Memory of U.S. Army Sergeant First Class
Gerald Franklin Apperson
Sturgis, South Dakota,
December 6, 1935 – January 8, 1969
Killed in Action in Dak To, Republic of Vietnam
Gerald Franklin Apperson was born in Sturgis, South Dakota,
on December 6, 1935; Sarah E. and Harry C. Apperson adopted him
into their family, which included a half brother, Darrell
Baldwin. Gerald attended Sturgis High School. While in high
school, he participated in sports; he lettered in football,
basketball, and track, and he loved to watch baseball. Apperson
graduated from Sturgis High School in 1953. After high school he
was employed at an oil field in Wyoming, but since “times were
not that good in South Dakota” and there wasn’t much of a future
in his job, he later quit to join the army. Some months after,
he married his wife, Delores, in Sturgis on October 23, 1954.
They had three kids: Timothy A., Dennis L., and Allan G.
Apperson. His children remember that while they lived in
Arlington, Virginia, “He would take us to baseball games to see
the Senators play,” and Allan recalls that since he was just a
young boy, his mother would write Allan’s letters to his father
but that he “would cut out a ‘Peanuts’ cartoon from the paper
and send it with the letter.”
Gerald enlisted in the army on March 17, 1954. He was sent to
be trained at supply school at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and
was then assigned to Headquarters Support Company, 43rd Engineer
Battalion, Korea, where for four years he was a supply
specialist. After his discharge in 1958, he enlisted in the
South Dakota Army National Guard as part of Company B, 109th
Engineer Battalion, Hot Springs, South Dakota.
Apperson then earned a full time job with the Guard as an
administrative and supply technician in Hot Springs until he
enlisted in the army again on March 30, 1964, where he trained
in Special Forces. After his training, Sergeant Apperson was
assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces,
and went overseas once again on May 18, 1964, to Korea.
Sergeant Apperson was sent to Vietnam on May 30, 1966. He was
stationed at Dak To, Vietnam as a member of the 5th Special
Forces Group, 1st Special Forces. While in Vietnam, he fought in
Vietnam Counter Offensive Campaign, and the Vietnam Offensive
Campaign. Dated April 23, 1965, Gerald sent a letter home to his
son and in it he said, “I can hardly wait till I get home and
see you. I know we are going to have so much fun together this
summer. You take real good care of Mommy and give her a big kiss
Several years later, Sergeant Apperson’s family got a letter
dated January 29, 1969, informing them that
Gerald was aboard a helicopter that
crashed and burned deep in enemy held territory on 8 January
1969 while being airlifted from an area after completion of
a reconnaissance mission. The cause of the crash was small
arms fire from an enemy force. A search was launched to
locate and recover Gerald soon after he became missing. This
effort continues and will as long as there is a chance of
Several months later the family was notified by Harold R.
Aaron, Colonel, Infantry Commanding, that Gerald had died in the
helicopter crash on January 8, 1969. The family was informed
that he had been killed near Dak To, Republic of Vietnam. Later
his body was returned to South Dakota, and he was buried with
military honors at Black Hills National Cemetery.
Posthumously promoted to Sergeant First Class, Apperson was
awarded Senior Parachutist Badge, Good Conduct Medal – Army 2nd
Award, National Defense Service Medal 1st Oak Leaf Cluster,
Combat Infantryman Badge, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam
Campaign Medal with device 60-, Purple Heart, Military Merit
Medal, Gallantry Cross with palm, and Expert Marksmanship Badge.
SFC Apperson is survived by Delores N. Norman, spouse,
Wrangell, Alaska; Timothy A. Apperson, son, Waxhaw, North
Carolina; Dennis L. Apperson, son, Charlotte, North Carolina;
Allan G. Apperson, son, Morganton, North Carolina.
Gerald’s family had this to say in closing: “We miss our
father, as do all survivors of deceased service men and women.
We are proud of his sacrifice, and of all the sacrifices our
soldiers have made to keep this country free.”
This entry was respectfully submitted by Tashina G. Kallerud,
8th Grade, Spearfish Middle School, Spearfish South Dakota, on
April 20, 2005. Information for this entry was submitted and
approved by the Apperson family.