(Update as of January 5th 2020-- The Wall of Faces has posted CPL Pervis Valentine's photo)
He first became acquainted with Vietnam's climate while an infantryman in the Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade. Although an elite paratrooper outfit, it had been years since they had jumped into combat and it didn't look like they would be parachuting anytime too soon. Vietnam was the place for helicopters, not parachutes. However, only half the fun of being a paratrooper was jumping, the other half was always fighting outnumbered on the ground. That second half of paratrooper fun was the fun he could have anytime he wanted. In Vietnam there were plenty of places to fight outnumbered.
It was frustrating being a paratrooper with no place to jump, but lots of things were frustrating in the Army in 1967. While his military occupational specialty was as a mortar crewman, in the Army you do whatever the Army tells you to do. Sometimes he was a mortar crewman, sometimes an infantryman, sometimes, being a private, he simply burned barrels of human waste collected in camp, mixed with fuel and set afire. But, on 10 January 1967 he was doing what paratroopers loved to do--he was fighting the enemy. That's when he was wounded, along with SSG David Konen, PFC James Fluck, and PFC Wayne Tuttle. He earned the Purple Heart as a result of his wounds. The certificate for the Purple Heart said he earned the award "for wounds received in action" in the Republic of Vietnam. It gave his name: Pervis B. Valentine, Jr.
Mortar set up for use in the field in Vietnam.
Because of that wound, Valentine missed being an important part of paratrooper history about six weeks later. More severely wounded than the other three men on that January day, Valentine was unable to take part in the only combat parachute jump during the Vietnam War. It took place at the end of February 1967 and it involved elements of the 173rd Airborne Brigade jumping out of a perfectly good aircraft, trusting their lives to a piece of silk, and engaging in the role of infantry upon landing. The manifest of that historic jump is online several places today. Included on the manifest are the names of Konen, Fluck, and Tuttle. They made history that day. Valentine's name is missing, presumably because he was not yet fit for duty after his wound on January 10th.
Photo of 173rd Airborne Brigade on the only combat jump in the Vietnam War
Proud soldier that he was, when Valentine's first combat tour ended he volunteered to return for another. This time he was part of the Cavalry, to be specific B Troop, 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry. Their unit insignia was a winged spur. The spur denoting the cavalry and the wings denoting their paratrooper status. For although they were labeled "Cav," they had long been known as the reconnaissance unit of the 82nd Airborne Division. Organized and trained to "sneak and peek" behind enemy lines and report intelligence back to higher headquarters, B Troop was always in the thick of it. It was during OPERATION CARENTAN II, on April 19, 1968, just a little over two months after his second tour began, when CPL Pervis Valentine, Jr was killed in Vietnam. Part of a jeep patrol, he died from wounds sustained when his jeep hit an enemy landmine in Thua Thien Province.
Winged Spur-- the insignia of the 17th Cavalry
His body was returned to the U.S. and he was buried in New Jersey's Beverly National Cemetery, about 23 miles northeast of where he grew up in "Philly." The Army being the Army, however, a guy couldn't even die without an Army SNAFU. In Valentine's case his headstone is incorrect. It shows his date of birth as being May 10, 1944 as opposed to every other piece of Army documentation that reflects his birth a year earlier on May 10, 1943. For this particular story it is also important to note that his birthplace is shown as Pennsylvania.
The headstone of Pervis B Valentine, Jr in Beverly National Cemetery (NJ)
While many narratives would end the story right here, in this narrative we have arrived at its beginning. Until now the story has been of a Vietnam era hero, a young man who earned the Purple Heart as well as a Bronze Star (Merit), but now it needs to address the involvement of Stevenson University's history program. We became involved because we are trying to solve a problem.
If the online photo memorial to every American who died in Vietnam, the "Wall of Faces," reflects that the photo for every Pennsylvanian who died in Vietnam has been located and posted to that Wall, why is it missing CPL Pervis Valentine, Jr's photo?
Pervis Valentine's profile on the Wall of Faces. "We need your help....."
Pervis Valentine's information can be found at the "Wall of Faces," but not his photo. That's because the U.S. Army's paperwork reflects that Valentine's home of record was Roxbury, Massachusetts, not his family home on Titan Street in Philadelphia. You know he's from Philadelphia, and I know he's from Philadelphia. For heaven's sake, his headstone-- supplied by the government-- reflects that fact. But, apparently Valentine threw the Army a curveball by getting married in Massachusetts.
Apparently, Valentine married Elizabeth Wesley in Boston in 1966. Upon getting married, Valentine's home of record would have changed from where his parents lived to where he and his wife lived. In getting ready to go to Vietnam on his first tour Valentine would have changed the name of his PNOK (Primary Next of Kin from his mom to that of his wife, Elizabeth Valentine, Roxbury, MA. Because of that change his "home of record" was Massachusetts. Consequently, when he died his loss was officially credited to the Vietnam War losses of Massachusetts. Therefore, on the granite Wall of Remembrance in Washington, DC, Valentine is listed as a son of Massachusetts. When the online version of that memorial wall was conceptualized as a Wall of Faces, the hunt for his photo centered on Roxbury, Massachusetts.
The reason the photos are so important is that as soon as each photo is located it is posted to the "Wall of Faces" online. The "Wall of Faces" accomplishes online with photos what the "Wall of Remembrance" accomplishes in granite in Washington, D.C. Of the 58,276 American men and women who died in Vietnam, researchers-- like those in the history program at Stevenson University-- have located 99.4% of their photos. We are now trying to locate the last 306 photos. CPL Pervis Valentine, Jr is one of those 306 photos. But, in the near term, his photo is even more critical. It is one of the last two we need to find to complete the photo gallery of honor for Massachusetts.
The two photos needed to complete the gallery of honor for Massachusetts.
According to the DoD, by the end of the war, CPL Valentine was one of 1,336 military members from Massachusetts who had died in Vietnam. Of those 1,336 fatal casualties, researchers have located photos of 1,334. Only two photos remain to be found in order to complete Massachusetts' photo roll of honor. Of those two missing photos, one belongs to CPL Valentine.
Maryland found its final photos in 2016, and searchers from Stevenson University's history program were crucial to enabling that success. Pennsylvania completed their hunt for photos in December of 2019, and Stevenson was recognized for its work in support of that effort as well. So far, 44 of the states and territories of the United States have completed their photo search and placed their photos on the Wall of Faces. Massachusetts having lost 1,336 service members in Vietnam is only two photos away from being complete.
We are really excited because Stevenson University researchers have located a photo of CPL Pervis Valentine, Jr. Pervis is no longer a faceless ghost. We have an image of what he looked like at age 18.
A search through newspapers of the era revealed a photo of Pervis Valentine, Jr. in the Afro American newspaper of December 29, 1962 edition on Page 17. Below you will see a screenshot of that page. Highlighted is the name of Pervis Valentine, Jr from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His photo is on the top right of the collage. At the time he was approximately 18 years old and was a recent recruit into the USAF.
However, as you can see, the picture is of, at best, dubious quality. Having finally found his long sought for photo, it's clear the photo is not good enough to post on the Wall of Faces. We need to find a good version of that picture. We have reached out to the Afro American newspaper and are awaiting their response. If they have that photo it will be a miracle. So, we need to look at other possibilities. Here is where we need your help.
We know from the screenshot that he was a junior enlisted man in the USAF in December 1962. The USAF provided that photo to the newspaper, so it would be a good guess that the USAF has a copy even today. One would think we would be able to send an e-mail, order the picture from the USAF and resolve the issue. Unfortunately, it's not that simple. Throughout the last decade the military has been generally unwilling to use its vast resources to locate these photos. There are lots of good reasons for this, so a somewhat slower informal approach has evolved. Informally the DoD is great to work with and everything is accomplished by personal contact. Generals and colonels talk to other generals and colonels, retired sergeants major have a beer with an active sergeant major and requests are made. Its a world of "I know a guy who knows a woman who is in charge of....." It is slow, it takes place when other higher priority requests have been satisfied, but it gets the job done.
We have no idea who you might know, who's in your family, or who you served with. We have no idea if your relative is a congressional staffer from Pennsylvania or Massachusetts. What we know is that Valentine's photo will probably come from within the military. It might be found in the USAF records from 1962 since they were the ones who sent Valentine's photo to the Afro American. The photo might come from the Army since Valentine would have gone to Airborne School. In either case, the USAF or the Army, there would exist a photo from the individual's military records jacket (his "201" file).
If you have any contact with someone of importance in the USAF or Army, or if you know a member of the congressional delegation from Pennsylvania or Massachusetts, please communicate to them the need to locate a photo of Pervis B. Valentine, Jr. CPL Valentine was born 10 May 1943 (sometimes shown as 10 May 1944) in Philadelphia, PA. His home of record from 1962 shows as 2609 Titan Street, Philadelphia, PA. His father's name was Pervis Valentine and his mother's Julia. If located, the photo can be posted directly to the Wall of Faces online, or it can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org The only thing we ask is that you confirm it is the correct Pervis Valentine-- there are several out there.
At this time a valid question on your part would be: Why is this plea posted on our history department blog? The answer is that this post shows how we do history at Stevenson. Our program is all about history being a way of actively engaging with the past in order to serve our needs today. It's about posing questions that result in expeditions into the past, expeditions that create new knowledge as a result of interacting with old data, with old evidence, and, often, with old people. It's posted here because you need to know that historians need also be audacious. In order to find a photo of CPL Valentine we will need to have the audacity to seek audiences with members of Congress, Air Force generals, and newspaper executives. We will need to be humble when we approach Vietnam veterans from Valentine's unit, his family, and people from his neighborhood. Far from being researchers cloistered in an archive, at Stevenson University our history majors are detectives on a journey into the past. We hunt for evidence that will provide us facts that illuminate the present and provide a foundation for the future.