Hastings At 34, Introduction
By John Harris
The following is a day-by-day personal account of the events leading up to the worst period of time in life - Operation Hastings (July 18 - 24, 1966). Tomorrow marks the beginning of what has now become a 34-year vigil to commemorate it. Those ‘brothers of valor’ of Lima Company 3/5 ('66), the other companies who were there (India, Kilo, and Mike Company), and anyone else from the 3rd Battalion 5th Marines (corpsmen, weapons, artillery, etc) who wish to join in this recollection (what were your thoughts, feelings, actions etc.?) are invited to do so. If not, I apologize for the intrusion into your cyberspace.
Let me say that writing about the war-time events of my life, while serving as a rifleman scout for the company in 1966, has helped me to come to grips with those sometimes chaotic excursions into turmoil. I've shared other stories about the Nam with you, with hopes that I might awaken an urge for you to also participate in recording these historic revelations into our past. Possibly even preserving them for others to view one day. My hope has also been to encourage members of the company who came after me - to add their histories as well. Those men who fought the battles of Union I & II, Swift, Tet, The Mothers Day Massacre - and so many other heart-wrenching campaigns while serving our Corps and Country through trying times. The Vietnam War.
I suppose I should just forget it . . . I suppose 'it don't mean nothin'. But, I happen to be proud of what I did for the Company. Although, I still have a sore spot for what the country thought about it. And you know what? Danged if it wasn't the most exciting time of my life.
Oh yeah, there's somethin else . . . I want to see the history books get it right. Too many times I've seen things about our Company printed up wrong. Books are still being written about our exploits, and I want to see them get the facts right. I kinda think it's important . . .
First, let me introduce myself. My name is Johnnie F. Harris. Friends now call me Yukon. A lot of us ended up with nicknames. Sometimes, I think it was the nicknames helped us keep things less personal. Sometimes it was hard to get close to a guy. Sometimes you just didn't want to. I think the term FNG is one of the most impersonal of nicknames, but that broaches another subject I'd like to get into another day.
I served Lima Company as a rifleman scout. I was a Pfc. most of the time, and then a LCpl. - before being wounded the second time and med-evaced out. I spent most of my time in the 3rd fireteam - with the 3rd squad - of the 3rd platoon. I joined Lima Company in late January 1966, and left her in late November of the same year. I had been an avid outdoorsman before joining the Marines. And, I was a pretty good tracker. So, I spent a lot of time on point. (Although now I'm not even sure we called it that back then.) Some of you may remember me from that position (I was the skinny blonde kid). There were a couple of us that traded off the point position all the time. Soney was one, and Robert Stallings was another, that come to mind.
There are a lot of guys I still remember from my platoon. We were pretty tight. It’s hard to remember them all. Since the ones I do remember are pretty numerous, so I won't list their names here. Many are on this email list. (Hi guys!)
I'll throw a name or two out as I progress through this day-by-day event. Maybe you can help me remember others... As for the other platoons (1st, 2nd & Weapons), I remember a few. I should remember a lot more because after all we trained hard together. We trained more than any subsequent company that took our place. We trained in the States, we trained in Okinawa, and we trained in the Philippines. So, you'd think I would remember a lot more names. But, damn it! I don't . . .
One of the things that helps me write about my experiences is some tape recordings I made way back then. You know those little reel-to-reel jobs? I had them converted to cassette in 1980. About six hours worth. Some of the guys I served with helped me make the recordings because believe it or not I had a hard time talking back then. Really - swear to God!
Something else that has helped me is a handful of letters I wrote home from the Nam. They were discovered in my mother’s belongings after she passed away in 1990. Some heavy stuff, but accurate in detail. The bottom line, though, is that we really couldn't discuss where we were or what we were doing most of the time. So, I could sure use some help now filling in the blanks.
Well, there you got it! Just thought I'd toss this idea by you. See if it makes any sense. Used to be I'd just get drunk - hole up in a room and watch old war movies. For a lot of years, I'd go off into my mountains and disappear for a few days. Crazy huh? I'm lucky though – my excuse is that I can blame it on the bullet that went through my head on this very operation.
I've included the whole Lima address book in this endeavor, because a lot of guys were (are) interested in the battle. Also, there are guys like my good friend, Gunny Loucks, who was there at the same time - but fighting for his life in a different rifle company. (Sure would be great to get your perspective, Wally.)
If you don't want to be bothered with any of this, then let me know - and I'll strike your name from the list. Or, if you're not able to receive this (because of service connection limits, ie. hotmail, pocketmail, etc.) but want it, please let me know and I'll separate it out on a different list for you. Regardless of what era you may have served during, I welcome all of your comments.
Okay then. The first of this episode will come to you first thing tomorrow - the morning of July 18th. On this day, 34 years ago, we flew by helicopter into LZ Crow . . . Man! Was it hot!
Till then, Semper Fi. Yukon John Harris
Back to the Remembrance Page
Go to Part I (July 18, 1966)
Go to Part 2. (July 19 - 20, 1966)
Go to Part 3. (July 20, and 21, 1966)
Go to Part 4. (July 21-22, 1966)
Go to Part 5. (July 22-23, 1966)
Go to Part 6. (July 24, 1966)
Go to Part 7. (July 24, 1966 to the present)