Ron Zinn

Purple_Heart_Medal.png 7/7/1965  Ronald L. Zinn
Two Army As, 1 each in Track & Cross Country.

First Cadet to be selected to a USA Olympic team; competed in race-walking at the 1960 Olympics and was top American finisher in the 20K race. Also a key contributor on the Academy cross-country and track teams. Ron was Killed in Action Vietnam 7/7/65 – –  John Easterbrook
Ron was honored with a Brigade Parade


Cullum No. 24143-1962 | July 7, 1965 | Died in Vietnam

Interred in West Point Cemetery, West Point, NY

Ronald Lloyd Zinn was a cadet who possessed several outstanding virtues, but it was his determination to succeed that allowed him to overcome any difficulty. Although marching, and even running, were sometimes difficult for Ron, he went on to become an Olympic class race walker. He represented the U.S.A. in Rome and again in Tokyo.

He was relentless in his efforts to succeed as a cadet and as an Olympian. His loving parents and family saw how his efforts bore fruit time and time again. They were extremely proud of Ron. The Zinns knew he was one of “America’s finest.” COL Richard “Dick” Kent remembers his former roommate: “Even after 41 years, I remember Ron as a truly modest, honest, and straightforward person with a dry sense of humor. He made lots of Corps Squad trips but usually managed to bring something back for his roommates. He spent more than a few weekends at our home in Manhattan Beach and was well liked by everyone there. I guess the thing that sticks with me the most after all this time is my recollection of Ron’s levelheadedness and his fundamental decency.”

That’s the way I remember Ron, too, as we shared the rigors of cadet life in Company C1. Ron and I also ended up in the same company Yearling year at Camp Buckner. This was fortunate for both of us, since our company won the Buckner Stakes training competition. As a result, Ron and I both celebrated Labor Day weekend with a three day pass in NYC. I still have a picture of us standing around the piano at Joe King’s Ratskeller, our glasses raised in unison to the beat of our favorite drinking song. Another fond memory of Ron occurred during our First Class year when I was on holiday leave. Sitting in the basement of my girlfriend’s house, I turned on the television and tuned in to a track meet being held at Madison Square Garden. Ron was clearly visible on the screen as he power walked his way to the front of the pack. My immediate reaction was to proudly exclaim, “That’s my classmate, Ron, and he’s on his way to another victory!”

Dick Kent also recalls memories from First Class year, after Ron had been in the Olympics: “Lots of other cadets, myself included, would challenge Ron to informal walking races. After all, how hard could it be? We all probably harbored secret hopes of beating the champ. At first, Ron would sort of humor us and let us win. If we became too obnoxious or insistent, he would reluctantly, and with a degree of resignation, show us the basic points of Olympic walking and how sorry we really were. It was done without malice and in genuinely good humor, but it left me in total awe of Ron’s capabilities and self discipline. If you pressed him for stories of what the Olympics were like, he would never talk about himself but would make an observation about his fellow athletes and his respect for them, even those from Warsaw Pact countries.”

Ron is not only remembered by family and classmates, but also by the comrades in arms with whom he served. On 21 Apr 2000, Ron’s company commander in Viet Nam, Infantry LTC Roy Lombardo, placed a wreath on Ron’s grave at the West Point cemetery and addressed the assembly of “Bravo Bulls.” He said: “We, veterans of Co. B, 2/503d Parachute Infantry Regiment, assemble today in memory of LT Ron Zinn, not to praise you, but to remember you. There are 64 veterans of Company B, in contact by letters and email, and all who served with you remember you with camaraderie and respect.”

In his eulogy, LTC Lombardo observed: “We remember a young officer, described by his Military Academy classmates as fun loving yet ascetic in his physical training regimen; a tough wrestler with a unique ability to absorb pain while outlasting his opponents; a world class track Olympian, participating in the 1960 Olympics while still a cadet, and in the 1964 Olympics after commissioning; as a lean, muscular lieutenant who joined us on Okinawa and led the company track team to the battalion championship. We remember a newly married officer, anxious to become proficient at his Infantry assignment but equally anxious to have his bride, Barbara, join him on Okinawa.

“We remember a dedicated soldier who worked night and day to master his trade in the jungles of War Zone D and to win the trust of his men, for whom he cared deeply. We remember a determined leader, who, on 7 July 1965, rushed to the aid of his wounded squad leader, only to succumb to enemy fire. In so doing, you became the first officer KIA in the 173rd Airborne Brigade and one of the first in Viet Nam.”

Inspired by Ron’s selfless example, Bravo’s battered heroes turned the tide of battle. In the process, they garnered a Medal of Honor, two Distinguished Service Crosses, four Silver Stars, 14 Commendation Medals, and more than 100 Purple Hearts. Ron’s valor was emulated over and over again.

In addition to the military, the athletic community also commemorates Ron. Each year in Asbury Park, NJ, an event is held for all wouldbe champion walkers, and I even participated in the CPT Ronald Zinn Memorial Races one year. I didn’t win any prizes, but I still treasure the Tshirt I received bearing his name.

There are many of us still left on this earth who never will forget Ron as a brave soldier, a worldclass athlete, and a real class guy. His name is not only engraved on the Viet Nam Memorial Wall in Washington, DC, and his tombstone in the West Point Cemetery, it is also etched in the hearts of all of us who were fortunate enough to have known him.

Sleep well, old friend, you are not forgotten. Pax vobiscum.

“At the 1964 Olympic Trials for 50 kilometers, Chris McCarthy was walking in a pack that included Army Lieutenant Ron Zinn (later killed in Vietnam) and Don DeNoon of the Southern California Striders, who holds the national indoor mile record. At one point McCarthy attempted a burst, and an official following on a bicycle shouted, “McCarthy, that’s one warning on you!” Zinn and the others complained to the official that according to the rules he couldn’t judge from a moving vehicle. The judge pedaled ahead, sulking, and descended from his bicycle. When the group passed him, McCarthy was back walking cautiously in the middle of the pack. “DeNoon,” shouted the judge, “that’s one warning on you!” DeNoon eventually received a second caution and had to leave the race. McCarthy went on to win…Many race walkers are former distance runners who started walking either out of curiosity or necessity. Ron Zinn switched from cross-country to walking following an arch injury….At the National AAU championships in St. Louis in 1963 no walking judges appeared. Ron Zinn covered two miles in 14:03.6, erasing Henry Laskau’s championship record by almost 20 seconds. Chris McCarthy, who was then putting out a magazine for race walkers, published a picture of Zinn finishing with both feet off the ground. “Ron Zinn soars to victory,” said the caption.”

Ronald Zinn of Orland Park, III., a West Point first classman, set course record of 1:4I:5 1 in winning National AAU 20-kilometer championship walk at Buffalo, finished 26 seconds ahead of Jack Mort-land of Ohio Track Club of Columbus.


September 21, 1964
A Roundup Of The Sports Information Of The Week
Chris McCarthy of Chicago, Bruce MacDonald of New York and Mike Brodie of Pleasant Hill, Calif. heeled-and-toed their way on to the U.S. Olympic Walking Team in the 50-kilometer trials in Seattle and joined Ron Zinn of West Point, N.Y.. Lieut. Ron Laird of Pomona. Calif. and Jack Mortland of Columbus. Ohio, who had earlier qualified for the squad in the 20-kilometer walk.

I have just learned of the death in action in Vietnam of a fine friend, Lieut. Ron Zinn. I am sure those who were with the U.S. Olympic team in Tokyo, where Ron finished sixth in the 20-kilo walk, must be saddened by this news.
In its way, Ron’s performance in this race was as important to American race walking as was Billy Mills’s brilliant 10,000-meter victory to distance running.
I roomed with Ron both in Tokyo and on a trip to Moscow in 1961. He was a fine athlete and sportsman, a gentleman and as fierce a competitor as I have ever met.

Located at Wall Municipal Complex, the 2010 Captain Ronald Zinn 5K Run and 10K Walk was directed by Shore AC’s 1956 Olympic Racewalker Elliott Denman.
The event is meant to celebrate the life of the late great Olympian Ronald Zinn, an Olympic racewalker, West Point Alum, and a Captain in Vietnam, Ronald Zinn was killed in war leaving behind a true legacy. Before the race began, Elliott spoke to the runners at the start of the race about the life of Captain Ronald Zinn. 

Soldier, Olympian

by Dave Phillips 62 Sports Historian

How could the remarkable race walker Ron Zinn not be included in the Army track and field media guide? He was a member of two US Olympic teams and I remember well watching the beginning of one of his Olympic races on television (black and white). He was in the lead as the walkers left the stadium. I was so proud of him and West Point I practically levitated. Tom Feeley ’62

He earned Class Numerials in Track & Field, Cross Country and Wrestling, while earing Army A’s in Track & Field and Cross Country

He was a fine young officer, revered by his men, and was killed in RVN. Link to site dedicated to Ron —

Captain Ron Zinn Memorial Award

Given to the outstanding U.S. race walker to commemorate the achievements of Capt. Ron Zinn, who lost his life in combat during the Vietnam War. A race walker, he was a member of the U.S. Olympic Team in the 1964 Summer Games at Tokyo and his sixth place finish in the 20 km event was considered outstanding for American walkers at that time.


Web page for West Point Grave Site

BENNING 1962; ONE MILE RUN. “Gun goes off and everyone bolts from the starting line. Wait! Ron is WALKING! As the runners quickly leave him in the dust, the Cadre goes NUTS! SCREAMING, “RUN! RUN!” and a few other choice remarks. But NO; Ron keeps walking, pumping his elbows. At the 3/4 mile mark, Ron starts passing stragglers by the dozens. It’s now obvious Ron will be well under the “TIME TO BEAT” 6 MINUTE MILE and everyone on the sidelines [the next group of runners AND the Cadre] starts clapping and cheering for Ron as he walks across the finish line. Glad I was there – thanks, guys. Way to go, Ron. Tom Feeley ’62

May 2013 VFW Article provided by Steve Sperman




Peoria, Peoria County, Illinois, USA
DEATH 7 Jul 1965 (aged 26)


Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), Hồ Chí Minh Municipality, Vietnam

West Point, Orange County, New York, USA

PLOT Section XXXIV, Row D, Grave 141


Ronald Lloyd Zinn
Army of the United States
Orland Park, Illinois
May 10, 1939 to July 07, 1965
RONALD L ZINN is on the Wall at Panel 2E, Line 30
See the full profile or name rubbing for Ronald Zinn




Ronald L Zinn
usarv.gif 173abn2.gif 503infrgt.gif
Ronald L Zinn


07 Jul 2001


From a West Point comrade and fellow member of the track team who remembers Ron as a competitive walker who represented our country on the 1960 Olympic Team. With deep gratitude we are remembering you and all the others who served and died in times of war so that we may enjoy the Freedom and Liberties that make the United States of America great.

Clark T. Ballard, Jr., M.D.
Colonel, U S Army (Ret)
66 Leschi Drive, Steilacoom, WA 98388-1514

10 Apr 2002


Dear Family and Friends of Captain Ronald Lloyd Zinn,

I am very sorry about your loss. It must have been a terrible experience that he went through, and I am sorry. I recently visited the Vietnam Memorial on my class trip to Washington D.C. He must have been a very brave man. It was very honorable of him to step up and be part of the war. He showed great nationalism, and I want to thank him for fighting the war for us. I am deeply sorry for your loss.


01 Apr 2003


It was my honor to serve in the U.S. Army with Lt. Ron Zinn in 1963-1964 in Ft Devens, Mass. As a secretary to the unit commander, I often was able to talk with him about his fantastic ability to walk fast. He often would walk faster than I was able to run during daily workouts. He often walked from Ft Devens to Boston and back just for practice. He was a very professional and dedicated person.

Spc. William Weigand

23 May 2007


Thank you to the creators of this memorial. Ron Zinn was and forever will be my brother. It is nearing 42 years since his death. His parents are both gone, but his sister and I remember him often with love, affection, and admiration. He was very special, as are all those names on the Wall. In 2006, there was a nice ceremony in Orland Park. It was to recognize her fallen heroes, of which Ron was one.

From his brother,
Jerry Zinn
Davenport, Iowa

A Note from The Virtual Wall

On 07-08 July 1965 ten US soldiers from the 173rd Abn Bde were killed during a sweep in the area known as War Zone D, north of the Dong Nai River and northwest of Bien Hoa. They were

  • E Troop, 17th Cavalry
    • PFC Johnie E. Rice, Freeburn, KY
  • B Co, 1st Bn, 503rd Infantry
    • SGT McArthur Johnson, Wilmington, NC
    • SGT Durward F. Ray, Columbus, GA
    • PVT Edward J. Almeida, New Bedford, MA
  • C Co, 1st Bn, 503rd Infantry
    • PVT John D. Shaw, Summit, MS
  • B Co, 2nd Bn, 503rd Infantry
    • CPT Ronald L. Zinn, Orland Park, IL
    • SSG David L. Howard, Fountain Inn, SC
    • PVT Rudolph V. Hernandez, San Antonio, TX (Bronze Star “V”)
    • PVT Allen I. Johnson, Cloquet, MN
  • HHC, 2nd Bn, 503rd Infantry



This Photo depicts what it takes to achieve the Impossible.  I would have liked him to continue Wrestling.  He earned a 62 for his Gray Jacket.  A Teammate
“Ron was one of the most determined individuals you could ever meet,” Jerry Zinn said of his older brother. “If there was a challenge, he was up to it.”



15045 West Ave Orland Park Il 60462

Eagle Scout Tim Klotz, of Orland Park Boy Scout Troop 383, created the memorial garden to forever remember Captain Ronald L. Zinn.


Biography prepared for the sign at the Ronald L. Zinn Memorial Garden and Captain Zinn’s induction into the Carl Sandburg High School Athletic Hall of Fame.

At Sandburg, Zinn was on the honor roll and excelled in sports. In 1957, he was named the school’s most valuable athlete. He would eventually become the first US Olympian to graduate from Carl Sandburg High School.
Ron married his wife, Barbara, shortly before being deployed to Vietnam in May, 1965.
“As a new platoon leader, Ron devoted himself vigorously to learn the infantry skills necessary for success in combat. He deeply cared for his subordinate which was the basis for his heroic rescue efforts to aid his wounded squad leader and led to his being killed in action.”
Lieutenant Colonel Roy S. Lombardo, Jr.
After his death, the company named their camp after their beloved friend calling it Camp Zinn for the duration of the war. Zinn was posthumously promoted to the rank of captain.
“There will always be things in life that we do not want to do; but we will do them, if we are to succeed.” US Army Captain Ronald L. Zinn 


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