View Full Version : "Big Red"

04-21-05, 07:09 AM
here's a good read that was written as a memorial to Pfc.Rick "Big Red" Weaver, may God Rest His Soul

"This memorial honors a young Marine who gave the ultimate sacrifice in time of war. His juncture was the TET Offensive, the early months of the year 1968. As a Marine, the call to duty was his.

The First Marine Division, headquartered at Phu Bai, Thua Thien Provence near the DMZ between North and South Vietnam, had been assigned to insure the first line of defense against a Communist invasion into the South. His unit, Alpha Company, first Batallion - Fifth Marines, encountered the enemy in more than fifty separate firefights during his time "in country," 18 January 1968 through 20 May 1968. Twelve days after his arrival, the North Vietnamese Communist forces began the Offensive that was intended to end the entire conflict with one massive show of force. There was no other time during the entire Vietnam War that saw greater continuous warfare and loss of life than "TET."

The Battle of Hue City
The cultural city of Hue, home to all the grand history of the former Vietnaese nation, was built on the north bank of the Perfume River just below the modern DMZ. The Citadel of Hue, a six-mile square enclosure built with walls sixteen feet high, was to become the new symbol of victory for the Communist North.

In the latter weeks of 1967, North Vietnamese Army units, aided by insurgent elements of local Viet Cong in Hue, brought in all the necessary armaments to occupy the Citadel and insure a great victory for the North. With the advantage of planning and surprise, the Hanoi generals were confident of a great military and psychological victory for their cause. They had left out only one element in their well-laid plans: the devotion to duty of their foe. The Marine infantryman, with rifle in hand, and a knot in the pit of his stomach, denied the Communist victory in a battle of historic proportion.

Alpha Company was ordered into action at Hue on 10 February and sent to the south bank of the Perfume River. Air support by fighter bombers was negligible because of the fog, rain, and low ceiling. The fighting would be at ground level. After three days, the battle was taken to the Citadel walls, where Alpha Company was given the job of spearheading the river crossing and routing the North Vietnamese Army from its stronghold within the Citadel.

purple heart The first of three purple hearts was awarded to our honoree for a battle wound at Hue, 15 February. His weapon of choice was the pump shotgun. It was close quarters and house-to-house, block-to-block; he was wounded a second time on 18 February.

The U.S. Marines had not fought an inner city battle since the Korean War. The First Battalion sustained so many killed and wounded, it was in danger of becoming under strength; however by 25 February, the Communist commander in Hue had been killed. Contrary to orders from Hanoi, the NVA deserted its position and blended into the civilian population of 100,000 refugees.

In the (declassified) First Battalion "After Action Report" obtained for the research of our memorial, it states "22 February, Company A at [location coordinates] succeeded in attaining the Hue Redoubt of the southeast wall of the Citadel of Hue whereupon an element of this unit hoisted our National Ensign." The Stars and Stripes went up over the Citadel wall. One hundred forty-nine U.S. Marines had been killed in action and over 800 wounded in this battle, described as the bloodiest of the entire Vietnam War.

Alpha Company had raised our national flag in victory. For a young Marine experiencing the first horrors of war, it must have been a feeling previously unimagined to see it go up. As history now tells it, all the Marine infantrymen at Hue City had been chosen by fate or chance to uphold a grand tradition of the U.S. Marine Corps, "Death before Dishonor."

purple heart One nineteen year-old Private First Class, who graduated from Indian Hill High School only eight months before, was wounded twice at the Battle of Hue City and participated in a historical victory for the Allied Forces. His name was then placed in history: RICHARD MICHAEL WEAVER. A 6'3", 200 lb. redhead, his fellow Marines called him "Big Red."

In the Oval Office of the White House stands each flag of our military forces bearing the silk streamers of great individual victories. The flag of the United States Marine corps has streamers for Belleau Wood, Guadalcanal, Peleliu, and Hue City. In June 1969, President Richard M. Nixon presented the Presidential Unit Citation to the First Marine Division for "soundly defeating a numerically superior force . . . by their aggressive fighting spirit and individual acts of heroism and daring."

The Battle at Truoi River Bridge
At the end of Operation Hue City, Alpha Company and, moreover, the First Battalion of the Fifth Marines, had been nearly decimated in strength. Machine gunners were in short supply; the M60 machine gun was the central firepower of the rifle platoon, and the gunner and his assistant - the A-gunner - were commonly the first target of the enemy's return fire. In early March, Richard volunteered to be the M60 gunner. He had qualified in training on the M60, and it required the utmost combat skills.

The First Battalion was immediately assigned the job of security of the MSR, the main supply route north and south through both northern-most provinces. This was the infamous highway 1. At the crossing of the Truoi river was the old French road and railroad bridge and its small hamlet. It was a major "choke point" and was usually guarded by the indigenous South Vietnamese forces and the allied CAP units, a Marine detachment assigned to guard the food supply and provide additional protection for the village.

On March 31 1968, the Second Platoon of Alpha Company and the HQ group, which included the Company A commander, moved into the hamlet at the bunkered south end of the bridge and was ordered at ease. Approximately 30 members of the platoon, assigned duties for the next day, moved into the small buildings that made up the compound at the bridge entrance.

In the early evening around 8 PM, mortars and rockets from across the river started coming in; the defensive position on the south end of the bridge was under severe attack. The hamlet was being overrun; the enemy was "inside the wire" and had taken full advantage of the element of surprise. Satchel charges of explosives were being thrown into the open windows of the huts occupied by the members of the second platoon. Later, Lance Corporal Dennis Sliby was awarded the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism for saving the lives of his men by covering an enemy grenade with his body, shielding his companions from the blast.

Eyewitness accounts have told us Pfc. Richard Weaver was the only gunner able to make it to his assigned post, a sandbagged bunker on top of an old French concrete gun emplacement. Richard stayed his post the entire night, laying down a field of fire in the face of overwhelming odds. It was later determined there were approximately 300 North Vietnamese regulars attacking en masse. It clearly was a major TET Offensive objective for the Hanoi brass; the Truoi Bridge was to be taken at any cost.

The battle at Truoi River Bridge lasted all night. At dawn, through the heroic efforts of a tiny force of Marines, the south end of the bridge was still in Allied control. The second platoon of Alpha Company faced anther do-or-die situation and held its ground. Only through the desperate efforts of the suicide "sapper" squads of NVA, the bridge was blown and partially destroyed.

Several months later, in another part of the province, the added significance of the Truoi Bridge objective became evident. While on a routine patrol, another element of Alpha Company discovered a complete life-size wooden replica of this same bridge. The NVA had rehearsed and carefully planned its attack. Only the devotion to duty of one Marine rifle platoon kept it from complete victory.

The NVA paid a huge price to demobilize the Truoi Bridge; the enemy casualties were confirmed at sixty-four, but those were just the ones not recovered by dawn's first light. The USMC records of this battle show fifteen Marines killed in action and fifty-eight wounded, mostly those of the Marine CP guards.

Many years before, Hanoi General Giap had told the French Occupation Forces, "You will kill ten of my soldiers, and I will kill only one of yours, but I will still win." Such as it was, this was still true for the military policies of Hanoi in the Tet Offensive, as the North Vietnamese could lose every battle and still consider it a step toward victory. The Battle at Truoi River Bridge was once again a victory for the U.S. Marines. The next morning the war started all over again.

The Third Purple Heart
Alpha Company fought on through April and May in Operation Houston, patrolling constantly and engaging the NVA in numerous opportunities to sweep the countryside of Communist infiltration. The weapons platoon with the gunners was never at ease and Richard - "Big Red" - was said to always lead the way, first to fire and last to stop. The life expectancy of an M60 gunner was said to be measured in seconds - not minutes - once a firefight had commenced. Richard outlasted these odds time and time again.

purple heart In the early morning hours of 20 May, while on a night perimeter position with his A-gunner Jim McGinnis, a small NVA patrol ambushed their lines and was able to aim fire at the muzzle flash produced by Richard's M60. Jim McGinnis told us Richard's fatal wounds were sustained at this time, while he was firing his machine gun. All the men we interviewed for the writing of this chronicle told us the same thing: the loss of "Big Red" Weaver was the most devastating in their memory. His leadership and companionship and the example he set gave them the hope of survival for another day.

Surely, in the stories history of the United States Marine Corps, a great number of unique and unforgettable men who served as Marines are remembered. Their devotion to duty and single-minded purpose to serve our country in their exemplary fashion set them apart and hold a special place in our nation's history. Please reserve this space for such a Marine, RICHARD MICHAEL WEAVER."

On the epitaph of another Marine just like him is inscribed:
And when he goes to Heaven,
to Saint Peter he will tell,
"Another Marine reporting, Sir,
I've served my time in Hell."