Madison in the Sixties – Our Vietnam Casualties, part 2
Nine Madison men died there in 1968.
Army Private First Class Edgar Gerlach, twenty, a tank driver, is killed January 30 at the Pleiku base camp during a mortar attack. A 1965 graduate of Robert M. La Follette High School, Gerlach was a counselor at the Monona Grove YMCA and a Life Scout in Boy Scout Troop 150, where he received the God and Country Award and was elected to the Order of the Arrow.
Army Corporal Bruce Knox, twenty, whose parents Warner and Beatrice live at 1862 Fisher St., dies a hero near Hue in Thua Thien Province on February 4, as he twice exposes himself to hostile fire to rescue and administer first aid to a wounded comrade. A graduate of Central High School and member of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Knox worked at Gisholt Machine Company before being drafted. In September, the Army posthumously awards Knox the Purple Heart, Silver Star, Bronze Star, Air Medal, and other commendations.
Marine Private Thomas J. Blaha, nineteen, who attended West High School, is a casualty of ground combat in Thua Thien province on February 8. His parents, who live at 621 Pickford St., learn of his death on Valentine’s Day— two years to the day after he joined the Marines. Blaha arrived in Vietnam six days before Christmas, 1967.
Marine Lance Corporal Lawrence J. Herfel, nineteen, whose parents live at 922 Nobel Ln., is a casualty of ground combat in Quang Tri Province on February 24. Herfel joined the Marines in August 1966, two months after graduating from Robert M. La Follette High School.
Marine Private First Class Daniel Lloyd Meysembourg, eighteen, 117 S. Marquette St.,
is a casualty of ground combat in Quang Tri Province on March 11. Meysembourg joined the Marines a month after graduating from Central High School in 1967; he had been in country seven weeks at the time of his death. Born in Rice Lake, Meysembourg grew up with his family at 821 Regent St. in the Greenbush neighborhood, attending St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and School; the family moved to the east side when their house was razed for urban renewal.
Army Specialist 4 Bernard “Bernie” Mazursky, twenty, whose mother and sisters live at 314 S. Orchard St., is killed in an ambush in Kontum on May 4. A 1966 graduate of Central- University High School and member of Beth Israel Center, Mazursky was a freshman at UW when he gave up his student deferment and enlisted along with his best friend in December 1966.
Army Specialist 4 James Leahy, twenty- five, an information specialist with the 39th Army Engineer Combat Battalion, and the only son of the head of the Madison draft b oard, dies August 8 of wounds received when his vehicle struck a land mine near Chu Lai, just south of Da Nang. A graduate of Queen of Peace School and Edgewood High School, he enlisted in the Army after graduating from Milton College in 1967 so there wouldn’t be accusations of favoritism against his father, Maurice, 4114 Meyer Ave. The senior Leahy, a World War II veteran and a safety specialist at Oscar Mayer, is head of Draft Board Thirteen, which handles conscription for city residents.
Army Lieutenant Harry B. Hambleton III, twenty- four, formerly of 4213 Odana Rd., dies on September 14 on board the hospital ship Repose of wounds received when his encampment came under heavy fire seven days prior. Hambleton graduated from West High School in 1963 and UW in 1967, where he was in the ROTC program. In his nine months in Vietnam, he had been awarded three Purple Hearts, a Presidential citation, the Army Commendation Medal for heroism, the Bronze Star for valor, the Air Medal, the Soldier’s Medal, and several other commendations.
Navy Hospital Corpsman Third Class Dan Michael Bennett, twenty- one, is killed by rifle fire on Foxtrot Ridge December 11 after he leaves his secure position to administer aid to a wounded Marine. A native Madisonian whose parents and nine siblings all live on the east side, was a 1965 graduate of East High School. Bennett’s wife and eighteen- month- old son, Dan Jr., live at 11A Wright Ct.
Six more fell in 69.
Army Specialist 4-C Lyle C. Hansbrough, twenty- five, whose widowed mother lives at 4817 Bayfield Ter. is killed in action in Gia Dinh Province on March 17. A graduate of West High School and Whitewater State University, he was drafted in February 1968.
Navy Medical Corpsman Gary Johnson, 3725 Hammersley Ave., is killed in a night search- and- destroy mission southeast of Da Nang on April 30, three days before his twenty- second birthday. The 1965 graduate of Central High School and member of Glenwood Moravian Church had been in country for forty- four days.
Two members of the West High School Class of 1967 die within a month of each other this spring.
Army Specialist 5- C James V. Spurley Jr., twenty, 1602 Norman Way, is killed during a rocket and mortar attack on an aircraft landing zone northwest of Saigon on May 11, during the Battle of Hamburger Hill. Spurley entered the Army’s First Air Cavalry in February 1968, arriving in Vietnam that July. A former carrier boy for the Capital Times, he attended Dale Heights Presbyterian Church. Hi classmate
Army Private Thomas A. Greisen, twenty, 446 Hilltop Dr., is killed in action June 6. Greisen worked at the Pure Oil Company at Westgate before entering the Army in May 1968. He was sent to Vietnam that December.
And a member of the West High class of 1965, Two- time Purple Heart recipient Marine Corporal Charles R. Le Bosquet, a platoon radio man, is killed in action in Quang Nam province August 21. A platoon radio man with the First Marine Division, the twenty- one year old lived at 4409 Cherokee Dr. and attended UW. Le Bosque, enlisted in the Marines in August 1968, arriving in Vietnam this past February. A member of First Baptist Church he was Le Bosquet is survived by his parents, 2555 University Ave., and his wife, the former Diane Thorstad, and brother Marine Cpl. John, of San Francisco.
Army Specialist 4- C Dennis W. Shew, twenty- one, 1101 Mendota St., East High School class of 1966, is killed in a non- combat vehicle crash on September 11. A native Madisonian and member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, he entered the Army in March 1968, and was sent to Vietnam a year later.
The two-year toll: Six West High Regents, four Central High Tigers, two apiece of La Follette Lances and East High Purgolders and one Edgewood Crusader. May all their memories be for a blessing.
And that’s this week’s Madison in the Sixties. For your award-winning, listener-supported, sacrifice-saluting WORT news team, I’m Stu Levitan.
Photo of Bascom Memorial Cemetery, March 18 1968 courtesy University of Wisconsin Madison Archives Image S00892