In Memory of Our Fallen


In Memory of Our Fallen

As our nation remembered D-Day, June 6, 1944, 24 men of Delta Company, 1-501st Infantry Battalion met June 5-7, 2015 for a reunion in Bardstown, Kentucky. They were all veterans from the Vietnam War.

Some 46 years ago, the 1-501st as part of the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division was engaged in the 60-day+ "Battle of Tam Ky" (from May into July 1969). Officially named Operation Lamar Plain, those who were there refer to it as a "forgotten battle". Initially outnumbered by a North Vietnam Army divisional force, it was one of the bloodiest of the war.

Of the 350 501st soldiers in the field, 243 (69%) were casualties either killed or wounded. Delta alone had 18 killed in action and over 70 wounded. All three of our initial platoon leaders were soon wounded and two replacement leaders quickly met the same fate. The men heroically fought on. Former Captain Leland Roy, currently of Tyrone, Georgia, led the company for most of the fight.

In honoring those killed in the battle, we remembered the 501st's long and honorable heritage. Trained in Toccoa, Georgia in 1943, the 501st Regiment, 101st Airborne Division was the Army's first combat parachute unit. It jumped behind enemy lines into France in advance of D-Day and later in Operation Market Garden. It was the first to arrive and take up positions at Bastogne. Along with other units of the 101st in the Battle of the Bulge, it stopped the last major German attack of WWII.

The 501st deployed to Vietnam with the 101st in December 1967 and returned home in February 1972. It fought with distinction in 12 campaigns of the Vietnam War.

In more recent times, it served with honor in the Persian Gulf War, the Afghanistan, and Iraq Wars.

In hindsight, we all now know that saving the provincial town of Tam Ky was not strategically or historically important. But, we also know that we upheld the honor of our heritage and successfully accomplished the mission to reinforce another US division (The Americal) who had been hit hard and needed us.

Some may say it was not worth the cost of those who died. This few, this small band of brothers grown old and gathering once more, are not among the naysayers. We remembered our fallen and had great joy in seeing and being with one another.

Now, 46 years later, we are proud to say, "we too, were soldiers once and young."

Ed Sherwood, 3/D/1-501