Iowa State Memorial Union

John Pooler - Specialist Four

Rank: Specialist Four
Date Of Birth: : Sep 14, 1944
Date Of Death: Nov 29, 1968
War / Conflict: Vietnam
Hometown: Wheaton, Illinois
Gold Star Hall - Wall Location: Northeast Wall (by Entrance Door)
Service Ribbons Awarded:
  • Silver Star
  • Purple Heart
  • Viet Nam

Biography

We are grateful to Tom Summerhauser, who wrote a story entitled "Thanksgiving Day Miracle," from which much of John Pooler’s story is taken. 

John Shelby Pooler and Ted Rule were involved in the same operation at Loc Ninh, a village near the Cambodian border, and they died on the same day. The area was the scene of several battles as the North Vietnamese used it to build an offensive outpost only 75 miles northwest of Saigon. John and Ted share the same pedigree, serving in the First Infantry, Big Red One. They were assigned as infantrymen to M113A1 Armored Personnel Carriers, called “APCs”. John’s APC was number 332. 

John was born September 14, 1944 and listed Wheaton, Illinois as his hometown. He attended Iowa State University where he was an Industrial Administration major and a member of Delta Sigma Phi fraternity. 

While Tom Summerhauser recalled that John was an English teacher who was married and possibly had one child, his military records indicate that he never married – so we are unsure about his family status. We do know that he was drafted and served as an infantryman in the Army with a rank of Specialist 4, which is equivalent to a Corporal. He went through Advanced Infantry Training at Ft. Ord, California with his friend, Ronald Chavez, who remembers John as being “a strong, dedicated, brave, AMERICAN soldier." 

Ronald indicated that he and John “were assigned to the BIG RED ONE – 1st INFANTRY DIVISION as riflemen," the first division to be deployed to Vietnam. They reported to Long Binh, Vietnam where John was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry, A Company and Ronald was assigned to another Company. 

Shortly after his arrival in Viet Nam, John’s company was involved in the fourth battle of Loc Ninh. 

Tom Summerhauser, who survived the battle of Loc Ninh, recounts that a member of John’s basic training class, Tom Firmin, knew John as “an English teacher," “quiet” and “private”. Despite Firmin’s impression that John was “an English teacher, not a soldier," John proved that he was an excellent soldier in battle.

The first day of battle was Thanksgiving Day 1968, which John survived miraculously. 

According to eyewitnesses, he was “clearing a bunker” and “kicked off the cover” when a surviving North Vietnamese Army soldier sprayed 30 rounds from an AK-47 at close range directly at John, but all that ammunition missed him. One of the eyewitnesses said to himself, 'This guy is gonna live forever’." 

Those words were short lived as the following day John lost his life while attempting to save the life of a fellow soldier, Jesus Quinene Meno. According to Summerhauser, instead of calling for a medic and moving forward, John stopped in “the worst place to be during a gunfight - where the wounded lie, because someone is shooting at that place.” 

The fighting was intense, conducted at close range and the enemy was strongly entrenched. 

When John encountered Jesus, he stopped. “John didn’t have to stop. His job was to call Medic and keep going, but he stopped”. While tending to Jesus’ horrible wound, John was killed by “one clean bullet through his heart."

John received the following medals for his service. 

  • National Defense Service Medal
  • Combat Infantryman Badge
  • Purple Heart
  • Vietnam Campaign Medal
  • Vietnam Service Medal
  • Silver Star

John is buried at Sylvan Abbey Memorial Park in Clearwater, Florida. 

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