Warren County’s lives lost in Vietnam

Times Observer photo by Josh Cotton Fuellhart’s name on the Vietnam Wall in Washington D.C., panel 2E, line 51.

If you’ve ever gone to an event of any kind at War Memorial Field, you’ve seen their names.

I’ve done it dozens of times and never taken notice — until a few weeks ago.

Maybe it stood out because I had just written about the Pentagon Papers, which revealed that the government pathologically lied to the American people about the situation in Vietnam.

The consequence of those lies? Over 58,000 names on the Vietnam Wall in Washington D.C.

And 17 names on a memorial at War Memorial Field.

Times Observer file photo Warren-native Robert Fuellhart, Jr. in uniform during his years at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

A few of those names were familiar to me. But most were not. This marks the first in a series that will, to me at least, make these names more familiar, accompanied with images of their names from the Vietnam Wall in DC that I took several weeks ago. I’ll provide some additional information on the wall in a future edition in the event some aren’t aware.

This series will start here, with Warren County’s first life lost in Vietnam — Robert Fuellhart. If this material seems familiar, it should. It’s a story I initially wrote for this space a few years ago.

Born in Warren, Fuellhart’s father moved the family to Tionesta and started the Tionesta TV Cable Company, according to worldradiohistory.com

After eighth grade, the future captain enrolled at Kiski Prep — a private male boarding school in Saltsburg, Pa. — in 1958 before appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point

He became an all-American on the lacrosse team — winning the award given to the nation’s top defender in 1962 — and also played on the football team.

A Nov. 1965 article now posted on 247sports.com gives us a look at the athleticism that he would parlay into a military career.

“And then there was Bob Fuellhart,” the article states. Maybe not all the buffs among the 102,000 will remember the name quickly…. He was a lean-jawed, solid kid who grew up at Tionesta, a village in the bear and deer country of Western Pennsylvania. He had been a hurdler and broad jumper at Kiski Prep before going to West Point.

“Because of his fine speed, Fuellhart played the “Lonesome End” behind Bill Carpenter his first season at Army,” the article states. “Lonesome End” was a position — essentially, a player split out to the side of the field, often not even joining the huddle. He scored two touchdowns on 18 catches in 1960 and had just two catches in 1961.

Fuellhart lost three times to Navy but was described in the article as a “bitter figure on defense. That’s how they later remembered him in Viet Nam.”

After his graduation from West Point in 1962, Fuellhart joined the Army Rangers. Per together

weserved, then-1st Lt. Fuellhard was an advisor to the 44th ARVN Ranger Battalion — essentially the South Vietnamese Army. His tour started on May 15, 1965.

His Vietnamese troops called Fuellhart “The Long One,” and not only because his 6-foot height towered over the 100-Pound natives,” the 247sports article describes. “With a long cigar and the red beret of the 44th Ranger Battalion, Fuellhart was not hard to spot and he astonished the Vietnamese by standing up in battle to direct air strikes.”

The author goes on to detail two instances where he did just that.

Once he climbed out of a water-filled ditch to point out Viet Cong targets for striking fighters. He was a large target, and Viet Cong fire shattered a banana tree over him showering leaves and debris. ‘It took a lot of courage,’ said an American captain who recommended the Bronze Star, ‘especially for an officer in his first combat.'”

Nearly three months into his tour, his “jungle fighting unit ran into strong Viet Cong fire near a hamlet of thatched shacks called Phung Heip. The Viet Cong had armored carriers and an American machine gun, and it was taking a toll. ‘Not as much fire at my end,’ Fuellhart radioed to Capt. Jerry Devlin. ‘Maybe we can move in.’ ‘Wait for another air strike,’ said Devlin.

“Fuellhart, standing up in the mud with the radio strapped to his back, was talking to the helicopters as they hit the tree line. He went to his knees, struck by a bullet.

Fuellhart died in Vietnam on Aug. 12, 1965.

For his service, he was awarded a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart.

But there’s more to Fuellhart’s story and that’s told in a post I found from a man who served with Fuellhart and was a classmate at West Point.

“Bob was with an ARVN Ranger battalion. Over evening beers Bob would often regale us with stories of his ‘Tiger’ unit’s audacity and bravery in action,” the man wrote. “One the morning of 12 August, 1965 I was serving my round of duty in the MACV TOC. Bob’s unit was in action and we heard a radio transmission that there were wounded. It was not too long after that when we received word that Bob had been killed during that action.

“It was only then when an RTO quietly brought a telegram over to my desk. It was a congratulation message from Bob’s (wife, Jan) that she had just given birth to their first child. Roy and I assisted in carrying Bob’s coffin onto an airplane.”

His name is on panel 2E of the Vietnam Wall in Washington D.C. and he’s buried at the United States Military Academy Post Cemetery at West Point, N.Y.


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