Fallen Heroes: Private William Border

Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Vietnam

There are many soldiers who train as medics or corpsman so that they can aid their fellow soldiers wounded in the heat of battle. Unfortunately, in this case, one of those trained soldiers never had the chance.


The Border family can trace their Tuscarawas County roots back to the arrival of Christopher Border (1800-1856) and his family from Germany around 1833. They originally settled in Wayne Township in Tuscarawas County, but eventually the family moved a little to the east into Franklin Township. The family farms, owned by two of Christopher’s sons in 1875, were just a few miles to the west of Strasburg. One of their other sons, John Border (1837-1910), also lived close by after he married Sarah Shutt (1845-1896) and began raising his own family.

One of John and Sarah’s sons, Harvey Border (1868-1906), worked at first on his father’s farm before finding work as a house builder. Harvey married Jennie Margo (1874-1951) around 1901, and the couple had two sons before Harvey died of tetanus while working in Akron in 1906. Jennie remarried and the two boys grew up in the household of their step-father in Akron. Raymond Border (1904-1973), the younger of the two, worked in the rubber factories in and around Akron. There he met, and married, Ethel Archinal (1909-2010). Perhaps yearning for his ancestral home county, Raymond moved his family back to Tuscarawas County.

Location of the Border family properties west of Strasburg, 1875. (Source: ancestry.com)

When the Border family returned to Tuscarawas County, they moved to the Stone Creek area and Raymond started working as a painter. The family first appears as residents of Stone Creek in the local newspapers in 1951 when Raymond’s mother’s obituary is published. Raymond and Ethel’s children, all sons, were born before they moved to Tuscarawas. Their youngest son, William Border (1946-1966), was born just before they moved to Stone Creek from Akron. William attended school in Stone Creek, eventually graduating from Stone Creek High School in 1964.

During and after high school, William worked at the Glockler Chevrolet car dealership in Coshocton. He apparently had access to a car as a young man, as he received at least one speeding ticket and managed to have friends in New Philadelphia and Coshocton. William met and dated a young girl, a senior at New Philadelphia High School, before he was drafted into the United States Army in October 1965. William was sent to Fort Benning, Georgia for basic training and, after completing his basic training, he returned home for a short visit and became engaged to his young girlfriend.

Private William Border, 1966.

After Private Border’s January 1966 visit home, he was sent to Fort Sam Huston, Texas where he underwent further training to become an army medic. He successfully completed that training and was assigned to the 44th Medical Brigade, 542nd Medical Company. He was notified in March 1966 that he was going to be sent to Vietnam and managed a short visit home again just before he shipped out the second week of April 1966. The aircraft carrying Private Border, and other men destined for Vietnam, touched down at Ton Son Nhut Air Base just outside Saigon on April 12, 1966.

Private Border, and the other men waiting to be sent forward to their respective units, were assigned to some tent barracks where they could get some rest after their long flight. The bunks were stacked three high and, in order to accommodate a friend who had a fear of heights, Private Border offered to take a top bunk. It was about 12:30 am in the early hours of April 13, 1966 when the airfield came under fire from Viet Cong 75mm recoilless rifles, and 81mm and 82mm mortars. For thirteen minutes over 245 rounds exploded all around the airfield, including the area billeting the newly arrived troops.

Private William Border, sleeping on the top bunk, was struck by shrapnel from one of the exploding rounds, killing him instantly. His friend, on the lower bunk, was only wounded. Including Private Border and his bunkmate, 7 Americans died in the attack on Ton Son Nhut Air Base and another 108 Americans were wounded. Private Border had been in Vietnam for less than a day. Private Border was buried at Stone Creek Cemetery on Thursday, April 21, 1966.

Private William Border’s (and parents’) headstone in Stone Creek Cemetery. (Source: findagrave.com)

For more information on Ton Son Nhut Air Base visit the Ton Son Nhut Association’s website at: https://www.tsna.org/

The Canton Repository published a touching story in 2016 about Private Border. You can view it here: https://amp.cantonrep.com/amp/28409521007

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© Noel B. Poirier, 2022.

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