U.S. Navy Engineman Third Class Christopher G. Delgado:
Neighborhood Friend, State Champion Baseball Player, and Vietnam Hero
(By his friend Mario Longoria)
When I returned home from the military in June 1970, one of the first things I did was visit the homes and families of Christopher Delgado and other neighborhood buddies that did not return home from Vietnam to pay my respects and offer condolences for their loss. I recall walking up to Chris’s home and knocking on the door. His mother answered and I introduced myself, but she already knew who I was and said she would be right back. Instead, Chris’s father came outside to greet me. Stuttering somewhat, I told Mr. Delgado I was just separated from the Navy and came here to say how sorry and sad I was about Chris’s death. He looked at me a little tearful, said something that I could not hear, shook my hand and welcomed me back home. It was an emotional moment that is still very vivid in my memory.
Christopher George Delgado was a friend and big part of the neighborhood experience. Before the high school era, we attended Brentwood Elementary and played baseball every week day during the summer. Chris was one of the better players on the team and later when he attended La Salle Catholic High School; he developed into an excellent pitcher and led the team to the Texas Catholic Interscholastic State Baseball Championship in 1965. Those were memorable times in the neighborhood as we came of age and developed life-long friendships, but the time had arrived in our lives to decide where we were going after high school.
In 1966, Christopher enlisted in the U.S. Navy rather than being drafted. According to his sister Imelda, “he wanted to join the Navy and not go into the Army.” She also recalls her love and great fondness of a very special brother. She says Christopher enlisted in the U.S. Navy, trained in San Diego, was stationed in Guam, and then received orders for duty in South Vietnam. She recollects from the letters that she and Chris exchanged that he never complained about the Navy and accepted his duty wholeheartedly. In a show of emotion, she tells me how she prayed all the time for Chris’s safety and never realized he would be killed. She exclaims she also asked God to bring him home, and later realized she should have specifically asked to bring him back home alive and not in a casket. It is evident from his sister Imelda’s memory that Chris was a very special brother and person. From her descriptions of Chris, he was a gentle and caring individual whom everyone respected. I can also attest to Chris’s likeable and unforgettable character. He was a leader and darn good baseball player, who after our younger days on the ball field, was greatly missed and it was always a pleasure to see him in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, the Vietnam War intervened and disrupted any future plans.
On June 15, 1967, Fireman Christopher G. Delgado received orders to the Naval Support Activity in Da Nang,South Vietnam where he was assigned to River Patrol Squadron-Detachment Tan My. For the next seven months, Chris served as an engine man on LCM8 #850 responsible to keep the boat transport operational to deliver needed ammunitions, fuel, and supplies to the marines fighting in Hue, Khe Sanh, and the DMZ. On February 17, 1968, Chris and other crew members aboard LCM8 #850 were part of a convoy escorted by gun boats and two helicopter gunships to deliver fuel to the marines fighting in the city of Hue. Enroute to their destination, the boat was hit by rocket fire from the bank of the river that caused an explosion, fire, and shrapnel that severely damaged the boat, killed or wounded its crew. Regrettably, Chris was a casualty of the attack, and according to his Division Officer Lt. McKinnon, his body was recovered from the burning and sinking craft by an unidentified marine who rushed him to get medical help. However, efforts to revive Chris were unsuccessful.
On February 21, 1968, Chris’s parents, Mr. & Mrs. George Delgado received a telegram from the United States Navy informing them of the following:
We deeply regret to confirm on behalf of the United States Navy that your son EN Christopher George Delgado, USN, 9969918 was killed in action on 17 February 1968 on board the craft LCM-8. He sustained missile wound when the craft was hit with artillery or rocket fire while enroute from the mouth of the Huong River to Hue, South Vietnam. Your son died while serving his country. I extend to you my sincere sympathy in your great loss. A letter from his commanding Officer setting forth the circumstances of death will follow…
The Delgado family also received letters from Lt. Junior Grade Ross G. McKinnon, Chris’s commanding officer, Rear Admiral B.M. Strean, Acting Chief of Naval Personnel, dated April 3, 1968, and Captain E.S. Harrison, U.S. Navy, Personal Services Division, Bureau of Naval Personnel. The letters expressed consolation for the loss of a son and informed them of the awards presented to Chris for his Navy service. Captain E. S. Harrison’s correspondence included a Decree from Lieutenant General Nguyen Van Thieu, Republic of South Vietnam Armed Forces, citing Chris for his exemplary actions. The decree awarded Chris the Vietnamese Military Merit Medal and Gallantry Cross with Palm for his courage, self-sacrifice, and for setting a brilliant example for his fellow sailors and soldiers in the war against communism.
To this day, Petty Officer Third Class Christopher George Delgado (Promotion granted posthumously) is remembered and honored as a hero for his duty and sacrifice. More importantly, his family, his sister Imelda and numerous friends greatly mourn his loss, his friendship, and above all, his good natured disposition and caring manner.
Personal Interview with Imelda Delgado. 17 April 2014, San Antonio, Texas.
B.M Strean, Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy letter to Mr. & Mrs. George Delgado, 8 April 1968.
McKinnon, Ross G., Lt. Junior Grade, U.S. Navy, Letter to Mr. & Mrs. George Delgado, 13 March 1968.
“S.A. Navy Man Killed in Vietnam.” San Antonio News. Thursday, February 22, 1968. Page 4-E
“Seaman Delgado.” Kelly Observer. 30 March 1972, page 2.
Van Thieu, Nuguyen, Lt. General, Republic of South Vietnam Armed Forces, Letter to Captain E.S.
Harrison, U.S. Navy forwarded to Mr. & Mrs. George Delgado, undated. TS.