Tom Umberg

Senator Umberg commemorates 81 unidentified airborne Vietnamese heroes

On Saturday, October 26, a memorial service will be held in the City of Westminster’s Freedom Park to honor the 81 unknown airborne soldiers of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) that were shot down in a United States military aircraft during the Vietnam War. There will be a full military ceremony honoring their service in Westminster, often known as Little Saigon, where the remains of the soldiers will be interred. Senator Thomas J. Umberg (D – Orange County) will honor the brave soldiers with a legislative resolution, to be presented during the memorial service, which recognizes the ultimate sacrifices made by the South Vietnamese soldiers as they fought side-by-side with the United States Military 54 years ago in support of democracy.

In late 1965, an American C-123 aircraft was shot down, killing all four American crew members and 81 South Vietnamese Airborne soldiers. The crash site was located in a contested area and was not visited until 1974. Because there was no flight manifest for the combat mission, the names of those soldiers were lost. The American crew members were later identified through DNA testing and were given a proper interment, though the 81 Vietnamese are as yet identified only as members of an elite airborne battalion of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. The Hanoi government has declined to accept them for a proper burial in Vietnam. Since they were not American citizens or soldiers, they were not buried and properly honored in the United States.

“These soldiers that fought as a band of brothers with American armed forces may be unknown by name, but they will never be forgotten for their efforts. They will be remembered with honor and dignity by all for giving their lives, and fighting bravely in the name of freedom,” said Senator Umberg. “At this solemn ceremony and onward, all Americans shall hold in high esteem the lives of those who stood beside us during incredibly difficult times, and never turn a blind eye to true heroes like these 81 Vietnamese soldiers.”

The 81 soldiers will be laid to rest near the Vietnam-American Memorial Monument, which honors the courage and contributions of the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese refugees who risked everything to come to the United States. The Ceremony on October 26 will not only commemorate the sacrifices of the 81 soldiers that lost their lives 54 years ago, but also will serve tribute to the thousands of other soldiers who lost their lives fighting for democracy, and to 2 million Americans of Vietnamese descent who contribute and strengthen our society.

Senator Umberg has also authored a resolution to be formally heard on the Floor of the California Senate, which recognizes, and pays tribute to the memories of the 81 airborne soldiers of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. The resolution also commends all those, including the Lost Soldiers Foundation and the Family of the Vietnamese Red Berets, who have worked diligently to bring the effort of this memorial to fruition.

This article was released by the Office of Senator Tom Umberg.