Southeast Missouri State University
For more information, contact:
Ann K. Hayes (573) 651-2552




CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Sept. 16, 2002 -- The Center for Regional History at Southeast Missouri State University has published a book entitled, Vietnam: Angel of Death.

The author, Harry Spiller, is a professor of criminal justice at John A. Logan College in Carterville, Ill.

Spiller's work is a moving account of his recruiting and casualty notification duties during the Vietnam War. Following two tours of duty in Vietnam, Spiller was transferred to Cape Girardeau where he served from 1967 through 1970 as the Marine Corps recruiter for Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois. His duties included meeting assigned recruiting quotas, delivering casualty and death messages, and organizing funerals for many of the same young men he had recently recruited.

An opening reception and book signing for Vietnam: Angel of Death is scheduled for 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 22, in the Program Lounge of the University Center on the Southeast Missouri State University campus. Professor Spiller will be present to talk about his book and to autograph copies. Refreshments will be served.

With poignancy and sensitivity, Spiller relates the impact of the tragic news upon parents, wives and family members in the small, rural communities of southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois: Marquand, Chaffee, Piedmont, Cairo, Jackson, Marble Hill, and Fredericktown. But, in large measure, Spiller relates how the war and his assignment had a devastating impact upon himself. His personal struggle led him to leave the podium at an assembly at Farmington High School, convinced that he was responsible for the loss of life by the young men he was encouraging to enlist to service. Torn by the anguish of a morning recruiting session followed by a funeral, Spiller turned and left the platform, feeling empty and depressed. He soon left the military and threw his uniforms away.

Vietnam, Angel of Death is an emotionally provoking and compelling memoir. It is a story of a troubled time and a troubling task. These stories are set in Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois, but similar experiences were taking place across the nation. During the Vietnam War, the Marine Corps became the first service to practice personal notification of military casualties. Spiller, at age 21, was the youngest recruiter and death messenger in the Corps.

There have been many books about America's Vietnam experience, but none have been written from the perspective of the casualty and notification process. As such this is a unique account of the Vietnam War, and one that is vital to an understanding of modern American military history , and the setting is southeast Missouri and southern Illinois.

The book is available at local bookstores, Southeast Bookstore, or by mail order from the Center for Regional History, One University Plaza, Cape Girardeau, MO 63701. The price is $14, plus $2 for postage and handling.


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For more information contact the Director of the News Bureau, Ann Hayes, (573) 651-2552.