Today marks the 46th anniversary of the Battle of Ong Thanh. I read about this tragedy in David Maraniss’ award winning book They Marched into Sunlight. The book traces a rather startling weekend in 1967 for Wisconsin and our nation.
On the campus of UW-Madison on Saturday October 17th, students clashed violently with City police protesting Dow Chemical recruiting events on campus. Dow produced napalm for the Army before and during the war.
On the other side of the world that same Saturday the ambush at Onh Thanh lasted just two hours. By the time it was over 64 American soldiers were killed including Lieutenant Colonel Terry Allen and every member of the Battalion Command Group. Allen Jr., the son of World War II Divisional Commander Terry Allen Sr. and led the same 1st Infantry Division as his father. Terry Allen Jr. led two rifle companies (~400 men) into a heavily wooded stream where two enemy battalions (~2,400 soldiers) waited for them. Two soldiers from Milwaukee were killed in this battle.
Daniel Sikorski who grew up on the Polish south side of Milwaukee was one of the first killed in Delta company. Maraniss wrote extensively about Danny, growing up in Milwaukee and his relationship with his sister Diane. She shared her story in a BBC television event called How Vietnam was Lost and PBS’ American Experience episode Two Days in October.
Remember Pat Tillman? The battle had it’s own Pat Tillman. Don Holleder was much like Pat Tillman. In 1954 he was an All-American end at Army. Due to his leadership he became Army’s quarterback in 1955. He led his team to an upset of heavily favored Navy and was on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Drafted by the New York Giants, he chose to serve rather than play professional football. Major Holleder was killed by a sniper while charging into battle after circling over Ong Thanh in a helicopter monitoring shifting lines of enemy soldiers.
Wisconsin paid a heavy price in Vietnam. Ohio lost many sons to this long war. We must honor and remember their sacrifice.
These patriots….our fellow countrymen died in a faraway land. They loved America and one another. We owe it to them.
Today Thursday October 17th 2013 marks the 46th anniversary of this battle.
Thankfully today we acknowledge and salute all those serving in Afghanistan or Iraq. I felt compelled to pay my respects at Saint Adalberts Cemetery in Milwaukee. Danny and each American who died at Ong Thanh will never be forgotten.