How many of you knew that the youngest American Soldier to be killed during the Vietnam War was only 15 yrs. old?  The minimum age for enlistment was 17 years-old with parental consent.

Pfc. Dan Bullock of the Marine Corps was killed in Quangnam Province — the youngest American serviceman killed in the Vietnam war.  He doctored his birth certificate at age 14 in order to join the Marines.  A year later, he was killed by enemy fire in Vietnam.

At least 5 men killed in Vietnam were 16 years old.
At least 12 men killed in Vietnam were 17 years old.

The oldest to die in the Vietnam War was 62 years-old.

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The one life that U.S. Marine Dan Bullock had to give for his country lasted just 15 years, five months and 17 days.  The Brooklyn teen, after using a doctored birth certificate to enlist, became the youngest U.S. casualty of the Vietnam War when he was gunned down on June 7, 1969.

It wasn’t until reporters visited the Marine’s family in Williamsburg that the nation learned the young man had been born on Dec. 21, 1953.Forty-five years later, Bullock’s legacy is largely as a trivia answer in a fight that America would rather forget.His old boot camp buddy Franklin McArthur says it shouldn’t be that way.“He’s the youngest kid killed, and hardly anybody knows his name,” McArthur said from his Florida home. “It bothers me because he’s a historical figure, and everybody should know who he was.“And hardly anybody does.”A picture of Bullock’s boyish face adorns a wall at the city’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Lower Manhattan.The slain teen looks forever east — frozen in time beneath his white dress hat, his lips pursed and his eyes fixed straight ahead.

His name adorns a street in his old Brooklyn neighborhood and a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Honolulu. His grave in North Carolina bears a stone paid for years ago by talk show host Sally Jesse Raphael.

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Much of that attention was generated by McArthur, who says he remains haunted by the 15-year-old’s sudden and violent death.

Bullock was just 14 when he appeared with his bogus proof of age at the Albee Square Marine recruiting station in downtown Brooklyn.

He was a bright kid and big for his age — standing about 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds. But the rigors of boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., were too much for the recruit, who was still just 14.

“He had already kind of washed out when he got to my platoon,” McArthur recounted. “He had trouble keeping up.”

Color guard stands at attention during ceremony at Vietnam Veterans Plaza.

Color guard stands at attention during ceremony at Vietnam Veterans Plaza.

(New York Daily News Archive)

McArthur made it his mission to aid the young Marine, at times carrying the exhausted teen through the rigorous training. He made the commitment because he knew what put a rifle in Bullock’s hands.

“Dan joined the Marine Corps to help his family out,” McArthur recalled. “His father was a lumber worker and a sharecropper. He didn’t have any skills to get work in New York.”

The two men said farewell after boot camp. Bullock left behind his dad, his stepmom and his 13-year-old sister, Gloria, and wound up about 8,500 miles from Brooklyn.

The rifleman with the Second Platoon of Company F was at the An Hoa Combat Base in Quang Nam Province when a 1 a.m. firefight began on June 7, 1969.

The heroic teen, realizing his fellow Marines guarding the base perimeter were outgunned, began running back and forth to deliver much-needed ammunition for the better part of an hour.

Bullock’s commander, unaware of the dead Marine’s tender age, provided the details in a June 11 letter to his parents on Lee Ave. in Brooklyn.

“He constantly exposed himself to the enemy fire in order to keep the company supplied with the ammunition needed to hold off the attack,” wrote Capt. R.H. Kingrey.

“As the attack pressed on, Dan again went to get more ammunition when he was mortally wounded by a burst of enemy small arms and died instantly.”

McArthur was stunned to learn about Bullock’s death, and a fellow Marine said something that forever stayed with him.

“The Marine said, ‘Did you ever think that if you didn’t help him, he might have lived?’” McArthur recalled. “I lost my mind.”

The combination of guilt and admiration for Bullock led the leatherneck to keep his underage friend’s memory alive.

“He took the secret of his age to the grave with him,” said McArthur. “And he didn’t have to. He could have gone home anytime if he just told how old he was.”

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This story originally published in the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, Sunday, November 9, 2014, and written by 

Question to all:

In 1969, Mr. Bullock found a way to beat the system and gain entry into the military as an underage recruit.  Can something like this still occur today or has the government implemented checks and balances to prevent recurrence in our modern volunteer military? 


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