John Anthony Petric
In 1969 the base at Dong Tam, just west of My Tho City on the Mekong River, was home to the 9th Infantry Division, parts of the Navy's riverine forces, a port facility, and a variety of supporting forces, including the 191st Assault Helicopter Company. Because it was a target-rich environment, the Dong Tam complex attracted more than its share of mortar and rocket attacks. On 02 March 1969 a mortar shell hit the 191st AHC's operations center, killing six men:
The 191st AHC's Historical Notes for March 1969 describes the incident as follows:
"On the night of 1 March 1969 a tragedy struck the 191st. During the initial barrage of a mortar and rocket attack, the 191st Flight Operations Office took a direct hit. Killed were MAJ Petric Commanding Officer, LT Radtke Admin Officer, LT Coker Aircraft Commander, SP5 Heinmiller a crew chief on guard duty, SP4 Lovellett a gunner also on guard duty, and SP4 Douglas an operations radio operator. LT LaSalle an operations officer was seriously wounded suffering the loss of an eye. SP4 Ayers, on flight line guard at the time, was hit by shrapnel from an exploding rocket and suffered multiple fractures of his left leg."
The Vietnam Helicopter Pilots' Association database contains the following entry from a member of the 191st:
"They were all killed when a mortar round dropped into our Flight Operations building one night after a lull following several other incoming rounds directed toward the airfield. During the lull, several folks ventured out of the bunker to survey the damage and they then congregated in Flt Opns after taking a look around. One of the next rounds got 7 folks. ... It was a terrible night."
The casualty database places this loss in Kien Hoa Province, but it was not; the Dong Tam complex was on the north side of the Mekong River in Dinh Tuong Province.
The Virtual Wall does not record the Legion of Merit in the database, as it was not often awarded so we show that award here. Had it been included above, it would appear to the left of the Distinguished Flying Cross and below the Silver Star in order of precedence.
In addition, Headquarters, 1st Aviation Brigade, General Orders No. 1519 (April 4, 1969), for his Silver Star, read as follows:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918 (amended by an act of July 25, 1963), takes pride in presenting the Silver Star (Posthumously) to Major (Transportation Corps) John Anthony Petric (ASN: 0-86627), United States Army, for gallantry in action in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force while serving with the 191st Assault Helicopter Company, 1st Aviation Brigade, in the Republic of Vietnam on 2 March 1969. Major Petric distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions during an enemy mortar attack on the 191st Assault Helicopter Company. As soon as the hostile rounds started coming in, he made his way to the Company Operations building to assist with the evacuation of wounded personnel. Upon learning that a man had been wounded on the flight line, he volunteered to evacuate the wounded man. Once the man was safely in the medical facilities, he made his way back to the Company area. Major Petric then began checking for damage to the critical equipment in the immediate vicinity. As he was making a final tally of the damaged aircraft, a mortar round landed in the area and mortally wounded him. His actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army.
Major John A Petric is buried in the Calvary Cemetery, Kettering, Ohio. He was survived by his wife, Linda L Petric, a daughter, and a son, all from Kettering, Ohio and his parents, Mrs and Mr John Petric, Cleveland Ohio. Linda (Lyons) Petric, Class of 1969 from University of Dayton, returned to UD to earn her teaching certificate and a second degree in Education, retiring from Ohio schools around 2006.
- - The Virtual Wall, June 17, 2014
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