Killed at 15, Marine spent 21 years in unmarked grave
August 13, 2021

On September 18, 1968, Dan Bullock decided to enlist in the United States Marine Corps at only 14-years-old. In order to make it beyond the recruiting station, he altered his birth certificate to say that he was born on December 21, 1949. In reality his birthday was on the that same date, but in 1953.

Only 5 months later, Pfc. Bullock became the youngest American serviceman killed in the Vietnam war.

However, he was buried without the honors befitting a combat veteran. Some believe this was because the military deemed his enlistment “fraudulent,” once discovering his age.

Marine Dan Bullock

Photo by U.S. Marine Corps

A Liminal Position

Bullock was originally raised in Goldsboro, North Carolina, but his childhood was upended when his mother died when he was only 11-years-old. Following the loss of his mother, Bullock moved to live with his father in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York.

Older sources state that Bullock always wanted to work in a military-adjacent industry. Apparently, he began with the desire to be a pilot, then a firefighter, and eventually chose on becoming a Marine. Bullock’s father said that his son knew that the Marines would be the most viable option for him to get an education.

Three months after enlisting, on December 10, 1968, Bullock graduated from boot camp at Parris Island as a member of Platoon 3039.

Bullock was described by his comrades as being large for his age and reserved; a “boy in every regard.”

Heroic young man

Once Bullock arrived in Vietnam on May 18, 1969, he was assigned as a rifleman in 2nd Squad, 2nd Platoon, Fox Company, 2nd Battalion 5th Marines, 1st marine Division. The young Private First Class was stationed at An Hoa Combat Base west of Hội An in Quang Nam Province.

On June 7, 1969, when a North Vietnamese Army attack came in the middle of the night, Bullock started making runs for ammunition in order to help his unit. He was mortally wounded by small arms fire while undertaking his second trip.

Marine Pfc. Dan Bullock headstone

Pfc. Dan Bullock’s headstone. (Photo courtesy of Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund)

Memorials for the Marine

In 2000, talk show host Sally Jessy Raphael heard from her head of security that the young Marine had never received a proper memorial, and that he was buried without a headstone for 21 years; a period longer than he lived before sacrificing his life for his brothers-in-arms. Shortly afterwards, Pfc. Bullock’s story made national headlines and he received a proper headstone, alongside other memorials.

On the Vietnam “Wall of Faces” memorial, Pfc. Bullock is honored on panel 23W, line 96. There is also a sign dedicated to the Marine in his hometown of Goldsboro.

In Brooklyn, there is a street named after Pfc. Bullock as well.

Marine Pfc. Dan Bullock way

Pfc. Dan Bullock way, Between Wallabout Street and Flushing Avenue in Brooklyn, New York. (Photo courtesy of Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund)

Bullock received a posthumous Purple Heart, but what really matters here is his legacy. The story of Pfc. Dan Bullock should never be forgotten, as he gave his life before he even truly got to experience it.

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