Memory of 1st Army Lt.
Robert Russell Lewis
Pierre, South Dakota, Hughes County
May 4, 1942 - January 10, 1968
Killed from wounds suffered on January 5, 1968 when his patrol
was attacked near Tan Ky in Quang Tin Province, South Vietnam
Robert Russell (Chomp) Lewis was born in San Fernando,
California on May 5, 1942, to Russell A. and Ellen (Brine)
Lewis. He had two sisters, Ruth and Linda. Robert grew up in
Pierre, South Dakota and graduated from Riggs High School in
1960. He loved anything that had to do with marine biology or
swimming, and was head lifeguard and swimming instructor for the
Pierre swimming pool for many summers. Robert was the first of
scuba divers in Pierre and did various diving jobs for the State
of South Dakota and federal agencies. Known as “Chomp” by
friends and family, he was also interested in and enjoyed
looking for Indian artifacts while the Oahe Dam was being built.
After high school he attended three years of Northern State
Teachers College in Aberdeen, South Dakota.
Lt. Robert Lewis entered active service in the Army on March
22, 1967. He went to basic training at Fort Leonard Wood,
Missouri, and attended advanced infantry training in Fort
Jackson, South Carolina and Officer Candidate School in Fort
Benning, Georgia. He was commissioned on February 21, 1967. Lt.
Lewis arrived in Vietnam on September 16, 1967, attached to
Company C, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry, 196 Lt. Infantry
1st Lt. Robert Russell Lewis was wounded January 5, 1968 in
Tan Ky, Vietnam while on an infantry patrol. He died from
complications to those wounds five days later on January 10. His
funeral was held January 22, 1968 at the United Methodist Church
in Pierre, South Dakota. He was buried with full military honors
at Riverside Cemetery, in Pierre. Lt. Lewis was awarded a Bronze
Star with “V” Device, and a Purple Heart posthumously. The
citation read for the Bronze Star read:
For heroism in connection with military
operations against a hostile force. Second Lt. Lewis
distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions on 5
January 1968 in the Republic of Viet Nam while serving as a
platoon leader with Company C, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry,
196th Lt. Infantry Brigade. On that date, Company C was on a
search and destroy mission in the vicinity of Tan Ky when
they came under intense hostile automatic weapons fire. As
the point element of the company was attempting to reach
protective cover, they sustained several casualties. Lt.
Lewis, recognizing the necessity of giving strong fire
support to the pinned down element, immediately organized
and directed his platoon to engage the enemy with
suppressive fire. As the platoon provided effective cover,
the company’s medical aidmen advanced through the enemy
field of fire and retrieved the wounded t troops. Lt. Lewis,
with total disregard for his own safety, rallied his troops
and led them across open terrain a midst heavy enemy fire.
As a result of his competent leadership
and personal drive, he significantly enabled the company to
destroy the enemy without incurring any additional
On the evening of the same day, he was
directing his men to establish a defensive perimeter when he
was wounded by grenade fragments. Second Lt. Lewis’s
devotion to duty and personal bravery were keeping in
highest military traditions and reflected great credit upon
himself, the American Division, and the United States Army.
1st Lt. Robert R. Lewis’ name can be found on Panel 34E, Line
021 of the Veterans’ Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.
This was found on the Internet from a friend of 1st Lt.
Chomp, you are not a forgotten friend. You
are missed by all who knew you. You always gave your all for
those around you. I visit your final resting spot whenever I
get back home. I too for one, will never forget all you did
for me, ever. JW Hansen
Christa Wolf, 7th grade, Stanley County Middle School, Fort
Pierre, South Dakota, February 14, 2005, respectfully submitted
this entry. Mrs. Ruth Lewis Cassel and Mrs. Linda Guernsey,
Broken Bow, Nebraska, sisters of 1st Lt. Robert Russell Lewis,
provided information for this entry.
POSTSCRIPT TO PROFILE:
The profile on Army Lt. Robert Russell Lewis had already been
written by Christa Wolf when, for no particular reason, Mrs.
Swanson searched the internet one more time for Lt. Russell’s
There, on the website for the 196th, was an entry. It read:
I am looking for anyone who served with 1st Lt. Robert
Russell Lewis of the 196th. He was born and raised in Pierre,
South Dakota, and killed in action 10 January 1968. I am his
son, and know little of his life and nothing of his service or
death. Thank you. Robert Harris
This was a huge surprise to both Christa and Mrs. Swanson, as
the family of Lt. Lewis had never mentioned him having a child.
After a few moments of thought, Mrs. Swanson called Robert’s
aunts and told them of the web posting. His aunts were both
shocked and thrilled to learn that their brother had a child who
was now almost 40 years old. They e-mailed Robert, who was
equally surprised to learn he had a large extended family living
in the mid-west. In the summer of 2005, Robert Harris met his
aunts and their families in Pierre, South Dakota, as well as
Christa and her teacher.
I have since heard from a number of relatives and one of my
father’s friends. You have provided me the opportunity to go
beyond the barest facts, and to gain some insight into what my
father was like, and perhaps to see how he is reflected in me.
Thank you, Robert