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. Jay grew up to be tall and lean like his father. He studied vocational agriculture in school and was a member of the Future Farmers of America for three years.
He graduated from Annville-Cleona High School in 1964. He began working with his father and older brother Ted, Jr. as a carpenter. In the following months Vietnam became front page news, 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. In the spring of 1965 he joined the U. S. Marine Corps.
After training at Parris Island and Camp Lejeune, Jay received 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.
Several members of the flsgab group served with Jay in SupplyCo, 3rd Service Battalion, FLC when he first arrived in Vietnam in the summer of 1966. His MOS was 3051 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.
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, administer 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 dominated the skyline of the Force Logistics Command base camp at Red Beach.
At approximately 0200 hours on the morning of 16Nov 1966, the Viet Cong launched a surprise attack at Red Beach. Jay was killed in action during that attack. He was blown out of an 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 built. Red Beach was later renamed Camp Books in his honor.
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." 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 at the Brethren in Christ Church in Cleona, Pennsylvania. The cemetery is located above the church on a hill overlooking his hometown. 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.
November 2001, thirty-five years following his death, those of us who served with Jay Books at FLC in Vietnam honor our Marine brother. He is not forgotten. May he rest in peace. Semper fidelis, fratres aeterni.
[LAWRENCE WELLS USMC 1964-68 FLSG-A/FLC '65-'66 Wells2000@alltel.net ]