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Born on July 8, 1947
Casualty was on Feb. 8, 1968

Panel 38E - - Line 21

Tom Briggs

Cpl. Thomas H. C. Briggs served with the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, Mike Company. He was Killed In Action during the TET Offensive, 1968. His name stands proudly on the Mike 3/5 Wall of Honor. Semper fi, Brother Marine.

(See also TET 1968. M Co. 3/5)

(Click images to enlarge)

Tom Briggs is in the front (kneeling, center)
(picture courtesy of Tom Hoying)

Front: Forrest Bartram, Tom Briggs, Frank Ambrose, Bob Montgomery
Back: Unknown, Richard Hipp, Unknown, Brad Reynolds, Tom Hoying, Ken Fields, Unknown

(If anyone recognizes the Unidentified Marines, please let us know)

Tom Briggs (left) and unidentified Marine
(picture courtesy of Tom Hoying)


"Briggs was a good Marine, and a good friend. I miss him still."
Semper Fi, Brad Reynolds

br49.jpg (74947 bytes)br50.jpg (69761 bytes)
Left picture: Briggs is second man to the left
Right picture: Briggs is in the background listening to a radio

(pictures courtesy of Brad Reynolds)

Left picture: Tom Briggs and M/3/5 Marines
Right picture: Tom Briggs

(pictures courtesy of Dennis Heon, M/3/5)


My sister's sweetheart

Tommy, You were my sister Linda's love, and our family's hero. We will never forget you.~Jeremy Lape

Tom Briggs


Tom Chisholm Briggs
(picture courtesy of C. Porter)

My Friend and Schoolmate

Tom Chisholm Briggs was the only son of Harold and Dorothy Briggs of Santa Barbara, California, immigrants from Edinburgh, Scotland. His maternal grandmother lived with them, and was always referred to as "Mrs. Chisholm." His father was an electrical contractor. Tom had no other relatives that I know of, either in Scotland or America. I knew Tom for 3 years at Dunn School, Los Olivos, California; the headmaster was an Oxford Latin and Greek graduate named Anthony B. Dunn, who died shortly after we graduated. The school is still in existence. I edited the school newspaper. 

Tom graduated in 1965. I knew Tom fairly well because there were only 80 boys in the whole school. Tom had a girlfriend named Linda who was in love with him, but he did not marry her. I only met her once. I became fairly close to his parents, especially his mother, after he was killed, and last visited them with my wife in 1974. We used to talk about Scotland and Scots history. She never got over Tom's death; Tom's father finally asked me to stop contacting them because she got too depressed after my visits. She said she wouldn't have minded his death so much if he'd lived a little while longer and had had a family. 

I was very fond of Tom, but then so was everybody else; everybody liked him. He never wrote to me after leaving school; I never even knew he was in the Marines until I saw the notice of his death by accident in the Los Angeles Times. His father told me he was hit in the head by shrapnel and killed instantly; that was during the TET Offensive. Of course the American newspapers forgot to tell us that the Viet Cong and their North Vietnamese regular pals were almost totally wiped out; they described it as a great American defeat.

Tom had one remarkable physical feature: the color of his eyes. His mother's eyes were a very dark blue; his father's eyes were a sort of olive-green. On a form, you'd say Tom's eyes were grey or hazel, but really it was almost impossible to say what color his eyes were, because they kept changing -- from grey to blue, to green, to brown, sometimes three or four colors at once, alternating and blending into each other with the light and the movement of the sun and clouds -- just like the movement of the sun and rain and clouds over the hills and lakes and heather of Scotland; I've been to Scotland. Tom's eyes were an entirely different color inside the classroom, or in the evening, or at night, from what they were outside, or on a bright or cloudy day. I have never met anyone with eyes like that; he was like a chameleon.

In all the years I knew him, I never knew Tom to do or say one single hurtful or small-minded thing; he would never tease another boy or doing anything to hurt anyone. He was a person entirely without spite or malice. He loved to laugh, and loved a good joke (usually a prank of a practical nature, but never anything malicious). He was very relaxed and smiling -- he had a very relaxed smile which was characteristic of him -- so of course everybody liked him. Most people (especially people who have never done military service) imagine professional soldiers or Marines as over-athletic, belligerent, argumentative, dominating, hard drinking, etc. Tom was none of those things. It's still very hard for me to imagine him as a Marine; he was good at sports, and I can certainly imagine him as a very brave soldier, but more or less as a draftee, like most other people. 

Soldiering must have been in his blood: the Scots have been a nation of soldiers and fighters for thousands of years. His grandfather was in the Scots Guards, an elite infantry unit in the British army; his father was in a commando unit in France during WWII. Tom had a full Scots kilt, with the three daggers, the whole rig-out, which he brought to school and sometimes wore to chapel instead of a suit. They are still common in Scotland. Tom was a real Scot, worthy of his Scots ancestors; I'll never forget him, and I don't think anyone else will either.~C.P.


 Dunn School Friends Remember

Tommy's story is very important to our school.  We were all kind of in the eye of the storm in those days, and most of my classmates were most concerned with avoiding the draft rather than in furthering their education.  So everyone was very intent on getting into college.  Tommy--and I as well--were mediocre students.  I believe that he got accepted to Menlo, but he wasn't into it any more than I was in trying to continue my education.  

I got drafted in spring of '66.  Since I didn't have any plans in particular, I figured "what the hell" and went off to the induction center.  I got assigned to the MPs and spent the next two years guarding prisoners at the Fort Riley Stockade.  Out of the 248 guys in my basic training company, only two were assigned to combat arms and went to VN.  Both were married.  So the luck of the draw is sometimes a cruel thing.
Tommy was going to be drafted.  But he felt that rather than be a pawn in someone's lottery, he would enlist in the Marines.  As noted by Carlos, Tommy was a Scot.  (I am not sure that Tommy was even an American citizen.) His family had a proud military heritage.  I don't know whether that had a part in his decision.  I know it did in my acceptance of being drafted.  My dad was a colonel in the reserves--26 years' worth.  I think that I wanted to have some war stories to tell him for a change.  

I learned about Tommy's death through my parents while I was at Fort Riley.  This came within months of the news that another friend, who I had known since Kindergarten, had also died in the service, though not in combat.  At that time, I didn't know that Tommy was even in the service.
During my visits to Dunn School for alumni gatherings, there was a lot of speculation about Tommy's service.  I heard people say that he was a tunnel rat, that he had been wounded, sent home, and returned to Vietnam.  Nobody seemed to know the truth.  I think that, because of our memories of Tommy, everyone expected an especially heroic service history.  

I finally found out some facts by finding a veteran's bulletin board on the Web.  A gentleman emailed me and told me where Tommy had died and the circumstances.  From what I understand, Tommy was only in-country for a short time before the shit storm of Tet started, and that his death came only about a week after the start of the North's offensive.  Whatever the circumstances, Tommy is a hero in our eyes, as are all those who served.  I believe that it is especially important to the young people at Dunn School to understand the importance of those days and those who sacrificed so much...and are still sacrificing.~Dick McKee