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Roy M. Wheat Papers

Identifier: M265

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of a variety of materials which chronicle the life and death of Roy Mitchell Wheat, as well as the honors bestowed on him posthumously.

This collection provides insight into small town life in Mississippi during the late 1960s, as well as firsthand glimpses of the war in Vietnam. It also paints a portrait of an ordinary family who reared an extraordinary son.


  • circa 1945-2000s

Conditions Governing Access

Noncirculating; available for research.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical / Historical

Roy Mitchell Wheat was born on July 24, 1947, in Moselle, (Jones County) Mississippi, the first of four sons born to J.C. and Stella Wheat. The other three Wheat sons are Dale, Wayne, and John (Cricket). J.C. Wheat worked for Jones County as a heavy equipment operator, and Stella Wheat worked as a seamstress at Reliance Manufacturing Company (later named Big Yank Corporation).

Roy grew up in the family's rural Jones County home. He became adept with guns at an early age, and enjoyed hunting in the woods near his home.

Roy received his early education at Moselle Attendance Center, graduating from the eighth grade in 1963. He then enrolled at Moselle High School, where he he served as manager of the football team. While serving in that capacity, he earned the nickname, "Doctor", because he liked to treat injuries.

After dropping out of school in 1965, he secured a job bagging groceries at Winn-Dixie Supermarket in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. During his tenure there, he was promoted to produce manager.

Roy enlisted in the U.S. Marines on September 19, 1966, in Jackson, Mississippi. He received basic training with the 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, South Carolina. He completed basic training in December, 1966, and was sent to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina for Infantry Special Training, 1st Infantry Training Battalion. Following a Christmas furlough, he returned to Camp Lejeune, and upon completion of infantry training in February, 1967, he was promoted to Private First Class. Shortly thereafter, he was sent to Camp Pendleton, California, and from there to the Republic of Vietnam. Private First Class Wheat arrived in Chu Lai, Vietnam in mid-March 1967, and was assigned duty as a rifleman with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division.

Roy's unit participated in numerous combat operations, including Operation DeSoto, Duc Pho District, (Quang Ngai Province); and Operations Webster, Arizona, Butler, and Gem in Quang Nam Province.

On April 10, 1967, Roy incurred the first of two battle wounds, when a fragment of schrapnel from a mortar round tore a hole in his helmet, and grazed his head, as he was alighting from a truck. He was removed to the hospital ship, U.S.S. Sanctuary, where he remained under observation for several days because of dizziness resulting from the injury. On April 22, he rejoined Company K on Hill 55, about twelve miles south of Da Nang.

In early May, Roy experienced a recurrence of dizziness, and briefly considered the possibility of a medical discharge. However, he soon abandoned that idea, and on about May 21, Company K moved to Hill 10, which was even closer to Da Nang.

In June 1967, Roy was promoted to Lance Corporal, and was placed in the position of leading a security team, whose responsibility it was to check for booby traps before other personnel entered an area.

On July 30, 1967, Roy was wounded for the second time, when a hand grenade thrown by a Viet Cong exploded near him. He was flown, by helicopter, to the hospital in Da Nang, where doctors were unable to remove schrapnel imbedded in his right thigh, and he was told the scrap of metal would have to remain there. While in the hospital, he was awarded the Purple Heart for the wound he received in April.

On August 8, 1967, he returned to his unit, and on August 11, while leading a team providing security for a Navy constuction crane on the Liberty Road in Quang Nam Province, he accidentally triggered a well-concealed , bounding type anti-personnel mine. He yelled for team members, Vernon Sorenson and Bernard Cannon, to run; then flung himself onto the mine as it exploded, absorbing the tremendous impact with his body. Roy Wheat was killed, but his companions were spared certain injury, and possible death. As a result of this extraordinary act of heroism, the Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation's most prestigious military decoration, was awarded to him, posthumously. The medal was presented to the Wheat family on September 23, 1968, in Washington, D.C.. Roy Wheat was, in fact, the only Mississippian who received the Medal of Honor for the Vietnam War. Other medals bestowed on Roy Wheat include:

The Navy Commendation Medal

Purple Heart with one Gold Star

National Defense Service Medal

Vietnam Service Medal with two Bronze Stars

Vietnam Military Merit Medal

Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm

Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal

He was further honored on July 5, 1979, when a street aboard the Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Nevada was renamed "Wheat Loop," and again on Septemnber 11, 1985, when the newly renovated enlisted men's galley at the Meridian Naval Air Station (Meridian, Mississippi) was designated "Wheat Galley" in a formal ceremony. An additional feature of this particular memorial is that Roy Wheat's medals are on display there.

In 1994 the United States Post Office Building located at 220 South 40th Avenue in Hattiesburg, Mississippi was designated as the "Roy M. Wheat Post Office." And in 2003, the U.S. Navy named its newest prepositioning ship the USNS LCPL Roy M. Wheat (T-AK 3016).

Roy Wheat is buried in Eastabuchie Cemetery, Eastabuchie, Mississippi. A large American flag flies above a massive monument to mark the spot. At the base of the monument rests a special Medal of Honor marker.


7.55 Cubic Feet (total)

Language of Materials



Correspondence, video, other materials documenting the life and early death in the Vietnam War of this Congressional Medal of Honor winner.


The heart of the collection is a series of correspondence between Roy and his family, through which the reader gains insight into the personality of a young man from rural South Mississippi who finds himself in the rice paddies of South Vietnam, fighting a war that is very unpopular back home.

The recurrent themes of Roy's letters are love of family, God, and country. He wants nothing more than to return to South Mississippi; purchase land adjoining his parents' property; and raise cattle and hogs for a living.

Although most of the letters tend to shield family and friends from the gravity of Roy's situation, several of them contain graphic accounts of the realities of war. For example, he describes shooting a Viet Cong in the chest with an M-16 rifle, making a hole big enough to "... stick my fist all the way through him" (from a letter written to his friend, Bobby Joe Strahan, July 30, 1967). In another letter, Roy showed remarkable insight into the situation in Vietnam, particularly for one so young (only 19 at that time), when he observed that "They won't ever get peace over here -- not now, not 10 years from now."

Letters to Roy from his family are filled with family news and constant admonitions to take care of himself. In a particularly poignant letter, Stella Wheat tells her son, "I worry myself to death about you ..., I just hope and pray that you get threw [sic] that mess over there all right." On another occasion she writes, "I would go crazy if anything happens to you."

The collection also contains a small number of letters from Roy to friends and from friends to Roy. In addition, there is one folder of letters written by friends to the Wheat family after Roy's death.

One section of the collection is devoted to Roy's awards and honors, followed by information concerning the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial, on which Roy's name is inscribed.

A unique item in the collection is a tape on which Roy's voice is preserved. The original reel-to-reel tape was made by Roy's friend, and fellow marine, Daryl Tribe. Most of the tape consists of messages from Daryl to his parents, but for a few minutes, Roy speaks, revealing a very pronounced southern drawl. As a preservation measure, the original tape has been copied to cassette, and there are two copies of each format.

The final series in the collection consists of materials generated by Mr. Charles L. Sullivan, Chairman of the Department of Social Studies, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Mr. Sullivan began writing local history books in 1982. Among his books are Mississippi Gulf Coast: Portrait of a People (written in collaboration with Murella Hebert Powell, Genealogical Librarian at the Biloxi, Mississippi Public Library) and Hurricanes of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Research in connection with these two works inspired him to initiate a series of video documentaries entitled "The Magnolia Series." The materials in this series reflect Sullivan's preparation for Magnolia Series No. 4 -- "No Greater Love: Roy Wheat in Vietnam." The series includes the publication entitled "Roy Wheat and Willie McBride" which relates the circumstances and coincidences leading to selection of Roy Wheat as a topic for a documentary. This pamphlet should be considered "must" reading when researching the Roy Wheat collection. Completing the series are photocopies of the images used in the video, and the video, itself, which was produced by Charles Sullivan, Winfried Moncrief (photographer), and Doug Mansfield (television technician). The video, narrated by General Thomas Draude, is well done, and stands as a special tribute to Roy Wheat. However, as former Lance Corporal Bernard Cannon, whose life Roy saved, said to Mr. Sullivan: "That slender Mississippi country boy had more love and compassion in him than all the rest of the company put together. Whatever you people put in your documentary, it could never tell the whole story of what Roy meant to us."


The bulk of the material was donated by Mr. J.C. Wheat on September 7, 1992. One series within the collection consists of materials assembled and donated by Mr. Charles L. Sullivan in September, 1992.

Existence and Location of Copies

For Digitized Materials from this collection, see: EXTERNAL DOCUMENTS link at bottom of page.

Photograph Log

Box 2, Folder 40

M265-1 Roy Wheat in rocking chair, circa 1947. 2 1/2” x 4 1/2".

M265-2 Roy Wheat, School Days photograph, Moselle Elementary School, 1953-54. 2" x 3”.

M265-3 Roy Wheat, School Days photograph, Moselle Elementary School, 1955-56. 2" x 3”.

M265-4 Roy Wheat, School Days photograph, Moselle Elementary School, 1956-57. 2” x 3".

M265-5 Roy Wheat, circa 1956-57. 3 1/4" x 5”.

M265-6 Roy Wheat standing in road, circa 1957. 3" x 4 1/2". Roy Wheat astride a goat, 1954. 3” x 4 1/2”.

M265-7 Roy Wheat with brothers, Dale, John, and Wayne, and paternal grandfather, Omer Wheat, circa 1959. 3” x 4 1/2".

M265-8 Wayne, Dale, Roy and John Wheat playing in creek or river, circa 1959. 3” x 4 1/2".

M265-9 Roy and Dale Wheat with grandfather Omer Wheat, on the occasion of Roy's 7th birthday party, July 26, 1954. 3 1/2” x 4 3/4”.

M265-10 Stella and J.C. Wheat (Roy Wheat' s parents) standing in front of a house, no date. 3” x 4 1/2”.

M265-11 Roy Wheat, with cousin, Elaine, and two unidentified children, sitting on a bench, circa 1954. 3” x 4 1/2”.

M265-12 Group photograph of Wheat family, circa 1959. 3” x 4 1/2".

M265-13 Roy Wheat, School Days photograph, Moselle, 1959-60. 2” x 2 1/2”.

M265-14 Roy Wheat, circa 1962-63. 2” x 2 1/2”.

M265-15 Roy Wheat and unidentified girl at 8th grade graduation, circa 1963. 3” x 3”.

M265-16 Roy Wheat, 8th grade graduation ceremony, circa 1963. 3" x 3".

M265-17 Roy Wheat, 8th grade graduation ceremony, cira 1963. 3" x 3".

M265-18 Roy, Dale, Wayne and John Wheat, standing near a field with a barbed wire fence, circa 1967. 3" x 3".

M265-19 Roy Wheat, circa 1966-67. 3 1/2" x 4 3/4”.

M265-20 Roy Wheat and unidentified girl seated on sofa, circa 1966. 3” x 3”.

M265-21 Roy Wheat with unidentified girl standing near sofa, circa 1966. 3" x 3".

M265-22 Roy Wheat' s grandfathers, R.F. Jenkins and Omer Wheat at Roy's funeral, August 1967. 3” x 3”.

M265-23 J.C. Wheat on a bulldozer, no date. 2” x 2”.

M265-24 Stella Wheat at Roy Wheat' s grave, circa 1976.3 3/4” x 3 3/4”.

M265-25 Henry Bucklew, mayor of Laurel, Mississippi, standing with three unidentified soldiers at Roy Wheat's grave, circa 1976. 3 1/2” x 5”.

M265-26 Group photo standing at Roy Wheat's grave (3rd District Congressman, G.V. Montgomery [D - Miss] is included in the group), circa 1976. 3 1/2" x 5”.

M265-27 Stella Wheat with a group of people at the dedication of "Wheat Loop", 1979. 4" x 6 1/2”.

M265-28 J.C. and Stella Wheat with General Leonard Chapman and an unidentified man at Medal of Honor presentation, Sept. 23, 1968. 8” x 10”.

M265-29 Lance Corporals Vernon Sorenson and Bernard Cannon with unidentified man, at Medal of Honor presentation, 1968. 8” x 10”.

M265-30 Photograph of Roy Wheat's name on the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial in Washington, D.C., 1990. 8” x 10”.

Box 2, Folder 5

M265-31 Roy Wheat holding a rifle, in Vietnam, 1967. 4 1/2" x 5 1/2” • (negative available)

M265-32 Roy Wheat kneeling with rifle, in Vietnam, 1967. 4” x 5” • (negative available)

M265-33 Roy Wheat in Vietnam, rifle in one hand -- grenade in the other, 1967. 4" x 5". (negative available)

M265-34 Roy Wheat' s friend, Daryl Tribe, standing beside bunker in Vietnam, 1967. 4" x 5”. (negative available)

M265-35 Roy Wheat' s friend, Daryl Tribe, kneeling beside bunker in Vietnam, 1967. 4” x 5". (negative available)

M265-36 Roy Wheat' s fighting position (bunker) in Vietnam, 1967. 4” x 5”. (negative available)

M265-37 Photograph of “ c” rations -- daily meals in Vietnam, 1967. 4” x 5” . (negative available)

M265-38 Vietnamese women carrying wood to cook with, 1967. 4” x 5” . (negative available)

M265-39 Roy Wheat's casket, at his home in Moselle, Mississippi, 1967. 4” x 5” . (negative available)

M265-40 Roy Wheat lies in state at his home in Moselle, Mississippi, as an unidentified Marine stands guard,1967. 4 1/2” x 6 1/2” • (negative available)

M265-41 Group photograph of the Wheat family with Congressman William Colmer (D - Miss.), 1968. 4” x 5” . (negative available)

M265-42 Dale Wheat with unidentified woman, in Washington, D.C., 1968. 4” x 5” . (negative available)

M265-43 Two unidentified men in Washington, D.C., 1968. 4” x 5” . (negative available)

M265-44 Unidentified dog, no date. (negative available) 4" x 5".

M265-45 Barbed wire around bunker in Vietnam, 1967. (negative available) 4" x 5".

M265-46 Michael and Jim Wheat, distant cousins of Roy Wheat, circa 1968. 2” x 2”.

M265-47 Kathy Wheat, distant cousin of Roy Wheat, circa 1968. 1 1/2” x 2”.

M265-48 Kevin Wheat, distant cousin of Roy Wheat, circa 1968. 1 1/2” x 2”.

M265-49 Susan Wheat, distant cousin of Roy Wheat, circa 1968. “1 x 1 1/2”.
Roy M. Wheat Papers
Language of description
Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Historical Manuscripts and Photographs Repository

118 College Drive - 5148
Hattiesburg MS 39406-0001