Jerry Wayne Looney

Hanford, California

June 11, 1966

Drafted into the Army, Jerry Looney arrived in Vietnam one month after his 21st birthday in March, 1966. He was assigned to the infamous 1st Infantry Division, 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry, Company C as a rifleman.

The unit was located northwest of Saigon in a deep jungle environment only a few miles from the Cambodian border. Tasked with stopping the early enemy flow from the Ho Chi Minh trail into South Vietnam, they would prove themselves as strong soldiers as the years waned on. Sadly, Jerry would become a casualty of the war only 3 months after arriving there.

In May, 1966, the 2nd Battalion had a change of command. LtCol George Eyster had been killed by a random sniper shot, and LtCol Kyle Bowie took over the Unit. It would be only days later that he would lead his troops into a fierce battle to maintain control of the area. Intelligence reported that the 273rd Viet Cong Regiment was moving towards the Loc Ninh area with the mission of attacking the town. It was a critical piece of real estate as both the south Vietnamese and the US had Special Forces camps there, along with air strips.

The Battalion was quickly flown in there and given the mission of securing the air strip, and performing search and destroy patrols to locate and eliminate the enemy. The Brigade headquarters was quickly established at the strip, and 2⁄16 was brought in as a defensive measure for the Artillery Firebase. The terrain was covered with rubber trees from a nearby plantation and irrigation ditches, but…close air support was impractical due to these rubber trees provided a dense overhead cover and the pilots could not see the troops on the ground.

Adrenalin was high as the troops slogged through the water and jungle as they tried to locate the enemy force, and after a couple of weeks it just became another day in ‘Nam. In an unknown terrain, the VC had successfully eluded them - but not for long. Around noon on June 11th, two Companies became heavily engaged on an all-out attack on the air strip. They were barraged by mortars and automatic weapon fire. Jerry’s Company Commander, Capt. Jackson, made the decision to quickly move forward to quell the attack. Supported by 105mm artillery, Capt Jackson’s unit pushed the enemy south into the Special Forces camp – who opened fire on them.

Tactically, the enemy was trapped, and it should have been a simple military maneuver to defeat them. But instead of holding their positions and letting the artillery do their job, Jerry’s platoon was ordered to move forward and finish them off. With no way out, the VC put up a fierce fight, killing 10 US soldiers and wounding over 30. PFC Jerry Looney was killed instantly as part of the lead group. He was the platoon radio operator and the tall antenna targeted him as an easy mark. As time went on, the Army would learn from their mistakes – but at the early cost of many brave soldiers.

Jerry Wayne Looney’s name is on the Vietnam Wall at Panel 8E, line 37.

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