While the Fall of Saigon happened on April 30, 1975, for various reasons, U.S. President Gerald Ford declared May 7, 1975, to be the date that marks the end of the Vietnam War era. Exactly 20 years later, dedication ceremonies were held to mark the opening of New Jersey’s Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Holmdel (pictured above), which also includes the New Jersey Vietnam Era Museum.
Of the 1,487 soldiers from New Jersey who died in Vietnam, somewhere between 86 and 95 were from Monmouth County. The variance in the numbers reported by different sources is likely a result of the challenge in assigning a county of residence to a soldier. If a soldier was born in County A, but as a child was moved to County B and lived there for many years, which one is considered his home county?
We can be reasonably sure that the first person from Monmouth County to make the ultimate sacrifice for our country in Vietnam was Gerard Allen Binger.
Born June 7, 1927, in Neptune City, Gerard Binger was a career soldier who attained the rank of U.S. Army Staff Sergeant. Prior to enlisting in the Army, Gerard served with the Merchant Marines. He served his country during World War II and in the Korean War before Vietnam. He served in Europe for several years before being ordered in 1963 to attend the U.S. Army language school, where he studied Vietnamese for a year, graduating in 1964. He was then shipped overseas and was assigned to Military Assistance Command Vietnam Team 70, located in Lai Khe-Phu Loi-Binh Duong, as a Translator Interpreter.
S-Sgt Binger died on January 22, 1965, in his capacity as an adviser to South Vietnamese military forces. He had been participating in a “search-and-destroy” mission in Quang Nam province when he sustained multiple fragmentation wounds from mortar fire that proved to be fatal. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
Gerard Binger was buried at Arlington National Cemetery and he is honored on the Wall of Faces at the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial.
After his death, Binger’s wife Virginia and their four children moved from Oklahoma to live with Binger’s mother in Neptune City. When asked why she was moving to New Jersey, the Oklahoma native said, “It’s really simple. When he finally retired from service, that is where we planned to live. He always considered that home. I think I should go there now.”
Binger Rites in Arlington. (1965). Newark Star-Ledger, January 31, 1965, P. 30.
Gurley, George. (1965). Widow of War Victim Tries to Build New Life. The Ada Evening News, Ada, Okla., Friday, January 29, 1965.
Honors for 1,547. (1995). Asbury Park Press, May 7, 1995, P. 1.
Naughton, James M. (1975). Ford Ends “Vietnam Era” and Terminates G.I. Wartime Benefits. The New York Times, May 8, 1975, P. 14.
New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial and Vietnam Era Museum. Available: https://www.njvvmf.org/