David Charles Dolby was born in Norristown, Pennsylvania on May 14, 1946. He entered the United States Army at age 18, and fifty years ago today on May 21, 1966, he was a Specialist 4 in Company B, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) fighting in Vietnam.
Today – November 14, 2015 – marks the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Ia Drang, November 14-18, 1965. This was the first major action of the Vietnam War which saw American forces fighting the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN), also known as the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) rather than the Viet Cong guerillas.
Ia Drang was the first time the United States Army‘s new air assault tactics as implemented in the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) were really put to the test, and tested they were. The fighting during the first three days of the battle ultimately produced three Medal of Honor recipients and three recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross. At a critical juncture of the first day of fighting at landing zone (LZ) “X-Ray” in the Ia Drang Valley on November 14, 1965, a platoon leader in Company A, 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry rose up and attacked alone in front of his pinned-down troopers.
By November 23, 1944, Silk had earned an officer’s commission, and was a First Lieutenant in Company E, 2nd Battalion, 398th Infantry Regiment, 100th Infantry Division, locked in combat against Nazi Germany near St. Pravel, France. Lieutenant Silk, in command of his company’s weapons platoon, single handedly assaulted a house occupied by enemy troops that was blocking his soldiers’ advance. His courage was recognized with the Medal of Honor in November 1945.
John Wilson Minick was born in Wall, Pennsylvania on June 14, 1908. He was living in Carlisle, Pennsylvania when he was drafted into the United States Army on February 8, 1943. Minick fought in Europe as an infantryman with the 121st Infantry Regiment of the 8th Infantry Division.
Leonard Alfred Funk, Jr. was born on August 27, 1916 in Braddock, Pennsylvania. He was living in nearby Wilkinsburg, PA when he was drafted for service in the United States Army at age 24 on June 7, 1941, prior to the United States’ entry into World War II. Funk volunteered for service in the fledgling airborne force, and earned his paratrooper’s wings.
Robert Earl Laws was born on January 18, 1921 in Altoona, Pennsylvania. He was living there and had completed college when he was drafted at age 21 for service in the United States Army during World War II on July 1, 1942.
By January 1945, Laws was a Staff Sergeant and a squad leader in Company G, 2nd Battalion, 169th Infantry Regiment, 43rd Infantry Division.
William Arthur Shomo was born in Jeannette, Pennsylvania on May 30, 1918. He was working as a mortician when he volunteered and enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet. He completed his flight instruction and earned both his pilot’s wings and an officer’s commission. Shomo flew reconnaissance aircraft in the Pacific theater against the Japanese.
Day G. Turner was born on September 2, 1921 in Berwick, Pennsylvania. He was drafted for wartime service in the United States Army on September 16, 1943. Turner was an infantryman, and served in Company B, 1st Battalion, 319th Infantry Regiment, 80th Infantry Division. The division arrived in Europe for combat via Utah Beach in Normandy on August 5, 1944.
Freeman Victor Horner was born on June 7, 1922 in Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania. He held only a grade-school education when he voluntarily enlisted in the United States Army on January 4, 1941 at age 18. Horner’s original enlistment was for one year, which of course was extended indefinitely by the United States’ entry into World War II.
Alfred Leonard Wilson was born in Fairchance, Pennsylvania on September 18, 1919. He lived his whole life there, and was employed as a miner when he was drafted into the United States Army on February 15, 1943 for World War II service. Wilson was trained as a combat medic and assigned to the medical detachment of the 328th Infantry Regiment of the 26th Infantry Division.