MERRILL JAMES SHOVER JR.
December 17, 1945 – December 17, 2018
Merrill James “Jim” Shover Jr., aka “Shorty Shover” was born in New London, Connecticut to Merrill J. Shover (1919-1991) and Evelyn Isabelle Emory Shover (1921). Who could predict this coastal community, home of the US Navy Submarine fleet, would produce one of the finest Army Rangers this country had to offer.
“Shorty’s” father, Merrill Sr. served in the Army during WWII and shortly after his return from war, the first son was born. Shorty grew up on the beautiful New England seashore where he departed in 1966 to defend his country in the brutal Central Highlands of Vietnam. It could not have been more different than life in Connecticut.
In the initial stages of the United States presence in Vietnam, the clear lack of real-time intelligence nearly allowed the NVA to overrun Col. Hal Moore’s 1/7th Cav in the Ia Drang, a battle related in the book and movie “We Were Soldiers Once….and Young”. Shortly after that hard-won battle, the Cav was replaced by the 4th Infantry Division with the mission to “Tame the Ia Drang”. One of the first decisions was to determine how best to know the enemy. The solution was to insert 4-man teams of Rangers, then called LRRPs, to surreptitiously live in the jungle amongst the enemy. They would be inserted into the jungle for extended missions and patrol an area of suspected enemy concentration to uncover weaknesses. The first of these units was the 2nd Bde. LRRPs (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol) of the 4th Infantry Division. Shorty volunteered and became one of the early LRRPs of 2nd Bde in late 1966. He completed many missions with various teams earning a reputation as a complete soldier and Ranger requested often by team leaders. As with most LRRP / Rangers, tales of his exploits went mostly unrecorded at the time. Fortunately, one such mission was recorded in the Official Newspaper of the 4th Division on October 1, 1967:
Decorated By Ho Chi Minh
Patrol Captures NVA Officer
By SP4 Robert Boudreau VUNG DAT AM – A brief but bitter dawn fire fight between a 2nd Brigade long range reconnaissance patrol and a North Vietnamese unit resulted in the capture of a decorated NVA officer and two enemy killed. The patrol had been airlifted into the Central Highlands’ jungle to locate enemy positions and had set up a night base after a day of scouting the surrounding area. Specialist 5 Duane A. Jones (Memphis, Tenn.), team leader of the patrol, suddenly heard “a lot of noise” off to his right and requested a team of gunships to standby in case the patrol came under attack.
No attack came, however, and the Ivymen spent a restless night with an apparently unaware enemy unit nearby. At dawn, SP5 Jones could hear the sound of voices coming from about 50 meters to his right. He and Private First Class Phillip Stafford (Sweet Home, Ore.) decided they would crawl forward to observe the activity and possibly call an artillery strike on the area. Sneaking to the edge of a clearing they observed a number of men in black pajamas, most of them carrying weapons. The two Ivymen prepared to move to their night position when they were spotted by one of the enemy. Calling a warning to his comrades, PFC Stafford took the enemy under fire. He cut the NVA down with a single burst as Specialist 4 Merrill Shover (Old Saybrook, Conn.) and Private First Class Eric Neadeau (Grand Forks, N.D.) moved up to assist the beleaguered men. As SP5 Jones moved back, an enemy soldier leaped from a straw hooch and began beating him with a satchel.
After a brief scuffle, with bullets flying around both combatants, SP5 Jones succeeded in subduing his antagonist. After trussing their detainee, the LRRP members moved to another clearing and called artillery on the enemy camp. Major General William R. Peers, 4th Division commander, met the returning Ivymen and as they stepped from the extraction chopper awarded SP5 Jones the Bronze Star for valor and SP4 Shover, PFC Neadeau and PFC Stafford the Army Commendation Medal for valorous action. Upon investigation, the contents of the prisoner’s satchel the Ivymen learned that he was an NVA lieutenant and also an award winner. Ho Chi Minh had personally decorated him for valor in combat.
In addition to his hard-earned reputation as a warrior that could always be “counted upon”, he was a friend and a wild party guy who could celebrate any situation when back at base camp. He earned the high regard of men whose respect was sought by many yet given to few. The passage of time never diminished the respect held for Shorty by the men he served with.
Upon his discharge, he returned to the beautiful seashore although some of the mystery in the waves had gone. Shorty risked all with the expectation of receiving nothing in return. His reward was the life-long pride earned by a year stalking the ominous jungles of Kontum seeking our nations enemies.
As his life unfolded, he discovered Art to occupy his time. He received great pleasure painting along with his many other talents such as jewelry making and stained glass. In addition, he wrote stories and poems of his time in Vietnam and some of which were published. He loved growing up in Old Saybrook, CT and traveling out west. Jim was a loving son and brother who was always generous with family and friends.
Merrill J. Shover Jr., (Jim) aka “Shorty Shover”,
passed away peacefully on his 73 Birthday, December 17, 2018 at Connecticut
Hospice in Branford, CT.
Jim was survived by his mother Evelyn Shover, 97, of Westbrook, CT, sisters Lorraine “Gail” Allen of East Hampton, CT and Marilyn Parsons of Delmar, MD. Most importantly, Shorty is remembered with gratitude by the many Rangers who had the opportunity to serve with him and at least one NVA Lieutenant. Rest in Peace Ranger.