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Howard Wade Jackson
Courtesy Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund

West Virginia Veterans Memorial


Howard Wade Jackson

"If you don't sacrifice for what you want, what you want will become the sacrifice."


Howard Wade Jackson was born June 1, 1946, to Robert E. and Mabel Gladys Wisenbaler Jackson in Cassville, Monongalia County, West Virginia, which is approximately seven miles west of Morgantown. Howard was one of eight children as he had three brothers: Robert Jr., Randy, and Johnny. He had four sisters: Mable Deloris Wilson, Florence Ann Chesney Foxx, Karen Elaine Jackson Sago, and Margaret "Margie" Jackson Batton. (Information from obituary of Robert Edward Jackson Jr.) Howard grew up in the small town of Westover, which is directly across the Monongahela River from Morgantown, West Virginia.

Howard's mother was a homemaker, and his father was a coal miner in Fairmont. On December 29, 1957, Howard's mother succumbed to melanoma of the liver at the age of 44. Howard was only 10 years old when his mother passed away. His father passed away on February 10, 1969, due to congestive heart failure at the age of 56. They are both buried in East Oak Grove Cemetery in Morgantown, West Virginia.

From 1938 to 1954, Westover housed the only African American high school (Monongalia High School) in the county. It was funded and built by the Works Progress Administration, which was part of the American New Deal. When the school was completed, it was dedicated by Eleanor Roosevelt on May 27, 1938. After integration, the former high school served as the Westover Junior High School for several decades. (Clio Admin and Zachary Cowsert, "Monongalia High School [1938-1954]," Clio: Your Guide to History, 11 September 2020, accessed 21 May 2021,

The purchase of land for the Evansdale and medical campuses for West Virginia University in the late 1940s and the continuous stream of new buildings have made Morgantown a leader in many fields of higher education. Morgantown was even voted one of the 10 best places to raise a family in 2018. ("Morgantown Ranked in Top 10 Best Places to Raise a Family," 13 News, 18 October 2018, accessed 21 May 2021,

In 1954, the United States began to send supplies and military advisers to South Vietnam; however, no combat troops were deployed until 1965. The Gulf of Tonkin incident served as a catalyst for the U.S. to send troops to Vietnam. The USS Maddox was shelled by Vietnam torpedo boats on August 2, 1964. Shortly after this event, the American government started directly sending its troops into combat in the Vietnam conflict. Soldiers initially sent to Vietnam were drafted or enlisted in their respective service branches prior to the war. But in 1969 the draft changed; until that time, men when they reached the age of 18 reported to their draft boards, which would then call them up on an as-needed basis. In 1969, the draft moved to a lottery system to address perceived inequities in the system and secure more personnel.

Of the 8.7 million troops who served in the Vietnam War, only 1.8 million were drafted. Howard was one of the 6.9 million who voluntarily joined the military to serve in the Vietnam War. On September 28, 1963, Howard enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in South Charleston, West Virginia. His Military Occupation Skill (MOS) was 0311-Rifleman and his service number was 2034513.

According to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, unit history, the unit's home station was at Camp Pendleton, California, and in June of 1965 the unit deployed to Okinawa, Japan, en route to Vietnam around July of 1965. (The Official Site of the United States Marines, accessed 21 May 2021, Corporal Howard W. Jackson was assigned to Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine, 1st Marine Division, III Marine Amphibious Force. In August of 1966, the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines were part of a larger Marine contingent conducting reconnaissance in force to deny the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) from conducting operations trying to infiltrate the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). This mission became known as Operation Prairie.

From the time Operation Prairie commenced, the Marines were in firefights almost daily with the NVA. On September 19, 1966, the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines continued patrolling the Nui Cay Tre area for the next two days coming under increasing enemy pressure, but then they were ordered to withdraw to positions near the "Rockpile." It was apparent that the NVA were strongly entrenched on the ridge and were waiting on the Marines to attack. The NVA forces had returned to the Razorback and were mortaring the Rockpile. The Regimental Commander decided to first clean out the Razorback by establishing a combat base west of the Rockpile on September 22 and ordered Companies Foxtrot and Golf to sweep to the Razorback. On September 24, a patrol from Golf Company spotted five NVA soldiers on the western slopes of the hill mass and killed them, but 10 minutes later the company reported that they were under fire and unable to advance or withdraw.

The Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Roothoff, ordered Foxtrot Company to go to the assistance of Golf Company, but heavy enemy fire prevented the two companies from linking up. On September 25, at approximately 10:50H a volley of rifle fire and three rounds of NVA 57mm recoilless rifle (RR) were fired at Golf Company positions impacting and exploding inside the perimeter. Artillery and air strikes were requested and directed on the suspected enemy positions. Later in the day, the Marines of the 2nd Battalion were fired at with thirteen rounds which were believed to have been NVA 75mm RR fire. The companies were credited with killing 58 NVA soldiers. Foxtrot Company suffered three dead and 17 wounded, while Golf Company suffered 3 Marines killed, 26 wounded, and seven missing. Cpl. Howard W. Jackson was one of the killed in action (KIA) from Golf Company on that fateful day from fragmentation wounds sustained during the firefight. During the air and artillery strikes, the Marines had called in a medical evacuation (medevac) to extract the dead and wounded.

A UH-34D (Bureau Number 148776) belonging to HMM-161, a Marine medium helicopter squadron, launched on a nighttime medical evacuation mission in support of the Marines from Golf and Foxtrot Companies. They had suffered causalities and were engaged in heavy combat along Highway 9 in the jungle-covered mountains during Operation Prairie. The weather was good with a very bright full moon. Four Marine air crewmen from HMM-161 and a Navy corpsman assigned to HMM-265 were aboard the aircraft. The UH-34D helicopter was hit in flight by an artillery shell, broke up, and crashed in flames. The incident was witnessed by crewmen in the escorting gunships from a distance of about 75 yards. Ground troops were able to reach the aircraft wreckage and were able to recover two badly burned bodies, but no other remains. Although assault, medevac, and gunship helicopters regularly flew in areas being subjected to friendly artillery fire, this incident is the only documented case of a Marine helicopter being struck in flight by friendly fire. (Information summarized from "US Navy and US Marine Crops BuNos: Third Series [145062 to 150138]," last revised 6 May 2021, accessed 21 May 2021, and "Personnel Profile: 1stLt Dean Wesley Ritter," Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, accessed 21 May 2021

The Marines were eventually able to evacuate the wounded and the dead. Cpl. Jackson's remains were recovered and sent back to the United States. He was buried at East Oak Grove Cemetery in Morgantown, West Virginia, the same cemetery as where his parents rest.

Cpl. Jackson received many commendations including the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, Marksmanship Badge, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Marine Corps Presidential Unit Citation, Vietnam Gallantry Cross, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, and the Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal.

Monument at Morgantown High School. Courtesy Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund

Monument at Morgantown High School. Courtesy Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund

He is honored and memorialized at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall on Panel 11E, Line 015 located in Washington, D. C. He is also memorialized at the West Virginia Veterans Memorial located in Charleston, West Virginia. His name is also inscribed on a granite monument that resides in the front of his high school, Morgantown High School. It has the names of 16 former students that perished in the Vietnam War along with an inscription, "In Honor of Morgantown High School Students Who Lost Their Lives in Vietnam and All Those Who Served." For those of us still living we cannot forget the sacrifices the veterans and their families have made to our great country.
Military headstone for Cpl. Howard Wade Jackson in East Oak Grove Cemetery. <i>Find A Grave</i> photo courtesy Victor Vilionis

Military headstone for Cpl. Howard Wade Jackson in East Oak Grove Cemetery. Find A Grave photo courtesy Victor Vilionis

Article prepared by Ethan Reynolds, Trent Pauley, and MAJ (Ret) Brad McGee, George Washington High School JROTC
May 2021


Howard Wade Jackson

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