U.S. Army – Vietnam
Trying to find information about a particular Vietnam fatality is a hit or miss operation. You have to start with the basic facts about the incident you are trying to find.
For example, you could know this about Merle Higgins: arrived in Vietnam on January 5, 1969; assigned to the 25th Infantry Division’s 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry (the “Manchus”); died of multiple fragmentation wounds received on June 5, 1969.
Then you search the Internet for his name, the unit, the date, the location, and anything else you can think of. After coming up dry, you are about to give up when you hit on a document called “Our Manchu Diary.” Forty-four pages long, it contains day-to-day troop movements, field operations, battles, casualties, and remembrances of from 1966 through 1970.
About half-way through, there it is:
“June 5 1969- Charlie Company reported VC in the bunker line; . . . Alpha Company reports that farmers in area said three VC companies moved out of Cambodia at 0300 hours into the Renegade Woods. Delta Company receiving small arms and RPG fire. Dust-off “163” completed (14 Delta WIA casualties) . . . . Sgt Higgins (Bravo Company) was seriously wounded by a claymore mine that was detonated by a sniper—died the next day [06-June-69] at the 45th Surgical Hospital.”
A claymore mine is a curved rectangular weapon, about 8.5 inches wide by five inches high, that projects about 700 steel balls in an arc of about 60 degrees. It certainly produces “multiple fragmentation wounds.”
Sgt. Higgins was born in Farmdale, OH. At the end of Merle’s 5th grade year, the family relocated to Jamestown, PA. After graduating from Pymatuning Joint High School in 1965, he attended Thiel College before entering the army in February 1969. He was survived by his parents, Ellis R. and Ruth Anderson Higgins, and two sisters, Marian and Nelly.
In the spring of 1992, his family established the “Merle R. Higgins Freedom Award” fund at Jamestown High School, not only to honor Merle, but also to remind people that freedom is not a cheap commodity. lt is a fragile ideal that only exists because of the suffering and sacrifice of brave men and women. This award is given annually to two deserving seniors (one male/one female) based on the character qualities of courage, honor, loyalty, determination and service.
Sgt. Higgins was the first Jamestown soldier to die in Vietnam within a two-month period.
On the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Panel W23 Line 74