A decorated Belleville veteran who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country was honored in a street naming ceremony.
On March 26, the township dedicated the intersection of Tiona Ave. and Nolton St. as “Roger B. Crowell Way” as a tribute to the township resident who was killed in action Jan. 31, 1968, in the Vietnam War – one of 11 Belleville sons who died in that conflict.
Mayor Raymond Kimble joined with Councilman Kevin Kennedy, other officials including Belleville Historic Preservation Chairman Thomas Grolimond, veterans and residents in recognizing Crowell, who lived at 100 Tiona Ave. where a street sign now bears his name.
This tribute supplements a previously installed memorial to Crowell sponsored by the Belleville Little League.
Author Anthony Buccino, who has researched the histories of Belleville residents who died in combat in the various wars in which Americans have deployed, said, in referring to Crowell, that, “Belleville lost a brave young man.”
Crowell – a Little League All-Star and Outstanding Player (1958-60) who went to School 5 and Belleville High School (class of 1965) where he was a three-letter athlete – was drafted into the Army and was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam on Oct. 15, 1967.
He was granted a four-day leave to spend time with his wife, the former Gail Corino, his high school sweetheart, and their newborn son Roger Jr.
Back in country, after 11 months of service, Crowell was promoted to Specialist 4th Class and his unit enjoyed a USO Christmas show featuring entertainer Bob Hope.
Soon after, the infantry unit was among the many American and South Vietnamese soldiers dealt setbacks during the Tet Offensive launched by the Viet Cong country-wide on Jan. 30, 1968.
On Jan. 31, according to military records, Crowell “distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions … while serving as a tank driver … [when] his platoon was called to reinforce friendly elements engaged in a fierce firefight with a regimental size force of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army soldiers who had penetrated the Tan Son Nhut Air Base perimeter.
“While moving into the battle site, the platoon was subjected to savage enemy rocket, automatic weapons and small-arms fire.
“Specialist Crowell’s tank was struck by three anti-tank rockets, and his commander directed the crew to evacuate the disabled vehicle. Heedless of his safety amid withering hostile fire, Specialist Crowell unhesitatingly left the driver’s compartment and climbed inside the tank.
“Alone, he quickly loaded and fired 18 devastatingly accurate cannon rounds on the attacking insurgents.
“When continuing enemy rocket fire rendered the main gun inoperable, Specialist Crowell fearlessly exposed himself to the relentless fusillade and raked the hostile positions with a hail of bullets from the tank’s machine gun until he was struck by enemy small arms fire and instantly killed.
“Specialist Crowell’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty, at the cost of his life, were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.”
For his actions, Crowell was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts, the Combat Infantryman Badge and the South Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.
– Ron Leir