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John Charles Sigg
19 Feb 1938 – 28 May 1965
KIA in Vietnam,
aged 27 years
Interment: Grandview Cemetery,
Johnstown, Pennsylvania

John Charles Sigg

Class Memorial Pages\E-2 John Sigg.pdf

TODAY, JOHN CHARLES SIGG lies in a soldier’s grave having found a soldier’s death on the battlefields of Vietnam. Yesterday, he was Jack, and we loved and honored him for the strength and confidence he showed in volunteering for duty in the unbridled war in distant Asia. His story is a simple one, but woven throughout it are the threads of integrity, valor, discipline, and an indomitable spirit.

Jack was born on 19 February 1938, in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, the only child of LaVelle B. and Margaret C. Sigg. He learned early that “ . . . of all the creatures on earth, only Man has been gifted with the ability to reason . . . ,” and he set out to make the best use he could of his share of what he considered a precious gift. On graduation from junior high school, Jack wrote,

“We all look toward the future with great anticipation, anxious to receive the greater problems and the greater rewards awaiting us.”

He graduated from Johnstown High School on the honor roll in 1956 and was rewarded with a principle appointment to the Military Academy by Representative John P. Saylor. He entered West Point in 1957 after a year at the preparatory school at Stewart Air Force Base, New York. I met him in September of that year when we became roommates after “Beast Barracks,” and he already had the stamp of a distinguished cadet and scholar. To him very few things were difficult, and nothing was impossible if one only applied himself diligently. That first year passed in a flurry of books, immaculate shoes, and cold reveille formations. We laughed a lot, cried a little, and spent many hours after taps discussing important things such as atomic clocks, existentialism, number theory, and whether or not ICBMs were really the answer.

The next year, Jack, Scooter, and I lived together again, and Jack was well on the way to attaining self-mastery. He lowered his standards not one iota from those that had been imposed on him Plebe year, drove himself in his studies, participated in athletics with absolute ferocity, and found that a good philosophy book was much more entertaining than a Saturday night movie. The last two years were a period of Herculean efforts, and graduation found Jack a star man, a Rhodes Scholar nominee, a cadet captain, a leader in many extracurricular activities — in short, a young man anxious to make his mark on the world.

The next nine months were filled, in quick succession, with the Armored Officers’ Orientation Course at Fort Knox, and the Airborne and Ranger schools at Fort Benning. Jack earned the respect and admiration of all who were privileged to associate with him through his dedication, intelligence, determination, and plain good sense. He was among the top ten on the tanker’s night ride, and the physical tests of the Airborne and Ranger schools were only proving grounds for the physical prowess and endurance that he knew must some day strengthen him as a combat leader. I recall one day in January 1962 in particular.

Jack had volunteered for lifeguard duty during a river crossing in sub-freezing temperatures, and while 30 men constructed a rope bridge and pulled themselves and their equipment across, he stood naked up to his chest in water that was mostly melted snow from the mountains of Georgia. He held on for an hour and a half without complaint, and afterward, when I had to help him dress because he was too cold to help himself, he could only see the humor in a situation that would place him in such a predicament.

After Airborne school, Jack was sent to Germany and joined the 11th Cavalry as a platoon leader. In less than a year, he had distinguished himself as an outstanding officer and had been elevated to the position as troop commander. When I reported for duty with that same unit, I found him firmly established and commanding the absolute faith and devotion of his men. He held that job, the most treasured that a junior officer can hold, for 20 months and upon his relief felt obligated to volunteer for duty in Vietnam. He was convinced that he had a valid contribution to make there, and that it would be less than honest not to go where he was most needed. Back in the States he attended the Intelligence School at Fort Holabird, Maryland, and the Defense Language Institute at Monterey, California, and then, on 16 April 1965, bid farewell to the country to which he has devoted his life.

Upon arrival in Vietnam, Jack was immediately assigned to a job in the G-3 section of an advisory group, but, quite in keeping with his spirit of “Let me try,” he soon managed a transfer to the field as advisor to an RVN armored infantry troop. Less than three weeks later, while he was away attending an advisors’ meeting, his unit was committed to battle with the mission of destroying a concentration of Viet Cong occupying a village. Returning and finding his troop gone, Jack could very easily have waited and read the results of the engagement in official dispatches. Instead, the same sense of integrity which set him apart from other men, called him to duty, and on 28 May he caught a ride on a helicopter and arrived in the area of operations in time for the final assault. During that assault and in the thick of the fire fight, he stood up in the hatch of the command personnel carrier to fire on a group of Viet Cong at a distance of 30 yards. In doing so, he exposed himself to a burst from a machine gun firing unseen from his right rear, and he fell back into the carrier wounded in the abdomen, just below his armored vest. The ride to the nearest aid station was a long one, and sometime during that ride Jack lost the fight for life.

Thus passes a good comrade and valiant soldier. If Jack Sigg’s death seems untimely, there is consolation in knowing that all he would ask would be that someone pick up the standard and carry on. Born a son of changing times, bred to discipline, and trained in sacrifice, he spurned all that was false and weak. He would have treasured the bronze Star with “V,” the Purple Heart, and the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross that were awarded to him posthumously as marks of accomplishment in his chosen profession, but he would turn from tears and sorrow as being pointless and unmanly.

Let him, then, be remembered as a fine and honest man who gave all he had to give and asked nothing. It was my privilege to have served with him.

— R.B.G.

ASSEMBLY, Winter 1966

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