Editors detail impact of Vietnam early in conflict

Photo from the Warren Times Mirror and Observer This article announced the death of a Youngsville man, Willis Sullivan, in Vietnam in June 1967.

The first American soldiers arrived in 1965, supplementing American advisors that had been in the country for years.

It would be eight years before the last American soldier would leave.

By early 1967, editors with the Warren Times Mirror and Observer realized in some small way what the cost of this war might be.

While not included at War Memorial Field, the death of Larry C. Haylett, which the paper identified as the county’s second casualty of the Vietnam was, was the backdrop for the paper’s opinion.

Haylett was killed in South Vietnam on Jan. 11, 1967.

Times Observer photo by Josh Cotton Willis Sullivan was killed in Vietnam on June 16, 1967. The Youngsville resident’s name can be found on the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C. - Panel 21E, line 116.

The headline — “War Grows Closer To Us.”

“Vietnam seems just a little closer to Warren today,” they wrote. “Spec. 4 Larry Clarence Haylett, a Grand Valley area boy, was killed there last week.”

Clearly, the Domino Theory was prevalent in the author’s thinking.

“He is the first Warren County youth to make the supreme sacrifice that the Vietnamese might be free, with the right to choose their own destiny without Community subjugation,” they wrote. “And in fighting for the freedom of the Vietnamese, he also fought for us that we, too, may not face a similar fate.

“And he died half way around the world from his family, in a jungle or swamp probably — farther away than he likely would have ever lived had he lived an average life.”

Haylett was a 1964 Oil City High School graduate.

The Oil City Derrick reported the following day that Haylett’s parents moved to Warren County in 1965 though it appears Haylett continued to live and work in Venango County, where he is buried.

“Ironically,” the Times Mirror and Observer editorial, “his brother, Danny, received a letter from him 24 hours after the death message from the War Department that started ‘I’ll be seeing you sooner than you think.'”

“How tragic!” the editors noted sardonically. “They’ll be receiving his body.”

They used Haylett’s death to wax philosophically about what the war meant to people here.

Larry Haylett has given his all. It should stir all of us to the realization that we are at war, that additional tragedies may be expected, and that it rests with us to do all we can to bring an end to this conflict.

Larry left home and family and has done more than his share. Let us not shirk in our responsibility whatever it is and whenever it faces us. We owe this much to this Grand Valley area youth.

And to his parents, brothers and sisters go the sympathy of residents of the county and the entire area. He has paid dearly for his peace — that others might have at least a share on this earth.

“What greater love had a man…”

— — —

Willis Sullivan’s name appears in a birth announcement in the May 9, 1967 edition of the Times Mirror and Observer.

He and his wife, Mary, had a son.

The next month — June 16 — Sullivan was identified as one of two county men involved in “Operation Malheur,” search and destroy operations by the 101st Airborne.

“The paratroopers accounted for approximately 278 enemy killed in the first two weeks of fighting in the heavily-infested North Vietnam and Viet Cong area,” the paper reported. “Spec. Sullivan, a military policeman in the division’s 101st MP Co., entered the Army in May 1864 and arrived overseas in December 1966.”

Four days later, the paper reported Sullivan’s death under the headline “Area Man Is Killed In Vietnam.”

He died on June 16, the day of that last report.

“The Vietnam war claimed its third victim from Warren County Friday, June 16, 1967, when a 25-year old Youngsville man was killed while being evacuated from a combat mission,” the paper reported. “Spec. 4 Willis Michael Sullivan of Brown Hill, R.D. 1 Youngsville, the father of five children, was killed at approximately 9 am Friday morning when the helicopter in which he was a passenger exploded, killed an estimated 14 to 18 men.

“According to military reports, the helicopter drew hostile ground fire as it was attempting to evacuate members of the 101st Airborne Division from a combat area. In the conflict, a hand grenade aboard the helicopter exploded, which in turn, caused the helicopter to explode.”

The paper reported that he was survived by his wife and five children and that “Spec. Sullivan never saw his youngest son.”

They also said that his grandmother was a Gold Star Mother, having lost a son in the Korean conflict.

Sullivan joined the Armed Forces in May 1964, stationed in the Dominican Republic prior to his transfer to Vietnam in Dec. 1966.

“The Sullivan family was notified of their loss Saturday night,” the paper said. “A telegram of official confirmation was received from the Secretary of the Army yesterday.”

An Army reserve captain based in Erie asked that flags in Youngsville be flown at half-mast on the day of Sullivan’s funeral. He was interred at the Youngsville Cemetery.

Several weeks later, the family published a brief notice in the paper.

“The family of SP/4 Willis Michael Sullivan, Jr., express their sincere thanks to relatives, friends and neighbors for the many acts of kindness extended them during their recent bereavement.”


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