Bob Kalsu
James Robert Kalsu.jpg
Birth nameJames Robert Kalsu
Born(1945-04-13)April 13, 1945
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States
DiedJuly 21, 1970(1970-07-21) (aged 25)
FSB Ripcord, Thua Thien, South Vietnam
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service1968–1970
US Army O2 shoulderboard rotated.svg
First lieutenant
Unit 101st Airborne Division
Battles/warsVietnam War
Bronze Star Medal ribbon.svg
Bronze Star
Purple Heart ribbon.svg
Purple Heart

Football career
No. 61
Personal information
Height:6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Weight:235 lb (107 kg)
Career information
High school:Del City (Del City, Oklahoma)
NFL Draft:1968 / Round: 8 / Pick: 199
Career history
Career NFL statistics
Player stats at · PFR
Kalsu's name (third row, middle) on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Kalsu's name (third row, middle) on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

James Robert Kalsu (April 13, 1945 – July 21, 1970) was an American football player who was an All-American tackle at the University of Oklahoma and an eighth-round selection in the 1968 NFL/AFL draft by the Buffalo Bills of the American Football League.[1] Kalsu joined the U.S. Army as an officer after the 1968 season and was killed in action in the Vietnam War in 1970.

Kalsu was one of two professional football players killed in the Vietnam War and the last to be killed serving as a soldier in a war until Pat Tillman in 2004.


James Robert Kalsu was born on 13 April 1945 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and attended Del City High School. Kalsu was a starting guard for the Buffalo Bills in the 1968 season, playing the entire season and was the Bills' team rookie-of-the-year.[2]

Following the 1968 season, to satisfy his Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) obligation, Kalsu entered the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant and arrived in South Vietnam in November 1969 as part of the 101st Airborne Division. On July 21, 1970, Kalsu was killed in action at the Battle of Fire Support Base Ripcord when his unit came under enemy 82-millimeter mortar fire while stationed near the A Shau Valley in Thua Thien Province.[1][3] His family has declined to talk in detail about the circumstances surrounding his death.

When Kalsu had left for South Vietnam, Kalsu had to say goodbye to his wife, Jan, and his daughter Jill. On July 23, 1970, two days after his death, Jan gave birth to his son, James Robert Kalsu Jr, at the Kalsu home in Oklahoma City, and was informed that he had died only hours later. Kalsu was one of only two professional football players killed in action during the Vietnam War along with Don Steinbrunner, a former Cleveland Brown player who died on July 20, 1967. Kalsu and Steinbrunner were the first professional players to be killed in action since Al Blozis of the New York Football Giants died during World War II in 1945. Kalsu remained the last professional player to be killed in action until Pat Tillman died in the Afghanistan War in 2004.


Awards and decorations

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Badge Parachutist Badge
1st Row Bronze Star Medal
2nd Row Purple Heart Medal Army Commendation Medal National Defense Service Medal
3rd Row Vietnam Service Medal
with 3 bronze Campaign stars
South Vietnamese Gallantry Cross
with Palm
Vietnam Campaign Medal

See also


  1. ^ a b Nack, William (July 23, 2001). "A Name On The Wall: Football player Bob Kalsu was the only U.S. pro athlete to die in Vietnam". Sports Illustrated. p. 60.
  2. ^ Rockin’ the Rockpile: The Buffalo Bills of the American Football League, p. 567, Jeffrey J. Miller, ECW Press, 2007, ISBN 978-1-55022-797-0
  3. ^ a b c d Rockin’ the Rockpile, p. 513
  4. ^ "Bills honor Vietnam casualty". Beaver County Times. Pennsylvania. wire services. November 13, 2000. p. B4.
  5. ^ Brown, Chris (May 30, 2011). "Bills teammates still remember Kalsu". Buffalo Bills. Archived from the original on March 1, 2016. Retrieved February 19, 2016.
  6. ^ "CrossFit Football | Strength & Conditioning for the Power Athlete". Archived from the original on February 14, 2011. Retrieved October 6, 2010.
  7. ^ "Congressman Russell to Dedicate James Robert Kalsu Post Office". February 3, 2016. Archived from the original on April 7, 2016. Retrieved March 25, 2016.