The piercing glares come from youthful faces on the covers of reports dedicated to the Vietnam War fallen from Delaware County.
The reports are the culmination of Dave Tatum’s Fallen Heroes Project. Fifteen years ago, this Upper Darby High school teacher and Vietnam veteran had his students research and write biographies of military members who died in the line of service during that war.
Of the 58,220 casualties in the Vietnam War, 183 were from Delaware County with 109 from the U.S. Army; 53 from the U.S. Marine Corps; 11 from the U.S. Navy and 10 from the U.S. Air Force.
Two reports focus on Edgar S. Donaghy, USAF, of Chester, who was the first from Delaware County to die in Vietnam on May 16, 1965 when a bomb detonated at the Bien Hoa Air Force Base and he was pulling out pilots from the explosion. Donaghy had declined an offer to play for the St. Louis Cardinals to join the military. Coincidentally, before he left for Vietnam, he pulled a woman and her young child out of a burning apartment.
Another report features Billie Byrd, who grew up in Fayetteville, N.C. and lived in Chester with his dad and aunt for two years before being drafted. The African-American Army sergeant was shot right through the heart while setting up a perimeter in the area of Binh Dinh on Dec. 29, 1968. In mailing his Christmas cards that November, he told his aunt, Lumeta Epps, he was doing so “because you never know what’s going to happen.”
Some of the reports themselves contain information students gathered from friends and family members as well as copies of mementos like letters and pictures they stored over the years.
For example, in the biography of Donald W. Hallow, the students included a copy of the Western Union telegram sent to his wife, Pamela from Maj. Gen. Kenneth G. Wickham. It read, “The Secretary of the Army has asked me to express his deep regret that your husband Specialist Five Donald W. Hallow died in Veitnam on 23 Feb. 69 as a result of wounds received while at fire support base when engaged hostile force in firefight. Please accept my deepest sympathy.”
Twenty-four reports from the Fallen Heroes Project are preserved at the home of Delaware County Historical Society at 408 Avenue of the States in Chester. It is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Thursday; and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the second Saturday of the month. It is closed on Tuesdays. Appointments are also available upon request. Parking is free in the lot behind the building or across the street in the city’s municipal lot.
For more information, ways to get involved or to contribute items of historic significance, please call 610-359-0832.
Students researched and wrote about soldiers fallen during the Vietnam War. Their reports are part of the collection at Delaware County Historical Society.