Vesa Juhani Alakulppi

23 April, 194114 May, 1968
Obituary of Vesa Juhani Alakulppi

Vesa Juhani Alakulppi was a West Point graduate and a Silver Star recipient who was killed in action in Vietnam. He was born into a military family in Rovaniemi, Finland in 1941.

Vesa's father, Olavi Alakulppi, was awarded Finland's highest honor for bravery while still a 1st Lieutenant in the Finnish Army during the "Finno-Russian War" (1939-40) . The Russian military continued to pursue him even after the "Continuation War" with Russia ended (1941-1944). In 1945 Olavi escaped on skis to Sweden. The elder hero later sent for his wife Eevi, son Vesa, and daughter Maija. The family eventually settled in the United States, where Olavi was soon commissioned in the U.S. Army.

After several US tours, the Alakulppis were stationed in Nuremberg, Germany, where Vesa began high school. He lettered twice in football and classmates described him as a "true gentleman". The family then transferred to Mainz, where Vesa met Sharon Beers, his future wife, on the school bus ride to the American Military High School in Wiesbaden, Germany. He finished high school in Junction City, Kansas, where he graduated fourth in his class and was a key member of their conference-winning basketball team.

In March 1958 Vesa earned a Presidential appointment to West Point Military Academy, where he made the Dean's List in his first year and often tutored his fellow classmates. He graduated on June 5, 1963 and was stationed in Bamberg, Germany as a newly commissioned 2nd Lieutenant. He received orders for Vietnam in 1967 and was assigned to the 199th Light Infantry Brigade, where he later volunteered to be a rifle company commander. Known simply as "Al" to some, the young captain always showed genuine concern for his men. He impressed both his superiors and subordinates as he lead by example, striving for his personal and professional best, and encouraging others to do the same.

On the night of May 14, 1968, his battalion was attacked by the North Vietnamese during a driving rain, with Alakulppi's company getting the worst of it. After receiving reports of enemy penetration from other bunkers, he lost communication with his strong point. Needing to organize a counterattack, he left his command post, running from bunker to bunker to issue the orders to shift fire. Disregarding his own safety, Vesa then began a personal reconnaissance of the situation. As he moved to a better vantage point he was ambushed and killed. In addition to the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, Captain Alakulppi was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his exceptional bravery.

Vesa's Official Military Record of Death


Vesa Juhani Alakulppi

have a memory or condolence to add?

Paul Morgan

June 10, 2019

VESA took command from me of C/2/3 199th INF BDE. He was a warrior from warrior stock. At age 77+ I still remember making sure that I would give him a good fighting unit. After a long Military career: I think of him often and hope that others also look back and recall what an exemplary officer he was, and that we keep his memory alive.
Col. Paul F Morgan US A (RET)
Special Forces

Allison Brundage

June 15, 2011

I am so thankful that I am able to participate in honoring your memory. Your bravery and selflessness will not be forgotten.

Brenda Spicer

June 15, 2011

I am honored to get to know you through your written story. It is my pleasure to work with the Veterans Cemetery Board to celebrate you and your service.

photo of Vesa Juhani Alakulppi on February 15, 2019