Thursday, April 19, 2012

Where he died

Through Ray Calhoun we have gotten background on the military movements, topography, and location of the ambush where Donald Woodward McNamara died.  The photos and italicized commentary below came courtesy of Calhoun.  There may be question as to the suitability of including this information with Project McNamara but it is the initial horrible reality that put this project in play.  Note all photos should open in a new window and a larger version if you click on them.

Highway 9 Valley

The battle on July 21, 1967, took place at the far end of this valley, near the river that runs the distance.  According to Calhoun the exact location is about one inch below the "S" in "Sahn."

This is the basic map where Donald and I operated. We spent the majority of our time between the Rockpile and Khe Sanh. Donald was KIA just east of Ca Lu on the road to Khe Sanh. Sadly my squad was on the eastern or southern side of the Thach Han River. We couldn’t do much except to coordinate air strikes.

This map is a topo to show where we spent most of our time around the Rockpile and Razorback. You will hear about locations like Old Payable and the Dustbowl so now you can put them into perspective. Route 9 is at the SE tip of this map.

This photo is showing an air strike that we called in to try and give Donald's part of the platoon some support. You can see the distance and foliage to get a sense of what was going on. To my knowledge this may be the only photo from that day. When you are busy no one is taking many photos.

Donald Woodward McNamara - at Home
Had Ray Calhoun's squad made it across the river to support the Marines being ambushed, this story may have ended differently.  Or had Donald's parents not moved to Albert Lea shortly after he joined the Marines, NKHS Alumni would have been more aware of his ultimate sacrifice.

As it is, the Freeborn County Courthouse in Albert Lea, MN, has honored him in a Memorial Walk where a brick with his name has been placed in the KIA section.  It's as if he knew his fate when a photo was taken when home on leave, perhaps his last, as if he knew the brick would one day be there.

Project your own thoughts on his frame of mind here regarding his family, his mission, and his future.

The face has pride, confidence, satisfaction, maturity, and the inner peace his fellow Marine reported in a Remembrance.  By all accounts, his death was a huge loss.   He belonged at home and not in the valley pictured above, but it's where the world took him.

For the Class of '62 he's the schoolmate we didn't know - until it was too late.

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