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danAt age 15, many young boys are going to school, worrying about acne and perhaps dreaming of becoming a superstar sports figure. But in the case of Private Dan Bullock (pictured), he became a casualty of the Vietnam War, becoming the youngest American serviceman killed in the line of duty.

bullockBullock was a southern boy, who was born and raised in the small town of Goldsboro, North Carolina which is about 52 miles north of the state capital of Raleigh.  When Bullock was 12, his mom passed away and he and his sister, Gloria, were forced to go live with his father and wife in Brooklyn.

Instead of settling for a life of going to school, playing sports, first crushes, and typical boy stuff, Bullock was enamored with all things military, particularly the U.S. Marines.  The boy was determined to do whatever he could to enlist even though his age was a prohibitive factor.

Living in tumultuous times, when racial unrest was the order of the day and grown men were fleeing to Canada to escape being drafted, Bullock chose to fight for his country.

Bullock used a little ingenuity to alter his birth certificate and changed his actual birth date to reflect that he had been born on December 21, 1949, instead of December 21, 1953.  The alteration on his birth document was convincing and as was his manly build, so no one questioned him.  The illegal document got him through a recruiting station and he was able to enlist in the Marines on September 18, 1968.

Boot camp was no breeze for the boy, who was quick and relatively strong but would lose his youthful stamina which could not compare to that of the men in his platoon.  Bullock would on many occasions lag behind during long runs and had to be carried by his comrades.  The men also mistook Bullock’s naiveté as a sign that he was intellectually behind.

Nearly three months after he enlisted, Bullock graduated from boot camp.

Six months after graduating on May 18, 1969, Bullock was shipped to the war zone, Vietnam.

The quiet, young boy was stationed at An Hoa Combat Base west of Hội An in Quang Nam Province and he was assigned the task of rifleman to Fox Company, Second Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment.  Nobody in Bullock’s unit guessed his true age, but there were a few who had feeling he was younger than he professed to be. “Everybody who met him either wanted to protect him or push him around,” recalls Lance Cpl. Steve Piscitelli, who says he looked after the boy like a big brother.

Private Dan Bullock was killed instantly on June 7, 1969 when his unit was attacked with rockets and mortars by a North Vietnamese army unit.  He was only 15-years-old. 

Bullock was buried without fanfare in an unmarked grave in Goldsboro, until 80s talk show maven Sally Jessy Raphael purchased a handsome headstone for the previously unadorned grave.

On this Veteran’s Day, as we hold in the highest regard those who help keep us safe, we thank want to say “Thank You,” to Private Dan Bullock and to those men and women in the armed forces.

Remembering 15-Year-Old Dan Bullock, The Youngest Vietnam War Casualty  was originally published on