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PFC David Lee Hemke
B Company, 720th MP Battalion
, 89th MP Group, 18th MP Brigade

Line Of Duty Casualty ~ 31 January 1970 ~ Vietnam


Photo Courtesy of SP/4 Denny Taylor

They Say,
our deaths are not ours,
they are yours,
they will mean what
you make of them.

They say,
we leave you our deaths,
give them some

Archibald MacLeish
poet and WWI

There is no contact information  on file for the next of kin.

        On Saturday, 31 January 1970, PFC David Lee Hemke, age 20, of Apollo, PA, SP/4 David Allan Johnson, age 24, of West Lafayette, IN, and PFC Robert Lamar McArthur, age 20 of Chattanooga, TN, were members of one of two B Company Ambush Teams being transported at night in three Boston Whaler “Skimmer’s” on the Dong Nai River.

        The three boats picked up the two ambush teams at the "Steel Bridge" on the Rach Ben River. Each team had a separate ambush site to proceed to so their plan was to leave together and select two separate drop off points along the way.

         The boats departed east on the Rach Ben towards the main river, the Dong Nai. It was getting dark as the three boats entered into the Dong Nai and began their turn southward, when SGT Ralph TakenAlive, a Squad Leader in the third boat said he saw the middle boat dip into the water. He couldn’t recall specifically if it was because the boats hit a wake caused earlier by a passing ARVN PBR on the Dong Nai, or because they suddenly slowed to turn towards the near river bank.

        The boat immediately sank dumping all of the ambush team and boat crew into the river. The men were wearing full combat gear and loaded with weapons, ammunition, and a PRC25 radio.

        He recalls that the radio net became jammed and believed it was caused when the PRC10 radio in the boat went under. The two remaining boats picked up the men they found in the river and searched for others with the help of a U.S. PBR that came to their aid, without success.

        They immediately proceeded to Long Hung village on the near bank conducted an immediate head count and confirmed that SP/4 Johnson  and PFC’s Hemke and PFC McArthur were missing.

        Due to the darkness and fast running tidal waters further searching was canceled. B Company elements recovered two bodies the next day around noon, the third was not recovered until three days after the incident.

--- General / Personal ---
Last name: HEMKE
First name: DAVID LEE
Home of Record (official): APOLLO
State (official): PA
Date of Birth: Thursday, September 8, 1949
Sex: Male
Race: Caucasian
Marital Status: Single

--- Military ---
Branch: Army
Rank: PFC
Serial Number: 194404844
Component: Selective Service
Pay grade: E3
MOS (Military Occupational Specialty code): 95B10

--- Action ---
Start of Tour: Sunday, January 4, 1970
Date of Casualty: Saturday, January 31, 1970
Age at time of loss: 20
Casualty type: (C1) Non-hostile, died of other causes
Reason: Drowned, suffocated (Ground casualty)
Country: South VietNam
Province: Bien Hoa
The Wall: Panel 14W - Row 084

Photographs: G2542



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