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ATR2 Joseph Stephen Saukaitis

Joseph Stephen Saukaitis was born on Sep 08, 1949.

He has two sisters. Joe was 20 years old and single.

He loved auto mechanics and fishing.

He was loved by his family very much and they were making

so many plans for his leave home at Christmas.

He had been in the Navy two years.

Home of record:  Kulpmont, Pennsylvania

Panel 12W - - Line 9

The photograph and information was taken from a scrapbook kept by my mother. Connie


Special Prayer | Special MemoriesTribute From a Friend | Other Remembrances | Newspaper Clippings

The following prayer was sent to our father by our brother, Joe, in a letter dated 10/13/67.  We feel this prayer puts into words what Joe was like. Little did he know that it would be used to exemplify and honor him 35 years later. Sisters, Barbara and Gerri, and Brother-in-law, Paul, who will always cherish the time, short as it was, that we had with him.

In honor of Joe, our Brother, who enriched our lives and lives on in our hearts.

Build Me A Son O Lord

                             Build me a son, O Lord,
                                  who will be strong enough to know when he is weak,
                                  and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid;
                                  one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat,
                                  and humble and gentle in victory.
                             Build me a son whose wishes will not take the place of deeds;
                                  a son who will know Thee - and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge.
                                  Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort,
                                  but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge.
                                  Here let him learn to stand up in the storm;
                                  here let him learn compassion for those who fail.
                             Build me a son whose heart will be clear,
                                  whose goal will be high,
                                  a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men,
                                  one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.
                             And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor,
                                  so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously.
                                  Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness,
                                  the open mind of true wisdom, and the meekness of true strength.

Then, I, his father, will dare to whisper, "I have not lived in vain."

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I Remember You, Joe


Joe and I were engaged when he died on March 16, 1970.  Here is a picture of Joe and myself when he was last home on leave in July 1969 and one he took of himself jokingly.  He was always smiling and joking.  We wrote each other every day - sometimes he would write twice a day.  We mostly discussed our future lives together, when his military time was completed.  We were going to plan our wedding when he was supposed to come home for Christmas.  He planned to attend computer school in Ohio and we both wanted children.  We knew each other more than most people who spend many years together.  I am grateful  that I had the chance to be so close to him when he was so far away from home.
Peggy and Joe
Joe in Uniform
I Remember You, Joe

I remember the day I met you when you were home on leave in July 1969 - you in the 1958 Chevy you drove all the way from Texas.

I remember your gorgeous hazel eyes and I loved the way you would curl the front of your hair, especially when you were thinking.

I remember the day you picked me up and had your 2 little nephews, Stevie and Jeff, sitting beside you. They were so precious & they were so impressed with you.

I remember the morning you picked me up to go for a picnic and you greeted me with "Good Morning Starshine".

I remember the day you left for your next tour in Vietnam.  Neither of us could or would say goodbye. We just turned our backs and you walked away.

I remember the beautiful letters you wrote to me each and everyday.  Our love grew with every letter. Also, I remember your voice on the cassette tapes, and your phone calls from DaNang through an army buddy of yours.

I remember how you grieved for your cousin, Carl, a marine who died in Vietnam in August 1969.  Since you were there, you couldn't make his funeral.

I remember the day you died.   Although it was the most painful day of my life, heaven must have rejoiced to receive you.  You certainly must light up heaven as you did everywhere you went on earth.

Even after all these years, I can say that I love you with all my heart and soul.


Joe Smile

FOR JOE - "How do I love thee?":

 "...,-- I love thee with the breath, smiles, tears, of all my life!-- and, if after death, God chooses, I shall love thee more."

Joe Over There
James sent me pictures of Joe when they shared time at DaNang and in their apartment in Japan. The picture above is my favorite.  We so very much appreciate James and all of Joe he has brought to us.

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      I made it to the Vietnam memorial today, the half scale moving wall that was in our area for about a week.  I had also visited yesterday, to see if I could find Joe’s name, but uncertain of the spelling after 32 years, I was unable to locate it and had to go back again with information I found on this web site.  This time, with panel number and line, I located Joe’s name easily and soon found myself staring at its terrible familiarity among a sea of fallen warriors, thinking back three decades to another list, in another time.

      In 1970 I had known Joe Saukaitis for about a year, meeting him first in the electronics shop of VQ-1, but really getting to know him while we were Down South, working the long, twelve hour night shift in the squadron’s Detachment Duty Office.   While nights in Da Nang could be exciting from time to time, mostly they were uneventful and would have been really boring had it not been for my friendship with Joe. During those long nights on duty, Joe and I spent countless hours just talking, mostly about our girls back home, but also about our families, attitudes, values, and goals in life.  In spite of him being five years younger than me and the fact that we were from different parts of the country, we had much in common.

      When not in Da Nang,  Joe and I shared an off-base house in Tsuruma, Japan, a little two bedroom place that I’d rented in anticipation of my fiancee coming over for our July wedding.  I was longing for that day of course, but until it happened, I was fortunate to have Joe for a roommate.  He was a positive young man of impeccable character, very friendly, constantly smiling and you could always count on him to be in a good mood.  As much as anyone I’d ever met, Joe loved and appreciated life.  He also seemed to make life more enjoyable for everyone around him, too.  He was just that kind of guy.

      My deployment schedule and Joe’s began to differ in late 1969; I moved mine up in order to be back from Down South right before my wedding, and Joe stayed put trying to get on an air crew.  I don’t remember the exact date of that particular rotation, but I do know that in early March, 1970 I found myself in Da Nang without my friend, missing our long, all night talks.  I didn’t dwell on it of course,  I’d see him soon enough anyway and by that time I was so excited about my upcoming marriage that I hardly noticed anything except those treasured, sweet smelling letters from home. Other than that, I passed the time working nights and sleeping days, and sleeping was what I was doing when Pr-26 went down.

       The first I knew of the accident was when I went to the chow hall on the way to work that evening and saw people crowded around a bulletin board talking in low, subdued tones.   "What’s up," I asked, knowing something bad had happened, but just not what.   "PR-26 went down," was the answer, "while it was landing."

      Like everyone else that day, I was shocked at the crash of one of our planes, even though I didn’t personally know anyone on the crew.  It was still like losing family, but more like a distant relative.  Then, someone—I don’t remember who—told me that Joe had been on the plane. "No!"  I said, even as my stomach began to knot. "He couldn’t have been.  Joe wouldn’t be coming down on a 121, he flew in 130’s, like me. Besides, it wasn’t even time for him to rotate down anyway."

     "You know Joe was trying to get on an air crew," the voice said, "well, he made it, he was coming down with them."  In disbelief I pushed my way to the front of the group so I could see the passenger manifest with my own eyes.  Sure enough, Joe’s name was on it and suddenly, I felt very, very sick.  "There were survivors, though, right?",  I asked.

     "Some, but we don’t know how many right now," was the answer.  Without a word I turned and went on into chow. That was the loop hole I needed, the way out.  Joe, I just knew, would be one of the survivors.  He had to be.

     It was maybe four or five hours later when I got wind of a new list being posted, a list of confirmed casualties from the crash, and I made my way back to look at it, praying not to see Joe’s name.  I started at the top,  running my finger slowly down the list one name at a time, too afraid to skip alphabetically ahead.  But then I saw it.  Horribly, unbelievably, incredibly, I saw it.

ATR2  Joseph S. Saukaitis

      Today I saw Joe’s name once again, on the wall.  Thirty-two years had dulled only a little of the grief I felt that evening in Da Nang, and I once again felt the profound sadness and sense of loss I experienced there, as I read his name that terrible night.  But this time, as I stood remembering Joe, I didn’t question why it had to happen, I didn’t even wonder what might have been, I just knew that out of the 58, 225 names on the wall, one had a face.  One had a smile.  One was my friend.
James C. Musick  (ATN2)

Author of the Above Tribute
E-mail received May 29, 2002:

Friend of Joe's
    My name is James Musick and I definitely have some information about Joe Saukaitis.  Joe and I were roommates, sharing our off-base house in Tsuruma, Japan, prior to the crash in DaNang.  Joe was the best friend I ever had in the navy, we had much in common and were friends on and off duty.  I would be honored to write more of  what Joe was really like during the year that I knew him, both for the website and--if I can get in touch with someone in his family--perhaps something with even more detail that they might enjoy.   I think those who knew Joe back home will be pleased to know what a fine, upstanding young man he was.
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If you are a relative or were a friend of Joe's and would like to contact Mr. Musick, he can be reached at
Work address:
James Musick
c/o American Iron Works
3604 North Main
Ft. Worth, Texas 76106
(817) 626-8226
or you can e-mail him - musick (AT symbol)
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UPDATE:  July, 2002 - Some of Joe's relatives and friends have made contact and are corresponding with James. Thank you, James, for the information you are providing for them.

Other Tributes

Guestbook Entry:
Saturday 08/03/2002
Name: Steve Pollock
E-Mail:  sjpslp (AT symbol)
City/Country: Allentown, PA

Great Site!

I'm the nephew of Joe Saukaitis. My mother (his sister Barbara) referred me to your site. I can't thank you enough for allowing me to gain some additional insight into what my uncle was like. I was only 3 at the time of the crash and have no real memories of my uncle. Thank you once again!  -Steve

Guestbook Entry:
Tuesday 09/03/2002
Name:  Ray W. Rothermel
E-Mail:  raywraym (AT symbol)
City/Country:  Mount Carmel

I was President of the Mt. Carmel Area H. S. Class of 1967 and was a friend and track buddy of Joe. We miss you Joe and we remember and commemorate you at every reunion and class get together. We held our 35th this past weekend ( 9-1-02 ) and we lit a candle and listed all deceased classmates. Joe was the only classmate that died in Viet Nam. We thought of Joe a few times that night and we all miss him.
Ray W. Rothermel

Guestbook Entry:
Wednesday 09/04/2002
Name: Joe Remash
E-Mail: soggysocks (AT symbol)
City/Country:  Atlas,Pa.

Joe and I were in the same home room, in High School. We palled around, ate lunch, played sports together. Joe was always a happy guy. He enjoyed all his friends. He enjoyed life. I have some fond memories of the good times Joe and I had. I was torn apart, when I heard of His passing away. We'll keep Joe in our prayers.

Newspaper Clippings:

News Clippings