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Sgt Grit Newsletter VS AmericanCourage Newsletter:
You receive both (alternating weeks)...so what's the difference?
In short...The AmericanCourage Newsletter has MORE family member stories, "support the Corps" stories from Marines, and patriotic quotes. It started after the events of Sept. 11, 2001 to give supporters of the Marine Corps and American patriots a voice.
The Sgt Grit Newsletter is HARD CORPS Marine! If you are interested in topics that delve into Marine Corps history, Corps Stories, Boot Camp and other things that "only a Marine might understand" - then be sure to read the Sgt Grit Newsletter (every other week) - More about the newsletter
Some Christmas photos on Hill 300 overlooking the coal mine in 1967. Whiskey 3/11, pictures taken by J.Kisly
Maybe someone can id the others.
Can We Use My "Knife" To Cut The Cake?
By: Mike Mooney, Cpl. of The Marine Corps, 1959 - 65 - 2571
Judge Advocate, Det. 1163, Marine Corps League, Hickory, N.C.
As we Marines prepare to celebrate the birth of our Corps each year we are sometimes amazed at the wide range of stories that begin to emerge. Here in Hickory, North Carolina our detachment has a genuine icon living in our midst and listed in our roster. John Link, a verified member of the "Class of '34" who reached the Warrant Officer rank of Gunner during his service, brought one of the stories of the Battle of Iwo Jima to life at the detachment's Marine Corps Ball.
The committee was just about finished with putting all of the "ducks in a row" including lining up the NCO sword which would be used to cut the birthday cake. That's when the Gunner threw a curve ball. As he would be celebrated as the oldest Marine present he asked if he could bring his own "knife" to cut the cake. Commandant Greg Bridges couldn't turn down the request and agreed. John Link, who enlisted in 1934, was "only" 94 years old and it would be difficult to say "no."
For many years this spry and slender Marine had managed the daily operation of his boiler installation and repair company, a chore that he has since handed over to his daughter and son-in- law. He still drops in to the shop each day for a cup of coffee and some friendly chat with the employees. But I digress.
When John arrived the evening of the Ball he carried his "knife" in its sheath with him. We were surprised when he handed it over to the committee. This was a genuine Japanese Samurai sword that he had captured during the battle of Iwo Jima between 19 February through 26 March, 1945. History tells us that the United States sent more Marines to Iwo than to any other battle; 110,000 Marines in 880 ships that sailed from Hawaii to Iwo in 40 days.
He handed this "knife" to us adding a warning to treat it carefully as it was still as sharp as a razor, a statement which we had no reason to doubt. Later on that evening during the ceremonies when the Gunner prepared to cut the cake he gave a short comment of his experiences during the Battle of Iwo and when he ended his poignant delivery he said, "...under an old adage, To The Victor Go The Spoils." Gunner, you have earned the spoils.
At this Birthday Ball we had the opportunity to hear Lt. Col. (ret.) Joseph Shusko, Director of the Quantico-based Marine Corps Martial Arts Center of Excellence (MCMACE) as our guest speaker and at the cake cutting ceremony Lt. Col. Shusko joined in with our oldest Marine present, Gunner John Link, a 94 year- old member of the Class of '34, and the youngest Marine present, Cpl. Jon Watts.
After the first three cuts were made, the chore of cutting the cake was handed over to an NCO sword for the remainder of the session. John Link, who jokingly said that at his age he doesn't make any long-term commitments, enjoyed the rest of the evening chatting with the Marines, their families and guests. Lt. Col.Shusko was especially intrigued at the clarity of the stories of that most important battle of WWII as he listened to the Gunner.
This celebration of the founding of the United States Marine Corps, memorializing those who have gone before us and those Marines who wear the uniform around the world today is one that will not soon be erased from our memories.
As Gunner John Link prepares to cut the cake with his Samurai sword, he recounts stories of the Battle of Iwo Jima. L-R: (including those with back to camera) Lt. Col. (ret) Joseph Shusko, Troy Spencer, Cpl. Jon Watts, Jim Holman, Gunner John Link and Det. Cmdt. Greg Bridges.
Birthday Ball Photo Contest: Results
Results are in: See the winners.
New Corps Warrior with Ka-Bar
The young Marine I wrote you about several weeks ago, for whom I bought the ka-bar, is now home with his family for the holidays. I gave him the ka-bar at Christmas and he was very pleased with it. I have included a photo of the two of us, Old Corps and New Corps for your viewing pleasure. Hope you like it. L/Cpl Tyler Liggett is a dedicated warrior and will go far should he decide to stay in the Corps. He is intelligent, strong and ready to serve his country.
S/Sgt. I. J. Oshana (Ret)
1952 - 1962, 2Bn, 1st Marines
Climbed In And Taxied Out
As an aircraft hydraulics mechanic with VMGR - 252 stateside, I remember that if a few drops of hydraulic oil hit the deck after an eight hour flight, we would have to change the "defective" actuator. Not so with VMFA - 542 in Chu Lai. Replacement parts were slow to arrive. On one occasion I remember am F-4 ready for a mission except for a steady dribble of hydraulic oil from one of the pumps. The pilot looked at it, turned to me and said "there's enough oil in the tank to make the mission" and climbed in and taxied out.
Semper Fi Do or Die Jim Moses 1966 - 1969
Spot On The Horizon
Fifteen years after WW II, 1958-'59, I was stationed at Camp Koza, Okinawa with the 7th Engineers. Our job was to build a network of roads to establish a northern training area. To move our bull dozers north we loaded six of them on a landing craft to make a landing at Ada, about 40 miles north on the east side of the island. Unfortunately our destination became confused and we wound up on the west side of the island and passed by the island of Le-Shima where the Ernie Pyle memorial is located. We made a landing near the present site of the Okuma resort which was then an R&R area for officers. By the time we found out we were in the wrong place our landing craft was only a spot on the horizon.
By night fall they returned to find that the tide had gone out and the wind had increased. They damaged the rudder and a prop. The rain came and in the morning, in a gale force wind, we finally were loaded and attempted to go around the northern tip of the island. We were like a cork as we rode over giant waves with the flat bottom craft. They called in a Navy escort as they feared we may swamp with the waves crashing over the front of the boat. We finally made it around the island and arrived at Ada but they feared the boat was too damaged to make the landing so we continued south to our original destination. We had circled the island and we never heard who goofed, Marines or Navy. Repairs took about a week and we left again going north and about six hours later we were at our destination. I have several slides of our work on a website that can be viewed,
Gene Wing, USMC
I, too, remember the S.O.S. as ground beef, and I also like it. My wife has fixed it over the years for our family, but it was made according to a recipe for Hamburger Hash .
On the matter of Horse C--K, our mess hall served it on Sunday evening. That's the night when you could find a seat almost anywhere in the place.
One Sunday evening, the place had visitors. Seems there was an English ship in port (Norfolk Naval Base) and some of the Royal Marines from the ship were invited to our barracks as guests. They were in the mess hall that evening just 'enjoying' the meal of Horse C--K, hot coffee, etc. One of them remarked to those at the table how delicious the food was. They never had it so good where they were 'back home'. 'WE' never did learn what they were fed so that we could appreciate our Horse C--K!
Horse C--K is Horse C--K, no matter how it's prepared, right?
Not so, according to some.
Chris Savas, S Sgt.
What??? Illumination rounds???
Hey Sgt. Grit, Awesome newsletter you put out, the stories always remind me how great it is to be a U.S. Marine. You requested stories from cannon cockers and being an 0811 (gun- rock) for 4 years I have a couple but the first one that came to mind took place in Iraq about 2 weeks into the invasion back in '03.
I left NC in Aug '02 for a 6 month Med. float which got extended and we entered Iraq when we were supposed to be already home, I have to tell you we were PUMPED! to finally get some, so we off loaded the howitzers and rolled north. It seemed like every day we got the "Marines, today you cross the line of departure" speech and "Marines, every convoy that has gone through this city has been ambushed" and so on. But nothing happened to us, I dunno why but for some reason we got halfway to Baghdad without firing a shot. We all just wanted to shoot something. Then one night about midnight I heard gunfire, it was coming from a long way off, from a city about 5 miles away that we were set up outside of. Then It happened I heard the familiar long beep followed by "Fire Mission" come from the hooks. What I heard next would be the source of jokes upon my return to Camp Lejeune. "2 rounds, ILLUM" What??? Illumination rounds??? Apparently our only "shots fired" would just be lighting up the sky to shut up some Iraqi hooligans making too much noise. I was not happy but I have to say, as I watched the first round pop and float down it was pretty amazing to witness and it made all the bugs, the no sleep and no food all worth it. I can still close my eyes and drift away to that time in my past and remember it in every detail.
A few days later we parked our howitzers and had the honor of serving as riflemen, kicking down doors and other cool things Marines do but returning home the word got out that the only artillery we shot was ILLUM rounds. The other units called us "night-lite" ha, I know it's pretty funny, but I just smile and think "your d*mn right".
Semper Fi Marines
"No Black Shoe Navy"
While on maneuvers in Cubi Point, PI. in 1956 we shared the base with the Sea Bees (MCB-3). I was with VMA-121 out of Iwakuni, Japan. We soon noticed that the Sea Bees had a very strong dislike for certain people, such as; "black shoe" sailors, civilians, and military dependents. We, as Marines, were "tolerated".
The town outside the base was Olongapo. There were always scuffles between the Marines and the Sea Bees in the bars. Every once in a while the Sea Bees would suck up to us and buy us drinks. We soon learned that this was a sign that a Navy ship was due to call and these guys were looking for help in the future fights that were sure to take place. I often wonder if the sailors knew what was in store for them once they hit the town. During one of the ship's visits, the Sea Bees took a rubber boat out to the ship and painted "Can Do" on its side. The next morning there was H---- to pay. Once the ship left port then it was "business as usual" as far as the relationship between Marines and MCB-3.
The Sea Bees built a dirt road, back in the jungle, about 3 miles from the base. They built a dam on this stream and created a fantastic swimming hole that looked like something out of a Tarzan movie. For those old timers who can remember the Burma Shave signs along the highways........ this dirt road was lined with the same type of signs. They said, "No Sailors", "No Black Shoe Navy", "No Civilians", "No Sand Crabs", "Marines OK".
The base ran "cattle cars" to and from town for liberty. A bunch of us were heading back to the base, one night, and there was standing room only in the cattle car. I pulled out a cigarette but had no matches so I tapped this guy on the shoulder and asked, "Hey sailor, got a light ?" I never even saw it coming but when I woke up, my buddy told me that the Sea Bee said, "Don't ever call me a sailor again". That was the only time in my life that someone put my lights out and I will never forget.
Sgt of Marines
Asked What Did The Corps Offer
In 1956, just out of High School, myself and two buddies were spear fishing for Striped Bass at the Jersey Shore in Long Branch.
When we got ready to leave someone mentioned visiting the Armed Forces Recruiters, so we did.
We went to the Army, Air Force and Navy recruiting stations asking what they offered.
Finally we walked into the Corps Recruiting Station and asked what did the Corps offer.
The Recruiter was a Gunnery Sergeant with a waxed handlebar mustache and his reply was ,instantly,
"What the h&ll makes you all so sure that you could be a Marine".
Reaction, get out of the way, where do we sign.
Best and the most rewarding decision I ever made.
In Parris Island, in reception, first reaction was , "What the h&ll am I doing here".
Then I started to earn the title of U.S. Marine (as we all did) and benefited from it throughout my lifetime!
All My Whining
July, 1969, An Hoa Combat Base, I CORP, 3rd 8 inch How. Btry (SP) Capt. Hudiberg was our CO......I'm a FNG 0811 learning the A gunner job on gun 1. During a fire mission one night, after loading a round and powder charge, I had closed and locked the breechblock, was leaning down and inserting a primer when we had a rocket hit just outside the gun pit (charles was returning fire). Not sure if the concussion from the explosion or him just ducking down, but the gunner accidently depressed the hydraulic lever that operated the ramming chain at the precise moment that my hand was down in front of the breech block. Result: squashed hand...several broken bones and a puncture wound.(no purple heart, heh). Medivaced to 1st MED in DaNang and got it wrapped and set, to return a week later with a NO DUTY CHIT. In typical Marine Corps fashion, the powers that be decided that I was of no use to the gun platoon, so I was transferred back to the Northern Artillery Cantonment (HQ Btry) to be the S-3 Admin. as a typist.....go figger. Hunt and Peck for 3 months before the wrapping and cast removed from left hand. All my whining to no avail....never did get sent back to the guns. Ended up on the Battery REACT squad.
I'm currently a contractor in Afghanistan (starting my 5th year) at F.O.B. Organ-E. These young hard chargers are still getting it done. Cmdnt Conway and the Sgt Major came to our camp last year(when I was at Kandahar) and I got my picture taken with them and got a coin from each. I can now die happy! OOORAH!
Photo L to R.... Me, Sgt. Major, 1st Sgt Leon Wright (retired), the Commandant, M/GySgt Fred Coburn (retired)
Deck, A.C., 2504732 USMC NCOAD (not currently on active duty)
Never Did Get The Smell Out
The readers are correct it was the final test for recruits at PI before graduation. I was A DI at PI from April 73- July 76. You had the gas chamber and other stations testing your knowledge. It was a two day event- I am not sure when it was changed to the Crucible- but know my nephew went thru that experience in the early 90's. For those recruits with problems during boot camp there was the Special Training Branch (STB). It had the Motivation (MRP), Correctional Custody (CCP), Medical Rehab (MRP), Physical Conditioning (PCP), and Academic (APP) Platoons in it.
I worked PCP from June 74-July 76 as a DI. We also assisted the MRP DI's when they took "problem" recruits on what was known as 1 day Mot- a ten mile force march- then PT- then a crawl thru the Motivation Ditch- 460 yards of mud, barb wire, swamp water, and smoke grenades. If a recruit refused we were the only DI's at the time authorized by SOP to lay hands on a recruit. Motivation Platoon was discontinued in late 75 or early 76 after a recruit in San Diego died in their MRP. The ditch was there one day and bulldozed in the next. The recruits that went thru the Mot Ditch never did get the smell out of their utilities- us DI's had one old set we would change into before getting in the ditch. Those were the fun days. I worked regular platoons in 2nd Bn before transferring to STB. Worked Plts 216, 217, & 2006.
D Jones 1stSgt Ret
Here We Go Again
Hello SGT Grit. Here we go again. The true "Walking Dead" Marines were the 3/9 3rd MARDIV in DaNang year of 65/66. The 1/9 stole this name when they had to augment the decimation of 3/9 after "Harvest Moon" I am one of the remaining true members of this elite group of Marines. I SURE WISH this would be SET STRAIGHT one day.
2nd Platoon, Mike Co., 3/9 3rd MARDIV...65/66
Kenneth K. Raglind
From Our New Facebook Page
Today's question was "Anyone care to share the amazing/hilarious/scary things your DIs said during boot camp?"
From the recruits:
-You will be doing pushups till I get tired
-We had two in our platoon, "Archikavitz" and "Wilenciwitz" (I don't know if the spelling is correct) but our DI's called them private's "Alphabet A to Z" and "Alphabet W to Z!"
-We had a guy in the platoon with the last name of "Pyle." The DI's didn't call him "Gomer" however, because they said that "Gomer" had already graduated from Recruit Training. Our "Pyle" was known as "Guber" because everyone knew he hadn't been trough boot camp yet! They put that poor guy through h&ll!
-We had a recruit in dire need of some dental work... he was Recruit Alien. Another recruit was one of the shortest in the platoon, but had the deepest voice. He was Recruit Lurch. Recruits Alien and Lurch were half of the 'Quartet'. Our DIs would call the Quartet up to the quarterdeck and have them sing while they were pushing... then push us for laughing...
-I was once told of a DI who was getting aggravated because the recruits were messing up drill. The day was overcast, so the DI had everyone group up and touch their barrels to the guidon tip. He then proceeded to ask GOD to strike the bunch of them down right now. Well, as luck would have it, lightning did strike a berm about 200 yards away! The DI then turned in that direction and shouted "No you SOB, over here!" The recruits very quickly ran straight back to the squad bay!
-One of Drill Instructors 2 floors above me had the worst luck when I was there...It was his first platoon and it did not start out well...First off, he looked like Droopy the Dog...then he was walking really fast down the squad bay & slipped and went flying straight up in the air...Then he kicked a footlocker to scare a recruit & his foot went through the footlocker's wall & he got his foot stuck...Not the best way to start your DI career...
-YOUR NOSE HAIRS! The Drill Instructor said, TRIM THEM, I can RAPEL OFF those things!
-After PT our DI's made us switch PT gear with the recruit across from us and made us wear it the rest of the day
-We had one recruit who was always the last one to get his Alice pack completely packed and ready to go. One time, one of my DI's was so furious that he made the recruit crawl into his Alice pack. I sh!t you not the kid got all the way in there he was so scared.
-we had a DI during third phase catch a recruit touching his face while we were cleaning our rifles and he made him dump his war bag and crawl inside. Ha-ha then after he wasn't satisfied cuz his head was still pokin out so he yelled "HEFFINGTON! GET IN UR Cargo Pocket RIGHT NOW!"
-One time on Parris Island we were marching back from the rifle range when our SSgt. Johnson gave the order to post road guards. One of the road guards ran to the completely opposite side of the road, SSgt. Johnson shouted at him, "Oh, real stinkin' good there bright one, what are ya waitin' for British traffic?!" Quite a few of us spent some time on the quarterdeck for trying to hold back bustin' our gut in formation.
-From a DI: My sister can climb the rope faster than that....... and she's dead!
-Are you doing pull ups or are you practicing to be a stinking Christmas ornament?
-We are doing PUSH UPS boy.... not making love to the deck!
-Is that your stinking leg or an Irish pennant?
-Tell your recruiter to come to your graduation boy so I can beat him too!
-Why are you trying to camouflage your skivvies son? There's a$s paper in the head!
-My wife doesn't stare at me that good boy!
-I always waited for the first sh!t bird to ask for an *Emergency* head call. Oh... it's an emergency? Sir yes sir! Go get your stinking moonbeam. Put that red lens in now. Push that button up one notch. Push that button in and out. FASTER. Now hold it up to your forehead son. Now run around the squad bay making siren noises. Louder... faster....... LOUDER........ FASTER!
That would ALWAYS be the last emergency head call the nasties would ask for.
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Mingling of the Minds And Hearts
Let me begin with a, "Semper Fi" instead of ending with it.
Jeeeez, people! Every Thursday I get this newsletter and I enter another dimension.
When I was 'in' I wanted 'out'. After I got 'out' I missed being 'in'. To this day, Being a Marine still affects me and I'm now 60.
I read these stories, memories, feelings, associations, and mingling of the minds and hearts of my brother and sister Marines and every single person in whatever manner that comes into contact them in any way, shape or form, and GOD! am I affected!
I laugh, and I most definitely cry...sometimes for a long time.
All of your postings here are a blessing to me, and I love each and every one of you for it.
It takes one to know one.
Thanks, and Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and all that good stuff.
Michael J Nichols
This is my bar. There are many like it but this one is mine! This is Jarheads bar. Dedicated and decorated in USMC. Thank you for contributing to my delinquency Sgt. Grit. Located in my basement in Illinois, it is for family, friends and brothers.
See more photos...
Cpl. C.A. Raices
Your Wife Is Warm
This is the 20th of December 2009 and not looking back but 59 years ago this now 76 year old Marine was 18 and in the company of many Marines illegally recalled up over night by then President Truman. And though they the recallees had been out of the Corps since 45 and or so and working not as Marines and as the war with Japan had been one of hot and sweltery and on island rocks. But this date in Korea with the poorest of equipment no foot wear, no cold weather outer wear, and long johns that had been on for weeks, frozen hands and frost bitten feet, k-rations and c rations. If one were lucky a canteen cup of coffee made from drum from a make shift galley of sorts, and Mr Harry Truman, the leader of the free world, who hated our beloved Corps. But there were no groaning, for there were to our delight ample of targets to fire at if the m1 would fire and the ice could be melted on the light machine guns.
Us of the north such as I from WVa could be heard "wow what a pile of snow", but those rebels of Miss, Louisana and such were heard to be calling out "what the h&ll is this white stuff". The bodies of the dead stacked like cord wood had no worries and the Gks, be they North Koreans or Chinese, did not mind it at all for they were protecting their home land from such as we. The song "audi dong'' could be heard from far and wide, for they had loud speakers to broadcast such. And also such niceties as to say your wife and or your sweet heart is all warm and nice tonight with your best friend.
Yes many of us survived and some such as I stated for twenty or even more to get even. And now when to the VA we do go for our frozen hands and feet problems, and are told by a middle eastern doctor who's country our brothers are now fighting to preserve say to us why you b!tch about your frozen hands and feet Marine doggie or such, for you were not drafted into the Korean conflict you enlisted to go and fight. So b!tch no more, take two aspirins and come back no more. Yes the politicians provide money for flower beds and such at our VA hospitals, but the care we need takes two to five years for some bureaucrat somewhere in between his coffee and cigarettes to stamp need more evidence.
Here in my area there are still 10 of us Frozen Chosin and would we do it all over bet your sweet azs, for we did as our brothers of the big wars do. Did it to our best and now that we are more than lame and bed ridden and the nurse says take your pill honey and you will not mind your missing feet and hands. We say to each and every man woman in the middle east: Be well, aim well, and return in tact as much as possible.
With a most sincere Semper Fi
Nile White, Oral Herrod, Jack Lawson, Angelo Anakaskasis, Russel Romano, George Heitz, Hillis Howel and the rest of the WVa Chosin Few
God Bless Mele Kalikimaki and Semper Fi
Korean War - F-86 - Cool Paint Job!
the message from Sgt. L.G. Perkins of corpsman being Marines heroes really touched me. I am one of those corpsman, and look to the Marine Corps as heroes, because even though we were not in any conflict in 56 to 58 I was treated as a brother Marine and still feel as though I am still one. Am very proud to have served with the Marines. I may be Navy but a big part of me is Marine OOO-RAH
GFry HM3 1954-1958
Do you know what 1969 Woodstock and 1969 Vietnam had in common, attendance. There were as many people who attended the 3 day rock festival as in all of Vietnam. I served in both, I left for Parris Island December 1969
USMC 69-71 100% DV
Every week at church during "meet and greet time" I have to say this when I meet new people.
Say that again!
I didn't hear you.
This is my good ear.
A little louder please!
I'm sorry but there is so much noise around here with everyone talking.
Vince E. Fischelli, Sr.
U.S. Marines '56-'63
When I was going thru DI School at PI in 1952, we were told that when Marines STOP complaining, that's when we should start really worrying about them!
Robert E (Bob) Gordon
Thanks so much for forwarding the e-mail from my old Recon buddy Sgt. Ed Foley. Very much appreciated, and looking forward to hearing all about his life since he left the Corps. Thanks again for getting us connected. Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas & Happy New Year.
I continue to read and love the newsletter and everything it represents.
Thank You so much for all you do.
I remember Christmas in 1950 after we got out of the Chosin Reservoir. It was both a happy one that we got out, but also a sad one remembering all those we lost.
A. J. Knappmeyer
MSgt. USMC Ret.
During the Korean War, I attended Electronic School at Treasure Island, joined the West Coast USMC Drill Team. Are They still going? Does anyone have any contacts?
I want to thank you and pray for you this Xmas season.
Cpl. Neil R. Nugent a Canadian that proudly served in USMC.
Semper-Fi Gals & guys.
I find it funny to see all these young Marines referring to themselves as the "Old Corps". If you have a SS# and not a Serial Number, you're NOT the old Corps.
Darrell McCulley Corporal, 1961-1965 Serial Number 1957073.
I'm sure there are a lot of lower numbers than mine. Let's hear them Old Corps.
Re the article on BAR's by G.D. Olson. I was in A Co. 1st Bn. 3rdMar. (5th Mar.Regt.) 1st Mar.Div.FMF at Camp Margarita, CamPen in 59 & 60 and coached BAR's, wasn't any talk of doing away with them at that time.
Dennis R. Smith 1694385
Bill must have been aboard ship. The cream chipped beef recipe was called fore skins on a raft. Chipped beef was dried and much easier to store that ground beef, that had to be refrigerated. Another Swabbie item was bulkhead patches, pancakes.
G. Vaughn 1441537
My Alive Day
by Jim Hackett
OK, those who have been there know that the craziest crap happens at the worst possible time. Sometimes it's your fault and sometimes somebody else does something so stupid it defies the imagination. No matter whose fault it is, you are left holding the crappy end of the stick.
Hopefully, no one except the enemy gets killed because of it.
January 6, 2010 will be the 40th Anniversary of my Alive Day. The Alive Day concept came to my attention while reading about some wounded Marine Warriors at Bethesda Naval Hospital. They came up with the idea to celebrate the day they were WIA and survived, calling it their "Alive Day". Beats "Dead Day" all to h&ll.
Forty years ago I was coming up on my 14th month in country with 11th Marines. I was NCOIC of a ten man Counter Mortar Radar (CMR) team at LZ Ross, a rundown former US Army artillery support base located in the Que Son Valley about thirty five miles southwest of DaNang, Vietnam.
Our Korean war vintage MPQ-10 radar system was situated about a hundred yards in from the perimeter and we scanned the skies nightly for incoming mortar rounds. This cranky piece of vacuum- tubed garbage looked impressive enough wagging back and forth, but to my mind it was a big sh!t magnet - hard to maintain, difficult to run and a h&ll of a target for the NVA. Oh, well. In the Marine Corps you work with what you got, right?
My CMR unit was attached to 1st Battalion, 7th Marines and as a Team Chief I got to sit in on daily briefings at the Battalion Combat Operations Center (COC). In December of 1969, we were briefed 1st Mar Div Intelligence had tracked elements of the 409th Local Force VC Battalion from their usual area of operation in Quang Tin Province and were now believed headed in our direction.
I got back to my team and told them we needed to better prepare in case we got hit. During heavy monsoon rains and cold windy weather at the end of the month we reinforced our position and dug deeper fighting holes next to the radar. Everybody was b!tching about the work and nobody was happy about filling sandbags in the rain, but tough t!tty. I was the Sergeant and that's the way it was going to be. Little did I know it at the time, but the extra effort and all that rain wound up saving our azzes big time.
I had a buddy over in 7th Marines from boot camp who scammed a couple of extra cases of M26 grenades and ammo for us. At the time, M16 ammo came in bandoliers with each pouch containing 20 rounds packaged in a paper box with stripper clips for easier magazine loading. The grenades came in a wooden ammo crate inside round cardboard and tin containers. To get the grenade out, you had to remove the tightly packed container by twisting the top off. This took time and I didn't want to waste any if I needed a grenade in a hurry.
While up north on the DMZ earlier in my first tour, I'd seen a neat trick to insure frags were readily available in case the doo doo hit the revolving mechanism. After taking the pre- packaged ammo out of the cloth bandolier, you could slip several M26 fragmentation grenades into the empty bandolier pouches. When needed, grab the bandolier and off to war you go. I told one of my Lance Corporals to load up four bandoliers with frags and place one at each end of the two tents we were using.
Here's where the story gets interesting. This particular Lance Corporal, who will remain nameless to protect the guilty, told me he thought it was crazy to put live grenades into bandoliers. "What if a grenade falls out and hits the ground", he whined. "The pin could jar out and explode. It would be safer to keep them in the cardboard containers."
The answer was, "No, do what I tell you, Marine". This guy was probably my biggest complainer and he had an irritating way of flinching every time the arty battery next to us fired. Not the sharpest knife in the drawer, either.
What happened next is chronicled in the US Marine Corps History and Museums publication U.S. Marines in Vietnam - Vietnamization and Redeployment, 1970-1971 by Graham A. Cosmas and Lieutenant Colonel Terrence R Murray, USMC.
"On 6 January 1970, sappers of the 409th Local Force VC Battalion, supported by a mortar detachment from an unidentified VC or NVA unit, came out of the southern hills to attack LZ Ross.
During heavy monsoon rains which masked their approach, between 20 and 30 NVA and VC regulars in five-man teams crept up to the outer perimeter wire and quietly cut their way through at several points. Dressed in black or green shorts and bandannas, barefooted, and laden with grenades and satchel charges, they entered the perimeter without alerting the defenders. At 0130, the first rounds of a supporting mortar barrage exploded on the base and sappers outside the perimeter opened fire with RPGs and small arms. The infiltrators went into action, hurling explosives into bunkers, Southeast Asia huts, offices, and vehicles. They concentrated on the counter mortar radar, the battalion combat operations center, and the artillery positions."
I was rudely awakened at 0130 by a stupendous blast which collapsed the small CP tent I lived in with Sgt. Jim Bailey, a good friend and a great radar technician. A bookshelf between our two cots built out of artillery ammo crates by Bailey shielded me from most of the explosion. Bailey, unfortunately, took the brunt of it. Later, I found out the NVA had thrown satchel charges into both our tents and was the opening salvo of their attack on LZ Ross.
Crawling out from under the collapsed tent canvas into a drizzling rain, I could not believe my eyes. Our generator was on fire, my beautiful wing tank shower was blown up, and mortar rounds were impacting the immediate area.
I rolled into one of our two sandbagged fighting holes and landed on top of two of my enlisted team members. Both had been on radar watch, but abandoned the scope and jumped into the bunker on hearing the first explosions. I had dragged my rifle and .45 with me, but saw no one else had any weapons. Six Marines occupied our other bunker and had no weapons either. I was not happy.
I yelled at the other bunker to get back to their blown up tent and retrieve rifles, ammo and grenades. I low crawled back to mine and grabbed two bandoliers of grenades and a weapon, then made it back to the bunker with Sgt. Bailey who was seriously wounded and missing part of his right hand. I gave Bailey's rifle to another Marine and hastily bandaged his hand which was bleeding profusely. As I wrapped the bandage, Bailey asked me for a favor. "Please, he said, point that .45 somewhere else". I realized while I was wrapping the bandage with one hand, I had my pistol in my other hand cocked and off safety aimed right at his head. I still have nightmares about that!
By now, the enemy had passed through our radar site and was in the process of attacking the battalion CP and a section of Seabees further inside the base. Friendly fire was impacting our position. Somebody started firing a recoilless rifle at enemy to our rear adding to the confusion. I about crapped my pants when a rocket-propelled recoilless round passed by me at shoulder level.
About this time I heard a strange hissing sound and saw a small flash of light in front of our bunker. I peeped over the sandbags and saw three NVA walking around like they owned the place. They were half naked and had large canvas bags slung over their bare chests. In the bags were explosive charges, which they were tossing at the radar and our bunkers.
I brought my rifle up and put a full magazine downrange (every time I see that Sgt. Grit T shirt saying, "When in Doubt, Empty the Magazine", I have to laugh).
All three dropped to the ground as soon as I started firing. I'm pretty sure I missed all of them because they continued to hurl more stuff at us from a ditch about fifteen yards to our front. Oddly, none of the stuff they were throwing exploded. One or two of them hissed and fizzled, but no bang, thank God.
I snatched up one of the grenade bandoliers with the idea to return the favor. I yanked the first one out of the pouch and went through the mental drill all of us were taught. Pull pin, throw grenade. Yell "Grenade". Count to five. Wait for it to go off. And wait, and wait. What the F? Must be a dud. Grab another grenade, Chuck it. No explosion. Double what the F? Throw another one. Then another. Nothing!
The nameless Lance Corporal whom I had instructed to prep the grenade bandoliers was in the bunker with me. He said something like, "Sergeant, I know what the problem is. Take the tape off the grenade before you throw it." I looked down at the grenade in my hand just pulled out of the bandolier. There was a band of electrical tape wound around the body of the grenade and the spoon. TRIPLE WHAT THE F!
The Lance Corporal said, "I was afraid they would go off in the bandoliers, so I taped all of them up for safety".
I had just thrown four grenades at the enemy with spoons taped up. It's raining and it's wet. The grenades are wet. The tape will loosen and the grenades will eventually go off. But they ain't gonna go off any fricking time soon! I wanted to strangle this guy.
The other Marines frantically un-wrapped the remaining grenades and handed them to me. I threw three more and this time they went off. We had no more activity to our front after that. The rest of the night into the next day went by in a blur, but I do remember praying for dawn.
I also remember sitting in that bunker, seething mad at myself for everything that went wrong. We had gotten our azses kicked in a very bad way and I was responsible for the actions of my team. They were trained as radar operators and had very little in the way of infantry training prior to going to Viet-Nam. All they had was an abbreviated two week ITR and a one week orientation at Pendleton before deployment. Also, this incident happened at a very bad time for the Marine Corps. The war had lost all support at home (sound familiar?) and we had discipline problems, drugs, racial issues and fraggings going on. I had considered making the Marine Corps my career, but it was after my less than stellar performance as leader of this motley crew, I decided not to re-up.
Back to the more humorous aspect of this story. In the morning, I looked around and there was a lot of strange looking stuff strewn about our area. Interspersed with my taped up grenades were several unexploded ChiComs and what looked to be hastily improvised explosive devices. Some were made of discarded soda and beer cans. There were also a couple of long pipes, later identified as un-exploded Bangalore torpedoes, shoved under our tents and equipment
Fearing the taped up M26's with the pins pulled lying on wet ground might go off, I got on the horn and requested EOD respond. When they got there, the Gunny in charge asked me if I knew anything about the taped up grenades. I can't remember what I told him, but I know I had a red face while doing it.
I think his comments to me after his people cleaned up the explosive devices kind of summed up the whole episode. He told me we were d*mn lucky to be alive. The enemy had attacked under the cover of heavy rain and much of their explosives were rendered useless by moisture. Our Counter Mortar Radar was the primary target and bore the brunt of the initial assault. The enemy timing was screwed up as well. The sappers hit us at the same time their mortar barrage landed. Several were killed by their own fire.
Bottom line, if it weren't for the rain, a disorganized enemy and forcing my guys to build bunkers and fill sandbags, my writing career would have been over long ago.
Sadly, thirteen Marines lost their lives that night and we had over thirty wounded. Enemy casualties were estimated at forty KIA. Sgt. Bailey was med-evac'd at first light and that was the last I ever saw of him. I've tried over the years to look him up on various websites and buddy locators, but no luck. Jim, if you are reading this, get in touch, will ya?
I'm attaching a picture of some of the unexploded ordinance EOD gathered together to blow in place. One of those taped up M26 Fragmentation Grenades is visible in the center of the picture.
Also pictured - our sandbagged Radar (before getting nuked) and our personnel tent at LZ Ross, blown to h&ll by mortars and satchel charges on my Alive Day, January 6, 1970.
Moral of the story, check your weapons and ammo every day. Dig deep holes. Trust no one to do a critical job without supervision. Say your prayers and God Bless the Marine Corps!
Used To Complain
And I used to complain about a 60-pound pack w/radio....
Oh, to be a mortar man again. So much fun: View the Photo
"U.S. Marine Cpl. Brian Knight, of Cincinnati, Ohio, with the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, 1st Battalion 5th Marines, pauses briefly in the heat to rest with his heavy pack filled with mortar equipment, ammunition, food, and water in the Nawa district in Afghanistan's Helmand province on July 4, 2009." (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) from David Guttenfelder Photographer Collection
Pieces Of Radio Transmission
Here it is Christmas again, 2009, and every Christmas old memories get into my mind. Christmas 1967 will always be stuck in my mind. Our unit, CAC Alpha 2, just several miles from Phu Bai and Hue, in I Corp. My killer team had just finished a night ambush and returned to our base camp. At sunrise a supply truck arrived and Marines begin unloading supplies, Ammo, C- rats, and such and on board was a Army LT. assigned to Physops warfare. Why, I have no idea, but since we were soon going to send out a four man killer team on day recon patrol, the Army Lt. asked to go along since he had never been in the bush, never been on a patrol.
A couple Marines due to go on the day recon patrol were sick, very sick, and two men in my Killer team said they would go even though they had been up all night and only a couple hours sleep. Those two men were Phillip Burrell and Gon Trimble. Both outstanding Marines.
The day recon patrol left heading