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Vietnam Graffiti M1 USMC - L/Cpl William George Dutches

Article about: Hey all, I wanted to share a recent addition to my collection with you, as well as the story that unfolded after I purchased it. I'll warn you now, this is quite a long post. First off - I'v

  1. #1

    Default Vietnam Graffiti M1 USMC - L/Cpl William George Dutches

    Hey all,

    I wanted to share a recent addition to my collection with you, as well as the story that unfolded after I purchased it. I'll warn you now, this is quite a long post.

    First off - I've been hunting for a Vietnam era graffiti'd M1 for quote some time. I had seen a few on ebay and dealers sites, but would always lose the auction or find a great helmet that had already been sold. Just my luck, right? I must be cursed!


    The Helmet

    So, a few weeks ago, I found this helmet up for sale on the IMA website. Upon first glance, the mitchell cover looked great. Faded, old looking ink, properly worn, nothing cheesy and no quotes from Full Metal Jacket. However, graffiti'd M1's can be a minefield, and it's hard to ever claim that an example is fully original without an identification. But I wanted one badly, so I purchased it, and while I waited for it to arrive, I began trying to see if I could pin down which veteran had brought his helmet home.

    The writing on the cover was as follows:

    Hawthorne New Jersey

    Betty Lou 8/2/60

    "Snorkle" Dutches


    And some greek letters.



    The Research

    I started by researching Vietnam vets from Hawthorne, NJ and looking for marriage records regarding a Betty Lou in 1960. Nothing came of this. However, I came across an article about a street in Hawthorne NJ being renamed for the first local to die in Vietnam... his name was L/Cpl William (Billy) George Dutches. He was killed on June 14 1966 while serving with 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines, 3rd MARDIV. He was 21 years old.

    This matched up with the name "Snorkle Dutches" written on the back of the helmet - could this mitchell cover have been Dilly Dutches'?

    I found the man responsible for the renaming of the street, Paul Chepurko, and got in touch with him. He had written a book about Hawthorne veterans, and was able to give me a huge amount of information about Bily , all info that he had gathered from Billy's family and friends while writing his book.

    Betty Lou had been Billy's girlfriend; they had met in the summer of 1960 at a concert in a local park (a date which matches that on the mitchell cover). They were highschool sweethearts, and before Billy had left to fight in Vietnam, they had agreed to get married upon his return. Throughout highschool, Billy was a member of the Omega Gamma Delta fraternity - greek letters which match those written on the helmet cover.

    Billy was killed in an ambush on June 14th 1966 in the Quang Nam area near Hoi An. He was shot in the neck and died a quick death with his head in the lap of his friend. I managed to find a comment about Billy from a soldier who had been in his fireteam the day he was killed, PFC Harold Meester. His comment wrote:

    I remember Dutches as my fire team leader and remember 61466 very well. He was a good leader and friend the short time i knew him. He taught me alot of what I needed to know to survive. Thanks Dutches...

    I researched PFC Meester further, and discovered that he had been awarded the Silver Star that day. His citation reads:

    The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Private First Class Harold Wesley Meester (MCSN: 2168010), United States Marine Corps, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving with Company G, Second Battalion, Ninth Marines, in connection with combat operations against insurgent communist (Viet Cong) forces in the Republic of Vietnam. On 14 June 1966, while serving as a Rifleman, Private First Class Meester was in the First Platoon when it was subjected to intense small arms and automatic weapons fire. Almost immediately, the First Squad leader and first fire team leader were wounded and the squad was temporarily halted. After crawling as far as possible under natural cover, Private First Class Meester, under devastating Viet Cong fire, single-handedly charged across an open field and up a fifty foot hill in an assault on a fortified Viet Cong bunker containing six of the enemy. Throwing hand grenades and firing point blank into the bunker, he wounded one Viet Cong and routed the others, thereby enabling the platoon to reorganize and pursue them further. His actions resulted in the capture of much enemy equipment and prevented further casualties to his fellow Marines. By his daring actions and loyal devotion to duty in the face of great personal risk, Private First Class Meester upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.



    How did Billy's Mitchell Cover get home?

    This is a question we might never know the answer to. The cover itself was NOT stuck to the helmet shell (a WW2 M1 Schleuter rear seam with a different laundry number), and the liner was dated 1979 - obviously post VN and made after Billy was killed. This suggests that the set has not been together since Vietnam. I believe that the cover came home and was paired later on by a collector for display. Whether it was sold as surplus after the war, or if one of Billy's buddies brought his cover back as a memento of a lost friend, will probably always be a mystery.

    What we do know for sure, though, is that a young mans life was cut far too short in a conflict far from home. He was a year younger than me, and had a whole life ahead of him. As a collector, I got caught up in wanting a Vietnam graffiti helmet just because it looked cool. Billy's story has reminded me that collecting is so much more than that. We are temporary caretakers of personal items that speak volumes about the human contributions to massive conflicts that have literally shaped our world and the lives we lead today.

    I'll take care of this helmet cover, respect it, and keep Billy's memory alive. And I hope I've inspired some of you to look at the items in your collection and think about who's son, husband, mother, sister, etc. used it, and thank them too.

    Without further ado, here are some photos of the helmet cover, as well as information about Billy.

    Take care ladies and gents,

    Quinn

    P.S. A thread on USMF on the same helmet: Vietnam M1 Helmet Graffiti - ID - Page 2 - STEEL AND KEVLAR HELMETS - U.S. Militaria Forum


    Photos

    Two newspaper clippings regarding Billy. Thanks to Paul Chepurko and Sgt. Stubby from USMF for finding these.

    Vietnam Graffiti M1 USMC - L/Cpl William George Dutches Vietnam Graffiti M1 USMC - L/Cpl William George Dutches

    Billy in Marine Dress uniform. Thanks to Paul Chepurko

    Vietnam Graffiti M1 USMC - L/Cpl William George Dutches

    Papers outlining the circumstances of Billy's death. Thanks to AZnation from USMF.

    Vietnam Graffiti M1 USMC - L/Cpl William George Dutches

    Vietnam Graffiti M1 USMC - L/Cpl William George Dutches
    Vietnam Graffiti M1 USMC - L/Cpl William George Dutches

    Billy in country, 1966.

    Vietnam Graffiti M1 USMC - L/Cpl William George Dutches


    Vietnam Graffiti M1 USMC - L/Cpl William George Dutches Vietnam Graffiti M1 USMC - L/Cpl William George Dutches

    Vietnam Graffiti M1 USMC - L/Cpl William George Dutches Vietnam Graffiti M1 USMC - L/Cpl William George Dutches

    Vietnam Graffiti M1 USMC - L/Cpl William George Dutches Vietnam Graffiti M1 USMC - L/Cpl William George Dutches

    Vietnam Graffiti M1 USMC - L/Cpl William George Dutches Vietnam Graffiti M1 USMC - L/Cpl William George Dutches

    Vietnam Graffiti M1 USMC - L/Cpl William George Dutches Vietnam Graffiti M1 USMC - L/Cpl William George Dutches

    And some photos of the reverse side of the mitchell cover and the schleuter rear seam swivel bale pot.

    Hawthorne NJ

    KID (scribbled out)

    Dutch

    Omega Gamma Delta

    "Cliche"


    Red dirt is still on the cover, presumably from Vietnam.

    Vietnam Graffiti M1 USMC - L/Cpl William George Dutches Vietnam Graffiti M1 USMC - L/Cpl William George Dutches

    Vietnam Graffiti M1 USMC - L/Cpl William George Dutches Vietnam Graffiti M1 USMC - L/Cpl William George Dutches


    1963 contract date on the Mitchell Cover.

    Vietnam Graffiti M1 USMC - L/Cpl William George Dutches





    I hope you all enjoyed reading this post. If you did, please leave a message on Billy's memorial site. Keep his memory alive.

    THE WALL OF FACES - Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund

  2. #2
    MAP
    MAP is online now
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    Fantastic research

    Well done!

    And...I like the cover too
    "Please", Thank You" and proper manners appreciated

    My greatest fear is that one day I will die and my wife will sell my guns for what I told her I paid for them

    "Don't tell me these are investments if you never intend to sell anything" (Quote: Wife)

  3. #3

    Default

    Quinn,
    I have liked this helmet from the first moment I ever show it and as the weeks pass and more and more research has been done, I will have to say this helmet is one of the best Vietnam era helmets out there. I am proud of the work put in by you and others to keep this memory alive.

    Great job,
    Marty
    Fortune favors the brave 644th td

  4. #4

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    Very nice research.. If only I had something like this in my collection I could find more about. Very nice cover as well..

  5. #5
    Jan
    Jan is offline
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    Wonderful research and a stunning relic. Thank You so much for sharing!

    Best, Jan

  6. #6

    Default

    Agreed, as piece of research that brings and item to life, that's about as good as it gets.

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