I have been reading this column for over 5 yrs. I was a recon team leaded in the Nam 68-69-70 and I will tell all of you those guys in the zooomies and those who keep them flying saved my bacon more then once. Not a Marine kiss my A..
Ross (Colorado, 3 Recon Bn recon team 3 the Nam 68-69-70)
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I Just Did My Job
I'm not a hero; I never want to people to confuse me with a hero. All I did in Iraq was drive around and set up communications. I never stormed buildings or even took enemy fire, other than a SCUD which was a dud. I took far fewer knocks than many other people over there; I never had to fire my weapon or call in artillery.
Now, I ask, does that make me a bad Marine? Does that make me any less of a Marine than anyone else? Do my Eagle, Globe and Anchor mean less than someone else's, someone who actually fired their weapon overseas? Does it make me unfit to hold the title? Does it make me less of a man?
No. It doesn't. The fact that I never had to discharge my weapon in the line of duty is something I hold with pride. The fact that I never had to take another human being's life is something I'll cherish forever. The fact that all I did was drive a HMMWV around for six months bothers me not at all. I'm proud of the service I performed overseas; I helped maintain the Antenna Hill and acted as a crypto assistant, filling radios with vital encryptions in the middle of the night on many occasions. I stood watch at night, dug holes, laughed, cried, sweat, and bled, just like every other Marine over there. Granted, my sense of direction is awful and memory helps to muddle up exact locations and dates, but I have a pretty clear memory of the things that matter. I made friends over there I'll never forget and saw awful things no person, no matter how peaceful or warlike, should see. I saw a little girl with her arm burned off and a panicked father frantically trying to get her help, ignoring the third-degree burns on his own face until she was safely being cared for.
I saw children smiling, waving at us as we drove past, cheering us for coming to help their country.
I did my duty overseas and I kept my honor clean; I took a lot of crap from my NCOs because I was unsure of myself; after all, I had only been in the Corps for eight months. I tried my best and I learned a lot over there. I learned about the good in men and the bad from both the 'enemy' and my 'friends'.
I'm not a hero; I just did my job.
Surprised To Learn
MOS & Causalities at Khe Sanh You know, when it comes down to it, Marines are pretty much Marines, no matter their MOS. Now I never fixed my bayonet like my friends Mike Powers and John Rowland and I never charged an entrenched enemy bunker or ridge line like my other friend Steve Wiese did during his 18 month combat tour. I never sat month after cold isolated month on the top of a lonely piece of ground like Phil Nuchereno, watching my friends being picked off one at a time, wondering when and how my time would come. I never commanded men on an isolated hilltop like Ernie Spencer and to say that I was particularly brave or extraordinary would be a stretch. After all, I was just a private and did the job the Marine Corps assigned to me, just a regular Joe. I knew a lot of just regular Joes at Khe Sanh, men like Bill Poland and Beryl Bushaw who went about their very dangerous job with little sleep and little food. Who fought their own battles for survival ever day and somehow, perhaps through just plain luck, persevered.
The reason I bring this up now is the result of a conversation I had with a person I happened to meet a few days ago who was surprised to learn that there were "other than grunts at Khe Sanh." As an example I guess I could have mentioned Donald Saunders, Ken Williams or Wilbur Stovall. All KIA at Khe Sanh, none assigned to infantry units, but all three were Marines.
Although my personal knowledge of the Marine Corps Combat Base at Khe Sanh is somewhat limited to the period of time I was there, roughly August 1967 to sometime in April 1968, as I look back it seems like I was there forever. To this day, certain experiences remain vivid in my memory and dreams. I have read extensively about the events of the Siege and have spoken to numerous individuals who were there with me. Each recalls a somewhat different yet similar experience.
Certainly the Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) varied, however I am quite sure the 0311 (Infantry) made up the majority of these on the base and surrounding hills. As such, it would make sense that most causalities were to those that held the MOS of an infantryman or related combat specialty. By several different accounts there were from 5,000 to 6,000 men at Khe Sanh in late 1967. I am not really sure if this number includes the hills and various other locations around the immediate vicinity of the base, however that is a fair amount of military personnel, at least by Marine Corps standards. But regardless of the exact number of U.S. and allied personal at Khe Sanh, it is generally accepted that the number of NVA troops in the area was somewhere in the neighborhood of 20.000 to 40,000 men with supporting arms.
I don't know the ratio of 0311's to other MOS's on the base, but there were certainly many different and varied military specialties present among the Marine, Army, Navy and Air Force personnel. Cook's, truck drivers, office clerks, engineers, Seabees, medical personnel, electricians, mechanics, wiremen, artillery, forward observers, graves registration, supply, radar, fork lift drivers, heavy equipment operators, air traffic control, tanks, supporting arms (50's and twin 40's) to name just a few, but there were many more. To look at those who were present, you could not tell one from the other, they all looked the same. Each carrying their individual weapon wherever they went. Red stained ratty green uniform, tired, scared, skinny and exhausted, grunt, clerk and cook. Each MOS took casualties and all faced the same dangers together. All had their time in the V ring, not one safer nor job easier than the other.
Tom Horchler was a truck driver with H. Q. 1/13 who risked his life daily, taking rounds while he drove his truck to the dump, hauled water, C rations, sandbags, artillery shells from the landing strip to the guns, picking up the dead and gently transporting their lifeless bodies to Grave Registration. A moving exposed high value target every day, no trench, armor, sandbags or overhead to protect him, unable to hear the rounds leaving the guns of the enemy, unable to run, hide or even hope, all he had was just luck and a prayer. Continuing his duty half the night standing guard in the trench line waiting for the attack, which we all knew was coming.
Tom knew he had a dangerous job; no one had to tell him it was dangerous and no one had to thank him for his effort at supporting "them." It was the job the Marine Corps gave him, and at Khe Sanh, it was just as valuable, just as necessary and just as dangerous as any other. There were many at Khe Sanh just like Tom Horchler, not an 0311, but a Marine, doing a job which was just as dangerous, just as dirty and just a necessary as the rest of the jobs that had to be done.
At Khe Sanh we were all the same and it did not matter what MOS the military had given us. There was no safe place, no place to rest, to hide or sleep, no place safer than another. We were all the same at Khe Sanh no matter the MOS, officer, enlisted or civilian contractor. We all shared in the danger equally and our casualties reflected our presence.
Craig W. Tourte
H.Q. 1/13 Khe Sanh Combat Base
Extract Or Insertion
In response to Air Wingers not being Marines. I was a crew chief/doorgunner on frogs CH-46s with HMM 262 70-71 out marble mountain. Earned 56 Air medals with he help of my fellow crew members. that sniper must ever have been in a spot where he had to call in support to get sorry but out of a jam. I can't count how times our crews flew all day in too the sh-t, then came back to base to stay up all night repairing our birds so we could it all over again. Or of the many times we were woke up for an emergency extract or insertion. Yes most of the time we had hot chow bunks to sleep in and all came with your occasional incoming rounds. So the next time some one tells an Air Winger is not a Marine tell them they had to be there.
Cpl RON Sheldon, HMM-262. ET-18 Flying Tigers 70-1971
OK You SOB's
A humorous story that I have to relate.
My Squadron, VMF (aw) 115 was being deployed to the USS Independence CVA-62 for a Med Cruise. We were replacing a Navy Squadron that was getting new birds and the Indy needed a Fighter Squadron to provide CAP.
Anyway, we were at Pier 12 in Norfolk, and had about 3 days before sailing.
It was the Order of the Day that to leave the base, you had to be in the Uniform of the Day, which at the time were greens.
So, I get my Liberty Card, and am standing at the bus stop to catch a bus to the front gate when the bus pulls up full of Squids and one old salty Gunny. The minute that I got on the bus, he stands up an says "OK you SOB's, the sides are even now. Lets get it on". He was dead serious, and I was scared to death but ready to cover his back. Thankfully, he patted my back and laughed.
Oh, by the way, the Squids aboard the Indy called us 115 Vicious Mo Fo's, At Work.
R. J. "CC" Boyle
Weight Of The World
Just thought I would share my Moto Ink with you. Hope you like it, I certainly do.
First Epistle to the Recruit
Found this in a box of old photos, I think the first time I read it was back in '48 but I see that it has been up dated a little: George M. Hayes
1. Lo, all ye miserable sinners, entering through the vale of tears called Boot Camp and into the Land of Khaki and Forest Green. Hearken ye unto my word, for I have dwelt in this land for many months and mine eyes have witnessed all manner of folly and woe. Verily have I tasted of the Bitter Fruit of TS and drained the dregs of the Cup of SNAFU.
2. Gird up thy loins, my son, and seize fast upon thy globe and anchor. Act slowly, with exceeding care and hearken first to a sadder and wiser man than thee.
3. Beware thou of the Sergeant called First. He hath a pleased and foolish look upon his face, but he knoweth all things and he concealeth a serpent in his heart. Avoid him at all times, especially when he speaketh quietly and his lips smileth. He smileth not for thee. His heart rejoices at the sight of thy youth and thy ignorance. He will smile and smile and work all manner of evil against thee. A wise man would shun the Company Office, wherein lies his domain, but it is the fool who pauseth there hoping to glean a crumb of scuttlebutt, for he will dwell in the scullery forever
4. Knowest thou well the Company Gunny. He it is that loveth to find rust upon thy weapons. He will reward thee with many weeks of No Liberty and he smileth not even though it maketh him happy.
5. Now! Know ye this fact above all else! Unto all things there is a time. There is a time to speak and a time to remain silent. Be thou like unto a stone in the presence of thy superiors. Keep thy tongue when they shall call for volunteers. The wise man searcheth out the easy work details but only a fool sticketh out his neck.
6. Look thou with disfavor upon the newly made Corporal and shun him if possible. He prizeth much his stripes and is proud and foolish. He laugheth and joketh much with the elder noncoms and looketh upon the privates with a frown and would cause them much grief. He would fain go to OCS but he is not qualified.
7. Know thou the Sergeant of the Mess. He is a man of many moods. When he looketh pleased and his words are like honey, the wise man seeketh him out and praiseth his chow and laugheth much at his jests. When he moveth with great haste and the sweat standeth upon his brow and he curseth under his breath, make thyself scarce, for he will fall like a whirlwind upon the idle and the eightball will know his wrath and will shine many GI Cans.
8. Know thou the Supply Sergeant, that he is a lazy man and he worketh not. For he is the keeper of many good things. If thou would wear well fitting raiment and avoid the statement of charges, make him thou friend. He prizeth drunkenness above all things. He careth not for praise or flattery but lend him thou lucre and thou beer chits and he will favor thee.
9. Cursed be him who always standeth first in the line of chow, short stoppeth the dessert, and secureth the joe unto himself. He taketh from the meat dish with a heavy hand and leaveth thee the bony part. He is thrice cursed, and all Marines, even unto the lowest private shall revile him and spit upon him, for his name is called Chow Hound and he an abomination.
10. Know thou the Big Time Operator, but trusteth him not. He worketh always upon a deal and he speaketh confidentially . He knoweh many women and he goeth on liberty every night. He would borroweth all thy money, yea, even to thy last beer chit. He promiseth to fix thee up, but doeth it not.
11. H&ll hath no fury like a Shavetail scorned. He walketh with a swagger and regardeth the enlisted man with a raised eyebrow. He looketh upon his gold bar with exceeding pleasure and loveth a salute mightily. Act thou lowly unto him. Salute, call him Sir and he will leave thee in peace. Ignore him and thou shall wish that thou hast never been born.
12. Beware thou of the Company Commander, who is called the Old Man. Learn to know him by sight at a hundred paces and shun him for he will make thee sweat. When he approacheth, look thou on the ball, for he loveth to chew upon the posterior. Keep thou out of his sight and let him know thee not by name, for he who arouseth the wrath of the Old Man fills his own messkit with bread and water and he shall go many times unto the Chaplain.
13. Learn these ways well. Know also the way that is right and the way that is wrong, and avoid both these ways like the plague, for thy way, hence forth,is the Marine Corps way which changeth by directive as often as the squad leaders word on green side of brown side. The wise man sweateth it out though it fouleth him up exceedingly, and showeth in him even unto the day his stripes rivaleth the Zebra. Selah.
Once a Marine always a Marine is very true. I'm sending you a picture I had air brush painted on the back of my 1933 Plymouth Street Rod. When I go to car shows everyone is taking picture's of the back. Really makes me feel proud to be a Marine and to see people backing our troops. You don't see other service's with as much pride after they get out as the Marine Corps. Keep up the good work Sgt. Grit.
George Hahn Vietnam 67-68
Sgt. of Marines 62-72
That Point On
My greatest experience as a Marine came almost a decade after leaving active duty. I had begun my career as a social worker and was working down the hall from an elderly man, Frank. Frank only worked at our office two or three days a week so it was about a year after I started work that he approached me and began talking about the Corps. Being a history buff on all things Marine, I quickly pegged him as a "China Marine" and when I called him this he just smiled.
From that point on, he and I talked whenever we had the chance. He served Col. Puller throughout the colonel's time in Korea. At the landing at Inchon, Frank told of how he couldn't make himself small enough to cross the wall but how Chesty was standing on the wall giving orders. At the Chosin, Frank was an observer for Col. Puller, spending days by himself observing the movements of the NK and Chinese armies before reporting back to Col. Puller. For his time in Korea, Frank earned the Silver Star.
As you can guess, being around Frank was humbling. Many of our co-workers never knew the hero that was in their company, they saw only the white haired gentleman that was soft-spoken and walked with a cane. He never shared his story with others, not even with the lady he shared an office with. It was the day of my experience that she learned about the hero in her office. I had been to Cherry Point to get some Marine things and noticed a coffee mug with the "Chosin Few" and "Some Gave All" on it which I bought for Frank without hesitation. When I gave the mug to Frank, he began to cry as his office mate looked on. As I held this hero, my hero, I told her she was sharing the office with a true hero. It was at that moment I realized the true bond Marines share.
I haven't seen Frank Hinson in a while, I have moved to another county, but I know he continues to serve. Every morning, he has breakfast with his wife at her nursing home. She can no longer say she loves him, but he continues live by two words, Semper Fi.
John B. '89-'96
The Entire Package
Just a note on some of my brothers feeling unworthy about there station during war time. Me I was injured in boot camp, busted 2 disc in my low back, I was given the opportunity to go home. I have to tell you that scared me to death. That was not an option. Later we boarded ship 1st Battalion 5th Marines, where I was given the job of M-79 Grenade launcher, wow what a weapon.
After my second injury (Shrapnel) Once again I was ask if I wanted to go home. H&ll no.. Long story short. I was put in the galley as a cook. That's fine, when we were lifted and put on the beach at the Cong Delta. I was a stretcher barer, water carrier, not much need for a cook then. Later when we landed permanently in Chu Lai. I was assigned to a Platoon as there field cook. I worked out of a tent with a second Luie as my boss. (joke)
I seen a lot of my fellow Marines go thru my line for the last time. I actually got pretty good at making the Hobo coffee. I always managed a can or 2 of sardines for troops going on missions, the very least I could do. I often felt less than worthy even after all I had been thru... I seen things I wouldn't talk about for years, putting Marines on Helicopters after they were shot up even killed. Then I was a stretcher barer.
You know we can't, any of us feel bad or guilty or unworthy for one second. We all had our jobs to do and when did it dam well. Think of all the college studs that stayed home or worse yet fled to Canada. When I think of the entire package I actually feel pretty good about myself. We all must. End of story. It actually saddens me when I read of some Marines carrying this load on them selves. Please don't. Heads up and Semper Fi
CPL. RV Casto USMC 64-68
The Officer Was
I just finished reading your Newsletter for 31 January 2008. Every time I get the newsletter I enjoy reading all of the stories that are sent in from around the world about Marine Corps anything.
I served Stateside and in Rodman, Canal Zone from '68 - '72 & '73 - '75 at El Toro. I am proud of the fact that I served my country in our beloved Marine Corps as a 2111 armorer. During my tour at El Toro I served with H&MS 37. So I guess that made me an air winger too, even though I was an armorer while there. Any way I ended up being pistol range NCOIC there and enjoyed my duty very much.
But I digress. What I am writing about is a letter titled, "Instead Of A Sergeant Major" by MSgt Gene Hays USMC Retired. In his letter he was mentioning he could not fathom the thought that any of our Marine Generals would willingly subordinate Marine Officers and Enlisted men in a Line or Operational unit to an officer of another branch of service. Chesty has to be rolling over in his grave. Point of fact is that just prior to the Civil War, Marines were under an Army officer that were sent to get John Brown at Harper's Ferry in Virginia. That officer was Robert Edward Lee, who went on to be General Lee of the Army of Northern Virginia. So, you see sir, this not something that is new to our military way of doing things.
Semper Fi and thanks for everyone's service no matter their MOS or duty station.
Sgt of Marines
June '68 - May '72
April '73 - April '75
P.S. I included my serial number because I remember very well in Boot being instructed to give out only "Name, Rank, and Serial Number. To never give out Social Security Number. You see the first 3 digits of our Social Security/Military ID will let someone know what state your Social Security Number was issued in. In my case mine was issued in the state of Wyoming when I was old enough to apply for a job and not given at birth as it is done now.
Tax Free Paycheck
I've read about the guys who are Vietnam Era Veterans, those who were in the Corps during the war but didn't get sent down south. I feel like I'm even in a worse situation. I got out of my radio operators course in Dec 69 and was sent to the Hq. Bn., 4th Mar Div at Camp Pendleton. I had to request to be sent to WesPacGrdFor. When I got to Okinawa in Sept 70 about 3 guys on our plane went straight to Vietnam. The rest of us stayed to help bring the 3d Mar Div up to strength. During my first year I got to go into the field with my artillery battery to learn how to call steel rain in on to the enemy and to keep warm at Mt Fuji, Japan. If I had returned to the world after just one year I would have still worn my fire watch ribbon as my only decoration. I had to extend my tour by 6 months to get on a deployment with BLT 2/4. We did go to wonderful places like Subic Bay, Taiwan, Japan (again). While deployed aboard the USS Tripoli (LPH-10) we cruised through the waters of Vietnam. For this we all received the Vietnam Service Medal. The sailors aboard the ships received combat pay along with their tax free paychecks. We Marines just got to get tax free paychecks. Since we were only in Vietnam waters for 4 different months we did not receive the Vietnam Campaign Medal. Of course the sailors were on a 6 month deployment and they were able to meet the 6 months in Vietnam for the Vietnam Campaign Medal.
In the middle of all this we were sent to the Indian Ocean. It seems India and Pakistan were having another disagreement about Bangladesh. We Marines were going to be used to extract foreign nationals out of the battle zone. I was told since our Artillery Liaison group had Naval Gun Fire experience, we would be in the first wave of helicopters to land.
So we floated in circles for about a month trying not to run the Russian trawlers down. Oh, by the way, the USS Enterprise and 8 destroyers were pulled off the gun line of Vietnam and sent out there too. The foreign nationals were taken out of harms way via airplanes. When we were relieved we went to Subic Bay with a month and a half tax free pay in our pockets. But that is another story.
It was really frustrating to get so close and train so hard and not be able to do anything except train some more. I've been very honest and have told this to combat vets. To the man they have said "Be thankful you didn't go into combat."
Just a quick OOOHRAHH! to all my Brothers and Sisters serving in the Iraq and Afganny wars in search of the b*stards that attacked us. Let them be aware that the Eagle has been awakened and is extremely P!SSED OFF! That being said again I say thank you for serving and keeping us safe once again. I was in from 88-92 and served on board the USS Carl Vinson (CVN - 70) for 15 months on sea duty and then got transferred to 3rd Bn 7th Mar. 1st MarDiv. out of the Stumps and was deployed to Desert Storm where I served as a machine gunner in India Co. We didn't see as much action that you all have seen but we lost a FEW GOOD MEN in the process. it really p!sses me off when one MOS puts down another because of the one not doing what seems like much but in all reality they do more behind the scenes. Supply, support, Airwing, whatever. We're all part of 1 team and need to support each other. As for this "So-called Sniper" I never met one that flaunted such brash statements as he did which leads me to think he isn't one at all but a wanna be. I'll end with this, my Company Commander Capt. Folberg told us " Real professionals don't brag." From 1 Marine who is not so lean to all my younger Brothers and Sisters I salute you and the stand up job you are doing....Semper Fi!
David Tatro (Lcpl 3rd Bn. 7th Mar.)
I just read some of the letters about "AIRWING MARINES" not being "REAL MARINES". I was trained as an AIRWING MARINE 68/72 1st MAW DaNang RVN 70/71. We stood Perimeter Watch, Rode Security on Convoys or worked 12 to 14 hour days everyday. Some of us where AIRCREW MEMBERS and flew into "HOT LZ's" and some of us kept the Aircraft in the AIR to support the GRUNTS. There are "14,837 MARINE NAMES on the VIET NAM WALL"! Not Grunt, Airwing, Cook or Supply JUST MARINE NAMES! Each one of us where trained in a specific field Air, Land or Sea, we are MARINES! "We ALL GAVE SOME, and SOME GAVE ALL".
DANANG RVN 70/71
I served as a grunt in the early 1960's, (1961-1963). While we were deployed in northern Thailand with the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, we had Marine F4 Phantoms for air support. I am not familiar as to how air wings are organized as to wings and what ever. We established Camp Rama I outside of Udorn Thani and as usual we had our tents, parade field, flag poles on one end and mess tent behind the poles. Every morning shortly after 0600, two F4's would fly over us perpendicular to the parade field. They would then come around and line up with the parade field and go sideways and lower wing would go thru flag poles. They would straighten up, go up and kick in afterburners. Knocked the mess tent down several times. Awesome.
While on patrols, the F4' would come in over us at treetop level. No problem reading "Marines" on side of the plane. That was a great feeling knowing that Marines were looking out for us. Shortly before leaving Thailand, the Marine F4's were taken out and Air Force F4's were brought in. From then on, we only saw them up high. It was like no air cover. Wish I could have met the pilots and guys who were taking care of us.
Thanks flyboys and all those that keep the planes flying. Nothing like Marine Air Power.
Frank D Briceno
Sgt of Marines
I wanted to say, "Thank You," for publishing my note 01/24/08. I have read many responses, and they tuned me up. I feel better about the fact that although I did not see combat, By The Christ, I am still a Marine. The responses and stories of other Marines feeling likewise, was therapeutic! I hope that by doing so, perhaps putting it in writing, helps other brother and sisters solve their torment. So, feeling better after reading the newsletter, my dog and I went and PT'ed. Yep, we got some! What a outfkingstanding unit you run, Sgt. Grit! Now, get down, bends and mothrfdffufers! until I get tired!
I got a chuckle reading Doc Thomkins letter (in the 24 Jan Sgt Grit) referencing CWO Eley's tale about using the condoms to protect the dynamite on Midway in WWII. My dad (Donald C. Smyser) told me a few stories about his time on Midway, too. He was a SSgt when he got out, but got his Purple Heart at Midway in the mop up after the battle. At the time, I believe he was a Cpl. He was an air winger/gunner to start out, until they discovered he was night blind. But, any way...his story involved a group of them having a few drinks on the beach one night when off duty. Somebody found or brought a flare gun (very pistol) to the party, and when they were pretty hammered, he decided to shoot it off. Unfortunately, it was loaded with a red flare; which, at the time around the invasion, was the signal for a "red-alert", indicating a renewed invasion/attack. The sirens went off, and the whole island went on alert. All of the partiers realized they were in some deep $### if they got caught with that flare pistol. They beat a hasty retreat back to their cots, having deposited the flare gun down the nearest latrine. He and his buddies kept a low profile for awhile, but had the occasional chuckle over the whole thing. Dad is gone now, but I still remember the stories.
Dana Smyser, Cpl (70-72)
CoG, 2/7, 1st Mar Div
Papers To Prove It
As a former scout sniper (papers to prove it) I hope those reading this don't think all of us are as ignorant as some "want to be" show themselves to be. Any sniper knows that every Marine is part of each mission. From supply who orders our ammo and gear to medics who patch our a$$. We all do our part, more than once we all have called for help when the S--- hit the fan. We are all brothers. Don't let some wanna be, cause you to doubt your value to the Corps. Unfortunately there are some who run everyone else down to make themselves look bigger. If you served honorably then you are a Marine.
Let Him Think
If that team-leader thinks that "AIR_WINGER" do not do anything, LET HIM THINK about AVIATION ORDNANCEMEN, you know the fools that load to bombs, rockets, missiles, etc. to support him! Then think back to my war in VIETNAM where I spent 5+ years in of the 9+ years before I was medically discharged to the VA. then think that I spent part of that time in-the-field and by myself brought home 100+ men that were taken POW?MIA until I brought them home through CHU LAI (air-base), RVN. want more??? SEMPER FI!
Edwin A. Halderman,
SSgt. USMC (med-retired)
Ask Any One
Ask any one who was in the Corps during the period between June 1950 to 1952 what their thoughts were about the First Marine Air Wing and I'm sure that you would get a majority of positive replies. There could be no sweeter sound than an F4 Gull winged Corsair Piloted by some one trained and experienced in the art of close combat air support, winging its way down through a valley in order to buy time enough to regroup and gain higher ground. To all of them and their support staffs we give a big THANK YOU and God Bless.
Sgt USMC 1st Mar/Div 1948-1952
Sgt Grit - I have enjoyed your weekly newsletters for many years now. However, in reading about the so called "Marine" sniper that had made disparaging remarks about Airwing Marines and their place in the Marine Corps pedigree; I experienced a supreme sense of sadness at the disrespect shown for my brothers killed in Marine helicopter operations in Vietnam.
As the squadron historian for HMM-262 Vietnam Veterans Association, I am bound by honor to tell this "Marine" sniper about the sacrifices my squadron mates made in one 77-day period many years ago during the Siege of Khe Sanh.
In attempting to keep the hill positions surrounding the Khe Sanh Combat Base alive, my squadron lost 10 men killed, 43 wounded, 5 evacuated to the states, and 7 helicopters destroyed. Total losses for our squadron during the Vietnam War - 55 men killed; 40 plus helicopters destroyed.
I suspect that this "sniper" has never found himself surrounded by a numerically superior enemy on the verge of overrunning his position. I wonder what his impression would be of the Marine helicopter "airwing" crews - after he came to grips with the fact that he was facing the certainty of a violent death - when a Marine chopper swoops in with weapons firing to save his bacon.
I am hoping that our Marine Corps is not complacent in reminding our young Marines of today of the many sacrifices their brothers before them have made.
Kreig "Hip" Loftin
HMM 262 Squadron Historian VVA
Vietnam 1967-68 - Crew Chief
Sgt of Marines
Care To Trade
Whatever someone did to help keep me alive in Vietnam, bless them. It distresses me to hear anyone being dissed because of the type of service they perform. The lady with the son who's job it was to honor fallen hero's. Can we talk stress here? Bless that young man for HIS honor!
Years ago I was point man for a group of affected Vietnam Vets. It was a weekly meeting attended by thirty or more in-country Vietnam Veterans. I noticed one young man who listened, supported and tried to be there for others... but never spoke about himself or his service. Believing in confrontational therapy, I asked him point blank what he did in Vietnam. He demurred and I insisted. He was ashamed because he was never a real soldier, all he did for two years was work in graves registration!
After I recovered from the initial shock, I asked everyone else if they'd care to trade their jungle time for his "rear area" job. Everyone in the group agreed that _I_ needed my head examined. Was I nuts, or what? Two years in graves registration and he was ashamed of his service!
Proud MOM, remain proud. Proud Father, you also! Your sons and daughters are doing their part, in-country, out in the bush, at base stations or rear areas. If they do the tasks assigned to them in an honest, honorable manner, then they have served as needed and deserve full credit for their service. They have NOTHING to be ashamed of!
Steven Byars, HM1
2nd plt., "E" Co., 2/1 '65-
One Other Thing
In response to Sgt. Chargois letter, I've read other comments from air wingers and other Marines. Just wanted to put my 2 cents worth. I'm a Viet Nam air winger, crew chief on CH-46's who proudly wears my combat aircrew wings on my cover [ball cap] wherever I go. Yes we didn't have to slop around in the mud and jungles like the grunts did, but I never heard any of them complain or say we weren't Marines, most of the time it was thanks, when we brought in food or ammo when they needed it or pull them out of an emergency extract or medivac. We joined voluntarily to be Marines, and were and still proud of being the best. One other thing I was proud to have known and call friend the only Marine enlisted airwinger to be awarded the Medal of Honor PFC. Mike Clausen HMM-263. He was already in country when I arrived but showed us FNG's what to do and how to do it.
H.L. Jarvis Sgt of Marines
1967-1971 RVN 69-70
Just want to add to the comments on Wingers are not Marines, some Winger must have smacked that little boy sniper around at some point so now he has it in for them or just maybe he realized it takes smarts to get into the wing that he did not have( That I say with a smile on my face) I had nothing but profound respect for the guys that pounded dirt for a living. When I was in, 1971-1979 that was not what I wanted to do. I chose Aviation. Just as it takes special skills to be a sniper, being in Marine Aviation has its own set of skills you have to master. Every Marine has earned the right to be called Marine, your MOS does not matter, weather its O311 or 6052 you have the basic premise of every Marine. And that's that shooting badge you wear, Marines are different and for some panty waist to say you are not one because of your MOS is stupid, ignorant . I will say no more, he has already show his lack of intelligence.
Frank Huff Sgt USMC
Air Winger 1971-1979
To all those who have responded so kindly to my last letter, I send a thank you and Semper Fi! To set the record straight, I never meant to take anything away from the guy on the ground who spends his days dodging bullets. I have always admired you ground-pounders. Lets face facts...the Marine Corps was built around the Infantryman and his rifle...all the rest of us exist to make sure that he can do his job and take the fight to the enemy. To those who have served or are serving in Infantry units, my hats off to you. Your is a job not many can, or have the courage to do. I have always been proud to have worn the uniform of a United States Marine, and even prouder to know that the title Marine is one I'll carry for the rest of my life. Regardless of MOS, I have always looked at every Marine as my brother/sister, and it is wonderful to know that so many of you feel the same way. I do let those few "rotten apples" in the bunch like Mr. "Sniper" spoil the pride I feel at being a member of the finest band of warriors this world has ever seen. Again...to all of you who have shared your comments and support....thank you again. And especially to you Sgt "Thermite", a true warrior among warriors. I wish you safety and success in your upcoming 4th deployment. Give my regards to the men on your team and extend to them my words of support. Semper Fi to all my fellow Leathernecks....
Sgt Steve Chargois
Lat Move To
I am writing in response to the story by Sgt. Steve Chargois. I spent my first enlistment as a grunt with 3/7 Wpns Co in the stumps. When I reenlisted I made a lat move to 7051-crash crew and served in the aviation support field. Having seen both sides of the coin I can say this... MARINES are MARINES. Yes, we all have our different MOS, but in the end every Marine is a rifleman. Every MARINE is held to the same standards. There are not infantry MARINE standards and aviations MARINE standards. I can't speak on behalf of this grunt who said you weren't a "Real Marine", but last time I checked you either went to MCRD PI or SD and earned the title MARINE regardless of your MOS. I think you made a good point that a grunt is only as good as the support he receives. Thank you for your service.
SGT of MARINES
We Are All Green
I am tired of hearing about those who served with a rifle in their hands as being 'more Marine' than those who didn't serve in combat. It seems that these comments come from mainly those who were never in the Marine Corps, rather than fellow Marines. Why? It's because these non-Marines didn't have what it takes to become a Marine so they joined some other branch of the service then try to look-down on any Marine that didn't see combat. That's BS! If you weren't a Marine or a Corpsman, then you don't have anything to say about our Marine Corps.
EVERY Marine should be proud to have served! Front line; Back line; Whatever! It doesn't matter because it takes a team to accomplish our tasks. For example; Is a bullet in a magazine more or less important than a bullet in the chamber? Answer; They are both important because if you don't have one, you won't have the other when needed. Therefore, the Marine behind the front lines is as important as the Marine on the front lines.
Let's end this discussion once and for all. All Marines are brothers and we should all stand together. Our skin color may be different, but on the outside, we are all green. Let the other services squabble amongst themselves as to who is, or isn't, more important because in the Corps, from the Commandant down to the newest Marine Pvt., we are one family and all equally important in our own jobs.
Sgt E-5 USMC
1962 - 1966
Viet Nam Vet, Chu Lai 1965
You Don't Tell
I can understand the feelings of any Marine who has had to stand by at some states side billet, chomping at the bit to get into the action, as I did for almost 10 months in 1943/ 1944. Perhaps this little story will provide an answer as to why we must serve as directed.
When leaving boot camp, I, along with most of my platoon, were sent to Bremerton Washington Naval sta. And there sent to various nearby Bases. I was sent to the U>S>Navy Supply Depot at Pier 41, Seattle Washington, to stand Guard duty at the Gates. This was O.K with me for a time, but upon getting word of my best buddy, Jack Wallace, Had Been Killed At Engebi, Einewietok in February 1944, With the 22nd Marines,
I marched myself to the first Sgts. Office, and requested an Immediate Transfer to the F.M.F.He looked up at me , standing at attention, and said " Who the H&ll do you think you are, Boot, you don't tell the U.S.Marine Corps where you will serve, we tell you, and until we decide we need you somewhere else, this is where you will stay."Of course, I did an about face and resigned myself to the duty that I was assigned.
Any Marine that is serving , where ever it might be , Joined the Corps To Fight, but should feel no Guilt if he must serve away from the action, as any good Marine does as he is ordered. Bide your time and sooner or later you will see enough action to satisfy you for the rest of your life. Been there , done that.
Don L. Holmes - Cpl. 3rd Division, 12th Marines and 1st Div. 1st Marines (China 46) - " Semper Fi"
Once A Marine Always A Marine
I have been ask by a Colonel in the VNMC(when there was a VNMC) that I served with in 1968-69 the origin of the truism" Once a Marine always a Marine. Who said it and where was he? What was the occasion? The info I have indicated it was first said by Master Sergeant Paul Woyshner. However, I cannot verify this as fact and I do not want to pass "scuttlebutt. It sounds like it could be fact because my source indicated it was shouted in a barroom brawl!
Appreciate any assistance.
0311 later 0302
Still Not Acceptable
In response to Joe Weisberger's comment (included below) about Marines with their hands in their pockets, it seems as though he thinks this is a recent picture. In fact, the picture was taken in October 1969 (as indicated by it's accompanying letter), which is nearly forty years ago. Hands in pockets was not acceptable when Mr. Weisberger served. It was not acceptable when I served either from 1990 - 1998. The recruiter here in town tells me it's still not acceptable. So, he can rest easy, as it seems that the photo is of an isolated incident, and I'm sure that hands in pockets was probably not acceptable in their time either, but having done it and photographed it, I'm sure they heard LOTS of s**t about it.
On another entirely different note, about these Marines putting down other Marines, any Marine who would belittle or dis-count a fellow Marine simply because they didn't "walk in their same footsteps" needs to stick their head in a bucket of ice water! And that's all I've got to say about that.
Raymond M. Rodriguez
Sgt. of Marines! 1990 - 1998
Hey, It Wasn't My
I, too, am one of those Marines that feel a little funny when I get a 'Semper Fi' from a combat Marine and tell him I was in 1957 to 1960. I attempted to go back in 1964 with another former Marine under the "Buddy plan' where they promised to try to keep you together for the first few years. But we were both married with children and they said 'Thank you, but we aren't taking married with kids now.' I think a few years later they did, but I was in college and my buddy had medical problems. But I always tell the combat Marines, ' Hey, it wasn't my fault there wasn't a war. I enlisted.' But I am still proud to be a member of this brotherhood. Semper Fi.
Cpl. Bill McCarthy 57-60
I Could Not Stand
My MOS was Supply but I did serve in Vietnam in 1965 and 1966 and I did something that I was told I never should do. I volunteered. In the early days of Vietnam, there was no such thing as a Supply Man or a Truck Mechanic. We were all infantrymen because nothing was fully set up in those early days to give us anything to do but use our basic Marine training - infantry.
No matter what your MOS is in the Marines, remember you are always a basic rifleman/infantryman first. I felt the same way as many of your writers did. I was a Marine and I was in Vietnam and I could not stand the thought of being behind a desk or something like that when I could hear gun fire going on all around me. I was stationed in Chu Lai when they were just beginning to build the Chu Lai air strip. Fortunately, if you wanted to feel like you were "contributing" all you had to do was ask and they were more than glad to put you on perimeter guard duty or even let you go out on "search and destroy" missions.
In order to make myself feel like what I thought was a "real" Marine, I spent many, many nights in a fox hole guarding the perimeter of the air strip and I went on enough search and destroy missions that I soon forgot I was a Supply Man.
Don't miss the point here. When asked what I did while I was in the Corps, I told everyone I was a Supply Man. Of course, most people that don't know, feel that is a cushy job and if you are not an 0300, you're a "pogie-bait" Marine. Unfortunately even some of the 0300's felt that way. But in their hearts, they really knew that they couldn't do their job if it was not for the "other" guys at the rear.
Always be proud you were (are) a Marine no matter what you did, or whether you served in war time or not. Remember, Marines exist to fight and win wars and ANYONE of us could be called to "fight" at any time. The compound I was in at Chu Lai was threatened on several occasions to be overrun. That's because the enemy knew how important we were. What I'm saying is whether you were on the "front line" (which by the way there was none in Vietnam), you life was always in danger.
I have a line from the movie "Full Metal Jacket". I have it written down and I will NEVER forget it. The Gunny told his Marines upon graduation from Boot Camp: "You are a Marine. You are part of a brotherhood. From now on until the day you die, wherever you are, every Marine is your brother. You may go off to war...and you may not come home. But always remember this. Marines die....that's what we are here for. But the Marine Corps lives forever - and that means...YOU LIVE FOREVER!
Frank J. Visconi
In Ways Others
It's encouraging too read that other Marines serving during the VN Era but were not sent in country, all suffer some guilt. I joined right out of high school in 1972 fully expecting to see Vietnam, but spent my 4 years between California and Okinawa. Not being part of what other Marines were going through has always bothered me. Now 32 years later I'm just glad I can say I served in the Marines. It has shaped my life in ways others could never understand. All Jarheads know what I mean.
Sgt. Dan Francis
1972 - 1976
Another "Vietnam Era" Veteran
In 1966, as a PFC fresh out of boot camp, I issue mess hall supplies to ITR/AIT units training for deployment to Nam. In 1967, as a L/CPL, I receive, maintain and issue 155mm and other artillery gun parts to units training in 29 Palms. In 1968 while in transit status at Camp Hansen awaiting deployment to Nam, my orders were amended to remain in Okinawa as my older brother was already in Nam. So as a CPL, I unload and distribute truckloads of supplies and materials for Nam, to include medical, c-rats and commo supplies, with 3rd FSR at our satellite site in Camp Courtney, Okinawa. In 1969, as a SGT at MCRD Depot Armory, I issue and maintain M14 rifles and 782 gear to recruits for boot training at MCRD. I also had the "smokies" dry cleaned for the Drill Instructors conducting training.
So my 4 years in the Corps was not as an "03", however, I would like to think that one way or another I was indirectly involved in making sure that the "03s" were able to train, armed, shoot, move, communicate, fed and be medically treated with the support provided by a "3051/supply/warehouseman/forklift operator". I am and will always be proud to be a Marine although I was not "on the ground".
Note: I, also at 17 yrs old enlisted as a "permanent resident" of the US and applied for naturalization upon completion of my 4 years of "volunteer military service".
Sergeant of Marines
de los Reyes '66-'70
His Pain Was Due
Semper Fi to All My Fellow Marines,
Having read several of the comments from my fellow Marines in the most recent issue of American Courage Newsletter I am moved to pen a few words of my own. Be sure these words are penned by a Marine (Plt. 136, A Company, 1st Battalion, RTR, MCRD, Parris Island, SC and Marine Barracks, 8th and I Streets, SE, Washington, DC -- April 1976 through April 1979). Because of the comments that have been made about peace time Marines, I feel it is also necessary to let you know that I never had the honor to serve in combat.
But be just as assured that this Marine, as well as many of the other fine men with whom I served in the United States Marine Corps, would gladly share in the honor of combat. That willingness and passion for God, country and Corps in itself makes a great deal of difference. Our willingness to fight and die for what we believe in provide us with just as much honor, just as much valor and just as much stalwart character as those who actually experienced that terrifying privilege. Where did that willingness come from? Well, listen up Marines...
Our first child was born in a military hospital in the Washington, D.C. area. My wife was in a hospital bed beside the wife of a Marine First Sergeant who was decorated with the Medal of Honor from his heroic actions in Vietnam. As a young Lance Corporal I saw him wince in pain as he picked up his newborn baby. His pain was due to the wounds he received from throwing himself on a grenade to save the lives of his platoon in a now long forgotten rice patty. I felt such honor as a young man to have been so close to a man of greatness and selflessness of character, a man of such tough splendid courage and yet a man of such gentle love as he caressed the face of his newborn child. His wordless testimony challenged me and filled me with commitment to serve my fellow Marines with this same character.
There was my cousin who was a Corporal of Marines and a tank/amphibious landing craft mechanic on Tarawa, Peleliu and Iwo Jima. Bullets whizzed around him, taking the lives of hundreds of his friends, while he frantically yet coolly completed his myriad repairs on those blood soaked beaches. He received no high decorations from his actions but men's lives were saved and the battles won because he was present and performing his job flawlessly. His faithfulness to his task in the midst of such terror overwhelmed me to pray for the grace from God to provide the same service to my God, my Country and my fellow Marines.
Lt. Haskell, was a former Gunnery Sergeant, who served in Vietnam in combat and later in Beirut, Lebanon. The day my enlistment ended he handed me a large round bronze Marine Corps emblem as a part of my EAS ceremony in the Operations Unit of Marine Barracks, 8th & I. It was his. He didn't buy it for me. He sacrificed something of his that he loved because he knew I loved the Corps. It hangs on my wall to this day in my study. For me it is not only a memory of my time in the Marine Corps or of a great Marine officer, but of a man with a heart to serve and sacrifice what was his for those he lead. He later gave his greatest and ultimate sacrifice when his company was bombed by a coward - a suicide bomber driving a truck through the wall of the Marine encampment.
And as a young teenage boy growing up I prayed for and waited impatiently for any news from another cousin of mine Sergeant Tom Smith. He was a Marine aviator flying in the two-seat Intruder. He and his pilot flew hundreds of missions providing support to Marines in combat, and bombing missions over North Vietnam. He was promoted from Private First Class to Sergeant in a little less than two years. Decorated with the Silver Star for his bravery in air combat, my cousin revealed to me in his own service how I wanted to serve when I took my turn as a United States Marine.
Now you know where my willingness came from. Everyone of us as Marines have stories like these and have rubbed shoulders and shared the lives of great Marines like these. They went before or came after us. They were our leaders in the Corps, or cousins, uncles, fathers or brothers. Their stories moved us with heart throbbing passion for our Corps. They spurred us on to faithfulness in the midst of pain, whether the pain was caused by a gifted Drill Instructor at Parris Island or by a piece of shrapnel that shot its painful course through our body. We were "surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses" and knew the path we chose when we joined this elite fight force. We were aware of the opportunities, but also the expectations and painful possibilities. Cowards don't decide to join the Marines! To my fellow "untried in combat" Marines: You and I can rest in confident assurance that we too would perform as valiantly in combat as did these brave men. To perform otherwise would be unthinkable! We're Marines.
Semper Fi and God's Richest Blessings To All My Fellow Marines,
John M. Booth, LCpl, USMC (1976-79)
Out loud, Dummy
Everyone knows the difference between a Sea Story and a Fairy Tale: One begins "Once upon a time: and the other begins "Now this is no s***."
Well, once upon a time, in what Stanley Kubrik called "the land of the phony tough and the crazy brave", mail call came to platoon 2013, Co. F, 2nd Bn, RTR, MCRTC Parris Island, SC. It was roughly one week before graduation, so we recruits were beginning to be ever so slightly salty and donning that "Old Corps" mantle: you know, the one you wear when you joined the 'Corps at least two minutes before a "New Corps" recruit.
We had three drill instructors: Sgt Schmidt from Alabama, Sgt Dickerson from "Baw-tee-more", and SSgt Castle from Wisconsin Dells: the senior. As I recollect, Sgt Dickerson had the duty. You may recall that the ritual of receiving mail was steeped in recruit training lore, and was similar in many respects to receiving your rifle back from an inspecting officer. Woe betide the recruit whose hands were too slow to clap onto the mail before it hit the deck. At this juncture, we all had nicknames; I was lucky enough to have been recently upgraded from "Pvt. A**hole" to "Pvt. Perfessor".
Sgt. Vernon Dickerson was a no-nonsense infantry Marine; he was never known to mix jocularity with discipline. However, after I had already received a couple of letters from my mother, a student loan bill from my bank, and a Dear John from my girl back home in the same stack, I was summarily recalled front and center at the duty desk:
Dickerson: "Pvt. Perfessor, front and center."
All: "Pvt. Perfessor front and center, aye aye, sir.!"
Me: (after double-timing it up to the duty desk) "Sir, Pvt. Perfessor reporting to the Drill Instructor as ordered, sir!"
Dickerson: "You got one more letter here, Brown, catch!"
After deftly snagging the letter out of mid air, I did a quick face-to-the-left-in-marching-at-a-double-time but Sgt. Dickerson stopped me.
Dickerson: "Where you goin' Brown you're not dismissed. Who's that letter from?"
"DuPage County Draft Board, Wheaton, Illinois, sir!" I sang out after reading the return address.
Dickerson: "Read it!"
I quickly opened the letter and started reading silently.
Dickerson: "Out loud, Dummy!"
Me: in a totally dispassionate and deadpan manner just like I'd heard our Company Commander, Capt Walrath, reading all after "Attention to orders" : (words to this effect) "Dear Sir: a board composed of your friends and neighbors has selected you for service in the Armed Forces of the United States of America. Pursuant to receipt of this correspondence, you are hereby ordered to report to the Armed Forces Examining and Entrance Station, Chicago Illinois no later than...etc."
The Platoon: first snickers, and as I continued, laughs, finally guffaws, and at length, it sounded like a near riot was in progress from all the laughter; recruits were on the verge of rolling around on the deck in sheer sadistic glee.
Series Commander 1st Lt McElraft appeared at the front hatch.
McElraft: What the H***'s going on in here?"
Me: (parade ground perfect) "Sir, the private's been drafted."
McElraft did a quick about face with both hands over his mouth and retreated down the hall; returning after he'd composed himself and the roar from the squadbay subsided a bit.
McElraft: "Gimme the letter, Brown, the Army can't have you, you're my TURD (trainee undergoing rigid discipline)."
Needless to say, this did little to allay the hilarity.
A few years later, I was sitting at my desk at Inland Steel when my wife called me with worry in her voice. She told me I had an omino