Alfredo Jose Saenz

Specialist Four
Army of the United States
24 December 1944 - 30 December 1966
Corpus Christi, Texas
Panel 13E Line 101

Combat Infantry

Purple Heart, Air Medal, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign


The database page for Alfredo Jose Saenz

16 Jan 2005

Have you ever heard a story about somebody and really wanted to meet them?

When I was a small boy, my father told me about a soldier that he once knew. He was an airborne infantryman - a paratrooper - and his name was Alfredo J. Saenz. SP4 Saenz was killed in action in Binh Dinh Province, Republic of Vietnam on December 30th 1966. He has always been a hero to me. I think about him often and I always will. Alfredo was my father's first cousin. They shared the same experiences and knew the same people, having grown up together in a lower-class, Mexican-American neighborhood in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Ever since I was a kid I had wondered how Alfredo was killed and what kind of soldier he was. It took about two years of hunting but I finally found my answers. Alfredo was assigned to Charlie Company, 1st Battalion (Abn), 8th Cavalry, which was a part of the 1st Cavalry Division. The "Jumping Mustangs" Association helped me find the Charlie Company commander at the time of Alfredo's death, and he remembered the incident wherein Alfredo was killed. After exchanging some emails and working out an appropriate time to talk, Alfredo's C.O., a retired Lieutenant Colonel, called me one afternoon and politely answered all of my questions.

LTC "Smith" said that in late December of 1966, C/1/8 was "OPCON"ed to the 1st Battalion 12th Cav, one of their sister battalions. That means that they were under the operational control, or attached to, 1/12 Cav, for whatever tactical reason. He said that Alfredo was a machine gunner in 3rd Platoon, which was commanded by a Lieutenant Lowe. LTC "Smith" said that some time on the afternoon of December 30th, he was tasked to send a platoon to a hilltop near a place called Gia Duc, which was in the Bong Son plains in the coastal lowlands of what was called II Corps Tactical Zone. Alfredo's platoon got the call to conduct a "recon in force" - basically a large reconnaissance patrol - on and around the hilltop. LTC "Smith" was very concerned at the prospect of sending out only one platoon into a very hot area. On December 28th, a large firefight had taken place nearby during which 12-15 troopers from B/1/8 were killed in action and many more wounded. I was aware of this fight because it is mentioned in one or two books I'd read.

LTC "Smith" related that as soon as the platoon began making its way up the hill they began receiving heavy fire from big weapons - .51 caliber machine guns and 57mm recoilless rifles. Alfredo, showing no hesitation, went up the hill and began laying down fire with his M-60 machine gun. He was hit just moments later. LTC "Smith" said that he believes that he was shot by a sniper, although he does not rule out sporadic small arms fire that was coming their way. LTC "Smith" said that he knew the platoon was in serious trouble and immediately ordered them off the hill, but Alfredo had already been hit. LTC "Smith" remembers that Alfredo was carried to the bottom of the hill and was alive for a short time. He said that a medevac - a medical evacuation helicopter - was called but that by the time it arrived - rather quickly - Alfredo had died. He was the only casualty of the fight.

LTC "Smith" recalls asking for help from 1/12 Cav - the people to whom they were attached - but that he kept being told that the command staff was in a meeting. He also said that when he finally got some support, the entire hill was pounded by air strikes and artillery. He said that the fight turned very ugly and the entire brigade was eventually involved before it was all over. LTC "Smith" said that when they swept the hill the next morning they found numerous dead NVA and abandoned and destroyed heavy weapons. When I asked LTC "Smith" about Alfredo, he said that he did not remember his face but that he remembered his name, the fact that he was a machine gunner in Lt. Lowe's 3rd Platoon and that he was a very good, squared away soldier. He said that at that time - still relatively early in the war - his soldiers were the best he had or would ever serve with. He said that every one of them was highly motivated, well trained and did what was asked of them without hesitation. Most were volunteers and all were paratroopers.

I later researched the firefight, as best I could, and found that the Daily Staff Journal matched LTC "Smith's" recollection, with minor discrepancies due, no doubt, to the passage of time.

When my boys are old enough, they will hear Alfredo's story. I will ensure that when everyone who knew Alfredo is gone, his service and sacrifice will not be forgotten. My boys will know.

I hope when we all die there is a heaven. Maybe I will meet Alfredo. Had he lived I have no doubt he would have been my favorite cousin. Jump wings and a Combat Infantry Badge? No doubt about it. My favorite.

He would have tired of my questions a long time ago.

"Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy
forget in time that men have died to win them."
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Alfredo (right) and an unidentified comrade, 1966

Placed by a cousin,
Jose A. De Santos, Jr.

27 Dec 2006

I just wanted to let you know, on this 40th anniversary of your death, that you are not forgotten. I know that your mother, brothers and sisters will think of you on this day. I also know that my father will remember.

You were a "good soldier," and that's one of the highest compliments anyone can ever pay to another person.

More of our warriors are in harm's way today and I ask that you do your best to look after my friends who stayed in the army when I left many years ago. They are as determined and well trained as you were and even though they would much rather be at home, they are "good soldiers" and good soldiers go where they are told and do their jobs.

Just like you did.

From a first cousin (once removed),
J. A. De Santos, Jr.

From Jose Arturo De Santos, Sr.
January 29, 2005

A soldier died today and all I could do was cry,
I asked my God to tell me, "Why did he have to die?"
So young and full of life, committed to his task,
His gentle soul had hardened, he wore a combat mask.

He knew what he was doing, the day he volunteered,
He knew there was a war on, something he never feared.
He knew that he might not come back to see his Mom and Dad
But duty called, and honor was something that he had.

It really really hurt, when I found out he died,
It hurt so much I cried and cried and cried.
I'm proud of you and proud of your last stand -
It won't be long, my brother, until we meet again.

29 Jan 2005

Alfredo was a few years younger than me. He was one-half of identical twins. We had the same blood running through our veins since his father was married to my father's sister and his mother was married to my mother's brother, in other words, a brother and sister married another brother and sister. You could say that we were pretty close to being brothers. We grew up together and shared many great moments. I moved out of the neighborhood when I was ten and didn't "hang" with Alfredo or his brother much; however, we saw each other very often. Alfredo grew up in a tough neighborhood and at an early age he showed his courage. There was a bar across the street from his house and he happened upon a confrontation between a female and a male subject. I imagine Alfredo was 13 or 14 years old at the time. A large crowd had gathered and the male subject started to stab the female repeatedly and nobody in the crowd dared get involved. Alfredo found a two by four board and hit the male in the head.

When I was a teenager, I liked to visit his family and also saw him at our grandparents, the "headquarters" of a very large extended family. Some of my fondest memories are when his dad would take us all fishing. Other than his twin brother, he had two other younger brothers and his dad would pack us all in his car and take us to the bay in our hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas.

I remember the last time I saw Alfredo. It was around the end of the summer of 1966 as he proudly strolled into a Corpus Christi fire station where I was working to say good bye. He had been ordered to Vietnam. He was wearing his U.S. Army Airborne uniform, combat boots with bloused pants. He looked sharp with the parachute patch on his green cap. He wasn't particularly disturbed about having to ship out. We hugged and that was the last time I saw him. He wrote me a few letters and seemed to be doing all right. He never griped or complained about the Army in his letters. I am sure he was a good soldier.

It was December 31, 1966 and I was having a New Year's party with family and friends at my house when somebody called me on the phone to tell me that Alfredo had been killed in action. That day is one of the saddest in the 64 years of my life. Alfredo is never far from my mind, especially since I hang around with his twin brother who is a retired Army Sergeant Major. Alfredo's brother served in Viet Nam as a combat medic after Alfredo's death and he was wounded in combat. Alfredo's twin brother is like a brother to me. We spend a lot of time together as we share a deer lease in South Texas. We never forget the "good old times" and will never forget our brother, Alfredo.

Our shared Mexican American family has a tradition of serving. My father served in WWII and earned a Silver Star and two Bronze Stars for Valor, plus a Purple Heart. Two of his brothers also served in WWII. On my mother's side, four brothers served in WWII and two were wounded. One of my mother's first cousins is a retired Command Sergeant Major. He was in the Infantry and served several tours in Viet Nam. Now the sons of these men continue the tradition. I served in the Army's 25th Infantry Division before Vietnam, my son served in the U.S. Army's Big Red One before the first Iragi war. Besides the twins, another cousin served in the U.S. Army in Viet Nam and thank God, he was not injured physically. Two other cousins served in the Marine Corps before the Viet Nam war. We are a proud American family and we all love our Country. On behalf of his parents and immediate family, we are proud of Alfredo's sacrifice for our Country.

From a first cousin,
Jose Arturo De Santos, Sr.

28 Dec 2006

Alfredo was one of my closest cousins and I still miss him as if he was here yesterday. I remember the last day I saw him, a few days before his deployment to Vietnam. He came by my place of employment wearing his airborne uniform, looking proud and sharp. We love him as he is still part of our large family and we will never forget him.

From his first cousin,
Jose A. De Santos, Sr.

30 Dec 2006

Alfredo Jose Saenz, may you rest in peace on this 40th anniversary of the war's end. We miss you, Bro. If your life had not been cut short, you would have enjoyed hanging out with us your brothers and cousins, as we still do camping, hunting, joking with each other, and just acting plain silly. God keep you, Alfredo.

From his first cousin,
Juan A. Saenz
3202 Casa Rosa, Corpus Christi, Texas 78411

8 Feb 2005

Sp4 Saenz, you are a hero and you will never be forgotten for the ultimate sacrifice you made so that we could live a better life. As I read the posting your cousin made, I know that you were one of the best soldiers who were killed in action in hell and gone to heaven.


I too will look you up in heaven and shake your hand. I know that you were among the chosen few that God could muster to hold the front in heaven. We will see you soon!

From an admirer and fellow Tejano,
Raul Reyna

30 Dec 2006

Alfredo, we will forever miss you. We are very proud of you. Sad that you died for our Country at such a young age.

Maria Rita Saenz
Corpus Christi, Texas

A Note from The Virtual Wall

Operation THAYER II in the Suoi Ca Valley began on 16 December 1966. Three days after Christmas, Companies B and C of the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry, established contact with one NVA battalion and Delta 1/8 fought another, inflicting heavy casualties on the two NVA units at a cost of 15 men killed in action:
  • B Company, 1/8 Cavalry:
    • 1LT Lamont W. Finch, Birmingham, AL
    • 1LT Daniel A. Hennessy, Newtown, PA (Dist Svc Cross)
    • PSGT Lonnie Barber, Fayetteville, NC
    • SP4 Eric A. Brannfors, Portland, OR
    • CPL Douglas D. Houg, McGregor, IA
    • SP4 Erineo M. Mendez, Poteet, TX
    • SP4 Carl S. Mercer, Belcross, NC
    • SP4 Dennis M. Spahn, Altoona, PA
    • PFC Richard C. Jacobs, Kahului, HI
    • PFC James W. Pawlak, Detroit, MI

  • C Company, 1/8 Cavalry:
    • PFC Ronald Giroux, Deerfield, MA

  • D Company, 1/8 Cavalry:
The men named above died in the fighting on 28 Dec 1966; SP4 Saenz died when the company re-entered the area on 30 December. He is buried in the Rose Hill Cemetery, Corpus Christi, Texas.

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 16 Jan 2005
Last updated 08/10/2009