Larry Dahms - CE4

Rank: CE4
Date Of Birth: Jun 6, 1947
Date Of Death: Nov 17, 1970
War / Conflict: Vietnam
Hometown: Garwin, Iowa
Gold Star Hall - Wall Location: Southeast Wall (Top Portion)


Wrote by John Landon, who served with Larry in Mobile Construction Battalion-74.

Larry Albert Dahms was Born, June 6, 1947 to Albert and Gretchen Dahms of Garwin, Iowa. He arrived on his parent's seventh wedding anniversary.

Fishing, camping, cub scouts and working on the farm filled most of his younger years. At school, he enjoyed football, track and basketball. As a senior he was a first-team, all-conference basketball player.

His leadership ability was one of the reasons that the Garwin American Legion selected him to attend Boys State as a junior in high school. He graduated from Garwin High School in 1965 with Salutatorian honors and special recognition for perfect attendance during his twelve years of school – 1952 to1965.

After high school in the summer months he worked for the Kellogg Electric Company. This is where his interest in Electrical Engineering was born.

He continued his education at Marshalltown Community College for two years and then transferred to Iowa State University for two years, from September 1967 to August 1969, majoring in Electrical Engineering.

Larry enjoyed his life at Iowa State. He lived right in the heart of campus in Alumni Hall.

He ran intramural track and played on the Iowa State University MRA Intramurals Class A Champion Basketball team for the 1967-1968 season. He had many close friends at Iowa State and was never without someone to have a good time with.

Upon receiving his draft notice he enlisted into the United States Naval Reserve and began serving in May of 1970. He arrived in Gulfport, Mississippi three days before I did in August of 1970. Larry and I participated together in military training prior to our departure to South Viet Nam. 

Starting on October 18, 1970, both Larry and I were stationed at Bien Hoa, Vietnam and frequently talked together about life in Iowa.  Larry was assigned to Mobile Construction Battalion 74, a unit of 1100 men, mostly construction experts. His background in electrical work made Larry uniquely qualified to serve as a Seabee. He was a Construction Electrician 3rd Class.

On November 17, 1970, Larry was part of an operation to move an antenna attached to a tall pole. In order to remove the equipment, a helicopter hovered above, ready to lift the antenna. Larry and fellow Seabee Dan Smith climbed up the pole to loosen bolts, strapping belts around the pole to stabilize themselves. Tragically, Larry suffered a fatal fall when the housing on top of the pole gave way.  I was there watching when the accident took place.

At the time of his death, Larry's fiancée Judith Kay Nelsen of Jewell, Iowa wrote a poem that expressed how his family and friends felt at the time of his passing.


Helicopters-poles-safety belts

All used in vain as a brave young soldier


Never to utter another sound.

Phone calls, people, hysteria, tears.

A dead son, brother, friend, fiancée ­--

was coming home forever.


Flowers, people, a flag, a tent-

A diamond that glittered like an eternal flame

On that endless day-

Flashing and glowing as though to say

 ­"Your love is still alive."


The flag whipped and fluttered around the coffin,

The wind acting as the man - full of life and playful,

Taps, soldiers, and the folded flag –

Then all was quiet once more.


As I stood there looking down,

I had to raise my head to the sky.

I knew he was not there,

He couldn't be under the ground.

He had become the sky, the trees, the wind,

The flowers - all that is beautiful.

Forever watching­,

Forever loving –


Dan Smith was in Larry’s unit and was the other man involved in the antenna operation.

He wrote, “I knew Larry Dahms pretty well. He was a lineman. We lived in the same hut and worked together for about two months before his fall. He was great friends with all the little group that we worked with and was a wonderful young man. Iowa and his family can be very proud.”

Upon my release from the Seabees in 1972 I enrolled at Iowa State University and graduated in 1975.  In my travels I have seen memorials to Larry Dahms in Washington, D. C. and at the Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport, MS., the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines, the Iowa Soldiers Home in Marshalltown, IA, and the city park in Garwin, IA.  

It is a great honor to pay tribute to Larry Dahms and know his name will be enshrined at Iowa State University.