Bob Kalsu

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Bob Kalsu
James Kalsu Vietnam Wall name.jpg
Kalsu's name (third row, middle) on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Birth nameJames Robert Kalsu
Born(1945-04-13)April 13, 1945
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
DiedJuly 21, 1970(1970-07-21) (aged 25)
FSB Ripcord, Thua Thien, South Vietnam
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service1968–1970
RankUS Army O2 shoulderboard rotated.svg First lieutenant
Unit 101st Airborne Division
Battles/warsVietnam War
AwardsBronze Star Medal ribbon.svg Bronze Star
Purple Heart ribbon.svg Purple Heart

Football career
No. 61
Personal information
Height:6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Weight:235 lb (107 kg)
Career information
High school:Del City (Del City, Oklahoma)
NFL Draft:1968 / Round: 8 / Pick: 199
Career history
Career NFL statistics
Player stats at
Player stats at PFR

James Robert Kalsu (April 13, 1945 – July 21, 1970) was an All-American tackle at the University of Oklahoma and an eighth-round selection in the 1968 NFL/AFL draft by the Buffalo Bills of the American Football League.[1] He later joined the U.S. Army as an officer and was killed in the Vietnam War. He was the last NFL player to be killed serving as a soldier in a war until 2004, when Pat Tillman was killed in Afghanistan. Earlier, Al Blozis formerly of the New York Football Giants was killed in action in World War II.


Kalsu was a starting guard for the Bills in 1968. He played the entire season and was the Bills' team rookie-of-the-year.[2] Following the 1968 season, to satisfy his Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) obligation, he entered the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant and arrived in South Vietnam in November 1969 as part of the 101st Airborne Division. He was killed in action on July 21, 1970, when his unit came under enemy mortar fire at FSB Ripcord near the A Shau Valley.[1][3] His family has declined to talk in detail about the circumstances surrounding his death.

When he had left for South Vietnam, Kalsu had to say goodbye to his wife, Jan, and his daughter Jill. On July 23, 1970, two days after his death, Jan Kalsu gave birth to his son, James Robert Kalsu Jr, at the Kalsu home in Oklahoma City. Kalsu's wife was informed that he had died only hours later. Kalsu and former Cleveland Brown Don Steinbrunner were the only professional football players to be killed in action during the Vietnam War.


  • FOB Kalsu in Babil, Iraq, was founded and named after him by the 105th Military Police Company from Buffalo, NY in early 2003. The name was chosen in a way to honor his sacrifice for his country and his connection to the Buffalo Bills.
  • In 1999, NFL Films produced a feature on Kalsu that was nominated for an Emmy Award.[3]
  • In 2000, the Buffalo Bills added Kalsu's name to the Buffalo Bills Wall of Fame.[3][4][5]
  • In 2002, the replacement company at Fort Campbell was named in honor of him – 1LT J. Robert Kalsu Replacement Company.[3]
  • Del City High School's football stadium bears his name.
  • There is a CrossFit Work Out of the Day (WOD) named in his honor.[6]
  • There is a post office in Del City, Oklahoma named for Kalsu. The legislation was signed in law by President Barack Obama on November 5, 2015, and the post office was dedicated on November 5, 2016. The official name of the post office is the James Robert Kalsu Post Office, located at 4500 SE 28th Street in Del City, where Kalsu played high school football before enrolling at the University of Oklahoma.[7]

Awards and decorations[edit]

US Army Airborne basic parachutist badge.gif

Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Parachutist Badge
1st Row
Bronze Star Medal
2nd Row
Purple Heart Medal
Army Commendation Medal
National Defense Service Medal
3rd Row
Vietnam Service Medal (with 3 bronze service stars)
South Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Palm
Vietnam Campaign Medal

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Nack, William (July 23, 2001). "A Name On The Wall: Football player Bob Kalsu was the only U.S. pro athlete to die in Vietnam". Sports Illustrated. p. 60.
  2. ^ Rockin’ the Rockpile: The Buffalo Bills of the American Football League, p.567, Jeffrey J. Miller, ECW Press, 2007, ISBN 978-1-55022-797-0
  3. ^ a b c d Rockin’ the Rockpile, p.513
  4. ^ "Bills honor Vietnam casualty". Beaver County Times. Pennsylvania. wire services. November 13, 2000. p. B4.
  5. ^ Brown, Chris (May 30, 2011). "Bills teammates still remember Kalsu". Buffalo Bills. Archived from the original on March 1, 2016. Retrieved February 19, 2016.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on February 14, 2011. Retrieved October 6, 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ "Congressman Russell to Dedicate James Robert Kalsu Post Office". February 3, 2016. Archived from the original on April 7, 2016. Retrieved March 25, 2016.

External links[edit]