1947 - 1967

Marine Corps.
Vietnam War

Their Story

The story of Carl John Olson is one of heroism and overcoming tough challenges. John Olson was born June 25, 1947, in Iowa.[1] Tragically, his dad passed away when he was still an adolescent, and his mother was unable to properly care for her children.[2] She decided to put them into the Annie Wittenmyer Home for orphans. Although this site is no longer functional, it has become a historic site that memorializes what the home did for orphans in the Quad-Cities region.[3] Carl Olson joined a long list of children, dating all the way back to the civil war, to be cared for at the Annie Wittenmyer home.

Over time, his brother and two sisters found foster homes, but Carl spent his teenage years Anne Wittenmyer Home.[4] He attended a local high school and, “after graduating from Davenport Central High School. Carl enlisted in the Marines Corps. Carl sent to the Vietnam immediately after basic training”.[5] He was assigned to 3rd Marine Division, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines, E Company.

In July 1967, then Lance Corporal Olson took part in Operation Kingfisher.

[Taken from and “U.S. Marines in Vietnam: Fighting the North Vietnamese 1967” by Telfer, Rogers, and Fleming. One of the bodies covered with ponchos is LCPL Olson.

Operation Kingfisher was a U.S. Marine Corps operation carried out near Con Thien, in Quang Tri Province, Republic of Vietnam, lasting from July 16 to October 31, 1967. The objective of Kingfisher was to block entry of North Vietnamese Army (NVA) forces into the eastern portion of the province. Initially, only minor contact was made with the NVA. On July 28th, 2/9 Marines, supported by a platoon of tanks and several other tracked vehicles, moved north on Provincial Route 606 to make a spoiling attack into the Demilitarized Zone. The unit made no contact with the NVA and set up a night defensive position near the Ben Hai River. The following morning, as the unit was returning along the same route, a command detonated mine exploded, wounding five Marines. Further down the convoy, a second mine was detonated. The NVA then opened fire with small arms and mortar fire and attacked the armored vehicles with rocket-propelled grenades. The enemy hugged the U.S. column, preventing the use of air support and causing the column to break up into several separate firefights. The convoy then retreated; only through the use of napalm support were the Marines saved from a complete rout. The isolated companies set up night defensive positions and were relieved by 3/4 Marines on the morning of July 30th. U.S. casualties were 33 dead and 251 wounded. The lost personnel included

From what his platoon brothers shared in a news article, Carl was selfless from his first day being stationed. He shared everything from water to pictures of his younger siblings. He was constantly bettering himself; his friend claimed he was always working on his camouflage tactics. Not to mention, he had rescued another marine who collapsed from the heat and aided him in recuperating.[7] It is evident that Carl John Olson gave the short amount of time he had on earth to helping others, whether they were family, friends, or complete strangers.

After Olson’s death, various newspapers picked up his story and gave readers an inside look into what type of young man he was. I would urge all readers to look into the attached links to read in depth about Carl Olson. To sum it up, he was a religious young man who dedicated himself to helping others. Before going off to war he built an “eight-foot concrete cross” for the chapel on the Annie Wittenmyer grounds.[8] He also loved to write poetry and even spent his spare time during the military writing about his experiences. Additionally, he enjoyed painting.[9] Within the newspaper articles, there are many personal accounts of how he impacted the lives of others around him. Finally, he sent money home with each paycheck to keep his mother’s headstone clean and beautiful.[10] The life of Carl Olson is a story of a young boy who was dealt a difficult hand in this world and yet, he turned it into something beautiful. He is a reminder to all of us that selflessness and bravery are traits that can make a difference in so many lives.

LCPL Carl J Olson was awarded the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Marine Corps Presidential Unit Citation, Vietnam Gallantry Cross, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, and Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal.

Carl John Olson was laid to rest at Rock Island National Cemetery.


[1]Olson, John Carl.Fold3. June 6, 2022.

[2] “Wittenmyer Home Says Goodbye To a Lonely Boy Turned Hero.” The Gazette. August 08, 1967.

[3]Iowa Soldiers’ Orphans’ Home.Wikipedia. March 02, 2022.

[4]Wittenmyer Home Says Goodbye To a Lonely Boy Turned Hero.The Gazette. August 08, 1967.


[6]A Look At A War Hero: An Orphan From Davenport.Quad-City Times. August 27, 1967.

[7]  “A Look At A War Hero: An Orphan From Davenport.Quad-City Times. August 27, 1967.

[8]Wittenmyer Home Says Goodbye To a Lonely Boy Turned Hero.The Gazette. August 08, 1967.

[9] “Wittenmyer Home Will Honor Viet Hero.” Quad-City Times. August 05, 1967.

[10]Wittenmyer Home Says Goodbye To a Lonely Boy Turned Hero.The Gazette. August 08, 1967.

News article from The Des Moines Register Des Moines, IA 2 Aug 1967 p4