When grenades go off by accident

Bradley Boswell

Bradley Boswell, a senior at Freedom High School in Bethlehem Township, presents Principal Joseph McIntyre the abstract wood sculpture Bradley made for the school’s sculpture garden. The photo ran in The Morning Call of Allentown on June 4, 1969.

While going through my files on my cousin Nicky who was killed in Vietnam, I came across some clippings I had tucked away years ago. They come from an old file envelope in the archives of The Morning Call and concern a young Marine named Bradley L. Boswell.

I don’t know how I knew about him, but it’s clear why I copied the two newspaper clippings and saved them.

Bradley met a fate similar to Nicky’s.

A corporal from Bethlehem Township, he was 20 years old when he was killed in Vietnam when a grenade accidentally went off during routine training. It happened on Sept. 15, 1970, in Quang Nam province.

Nicky, an Army helicopter pilot, was also 20 when he died under similar circumstances more than a year earlier, at Chu Lai.

I know little about Bradley other than what’s in the two clips. One is headlined “Marine Loses Life in Grenade Accident” and has a photo of him in his dress uniform. He was a 1969 graduate of Freedom High School in Bethlehem Township, he intended to be a career Marine and enlisted in July 1969 – the month Nicky was killed.

The other clip says “Freedom Opens Sculpture Garden” and has a photo of Bradley presenting Freedom’s principal a large abstract wood sculpture for the school’s sculpture garden in early June 1969. It had taken Bradley the entire school year to complete.

Bradley’s sister Betty Jane Schmoyer, who goes by B.J., said there was no open casket to view his remains, so the family never had the opportunity to say goodbye to him, and that was hard to take.

“You still think he’s going to come through that door,” she said.

The  family never got a full explanation from the military about the circumstances of Bradley’s death, B.J. said. That was also the case with the grenade explosion that mortally wounded Nicky and his friend Billy Vachon, and killed another soldier, Tim Williams, on July 10, 1969, at LZ Bayonet.

B.J. said her sister Barbara Boswell tried to find out more and even had contact with guys in Bradley’s unit. But B.J. doesn’t know what came of that, and Barbara, a Navy veteran, died in 2003.

Bradley’s mother died in 1980 and his father died in 2002.

Besides Bradley, Nicky, Billy and Tim, I wonder how many others lost their lives in Vietnam when grenades went off by accident.

2 responses to “When grenades go off by accident

  1. I ran across his grave a few weeks ago, I was sadden by his young age. Every time I walk past the cemetery I stop and pay my respects


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