Executive Officer – C Company, 4th/47th, 2nd Brigade Gia Dinh Province – April 13, 1967

Remembering Lt. Black by Bill Reynolds

Lieutenant Black was one of the fine officers in Charlie Company when all of us came together in May of 1966, as the 9th Infantry Division was reactivated at Fort Riley, Kansas. He and the other experienced officers and non-commissioned officers worked very hard training us for months before our January, 1967 departure to Viet Nam.

Recently, a friend of mine at work and a former member of Charlie Company, Bill Reed, and I were discussing the Virtual Wall and the fellas that didn’t make it back. Bill reminded me that Lieutenant Black had lost his life on April 13, 1967, while attempting to disarm a land mine. Bill and I reminisced how much we had admired Lieutenant Black at Fort Riley and how gung-ho he was in Viet Nam.

Occasionally, I take a look at my old photos, which include our officers and their wives at a celebration dinner prior to our departure to Viet Nam. The photos have Lieutenant Black, Lieutenant Jack Benedick (my platoon leader), Captain Larson, and Lieutenant Colonel Tutweiler – along with their wives. I continue, after all these many years, to have fond memories of that time at Fort Riley and of those officers. Those men truly tried their best to prepare all of us for a very ugly business that lay ahead.

Lieutenant Black was a fine man and a professional soldier who really cared about his fellow soldiers. I can only suppose that quality led him to heroically try to disarm that land mine.

Captain Rollo Larson (C Company Commander), Lt. Charles “Duffy” Black (Company XO) and Lt. Kelly (Artillery Forward Observer). Mekong Delta – March 1967. Photo contributed by Lt. Lynn Hunt 1st Platoon, Charlie Company.

Letter From Larry and Liz Ernst – September 10, 2001

Dear Bill, this past Sunday I went to Peoria, Illinois to see the “Traveling Wall” for the first time. My objective was to look for the name of a very good friend of mine, Duffy Black. It brought back so many memories that I knew I had to find out more. I decided tonight that I would check out the Internet as it has so much information and I found your Web Site. When I saw Duffy’s name and picture, it brought tears to my eyes. I had not him seen since 1963. We were both stationed in Biloxi, Mississippi going to tech school. I was in the Airforce and he was in the Army. Our barracks were next to one another and both of us being from Illinois it didn’t take long to get to know each other. He was going to forward air traffic controller school and had just enlisted in the Army. At the time, he was an enlisted man, not an officer. We had many good times. I remember the Christmas that we had a 3 Day Pass and drove my car to Illinois for Christmas dinner. We drove straight through and he dropped me off at my house in Canton and he went on to Peoria to his parent’s house. He picked me up later that afternoon and back we went. I can remember so many of the places we went on weekends and some of the funny things that happened. I went back to Mississippi years later and went to those places and talked to some of the people we had made friends with in Mississippi and Alabama. I knew he had been killed in Viet Nam and that he was a Lieutenant, but nothing more. My wife and I have thought many times of trying to locate his family in Peoria but didn’t know where to start. I didn’t even know that he had gotten married. I just wanted you to know that he had a friend in Canton, Illinois that still remembers him and will never forget. Thanks a lot. Larry and Liz Ernst, Bob 37, Canton, Illinois

P.S. Does anyone know if any of his family is still around. Thanks again, Larry.

Photos and captions provided by Evelyn Black (Lt. Black’s cousin by marriage) – 12/08/11

Charles “Duffy” Black – age 3
Lt. Black & his beautiful bride Ida were married on October 2, 1966.
Custer Hill Chapel – Fort Riley, Kansas.
Lt. Black’s parents, Elmer “Duff” and Tillie Black – Peoria, Illinois.
Duffy Black and brother John at Uncle Al & Aunt Helen’s farm in South Dakata.

Sgt Searcy & Lt. Black searching a VC Base Camp in the Rung Sat.

Perhaps the last photo taken of Lt. Black before his death April 13, 1967

Photo provided by John Young, 1st Platoon, Charlie Company.

Letter to Bill Reynolds from Wayne Stancil, 1st Platoon, Charlie Company

As best I recollect, that day in the Rung Sat, April 13, 1967, was hotter than usual. I recall that everyone was unusually quiet that day, almost as if we were expecting something bad to happen. I just had that gut feeling.

I came over as a replacement, so I didn’t have the privilege of puking my guts out on the USS General John Paul troop ship. I didn’t have any problem fitting in with in with the guys. I quickly learned we were all family and had to depend on each other. We had been in a few small skirmishes, but until this day, I had never seen an American soldier die. I had seen Viet Cong dead but not one of our own.

As we were going about our routine, suddenly there was an explosion. I hit the ground and assumed a defensive position. I thought at first it was an ambush but there was no gun fire. Someone was yelling for a medic. I got up and started in the direction of the explosion, when I saw some guys with another soldier that had been hit in the leg with shrapnel. I think it was Danny Bailey. I remember his concern that his Mom would be really upset when she found out. At this point, I didn’t know that Lt. Black was hit. Someone asked, how bad is the Lt. hit? I told him that I didn’t know, but I’ll check.

I started toward in the direction that I had heard the explosion, and saw 4 to 5 guys with Lt. Black. One guy was cradling him in his arms and the others were working frantically to stop the bleeding, clear his airway, anything to keep him alive. You never give up, but there is a point that there is simply nothing else that you can do.

I can’t say that I remember the exact moment that he died, but after a while, his skin was very pale, there was no breathing nor movement. I just knew that he was dead. Suddenly, I realized that this is war and this is real.

I thought at first that he had hit a trip wire and set off the booby trap, but later learned that he was trying is disarm the thing. Whatever happened, we lost a really good man.

April 26, 2013

Lt. Black is buried next to his grandparents.

Donnellson Cemetery Bear Creek Lane Donnellson, Illinois

Photos courtesy of Steven V. Conto “The Final Bridge” July 14, 2014

A Tribute to “Duffy”

Duffy was a young boy from Peoria, Illinois who would someday grow up to be a soldier and an officer in the US Army. Duffy seemed to always have a bright smile. He grew up among the corn fields of north-central Illinois. He had a brother John who he shared riding a horse on their Aunt’s farm. He enjoyed a tranquil life growing up.

Upon joining the Army he acquired many new friends. Duffy was an enlisted man at first, then later he became on officer. He was the XO of Charlie Company of the 4th/47th 2nd Brigade. He carried about his men and trained them well at Fort Riley. On October 2nd of ’66, he married the love of his life, Ida at the Post Chapel. Both were looking forward to a beautiful life together, even though they both knew he would have to leave soon. All of Charlie Company shipped out together in January of ’67 to Vietnam.

In April Duffy was itching to go on a mission. He wanted to be with his men. He wanted to make a difference. He had a deep passion to take care them and he felt he couldn’t do it in the rear. His wish was granted on April 13th when he went on his first mission. He was instructed to stay close to one of the more experience guys. But an attack ensued and they got separated. Then the unthinkable happened, an explosion. They found Duffy critically wounded by a land mine he was trying to disarm. He hung on for a short while before succumbing to his wounds. He left behind a wife of only 164 days, a brother, mother and father and his men of Charlie Company.

No one will ever know how many he saved through his leadership and training. His spirit lives on in those who remain from his company and his family. His final resting place is next to his grandparents, a most peaceful place among the fields of southern Illinois. No mere words can give a true tribute to Duffy. He was one of a kind. His tribute lies in the fond memories of all those he deeply touched with his life. Duffy will forever be in their hearts and minds�. forever leading them�. forever young.

All were truly blessed in knowing him.

Steve Conto

The Final Bridge

July 30, 2014