John Daniel Shewmake, Sr

Sergeant First Class
Army of the United States
15 May 1933 - 04 November 1971
Adona, Arkansas
Panel 02W Line 062


National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for John Daniel Shewmake, Sr

22 Sep 2006

I have a silver bracelet with his name on it. He is my American Hero.

Sandra Holt

A Note from The Virtual Wall

501-Class LCU

The 329th Transportation Company (Heavy Boat) was part of the 159th Trans Bn at Qui Nhon and was responsible for most of the coastal missions performed by the 5th Transportation Command between Chu Lai and Dong Ha. The Company's equippage included Landing Craft, Utility, commonly known as LCUs, which were used for lighterage purposes as well as coastal deliveries of heavy and/or bulky cargo. LCU-1563, the boat involved in this incident, was not small - a 501-Class LCU, it was 115' long with a 30' beam. It also had a cargo bay that was open to the weather, but the 501s had proven themselves seaworthy over their 25 years of service.

LCU-1563 (in Army markings, "LCU-63") departed Danang on 02 Nov 1970 enroute to the Army port at Hue, Tan My, with eleven men aboard. Although the worst of Typhoon Patsy hadn't yet hit the coast, the weather was bad and the seas rough - bad enough to swamp and sink two RVN gunboats a bit further south on the same day LCU-63 departed Danang. At about 10 AM the following day LCU-63 was sighted capsized and driven ashore on the beach several miles south of Tan My. Initial search efforts failed to locate any of the crewmen, but on 06 Nov one body - that of PFC Billy H. Peeples - was found near Cu Lao Island (sometimes misspelled "Cu Loi"), which is about 20 miles off-shore east of Chu Lai and a very considerable distance south of where the wreckage was found. Although PFC Peoples was wearing a life vest, autopsy results proved he had died of drowning.

Salvage efforts failed to move the wreckage either closer to or further away from the shoreline, forcing US and Australian divers to work in heavy rain and pounding surf while they searched the vessel's interior compartments - but to no avail. The US Naval Forces Vietnam Command History for November 1970 contains this entry:

"At 1300H on 3 November U.S. Army Support Command YFU-63 was found aground and overturned about two and a half miles southeast of the CG 12 base (YD 875 300). There was no sign of any survivors, and it was concluded that the eleven crewmembers had been lost at sea. Efforts to salvage the craft, coordinated by COMNAVSUPFAC [Danang], continued without success until 21 November when it was decided that any further attempts would be fruitless. The poor weather made the operation extremely difficult throughout and at 1900H on 19 November, the ARVN security group stationed on the beach at the site took some small arms fire from an unknown number of VC ..."

On conclusion of the search and rescue effort PFC Peoples was known to be dead and the other ten crewmen were classed as missing. At the first annual review, the Army board concluded they had been lost at sea and their status was changed to "Died while Missing; Drowned; Body not recovered" with an effective date of death of 04 Nov 1971, a year and a day after the incident. The eleven crewmen were

  • SFC John D. Shewmake, Adona, AR
  • SSG Calvin A. Norris, Monterey, TN
  • SGT Dennis I. Day, Blackwell, OK
  • SGT Richard C. Dority, Dover-Foxcroft, ME
  • SGT David L. Ginn, Anderson, SC
  • SGT Perry C. Kitchens, Decatur, GA
  • SGT Arlie R. Mangus, Kittanning, PA
  • SGT Jerry D. Martin, Bedford, IN
  • SGT James R. Pantall, Clymer, PA
  • SGT David W. Woods, Franklin, OH
  • PFC Billy H. Peeples, Anderson, SC (11/03/1970)
The missing men in paygrade E-3 had been promoted to E-4 as scheduled during the year they were held as missing, and all ten received a one-grade promotion at the time they were declared dead. The ranks shown above are the ranks held when declared dead, not at the time of the incident.

Seven years later, on 16 March 1977, the remains of SGT Perry C. Kitchens were repatriated. The remaining nine men have not been recovered.

The POW Network's biographies on the ten missing men claim "There are several descrepancies in the case of LCU-63 which should be noted." Their points are

  • Differences in ranks between the DoD Casualty List and the DoD PMSEA List. The PMSEA file gives only the rank at the time of the incident, whereas the casualty list gives both incident rank and rank at the time the serviceman is declared dead. The POW Network's "discrepancy" doesn't exist.

  • Similarly, the POW Network is concerned that some men got single promotions while others got two promotions. Barring misbehavior, promotion from paygrade E-3 to E-4 was based on time in grade - and over a year's time all the E-3 crewmen would have been promoted to E-4 on that basis. All ten of the missing men received a one-grade promotion at the time they were declared dead, a standard practice at the time. Hence, the E-3s went to E-4 based on time in grade, then to E-5 when declared dead. Promotion based on time in grade didn't happen for E-4s, so all the E-4 and above personnel received only a single step promotion. No mystery, and no discrepancy, here.

  • The POW Network says "Secondly, the Memorial Directory lists the entire crew with the exceptions of Peeples and Kitchens as missing on 4 November 1971 (a year and a day later than all other records)." Well, that's not quite true. PFC Peeples carries a casualty date of 03 Nov 1970, while Kitchens (and the other 9) have an incident date of 03 Nov 1970 and a date of death of 04 Nov 1971. For the missing men, 04 Nov 1971 is their legal date of death, and that's what the Memorial Directory shows. No discrepancy here, either.

  • Further, "Third, the military occupational specialties of all 10 men on whom information can be gathered are classified." They aren't "classified", they simply are missing from the casualty database - and that isn't uncommon. Their MOS identifiers do appear in their individual records and are appropriate to their duties. Nothing mysterious here, either.

  • Finally, the POW Network says "Given that the LCU sank with no witnesses, and sank in the proximity of an island, it is imaginable that the crew could have survived to be captured." Actually, LCU-63 went aground just south of Hue - it was Peeples' body that was found near an island. Much of Cu Lao Island was occupied by a USAF installation, complete with a 2500' runway. While there easily could have been VC on the island to capture the crewmen, there's absolutely no evidence that the ship capsized near Cu Lao or that any of the crewmen (including PFC Peeples) were washed ashore on the island.

It seems far more likely that LCU-63 went to sea in heavy weather and suffered the fate of so many other ships large and small: She was done in by nature. One could postulate that a cargo shift in the open bay led to an unrecoverable situation, the crew abandoned ship in life vests and were scattered in the storm-tossed waters, and the boat itself was driven aground south of Hue. In this scenario, much of the cargo would have been lost from the open cargo bay once she capsized. It seems the POW Network is building a conspiracy where none need exist, and where there's scant evidence of anything other than a loss at sea. There is only one mystery involved - apparently no distress calls were made by, or rather heard from, LCU-63.

Those interested in the LCU-63 accident should review the information at - particularly with respect to weather conditions, the investigation board's conclusions, and the diver's recollections of salvage operations.

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 22 Sep 2006
Last updated 08/10/2009