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Casualty Occurrence: See below.
In Memory of U.S. Army Sergeant First Class, Gerald Franklin Apperson, Sturgis, South Dakota, Meade County, December 6, 1935 January 8, 1969. Killed in Action in Dak To, Republic of Vietnam
Gerald Franklin Apperson was born in Sturgis, South Dakota, on December 6, 1935; Sarah E. and Harry C. Apperson adopted him into their family, which included a half brother, Darrell Baldwin. Gerald attended Sturgis High School. While in high school, he participated in sports; he lettered in football, basketball, and track, and he loved to watch baseball. Apperson graduated from Sturgis High School in 1953. After high school he was employed at an oil field in Wyoming, but since times were not that good in South Dakota and there wasnt much of a future in his job, he later quit to join the army. Some months after, he married his wife, Delores, in Sturgis on October 23, 1954. They had three kids: Timothy A., Dennis L., and Allan G. Apperson. His children remember that while they lived in Arlington, Virginia, He would take us to baseball games to see the Senators play, and Allan recalls that since he was just a young boy, his mother would write Allan letters to his father but that he would cut out a Peanuts cartoon from the paper and send it with the letter.
Gerald enlisted in the army on March 17, 1954. He was sent to be trained at supply school at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and was then assigned to Headquarters Support Company, 43rd Engineer Battalion, Korea, where for four years he was a supply specialist. After his discharge in 1958, he enlisted in the South Dakota Army National Guard as part of Company B, 109th Engineer Battalion, Hot Springs, South Dakota.
Apperson then earned a full time job with the Guard as an administrative and supply technician in Hot Springs until he enlisted in the army again on March 30, 1964, where he trained in Special Forces. After his training, Sergeant Apperson was assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces, and went overseas once again on May 18, 1964, to Korea.
Sergeant Apperson was sent to Vietnam on May 30, 1966. He was stationed at Dak To, Vietnam as a member of the 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces. While in Vietnam, he fought in the Vietnam Counter Offensive Campaign, and the Vietnam Offensive Campaign. Dated April 23, 1965, Gerald sent a letter home to his son and in it he said, I can hardly wait till I get home and see you. I know we are going to have so much fun together this summer. You take real good care of Mommy and give her a big kiss for me.
Several years later, Sergeant Appersons family got a letter dated January 29, 1969, informing them that Gerald was aboard a helicopter that crashed and burned deep in enemy held territory on 8 January 1969 while being airlifted from an area after completion of a reconnaissance mission. The cause of the crash was small arms fire from an enemy force. A search was launched to locate and recover Gerald soon after he became missing. This effort continues and will as long as there is a chance of recovery.
Several months later the family was notified by Harold R. Aaron, Colonel, Infantry Commanding, that Gerald had died in the helicopter crash on January 8, 1969. The family was informed that he had been killed near Dak To, Republic of Vietnam. Later his body was returned to South Dakota, and he was buried with military honors at Black Hills National Cemetery.
Posthumously promoted to Sergeant First Class, Apperson was awarded Senior Parachutist Badge, Army Good Conduct Medal Army 5th Award, National Defense Service Medal 1st Oak Leaf Cluster, Combat Infantryman Badge, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal with device 60-, Purple Heart, Military Merit Medal, Gallantry Cross with palm, and Expert Marksmanship Badge.
SFC Apperson is survived by Delores N. Norman, spouse, Wrangell, Alaska; Timothy A. Apperson, son, Waxhaw, North Carolina; Dennis L. Apperson, son, Charlotte, North Carolina; Allan G. Apperson, son, Morganton, North Carolina.
Geralds family had this to say in closing: We miss our father, as do all survivors of deceased service men and women. We are proud of his sacrifice, and of all the sacrifices our soldiers have made to keep this country free.
This entry was respectfully submitted by Tashina G. Kallerud, 8th Grade, Spearfish Middle School, Spearfish South Dakota, on April 20, 2005. Information for this entry was submitted and approved by the Apperson family.
08 Jan 69; Bill F William Jr., SP/4 and Gerald F Apperson, SFC E-7 USASF, CCN Recon, Alan C Giles, 1Lt, Air Craft Commander, Jon P Roche, WO-1, Pilot, Robert D. Case, SP/4 Crew chief, and Steven D. Bartman, SP/4, Gunner, UH-1D, Tail #66-16323, 170th AHC -KIA. Filed by Gary Rouse: Story told by Michael P. Lloyd, 170th AHC: "...I never found out what happened because my father died and I was sent home. The information I got was from other eyewitnesses that observed what happened that day." The two SOG soldiers, Williams and Apperson, had been picked up at a PZ. As the Helicopter was climbing out of the PZ it took several hits in the main transmission. The pilot (1Lt Giles) was advised to land, but refused and reported he was going to land at the Ben Het SF Camp. Smoke was pouring out of the hellhole. By the time the pilot decided to land, and started autorotation, and as he rolled off the throttle, the transmission seized [causing the helicopter to crash]) (Filed by Sgt Charles Berg: Apperson and I were on the same RT in 66 at Phu Bai [FOB 1] he was the 12, William T. (TEDDYBEAR) Copeland 10 and I was the 11, at the at time he was a E5, ran two insertions with him, one we launched out of Kontum, (Bad Weather at Khe Sahn), and Kontum RTs were wore out, having gotten run out so many times within the last thirty days (We set the record for the shortest time on ground (not our choice) and one in DEC 66 to do the recovery/Bright Light on the HU-1B that the B-52 Delta Team (Batts & Stark) were thought to be on when they were E & E out of the North West corner of the DMZ area and crossed over. Copeland died in Bad Tolz in training.