In Memory of US Army Warrant Officer
Robert Gene Fortin
Turton, South Dakota, Spink County
November 20, 1949- September 13, 1971
Killed in Action in South Vietnam
Robert Gene “Bob” Fortin was born November 20, 1949, in
Conde, South Dakota. His parents’ names were Victor Paul and
Lorene (Wolfgram) Fortin. His nine brothers included Jim,
Richard, Delbert, Steve, Kenny, Roger, Terry, Norbert, and
Danny. His three sisters were Sherry, Bonnie, and Carol.
They were raised on the family farm. He went to rural and
town schools in the Turton and Doland areas of Spink County.
In high school, Robert was team captain of the football
team; he also wrestled, participated in the chorus, and was
vice president of the “D” Club. He graduated from high
school in 1968 and went to Lake Area Vocational School in
Watertown for one year where he participated in Golden Glove
Boxing. Before he enlisted, he worked at Firestone in
Robert enlisted into active service in October of 1969.
He learned about the Army Warrant Officer program and after
passing tests, was accepted into it. He went on to pass
flight aptitude testing and then was put in the Army’s
Warrant Officer Helicopter Pilot program. He received his
wings as an Army helicopter pilot and was appointed a
Warrant Officer on February 19, 1971, at Fort Rucker,
Alabama. In April, he left for Vietnam with his brother,
Roger, where he served as a forward air controller as part
of Troop B, 3rd Squadron, 17th Cavalry, 12th Aviation Group,
1st Aviation Brigade. Warrant Officer Fortin was shot down
May 14, 1971, and he was recommended for the Distinguished
Flying Cross for his actions taken to save the lives of his
crew members. After receiving wounds from enemy ground fire,
he was given the Purple Heart on July 1, 1971.
Warrant Officer Robert Gene Fortin was
killed in action on September 13, 1971, by “hostile ground
fire while piloting a helicopter in Vietnam.” His parents
had already had military vehicles come to their farm as some
of Robert’s other brothers in Vietnam had been wounded
already too. But they received that “dreaded telegram,”
according to a newspaper clipping on September 15. WO Fortin
had been in Vietnam for five months and 19 days. The body of
WO Robert Fortin was returned to the United States, escorted
by his brother, Roger. “The brothers had left together and
they returned home together,” reported the paper. He was
buried with military honors at St. Joseph’s Cemetery in
Turton. On the night of Robert’s funeral, Roger wrote for
his brother, “A Brother’s Prayer.”
A Brother’s Prayer
Written in Memory of Robert Fortin
September 21, 1971
Give me the strength to be half the man we’ve
buried here today.
And give me what it takes to meet challenges his
No task seemed too difficult, no burden too
No barrier unpassable, no ending left to fate.
He saw a people suffering, and went to aid their
He asked no recognition, no handshakes nor
Why do men of the same backgrounds take up such
When one takes up the burden, the other adds to
He gave his life protecting the rights of the
men like these,
And we’ve got them at home, as well as overseas.
In addition to the awards mentioned earlier, Robert
Fortin received 12 Air Medals and the Army Commendation
Robert is currently survived by his mother, Lorene,
Doland; and siblings: James, Watertown; Carol Smith, Conde;
Bonnie Hiles, Doland; Delbert, Redfield; Norbert, Watertown;
Sherry Board, Doland; Roger, Doland; Dick, Denver; Kenny,
Doland; Dan, North Carolina; Jim, Doland; and Steve,
Watertown. Robert’s father, Victor, and his brother, Terry,
have passed away.
In closing, Lorene Fortin wrote, “It’s 34 years since Bob
left us and it sometimes feels like it was yesterday. It
never gets easy.”
This entry was respectfully submitted by Ty Retzl, 8th
Grade, Spearfish Middle School, Spearfish, South Dakota, on
October 6, 2005. Information for this entry was provided by
Golden Times, November 1996, the Redfield Press 9/23/71
issue, and the Vietnam Veterans Bonus Application.
Additional information and profile approval by the Fortin
family, via Lorene Fortin, mother.