Unit: 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne)
Branch of Service: Army
Service in Vietnam: 1957-1957
Casualty Date: 21 Oct 1957
Location of Casualty: Nha Trang
Location on Wall: Panel 1E, Line 78
Dad was a third-generation soldier, and set out to make the Army his career. He graduated from West Point in June, 1946. He married Anne Supple of Newburgh, NY. He served as a rifle company commander in the 25th Infantry Division (“Tropic Lightning”) in the Korean War. He was wounded twice, and earned the Silver Star for valor. Returning to Fort Bragg after Korea, Dad volunteered for the newly-formed Special Forces (“Green Berets”). He deployed to Thailand in 1956 to train the Royal Thai Special Forces. His next mission was to Indochina. Dad departed Hickam Field in Hawaii on June 25, 1957 (my parents’ tenth anniversary) in command of the first US Special Forces “A Team” to deploy to South Vietnam. It was to be a six-month mission to train Vietnamese Special Forces soldiers in unconventional warfare. He expected to meet us at our new family quarters in Okinawa by Christmas. (While he shipped out for Vietnam, my mom, sisters and I sailed from Hawaii to Okinawa aboard the transport USNS Sultan). On October 21, 1957 Dad was killed by an explosion during what was supposed to be a training patrol in the hills about 10 miles southwest of Nha Trang. We are still uncertain of the cause of the explosion. Some witnesses were certain it was a Viet Cong ambush, others were certain it was an accident caused by the deteriorated French munitions that Dad and his team were forced to use (over his objections). There is evidence to support both conclusions. Whatever the case, we lost our Dad. He was 31 years old; a husband and father of three; and a brilliant, happy, funny, and loving man. He is buried at the US Military Academy Cemetery at West Point. Dad’s name was left off The Wall when it was first built, because the Department of Defense did not report the casualty to the VVMF. A year later, on Veterans’ Day of 1983, his name was added to the first panel. On October 21, 2007 the DOD made amends by conducting a special ceremony at West Point, recognizing the 50th anniversary of his loss as the first American serviceman killed in Vietnam. Dad is still a huge influence in the lives of his children and grandchildren. I know he watches over us, and not a single day passes that I don’t think of him. I am sure that is a bond I share with every other son and daughter in SDIT. We love you and miss you, Dad. (Submitted by LTC (Ret) Harry G. Cramer III, son).