The stories of how these seven Morningside’s Vietnam War dead were lost follow.
Harold Bauchiero, Class of 1964, was the first. Harold joined the Marines in May 1966 and was serving as a helicopter door gunner when he was killed in action in Aug. 1967. His helicopter was attempting to insert a reconnaissance team in Quang Tri Province when it took heavy fire, killing a member of the recon team and seriously wounding the crew chief and Harold. He was flown to Khe Sahn and from there medevac’d to Phu Bai, where he was pronounced dead from gunshot wounds to his chest, abdomen, and leg.
Robert Lee McLeod, Class of 1962, was next. He was drafted into the Army and further assigned to the Infantry. During a combat operation in Nov.
Victor Carl Nordstrom, Class of 1961, was Morningside’s third loss in Vietnam. He too was a draftee, and was trained as a heavy vehicle driver. He died in Feb. 1968 from fragment wounds received when the base camp he was in came under rocket and mortar fire. Victor fell victim to the enemy’s Tet Offensive. The disruption caused by Tet is reflected in the fact that he was first reported missing in action, on Feb. 7, and his status was changed to killed in action on Feb. 20. One can only guess at the anguish his parents went through in that time.
Robert George Weddendorf, Class of 1963, was killed in May 1968, during what was called Mini-Tet, another series of enemy attacks across Vietnam. Robert was drafted and ended up in the Infantry. The official report says he died from burns received while a passenger on a UH-1 “Huey” helicopter that crashed and burned after being hit by hostile small arms fire. Other records indicate he was one of 11 killed the crash – the Huey’s four-man crew, Robert and six other Infantry soldiers, and a medic. Again the “fog of war” is evident in the fact that was reported missing on May 5 and not confirmed as KIA (killed in action) until May 13. Records indicate he left behind a three-year-old son, Ronald Weddendorf.
Peter Robert Mills, Class of 1966, enlisted in the Marines as a wireman, responsible for land-line communications. He got to Vietnam on Aug. 22, 1968, and died on Aug. 12, 1969 – ten days short of a one-year tour of duty. His casualty report says he died “as a result of massive trauma to the entire body when the jeep in which he was the driver detonated a hostile land mine.” A remembrance left on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund website tells more of the story: “I owe my life to Pete for he willingly took up the slack when I could not do my job on that horrible, hot August day. Pete drove my jeep up on the Hill with my S-4 [supply] officer . . . and a warrant officer while I was taking some college equivalency tests. I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am for his sacrifice but with that comes much guilt. I can tell you that my life has not been a waste and the Lord has used me for His Service . . . thanks to Pete. I would hope we could meet someday. God bless each and every one of you!” Pete Mills left a widow, Jacqueline (Dixon) Mills (’65), and 2 sons, Jason and Kirk.
Thomas Lynn Poole, Class of 1967, was drafted and trained as an Infantry mortar crewman. He was killed in action while serving in the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry – the same battalion that defeated a superior force of North Vietnamese Regulars in one of the first battles fought by US forces in Vietnam, made famous in the movie “We Were Soldiers” from the same regiment that George Armstrong Custer led to defeat at the Battle of Little Big Horn. As part of the 1st Cavalry Division, Tom Poole’s unit took part in the ‘Cambodian Incursion,” the surprise campaign ordered by President Richard Nixon to clear North Vietnamese Army forces from their sanctuaries across the border in Cambodia (but perhaps best remembered as the cause of nationwide protests that culminated in what Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young called “Four Dead in Ohio” when protesters at Kent State University were fired on by National Guard forces). The Cambodian operation was limited to 30 days by President Nixon, and just six days before its end, on June 23, 1970, Thomas Poole was killed outright by small arms fire on a combat operation when a hostile force was encountered. Tom Poole left a wife, Christine.
Lawrence Gordon Swarbrick, Class of 1963, was the last Morningside graduate killed in the Vietnam War. After graduating from Cal-Poly St. Louis Obispo, he was commissioned in the Army Reserve, in the Intelligence branch, and eventually went to Vietnam as a member of an Advisory Team, helping prepare units of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam to assume responsibility for their own defense under the Nixon policy of “Vietnamization.” On Aug. 13, 1970, he was reported missing as a result of an encounter with a hostile force. On Aug.18, his status was changed to KIA. One database lists him as “died while missing” and cites small arms fire as the cause. Larry left behind his wife, Jeanne. A fellow veteran who served with Larry in Vietnam posted this to Larry’s profile page at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund website: The Giant. When Larry died, the NVA [North Vietnamese Army] put up a poster: “We killed the giant.” Larry was a big man in both size and character: a giant. We won’t forget him. Posted by Randlett. We served together. Nov. 16, 2002.
"They shall not grow old,