John Henry Knudsen

Private First Class
United States Marine Corps
15 July 1945 - 10 December 1966
Chicago, Illinois
Panel 13E Line 028



Purple Heart, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for John Henry Knudsen

10 Mar 2006

In his last letter, written a day before his death, he said, "I am still with Mike Company, but I expect to be switched back to H&S any time now."

From his sister and brother,
Sheryn McCormack and Mike Knudsen
Chicago, Illinois

"In War, He Was Mechanic At Heart"
By Jerome Watson

      He came out of Chicago Vocation High School with a love for mechanical things, and he dreamed of operating his own service station after his discharge from the Marines.
      That was Pfc. John H. Knudsen, 21, a radioman assigned to the 3d Battalion, 3d Marines, and the son of Mr. And Mrs. Henry E. Knudsen of 1413 W. Garfield. He was killed by accident, the victim of a U.S. bomb in Vietnam.
      He had enlisted, his father recalled, because he expected to be drafted and had chosen the Marines because, "well, he was like every other boy."

Letters Described

      To his family, John was a shy person who spoke of the war only as a job that had to be done. He was sent to Vietnam in August and started writing letters home three times a week. His letters were full of the imagery of mechanics, not war.
      "He was always writing about fixing this or that," his father said, "and we could picture that, because he was always fixing things around the house, too."
      The letters stopped coming around Thanksgiving, and in the last one, John said, I hope by next Thanksgiving, I'll be with you eating turkey.
      When the letters stopped, Knudsen said, "I figured he was where he couldn't write, but I started to fear something would happen. I was beginning to feel it would."
      His concern mounted when he read a newspaper report that U.S. Marine planes had accidentally dropped two bombs Saturday on a company of Marines near the demilitarized zone separating North and South Vietnam. The bombs killed 16 Marines and wounded 11.
      The Knudsens learned of John's death Sunday afternoon in a visit from a Marine officer and the family's priest.
      Later, one of John's boyhood friends came to offer his sympathies. They talked a little, but no on said very much and the friend left.

Father Embittered

      Did he feel embittered by his son's pointless death?
      No, Knudsen said.
      Knudsen, his wife, Mary, and their daughter Sharon, 22, waited Tuesday for John's body to be shipped home. Soon, they would be joined by another son, Michael, 20, a Marine stationed in North Carolina.
      "I"m going to take off until this is all over," said Knudsen, 54, a foreman for the United Refining & Smelting Co. In Franklin Park.
      "Then I'll go back and put my nose to the grindstone. That's all I can do."

Wednesday December 14, 1966, Page 26
Reproduced under 17 USC §107

Marine Is Killed in Viet Bombing

      To Marine Pfc. John H. Knudsen, 21, of 1413 Garfield blvd., a major problem in fighting in the jungles of South Viet Nam was the difficulty of sorting out the enemy from the ally.
      "You never know who is behind you," he once wrote to his father, Henry.
      He said in the letter that it was difficult something to determine which man was a South Vietnamese soldier and which was a Viet Cong.

Killed in Bombing

      In the end, it did not make any difference. Pfc. Knudsen was one of 17 men killed Saturday when a Marine plane accidentally dropped two bombs into the middle of a Marine company fighting 5 miles south of th demilitarized zone. His father was informed of the death yesterday.
      Knudsen, a radio operator, had been in South Viet Nam since August. He had enlisted in the Marines in October, 1965, and was inducted last February.
      A graduate of Chicago Vocational High school, Knudsen had worked for the United Steel corporation.

Other Survivors Listed

      In addition to his father, he is survived by his mother, Mary; a brother, Michael 20; and a sister, Sharon, 22.
      Michael, following the example of his older brother, joined the Marines earlier this year and is stationed at Camp Lejeune, N. C.

Reproduced under 17 USC §107

A Note from The Virtual Wall

Pfc John Knudsen, a radioman, was assigned to the Headquarters and Service Company of the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines, but he was in the field with M Company at the time of his death.

On 10 December 1966 the 2nd and 3rd Platoons, Mike 3/3 Marines, were on the move. As they approached the Song Cam Lo River the 3rd Platoon formed a semi-circular perimeter through which the second platoon and the company command group passed. A capable swimmer strung a rope from bank to bank and the 2nd Platoon began to ford the swift-flowing, chest deep river. As the Marines were crossing, two F-4 Phantoms passed over heading down-river.

A break was called with 2nd Platoon and most of the command group on the far side and 3rd Platoon and the remaining members of the command group on the near side. The two Phantoms returned from down-stream and one dropped two bombs into the center of the perimeter formed by the 3rd Platoon. Thirteen men were killed outright and fourteen others badly injured. Of the five Corpsmen on the near side only one was uninjured - and the rope had been severed by the blasts, preventing the Corpsmen on the far side from recrossing the river. Although medevac helicopters were called in without delay, several of the wounded died while aboard the helicopters.

The 3rd Bn, 3rd Marines' Command Chronology contains the following entry:

"At 1024H, M/3/3 at XD 950922 rec'd (2) 250-lb bombs which apparently missed target area and went long over ridge landing on M/3/3 resulting in 17 USMC KIA and 11 USMC WIA.  At 1438h, Med Evac of M/3/3 casualties completed."
The seventeen Marines and sailors who died in the incident were
  • C Btry, 1st Bn, 12th Marines
    • Pfc John D. Gayman, East Point, GA

  • H&S Co, 3rd Bn, 3rd Marines
    • HM3 John N. Grachtrup, Grand Rapids, MI
    • HM3 Donald J. Rion, Northbrook, IL (Silver Star)
    • Cpl Clifford R. Singleton, New York, NY
    • LCpl William H. Bator, Akron, OH
    • Pfc John H. Knudsen, Chicago, IL
    • Pfc Jack W. Logan, Willoughby, OH

  • M Co, 3rd Bn, 3rd Marines
    • 1stLt John S. Sayer, Watertown, NY
    • GySgt Joseph Clemons, Orlando, FL
    • SSgt Doyle A. McShan, Houston, TX
    • Sgt Owen F. Neumyer, Harrisburg, PA
    • LCpl Jerry K. Patrick, Denver, CO
    • Pfc Michael L. Crouson, Pocatello, ID
    • Pfc Charles J. Esbensen, Philadelphia, PA
    • Pfc Martin Ruiz, San Antonio, TX
    • Pfc Robert D. Sage, Rochester, NY
    • Pfc Phillip T. Wiley, Pueblo, CO

The point-of-contact for this memorial is
his sister and brother,
Sheryn McCormack and Mike Knudsen
Chicago, Illinois
10 Mar 2006

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Last updated 03/13/2006