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1963 JFK Visit to MCRD

1963 JFK Visit to MCRD

Re: Lee VanTreese's June 18 post and photos of JFK's visit to MCRD… The date of those photos was Wednesday, November 6, 1963. My attached photo of the President was taken that same day.

During that time I was a squad leader in Charlie 1/5, 2nd Platoon. On the morning of the 6th the entire battalion was trucked from Camp Margarita to San Diego. We then formed an honor guard for the Presidents motorcade on both sides of the road all the way from Lindbergh Field to the main gate of MCRD.

A week later, on November 14, the battalion boarded the USS General J.C. Breckinridge AP-176 in San Diego heading for Okinawa with scheduled stops at Pearl Harbor and Yokohama, Japan.

Early on the morning of November 23 (the 22nd in Dallas) the ship began its entrance into the very busy port of Yokohama. Many ships arriving and departing. As we stood on the rail and watched the activity I noticed something unusual. As we passed foreign flagged ships, each would lower their colors as our ship passed. I'd never seen that before and made mention of it to my buddies. "Something's up. This is not normal protocol", I remember saying. Once our ship was secured to the Naval facility pier the ships Captain announced the assassination of JFK five hours ago in Dallas. Needless to say, we, like the rest of the world, were shocked.

But many of us were also thinking not only of JFK's assassination, but also of the over throw and murder of South Vietnam's president, Ngo Dinh Diem, only three weeks earlier in Saigon on November 2. And here we are heading to the Far East for a 13 month tour of duty.

It would be a little over six months before the "Gulf of Tonkin" Resolution was passed by Congress which authorizes President Johnson to use military force in Vietnam. Eight months later (March, 1965) the 9th MEB, consisting of 3/9 and 1/3 begin arriving in Vietnam. The MEB is the first U.S. ground combat unit in country.

Bill Honan
Cpl E-4
Charlie 1/5, Golf 2/3

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