Hastings At 34, Part 7. (July 24, 1966 to the present)
A pair of hands grabbed my arms and pulled me up into the open hatchway of the Huey gunship. A Huey! It was like getting into a Cadillac compared to our old UH-34’s.
I automatically positioned myself next to the opening on the starboard side. As with the 34, therewere no doors or seats. Like all gunships used in the Vietnam war, they were stripped of anything considered unnecessary. Less weight meant capability to carry cargo (ordinance) and better maneuverability. In this case, more room for bodies - alive or dead.
With my back pushed up against the rear bulkhead, I pointed my weapon out the doorway. Troy was next to me. He had jumped on board first, and then taken a seat with his head cradled between his knees.
Corporal William Troy had suffered a pretty bad wallop from the bullet bouncing off the top of his "steel pot". It took him awhile to recover completely from the concussion he’d suffered. Neither of us was aware of our casualties (five dead – about seven wounded). But the graveness of our experience had started to sink in. Both of us were physically drained.
My eyes shifted on the scene below as the chopper gained altitude - swiftly ascending from the tropical canopy. The bodies of India Company began to blur into the foliage, and other figures below me became a part of the forest. I could vaguely see the trail winding along the top of the ridge. Damn! We were flying directly over my position of only a short time earlier!
I glanced over at the door gunner who had pulled me aboard. He was staring at me. Not knowing quite what to say. (After all, he’d gone in expecting a ‘Hot LZ’ and to pick up the dead… and here two ‘live ones’ jump aboard with their helmets all blown apart!) I nodded at him and winked (a habit that always seems to surface - during times of stress).
He yelled "You’re going to be all right man - we’re blowing this place most ricky ticky!" through the prop noise of the chopper.
"They’re down there! THEY’RE ALL DOWN THERE!", I yelled back jabbing my rifle in the direction of the draw, that now with altitude, nearly split the hill in two.
"Who?! Who’s down there?!", he shouted.
"THE MOTHER F***ING GOOKS, DAMN IT! THEY’RE ALL DOWN THERE!", I yelled again pointing at the area that was becoming more and more clear the higher we got. My total focus - concentration - life! Was narrowed down to that one area where I KNEW THEY WERE AT. I hoped they were reeling from the punishment we’d just given them - maybe. But they were there. I WAS SURE OF IT! From the new vantage point in the air, I still couldn’t see them, but knew they had to be down there.
In writing about this story I’ve had to bring to the surface a lot of stuff that may have been better left buried. But, as I have said - this has been knocking around in my brain for more than thirty years now. As I have addressed each facet of my involvement, it has been absolutely amazing to me how much just ‘spills’ out of the subconscious - while reliving the memories. I’ve had to deal honestly with my thoughts and feelings about what happened. What was I thinking at the time? How did I react? Is it possible to find a reason for the things that happened?
I can tell you this: Had it been a UH-34 that had picked Troy and I off the ‘Hill’ that day . . . I would have been thinking , ‘Let’s just get the hell out of here.’ ‘We’ll be LUCKY to get the hell out of here alive!’ But it wasn’t that way. It was a HUEY. And, having witnessed in the past what these babies were capable of doing, I got excited about exacting vengeance on ‘thine’ enemy. The Huey, by 1966, had already gained the reputation of being ‘one bad bird’. They were awesome. I’d never flown in one before, but there had been several times over the course of our battles when they had been called in as air support. They were bad news for the enemy - a lot of fire power and seemingly invincible. Just one minute of fire power directed into that area - rockets and guns - would have wreaked ‘havoc’ on the enemy! But then years later, I’ve had to analyze - WHERE exactly were we - down there? Where WERE our exact positions? Where WAS whatever was left of India Company? I now realize the captain of that gunship had to be thinking of all of this.
"YOU’VE GOT THE POWER - ROCKETS - GUNS! WE’VE GOTTA GET ‘EM! THEY’RE ALL DOWN THERE…IN THAT DRAW!" I yelled at the door gunner, rage once again welling up in me.
I’m sure the door gunner knew what we had been through. He had to have been aware of the risks involved going in to get us. He relayed what I had just told him into the voice mike attached to his helmet. I looked anxiously to the cockpit at the Captain as he received it. There was a moment of hesitation as he thought about it. I could see him looking at the clusters of gauges on his instrument panels. Was he checking to see how much fuel…or fire power…he had?
After a moment the Captain, swiveling the mike away from his mouth and turning to look directly at me shouted, "Sorry Marine, we’re almost out of fuel. We’ll be lucky to make Dong Ha!" That was certainly a comforting thought! We were in ‘Indian territory’ - there was ‘nothing’ between us and Dong Ha at this time. Dong Ha - was like an outpost/fort in the old west, on the fringe of the wilderness - with nothing in between.
The door gunner leaned over and patted me on the shoulder. "Hey man - we’ll get the little bastards, yet. You’ll see" Sure, I thought to myself, as yet another opportunity to even the score - slipped away in the prop wash as the chopper continued to ascend, rapidly sliding sideways - away from the hill.
Although adrenaline was still pulsing through my body, I was just so tired. I can’t remember much of the flight out of the high country and on to Dong Ha. The Hill became a blur after awhile. I may have passed out again - from the loss of blood. I just don’t remember. I do remember thinking at some point, "Man! What a ride! Wish we had choppers like this. Smooth , and bad-to-the-bone."
The war had been changing in subtle ways just in the couple of months I had been ‘in country’. Sometimes for the good - like the Huey - other times not. While in Okinawa, we had ‘fam’ (familiarization) fired the M-16 rifle, and were told we would be issued this weapon. The ‘Old Corps’ - particularly Gunny Dias - didn’t like it. "How are you gonna butt stroke a gook with this little toy gun?!", I remember him growling. As it turned out - he was right. If Stewart and I had had M-16’s on the hill - we’d have been shit out of luck because the machine-gun belts we were carrying would have been useless. Wrong kind of ammo….
We made it to Dong Ha. (On fumes, I was told later.)
While the Huey fueled up, I was taken to the medical facility, where a doctor told me that he was going to perform a "debridement" of my head wound. I don’t know much about it except whatever he did, hurt like hell before he poured on a bunch of antiseptic, bandaged the wound and sent me out the door. His last words to me were, "That sure was close Marine. A fraction of an inch more and you’d have been history… There’s candy by the door on your way out - grab some Hershey bars." I remember thinking to myself as I walked out the door stuffing one pocket full of Hershey bars - "Who, does he think I am? A kid?" (I was eighteen years old.)
I was flown back to the USS Princeton, where I was operated on later that night. My head wound was cut open from the bullet’s entry point to it’s exit point so that it could be cleaned and dressed. There was quite a bit of concern for the severity of the wound, and how close it had come to my spinal chord. I was told later that I would have been sent on to Japan because of the nature of my injury, but I suddenly contracted malaria and was sent to the USS Repose (hospital ship) instead. There, my condition stabilized. After about three weeks, I was put back on active duty with L 3/5 in August of 1966.
Somewhere along the way, the music of Wagner fell silent . . .
When I first wrote about The Battle For Hill 362, it ended with listing our dead. A lot of people have since asked what happened to us after we were taken off of the Hill. And, what happened to India Company. "About thirty years..." I’d tell them quietly.
For those who wish to read the original ending, you can go to the Lima 3/5 Web site at www.members.tripod.com/Lima35. Then go to Stories and Hastings and the The Battle For Hill 362. It’s about ten pages long and gives an idea of what it was liked to arrive on a hospital ship as a med-evac casualty. I’m planning to revise some of the old writings… There’s more to be written and recent memories that I want to include.
Before I was released from the Hospital Ship, USS Repose, I learned of some other things that happened from the field about Hill 362. Shortly after getting there, I remember this guy strapped into a wheelchair being brought to my ward briefly. He had evidently crawled into our lines after the battle. He was in pretty bad shape, and didn’t stay with us long before they sent him on (to Japan or somewhere). He was so badly wounded, they couldn’t even lay him in a bed. His main wound ran from his groin to his chest. Big rubber-coated stitches held his body together like a zipper. There were other wounds but that one was the worst. There were tubes hanging from several bottles running into his nose and arms. I found out that he had been with India Company and that he was one of the wounded men that Lance Corporal Pittman had managed to hide in the brush before returning to try and get help. But the enemy found them. When the enemy overran their position, the wounded men were summarily executed. After being laid open with a bayonet and being left for dead, this guy had somehow managed to crawl back into our lines . . .
When I shared this information with John Olsen of India Company in 1994, and told him I thought that guy deserved a medal for surviving the ordeal - he knew right away who I was referring to. "It had to have been Bednars." He said, adding that Bednars not only survived, but later did a guard duty stint with him in Iceland. Amazing! Since that time, another friend from India Company told me he didn’t think that Bednars had been on the Repose. I don’t know what to think about that, other than I believe he was brought there briefly to stabilize before transporting him on out of the country. (He did leave the country didn’t he?) Anyway, it was one of those memories (snippets) that has stuck with me over the years. So I wonder, if it wasn’t Bednars on board the Repose, then who was it I saw? My original story goes into a great deal more detail about my meeting this brave Marine.
Pfc. Bednars’ story is an amazing tribute to a Marine’s fighting spirit and strength of determination to survive. The best account is in Lt. Robert Williams’ letter home to his wife after the battle. It is an excellent account of the Hill. I urge those who are following this to read it, as well as other attachments listed at the end.
What happened to India Company on Hill 362 had some influence on our way of fighting in Vietnam. When we learned about the enemy overrunning some positions, and summarily (hastily, unceremoniously, and arbitrarily) executing India’s wounded, we vowed to exact vengeance. I feel sure that I wasn’t alone. We already had a score to settle, and learning of what had happened made it easier. Upon realizing the enemy rarely if ever took prisoners, and in fact, often tortured their victims to death – well, that did it for many. Shoot first, and ask questions later. Very few prisoners were taken after that…although there were opportunities. You might be wondering about the Geneva Convention. Well, if the enemy wouldn’t read what that was about and abide by those rules - then, I guess we wouldn’t either.
These events made us start thinking about what we’d do if we were confronted with being taken by the enemy. It wasn’t long before some of us made pacts that if the worst were to happen and there was no way out, whoever was the last alive – would be trusted to pull the trigger. I’m sure this will raise some eyebrows, but that’s the way it was. I’ve discussed it with buddies who were there, and it was a very, very real possibility with us.
Another fact that I couldn’t seem to shake, was that we had come real close to losing a Marine rifle company. I wonder (as I have so many times over the years), what would this country have done, if that had happened? Remembering what happened with the Army in the I Drang Valley the year before this, I think that the political impact would have been huge and there would have been a great outcry if we had, in fact, lost a Marine Corps rifle company in 1966.
I don’t think that would have happened. I think India Company still had a lot of fight left in them, and I know we did. I don’t think the gooks thought we’d get there when we did. From my position, the enemy was pretty determined to do a lot more damage. Of course now, after all of these years, it’s all conjecture and hypothetical anyway. But still scary, when I think about it. What were that many enemy soldiers (NVA, as it turns out, not Viet Cong) – doing there? I’m sure they had come down from the north right across the DMZ, not more than a couple of miles away. They had a lot of cover in the hills and mountains, and make no mistake about it, these boys were living good. They were very well armed, and very well supplied.
Another thing that rang my bell (literally), was their skill with their weapons, shooting and accurately laying down fire with their mortars. Every one of our dead and wounded, suffered head and chest shots. I found out on board the USS Repose, when General Walt pinned on my first Purple Heart, that the enemy who had fought us so tenaciously were elements of the 324 B Division. At least that’s the designation that has stuck with me, and seemed to be the consensus when I rejoined the company.
As determined as I was to kill as many of the enemy as I could, before leaving Vietnam, I grudgingly had to admit that they were good. I had learned long before joining the Marine Corps, to ‘never underestimate the enemy’. The Marine Corps, of course, reinforced that concept, and carried it one step further. Always try to out think the enemy. Anticipate him. I think we did that, at least as well as we could, under the circumstances.
One thing more than any other that comes to mind through all of this, was the mood of the world at that time. Our present day youth know little of that mood, even if they do know a little about the Vietnam War. The more invisible ‘Cold War’ was nonetheless an omnipresent threat. By 1966, it had reached a level of paranoia that is almost without equal in the history of mankind. Who would be the first to push the nuclear button, to end civilization? To me, it felt as if three big giants – the USSR, China, and us - were drawing lines in the sand. Prior to my involvement with Vietnam, I had not paid much attention to world affairs or politics. I had been the shy kid at the back of the room who never raised my hand and struggled to stay awake through Social Studies class. Daydreams of taking off on adventures would claim my thoughts. Unrealistically. When I found myself in the greatest adventure of my life, I began to take notes. The Marine Corps made it quite clear from the beginning, that their definition of men, meant smart well-informed men. As I gained rank, I was required to stay on top of my responsibilities…which included keeping current with news of world events. Education was always pushed either through MCI (Marine Corps Institute) courses or special schools. There was no room for the shy, and nonparticipating individual.
I did take advantage of college before I got out of the Marine Corps (something that I never dreamed of attempting when I was back in high school). I got a degree using the G.I. Bill. Going to school during active enlistment had some ups and downs, but we all had them. I’ve always maintained that the Marine Corps gave more, than it took away. Had it not been for the unfortunate episode with the land mine, I would have made a career of service to the Corps.
To this day I’m proud of being a Marine. Always, Semper Fidelis.
After my involvement with the war, I tried to adapt to civilian life, as so many of us did. For the most part, it was a successful transition…in spite of the attitudes of our nation then. To dwell any further on that, would be to admit some failures. Sure, I had my share of those. But, so did many others who had come home thinking they’d just trade their swords for plow shares, and get on with it. To cover that subject, could entail many more pages of writing, and I want to finish this up, as I’ve been reliving it for over a week now.
I’d like to conclude by saying that some of the concerns and frustrations that started to drift out of the smoke the Vietnam war produced, was our involvement with the war and the role we had in Hastings. As time passed, more and more books about the war surfaced, and I began to perceive what appeared to me to be a cover up. Very few histories even mentioned Operation Hastings, and when it was, it was usually to cite men who fought so bravely they were awarded this nation’s highest award for valor–The Medal Of Honor.
One day back in 1980, I was reading a book about the Vietnam war. There were many I read, but I think this particular one was And Brave Men Too. I was reading about Richard Pittman, and remembering how things had been on the Hill, while unconsciously reaching back to massage my upper neck. How close I’d come to dying in that encounter with the enemy. I had only recently heard of Richard’s incredible act of courage, and was proud to have been a part of that whole episode. But, wait a minute! The book didn’t even mention the role Lima 3/5 had played on the Hill! We were there! And, the books don’t even mention what it cost us … Didn’t they realize what had happened or how close it had been for all of us?
For me, it was like having been an eye-witness to a major catastrophe, and then to read a story about it in the newspaper, only to discover important facts to be missing or wrong. I became upset. I read other accounts of Hastings in other books. Same thing.
A friend of mine was still pretty close to things on the base at Camp Pendleton. He too had been a Marine grunt, but worked there as a civilian. When he found out how upset I was over this, he tried to arrange a lunch with me and Richard Pittman, who at the time was still serving the Corps (if I remember right) as a Gunnery Sergeant. For one reason or another, the lunch meeting never materialized, and not long after that I moved from the area. I want it understood, I never felt any animosity about the history of this operation being partially wrong. Just frustration that all we had attempted to do as a company, and as Marines trying to help other Marines was left out and that my friends from India would think I hadn’t tried. Ridiculous huh? But those were my thoughts for many years. Even though, I’m sure most of the guys in India Company wouldn’t remember me or what we went through at Boot Camp, or any of the other training. Everything that happened later, like Hill 362 – had a way of affecting memory.
About thirteen years later (in 1993), as I was kicking back next to the wood stove of my cabin high in the Trinity Alps of California on a snowy day, just thumbing through the latest DAV magazine, and noticed an ad in the Reunion section. It read:
L Co. 3/5 (’66 – ’71, Vietnam) Contact so and so, etc., etc.
I just stared at it. You see, deep down I’d always thought that someday there might be some sort of "get together". I missed those guys and the incredible times we’d shared. There had been a hollow feeling of loss ever since the war. To this day, I can’t explain it… except that when we get together at our company reunion every year there is a bond and a camaraderie we share, of which I have never known before. I haven’t missed a reunion since – and don’t ever expect to.
That was the year I found my old fighting hole buddy, Bob Stewart. Not long after that I came across John Olsen’s add trying to make connections with the men he served with in India Company. When I saw his ad, I sat down and wrote him a long letter. He called me within days. Since then, a lot of things have been cleared up as far as who was where, and what happened from our stand point. I feel better now that any of my friends from way back when, will know that we did try to reach them. It doesn’t change the war, we’ll live with that until we die. I expect it will be discussed long after we die, like the Civil War is still being hashed out to this day – but, at least some things will be a little better understood.
It is my hope that those of our battalion who participated in Operation Hastings, including those men of Mike and Kilo Companies, will want to add to what I have written during this series. It is further hoped that those brave souls who took up our positions as the war progressed will add their histories too. So, that those who may want to look back at what we did and what our accomplishments were, during some incredible times in the history of our country, will have a better understanding of who we were. That, as long as we are able – we will tell of those brave warriors who fought next us - and gave all.
In closing, I’d like to thank everyone who has helped me during this project, either by passing on information, sharing memories, contributing their own stories, giving words of encouragement, advice or all of the above - because I could never have done it alone. This includes the following people:
* Ed McCurry – who does an incredible job representing not only Mike and H&S companies but also India Company as well. His behind the scenes, and tireless efforts with getting my story out have not gone unnoticed.
* Debbe and Brad Reynolds – Thank-You so much, for all of your heartfelt support and correspondence while representing all of our Vietnam Veterans. Your day-by-day (sometimes hourly) encouragement helped me more then you can ever know.
Friends and authors, George Neville and William Myers.
* Author George Neville, has spent much of his time during the years since the war, compiling information for a book that will be released in the near future. It will address everything about Operation Hastings from it’s conception and execution, to the ‘shelving’ of it afterwards. I’m including a copy of his web page as it applies to the book. I was initially a little apprehensive when I first learned of George’s efforts to write about Hastings. But after talking with him on the phone, and with all of the subsequent encouragement and help he’s provided me ever since, I can honestly say that his interests have been primarily with us that fought the battle.
* William (Billy) Myers, has just completed a book called Honor The Warrior, and although I haven’t read it yet – I’m anxious too. I understand it is a very complete work about the Marines and particularly the ‘grunt’ through all of the Vietnam war, especially covering the operations and hardships of the later war years. It’s a ‘must read’ for any Marine, who served in any capacity in Vietnam.
* Joe Holt has become a close internet tie to India Company - past and present. His candid remarks, as well as encouragement and advice have helped me through some difficult periods. I urge you to read his stories that are listed on the India Company web site. They’re classics.
*John Olsen is another who keeps me on top of the events relating to India Company, sending me newsletters and newsworthy information about India. Y’all have a GREAT Reunion this year in San Diego.
Please note that along with all of the above, you will find many other great stories, poems and essays on all of the 3/5 web sites pertaining to our involvement in and with the Vietnam War. A lot of talent here, folks.
I’d like to encourage you to spend some time and take advantage of this wealth of material. I’ll list them here again:
Lima Co. 3/5 Homepagewww.members.tripod.com/Lima35
India Co. 3/5 Home Pagehttp://www.securenet.net/3rdbn5th/india35
Mike Co. 3/5 Home Pagehttp://www.securenet.net/3rdbn5th/mike35/
3rd Battalion, 5th Marines (all)http://beseen4.looksmart.com/boardroom/c/30679/View?n=00461a00475
UCMC Combat Wife (Debbe Reynolds’s page)http://usmcwife.bizland.com/ I want to thank my Brothers of the Sword, with whom I served so proudly while in the service of Lima Company, of the Third Battalion, Fifth Marines - and who I hope to always help to represent as a positive force. Your input is invaluable to me, and your friendship second to none. Love ya, and Semper Fi!
And, speaking of love, I would never have had the desire to approach this as I have, a little differently than I have in the past, if not for my soul mate and best friend, Tess. Her continual encouragement, and participation with all that I do, allows for a completeness in my life, of which I’ve never known. Let me say this to you, my dear lady,
- Companions that have chosen to remain for life
- that cherish one another through joy and strife
- by their own definition of love
- roam freely through a universe as yet to be defined …
- as a special kind of energy – never altered, but always combined
Thanks Baby! (sorry that’s the best I can do at poetry).
Thank you all for helping me to add a new dimension to this anniversary in my life.
Then, there is YOU! The reader . . . who can choose to read on… or push away. If you’ve managed to get this far with my story – then, thank-you for your participation. That alone has made this worth my time. Sincerely, ~ Yukon John Harris
THE FOLLOWING PAGES are testaments to those who have sought to put others before themselves.
1. Richard Pittmans’ Medal Of Honor Citation
2. The Story Behind Pittman’s Award
3. Lt. Robert Williams’ Navy Cross Citation
4. Lt. Williams’ Letter Home and Hill 362
5. India Company’s Silver Star Citations
4. Lima Company’s Silver Star Citations
5. George Nevilles web site, and Introduction to Operation Hastings
6. William Myers email address, and Introduction to Honor The Warrior
Medal of Honor
PITTMAN, RICHARD A.
Rank and organization: Sergeant (then L/Cpl.), U.S. Marine Corps, Company I, 3d
Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division (Rein) FMF
Place and date: near the demilitarized zone, Republic of Vietnam, 24 July 1966
Entered service at: Stockton, California
Born: 26 May 1945, French Camp, San Joaquin, California
PITTMAN, RICHARD A.
Sergeant, United States Marine Corps. For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a member of the First Platoon, Company I, Third Battalion, Fifth Marines, First Marine Division, during combat operations near the Demilitarized Zone, Republic of Vietnam. On 24 July 1966, while Company I was conducting an operation along the axis of a narrow jungle trail, the leading company elements suffered numerous casualties when they suddenly came under heavy fire from a well concealed and numerically superior enemy force. Hearing the engaged Marine's calls for more firepower, Sergeant (then Lance Corporal) Pittman quickly exchanged his his rifle for a machine gun and several belts of ammunition, left the relative safety of his platoon, and unhesitatingly rushed forward to aid his comrades. Taken under intense enemy small-arms fire at point blank range during his advance, he returned the fire, silencing the enemy positions. As Sergeant Pittman continued to forge forward to aid members of the leading platoon, he again came under heavy fire from two automatic weapons which he promptly destroyed. Learning that there were additional wounded Marines fifty yards further along the trail, he braved a withering hail of enemy mortar and small-arms fire to continue onward. As he reached the position where the leading Marines had fallen, he was suddenly confronted with a bold frontal attack by 30 to 40 enemy. Totally disregarding his own safety, he calmly established a position in the middle of the trail and raked the advancing enemy with devastating machine-gun fire. His weapon rendered ineffective, he picked up a submachine and, together with a pistol seized from a fallen comrade, continued his lethal fire until the enemy force had withdrawn. Having exhausted his ammunition except for a grenade which he hurled at the enemy, he then rejoined his own platoon. Sergeant Pittman's daring initiative, bold fighting spirit and selfless devotion to duty inflicted many enemy casualties, disrupted the enemy attack and saved the lives of many of his wounded comrades. His personal valor at grave risk to himself reflects the highest credit upon himself, the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.
Lyndon B. Johnson
President of the United States
THE MEDAL OF HONOR….. AND HOW IT GOT TO PITTMAN
By: Jim Sims
You are all aware of the unbelievably heroic actions of Richard A. Pittman on
July 24, 1966 and have seen his citation for the Medal of Honor. You might be interested in … as Paul Harvey would say …. the rest of the story of how the Medal found its way from Chu Lai to President Johnson.
In October 1966 I became Company Commander of I-3-5, and was soon joined by Dennis Perkins as XO and First Sergeant Settle. Soon thereafter they brought to me a stack of paperwork and recommended awards that had been returned by Battalion because of format, the need for supporting statements, and other admin stuff. Included was a recommendation for the Bronze Star for Lance Corporal Pittman. The reaction of Art Perry, Company Gunny, was; "B__ S__ ! What an injustice! If it hadn’t been for Pittman, many of us wouldn’t be here."
With that, Perkins and Perry set to obtaining supporting statements from witnesses. Clarence Drake had returned to I-3-5 and his input was invaluable. Because I had written the after action reports and had been the Division Investigating Officer of the action, I was well aware of what had happened and was able to rewrite the award recommendation.
A new recommendation – for the f Honor – was submitted. When Rich left the Company in early 1967 I gave him a copy telling him I had no idea what would eventually happen. Later, Colonel Kenny Houghton, CO of 5th Marines made some editorial changes and had me resubmit the award.
In March 1967, I was transferred to III MAF and became an Aide to Lieutenant General Walt. In early May 1967, Colonel Neville, the Deputy Chief of Staff, called me into General Walt’s office. They had in front of them the recommendation for the Medal of Honor, and quizzed me at length regarding the action and the preparation of the award. General Walt called Colonel Houghton and asked him about the award while I sat in the office. The issue was that Major General Nickerson, CG Ist Marine Division, had put as his endorsement a recommendation that the award be downgraded to a Silver Star.
After the interview and call to Colonel Houghton, General Walt called General Nickerson and pressured him to reconsider and change his endorsement to support a Medal of Honor. The following week Lieutenant General Krulak, CG FMFPAC, visited DaNang. He interviewed me for about 20 minutes regarding the Pittman award and spoke with Colonels Haynes and Houghton, former COs of 5th Marines. As in the previous meeting with General Walt, I noted that the missing piece of supporting evidence was a statement from Mike Bednar, wounded and abandoned on the hill. General Krulak directed his Aide Major John Grinalds to contact the VA and find Bednar.
General Krulak left DaNang with the recommendation and promised he would forward it to CMC recommending approval with enthusiasm. He promised he would do all that he could to have the medal awarded to Pittman.
The rest, as they say, is history. But for the chance reassignment of a Marine to be an Aide, the gallant actions of Richard A. Pittman might not have been recognized by a grateful nation. Regardless of whatever else may have happened, his actions will always be remembered by Art Perry, Clarence Drake, Bednar and all the others whose lives he saved.
NAVY CROSS CITATION
Williams, Robert S.
For extraordinary heroism as Platoon Commander, First Platoon, Company I, Third Battalion, Fifth Marines, First Marine Division in the Cam Lo District, Republic of Vietnam on 24 and 25 July 1966. As Company I moved onto Hill 362, First Lieutenant (then Second Lieutenant) Williams' platoon overran the forward security elements of an estimated battalion of the North Vietnamese Army. While in conflict with the security elements the Second Platoon bypassed the First Platoon and came under devastating preplanned fire by the enemy's main force, suffering many casualties. Realizing the graveness of the situation and being constantly exposed to intense enemy fire, First Lieutenant Williams led his platoon in the same frontal assault. Inspired by his courageous leadership and apparent calm in the face of overwhelming odds, the First Platoon gained the time and terrain to cover the rescue of the Second Platoon's wounded. When the numerically stronger force counterattacked, First Lieutenant Williams took command of the two platoons and formed them into a right perimeter for a better defense. Fearing that wounded had been left behind, he went out of the perimeter alone to search for them. There were bursts of automatic weapons fire, and the covering force began receiving withering assault fire from the advancing enemy. Artillery fire was called in to within seventy-five yards of the forward positions to avoid being completely overrun. Returning to the perimeter, First Lieutenant Williams emerged from the tall grass and reported he could not find any more wounded. Throughout the remainder of that day and the next, First Lieutenant Williams, constantly exposed to enemy fire, moved from position to position encouraging his men and the next, First Lieutenant Williams, constantly exposed to enemy fire, moved from position to position encouraging his men and directing their fire. Then early in the evening of 24 July, being too engrossed in his duties to seek cover, he was painfully wounded in the leg by a mortar attack; but he refused treatment until his troops had been cared for and continuing moving from position to position bolstering morale and the fighting efficiency of his unit. First Lieutenant Williams' extreme valor, undying devotion to duty, and initiative at the risk of his own life, saved the lives of many Marines and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.
Letter written by 2nd Lt. Williams
Sunday 7 Aug. ’66
Chu Lai, Vietnam
We have been in Chu Lai for about 4 or 5 days, and have been taking it easy. Yesterday the whole 5th Marine Regiment started on "Operation Colorado". "I" Co. is acting as security for the regimental C.P area and probably won’t see any action in this operation.
Now to explain what happened on Operation "Hastings". To start with, "I" Co. is still a fighting unit.
We were in the valley to the south of the ridge line I have drawn. The Company was ordered to occupy hill 362. My platoon, (1st Plt) led the way up the side of the ridge. When we got to the top, we spotted the trail running E & W. We turned east (or right) and started heading toward hill 362. About the time my trailing rear squad reached the trail, 3 North Vietnamese walked up the trail from the left. Fire was exchanged. I was near the head of the platoon (to the right) and went back to the firing after leaving the point squad with orders to watch towards hill 362. After joining the rear squad (1st Sqd. Under Sgt. Possio) we proceeded to pursue the enemy down the trail to the left. We killed 1 and captured 2. One of those who was captured was wounded and died later on. They were a 3 man detail carrying mortar ammunition.
By this time the C.O. had reached the trail, so I took the prisoner back to him. The P.O.W. told us (one of my men can speak a little Vietnamese) there were more enemy along the ridge to our right. I wasn’t sure he was telling the truth and I figured there might have been a translation mix-up. I knew we had enemy contact to the left, so I suggested Woody’s plt. Go right and I go left. I figured my platoon would have the best chance for enemy contact.
A little after Woody’s plt. (2nd Plt.) passed hill 362, they made contact with small groups of North Vietnamese and pursued them along the trail. At about Point A they were hit heavily by machine gun fire from their front and flank and immediately started to take heavy casualties. The 2nd Plt. Needed help so the 1st Plt. (mine) turned around and moved along the ridge to help them. As we passed the top of Hill 362 I dropped off a fire team to start making a clearing so the wounded could be lifted out by helicopter.
I didn’t take the Plt. all the way forward but left them a little to the rear while I went up to see Woody and find out what we could do to help. By this time Woody’s casualties were quite heavy. You see, they had the trail zeroed in with heavy machine guns. They were firing through the brush, (I’m sure they had registered on them previously) and we couldn’t locate them. We decided to pull back and call in an air strike. I then called down a squad to help pull out the dead and wounded and went back to get another. About this time, I got a call over the radio. (We need Help! We need help!) so I turned around and ran back down the trail. I didn’t know it but those up at the very front had just been overrun and without knowing it, I ran past the last live marine and smack into a North Vietnamese who caught me by surprise and started shooting at me with his automatic rifle from about 25 fee away. I dove into the brush and and set a new worlds record for crawling. I got back to where our people were and found Woody wounded. He seemed to be all right so I got 2 men and tried to work down the left flank of the trail to see if we could knock out the enemy or see if there were any wounded Marines there. The brush was so thick we could hardly move. We were very close to the enemy but couldn’t see for the brush. We would yell, "Is that a Marine firing, Is that a Marine?" Answer up or we will throw a grenade." We kept this up for 15 or 20 minutes then headed back to our own positions. We brought Woody along with us.
Pictures from Hill 362
When we got back with our troops we tried to drag 2 bodies up the trail with us. The enemy fire was coming in quite heavy and we were having to drag the bodies up hill. Finally, I gave the order to leave the bodies and withdraw to where Mike had set up a covering for us. We (the Sergeants with me) practically had to kick the men up the trail. They didn’t want to leave the 2 dead bodies. I hated to leave them myself, but the fire was so heavy I’m sure we would have lost several more if we hadn’t left the dead.
We got back to where Mike was (Position B) and set up a blocking force across the ridge. The brush and trees thinned out enough so we could move off the trail. By this time we had moved most of our dead and wounded to the HLZ and also started organizing a perimeter defense. I had the section from C through B to D, Mike had the section from D clockwise to C. By this time we started to receive a few rounds of mortar fire. They didn’t do much damage at this time. The perimeter was made up by grabbing anyone available and putting him in place. We had received enough casualties by this time to disorganize the various units. In one portion of my perimeter we dug a trench. It was manned by about 20 men, 75% of whom were wounded. The man I put in charge was a L/Cpl. Who couldn’t walk. He used a PFC as his legs to see that orders were carried out.
We now started to receive heavier and more accurate mortar fire. Some of the wounded were hit again. Some were hit a couple of times more. We also had several people killed.
We started to dig holes for the wounded, who could move at Point E. For those who were hit too critically to move, we dug holes on the HLZ. This was done while under fire. These Marines were magnificent. We had tried to get choppers in to lift out the wounded, but they got shot full of holes by machine gun fire.
All through the night we were probed by small groups. One North Vietnamese got within 6 feet of a Marine. The Marine tried to shoot him and his rifle jammed. (It had started raining and everything was caked with mud.) The enemy tried to fire, but his rifle also jammed. Needless to say, I think both men probably aged 10 years when they heard the other’s rifle click. The enemy promptly made a high speed exit. We finally got the mortar knocked out with artillery fire.
The next morning we started enlarging the landing zone so choppers could evcuate the wounded. The terrain was too rough to evacuate most of the wounded overland. We finally got chain saws in to help in the clearing but most of it was done with machetes. We had to run the walking wounded off. They were trying to chop on the trees. That included some with wounds in both arms.
By this time the North Vietnamese had withdrawn. At least they had stopped shooting.
A Little after it got light, some of my men heard someone calling for help. They immediately formed a small patrol and went out. (I was at the other end of the perimeter and didn’t hear the man yell.) It turned out to be my radioman, Pfc. Bednar, I didn’t know he had followed me down the trail and when I ran into the North Vietnamese, he evidently got shot and knocked unconscious as I dove into the brush. As I said before, we had tried to see if there were any Marines alive in this area. Evidently there was one other man who had been hit and knocked out but was still alive in the same area.
Anyway, after the shooting was over, the enemy started bayoneting the dead. This other man groaned when struck and was immediately shot. Bednar heard this and managed not to move or make any noise when they bayoneted him. He did such a good job that they thought he was dead and took his watch, cigarettes, pistol and radio. When it got dark, he started crawling up the trail toward us. Thank goodness it was an extremely dark night. Everytime one would pass him, he would play dead or crawl off the trail. During the night he crawled about 150 yards with a gunshot wound and three or four bayonet wounds. One of the bayonet wounds opened up his intestines and they were hanging out. The amazing thing about it was that when he was picked up, he didn’t ask for first aid or complain about his wounds. He must have thought I got hit when he did. The first thing he said was, "Is Lt. Williams O.K.?" Everytime I think of him and what he went through I almost cry. I know Marines aren’t supposed to do that sort of thing, but after seeing these kids die trying to save a wounded buddy, and digging holes for the wounded while they were under fire and watching them comfort the hurt, I can’t help it and don’t feel a bit ashamed about crying.
The total dead was around 25 and the wounded that had to be evacuated was in the neighborhood of 70. As you know, a man who is wounded or killed, receives the Purple Heart. About two nights before, Mike’s platoon had 8 killed and 4 wounded in an ambush. During a period of 3 days, our Company earned 116 Purple Hearts. Some of the wounds were minor but most were serious.
If anyone ever tells you today’s Marine isn’t as good as those in World War II and Korea, you set them straight. They fought like real pros. They sacrificed themselves so their friends would live. They held out when they should have run, and I consider it a privilege and honor to be able to lead these men and number them among my friends.
I miss both of you very much.
(Lt. R. S. Williams)
P.S. The boys’ names I like best are, Timothy Robert and Samuel Patrick.
For girls, how about Kelly Ann or Sandra Lea?
India’s Silver Star Awards
Hastings – July 1966
SILVER STAR Citations
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
HEADQUARTERS. FLEET MARINE FORCE. PACIFIC
FPO. SAN FRANCISCO. 96602
In the name of the President of the United States, the Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific takes pleasure in presenting
the SILVER STAR MEDAL to
STAFF SERGEANT BILLY J. BRICKEY
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
for service as set forth in the following
"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as Squad Leader with Company I, Third Battalion, Fifth Marines in connection with operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam. On 22 July 1966, Staff Sergeant BRICKEY's squad was serving as point for a company column, moving down a wide streambed, when the point fire team was ambushed at close range from enemy positions along the steep banks of the streambed. The fire team immediately sustained several casualties and was pinned down by heavy and accurate enemy automatic rifle fire. Maneuvering his remaining teams into positions to neutralize the enemy fire, Staff Sergeant BRICKEY left his place of relative safety to render aid to the wounded Marines. Continually and with complete disregard for his own safety, he crossed the exposed area under withering enemy fire to carry the wounded to safety. During one of his rescue attempts, Staff Sergeant BRICKEY was wounded by enemy fire and suffered wounds in his right arm and hand. Selflessly, he continued to direct fire on the enemy and to care for the wounded until they had all been moved to a safe position. After routing the enemy, Staff Sergeant BRICKEY directed the remainder of his squad in clearing a zone for the medical evacuation helicopter. His outstanding leadership and compassion for his fellow Marines inspired all who observed him and were instrumental in saving the lives of several of his companions. By his extraordinary courage, bold initiative, and selfless devotion to duty, Staff Sergeant BRICKEY upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service."
FOR THE PRESIDENT,
A. R. KIER
MAJOR GENERAL, U. S. MARINE CORPS
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
HEADQUARTERS. FLEET MARINE FORCE, PACIFIC
FPO, SAN FRANCISCO, 96602
In the name of the President of the United States, the Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific takes pleasure in presenting the SILVER STAR MEDAL to
FIRST LIEUTENANT MICHAEL DAVID CAREY
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS RESERVE
for service as set forth in the following
"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as a
Platoon Commander with Company I, Third Battalion, Fifth Marines, Third Marine
Division on 22 July 1966, in connection with operations against the enemy in the
Republic of Vietnam. During Operation Hastings, First Lieutenant CAREY's platoon
was acting as the point element for his company as it moved down a stream bed in
the Quan Cam Lo District of Quang Tri Province. Suddenly, the first squad was
taken under intense automatic weapons fire by a North Vietnamese ambush force.
In the initial burst of fire, four Marines were killed and the remainder of the
squad was pinned down by hand grenades and rifle fire. Realizing the seriousness
of the situation, First Lieutenant CAREY unhesitatingly advanced to the front of
his platoon and killed two enemy soldiers. Simultaneously, he skillfully
directed.the remaining squads into position in order to gain fire superiority.
Observing two of his men, seriously wounded and exposed to enemy fire, he
courageously dashed through the intense fire and moved the Marines to safety.
After the casualties were evacuated, First Lieutenant CAREY returned to the
ambush site and effectively maneuvered the remainder of the platoon in an attack
on the enemy positions which routed the enemy forces. His selfless disregard for
his own safety and valiant leadership preserved the integrity of his unit and
undoubtedly saved the lives of his men. By his courage and exceptional fortitude
in the face of enemy fire, keen professional ability and unfaltering dedication
to duty at great personal risk, First Lieutenant CAREY upheld the highest
traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service."
FOR THE PRESIDENT,
V. H. KRULAK
LIEUTENANT GENERAL, U. S. MARINE CORPS
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
HEADQUARTERS. FLEET MARINE FORCE. PACIFIC
FPO. SAN FRANCISCO. 96602
In the name of the President of the United States, the Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific takes pleasure in presenting a
gold star in lieu of the second SILVER STAR MEDAL to
FIRST LIEUTENANT MICHAEL DAVID CAREY
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS RESERVE
for service as set forth in the following
"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as a Platoon Commander with Company I, Third Battalion, Fifth Marines, Third Marine Division on 24 July 1966,, in connection with operations against the enemy. During the attack and subsequent defense of Hill 362, First Lieutenant CAREY repeatedly exposed himself to hostile fire to inspire and direct the efforts of his platoon against a numerically superior North Vietnamese Army force. While the First and Second Platoons were bitterly engaged with the enemy, he courageously led the Third Platoon forward to prevent an encirclement of his company by the enemy. Moving his squads forward, First Lieutenant CAREY, with complete disregard for his own safety, personally assaulted the advancing enemy unit with hand grenades. 'His aggressive and determined actions were so unexpected that he thoroughly disorganized the enemy and enabled his men to-maneuver through the thick underbrush and launch an assault against the determined enemy. After the hill had been partially secured, he consolidated his men to form a strong defensive position. Simultaneously, he made-provisions to have the wounded evacuated to a secure area. Although his position was under continuous heavy enemy mortar and small arms fire, First Lieutenant CAREY fearlessly moved among his men, directing their fire and encouraging them to hold their positions. His inspiring leadership, despite a painful wound sustained during the fire fight, was instrumental in the success of his unit in accomplishing its mission. By his exceptional fortitude in the face of intense enemy fire, selfless and heroic actions, keen professional skill and unfaltering dedication to duty, First Lieutenant CAREY upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service."
FOR THE PRESIDENT,
V. H. KRULAK
LIEUTENANT GENERAL, U. S. MARINE CORPS
2nd Lt. Lee Anderson
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
HEADQUARTERS, FLEET MARINE FORCE, PACIFIC
FPO, SAN FRANCISCO, 96602
In the name of the President of the United States, the Commanding General,
Fleet Marine Force, Pacific takes pleasure in presenting the SILVER STAR
SECOND LIEUTENANT LEE H. ANDERSON
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
for service as set forth in the following
"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as a Platoon Commander with Company L, Third Battalion, Fifth Marines, First Marine Division on 24 July 1966 in connection with operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam. During Operation Hastings in Quang Tri Province, Second Lieutenant ANDERSON led his platoon to the position of a Company which had been attacked by a North Vietnamese battalion.
Subsequently, the position was again attacked by the determined enemy force and a vicious fire fight ensued. Braving intense hostile fire, he courageously moved among his men, directing their fire and offering them words of encouragement. Under his inspiring leadership, his platoon gained fire superiority, which resulted in seven enemy killed, one of which he
killed himself. Although five additional deaths were estimated to have been inflicted on the enemy and other casualties were observed being dragged away by the remainder of the enemy unit, Second Lieutenant ANDERSON's platoon sustained only light casualties. Exhibiting uncommon initiative and sound judgment, he called in air strikes to insure the complete destruction of the enemy, but the dense jungle canopy prevented the pilots from locating the
North Vietnamese position. With complete disregard for his own safety, Second Lieutenant ANDERSON ran forward of his own lines on four separate occasions to throw smoke grenades into enemy positions, marking them for the aircraft overhead. His heroic and selfless actions insured the success of the close air support mission and the ultimate destruction of the North Vietnamese force. By his outstanding leadership, fearless determination in the face of enemy fire and loyal devotion to duty, Second Lieutenant ANDERSON upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service."
FOR THE PRESIDENT
A. R. KIER, MAJOR GENERAL, U. S. MARINE CORPS ACTING
Author George Neville’s Hastings Web Site:http://www.georgeneville.com/
15 July – 03 August 1966
In the summer of 1966, the United States Marine Corps began a combat operation on the northeastern border of The Republic of South Vietnam.
Seven Marine infantry battalions deployed from Dong Ha, a small village south of the Demilitarized Zone, the boundary between North and South Vietnam. In support were elements of the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, and units of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. The deployment of the Marine battalions was the largest and deepest penetration into South Vietnam since their arrival the previous year. The brushy hill country and tangled jungles in the mountains bordering the eastern DMZ was unexplored territory for American Infantry forces. The Marines moved north to engage forces of the North Vietnamese Army infiltrating south through this difficult terrain.
As a nineteen year old Reconnaissance Marine, I along with a handful of other men, were sent with a task organized Marine recon mission to pinpoint the location and activities of the North Vietnamese. Combined U.S. intelligence assets determined that a well equipped, superbly trained North Vietnamese force had massed in large numbers west of Dong Ha and south of the DMZ. Our mission was successful.
Over the next ten days, the Marine Corps encountered its most bloody and bitter combat since the Korean War, fighting a jungle war that matched WWII in difficulty and savagery. Upon its conclusion, six of the seven Marine battalions were re-deployed, and the Operation was a declared a success. Press releases and "official sources" declared victory, reporting that the North Vietnamese Army fled back across the DMZ to sanctuaries in the north. The Marines fighting in blazing heat, steep jungles, and unforgiving brush and scrub country that summer, may remember things differently, though. I am among them. I recall that operation as one of the bloodiest, most difficult and historically significant battles of the war in Vietnam.
The operation was code named "Hastings." Within Operation Hastings, there is a story to tell. It is a story of individual heroism, but also a story of American military and political arrogance and ignorance. It is a story that provokes questions and requires answers. It is a story known best, in part, by the men who fought there, but never told in its whole truth. It is a story that is a paradigm of America’s war in Vietnam. It is a story that moves from the rarefied and abstract world of a U.S. President to the grim reality of the Marine rifleman. The story of Operation Hastings is both a complex and simple story, and it is a story that demands to be told.
Years after my tour in Vietnam, I became perplexed by the "official" histories of Operation Hastings. What I read conflicted with my recollection of events. Intrigued by that conflict, my curiosity compelled me to dig deeper into the archives. When confronted with resistance from military and civilian authorities to reveal classified documents, my curiosity transformed to an investigation of Operation Hastings. It began a ten-year investigative odyssey, searching through the archives of the four service branches, and numerous agencies of the Federal Government. My research yielded two salient points. The first was that I would meet official resistance at every turn. The second was that as I found material and conducted hundreds of interviews with participants on "Hastings" a pattern of deceit and distortion was emerging. The "histories" were distorted to endorse the purported "victory" of Operation Hastings, but my research and interviews were unearthing a very different story. Each interview and document expanded a pattern of self-serving historical scholarship designed to withhold the actual facts about the intelligence data, execution and aftermath of "Hastings."
My research became a quest for fact, and my curiosity resolved into a relentless search for documented facts that contradicted the calculated optimism of published research. As I began to discover the extent of the significance of "Hastings," to the National Command Authority and senior military officers prosecuting the Vietnam War, my resolve hardened.
As I shared some of my information with several mentors and friends, they encouraged, cajoled, and in some cases, berated me to begin a narrative of the pieces of the puzzle that were forming. To accomplish this, I had to ask and answer some fundamental questions based on my research.
Marine Reconnaissance, and other intelligence gathering and analysis agencies had knowledge of well armed, well equipped North Vietnamese Forces in strength occupying fortified positions south of the DMZ before the conduct of Hastings. Why wasn’t that information disseminated to the Operation task force and maneuver battalion commanders?
Why was every aspect of Operation Hastings under continued scrutiny by MACV, CINCPAC, JCS, and the National Command Center? The operation received ambassadorial and presidential attention, yet the ground commanders had no real time intelligence.
Why was the operation abruptly terminated and declared a success when existing intelligence data confirmed that North Vietnamese units remained south of the DMZ ?
Why were 80,000 pages of documents captured by the Marines during "Hastings" retained by the intelligence community until I discovered them in 1999? These documents depicted the North Vietnamese Army realistically as a highly trained, dedicated, motivated Light Infantry Army. They also contained tables of organization, tables of equipment and strategic and tactical plans for the North Vietnamese prosecution of the war along the DMZ. Why were these documents never shared with the Marine commanders who began conducting extended operations in Northern I Corps shortly after the termination of "Hastings."
These are only a few of the questions I pose in my narrative. There are many more. I also have answers. The answers support my contention that "Operation Hastings" was a multi-service operation, a battle in which the Marines engaged a superior force without adequate intelligence or support. It was a battle that marked a fundamental shift in the nature of ground combat and disposition of North Vietnamese forces and strategy in the war. U. S. Marine casuaIties were horrendous and far greater then ever admitted to in the historical record. It was also a battle that was a historical pivot point for the American war in Vietnam, one that both Hanoi and Washington attempt to shroud in secrecy to this day. Finally, it was a battle in which Marine units at the individual, squad and platoon level endured and performed "above and beyond the call of duty," in a terrible climate, brutal terrain and "against all odds."
It is my intention to reduce the complex chain of events surrounding Operation Hastings to its true historical perspective, and to honor the men who fought that terrible battle with the "truth" as best as I can write it. You deserve no less. It is also my intent to apply standards of documented "truth" to the standing histories of Operation Hastings for the general readership. It will inform not only the conduct of the Vietnam War, but also the nature of American political, social and military leadership of the era. It is often said, "In war, truth is the first casualty." In this instance, the truth will prevail.
For those of you who have provided me so much assistance and support, know that my commitment and diligence has not wavered, and I continue to work hard on this extremely complex and difficult material. l will not cease until it is a manuscript as factual and thorough as can be written.
George G. Neville, Jr.
Honor The Warrior
My name is William Myers and I have just completed the book, Honor the Warrior. It is a collection of mostly first person accounts of Marines in combat in Vietnam.
The book includes a chapter that is concerned with Operation Swift. It is entitled The Valley of the Shadow. This Operation involved most units of the Fifth Marines and included Lima Co.3/5. You will also recognize the names of many Marines from l-3-5 in the text and on the medals lists. Among them are Clarance Barrett, Garry Boeck, Vincent Capodanno, Daniel Hayes, Donald Justis, Lester Konrady, Burdett Loucks, Robert McMullin, John Niotis, Harold Pettingill, Benjamin Richardson, Jose Rivera and Robert Zimmerman.
I will inscribe each book, as you desire if you desire. It is my hope that everyone whose name appears in the book will have a chance to read it. This book was written for Marines by a Marine. When you see it you will immediately understand.
The books published about the Vietnam War now number in the thousands, and they keep coming because they are popular, they generate revenue for publishing houses, and they enable fledgling writers to express their feelings. Based on the number of publications alone, the Vietnam conflict is indisputably the most controversial war in our Nation's history. Some of these books are historically or politically educational, others tactically informative, and some are intended simply to tell a story and express an opinion. Honor the Warrior scrupulously avoids the political arena and therefore falls solidly into the latter category.
This is a series of stories about the Marines who fought the war and had very little idea who or where the generals or colonels were. In a series of 17 short stories-historical renditions really this book offers an exceptional selection reflecting the combat experiences of the junior officers and enlisted Marines who fought primarily because that's what they were trained to do. A few of the selections are republished from other sources, and recognized as such, but most are original renditions of events and experience s that occurred in combat in Vietnam. Unlike some collections I've seen, these tales are interesting, well written, and very well documented. Myers apparently edited them somewhat, but not to the extent that the reader fails to ascertain that they are written by different people about experiences that are unique in their lives. At the end of each story/chapter is appended a list of the names of every individual mentioned in the chapter (including the military service number and the hometown), an interesting touch reinforcing the legitimacy and historical accuracy of the work.
Myers is not a professional writer, but he does not lack talent. He entered the Corps at the age of 17, served a 4-year tour, then went on to obtain multiple degrees and a career as a teacher and a coach. I-Es stated purpose in writing this book is to honor the warrior, rather than the war. This is an appealing distinction. What the reader gets from this book is a recording of a microscopic few of the countless acts of bravery and tactical skill displayed by ordinary men who did so much to demonstrate the traits that make Marines special
Obviously, some stories are better than others, but I defy any reader to confess that the saga of "Howard's Hill," the story of Medal of Honor recipient SSgt Jimmie Howard's platoons heroic stand, isn't among the most moving and emotional combat stories written about one of the most intense small unit operations in Vietnam. It can't be told enough. Also, any person who is a leader, or hopes to become one, can learn some practical lessons associated with the challenge of assuming command of an under motivated company in the midst of a combat operation by reading "Troubleshooter," written by then-Capt George Navadel. "3165" and "Door Gunner" reveal a tense firefight from the perspective of several helicopter crews out for routine missions that spin into a deadly demonstration of bravery and flying skill. "The Worst Day of My Life" contains a moving saga of an intense and sustained exchange of fire under severe circumstances where no Marine senior to a corporal is involved, and intense fear is a constant companion.
The appendices are useful and interesting. The author, with the acknowledged assistance of the Medals and Awards Branch at Headquarters, Marine Corps, has appended a complete list of all Marine Medal of Honor, Navy Cross, and Silver Star recipients from the Vietnam War. The index is replete with names of Marines we all know, have heard about, or wish we had, including several who moved on to very senior positions in the Corps. However, the majority left the Corps and lived a life of a typical American, with one distinct difference-they were intimately involved in an event that caused them to be in this book, and for that experience, they are special.
To order send a check or money order to:
William L. Myers email address:email@example.com
183 Steiner Road #117
Lafayette, Louisiana 70508-6000
Honor the Warrior: The United States Marine Corps in Vietnam. William L. Myers Redoubt Press, 183 Steiner Road, # 117, Lafayette, LA 70508-6000 294 pages, map, appendices, hardcover, $25.00 plus $3.00 S & H.
Back to Introduction