Three county natives killed in Vietnam about two weeks apart
Three young men from Warren County were killed in Vietnam within three weeks of each other in January and early February 1969.
Each was 20 or 21 years old.
“Sgt. Bill Olson, 21, United States Army… has been reported killed in action, according to word the family has received from the Army,” the Warren Times Mirror and Observer reported Jan. 18, 1969.
His wife and family had received notice in the days before that Olson was missing in action.
“The sergeant was lost while on patrol in enemy territory, the Army said.”
According to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund page for Olson, the Russell native’s date of casualty is Jan. 15.
“The sergeant and Mrs. Olson had been married but a short time when he was ordered shipped overseas to South Vietnam about a month ago,” the paper reported, also stating that an Army sergeant had to go to Eisenhower High School where his wife was a senior, to tell her that Olson was missing.
“The first word the family had of the sergeant’s missing status was received Thursday, with the confirmation of death coming Friday.”
The Army sergeant had the heartrending task of informing Olson’s wife and went to Eisenhower to do so but his wife wasn’t in school.
A follow up story announced funeral arrangements and states that Olson “lost his life in action while on patrol duty….”
He was born in New York State but graduated from Eisenhower in 1966.
“During his high school years he was an outstanding student and excelled in sports. He was a three-letter man in football, basketball and track and was named trackman of the year,” the newspaper said. “He competed in two events in track at Penn State during his senior year.”
He entered the service Feb. 5 and married his wife on Dec. 7, 1968. He arrived in Vietnam 15 days later.
Just a few weeks later, he was killed.
A comrade in the comments on his Memorial Fund page: “Shipped out a few weeks after you and by the time I got there you were gone. The day before I left I saw your mother in Levinson’s and she was really scared. I tried to assure her it would be ok and she just started crying.”
His father, per a post on a Findagrave page, participated in a veteran’s protest in Washington D.C. – Dewey Canyon III.
Here’s the caption for a photo that shows Olson’s father playing taps at the protest: “A 56-year-old World War II vet, Gail Olson, too overcome to speak, played a faltering taps on his bugle; then explained that he wished to honor all who had died in Vietnam, including his son William. He tried to say something on behalf of the children of Vietnam, but could not continue, and ended by saying that he prayed for peace.”
Less than two weeks later, readers in Warren would learn that another county man died over there.
William D. “Danny” Nuhfer was killed Jan. 27.
That news made it back to Warren just days later.
From the Jan. 31, 1969 Warren Times Mirror and Observer: “Sp. 4 William D. “Danny” Nuhfer, 20, became Warren County’s 11th casualty of the Vietnam conflict and the second to die in the past 10 days, when he was struck by fragments from a hostile booby trap Monday, Jan. 27.
“Sp. 4 Nuhfer died from wounds suffered on a combat operation according to a U.S. Army spokesman. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. William Nuhfer, Jr., of 27 Locust st. He was a member of Company C, 3rd Bn., 47th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division, when he lost his life.”
The paper said Nuhfer had graduated from Warren Area High School in 1966 and the Erie Barber School in 1947.
His funeral was about a week later – he’s buried at the St. Joseph Cemetery – and he was one of roughly 21,000 recipients of the Silver Star during the Vietnam conflict.
A couple comments on his Memorial Fund page reveal local connections
“Our 50th class reunion is this June,” one wrote several years ago. “Has brought back many memories of you. I think of you often.Hope I am privileged to see you again on the other side.”
And from another: “Their (sic) isn’t a day I don’t think about you. You are and always will be my best friend. If you had let me take the 60. Your last words to me are still with me ‘Sit this one out.'”
Ten days later, the paper performed the grim duty of announcing another death – U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Robert E. Sherlock, who was killed on Feb. 3 while on patrol.
“Cpl. Sherlock’s mother, Mrs. Fred (Marjorie) Hultberg, Jackson Run rd., Chandlers Valley, was notified of her son’s death at 10:30 a.m. Thursday by Major Michael Scanlon, United States Marine Corps, Erie, and a marine sergeant from the Erie Reserve Training Center,” the report explained.
“Cpl. Sherlock was serving with B. Company, First Battalion, Fifth Marines, when he lost his life. He was killed by an explosive device in Quang Nam, Province, Republic of Vietnam.”
The paper said he went by “Bob” and was born in Union City in 1948, graduating from Youngsville High School in 1967.
He entered the service later that year and left in April 1968 to go overseas.
“While on a five-day rest and recreation leave in Thailand, he called home twice and talked with his family. He returned to Vietnam before Thanksgiving,” the paper reported.
“The last letter Cpl. Sherlock’s mother received from home was dated Jan. 20; a brother received a letter from him last week. Cpl. Sherlock told his mother he was proud to be in the Marine Corps. He complained very little, saying he was just doing a job and waiting to get back home.”
According to the Times Mirror and Observer, his body was flown into Buffalo International and arrived about 10 days after he was killed. He was buried at the Chandlers Valley Cemetery.