Sergeant Minor Wesley Pattillo

Our Hometown Heroes

Minor Wesley Pattillo

Combat Engineer in the Vietnam War

Spec. 5 Wesley M. Pattillo

Few details about Wesley M. Pattillo Jr.’s early life are known except he was born May 28, 1939. What is known however is once he arrived as a sophomore at Griffin High School, where he was known as Pat, he certainly made a name for himself.

In his Senior Year 1958/1959 alone Pat established himself as one of the schools most well liked, industrious and accomplished students: Aerie Yearbook, Literary Staff; Eagles View (school paper); Beta Club; Science Club (Vice President); Spanish Club, (reporter); Glee Club Boys Chorus; Griffin High Mixed Chorus; Griffin High Band; Senior Hi Y Club, Project Chairman.

Pat Pattillo graduated from Griffin High with honors in the Class of 1959.

It isn’t known whether Pat volunteered or was drafted but it is known he began his tour of duty Vietnam, when 29 years old, on June 11, 1968. He served as a combat engineer in Company C, 4 th Engineer Battalion, 4 th Infantry Division, U.S. Army providing combat engineering support to the 2 nd Brigade operating in Kontum Province. His rank was Specialist 5. His MOS was 12 B20 meaning he was a pioneer combat engineer and had been trained in all phases of what that required from demolition, combat and construction.

Combat engineer’s job was to clear jungle areas, mostly on mountain tops or high ground to allow deployment of artillery batteries to support ground offenses. Large amounts of explosives were used to clear these areas. Once the trees and jungle were cleared 105 howitzers were brought in by helicopter. Often combat engineers stayed on site to provide security and patrol with the infantry.

Additionally, their duties included mine sweeps of roads. That involved a squad of men walking the road in advance of vehicles with mine detecting equipment. Explosives buried in the road were usually, but not always, rigged to be triggered by the weight of a vehicle. On locating a mine or booby trap engineers would, as quickly as possible, detonate it in pace so the convoy traffic could proceed.

Time was of the essence because long stretches of road had to be cleared, sometimes daily, as quickly as possible.

According to his commanding officer First Lieutenant Bill Williams, on March 24, 1969 when Spec. 4 Pattillo was killed he was rotating as point man, detector operator or prober on a mine sweeping operation from Landing Zone Mary Lou west to a floating bridge at a Montagnard village near Kontum City.

The road was the scene of numerous firefights with North Vietnamese Army regulars because it was one leg of the Ho Chi Minh network of trails. While the NVA did not use the road themselves the general area provided them with many trails and routes throughout the surrounding jungle cover.

The road had several villages along side it. There were regular incidences of small arms fire coming from NVA soldiers hiding in these villages but because of their sporadic nature it was considered more a nuisance that caused a brief delay and not a serious military tactic.

On this occasion NVA troops hiding in huts near a turning point in the road opened fire on Pattillo’s squad with small arms and rockets. Fire was immediately returned by the U.S. soldiers and the enemy was quickly routed.

However, Pat Pattillo and his friend and fellow combat engineer, Benjamin Turiano of Corona N.Y., were killed instantly in the first burst of enemy fire.

Their bodies, together with men wounded in the same firefight, were flown by helicopter back the LZ Mary Lou. There, a memorial service was held for both men.

Before the area could be secured there continued to be brief firefights at approximately the location over several weeks resulting in the death of five more Americans.

Spec. 5 Pattillo is buried next to his mother Sarah Frances Pattillo in the Bethel United Methodist Church Cemetery, Scarborough Crossing, Henry County, Georgia.

Although Pattillo did not come home alive, his community now honors him with a bronze plaque installed in Historic Downtown Griffin. The plaque is sponsored by Judy and Lewis Brewer.