JOHNSTOWN, PA, U.S.A.
CPT, PARATROOPER, MTT, 14TH SFOD, 1ST SFG, (MAAGV), VIETNAM
10/21/1957, NEAR NHA TRANG, VIETNAM
CPT Harry Griffith Cramer born May 24, 1926, in Johnstown, PA was the first United States Military Academy graduate to die in Vietnam during the Vietnam War, USMA Class of 1946. He was among the first U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers and holds the distinction of being the first U.S. Army Special Forces casualty.
Harry Cramer was the ultimate all-American G.I. Joe. He was born in Johnstown, PA on May 1, 1926, into a family that had a long history of military service. His grandfather served as a sergeant in the Union Army during the U.S. Civil War, and his father served as an officer in France during WWI. Harry Cramer graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point. He was the youngest member of the Class of 1946. His took infantry and airborne training at Fort Benning, GA. He worked in Japan as part of the post-WWII occupation force. He rotated back stateside and served as a recruiting officer at Fort Dix, NJ. Once war was declared in Korea, LT Cramer requested a combat command and shipped out to South Korea as a platoon commander in 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 25th Army Division. During the Korean War he demonstrated his toughness and dedication.
In 1951 LT Cramer’s platoon took part in an assault in the “Iron Triangle” of South Korea. During the battle, the American attack stalled with enemy combatants held a strong position. Pinned down by enemy fire, Harry Cramer personally led a bayonet charge that drove the enemy from their trenches. He was wounded and spent 3 months in recovery. He was awarded the Purple Heart and a Silver Star for Gallantry and promoted to Captain. He was wounded again and last served in Korea in a reconnaissance plane as an aerial spotter.
In 1952 Harry Cramer underwent advanced infantry training in Georgia, and Special Forces selection in North Carolina. He was the first West Point graduate to pass selection, and was assigned to the 14th Special Forces Operational Detachment whose job it was to train local and indigenous forces how to fight. That’s how CPT Cramer ended up in Vietnam training Vietnamese Special Forces. It was during a very realistic training exercise that he was killed.
For service in Vietnam, Harry Cramer deserved to be recognized as a veteran of the Vietnam War. The Defense Department felt the war in Vietnam was declared in 1961. CPT Cramer’s name was not included on the Vietnam Memorial in 1982 because his DOD was 1957. Harry Cramer III spent months navigating military and government bureaucracy and finally compelled the U.S. government to change the start date to the war in Vietnam to 1955, and to add CPT Cramer’s name to the Wall in 1983.war in Vietnam to 1955, and to add CPT Cramer’s name to the Wall in 1983.