January 27, 1973 – Colonel William Benedict Nolde, known as the last official combat casualty of Vietnam, is killed by enemy fire in An Loc, South Vietnam. In 1971, future Senator and Presidential candidate John Kerry asked this famous question: “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?” At the time, Kerry was a 27-year-old decorated navy veteran appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Vietnam.
Nolde was killed just 11 hours before the cease-fire that would end the war in accordance with the Paris Peace Accords. He was 43, a veteran of both Korea and Vietnam, and had been awarded 4 medals including the Bronze Star and Legion of Merit. Other men died in Vietnam after Nolde, but his was the last death during the conflict and ranks as number 45,941 in the list of confirmed American combat casualties. Nolde was scheduled for promotion to Colonel at the time of his death and his promotion was awarded posthumously. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetary and his funeral was broadcast on television and attended by President Nixon, General Alexander Haig and other dignitaries.