Lynch, Richard T

Richard Lynch' autobiography written upon his entry into the US Military Academy

"I was born on 15 January 1935, in Plattsburg, New York. Being an Army brat, I moved a year later and have never again seen the place of my birth. I've had little happen to me since then of great significance, but I can relate a brief account of my family.” 

"My father (John T. Lynch) was born in Mattapan, Massachusetts, in 1897 and attended the U. S. Military Academy, graduating in 1920. He met my mother (Julia Poillon) in 1926, and they were married two years later. Their first child, a girl named Jacqueline, was born in 1929. Six years later they had a son, by name Richard, upon whom this autobiography is based.”

"The first part of my life which I can clearly recollect took place in 1940, when my father received orders to “El Morro” (later renamed Fort Brooke), Puerto Rico. In those days the Army as well as the Navy ran its own ships. My main recollection about this trip was that we sailed in what was then considered to be the best Army boat afloat and what was later to be the first Army boat sunk in the war. I was only five years old at the time, but I can still remember vividly my first view of the gorgeous Caribbean Island. Since that time I’ve made many trips, but I’ve yet to see a sight as beautiful.”
“The three years I spent in Puerto Rico were the most interesting years of my life. Our house was located on the ocean, and from my own window I saw a battle between a German submarine and some American ships, planes, and whatever else our forces could muster up. After such threats, we were evacuated early one morning to Florida, and then on to Petersburg, Virginia (my father's new station). No sooner had we gotten settled down than we moved to Fort Devens, Massachusetts, from there my father went overseas. My mother, sister, and I then went to Houston, Texas, where we remained until the war was over. In 1946, we were able to join my father in his assignment in Paris, France. I entered a French school and learned to speak French fairly fluently, but since then, to my chagrin, I have completely forgotten it.”

"We returned to the States in 1948 and moved to the Richmond General Depot in Virginia. It was during this period that I began seriously considering following in my father's and great grandfather’s (Richard H. Poillon 1871) footsteps to West Point. The following year I entered Valley Forge Military Academy, mainly to familiarize myself with military life. I liked that type of life, so I remained at Valley Forge for my four years of high school, graduating in 1953.”

“During my high school years, I was lucky enough to make three summer trips to visit my parents in Europe and to make four different athletic teams at school. My greatest honor at Valley Forge, however, was being elected to represent my company on the Honor Council, a copy of West Point’s Honor System.

“Upon graduation from high school, I felt that I needed further academic preparation before entering USMA. Because of my years spent traveling, I lacked a sound basic background in English and Mathematics; therefore. I attended Hilder Preparatory School in Washington, D.C., for one year. I took the March ’54 exam at West Point, but failed the aptitude test by ten points. I thought my chances were gone for a year, but through luck I managed to get another appointment for the June test, which I passed and thus made my life-long dreams come true. At this point (July 1954), my autobiography must slow down and wait for time to tell the rest.”

....The continuing biography written By family members


And it did. Then he was nineteen—a brand new Plebe, grinding out an autobiography, taking one last look back at his boyhood, standing poised before plunging headlong into his last ten years—not long to go, but long enough to live the rest of his life. 

Tuesday, 2 July 1954, was a sweltering day for the Class of 1958 which was in the throes of its first experience as new cadets. The heat of the day was more than matched by the blistering commands of the First Class Detail which echoed and reechoed across the area.
 Feverish activity was in evidence everywhere. Then, in the midst of all this welter of serious intent, a raucous laugh was heard throughout the quadrangle. Dick Lynch had suddenly established his individuality. His keen wit simply could not be subdued even by the trauma of Beast Barracks. Of course, the “Firsties" fell on him like a school of starving piranhas. But whatever they ate, it was not his sense of humor. Through subsequent distressing times, particularly winter "gloom periods," Dick’s humor and his fascinating adeptness on the banjo were most welcome morale boosters. Although always ready with a smile, Dick's main objective was to become a soldier in every sense of the word. He quickly established a reputation for dependability which was particularly evidenced on field exercises. Friendships solidified during the highs and lows of the next four years, and Dick became affectionately known as “R.T." 

The 4th of June 1958 brought graduation, and Dick became the third generation of his family to have successfully worn the Cadet Gray. Fort Benning was the next stop. Here Dick quickly displayed the elan of a true Infantryman. Following completion of the Basic Infantry and Airborne Courses, “R. T.” entered the Ranger School. Again his sense of humor, professionalism, and reliability carried the day. One instance occurred during Ranger School which was most significant. The last Ranger exercise consisted of an arduous four-day patrol over mountainous terrain. During this particular operation, a blizzard fell on Dick's patrol. The last bitter cold night found the patrol mentally and physically fatigued facing a final fifteen-mile approach march which included a river crossing. The patrol leader realized that his biggest problem was to select a pointman with recognized endurance and skill. In the leader’s words, "There was no question in my mind that with “R.T.” leading, I could direct my attention towards motivating the main body." The other Rangers responded to the leader’s confidence in Dick, and with a reawakened esprit they accomplished their final mission. 

Friedberg, Germany, was the next stop on "R.T.’s” itinerary. He reported for duty to the 2d Battalion, 52d Infantry, 3d Armored Division, sporting not only his newly won Airborne Wings and Ranger Tab, but also a marvelous mustache! This latest acquisition elicited considerable comment and became the envy of many of his fellow officers. "R.T.’s” tour in Germany was characteristically marked by professional excellence. Therefore, no one was surprised when Dick was selected as Aide-de-Camp to then Major General Harold K. Johnson. Shortly thereafter, Dick accompanied the General to the US Army Command and General Staff College. 

At Fort Leavenworth, Dick met a charming, vivacious young lady and “Army Daughter" named Nancy Blakefield. Dick became quickly convinced that his gay blade bachelor life did not possess total bliss. So it was a Captain and Mrs. Lynch who departed Leavenworth for Fort Benning in the summer of 1963. 

Throughout Dick’s subsequent attendance at the Infantry School, the topic of Vietnam and its implications were foremost in everyone’s mind. During many a “happy hour” session, "R.T." expressed his adamant conviction as to the proper course of action, "where there is combat, there should be Infantry Officers!" With this philosophy of "marching toward the sound of guns" firmly in mind, Dick volunteered for Vietnam. On several occasions, Dick predicted that "those who will fight in 1963-64 will be but a vanguard for a larger Army effort soon to follow." However, the school year was not totally filled with such somber clairvoyance. The Lynch banjo and dry wit were frequently heard at many a party. Moreover, the highlight of the year was the birth of a daughter Julie on 21 November 1963. She immediately became her “father's girl,” and no Dad was ever prouder or more loving. 

Spring arrived and with it graduation, advisory training, tearful farewells and finally the sought-after assignment in Vietnam. This was "R.T.’s" element, and he reveled in it. The challenge of leadership was most welcome, and Dick soon established excellent rapport with his Vietnamese counterpart and an outstanding reputation as a combat leader. Then on 10 September 1964, while accompanying a Vietnamese Ranger Battalion on an offensive operation, Dick was mortally wounded by enemy fire. Thus, he became the first of that honored company of the Class of ’58 to die in action. His heroism was recognized by the awarding of the Silver Star and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry from two grateful nations. The tragedy of Dick’s death is that he never knew his son Richard T. Lynch II, born on 22 March 1965. These words have been written, not solely in tribute to Dick but also in the hope of giving his children a sense of their father’s character. Should they ever ask "what sort of a man was our Dad?" the answer must be "A man of serious intent, while at the same time, possessing a marvelous sense of humor and a vibrant love of life. One who had a burning ambition to be an outstanding Infantryman and a credit to his beloved Long Gray Line.” 

Although not vociferous about his beliefs, Dick held Duty, Honor and Country as his most cherished possessions. He was quietly, yet intensely proud of the fact that for three generations, the Lynch family had responded to their country’s bugle calls. As to the untimeliness of his death-if he had known that a young death was predestined, Dick would have chosen no other way to die but in combat. Such was the nature of this man.  We do miss Dick Lynch. His banjo is silent; his friendship and sense of humor no longer brighten our lives, and the absence of his leadership is sorely felt by his comrades. Yet, his family and friends are still warmed by the vivid memories of his affection. Dick Lynch was what we all long to be-a true son of West Point, a professional soldier, a wonderful father and husband—in essence, a fine man.

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918 (amended by an act of July 25, 1963), takes pride in presenting the Silver Star (Posthumously) to Captain (Infantry) Richard Thomas Lynch (ASN: 0-83340), United States Army, for gallantry in action while engaged in military operations in Vietnam on 10 September 1964. As Senior Advisor to a ranger battalion of the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam, Silver Star Captain Lynch displayed fortitude, professional skill, and perseverance while accompanying the battalion on a search and clear operation. Within 10 minutes after the battalion's landing from Regional Force boats, the forward elements received sniper fire. Captain Lynch immediately exposed himself to the danger by taking a lead position with the battalion commander to assist him with tactical advice and to encourage him to maintain contact with the hostile forces. Although the battalion commander succeeded in establishing flank security and automatic weapons deployment to cover the forward movement, as well as maintaining light contact with the enemy, the forward company suddenly encountered heavy automatic weapons and small arms fire directly ahead from an enemy unit of platoon size. As the enemy weapons fire intensified and the battalion sustained heavy casualties, Captain Lynch bravely remained in a semi-exposed position to observe the enemy activity and to provide his counterpart with sound tactical advice. Despite the constant enemy fire, he continued to demonstrate his courageous actions and to inspire the friendly Vietnamese forces until he was mortally wounded. Captain Lynch's conspicuous gallantry is in the highest traditions of the United States Army and reflects great credit upon himself and the military forces.

General Orders: Department of the Army, General Orders No. 40 (December 11, 1964)

Researcher's Notes:

CPT Lynch's Father graduated from the USMA in 1920, was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and achieved the rank of Colonel; Nancy (Blakefield) Lynch's Father graduated from Ripon College, WI , was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and achieved the rank of Major General: CPT Lynch's Mother's Grand-Father graduated from the USMA in 1871 and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant.
CPT Lynch's parents, COL and Mrs. John T. Lynch, resided on Grubb Road, Paoli, Pa. prior to the time of their son's death.
CPT Lynch was the 270th American to die in Viet Nam and the 190th killed in direct combat operations.
CPT Lynch is interred at the Post Cemetery, USMA, West Point, NY.
Viet Nam Veterans Memorial: Panel 01E, Line 63.


Researched by Jim Wambold - CPT, US Army, Viet Nam '67-'68