Sgt Grit Newsletter 14 MAY 2015
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Sgt Grit Newsletter - 14 MAY 2015

In this issue:
• I Got It In Beirut
• Operation Shufly
• Round Dog Tags

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I was the the officer in charge of Hill 250 from January 1969 until September 1970. 1st Recon was sent to the hill to provide security for the IOD and my men and I, in that order. We had thermite (sp?) grenades strapped to the IOD. Our job was to destroy it should we get over run. The IOD (Integrated Observation Device) was my responsibility. I remember the dozer being brought to level some high ground adjacent to our hill.

I also remember that we were sent a recoilless rifle, which was worthless because the back blast would have killed us. I seem to remember that we disarmed it and put it down by the LZ for bait.

Recon was sent out to get this tiger because it was killing villagers. ​You had to listen for them, you wouldn't or couldn't see them coming.

The hill was initially Hill 200, then they resurveyed and renumbered it. Or visa versa, can't remember which.

Semper Fi,
Robert Beksel

Some Stupid SOB

I was attending Advanced Electronics / Calibration school at Lowry AFB in Denver Colorado when I noticed this paragraph lying under the plexiglass in the CO's outer office. We were 25 Marines on a base with 15,000 junior birdmen.

Here I am, drunk, sick, p-ssed off, hungry, stupid, flat brock, missed muster, no pass, no azs, no friends and to many relatives.

I have to get a haircut, I'm homesick, tired and haven't had nay mail in 3 weeks.

I'm considered inefficient, I have poor character rating, my rate is frozen, my pay is fouled up, I have no clothes, my laundry has been rejected, my leave disapproved and the Top kick wants to see me after quarters.

I've got a hard on, VD, I'm about to sh-t my pants, and the head is secure for inspection.

And then some stupid SOB comes along and says "Ship Over For The Advantages."

Well... Kiss My Azs!

Lovingly (LOL)
Sergeant of Marines
John C. Darr
Vietnam 1970-71
Marble Mountain

I Got It In Beirut

I took the liberty of adding a few devices to the ribbons on your Vietnam cap. Before anyone gives me a ration of cr-p about the star on the Combat Action Ribbon, I got it in Beirut. The second photo is in response to your last posting with the young Marines performing the same detail in Iraq. I am on the right of that photo. This would be in Vietnam about May/June '68.

​Steve Hansen
MGySgt USMC Ret.

Get your own Vietnam Cover/Hat at:

Vietnam Ribbon Cover/Hat

Paying Marines Was Serious Business

I read the story of the XO's ordeal with an overage in a company payroll with much interest. I was a disbursing clerk during the years '57-'60. The company payrolls were made up from company rosters on a multi-graph machine. Yes, very old technology. After pay was computed, the dollar amount was typed onto the pay sheets. We would then total the dollar amount then determine how many 20s, 10s, 5s, and 1s were needed. That would balance against the total payroll. The disbursing officer or agent cashier (an NCO) would then count the money and have it ready for the company officer. Each Marine would sign for his pay. If a Marine did not sign for whatever reason, the money was returned, and the amount was deleted from the pay record of the individual Marine. The officer could have underpaid a Marine as anyone who has ever handled money would know. He was lucky that he didn't overpay.

I worked under four disbursing officers and as many assistant DOs. No one ever harassed the company pay officer for any reason when the pay rosters were returned. Paying Marines was serious business. We may have had our ears turned back a few times over differences of amounts or expectations, but we never argued. I don't doubt the Lieutenant's story, but that was not standard operating procedure.

James V. Merl, 3421

What A Hoot

Sgt. Grit,

In your 7MAY15 issue of the newsletter there was a letter from Sgt. Eric Tipton regarding his experience on guard duty in Chu Lai on New Year's Eve 1968 wherein he said that he was listening to AFR counting down the top songs of the year and watched one h-ll of a pyrotechnics show at the stroke of midnight.

On the same night I was doing exactly (and I mean precisely) the same things he was doing except that I was in a bunker on the western perimeter of DaNang (might have been Hill 244). We also had a great show over Happy Valley. I find this coincidence to be absolutely amazing and just had to write and mention it. I too slept very well.

What a hoot!

Thanks Sgt. Tipton, you made my day. Semper Fi my friend.

Cpl. Gerry Zanzalari
1966 - 1970
RVN 1968 - 1969

Wondering About This Guy

It all started when my wife and I went to the Home and Garden show in Kentucky. We walked a long and checked out some new things for the home and garden when we happen upon this gentleman selling nozzles for the garden hose. We didn't really need one but he had on a cover (like the one from Sgt. Grit) that stated that he is a wounded combat vet. By the looks of him, it had to be from Viet Nam. So, we stopped and I shook his hand (I had one of my USMC covers on---you know where I got it) and offered a Semper Fi greeting as I always do. We exchanged what units we served with in Nam and our AO. That's when I started wondering about this guy. The unit he gave made no sense to me. He explained that he was with Recon working in small units "all over Nam". He forgot to state "Force" Recon. He said that he kept extending his time in country for two years (1968-1970). I don't remember anyone being allowed to stay that long and in the bush the whole time. Next, he explained that his unit leader (a Lt.) was killed in action, so he received a Field Commission to 2nd. Lt.. I'll admit that I was uncertain that the Marines did Field Commission during the VN war. A very close friend of mine who was a Mustang, who retired as a Capt. with 23 years in the Marine Corps told me that the Army did field commissions during WWII and Korean War but to his knowledge Marines just depend on the next highest rank to take charge.

If there is anyone who can help me to clear this question---Was he a wanna be or just someone telling a bad story. Maybe, someone told him that he should have been an officer so he became one. Who knows?

Semper Fi my friends,
Robert Bliss
Golf Co. 2nd. Bn. / 5th. Marine Regiment, 1st. Marine Division
(I know who I was with---that's something you just can't forget)

Little Dirty Jobs Officer

Note that some got it right... "disBursing"... and some used the lingua franca, "disPersing"... ah, yes, Pay Call... in the days before checks... or electronic deposit. Usual thing was the Officer whose turn it was to be "LDJO" (Little Dirty Jobs Officer"... all those things that had to be done, but didn't involve looking steely-eyed with a bayonet held in the teeth... pay was one of those... along with voting, United Way, Navy Relief, clubs inventory, yada yada...) Standard statement from those who counted out the cash at the Disbursing Office was along the lines of "all overages belong to the Government, all shortages belong to the Pay Officer"... like the opening to 'Gunsmoke' on the radio... "Makes a man sorta watchful..."... been there, done that, saw a lot of changes in the methodology of distributing recompense over the years... was once the Corporal with the duty belt, holster, and .45 (M1911A1, w/5 rounds, and no real instructions on who could be shot, or when, etc.) and also the man with the rosters and the cash... or, in some locales, the MPC (Military Payment Certificates... AKA "scrip")... got tagged to be a payroll guard for the Lt. series officer who had to pay a series (four recruit platoons), at MCRD, SD, in 1962. I remember the Lt's name, but won't use it. We went to Disbursing, which at the time was on the southwest corner of the grinder, near Depot Hq (bldg 31???). By today's standards, it wasn't a lot of money... the first payday, and the amount of the bucket issue and the PX chit book had already been deducted. The Lt. carefully re-counted the money after the Disbursing Officer counted it out for him... and then he had to sign for it... His arm cramped up... he just couldn't write his name. He was sweating, kept rubbing his arm and hand, finally managed to scratch out (with an ink pen) a signature that satisfied the Disbursing Officer... and by the end of the day, we had paid about 300 recruits. I saw the Lt again, about eight years later, in VN... he was still, or again, a Lt... and I, proving that some of the folks at Hq ain't the sharpest light bulbs in the knife drawer, was, temporarily, at least, at Captain. He didn't remember me...


Eight Gallons Of Prunes

Sgt. Grit,

We sailed from Pearl on June, 1, 1944. Several LST's had accidentally burned at Pearl a few days earlier and we wondered if we had been selected to replace them as we were rushed a bit. Our group consisted of four LST's and two sub-chasers. We stopped for one day at Enewitok and took on supplies then continued toward Guam. About 150 miles from Guam they told us a Jap fleet was coming toward the Marianas from the Philippines. Our group turned around and sped back to Enewitok and lay at anchor for over a month.

When we again headed for Guam a call came over the PA system for anybody who had a driver license to report midships to an officer. I never learned if the lack of licensed drivers was due to families who could not afford to own vehicles during the depression of the 1930's or as rumored, people in most of eastern states had to be at least 21 to get a license. The possibility was that with the transportation being so good in the area that none was needed.

When the day came for us to go ashore I reported to the tank deck and asked the officer which jeep was mine. His reply, "Jeeps are all taken. That truck is yours. Even though I had about ten years driving experience, I had never driven a truck, especially one with buckets for two steam-shovels loaded on it. I had about 150 feet to learn. Two of my Marine buddies wanted to ride with me when they found out I was to drive a vehicle. Before leaving they decided to liberate a couple of boxes from the ship so we would have something beside K-rats to eat. Later we decided to enjoy our ill-gotten food. Sad to say, they had liberated eight gallons of prunes.

I drove the truck ashore but the throttle was stuck and we could not get it loosened so I had to keep slipping the clutch to keep from running over the vehicle ahead of me.

Bob Gaston, StfSgt

Well I'll Be A SOB

Sgt. Grit,

We filed through the armory at MCRD San Diego in September of 1970 and signed our rifle card.

As we ran out the hatch at high port Sgt. Perry blocked my way, grabbed my M-14 and shouted, "What's your rifle serial number PUKE?" "619201 SIR!" I yelled. "Well I'll be a SOB." He mumbled and let me go. What he didn't know was my rifle serial number was my zip code for my hometown with an added one on it. 61920 plus 1... 619201.

Sgt. Drury, David C.

Amputee Outdoors

Left to right, Matt Thrape (Tuff Trucks sponsor) Michael Boucher (co-founder of Amputee Outdoors) and Tony Mullis (co-founder Amputee Outdoors). Dirt track race car was sponsored for AO by vets and supporters. Driver / owner is Cameron Hall.

Check them out at Amputee Outdoors.

Semper Fi
Wayne Fritter

Under Arms

It's been said that there are only two kinds of people who don't uncover indoors - Jews and cowboys.

Personally, I've only been approached once about being covered indoors, and that by a fellow Marine. Looked him in the eye and asked if he'd ever 'pulled the duty'. His quiet response was "under arms?" I nodded slightly, he smiled, and with a mutual 'Semper Fi', he left and I went back to my steak.

Just as a side note, the 1911 I was wearing - the one I never leave home without (we can do that here in AZ) - was the same one, with the same USMC custom emblem ivory grip panels I showed off the last time I stopped in OK City.

Duke - 2282xxx / Nam '68-'69​

Operation Shufly​

Dear Sgt Grit,

Nice T-shirt commemorating to 50th anniversary of the Corps warfare commitment in Vietnam. However, 1965 was when ground troops landed. From 15 April 1962 through 8 March 1965 the Corps was committed to Vietnam in an operation called Shufly. Somehow Operation Shufly has been reduced to a footnote in Marine Corps History even though Marines were killed or wounded and many aircraft were lost.

I joined MABS 16, Sub Unit 2 at DaNang in 1963. HMM 162 was committed to air operations at that time and had just lost their XO as a result of hostile enemy action. I also landed with HqCo, 9th Marines in July 1965.

What I really want to say is that the Marines who participated in Operation Shufly should not be forgotten.

Semper Fi,
Jim Wilson
Charlotte, NC


Aboard the USS PONCE (LPD-15), deployed with H&S Co 2/8 and B-1/10 in 1974, I was assigned Pay Officer for the first time. Oddly enough, all of our pay calls were cash while deployed on the Med float, even when in the field.

The worst part of pay call was announcing NPD (with the Marine at attention in front of you. NPD is No Pay Due.) There were a few.

Semper Fidelis
Once a Lieutenant Colonel, ALWAYS a Marine.

Joe Kerke

I Was Dragged To The Water Cooler

I left Maine 6 days after I graduated from High school on a cool 68 degree, damp and foggy day in June 1962 to go to Parris Island and become a Marine! It took hours of flying and stopping everywhere to unload civilians and gather more Marine recruits. Needless to say, by the time we landed, it was late at night.

When I deplaned around 11pm, it was 81 degrees, hot and humid. Then the bus ride with a crazy, uniformed Marine yelling and screaming as he told us things that I don't remember.

I don't know what time it was when we got to Parris Island and finished doing paperwork (the only thing that I can remember from that night was declaring which religion I wanted to be affiliated with on my ID tags but, they brought us over to Receiving and we slept out on the concrete veranda, when seconds after we laid our heads down the Parris Island Marine Corps Band played "Reveille". We ran to and fro bumping into each other because no one knew what we were supposed to be doing.

Junior DI Sgt. Prince showed up and started to restore order and had us form up and herded us over to get uniforms, buckets, tent pegs, boots 782 gear, etc. where I passed out from the 88 degree heat with 100% humidity. I was dragged over to a water cooler and given 2 salt tablets. Soon after we were marched out carrying all our equipment over to 3rd Battalion, up to the 3rd deck where I picked my rack near the door.

Not having gone to the bathroom since I left Maine (too much excitement?) we were standing at attention while Junior DI Sgt. P.J. Frano, Jr. was introducing us to life at Parris Island, the do's and don'ts, addressing the DI's as Sir, etc. while he was strolling up the starboard side of the squad bay and down the port side, when, in the peace of hearing only one DI speaking, I realized just how much I needed to pee.

I waited for the DI to begin his walk down the port side thinking I could duck out the door and pee off the veranda and get back to my bunk before he began his trip up the starboard side and he wouldn't be any the wiser. So off I went, not hearing the clomp clomp of my boots or the slam of the door as I jumped up on the short wall and was unbuttoning my fly when I was grabbed around my waist by Sgt. Frano.

He asked "Are you planning on jumping off to get out of my Marine Corps?" I said "No Sir, I had to pee and I was having a hard time with the buttons." He told me to get back in front of my rack, then announced to everyone, "This brings me to another subject, Emergency Headcalls. Here is the procedure: Raise your hand. When told to speak, you say "Sir, I request permission to speak to the DI, Sir." When told to speak, you'll say, Sir Private ____ requests permission to go to the head, Sir. Upon the granting of your request you will proceed to the head."

Immediately, my hand reached for the stars. Sgt. Frano said "Speak". I said "Sir, Private Townsend requests permission to speak to the DI, Sir." He says "Speak". I said "Sir, Private Townsend requests permission to go to the head, Sir".

He says "This brings me to the granting of the privilege of an Emergency Head Call. When granted, you'll unbutton the buttons, grab your d--k with your left hand, raise your right hand and make the noise of a siren and run around the squad bay until I point to the head." He points to me and said "Do it!"

I unbuttoned the buttons, grab my d--k with my left hand, raised my right hand, made the noise of a siren and started running around the squad bay, and the third time around Sgt. Frano points to the hallway where the head is located. Never having been there before, I was peeing on the floor and the walls as I was frantically looking for the urinals.

What a relief when I returned in front of my bunk, and was I glad when I was assigned the cleaning of the DI's water fountain instead of cleaning the head!


The Paymaster/OOD Refused To Leave​

(Relayed to me many years after the fact by the Officer involved)

The new Captain had said ALL Officers would be required to stand watches, including the Supply Officer doing OOD duty in Port.

TSHTF when the Supply/Disbursing Officer was assigned OOD duties and payday was called.

The Navy says that if the Disbursing Officer isn't there, NO money will be distributed as he had to count it (probably had to draw it out also), and 'supervise' the distribution.

About 20 min after Pay Day was called, 'people' were wondering where the crew was, and – it being an LST – it didn't take long to figure out they were in the mess deck awaiting payday.

The Paymaster/OOD 'refused' to leave the Quarterdeck until properly relieved (per regs) and payday finally held AFTER new OOD assigned.

Needless to say, he was NOT one of the CO's favorites BUT if you weren't a line officer, you didn't stand OOD watches after that...

George O'Connell
RM2(E5) USN 1956-64
USS Henrico (APA-45) 1957-60
USS Terrell County (LST-1157) 1960-62

Good Day To Die

Sgt Grit,

I noticed in your last letter the quote, "Today is a good day to die."

I work in the Helena Indian Alliance in Helena, Montana. We have the whole poem on the wall here, and it has a slightly different meaning if you read all of it:

"Today is a very good day to die.
Every living thing is in harmony with me.
Every voice sings a chorus within me.
All beauty has come to rest in my eyes.
All bad thoughts have departed from me."

"Today is a very good day to die.
My land is peaceful around me.
My fields have been turned for the last time.
My house is filled with laughter.
My children have come home.
Yes, today is a very good day to die."

Pete Formaz
Helena, MT

Going Back

Just read the newsletter for May 7. The article about Hill 200 and Hill 244 made me start to think about how many Viet Nam Marine Vets have returned to Viet Nam. I was there in '68/'69 and '72/73. I went back the first time in 2001. I will say I was worried about going back and began to think what am I going to do if I get there and start to freak out. They'll throw me in jail and throw away the key. Granted I had some problems, but nothing that I couldn't handle. It was a great experience and I am glad I went. Went from the Delta to Hanoi. It is now a very beautiful country. The Vietnamese people have no hard feeling towards the American people, they were wonderful. I have been back many times since 2003, '05, '07, and '11. Plan on going back in '16. Am now married to a wonderful Vietnamese lady.

​Boot Camp Platoon Picture


Looking at my Boot Camp Platoon picture I realized that 9/11 holds another memory for me. I grauduated with Platoon 344 on 9 Sept. 1965. I am planning on my FIRST trip BACK to Parris Island on 9 Sept. 2015. 50 years from my becoming a United States MARINE. SSgt. MILLER, Sgt. WERNTZ, Cpl. GIGLER and Cpl. DEVANE were my Drill Instructors. I am sure that the ONLY thing I will Recognize is The Yellow Footprints. Hoping to run into some of my fellow Recruits from Platoon 344, but I doubt it. Then on my way to Traingle, Va. MARINE CORPS MUSEUM. A lifetime of Memories await me. Served two tours in Viet Nam 1966 to 1968 FLSG-A, FLSG-B Chu-lai, and Hue-Phu Bai. Thank-you for allowing your fellow Marines to reconnect. SEMPER-FI.

Now Serving at On Top Of The World, OCALA, FL.

Round Dog Tags

Sgt Grit,

I read the postings on round dog tags and wanted to send along a photo of my dad's army dog tags. He died in 1993 and my older brother (a squid) and I split his military belongings. I got his dog tags, good conduct medal and what I believe might be an 8th Field Artillery lapel pin, but not sure if it was a part of his dress uniform or something he got when he was discharged. Anyway, Below see two pictures of my dad's dog tags. On the front is his name and USA and on the six is his service number or at that time his SSN. But I can't make out any finger prints. As a kid I think I recall him saying that a greenish ribbon wove through the two holes of each tag but not sure about that. My dad was a cannon cocker and stationed at Scofield Barracks and enlisted in 1939, so maybe the finger prints were post 1939?

Semper Fi,
Mike Kunkel
Cpl. 0331
Lima 3/8 Weapons Plt

Lost And Found

Platoon 2030, MCRD San Diego, 1967. They called us the "Angel Platoon" because we were all recruited in the greater Los Angeles area.

We sweated and feared together from 21 July to 22 Sep '67. Our DIs were Gunnery Sgt Chapman, S/Sgt Urruttia (we pronounced it "Urreata"), and S/Sgt Hummel.

Anyone out there? Contact me at Ronmandell[at]

Cpl Ron Mandell
1st Bridge Co, 7th Eng Bn
Dec '67 - Jan '69 Nam
(Retired Major, U.S. Army, but always a Marine)

Short Rounds

Joe Shaw I read about your E-4 and changing rank. Well I have the rank of L/Cpl E-4 on my DD214. They screwed up my last unit as 1/9 when I was in 2/9. At least they have my Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal right as being awarded in January 1965.​

Dale Landon

I agree 100% with MSgt Gene Hays on wearing the cover indoors in certain places. I have greeted and talked to many Marines recognized by their USMC covers.

GySgt G.R. Archuleta
Never Retired, Always a Marine

Sgt. Grit,

Oooooorah for another awesome newsletter. Keep them rounds coming down range!

Thank You For A Job Well Done!

LCpl Campos

Beg to differ with the disbursement officer. There were women in FMF, at least Headquarters, Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic in Norfolk, Virginia in 1958.

Jim Connor member G-4 Headquarters, Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic 1955-1959. They were d-mn good Marines too.

Threw My Rifle Back... Good to know that our Guide On (Plt 347, 3rd Bn P.I. 1958), Cpl David Levine still with us. I'm sure he would agree S/Sgt Truax had the best cadence in the Corps.

Anybody else from 347 out there?

Bill Mc Dermott​


"Here (America) men would attempt to build society on new foundations. Applying for first time theories either previously unknown or deemed inapplicable, they would stage for the world a spectacle for which nothing in the history of the past had prepared it."
--Alexis de Tocqueville

"Sometimes it is entirely appropriate to kill a fly with a sledge-hammer!"
--Maj. Holdredge

"If the American Revolution had produced nothing but the Declaration of Independence, it would have been worth while... The beauty and cogency of the preamble, reaching back to remotest antiquity and forward to an indefinite future, have lifted the hearts of millions of men and will continue to do so... These words are more revolutionary than anything written by Robespierre, Marx, or Lenin, more explosive than the atom, a continual challenge to ourselves as well as an inspiration to the oppressed of all the world."
--Samuel Eliot Morison, The Oxford History of the American People [1965]

"The right to be let alone is indeed the beginning of all freedom."
--Justice William O Douglas

"A ship without MARINES is like a garment without buttons."

​ "The time is now near at hand which must determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves."
--George Washington, 1776


"Fall out!"

"Expect the unexpected."

"Semper Fi"
Relpy: "Forever and one day"

Gung Ho!
Tango Siera!
Sgt Grit

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