Ken and I were young Lt's together in 1st Bn 48th Inf, 2nd Bde, 3rd AD, Gelnhausen, Germany. Ken was also a Christian leader who organized the "God Squad" a take off on the Mode Squad a popular TV show at that time and ministered to the soldiers of the battalion. I was in Alpha Co and he served in Charlie Co. Ken was a fine upstanding man who could be counted on for anything. I knew him for about 7-8 months before shipped off to RVN. I followed him shortly thereafter. I recall hearing of his loss while in RVN while I was with D 1/7th Cav, 3rd Bde (Sep), 1st Cav Div. In Germany Ken lent me his dress blues and a white dress shirt once for a formal event, he had duty that day, we were both bachelors. Just a great Christian guy. Would do anything for anyone and commanded respect for his goodness and positive leadership. I miss you. Posted by:
Relationship: We served together in Germany
Tuesday, December 10, 2002
I never knew you personally. However, I was there close by the night you had to hide in that water tower. We were within 1-2 klicks from you and formed up a small group to try and rescue you. The number of enemy and tanks were overwhelming so we were told to call it off. I was with a small contingent of men from [1st Cav. Div., 3rd. Bde. (separate), 1/12th Cav, D Co.] that had been OPCONed to SRAG (John Paul Vann)as a Quick Reaction Force, and then further divided into squads and fire teams. I have always wondered what happened to you and now I finally know. You are a very brave man. May you rest in peace. Note: Other data may be found at: www.thebattleofkontum.com Posted by:
William B. Page
Relationship: Was near when he was captured
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Captain Kenneth Yonan
?CPT Kenneth Yonan, a 23-year-old West Pointer, who was a deputy regimental advisor, had climbed to the top of the water tower with his ARVN counterpart to call in jets
on the tanks.?
When we look back on our time at West Point and think about our various classmates, it is easy to remember those who stood out either because of their athletic prowess, academic achievement, leadership ability, or, at the other end of the spectrum, their brashness, pomposity, or all-too-memorable faults of whatever stripe. When I think of Ken Yonan, what stands out is that, frankly, he did not stand out. I asked myself, ?How would Ken wish to be remembered?? The answer I got was, ?Honestly, for the person he really was.?
Ken Yonan was quiet and unassuming as a cadet. He considered himself a good, strong Christian and hoped he never offended any one. He was not a distinguished scholar or athlete. He was one of those people who, when there was much activity going on in the barracks, could be seen standing on the periphery, smiling quietly with a very knowing smile but really not taking part. It is as if that smile said, ?I know what I am all about. You can go about your business of dragging cannon to the top of the clock tower or rushing about the halls playing sophomoric pranks. I know why I am here, and I do not need to say or do anything outlandish to prove my own value to myself.?
As one of his tactical officers reported, ?He has his own mind?very mature. He can?t see acting silly by shouting and being boisterous. This, to him, is not mature or showing initiative. He has a point.? It is not that Ken Yonan was aloof, distant, or unfriendly. He could always be counted upon to do his part, pull his weight, and more. He was a rock of stability and calm. Many of us may have thought he was too quiet and calm, but that is because we really did not understand who or what Ken Yonan was.
In the melange of workaholics, overachievers, and driven people that West Point attracts and, somehow, turns into productive contributors to both the Army and society, we often forget that there is a very important place for the strong, silent types. The Long Gray Line is made up of a wide variety of people. We tend to focus on the MacArthurs and the Pattons among that number to whom the word ?modest? would never apply. We forget (or at least do not give sufficient credit to) those in that line who do not jump to the forefront. This group does their job quietly, confidently, and earnestly. They want no special recognition. For them, medals, glory, and the like are not very important. They know they are doing a good job. They are doing the job they want to do. They do not need the brass bands and the parades. They have something all too many lack. They have a strong sense of self-confidence and personal pride. Ken was the epitome of that type of person, that steadfast member who keeps the line straight.
He was always ready to help a friend, to do a bit more than his share, to help make sure the team succeeded. During Ranger School, one classmate remembers seeing Ken, who had observed a classmate in trouble during the forced march exercise, literally carry the classmate the last mile to the finish.
Born to Florence Marie Evans and Joseph Yonan in Chicago, Ken had always aspired to a military career. He attended St. John?s Military Academy in Delafield, WI, before coming to West Point. Upon graduation, he was commissioned into the Infantry and served with the 1st Battalion, 48th Infantry 3d Armored Division in Gelnhausen, Germany.
In 1971, he was assigned to MACV. Ken?s active duty, like his time as a cadet, was characterized by quiet, hard work and a strong sense of duty.
April 24, 1972
?By the time he [COL Phillip Kaplan] led his advisors to the Cobra parking place next to the minefield where he had told [John Paul] Vann to pick them up, two tanks had rolled in through the front of the compound, the NVA infantry were starting to follow, and a third tank had pulled up beneath a tall concrete water tower not far away at the west front corner, threatening their position. CPT Kenneth Yonan, a 23-year-old West Pointer, who was a deputy regimental advisor, had climbed to the top of the water tower with his ARVN counterpart to call in jets on the tanks. He hadn?t been able to do so because of the clouds and haze, and the tanks had then trapped him and the ARVN officer on the water tower. Yonan was never seen again.?
excerpt from: A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam by Neil Sheehan, p. 773
Sixteen years later, on 6 Apr 1988, representatives of the Vietnamese Office for Seeking Missing Personnel released the remains of what was alleged to be an American serviceman killed in the conflict. On 20 Jun 1988, those remains were identified as MAJ Kenneth Joseph Yonan. We have no way of knowing what happened to Ken that fateful day so many years before. However, based on the characteristics he showed during his days as a cadet, we are sure that whatever happened, Ken acted with courage and quiet determination. For those of us who knew him, we lost a friend upon whom we could always count for the important, difficult tasks life brings.
He had achieved what he set out to do when he wrote in his application for West Point, ?My aim is to become an Army officer our country will be proud of.? The book from which the excerpt above is taken stirs memories of times and events many of us would just as soon forget. Nonetheless, in the case of Ken Yonan, it portrays a brief moment in a bright and shining life whose memory continues to enrich us all.
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