Army SPC Jimmy Nakayama

Army SPC Jimmy Nakayama

KIA November 17, 1965

Assigned to C Company, 8th Engineer Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas

Army SPC Jimmy Nakayama, a second lieutenant in the Idaho National Guard, transitioned over to the regular Army and surrendered his commission in the process. He was deployed to Vietnam and was part of the first battle between the U.S. and North Vietnam in what is known as the Battle of Ia Drang. Nakayama met UPI News Reporter, Joe Galloway, who was there to cover the intense battle. Both engaged in small talk when they first met, then hours later Galloway was trying to save Jimmy’s life. Galloway was awarded the Bronze Star for his heroic actions taken while accompanying the 7th Cavalry Regiment during the Battle of Ia Drang.

Excerpt from Joe Galloway’s book, “A Reporter’s Journal From Hell”:

“The first had just released two cans of napalm. The second was about to do the same. Lt. Charlie Hastings, the Air Force forward observer, was screaming into his mike: Pull up! Pull up! The second plane pulled up. That left the two cans of napalm loblollying end over end towards us. Gregg Dillon buried his face in my shoulder. Later he would tell me he had heard if napalm was coming in you should protect your eyes. The two cans went right over our heads and impacted no more than 20 yards from us, the jellied gasoline spreading out and flaming up going away from us. That 20 yards saved our lives but through the blazing fire I could see two men, two Americans, dancing in that fire, I jumped to my feet. So did medic Tommy Burlile. Burlile was shot in the head by a sniper before he could reach the scene. I charged on in and someone was yelling, “Get this man’s feet!” I reached down and grabbed the ankles of a horribly burned soldier. They crumbled and the skin and flesh, now cooked, rubbed off. I could feel his bare ankle bones in the palms of my hands. We carried him to the aid station. Later I would learn that his name was Jimmy D. Nakayama of Rigby, Idaho. His wife, Trudie, had given birth to their first child, a daughter named Nikki, on November 7. Jimmy died in an Army hospital two days later, on November 17. For a lot of years I looked for Jimmy’s wife and daughter. Last month, after the movie We Were Soliers was released I received a letter from Jimmy’s widow. Last week a letter came from his daughter Nikki, now 36 years old and the mother of two young sons. No single day has passed since that long-ago November day that I have not thought about Jimmy Nakayama, the young woman who loved him, and the daughter who would never know a father’s love.”

SPC Jimmy Nakayama was 21 years old from Rigby, Idaho

Original portrait was presented November 2, 2013, to his wife and daughter during a special “We Were Soldiers” film screening hosted by LOOK Theater and American Airlines.

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