Ronald Saporito

Electricians Mate 3rd Class
United States Navy
26 September 1947 - 05 May 1968
Mount Vernon, New York
Panel 55E Line 030


Bronze Star, Purple Heart, National Defense, Vietnam Service, and Vietnam Campaign medals

The database page for Ronald Saporito

11 Nov 2000

In July of 1999 I received a response to a letter I had written over thirty years ago asking if there were anyone in my brother's naval unit who could tell me what the final days of his life in Vietnam were like. On this Veteran's Day 2000, I want to share the following letter from William O'Brien of Dorchester, MA with everyone who knew and loved Ron, as well as with those who have become a part of the family he left behind in 1968.

Take a minute to think of him again. Remember the kind of person Ron was and read about the kind of person he was becoming. A compassionate and courageous young man capable of affecting others, not just for a moment, but for an entire lifetime.

Mr. O'Brien wrote:

My name is Bud O'Brien and I served with your brother Ron in Vietnam. I am writing to you after 30 years because of a series of events that won't let me go any longer without telling you and your family what a great person Ron was and that he was a true hero in all aspects of his life.

Ron was a fun loving guy, but he also had a maturity beyond his years. Ronnie was liked by all the men and officers in the river section and all the senior Petty Officers wanted him as a crewmember because he was so dependable.

On May 5, 1968, we got into a terrible situation in Chau Doc and your brother was, in the highest sense of the word, a hero. Ron died trying to save his shipmates and he never hesitated putting himself in harm's way because he knew he was their only hope. Ron's death was a great loss to you, your family and the Navy. Ron was too young, bright, funny and talented to die, but in war the good also suffer.

Your brother deserves to be remembered and I assure you that he will always be a part of the memories of my family. Knowing Ron has made me blessed among men.

My family and I thank Bud and all those who bear the burden of the memories that have the capability to both haunt and heal us. God bless you all.

Al Saporito

07 May 2007

On this 39th Anniversary in 2007, I am continually grateful to the men and women who visit these pages and remember our heroes. Although their names will still be visible on the Wall in Washington DC to sightseers for generations after we are gone, the reality of their lives continues to exist for each of us because we knew them. May they continue to rest in peace. God Bless America.

From his brother,
Al Saporito

28 May 2007

On Memorial Day 2003, I received a letter from a childhood buddy of Ron's that I would like to share. In addition to this thoughtful personal remembrance, Steven Keely had also written a beautiful poem titled "The Namekeeper", which I have included following Steve's letter:

It's been 35 years since Ronnie was killed; and the revelation of all that time passing this Memorial Day numbs me, and compels me to write you.

The years have grown their moss around our lives, but the pain is never washed away no matter how much time passes. I've touched his name on The Wall in Washington on no less than 15 visits, and been to his grave four times now. Each time my heart aches more and tears come just like it was yesterday. Of all the personal losses I experienced during my own tour of duty in Vietnam, none hits me harder than Ronnie's. We were friends since we were four years old; and although we may have lost track of each other a bit during our junior high school years, the fact that we were friends forever was needless to say.

Funny how we both wound up in Vietnam at the same time. (I served there with U.S. Army STRATCOM, 1st Signal Brigade, DaNang and I-Corps, mid June '67 to mid June '68.). My parents thought at the time, Ronnie would be safe in the Navy, while I was up close to the DMZ and would be first to be in harm's way.

Fate, however, has written that story differently. I remember my parents tried to stop the Daily Argus from being delivered to me over there (albeit always two weeks behind) so I wouldn't see the article. Fate also wrote a different version of that story as well. I remember being stunned when I saw his obituary, and writing a very long, helpless letter to your mother and father. The words I wrote have long been forgotten; but I recall the sense of utter despair I felt when writing it ... 35 years ago.

I had only six weeks to go on my tour of duty. It was such an empty feeling of loss and hopelessness. I still wasn't sure I would be coming back myself. When I came back from the Republic of South Vietnam, I'd left 38 pounds over there. I went over at 160 lbs. and came home at 122 lbs. But I got to come back and live the rest of my life. Ronnie, of course, did not.

That difference has left a darkness in my heart and mind that will never go away, as I'm sure it does for you and your family. Rarely a day goes by it doesn't cross my mind. By all accounts, your brother, Ronnie risked his life and lost it trying to save a friend. He is a genuine hero, by any definition of the word. It was always his way to think of others first, and no different when he paid the ultimate sacifice in an act of highest bravery and courage; and in doing so, he set the bar for the rest of us with a lesson in moral responsibility and selflessness we can one day only hope to aspire to. May the inspiration of his life and death be the light that guides us through our dark and difficult times. He is remembered not only on Memorial Day, but every day of this life God has allowed me to live. God bless him always. - Steve Keely


He wears their names around his wrist each day,
the brass and silver histories of their loss,
in places scattered to the winds
and deep away in dream.

Each day he wears their names
is one day longer he was let to live,
while they are long away and lost in lairs
whose names are pale against the years.

We will come for you some day he says,
when tears of Heaven rain to monsoon floods
and wash away the sins we left behind,
when all will be forgiven and forgot.

Until that day, when kindgom comes
to take them home to freedom,
he keeps their names on the hand
he holds over his heart with a promise to be kept.

Though yet you wait in far off fates unknown,
where remembrance still fights for its life,
the promise more than just a reference on his wrist:
You Are Not Forgotten.

From his brother,
Al Saporito
10 May 2006

Ron was a great friend and one of the finest men I have ever known. You could always depend on Ron to be there when you needed him. Thanks for your friendship and my prayers are with your family and friends.

Boat captain and patrol officer,
PBR-130 1968-69,
Joe Mettler

07 Apr 2007

In May 1968, the VC started another campaign which some labeled as a "Mini Tet." For the most part, they were unsuccessful in causing the problems they had in January and most of what we experienced was sporadic increases in action along the rivers. We again had patrols on the upper Bassac. On 5 May, one of them encountered an ambush, which resulted in the near-total destruction of PBR-130 and the loss of Lieutenant Carl Kollmeyer and EM3 Ronald Saporitoa. Carl, the OIC of RIVSEC 511, was a well liked, highly respected person, who was wise to the ways of the river. Unfortunately, for some reason or another, that day he did not follow a basic rule: always have a cover boat. Two 75mm recoilless rifle rounds hit the 130. I went to Chau Doc as soon as we learned what had happened.

The 130's survivors and Carl's body were at Camp Arnn when I arrived. The senior Navy man when I arrived was Lieutenant O'Brien. I knew Obie as we were both from Binh Thuy. He and the others appeared to be in a state of shock about Carl's death. I could not blame them as I had similar feelings. We talked for a while and I hoped it might have helped him in some way. While we were talking, a soldier approached us and said they needed someone to identify Carl's body to finalize the preparations prior to sending it to a mortuary unit. I started to get up, but Obie said, no, he would do it. When he returned, we talked until it was time for me to get in the helo and return to Binh Thuy. Obie later married a civilian nurse named Maggie who had been in Chau Doc during Tet. Binh Thuy dispatched an LCM to bring the 130's hulk back to Binh Thuy. It was in bad shape, floating with only the bow sticking out of the water. However, after a 60-mile trip lashed to the side of an LCM, and then unceremoniously dumped on the riprap at Binh Thuy, it looked as if it was ready for a scrap heap.

Before that time, the standard procedure required sending PBRs requiring extensive repairs to the Ship Repair Facility at Subic Bay, in the Philippines. Although they made the repairs, the incountry forces were not satisfied with the quality of work done there. As NAVSUPPACT Binh Thuy had the repair materials and hull molds, they asked for and got the task of rebuilding the 130. It took several months of long, tedious work, amply supplemented by pride to complete the task. At last, PBR-130, bearing the name USS BINH THUY on its transom, was ready to return to service. The finished product was a thing of beauty, and PBR-130 returned to the river, however without the name on the transom. NAVSUPPACT Det Binh Thuy did a fantastic job restoring the 130. From that point onward, NAVSUPPACT Binh Thuy undertook all major repairs.

by Tom Glickman

From his brother,
Joseph R. Saporito

A Note from The Virtual Wall

Two men from PBR-130 died in this incident - LT Carl Kollmeyer of Hopkins, Minnesota, and EM3 Ronald Saporito. The following report of the action is extracted from the US Naval Forces Vietnam Command History for May 1968, pages 41-44:

Operations in the Bassac River

On 05 May four units of River Section 511 were operating on the upper Bassac River near the city of Chau Doc when word was received from the U. S. Army Special Forces Advisory Team that there was enemy activity down the river. The officer in charge of the patrol boats was asked to investigate. Lieutenant KOLLMEYER's two-boat patrol sped down the river at 0835 to check the area, located about 9 miles southeast of the city. Enroute, however, the cover boat sustained a steering casualty and LT KOLLMEYER elected to continue on alone. Upon arrival two Vietnamese Revolutionary Development (RD) cadre motioned PBR-130 to embark them from the west bank. The two Vietnamese boarded the boat and indicated that the Viet Cong had a recoilless rifle position downstream about 1000 meters. As the two men were pointing to the enemy position, the first round of recoilless rifle fire slammed into the boat's starboard bow at the waterline. The forward gunner was badly wounded and the boat was taking on water. LT KOLLMEYER had the wounded sailor pulled from his mount, meanwhile having the boat captain head for the east bank of the river. The RD cadre jumped from the boat and were not seen again. With the boat listing badly to starboard the wounded gunner and three crewmen were ordered over the side into the protection of the water. The Navy lieutenant quickly called for help from his other units on the radio and then manned the after .50 caliber mount, directing its fire against the enemy position. The forward mount was remanned by another crewman on LT KOLLMEYER's direction and soon was in the action against the Viet Cong.

By the time the boat was beached, automatic weapons fire was coming from enemy positions on the west bank, about 500 meters away. While LT KOLLMEYER radioed for assistance again, the wounded man in the water was pulled ashore. At this time a second recoilless-rifle round hit the boat, impacting on the engine cover and continued directly over the stern. This round inflicted heavy wounds on LT KOLLMEYER who was standing in the coxswain's flat, and EM3 Ronald SAPORITO, USN, who was attempting to retrieve M-60 ammunition for defense on the beach. SAPORITO was rendered unconscious and died before he could reach comprehensive medical attention. The boat captain was slightly wounded and was blown overboard by the blast. He went into a state of shock at this time, went under water, and was subsequently pulled ashore by a crewmember.

There were only two crewmen able to perform their duties and they returned to the boat to pull LT KOLLMEYER out. He had sustained wounds in the legs and lower abdomen and was, at this time, still on the radio requesting assistance and passing vital information. He was then assisted to the beach where first aid was performed on all the wounded. During the approximately one-half hour prior to the arrival of the remaining three boats, three more rounds were fired at the heavily damaged boat and the crew. None hit, but AK-47 automatic rifle fire continued to rain around the Navymen. During the first few minutes off the boat, LT KOLLMEYER maintained his grasp of the situation and command of his tactical unit. It was only when the severity of his wounds and deterioration of his condition became apparent, that his shipmates realized he was dying. About 1015 the other PBRs arrived on the scene and engaged the enemy receiving only light fire in return. The wounded were embarked and evacuated to Chau Doc. LT KOLLMEYER died before he could reach medical attention.

PBR-130, although almost completely demolished, was later taken in tow and returned to the GAME WARDEN Base at Binh Thuy for repairs.

Barely recognizable as a Navy gunboat, the remains of PBR-130, damaged on the upper Bassac River on 05 May, await repair at the Naval Support Activity Detachment, Binh Thuy.

Top of Page

Virtual Wall icon

Back to
To alpha index S
NY State Index . Panel 55E
TF 116 Index

Contact Us

With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 11 Nov 2000
Last updated 08/10/2009