David Gitelson

From Time magazine, February 9, 1968

The Poor American

Though he was the son of a successful Los Angeles realtor, David Gitelson, 26, lived in Vietnam like the lowliest peasant. His home was a palm frond shack in Ba The, a tiny Mekong Delta Village 25 miles from the nearest U.S. settlement. Carrying all his worldly possessions in a wheat sack, Gitelson traveled the back canals of the Delta in sandals and faded Levi's, entertaining peasants with his concertina and instructing them in the modern farming methods he had picked up as an honor student at the University of California at Davis. The peasants called him My Ngheo....the poor American.

As a member of the International Voluntary Services, a private peace corps, the dedicated pacifist spent nearly two years trying, as he once said, "to mitigate at least a small part of the horror to which the Vietnamese are subjected." So successful were his efforts that his 160 fellow I.V.S.ers in Vietnam nominated him for the Macalester College distinguished service award presented to young men who have contributed to international understanding.

Characteristically, Gitelson tried to refuse the award, instead he recommended his team leader but warned Macalester to hurry. "He's come close to getting blown up a couple of times," he wrote, "so you'd better grab him while he's still available." But Macalester stuck by its choice of Gitelson and decided to give it to him in absentia.

Fortnight ago, Gitelson left the Vietnamese library he was building in Ba The and headed for a nearby village that had accidentally been bombed by American planes. At almost the same moment that a friend was accepting the award for him at Macalester in St. Paul Minn., 8500 miles away, David Gitelson was killed by the Viet cong.
Thanks to Marshall English who told us about this article and suggested that we use it as a tribute to David.
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