The database page for Ronnie Allen Mendoza
Then-Major Ronnie Mendoza was the first person I met when I arrived in country in 1970 for an extended TDY with the North Vietnamese-Viet Cong Affairs Division of JUSPAO, the strategic psyops unit of the American Embassy. He met my flight, welcomed me to Vietnam, drove me to the hotel, and in the months that followed treated me like a friend and colleague (although I was but a first lieutenant).
No one I met that year impressed me more than Major Mendoza. He was a professional's professional, always available to help and with a smile on his face and an encouraging word for all around him.
I'm not sure which one of us left Vietnam first that year, but I returned for a regular tour in January 1971 and was detailed back to the job they had created for me the previous year and soon promoted to Captain. One day Ronnie came to visit - he was back in country again and this time wearing silver oak leaves. We spoke for a while, shook hands, and before I knew it he was off to fight the war. I never saw him again.
On 5 June 1972, Lieutenant Colonel Ronnie Mendoza was killed in an Air America aircraft crash in the Central Highlands of the Republic of Vietnam. I don't know what he was doing there, I don't know if his death was caused by pilot error, mechanical malfunction, or hostile action. But I do know this. I know that Ronnie Mendoza was among the finest and most decent human beings it was ever my experience to know, a far better man than I. And so long as I live, he will not be forgotten. He was one of tens of thousands of young American men who paid the ultimate sacrifice - leaving behind families, loved ones, and immeasurable future potential - so that good people in a far-away land could have a chance at human freedom.
I have often asked myself why I was allowed to return home alive and better men like Ronnie Mendoza had to die. I don't know the answer to that one, either. But if you are reading this, pause and say a little prayer to God for giving us such fine men as Ronnie Mendoza.
A Note from The Virtual WallOn 05 June 1972 an Air America C-46A, registry EM-2, was conducting a round robin flight from Saigon with enroute stops at Ban Me Thuot, Hue/Phu Bai, Pleiku, and again at Ban Me Thuot before returning to Saigon. The C-46 departed Hue/Phu Bai for Pleiku with 32 people on board - 3 aircrew, 11 US military, 14 SVN military, 1 SVN civilian, and 3 Air America mechanics. The aircraft crashed on approach to Pleiku, killing all on board. The 11 US military members, all Army, were
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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Channing Prothro, former CAP Marine
Last updated 08/10/2009