CHARLES M JUDGE

CHARLES M JUDGE - SP4

  • HOMETOWN:
  • short hills
  • COUNTY:
  • Essex
  • DATE OF BIRTH:
  • September 30, 1946
  • DATE OF CASUALTY:
  • July 12, 1967
  • BRANCH OF SERVICE:
  • Army
  • RANK:
  • SP4
  • STATUS:
  • KIA
  • COUNTRY:
  • South Vietnam

Biography


Charles Mark Judge, Jr. was born on September 30, 1946.  His home of record is Short Hills, NJ.

Judge entered the US Army and attained the rank of Specialist 4 (SP4).

He was killed in action on July 12, 1967. 

Judge was killed in action on July 12, 1967.  He was awarded the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star with "V" device, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Combat Infantryman Badge and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Ribbon w/ Device.

He was named Charles Mark Judge, Jr. after his father, Charles Mark Judge, Sr. His whole life he went by the name C. Mark Judge and everyone who knew him just called him Mark.

Mark was the oldest of 8 children in a large Irish Catholic family.  He was born on September 30, 1946.  The family grew up in the affluent suburban community in Short Hills, NJ.  His father was a lawyer and a distinguished WWII veteran.  His father was a veteran of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and retired from the Army Reserve in 1966 as a Lieutenant Colonel.  His mother was a beautiful woman, a college graduate and a "full time" mom.  You would not say that he grew up in a wealthy family, but his father was a successful lawyer and the family was certainly Upper-Middle-Class.

Mark enjoyed a relatively privileged and happy suburban upbringing.  When he was growing up, he spent every summer in a town called Spring Lake at the Jersey Shore.  Spring Lake is sometimes called "The Irish Riviera" because of all the successful second and third generation Irish who go there in the summer.  Mark loved the beach and swimming.

Mark had a genius IQ, but he did not do great in school because he was often bored or disinterested in his studies.  He was popular with his teachers because they recognized his intelligence, but he also used his brains to do little things to drive them crazy.  Mark attended St. Rose of Lima elementary school through grade eight.  St. Rose is a Catholic school a block away from the house where he grew up.  Mark was pretty popular in class.  He was an Altar boy at St. Rose Church.

Mark's biggest passion as a kid was horseback riding.  Mark was a member of the Junior Essex Troop of Cavalry, a youth organization for kids ten years old to maybe 18 or so.  The Junior Essex Troop was a mounted troop of horse cavalry for kids.  They operated a horse farm in West Orange, NJ, and taught the kids horsemanship.  Mark was a great rider.  He competed in jumping competitions at horse shows where he would ride a horse in a "class" and jump a fence or steeple.

Mark went on to St. Benedict's Prep School in Newark, NJ, for ninth grade.  He did not do well at St. Benedict's and for tenth grade he transferred to Millburn High School, the local public school for Millburn Township.  Mark graduated from Millburn High.

Mark loved music, but not rock and roll.  He had a huge record collection of classical music, march music and Broadway music.  He had a great stereo and used to blast music at all hours of the day and night and used to drive everyone in the house crazy.

Mark loved to listen to Jean Shepherd on the radio (WOR) each night.  Jean Shepherd was a late night talk radio personality in New York.  Jean Shepherd later became famous for writing that movie "A Christmas Story" about the little kid who wanted the Red Rider BB-Gun for Christmas.  Mark got the whole family interested in listening to Shepherd on the radio and reading all his books.

After high school, Mark went to Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, NJ.  Mark did excellently in his freshman year with a major in Economics.  But with the war in Vietnam, Mark wanted to be where the action was and not in college.  Mark left college at the end of his freshman year and volunteered to join the Army.

Mark enlisted in the US Army and volunteered to go to Vietnam.  Mark went to basic training at Fort Dix, NJ in the summer of 1966.  Mark was proud that he was a "temporary" drill-corporal in his Basic Training unit.  Mark came home on leave for Thanksgiving in 1966.  He went with the whole family to the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in New York City.  The day after Thanksgiving, the family drove him to the Federal Building in Newark and dropped him off to leave for Vietnam.  That was the last time his brothers and sisters ever saw their oldest brother Mark.

Mark sent home tons of letters and pictures from Vietnam.  The family used to send huge "care" packages to him in Vietnam loaded with Wyler's Lemonade Mix, cookies, canned milk and of all things, canned egg nog.  You may talk to some veterans from the Fourth Division and find that they may remember LZ Egg Nog.  He was disappointed because he wanted to be an Airborne Ranger, but the Army sent him to the 4th Infantry Division in the Central Highlands instead.  He served with the 3rd Platoon, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division.  

Mark loved his unit and the guys in it.  He found them to be highly motivated and professional.  The NCOs (Sergeants) and Officers were professional and competent.  The unit had good morale.  Mark spent all of his time in Vietnam in the Central Highlands in the area around Duc Co (a Special Forces Base).  He was in the field most of the time or back in the fire base camp.  He never spent time in any built up areas or cities.

Mark and his unit worked a lot with the Montagnards, a name meaning "mountain people".  They are ethnically different from the North or South Vietnamese and there is no love lost between them.  Mark liked the Montagnard tribes people very much.  He wrote home that they are good friendly people and very tough fighters.  Mark thought Vietnam was a very beautiful place.  Vietnam would become a major tourist spot after the war.

The enemy was well-trained, fully equipped and organized units of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) Regulars.  They wore green or khaki uniforms and carried AK-47 or SKS rifles.  They wore helmets and web gear.  They were regular soldiers and a very tough opponent.  One night on an ambush, Mark looked out and saw two eyes looking back at him.  It turned out that the eyes belonged to a tiger.  Another night, Mark thought he heard someone sneaking up on him.  He fired his Claymore Mines.  It turned out to be two NVA soldiers trying to sneak up on him.  In that instance, he won and they lost.

Mark was wounded in a mortar attack on a firebase.  It was a minor wound that the medics patched up.  He was supposed to receive a Purple Heart for it, but the clerks in the Army screwed up and he never got it.  He was pissed about it.  Mark was very, very proud to have received the Combat Infantryman's Badge (CIB).  It was a very big deal for him.

One time he heard that Bob Hope was doing a USO show.  He and the guys from his unit tried to go, but when they got there, they were turned away because there was no room or they needed tickets or some other nonsense.

Mark was famous for being a heavy sleeper.  One time he slept completely through an NVA mortar attack on his firebase.  Mark used to write home and ask his father to mail him stuff that he wanted, but could not get in Vietnam.  Mark's dad used to drive into an Army Surplus Store on 42nd Street in New York City to buy the stuff and then mail it to Mark in one of the "care" packages along with food items and other stuff.

The work Mark was doing was tough.  The family could see from the slides he sent home that he was losing weight.  Each month he looked worse and worse.  He was in the field and it was wearing on him. 

Mark's unit was doing interdiction missions along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.  They were trying to stop the flow of supplies and men into South Vietnam.  Sometimes they got the drop on the enemy and were able to capture large amounts of equipment and supplies.  The NVA would stage large battalion or regimental sized units along the Cambodian border.  These staging areas were called "sanctuaries" and since they were on the Cambodian side of the Vietnamese border, the US troops could not go in after them (until Nixon in 1970).  The NVA used to cross over into Vietnam, attack, and then run back to safety in the "sanctuaries" in Cambodia.  This was a source of some frustration to Mark and the men in his unit.

Mark wrote home to his father to ask for help in obtaining his college transcripts so he could apply for Officers Candidate School (OCS).  He wanted to go to OCS and become an officer.  Most of the guys in the 4th Infantry all went over to Vietnam together in 1966.  In May/June of 1967, the "old guys" from the original group to come over with the 4th Infantry all started to rotate back to the US when their 1-year tour of duty was complete.  Since Mark did not join the unit in Vietnam until November/December 1966, he had to stay in the unit when most of his friends and guys in the company rotated back to the US in May/June of 1967.  The Army replaced the men who were rotating home in May/June 1967 with "fresh" inexperienced men from the USA or with experienced men transferred in from other units (like the 9th Infantry Division).  The problem was that many units used this as a way to get rid of their worst men or troublemakers by "dumping" them into the open slots of the 4th Division.  A commander who is told he must transfer 10 people out of his unit is more likely to transfer his 10 worst and not his 10 best, it is just human nature.  This caused HUGE problems for the 4th Division and my brother Mark's Company in particular.

Mark went to Hawaii for rest and relaxation (R&R) leave in June 1967.  He asked his mom and dad to fly to Hawaii to meet him.  It was the first time his dad had been back to Hawaii since WWII.  It was the first time his mom had ever been on a plane.  His parents were shocked when they saw Mark in Hawaii.  He was so terribly thin and exhausted.  His dad tried to take Mark horseback riding on the beach, but Mark could not keep up.  Mark would drink one beer and be sound asleep.  Mark's mom and dad spent those two weeks feeding Mark as much good food (steaks) as they could.  They drove around Hawaii and looked at the sights and bought cheap souvenirs to bring back to the kids in the family.  At the end of the two weeks they put Mark on a plane back to Vietnam.  That was the last time Mark's parents ever saw their loving son alive.

Mark returned to his unit in Vietnam.  All of the "old" guys from the 4th Division had rotated home.  He was surrounded by strangers, either new guys just getting to Vietnam or guys who were "duds" just transferred (dumped) in the 4th Division from other units.  Some of the "duds" were a real problem and tempers ran high.

The officers were all inexperienced as well.  All of the experienced officers had rotated home.  The lack of leadership or quality of leadership from the officers was a major cause for the disaster that took place on July 12, 1967.  In July the Air Force did B52 Carpet Bombing raids in the Central Highlands along the Ho Chi Minh Trail and the Cambodian Border.  After one B52 raid in July, Mark's Battalion was sent in to investigate and assess the damage.  This was a common practice at the time.  What they were really doing was holding out the bait to see if anyone would bite.  The battalion was inserted by helicopters on July 11th.  They stomped around the brush and bomb craters all day and found nothing.  They went to sleep that night with the plan to leave early the next morning by helicopter.

The next morning there was a lot of fog cover and there was too much fog for the helicopters to land.  The Battalion Commander (LTC Wright) decided to use this time to send out a couple patrols to look around.  Then the battalion started to get sightings of small groups of NVA soldiers and some light firefights, but nothing very big.

Mark's platoon (the platoon was only at about half strength) was sent out on patrol.  This is where Mark and his platoon ran out of luck.  They went out into the brush and stumbled into a battalion of NVA Regulars (it may actually have been closer to a Regiment).  The radio was destroyed and the officer was killed in the opening seconds.  The platoon was wiped out in a matter of minutes.  The NVA went from man to man and executed any of the US soldiers who were wounded.  The only survivors from the Platoon were several guys who were taken prisoner by the NVA (Rich Pericone, Marty Frank, Cordine McMurray).  It is still a mystery to everyone why the NVA took any prisoners.  At that time the NVA were not taking any US soldiers as prisoners.  Rich Pericone says that the NVA Officers actually spoke English amazingly well.

The NVA destroyed Mark's platoon.  Then the NVA went on and kicked the hell out of the rest of the battalion.  There were a lot of US casualties, but the battalion managed to hang on.  The Army seems to have underreported the casualties at the time of the battle in 1967.  The "lost" patrol that Mark's platoon was sent to find and guide back turned out not be lost after all and made their way back to the company perimeter without any problems.

After the battle the Army sent in troops to secure the area.  They went out and found the spot where Mark's platoon was wiped out.  They recovered most of the bodies, but they could not find Mark or a couple other guys or the guys the NVA took prisoner.  Nobody knew the NVA took any of these guys prisoner until the end of the war when the NVA released the POWs.

The Army sent a telegram to Mark's parents to tell them that Mark was Missing In Action (MIA).  Several days later the Army searched the area again and found Mark's body.  The Army sent a telegram to Mark's parents to tell them that Mark was Killed In Action (KIA).

In August 1967, Mark's body was returned home.  Mark had an enormous wake and funeral.  Everyone came.

Mark was laid to rest with full military honors.  An Honor Guard of soldiers from Fort Monmouth was at his funeral and fired a volley of rifle shots at his grave in salute.

The Officer in charge of the Honor Guard presented Mark's mother with the flag from Mark's casket.  Mark wanted to be a soldier and he was a soldier.

He died a soldier's death.  No shame and no dishonor.

Written by Paul B. Judge, Brother

Mark's memory was honored at a public ceremony on May 7, 2004 dedicating a memorial at Millburn High School for former students who died in the Vietnam War.

Judge's Bronze Star citation reads:
For heroism in connection with military actions involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam:  On 12 July 1967 Specialist Four Judge distinguished himself while serving as a Rifleman in Company B, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry.  He joined the unit in December 1966 and soon proved to be a soldier who could be depended upon to do a superior job without supervision.  He maintained his cheerful but resolute attitude in the face of constant hardship and danger, and participated willingly in every mission his unit undertook.  His effective performance in battle was a source of pride to his whole squad.  On 12 July 1967 Specialist Four Judge's platoon was sent to assist another unit in the area south of Du Co.  It became engaged with a North Vietnamese Army force estimated at battalion size and was cut off from the Company.  With the odds against them, Specialist Four Judge and his comrades prepared for the coming attack.  Isolated and without radio contact with artillery or air support, they repelled enemy assaults from all sides for hours.  He fought courageously until he was mortally wounded.  Specialist Four Judge's heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army.

Sources: Paul Judge (brother) and NJVVMF.

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