A Marine Too Young To Drive, Let Alone Die Pfc. Dan Bullock Was Only 15 When He Was Killed In Vietnam. A Friend Who Lives In Mount Laurel Is Pushing To Have That Sacrifice Recognized.

Posted: October 30, 2000

On June 7, 1969, Marine Pfc. Dan Bullock was killed in a firefight at An Hoa Combat Base in what was then South Vietnam.

According to battle reports, Bullock and his unit were posted along the northern end of the base's airstrip about 2 a.m. when a regular North Vietnamese Army unit attacked them with rockets and mortars.

In the skirmish, Bullock and two other Marines were killed and 31 were wounded, including 19 who had to be evacuated.

Chances are, Bullock would have been just one casualty among many - his name is on Panel 23W, Row 96 of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington - except for one distinction: He was only 15 years old when he died.

Perhaps even that would have been just a footnote in history except for one former Marine who lives in Mount Laurel and who considered Bullock his best friend when their paths crossed in boot camp.

"He's a hero," said Franklin McArthur, who has launched a campaign to win special recognition for his Marine Corps brother. "He lied about his age to defend this country. . . .

"He's the most patriotic young man. He took his secret to the grave to fight for an ideology, when you had grown men fleeing to Canada."

McArthur helped organize a caravan that left Saturday from Brooklyn, N.Y., to travel to Goldsboro, N.C., where Bullock is buried.

McArthur has also established the Pfc. Dan Bullock Foundation, which is gathering money for a monument to the soldier to be erected in Brooklyn outside the Marine recruiting office where both men signed up.

Bullock is believed to be the youngest U.S. soldier to die in Vietnam. He joined the Marines by forging his papers.

Saturday's trip ended with a dedication ceremony for a headstone for Bullock, who was buried without one in 1969. The headstone was donated by talk-show host Sally Jessy Raphael.

* Bullock lived in North Carolina until he was about 13, when his mother died and he and his younger sister, Gloria, moved to Brooklyn to live with their father and his wife.

"My brother didn't like New York," Gloria Bullock-Burroughs, 43, said in an interview. "He wanted to get an education, to make something of himself, and saw the Marines as a way to get there."

Changing his birth date from Dec. 21, 1953, to Dec. 21, 1949, to make it look as if he were 18, Bullock enlisted in the Marines and reported for duty on Sept. 18, 1968, McArthur said. Bullock was 14.

He went to boot camp on Parris Island, S.C., and on May 8, 1969, arrived in Vietnam, attached to Fox Company, Second Battalion, Fifth Marines. A month later, he would be dead.

* The military's view of Bullock and other underage soldiers differs from McArthur's.

"We respect and appreciate their service, but they are part of the corps' fraudulent enlistees," said Maj. David Anderson of the Marine Corps' Division of Public Affairs. "They are part of the fold, and we recognize them, but [forging to enlist is] a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice."

McArthur was 19 when he met Bullock in boot camp, both members of Platoon 3039.

Although he was big and strong for his age, Bullock lagged behind during the daily run. "I got a group together, and we decided to carry him when he fell back," McArthur said. "I looked out for him."

They last saw each other when they graduated from boot camp in December 1968. McArthur learned of Bullock's death - and his age - while still in Vietnam from a front-page New York Times article that was circulated among Marines at the front. The June 13, 1969, article was headlined: "Marine, 15, Killed in Vietnam; Enlisted at 14, Lying About Age."

"He shouldn't have died," Gloria Bullock told the Times reporter who visited the family's apartment in a "dilapidated" tenement in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. "He joined to help us out."

* Four years ago, McArthur visited the memorial in Washington and found Bullock's name.

"It still had his incorrect birth date listed," McArthur said.

He has petitioned the White House, Congress and the Marine Corps not only to get Bullock's correct birth date listed but also to get him a Medal of Honor.

Although most Medal of Honor awards are given based on eyewitness recommendations, McArthur said he believed Bullock was entitled to the award because of his courage.

"He's a historical figure," he said. "My intention is to make everyone aware."

McArthur also has placed notices on Web sites for veterans and an advertisement in a Marine publication seeking anyone who knew Bullock in Vietnam.

Steve Piscitelli, 50, answered.

He was surpised to find someone else who remembered Bullock.

"No one had really known Dan," said Piscitelli, a sculptor in Orlando, Fla., who served with Bullock in Fox Company.

Piscitelli, the recipient of two Purple Hearts, said he also had looked after Bullock.

"He was an enigma. No one could figure him out," Piscitelli said.

The night Bullock was killed, he and Piscitelli had been sparring in a friendly fashion when Piscitelli broke his thumb. Bullock, who had been assigned to cleaning duty, went to the front-line post in Piscitelli's place.

Piscitelli, who became an artist as a way of dealing with post-traumatic stress, has worked with McArthur to design a statue that shows Bullock holding an M-16 rifle in his right hand while positioning himself to toss, with his left hand, a grenade around the corner of a bullet-riddled wall.

McArthur said Bullock's sacrifice was worth noting and wants to use Piscitelli's statue to do it.

"He [Bullock] was remarkable . . . because he joined the corps and stood up for what he believed in and took his secret to the grave."

Melanie D. Scott's e-mail address is mescott@phillynews.com

PFC. DAN BULLOCK FOUNDATION For more information about the nonprofit organization, call 1-877-927-4376 (1-877-WARHERO) or visit the Web site at www.pfcdanbullockfoundation.org

Donations can be mailed to the Pfc. Dan Bullock Foundation Inc., Box 246, Mount Laurel, N.J. 08054-6800.

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