Manual Reyes Denton – Hospital Corpsman Third Class, United States Navy

Date of Birth: 6/18/1941
Date of Casualty: 10/8/1963
Home of Record: KERRVILLE, TEXAS
Branch of Service: NAVY
Rank: HM3
Casualty Country: SOUTH VIETNAM
Casualty Province: QUANG NAM
Status: MIA

My name is LT GAY, NC, USN. We found a memorial from DaNang, South Viet Nam, dated Oct 8 1963. It listed Bruce C. Farrell, KLT, MC; Manuel R. Denton, HM3, USN and Claude Rice, HN, USN stating “Who died in the service of their country and whose contributions to medicine and their patients care cannot be forgotten. The memorial made of stone was found in the storage room at Futenma Branch Clinic, Okinawa Japan. We wanted to re-dedicate it as it had obviously been removed and brought here and wanted to learn more about the sailors mentioned.

U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Release


Sailor Missing from The Vietnam War is Identified

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that a U.S. serviceman, missing from the Vietnam War, has been identified.

He is Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Manuel R. Denton, U.S. Navy, of Kerrville, Texas. He will be buried as part of a group on Thursday in Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.

On Oct. 8, 1963, Denton was one of six men who crewed a UH-34D Choctaw helicopter that was on a search-and-rescue mission. While over Quang Nam Province, Vietnam, the helicopter came under intense enemy ground fire and crashed. There were no survivors. Over the next several days, the remains of four of the crewmen were recovered, however the remains of Denton and one other crewman, U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Luther E. Ritchey Jr., were not recovered.

Between 1991 and 2000, several joint U.S./Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) teams, led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), traveled to Quang Nam Province to investigate the incident and interview witnesses. Teams also surveyed the crash site and found wreckage consistent with a UH-34D.

In 2000 and 2001, human remains associated with this incident were turned over to U.S. officials. In 2002, a joint team excavated the crash site and recovered human remains.

As a result of the remains turned over in 2000 and 2001, and of those recovered from the crash site in 2002, Ritchey’s remains were identified in 2003. Some of these remains could not be individually identified, and they are included in a group representing the entire crew.  Denton’s remains are in this group, which will be buried together in Arlington.

JPAC used forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence in Denton’s identification.

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO Web site at or call (703) 699-1420.

The family of Manuel R. Denton, a San Antonio native killed in 1963 in Vietnam, will travel today to Arlington National Cemetery to bury the Navy hospital corpsman whose remains were not recovered for decades.

His widow, who struggled to raise their three daughters and had resigned herself long ago to never again seeing her beloved spouse, wept Tuesday as she discussed attending the funeral services on Thursday.

“He was a wonderful person and I'm glad there's going to be closure,” said Esmeralda Felsburg, 66, who remarried 15 years after her first husband of five years vanished Octoner 8, 1963, with six other soldiers on a search-and-rescue mission.

Within days after their helicopter was shot down by enemy fire over Quang Nam Province, U.S. authorities retrieved the bodies of four of the six crewmen.

However, they didn't find Denton, 22, or Marine Lance Corporal Luther E. Ritchey Jr., raising prospects they'd survived and escaped, or were captured.

For the next decade, Denton's family clung to the increasingly faint hope that he'd reappear.

During that time, they moved from Kerrville — where Esmeralda lived, met and married Denton — to California, where her family provided support.

“We just kept wondering, is he still alive? Is he in captivity? Where is he?” Arleen Grahn, 47, Denton's oldest daughter, said by phone Tuesday from Huntington Beach, California. “After awhile, we resolved that he was probably dead, and we started hoping we would get his remains back.”

According to the Defense Department, starting in 1991 the crash site was investigated and excavated by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command.

According to an agency news release, in 2000 and 2001, human remains associated with this incident were turned over to U.S. officials. In 2002, a joint team excavated the crash site and recovered human remains.

Ritchey's remains were identified in 2003, and Denton's were deemed to be among those found at the site.

“I was just in shock and disbelief,” Denton's wife said of being told in May that the fate of her husband was now known, nearly 45 years after he vanished.

Although comforted by the knowledge that he'd be buried properly, the prospect of attending his funeral revived memories — both joyful and painful.

“To have to replay everything again now is kind of hard,” she said by phone from her home in Lake Elsinore, California. “I still feel very emotional.”

She said Denton, already in the Navy when they met, loved serving his country.

“He said when he went to Vietnam, ‘I'm doing this for you and my children,'” she recalled. “And he would say ‘We will always have freedom in our country, but there will always be wars because freedom is not cheap.'”

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