The Vietnam War
The Radnor High School Wall of Honor features three inductees who served in The Vietnam War. The below biographies on these brave veterans were researched and compiled by Radnor High School students. If you believe there may be discrepencies in the below information or have additional details to share about these inductees' lives, please email RHSWallofHonor@rtsd.org. To browse the the student-produced videos of these and all the 57 inductees, visit the RHS Wall of Honor YouTube channel here.
Donald D. Burris, Jr.
Donald D. Burris, Jr. was born on December 26, 1946 and graduated from Radnor High School in 1965. He was a busy student. In addition to attending classes, he was a member of the football team, the editor on the school newspaper club, and a member of the golf team. He also became class treasurer and was a Boy Scout. In the school yearbook, he was voted most likely to succeed.
Despite planning to become an engineer after graduating from Northwestern University, Mr. Burris was drafted into the U.S. Army at the start of the Vietnam War. In the army, he trained to become a Warrant Officer and helicopter pilot. He flew a UH-1Z roquors, also called a Huey.
After serving his required year of service, Mr. Burris decided to serve his country for a second tour. It was December 1969, and President Lyndon B. Johnson was expanding secret campaigns in Cambodia and Laos.
It was on one of these missions where Mr. Burris sadly met his fate. On December 22, an infantry detachment in Cambodia requested air support. Mr. Burris and his crew successfully responded and provided assistance, but on the way back their helicopter suffered a mechanical malfunction and crashed into the jungle. Mr. Burris and several other crew members survived the fall. A rescue helicopter arrived, but because of the dense jungle it had to lower ropes with McGuire rigs attached. The crew members were unfamiliar with these rigs.
Two members of the crew fell off the ropes during the flight. Mr. Burris fell off of a ladder at 2,500 feet over the Loatian Jungle. Sadly, his body was never found. During and after his service, Mr. Burris received the Distinguished Fying Cross, 23 Air Medals, The Bronze Star, The Army Commendation Medal with "V" for service and valor, several unit citations, and the Purple Heart.
Lawrence J. Merschel
Lawrence J. Merschel was born on March 22, 1948 in Wayne. He grew up with his father John, his mother Virginia, and his 7 siblings: John, Suzanne, Catherine, Peggy, Thomas, Mary Beth and James.
Mr. Merschel attended St. Katharine of Siena during his early years. He entered Radnor High School in 1962 and was a member of the basketball team, becoming the team’s captain his senior year. He was also a member of the school’s new soccer team, playing as its first-ever goaltender, and acted as the school mascot during games. He was a part of the Athletic Association, the Chess Club, and the Boy’s Sports Club. In his yearbook, he was referred as “the class gift to the Philadelphia 76ers,” as a tribute to his impressive basketball skills, and was voted as the “most entertaining” student of his year.
Mr. Merschel graduated from Radnor High School in 1966, moving on to Villanova University with a full basketball scholarship. He chose to leave the school his freshman year to enlist in the Army in April 1967.
Mr. Merschel was in U.S. Army infantry operations, an Intelligence Specialist and received the rank of Private First Class. He was also part of the 1st BN, 502nd Infantry, 101st ABN DIV, 17th Cavalry and USARV.
Sadly, at the age of 20, Mr. Merschel entered his first and final tour in Vietnam on February 20, 1968. On May 1, 1968, in Thua Thien Province in South Vietnam, Mr. Merschel was critically injured by mortar fire.
He is buried in Calvary Cemetery in West Conshohocken, PA.
John P. Murphy
John Paul Murphy was born on October 17, 1946 in Conshohocken, PA to Mr. and Mrs. Peter P. Murphy. He attended Radnor High School and was interested in biology, electronics and apparatus. He graduated in 1965 with hopes of being an engineer. He married Elisabeth J. Murphy.
In 1968, Mr. Murphy was drafted into the U.S. Army. He was a Specialist Four, Infantryman in the United States Army. Infantrymen defend against any threat by land, as well as capture, destroy and repel enemy ground forces. His unit, Aero Rifle Platoon, Air Calvary Troop, 11th Armed Calvary, also known as “The Blackhorse Regiment,” was located in southern Vietnam. The unit was created in 1901, but had the greatest impact during the Vietnam War, while in Vietnam and Cambodia. The unit’s served there for more than 2,000 days and earned eleven battle streamers.
In April 1968, Mr. Murphy was deployed to South Vietnam. Sadly, he died a few months later on November 10, 1968, at the age of 22. His body was returned to the United States and buried at Calvary Cemetery in West Conshohocken. He received five medals for his service.