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



In Memory of U.S. Army Specialist Fourth Class

Robert Joseph Whites

Iroquois, South Dakota, Beadle County

 May 9, 1947 Ė July 24, 1969
Killed in Action in Vietnam


Robert Joseph Whites was born May 9, 1947, at Huron, South Dakota, to Hugh and Evelyn (Davis) Whites. His siblings were William, Larry, and Carol. Robert was raised and educated in Iroquois, South Dakota. He graduated from Iroquois High School in 1965 and went to Huron College until 1968. He married his wife, Karmel Hookie, on April 15, 1966, at De Smet, South Dakota. In May of 1968, Robert and his wife moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he worked for North Central Airlines.

On September 11, 1968, Robert Joseph Whites was drafted into the U.S. Army and entered active service in Sioux Falls. Before he went overseas, he went to basic training and advanced infantry training at Ft. Lewis, Washington. SP4 Whites went overseas on February 4, 1969, as a door gunner aboard an assault helicopter for the 175 Aviation Co. Whites wrote home in a letter dated February 24, 1969, of his status:

It took me a week to get to my company which I will be in the rest of my tour in Viet Nam. I am in the aviation part of the Army. I was a gunner on a helicopter but I put in for a supply clerk job and luck[ed] out and got it. I really donít have it that bad now.

I am in a place called Vinh Long. It is about the size of Iroquois with a large air strip in it. We have some of the best living quarters in Viet Nam. We have house girls that shine our boots, clean the place up. We donít do a thing to the hut. We donít pull KP because they have civilians doing it.

Here is part of another letter sent March 13, 1969:

I have been getting lots of letters so it sure helps to pass time. This clerk job is ok but I sure miss flying. I guess I might as well stay with this and do
my flying when I get back to the states. Flying is great but getting shot at just isnít the thing you want to go through everyday. Those helicopters get right
in there with all the action.

Specialist Fourth Class Robert Joseph Whites was first reported missing in action in Vietnam on July 24, 1969. He died in a helicopter explosion over Vietnam. His body was returned to the United States and buried in the Iroquois cemetery with military honors.

Among his award SP4 Whites was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross; according to the newspaper, the citation read in part:

Specialist Whites was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroic action, without regard for his life, in keeping an enemy force pinned down by fire, prior to his aircraft being destroyed from a booby-trap bomb. Specialist Whitesís conspicuous gallantry, extraordinaire heroism and intrepidity showed great devotion to duty and reflected great credit to himself and the country for which he gave his life.

He was also awarded the Air Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with one bronze service star, Vietnam campaign ribbon, Aircraft Crewman badge, Expert Badge with the machine gun and automatic rifle bars, and the Sharpshooter Badge with rifle bar. Part of the citation for his Air Medal is as follows:

During this time [From 6 June 1969 to 24 July 1969] he actively participated in more than twenty-five aerial missions over hostile territory in support of counterinsurgency operations. During all of these missions he displayed the highest order of air discipline and acted in accordance with the best traditions of the service. By his determination to accomplish his mission in spite of the hazards inherent in repeated aerial flights over hostile territory and by his outstanding degree or professionalism and devotion to duty, he has brought credit upon himself, his organization, and the military service.

At the time of his death he was survived by his mother, Evelyn, father, Hugh; his two brothers, William and Larry, a sister, Carol, and wife, Karmel.

This entry was respectfully submitted by Jamin Battles, 8th Grade, Spearfish Middle School, Spearfish, South Dakota, on October 6, 2005. Information for this entry and profile approval was provided by William Whites, brother of Robert Whites.



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