Michael Melvin Spark
Colonel, United States Marine Corps
Name: MICHAEL MELVIN SPARK
Date of Birth: 6/9/1927
Date of Casualty: 1/15/1969
Home of Record: NEW YORK, NEW YORK
Branch of Service: MARINE CORPS
Casualty Country: SOUTH VIETNAM
Casualty Province: QUANG NAM
COLONEL MICHAEL M. SPARK IS KILLED; LED 3RD MARINE REGIMENT IN WAR
NEW YORK, New York, January 24, 1969 – The death in combat of Colonel Michael M. Spark, commander of the Third Regiment, Third Division, United States Marine Corps, was reported here yesterday. Colonel Spark, of Alexandria, Virginia, was 41 years old.
The Marine Corps Information Officer said that Colonel Spark was the first Marine Corps regimental commander to be killed in action in Vietnam. He died January 15 when his helicopter was shot down by heavy enemy automatic weapons fire at Anhoa, about 18 miles south of Danang.
Michael Melvin Spark’s service with the Marine Corps was in keeping with a family tradition. His father, Victor D. Spark, had served in the Corps during World War I, and his brother, Donald W. Spark, was killed on Saipan in 1944 while serving with the 35th Regiment of the Fourth Marine Division.
Colonel Spark, who was born here on June 9, 1927, was a graduate of Dartmouth College, where he was enrolled in the Navy’s V-12 program. After the death of his brother and upon graduation, he entered the Marine Corps as a Second Lieutenant.
He served at posts in the United States, in the Mediterranean, in England, South Korea and South Vietnam. While in Korea, he was wounded while serving with the First Marine Division. He also attended the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island.
Before his tour in Vietnam, which began last April, Colonel Spark was at the Pentagon as an aide to Under Secretary of the Navy Charles F. Baird. At the time he held the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He was promoted to Colonel in Vietnam.
In addition to his father, Colonel Spark is survived by his widow, the former Eleanor Asherfeld, by a son, Donald E., two daughters, Laura M. and Elizabeth C. and his mother, the former Nina Wimple.
A funeral service will be held on Monday at
10 A.M. at Arlington National Cemetery.
AWARD OF THE NAVY CROSS
The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Michael Melvin Spark (0-49041), Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism while serving as Commanding Officer, Third Marines, THIRD Marine Division (Reinforced), Fleet Marine Force, in connection with operations against enemy forces in the Republic of Vietnam on 15 January 1969.
During a multi-battalion search and clear operation in the vicinity of An Hoa, Colonel Spark exhibited outstanding courage and presence of mind in the midst of violent combat action. While commanding a bold, highly imaginative, mobile operation in the mountainous terrain, Colonel Spark directed an assault against heavily fortified enemy positions.
After ensuring that his men were properly positioned, Colonel Spark went airborne, by the use of a helicopter, to observe and direct the operation. During the process of the operation, it was necessary for the helicopter to descend, and as the helicopter hovered over the landing zone, which had been hastily cut out of the jungle, the enemy took the aircraft under automatic-weapons fire. Despite the enemy fire, he defiantly continued the personal direction of his men until finally the helicopter was hit and caused to crash. As the helicopter impacted, the enemy continued firing upon it, killing all the occupants.
Throughout the entire operation, Colonel Spark placed requirements for full and direct support of his combat elements above any concern for his own personal safety. He spent the majority of his time with his forward-most units in order to effectively control the action. This enabled him to maximize exploitation of many situations, and served as an inspiration to the officers and enlisted Marines of his command.
By his intrepid fighting spirit, daring initiative,
and unswerving dedication to duty, Colonel Spark upheld the highest traditions
of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave
his life for his country.
Posted: 5 January 2008