This is the grave of William Nolde.
It’s hard to imagine being a family member and knowing that your loved one was the last person to die for a terrible horrible mistake. That was the case of William Nolde, the last American soldier to die in the Vietnam War.
Born in 1929 in Menominee, Michigan, Nolde was drafted into the Army during Korea. He liked it and so stayed on. He became an officer and when he was not actively serving, a professor of military science at Central Michigan University. He served a tour in Vietnam in the mid-60s and then was in Italy for awhile. He was a high enough figure as a colonel that William Westmoreland personally asked him to return to South Vietnam in 1972 as a military advisor to the government. Being a good soldier, Nolde agreed and became the senior military advisor in Binh Long Province. January 27, 1973 was the last day the U.S. was officially involved in the war. The Paris Peace Accords went into effect at midnight on January 28. But at about 1 pm, artillery fire hit Nolde and killed him, making him the last American soldier to die in the Vietnam War as a combat casualty. There is of course different ways to consider these sorts of things. Other Americans did die after January 27. But none are considered combat casualties by the U.S. military, which is really how you have to go here.
I highly doubt Nolde thought the Vietnam War was a mistake. He was a loyal, competent soldier. But again, someone is always the last one to die in any war. To be that person and for the family to have to live with that, it’s really just unimaginable to me.
William Nolde is buried on the confiscated lands of the traitor Lee, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Vietnam. As the last combat casualty of the war, his death served as an event of national mourning, broadcast live on TV, and with Richard Nixon in attendance. Wonder what Dick thought at the time. Probably nothing at all.
If you would like this series to visit other people who were the last to die in a war, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Anthony Marchione, considered the last person to die in World War II, is in Pottstown, Pennsylvania and Henry Gunther, the last to die in World War I, is in Baltimore. Previous posts in this series are archived here.