Richard Allen Cesar

United States Marine Corps
21 December 1944 - 30 October 1965
Corydon, Iowa
Panel 03E Line 005


Richard A Cesar

Purple Heart, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for Richard Allen Cesar

22 Jun 2003

Richard A Cesar

It won't be long now until Richard Allen Cesar will have been among the dead twice as long as he lived, but I see him clear as day sometimes — Compact, dark hair, dressed with military precision in bluejeans and black cowboy boots, killer smile — in the old top-floor study hall at Russell High School. Then I start to think about it and he moves into the shadows 40 years have imposed.

Richard was the first from our part of southern Iowa, one of the first Iowans, to die in Vietnam. He had lived among us only three years, but some folks are memorable and others aren't. Richard was. He honored us with his presence.

Born 21 December 1944 at Boone, in central Iowa, his parents were John T. and Betty Cesar. They soon moved to Rockford, Ill., which was the Cesar family home, and Richard lived there for 14 years.

When he was 15, he came to Russell in Lucas County, Iowa, to live with his uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Harold Kastner. His sophomore and junior years were spent at Russell High School. Richard's parents then moved from Rockford to Corydon, just south of Russell in Wayne County, Iowa, and he transferred to Cambria-Corydon High School for his senior year, 1962-63.

Richard really wanted to be a U.S. Marine. He signed up 28 February 1963 under a 120-day deferred enlistment plan and entered the active service on 11 June 1963, just a couple of weeks after graduation.

9th Marines

By the spring of 1965, Lance Corporal Richard Allen Cesar, a gunner, was on Okinawa and a member of Weapons Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines.

The 9th Marines were among the first into Vietnam that spring, and Richard was among them. On 1 September, he received a battlefield promotion to corporal.

Not long after, he was assigned with a few buddies to Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, to add combat depth to an inexperienced unit. A few days later, on 30 October 1965, he died on Hill 22 near Da Nang — not yet 21.

Robert Nordstrom, reassigned to Alpha Company with Richard and others, recalled the early-morning chaos of 30 October when hundreds of NVA overran Hill 22. At daybreak, as order was being restored, Nordstrom ran to the bunker where his friends, Richard and Lance Corporal Richard Dennis Sharp of Dayton, Ohio, another of those recently transferred to Alpha Company, had been. He found them dead on the floor. Friends had died together.

When the news of his death reached Corydon, the editor of his hometown newspaper, The Corydon Times-Republican, characterized Richard in words that seem kind of quaint today — "a good student and a polite, gentlemanly lad, not large but capable of taking care of himself, always industrious and polite." I guess that’s the way I remember him, too.

Richard's parents had moved back to Rockford before his death, and so that was where he "came home" to. Funeral services were held on 9 November 1965 at Rockford and he was buried in Willwood Cemetery there. He was survived by his parents and a brother, Ed.

Almost four years to the day after Richard died, I landed in Vietnam myself.

These guys — their hearts were pure and they were men of great honor; their motives, the highest. Their spirits, fanned by war, burned so brightly death can't dim them — unless we stop repeating their names. Semper Fi, U.S. Marine Corporal Richard Allen Cesar. You're in the best company possible out there — and remembered among the green hills and valleys, the rolling farm fields of southern Iowa that we still think of as your home.

From a neighbor, a classmate, and a Southern Iowa Vietnam vet,
Frank D. Myers

07 Nov 2003

I recently received the following in an e-mail from a man who visited this memorial:

I served with Richard Cesar, Richard Sharp, and Terry Neumeir stateside. I would like to think that Richard Cesar and I were best friends. We often spent our weekend liberty together, L.A., Disneyland, roller skating. I, among others, had been reassigned to various units. I arrived the following morning as reinforcements to the hill where all of them had fought and died. Another Marine, knowing Richard Cesar and I were close friends, told me to sit down. I was then was told that Richard had been killed, along with Richard Sharp and Terry Neumeir. The description of Richard Cesar was accurate. He was neat, clean, immaculate, friendly, yet had a seriousness about him. And he damn well was proud to be a U. S. Marine and serve his country. I think of him often ....

C. Burke Carstens

18 May 2004

Richard, you were with my brother on that fateful day, October 30, 1965.

He was Sgt Marcos Hernandez. Knowing that he was not alone, that you and the others in Alpha Co, 1st Bn, 1st Marines, were all together gives me some form of comfort. May you all be together even this many years later. Someday we may all meet, in the presence of our Savior. It would be my pleasure to meet you, Richard.

Until then may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

From the sister of Sgt Hernandez who was with you,
Rachel H Morales

26 Sep 2007

In a few days it will be the anniversary of "Hill 22" - October 30th 1965. I will never forget that night as long as I live. I am Robert Nordstrom, a friend of both Richard Cesar and Richard Sharp. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of both of them. I miss their jokes and above all their laughter. They both were Marines to the fullest and gave their all for each and everyone of us. Semper Fi, troops!

Robert Nordstrom
Former Sgt. USMC
Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines
7802 183rd Street Court East, Puyallup, Washington 98375

A Note from The Virtual Wall

On the evening of 27-28 October 1965 the VC struck the newly built Marble Mountain helicopter facility on the Tiensha Peninsula and the Chu Lai SATS field. In the two attacks the VC caused considerable damage to aircraft parked on the flight lines, killed three Marines and wounded 91 others - but left 32 dead, 4 wounded, and 4 captured behind.

Two days after the airfield attacks, the Viet Cong attempted another probe of the Marine defenses, not at the Danang base areas but against the defensive perimeter on Hill 22, south of the Tuy Loan River. There were 154 men on Hill 22, primarily from Company A, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines.

The action began shortly after midnight on 30 October when 10 to 15 VC walked into an Alpha 1/1 squad ambush about a kilometer south of the hill. The Marines opened fire and killed three of the enemy, but were unable to notify their company commander of the contact due to a radio failure. All was quiet for about two hours, when a larger force enveloped the Marine squad, killing three and wounding six.

Immediately afterwards Hill 22 and a separate position two kilometers to the west manned by Mike Company, 3/4 Marines, came under mortar fire. The Mike 3/4 position suffered one Marine killed and two wounded, but direct fire from a 3rd Tank Battalion M48 tank silenced the mortar. At Hill 22 some 300-400 VC attacked the Marine positions from the northwest. Enemy troops, supported by two recoilless rifles, were able to destroy three defensive bunkers and an ONTOS (a tracked recoilless rifle vehicle) and penetrated about a third of the northwestern perimeter.

The Marines rallied and were able to eject the VC, restoring the perimeter by 0330. By the time three UH-34s landed munitions and a 13-man squad from C/1/1 on the hill at 0345 the VC had withdrawn and the fighting was reduced to sporadic exchanges of fire. During their withdrawal the VC removed a considerable number of their dead and wounded, but left 47 dead and one wounded within the Alpha 1/1 perimeter.

The attacks on the ambush squad, Mike 3/4, and Hill 22 resulted in the deaths of 15 Marines and one sailor, with 45 others wounded. The American dead were

  • A Co, 3rd Engineer Bn:
    • Cpl Robert S. Ruch, Bethlehem, PA
    • Pfc Seymour P. Sadberry, Boston, MA
    • Pvt Ronald V. Bacca, Magna, UT

  • A Co, 1st Bn, 1st Marines:
    • Sgt Frank A. Gagliardo, Deer Park, NY *
    • Sgt Marcos Hernandez, El Paso, TX
    • Cpl Richard A. Cesar, Corydon, IA
    • HN Gerald L. Feltner, Carroll, IA
    • Cpl Philip M. Sens, Newark, OH
    • Cpl Dennis Smith, Columbus, OH
    • LCpl Robert P. Jordan, New York, NY
    • LCpl Harold H. Schock, Mamaroneck, NY *
    • LCpl Richard D. Sharp, Dayton, OH
    • Pfc Richard A. Crawford, Godfrey, IL *
    • Pfc Gary E. Elford, Newport, OR
    • Pfc Rayes C. Flores, Abilene, TX

  • H&S Co, 1st Bn, 1st Marines:
    • Cpl Grant L. Clark, Pocatello, ID
LCpl Jordan and Pfc Elford were killed at the ambush site, but the identity of the third man is not known. Further, we know that one of the three men marked with an asterisk actually was the Mike 3/4 Marine killed in the mortar attack on their position - but we do not know which one.

In the memorial above, Mr. Carstens recalls serving with Richard Cesar, Richard Sharp, and Terry Neumeier. Cesar and Sharp died at Hill 22; Corporal Terry J. Neumeier was killed in action two months earlier, on 30 August 1965, while serving with Alpha 1/9 Marines.

The point-of-contact for this memorial is
a neighbor, a classmate, and a Southern Iowa Vietnam vet,
Frank D. Myers

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 22 Jun 2003
Last updated 06/10/2008