Keith Edward Utter

Army of the United States
27 November 1948 - 14 July 1970
Eureka, Montana
Panel 08W Line 019

Silver Star

Combat Infantry

Purple Heart, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for Keith Edward Utter

22 Jul 2007

I don't know why I have delayed this moment. Keith was just a guy who wanted to do his time and go home. He was in my squad from the time he joined the Delta Raiders until I left country in June 1970. He did what he was told and usually did so without saying a word.

When I read the details of his death in "Ripcord, Screaming Eagles Under Siege" by Keith Nolan I was not all surprised that he would follow SSgt Hembree to shore up the other side of the perimeter. He was that strong quiet type you hear about, but seldom meet.

As his former squad leader I often wonder how it would have turned out if I had been there that night. I hated the thought of losing people, and losing Keith would have been hard to bear. I think of him and the others lost that night often, and hope that it was all worth the cost.

Keith went far too long without someone honoring him. He did receive the Silver Star for his actions that night. SSGT Hembree certainly picked the right man to go with him. Several very fine men were lost that night.

The Raiders had gone months with losing anyone KIA or WIA. It was a brotherhood. Men had been together and bonded 8, 9, 10 months and in a short period of time in July it was torn apart.

Those who survived said it was never the same again.

My God Bless you, Keith.

From a Delta Raider, Squad Leader, and friend,
Gary Goeckel

A Note from The Virtual Wall

Hill 927 was located 20 miles due west of Hue and about 7 miles northeast of the northern end of the A Shau Valley. The 1st Cavalry Division built Fire Support Base Carol on Hill 927 in 1968, and it was used by elements of the 101st Airborne as early as January 1969. The position was of considerable importance because it lay only 5 miles north of Hill 1615, also known as Co Pung Mountain or "The Warehouse", wherein was hidden a major logistics complex which supported the North Vietnamese Army's 29th and 803rd Regiments.

Hill 927 was abandoned, then reopened by ground assault on 11 Apr 1970. Elements of the 101st Airborne took up residence in what was now known as Fire Support Base Ripcord and proceeded to make life miserable for the NVA commands in and around the Co Pung. This situation elicited a violent response from the NVA leading to the "Siege of FSB Ripcord" in June-July 1970. The three-week period covering the siege cost the 101st Airborne 75 killed and 345 wounded in action before FSB Ripcord was again abandoned on 23 July 1970.

On the morning of 12 July 1970 Company D, 2/501st Infantry, took up positions on Hill 805, about a mile southeast of FSB Ripcord. While the assault itself was unopposed, the company perimeter was heavily attacked at about 2130, a fight that resulted in 13 US medevacs but no deaths. The next day was quieter, but at about 0100 on the 14th the perimeter again came under heavy attack; this time there were six US soldiers killed in action.

Once again the daylight hours passed without major incident, and once again the NVA came calling after midnight on 14/15 July - and once again the NVA assault was beaten off. The defenders lost one soldier in the attack.

Fire exchanges continued through the 15th and 16th of July, and late on the 16th an NVA radio transmission was intercepted suggesting that a massed NVA attack was being prepared. Delta 2/501 was instructed to abandon Hill 805 and began to move out at about 1630 17 July. The main body halted a short distance from the company's perimeter while waiting for the rear guard to complete destruction of materials left behind. While waiting, a Vietnamese scout detonated a hand grenade which killed him and wounded five Americans. After medevac had been completed, Company D moved to a new night defensive perimeter, and on the morning of 18 July Delta 2/501 was airlifted back to Camp Evans.

Delta 2/501 had been on Hill 805 for six days - in on 12 July, out the morning of 18 July. During that time, dozens of men had been wounded, nine fatally:

  • 13/14 Jul 1970:
    • 1LT Terry A. Palm, Williamsburg, VA
    • SSG Paul G. Guimond, Chicago, IL
    • SSG James T. Hembree, Commerce, GA (Silver Star)
    • SSG William E. Jones, Millsboro, DE
    • SGT John L. Keister, New Lexington, OH
    • CPL Keith E. Utter, Eureka, MT (Silver Star)

  • 14/15 Nov 1970:
    • SSG Gary L. Schneider, Newport, KY

  • 17 Jul 1970:
    • SGT David R. Beyl, Sellersburg, IN (DoW 07/18/1970)
    • SGT Wilfred W. Warner, Mishawaka, IN (DoW 07/23/1970)
The men of Delta 2/501 lost another friend on 18 July, when CH-47C tail number 68-15810 from A Co, 159th Avn Bn, was shot down while resupplying FSB Ripcord. The CH-47 fell atop Ripcord's 105mm munitions dump, resulting in the deaths of two men - crewman Sgt Michael A. Walker and Sgt William D. Rollason of Echo 2/501. Sergeant Rollason previously had been assigned to Delta 2/501.

A day-by-day reconstruction of Delta 2/501's experiences between 01 and 25 July 1970 is available on the Delta Raiders site and elsewhere. An eleventh man, SP4 Jay Allen Muncey, is included in the list of Delta 2/501 men killed at Hill 805. However, SP4 Muncey was killed in action on 28 July 1970; his mortuary record indicates he was assigned to HHC 2/501 at the time of his death.

The point-of-contact for this memorial is
a Delta Raider, Squad Leader, and friend,
Gary Goeckel

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 22 Jul 2007
Last updated 07/27/2007