Daniel Russell Nidds

1948 - 1973

Vietnam War

Their Story

Daniel Russell Nidds was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Mae Schmitt Bernstein Nidds and Thaddeus R. “Ted” Nidds. Until he was 13, “Danny” struggled emotionally and had been kicked out of school several times.[1] He did start to straighten out, but his reputation followed him. He was elected to the Boy Scouts of America’s Elite Order of the Arrow, and he was active in the Amityville Order of DeMolay.[2] On his 17th birthday, he asked his parents for permission to join the Army. He wanted to show his town, West Islip, that he was a man. Daniel Nidds had wanted to be a soldier all his life.  So, at 17, he did enlist in the Army. His unit was sent to Vietnam, but he had to wait until he was 18 to join them.[3] He was a blonde boy of 18 when he went off to Vietnam in September of 1966, serving with the 196th Light Infantry Brigade, 3rd Battalion, 82nd Artillery, C Battery.

Daniel Russell Nidds

On April 21, 1967, just seven months after arriving in Vietnam, PFC Nidds, SP4 Thomas A. Mangino, squad leader; PFC Paul Hasenback, and PFC David M. Winters, riflemen; were returning from a combat patrol in the second of two sampans near Chu Lai, Quang Ngai Province, South Vietnam.  A sampan is a flat-bottomed skiff used in eastern Asia and usually propelled by two short oars. The first sampan arrived at its destination, but Daniel’s sampan never arrived. This, after, a single Vietnamese civilian was seen approaching them in another sampan and then talking with the four soldiers.[4] As the destination of the first sampan was around a bend, those men could not see what happened to the four soldiers of the second sampan, who never did arrive.

After two hours, a search was initiated. Ground, aerial and Tra Bang River searches were conducted. The massive search continued until June 3. When no trace of SP4 Mangino, PFC Nidds, PFC Winters and PFC Hasenback could be found, the search was terminated, and all four men were listed as Missing in Action. Daniel’s parents did receive a Western Union telegram dated April 23 about his status and the actions taken up to that point to find him.[5]


During the months and years to follow, intelligence reports, investigations, and analyses ensued with no definitive answers as to if they were being held as prisoners of war, whether they had been killed immediately, or if they were still alive.

On Halloween, 1973, while trick or treaters were coming to the door, Daniel’s parents were visited by their family-assistance officer, their ninth such officer in 6 ½ years, who read the following paragraph:

“…Therefore, a determination has been made by the Department of the Army to change the status of your son from missing in action as of 21 April 1967, to dead as of 31 October 1973. An official finding of death will be recorded under provisions of section 5555 Title 37 of the United States Code. The date 31 October 1973 is not an actual or probable date but is the date established in accordance with the statutes.”[6]

Ted Nidds told the reporter, who reported the above in the Newsday (Suffolk Edition), that the letter could not have been colder. But at least it wasn’t a telegram, he was reported to say. He had already received a telegram in April 1967. He didn’t want any further telegrams.

Six medals earned by Daniel were presented to his parents in April 1974 during a ceremony in Brooklyn. Shortly afterwards, his mother criticized the U.S. Government for giving up on her son.[7] And Ted Nidds said they had been living in a “kind of purgatory.”

graveside service

In 1985, Mr. and Mrs. Nidds of Loch Sheldrake, NY, received a special medal of honor in the name of their son, Daniel Russell Nidds. Congressman Matthew F. McHugh made the presentation of a medal approved by Congress in 1983, inscribed “Missing in action while serving in the defense of freedom in Southeast Asia. POW/MIA” on one side and “Honoring Americans still missing. You are not forgotten,” on the reverse side. The medal also has the dates “1961-1973” inscribed with a drawing of the countries of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. [8]

In April 1991 the US government released a list of Prisoners of War and Missing in Action who were known to be alive in enemy hands and for whom there is no evidence that he or she died in captivity. This list, commonly referred to today as the USG’s “Last Known Alive” list, includes Paul Hasenback, David Winters, Daniel Nidds and Thomas Mangino.[9]

As recently as 1992, reports have come through indicating various scenarios about the status of the four men, including that they had been prisoners of war, and that they had been ambushed and thrown into the river. Papers were also recovered from the Military Region Five Museum in Danang that had belonged to Daniel Nidds.[10]

Daniel Russell Nidds is memorialized at Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial, an American Battle Monuments Commission location. Daniel is honored on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC. Name inscribed at VVM Wall, Panel 18e, Line 62.[11]

Daniel’s headstone is next to his father’s headstone at the Rock Island National Cemetery. His father was a U.S. Army veteran of World War II, serving from 1943 to 1946.[12]  According to a friend of Mae’s, Thaddeus Nidd’s headstone was moved from the Long Island National Cemetery to the Rock Island National Cemetery so the two headstones could be together.[13]  Daniel’s headstone was placed there in 2013. In 2015, Mae visited the cemetery during a ceremony honoring her son. [14]   It was Mae’s wish that her name would be inscribed on the back of her husband’s headstone so they could all be together. As of this writing, that had not occurred. Mae Nidds died in St. Louis in 2019 without ever having her son returned to her.[15] Mae Nidds was an outspoken voice for raising awareness of those still missing in action, speaking on National MIA Awareness Days, and at American Legions, and schools.[16]  She worked hard to publicize the plight of other families who had missing service members. She was the Suffolk County coordinator of the Nov. 15 Freedom Run, held to remind people that 1,200 Americans were still listed as missing in action.[17]

There are 58,297 names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial — The Wall — honoring those who are no longer with us, except in spirit. However, there are 1,585 service members still considered missing in action as their families await word of their fate.[18]

MIA soldier honored at National Cemetery | Local News | qctimes.com Photos from this ceremony picturing Daniel Nidd’s mother Mae can be found here.

pmsea_una_NEW YORK_20220211.pdf (dpaa.mil) List of all unaccounted Vietnam service members from State of New York

SSG Daniel Russell Nidds, West Islip, NY on www.VirtualWall.org The Virtual Wall® Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall

NIDDS, DANIEL RUSSELL Compiled by Task Force Omega Inc  For an accounting of what happened on April 21, 1967, and the subsequent search.

Available Online, Nidds, Daniel R. | Library of Congress (loc.gov) Many official documents that have been declassified can be found here.


[1] Newsday (Suffolk Edition) (Melville, New York) · 1 Nov 1973, Thu · Page 9 Downloaded on Apr 7, 2022 – Dead: By Authority of the U.S. Army.

[2] 25 May 1986, 662 – Newsday (Suffolk Edition) at Newspapers.com Remembering A Soldier


[4] NIDDS, DANIEL RUSSELL Compiled by Task Force Omega Inc

[5] Available Online, Nidds, Daniel R. | Library of Congress (loc.gov)

[6] Newsday (Suffolk Edition) (Melville, New York) · 1 Nov 1973, Thu · Page 9 Downloaded on Apr 7, 2022

[7] Newsday (Suffolk Edition) (Melville, New York) · 16 Apr 1974, Tue · Page 17  Downloaded on Apr 7, 2022 – For    7 Years of Purgatory, 6 Medals

[8] Daniel Russell Nidds (1948-1973) – Find a Grave Memorial

[9] List of Last Known Alive (pownetwork.org)

[10] Available Online, Nidds, Daniel R. | Library of Congress (loc.gov)

[11] THE WALL OF FACES – Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (vvmf.org)

[12] Thaddeus Russell Nidds (1921-2002) – Find a Grave Memorial

[13] Mae Nidds’ friend, Lori Vansant, DAR

[14] MIA soldier honored at National Cemetery | Local News | qctimes.com

[15] Mae Nidds Obituary (1924 – 2019) – Davenport, IA – Quad-City Times (legacy.com)

[16] 28 Jan 1974, 22 – Newsday (Suffolk Edition) at Newspapers.com

[17] 25 Nov 1973, 31 – Newsday (Suffolk Edition) at Newspapers.com

[18] National Vietnam War Veterans Day | VA Long Beach Health Care | Veterans Affairs