U.S. Army – Vietnam
When 1st Lt. Paul J. Hess, Jr., was deployed to Vietnam on September 14, 1966, he was assigned to very hazardous duty. As a Special Forces officer in the Central Highlands, he worked with a Civilian Irregular Defense Group – a counterinsurgency operation in which U.S. Special Forces worked with Vietnamese villagers to defend villages and conduct combat operations. His character and personal commitment was evident when he started a boy scout troop among the tribes that surrounded his base camp.
Despite the demands of his daily military duties, Lt. Hess remembered the folks back home. He sent a flag from Vietnam to the Shenango Valley Veteran’s Day Parade Committee.
On Veteran’s Day, November 11, 1966, the day the flag was used in the parade, Lt. Hess was killed in combat.
Descriptions of specific incidents in the Vietnam War are hard to find, but the web site of the 174th Assault Helicopter Company presents a detailed report of Lt. Hess’s last mission. According to Lt. Col. Marty Heuer, who served in 174th AHC, Lt. Hess was an observer on a helicopter gunship in support of a 25th Infantry Division operation against an enemy stronghold west or Pleiku, near the Cambodian border.
The rectangular landing zone was about two-thirds the size of a football field, mostly level, covered with three- to five-feet tall elephant grass, with two trees in the center. It was surrounded by triple-canopy jungle with 150-feet tall trees – perfect cover and concealment for the enemy.
Unfortunately, the LZ was beyond the range of any supporting artillery. The operation commander decided to continue with just the firepower provided by a dozen helicopter gunships in support of the troop-carrying “slicks” – UH1-B helicopters lacking weapons pods, with firepower provided only by door gunners operating 50-caliber machine guns.
Lt. Hess was aboard one of the gunships as an observer and possibly door gunner. As the helicopter was making a gunrun at low level, it was hit by small arms and/or 50-caliber machine gun fire. It exploded and crashed into the jungle in a ball of fire.
When examined later, the gunship was found to have been perforated with 99 holes from small arms fire.
Paul was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Paul J. Hess, Sr. He also left behind his wife, nee Donna Saibene; daughter Kimberly Ruth; three sisters and two brothers.
On the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Panel 12E Line 54