SD Vietnam War Memorial Dedication Please Support the Memorial Soldiers, Heroes, and teachers information

 

 



In Memory of U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman Third Class

Charles Thomas Langenfeld

Watertown, South Dakota, Codington County

November 25, 1946 –April 17, 1969

Died of Wounds at Khe Sanh, Vietnam

Charles Thomas Langenfeld, sometimes called Chuck or Charlie by family and friends, was born on November 25, 1946, in Watertown, South Dakota, to his parents, Matthew Leo and Natalie Eleanor (Baker) Langenfeld, Jr. Charles had 10 siblings: James, Matt, Helene, Gretchen, Virginia, JoAnn, Paul, Susan, and Jill. Another brother, John, died in infancy. Charles graduated from Watertown High School in 1965; he was the Homecoming King that year. He went straight to the navy after he graduated. His sister Helene said, “He wanted to become a doctor [like his brother, Matt] but Mom and Dad could not afford to send him to college, so he signed up for the navy, and later transferred to the marines.”

Charles Langenfeld entered the Navy on October 25, 1965, in Fargo, North Dakota. After his training, Langenfeld was sent overseas, first to Panama where he took jungle warfare school prior to being sent to South Vietnam as a Navy Hospital Corpsman Third Class (HM3) attached to the 3rd Marine Division. According to his sister, Helene, as a medic, Charles was never supposed to leave the safety of the troops, but he always said, “I cannot leave the men to die and suffer alone,” and so he always went to help.

On April 17, 1969, just eight hours before U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman Third Class Charles Thomas Langenfeld was scheduled to leave Khe Sanh, he was killed by enemy fire. His death at Khe Sanh was among the last. The History Channel did a special on Khe Sanh entitled “The Unsung Heroes of Khe Sanh” which included several mentions of Charles “Doc” Langenfeld, one of the beloved medics of C Company, 3rd Medical Battalion (“Charley Med”) who had saved so many Marines’ lives during the 77-day siege. Ironically it was during the “stand-down” that the medics, including Doc Langenfeld, were killed while they bathed in the stream, just prior to their scheduled departure. His body was returned to the United States and although his funeral was in Watertown, he was buried with military honors at Resurrection Cemetery in Minneapolis, where his family had moved to.

After Charles Langenfeld’s death a memorial scholarship was established at Watertown High School by his classmates. Several classmates of Charles Langenfeld have posted remembrances to him on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund homepage. One of them by Terry M. DeVine is as follows: “Everyone loved Chuck. I never saw him when he wasn’t smiling. I’m sure that marines he served with grieved his loss. He was two years behind me at Watertown High School but graduated with my sister. I remember he was homecoming king and she was homecoming queen in the same year. We all miss Charles.” The other, written by Carolyn and Dave Oyan stated, “Charlie was a friend to each person he got to know. Charlie was never snobbish. Charlie had a warm, caring heart.”

His parents were grief-stricken after the death of their son. His father often said, “If only I could have afforded to send him to college…” Current survivors include his brother, Paul, and his sisters, Gretchen, Helene, Susan, and Jill. His sister, Helene, wrote that all of his friends and family miss him.

Many people wrote to us with simple memories of Charles, and they all said the same thing: Charles was loved by everyone he met. As his brother-in-law, Terry Redlin, a famous artist, wrote, “Chuck was the simply, ‘the best.’”

This entry was respectfully submitted by Jaden Long, 8th grade, Spearfish Middle School, Spearfish, South Dakota, on October 10, 2005. Information for this entry was provided by Rapid City Journal, 5/29/68, Watertown Public Opinion, 4/27/68, Vietnam Veterans Bonus Application, and <http://www.thevirtualwall.org/>. Additional information was provided by Helene Redlin, sister of Charles Langenfeld, Carol Langenfeld Athow, Unsung Heroes: The Battle of Khe Sanh, and photo courtesy of Watertown Regional Library.

 


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