In Memory of Navy Hm2

Robert Jan Bridges

Mitchell, South Dakota, Davison County

January 5, 1943 - February 19, 1968

Died in a helicopter crash near Da Nang, North Vietnam

Robert Jan Bridges was born in Mitchell, South Dakota, on January 5, 1943 to Robert Monroe and Lorraine Marie (Schiltz) Bridges. He had three sisters: Janice, Mary Lynne, and Patricia, and one brother, Tom. He grew up in Mitchell, and attended Ethan Grade School, and the Notre Dame High School in Mitchell where he was a member of the boy’s choir. Robert married Joy Louise Guy on April 2, 1965 in Jacksonville, North Carolina. To this union was born a daughter, Lisa.

Robert Bridges first enlisted in the South Dakota Army National Guard on September 30, 1960 in Mitchell, South Dakota, attached to the 665 Ordinance Company. He was honorably discharged and put on reserve status on February 28, 1961. Hm2 Bridges joined the Navy on March 1, 1961 in Omaha, Nebraska. He was on his fifth tour of duty to Vietnam, acting as a naval corpsman attached to Marine Company C, 3rd Medical Battalion, 3rd Marine Division.

On February 19th, 1968, Hospital Corpsman Second Class Robert Jan Bridges was on an authorized medical evacuation flight. The cargo helicopter (CH-53A) in which he and eleven other passengers were riding crashed at night in the area of Da Nang, North Vietnam, and remained missing until June 21, 1968. The remains of Hm2 Bridges and the others were recovered, and a group burial was held at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri on September 10, 1968.

Hm2 Bridges had been awarded the Purple Heart with one Bronze Star and two Gold Stars, the Bronze Star with Combat Distinguishing Device, the Naval Commendation Medal with Combat “V” and Distinguishing Device, the Vietnamese Service Medal with one Bronze Star, the Good Conduct Medal, the Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon Bar, the National Defense Service Medal, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Bar, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for Cuba Campaign, and the Presidential Unit Citation.

The citation for the Bronze Star reads, in part:

HM3 Bridges participated in over 15 combat operations…On 7 January 1966, Hm3 Bridges, while accompanying the Quang Xuyen District intelligence team personally disarmed a 50 kilo water mine. Realizing the potential intelligence value and intended use of the mine, as well as the possibility of booby traps, disregarding his own personal safety, Hm3 Bridges removed the detonating wires from the mine and single-handedly carried it to a LCVP and loaded it aboard. The entire action was performed despite intense enemy small arms fire. Hm3 Bridges’ example of personal courage and military proficiency was an inspiration to the Vietnamese Regional Force soldiers he accompanied and materially contributed to the success of the United States advisory effort. His actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

A memorial marker was placed at the Legion Plot in Graceland Cemetery in Mitchell, South Dakota. The name of Hm2 Robert Jan Bridges can be seen on Panel 40 East, Line 018 on the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.

Jacob Greenhagen, 8th grade, Stanley County Middle School, Fort Pierre, South Dakota, respectfully submitted this entry. Richard Willoughby, Kenosha, Wisconsin, childhood friend of Hm2 Robert Jan Bridges; Tom Bridges, Minnesota, brother; and Mary Lynne Sandness, Freemont, Nebraska, sister to Hm2 Bridges, provided the information.

 


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