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Jackie Everett Bolen Jr.
Find A Grave,
courtesy Michael St. Mark

West Virginia Veterans Memorial


Jackie Everett Bolen Jr.

"Throughout history of our young nation, we have seen our military go bravely into battle armed with courage and willing to make the ultimate sacrifice."

John M. McHugh

Jackie Everett Bolen Jr. was born October 26, 1947, in Urey, Raleigh County, West Virginia. His father was Jackie Everett Bolen Sr., and his mother was Betty F. Butterworth Bolen. He had two brothers, Ray and Bobby. He also had three sisters Sherry and Linda Bolen and Delores Ann Bolen White. When Jackie was in school, he played marbles competitively. Marbles was a popular hobby in Beckley, West Virginia, during the 1950s.

In the 1950s, it was an amazing time; television was introduced to the majority of American households at this time. Muscle cars, white bucks, crew cuts, and blue jeans were really popular, along with Elvis Presley's music. Segregation was still an issue in the South, and most schools there were still segregated. Other schools were becoming integrated and African American kids had a choice on which school to attend.

The roots of the Vietnam War dated to 1955, and the United States got involved in the 1960s to try to stop the spread of communism. The U.S. did not want the North Vietnamese to take over South Vietnam, because then it would be easier for the Vietnamese to spread communism. The United States had 9,087,000 military personal that served on active duty from 1964 to 1974.

Jackie enlisted into the Army right after high school as an 11B - Light Infantryman. He attained the rank of Specialist Four (SP4) while he was assigned to Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division. His unit was quick and tough. It was tough being in the infantry, as it is one of the most physically demanding branches in the Army. Jackie started his tour in Vietnam on June 12, 1967.

The Battle of Ong Thanh was a battle of the Vietnam War that occurred on October 17, 1967. During this little-known battle, the soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry (the "Black Lions"), were ambushed and subsequently decimated by a well-entrenched and prepared National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (NLF), or Viet Cong, Regiment. After taking over as commander of the 2-28th, Lieutenant Colonel Terry Allen Jr.'s immediate objective was to find elements of the NLF 9th Division as part of Operation Shenandoah II.

On October 15, 1967, the NLF 271st Regiment, part of the 9th NLF Division and one of the most experienced NLF regiments in the country, arrived in Lai Khe within the 2nd Battalion's Area of Operation. The main objective of the regiment was to find food supplies instead of engaging American troops. The 271st Regiment went for days without food, and there were no supplies to be found. When local NLF units could not assist the 271st Regiment, Colonel Vo Minh Triet decided to dig in and wait.

Shortly after breakfast at 08:00 on October 17, Lt. Col. Allen personally led two companies from his unit and headed out for the jungle. While out pursuing the NLF in the jungle near Ong Thanh, about 50 miles (80 km) north of Saigon, the soldiers of the 2-28th were ambushed by the NLF 271st Regiment, one of three regiments belonging to the NLF 9th Division. The 2-28th were ambushed by an enemy they had pursued: first appeared a small group of NLF troops and then there were waves of enemy troops surged to attack. The Alpha and Delta Companies were pinned down as NLF snipers opened fire from all directions; the two companies took cover and returned fire. As part of their tactic, the NLF ran parallel to the American column to "hug the enemy," and closed in on U.S soldiers to make artillery and air strikes difficult to accomplish without massive American casualties. As a result, air support could not be requested although artillery fire was called in, which killed U.S. soldiers along with the NLF.

During the battle, the Black Lions were virtually wiped out by the entrenched NLF units. Alpha Company was wiped out in 20 minutes, while Delta Company took heavy casualties. 2nd Battalion Commander Allen was killed while First Lieutenant Clark Welch (Commanding Officer of Delta Company) was wounded during the firefight. By the time the sun went down, 59 soldiers were dead and 75 wounded. The battalion, which was no larger than a typical rifle company, had been destroyed.

After a couple of hours, the NLF had withdrawn their forces, and the American survivors were evacuated by helicopter. On October 18, the 271st Regiment withdrew from the area and moved north for refit and rearm, allowing American units to return and collect bodies that could not be retrieved the previous day.

Jackie was one of the 59 soldiers that died during the Battle of Ong Thanh in South Vietnam on October 17, 1967. Sadly, Jackie was only 19 years old when he died. Jackie was awarded the Purple Heart and Silver Star. The latter, awarded posthumously, was for being very courageous in battle the week before he died while serving as the point man during a patrol on October 9, 1967, in support of Operation Shenandoah II.

His body was recovered and is buried at the Hot Coal Cemetery in Urey, Raleigh County, West Virginia. SP4 Jackie Bolen Jr is remembered on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial-the Wall-on Panel 29E, Line 19. His sister, Sherry, had this to say about Jackie: "Clark Welch, your commanding officer, has told me you were a great soldier, and your other friends, they all have spoken so highly of you and told me what a great person and soldier you were. We will never forget you, Jackie."

Article prepared by Major (Ret) T. B. McGee, George Washington High School JROTC
January 2019


Jackie Everett Bolen Jr.

West Virginia Archives and History welcomes any additional information that can be provided about these veterans, including photographs, family names, letters and other relevant personal history.

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