Do not look back for I am no longer there,
Just gently bow your head and quietly say a prayer.
In your memories and in your heart I will always be,
Just take one moment each day and silently think of me.
But do not shed a tear, for I am not alone,
Just lay me with my brothers in the garden of white stones.
– Ward Meldrum (2004), Clark’s nephew
Born September 19, 1934, in Ann Arbor Michigan, Clark Newell Woodworth Jr. was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army in 1958 after receiving his B.A. at Michigan State University. Woodworth’s sister, Lynda Kay, felt something powerful motivated him to join the military, as their family had no history of serving.
With a substantial age difference between them, she was in middle school when Woodworth went off to college, she never learned what that motivation was. But while she knew he “followed the pack into Business Administration,” she was sure that ROTC appealed to him, not only because of the “structure and discipline,” but because he would have taken pride in excelling in a “different world.” She said, “He was always very fit. He was one of the tallest and strongest centers on the AAHS (Ann Arbor High School) basketball team and he was a ‘stand out’ on slalom skiing.”
Woodworth began his Army career on January 2, 1959. He was assigned to the 503rd Aviation Battalion, Third Armored Division (Germany) from September 1961-January 1964 and was stationed at Fort Bliss (El Paso, TX) from January-November 1964 after returning to the States. From December 1964-December 1965 Woodworth served as Commander, C Company, Seventh Battalion, Third Training Brigade (Fort Gordon, GA). From January 3, 1966, until his death, he served as Advisor, 10th ARVN Infantry Division, Advisory Team 87, HQ, MACV Advisors, MACV (Vietnam).
The advisory team was made up of five men, Captain Clark N. Woodworth Jr., Battalion Advisor; 1st Lieutenant Arthur J. McGowan, Assistant Battalion Advisor; Staff Sergeant Albert C. Roberts, Light Weapons Infantry Advisor; Staff Sergeant Lon W. Skolek, Heavy Weapons Infantry Advisor; and Private First Class Rodney E. Nauman, Radio Operator. Along with the 1st Battalion, 43rd Infantry Regiment, Army of the Republic of Vietnam, which consisted of 450 soldiers broken into four companies, they were located the northern Binh Tuy Province of Vietnam in the “NEW LIFE” hamlet of Vo Xu.
The Battalion came under small arms fire from the Viet Cong around 2130 hours on evening of February 27, 1966, along their southern border, as well as limited fire from the west. Fire from the west increased around 0058 hours, initially aimed at the daytime Command Post, then switching to the nighttime Command Post.
Woodworth’s team, which was situated at the nighttime Command Post, were assisting with improving defensive positions, returning fire and remaining in contact with Regiment and Division headquarters. Around 0202 hours PFC Nauman was struck in the leg by small arms fire while operating the radio. First aid was administered by SSgt Skolek, who then took over radio operation.
Heavy small arms fire increased around 0230 hours. Shortly thereafter Woodworth,, Lt McGowan and SSgt Roberts left the nighttime Command Post to check defensive positions to the southwest. Moments later Skolek and Nauman were forced move to a building further east when the nighttime Command Post came under extremely heavy machine gun fire where they observed 60 to 80 Viet Cong moving toward the center of Vo Xu.
While Skolek and Nauman were forced to continue eastward, Woodworth, McGowan and Roberts had moved to a ditch south of the nighttime Command Post. Skolek, under heavy fire, went out to determine the best air strike locations, which were called in by Nauman, who had taken over radio operation.
Woodworth left the safety of the ditch “to give further directions as to the conduct of the battle.” Captain Woodworth was killed in action by small arms fire at approximately 0356 hours on February 28, 1966. After McGowan reported no pulse, Roberts was killed instantly as he and McGowan left the protection of the ditch to retrieve Woodworth’s body and McGowan was been hit in the left arm by an M-79 grenade. McGowan (who took several more wounds), Skolek and Nauman were evacuated later that day.
Among the medals Woodworth has received, he was awarded the Purple Heart and the Silver Star. His name can be found on Panel 5E, Line 92, of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and he is interred at Arlington National Cemetery, Section 69, Grave 803.
Woodworth Consolidated Library also was dedicated to Captain Woodworth, officially opening its doors on November 10, 1966. In his memory, Woodworth’s parents, Clark Sr. and Rose (a Rosie the Riveter at the Willow Run Plant near Ypsilanti, MI), planted a magnolia tree next to the library and his sister, Lynda Kay, presented the library with a portrait of him painted by Norman Adams in 1967.
For a more detailed accounting, photos and documentation for the Woodworth family archives, please click here.
Sources: I would like to personally thank Captain Woodworth’s sister, Lynda Woodworth, and his nephew, Ward Meldrum, for all their assistance in writing this story. Much of the information came from their personal archives and their determination to learn what happened to Captain Woodworth in his final days. I can never truly express my sorrow at their loss, but I hope in some small way this story will help to ensure his sacrifice will never be forgotten.