View Full Version : Never Quit!

03-19-06, 10:58 AM
First Sergeant Jimmy E. Howard
Born on July 27, 1929, in Burlington, Iowa Howard enlisted in the Corps on July 12, 1950. He went to Boot Camp at San Diego, California and was promoted to Private First Class upon Graduation.

1952 saw Howard in Korea where he was awarded the Silver Star for his actions in that conflict.

Returning to the States, he served in several units until January of 1955 when he was assigned as a Squad Leader with the 1st Amphibious Reconnaissance Company FMF. SSgt came his way in May of 1957. His date with a Marine Reconnaissance Team, a mountain top in a small Asian country and a Battalion of North Vietnamese troops was fast approaching.

On 13 June 1966, a flight of helos landed Howard and his 17 man team on hill 488. At 1500 feet elevation and 25 miles west of the Marine Base at Chu Lai, it provided an outstanding vantage point to observe enemy movement. Other than one man fox holes left by the enemy which the SSgt also used for observation, there was little cover, no trees, just grass and scrub vegetation.

For two days, Howard's team reported on the movements of the NVA and called several fire missions. While there was some concern about the team's exposed position, the decision was made to leave them there for one more day.

The NVA and Viet Cong, determined to wipe out this group of Marines, began to move into position for a surprise attack. An Army Special forces team leading a platoon of Civilian Irregular Defense Group troops saw elements of the advance and radioed in. As Howard had his radio tuned that communications channel, he was aware that they were being stalked. Howard briefed his team leaders, Corporals and Lance Corporals, and they settled back to watch and wait.

At approximately 22:00 that night, from 12 feet away, LCpl R. Binns shot a well camouflaged infiltrator and the fight was on. This action would see every surviving Marine in the unit wounded, and would add one Medal of Honor, four Navy Crosses and thirteen Silver Stars to the Corps legacy of courage.

Withdrawing to the main position, around 20 meters in diameter Howard prepared to defend his perimeter. Grenades began to rain into the position. The platoon corpsman, Billie Don Holmes said, " They were within 20 feet of us. Suddenly there were grenades all over. Then people started hollering. It seemed everyone got hit at the same time."

The NVA had four .50 cal. Machine guns firing in support of the assault, tracer rounds were zipping in from the four points of the compass, light machine guns added their rattle to the sounds of war and then 60-mm mortar shells smashed in, sending rock and metal shrapnel fragments shrieking through the area. A well coordinated assault by the NVA began from several different points. The Marines fire scythed through the communist ranks. The first attack failed and the communists began probing the Marine perimeter.

Marines, listening for movement heaved grenades, often, confused jabbering followed by a blast told of the effectiveness of this tactic. Howard called in and requested an extraction. "You've gottta get us out of here. There are too many for my people."

The SSgt called for air support. Flare ships, helos and fixed wing aircraft were sent from the air base at Nui Vu. Around midnight as the Marines were still waiting for the air to arrive, the communist forces rushed the Marine position a second time. The Marines threw their last grenades and fired weapons on semi auto, relying on that famed Marine Corps accuracy with individual weapons to suppress the attack. This second frontal assault failed, but not entirely. By now every Marine on the hill was wounded or had been killed.

Out of the dark, coming up the slopes came a sound Marines in other battles had heard before, "Marines-you die tonight!" Other foes had tried this before, the Germans in W.W.I, The Japanese on small, bloody tropic islands in the Pacific and the communist Chinese and Koreans. But, what didn't work before, wouldn't work on these Marines either. The Marines shouted back their own comments and Howard took the opportunity to apply his own psyop tactic and on call., had all his Marines laugh at the Vietnamese.

Around 01:00 air support was on station, and as the first flares dropped and lit the darkness the men on the beleaguered hill top were able to see the enemy which seemed to fill the valley. At altitudes as low as 20 feet the helo gun ships roared in delivering long deadly bursts of machine gun fire. The fixed wing jets dived to the attack, napalm added to the strange light of the flares, punctuated by the thunder and flash of the bombs they dropped on the massed communist troops. Under Howard's guidance, the guns ships were directed on runs which strafed the enemy to within 25 meters of Marine positions.

Low on ammo, Howard ordered his men to shoot only at identified targets and only one shot at a time. The enemy hammered the Marines with automatic fire and threw grenades. The Marines returned deadly aimed fire and threw rocks, shooting at the shapes which darted away from the noise believing that the rock was a grenade.

As the seconds of the minutes of the hours slowly ticked off to sunrise, each Marine fought his own battle and several died in their position. Hours later, the relieving force found one Marine propped against a rock. To his front, a dead NVA trooper. The muzzles of each's weapon touching the chest of the other. Two Marine e-tools, (small folding shovels) were found near a group of mangled communist dead, covered in blood. Another Marine was found dead on the ground. Bandaged about the chest and head, his hand still clutched the hilt of a knife buried in the back of the enemy soldier on top of him.

By 0300 an extraction was attempted, but was not successful due to the intense enemy fire. Howard was told he would have to hold until sunrise. Shortly thereafter Howard was struck in the back by a ricochet. His voice on the radio faltered. All who were listening thought the brave Marine had died, but then, his voice came back strong across the miles.

Refusing morphine because of the drowsing effects the drug has, Howard, unable to use his legs pulled himself under fire to each position. Dragging his radio with him he directed fire and encouraged his Marines. At 05:25 Howard shouted to the embattled Marines, "Ok you people, reveille goes in 35 minutes." At exactly 06:00 his voice floated out over the Marine positions, "Reveille, reveille!"

45 minutes after dawn with air and artillery preparation of a landing zone, Charlie Company of the Fifth Marines (Infantry) dropped in and started towards Howard's position. By the time they reached the besieged Marine position, the recon Marines had eight rounds left.

Fighting continued heavy and hot as choppers maneuvered to evacuate the men from the top of the hill. From Chu Lai, the Battalion Commander called Charlie Co. asking 'Is the landing zone secure?" over the radio. "Well," a hesitation, "...not spectacularly" Back in the relative safety of the base, a junior Noncommissioned Officer asked, "What does he mean by that?" Said an older, saltier veteran, "What the hell do you think it means, stupid? He's getting shot at!"

After hard and often hand to hand combat, and under continued air and artillery cover the Charlie Co. grunts began moving causalities to the LZ for evacuation. Marines never leave their dead or wounded on the field. By noon the communist survivors began to slip away and soon the hill was quiet.

The Marines lost 10 dead, Charlie Co and the Huey squadron lost 2 each. Of the Reconnaissance Marines, six had been killed; the other 12 were wounded. The enemy left better than 30 of his men dead on the hill.

Semper Fi First Sergeant!

Old Marine
03-22-06, 08:31 PM
Don't know how much you folks know about this man other than he won the MOH which is a great feat. <br />
<br />
I was stationed at MCRD, San Diego and Jimmy Howard was also stationed there before he went to...

07-08-06, 09:58 AM
Attached is a picture of my Dad (left) and a Jimmy Howard.

My father, Cpl. George J. Lawrence, passed back in 2003. I'm trying to get in touch with some of his old friends/corpsmen. I have a picture of him and a Jimmy Howard from the Marine Corp. I'm unsure when he served with my father but my father served:

4.2 Mortar Co, 1st Marine, 1st Marine Division, FMF from 8/10/52 to 11/23/52.
1st Medical Battalion, 1st Marine Division, FMF from 3/22/53 to 10/8/53.

Any idea on how I'd find his former Marines? Any information you can provide is greatly appreciated. Thanks.

The only information I have on it is it says "Pittsburg" on the back.

Likely from 1953-1956.

Anyone recognizes the Jimmy Howard on the right, please let me know.

Sorry but I posted this in the Looking for a Leatherneck forum also.

Picture is posted there.



Zulu 36
07-09-06, 09:06 PM
This is more of a reply to Old Marine's post on 3/22/06.

Jimmie Howard, while working for the VA, came to my last unit in the Corps (MP Co, 1st MarDiv) around August 1977. He was doing the tour lecturing soon to be seperated Marines on VA benefits and such. He was a pretty imposing guy, but laid back. Our CO was going to hold a formal formation to greet him, but Howard send word ahead of time not to do so. He was coming as a VA rep, not a VIP.

He made no bones about his background. He called himself a "certified underachiever" and admitted straight up to us that he probably would have been lucky to retire as a SSgt if he didn't manage to get the Blue Max. He also said that he did try to clean up his act a little bit after getting the MoH, but wasn't always as successful as he wanted to be. I was left with the impression that he liked to party and wouldn't pass on an opportunity to throw hands if the situation presented itself.

He told us that they only reason he did what he did on Hill 448 was he didn't feel like dying on that particular rock right then and didn't want his guys to die there either. Kind of a "Not on my watch" sort of attitude. He spoke very fondly of his guys as the "toughest, meanest bunch I ever had work for me."

He also told us that MoH winners could automatically get jobs as deputy US marshals or with the VA. He said (with a wink) he felt he was continuing to protect America by not going in the marshals service.

07-09-06, 09:36 PM
sounds like a Marines Marine to me