Editorials

Faces of Vietnam War dead found, others still missing

Oral “Orval” Terry, of Mascoutah, has been missing in action since 4 a.m. on May 3, 1968. He was last seen guarding a boat on a Vietnamese river when another guard heard a splash. His photo was recently added to the Virtual Wall of Faces maintained by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Oral “Orval” Terry, of Mascoutah, has been missing in action since 4 a.m. on May 3, 1968. He was last seen guarding a boat on a Vietnamese river when another guard heard a splash. His photo was recently added to the Virtual Wall of Faces maintained by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Provided

They were brothers. They were the best man in a wedding. They were fresh-faced young men, many born a year or two after their fathers returned from World War II. They never age.

Of 206 service members from southwestern Illinois who died in the Vietnam War, 43 did not have pictures to go with the names engraved in the black granite of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. But that was six weeks ago.

The call to match faces to the names yielded seven new images. Marine Pfc Terry L. Boyce, Army Staff Sgt. Ralph R. Justice, Air Force Staff Sgt. Charles B. Lankford, Marine Cpl. Denver Moore Jr., Army Spc. 4 Bernard E. Smith, Army Spc. 4 James J. Stites and Army Staff Sgt. Oral R. Terry now have faces to go with their names on the virtual memorial wall.

Oral Terry was “Orval” to his family, but the Army called him by the misspelled name on his birth certificate. He was “Oral” after he was drafted.

At 4 a.m., May 3, 1968, Terry was on guard on an Army maintenance boat on the Ham Luong River in Vietnam. The guard he relieved heard a splash. Terry was listed as missing in action and his family still doesn’t know whether he is alive or dead.

Naomia Severs, of Lebanon, remembers her brother as a sickly child unable to finish high school. Terry had to take hard jobs, so hoisting sides of beef for a local meat packer made him strong.

He was in Army survival training when their father died and he came home to Mascoutah for the last time.

“He gave me a spank and said, ‘Let that last you until I get home.’ He told our mom not to change or let her hair go gray,” Severs said.

For years, airmen from Scott Air Force Base would bring the Terry family North Vietnamese propaganda films showing prisoners of war. They scanned the emaciated faces to see if they saw Oral Terry.

“Most of the airmen you could tell had been drinking. It had to be hard on them, too,” Severs said.

It’s still hard on her.

This Memorial Day, look through your old high school yearbook or family album. See if you have a picture of one of the 36 remaining men who died in service to our country and whose images need to be matched to their names.

If you don’t have one of the pictures, spend time looking at other faces on the Virtual Wall of Faces at vvmf.org. Whether you remember one of the war dead, or you make a new memory by seeing one of the 50,500 faces currently there, you will be achieving the goal of Memorial Day.

That, and maybe a prayer, will partly repay the debt owed to these young adults who died so far from home or who never saw their mothers go gray.

Do you have a photo of these Vietnam War dead?

Name

Born

Died

Home

Service

Rank

Where died

Donnell Bell

8/9/49

2/25/68

Venice

Army

PVT

Quang Ngai

Leo Bell Jr.

7/1/46

7/24/67

East St. Louis

Marine Corps

LCPL

Quang Nam

Fred A. Benner

11/12/29

4/13/66

East St. Louis

Army

SP5

Unknown

Larry M. Berry

4/24/47

7/22/66

East St. Louis

Marine Corps

LCPL

Quang Tri

Wilford L. Blumer

5/14/49

8/31/68

East St. Louis

Marine Corps

PFC

Quang Nam

Donald W. Bornman

12/28/47

1/5/68

Edwardsville

Army

SGT

Phu Yen

Allie W. Campbell

1/25/45

11/12/65

East St. Louis

Army

SP4

Unknown

Johnny R. Cobb

9/6/38

7/10/70

Madison

Army

SSGT

Unknown

Gerald L. Elliott

3/21/46

5/22/68

Granite City

Army

SP5

Thua Thien

Robert E. Emery

11/5/45

12/9/65

Granite City

Marine Corps

PVT

Quang Tin

Alvin L. Evanoff

9/7/49

12/6/70

Collinsville

Army

SP4

Quang Nam

David L. Fisher

4/25/44

2/15/66

Mitchell

Army

SP4

Unknown

Phillip R. Gaines

2/3/47

5/26/67

East St. Louis

Army

PFC

Pleiku

Le R. Gee

10/9/49

7/9/68

East St. Louis

Marine Corps

PVT

Quang Nam

David L. Hampton

5/28/49

3/13/68

Wood River

Army

PFC

Pleiku

Harry J. Harris

6/24/50

12/5/68

East St. Louis

Army

PVT

Quang Nam

Thomas E. Harrison

1/29/48

6/20/68

Granite City

Army

CPL

Quang Tri

Charles E. Harvey

1/24/45

4/11/66

East St. Louis

Army

PFC

Unknown

Noel Hurley

3/25/45

10/25/68

Godfrey

Army

SP4

Long An

Wilbur D. Jackson

5/24/36

5/16/66

East St. Louis

Army

SSGT

Unknown

William C. Langham

11/22/45

11/24/67

East Alton

Army

SP4

Binh Dinh

Joe C. Leutenegger

12/27/46

7/2/67

Granite City

Marine Corps

PFC

Quang Tri

Donald K. Mink

7/24/48

7/19/69

Granite City

Army

SP4

Binh Duong

Johnny L. Neal

5/23/44

10/7/66

East St. Louis

Army

SP4

Unknown

Andrew Perry Jr.

8/8/47

6/6/68

East St. Louis

Army

CPL

Binh Duong

Elroy Simmons

7/15/40

7/19/70

East St. Louis

Army

SFC

Tay Ninh

Edward M. Simpson

9/12/48

5/11/68

Collinsville

Army

SGT

Long An

Benjamin J. Sullivan

3/1/50

7/16/69

Granite City

Army

PFC

Thua Thien

Norman E. Thomas

10/9/35

2/24/68

Collinsville

Air Force

SSGT

Gia Dinh

David O. Timson

5/2/50

12/2/68

East St. Louis

Marine Corps

CPL

Quang Nam

Eugene Underwood

7/14/44

9/20/66

East St. Louis

Navy

EN2

Gia Dinh

Vincent Vosylius

12/14/46

4/26/69

East St. Louis

Marine Corps

PFC

Quang Nam

Eddie L. Weekfall

7/30/47

12/4/67

East St. Louis

Marine Corps

CPL

Quang Nam

George O. Wilkerson

11/10/49

6/9/70

East St. Louis

Army

SSGT

Unknown

Richard A. Williams

12/7/42

4/10/67

East St. Louis

Army

SGT

Long An

Thomas A. Zimmerman

9/1/47

3/12/69

Alton

Army

PFC

Binh Duong

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