Richard C. Archer

family photo of Richard in uniform
Photo courtesy of Mr. Arthur Archer


MM2c USN
1944-1967

KIA VietNam War
aboard the
          USS Mansfield - DD728          



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Prologue

click for larger view

As scoutmaster of a Boy Scout troop 1958 to 1960, I was privileged to meet the young Richard. He was a fine boy, well liked by all in his troop. I had been away from scouting for a little over four years and had some catching up to do on some of the new methods in scouting. As my Junior Assistant Scoutmaster, "Dick" was a big help to me. The handsome, young man in my memory looks much like this - 1964 Barnstable High School graduation portrait.

After moving away from the Cape in 1960, I lost touch with Richard, but did hear from friends on the Cape that he had joined the Navy. Moving back here in 1980, I learned he had been killed in Nam and he was the first man from the Town Of Barnstable killed in the Vietnam War.

In 1990 I visited the moving Wall upon its visit to Hyannis and found his name inscribed on it. The memories of him brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. My thoughts were why and how did this fine lad die at such a young age, before he could really live his life. These thoughts have stayed with me ever since that June day, which my wife captured on film. She shares it as part of Remembering . . . A Tribute to Veterans.

To entice me to learn to use our computer and the Internet, my wife pointed me in the direction of several US Navy web sites. I was hooked. Now here was my chance to find out about Richard's Naval service.

I have been fortunate to have found and corresponded with several men who served with him. I also located his father, Arthur living nearby, who graciously invited me to visit. (He has since passed away in November 2007.) Many thanks to all of them for sharing their thoughts and momentos with me to create this tribute to Dick.

As far as I can find out, Richard Archer was the only man ever killed in combat aboard the USS Mansfield DD728.



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Monday, September 25, 1967

The Mansfield was engaged in Operation Sea Dragon at the time, where they would come in close to the North Vietnam coast and shell coastal shore batteries. On this day their fire was returned by the North Vietnamese, with an armor piercing shell hitting amidship killing Archer and injuring two others.


Communist artillery Hits U.S. Destroyer; One Killed

Saigon (AP) --One round from North Vietnamese shore batteries hit the 2,200-ton U.S. Navy destroyer Mansfield in the Gulf of Tonkin, killing one crewman and wounding two others, the Navy announced today.

The Navy said the round Monday punched a hole four feet in diameter at the base of the destroyer's fire stack and cut a few lighting cables. Forty-seven more rounds fell into the water around the ship.

The Mansfield, which has six five-inch guns, was firing on waterborne supply craft near Dong Hoi, about 35 miles north of the demilitarized zone.

Shrapnel penetrated the forward fire room and a passageway but inflicted only light damage, the Navy said.

"The destroyer responded by returning numerous rounds of fire from her five-inch guns until the coastal defense site became silent," a Navy communique said. "The casualties were then evacuated to the anti-submarine aircraft carrier USS Hornet."

The Mansfield was the first ship hit by Communist shore batteries since Sept. 1, when North Vietnamese gunsers hit the heavy cruiser St. Paul.

The last previous casualties on an american ship in the Vietnam war were on Aug. 28, when one crewman was killed and eight wounded on the destroyer Dupont.


There had only been the following small piece on the front page of the local paper about Richard serving on the USS Mansfield DD728, when it was hit by enemy fire off the coast of North Vietnam. At that time it was not mentioned for sure, that this is what had caused his death, for the Navy had not released any official information to the public.


Cape Cod Standard Times Photo

Petty Officer
is Killed
in Viet Waters

HYANNIS - Petty Officer Richard C. Archer, son of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur D. Archer Hyannis, was killed Monday morning while serving aboard the destroyer USS Mansfield in Vietnamese waters.

Born Aug. 27, 1944, he was a 1964 graduate of Barnstable High School. Young Archer worked at Hyannis Port Yacht Club prior to enlisting in the Navy Aug. 4, 1966.

He was promoted to petty officer in ceremonies in Yokosuka, Japan, last April and assigned to the 7th Fleet destroyer Mansfield. His brother Robert is also in Vietnam, serving with the Navy Seabees.

Petty Officer Archer returned stateside last summer to marry the former Janet Louise Maclachlan July 22. Mrs. Archer is residing in Quincy, where she is completing her nursing studies.

Two other sailors were injured at the time, but Navy sources have not released any further information as to the nature of the incident.

However, United Press International today reported that the USS Mansfield was engaged in heavy shelling operations off the buffer zone between North and South Vietnam. Also that a North Vietnamese shore battery was knocked out in the duel, but not before the Communist gun blew a 4-foot hole in the ship's forward stack.

It is not known at this time if the former Hyannis resident was involved.

Cape Cod Standard Times
used by permission

The following account of events surrounding Dick Archer's death are the words of the XO at the time, LCDR Robert Kesteloot. It is used by permission of USS Mansfield Association member Karl Kristiansen and is featured in the "Sea Tales" section of his web site, Karl's Korner POW/MIA/Veterans/USS Mansfield DD-728.

"I recall the tragic day off Dong Hoi very well. To add to the lore surrounding that day, I can tell you that the OTC (Officer in Tactical Command) was a new arrival in WestPac. He was a Division Commander of some division and I had worked for him in BuPers back when he was a CDR and I was a LT.

"You may, or may not recall this, but we ran south at 25 knots on our initial run with "guns free" and were never fired upon. We were at 14,000 yards (average) offshore. As we neared Point Bravo at the end of the firing run, the Commodore signaled "Turn 18." This was a 180 degree turn to the right. First, we NEVER made turns towards the shore. A steering casualty could land you in the Hanoi Hilton. Second, we NEVER retraced our original track. They had obviously been tracking us on the first run.

"I credit Captain Griffin with saving lots of lives that day. When the signal to turn was given, Jack got on the 1MC and told everyone that this was going to be bad and he didn't want anyone standing within six feet of anyone else. Obviously, this wasn't possible in places like CIC and the bridge, but I'm sure he had Repair 5 in mind, which usually gathered in a group in the middle of the inside fore and aft passageway.

"PO2 Richard Archer was standing in the open doorway to the wardroom looking aft down the passageway. A piece of shrapnel, about 3/8ths diameter, caught him in the sternum. He died almost immediately despite the Doctor's best efforts. You may recall that he had just returned from 30 days leave in Hyannis, Mass., where he had been married. He brought a piece of the wedding cake back for the C.O.

"When we opened Archer's locker, we found that he was an avid reader of the classics. We collected money from the crew and sent it to the Hyannis library where they dedicated a book shelf (or section, I'm not sure) to the memory of PO Archer.

"I remember the transit home to Yoko after the hit, the repair availability to get us back in shape, and the return to Dong Hoi. Since I had previously been on the 7th Flt. staff, I went over to the schedulers and told them that we (the C.O. and I) wanted to return immediately to Sea Dragon and Dong Hoi. They obliged and, as I recall, that was our first target when we got back. We waited for the cover of friendly monsoon clouds and went in much closer than ever before and totally destroyed the gun site. (Verified later by a BDA [Bomb Damage Assessment] flight."


Fellow shipmate Tom Harper writes:
"My world was in a state of flux, new assignments etc. So, the day we were hit, I wasn't at my normal GQ station in Mt.53, I was assigned to the forward repair party, on the mess decks. I went to sleep, we went on a firing mission, seemed a little short for a normal Sea Dragon mission. Then the word came that we had been hit and that Arch had been hit. He was a member of a repair party, standing the the passageway that ran the length of the ship above decks. We were hit amidships, in that passageway and shrapnel traveled forward hitting him and doing major damage to his heart.

"I'll never forget them lifting his body into the helo as it hovered over the ship, nor the memorial service we had later in his honor. He was a "class" person, everyone liked him, I honestly don't remember anyone not liking him. It really tore me up when they packed his sea bag, to know he was gone.

"It took me years to get the courage to go to DC to the "WALL" but I finally did in '88. There were too many names of friends from school there, and of course, Arch's name too.

"It's been 30+ years now, but that day is burnt into my memory, and I know that many people that were on the ship can probably say the same. . . .  I just saw Bob Pitoscia (Patio) at Xmas [1998] for the 1st time since '69 and we talked about Arch. I can assure you, he's not forgotten. I've read that only 5 sailors died on Operation Sea Dragon, and he was one."


From shipmate Bob Pitoscia:
"Richard Archer is also in my memories. You see, I was one of several who carried Richard into the officers ward room after he was hit by shrapnel from an armor piercing shell, fired by enemy shore battery.

"Richard was on fire control duty during general quarters in the center passage way about amidships, when we were under fire by enemy shore battery. He was one of three hit by that shell, and to my knowledge, did not know what hit him.

"Being a signalman, I was on the signalbridge. being this happened more than thirty years ago, I can't remember why I was sent down to help with wounded. To this day, I consider it an honor to have helped carry Richard in for medical help. It also has somewhat of a bad side to it as I will never forget Richard and my part of being near him when his time on earth ended. He died doing his job and his town, friends, family and shipmates should all be proud of his contribution to his country. I only wish when my turn comes to meet my God, I will handle myself as honorable.

"Richard will always be remembered by his shipmates for his sacrifice that day and his home town, friends and family should be proud that he represented them with all the best that one can give.

"I can still see his face as if it was yesterday, and he will live with me forever."


From shipmate John Armstrong who was wounded when Archer was killed:
"I was on board when he got hit. He was in the engineering department and worked in the engine room. I also was in the engineering department, but worked in the boiler room. I remember him as being one super person. I was talking to him just a few minutes before the ship got hit."


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More

Besides the memories related above, Richard has been honored in numerous ways by shipmates, friends, and the government. We have assembled many of these on a separate page, Memorials. He was also the inspiration for my wife in creating Remembering . . . A Tribute to Veterans.

Shipmate, Michael Martin generously lent me his copy of the USS Mansfield Far East Cruise book 1966 - 1968. We have reproduced a small portion of it with several pictures of her, and the crew. The images in the mini-album may be clicked for a larger view.

Please feel free to visit my other pages accessible from Jake's Reflections. Stop by Jake's Canteen to share your memories and say hello.



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