Maryland Ave. banners recall county’s fallen

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan The county government installed banners along Maryland Avenue in Cambridge in memory of local soldiers who were killed in Vietnam.

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan
The county government installed banners along Maryland Avenue in Cambridge in memory of local soldiers who were killed in Vietnam.

CAMBRIDGE — Motorists on Maryland Avenue have observed five blue banners in recent days. The solemn decorations feature the names of the five Dorchester servicemen who lost their lives in the Vietnam Conflict. These banners include the name, rank and date each one of the soldiers was killed in action.

When the Dorchester County Council learned last month that the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall would soon visit Easton, commissioners agreed the men should be honored with a local display.

Councilman Rick Travers said “On behalf of the County Council, I express our sincere gratitude to these soldiers. We also encourage each citizen to remember those brave men and women who served or are now serving our country. Without them the freedom we enjoy today would not be possible.”

The County Council gives special thanks to the following for assisting in bringing this project to fruition: Mid-Shore Graphics, the City of Cambridge, Bay Country Communications installation and Easton VFW Post No. 5118 for bringing the Wall to the Eastern Shore.
The display in Easton, which included the names of all those lost in Vietnam, moved on from Easton on June 7.

PFC William C. Dayton
Pfc. William C. Dayton, 21, a Marine, was killed in action when he stepped on a land mine. He died in a hospital at the Marine Air Base at Da Nang, the website findagrave.com said.

“Mr. Dayton’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. James A. Dayton of Jacktown, were notified by a Marine colonel their son had been killed in action in Vietnam. The officer came to Cambridge and stopped by Cambridge Police Department to ask directions to their home,” the report continued. “The Daytons were called to see if they were at home and tell them that someone was at the headquarters to see them.

“Mr. and Mrs. Dayton, thinking it was a friend, came to the headquarters. When they arrived at the headquarters, the Marine colonel asked Mrs. Dayton if she had a son named William C. Dayton. She answered yes, and the colonel broke the news to her.”

Pfc. Dayton entered the Marines on May 18, 1966, and arrived in Vietnam on Dec. 24, 1966. He was attached to the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, D Company, 1st Marine Division (Rein) FMF.

Had he lived eight more days, he would have been 22 years old on March 5, 1967.

Before Mr. Dayton left for Vietnam, he had three dreams that he wasn’t going to see his 22nd birthday, Jimmy Dayton, William Dayton’s older brother, recalled.

Mr. Dayton’s body was returned to Dorchester County a few weeks after he was killed.

According to “The Rocking Chair” column by Elsie McNamara, in the March 10, 1967, Daily Banner, “The bell in the fire tower of Rescue Fire Co. tolled yesterday to remind the community that a young Marine was being laid to rest in Dorchester Memorial Park. Pfc. Billy Dayton came home in spirit. He arrived in a casket draped in an American flag, for whose country he gave his life that you and I might live in a peaceful world. It was just a few months ago that the young man left his home and loved ones, and enlisted in the United States Marines. During December he went to Vietnam, where he paid the supreme sacrifice on Feb. 25. Yesterday, a group of Marines came to Cambridge to accord full military rites for the first one from Dorchester County to lay down his life in the Vietnam Conflict.”

SP4 Earl Mack
SPF Earl Mack died in battle on Feb. 14, 1968, while his battalion conducted Reconnaissance in Force operations in Hoc Mon, today a suburban district of Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. A reconnaissance in force is a deliberate combat operation designed to discover or test the enemy’s strength, dispositions, and reactions or to obtain other information. It is an aggressive reconnaissance conducted as an offensive operation.

The Dorchester soldier was serving with C Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment “The Bobcats,” 25th Infantry Division.
The regiment’s history contains the following entry for Feb. 14, 1968:

“Company B and Company C worked the area east of Hoc Mon. Companies B and C began blowing bunkers they encountered in their respective areas and discovered Viet Cong bodies, weapons, equipment, and a number of U.S. weapons and documents.

“At 1210 hours, Company C reported light contact with an unknown sized enemy force 2 kilometers northeast of Hoc Mon. The fight escalated and an APC from Company C was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade and caught fire.

“Company C requested a dust-off [helicopter evacuation] for three wounded Bobcats at 1244 hours. At 1436 hours they reported one Bobcat killed.

“Company B and the Recon platoon reinforced the Company C elements. At 1631 hours, a dust-off was requested for three more wounded Bobcats. At 1800 hours, tank cannons and artillery were fired to cover an attempt to extract wounded from the area.

At 2006 hours, it was reported that 6 Bobcats from Company C and one Bobcat from Company B were known to be dead, but that the bodies of six of them had not yet been recovered.

“On Feb. 15, an assault was planned into the area of Company C’s previous contact. At 1137 hours, five of the MIAs [Missing in Action] were located. At 1155 hours, the body of the 6th MIA was located in the burned APC.

PFC Cecil Jenkins
PFC Cecil Jenkins was from Taylors Island. He was an infantryman with the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, when he died from burns from a white phosphorus mortar round in fighting near Con Thien Hill.

The 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, was among the Allied forces engaged in bitter fighting around Con Thien on May 8, 1967. The battalion lost 36 men on that day, half of them from Delta Company.

LCPL Michael Digenno
On 11 March, 1969, Lance Corporal Michael Digenno was serving with G Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Amphibious Force, in Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam.

On that day, LCPL Digenno was killed in action when he sustained wounds from friendly fire. His body was recovered.

This occurred in or around Old Site of LZ (landing zone) Catapult. Circumstances of the casualty were attributed in another report to, “Died through hostile action.”

SFC John Mastronardi wrote online, “I’m a childhood friend of Michael. I remember his passing when I was in school, shocking all his friends. I later joined the service and went to Vietnam Nam. I always thought of Michael, and after all these years, still do. Rest in Peace, brother in arms.”

PFC Derrick Sudler
The Morning News of Wilmington, Delaware, carried the following information on May 14, 1970:

“Services will be Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Bethel AME Church for Pfc Derrick Sudler, 20, of 1001 Pine St., who was killed May 5 in Vietnam. Interment will be in the Bethel Cemetery.

“Pfc. Sudler suffered shrapnel wounds in the accidental discharge of a hand grenade at Phuoc Vinh, according to the Defense Department.”
He served in E Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division, United States Army, Republic of Vietnam.

One of his fellow troopers, Alan Rappaport, wrote on a website in memory of Pfc. Sudler, saying, “I carried Derrick’s body to the helicopter, alongside our medic. He was my friend and all these years later I still think of him.”

Dave Ryan is editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at dryan@newszap.com.

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