20 years old. He is buried at the Santa Ana Cemetery, Anguilla, Mississippi.
SP4 Morgan (left) and 2nd Lt. Lawrence Duffy near Phuoc Vinh, Vietnam, September 1967. Both were killed on 29 November 1967, (Photo courtesy of Ken Jensen.)
SP4 Phillips' Bronze Star, Purple Heart and other medals.
|SP4 James Phillips, Jr., 55868417, 9th Infantry Division, 60th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion, Company B. Killed in Action on 2 May 1967 by a shell fragment wound to his lower abdomen while he was guarding his base's perimeter in the Long An Province, South Vietnam. He began his tour of duty in Vietnam on 1 December 1966. Born on 9 June 1941, he entered the service on 18 January 1966 from Detroit, Michigan. |
He was 25 years old and married. He was living in Birmingham, Alabama. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA.
SP4 James Phillips
SP4 Phillips' headstone at Arlington National Cemetery.
Sgt. Poirier's Bronze Star, Purple Heart and other medals.
|Sgt. Paul E. Poirier, 1944021, Americal Division, 196th Light Infantry Brigade, 21st Infantry Regiment, 3rd Battalion, Company E. Killed in Action on 13 April 1968 near Quang Tin, South Vietnam. Born on 12 February 1944, he entered the service from Southbridge, Massachusetts. His tour of duty in Vietnam began on 29 November 1967. |
Sgt. Poirier posthumously received the Bronze Star Medal with "V" device on 26 April 1968. His citation reads, "For heroism in connection with military operations against a hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam. Sergeant Poirier distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions on 13 April 1968 while serving as a squad leader with the 1st Platoon of Company A, 3d Battalion, 21st Infantry. On that date, his platoon was conducting a combat operation in the Tam Ky Province. After establishing a night defensive position, Sergeant Poirier's platoon came under heavy attack by an enemy force of undetermined size. During the initial phase of the battle, the platoon sustained numerous casualties and Sergeant Poirier quickly moved from from his covered position and directed the movement of the wounded into a newly formed perimeter. He then returned to the outer perimeter and regrouped the members of his squad. He professionally directed his men to positions along the new perimeter and moved among their positions, giving encouragement and directing the fire of his men. While performing these valorous actions, Sergeant Poirier was mortally wounded by enemy fire. Sergeant Poirier's personal bravery, unselfish concern for the lives of his fellow soldiers and dedication to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflected great credit upon himself, the Americal Division, and the United States Army."
He is buried in Massachusetts. He was 24 years old.
Pfc. Ruberg's Purple Heart.
|Pfc. Christopher E. Ruberg, 56381126, Company C, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division. Killed in Action on 21 February 1966 in South Vietnam. Born on 28 October 1942, he entered the service from Pacific Palisades, California. His tour of duty in Vietnam began on 25 September 1965.|
He is buried at the Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California. He was 23 years old and unmarried.
Pfc. Ruberg's headstone at the Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California. (Photo courtesy of Findagrave.com.)
Pfc Smith's Purple Heart.
|Pfc. Fred D. Smith, Jr., 13890287, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile). Killed in Action on 15 August 1966 in South Vietnam by small arms fire. Born on 10 August 1945, he entered the service from Washington, DC. His tour of duty in Vietnam began on 9 May 1966.|
He was 21 years old. He is buried at the Lincoln Memorial Gardens Cemetery, Ocala, Florida.
Pfc. Smith's headstone at Lincoln Memorial Gardens, Ocala, Florida.
(Photo courtesy of Dave V.)