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



In Memory of U.S. Marine Corps First Lieutenant

James Dean Opsahl

Britton, South Dakota, Marshall County

 May 19, 1945- February 4, 1969

Killed in Action in Da Nang, Vietnam

James Dean Opsahl was born on May 19, 1945, to L. James and Winnifred Opsahl in Webster, South Dakota. His siblings were Janelle, Tom, and Dan. He was raised and educated in Britton, South Dakota. He went to Britton High School and graduated in 1963. He went to college at Northern State College. His interests included football, waterskiing, being a soloist, boating, and fishing.

James Opsahl entered service in the Marine Corps in 1965, was later trained at Pensacola, Florida, and then commissioned as a second lieutenant on April 1, 1967. He became a first lieutenant on September 1, 1967. He went overseas to Vietnam with the Marine Helicopter Squadron 163 and 362. While in Vietnam, Lt. Opsahl completed 38 strike flights. While away from home, Lt. Opsahl sent letters every week; he loved his family. In one letter he wrote to his family that they should never worry and he believed in the cause. He had also told his family that he was due to end his tour in Vietnam soon.

On February 4, 1969, as James Opsahl was taking off for a mission, his helicopter crashed on take-off, seven miles south of Da Nang, Vietnam. He died of injuries. The family received the following telegram, informing them of his death:

I deeply regret to confirm that your son First Lieutenant James D. Opsahl U.S. Marine Corps died on February 4, 1969 seven miles south of Da Nang in Quang Nam Province, Republic of Vietnam. He sustained multiple injuries to the body as a result of an aircraft crash, while in support of an operation. Remains of  personnel involved have been recovered however individual identification has not been established. You will be immediately informed upon completion of the identification procedures. I wish to assure you of every possible assistance and extend the heartfelt condolences of the Marine Corps in your bereavement.

Later, his body was identified and brought back to the United States. The body arrived at the Franzen Funeral Home and then there was a church service at First Lutheran Church before he was buried with military honors at a cemetery in Britton.

James Opsahl was awarded the Purple Heart, the National Defense Medal, the Vietnamese Campaign Medal, NAVY Commendation Medal, the Vietnamese Service Medal, the Air Medal ( 38 Strike Flights), and the Presidential Unit Citation.

He is survived by Janelle Freudenthal, sister, Onida, South Dakota; Tom Opsahl, brother, Lake City, South Dakota; and Dan Opsahl, brother, Pinellas Park, Florida.

In closing on a friend posted a remembrance of James. He wrote, “He was a special Marine… he paid the price we were all willing to pay, but prayed the Lord spare us. A great friend still.”

This entry was respectfully submitted by Dustin A. Taggart, 8th grade, Spearfish Middle School, Spearfish, South Dakota on October 6, 2005. Information for this entry was submitted by Janelle Freudenthal, who is James Opsahl’s sister. Profile approval by Mrs. Freudenthal.


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