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OPERATION STARLITE August 18th 1965 Chu Lai Vietnam USMC

Submitted by Jack Marino III
Photos (click on a photo to enlarge)
MSGT Jack Marino Jr. USMC Marines Vietnam w/ M-14 Rifles Actual AMTRAC Type Used in 1965 in OP Starlite 6th Mar Div Patch

In the year 1965 my father then SSGT Jack Marino Jr. was an Amtractor Crewman, he volunteered for Vietnam, twice, having served in WW2 During the battle for Okinawa, Japan he was with the 6th MAR DIV., and agin during Korea, His first tour in Vietanam was 1965, he was SSGT with 1st Amtrator Bn 3/3 and landed in Da Nang, His mission was to re-supply a Rifle Co, India Co. this was on the Van Toung Penisula, India Co, was in bad need of ammo and other supplies, the US Marines were the first US Forces to engage in a Battle with NVA and Viet Cong gurella Fighter's, It was the 1st VC Regiment, a well seasoned battle hardened outfit, these VC fighters had already seen battle with the french during the the early 1950's, that day the Re-supply column was Column 21 , later dubbed "Lost Column 21" the 2nd LT Robert F. Cochran was the the the Plt  leader, from my fathers account of what happened that morning. The Amtractor Coulmn loaded with supplies headed out to locate and supply India Co. this Column I'm told consisted of several Amtracs, and it was escorted by two FLame-Tank's  M-48 Tanks I believe them to be, as the column went inland the column was halted, and the belief was that they had somehow went too far in, and my father and the 24 year old 2nd LT. Robert F. Cochran werte outside the Amtracs looking over a map of the area, my father expressed his opinion that they had either went too far, and need to turn the column around, which wasn't an easy task, after this discussion, it was agreed they were lost, and from what my father told me, about the time they were going to mount and continue, all "Hell Broke loose" Mortar were dropping everywhere the red dirt drom explosions hindered my fathers eye sight and the the Heavy Weapons and small arms fire began, it was apparent they had found them selves surrounded and Ambushed by the 1st VC Regiment, the battle lasted from 11am until about 11am the next morning, during the battle LT Cochran lost his life ontop of an Amtrac, his bodied riddled by the VC, all Amtracs were demobilized from the rocket fire and direct hit's only one flame tank was partially able to use it's Flame throwing ability, my fathers Amtrac was the only one still partially functionable, it was outfitted with only the Browning Belt fed .30 Cal Machine Gun mounted on a turrit an operational from inside the Trac, my father said the heat was 130 inside atleast, they were poring water over their heads, they had plenty of water and ammo, he said one Marine was loading clips these Marines were firing from atop and through the hatches with their M-14's, one Marine named

Adamoli or better known as "MO" shouted lets fight like Marines, and opened the hatch and fired his M-14, as he attempted to bring it back inside, it's barrel was caught by the hatch and enough time for a VC Sniper's bullet to hit him in his eye Killing him instantly, this was a great loss to my father, he was a personal friend, My ather said later the VC were closing in and he could he them talking, and  he had to shoot four dead atop of his Trac, with his .45ACP 1911 he then sat in the Machine gunners seat and Had 100 or so VC

emerging from the Elephant grass the first one had an RPG-7 and was knelt and about to fire on his trac, and he took the 30 Cal and was trying to place the Crosshairs on the VC, and the barrell was hitting something outside an ontop not allowing him to squre up the crosshairs, when one Marine yelled ANTENNA!!! My father then knew, he lifted the barrel up and over the COM Antenna and then ahd them Zeroed in, and he said he fired until the entire belt was empty, Later that night the the VC backed off, his only vision of what was going on was from the Naval Ships firing Illumination rounds, he said he could see them off in the distance, Why they never commenced another all out attack was something my father can only speculate, because his Amtract took about 700 hits from small arms fire and Mortars, and I should back up a moment , I failed to mention that while my father was in the Crew chief's seat, an RPG slammed the side of his Trac, and Knocking him from his saet the rocket made a clean hole through one side and out the other, and only minor shrapnel was scattered inside wounding my father and a few other Marines. The next morning a CO of Mariners found the lost column and Peter Jenning's interviewd my father and all other Marines, a lot of Marines were killed that day and night, but the Marines inflicted a much higher Body count, my father still wondered why they didnt over run them, he sad which at that point could have easily the only reason he can think of is as I recall him saying,..I don't think they knew how bad and out numbered we actually were, my father said the way we fired our weapons and used our training it was the FORCE MULTIPLYER AFFECT that saved them, and the bravery of all the Marines that fought and died in this Operation, my father was Awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart, as with many other Marines who were Awarded medals for Gallantry in action. My father served another tour after this tour, and retired from the Marine Corps in 1972, he Graduated boot Camp at MCRD PI, SC in  November of 1944 PLt # 510, he was 17 years old, and had his 18th birthday on the Island of Okinawa, Japan. A book exist today and was written by a fine author named , ..OTTO J. LEHRACK,   the book is called " The First Battle" Operation Starlite and the beginning of the Blood Debt, this book starts by giving an oral history of Vietnams struggle through out hundreds of years of fighting off invading forces, and then leads into the how and why of America's involvement and the tells about this First Battle by US Forces the US Marines and "Operation Starlite"

 Semper Fidelis

Jack Marino III

Comments

  1. jabar439 June 07 2012, 8:39 am

    chu-lai 1965.iworked on the m-60 during the operation.the barrels were melted to the recievers.  3d fsr.

  2. John Easterling June 30 2012, 7:56 pm

    I understand what your father went thru on Starlite Jack III.  Recon Teams watched the NVA and VC build up on the Van Toung Peninsula for months prior to the operation being conducted.  MACV HQ, commanded by ARMY Gen Westmoreland did not believe Marine Recon INTEL. CG FMFPac, LTGen Victor H. Kurlack did and he visited the 1st Marine Brigades HQ at Chu Lia and discussed the activity on the Peninsula with Recon Teams that were on or tried to go on the Peninsula.  From the Info they gave Gen Kurlack, he and the staff of the 1st Marine Brigade devised Operation Starlite. My Company, Bravo 3rd Recon BN was in the field around Chu Lia to defend it.  Several friends were KIA on this OP.  The Op was the first offensive OP of the Viet Nam War and it was a success.  Gen Westmoreland did not like this because he wanted the Army to have that honor.  Gen Westmoreland relieved Gen Kurlack of his duties in Viet Nam because he did not get his approval for Operation Starlite. This caused Gen Kurlack not to become Commandant of the Marine Corps.  President Johnson and Gen Wetmoreland for friends at that time.  Politics has always and still is running combat Ops from the White House. 

    SEMPER FI

    MSgt John W Easterling USMC Ret.

  3. Kenneth Osborn January 20 2014, 4:20 pm

    Jack III - I do not get this way often as evidenced by the dates. I was in 3rd tracs from Chu Lai 1st platoon trac 3A16 crew chief during Starlite.  Myself and two of my tractors went in to rescue this patrol of Amtrac.  All of us on the rescue mission know Mo.  We had been with us before going to 1st Tracs.  I am sorry I did not meet your father or if I did I do not remember.  We later towed four three tractors back to the beach and then back out to the LSD we launched from.  Starlite was our second mission, the first was landing at Chu Lai.  Thank you for posting this story, brought back many memories.
     
    Sgt Ken OZ Osborn,
    A co. 3rd Amtrac Bn 1st Mar Div. 
    Crew chief 3-A-16

  4. Jack Marino III July 19 2014, 9:57 pm

    Thank you Sir! I appreciate your reply. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address),
    Thank you for your Service with the Corps.

    Semper Fidelis.

  5. Jack Marino III July 19 2014, 10:01 pm

    I very seldom find a Marine, except for about 4 or 5 that were the ed Garr, Dick Levello, Ed Nichols and few more I have a lot pictures of dad heading inland riding on top of the Track. August 18th, You guys did a great job I read news papers dad saved, where the 1st VC Reg had respect for the Marines, dad was in Column 21 Resupplying India co.

    Write anytime may share some pics.

    Take care.
    Semper Fi.

  6. Jack Marino III July 19 2014, 10:16 pm

    Thank you for reading and commenting on dad, and of course thank you for your service pleasure to hear from you.
    Take care j. Marino III
    Rah!

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