Chester M. Ovnand
Master Sergeant Chester Melvin Ovnard (September 8, 1914 – July 8, 1959) was the first casualty of the Vietnam War killed at the hands of the Viet Cong. His name is the second listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Life and career
Chester M. Ovnand (also called "Chet") was from Copperas Cove, Texas and was born to Engebret Ovnand and Maybelle Welch. Army records conflict as to what his actual name was—Charles Melvin Ovnand or Chester Melvin Ovnard—though that the latter appears on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is possibly an indication of general consensus among the Memorial's planners.
On July 8th, 1959 he and Major Dale R. Buis (visiting from MAAG 5) were killed at Bien Hoa, 20 miles northeast of Saigon. He was part of the Military Assistance Advisory Group 7 sent to train the South Vietnam army.
The Viet Cong attacked the mess hall where he and five officers were watching the movie The Tattered Dress. M/Sgt Ovnand switched on the lights to change to the next reel, when VC guerrillas poked their weapons through the windows and sprayed the room with automatic weapons fire. M/Sgt Ovnand was hit with several 9mm rounds. He immediately switched the lights off and headed to the top of the stairs, where he was able to turn on the exterior flood lights. He died from his wounds on the stairs. Major Buis, at that time, was crawling towards the kitchen doors. When the exterior flood lights came on, he must have seen an attacker coming through the kitchen doors. He got up and rushed towards attacker, but was only able to cover 15 feet before being fatally hit from behind. His actions startled the attacker who was about to throw his satchel charge through the door. The attacker's satchel charge had already been activated and his moment of hesitation caused him to blow himself up. Two South Vietnamese guards that were on duty that night were also killed by the Viet Cong. The wounded were Captain Howard Boston (MAAG 7) and the Vietnamese cook's eight-year-old son.