Fifty years ago

Local hero who died for America in the Vietnam War

Sergeant Alex Chisholm from Castlehill in Dumbarton died in the Vietnam War.

March 13, 2018 – Dumbarton-born Alexander Chisholm showed remarkable bravery and courage which earned him the respect of his fellow US Marines.

He sadly died however 50 years ago in the Vietnam War, cruelly cut down amidst a mortar attack launched by the Viet Cong.

Alex’s name is sculpted on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC – and on a memorial over his grave in Dumbarton Cemetery.

The handsome young soldier was just 26, the only boy in a family of six, who grew up in Quarry Knowe in Castlehill.

He emigrated to the USA to join his sister, Margaret, in seeking an exciting new life in 1960s New York.

Alex believed joining the US Marines would speed up his citizenship application and he became a rifleman. He was an excellent shot and was soon promoted to Sergeant.

Alex and his girlfriend Valerie Bunda, a school teacher, were planning to marry when he left the Marines.

They were a handsome couple with a golden future, but their dreams were shattered in that terrorist attack in South Vietnam.

After his death on September 10, 1967, Sergeant Chisholm 2242793 was flown home to Dumbarton, where he was buried with full military honours. His fellow Marines carried his coffin, draped in the stars and stripes, and fired a gun salute over his grave.

Then they lowered him down, witnessed by grieving relatives and a large number of mourners who attended the funeral.

Alex was well-known in the community. He had trained as an engineer and draughtsman at the Dewrance factory in Glasgow Road, Dumbarton, before emigrating.

He was from a popular and well-known local family and had been a hardworking former pupil of Dumbarton Academy.

An only son, he was the apple of his mother’s eye and dearly loved by his five sisters.

Our Vietnam hero’s name is inscribed with more than 58,000 others on the Vietnam War Memorial Wall.

His relative, Donald John Chisholm, said: “I remember talking to the American Marines. They were Black African American young men. I’d never met such tall fit men.

“We were in the Pine Trees lounge in Dumbarton, after the funeral. They formed the Guard of Honour and gave the gun salute. They were drinking tea or coffee and eating sandwiches.

“It seemed so unreal. What sticks in my mind the most about that day was that they told us that they were flying out to Vietnam that night. I often wonder how many came back to their families? God Bless them all.”

All Our Yesterdays by Bill Heaney is available on-line from

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