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Tet Offensive Purple Heart Medal Finally Awarded
On March 6, 1968 PFC Samuel J. Frieson was gravely injured by a booby-trapped grenade and died from his wounds a few days after the incident. The incident took place at the 2nd Republic of Korea Marine Brigade in Hoi An and was witnessed by then L/Cpl. Bruce Van Apeldoorn and PFC Frieson was attended to by SSgt. Dick Lorance. PFC Frieson’s family was notified that he died due to self-destruction. No Purple Heart Medal was awarded. PFC Frieson had recently been assigned to a small group of Marines from H&S Co., 1st Tank Battalion to support “C” Co. tank crews supporting Korean Marine operations. He was a cook, MOS 3371. On the day of the incident the heavy section of the 2nd Platoon of “C” Co. were in early to have a broken torsion bar repaired and then return to the Hoi An Airport. PFC Frieson unlocked the Platoon’s hut to allow Bruce and L/Cpl. Lenny Mendes to pick up mail. The explosion happened after Bruce and Lenny entered the hut while PFC Frieson was holding the door. Dick and Bruce were reunited during 2014. Not having seen one another since March of 1968 the first discussion was about the Marine that had died as a result of the booby-trap. The problem was since the Marine was a Cook, his identity was unknown. Dick and Bruce decided that they would locate this Marine’s history. After a lot of discussions and internet searches it was finally determined that the Marine was PFC Samuel J. Frieson. (see video “Vietnam Tankers – Bruce VanApeldoorn – Correcting the Record – 2015 on YouTube or www.usmcvta.org) Dick started searches to find PFC Frieson’s family while Bruce started the process to have the Purple Heart Medal awarded. “Detective Dick” was able to locate a friend of the Frieson Family who lead him to the surviving siblings. Dick reported that they were very appreciative of our efforts to set history straight and to have the Purple Heart Medal awarded. Bruce followed the requirements of SECNAVINST 1650.1H in the preparation of OPNAV 1650/3 – Personal Award Recommendation. In discussions with the Awards Branch of Headquarters Marine Corps Bruce was told only the Commanding Officer’s signature would be acceptable. Now the hunt was on for the CO of H&S Co. 1st Tank Battalion on March 6, 1968. If it were not for Marines of the Marine Corps Tanker Association (MCTA), Bruce could have never found the CO. Luckily, he was known to several of the Marines of the MCTA and they gladly provided Bruce with contact information. A quick phone call got Major Leo A. Gildersleeve on board. (see video “Vietnam Tankers – Bruce VanApeldoorn and Richard Lorance – A Purple Heart for PFC Frieson”) In February of 2017 the Purple Heart Medal was awarded to PFC Samuel J. Frieson USMC. The presentation of the Medal has since been made to PFC Frieson’s brother John Frieson, US Army. PFC Frieson was from Chicago, IL. Interesting that newspapers provided a couple different accounts of his death with one in which he fell on the grenade in a bunker to save fellow Marines. Marine Corps Legend had a story in which PFC Frieson’s rack was booby-trapped as retaliation of his finding Korean Marines stealing and kicking their asses. He is interred in Memphis, TN. It was my honor to have known Sam Frieson if only for a couple minutes. Semper Fi Marine.