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View Full Version : Part II-- Heroes (the Few) Of Vietnam



Roberto T. Cast
05-24-03, 04:09 AM
In the An Hoa Basin southwest of Danang, the Fifth Marine Regiment was in its third year of continuous combat operations. Combat is an unpredictable and inexact environment, but we were well-led. As a rifle platoon and company commander, I served under a succession of three regimental commanders who
had cut their teeth in World War II, and four different battalion
commanders, three of whom had seen combat in Korea. The company commanders were typically captains on their second combat tour in Vietnam, or young first lieutenants like myself who were given companies after many months of "bush time" as platoon commanders in the Basin's tough and unforgiving
environs.

The Basin was one of the most heavily contested areas in Vietnam, its torn, cratered earth offering every sort of wartime possibility. In the mountains just to the west, not far from the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the North Vietnamese Army operated an infantry division from an area called Base Area 112. In the valleys of the Basin, main-force Viet Cong battalions whose ranks were
80 percent North Vietnamese Army regulars moved against the Americans every day. Local Viet Cong units sniped and harassed. Ridge lines and paddy dikes were laced with sophisticated booby traps of every size, from a hand grenade to a 250-pound bomb. The villages sat in the rice paddies and tree
lines like individual fortresses, crisscrossed with trenches and spider holes, their homes sporting bunkers capable of surviving direct hits from
large-caliber artillery shells. The Viet Cong infrastructure was intricate and permeating. Except for the old and the very young, villagers who did not side with the Communists had either been killed or driven out to the government controlled enclaves near Danang.

In the rifle companies, we spent the endless months patrolling ridge lines and villages and mountains, far away from any notion of tents, barbed wire, hot food, or electricity. Luxuries were limited to what would fit inside one's pack, which after a few humps" usually boiled down to letter-writing material, towel, soap, toothbrush, poncho liner, and a small transistor radio.

We moved through the boiling heat with 60 pounds of weapons and gear, causing a typical Marine to drop 20 percent of his body weight while in the bush. When we stopped we dug chest-deep fighting holes and slit trenches for toilets. We slept on the ground under makeshift poncho hootches, and when it rained we usually took our hootches down because wet ponchos shined
under illumination flares, making great targets. Sleep itself was fitful, never more than an hour or two at a stretch for months at a time as we mixed daytime patrolling with night-time ambushes, listening posts, foxhole duty, and radio watches. Ringworm, hookworm, malaria, and dysentery were common,
as was trench foot when the monsoons came. Respite was rotating back to the mud-filled regimental combat base at An Hoa for four or five days, where rocket and mortar attacks were frequent and our troops manned defensive bunkers at night. Which makes it kind of hard to get excited about tales of
Woodstock, or camping at the Vineyard during summer break.

We had been told while in training that Marine officers in the rifle companies had an 85 percent probability of being killed or wounded, and the experience of "Dying Delta," as our company was known, bore that out. Of the officers in the bush when I arrived, our company commander was wounded, the weapons platoon commander was wounded, the first platoon commander was killed, the second platoon commander was wounded twice, and I, commanding the third platoon, was wounded twice. The enlisted troops in the rifle platoons fared no
better. Two of my original three squad leaders were killed, the third shot
n the stomach. My platoon sergeant was severely wounded, as was my right guide. By the time I left, my platoon I had gone through six radio operators, five of them casualties. These figures were hardly unique; in fact, they were typical. Many other units; for instance, those who fought the hill battles around Khe Sanh, or were with the famed Walking Dead of the Ninth Marine Regiment, or were in the battle for Hue City or at Dai Do, had
it far worse.

When I remember those days and the very young men who spent them with me, I am continually amazed, for these were mostly recent civilians barely out of high school, called up from the cities and the farms to do their year in Hell and then return. Visions haunt me every day, not of the nightmares of war but of the steady consistency with which my Marines faced their
responsibilities, and of how uncomplaining most of them were in the face of constant danger. The salty, battle-hardened 20-year-olds teaching green 19-year-olds the intricate lessons of that hostile battlefield.

The unerring skill of the young squad leaders as we moved through unfamiliar villages and weed-choked trails in the black of night. The quick certainty with which they moved when coming under enemy fire. Their sudden tenderness when a fellow Marine was wounded and needed help. Their willingness to risk their lives to save other Marines in peril. To this day it stuns me that
their own countrymen have so completely missed the story of their service, lost in the bitter confusion of the war itself.

Like every military unit throughout history we had occasional laggards, cowards, and complainers. But in the aggregate, these Marines were the finest people I have ever been around. It has been my privilege to keep up with many of them over the years since we all came home. One finds in them very little bitterness about the war in which they fought. The most common regret, almost to a man, is that they were not able to do more for each
other and for the people they came to help. It would be redundant to say that I would trust my life to these men. Because I already have, in more ways than I can ever recount. I am alive today because of their quiet, unaffected heroism. Such valor epitomizes the conduct of Americans at war from the first days of our existence. That the boomer elites can canonize
this sort of conduct in our fathers generation while ignoring it in our own is more than simple oversight. It is a conscious, continuing travesty.

Former Secretary of the Navy James Webb was awarded the Navy Cross, Silver Star, and Bronze Star medals for heroism as a Marine in Vietnam. His novels include The Emperor's General and Fields of Fire.
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Overall, what do some of you Marines out there think?

gills delta 1-5
01-15-11, 01:01 AM
I was there Aug-Oct 1968 1-5 delta comp. and shipped out for medical reasons, Malaria.
when I got to Da Nang hosp. the overdosed me then shipped me to japan were I was given 10 days to live but the dr figured it out in time. When I got out of the service I refused to talk about the war but dreamed about it all the time. After 40 years I started going to the VA for help. and know I need some more help from fellow MARINES .I do remember names but I was injured and never received a Purple Heart They said it wasn't on my record so I need a corpman that helped me or two man that saw it and write a letter and have it notify so I can get it. I have wrote congressman, the President Obama I know it was a small wound but I want to pass it on to my son's. Thanks for all the help.

advanced
01-15-11, 05:55 AM
I was there Aug-Oct 1968 1-5 delta comp. and shipped out for medical reasons, Malaria.
when I got to Da Nang hosp. the overdosed me then shipped me to japan were I was given 10 days to live but the dr figured it out in time. When I got out of the service I refused to talk about the war but dreamed about it all the time. After 40 years I started going to the VA for help. and know I need some more help from fellow MARINES .I do remember names but I was injured and never received a Purple Heart They said it wasn't on my record so I need a corpman that helped me or two man that saw it and write a letter and have it notify so I can get it. I have wrote congressman, the President Obama I know it was a small wound but I want to pass it on to my son's. Thanks for all the help.

Good Morning - I was with the 1/5 at Hue City, then the 3/5 in the Arizona and surrounding areas the rest of my time. Hearing about An Hoa and all the goodies in this post kinda makes me feel homesick. I learned to never quit or to ever give up, to give up is to die. We were hard-core 135lb Marines, and people wonder why those of us that are left have attitudes, go figure.

Mongoose
01-15-11, 09:20 AM
Reberto, I hooked up with the 3/26 in June 68. You could have been writing our experience. I only saw our rear area ( rock crusher ) twice. Only then for short periods. Had three different co. commanders. From day one, we went from one operation into another. The short periods in between, we were sent out on killer ambush teams and patrols that seemed to never end. I went from 175 pounds to 145. We spent most of our time in and around the Arizona territory. We hooked with 3/5 during op. meade river. I cant even begin to count the casualties suffered there. It was a nightmare beyond belief. My brother Russ ( Advanced ) who served with 3/5 will tell you that being alive today, will never be taken for granted by us. My brother Fistfu, whom I salute, will all stand out for his actions at meade river. Never will I forget to honor Russ and Jack and all my brother Marines that fought in Nam. But most of all we hold our highest honor for those who gave it all.

advanced
01-15-11, 10:28 AM
Reberto, I hooked up with the 3/26 in June 68. You could have been writing our experience. I only saw our rear area ( rock crusher ) twice. Only then for short periods. Had three different co. commanders. From day one, we went from one operation into another. The short periods in between, we were sent out on killer ambush teams and patrols that seemed to never end. I went from 175 pounds to 145. We spent most of our time in and around the Arizona territory. We hooked with 3/5 during op. meade river. I cant even begin to count the casualties suffered there. It was a nightmare beyond belief. My brother Russ ( Advanced ) who served with 3/5 will tell you that being alive today, will never be taken for granted by us. My brother Fistfu, whom I salute, will all stand out for his actions at meade river. Never will I forget to honor Russ and Jack and all my brother Marines that fought in Nam. But most of all we hold our highest honor for those who gave it all.

Billy - So you were one of the big guys. Yeah, I guess you could say we were Homeless in the Nam, wandering Gypsies with guns sent out to win over the hearts and minds of the locals. Too bad you all never got to go and experience that oriental jewel of an R&R spot they called An Hoa.

Mongoose
01-15-11, 12:17 PM
Russ, In Feb.68 we took part in operation Taylor Common. Just west of An Hoa combat base. Our RR was at Dai Ia. We called it the crusher. It used to be an old rock quarry. S/F BROTHER

montana
01-15-11, 12:51 PM
could have been Quaison vally/mountains..i still hear the bullets passing by my head ..missing by inches from my time at point..was no end to the boobytraps...still wonder why im home and some of my bros arnt..how some right in the stur of things for the hole tour and never got a scrach...go figure????

advanced
01-15-11, 04:25 PM
how some right in the stur of things for the hole tour and never got a scrach...go figure????

That would be me.

Well, at least you can't see anything.

montana
01-17-11, 02:53 PM
sometimes the wounds you dont see are much worse then the ones you can see...the ones you can see heal most times....
be safe my brother

advanced
01-17-11, 03:04 PM
sometimes the wounds you dont see are much worse then the ones you can see...the ones you can see heal most times....
be safe my brother

You to brother, thanks S/F

MajorMC
02-13-11, 02:11 PM
sometimes the wounds you dont see are much worse then the ones you can see...the ones you can see heal most times....
be safe my brother


I could not agree more with that statement.


And this thread really does bring back some memories .....

HST
02-13-11, 03:15 PM
Good luck Brother, You'd think they would lighten up after 40 years but you were a snuff and you know all of us are lying azzholes.

My medical records were blown up when they hit the Dong Ha ammo dump in 67. They never even tried to reconstruct them and I didn't know about it until 30 years later when I tried to get some help for a foot problems I've had that started when I had severe immersion foot in Nam, sent them a request for my med records and got back a blank. They told me it was my fault because I didn't demand that my records be fixed before I got out. Same,same with the corpsman.

I laughed it off, maybe you should think about that too. Life's way too short to waste it dwelling on the past. You made it out. Enjoy every day you wake up on the green side of the lawn and don't get bummed out about the rest.


I was there Aug-Oct 1968 1-5 delta comp. and shipped out for medical reasons, Malaria.
when I got to Da Nang hosp. the overdosed me then shipped me to japan were I was given 10 days to live but the dr figured it out in time. When I got out of the service I refused to talk about the war but dreamed about it all the time. After 40 years I started going to the VA for help. and know I need some more help from fellow MARINES .I do remember names but I was injured and never received a Purple Heart They said it wasn't on my record so I need a corpman that helped me or two man that saw it and write a letter and have it notify so I can get it. I have wrote congressman, the President Obama I know it was a small wound but I want to pass it on to my son's. Thanks for all the help.

kaelobo
02-13-11, 07:22 PM
Roberto well put, wish i could find part 1.my time over there cant forget some. cant remember all............................................... .usmc