George Thomas Kelly III
June 10, 1947 - April 23, 1970
The accompanying photograph, top left, shows Tom with his Father, G. Thomas Kelly Jr. ,top right, Tom with his proud and adoring Mother Jill T. Kelly; he was their pride, joy, and first born. In the center is his niece Kelly (now married with two wonderful children of her own) bottom right, Tom with me and our sister Jude. Lower left: the two Toms swore they would not leave the table until they had eaten the entire turkey; they were so proud... and full. The lower pictures are from the last day we saw him... Thanksgiving '69; He shipped out that day... all so vivid still.
- Patrick O'Kelly -
He arrived in Vietnam attached to C Battery, 6th Battalion, 14th Artillery.
On his last mission he was working with the 1st Battalion, 42d Regiment
Army of the Republic of Vietnam they were just southwest of Dak Seang
near the tri-border.
The incident of his death was associated with the Siege of Dak Seang - April 1970
Talk to the guys who met/knew/talked on the radio with him. They will tell you he drank to much, he was a problem child, not your spit and polished officer, a hippy, openly against the war... the list goes on, but what is agreed upon is his dedication in the field and duty to the men he served with.
I have heard several accounts of the events that day, April 22, 1970 but they are all related and/or very similar.
Here are some of the accounts that have been recalled to me:
"The men who returned on that medevac said that Kelly and another Lieutenant would not get on board as the ship was quite overloaded. Kelly grabbed two M-16 and told them to "get outta here!" As the chopper left it received some small arms fire from the surrounding bush. The two (Kelly and Delong) were seen prone on the ground apparently on the radio when they came under fire from atop the hill. Kelly rolled one way and the other lieutenant rolled the other. Kelly was seen getting up and crossing a clearing to some upturned trees while laying down suppressive cover fire. The chopper cleared the trees and those on board could no longer see through the cover." --------
"The medevac drew machine gun fire before we even got everyone aboard, but the pilot held it at a low hover until he had a full load and then lifted almost straight up, absorbing hits all over his ship. That left me and Tom laying prone at the uphill end of the tiny LZ. Tom, calm as ever, was trying to raise the 6/14th to see if they had a helicopter in the area that could pick us up. He was twisting the PRC-25 knob to change the frequency when a machine gun began firing at us from behind. The rounds were kicking up dirt all around us. We rolled in opposite directions, trying to get out of his target zone. I rolled across the LZ and into a depression caused by an uprooted tree. Then all hell broke loose with small arms fire raking the LZ, coming from uphill of our position. I saw several wounded ARVN killed as they tried to return fire from the middle of the LZ. I never saw Tom again. I believe he was killed by the initial burst of machine gun fire" ---------
"When the boys returned from retrieving his remains, they said they found him slumped against a clump of large bamboo or the stump of a large overturned tree, his trade mark red bandanna and gold rimmed glasses. He had been shot many times but clearly and finally at close range. There were two M-16's laying by his side... clips empty.
"He had clearly be captured alive as his hands and feet were tied. Should have also been a recipient of the Prisoner of War Commendation for his gallentry given for his field comrades escape..." -----
"I was the S-3 of 6/14 at Dak Seang when Tom was killed. Wrote him up
for the Medal of Honor for his selfless act of saving his buddies on the
medevac. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. I tried to
contact his father in Fort Worth when I got back in July 70 but to no
The General Orders read:
Department of the Army
Headquarters, United States Army Vietnam
APO San Francisco 96375
11 August 1970
Award of the Distinguished Service Cross
TC 439. The following Award is announced posthumously.
Kelly, George T. III 238-80-9936 First Lieutenant Field Artillery United States Army, Battery C, 6th Battalion, 14th Artillery, I Field Force Vietnam Artillery, APO 96350
Awarded: Distinguished Service Cross
Date of action: 22 April 1970
Theater: Republic of Vietnam
Authority: By direction of the President, under the provisions of the Act of Congress, approved 25 July 1963.
Reason: For extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam: First Lieutenant Kelly distinguished himself while serving as forward observer with a Vietnamese battalion near Dak Seang. Lieutenant Kelly's battalion had been engaged with a North Vietnamese Regiment in continuous combat for several days. During the previous night the battalion had been aggressively attacked by the enemy who had moved to within thirty meters of the battalion's perimeter. Only through Lieutenant Kelly's daring and precise artillery adjustment was the enemy attack repulsed. During the early afternoon of 22 April 1970, Lieutenant Kelly led his beleaguered comrades in an attempt to break through the enemy encirclement and reach Camp Dak Seang. After several hours of travel, a bomb crater large enough to be utilized as a landing zone was discovered. A medical evacuation helicopter was immediately summoned by radio. Moments after the helicopter's arrival, the enemy emerged from the tree line and struck Lieutenant Kelly's force again. Because of the intense hostile fire, the heavily laden helicopter experienced great difficulty in taking off. Lieutenant Kelly unhesitantly left the ship to engage the enemy in an attempt to divert their fire and to allow the helicopter to depart. As Lieutenant Kelly maneuvered to one side of the clearing to provide cover fire, he was mortally wounded by enemy small arms fire. First Lieutenant Kelly's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty, at the cost of his life, were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.
I wished had I had been able to meet your brother - our's were different times and slightly different places. Young men go to places like Vietnam and Iraq never really knowing what to expect. What is learned and experienced shapes theirs and many other lives. For the soldier - there comes a time for some, when all that you are - even though you may not know it - is revealed in an instant - Tom's actions speak for themselves - and I cannot know what it was that you and your family felt when you heard of his death.
I choose to believe that all the love that we have felt and given in our lives, survives. Tom made a difference in the world we live in - one that reaches out to touch all the hearts and souls of those who served and of all friends and family. His memory brings focus to those things in life which truly give it meaning.
I hope I haven't intruded too far into your life with these thoughts I have shared. I was an RTO on an FO Team that got ambushed May 31, 1969 - we were all wounded and all survived. The team I had originally been assigned to, did not. I questioned for a very long time why we lived and others died. I suspect that many veterans - their families and friends have had the same thoughts, There is no way of really knowing the why of it.
I hope I meet Tom when the time does come - simply to say - Thank you - for all of us - for all that you have done!
Take care and be well Brother Patrick!
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