The Marshall Museum & Library is honored to house documents, photographs, and artifacts of “Tropic Lightning,” the 25th Infantry Division. One of the sub-collections of the 25th is the Danny Lee Blake Collection. Lt. Blake graduated from City College of Baltimore before enlisting in the army in May of 1966. He served as an instructor at Fort Knox and earned Paratrooper Wings and a Ranger tab before his arrival in Vietnam on May 6, 1968. Lt. Blake was a platoon leader in Company A, 4th Battalion (Mech), 23rd Infantry, 25th Infantry Division.
On August 18, 1968, in the heat of battle, Lt. Blake saw his fellow soldier, Robert Edgecomb, entangled in barbed wire. Under enemy fire, Blake ran out to Edgecomb and worked to free him over the span of about thirty minutes, dragging him to safety. Blake had wounds to the right hip, leg, and flank and Edgecomb survived, losing part of his leg. While recovering at Tay Ninh Base Camp, Blake was awarded the Purple Heart “for heroic action” and “complete disregard for his own safety.” Blake was assigned to light duty, which is why it came as a shock when his parents were notified a short time later that their son had died on August 21. He was 21 years old. Blake’s mother attempted to find out how and where her son died and letters and tributes from his comrades to her about Danny are included in the collection. Also included is the notification of his missing medical records from the Tay Ninh Base Camp hospital and her attempts to retrieve his personal belongings.
From reading letters to Blake’s mother, one discovers just how far Blake’s dedication to his men went. In a letter to Blake’s mom from Sp-4 Charles A. Manes: “He came into base camp and stayed two days but was so restless here he wanted to go back to his platoon. The next day after he went back to his platoon he was caught in an ambush while clearing the highway for a convoy.” In a letter from the Army, Blake’s mother is told that he boarded a truck to go to the dispensary for a check-up but never arrived for it. Instead, he went to the airfield, got on a helicopter, and went with a combat operation. Upon arrival he was told to report back to base camp, but he refused. Another letter describes Blake talking to another officer when an RPG exploded a few feet away, killing both instantly.
Along with family photos, certificates, and newspaper clippings kept by his mother, the museum collection contains Blake’s personal items, including his service uniform, beret, medals awarded before and after his death, and other “things he carried.” For those interested in doing research on the 25th, please contact Director of Library & Archives Jeffrey Kozak to make an appointment.