Pfc. John M. Hoar, a slender 20-year-old soldier who marched off to the Vietnam war on Christmas Day 1965, returned home Sunday evening. He became the first (known) Belleville serviceman to give his life in that far-away conflict which no one understands.
His gray, flag-draped coffin arrived at 9:30 p.m. Sunday aboard a sleek military transport plane which landed at Newark Airport accompanied by Sp. 5 Bob White, a military escort provided by the army for its fallen warriors.
Pfc. Hoar died of a head wound inflicted by soldiers of the Viet Cong during a savage firefight at Bongson, 265 miles northeast of Saigon on the South China Sea.
His death, said an Army telegram from the Defense Department, ''... was incurred by small arms fire while on a combat operation.''
"When we came up here," he wrote before the fight, "we had 15 guys in the squad. Now we have nine. One was taken sick, another broke his leg, and three others were wounded."
Now Pfc. Hoar himself joins the list of America's honored dead who were killed in action.
He is survived by his grieving parents, Mr. and Mrs. Robert J. Hoar, 80 Cleveland Street, who sit quietly in their second-floor apartment and remember the days when their son was a laughing young man who had the world before him.
The Belleville Times Feb. 24, 1966