September 12, 2003
Chico News and Review May 26, 1988 and Joan Lee, sister of
Thomas Charles Van Campen
PFC Thomas Van Campen, Army Oroville, CA KIA June 24,1965
S. Vietnam 28 /Dec, 45-Missing BNR. Pat McClanahan and Joan Lee
who are members of the Oroville Veterans Memorial Park Committee.
From the News and Review. "The North Valley's First casualty died
long before many Americans had ever heard the word Vietnam. Born
and raised in Oroville, Tom enjoyed roaming through the hills behind
town, where he learned about the animals and the Indians who once
lived there. He attended St. Thomas Catholic School and graduated
from Oroville High in 1963, where he boxed and was active in drama.
In September 1963, just three months out of high school, while he
was still 17, Van Campen enlisted in the Army. He trained as a paratrooper,
and in 1965 was sent to Vietnam with the 173rd Airborne Division.
On June 24, Van Campen's unit was sent on a search and destroy mission.
As the men were unloading from a helicopter, he and two others became
separated from the rest of the unit. As they were running down a
trail trying to rejoin their company, the three men encountered
a Viet Cong hut. They were fired on and Van Campen was killed instantly.
The next day the entire company returned to the area to recover
Van Campen's body. Although they sustained two more casualties,
they never found him. Thomas Van Campen was not only the North Valley's
first casualty, he was the first soldier in the 173rd Airborne to
die in Vietnam."
From Joan Lee, Tom's sister: “He was Tommy until about 13
or 14, then you didn't call him that. Tom was polite to all other
relatives and would not say no to Tommy. His cousin Susie named
her first baby after Tom. He's grown up now. Tom went to Bird Street
School for 1st and 2nd grade and then to the new St. Thomas Catholic
School until the 8th grade. His freshman year at Mont La Salle,
a Christian Brothers School in Napa where he enjoyed playing little
jokes on the Nuns. His sophomore, junior and senior year were at
Oroville High. He liked animals, basketball hiking and baseball.
He enjoyed Jonathan Winters, as he liked acting and making up things.
He liked to write and do impressions of famous people and act out
comedy routines. One letter he wrote said he liked the book "AKU-AKU
The Secret of Easter Island" by Thor Heyerdahl. Tom and his friends
were down town one night after an OHS game and witnessed a break
in at a jewelry store. Tom called the police. The culprit was apprehended.
His favorite actors were Glen Ford and Strother Martin. His favorite
actress was Haley Mills. He liked candy apples, tacos, and tamales.
He loved his German Shepherd dog and his Motor Bike. Tom always
saw the funny side of things, but he was also a serious young man.
He dreamed of manning a lighthouse. He could always guess endings
of Alfred Hitchcock and the Twilight Zone TV show. When he joined
the Army at 17, he had his basic training at Fort Ord and then he
went to Ft. Benning, Georgia to train to be a paratrooper and earned
OROVIILLE VETERANS MEMORIAL PARK COMMITTEE will have a ceremony
honoring our POW's and MIA'S, Friday, September 19th at 7PM. It
will be held on the front steps of the Veteran's Memorial Hall on
E-mail from Sergeant Deborah Shaner; Sept. 5th.
Hello! Well it's been more active here lately. The sound of small
arms fire, 50 cal. and the Womp! Womp! of rounds from mortars, tanks
or RPGs. I tried to record the sound on my camcorder but il won't
pick up the sound. We've gotten so used lo it now. We are done with
the CDC yard for the next two months. If we are still here my platoon
will rotate back. We will be going back out on road missions. It
will be a nice change to get back out on the road all except for
the early mornings (yawn!!). We finally got bulletproof vests. We
are also getting CB radios for the trucks because hand held walkie-
talkies don't always reach the end of the convoy when you have more
than 25 plus trucks Especially when they are slow moving strung
out Iraqi trucks.
Stu's Notes: Joan is a real trooper. She has been on our
committee since the start. She has been such a help
on our project. I just heard on the news today that our National
Guard men and women may be there up to another year.