LCpl Morris Dwaine New, USMC

 

Palmquist1Palmquist3In 1967, an Austin man named Morris Dwaine New (“Dwaine”) was killed in an ambush on a bridge in Vietnam. The next fire station in Austin built after his death was the third (current) Station 8 in 1971.

A pecan tree was planted there in his memory and a memorial plaque installed next to the tree. Generations of firefighters have worked at 8’s through the years with the vast majority not knowing who Dwaine was. Nevertheless, the tree was always watered and taken care of, and an American flag was always present. When a flag became threadbare, blew away, or disappeared, another soon replaced it. No one knew the story behind the tree or the plaque, but it seemed like the right thing to do.

Palmquist4Palmquist2Earlier this week, an older man knocked on the door of Station 8 around noon, and asked if he could take some pictures of the tree and plaque. His name is Dick Palmquist, and he and his wife were visiting Austin. He explained that he and Dwaine had been close friends, and that he was with him on the bridge that day in Vietnam when Dwaine was killed. He walked to the tree, put his hand on it, and lowered his head for a moment. He then asked the crew if they would mind if his wife took a picture of all of them in front of the tree. Of course, they obliged.

Palmquist5After they took the pictures, they spent a few moments speaking with Mr. Palmquist and his wife. It turns out that Dwaine was not just an Austinite, but was also a firefighter at our Central station. Many of the firefighters he worked with were WWII and Korean War veterans who knew the horrors of war all too well. They urged Dwaine to rethink enlisting. In Mr. Palmquist’s words, “If you get drafted, well, all right then, but don’t volunteer!” Dwaine did anyway and you know what happened after that. We also learned that Mr. Palmquist has been corresponding with AFD Lt. Jerry Cohen for about a year; Jerry works at Station 8 and runs the Austin Fire Museum.

In another interesting twist, Dwaine’s wife, Vickie (who passed away last year) remarried seven years after Dwaine’s death—to the Austin Fire Department’s photographer, Firefighter Erwin Haddon, who served in that role from the 1960’s to the 1980’s, and was at the dedication of the tree and plaque to record the event. In October 2014, they celebrated 40 years of marriage.

We’re so grateful to Mr. Palmquist for taking the time to share his story and these photos with us; opening those old wounds can’t be easy, but we are honored and humbled that he did so. Special thanks to Battalion Chief Rob Bredahl, who got permission from Mr. Palmquist for us to post this and for sending along the details.

Postscript. I was very fortunate to have served with both Marines about which this article was written. We were together in Echo 2/1 in Vietnam 1966-67. I was their Platoon Commander for a short period of time. I rotated in March 1967, and the incident occurred two months later. I know the exact bridge where the incident happened, always a danger area. What the article does not mention was that LCpl Dick Palmquist was also wounded in the incident. As always in actions such this, there was a hero.  

From Dick Palmquist himself, “What hasn’t been mentioned in all this is about a true HERO. Larry Hample shed his fighting gear and weapon, sat down with bullets flying everywhere, took his boots off, dove in the water, and help me out. He then jumped back in and tried to get Dwaine but couldn’t.”

Dick  was eventually medically retired, and Larry Hample was awarded the Bronze Star with combat “V”. I see Dick and his bride every year at our company reunion in Prescott Valley, Arizona.

Addition. Please read the comments below from Sgt Ed Benavidez who was the platoon sergeant at the time. He gives a good picture of the actual events from his diary. Ed’s diary has been extremely valuable to all of us at our annual reunions as we try to remember events, Echo Signtimes, and places–all of which have helped so many close some old wounds. Ed was one of our squad leaders when I was the platoon commander of second platoon. He is one helluva Marine. He made a name for himself with the Galveston Police Department, retiring as a Captain.

9 thoughts on “LCpl Morris Dwaine New, USMC”

    1. Josh. I am humbled by such comments coming from such a Stalwart Marine as you sir! It’s always great to hear from a member of the “Steely-eyed killers” who humped every country in the Med. I mean we did not have a choice, we had to maintain the tradition set by “Battle Cry’s” “Huxley’s Harlots.”

  1. I was also at the bridge. I was the acting platoon sergeant/right guide. Excerpt from diary on the incident based on my observation.

    3rd Platoon, Echo Co, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. We are about 15 miles Southwest of DaNang.

    Wednesday, May 24, 1967: In the morning we stayed around the area getting ready for the platoon patrol. We left at 1630 and arrived at Thanh Quit (1) about 1730. As we got to the river we spotted some VC on the other side and opened fire. We were going to cross a bamboo bridge to give chase. Half way across the VC opened fire and the first two men on the bridge, New and Palmquist, fell into the water both hit. We opened up with everything we had. Pfc New drowned trying to reach us, Palmquist made it. We got into a heavy fire fight and my M-16 jammed on me. I took a squad to flank the VC by moving to the dam and crossing over. Once we were on the other side the VC fled and I was instructed to hold my position. The rest of the platoon joined me and we set in for the night. Pfc Morris New is missing. He was married and lived in Austin, Texas.
    Note: During the fire fight I had spotted 3 VC moving from my right to the left and I had them in my sights, when my new M-16 rifle jammed

    1. New’s father Harvey and my father Jr were best friends. They both lost their sons one year apart in the same war same area. I never knew about Harvey New’s son until today, but now it makes sense why they were so close, they both went through terrible loss of their sons. Thank you for your stories, I will visit this fire station, oak tree monument.

  2. Thank you for sharing this. Heart warming annecdote to a sad event. And, of course, I love the picture of Jim on his favorite ship, the mighty USS Chicago CG-11.

    1. Thanks Doug. Seems I could never get away from “Chicago.” Sailed on it, had the recruiting station there, met my bride there, and now I live close to the damn place. LOL

Please leave a comment on this post or on any subject; all are appreciated. Thank you and Semper Fi, Jim