Remembering Tony Dedman

Today’s post is written by Cody White, Archivist at the National Archives at Denver and Subject Matter Expert for Native American Related Records

58,318. That’s how many names are carved into the reflective black marble of the wall, or were as of 2017 according to the National Park Service. Today, I just want to talk about one. You stand in the middle, where the first casualties from 1959 begin, and you walk about 25 feet to the right, panel 7E. Then scroll down, to line 69. Tony Dedman.

A rubbing of Tony Dedman’s inscription on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Rubbings, done by volunteers on a donation basis, can be requested online.

Many veterans have names and faces they recall on Memorial Day, the federal holiday for honoring military members who died while in the service. For years after my hitch in the Navy, those names were only a few – Bobby, Tom; men who would stay forever young, while I grew older. But of late, in the course of my archivist duties, I’ve come across more images and stories that I now also carry around. Dedman is one.

Student photographs of Tony Dedman, as found in his Intermountain Indian School student case file (National Archives ID 74595102). Photographs started to appear in BIA student cases files during the 1930’s and by the 1950’s one starts to see annual photographs taken and saved. NOTE: records are sealed for 75 years or until the death of the student.

Tony Dedman, Navajo, was born on Valentine’s Day, 1944, to Zonnie and Fred Dedman. He entered his first boarding school in the second grade, ending up at the Phoenix Indian School before transferring to Intermountain along with his brother Tom in 1961. His school record notes he had four brothers and six sisters, but only Tom and Carl are mentioned in his Intermountain school application. At Intermountain he entered the vocational program, where he took up welding – earning A’s and the compliments of the school staff. He finished in 1964 with a certificate of completion.

Intermountain School counselor’s notes on Dedman, from his student case file.

At some point thereafter he ended up in Illionois. According to the National Archives Access to Archival Databases (AAD) website, where one can search born-digital federal databases, he entered the service from La Grange Illinois, outside Chicago, on January 21, 1965. After training, Dedman arrived in the Republic of Vietnam on July 23, 1965, with B Company, 1/503rd Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade.

For what happened nearly 10 months later, let me quote historian Robert J. O’Neill. In his history on Operation Hardihood, he detailed the afternoon Dedman fell;

“At 3:30pm on May 17th, B Company of the 1st/503rd was moving up the western slope of hill 72, one and a half miles north of Nui Dat. They knew that they were being followed by a Viet Cong rifleman carrying a radio, but they did not know that in their path was a Viet Cong company who were being guided by the man with the radio. The Americans were caught in deadly cross fire of a box ambush to which were quickly added 60mm. mortar bombs. By the time that they had extricated themselves they had lost eight killed and twenty three wounded…”

Tony Dedman was one of those fallen. Rest easy Sky Soldier, your story and sacrifice are not forgotten.

One of the four results, this a Department of Defense casualty report, one gets for Tony Dedman in the Access to Archival Databases (AAD) holdings.
Tony Dedman was laid to rest in Fort Defiance Arizona. Here we see his headstone application card, from the National Archives at St. Louis series “Applications for Headstones, 1/1/1925 – 6/30/1970.” While his Official Military Personnel File is still closed to the public until 2028, his Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) is open for request.

Bureau of Indian Affairs schools, from the very earliest days at the Carlisle Institute in the 19th century, would often inquire as to where students ended up after graduating or leaving. Unfortunately, the Intermountain school’s letter arrived shortly after Dedman’s death.

Full citation for Tony Dedman’s Intermountain Indian School student case file:

Dedman, Tony (National Archives ID 74595102). Student Case Files, 1954 – 1974. Department of the Interior. Bureau of Indian Affairs. Phoenix Area Office. Intermountain Area School. Record Group 75: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. National Archives at Denver.

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