Rattler/Firebird Association

Ernest Palmieri

Name Ernest Palmieri
Rank/Grade SP4 - E4 - Army - Selective Service
Age 20
Marital Status Single
Race Caucasian
Gender Male
Date of Birth Feb 14, 1946
From New York, New York
Length of Service 1 year
Tour Began May 01, 1966
Casualty Date Dec 8, 1966
Hostile/Non-Hostile   HOSTILE
Body Recovered Yes
Religion Roman Catholic

Vietnam Memorial


Panel 13E - - Line 23
Ernest Palmieri

Visitor Comments

Posted by:Ron Seabolt
Date:Saturday, June 8, 2002 11:02 AM UTC
Relationship:In the same platoon
From:Terrell, TX
Comments:Ernie Palmieri was just about the best liked crew chief in the 1st platoon when I started flying on November 23rd, 1966. We lived in the same tent/hootch at Bien Hoa. As the new guy, it is hard to gain acceptance from the old hands. Two weeks into my crewing career, on December 8th, I was flying in the C&C aircraft over the formation of slicks making an extraction out of the Hobo woods area. I still remember the call from the lead aircraft that their crew chief was hit. This causes a knot in your gut immediately. Word was soon out that Ernie was dead, shot between the eyes. The "official" army word is "crew air loss - crash on land". There was no crash, just ground fire received. Later that day, I along with Jim Norris and Tom Knapp took my "cherrie" hit climbing out of the same general area. A major on board was hit in the back by the round and we had him at the hospital within five minutes. This day in my life will never be forgotten. This was the first person that I knew personally that was killed in Vietnam. Unfortunately it would be no where near the last.

Posted by:Ray (RJ) Williams
Date:Friday, June 28, 2002 6:15 PM UTC
Relationship:Privileged to have been Ernies friend.
From:Manheim, PA.
Comments:Ernie was the sixth Rattler killed in my first 6 months in country. Ernie was the first of our KIA's who was very close to me. If you knew Ernie you were automatically his friend and he always treated you like you were his life long best friend. That was just part of Ernie, he was very special.
The day we lost Ernie, I was sharing his cup of coffee, from one of our large silver thermos containers we carried in Bien Hoa. Ernie and I and some of the other guys were watching the self propelled 8 inch guns fire out at Trang Bang, where we were waiting on standby. We got a call and the flight started cranking and we all scrambled off and got ready for takeoff. I remember that there was a great urgency to pick up the grunts, and because of this we had to fly low level from Trang Bang to the PZ. I remember a Firebird pilot called on the Company Frequency saying that as we had passed a small school, after leaving the PZ, that the Rattler Flight had been taking fire. The Firebirds did not smoke the school house because they could see a lot of small children in and near the school. When we left the PZ for the second time, still flying low level, the flight took heavy fire from a large expanse of rice paddies being tended by 20 or 30 people just past the village with the school house. The slicks opened up and then the Firebirds smoked the little school, before the radio call announcing that a first platoon crew chief had been hit. When we landed we started to hear that it was Ernie, and then we heard that he was dead. That was the first time I cried, but it wouldn't be my last. The closer you are to someone the more it hurts. Ernie can never be replaced by anyone, he was too special, and I feel very privleged to have had the opportunity to have known him even for so short a time. I will always remember his smile and his friendship.

Posted by:Sam Arthur
Date:Friday, June 28, 2002 10:31 PM UTC
Relationship:Fellow Rattler Slick(Brother in Arms)
From:Clarksville, Tn
Comments:I was also flying the day that Ernie got hit. While getting into a 3/4 ton truck to go to the flight line that morning, Ernie slipped getting in the back and someone said with your luck, you will get shot today. Ernie replied, charlie doesn't have my number. If you were there that day, then you know what happened.
Being a young kid myself and not knowing any better, as soon as we got back to the Snake Pit that night, I wrote a letter to Ernie's parents. This is the reply I received to that letter. It is addressed to Ernies buddies;
My name is Anthony. I was a very close friend of Ernies. I am writing this letter on behalf of all of Ernies dearest friends and if you knew Ernie, he had many friends. Ernies family showed us the letter you wrote them. I just want to say to you men on behalf of Ernies' family and Ernies' dearest friends, a sincere thank you. The letter helped a great deal to soothe the pain that many many people felt in their hearts. We have done everything we can do for Ernie by way of prayers, flowers, masses etc. He is with the Lord now and enjoying the peace and tranquility of heaven.
There is not much more I can say except thank you all again and my friends and I will say a prayer for everyone of you men there and sincerely hope from the bottom of my heart that you all come home safe and sound to your families and are able maybe, to visit Ernies' grave and say a prayer.
Along with the letter was a newspaper clipping dated 14 Dec, 1966, that reads" Dreams of Marriage End In Viet Nam Jungle"
Ernest Palmeri had plans. He was to be married in four months. Then he and his brother Julio would expand the butcher shop they owned in Brooklyn's Bay Ridge section.
But Ernies dreams have quickly ended. It came quickly in a far-away place over a desolate and alien jungle.
"Hit by hostile small arms fire while engaged in a helicopter assault mission," the telegram from the Pentagon read. There were the usual condolences. Specialist 4th Class Plameri had been a good soldier.
At 1:30 in the morning last Saturday a light breeze through Pennsylvania station signaled the trains arrival on schedule. Rocco and Maria Palmeri stepped forward to claim the body of their son.
Yesterday the family received a letter from Ernest's buddies in the 71st Helicopter Assault Company. They said a few weeks before he died, Ernest had received a Bronze Star for valor under fire. He was trying to help a wounded comrade.
Burial Today
He wasn't trying to play the hero, like you see in the movies they wrote. He was only trying to do a job the best he knew how.
War hastens the death of many people. Other things, it slows to a crawl. The Army said it may take 60 days for the official notification of Ernest's award to arrive from the front.
Ernest was scheduled for burial in Pinelawn National Cemetery, following a services at 9 am in St Catherines Church, 41 st and Fort Hamilton Parkway. The Palmeri family will always be grateful the letter got there first, Julio said.
Ernest, who lived at 3904 Ninth Ave, opened the butcher shop with Julio three years ago. His marriage to a childhood sweetheart, Mary Lou Lobianco, was set for this spring. He was drafted last December and had been in Viet Nam about eight months.

Why have I kept this letter and clipping for the past 36 years? Is it because I don't want to forget the past, or I don't want Ernie to think that he has been forgotten? You know the answer.

Posted by:Ron Seabolt
Date:Monday, July 15, 2002 7:54 PM UTC
Relationship:Fellow Platoon Member
From:Terrell, TX
Comments:The following letter was received by the men of the 1st Platoon following Ernie's death....21 Dec.66....To Ernie's buddies in combat,...My name is Anthony. I was a very close friend of Ernies. I am writing this letter on behalf of all of Ernie's dearest friends and if you knew Ernie, he had many friends. Ernie's family showed us the letter you wrote them. I just want to say to you men on behalf of Ernie's family and Ernie's dearest friends, a sincere thank you. The letter helped a great deal to soothe the pain that many, many people felt in their hearts. We have done everything we can do for Ernie by way of prayers, flowers, masses etc. He is with the Lord now and enjoying the peace and tranquility of heaven. There is not much more I can say except thank you all again and my friends and I will say a prayer for everyone of you men there and sincerely hope from the bottom of my heart that you all come home safe and sound to your familys and are able maybe, to visit Ernie's grave and say a prayer. Your Friends, Anthony Sciaretta, Ronnie Cassono, Gerard Setteducato, Jimmy Freschi, Paul Walter, Mrs G. Setteducato, Louis Jauiclse, Joe Piazza, Mike Setteducato, James Burke, Johnny Padula, Angeto Gatto, Victor Ayala...(NOTE: Ernie Palmieri was buried at the Long Island National Cemetery)

Posted by:larry smith... EM 66/68 (smitty)
Date:Wednesday, December 4, 2002 6:41 AM UTC
Relationship:one of ernie's gunners
From:laurel ms.
Comments:I walked into the 1st platoon hooch, a young kid had just turned 18, not knowing my whole world was about to change. The first man I met was Ernie. He asked if I knew what I was getting into. I said no. I asked him if I had a choice and he said no. He was fixing to show me around. With a big smile on his face, he told me to get in the 3/4, and he and David McDaniels took me to the flight line. He laughed and joked all the way. I thought to myself, this guy seems happy, how bad can this war be. I was about to find out. Before Ernie got killed I got the chance to fly with him several times. It was always a pleasure and I mean that. He was so much fun. The day Ernie got killed I was not flying. When I got the news, I went off and found a place to cry. I cried till I couldn't anymore. When I got up I said to myself, crying is a sign of weakness and it won't happen again. That's the last time I remember crying in Vietnam. After all these years I still miss that big old smile of Ernie's. He was a great friend.


Posted by:julio palmieri
Date:Saturday, January 18, 2003 4:36 PM UTC
From:sping hill florida
Comments:HELLO after all these years i din't kno that this web site existed until a frend told me abaut it, I still have all of the letters & with all of the names of the guys that he flew with, SOME things you all don't kno he & i where born in southern ITALY & are 8 years appart ,I served my military time in 1956& i guess he used to hear all the good times been in the military he joind up, He had no clue of vietnam, We are a huge famaly of four sisters& four brothers a vary warm loving famaly great parents& grand parents since his death there is not a day that goes by that his name is not mantion,ALL we realy whant to do is remember the good about him & not the way hi died,I have all of your names & some pictures some where in the house & i am going to getn them out& go throug them, He died for honor& his country, A humbol thanks to you guys that posted this website MR &MRS JULIO PALMIERI

Posted by:Ron Seabolt
Date:Friday, December 8, 2006 1:19 AM UTC
Relationship:served in the same flight platoon
From:Terrell, Texas
Comments:Ernie has been gone for forty years today. The men who knew him were enriched from the experience. He will never be forgot by the ones who served with him. RIP Brother!

Posted by:vince coppola
Date:Saturday, August 4, 2012 6:28 PM UTC
Comments:I went to Our Lady of Peace elementary school in Brooklyn with Ernie Palmieri. He had recently immigated from Italy and spoke with an accent. I remember him as handsome, green-eyed, tall, a kind and very industrious new American who worked after school in a pork store a few blocks from the school. He had two sisters, twins, if I remember correctly all these years later. A good guy, who I met up with years later when I was a reporter doing a story on Vietnam Vets. He was there on the wall, waiting for me.

Posted by:Mike Reinhardt
Date:Saturday, December 20, 2014 9:52 PM UTC
Relationship:Friend and fellow "Rattler"
From:Tonawanda NY
Comments:I remember Ernie Palmieri, although I never called him Ernie. In those days we almost always called each other by just our last names. To me he was simply “Palmieri. He was a likable kid, I say kid we were all so young than. He really had a way of making you feel like you belonged and were welcomed. He had a mischievous smile that made you feel at ease and made you wonder what he was up to, all at the same time. I got to tell you when I first got to Viet Nam I had a chip on my shoulder the size of a Texas Long Horn cow pie. I was just really so home sick and wondering what I had gotten myself into. One night, in the maintenance shed, things were slow and he and I got to talking about home and stuff. I mentioned my last name was a little misleading as my mom and paternal father were both Italian and that I had been adopted by my step dad. I told him I was as Italian as you could get without actually being born there. He laughed and said he had one better than that cause he was born there. We both laughed at that and than we started talking about family, Italian food, women (Us guys were always talking about women), before you knew it that chip on my shoulder was gone and I felt like I belonged and I wasn’t just an individual replacement anymore. My whole attitude toward my fellow soldiers and my work changed that night. Our conversation had a really profound effect on me. As I already said, I was assigned to the maintenance platoon and Palmieri had already been there about a month or so before me, so he kind of showed me around. He even tried to pull the “Flight Line” gag on me, you know, “Damn we’re out of rope, Reinhardt go on over to the supply tent and ask the supply sergeant for a hundred yards of flight line would you, hurry back we need it right away“. I took a half step toward the tent and than it hit me. I turned around and looked at Palmieri and he was grinning that grin of his. I said “I’m not falling for that” (Although I almost did) and we both had a good laugh over it. That’s the way it was, you would be working hard and helping each other out and than someone would give a little jab or joke and everyone would laugh about it. You couldn’t be thin skinned that’s for sure, nobody escaped unscathed. Eventually I was placed on flight status. In those days, and I suppose it’s the same way now, you had to volunteer and be recommended for flight status. You just couldn’t say I want to fly. I didn’t think anything about being recommended for flight status before Palmieri was, I just thought he didn’t want to be in a flight platoon. Now here is the part of the story that has haunted me all these years. In fact I have never told anyone else this story (Except my wife). It’s hard for me to express it orally, it seems writing it down is easier. So here goes. One day we were on missions and we slightly over flew an inspection on my aircraft. Instead of landing on the Fire Bird flight line and than having to ground handle the aircraft to the maintenance shed the pilots elected to fly directly to the maintenance flight line. The problem with that was the aircraft was still armed so when we landed I started to disarm the aircraft and do the paper work for the inspection. Palmieri and Jeffries, (If I remember his name correctly) he was a T.I. (we called him Jeff) came over to help and get the aircraft in the maintenance shed. We all got right to work and after a few minutes Palmieri says to Jeff “Jeff when are you going to recommend me for flight status?’ Jeff said back to him, “You know I don’t want to” Palmieri says back at Jeff “Why not, you know I really want to fly” and Jeff says, after a short pause “Cause I don’t want to see you get killed’. Well I stopped what I was doing and looked at Jeff and Palmieri, the hairs on the back of my neck were standing up and a cold chill ran down my spine. I guess it was the way it was said. Maybe Jeff had a premonition or something I don’t know. I was about to say something like “Well what the hell about me, you recommended me for flight status“, but I caught myself short and got back to work. It was obvious I was not part of the conversation, it was between them. I tried to put the incident behind me but it was very unnerving. At the time I didn’t know why it bothered me so much and eventually I forgot about it. Well you know the rest of the story, Palmieri got on flight status and was killed. I remember the day the word came down that he had been shot. I was rearming my aircraft getting ready for another sortie. I looked at the people that were around me, not a word was said everyone had stopped what they were doing. I said a prayer to myself hoping he would be alright. My mind flashed back to that conversation between Palmieri and Jeffries and that cold chill ran down my back again, I knew he was gone. I often wondered if only he had left things well enough alone, but that’s fate I guess it was just meant to be. I also wondered if Jeffries ever felt he was somehow responsible, I hope not. Like I said that’s fate, it was meant to be.


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