• lakehurst
  • Ocean
  • February 04, 1930
  • April 28, 1971
  • Army
  • RANK:
  • SMAJ
  • KIA
  • South Vietnam


Donald F. West was born on February 4, 1930, in Fowler, OH. He was one of 11 children. His parents were Mr. and Mrs. Harrison G. West. He had seven brothers, George, Martin, Merle, Daniel, David, Melvin and Robert, and three sisters, Delia, Doris and Florence.

Just a month after he turned 17, on March 17, 1947, Donald West began his basic training at Fort Benning, GA. This was the first step in a military career that would span more than 24 years and take him to all parts of the world. He served our nation as a member of the elite Special Forces, known as the Green Berets.

In 1952, the Special Forces was reactivated after a period of being disbanded after World War II. The military was seeking trained personnel to fill the ranks, not "raw recruits." By that time, with five years of Army service behind him, West qualified. He applied for this service and was selected to serve. He took numerous specialized training programs, and over the years, many language classes.

West served numerous missions in Vietnam, but his last tour of duty began on Sept. 20, 1970, with the 5th Group, Special Forces. He was, at the time, a Master Sergeant with TF1AE (Task Force One, Advisory Element) CCN (Command and Control North), MACV-SOG (Military Assistance Command-Vietnam, Studies and Observation Group) in Quang Nam Province.

CCN often operated in conjunction with the CIA-trained Meo tribesmen of General Vang Pao. In 1971, the Laotian operations were given the code name PHU DUNG, and in March 1971, MACV-SOG created TF1AE to replace its three field commands. This task force was located at Danang, according to the MACV website.

West was mortally wounded while on a combat operation when a booby trap detonated and he suffered multiple fragment wounds. He died a day later, April 28, 1971, in the 95th Evacuation Hospital.

He received a posthumous promotion to the rank of Sergeant Major (SMAJ).

His body was returned home to his widow and children in Fayetteville, NC. Funeral services were conducted at the John F. Kennedy Center Chapel, Fort Bragg. Burial followed with full military honors at LaFayette Memorial Park in Fayetteville. His widow died of cancer in 1987 and is buried beside him.

West met and married his wife, the former Anna Rauh in Kaufbeuren, Germany. They had four children, a daughter, Rosemarie and three sons, Gary D., Richard L. and Donald F. Jr.

Richard Lee, the youngest child, was born in Okinawa, where the family was living in 1965, while West was on active duty in the region. At that time, the career soldier, whose military code name was "Porcupine," listed his home of record as Lakehurst, NJ.

West had various tours of duty in Japan, Germany, Korea and Vietnam. He served in the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 6th and 7th Special Forces Groups during his 24 years of service. He was fluent in numerous languages. He was also an editor of the Green Berets magazine, published during the Vietnam War years.

On the home front, while on leave between missions, West designed and built a large addition to the family home, according to Richard, who was 6 when his father was killed. Richard grew up learning much about his father's military lifestyle from his mother. More than three decades after his death, he remembers his dad as his hero.

Sources: Anne M. Cullen (volunteer), VVMF, and NJVVMF.


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