|The following is taken from Colby College's publication, "Colby" magazine.
On the day Tet began, a squad-size unit from Golf Company, under the command of 2d Lt. Leslie A.
Dickinson, Jr. '67, a 22-year-old from Patten, Maine, was on a sweep near Highway One. Dickinson had been in
the marines a little less than two years and in-country about a month and a half. The patrol made contact with
an enemy unit apparently setting an ambush for traffic on Highway One. In the fight that followed, five marines
were wounded, as were two Vietnamese civilians. Two other civilians died. The marines killed three of those
setting the ambush and wounded and captured two others. Les Dickinson, one of the marines hit, sustained
multiple shrapnel wounds from an antipersonnel mine that exploded during the contact.
Following medical evacuation, Dickinson was taken aboard the U.S.S. Repose, a hospital ship anchored in the
South China Sea. Two days later, on his 23rd birthday, Dickinson's parents received at their home a Marine
Corps sergeant who informed them that their son had been seriously wounded. The following morning, a
confirming telegram from the commandant of the Marine Corps read: "He sustained missile wounds to the left
flank and the abdomen with multiple shrapnel wounds to the left leg and lacerations to both legs with a spinal
cord injury ... He was placed on the serious list ... with his prognosis poor"
The day he was hit would prove to be the watershed date of the Vietnam War. As Americans witnessed the
boldness of the Tet Offensive, public support for the war, fragile as it was, shattered.
On February 3, 1968, with the Tet Offensive raging on the mainland, Les Dickinson died off the coast of
Vietnam. When word reached Colby, where Dickinson had attended for two and a half years, the shock
reverberated across t
he campus. Les Dickinson was the first man of Colby to die in Vietnam combat.
Dickinson was born in Boston on February 1, 1945, the son of Leslie A. and Dorothy Dickinson. He lived in
Patten, Maine, most of his life and graduated from Patten Academy in 1963. He was co-editor of the academy's
Mirror, a member of Maine Boy's State, and a National Honor Society member. He was active in dramatics and
public speaking and participated in school sports.
At Colby he was a basketball team member, fraternity secretary and second vice president, and outdoorsman as
well as creative writer. A member of Kappa Delta Rho, his maturity and interests were such that he was readily
accepted by those older than he. A fraternity brother remembers him as an unlikely marine; not one of the
brotherhood most likely to seek out Parris Island, the Marine Corps' training camp for recruits. Nevertheless,
upon enlistment in February 1966, that is where he went. He took further training at El Toro Air Station in
California and was later ordered to report to Quantico, Va., for officer training. In late May 1967, he was
commissioned a second lieutenant (and returned to Colby in uniform to witness the awarding of the creative
writing prizes at the recognition assembly). Following additional training at Quantico, he received the orders he
had requested for Vietnam. On December 17, 1967, he arrived and was assigned to the 2nd Batallion, 7th
Marines, 1st Marine Division, headquartered at Da Nang, where the action reports for his unit show increased
hostility during the two months that he served as an infantry platoon leader.
Les Dickinson's death was marked by an outpouring of emotion on campus. The Colby Echo of February 16,
1968, contained a full page on his loss. A combined chorus of Colby students attended and sang at memorial
services held in Patten on Wednesday, February 14. On the day that the Echo told of his death, 2d Lt. Leslie A.
Dickinson, Jr., was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
His grave is located on the hill below the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers.