• union city
  • Hudson
  • July 22, 1934
  • November 26, 1966
  • Air Force
  • RANK:
  • MSGT
  • KIA
  • South Vietnam


Marchella R. Lanzone was born on July 22, 1934, in Union City, NJ, to Thomas and Antoinette Molino Lanzone. He had one brother, Anthony, and one sister, Mary Antoinette. His home of record is Union City, NJ. He was a 1952 graduate of Emerson High in Union City, NJ, where he enjoyed bowling and working with Boy Scouts.

Lanzone entered the US Air Force where he attained the rank of Master Sergeant (MSGT). From 1954 until 1956, he was stationed at Donaldson Air Force Base in Greenville, SC. While he was in Greenville, he married Mary Hill. They had four children: Michael, Tony, Theresa and David.

He was stationed at Griffis Air Force Base in Rome, NY, before going to Vietnam in October 1966. At the time of his death he was stationed with Headquarters, Ground Electronic Engineering Installation Agency in South Vietnam.

On November 26, 1966, at the age of 32, Lanzone was killed in a plane crash while a passenger on a C-47 Aircraft. The plane crashed as a result of engine failure during a mission to resolve a serious and urgent radio frequency interference problem. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Air Force Commendation Medal.

The back of his Bronze Star Medal reads:
The United States of America
To all who shall see these presents, greeting:
This is to certify that the President of the United States of America authorized by executive order, August 24, 1962 has awarded The Bronze Star to Master Sergeant Marchella A. Lanzone, AF12399132 for Meritorious Service (21 September 1966 to 26 November 1966) Given under my hand in the city of Washington this 12th day of June 1967.
Signed by Kenneth B. Hobson, General USAF Commander and Harold Brown the secretary of the Air Force.

Marchella Lanzone is buried in Woodlawn Memorial in Greenville, SC.

Letter to Mrs. Lanzone from Carl P. Walter, Colonel, USAF, dated December 15, 1966.

Dear Mrs. Lanzone:

I am writing this to give you as much information as I can about the events surrounding the death of your husband, as I was with him shortly before the tragedy. This may duplicate in part what Lt. Lancaster, his team leader, has written.

To start at the beginning, I was asked on Thanksgiving Day by Major General Bond, our Air Force Commander in Thailand, to find him help on a serious and urgent radio frequency interference problem. He knew he had in Vietnam a crack RFI team, of which your husband was a member. I sent word to alert the team at Tan Son Nhut. On Saturday, November 26, I flew in a C-47 #574, with several way stops, from Thailand to Tan Son Nhut Air Base, where I was to disembark and continue through Vietnam. The airplane was then to return to Thailand. When I landed, your husband and SM Sgt Earl Burns of Tinker AFB were waiting for me. They had been selected for the job.

We stood under the wing and talked while the airplane was refueling. I gave them the details of General Bond's problem and their mission. Our conversation was lighthearted. Both men were a little bit bored with the work they had been doing around Saigon and looked forward to seeing new scenery and having a new technical challenge. They were both confident and in good spirits and counting down the days eagerly toward their return from TDY (Temporary Duty). Ray kidded me about the ice and snow at Rome to which I was soon returning.

When the pilots and other passengers arrived, we all shook hands and Ray and Earl Burns boarded the C-47. Although I did not re-board, I know they strapped themselves into the familiar bucket seats amid the inevitable freight. There were 25 people, baggage and a full gas load aboard when the taxied out. The rest of the story I reconstructed from radio call logs and from witnesses for I did not see it.

The C-47 made a normal takeoff and climb. About five minutes out, the pilot radioed radar control that he had a rough No. 1 (left) engine and was turning back to Tan Son Nhut. He received a vector course to steer. Shortly thereafter, the pilot reported he had to feather No. 1. Soon he reported the field in sight and was cleared for a straight-in, downwind approach. Next he called the control tower reporting he could not get his landing gear fully down and locked. A witness later said the left gear only was down. This gear trouble undoubtedly added severely to his unsymmetrical drag and his control problem. The tower first saw the plane turning slowly left away from the field at very low altitude, to stall, wing over, and suddenly plunge to earth. Witnesses saw a steep, violent, crushing impact followed instantly by a fierce fire. The time was about 1850, November 26, 1966.

There is no question in anyone's mind that all aboard died instantly in that shattering impact. The fire that then largely consumed the wreckage and remains was not a factor in death although it complicated the recovery and identification effort.

The crash site is less than two miles north of the Tan Son Nhut airport, in rice paddies that we control by daylight; the VC control at night. While there have been from time to time reports of sniping at aircraft in these approach zones, there was no indication of hostile gunfire in this case that we could determine.

Your husband, MSgt Lanzone, was a fine, dedicated soldier. He was also a respected technician whose skill was known to all and called on by not only Air Force but Army and Marine communicators throughout the combat zone. They will miss him, as will we.

Sources: Mary Smith (widow) and NJVVMF.


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