Jay Books was born December 27, 1946 in Lebanon County, PA in the heart of what is known as Pennsylvania Dutch country. He was the younger son of Theodore, Sr. and Miriam Books. Growing up in Cleona he attended Annville-Cleona schools. Although living in town, he loved farming and the outdoors, and never missed an opportunity to go hunting and fishing. He studied vocational agriculture in school and was a member of the Future Farmers of America for three years. He helped at three local farms and was a member of the Cleona Fire Company. Carpentry and woodworking filled out what spare time he had.
He graduated from Annville-Cleona High School in 1964 and began working in carpentry and cabinet making with his father. In the following months Vietnam became front page news as the war escalated and American forces were ordered into the country to combat the spread of Communism in southeast Asia. Jay felt he needed to do his part for his country. He enlisted in the Marine Corps May 24, 1965 and received boot camp training at Parris Island, SC. He served at Camp Lejeune, NC, and Camp Pendleton, CA before receiving orders to Vietnam.
He got engaged to his girl friend Diane before leaving and boasted to his friends that he would be the first to be married. He told his family that he looked forward to working with his father, and going to college, after returning from Vietnam and being discharged from the Marines.
Jay arrived in Vietnam June 6, 1966. He served in Supply Co, 3rd Service Battalion, Force Logistic Command at Red Beach. His MOS was 3051 Supply Warehouse Clerk. However, he felt that serving with a logistics unit wasn't his style. He thought he could contribute some of his carpentry skills to assist the Vietnamese people if he could transfer to a Marine pacification team, a program which placed a select squad of Marines and a Navy Corpsman in units and villages throughout I-Corps in South Vietnam.
He volunteered for the Marine civil action program, and was accepted. After training, he was assigned to Combined Action Platoon (CAP) Hotel-1 at Red Beach becoming one of the eight original members of that unit.
Jay's CAP platoon worked long hours helping build schools and hospitals in Quang Nam province. In a letter home, Jay wrote, "We go on sweeps and patrols just like the infantry. We work with the Vietnamese people, provide medical aid, and build dwellings." In another letter to a family friend, he wrote, "I know God has a plan for each of our lives. I have a lot to live for, and there's a lot I miss and would like to do. But I try not to think of home. My mind is always on thoughts of getting wounded or killed."
Between patrols and working in the local villages, Jay was assigned to build an observation tower that, when completed, dominated the skyline of the Force Logistics Command base camp at Red Beach. After the tower was built, Jay would often spend the night in the tower, after all, somehow it was his---he built it.
At approximately 0200 hours on the morning of 16Nov 1966, a CAP recon patrol reentered the concertina wire surrounding their base camp at Red Beach. The Marines who had taken part in the patrol reported to the unit's command bunker for de-briefing. Minutes later, the Viet Cong launched a surprise attack at Red Beach. Jay was killed in action during that attack. He had not been a member of the patrol, but had climbed the observation tower after the enemy opened fire. He was thrown out of the observation tower by an exploding rocket, and was thought to have died by concussion, or by the impact of the fall. The tragic irony of his death was that his body was found at the bottom of the tower he had so proudly built. Red Beach, Headquarters Force Logistics Command, was later renamed Camp Books in his memory.
Retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant Leroy Schmaus, of Santa Ana, California, who was NCOIC of CAP Hotel-1, thought Jay was hardworking and gung ho. "He was the 'master contractor' in our camp. I still find myself wondering what could have been done differently to keep Jay from getting killed. He was a good kid and a super Marine." Another member of the unit was Steve Kopetz of Peoria, Illinois. " I remember Jay, and Lee, and several of the guys in Hotel-1. All of us were excited about joining a CAP unit. I had transferred to another CAP unit, and wasn't with Hotel-1 when Jay got killed. I was sorry to hear about it later." Bill Bryan, from Brownsville, Texas was also one of the eight original members of their team. "Jay and I hit it off right away. Like me, he was an easy-going, 'big guy' and we hung around together. He was a great guy, and a good Marine, we could've been friends forever if he had made it back."
Jay is buried in the Gravel Hill Cemetery in Palmyra, Pennsylvania. He was a member of the Fairland Brethren in Christ Church in Cleona. In the church is a stand where the guest book is placed. Over the stand is a special plaque honoring Jay's memory. Jay was straightforward, dedicated, and mature beyond his years for a nineteen-year-old. He took great pride in being a United States Marine and serving his country. He had planned to live a life very much like his father, and grandfather, had---before losing his life in Vietnam. In addition to his parents, he was survived by a brother, Ted, Jr.
Today, 16November 2001, thirty-five years following his death, those of us who served with Jay Books at FLC in Vietnam honor our fallen Marine brother. He is not forgotten. May he rest in peace. Semper Fidelis, Fratres Aeterni.
Courtesy of LAWRENCE WELLS USMC 1964-68 FLSG-A/FLC '65-'66
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