26th Marines

Richard Furlong Sutter

Mike Company, 3rd Battalion, 26th Marines
United States Marine Corps
21 November 1945 - 21 July 1967
Atlanta, GA
Panel 23E Line 105

Richard Sutter, basic training

Purple Heart, National Defense, Vietnam Service, RVN Military Merit, RVN Cross of Gallantry, and RVN Campaign medals

The database page for Richard Furlong Sutter

  Richard, Judy & Joni Mabe (1965)
Richard Sutter, Judy and Joni Mabe

My Memories of Richard Sutter and the Mid-1960s

Richard Sutter was the boyfriend of my older sister, Judy. I believe she met him when she was 17, probably the summer after she graduated from South Habersham High School in 1965. She turned 18 in August of 1965.

They met at Lake Burton in Northeast Georgia. The Sutter family and our family both owned cabins on the lake and we spent our summers there. I remember Richard standing in our kitchen leaning against the long bar talking and laughing. He was tall, thin, had dark hair and was well built. He was definitely my idea of the phrase, "tall, dark and handsome."

My mother stated that Richard loved creamed potatoes and whenever he ate supper with us, he insisted that we have them. He even peeled and diced the potatoes for my mother to cook. From the first time we met him, he seemed confortable around our family and friends. He wasn't the least bit shy and was interested in learning about our family and relatives.

My sister, Judy, is ten years older than me. Back in the mid-1960s I always wanted to do the things that she did, wear the same clothes, hang out with her friends and listen to her music. Our aunt and uncle, Bobby and Sara Maude Ricketson from Marietta, GA, also had a cabin on Lake Burton. Judy and our cousins, Robin, Sallee, and Hope, were all close to the same age and I was the "tag-a-long." We had great times, swimming, skiing, sun bathing, picking black berries for a pie and eating at LaPrades. But the highlight of each weekend was going to Mountain City Playhouse. It was a building the size of a gym, with a stage, concession stand, rest rooms and bleachers. Operated by the American Legion, it was located just north of Clayton, GA. During the summer months a "live band" played and people of all ages came to "buck" dance, watch, drink beer in the parking lot and mingle. It was the place to be on Saturday night.

Preparing for the Saturday night date was an event in itself. At 5 o'clock all activities stopped on the dock and everyone rushed to the cabin to get ready. Judy and our cousins rolled their hair with big pink rollers, taking turns under the hair dryer. They wore Bobby Brooks plaid shorts with a John Romain belt (size 20-24) and short sleeve blouses to match. They had John Romain pocketbooks, headbands and wore brown weeguns. A lot of teasing and hair spray went into the hair and the make-up was just perfect. I followed suit and wore the same thing - just in a smaller size - but my hair was usually in pig tails with bangs and I didn't wear make-up. I didn't have a date either, but that didn't stop me from primping.

The country band played "Down Yonder" and "Rocky Top" for everyone to "buck" dance; then they had a "caller" for the square dances. For slow dances they played a couple of Ray Price classics. Back then we heard "Release Me" and "Don't You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me." They played the "Bunny Hop," starting out slow and getting faster and faster until no one could keep up. One rock-n-roll tune was played and I remember doing the jerk, swim and the monkey! I was 8 years old.

One of the square dances, called the "Wind Up," started out with everyone in a huge circle. One man broke off and started circling on the inside, until he had wound all the way into the center. At that point, he turned backwards and started circling back in the opposite direction. Everyone was stretching to hold on and running to keep up. Someone came around the circle going the opposite direction and knocked my feet out from under me. Letting go of the persons' hands in front and back of me, I fell, hitting my head on the hardwood floor. I was trampled and kicked several times before I was rescued. It was Richard who picked me up and carried me in his arms to the stands where my parents sat. I was amazed that he had seen me on the floor in the middle of such a huge crowd. He must have been watching out for me. I sat there crying and didn't dance the rest of the night. I was crushed that I couldn't keep up with the rest of the grown-ups but at the same time flattered that my big sister's boyfriend had carried me in his arms to safety.

  Richard Sutter on the left
Richard Sutter, left, in Vietnam I was ten when Richard was killed in Vietnam. My sister was 19, almost 20. My parents and Judy attended the funeral in Atlanta, but they did not take me. Maybe they thought I was too young. It was their first time attending a Catholic funeral. It was a sad time. No one said much in our household; we were raised not to show too much emotion. Judy went to stay with her cousins.

For years Judy wore a beautiful gold ring with a large, oblong ruby that Richard had sent her from Vietnam. About 10 years ago the stone fell out. She discovered it was missing after returning from work. We searched in her car, partically taking it apart. We retraced her steps that day, returning to the gas station and her place of work. Judy, crying, combed the backyard and driveway with a flashlight until late at night. But the stone was never found. Judy was heart-broken, again.

My family and I will always have a place in our hearts for Richard Sutter. I know each member of my family has wonderful memories of him, especially my sister. Because I was so young and these events took place over 30 years ago, I have only a few recollections which makes them even more precious to me. I will never forget him and the price he paid for our country.


Richard Sutter trained with Echo Company, 2d Bn, 26th Marines, and deployed with them to Vietnam in August 1966. He remained with Echo Company until his transfer to Mike Company, 3d Bn, in April 1967.

In mid-May, action to clear the southern portion of the "Demilitarized Zone", which the North Vietnamese had turned into a sanctuary and staging area, began. As the Marines moved northwards, Echo 2/26 was on the march while Sutter's new company, Mike 3/26, was held in reserve.

  Photo by Frank Johnston,
  courtesy UPI/Corbis-Bettman

© Frank Johnston In mid-May 1967, in the midst of heavy combat, news photographer Frank Johnston (himself an ex-Marine) took a picture of an exhausted Marine sitting in the Nha Tho An Hoa Catholic Church (translates as "Peace Church in An Hoa") -- the famous "Peace Church" photograph. Johnston never got the Marine's name, even though they worked together, under fire, the next day loading wounded aboard med-evac helicopters and were themselves evacuated together to Da Nang late on that day.

In 1988, the anonymous Marine in the now-famous photo was identified as Corporal Richard F Sutter ... but why would Sutter have been in An Hoa, rather than with Mike 3/26 to the south? No-one knows. His then-platoon and company commanders in Mike 3/26 concur that Sutter had enough initiative and loyalty to rejoin his old unit -- the men he had trained and fought with -- rather than sit back in peace with the reserve force as his buddies marched into combat.

While there's some question about the identity of the Marine in the "Peace Church" photo, Richard Sutter's peers and commanders remember him well:

"He was a real tough Marine, really gung-ho about everything."
John D. Giordano
Echo 2/26th
"He was just somebody you would want to be your friend, a very gregarious and engaging personality who had to grow up before his time and, sadly, had to sacrifice his life."
Frank D. Fulford
Commanding Officer, Echo 2/26

On 21 July 1967, Cpl. Richard F. Sutter was shot through the head in a battle with North Vietnamese troops near Khe Sanh. He died instantly. His CO wrote his parents:
"The company was on a search and destroy operation when they came under heavy enemy automatic weapons fire. In the fight that ensued your son was critically wounded. A corpsman rushed to his side and administered first aid but Richard failed to respond and died of his wound at 10:05 a.m. It may comfort you to know the last rites of the church were given. ... Richard's cheerful disposition, uprightness and devotion to duty won for him the respect of all who knew him."
Andrew D. DeBona
Commanding officer, Mike 3/26

"Richard Sutter was a true hero."
Anthony V. Latorre

Richard F Sutter
United States Marine Corps
rests in Arlington Memorial Park
in northeast Atlanta.


In 1988, Sutter's family, the photographer, and several photo analysis experts were convinced that the "Peace Church" photo was indeed Corporal Richard F. Sutter - but there was no proof that Sutter had been at An Hoa.

CPL R F Sutter CPL Mike Tripp, HMM-363 When the photograph was republished in a Washington Post series in 1998, ex-Marine Corporal Mike Tripp came forward. In 1967, Tripp was a crew chief and door gunner with HMM-363, flying the workhorse H-34 helicopter. On the evening of May 14, 1967, his aircraft (Yankee Zulu-77) was dispatched on an emergency medevac mission near the church at An Hoa -- where it was shot down a few hundred meters northwest of the church.

Corporal Tripp and the other three aircrew suddenly became riflemen, but riflemen without a unit. He very rapidly became one of Delta 1/9, the Marine company dug in around the church, and participated in the ground war until the downed aircrew was evacuated. He recalls being photographed in the church, and his family recognized him when the photo was published in the United States.

On 6 June 1967, two weeks after the event, Tripp wrote his wife, saying "I want to confirm your suspicions about that picture in the paper. Yes, it's me. It was taken the day after we were shot down. The helicopters could still not get in to us because of the mortars, so we fought our way out to the church which was about 250 meters from where we were."

But Tripp says "As far as I'm concerned the caption should be returned to the original: 'An exhausted Marine finds refuge inside a church in An Hoa.' . . . That's any Marine."

US Marine, Eniwetok Atoll, 1944 1944
Eniwetok Atoll
Mike Tripp is right.

Compare the 1944 Marine with the 1967 Marine.
God rest them all.

US Marine, Vietnam, 1967 1967 
An Hoa

Read the Washington Post series
"Peace Church, Vietnam: An American Journey" at


A memorial from his friend,
Joni Mabe
25 Feb 2001

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Portions of the above are exerpted or adapted from the Washington Post.
See http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/longterm/vietnam/vietnam.htm

The "Peace Church" photo is used with the knowledge of the Washington Post, courtesy UPI/Corbis-Bettman Archives.
The other photos are used with permission of the owners (Joni Mabe, Robert Sutter, and Mike Tripp) or are in the public domain.

Mr. Robert Sutter, Richard's brother, and Mr. Mike Tripp have reviewed and approved this memorial to Corporal Richard Furlong Sutter, USMC

With all respect - K. J. Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)