India Company in
Marlboro Country

Vietnam May 1966 – December 1966


India Company, 3
rd Battalion 7th Marines

Story by Erkki Nevatie 1
st Platoon, M-60 Team


May 1966 - I landed in Da Nang with a military transport from the Philippines. The plane was loaded with fresh Marines to fill the ranks of combat units. It must have been one of the warmest seasons. When that door opened, it was like a blast furnace greeting us on the outside. A group of us were put on a C-130 to fly down to Chu Lai; the 7
th Marines had just recently finished Operation Starlite, which began in late summer of 1965. This was one of the largest ground operations to date, and my guess was that they needed replacements. My primary MOS was 0311, but when they called our names out I ended up as 0331 M-60 team with a company called "Suicide India". The VC had nick named the company as such because we had a CO who liked to volunteer us for everything that came along. It was like a scene from some old John Wayne movie. Sandy dunes, palm trees and bamboo huts. I stood in front of a Gunny that was swimming in sweat. The sun was so bright it hurt the eyes as he signed me in to the India Company 1st Plt. and I picked up my 782 gear.

India Company was holding up right at the beach in Chu Lai at the time. John Wayne came by for a visit, and apparently the only time in his life he really got shot at was at Chu Lai while signing autographs for the Marines when a sniper opened up from the near by hills, scattering the Marines for cover. If my memory serves me right, "Leatherneck" magazine mentions this incident in one of their issues. Distant gunfire could be heard in the background. I thought to myself, "What on earth was I doing over here?" I was not even American; my parents didn’t know where their 18-year-old boy was at. As far as they knew, I was in California slowly becoming a commercial artist. Instead I had joined the Marines to learn English. My Mom almost had a heart attack when she realized where her son had ended up.

India Company was getting ready to move inland from the beach as I joined them, The gunner was Paul Simko, team leader was Cpl. McKenzie and Mike Wilson was the other assistant gunner, Mike arrived little after me, mid-June I guess. 1st Plt. Was led by a Sgt. Harper I believe his name was, and there was Sgt. Jackson, Sgt. Nelson and Cpl. Ted O’Berg. I think the Lt. had been killed. We did patrols inland looking for an area where the company would settle for awhile. We found such a place on a hill right beside a village called Thanh Tra. It wasn’t much of a hill, but a rise out of the ground beside the village.

As we humped the hillsides in the Thanh Tra, Bhin Yen and No-Name ville areas, we noticed there was a lot of sniper activity. One of the first shots came out when we ran into some VC and they tried to run away in a open rice paddy. Cpl. Dickey got one of them with the long reach of M-14. I had never seen a dead man prior to that. It was so final; one minute he was running, then nothing but an empty, lifeless form on the ground, a hardly noticeable hole in the back, the exit wound was a fist sized hole. As we settled in the village for the evening, a fierce firefight broke out with VC across the paddy. I thought my heart was gonna jump out of my mouth. The mud huts didn’t really offer much protection against AK-47 rounds. 2nd Plt. moved on to the dyke facing the enemy fire. The exchange took about half an hour and stopped like someone had turned a switch off.

The VC left and we settled in the village for the night. I also had an encounter with a King Cobra that night. A huge snake, which kept me on my toes from 0300 till daybreak. The Company dug in on the hill beside the village of Thanh Tra, and this became known as "Marlboro Country". We had two ANTO’s with us and a battery of 155’s next to us for fire support, as well as couple of Duces. These were a cross between a mortar and a howitzer. There was a hill not too far from our base that was an excellent observation post. You could see in to all directions from it. The Song Tre Bong River was in view, and the No-Name ville that became a real trouble spot for Mike Company and us for a period. The O/P was called "Grape Murple India Eyeball". Having little artistic talent, I was asked by the Arty F/O, Peter Grimm, to draw on an opened "C-rat" sleeve everything we saw from the base of the hill outward and from left to right as far as I could see. Villages, trails, streams, bridges and so on, then we called in the "Arty" to fire "Willie-Peters" on the positions that we directed them to, and as we got direct hits we marked down the positions on the sleeve. Once everything was marked, we made a copy for the 155’s base and mortar teams. From there, it was like turkey shoot when ever something moved near the marked positions.

India company was part of several combat operations in the Chu Lai area. There was the Operations County Fair, Golden Fleece and Jackson. During Jackson, the Battalion suffered many heat casualties, Squire Logan from the 3.5’s was one of them. Temperatures must have reached 125+ in the shade; the air "whistled". I’ve been to saunas all my life, being a Finn, but here we didn’t need to throw any water on the rocks. It was hot enough as it was. Several contacts were made with the enemy during Operation Jackson; non-were major battles, but large scale and small firefights were common place. Activities from our combat base consisted of daily patrols in the area of Bhin Yen 1 and 2 villages, where I was also wounded in an ambush. No-Name village, and near Son Tre Bon River. If you were not on patrol during the day you were on Listening Posts (Observation Post "India Eyeball"), or went out on nightly ambushes along the trails. On one of these patrols, as the Company swept through the villages along the Son Tre Bon river, with not much action for that day, but everyone had been waiting for it and tension was high. As we moved through this last village, one sniper round went off. Ed Sanders took a hit. He was in front of me. A round hit the sling keeper on the M-14 and split his arm open; it could be that the sling keeper saved his life. We used to hang the M-14 on so called jungle slings, which was a the regular sling cinched on the pistol grip and the other end attached to the gas cylinder with a blanket roll strap; that way we could hang the rifle upright on the hip level.

The sniper problem got so bad that often on our way back from patrols to cross a open paddy, we would "recon by fire"; shoot the hell out of the tree line in front of us and send small teams across at the time. It was very spooky. One afternoon, the company did a patrol around the Bhin Yen II and dropped off a team for the night to try to deal with some of the local VC. Cpl. Jay Ford,Cpl. Bill Moses and I believe it was radioman Kenney that just melted in to the landscape and rest of us carried on. They found a gathering of VC and NVA officers that night and as they walked in on the meeting, they spoiled it by killing the NVA. On one of these patrols on the back side of Bhin Yen I, we were chasing the VC snipers. Sgt. McMann was the Squad leader. We got to the bottom end of Bhin Yen I village and decided to check out the countryside to the right of the villages. As we headed up the trail, a grenade suddenly came over the hedge and exploded between myself and Wilson, lucky enough that we kept a good distance amongst our selves and no real serious damage was done. I was bleeding from left side of the face, arm and few marks on my side, there was no further enemy activity. A Corpsman patched me up and we carried on. There were many instances in the field where grunts would get hit with flying fragments, and were just brushed off as routine.

We got a new Platoon Sgt. Thomas Farmer, a great guy with lots of time in the Corps. We were on a company sized patrol one day, walking through a river near one village. I had picked up a mandolin from one of the villages, but could not carry it because I had too much gear on, so a radioman, a real short timer from Buffalo NY took it to carry. I wish I could remember his name. All I remember is he played cards all the time and was good at it. He had some big winnings on poker. We went trough a spot where a concrete bridge had been blown, walking in the river. A short time later, we swept through a village to the right and as we started back across the river, just as Sgt. Farmer and the radioman were in the mid stream, the enemy opened up with two machine guns. They had set up an ambush behind the bridge and cut Sgt. Farmer down at his knees. The radioman froze in mid-river, bullets were flying everywhere. Marines dragged Sgt.Farmer across and two others had to grab the radioman he was in shock but standing. Later, it turned out that he had 36 bullet holes in his gear, radio was shot to pieces, the mandolin I had given him earlier was toothpicks, but there was not one bullet hole in him. God didn’t need him yet.

Early one morning, Lt. Fred Brown and the 3rd Plt was sent down to Quang Ngai to form a perimeter around a shot down UH-34 with a load of ammo. It was in the rice paddy surrounded by three hostile villages. Within half an hour of their departure, a call came in that they were running low on ammo. The rest of the company saddled up, got in the choppers and flew down there; action was hot and heavy all day, it’s a miracle that only one Marine I know of was wounded that day; Lcpl. Komanec was right behind Lt. Brown when Komanec got hit in the thigh as they were coming off the helicopter...

Addition by Gabe Komanec (Lt. Fred Brown's radioman - 2nd Platoon India 3/7)

My platoon was called out on a Sparrow Hawk which is a standby reactionary force for other units needing assistance. As we were circling the shot down helicopter, we were told the only friendly fire in the area was coming from the downed helicopter. Before my helicopter landed I heard about 4 loud snaps which were bullets going through the fabric of the chopper. The plan was for me to lead a squad around to the front of the downed helicopter to where Lt. Brown was to set up a 360. As I jumped out of the helicopter into the water, I sank into the mud with all of the weight I was carrying (radio, batteries, etc...). All hell broke loose, bullets flying every which way. We were getting fire from three different positions. I tried running to get to the Lt. but the mud and water was slowing me down, so I got up on a rice paddy dike and started running.
I could hear bullets hitting near me. I stopped to jump across an irrigation ditch and while in mid air, was hit by 2 bullets in the thigh. I landed in the water which had started to turn red. I tried to stand but fell back down. I crawled out and started crawling to Lt. Brown who was hollering at the top of his lungs for me to get to him with the radio. D.J. Davis was behind me and said "Stop Komanec, you're bleeding out!". I turned around and saw the trail of blood. He took the radio off my back and I gave him my code book and told him to get to the Lt. The Doc put a tourniquet on my leg to stop bleeding. Things started to go fuzzy.
I remember trying to get to the chopper that came to pick me up. The Doc had tied my rifle to my leg for a splint and while helping me to the chopper, my rifle came untied and I was dragging it by my ankle in the mud. The Doc cut the other tie off and picked me up in a firemen's carry and started for the chopper. The water in the rice paddy was splashing all around us which I thought were bullets but were aircraft support shell canisters. At this time, I saw there was a chance for survival and I really got scared thinking we would never make it to the chopper.
After seven months of recuperation, 1968 Tet offense, I found myself back over there with 'C' 1st Bn. 27th Mar.

 

We were laying in the open rice paddy with sporadic enemy fire coming on us from a couple of directions. Several air-strikes were called in. I laid in the rice paddy thinking we’d been mortared as the empty 22 mm casings were raining down on us from low passing F4’s. As the casings hit the paddy, waterspouts were formed a few feet high. Napalm canisters were spinning freely over our heads to the enemy positions in the ville. We were so close that most of us lost our eyebrows and facial hair from the napalm blast. It took almost all day to get the UH-34 wreck off the paddy, and as we were picked up by choppers and flying over the villages we could see large numbers of armed VC running around down below. As we flew over, we threw all the hand grenades we had down there and we joined the door gunner with our M-60 to pour fire on the enemy below.

Mike Company got almost over-run one night. Lt. Blakely had just recently joined our Platoon as the Plt. Commander. I remember him so vividly doing the low growl between the positions making sure everyone was ready in case things got hot for us. All hell broke loose about 0001 hrs. All of India Company was on alert. It was like watching the 4th of July. We thought for sure the VC regiment was going to probe our lines as well on their way out. From the later reports we heard that Mike Company had been hit hard but they turned the thing around and kicked VC butt real good.

India Company tried to set up a mess hall on Thanh Tra hill, but VC snipers kept the cooks practicing their 0311 skills more than cooking, so it was back to C-Rats and Ham and whatchyamacallit...

I had a guitar on that hill, and some early evenings Ed Stump, I and few others would gather around and howl a few tunes. The word usually came down from the top "Shut the f**k up down there!". One day on the hill, a fellow from 60-mortar team was getting ready to clean his .45C. And did the usual check.....pull the slide back, round came out, slide went home, and he popped the magazine out and pulls the trigger BOOM. Almost got Capt. Clapp in the GP tent, he had forgotten one fundamental thing clearing the .45.

India Company took hits regularly during our time in Chu Lai, but I’m not going to any more details of that here. The nights were the worst by far. One night shortly after my arrival, we were already at Thanh Tra village area, we had O/P’s and L/P’s out along the trails and edges. I was on one behind the Thanh Tra village. We had a PR6 hand held museum-piece as a radio. It was after midnight when a starcluster flare went up not far from where we were, indicating that there was trouble out there. A Cpl. I had befriended on the plane to Vietnam (I do not remember his name) was on that team that was hit, and he was shot in the head; in the end he didn’t make it. Choppers were called in, and as much as I love our chopper pilots, this time a few precious minutes were lost by pilots arguing who’s turn it was to go for the pick up. It was heard over the airways. I see this guy’s face in my dreams, can’t remember his name…"Shit happens".

We had lots of barbwire strung around the company perimeter, and we hung empty beer cans with a few rocks in them. I’m sure we all remember that when anything touched the wire and made it move, the cans would rattle and alert us. There were a few of those nights that the rattles went off and several minute fire fights took place. We thought for sure we killed many of "them" only to find no signs of enemy dead or blood-trails the next morning. Whatever set them off kept us on our toes most of the time. India Company was able to take many prisoners while in the Chu-lai area, the company had two North Vietnamese as interpreters, Sgt. Phu and Sgt. Flower.
They were kept busy interrogating the prisoners. These two were good at what they did, they went where we went. One day we had a couple of prisoners and Sgt. Phu was interrogating one of them by the entrance to the village, where the marketers usually gathered. Phu had his .45 out and he was screaming at the prisoner who kept shaking his head. Sgt. Phu cocked the .45 and shouted something else. The VC prisoner didn’t say anything and Phu pulled the trigger, blowing the guy’s head almost in half. It wasn’t a pretty sight.

Some of the Marines that we had in 1st Plt. at that time were Lt. Blakely, Sgt. Farmer, Sgt. Nelson, Sgt. Jackson, Sgt. Harper, Cpl. Ford, Cpl. O’Berg, Sgt. McMann, Pointman, Paul Abulog, company radioman Dave Garvey, Richard Garcia (KIA), Terry Goodman, Dwight (Bobby) Replogle, Mike Wilson, Paul Simko, Erkki Nevatie, Donald Brower (KIA 1967), radioman Kenney, Doc Peterson, Creig Shuholm, Nebstead (a kid from Montana), "Pineapple"(a Hawaiian fellow), Ed Sanders, Ed Stump, Larry Callahan, Steve Wilhelmsen, Cpl. Bill Moses, Cpl. Dickey, Squire Logan (rockets), Russell Clinton, Douglas Harris, Bob Maldonado, John Niedringhaus, John Petrone, Michael Jackson (later on for a very short stay, he was KIA in back side of Hill 65 in December), just to name a few that my memory allows. If I left anyone out, forgive me, it’s been 33 years or so.

India, Kilo, and Lima Companies were sent to the DMZ in the fall of 1966 to take part in Operation Prairie 1 and 2, to make a major sweep along the DMZ from Camp Carroll to the coast. Mike Company stayed in Chu Lai to finish the documentary they were doing about Marines in action. The film is called "The Face of War" and is available from Marine Corps sources. This was an excellent film, showing most of our stomping grounds in the Chu-lai area. They loaded us on C-130’s and off we went. I fell asleep on route, and as we were landing at the Dong ho air strip, I thought we were landing in the sea. The strip was on air bladders, other steel plates and dust. As I looked out the window it looked like waves at sea. I then woke up fully and realized that everything was under control. We ended up in Camp Carroll, an artillery outpost that had more cannons on it than you’d care to imagine. Every shape and size including the "Big Berthas" which we discovered the first night there. We had just returned from a long hike in dense jungles looking for Charlie, and most of us were asleep in our poncho tents when someone pulled the emergency brake on earth, and as it stopped spinning, the biggest the loudest bang went off almost beside us. I had to swallow my heart back in the right place. The 175’s got a fire mission and let loose with several rounds of boxcars northward.

We humped the jungles around Camp Carroll and Con Thien for awhile, and one day somehow the whole company ended up in this river with high walls on either side. I heard that it was Capt. Clapp’s short cut out of the jungle to the bridge bellow Camp Carroll. At any rate, it seemed like a bad place to be if the NVA decided to hit us; we had nowhere to go. As I recall, the word came down from the man to find a dry spot and we spent the night there. I’m sure everyone there remembers this night really well. A guy from 81’s slipped and I think he was carrying the base plate outer ring around his neck and almost drowned, his teammates had to dive in for him. And so me along with a 100 other guys spent a night in the river. I was up to my chest in the water and the gun rusted up bad the following day.

Down in Chu Lai, we rarely got enemy mortars, but up in the DMZ when it started, it came regularly, sometimes twice a day. You learned quickly to dig deep holes. A week or so after arriving there on one jungle hill, I was slightly over doing it when Lt. Blakely came by and asked if I was going back to Finland via "the underground"? There were hit and runs with the NVA throughout that time, but nothing really big, except the daily and nightly mortar attacks on us by NVA. We humped and humped the boonies in the morning. We would look across the valley to the next hilltop where we’d spend the next night. You could almost pick your spots on the opposite hilltop, but it took all day to go to the bottom of the ravine and climb back up the next hill because the jungle was so dense in places. On one hill, there was already old positions dug there. The NVA probably had the place zeroed in as we settled in for the evening. Just before dark, I went up front of the positions to take an evening dump, and the mortars started raining in. They came in so fast and furiously that I didn’t have a chance to pull my pants up but to dive in to the hole head first (so embarrassing...) but I’m alive today. SSgt. Jackson, a long time veteran with the Marine Corps, had been to Korea and had plastic eardrums or something from a previous blast, but now got hit close enough that it did his ears in again. He was bleeding from both ears quite badly and had to be medivaced out.

One of the last nights spent in the DMZ, we had been walking down this narrow village road and stopped on these slightly rolling hills. We were to the left of the road and Kilo Company was very close to us. The ground could not have been much harder to dig than it was. A patrol was sent out to check forward by the villages, they were hit on their way back. The Cpl. who was in charge was hit, I recall. That afternoon we also got a re-supply; water, ammo, and amongst all that there was a big brown envelope for me. I was being drafted by the Finnish Army. Every youngster in Finland, up on turning 18 had to serve in the military. I had left Finland long before this, but my mom kept writing me that the police were looking for me ...again... thinking that I was trying to evade the draft or something. So my mom had given them my address and the Finnish consul in Tokyo forwarded the papers to the DMZ. The Stars and Stripes as well as the Sea Tiger newspapers were covering the operations and heard about it, so the story made both military papers in Nov. 66 "A Finn being drafted too late". "Too busy fighting a war." I wrote back...

Stars & Stripes Article

That night, in drizzling rain at about 0130, the enemy mortars started exploding all around us, with several direct hits on Kilo Company’s sector. They had several casualties. First Brower, Wilson and myself ran to our hole. As I looked up over the edge of the hole, I could see that less than 60 yards away the illuminated figures of the NVA pouring the rounds in the mortar tube. I ran back the few feet where the M-60 was, tried to get it out to open fire on the NVA, but the gun was stuck on the strings we had put for the poncho halves for shelter. Only a few seconds had passed and the rounds were coming now right on top of us. I looked over to my right and a short distance away where Sgt. Nelson, radioman Kenney and Lt. Blakely were. It looked like a direct hit on their spot. I dove back in to our hole as the rounds went through our lines. Both Blakely and Kenney looked like Swiss cheese, peppered from head to toe, but alive. I keep thinking of that night, had I gotten the M-60 out..???

By now the company was pretty weary and tired, so they gave us "rest" in the mouth of Cua Viet River near Dong Ho, guarding aviation fuel bladders dug in the sand by the beach. There was an Amtrack base right beside us, and we spent another week or so there patrolling across the river and the surrounding hamlets with Amtracks, with no shortage of firefights. Some of the guys had picked up some dogs as pets and turned out that they had rabies and some of the guys had to be sent to hospital to get shots for rabies. From the river mouth we were taken to Hill 65 in the vicinity of Dai Loc in late October 1966 We ran countless patrols and ambushes out of the hill several fresh replacements started to show up in there. The bunkers were not in great shape so several Marines were sent to Danang on a convoy to get lumber from the harbor to reinforce the bunkers. It turned out to be a real R&R for those of us who went. I won’t go in to details on what happened in town and the "Air Force Club"to protect the "Innocent", about the new uniforms, skive houses and so on...........

The "twin Lt. Brown's" of 3rd Platoon
(a.k.a. - "The Beer Run")
Story by Ed Stiteler

Third platoon had been given the job of providing security for a truck convoy from Da Nang to Phu Bai. We arrived in Da Nang from Hill 65 sometime in the early afternoon and were given sleeping quarters at 7th Motor T so we would be ready for an early morning departure.

Sometime between the time we arrived and dark Gary Brown, from weapons came in possession of 2nd Lt. Bars and assumed command of a group of about ten guys. Since Lt. Fred Brown was out of sight and mind our new Lt. Brown marched us in formation to the Motor T club and demanded that his men, fresh from the field and many successful battles be provided all the beer they could drink. We were successful in completely demolishing their beer supplies. We were not done...(yet).

Across the compound was the 7th Engineer club so we continued the assault in a military manner and with mucho gusto proceeded to drink all their beer as well. I do recall that there were some disturbances while we worked on their beer reserves. However, our Lt., with his command presence, was able to restore order and demand more beer. He once again told the tales of our bravery and the need for us to be rewarded. As the hour grew late we departed the club and formed a “tight” formation in the compound.

While at attention someone observed that Dog Patch was just across the wire and easily accessible if we employed the tactics used by our WWII comrades. So we worked out a plan for someone to lie on the concertina wire while the rest of the formation made it over the wire. I cannot recall if that Marine made the trip or remained as our passage back.

We did not travel far before we were invited into a pleasant home of the local population. I had no money and vaguely recall trading a watch for a care package. Almost immediately we were run out of the hooch by warnings of SP…SP…so we ran out the back and hid in the bushes. Now we were a naked patrol with our white butts shinning in the bright moonlight. A blind SP shined his light on my butt and did not see me crouching, all the time thinking I was well camouflaged. The all clear was sounded and we returned to our plan of attack. This lasted a matter of minutes and the SP returned quietly on foot and ambushed us. We were taken outside at gunpoint and once again formed up by our LT. We were threatened with specific charges of fraternizing with the enemy, being out of uniform, and not carrying our weapons. Lt. Gary Brown once again displayed his leadership skills and we were allowed to return to the 7th MT compound with the assurance that we would stay put.

Early the next morning we saddled up and boarded the 6X’s in an orderly fashion. One squad was in the third or forth truck and the other two were located in the middle and tail of the convoy. We proceeded north out of Da Nang for the Hai Van pass and Phu Bai at about 15 MPH. Most of us were holding our heads and trying to get comfortable as we made the trip. The scenery was beautiful but not appreciated by those of us who were suffering from the previous evenings mission. As we came down the pass onto level ground we received some sniper fire from the west (or somewhere). We dismounted and assaulted on line about a thousand meters towards the tree line. We received no more fire, this I attribute to our show of force and excellent reaction to the imminent danger. I know the drivers and personnel from 7th MT were impressed at our reaction and willingness to sacrifice for their club, I mean convoy. We successfully completed the mission and our cargo, whatever it was, arrived in Phu Bai safely. For the life of me I cannot remember how we returned to Da Nang.

As I look at some of the pictures of Hill 65 from later 67 and 68. I can’t recognize the place; it looks almost civilized, compared to when India first came there. There was a young lad name Michael Jackson. Bobby Replogle tells me that Michael had some kind of a gut feeling that he was not going to make it. He joined our gun team, but became a casualty within two weeks. Very few of us remember him even unpacking. We had a busy time at Hill 65. Patrols and ambushes were set up daily and monsoon rains kept us all miserable. Remember those big rats in the bunkers we tried to kill with k-bars and bayonets during the nights when they ran across your chest!? I had developed a severe case of jungle rot in our camping trip up in DMZ, and it got so bad I could not walk. I was taken to Bn. Med. for treatment right after Christmas, and did not return to India Company after that, I was transferred to HQ Bn. Security Plt. patrolling behind Hill 327 outside Da Nang for the rest of my tour then rotated back to the states in July 67.


Explosion on Hill 65
Story by Larry Callahan

Early morning on January 5, 1967, 1st Platoon was getting ready for a two-day patrol up the mountains just west of Hill 65 in the Dia Loc area, which is southwest of Da Nang, Vietnam. Bob Cox was taking a nap on his cot across form me while I was sitting in my cot reading the Sunday Comics out of the Stars and Stripes Newspaper. We shared our bunker with three other Marines; one of the Marines was Larry Levang. I think he was from Montana. Larry was a big Swedish looking guy who always carried a smile on his face. He also liked to carry a lot of hand grenades and extra ammo for his M-14 Rifle.

All of a sudden I saw an orange flash of light coming from the right rear corner of the bunker followed by a soft pop and then a ringing. The ringing seemed like it would not go away, and I still have that ringing in my ears today. The room began to fill with smoke and dust. As I fell out of my bunk, I could hear Cox hollering. I started moving toward the door to get to my gear that I had left outside, because I thought the enemy was attacking us. I bumped into Sgt. (Wally) Wallace, Ed Stump, and other Marines that were coming in to help. I guess I was in a daze because I only remember bits and pieces after that. I was sent to the top of the hill where Doc Wilkinson and Doc Cash saw me and asked me if I was hurt. I said no; I just have this ringing in my ears. I knew that Bob Cox had taken a lot of sharp metal. I had no idea what had happened.

When the choppers came in to take Cox back to Charlie MED, I found out that Lance Corporal Larry Levang was killed. No one actually saw what happened. Know one really knows how it happened. At that time the general belief was that one of the grenades Larry was caring accidentally lost a pin causing the explosion. Larry took the full impact of the grenade; some think he saw what happened and was trying to replace the pin or throw it out of harms way. For all we know he might have made the ultimate sacrifice and fallen on the grenade to protect his buddies. As I remember him he was the gung-ho type of Marine and could have easily fallen on the grenade to protect others.

The Platoon still went out that day, but Doc Wilkinson kept me back for light duty. The next day when I was taking my turn as look out on the big Navy Binoculars on top of the CP Bunker, I saw a jet fighter crash just below Hill 65 in a big rice paddy between our hill and a Vietnamese village. The pilot had ejected and landed on the side of the River Son Tu Bon that was not friendly; that's the side we called Arizona Territory. The pilot began taking enemy fire from a tree line across a large rice paddy that was a good 1,000 yards away and well out of effective range. It did not take long for the tankers on the hill to zero in on the enemy and open up on them. I was taking turns with Terry Goodman looking at the enemy through the big binoculars when the 90mm tank round hit. Of course I gave a big cheer along with all the other Marines around me when we saw the explosion.

The platoon returned the next day and Lt. Blakely called for me. He informed me that we had to go back to Charlie MED and identify the body of Levang. I knew this was not a good idea. I really did not want to do this. Why me? All the way back toward Da Nang I kept trying to talk the Lt. out of having to do this. I was getting nowhere. I had seen dead Marines before, and I did not like it, and they were not my bunkmates. When the time came to go into the morgue, I still had cold feet. The army sergeant recognized this. He knew what I was going to have to look at. That's why I think he gave me an out by asking me if I knew of any distinguishing marks on him like a tattoo. I quickly said yes that he has a USMC tattoo on his left shoulder. The sergeant said that's good enough. I know that all this sounds terrible now. Maybe I should have been a more hard core Marine and gone straight into the morgue. Sometimes I think had I done that I would not be the same person I am now. My wife says I am really just a cupcake.


Semper Fi Marines

India 3/7 in Iraq

Site designed & maintained by burning circuits digital design group
1997 - 2002 All Rights Reserved