From Quantico to Vietnam

Washington Post:
The 1967 class graduation photo. (Marine Corps)
The 1967 class graduation photo. (Marine Corps)
50 years after Vietnam’s bloodiest battles, the ‘lucky ones’ meet for what could be a final reunion

In 1967, these graduates from Quantico were shipped to Vietnam. They would fight in some of the bloodiest battles of the war. Some were killed only days after arriving.
I was in one of the classes that graduated from the Marine Officer's Basic School in 1967.   I then attended the Communications School before going to Vietnam.  I was first assigned to the 3rd Marine Division Communication Center and soon became the assistant commander.

While much of time was spent in an air condition reinforced concrete bunker, there were times when I was sent into harm's way.  I one time had to deliver some top secret documents to Khe Sahn shortly after the siege was lifted.  As I was about to exit the cargo ramp of the plane artillery fire started hitting the runway and the pilot pulled out of the landing and shortly I was dumped into the middle of a small fire base near Khe Sanh.

I managed to find a Marine with a radio and told him about my top secret priority one orders and got him to call in a chopper to take me the rest of the way to Khe Sanh.  After delivering the documents I then had the problem of getting back to Dong Ha.  I was sent to an area where several Marines had been waiting for days for a ride out of the base.  My recent experience suggested to me that my orders would probably get me on a flight out.

Sure enough, the radio operator called in a chopper and I heard him say, the guy with the top secret priority one orders flight was ready.  As I was running to the helicopter I felt someone running beside me who turned out to be a Green Beret who was yelling that he also had top secret priority one orders.  As we were flying out he pointed out the trench system used by the NVA in their attack on the combat base.  The hillsides around the base were like a moonscape as a result of the heavy bombing to defend it.

A few weeks later I got orders to become the executive officer of a rifle company of Marines along the DMZ.  While it was a combat mission, I still treasure the time I spent with the Marines in that company.  Being with people willing to put their lives on the line for you gives you an appreciation for the character of Marines and what they mean to this country.

The company went on missions all over Northern I Corps.  We set up an artillery position on top of Dong Ha Mountain that had a vista from the Tonkin Gulf to the western border of Vietnam.  We went on a patrol along the beach from the mouth of the Cua Viet River up to the Bien Hi river which was the actual border with North Vietnam.

On a hilltop north of Camp Carroll on another mission I was wounded in a mortar attack and medivaced to Da Nang, then Guam and eventually the Bethesda Navy Hospital in Maryland.

I still do not regret a day I spent in the Marine Corps and the time with my fellow Marines.


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