WASHINGTON — Like the millions of others who make the pilgrimage each year, Leo Broadhead of Oklahoma came to see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial here one day to gaze at a name carved on a granite wall--to touch it, weep in front of it, perhaps photograph it, or leave a flower.
In Broadhead's case the name he was looking for was Larry Broadhead, his son, who had been killed in 1969 when his B-52 bomber crashed. It had been his 88th combat mission. He was 25.
Leo Broadhead found, to his surprise, that his son's name was not there.
'I Couldn't Believe'
"I couldn't believe what I was reading," said Broadhead, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who also had flown, along with his son, in the Vietnam War. "I was furious."
Broadhead pursued the matter and discovered that his son's name had been left off because he was not killed in the official combat zone. Broadhead's plane, loaded with bombs and fuel and headed for the combat zone, had crashed shortly after takeoff on Guam, killing all seven men aboard.
When the more than 50,000 names were gathered for the memorial four years ago, only those who were killed in the war zone--North and South Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and the coastal waters of these countries--were listed by the Department of Defense as officially killed in combat.
Broadhead wanted his son's name on the memorial, which is the most visited memorial in Washington, drawing more than 3.9 million visitors in 1985. Broadhead took his case to both Oklahoma senators and to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, which had built the memorial.
Vietnam veteran Jan Scruggs, who had overseen the memorial project, learned that young Broadhead was just one of more than 90 men killed in combat missions who were not listed on the granite walls, because of the Defense Department's combat zone technicality.
The Defense Department agreed to change its definition of combat casualty for purposes of the memorial, and this spring 108 names will be added to the granite walls. Ninety-five are servicemen killed in plane crashes on combat missions, and 13 are soldiers who died years later of wounds sustained in the war.
Because so much time has elapsed, officials have been unable to locate families of many of the 108 to tell them the names are being added to the memorial. This week the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund announced the formation of a search committee to find them.
Family members or friends of the 108 are encouraged to call the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Family Search at (202) 659-9419 for details and an invitation to a service in honor of the 108 on Memorial Day, May 26.
Among the names to be added are seven from California who died in plane crashes on combat missions:
Kenneth Alston of Santee. Air Force sergeant killed in Japan, May 19, 1966.
Ronald E. Forster of North Fork. Air Force airman first class, killed in Thailand, March 19, 1969.
Arnold G. Krauitz of San Diego. Air Force airman second class, killed in Thailand, Sept. 23, 1967.
Thomas R. McCormick of Santa Monica. Air Force captain, killed in Guam May 10, 1969.
James Irving Pratt of North Hollywood. Navy airman first class, killed in the South China Sea, Feb. 25, 1965.
Larry E. Wright of Ceres. Air Force airman first class, killed on Wake Island, Sept. 24, 1968.
Gene T. Wright of San Diego. Air Force major, killed in Taiwan, Dec. 19, 1969.
More than any of the other stunning memorials in Washington, the Vietnam Memorial has prompted emotional responses and a personal feeling, because of the listing of the names.
On a visit to the memorial last Sunday, John Wheeler, chairman of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, found a program from the 20th reunion of Bridgetown, N. J., high school left at panel 46 East, and a bridal bouquet left at the foot of panel 30 West.
"There is healing that goes on at that site," said Wheeler, now secretary of the Securities and Exchange Commission. "It's important to complete the grief process. We want the loved ones and the buddies of these 108 to have the same opportunity for healing that others have had."
Other servicemen who died during the Vietnam War outside the war zone while on or in support of direct combat missions include:
Alaska, Norman Franklin Ridley; Arkansas, James L. Vaughan; Connecticut, Allan Lombard Dunning Jr., John L. Johnson; Florida, Warren L. Long, Donald Vol Hester Jr., John W. Israel, Jerry N. Scott, William A. Thomas Jr.; Georgia, Howard G. Benford, Ralph A. Cone, Arthur B. Crews, Welie David Mewborn, James W. Reese, Benny T. Stowers, Glen E. Wallace.
Idaho, Clyde A. Crow, Raymond L. Tacke; Illinois, Terry L. Banning, Dale Allen Lash, Donald Frank Marit; Indiana, John Clarence Thomas; Iowa, William J. Griffin, Lanny A. York; Kansas, Maurice E. Lundy; Kentucky, Paul E. Garrett, Charles T. Hafendorfer, James N. Spangler; Maine, Charles E. Stuart; Maryland, Fred Horatio Gates II; Massachusetts, Gregory Chalmers Davis, Charles D. Miller, William B. Terry.