Had he lived, today would have been Danny Gatto’s 66th birthday. But instead, you’ll find his name on panel 23W in row 86 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington DC. On June 6, 1969, just five days before his 19th birthday, Marine Corps Private Gatto was killed in action by fragments from an exploding mortar shell near Quang Tri, South Vietnam. Thus, this young Rug City native became the 23rd Amsterdam resident to lose his life in the most controversial US military engagement of the 20th century.
At the time his son was killed, Gatto’s father, a veteran of WWII was a patient at the Veterans Hospital in Buffalo. His Mom two brothers and two sisters were living on Glen Ave. Gatto had joined the Marine Corps in July of 1967 and was serving as a rifleman with Company H of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Regiment, 3rd Marine Division. The young man’s body was returned to Amsterdam and interred at St. Michael’s Cemetery.
Vietnam was the first large scale US military action I had lived through. By the time I had reached draft age, they had already ended the draft. This war split our nation in half and those who suffered the most were the gallant young men and women who went to that southeast Asian nation and fought for their country. We honor Daniel Gatto’s supreme sacrifice and his memory. May he rest in peace.
(This legendary baker from the South Side of Amsterdam also celebrated his birthday on July 11.)