World’s youngest Vietnam veteran swims to Suu Kyi by mattsteinglass
May 28, 2009, 8:32 am
Filed under: Burma, Vietnam

The Telegraph reports:

During a three-hour appearance at a court in Rangoon, John Yettaw, 53, a Vietnam veteran, said that he had a vision in which the Nobel laureate and pro-democracy leader was assassinated by terrorists and he had wanted to warn her and the government.

The last US troops left South Vietnam in 1973, 36 years ago. If John Yettaw is 53 now, he would have been 17 then. What’s the deal?

…Some specifics on just how many US military were left in Vietnam in 1973, from Joseph Treaster in the NY Times, March 30, 1973, “Last US Forces Out of Vietnam” (paywalled):

The last American troops left South Vietnam today, leaving behind an unfinished war that has deeply scarred this country and the United States…


…Remaining after the final jet transport lifted off from Tan Son Nhut air base at 5:53 PM were about 800 Americans on the truce observation force who will leave tomorrow and Saturday. A contingent of 159 Marine guards and about 50 military attaches also stayed behind.

It seems highly likely that either John Yettaw is older than 53, or he did not serve in Vietnam.


28 Comments so far
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Saigon fell the 29th of April 1975, and the last American military prsonnel left on that day

Comment by Curt

The final US “military personnel” who left on 29/4/75 were Marines guarding the Embassy. The last US combat troops had been gone for over 2 years. Their withdrawal was mandated by the Paris Accords between Washington, Saigon and Hanoi. It would be weird for Yettaw to call himself a “Vietnam veteran” if he had been one of the very few US military personnel stationed in non-combat roles in South Vietnam in 1974-5, and it would be a very odd coincidence if he really were one of these few people. Also, according to an earlier Telegraph story, Yettaw is drawing VA compensation for PTSD. It’s possible that he was in traumatic situations in Vietnam in those years, but it would not have been the normal kind of traumatic combat situation we think of when we hear the words “Vietnam veteran”.

Comment by mattsteinglass

That said, Wikipedia says:

“The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes veterans that served in the country then known as the Republic of Vietnam from February 28, 1961 to May 7, 1975, as being eligible for such programs as the department’s Readjustment Counseling Services program (aka Vet Centers).”

So, maybe.

Comment by mattsteinglass

i may be the youngest vietnam era veteran. i enlisted, and was sworn in on may 7 1975. I was 17 years old and my birthdate is nov 5 1957

Comment by peter j conway

i entered the army in sept 19 1974…at 17 y/o… got out on sept 19 1976 at 19 years old i am the youngest viet nam era soldier

Comment by duane pinkham

my birthdate is dec1956

Comment by duane pinkham

Mine is 1/15/58 I joined underage in 74

Comment by J Carter

Duane, you are several months younger than my oldest maternal uncle.

Mr. Carter, you’re certainly among the youngest living American Vietnam Vets. You’re only 4 years older than my dad (possibly a child soldier of the Vietcong from 1974-1975).

I wonder if there any living American Vietnam Vets born after you? Possibly. They can join underage in the marines in late 1974 or early 1975.

Comment by Jack H

I may be the youngest vietnam era veteran. Date of enlistment contract is Feb 4 1975 I was 17 years old and my birthdate is Feb 24 1957 and am now 55 years old

Comment by Douglas Fairburn

I joined at 16. My date of enlistment contract is September 9, 1974. You;re not by a longshot. My date of birth is January 15, 1958

Comment by Aj Carter

turned 17 on nov 20 57 entered boot camp jan 15 cut off for vets was 1-31-75

Comment by edward christilaw

I, Joined at age 17 as well Dec 12. 1974 U.S.M.C.

Comment by Jay B.

Don’t forget about us seaman who where in Vietnam territorial water during the evacuation. I was on board Enterprise and had just turned 20 in Feb. of 1975. I could be the youngest Vietnam vet.

Comment by John

I was aboard the U.S.S Worden during the evac. I turned 17 in January of 1975, you were 3 years older than I was.

Comment by AJ Carter

My oldest brother (exactly 10 years older) was drafted by “accident” in ’73. He dropped out of school @ 17, knowing the draft was over he thought he was safe (if you dropped out back then they notified the draft board and you bypassed the lottery as “automatic” draftee, kind of a punishment). He and his best friend got a draft notice in the mail. He freaked. My mom called everyone, all they told her was,”yes the draft is over, but if your son got a notice he must report.” He was going to Canada. A few days before he was set to go another notice came in the mail. It was an error. The draft was over and he had a choice to enlist or report to FT. Hood for “processing out”, which he did.
His friend stayed in believing he couldn’t be sent to ‘Nam. Guess again. He was one of last over there. He was breaking down tanks and other hardware, then went to Hawaii where they sorted it or repaired. One of my PO’s was “drafted” that way.

-Desert Storm vet, Navy.

Comment by Rainbowwalker

Fantastic post however I was wanting to know
if you could write a litte more on this subject? I’d be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit further. Many thanks!

Comment by web ressource

I Left Vietnam in August 1972. I’m 61 yet younger than most VN vets. Yettaw never saw combat for sure; he coulda been one of the troops who left in ’75……maybe, but probably not.

I work at a VA medical facility; over the years I have met all varieties of “Vietnam Vets”. “Vietnam Era” – well, sure, no one’s gonna argue against when you served. “Combat” vet? – all across the spectrum; my buddy’s license plate proudly proclaims him a VN vet, and that’s legit even tho he never stepped off an aircraft carrier (I do however kid him about it once in awhile, me being a former grunt).

Then there are the guys who were in the thick of it: in-country base camps & the bush; firefights, close combat, mortar/rocket barrages -they’re the guys who usually don’t talk about it. An interesting phenom I have noticed over the years is that, for every guy like that, there are10 who are pretenders, including a lot (like Yettaw) who are just too young. I can usually bust them after a glance in their record and a few minutes’ conversation – I’m nice about it but hey man, BS is BS.

Comment by Charlie

The war ended in MAY of 1975. Dozens of troops were killed during the evac. I know, I was aboard the Midway Task Force and evac’d many who were wounded. If a individual entered the Military in january of 75 legally at 17 , he would be 55 now and still be a Vietnam Vet. It’s rude of you to discount the sacrifices of others. I personally belong to VETs who joined underaged. I joined at 16. Do your research and stop trying to bs everyone. There’a Vietnam vets lke myself half a decade younger than you are. On my 29 1975 when the Vietnam War ended, I war returning from the Tonkin Gulf, having went for Operation Frequent Wind, during the evac. Thousands of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines were part of this operation to enter VIETNAM and remove embassy personnel and children of soldiers who were mixed race. My ex uncle in law crashed during Operation Babylift in Saigon in APRIL of 1975. Either you have your dates wrong or have PTSD.

Comment by J

I’m USN that enlisted Feb 18 1975, born Sept 26 57. I’m the youngest Viet Nam era vet I’ve ever met but I can see a few of you have me beat.

My active duty ended June 17 1977….I was only 19 when I got out.

Comment by Rob Roberts

A.J Carter Jan 15,1958 has it so far, good to meet everyone, that our interest has brought us yunguns to this site.

Comment by AirChanneler douglas fairburn

Your comment that John Yettaw is unlikely to have been 17 years of age in the war is very ignorant. My father inlaw had just turned 17 a few months before enlisting with false information, it’s also known that 16 year olds even enlisted and not just in North America but many Europeans too in the WW2. Give credit where it deserves those few young ones that survived should be recognized the same as any of the experienced older enlisted.

Comment by Taru

Age 17, I enlisted USAF Security Specialist 14 may 73, arrived at Udorn, TH. Jan 1975. (Birthday 04-01-56). Took part in evacuations, received expeditionary medal, exchanged for Vietnam Service Medal. Finished tour at Udorn, left Dec 1975.
Everyone thinks I’m full of it when I say I’m a vietnam vet. Only 58 next week. I look too young to have been there.

Comment by Jim S

The public thinks that all troops left Vietnam in ’73. That’s not true. All combat troops left. There were still some trainers and liaisons up until the fall of Saigon in May of 75. That’s why the war officially ended in ’75 right after the Evac and Operation Frequent Wind in April-MAy of 1975. There were still almost 100 USMC embassy guards there on the roof when the carriers sent choppers in.

Comment by AJC

Really when someone doesn’t understand afterward its up to
other viewers that they will help, so here it occurs.

Comment by sex viet nam

I was checking these stats to see how many more guys (or gals) were still around today who were COMBAT MARINES in Vietnam for a FULL (one year) or longer tour. I was a combat, jungle humping, MEAN, LEAN, RECON MARINE, who is still fighting to stay alive today. I just turned 63 years old, was 17 when I enlisted in August 1969, did my tour in Vietnam Feb. 70 to Feb. 71. Today I am 100 percent disabled ( all the crap from AO (diabetes, cancer, neuropathy, amputee, PTSD), etc, etc. Like I said, a young Marine and all this on a special two year enlistment. I served proudly and would do it again if I could. I don’t feel guilty about taking anything I get from the VA or Government. I gave all I could for the two years I promised and now I am being paid back one day at a time. The VA takes good care of me. Most important, I am right with the Lord and can join him any time now. My goal a few years ago was to make it to age 60. Heeeeeey, so far, a three year bonus. So again, not looking to be the youngest but one of the youngest. Congrats to all of us that are still here. Thanks to those who were unable to live the civilian lives that we have. Stan Mozer 1st Recon Bn. Vietnam 1970-71.

Comment by Stan Mozer

My name is. Fred. Lincoln. Mainor. Sr. I’m not claiming on being the youngest vietnam veteran who arrived. November 1964 at the age of 17 years old. But. I certainly do know that. I’m one of the youngest. And this could be confirmed.. I arrived on the u ss Bexar apa 237 11-64 my understanding congress past law in 1965 all military personnel must be atleast 18 or older to be sent there. I was already there at 17 in 1964. Fred Mainor cell 254 224 7969

Comment by fred l. mainor

The Vietnam War officially ended May 1975. The minimum age to enlist in the military is 17. Therefore, Vietnam Vets could be born as late as 1958, making them only a couple years older than my 54-year old dad.

Comment by Jack H

I was 20 when I went to Nam, in 68. I am 70 now will be 71 in June. His age seems very young to me.

Comment by Carl EASLEY

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