At 15, Dan Bullock became the youngest U.S. serviceman to die in the Vietnam War

Michael Eli Dokosi June 25, 2020
Pfc. Dan Bullock via Wikimedia Commons and Franklin McArthur/U.S. Marine Corps

While affluent whites were using legal devices to avoid recruitment for the Vietnam War as well as fleeing to Canada and obtaining college deferments, Dan Bullock, an African-American, who quit school in the seventh grade volunteered. By doing so, he became the youngest American serviceman, at the age of 15 to be killed in action in Vietnam.

Bullock, likely with the assistance of his Marine Corps recruiter – back-dated his birth certificate to make it appear that he was 18 when he was actually 14, having been born on December 21, 1953, in Goldsboro, North Carolina.

He was then sent to Marine boot camp at Paris Island, South Carolina and completed his basic training there on December 10, 1968, 11 days before his 15th birthday. He arrived in Vietnam on May 8, 1969 and was stationed at An Hoa Combat Base in Quang Nam Province. Bullock was assigned as a rifleman to Fox Company, Second Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment.

Bollock’s mother had died when he was only 11; his father, Brother Bullock remarried soon afterward, and moved the family to Brooklyn. He didn’t inform his family when he enlisted and when his dad found it, he didn’t expose him knowing his determination to be a military man with plans of becoming a firefighter or police officer once he returned stateside.

Despite his youth, Bullock was physically solid at about 5 feet 9 inches and 160 pounds and having managed to get through the notoriously grueling Marine boot camp without any eyebrow being raised, Cpl. Steve Piscitelli, USMC-Ret. remembers there was something quite off about him although no one could place a finger on it.

He said older Marines who’d returned from combat, picked on him. It was only after he was killed that they got to know he was just 15.

The tragedy of the Bullock affair is that he only lasted three weeks in Vietnam. It’s curious also that letters he wrote home were all signed ‘I don’t have no holes in me yet.’

But those holes manifested when on June 6, 1969, North Vietnamese commandos silently crept under barbwires and tossed a pack of explosives in his 5-foot-by-7-foot bunker. The attack will claim the life of Bullock who was killed instantly as well as three other Marines.

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Given that there was no military service or marker for his grave at the time of his burial, many rallied to see that this was done in 2000 when information about Pfc. Dan Bullock’s life, times and death became public. After hearing Bullock’s story, television talk-show host Sally Jessy Raphael donated a headstone for his grave.

“For his memorial service, the New York Rolling Thunder and the North Carolina Rolling Thunder motorcycle clubs escorted a caravan from New York to Goldsboro. Contributing to the service, the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base provided an Honor Guard and the North Carolina National Guard assisted with other duties. He was recognized on Memorial Day 2017 with a North Carolina Highway Historical marker and a road named in his honor.”

Last Edited by:Kent Mensah Updated: June 25, 2020


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