As America celebrated its independence July 4, 1967, Pfc. Melvin E. Newlin was one of thousands of American G.I.s who laid down his life in the far off land of the Quang Nam Province, Republic of Vietnam. The Wellsville native was just 18 years old when he paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of his comrades under attack by the Viet Cong.
Born in Wellsville Sept., 27, 1948, the fifth of eight children of Joseph L. and Ruth J. Newlin, he was a member of the U.S. Marine Corps 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force. He was serving as a machine gunner attached to 1st Platoon, Company F, 2nd Battalion, on July 3-4 1967. He and four other Marines were manning a key position on the perimeter of the Nong Son outpost when the Viet Cong launched a savage and well-coordinated mortar and infantry assault, seriously wounding Newlin and killing his four comrades. Propping himself against his machine gun, Pfc. Newlin poured a deadly accurate stream of fire into the charging ranks of the enemy. Though repeatedly hit by small-arms fire, he twice repelled enemy attempts to overrun his position. During the third attempt, a grenade explosion wounded him again and knocked him to the ground unconscious. The Viet Cong guerrillas, believing him dead, bypassed him and continued their assault on the main force. Meanwhile, Pfc. Newlin regained consciousness, crawled back to his weapon, and brought it to bear on the rear of the enemy, causing havoc and confusion among them. Spotting the enemy's attempt to bring a captured 108 recoilless weapon to bear on other Marine positions, Newlin shifted his fire, inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy and preventing them from firing the captured weapon. He then shifted his fire back to the primary enemy force, causing the enemy to stop their assault on the Marine bunkers and to once again attack his machine gun position. Valiantly fighting off two more enemy assaults, he firmly held his ground until mortally wounded.
Single-handedly, Pfc. Newlin broke up and disorganized the entire enemy assault force, causing them to lose momentum and delaying them long enough for his fellow Marines to organize a defense and beat off their secondary attack.
For his indomitable courage, fortitude and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of almost certain death, Pfc. Newlin was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Richard Nixon on March 18, 1969 at the White House.
Currently, awaiting passage by the Ohio House of Representatives is Senate Bill 21, sponsored by Sen. Greg DiDonato (D-30th District), which would designate a 5.3-mile section of state Route 7 as the Melvin E. Newlin Memorial Highway. The initial petition for renaming the portion of highway, which runs from Liverpool Township through Newlin's hometown of Wellsville to the Columbiana and Jefferson county borders, was made by the John W. Covert Chapter 47 of the Disabled American Veterans of East Liverpool.