‘Haunted by these numbers’
Editor’s note: Last Friday, March 29, marked 40 years since American combat troops were withdrawn from Vietnam. A friend who is a Marine veteran and a former Saigon war correspondent emailed me what appears below. I thought it would be an appropriate commemoration, and I have tried to find out who wrote it — but to no avail. I asked my friend, and his response was, “It has been forwarded so many times that I doubt you could find the origin.”
Therefore, I cannot give the writer credit, nor can I vouch for the accuracy of all the data, but I truly doubt anyone would make it up.
– Karen Zautyk
There are 58,272 names listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, including those added in 2011.
The first known casualty was Richard B. Fitzgibbon of North Weymouth, Mass., killed on June 8, 1956. Also on The Wall is the name of his son, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Richard B. Fitzgibbon III, killed Sept. 7, 1965.
There are three sets of fathers and sons on The Wall.
39,996 on The Wall were 22 or younger. 8,283 were just 19.
The largest age group, 33,103, were 18 years old.
Twelve soldiers on The Wall were 17. Five soldiers were 16.
One soldier, PFC Dan Bullock, was 15 years old.
997 soldiers were killed on their first day in Vietnam.
1,448 were killed on their last day in Vietnam.
31 sets of brothers are on The Wall.
54 soldiers attended the same school, Thomas Edison High School in Philadelphia.
Eight women are on The Wall; nurses caring for the wounded.
244 soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War; 153 of them are on The Wall.
There are 16 chaplains (seven Catholic, seven Protestant and two Jewish) on The Wall.
West Virginia had the highest casualty rate per capita in the nation. There are 711 West Virginians on The Wall.
The Buddies of Midvale, Utah — LeRoy Tafoya, Jimmy Martinez and Tom Gonzales — were boyhood friends who went to Vietnam. In a span of 16 days in late 1967, all three would be killed. Tafoya died Nov. 22, the fourth anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Martinez died less than 24 hours later, on Thanksgiving Day. Gonzales was shot dead Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.
The Marines of Morenci, Ariz. (pop. 5,058) — In patriotic camaraderie, nine graduates of Morenci High enlisted as a group in the Marine Corps. Their service began on Independence Day, 1966. Only three returned home.
The most casualty deaths for a single day occurred Jan. 31, 1968 — 245 deaths. The most casualty deaths for a single month was May 1968 — 2,415.
Most Americans who read this will see only the numbers that the Vietnam War created. But those of us who survived the war, and the families of those who did not, see the faces. We feel the pain that these numbers created. We are, until we, too, pass away, haunted by these numbers, because they were our friends, fathers, husbands, wives, sons and daughters.
There are no noble wars, just noble warriors.