View Full Version : Fox’s 43-year career spanned two wars

01-25-04, 02:01 PM
Issue Date: January 26, 2004

The Lore of the Corps
Fox’s 43-year career spanned two wars

By Keith A. Milks
Special to the Times

For 43 years, during a distinguished career that spanned two major wars and both enlisted and officer ranks, Wesley L. Fox wore the uniform of a Marine. He was born Sept. 30, 1931, in Herndon, Va., graduated from high school in 1948 and enlisted in the Marine Corps on Aug. 4, 1950, barely five weeks after North Korea invaded South Korea.
After boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., and infantry training he served briefly with the 2nd Marine Division before being assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, in South Korea.

On Sept. 8, 1951, just days away from his 21st birthday, he was seriously wounded in action against Chinese forces and evacuated to the Bethesda Naval Medical Center in Maryland.

But Fox was not finished, either with the Corps or with combat. In the post-war Corps, Fox served with the Armed Forces Police in Washington, D.C., returned to the 5th Marines and to a Korea at an uneasy peace, then returned to Camp Pendleton, Calif. Career card-punching assignments followed — drill instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego from 1955 until 1957, then recruiter duty in the Washington, D.C. area.

The early 1960s saw Fox serve with the 1st Force Reconnaissance Company at Camp Pendleton and also on Okinawa, and as a troop handler for the Marine Air Detachment in Jacksonville, Fla. He returned to military police duties — this time in Europe — until his promotion to first sergeant in May 1966 and subsequent commissioning as a second lieutenant.

In August 1967 he was assigned as a platoon commander with the 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company, Camp Lejeune, N.C., then went on to serve as an adviser to the Vietnamese Marine Corps for nearly 13 months. In November 1968, still in Vietnam, 1st Lt. Fox assumed command of Company A, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, 3rd Marine Division.

On Feb. 22, 1969, Fox’s company was conducting a sweep against North Vietnamese forces in Vietnam’s rugged A Shau Valley when it was ambushed by a numerically superior, entrenched enemy force. Fox quickly established his company command post on the front line, where he could better orchestrate his company’s maneuvering.

Almost immediately, the North Vietnamese launched an attack against the command post and succeeded in wounding all of its occupants, including Fox. Despite his wounds, Fox continued to direct the action of his Marines. At one point, he charged forward and single-handedly destroyed an enemy machine-gun nest firing on his platoons and, in full view of the enemy, then directed his men against the string of North Vietnamese bunkers.

Through it all, Fox coordinated airstrikes against the enemy. And when he felt the enemy was beginning to break, he reorganized his Marines and led them in a final attack against the reeling North Vietnamese troops. He was wounded a second time but refused medical attention. After the enemy was routed, he directed his men into defensive positions and oversaw the evacuation of his wounded. Only then did he allow his wounds to be attended and for himself to be evacuated.

Fox was promoted to captain shortly after the battle and returned to the United States, where he attended the Amphibious Warfare School and then became an instructor at The Basic School. On March 2, 1971, during a White House ceremony, President Nixon presented Fox with the Medal of Honor for his actions in Vietnam on Feb. 22, 1969.

Later assignments included various staff and command positions, and Fox participated in the college completion program through which he earned a bachelor’s degree in business from Western State College in Gunnison, Colo. In addition to the Medal of Honor, Fox was awarded the Bronze Star with “V” device and four Purple Hearts.

Fox retired from the Corps in September 1993 and went on to continue uniformed service for another eight years as the deputy commandant of cadets at Virginia Tech. He recently recounted his life and career in his autobiography, “Marine Rifleman.”

The writer is a gunnery sergeant stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C. He can be reached at kambtp@aol.com.