On March 6, 2000, I mailed a letter to the Blanchardville Blade Atlas, the weekly newspaper in Dan Gallagher's home town. Editor Gary McKenzie quickly put me in touch with Dan's younger sister. He later asked permission to use the contents of the CAP 2-7-2 website in a story about Dan's life, CAP 2-7-2, and the effects of his death in Blanchardville. Paula Maki of the Blade Atlas wrote two stories, the first of which appears below -- RT

Blanchardville Blade Atlas - April 6, 2000

Vietnam veterans communicate with Gallagher family
Thirty years later, Marine unit comrades
recall BHS graduate's wartime death

By Paula Maki

Part one

    (A few weeks ago a letter arrived at the Blade - Atlas newspaper office. It was one man's attempt to contact the Gallagher family in order to relate what actually happened on the tragic day in September of 1970 when Dan Gallagher of Blanchardville was killed in Vietnam.
    Since that letter, connection has been made between Roch Thornton -- also a member of the Marine unit, CAP 2-7-2 at Da Nang -- Dan's sisters, Lois Gallagher and Randi Gallagher Kluesner (Dan's parents are no longer living.)
    Thornton, formerly an editor for the Kansas City Star newspaper, also wanted the family to know how Dan's death had affected the lives of others.
    Although the results of this connection after 30 years has brought back painful memories, it has also provided family and friends with a sense of closure and the knowledge of what took place on September 10, 1970.

    This "reunion" has also brought together the people who knew and loved Dan Gallagher.
    The following story (the first in a two part series) is dedicated not only to the young man from Blanchardville, but also to the men of CAP 2-7-2 and the other area Vietnam veterans who fought a tragic war and returned to an ungrateful nation.)

    For decades, the best place to stop for directions in Blanchardville was at Watrud's Service Station -- located on the bend of the Pecatonica River.
    So it wasn't unusual to have a stranger pull in front of the gas pumps looking for information.
    It was Sunday, September 13, 1970.
    Robert Watrud was working alone that day. He and his brother and co-owner, Harland Watrud, alternated Sundays every other week. But on this day, the question asked by the visitor in uniform caused Robert to experience a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach.
    The U.S. Marine major wanted to know the location of Stanley and Jane Gallagher's house.     Continued

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    Like everyone in the closeknit village of Blanchardville, Robert was well aware the Gallaghers had a son, Dan, who was in the Marines and stationed in Vietnam. The Gallaghers were not only good friends of the Watrud family, but Dan was one of several boys who loved to "hang out" at Watrud's Station -- easily one of the most popular gathering spots in town.
    Shortly afterwards, Robert's son, Robert "Butch" Watrud, Jr., was on his way down to the station to relieve his dad over the noon hour. Butch happened to glance up the hill at the Gallagher house. Although it has been 30 years, the recollection is still very vivid.
    "I can still see that car parked in front of the house," said Butch. "I knew right away, something must have happened to Danny."
    Others in Blanchardville had also seen the military car and it didn't take long for the ramifications to hit home: wounded or missing in action meant a telegram -- death brought an official visitor.
    Three days earlier, on September 10, 22-year-old Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Frederick Gallagher had been killed near Da Nang by an explosion of a LAAW anti-tank missile he was carrying.
    When the tragic news reached Robert's wife, Inez, she notified the family's Lutheran minister, Rev. Joseph Hestenes. Inez still remembers how painful that period of time was and the suffering of her good friend Jane.
    "I don't think she ever really got over his death," Inez said.
    Continued

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    Blanchardville's local police officer, Alvin "Hooky" Blanchard, had also been contacted and was asked by the Marine officer to accompany him to the Gallagher home.
    Jane was sitting at the kitchen table when she heard a knock at the front door. She saw the Marine uniform and began to scream for her husband. She knew immediately that a parents' worst nightmare had come true.
    Another couple that was good friends of the Gallagher family had also seen the vehicle and the uniform. Dan's sister, Lois Gallagher, recalled that Everett and Dorothea Ingwell came in the back door soon after the parents received the tragic news.
    Said Lois, "I think (the Ingwells' arrival) really helped my parents ... that's one of the best things about a small town."
    Another good friend and neighbor also took on a difficult role. Lois, who was 23 at the time, had just returned to her home in Middleton (WI), after working at the Ishnala Resort in Wisconsin Dells. When Lois answered the doorbell, there stood Dorothy Einerson and with her, a stranger.
    Lois -- who can still recall after 30 years exactly what she was wearing at that moment -- said she thought that she knew right away why they were there.
    "I remember blabbering hostessy things and not even noticing the man was wearing a police uniform until they told me about Danny."
    "The ride to Blanchardville is a blank. All I remember about that time is arriving at home and there was a house full of people and of me sitting on my daddy's lap."
    Continued

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    In 1970, Lois's sister Randi was 19 years old and a student at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville -- the same college Dan had attended before enlisting in the Marines.
    Randi remembers the time was about 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. on Sunday when she was in her dorm room and a group of girls had also congregated there.
    "When the phone rang, my RA -- who was sitting closest to the phone -- picked it up, answered it , and told me I was wanted out in the lobby. Thinking that my boyfriend had come early to pick me up, I dashed down the hall and through the door."
    Two more Blanchardville family friends, Harland Watrud's wife, Marie, and Everett Ingwell were standing in the lobby.
    Said Randi, "I drew a blank when I recognized (them) and Marie was crying and I remember wondering, 'why....is she doing that?' " Through her sobs, Marie managed to tell Randi that her brother had been killed.
    Randi was then taken to the Resident Director's apartment where there were fewer spectators. "All I could think about was my mom and how this news would kill her. Someone gave me a ride over to my boyfriend's apartment and he eventually took me home to Blanchardville," she said.
    Another former Blanchardville classmate and good friend Becky Lageson, was also a Platteville co-ed and her parents had already called her about the news from home.     Continued

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    "Becky wanted to rush over to my dorm immediately but her parents told her not to as Marie and Everett were on their way and they knew I hadn't been told yet," said Randi.
    "When we pulled up in front of our house (in Blanchardville) every light was on. There was a song playing on the radio at that same time and it went something like this: 'War! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing! Friend only to the undertaker.' "
    Years later Randi still-remembers the sad irony of those words.
    When Randi walked into the house in Blanchardville that evening, more family friends were also there: Kingdon and Kathryn Soper and Millie and Gordon Elden. Pastor Hestenes met her in the dining room where her parents were sitting.
    "Mom, Dad and I just hugged each other. It was the first time I could ever remember that we hugged each like that.
    "I think Lois arrived a short time later," said Randi.
    One of Dan's best friends through the years was Jim Rupnow. Earlier that same Sunday, as usual, Jim and several of his male cronies had congregated at what they called their "stadium" -- in reality, the Methodist Church lawn for a game of what they termed "Church Yard Football." Dan, whose house was nearby, had also been one of the most active participants before leaving Blanchardville.
    It was a fall Sunday ritual, prior to the Packer Game, at halftime and afterwards. When the actual football game started, the gang would congregate below the hill at Watrud's Station to watch the small television set.     Continued

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    But this Sunday would be different and one that would be memorable for the wrong reason.
    At Watrud's they were told the news of Dan's death. Without a word spoken, one by one the young men left and headed to their respective homes.
    Jim, who now lives in Monroe (WI) finds the memories of his friend Dan, still painful.
    After he left the station that Sunday, Jim walked down by the river and for an hour aimlessly tossed stones in the water. Then he went home and told his parents the news. His mother, Jane Rupnow, recalled her son crying and then going outside the house so he could be alone. Afterwards she found out Jim had knelt down and with his fists, pounded the ground.
    "He was so angry and frustrated," Jane said.
    The day after the Gallagher family had learned the tragic news, Randi walked downtown to the post office and there was a tape recording and a letter from Dan.
    Said Randi, "I was shocked. I didn't know what to do with them and initially, I wanted to throw them away."
    Randi walked over to Skaife's Grocery store where another good friend and neighbor, Ruth Johnson, worked and Randi asked her what should she do.
    "She told me to take them home to my mom and dad," said Randi. "What wise, simple advice."
    It took Randi 26 years before she herself could manage to listen to the tape. "I don't know if my mother ever did," she said.
    Continued

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    But up until Sept. 10th, the road Dan Gallagher traveled on had taken a much smoother path. Except for a bout of rheumatic fever as a child, he appeared to have led an almost storybook life.
    Growing up in the 1950's and 1960's in small-town USA was a period of simple joys and numerous pleasures. Besides two sisters, Dan also had two step-brothers, Stanley Gallagher and Donald Gallagher. There was also other relatives, including two grandmothers who didn't live far away.
    In Blanchardville, Dan was one of a large group of kids who not only congregated on the Methodist Church lawn for football and softball, but who got to participate in many school or extracurricular activities.
    Many of the kids Dan chummed with or went to school with are names still recognizable to Blanchardville after 30 years: Soper, Erickson, Schober, Syse, Hendrickson, Lee, Ingwell, Murphy, Bredeson, Metzger, White, Severson, Ryan, Cleary, Unterholzner, Einerson, Kiel, Alm, Kundert, Sardeson, McGuigan, Engstad, Ayen, Watrud, Lageson, Gruenenfelder, Duckwitz, Kammerude and others.
    Besides the church lawn and Watrud's Station, the kids had other village hangouts: the A & W root beer stand, Eagle's Nest, Alm's Cafe, the bowling alley and the Midway Grill. In the summer, McKellar Park offered many golden opportunities including as swimming pool and in the winter there was ice skating on the Pecatonica River.     Continued

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    The Gallagher house was also a popular gathering place and Jane and Stanley enjoyed having kids spend time at their home.
    Dan also had a special association with young children, especially Jimmy Larson, the son of next door neighbors, Gordie and Grace Larson. "Not surprisingly," Randi said, "Many of the photos Dan sent home from Vietnam included him with Vietnamese children."
    In high school, the handsome, confident young man with the ever-ready grin, was a participant in a wide range of extracurricular activities. He lettered in three sports, participated in music, drama, forensics and was a member of the science club. He was elected to represent his class on both the homecoming and prom courts.
    Prior to his enlistment, Dan was also a catcher on the Blanchardville Bullet Home Talent baseball team.
    After graduating from high school in 1966, Dan attended college at UW-Platteville where he majored in pre-med. At Platteville he lettered in soccer and baseball, sang with the Pioneer Glee Club and was a member of Lambda Sigma Pi fraternity.
    In the fall of 1969 Dan met a lovely young Californian, Lizbeth "Libbi" Francis at the William Tell Festival in New Glarus (WI), (her parents were originally from New Glarus) and the couple was soon engaged to be married.
    A few months earlier Dan had opted to enlist in the Marines so he could take advantage of the GI bill -- hoping this would help finance a career in medicine. He also expected he would soon be drafted anyway.
    With good reason during that trying era, his parents were terribly worried when Dan enlisted and even more so when on May 9, 1970, he was transferred to Vietnam.
    Continued
Dan Gallagher, Jim Larson, Lizbeth Francis
Photo courtesy of Randi Kluesner
Dan was home on leave before going to Vietnam when he posed for this photo with Jimmy Larson and Lizbeth Francis.

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    In the meanwhile another Blanchardville classmate and good friend, Chuck Soper, was also in Vietnam. Chuck and Dan planned to take their R&R's in Hawaii together. Chuck was getting married and Dan was to be his best man. Libbi planned to join them there.
    Instead, nearly four months to the day of his arrival in Vietnam, Cpl Dan Gallagher was listed by the United States government as KIA (Killed in action) another casualty of what newspapers were referring to as the "Vietnam Crisis."
    While the family waited for Dan's body to be returned home, many people in Blanchardville tried to help the family in any way they could: through prayers, visits, or other small acts of kindness. Every day food was brought to the house.
    Randi recalls one evening when her family had just finished supper, her dad was still sitting at the kitchen table. Someone had brought the family a homemade cherry pie.
    "I was at the sink starting dishes and I asked him if he wanted some dessert and I pointed to the cherry pie on the counter. Dad burst into deep sobs and I didn't know what I had done wrong. Between his sobs he said, 'That was Danny's favorite pie.' "
    Although Dan had been killed on Sept. 10 it took until the 22nd for his remains to arrive at the Madison airport. Said Randi, "Libbi accompanied the Saethers (of Saether's Funeral Home, Blanchardville) to the airport.
    I always thought that was very honorable of my parents to allow Libbi to have that individual, private time with him."
    Continued

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    Accompanying the flag-draped casket from Madison, was a Marine Corporal. During wartime this was part of the military procedure for someone who had died in action. The Marine never left the side of his "fallen comrade" until after the burial.
    One of Dan's cousins, Steve Spear, who he had also been very close to, was stationed in Texas with the Air Force. A son-in-law of a Blanchardville neighbor, Dick Streiff, was with the Secret Service in Washington D.C. at the time. Calling to express his condolences and to offer assistance, the Gallaghers asked him if there was a way to get Steve to Blanchardville for the funeral.
    By the next day, Dan's cousin was on his way to Wisconsin.
    The Blanchardville Lutheran Church
was filled to overflowing capacity the day of Dan's funeral. Both at the church and at Graceland Cemetery, full military rites were conducted by members of the U.S. Marine Corps and a large contingent from the Blanchardville Dobson-Johnson Legion Post #142.
    One of the mourners was an aunt of Dan's who never married, She confessed to Libbi that she had also lost a fiance -- he was killed in World War II. The family had never known that.
    A couple of weeks after Dan's funeral, Jane was back at work at Alm's Cafe in Blanchardville when a salesman came in. As they were making small talk, he commented that the last time he'd been in Blanchardville had been this "really big funeral going on."
    Continued
Dan with village boys at CAP 2-9-2
Photo courtesy of Randi Kluesner
This photo shows Dan with village boys "Ham" and "Buddy" in a banana grove at CAP 2-9-2 where he served for a couple of months. CAP 2-9-2 was deactivated on Aug. 14, 1970, and Dan was transferred to CAP 2-7-2.

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    Said Randy, "My mother calmly looked at him and said, 'That was my son's funeral.' "
    Every Memorial Day for 30 years, an anonymous visitor places a bouquet of flowers on Dan Gallagher's grave.
    The first few years the family suspected it was his childhood friend, Jim Rupnow, but he admits to only the first year while he still lived in Blanchardville.
    Regardless of who the kind donor is, the yearly gesture has meant a lot to the family.
    Libbi never married until 20 years after the death of her fiancee. She told Randi it took that long for her to find someone to
replace Dan.
    Stanley Gallagher died six years after Dan -- the family has always felt he was so devastated after his son's death, that he died of a broken heart.
    Three years ago, Dan's mother, Jane, also passed away. For many years she was familiar to everyone in town as the "Blanchardville librarian" -- especially by the children she so loved.
    Said Randi, "I have yet to cry over her death because I know that she and Danny are now together in heaven. Mom missed Danny so much for 27 years I can't be sad over her finally being with him."
    Continued

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    On September 10, 1970 Dan Gallagher become another war casualty -- one of 58,000 Americans who died during the Vietnam War. Back in his hometown, he also became a sad statistic -- the only Blanchardville High School graduate to lose his life in Vietnam.*
    But a statistic rarely provides answers to grief-stricken families and friends. Dan's death left rumors and speculation over the years: was it an enemy bullet or sabotage that caused the explosion? Was it carelessness or a malfunction?
    There were also the last letters he wrote to Libbi and his parents that were never mailed.
    Dan's family always wondered what happened to his camera -- it never arrived with his other personal affects. Nine months after his funeral, a bill for $9.00 in gasoline was charged at a Colorado filling station the bill was sent to his parents.
    A couple of weeks ago, a man from Kansas City addressed a letter he hoped would reach a Blanchardville family.
    Thirty years after the death of Dan Gallagher, a Vietnam veteran had the answers.

(To be continued)

(Next week: What happened on Sept, 10, 1970 and the aftermath among members of CAP 2-7-2)
    * -- Although he did not attend Blanchardville schools, when Sgt. Thomas Goebel was killed in Vietnam in 1970, his parents, Mr. and Mrs, Francis Goebel resided in the Blanchardville area.
    Another young man who lost his life in Vietnam and lived with his family a few years in Blanchardville was Rodney Richti.

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Paula Makiís second article tells the story of Dan Gallagher's death in the LAAW explosion, drawing on survivor accounts on this website. Since most of that story has already been told on this site, I have chosen not to reproduce the entire article. But the second article also included the following personal stories -- RT.

Blanchardville Blade Atlas - April 13, 2000

By Paula Maki

(Excerpts from) Part two

    As a boy, Brian Rear idolized Dan "Danny" Gallagher, 11 years his senior. Danny was a catcher for the Blanchardville High School and Bullet Home Talent baseball teams. Occasionally, Brian got to stay over night at the Gallagher house and when Danny was away at college, Brian would sleep in his hero's room.
    One time Danny told Brian that he

could have anything he wanted in his room. Brian chose Danny's catcher's mitt and he caught with it through Little League and high school baseball and in time, Brian's own son, Matt Rear also played ball with it.
    After Danny died, Brian's brother, Frank Rear, who also played softball and baseball with Danny, borrowed the glove for a while and placed it in the front window of his baseball card shop in New Glarus, as a memorial to his friend.
    Today, the 40 year old catcher's mitt is still one of Brian's most prized possessions.
    Continued

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    During the summer of 1968, Dan and his good friend and former Blanchardville High School classmate, Paul Hanson, decided to take a 250 mile canoe trip down the Wisconsin River. At that time, Dan was a junior at Platteville State University and Paul was a sophomore at Augsburg college in Minneapolis.
    The two friends canoed over many dangerous rapids, portaged 16 times and paddled at least 11 hours per day.
    Two years later, Paul would make another trip home from Minneapolis. But this time, it would be to attend Dan's funeral.
    Continued

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    When her fiance died in Vietnam, Lizbeth "Libbi" Frances sent a letter with two savings bonds to Jimmy Larson of Blanchardville.
    Dan loved children and especially, his little neighbor, Jimmy, the son of Gordie and Grace Larson.
    Libbi wrote to his parents: "Dan and I always wanted a son just like Jim. My parents wanted to give something in
Dan's memory that would be particularly meaningful to Dan and me alone. And Jim was our favorite!
    Today, Jim Larson of Argyle, (WI) not only has saved the letter, but has also created an album that contains only photos and other memorabilia of Dan Gallagher.
    Sadly, there is also an obituary.

    Continued

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    For 27 years every Memorial Day, they would make her a homemade corsage of poppies and red, white and blue ribbons. And every year, the small woman in the navy and white uniform, would weep as she heard the words of "In Flanders Field," at the Legion Hall.
    Jane Gallagher was an active member of the Blanchardville Legion Auxiliary for 30 years. And, sadly, for 27 of those years, she was known as a Gold Star Mother -- a mother who had lost a son in a war.
    Continued

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    One day in 1988, Karen Jeglum Kennedy who, along with her husband, owns a recording studio in Nashville, suddenly started thinking of her friend Dan Gallagher who had been killed in Vietnam years earlier. Karen was a Blanchardville Class of 1968 graduate.
    At the studio, prospective recording artists are always sending the Kennedys demo tapes. Without even looking at the name or words, Karen had placed a tape in the recorder when suddenly she was startled to hear, "When I reached up and touched your Danny's name."
    The song was referring to the Vietnam War Memorial Wall in which the names of
those who lost their lives are inscribed. The singer was using the name, "Danny."
    Karen sat down and rewrote the lyrics so that it was about the Danny she had known. But it sat there for another year.
    Then, three weeks before Christmas, while Karen was home and performing with her brother, David Jeglum, at the Perry Lutheran Church in Daleyville, (WI), she saw Dan's mother, Jane, and finally gave her the tape.
    Jane sent Karen a lovely note and Randi, Dan's sister, said her mother played that song over and over again, until her death in 1997.
    Continued

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("Your Danny's Name" original version by Dawn DeCleare/Lou Cate of Virginia)

Your Danny's Name

Lyrics by Karen Jeglum Kennedy

Mrs. Gallgher, I'm writing you from Washington D.C.
I have journeyed to this cold black wall;
There's someone I had to see
His memory broke over me, just like falling rain
When I reached up and touched your Danny's name.
The years go by I still hold Dan in fond memory
And on this wall his name is carved
For all the world to see
But a stone cannot take the place of the man he would have been
And I cried when I touched your Danny's name.
So many lives, so many dreams
Carved in that cold black stone.
So many men, so many boys
Dying to come home.
Well I guess it's time I said good-bye and head back to my home
I hope that in your heart of hearts
Some healing has been done.
I only wanted you to know I'll never be the same
Since I reached up and touched your Danny's name.

(Dan Gallagher's name is etched on the West Wall of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C. on the 7th block and is on line #72)

Read about the dilemma 'Doc' Doggett faced after Dan's death

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Posted April 20, 2000