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In Memory of U.S. Marines Lance Corporal

John “Jay” Francis Bibby

Brookings, South Dakota, Brookings County

July 26, 1948 – February 5, 1968

Killed in Action near Quang Tri Province in Vietnam

 

John Francis “Jay” Bibby was born in Brookings, South Dakota, on July 26, 1948, to John and Jean (Starksen) Bibby. His father was a state representative. John was always known as “Jay” to friends and family because his mother didn’t want two Johns in the house, and she didn’t want to call him Junior “lest he develop an inferiority complex.” He had three siblings: Steven, Nathan, and Mary Jo. Jay graduated from Brookings High School in 1966. He enjoyed riding in the car, skiing, and hunting. He loved the outdoors, and he had talked of becoming a game warden, but he didn’t like school, so his grades weren’t good. He was a good mechanic too. He suffered from asthma throughout his life and it got worse around age 11 to the point he needed an oxygen tank for when he couldn’t catch his breath.

John’s brother, Steve, told us about how John entered the service: “It’s ironic that he was turned down by the Marine Corps in Sioux Falls when he told them of his past health. He was determined to enlist so he went to Denver where he didn’t divulge the asthma. They overlooked his questionable eyesight and the rest is history albeit short.” He entered the service on October 6, 1966, at Denver, Colorado. After basic training he was trained in the Corps to repair and maintain large amphibious tracked vehicles. He was sent overseas on September 25, 1967. Jay was assigned to Company B, 1st Amphibian Tractor Battalion, 3rd Marine Division (Rein). He wrote home quite a bit and called occasionally. He always asked for socks and “clean, dry socks were a luxury,” according to Steve, who even now wonders why there weren’t enough socks for the men. The following is a quote from his last letter home written a few hours before he
was killed:

My next letter should be addressed Cpl. John Bibby if all goes right. I’ve been put in charge of all the amtracs in 4th Plt. The job entails being in charge of four L/Cpl’s and the running (mechanical, engine, hydraulic system, suspension system, electrical system) of 11, $120,000 amtracs. Not bad for a 19-year-old who couldn’t even overhaul his own car 2 years ago. Warrant Officer Meyers, our plt. Commander, gave me the job about a week ago relieving a senior cpl.

We are still playing infantry and when the 4th goes to the field in the amtrac myself and one of my men have to go to insure the vehicles’ proper function. I double as a machine gunner in the field with the fourth and a fire team leader with our plt. when we grunt (infantry) it.…

He ended his letter with these words, “We had a Senate investigation a while back over some remark a guy wrote home. For heaven’s sake, no matter what I write, keep it to yourselves. Must close. Have guard tonight. Love, Jay.”

U.S. Marine Lance Corporal John Francis “Jay” Bibby died of “small arms fire in action against hostile forces near Quang Tri Province in Vietnam” on February 5, 1968. His sister, Mary Jo, remembers when she heard about Jay’s death. “I was sitting in music class when there was a knock at the door and my dad was standing there. He told me to get my stuff. He told me there in the hallway that Jay had been killed. My life would never be the same. Our family’s pain would never go away. He was so young.”

The following are lines from John’s commanding officer telling his family exactly what happened to him:

On 4 February 1968 two platoons from this company were on an operation
with Lima Company, Third Battalion, First Marines. During the operation
defensive positions were set up in the vicinity of the hamlet of Mai Xa Thi
about four thousand meters from Camp Kistler. As part of the defensive
perimeter, Jay plus three other Marines were assigned duties as a listening
post and were emplaced about sixty yards in front of the lines to detect enemy movement. During the night the enemy conducted a limited attack on the perimeter and Jay and another Marine were killed in the ensuing fire fight. Jay was hit by small arms fire in the left side of the chest, near the heart, and died instantly.

His body was returned to the United States and buried with military honors at Greenwood cemetery in Brookings. Today, only Jay’s siblings survive him. Steve told us, “37 years have elapsed since February, 1968. For the first 15 or so years, I thought of him daily, then weekly, now monthly.” He went on to tell us that in losing his brother and close friend, the “wound was deep and not healing” but he has managed to live a fairly normal life although, “the trauma of Jay’s death will always be with me.”

Curt Knutson, a friend of Jay’s, posted the following remembrance at www.vvmf.org:

Jay! Jay! Jay! It’s been over thirty years since we got the horrible news you had been killed. I’ll never forget the look on my mother’s face when she told me. I was home on leave and getting ready to go to ‘Nam myself…. I survived Jay. I always felt guilty about that, but I have learned to deal with it….

I will never forget seeing you in Brookings in 67 just before you went over. It seems such a waste considering you wouldn’t have had to go at all. I miss you Jay, and think of you more often than you could imagine…. I miss you Jay and will never forget you

Jay’s brother, Nathan, said in closing, “Jay always fought for the underdog. He didn’t care about the cause as much as he cared about standing up for others. He wanted to help others live without fear.”

This entry was respectfully submitted by Brett Herman, Lisa Krogstad, and Brendon Waterson, 8th grade students, Spearfish Middle School, February 11, 2006. Information for this entry was provided by the Vietnam Veterans Bonus Application, www.vvmf.org, the Brookings Register 2/07/68 issue, and the Bibby family via Mary Jo and Steve Bibby. Profile approval by Mary Jo Bibby.


 


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