Fallen Heroes: Corporal Arthur T. Friley

Riverine Operations Patrol Boat

Many imagine that only men from the Navy or Coast Guard saw duty on the numerous patrol boats that operated in the rivers of South Vietnam. The Army, however, also played a part in what they referred to as “riverine” operations. The story of this fallen hero is one example of that type of service.


The Friley family had worked its way north for over three generations before they found themselves in Tuscarawas County. Richard Friley (1812-1870) was born in Kentucky and married a woman from Tennessee named Margaret Crawford (1816-1898). The couple moved into Lawrence County, Ohio by 1862 when their son Rueben Friley (1862-1931) was born. Reuben married Mary McCammon (1865-1950) and the northward movement of the Friley name continued. One of their sons, also named Rueben (1894-1973), was born in Athens County, Ohio in 1894 and he married a Hocking County, Ohio woman named Gladys Aurand (1898-1976) around 1918. The couple had moved even further north into Guernsey County when their first son, Arthur Emmanual Friley (1923-1996), was born.

The Frileys had started out as farmers and farm laborers, but as the generations passed they worked more and more in the coal mines that dotted the region. Arthur worked in a coal mine in Perry County, Ohio in 1940 and, after World War Two broke out, went to work at the Timkin Roller Bearing Plant in Stark County, Ohio. Arthur enlisted in the United States Navy in 1942 and served on board the heavy cruiser USS Chicago until its sinking by the Japanese in January 1943 and then went on to serve on other ships in the Pacific Theater. Towards the end of the war Arthur met, and then married, a woman from Carroll County, Ohio named Helen Haney (1921-2013). The couple moved into Tuscarawas County shortly after Arthur left the Navy.

Arthur Timothy Friley when he was a Junior at Tuscarawas Valley High School, 1964.

The couple’s only son, Arthur Timothy Friley (1946-1968) was born the following year and the Friley family eventually grew to include two daughters as well. The Friley children, including the younger Arthur (sometimes called Tim or Timothy) attended primary school in Mineral City and went on to Tuscarawas Valley High School. Available yearbooks from Arthur’s time at Tuscarawas Valley are silent regarding any extra-curricular activities that he may have taken part in. Arthur does appear, along with his father, in a newspaper account of his netting an 11-point buck during a November 1966 deer hunt.

Arthur enlisted in the United States Army in May 1967, after graduating from Tuscarawas Valley, and received his basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. He received additional training in advanced infantry and artillery tactics before being transported to Vietnam to serve in Company B, 4th Battalion of the 47th Infantry Regiment in November 1967. The 47th Regiment was part of the 9th Infantry Division, then conducting riverine operations in the Mekong Delta.

Footage of a search and destroy mission undertaken by the 3rd Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division, 1967.

Conducting riverine operations required that the 47th Infantry Regiment had access to, and used, amphibious vehicles including patrol boats. Arthur served on one of the many patrol boats that the unit utilized in their operations in the Mekong Delta. The 47th Infantry Regiment was very active in the months during Arthur’s time with the regiment, taking part in a number of actions in the area in and around the Delta. After the beginning of the North Vietnamese Tet Offensive in late January 1968, Arthur’s unit was assigned to take part in a regional counter offensive named Operation Coronado XI.

The mission of Operation Coronado XI was to conduct river, air, and ground search and destroy operations against elements of the Viet Cong operating in and around the South Vietnamese town of Can Tho. The operation began on February 12, 1968 and on February 14, 1968, the United States Army landed elements of the 47th Regiment along the canals to the south of Can Tho. They did not encounter significant enemy forces during the next couple of days; nonetheless, it was during this time that Corporal Arthur Friley was wounded and went missing. Arthur, a victim of enemy small arms fire, would not be discovered until February 16, 1968. His family was notified of his death on February 26, 1968.

Corporal Arthur T. Friley was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star, in addition to a Purple Heart, for his service in Vietnam. Two months after his burial the Vietnamese government awarded him the Military Merit Medal and the Gallantry Cross with Palm for his service as well. Corporal Friley is buried at Ridgecrest Memory Gardens in Dover.

Corporal Arthur T. Friley’s headstone. (Source: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/21077423/arthur-timothy-friley)

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© Noel B. Poirier, 2021.

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