The story of Dan Bullock: Youngest soldier to die in Vietnam

The story of Dan Bullock: Youngest soldier to die in Vietnam

The Vietnamese war, one of the United States of America's longest war, took numerous soldiers' lives and consumed billions. Although America didn't fully achieve its intended objectives because of the lack of public support, substantive changes happened, and the soldiers who took part are honored until today. Amongst the most recently recognized, is one unique soldier that enlisted at 14, went to Vietnam at 15, and died a month later. Dan Bullock joined the Marine Corps on December 10, 1968, not knowing his fate. Today, he is eulogized as the youngest ever soldier to die in the Vietnam war.

Dan Bullock
Dan Bullock, the youngest U.S. serviceman killed in action during the Vietnam War. Photo: @Ron Wolford
Source: UGC

Bullock achieved one of his greatest dreams when he listed in the US army while young. As a young boy in North Carolina, he had always desired to become a United States Marine, and he made it. Although Dan's experience was short-lived, his small achievements during the war are celebrated and honored until today.

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Who is Dan Bullock?

Born on December 21, 1953 (died on June 7, 1969), Dan was a United States Marine and the youngest serviceman to die in action during the Vietnam war. He was born in Goldsboro, North Carolina, United States of America.

Much of his early life is unknown, but his mother died when he was eleven years old. After her unfortunate demise, his father remarried, and Dan Bullock's family relocated to Brooklyn, New York. Dissatisfied by his living situation in New York, Bullock started searching for a more promising future.

Bullock joins the military

Dan’s dream was to become an Air Force pilot, a police officer, or a United States Marine. In September 1968, the United States was engulfed in the Vietnamese war and required more troops than ever before. Therefore, they were enlisting citizens in full swing into the military.

This was the perfect opportunity for Dan Bullock to register and realize his dream. In 1968, Dan was only fourteen years old with a height of 5 foot 9 inches and weighed 160 pounds. The minimum legal age for enlistment at that moment was 17 years, which also required parental consent.

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Bullock got creative and forged his birth certificate to show he was born December 21, 1949, making him 19 years old. This way, Dan Bullock's parents wouldn't be asked for any consent, and he would enlist as an adult.

He never informed his family of his enlistment until he received his papers. According to The Times, Dan's enthusiasm after informing his father, Brother Bullock made his parents not notify the officials.

Dan was allowed to join the United States Marine Corps and was assigned with Platoon 3039 in Paris Island. Bullock completed training and graduated with the assistance of his fellow recruit Franklin McArthur who later told the New York Daily News:

He had already washed out when he got to my platoon. He had trouble keeping up.

McArthur helped Dan Bullock during the rigorous training knowing the hard choices he had to make to help his family back home. Bullock’s father used to work as a lumber and a sharecropper. He recalls something was amiss about the kid, but no one could place a finger on it.

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Dan becomes active in the Vietnam war

Dan Bullock
Dan Bullock (holding riffle), the Youngest soldier to die in Vietnam. Photo:@Military Times
Source: UGC

Dan, who was the youngest person to die in Vietnam, went to South Vietnam, the hotspot of the war, to join other troops on May 18, 1969. The country is around 8,500 miles from the United States of America.

During that time, his real age was only fifteen years old, but according to the forged certificate, he was 20 years old. Dan Bullock was assigned to the 2nd Squad, 2nd Platoon, Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division where he was active as a rifleman.

His base station was An Hoa Combat Base that was a few kilometers from west Hội An, in Quảng Nam Province. At 1:00 AM on June 7th, 1969, the base came under attack by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA).

How did Dan Bullock die?

Interestingly, Bullock wrote letters home that were all signed I don’t have no holes in me yet. Unfortunately, his fear was realized on the fateful June 6, 1969, when North Vietnamese commandos crept under barbed wires and tossed explosions into his bunker. This was the end of his life and three other marines that were inside the 5-foot-bu-7-foot bunker.

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Originally, Bullock was assigned cleaning duties but was reassigned to take over an injured Marine's assignment, guarding a Delta Airship. He tried as much as he could to play his role in the fight, preventing the base from falling into the enemy hand of the NVA. Sadly, the enemy forces subdued the base, and died in the ambush.

Dan Bullock's grave

Bullock’s body was returned to North Carolina and buried without a headstone in the Elmwood Cemetery in Goldsboro. It wasn’t until 2000 that television talk show host, Sally Jessy Raphael donated a headstone after learning about his involvement in the Vietnamese war and his age.

Bullock’s historical marker

One of Goldsboro's attorneys Tommy Jarret, a former Marine judge advocate and Vietnam veteran, took it upon himself to plead Bullock's case. He did it in the North Carolina State Historical Commission, requesting recognition by a roadside marker.

Eventually, in 2017, a highway marker was installed in Goldsboro in Bullocks' honor commemorating his service to the United States of America. On top of this, in 2003, a section of Lee Avenue in Brooklyn where he resided as a child was named after him.

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Additionally, the name Dan Bullock is inscribed on Panel 23W, Line 23 of The Wall in Washington D.C.

Dan Bullock movie

Dan Bullock
Dan Bullock, the youngest U.S. serviceman killed in action during the Vietnam War. Photo: @Vintage Everyday
Source: UGC

After the media highlighted dan's story, his story began to gain national attention. The Military Times even produced a comprehensive documentary about him and the legacy his service has left behind. The documentary was released in 2017, produced by Rodney Bryant and Daniel Woolfolk.

Dan Bullock realized his dream of joining the military. Unfortunately, he did not last more than a month after he was posted in Vietnam. Although previously ignored and forgotten, his unique story has now gained national recognition. Bullock is part of America's most-recognized, youngest ever military personnel who died in the Vietnamese war.

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