Alumni, Campus wide

Joe Tallon ’69 and son publish book about love, war, survival

By Jan Joslin | February 8, 2022
Joe and Matthew Tallon at the service in November 2018 at CSU to award Joe with a Purple Heart. CSU file photo

After graduating from Baptist College (now CSU) in 1969, Joe Tallon planned to enter the Air Force and learn to fly C-141s, the planes he saw flying over his childhood home in North Charleston. While waiting for the Air Force, Tallon received a letter from Selective Service. Newly married, Tallon entered officer training with the Army and eventually learned to fly the Mohawk and headed to Vietnam.

Shot down by an enemy missile, Tallon and his tactical observer, Specialist-5 Daniel Richards, were forced to eject at low altitude. Lying beside the wreckage of his burning OV-1 Mohawk just on the other side of the American base fence, Tallon was not sure if he will live or die. Richards did die next to the wreckage.

Tallon was rescued and began a complicated journey to recovery. Tallon and Richards were shot down on the last day of the ground war in Vietnam. During the departure from the country for both Tallon and the U.S. military, details about the incident were lost and incorrectly recorded.

100 Days in Vietnam: A Memoir of Love, War, and Survival by Joe Tallon and his son, Army veteran Matthew Tallon, is told in three parts: The Deployment, The Recovery, and The Quest. Told through journal entries, newspaper clippings and letters to his wife, Martha, the book chronicles his time with the last Mohawk unit in Vietnam, his physical recovery from the crash, and the effort to secure a Purple Heart for Richards and track down Richards’ next of kin.

Tallon, haunted for years by the death of his tactical observer, eventually launched a campaign with his family’s help to honor Richards. The Quest, the third portion of the book, chronicles the journey of tracking down Richards’ next of kin and presenting them with a Purple Heart.  

After time in the Army, the Tallons returned to the Lowcountry, where Joe and Martha both taught school. Tallon became active at CSU, joining the Board of Visitors and becoming one of the first members of The Legacy Society. On Nov. 12, 2008, Tallon was awarded the Purple Heart for his injuries in Vietnam during a ceremony at a CSU Chapel service. In 2010 he was named Honorary Commandant of Cadets for the CSU Air Force ROTC Detachment.  

100 Days in Vietnam: A Memoir of Love, War, and Survival was released by Koehler Books on June 15, 2021 and is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Indiebound.  

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