In Memory of Charles "Chuck" Van Cleve ... Forward Observer, B Battery, 2-319 Artillery & Momentary Charlie Company Commander


Charles "Chuck" Van Cleve ..... 69

Died: March 26th, 2019 in Newport, CA

Born: April 25th, 1950 in Lakewood, CA


Chuck passed away from complications from a surgery on March 26  2019. His funeral was May 4th, 2019.  In attendance at his funeral representing Co. C was Bob Seitz and wife Robin, Cal Kato, Randy Parmley, Chuck Reilly.  Bob Seitz delivered a moving eulogy speech. There was a large group of family, friends, and associates that came out of his funeral.



I first met Chuck on 1 July 1970 on Hill 902 which was about 2 or 3 km from Fire Support Base Ripcord.  Chuck was the FO (Forward Observer) for Delta company, 2-506 Infantry of the 101st Airborne, but had been sent over to Charlie company when Charlie’s FO had gone on R&R. Chuck's actual unit was B Battery, 2-319 Artillery whose battery of 105's fired in direct support of the 2-506 Infantry from FSB Ripcord.  As a FO, Chuck was the fire support coordinator for the Company Commander of whatever Infantry Company he was assigned to.  At that time I was platoon leader of first platoon and my fighting position on Hill 902 was approx 25 meters in front of the company CP where Chuck was located with CPT Thomas Hewitt, Charlie's CO. At approx 0400 Charlie’s defensive position on Hill 902 was attached by a NVA Sapper Company accompanied by additional NVA Infantry.  Chuck was on radio watch at the CP manning two radios, one on the company net and the other on the Artillery net for B 2-319.  CPT Hewitt was instantly killed by a RPG blast and Chuck was injured by shrapnel in one of his hands.  Realizing the situation. Chuck immediately assumed command of the company.  He was the right man at the right place at the right time. At this point I was on the radio myself and over the course of the next two hours, Chuck and I were in constant communication on the radio.  The attack was vicious, with the enemy showing enormous discipline of fire with small arms; but the Sappers relied on satchel charges thrown into our defensive positions supported by direct fire from RPG's.  Chuck called in artillery support, communicated with air support and issued orders as necessary.  He and I exchanged SITREPS.  With a badly wounded hand, he continued to man both radios, and fired his M16 at a sapper advancing on his position, neutralizing the threat.

At the beginning of first light, I basically low crawled to the CP to link up with Chuck.  His hand was being bandaged by the company medic and was in some pain. Together, we walked the NDP to survey the damage and shore up the defenses.  The ground was covered with un-exploded satchel charges, numerous dead NVA and dead Americans.  The company's perimeter had been penetrated and the company almost over run.  Chuck and I, with others, carried our KIA's to the incoming helicopters from Ripcord when the birds started arriving with senior officers and some reinforcements from 3rd platoon. For his actions, Chuck was awarded the Silver Star.  I saw him a little later at the direct support medial company, Charlie Med, at Camp Evens, then lost contact for the next 45 years.

I was able to locate Chuck in about 2013 through the help of journalist Chris Brady who went on to write the book, "Remembering Firebase Ripcord" where you can read a more detailed account of Chuck’s heroic actions. We emailed each other and were able to get together on several occasions, including a Ripcord reunion in Myrtle Beach. 

It was my pleasure to nominate Chuck for Distinguished Member of the Regiment, 506th Infantry in 2016.  I was able to meet his family at the awards ceremony at Fort Campbell, where his award was presented by COL Bob Seitz.  We stayed in touch, especially in working with Ken Pitetti to formulate as accurate a presentation as possible on the events of Hill 902.  Chuck was my battle buddy, reunited after many years and a true friend, born of battle.  I will miss you Chuck, RIP Currahee Brother!

Respectfully, Bob Leibecke, former 1st Platoon Leader, C/2-506 Infantry Regiment 


Eulogy for Captain Chuck Van Cleve
St John Vianney Chapel, Balboa Island, CA
4 May 2019

Good morning…my name is Bob Seitz and I served with Chuck Van Cleve in Vietnam in 1970. With me today are several other veterans-- Randy Parmley, Cal Kato, and Charles Reilly. We all served together in the same unit in Vietnam: 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry in the 101st Airborne Division.

We veterans have an unbreakable and eternal bond with Chuck Van Cleve and we are here today to remember his selfless call to duty, his dedication to his fellow soldiers, his courage under enemy fire, his valorous acts of bravery and his very honorable service to our Nation.
For Susan and family, I have several letters from others who served with us, but could not be here today. Let me share some of their thoughts with everyone.

Jack Flaherty from Massachusetts wrote: Chuck was a friend and mentor, guiding me through my initial time in the very scary world of Vietnam. I have always remembered his kindness to me.  His advice helped me tremendously. I was very sad when I learned that he had been wounded and evacuated, but thankful we were together.

Bob Leibecke from Ohio wrote: Many years after Vietnam, I located Chuck through the help of journalist who wrote the book titled “Remembering Firebase Ripcord". This book detailed many accounts of Chuck’s heroic actions. Chuck and I then met on several occasions in the past few years.  It was my honor to nominate Chuck to be a Distinguished Member of the 506th Infantry Regiment and meet his family at the awards ceremony at Fort Campbell, KY.  Chuck was my battle buddy and a true friend.

Ken Pitetti from Kansas wrote:  For most people, the Vietnam War is distant, some 50 years ago, but for Chuck and many of us veterans, we still hear the echoes in our hearts and see the shadows in our dreams as if it were not all that long ago. Our families often saw the emotional scars we combat veterans brought home with us, but their love carried us through these difficult experiences. 

Let me close by saying that we Vietnam Veterans offer our deepest sympathies and sincere condolences to Susan and family. We have the highest admiration and respect for Chuck’s dedication and courage for our Nation. He was indeed a hero and all our lives have been richer for having known him.

Chuck is our "Brother-In-Arms", Rest in Peace Brother! 


"Thank you brother for a job well done".  Until we meet again my friend ..... "Currahee"......"Stands Alone"

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