A Brief History
On January 27, 1973, about 11 hours before the cease fire marking the official end of American involvement in the Vietnam War, Colonel William Nolde, US Army, age 43, was killed by artillery fire at An Loc, South Vietnam. Nolde thus became the last official US combat casualty of that war, and a footnote in history.
William Nolde was more than an historical footnote, however, a real life person and patriot, a husband, and a decorated soldier (veteran of the Korean War as well as Vietnam War), and had worked as a college professor at Central Michigan University prior to his military career.
Former Senator and Secretary of State, John Kerry, pointedly asked “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”
William Nolde was born in Michigan in 1929 and was drafted during the Korean War. Commissioned as an officer after attending Officer Candidate School, he served in Korea and did a tour in Vietnam in 1965-1966. Nolde returned to Vietnam in 1972 at the request of Army Chief of Staff General William Westmoreland to serve as an advisor to the Army of South Vietnam. Nolde’s military awards include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Air Medal, and Purple Heart. He is remembered as a member of the Field Artillery Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame and in a lecture series in his name at Central Michigan University’s Military Science Department. The family, friends, and students of William Nolde have established a scholarship at Central Michigan in Nolde’s name as another testament to this patriot.
The death of William Nolde was treated as a national event, with President Nixon and General Alexander Haig in attendance at the burial at Arlington National Cemetery, an event aired on national television.
In answer to John Kerry’s question, if you are asking a true patriot, you simply ask and he follows to serve as needed. Vietnam was a mistake, the American people were misled by politicians throughout the war, those same politicians did a terrible disservice to the military, but the men and women that died serving the country deserve credit and our thanks for their sacrifice. Question for students (and subscribers): If you have any thoughts or opinions about the Vietnam War or America’s wars in general, please share them with your fellow readers in the comments section below this article.
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