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John Clyde White, III

Died: November 1, 1968

John Clyde White III was killed November 1, 1968, in combat in Vietnam while serving as a First Lieutenant in the Infantry Division of the Marine Corps. John’s death occurred when his Marine platoon was caught in an ambush; he was killed while trying to save two of his men who had been wounded and were left exposed in a clearing. John was awarded numerous medals posthumously, including the Silver Star for bravery.

John had married Sheila Wall, his high school sweetheart, in 1967. After John’s death, Sheila lived in Florence, Italy, and had success as an artist. They did not have children. John was also survived by his parents, his older sister, Sara, and his two younger brothers Fred and Andrew.

John and Bob Brundige were classmates at Oakwood High School in Dayton, Ohio, and roomed together at Yale for four years. After freshman year, Howell Ferguson and Pete Fortune joined the two of them as roommates for the next three years in Davenport. John was a hard worker, a serious student, very directed, but also someone we remember for his wit and good humor. He was a member of the debate team, participating with his partner John Kerry in a memorable debate with Princeton on the issue “It’s What Up Front That Counts.” In our junior year, he won second prize in the Ten Eyck Oratorical Contest.

John also ran for the varsity track team, and belonged to the Yale Political Union, the Dwight Hall Cabinet, and the Battel Chapel aides to Reverend William Sloane Coffin.

John had planned to go to law school after Yale, but the Vietnam War called. John felt a duty to serve his country, and he believed that someone with political aspirations like him should first serve in the military. So he volunteered to enlist in the Marine Corps shortly after graduation. After finishing first in his class at Officer Candidate School at Quantico, Virginia, he chose to be commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps’ Infantry Division. John had ambitions to be a U.S. Senator from Ohio and perhaps one day make a run for the White House.

The sorrow of his death and the loss of his potential are still with his Yale friends. In 2006, John’s brother Andrew (Morse, 1969) made a generous donation to the Davenport Challenge so that one of his old suites was dedicated in John’s name. John’s family and his Davenport classmates have also funded an annual scholarship in his memory.

Howell Ferguson remembers:

John White’s name is engraved on the Vietnam War Memorial along with 58,285 others, signifying his ultimate sacrifice for country in 1968 at far too young an age. While respecting his courage and service, I can’t help but mourn the loss to his widow and high school sweetheart, Sheila Wall, his family, friends, and the loss of his future leadership. His youthful memorial photograph captures all the years he did not see.

After Yale, John volunteered to enlist in the Marine Corps. After finishing first in his class at Officer Candidate School at Quantico, Virginia, he chose to be commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps’ Infantry Division. On Nov 1, 1968 he was a First Lt serving as a platoon commander with Company H, 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st MARDIV (Rein) FMF. John was one of six marines killed in battle that day in Le Nam Village, in Duy Xuyen District of Quang Nam Province.

I met John my first day or two at Yale as we were in the same entryway in Vanderbilt Hall. He and Bob Brundige were classmates at Oakwood High School in Dayton, Ohio, and Pete Fortune and I roomed with them for three great years in Davenport. John ran varsity track at Yale but concentrated more in debate and public speaking contests, history and political science, and Dwight Hall and Battell Chapel as an aide to Rev. William Sloane Coffin. John was a serious, ambitious person, but was not wrapped up in his own ego. He was a genuinely friendly guy, who could match wits with anyone.

Had John survived, his plans were to go to law school, and I believe he would have sought to continue his public service in politics. He would have brought wonderful personal qualities to public office.

Here is a link to John’s memorial photograph.