Richard John Sasek

United States Marine Corps
08 February 1937 - 06 July 1967
Topeka, Kansas
Panel 23E Line 023

Silver Star

Purple Heart, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign
Richard J Sasek

The database page for Richard John Sasek

24 Dec 2001

"To live in the hearts we leave behind,
is never to have died."
(Thomas Campbell, circa 1888)

A memorial from his son,
Michael Sasek
E-mail address is not available.
30 December 2001

Captain Sasek was killed at Con Thein on 6 July 1967 during Operation Buffalo, a battle that occured immediately to the north of the hill we were defending. Our company, Delta 1st Battalion 9th Marine Regiment, had moved into the perimeter defense on 1 July after two days of hard fighting just north of the hill near the DMZ. Bravo 1/9 relieved Delta and was ambushed the following day in the same area where we had been the day before. Alpha 1/9 was engaged while aiding Bravo and sustained heavy casualties. 26 Marines from Bravo Company were able to walk away from the ambush. Several battalions were brought in and the fighting became a battle involving thousands of men, hundreds of artillery pieces, dozens of tanks, and jets constantly overhead.

Marines that I spoke with after returning to the states said that it was hard to believe anyone could survive the rockets, artillery and mortars that rained on our position. We lived in 6 foot deep zig zag trenching and sandbagged bunkers with 12 inch by 12 inch supporting beams. Still, direct hits took the lives of Marines daily. Our squad lost five men when a recoilless rifle hit one of our fighting holes; we were a three man squad after that. Captain Sasek's bunker took a direct hit on our fourth day on the hill. Even though the command bunker was no more than 80 feet from us we were not aware of the disaster until we were informed later that day.

My last contact with the Captain was on 5 July. He asked to see the walking wounded injured when our platoon escorted five M-60 tanks into the action and brought back four disabled tanks. The tank I was riding lost a track while sliding sideways into a large crater. A few minutes after leaping off the tank we received about 30 rounds of artillery (probably from north of the DMZ). No one was hit with large fragments of shrapnel, however, five of us had small fragments. Captain Sasek let us know that if the wounds were not as serious as one on his leg (he rolled up his pant leg and said "I didn't claim this", showing us a two inch scar on his shin) it wasn't going to be considered for a Purple Heart. Most of us had at least one P.H. and three meant going home. Had we not had a C.O. like Richard Sasek to keep us in line we would have given in to the temptation of claiming the less serious injuries even though they technically qualified. During that period we could have made necklaces of Purple Hearts if we claimed all our wounds.

The last time I saw him Captain Sasek was standing outside his bunker as we were leaving to return to our positions. He pointed to the area of engagement in front of the hill and said: "Men, they (the North Vietnamese) bit off more than they can chew when they attacked us". He was a natural leader and his fighting spirit helped us keep our focus. We felt horrible when informed of his death. He was a guy we all admired and would have followed anywhere.

Ricardo Figueroa,
Cpl. Delta 1/9 1966-1967

26 July 2002

While I was showing a young nephew some scenes from my time in Vietnam with the 1/9 Marines, I ran across this site and paused because it was about Delta company and the date was about the time that I was first posted to Con Thien. I have never in my life experienced the "chills up and down the spine" sensation that writers love to use - until I read down this page. I suddenly realised just what this story was about.

In early July, I was posted in the rear at Dong Ha as a battalion radio operator, where I had been for probably a month or so. When I came off watch, the local Commo officer told me that I needed to collect my gear, chop-chop, and catch the next truck or slick run to Con Thien because I was being assigned to the Headquarters section of Delta Company to replace the radio operator who was a casualty.

When I got there, I had to report to a platoon commander because the company commander had been killed yesterday. He then showed me to the headquarters bunker which was on the top of the eastern hill.

There was a large crater right in front of the doorway and the wall had partially collapsed and sand was leaking from torn sandbags. I was told that the company commander and the radio operator were just exiting the bunker when the 105 hit right in front of them. I can still see that scene in my mind like it was yesterday.

Looking through my letters home, I found that I was sent to Con Thien on either the 6th or 7th of July, 1967, so I verified that this connection was accurate.

I didn't know Captain Sasek but we were comrades together in that lousy place. If he were still with us, I would be willing to bet money that he would agree that of all the places on the earth that he would like to revisit, Con Thien would be dead last.

Ken Farmer
L/CPL (at the time)
1/9 Delta Co. 1967

19 Feb 2003

July 6, 1967, was a very bad day at the Con Thien firebase. Dick Sasek's company, D/1/9, manned the forward, most northern, position on the firebase, taking the brunt of all the incoming from the north that day. The little sandbag command bunker for Delta Company was right in the middle of the line, forward of the peak of the hill where the battalion HQ was dug-in deeply in a bunker reinforced with timbers and bull-dozed dirt, so that Delta's HQ was in the hottest spot in the firebase. The shell that killed Captain Sasek arrived about noon and took not only his life but that of his first sergeant, navy Corpsman and radio operators. I can't think of a single Marine in Delta Company who didn't admire and respect Captain Sasek and who didn't mourn his loss. He was a credit to his Country, Corps and Company.

From a friend,
Steve Snyder
Executive Officer D/1/9 on 6 July 1967

10 Jun 2006

Excerpts from 1967 Vietnam letters of Corporal Thomas E. Durham:

Dear Mom and Dad:
Guess What. I've been transferred to the 3rd Marines. Yep! I work with all types of officers from Majors to Lt. Colonels. Here is my new address: Corporal Thomas E. Durham, 2130993 USMC; HQ Company, HQ Battalion, (Div Adj Sec,) 3rd Marine Division; FPO San Francisco, California, 96602. And this is where I will be until I go home. No more fighting for me. I don't know how I got this job. But I have a good idea. Captain Sasek might have something to do with it.

July 9, 1967

Bad news. Captain Sasek was killed last week. I don't know the day, but I saw his name on a list of killed personnel. He was leading a company of men at one of the battles at the DMZ, and got hit by scrap medal (writers spelling/verbage: meant "shrapnel") This dam place is getting to me. If I had any longer than two months, I'd get the hell out, some way. Out of all the guys I came over here with, just me and Gary, and the other Gary on Okie are left. Everyone else has been killed or wounded so bad that they had to be sent home.

From a collector of war letters,
Marc Smilen

05 May 2007

Captain Sasek was my CO when I was with Mike 3/26. During our training at Camp Pendleton we had an opportunity to go to the base pub shortly before we left for Vietnam. We were 18 years old and were not allowed beer. When Captain Sasek found out we were not allowed beer he came in and told the guy in charge that if these guys can go to war they can sure as s&^t have a beer. We got our beer.

Captain Sasek was one of the best officers I have ever served under. He took good care of his men, and I had great respect for him. We went into Vietnam together, he was later transferred out to 1/9 and when I learned of his death I felt like I lost a true friend. You will always be remembered. You were/are one of the best the Marines had. RIP until we meet again.

From one of his Marines,
Gene Weresow

A Note from The Virtual Wall

Five men of Delta 1/9 Marines can be identified as having died at Con Thien on 6 Jul 67:
  • Capt Richard J. Sasek, Topeka, KS (Silver Star)
  • 2ndLt Jettie Rivers, Nashville, TN (Navy Cross)
  • HM2 John J. Van Vleck, Clearwater, FL (assigned H&S Co; Corpsman with D/1/9)
  • Cpl Joseph W. Barillo, Hornell, NY
  • LCpl Edward M. Brady, Utica, NY

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 24 Dec 2001
Last updated 08/10/2009