First Vietnam War casualty was Tennessee soldier - WSMV Channel 4

First Vietnam War casualty was Tennessee soldier

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LIVINGSTON, TN (WSMV) -

It is an amazing story, almost never told outside of a small middle Tennessee county, but the fact is the first casualty of the Vietnam War was a young soldier named Tom Davis from Livingston, TN.

Some 57,000 young men followed Tom Davis and paid the ultimate price to join his name on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Veteran's Day is a day to remember.

In Overton County there are many stories of service and loss. But one story is talked about over and over, the story of Tom Davis.

Fifty years ago, 25-year-old Davis, a Tennessee Tech engineering student, joined the Army and went to Vietnam on a secret mission.

Davis was in Vietnam intercepting communist radio signals and alerting the south Vietnamese so they could target and destroy those operations.

Davis was undercover, supposedly working as an ionspheric technician. He had no uniform, no gun and, at first, no danger.

"The tone of his letters changed," brother Jack Davis, of Livingston, said. "In the letter he said the bad guys had been given instructions to give us hell."

Davis actually asked his dad, a Livingston pharmacist, to send him a gun, because the Army wouldn't give him one.

Dad sent the gun, but it wasn't enough.

On Dec. 22, 1961, Davis was ambushed and killed while on a mission.

It was his little sister's 15th birthday, the first evening of Christmas break, when a taxi pulled up to the family home.

"I was sitting at the dining room table, and the knock came on the door. And dad got up and answered the door, and the taxi driver was standing there with a telegram. He called mother in there, because something bad happened," Jack Davis said.

Tom Davis was the first casualty of the Vietnam War. He was the oldest of five, smart, outgoing and adventurous.

His little brothers idolized him - why wouldn't they?

And while he is celebrated in this county, with monuments, memorials and medals, it is still a difficult memory.

"It brings back a lot of memories, and sometimes it gets hard, it really does. You never forget," Jack Davis said.

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