Robert Charles Lopez

Private First Class
United States Marine Corps
30 September 1948 - 10 May 1968
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Panel 58E Line 011


Purple Heart, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for Robert Charles Lopez

27 Feb 2007

Oh, Bobby, this is cousin Rosie, your dad and mom's Goddaughter. I am so glad you have finally been brought back to the United States. You are laid to rest at Arlington Memorial Cemetery. We have wondered about you over the years, my nino and nina would update me with news about the search for you when I would come to Albuquerque to visit. Now, I have moved back permanently, and was able to attend the memorial service for you. The outpouring of love for you could be felt throughout the service. You would have been humbled by the showing of kindnesses that were presented to your family in various ways. Of course, everyone misses you, not a day doesn't go by that someone doesn't remember you. I can remember playing in your garage when I came to spend the night and running, always running we were when we were kids, not like kids today.

Now, my son is in the Air Force, I worry about him having to be sent to the latest war in Middle East. Then, I remember your bravery and try not to worry so much.

Welcome home.
Su prima, la RosaMaria

Rosemarie L. Marcelli-Nelson

A Note from The Virtual Wall

In the spring of 1968 the North Vietnamese Army's 2nd Division was enroute to South Vietnam, moving down the Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos. By early May, the division's advance regiments - the 1st and 2nd Regiments - had entered South Vietnam using the French-built Route 14 which passed by the old French fort at Ngok Tavak. The NVA commanders decided that Ngok Tavak and the main Special Forces camp at Kham Duc had to go.

Beginning at about 0300 on 10 May 1968, Ngok Tavak came under heavy attack by a North Vietnamese Army infantry battalion, an element of the 2nd NVA Regiment. In a pitched battle, the small force of defenders staved off immediate defeat, but by noon on 10 May it was clear that Ngok Tavak would have to be abandoned. Surrounded on three sides by the 2nd NVA Regiment, it was clear the withdrawal would have to be by foot moving to the north - the attacking force had made a helicopter evacuation impossible. After destroying equipment and supplies which could not be carried out, the survivors began the move to the main camp at Kham Duc, proceeding along a lane flanked by near-continuous air strikes. They were picked up by helicopter midway to Kham Duc, arriving at the camp at about 2100 (9 PM) on 10 May. The defending force at Ngok Tavak had incurred numerous losses in both known dead and missing soldiers and Marines:

  • HMM-265, MAG-16, 1st MAW:
  • D Btry, 2nd Bn, 13th Marines, 1st MarDiv:
  • Det A-105 (Ngok Tavak), C Co, 5th Special Forces Group:
    • SFC Thomas H. Perry, Canton, CT
    • SGT Glenn E. Miller, Oakland, CA
The bodies of the two men marked with asterisks above were brought out during the retreat from Ngok Tavak; the other 14 Americans could not be recovered.

In a sense, the survivors of Ngok Tavok jumped from the frying pan into the fire - Kham Duc itself was under heavy attack. What happened next is covered on The Virtual Wall's Kham Duc memorial.

The following text is exerpted from the 2nd Bn, 13th Marines' Command Chronology for May 1968; it addresses the D Battery detachment sent to Ngok Tavak:

Several pages further on is a list of the 43 Marines and one Navy Corpsman in the detachment; of the 44, 13 were dead (11 not recovered); 18 wounded had been medevaced by helo; and 13 moved out by ground with the other survivors. The detachment was recommended for a Meritorious Unit Citation; a portion of the text notes that "During the helicopter evacuation, members of the Detachment voluntarily remained on the ground to provide security until the rest of the survivors had been extracted and the last helo was ready to depart."

U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)

No. 820-05
Aug 10, 2005


Twelve MIAS from Vietnam War are Identified

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today the identification of the remains of 12 U. S. servicemen missing in action from the Vietnam War. Five of those identified are being returned to their families for burial, and the remaining seven will be buried as a group in Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, D. C.

The men who were individually identified are: Cpl. Gerald E. King, of Knoxville, Tenn.; Lance Cpls. Joseph F. Cook, of Foxboro, Mass.; Raymond T. Heyne, of Mason, Wis.; Donald W. Mitchell, of Princeton, Ky.; and Thomas W. Fritsch, of Cromwell, Conn., all of the U. S. Marine Corps. Additional group remains are those of: Pfcs. Thomas J. Blackman, of Racine, Wis.; Paul S. Czerwonka, of Stoughton, Mass.; Barry L. Hempel, of Garden Grove, Calif.; Robert C. Lopez, of Albuquerque, N. M.; William D. McGonigle, of Wichita, Kan.; and Lance Cpl. James R. Sargent, of Anawalt, W. Va., all of the U. S. Marine Corps. Additionally, the remains of U. S. Army Sgt. Glenn E. Miller, of Oakland, Calif. will be included in the group burial.

The Marines were part of an artillery platoon airlifted to provide support to the 11th Mobile Strike Force, which was under threat of attack from North Vietnamese forces near Kham Duc in South Vietnam. On May 9, 1968, the Strike Force had been directed to reconnoiter an area known as Little Ngok Tavak Hill near the Laos-Vietnam border, in the Kham Duc Province. Their base came under attack by North Vietnamese Army troops, and after a 10-hour battle, all of the survivors were able to withdraw from the area.

Six investigations beginning in 1993 and a series of interviews of villagers and former Vietnamese soldiers led U. S. recovery teams in 1994, 1997 and 1998 to specific defensive positions within the large battle site. Additionally, maps provided by American survivors helped to locate some key areas on the battlefield. Three excavations by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) in 1998 and 1999 yielded human remains, personal effects and other material evidence.

JPAC scientists and Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory specialists used mitochondrial DNA as one of the forensic tools to help identify the remains.

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 27 Feb 2007
Last updated 08/10/2009