Len Martin Hanawald – Lieutenant Colonel, United States Army

Date of Birth: 9/9/1935
Date of Casualty: 9/3/1969
Branch of Service: ARMY
Rank: LTC
Casualty Country: SOUTH VIETNAM
Casualty Province: QUANG TRI

Lieutenant Colonel Hanawald was my battalion commander. I was the Battalion executive officer. He was superb officer and commander. He was killed while trying to take a North vietnamese prisoner, who had come into the open with hands up. When his helicopter landed it was ambushed by the NVA. He was shot through the bottom of the helicopter and through the leg.  He bleed to death enroute to our aid station at Camp Evans, Quang Tri Provence. I Corps Zone. I was there when he died. Strong, smart, cool, effective, good man.
Posted by: Samuel Watson, Wednesday, November 7, 2001

Len Martin Hanawald
Died 3 September 1969 in Vietnam,
aged 33 years.
Interment: Arlington National Cemetery,
Arlington, Virginia

It has been years since Len met his untimely death on the battlefield in Vietnam. Although the passage of time tends to erode the anguish that results from the death of a loved one, it in no way weakens the bonds of love and respect that have been developed among the living. These bonds are made of that intangible fabric that not even death can break, but, on the contrary often provide the living with additional strength to sustain them in life. Those of us who had the privilege and opportunity to know Len can readily recall and grasp some of the many fine qualities this marvelous soldier had, and use these recollections to make our own lives more meaningful. To Len's family perhaps it is the recollection of his complete devotion, faithfulness and loyalty to them. Len's fellow soldiers might most vividly recall his total unselfishness, his dedication to his country or his unparalleled courage. Regardless of one's relationship with Len, Len represented a lot of things to a lot of people.

Len was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on 9 September 1935. He entered the Military Academy in 1953 after completing his last two years of high school at New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, New Mexico.

From the day he entered West Point, Len was known as a ”scrapper.” Despite his small size (five feet six inches, 135 pounds ), Len was one of the finest boxers at West Point and fought on the Academy's boxing team, which at that time participated in intercollegiate competition. In addition to his boxing skills, Len was also an avid football player and played guard on the regimental champion football team. Len's physical courage and tenacity were attested to early in life when in one football scrimmage he was knocked unconscious by a blow to the head and after regaining consciousness insisted that he be reinserted into the lineup. Within minutes he was once again knocked unconscious. Once he was revived, Len was ordered to go to the hospital for a checkup despite his adamant argument that he was all right and wanted to play again because he needed the practice. This was Len Hanawald! Tough, fearless, and a fierce competitor!

As might be expected, Len chose to enter the Infantry and after his graduation attended Airborne and Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia. His first troop assignment was with the 501st Infantry, 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, In 1960 Len was reassigned to Germany and became a member of the 1st Airborne Battle Group, 505th Infantry.

When he returned to the United States, Len attended the Infantry Officers Career Course. This period was especially meaningful to Len, not because of his academic prowess, but because he met and married his beloved wife Margaret. After completing the Career Course, Len volunteered for the Special Forces and in early 1965 commenced his first tour in Vietnam. After a successful tour during which he received the first of his four Silver Stars, Len was assigned to Fort Leavenworth where he became a student in the Command and General Staff College. In January 1967 Len and Margaret became the proud parents of their first daughter, Sally.

After his graduation from the Command and General Staff College, Len was assigned to the Infantry Officer's Branch, Office of Personnel Operations, in Washington, D.C. Len's earlier selection for promotion ahead of his contemporaries and then his selection to work in the Infantry Branch are professional testimonies of Len's reputation as a Regular Army Officer.

Despite his gratification at being able to assist other Infantry officers in developing their careers, Len became anxious to return to Vietnam “‘where the Army was.” Margaret gave birth to their second beautiful daughter, Jennifer, in January 1969, and shortly thereafter Len volunteered to return to Vietnam for his second tour. The thought of being separated from his beloved family hurt Len, but he felt it was his duty to return to the combat zone. In May 1969 Len rejoined the 101st Airborne Division and shortly thereafter became the commanding officer of the 2d Battalion, 506th Infantry. Len's dreams were fulfilled. He now had the privilege and responsibility of leading his men in combat, a challenge which he accepted in his typical humble but self-confident manner. His performance as a battalion commander is very aptly described in a brief note written to the 101st Airborne Division's magazine by one of Len's troopers.

The trooper wrote: “As a former member of the Reconnaissance Platoon of Lieutenant Colonel Len M. Hanawald (2/506), I feel this loss should be properly noted. He was treacherously killed while apprehending a prisoner. The Colonel was more than a leader by title, and although I knew him no better than any other man in the battalion, I was impressed by his personal style of leadership. When a landing zone had been cut and secured by no more than a platoon, the Colonel could be expected to be the first to land and let us know he was concerned about our mission. Lieutenant Colonel Hanawald wasn’t ‘the commander’ – he was ‘our commander’ and his death, tragic as it was, denied the battalion his very active leadership, but the spirit of ‘Airborne’ (his call sign) will not be forgotten by those who served with him.”

Yes, Len, we have temporarily lost you, but we have all learned a little hit about life from you. It has been well done Len. “Be thou at peace.”


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 09/09/1935
  • DATE OF DEATH: 09/03/1969

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