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



In Memory of U.S Army1st Lieutenant

Daniel James Kirchgesler

Rapid City, South Dakota, Pennington County

September 22, 1946 – August 21, 1969

Died of Wounds Received in Action in Vietnam

Daniel James Kirchgesler was born on September 22, 1946, in Rapid City, South Dakota, to Jacob (Jack) and Josephine Kirchgesler. He has six brothers, Eugene, Kenneth, Timothy, Mark, William, and Charles; and two sisters, Judi and Jackie. He went to St. John the Evangelist School and graduated top of his class in 8th grade in 1960. He then went to Cathedral High School, where he was selected as Boy Stater among other honors and graduated Cum Laude in 1964. After high school, Daniel went to South Dakota School of Mines and Technology but later transferred to the University of South Dakota in Vermillion where his major was English with minors in History, Latin, and Military Science. According to his sister, Judi, Daniel “aspired to teach at the college level.” Daniel graduated Cum Laude from USD in 1968, “receiving the highest award in field training in the ROTC program.” Upon graduation, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the US Army Reserve. He married Carmen Kollash on Dec. 22, 1968.

Daniel entered the service on August 19, 1968, at Fort Benning, Georgia. He then took advanced training and “received the highest award for over-all excellence,” before being transferred to Fort Polk, Louisiana. Lt. Kirchgesler was sent to Vietnam, arriving on May 17, 1969. He was in Company A, 3rd Battalion, 21 Infantry, 196th Americal Division. He was soon promoted to first lieutenant.

Lt. Daniel James Kirchgesler was killed in action on August 21, 1969, at Quang Tin Province at Song Chang Valley, South Vietnam while serving as Platoon Leader of 2nd Platoon, Company A, 196th Infantry Brigade that “was involved in heavy fighting against North Vietnamese bunker defenses.” In a letter to the family from a commanding officer, the following is quoted:

…On the morning of August 21, 1969, Daniel’s unit was participating in a search and clear operation near the village of An Lam, approximately 20 miles west of Tam Ky city, in Quang Tin Province, Republic of South Vietnam. At 10:50 A.M., Daniel was mortally wounded when the unit came under intense enemy automatic weapons and grenade attack. due to the intensity of the battle, Daniel could not be immediately extracted from the field and was subsequently listed in a missing status until recovery could be made.

Daniel was an exemplary officer whose absence from our battalion will be keenly felt by all its members. He was an outstanding officer who was liked and respected by all his associates. His compassion for his men and concern for their welfare endeared each and every soldier to him, making his death a shocking experience for all of us…

Daniel’s body was returned to the United States and after a funeral service he was buried with military honors at Black Hills National Cemetery.

Later, a book, Death Valley by Keith William Nolan, was published about the Song Chang Valley battles in which Daniel took part. In it these words:

The platoon was in a network of spider holes and bunkers covered with banana leaves and indistinguishable from the rest of the landscape. The return fire seemed only to chop weeds. Several men had been hit—one was screaming bloody murder that he was shot in the hip, couldn’t move, the dinks were right next to him!—and, as always, Lieutenant Kirchgesler started towards the hottest spot. The Lieutenant was shot dead.

Lt. Kirchgesler won many awards, including the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman’s Badge, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnamese Campaign Ribbon, and Vietnamese Ribbon with service bar.

Several people have posted remembrances for Daniel at One memory was posted by Gene Shurtz, who was Daniel’s company commander: “You always volunteered your platoon for point to protect us. It cost you everything. We came home for you, our beloved point!” Gene further corresponded with Judi and chronicled much of Daniel’s last days. He wrote,

He [Dan] was all business…a true professional. He was perhaps the one shining light and my anchor in the storm we were about to encounter. He looked tall, tanned, and to-die for blond…. He was a man of few, but powerful words. I immediately knew I could implicitly trust him…. I just knew that no matter what was ahead of us, if Dan were “covering my back,” I would be in the best shape possible….

Dan volunteered the 2nd platoon to be point when we were to move out. He had surveyed the situation, a new CO, two new brother platoon leaders, and 17 or so new replacements in the other platoons; all of which had no combat experience. He felt his seasoned platoon would best provide the point security at the time.

…His platoon had the reputation of being very good at point with success measured in as few casualties as possible. He really was an officer dedicated to bringing as many of his men back as possible.

Lt. Daniel James Kirchgesler risked his own life for the lives of his fellow men, and we will remember him for his service and his sacrifice.

This entry was respectfully submitted by Jamie Kennedy and Angel Smithling, 8th grade students, Spearfish Middle School, March 28, 2006. Information for this entry was provided by a South Dakota Vietnam Veteran’s bonus application, the nomination form for Gold Star mother of the year, 8/29/69, 9/2/69 and 2/7/70 issues of the Rapid City Journal, and Additional information and profile approval courtesy of the Kirchgesler family via Judi Kirchgesler, sister.


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