Corporal Thomas W. Fritsch U.S.M.C.
Thomas William Fritsch was born on August 26,
1946 in Hartford, CT and was raised in South Windsor and Portland CT. He
attended Valley View and Gildersleeve Elementary Schools in Portland. While
attending Portland Junior High School, he became extremely active as a Boy
Scout. Tommy’s family moved to Cromwell during his Junior-Senior years of
High School. Tommy studied the Culinary Trade and graduated from E.C.
Goodwin Technical-Vocational School, New Britain, CT. in June of 1966.
During his high school years, Tommy was a positive force in the Portland
Fire Department as a volunteer (since turning 16 years old). He put his
Trade/Skills to work cooking in Norwich, CT. at Camp Tadma (summers) for
the Boy Scouts. For spending money, he worked as a cook at the “Portland
Immediately following graduation, Tommy Fritsch entered the United States
Marine Corps. He received Basic Training at Parris Island, South Carolina
and his Artillery Training at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. His first
assignment in the Marine Corps was with a Communications Detachment in Camp
Pendleton, California. He also spent about a year in Hawaii. In early
February of 1968, he received his orders, spent Leave Time with his family
and then reported to the Republic of Vietnam.
The synopsis of his being listed as MIA “Missing-in-Action” is as
UNIT: Battery D, 2nd Battalion, 13th Marines, 1st Marine Div.
DATE AND PLACE OF LOSS: May 10, 1968 South
STATUS in 1973: Killed In Action / Body Not Recovered (KIA/BNR)
Kham Duc Special Forces camp (A-105), was located on the western fringes of
Guang Tin (“Great Faith”) Province, South Vietnam. In the spring of 1968,
it was the only remaining border camp in Military Region I. The outpost was
an ideal Laotian border surveillance site with an existing airfield. The
camp was located on a narrow grassy plain, surrounded by rugged, virtually
uninhabitable jungle with mountains and ridges looming about. Steep banked
streams full of rapids and waterfalls cut through the tropical wilderness.
The Dak Mi River flowed past the camp a mile distant.
Five miles downstream was the small forward operating base of Nook Tavak,
defended by the 113 man 11th Mobile Strike Force Company with its 8 Special
Forces and 3 Australian advisors. Since Nook Tavak was outside friendly
artillery range, 33 Marine artillerymen of Battery D, 2nd Battalion, 13th
Marines, with two 105 mm howitzers were located at the outpost.
An NVA Infantry Battalion attacked nook Tavak at 0315 hours on May 10,
1968. Mortars and direct rocket fire pounded the base. As the frontal
assault began, the Kham Duc CIDG soldiers (infiltrated by the VC) moved
toward the Marines in the fort yelling, “don’t shoot, don’t shoot!
Friendly, Friendly!” Suddenly, they lobbed grenades into the Marine
howitzer positions and ran into the fort, where they shot several Marines
with carbines and sliced the Claymore mine and communication wires. The
defenders suffered heavy casualties but stopped the main assault and killed
the infiltrators, however, they remained pinned down by enemy fire.
At daybreak, there was a counterattack by the Americans and the howitzers
were re-taken. Later that morning, Medical Evacuation Helicopters, supported
by covering air strikes, took out the seriously wounded. Two CH-46’s were
able to land, but one helicopter was hit in the fuel line and forced down.
Another chopper was hit by a rocket and burst into flames, wrecking the
Helipad. The remaining wounded were placed aboard a hovering MED-EVAC.
Ammunition and water were nearly exhausted and Nook Tavak was still being
pounded by sporadic mortar fire. They asked permission to evacuate their
positions, but were told to “hold on” as “reinforcements are on the way”.
By noon the defenders decided that aerial reinforcement or evacuation was
increasingly unlikely and night would bring certain destruction. An hour
later, they abandoned Nook Tavak.
All the excess weapons, munitions and equipment that could not be carried
were set afire. The downed helicopter was destroyed by a LAW (Light
Antitank Weapon). A newly arrived medic, 26 year old Thomas Hepburn Perry
(Canton Center, CT) who had been caring for the wounded, was to join the end
of the column as the Americans were leaving the compound. The camp was
After traveling about 1 kilometer, it was noticed that Thomas Perry the
medic was missing. A group from Battery D was assigned a mission to search
and rescue. They were searching along the perimeter of Nook Tavak when
they were hit by enemy grenades and small arms fire. Neither the men on the
team nor the medic were ever found. Included in this team were PFC Thomas
Blackman, Lcpl Joseph Cook, PFC Paul Czerwonka, Lcpl Thomas Fritsch of
Cromwell, CT, PFC Barry Hempel, Lcpl Raymond Heyne, Cpl Gerald King,
PFC Robert Lopez, PFC William McGonigle, Lcpl Donald Mitchell and Lcpl
James Sargent. The remaining survivors evaded through dense jungle to a
helicopter pickup point midway to Kham Duc. Their extraction was completed
shortly before 1900 hours on the evening of May 10. All contact was lost
with the Search and Rescue Team and all members were listed as missing in
action. Thomas Fritsch is one of nearly 2,500 Americans who remain missing
and unaccounted for in Southeast Asia.
In concert with the Nook Tavak assault, Kham Duc was blasted by a heavy
mortar and recoilless rocket attack at 0245 the same morning, along with
several O.P.’s (outpost) in the area. Fighting remained rampant and chaotic
for two more days until the entire area was abandoned by 1633 hours on may
It was assumed that all the missing in the Kham Duc area were killed in
action until about 1983, when the father of one of the men missing
discovered a Marine Corps document which indicated four of the men had been
taken prisoner. Until proof is obtained that the rest of the men lost at
Nook Tavak and Kham Duc are dead, their families will wonder if they are
among those said to still be alive in Southeast Asia.
Following the end of the Vietnam War?, Tommy Fritsch’s family received his
Awards and Decorations at a National POW-MIA Day Ceremony in Hartford,
CT. Entrusted to them were: The Presidential Unit Citation, National
POW/MIA Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Expert Rifleman and Sharpshooter
Pistol Medals, the Medal of Valor with Palms and the Purple Heart.
October, 1999, the Navy
Department contacted the Fritsch family. They are investigating the event
site noted above and are attempting to identify remains found. Say a
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