Info req'd on UK based US serviceman killed in Vietnam


Having used the phenomenal depth of knowledge here on ARRSE before & knowing you nearly always come up trumps I have an important request for information regarding a young chap who died during Tet in 68.

Reason i'm asking is that the guys daughter is a very good friend of mine & someome i like a lot so i'd like to help her find out whatever I can. She is a Brit & her Dad lived here in the UK back in the 50's & he then got drafted mid 60's. Now, rather than do what others did & stay overseas ignoring the call to arms, he went back & did his bit. Over here was a pretty successful musician & subsequently met my girls Mum, got married & hey presto she appeared.....& mighty fine she has grown up to be.

Anyway his details are:

John Robert Shell PFC
Date killed: 1st Feb 1968 during the Tet Offensive.

John Shell, PFC, Army, London, England GB, 01Feb68 36E050 - The Virtual Wall®

The above is about all the info she has been able to track down in the last 5 yrs or so & i'd love be able to pass on more to her. There is a strong possibility he was killed in a blue on blue incident.

I know you guys work wonders with UK forces research but i'm hoping something can be found. I'm also going to post a link to this thread in the US multinational forum.

Got & replied. Thanks.

Ive found the 1st Inf Div Assoc webby & through them the 28th Inf, so am hoping i may find something through there.
However, am still hoping some of the wonder brains on here may have something to give. Its an intriguing & very sad story.

I'd like to track down unit diaries for the day in question to get more info on the why's & wherefores of the blue on blue if i can.

Some of his last letters have spoken of training specifically tooled towards the possible need to shoot women & children. He was very distressed about this & his family have always wondered why he was given this training. I should add they are total civvies. I have mentioned it may have been theatre specfic training in light of the COIN ops of the conflict at that time, ie. conditioning the blokes to the possibility they may inadvertently kill civillians during contacts.

I can’t help directly, but I can endorse the quality of the advice you are getting here.
The best US digital archive is the one at Texas Tech University.

Cloudbuster’s advice is good too. There is a really helpful guy over at ACG called Ken Jensen who knows his way around the TTU archives really well. Join up and ask him, He is a top bloke and will bend over backwards to help.

Nigel Brooks posts here, but you can join his ‘gang’ over at the google discussion group ‘Vietnam.alt.war’. I have been stunned at the depth of knowledge and degree of helpfulness of those guys. Try them, they are quality

I’ve got no idea what Yank Eyeties' pm advice was, but I’m happy to vouch for its impeccability sight unseen.

All I can tell you is that Septics being trained to kill women and children is a total furphy. If it were true it would have been the lead item in the 'Winter Soldier Investigation'

Australians adopted policies and tactics in Vietnam that were completely the opposite to the US reliance on over whelming firepower. The Australian (Read Commonwealth) 'methods' - a reliance on ambushing and saturation patrolling, still unfortunately accounted for a swag of children and women, some of whom were civilians. Very sad but also very true and there is no walking away from it.

That the UK managed to kill so few civilians by comparison in Northern Ireland and today in Afghanistan is truly remarkable and perhaps colours 'modern' judgement of such things.

Good luck


Spanking stuff mate. Thanks. I'll explore the links when i get a chance.

YE offered to take a rubbing of his name from the Washington Memorial for her. She's been over & already has it but it was a very kind offer.

Just to mention that within an hour or so of posting on the AG site Ken replied with a mass of info. I now have the combat journals of the Battalion, a detailed description of the several days of fighting courtesy of a fine magazine article, maps of the operational area plus some anecdotal info from members of Delta Company which has added some colour to his daughter's understanding of her Dads experiences.

Thanks mate.
Hi Ches

I knew ‘Uncle Ken’ wouldn’t disappoint. He has an awesome grasp of the internet for a geezer in his seventies.
There’s more you need to know about him.

Most people when they hear ‘Vietnam platoon commander’ immediately conjure up images of William Calley and Mai Lai. The Vietnam War also gave us the term ‘fragging’. The murder of unpopular platoon commanders. Fragging, like the atrocities at Mai Lai, did occur. However the frequency of these events was extremely rare.

Most US Platoon Commanders in Vietnam were thoroughly decent people, just like Jensen. To this day some of Jensen’s best buddies are the troops he led nearly fifty years ago. As an officer he was highly regarded and extremely well respected. His battalion the ‘Black Lions’ are still a pretty tight bunch and are proud of their Vietnam service.

I know him as well as I know anyone that I’ve ever ‘met’ on the internet. Over the years we have had some fantastic arguments. All of which I learnt from. The most important thing he taught me was that you have to look past the ‘in your face’ patriotism that those in the US take for granted and we in OZ and the UK generally don’t. Jensen had, and still has, a sincere belief that he was in Vietnam to help the Vietnamese people. To that end, while in Vietnam he committed what he calls ‘good deeds’.

That he promptly and categorically answered your question is an illustration of the same ‘good deed’ ethos that he adopted in Vietnam and afterwards. I knew he would. It might appear cheesy and simplistic to the modern cynic, but in reality it is just virtue writ large.

He is much more of an archetype than anything Hollywood would have you believe. Helping you out is just another ‘good deed’. He’s not only got form for it, he was given a badge for it too.

Company D First Battalion 28th Infantry
Awarded: Silver Star
Date of Action: 14 February 1968
Theater: Republic of Vietnam
Reason: For gallantry in action while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam:

On this date, Lieutenant Jensen was serving as a platoon leader with his company during a reconnaissance in force operation approximately three kilometers southwest of the village of Thu Duc. As the unit proceeded through an area of rice fields and coconut groves, part of his platoon was forced to take cover from sudden hostile rocket, automatic weapons, and machine gun fire. He immediately moved through the hail of enemy rounds to deploy his remaining squad into advantageous positions from which they brought accurate retaliatory fire upon the insurgents. With complete disregard for his personal safety, Lieutenant Jensen began crawling beneath the hostile fire toward a wounded man on the enemy side of a berm. As he attempted to rescue the individual, he became hit in the chest by enemy fire and was unable to help the man. Lieutenant Jensen then placed rapid and accurate fire on the insurgents from his location while others moved the casualty to relative safety. He was again hit by the intense fire, but refused medical attention until he had led his men in a withdrawal so that artillery fire could be employed. The extraordinary courage and dynamic leadership displayed by Lieutenant Jensen despite his wounds were instrumental in limiting friendly casualties, and significantly contributed toward the defeat of the Viet Cong. First Lieutenant Jensen’s unquestionable valor in close combat against numerical superior hostile forces is in keeping with the finest tradition of the military service and reflects great credit upon himself, the 1st infantry Division, and the United States Army.
Authority: By direction of the President, as established by the Act of Congress, 9 July 1918 and USARV Message 16695, dated 1 July 1966.

Actions do indeed speak much louder than words. That Jensen is still springing into action to 'do the right thing' 42 years after the Tet Offensive, tells you pretty much all you need to know about the calibre of man that John Shell fought with.


He's an outstanding guy sure enough Mick. Cheers.

Got shedloads of info now. His daughter is very pleased with what have been able to turn up.

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