Harold Dale Meyerkord

United States Navy
09 October 1937 - 16 March 1965
St Louis, Missouri
Panel 01E Line 096

Navy Cross

Bronze Star (3 awards), Purple Heart, Air Medal, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for Harold Dale Meyerkord

07 Sep 2007

I never knew Lieutenant Meyerkord, I didn't join the Navy until April 2nd, 1966, but I read that he was the first Naval Officer to be killed in Viet Nam. He patrolled the rivers of Viet Nam, he was the first of River Rats in the brown water Navy.

From a fellow sailor - I honor you, LT, rest in peace.

Carlos X. Esqueda

02 Mar 2008

I knew Lieutenant Meyerkord, and served with him in the Navy Section MAAG (later to become the Navy Section, MACV and still later the Commander, Naval Forces Vietnam) under the command of Captain Bill Hardcastle.

Lieutenant Meyerkord served with River Assault Groups (RAGs) in the Mekong Delta and operated out of My Tho, Can Tho and Na Be among other places along with his American crew and Vietnamese counterparts.

At that time the RAGs patrolled the rivers, canals and estuaries aboard Stacans (twin-hulled shallow draft boats inherited from the French) which had no armor at all. Above the deck connecting the two hulls was a canvas canopy to provide some protection from the sun.

In the delta it is not unusual to have 19-20 foot (and even higher) tides and from what I learned from several chief petty officers who worked directly with Dale and from the Lieutenant, himself, when the tide went out their craft was sometimes mired on the bottom of the canal.

In several of the after-action reports which I helped the Lieutenant prepare, he referred to that phenomenon and how that left him and his men exposed to incoming fire from Viet Cong perched atop the levees bordering the canals. As described by him, the only successful way to return fire was to use a grenade launcher and to try and aim it in such a way as to have the grenades come down on top of the VC.

Lieutenant Meyerkord's immediate U. S. Navy superior was a commander who was very much piqued at "Hornblower" (Lieutenant Meyerkord's "handle") in part because Captain Hardcastle insisted Dale give his after-action reports directly to him instead of through the chain of command.

I well remember the occasion when two chief petty officers came to me (at that time I was a PO1) and asked if there was anything I could do to help them in getting Dale recommended for a Silver Star. He had earlier been awarded 3 Bronze Stars for his actions under fire. They told me that the commander (Lieutenant Meyerkord's superior) would not let them submit a recommendation for that award let alone any other. That commander was in what was basically a desk job and, from knowing him to a small degree, I believe he was somewhat jealous of the attention given to Dale.

I helped the chiefs prepare the proper paperwork, kept a copy of it, and told them to give it to the commander. I also provided them with a copy of the regulations which required that the commander had to forward the recommendation up the chain of command even if he recommended disapproval of it. I was prepared to go directly to Captain Hardcastle myself if necessary.

Unfortunately, soon thereafter Dale was killed and the recommendation for the Silver Star never got submitted. A man full grown at that time (I was 30) I was stunned and wept when I learned of his death.

As we all know, the Navy Cross was awarded to him posthumously.

Everybody who personally knew Lieutenant Meyerkord, and especially those who served directly with him, believed he should have been recommended for the Medal of Honor but the thinking of the brass was that the MoH would not be approved for service in Vietnam.

That he was not awarded the Medal of Honor was an insult to the concept of valor.

Of all the other officers with whom I served, all of whom were effective leaders and outstanding men save but a few who would properly be called martinets, Lieutenant Harold Dale, Meyerkord, Jr., was the most exceptional junior officer of them all.

He took care of his men even above his own safety and went far more than the extra mile to effectively carry out his missions.

Others would tell you of the numerous low level flights he begged for to personally reconnoiter before going into battle for which he was awarded the Air Medal with a number of stars for multiple awards - a rarity for Navy surface warfare officers. I can only tell you of the regard, honor and respect I had for him and the deep regret I had when the Navy and our America lost this true hero.

Albert M. Forget
Master Chief Petty Officer
U. S. Navy (Retired)

Notes from The Virtual Wall

The President of the United States
takes pride in presenting the


posthumously to

United States Navy

for service as set forth in the following


The Navy Cross is presented to Harold Dale Meyerkord, Lieutenant, U.S. Navy, for extraordinary heroism while serving with the Naval Advisory Group, United States Military Assistance Command, Republic of Vietnam, and assigned as Naval Advisor to the River Force of the Vietnamese Navy. Directly involved in more than thirty combat operations against enemy aggressor forces, Lieutenant Meyerkord at all times served to inspire all who observed him by his superb leadership and cool courage while under enemy fire. On 30 November 1964, he was instrumental in turning defeat into victory when, under fire, he reconnoitered ahead of friendly forces and discovered that river craft could proceed no farther because of a Viet Cong canal block. He immediately proceeded to set up a shore command post, direct artillery fire, call for medical evacuation helicopters, and call for and direct air strikes. On 13 January 1965, he transferred from a command boat to a small boat, proceeded to a boat grounded in Viet Cong territory, administered first aid to the wounded, and returned to the command boat, all of which took place while he was exposed to constant enemy fire. On 24 January 1965, he assumed direction of a Vietnamese River Force flotilla when the Vietnamese Commander was wounded in an ambush. Later in the action, although wounded himself and facing heavy fire, he continued the fight for almost an hour, until victory was assured. In his final action, on 16 March 1965, Lieutenant Meyerkord lost his life while leading a river sortie into insurgent territory after he had again positioned himself in the leading boat in order to direct operations and set an example for the Vietnamese Naval personnel. Caught in a heavy ambush in which he was wounded by the first fusillade from the Viet Cong, he was reported to have returned their fire at pointblank range until he was again wounded, this time mortally. By his sustained leadership, initiative, and courage throughout these operations, Lieutenant Meyerkord contributed greatly to the United States effort in Vietnam and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Lieutenant Meyerkord commonly is cited as the "first Naval Officer to be killed in Viet Nam" - but he wasn't. Before his death on 16 March 1965, 21 other Naval officers had died or were missing in action as a result of service in Vietnam. The first Naval officer actually killed in action within South Vietnam was Lieutenant Bruce C. Farrell, a flight surgeon assigned to HMM-361. LT Farrell, along with twelve others, was killed in action when two Marine UH-34 helicopters went down during a search-and-rescue effort for an Air Force pilot.

Whether he was first, second, or twenty-third makes no difference; Lieutenant Meyerkord served with distinction. He received his commission through Officer Candidate School, served in USS LOS ANGELES (CA-135) and USS DUNCAN (DDR-874), and arrived in Vietnam for duty with the Naval Advisory Group on 13 July 1964. After arrival he made a habit of flying low-level recon with Army helo units in order to improve his knowledge of the canals and rivers in his operating area. He earned the respect of his subordinates, Vietnamese colleagues, and superiors. And finally, he earned the Navy Cross for acts of valor in combat.

Seven years after his death, USS MEYERKORD (DE-1058) was operating off the coasts of North and South Vietnam.

USS Meyerkord, Vietnam 1972

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 07 Sep 2007
Last updated 11/13/2010