Staff Sgt. Wallace Gumbs, a Green Beret, was killed Jan. 6 1968, during a demolitions training accident while training rural Thai Provincial Police units during the U.S. Special Forces led in counter-insurgency operations course in Camp Chaw Haw, Korat, Thailand. Gumbs' memorial was erected shortly after his untimely death by the Camp Chaw Haw Commander, Police Maj. Gen. Chookiat Partipasaen in 1968.
Since that time, and every year, the partnered Thai Provincial Police, local members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Special Forces Association, and any active duty 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) members in the country, make their way to the memorial and honor Gumbs' sacrifice and legacy.
On Jan. 5, members from the 1st SFG (A) and partnered forces in Thailand commemorated the 50th anniversary of Gumbs' tragic death.
"This year marked 50 years and we thought it fitting to highlight his service to the Thai people, his nation and recognize his service as a member of the 46th Special Forces Company, 1st SFG (A) has made to the Kingdom of Thailand," said Col. Larry Redmon, U.S. Army Attaché to Thailand and former 1st SFG (A) officer.
Redmon presided over the ceremony and presented a wreath on behalf of the 1st SFG (A) commander.
"The 50th anniversary commemorating the untimely death of SSG Gumbs in 1968 was special because it reinforced to SSG Gumbs' friends, family, and fellow veterans that the 1st Special Forces Group has not forgotten our brother or his sacrifice, but also was special for the Thai community and police because it also showed that we haven't forgotten a time when we walked hand in hand as brothers against a common enemy during a difficult period of time in Thailand's history," Redmon said.
Deputy Chief of Mission Peter Haymond delivered remarks on behalf the U.S. Embassy and laid a wreath at the memorial. The local Special Forces Association Chapter President retired Lt. Col. Lumpy Lumbaba and Lt. Col. Michael Lazich, Special Operations Force Advisor, also attended.
"It was an honor to take part in such a special event and represent our Special Forces brotherhood," Lazich said. "As I looked at the historical photo of Staff Sgt. Gumbs on display, standing not far from the spot of his memorial in Korat, I also thought about the numerous U.S. Special Forces ODAs that come to Thailand now, and how connected we all remain to the mission, people, and legacy."
Representatives from the partnered Thai forces joined in honoring Gumbs' sacrifice and highlighting the enduring relationship developed over the 50 years since.
Royal Thai Border Police Maj. Gen. Phairot Mangkhala and Police Maj. Gen. Kornake Pethchaiyaweth, Deputy Commissioner of Border Patrol Police Bureau, attended an paid their respects with a wreath. The Royal Thai Police provided an honor guard and played taps for the ceremony.
When Gumbs died, he was one of the main instructors at Chaw Haw. He had served in Vietnam and already had served in several other locations throughout Thailand training with police and army units. He was recognized as an expert instructor and was one of the architects of the training course developed for the Royal Thai Police.
"First in Asia is more than just a motto, it's fact," Redmon said. "The 1st SFG (A) draws much of its lineage from it service and history in Asia, and much of it right here in Thailand, from OSS detachments in Burma and Siam, to the 46th Company's service in Thailand, right up until the present day. The Green Beret and 1st SFG (A) flash are a recognized symbol of America's greatness and steadfast dedication to safeguarding and protecting our Allies and friends in the region."