Update: Washougal sailor’s name going on Vietnam memorial wall

Man was killed by gunshot in Vietnam, but not in combat

By Tom Vogt, Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter



333 names have been added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial since the wall was dedicated in 1982.

333 names have been added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial since the wall was dedicated in 1982.

More than 40 years after Richard Daniels died in Vietnam, the name of the Washougal sailor will be added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Daniels was 23 when he died on March 1, 1971, aboard a U.S. Navy vessel at Dong Tam, in what was then South Vietnam.

Daniels’ name is one of five that will be added to the black granite wall within the next week, according to a news release from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

All five met Department of Defense criteria for addition to the wall. They died of wounds sustained in the combat zone during the Vietnam War, including one soldier who died in 2009 — 41 years after he was shot in the spine and paralyzed.

Daniels was on his third tour in Vietnam when he died as a result of noncombat injuries, said his brother, Washougal resident Roger Daniels.

The family never did learn the circumstances of the death, Roger Daniels said. But the essential point, he said, is that, “My brother was a casualty of the Vietnam conflict.”

Richard Daniels was part of the Navy’s river-based fleet. He was an electronics adviser assigned to train Vietnamese sailors. He taught them to repair and troubleshoot communications and radar equipment as the U.S. Navy prepared to transfer its Swift boats and other craft to the South Vietnamese military.

Roger Daniels was a U.S. Marine guarding the American embassy in Cambodia in 1971, and recalled an unexpected long-distance conversation with his older brother.

“He called me on a field radio from Vietnam. He worked his way through a number of connections and called me at the embassy in Phnom Penh,” Roger Daniels said. “We had a nice visit a month before we died. He was the same positive guy” he’d always been.

The family has a copy of his last performance review, and from all indications, he was an outstanding sailor. His commanding officer wrote: “Petty Officer Daniels has shown an exceptional and effective leadership and supervisory ability. He has spent many hours increasing his knowledge of Vietnamese so that he might better communicate with the Vietnamese shop personnel. He is always alert to any opportunity that will increase the morale of either his own command or the Vietnamese personnel of the electronics shop. He is a highly trustworthy, dependable and dedicated individual. He has shown good moral character which is an example to those who serve with him.”

A brief summary that is part of the Memorial Fund news release noted that Daniels “died as a result of gunshot wounds,” and he wasn’t wounded in combat.

That’s all the family knows.

The fact that it wasn’t a combat-related death meant that Richard Daniels, and a lot of other service personnel, weren’t eligible to have their names inscribed on the wall when it was dedicated in 1982.

“Originally, to qualify, you had to die in combat. Then they changed it to anyone who died in-country, regardless of the injury,” Roger Daniels said.

Daniels said he was contacted about five years ago by Vietnam veteran Bruce Swander. Swander had made it his personal mission to ensure that all those who died in Vietnam were represented on the wall.

Three of the names going up on the wall in the next few days are a result of Swander’s work, Roger Daniels said.

The family also got help from the office of Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., when the effort seemed to be getting back-burnered.

Roger Daniels said that this announcement will help bring closure to a wound the family has felt for 40 years. A third brother, Mike, is a U.S. Army veteran.

Richard Daniels’ name will be inscribed on the wall’s Panel 4W, Line 108, joining other service members who also died on or around March 1, 1971.

When the wall was designed, “They left spaces for long names as well as short names” on the panels, said Lisa Gough, spokeswoman for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. They anticipated that they would be adding names over the years, she said.

The additions bring the total number of names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to 58,272 men and women who were killed or remain missing in action.

“I know the pain my family went through,” Roger Daniels said. “Multiply that by more than 58,000. And there will be more added in the future.”