John H. Anderson Jr. had just turned 20 years old when he arrived in Vietnam on the last day of April in 1968. Like so many of the 500,000 Americans who served in Vietnam in 1968, he’d been drafted.
The young soldier, who lived in Wellsville, Pa., arrived in Southeast Asia at a moment of peak violence. The communists had launched a May offensive, also known as mini-Tet. American generals were aggressively pushing a counteroffensive. May 1968 would turn out to be the bloodiest month of the bloodiest year for Americans in Vietnam.
Pfc. Anderson served in the 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division, and was soon engulfed in fighting in the northern part of the country, near the ancient imperial capital of Hue. He survived less than four weeks. He was killed in a place named Nui Ke, known as Hill 618.