SD Vietnam War Memorial Dedication Please Support the Memorial Soldiers, Heroes, and teachers information



In Memory of U.S. Marine Corps Captain

Eugene William Kimmel

Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Minnehaha County

August 20, 1938 -- October 22, 1968

Died When an Aircraft He Was Flying Crashed in Combat in Quang Nam Province, Vietnam


Eugene William “Gene” Kimmel was born on August 20, 1938, to Otto and Beatrice Isabel (Mellenberndt) Kimmel in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He attended Washington High School and graduated in 1956. Right out of high school, Eugene joined the service, training with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. During his first enlistment, he completed 36 parachute jumps. After being discharged, he attended the University of South Dakota. While in college, he married his wife, Mary Lou Heacock, on August 1, 1961, in Rapid City, South Dakota. Eugene first received his BA Degree in 1963 followed by an MA in government from USD in 1964. While at USD, he was the editor of the Volante, President of the Strollers, Treasurer and Pledge Trainer of Delta Tau Delta Fraternity, Vice President of the Press Club, President of the Publications Board, and a member of Omicron Delta Kappa. His son, Greg, also told us that Gene was a published writer, loved racing sports cars, and was a skilled hunter who loved the outdoors.

After college Kimmel enlisted in the service again in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in 1963, this time in the Marine Corps where he was commissioned as a second lieutenant and completed flight school. In 1965 he was sent to Vietnam flying the A-4 Skyhawk (a single-seat jet) out of Chu Lai, Vietnam. While in Vietnam in 1966, Captain Kimmel wrote to his parents the following words: “… I’d like to think I have made an attempt, although small it may be, to leave a safer more secure world than the one I had... I don’t want you to think this war is for nothing... God made us all different, to think and feel and do what we think is right.”

On June 21, 1966, Captain Kimmel’s plane exploded in Vietnam just before takeoff on his 113th mission from the Marine Expeditionary Air Base at Chu Lai, Vietnam, and he suffered a lot of burns. After he had some time recovering, he was assigned as an advanced jet instructor in Kingsville, Texas. While there he experienced another close call while he was teaching “a young aviation cadet how to fly a Navy jet over Corpus Christi, Texas,” and he and his student had to bail out of the plane. Eventually he went for a second tour of Vietnam in the summer of 1968, this time as a pilot of an OV-10 Bronco, a two-seat reconnaissance plane armed with rockets and machine guns that flew much lower and slower than his A-4 had. Because of that, he wrote home that he had been shot at more in a single month than he had been during his whole first tour in 1965-1966. In a letter to Dr. Farber at USD, he wrote, “…I really enjoyed my tour as an instructor at Kingsville, Texas, but tired of simply reading about the war and not doing anything about it. So I volunteered for another Viet Nam tour and here I am flying as a Forward Air Controller. And it’s been exciting. The war is much more personal from these little planes than it ever was as a fighter pilot….but it’s a damn sight more dangerous and the daily control over another man’s life or death, both from my own guns and from the impersonal air strikes and artillery I control, is a heavy responsibility to carry….”

Marine Captain Eugene William “Gene” Kimmel died on October 22, 1968, “in Quang Nam Province, Republic of Vietnam when the aircraft he was flying crashed while on a combat mission.” The body of Eugene Kimmel was returned to his family in the United States and his funeral service was at First Presbyterian Church followed by his burial with military honors at Hills of Rest in Sioux Falls.

At, there is a posting in remembrance of Captain Kimmel. In it are the following words: “He was a dedicated Captain of Marines and an exceptional Naval Aviator.” The author, C.P. Calvert, Jr., went on to say, “In support of his brother Marines on the ground that October day in 1968 Gene made the ultimate sacrifice that others might live. I am honored to have known him and inspired by his sense of duty to his country and Corps. As I packed Gene’s gear and wrote the letter of condolence home, I put our loss behind me and continued with the job at hand but never forgetting the sacrifice made.”

Captain Kimmel received lots of awards and honors. Among them were the Air Medal with multiple Oak Leaf Clusters and the Distinguished Flying Cross; the citation is as follows:

In addition, Tom Brokaw wrote about Gene in an essay for the Virtual Wall in September of 2000. In it, he refers to Gene as his friend “who did not come back.” He called Gene “a daring, iconoclastic and brilliant young man from the South Dakota prairie.” He also recalled how before Gene’s second tour, they had talked long into the night about the war. After Gene’s funeral just a few months later, Gene’s father took Brokaw by the hand and quietly remarked, “Whatever he done, he done good, didn’t he?”

Current survivors of Eugene are his widow, Mary Lou Emanuel, Aurora, Nebraska; his son, Greg Kimmel, La Jolla, California; and his daughter, Susan Yurchuck, Woodstock, Georgia. His mother, Beatrice Kimmel, recently passed away.


This entry was respectfully submitted by Samantha Sparrow, 8th grader, Spearfish Middle School, February 7, 2005. This information was provided by the Argus Leader, October 23, 1968, issue, the Vietnam Veterans Bonus Application, and <>. Additional information, photos, and profile approval by the Kimmel family via Greg Kimmel.


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