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James Michael Coyle "Mike"
14 May 1939 – 20 Aug 1964
Place of Death: Ben Tre, Vietnam,
aged 25 years
Interment: West Point Cemetery,
West Point, New York

James Michael Coyle


Class Memorial Pages\G-1 Mike Coyle.pdf

Taps Memorial Article:

Grip hands though it be from the shadows
While we swear as you did of yore,
Or living, or dying to honor
The Corps, and the Corps, and the Corps

JAMES MICHAEL COYLE was born at Fort Benning, Georgia, on 14 May 1939. As an “Army brat” he attended schools in Germany, Turkey, and the United States. Mike had one main ambition — he wanted to go to West Point and to become an Army officer. After attending Braden’s Preparatory School, Mike entered West Point in July 1957 with the Class of 1961. While at the Academy, he established a reputation as a confident and sincere individual, and took the military and academic chores in stride.

During his First Class year, Mike began dating Mary Louise Wilson. On 7 July 1962, just 13 months after graduation, Mike and Mary Louise were married in Washington, DC.

At graduation, Mike was commissioned in the Infantry. After attending Airborne and Ranger Schools at Fort Benning, he was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, as a platoon leader in the 1st Airborne Battle Group, 503d Infantry. He later commanded Company E of the 2d Airborne Battle Group, 504th Infantry, for 7 months.

Mike brought to his military service a strong feeling of obligation, volunteering for duty in Vietnam because he “felt that it was something he should do.”

Mike and Mary Louise moved to Monterey where he attended the Army Language School from February to May 1964. On 20 May, Mike left on the long flight to South Vietnam, departing from Travis Air Force Base in California.

After being processed in Saigon, he was assigned as an advisor to a Vietnamese Infantry Battalion in Kien Hoa Province, about 45 miles south of Saigon. Early on the morning of 20 August, Mike’s battalion and a Ranger battalion were ordered to go to the relief of a village that had been burned to the ground by the Viet Cong. Late that same afternoon, the battalions were ordered to visit another village that had been hit to survey the damage. It was while these units were moving to the second village that the Viet Cong ambushed the battalion and cut it to pieces. All four American advisors with these units were killed.

Mike’s death came at what should have been a time for gladness. Just eight days before, Mary Louise had given birth to a seven-pound baby girl. It was their second child. When Mike heard the good news in Vietnam, he was given a pass to Saigon and talked to Mary Louise on the overseas telephone. The same week, on Friday morning, a telegram from the Army Adjutant General’s Office told Mary Louise that Mike was dead.

While in Vietnam, Mike was awarded the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. He was promoted posthumously to captain and was awarded the Purple Heart, as well as the Vietnam Gallantry Cross with palm leaf cluster, and the Vietnamese National Order Medal Fifth Class.

The fact that he volunteered to serve in Vietnam was evidence of his selflessness and great devotion to his country.

Mike is survived by his widow and two children, James Michael Jr., 21 months, and Carolyn Marie, 6 months, of 7008 Sulky Lane, Rockville, MD; his parents, Col. (Ret) and Mrs. Marvin J. Coyle, and a sister Anne, 10 years old, of Mahwah, NJ.

— A classmate

ASSEMBLY, Winter 1965

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