United States Marine Corps
(Company C, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines)
(As related by his Gold Star Mother, Katherine “Kit” Federico)
The official name of the Memorial is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It is sometimes referred to as VVM or “the Wall”. It is not a war memorial but a memorial to those who served in the war, those who remain missing and the dead. With the addition of four names added in 2005, the total number of names listed is now 58,249. Approximately 1200 of those listed are missing (MIA’s, POW’s, and others).
The inscription at the beginning of The Wall reads “In honor of the men and women of the Armed Forces of the United States who served in the Vietnam War. The names of those who gave their lives and of those who remain missing are inscribed in the order they were taken from us.”
The names of those who died in Vietnam are etched onto the two rising black marble slabs of the Memorial. The slabs meet at a vertex of 125 degrees, 10 feet above ground level to form “the Wall”. The shining surface is intended to reflect the sun, the ground and those who stand before it. The names are listed chronologically by date of death, the first to last. As one walks the Wall slowly, examining the ineffably American names, one is struck by the same recurring surnames. How many Smiths can there possibly be who died in Vietnam? There were 667; How many Andersons?, 178; Garcias?, 102; Murphys?, 82; Jenkins?, 66. One wants to know more about these Americans. Who were they? Panel 19E – – Line 81 contains the name of David Meldrum Hart. Who was David Hart? The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall USA Internet site contains the following information about him:
LCPL – E3 – Marine Corps – Regular
21 year old Married, Caucasian, Male
Born on May 09, 1946
From WHEATON, MARYLAND
Length of service 3 years.
Casualty was on May 10, 1967
in QUANG NAM, SOUTH VIETNAM
HOSTILE, GROUND CASUALTY
GUN, SMALL ARMS FIRE
Body was recovered
It is simply not possible to adequately describe the feelings imparted by what the family of every United States Marine fears to receive. It is a personal visit by a uniformed Marine assigned by
Headquarters Marine Corps to tell them that their loved one has been killed in action. That is precisely what had happened to Joy Hart in May 1967.
Kit Federico, David Hart’s mother, had a premonition. She knew something was wrong. “I was working and I got a phone call from David’s mother-in-law in the middle of the day. I knew what she had to say before she said it. It was psychic. I knew.” She rushed to the home of David’s wife, Joy. “I drove 90 mph from Rockville to Bethesda. I was screaming all the way.”
David was born on May 9, 1946 at George Washington Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C. He grew up in Wheaton, Maryland where he was active in the Boy Scouts and the Civil Air Patrol. He attended Fork Union Military Academy, Fork Union, Virginia for a time and then Newport Junior High School and Wheaton High School.
David and his buddy, Richard Pollock, both left Wheaton High School in February 1964 and joined the Marine Corps. They graduated from Parris Island Boot Camp on May 14, 1964 and were separated. David’s Marine assignments included Camp Lejune, North Carolina, the Mediterranean and Norway with the 6th Fleet, the Dominican Republic, Camp Pendleton, California and, ultimately, Vietnam.
He married his high school sweetheart, Joy Ballas, just prior to shipping out to Vietnam in January 1966. Their daughter, Debra Michelle, was born on September 21, 1966.
David was a fire team leader in the second squad of the second platoon, Company C, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines. In a letter to his parents from the USS Okinawa (LPH-3) dated May 12, 1967, Rich Vanderwalker, one of David’s fellow Marines, describes the 14 day action known as Operation Beaver Cage leading up to, and including, David’s final hours. The operation was the sweep of a valley south of Da Nang.
There had been almost constant contact with the enemy since beginning the valley sweep on May 1. However, things got very hot on May 10. Rich Vanderwalker’s letter describes the action:
That first night we got mortared was May 1st. Then on May 10th we were hit harder yet. Bravo Company and us, Charlie, were sweeping back through the valley. There was this hill in the center of the valley that separated us from Bravo. Bravo had come upon this villa and were hit. They were in a big fire fight. Charlie Company had set down and were setting down for half an hour before we moved. So, finally our Lt. Francis came over and part of our squad (only 4 of us) were at the base of the hill covering the right flank of our company. We were down to 8 men in our squad. The other 4 were on the left flank of the company.
So, us and part of another squad were the first to go over the hill to try to help Bravo. We were the first on top and I spotted the villa down there and I also spotted the enemy. They hadn’t seen us yet. They were crawling with camouflage on (leaves). They wore kaki uniforms, too. We started to open up on them. They were caught by surprise. They were running into the villa and up into the edge of the hills on the opposite side.
So, about 25 of us, mostly 2nd Plt., went down the hill. We had to cross the river and then ran up to the edge of a dike on a rice paddy. Part of second squad were ahead of us. The Lt. was standing up and directing us. All of a sudden a buddy of mine’s rifle jammed and he was trying to fix it. He was shot through the heart, spun around 3 times and fell dead. His name was Hart. He was a great friend of everybody’s. Then Dunne, in our squad from N.Y.C. got grazed in the leg and then Ramsieur, from Syracuse got a concussion from a bullet hitting his helmet. Then our Lt. got hit in the shoulder.
He had wanted to assault through the villa but if we had done that we would have never made it. They had a machine gun set up in the villa and we just couldn’t advance. We had to pick up Hart and our wounded and go back across the river.
We got back across and got to higher ground. We took up another position. We were in a fire fight for about 5 hours that day.
Just alone out of 2nd Plt. We had one K.I.A. (killed in action) and about 7 W.I.A. (wounded in action). Hart was killed. He had a wife and a 4 month old baby girl. Lt. Francis was wounded in the arm. Dunne was grazed in the leg. Ramsieur had a concussion. Both our corpsmen were hit and wounded bad. Ramzel was hit in the arm and leg. Rogerson was hit in the chest and Hernandez was hit in the stomach and abdomen with shrapnel. We were hit pretty hard that day. Bravo Company had 50% casualties….
I’ll write again soon. I’ve been scared before but not like on May 1st and 10th. It’s an awful feeling when you’re getting shot at….
A couple of those nights I did a lot of praying.
With love, your son, Richard.
Kit explained that “Joy insisted that David’s body be available for public viewing for one week in the funeral parlor. A uniformed Marine sat there for the entire week. He did not leave. I offered to get him some food but he refused. I asked him what he was going to do when he got out of the Marine Corps and he said ‘Be a bum.’ I could understand that.”
David was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Kit described the service as “Very impressive. There was a fly-over and a rifle salute.” Kit’s loss was compounded by the fact that she did not see her grand-daughter, Debra, for almost twenty years. She was raised by David’s mother-in-law and circumstances conspired to cause the long separation. “I was very busy after David’s death. You know you do that when you try to forget. One day about 10 years ago she appeared at my door in Ocean Pines. She is now a beautiful woman who has a child of her own.”
Kit, and David’s sister Pam, state that “David was beloved by everyone who knew him and is sorely missed every day but we are proud of him for serving his country and defending our freedoms. He believed in his purpose and was proud to be a United States Marine. May God bless our David!”
Kit Federico was recognized as a Gold Star Mother by Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele at the Ocean Pines Veterans Memorial dedication in May 2005. She was deeply moved by the dedication ceremony. David Meldrum Hart is memorialized with his name on a paver at the Memorial. This remembrance is posted on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall USA Internet site:
Dave was my best friend. Both of us left Wheaton High School in Maryland February 1964 to join the Marines. He was as great a friend as anyone could have. I last saw him in July 1965 before going to Japan for a 2 year tour. I miss him. Dave married Joy Ballas and had a daughter Debra born in September of 1966
Tuesday, May 28, 2002
Richard Pollock, Friend
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall USA website is dedicated to honoring those who died in the Vietnam War. Since it first went on line in 1996 it has evolved into something more. It is now also a place of healing for those affected by one of the most divisive wars in our nation’s history.
~ GEORGE REISWIG