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Capt. Harry G. Cramer Jr., a Westmont native and West Point graduate, was the first American soldier killed in Vietnam.

Cramer was commanding an Army Special Forces team training South Vietnamese soldiers near Nha Trang when he died in an explosion on Oct. 21, 1957.

Harry G. Cramer III said he will travel with Vietnam Battlefield Tours, a nonprofit group, Sept. 12-26 to visit the site where his father died.

"I always wanted to visit Vietnam, but up until now that wasn't in the cards," Cramer said in an email.

"I've read all of Dad's letters from 1957 and have put together a pretty good picture of their operations and the places they lived, worked and where Dad died."

Capt. Cramer was a Johnstown High School graduate and part of the West Point Class of 1946.

In 1956, he was chosen for the 14th Special Forces Operations Detachment, a small 16-man unit later known as 1st Special Forces Group, performing training mission in allied countries in Asia.

They were later deployed to Vietnam to train a clandestine group of South Vietnamese special operations troops. Capt. Cramer died in an explosion, although details remain murky.

"Dad was killed at Nha Trang," Cramer said. "They were taking direction from the CIA, not the Army. There are aspects of what they did that remain classified to this day."

Capt. Cramer's name was left off the Vietnam Veterans Memorial built in Washington in 1983. It was many years before the Pentagon corrected the oversight and added his name in 2007.

Cramer said he followed in his father's footsteps by entering the Army as a lieutenant in 1976 and becoming a paratrooper.

Cramer said he served in his dad's old unit, 1st Special Forces. He retired as a lieutenant colonel in 2004.

Now he'll take the next step in the journey traveling with a group that specializes in putting together tours for military veterans.

Cramer said he will unite with several other Special Forces veterans. The reunion is expected to be emotional.

"We'll conduct a simple ceremony at the place where Dad died," he said.

The ceremony will conclude with the singing of "The Ballad of The Green Berets."

(c) 2016 The Tribune-Democrat. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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