Michael Nicholas Vitale

Private First Class
United States Marine Corps
20 December 1948 - 14 April 1969
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Panel 27W Line 084



Purple Heart, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for Michael Nicholas Vitale

03 Dec 2006

My father, Gary Michael Paul, along with the rest of F/2/7 was on a combat patrol in Quang Nam, SVN moving to a pre-determined destination. My dad's preference during troop movement was always point man. He often volunteered to handle this hellish task to keep his unit safe because he felt that was one of his better strengths. The brotherhood of F/2/7 as with most units within the Marine Corps relied on other's strengths to provide a well rounded fighting unit.

On 14 Apr 1969 my dad had been point man for over 10 hours on a jungle patrol when he was too exhausted to continue. His friend PFC Vitale volunteered to be the new point man. He was a skilled fighter but the Vietcong were dug in and had the advantage. He was the point man for less than 10 minutes before being fatally wounded in the fire fight. PFC Vitale was the first casualty from the overpowering ambush. The loss of Michael Nicholas Vitale still haunts his brethren to this date. Personally speaking, my father has never allowed the death of his friend be in vain. PFC Vitale will never be forgotten and his family should be proud of their hero. He was a well respected Marine, a good friend, and a true patriot.

To the family of PFC Michael Nicholas Vitale, as an honor to your lost Marine, I have ordered a remembrance KIA bracelet with Michael's information on it for my father. God Bless each of you!

SSgt Nicholas J. Paul
United States Air Force
46 Timberline Dr, Warrensburg Mo, 64093

22 Sep 2007

I've thought about Michael for some time now, and have wanted to convey my respects to his family. We played baseball together on the "Artisans" in Northeast Philly in the early 60's and went to the same high school (Father Judge) but Michael was a grade or two above me. I graduated in 1968 and joined the Marines as Michael had done. I was a field radio operator in an arty F.O. team and my last outfit was Mike Company 3/7 until I left Vietnam in June, 1970. I now realize that Michael had served in my same regiment - the 7th Marines. I am so sorry that he did not return as I had done. May God Bless him and his family. He served his country well and will always be remembered.

From a fellow Marine,
Ken Ulrich
USMC 2464584

A Note from The Virtual Wall

The 7th Marines' After-Action Report for Operation OKLAHOMA HILLS contains the following entry:
"At 141530H [3:30 PM, 14 April 1969] F/2/7 vicinity (AT 807620) platoon engaged estimate squad of enemy in bunkers. Res: 2 USMC KIA, 4 USMC WIA(E)"
but that entry doesn't tell the complete story.

On 14 April the 2/7 Marines were conducting sweeps on a ridgeline in the hills some 11 kilometers north-northwest of Dai Loc. The ridgeline was nicknamed "Charlie Ridge" because the NVA/VC (Victor Charlie, or Charlie for short) frequently used it as a staging area for attacks on An Hoa, Hoi An, Ha Tan, and the Danang area. The area was characterized by high, narrow hills rising to 2600 feet, cut by numerous steep-sided valleys, ravines, and gorges and covered with dense undergrowth and double or triple canopy jungle.

As the Marines swept the area from the east, three battalions from the 51st ARVN Infantry worked from the west and southwest. All of the allied forces encountered dug-in enemy forces - Charlie Ridge was indeed occupied by NVA/VC troops. As the afternoon progressed there were USMC and ARVN wounded who needed evacuation, and Marine helos responded to that requirement. The III MAF Significant Events message covering 14 April says

"141630H [4:30 PM, 14 Apr] delayed report: A CH-46 medevac helo received automatic weapons fire and crashed and burned (AT803607) 16 KMs west of Hill 55. Results: 3 friendly KIA and 3 wounded, 1 critically. The pilot is missing and presumed dead in the wreckage."
The helo, CH-46D BuNo 153361, was responding to a call from Fox 2/7 and went down a short distance from them - but beyond their reach in one of the steep valleys. Four men died in the crash, raising the day's toll to five Marines and a Navy Corpsman:

A Mayfair Marine, shot on the last day of his outfit's operation against the Vietcong, is the area's latest Vietnam war casualty, the Defense Department said Thursday.
Vitale was killed Monday during a search-and-destroy mission in Quang Nam Province, about 14 miles west of Da Nang.
His parents received a letter the same day in which their son said he was on Operation Oklahoma Hills.
"Everything's quiet here," he wrote, "and I just hope I don't have to use my gun. If we don't see any action by April 14, we're going back to the base."
Vitale enlisted in the Marine Corps in August last year, after working for a year as an electrician's helper at Sun Shipbuilding, Chester (PA).
Vitale was a 1966 graduate of Father Judge High School where nearly 25 alumni have been killed in the Vietnam war.
In addition to his parents, Vitale is survived by a brother Lawrence, 11, and a sister, Rita, 17.

Philadelphia Inquirer,April 18, 1969

The photo and following article is taken from The Philadelphia Daily News, special supplement entitled 'SIX HUNDRED AND THIRTY,' October 26, 1987.

Michael N. Vitale
Cardiff Street, Oxford Circle
"Our son was a quiet lovable, sensitive boy, or should I say man," his mother wrote. "Mike" Vitale had always wanted to be a Marine. He admired the uniform, but more than that he admired what it stood for. Vitale was an electrician's helper at Sun Shipbuilding Co. in Chester and planned to return there after Vietnam. The 1966 Father Judge High School graduate "wanted to get his tour of duty for his country over with before he got on with his life," recalled his mother. The private first class enlisted with the Marines in August 1968 and was assigned to Company F of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division. Vitale, a rifleman, was killed in Quang Nam Province on April 14, 1969, during Operation Oklahoma Hills He was 20 years old. Survivors included his parents, a brother and a sister.

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 03 Dec 2006
Last updated 08/10/2009