DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF
Lance Corporal Alvin Chester
The year 1965 was a pivotal year
in a war that would escalate in slow agonizing increments for ten brutal
years. There were turbulent
activities in the dark shadows of national diplomacy. Messages went from
Communist block countries through mysterious individuals, and back through quiet
diplomats from neutral countries, all trying to quiet the swelling ideological
rage that grew between the U.S. President Lyndon Johnson and the forming
factions of the North Vietnamese Communist Party headed by Ho Chi Minh his General Vo Nguyen Giap
and Party Chairman Pham Van Dong.
It was a year when the routine of peacetime military service changed from
its sleepy rythmic regimen to a war time pace, a pace
that was hardly detected in the busy morning commuting traffic of
Around April of that year, units of Third Battalion, Seventh Regiment,
Third Marine Division shipped out of Camp Las Pulgas
at Marine Corps Base Pendleton, in a convoy of heavy olive Six-by trucks and
olive green buses loaded with her olive uniformed Marines, each in full field
pack holding one olive green sea bag in his lap, headed up the coast toward Long
Beach and the waiting Air Craft Carrier U.S.S. Valley Forge ACC. By sun down the
regiment was aboard, the b'osun whistle sounded to
secure the special sea and anchor detail and the second watch took up its
timeless vigil. Third Battalion Seventh Marines, military configuration
The following is an account of how peacetime Marines journeyed from their
early morning departure up the coast highway past surfers waxing their boards
for the day, to the afternoon they set foot for the first time on the soil of
already consulting with the generals when
This weather is stifling and we can not do very much at one time but
believe me, we go the limit. Today I nearly passed out because of the heat but
managed to hang on. We have been through quiet a number of lectures on
I feel sure I should get the camera gear now because under the conditions we will be in I can expect some first rate pictures. Maybe I’ll send them to Life! By the way, a good friend came in to some misfortune a day ago. His mother passed away. After some difficult hours, he chose to stay with the unit rather than go home on emergency leave.
This entire situation has come about so suddenly that I seem to weave in and out of reality. Fortunately, I want to go down South and am somewhat anxious about what will be a very dangerous and taxing experience mentally and physically. College is still there waiting but somehow I will get through even it takes a lifetime. But for now there are more important things. I am thrown into this thing and whether I get out or not, I guess I’ll shoot what I can with the camera.
Most of my idle time has been spent up at the club drinking beer with the crew. We sure can talk about a lot over a nice cool pitcher of San Miguel. So mainly I wanted to tell you I am okay and feeling well. My state of health is good. The gear is ready to go. Bye for now. Vance “
“Hanley’s back!” yelled Platt.” Lance Corporal Richard Platt was a short
stocky 81’s gunner. He had a round
face, a ready smile and when the opportunity presented itself, he would light up
a cigar. If he didn’t light it he chewed on it. Platt was from a coal town in
“No shit! Did they bust him? Vance Poplar his tall A-Gunner had just come from Mama-san’s stall between the barracks with a fresh white laundry bundle she had expertly folded into several small square packages. PFC Poplar’s floppy Marine cover was cocked back on his head revealing a high and close hair cut more skin than hair.
“Court Marshaled his ass aboard the ship that
left after we pulled out of
The two looked out the front of the barracks at the group of uniformed Marines standing around on the road. Then they put the mops they had been slinging in morning field-day clean up of the barracks in a locker and walked out into the morning sun for zero eight hundred formation.
“Hanley, wherein hell did you go?” asked Poplar as they milled into a loose formation.
“Rodeo?” the squad members heard him and laughed.
“Hell yea. Busted me back to E-1 and fined me five hundred” Hanley reached into his pocket and pulled out a roll of twenties. “And I won eight hundred bucks bustin’ bulls.”
The formation broke up laughing at the complementing fate Hanley had described. They ducked into his story clinging to it as if it were a single precious artifact after a ship wreck. A rodeo. The familiar low slung concrete barracks of Okinawa’s Camp Schwabb glowed pink in the morning sun now rising over the sea of Japan nearly a football field’s distance from where they stood.
“Looks like we’re going in this time Poplar.”said Hanley glancing around. “Ya’ll going down the island tonight?
“Nah. We aint been much in for liberty. Maybe Hanoko for a few beers. It’s different now.” said Poplar. It had been a month of hard training leaving most if the Marines yearning for a massage and steam bath in town and perhaps a long evening drinking beer and talking. Their favorite bar at Hanoko, a village outside the base was Bar Texas.
Now there were no wild taxi rides down the island for good times. There was a different mood in all of the units. The units that had occupied this old base Schwabb just three months before were at that moment deployed around the enclave at Danang, engaging in often murderous day to day skirmishes, fire fights that would become the fabric of the early Vietnam War. A fate the new arrivals yearned for because of their training but like all who face battle, a certain quietness within them had marked their days. The drinking and whoring did continue as it had in what Poplar alwas referred to as the happy horse shit peace time garrison Corps. But now it was different.
The last range exercise had occurred the third week in June. Eight Ones loaded their guns and canisters of rounds upon the Six-bys and headed for the mountains north of the camp. Shadows of gray billowing rain clouds covered the verdant terrain admitting little ribbons of sun light that seemed to try in vain to cheer their days. Sheets of rain swept across the platoon as the guns took fire command after fire command over the field telephones.
“GUN ONE…DEFLECTION …OH FOUR…THREE. ELEVATION…” the gunners pawed at the sights as the assistant gunners snapped the bipods around to a new direction. “ONE ROUND WILLY PETER.. CHARGE FOUR…FIRE WHEN READY.”
“Cease fire. Cease Fire!" came the order over the telephone. "Gun three, misfire!” Firing stopped while an A Gunner and gunner cleared a round from a tube that had not fired. The A-Gunner carefully removed the round from the tube and delivered it to the ordinance bunker.
“Let’s head down to
“Too far down the
“Sounds good to me”, Poplar chimed in.
“GUNS!” Another fire command.
“Gun One up!” And so the response went until all gun positions replied.
“BREAK DOWN THE GUNS AND PREPARE TO MOVE OUT! WE’RE SHIPPING OUT 81s!”
“Well that shoots Koza in the ass” muttered Langford. “Okay, Gun Three, saddle up were shipping out.”
“You mean leaving the range?” asked inquisitive Private Weaver the ammo humper.
“No Weaver” snapped Langford in his usual cynical style, “I mean we’re
“For where?” Weaver liked to irritate Corporal Langford.
“Weaver,” Langford helped Private Hilton carry the heavy base plate and move into formation. “Where the fuck else would we be going?” The whole squad howled with laughter.
“From air strikes to “”passive base defense”” to aggressive base defense to general combat role – the steps led from one to the next with a relentless logic. Within the next nine months, the original, embryonic unit of Marines would be transformed into an army of over 200,000 Americans and allied troops, all there according to the demands of the same reasoning.” Bui Diem
There are occasionally a few guys in their racks sharpening their bayonets and K-Bar knives. There is the air of something never before felt though. I have sharpened my gear already. I am growing a mustache, something I have always wanted to do. I can’t believe they’re letting us do it! Coming along pretty well.
We had some rough weather today but it has calmed down a little. This ship is the U.S.S. Iwo Jima LPH. You wouldn’t believe how its loaded down with so many rounds of artillery, mortar and demolition, helicopters. It should last us for weeks! Johnny Mathis is playing over the intercom. Sure reminds me of wine and pretty girls, red carpets and fire places. When this is over, I couldn’t spend enough time playing.
We had such an interesting experience during our brief stop over in
We broke our necks getting back down through this three hundred thousand pound piece of bronze and breathlessly said, “ Say, how do you get to the train station from here?” One girl said, “You go there, turn right, then …would you like a ride?”
It had started to rain (a sign of good luck to Buddhists, we learned)
Then a well dressed elderly Japanese man emerged from a garden and said, “Why
yes, we'll be glad to give the young men a ride.” On the way we hit it right off with the
attractive girls, riding in a big Mercedes. The elderly man turned out to be the
father of one of the girls and an English Professor at
I don’t’ know how long this thing’s going to last but I’ll be home someday. Until then, keep the lawn cut. Vance”
COMMAND DIARY FOR BLT 3/7
Entry: 24-26 June: Embarked personnel, equipment and supplies. Companies I, K, 107 mm Mortar Battery, Division and force Recon Platoons and the bulk of H&S Company were embarked aboard the USS Iwo Jima. (LPH-2) L and M Companies and the engineer Platoon were embarked aboard the USS Taladaga (APA 208) and a detached Tank and Motor Transport, Amphibious Tractor, shore Party, Anti-Tank Platoons, J Battery, 11th Marines, the Naval Beach Unit and all heavy vehicles were embarked aboard the USS Point Defiance (LSD 31)
June: Enroute to the
Entry: 1-8 July: Operations ashore at Qui Nhon, RVN.
July: Companies I and K and 107mm Mortar
Entry: 1-4 July: Task Group personnel were quarantined and administered prophylactics for spinal meningitis.
Qui Nhon was and is an ancient city on the coast of
The first day of July, 1965 the mountains over the city of
The only word that had filtered down was that the SVN Government Forces had held positions on the ridge lines over the city and had pulled out leaving the high ground open for defense. It is more likely that the commanders wanted to get their jumpy troops on the ground and underway upon the long road to confidence on the battlefield. So on 1 July the U.S. Iwo Jima, LPH2, throttled back, heading the strange unattractive lines of her bow into the wind and launched her cargo.
Outside a UH-34 that had landed on the football field at Schwabb to give the grunts a tour, tt was the first helicopter operation any of them had made and when the Marines of K Company and the units of H&S Company, 81 Millimeter Mortars to include Corporal Langford and his gun crew, queued up in the passage ways for embarkation, the chopper squadrons had already made a slow tour out across the calm China Sea and were positioning for orderly touch down upon the wooden deck of the Iwo Jima, load the assault Marines and take off again toward an undisclosed Landing Zone (LZ)
The Navy crewmen hurried around the waiting choppers, their orange jump suits and soft cover caps snapping wildly from the prop-wash as they yelled inaudibly to closer crew members. The intoxicating odor if J-2 fuel the deafening noise of the engines and hot exhaust now filled the morning air.
“GO!!!” the load master shouted again and again as the Marines ran across
the flight deck in full olive combat gear. Soon two platoons, then three were
airborne and the Marines aboard, their ears popping in the blast of cool air of
increasing altitude, viewed swirling glimpses of the great waiting leviathan of
emerald and red and rock and scrub and reddish earth passing across the open
hatchway of the UH-34s. They also
saw in the flood of light pouring through the hatchway the silhouette of the
UH-34 door gunner, his M-60 and a belt of 7.62 steel jacketed, armor piercing
rounds locked into position. They has seen this very
picture in Life Magazine back at Pendleton. Now they were there! It was a birth
of sorts from the warm womb of the
Back on the carrier deck those still in waiting under condition “One
Alpha” when ammo, grenades and mortar rounds were distributed the Marines, just befor the surge of action, likely felt conflicting notions
tugging a their guts as they gazed at the chalky green mountains and ridge lines
looming above them. Much like sailors and soldiers of yesteryear who after being
at sea for weeks or months, welcomed a change, a commitment, the lack of
ambiguity, danger or not. For, unlike any other Marines in this war, these
marines had trained for a full year before, executing false alarms mountouts only to put away the gear and head for the island
watering holes. Now the yellow morning light on the ochre
beach and the pink red soil if bad ass
Eighty Ones too struggled up the ladder-well with their enormous
loads. Weaver, Poplar, Platt,
Hilton and Privates Butcher and Rizzo from
“LETS GO LETS GO LETS GO GO GO GO GOOOO!!!” yelled Lankford now on the ground standing at the UH-34 entry port. Each Marine banged out of the delicate aircraft with their heavy, light artillery and equipment of war. Langford saw that the Marines of K Company had scattered out over the ridge line. It was early afternoon. Now they were atop the mountains they had seen from the ship. Each man fidgeted with is gear nervously and retreated into his training. They seemed to do everything extra carefully from snapping a magazine case to listening to the squad leaders and platoon sergeants without the usual insolence or checking their weapons once twice, then again. They, the men of 81s, worked quickly to set up the gun pits and the FDC bunker.
The great Buddha Poplar visited had been kind to them. The LZ had received them without hostile fire. The day passed without incident. As night fell a cool breeze from the Northwest now chilled their sweaty bodies as they worked feverishly to prepare their positions readying for the unknown. A deep violet black veil now settled over the mountains and upon them. The cooling orange rubber ball sun now left them to the sprits of the “Ma”, marauding spirits of unburied dead of centuries past.
A light rain began to fall eliciting mumbles of curses and the rustle of ponchos as Marines covered their guns as well as themselves. But in time they became soaked and as the rain ceased the air began to cool and they began to shiver, some uncontrollably. Poplar could not stop shaking and he cursed at himself gathering all of the control he could muster because he knew that soon the fire commands would began to come. He flapped his arms around himself trying to generate body heat. After long agonizing moments the wet uniform dried a bit allowing him to concentrate once again upon his duty as Assistant Gunner.
“Is FDC set up yet?” whispered Platt. He worked nervously with the aiming sight and complicated bubble assembly used to coordinate the mortar with the other guns now strewn out some thirty yards behind the defensive line set up by K Company.
“Get out there with those aiming stakes!” he ordered. “There’s only a little light left and we need to get those stakes perfect! Move!” he said to Poplar.
E.L Blood Ellis finished stabalizing his aiming stakes, spat into the dim fading light and noticed the familiar outline of Poplar muttering and angrily forcing his poles into the ground.
"Hey Poplar. You got your weapon?
Poplar recognized Bloods voice. "Funny Ellis. Fuckin'A I got my weapon." But Blood Ellis had hurried back to his gun pit and didn't hear Poplar's remark. Blood had remembered back to that morning when he told Poplar what snake had bit him. Now things were about to be a lot different. Some bad ass snakes of war were rattling and coiling up for the strike.
By now the Company of Marines had tactically deployed along the ridge
line and each man using his entrenching tool had burrowed into the hill. To each
man, rifleman, 3.5 Rocket team, M-60 machine gunner with fields of fire set or
even a pistol bearing officer, the sloping terrain in front of them was deadly
ground. The ground in front would bear all the evil he had ever known, read
about or seen in a John Wayne movie. From bonzi
charges to kamikazees to the screaming waves of
Chinese Communist in
“Its crooked. The goddamned fucking stake is crooked!” puffed Platt in a loud whisper to Poplar.
“What? Oh.Okay..Jesus Christ.” Poplar got up from a position by the mortar tube that would allow him to maneuver the bipods as well as drop the rounds in the tube when FDC gave the commands.
Poplar went back out in front of the gun but still behind the Line of K Company and, in the dark, stumbled over the scrubs and boulders exclaiming. “Goddamned! Shit!” Then he reached the errant stripped pole that supported two red lights shinning dimly toward the mortar and waiting Platt. Platt gazed into the eye piece at the crooked lights waiting for Poplar to begin re aligning the poles. “Jezzzz, where the fuck is Poplar?”
Then the lights began to wiggle as Poplar again worked with the pole that had nearly fallen. “OK OK that’s good. Come on in.”
Weaver cupped the mouthpiece of the phone. He could smell his own sweat
now, his heightened alertness. He too shivered. “FDC? Test. Yah
hear me?” A similar fumbling had occurred up and down
the line of mortars. Then over the wire from Fire Direction Control the old
familiar voice of Corporal Pete Sharron,
“Gun Two Up.”
Up” Levette from
“Gun Three Up” Weaver from
“Gun Six Up” Mack from
Squadrons of mosquitoes grew in number as occasional mumbles floated through the darkness. Face after face was now under attack by the great swarms of feeding mosquitoes. “Damn fuckin things hurt! Son of a “Someone laughed.
“KNOCK IT OFF, came a voice near FDC, Sergeant Myers career Marine and a veteran of the Korean War.
An hour passed. Two. Three. “Slap!!” What time is it?” Oh Two Hundred.” Then.
“GUN THREE.” FDC had a fire mission. The whiz kid Sharron they knew as Pete was on his plotting board quickly computing the numbers that would go over the phone. Lieutenant Sanders took the coordinate from the Forward Observer up on the ridge line with K Company.
“Gun Three.” Was it a test. Sure it was only a test. Right?
“ONE ROUND, ILLUMINATION, shit get the fucking round from the canister! Get the fuckin canister! DEFLECTION ONE THREE ZERO. CHARGE FOUR. FIRE WHEN READY.”
Weaver unpacked the round, passed it off to Poplar. Poplar feeling the charges at the base of the round, stripped off the charges to equal the four FDC called for. One second passed. Two seconds. Poplar couldn’t move fast enough. It had to be perfect. This first round fired in combat by 81s.
“WHERES MY GODDAMN ILLUMINATION 81s!!!” bellowed a K Company lieutenant from up on the line. He had called for illumination to check out movement out front.
Perhaps they were too slow. Wanting to be too perfect. This was combat! Four seconds. Five seconds.
“FIRE THE FUCKING THING!” roared the officer through the darkness.
Langford rose and rustled toward his crew through the darkness toward his crew, stumbling over a scrub bush. “God Damned!”
“BOOOOM!” Poplar dropped the round into the tube and it was away. There was a little pop sound and suddenly the ground and fog over the mountain was illuminated. Silohettes of Marines, Helments, Images, then,
“CRACK!!!” the concussion from a fragmentation grenade went off. “What the fu..."..”
Automatic weapons fire up and down the line now began to crackle tracers hitting out front and glancing skyward then as quickly as it started it stoped. Then came the blinding flash from a 3.5 rocket launcher strobbing Marines in strange poses, startled from the ear splitting ignition. The rocket or maybe it was a grenade hit close in and M-14 rifle fire began again.
“GUN ONE UP.” Another illumination was sent aloft as the first drifted to earth on its tiny parachute, burning out in the scrub below them.
“Poplar. The gatdamm stake fell down!!!” Can’t you fix the fuckin pole so it’d stay?”
“The ground’s so hard I can’t….”
“Get the fucking stake in the ground Poplar. Get out there and hold the motherfucker up if you have to! Jezus H. Christ!”
“He sees the blue white faces
All trying to grin
And he feels his innards ailing
And his bowels giving way.”
Jorge Borges quoting
Rudyard Kipling 1919
Poplar pulled out his .45 automatic with fully loaded magazine. A round was in the chamber. With his thumb he clicked the safety off. He did not know what the Line Marines were firing at but was sure it must be approaching probes from the Viet Cong. The Lieutenant has said the hardcore Viet Cong units were in the area and would likely probe our lines. So with his weapon in hand, Poplar proceeded out into the darkness once again to fix the critical aiming stake. He had never heard incoming rounds except back at PI where he had pulled butts at the range. It was a popping sound, like paper or better, linen being ripped.
Upon arriving at the stake, he realized two hands would be needed to drive the poles deeper into the baked earth so he holstered the weapon. The little red lights were somewhere in the scrub bushes but where. He searched the blackness for the tiny lights. Then he saw them.
Poplar reached down and plucked the poles from the underbrush. Suddenly his bowels began to growl and shift and there was no greater priority in politics or war than getting his dungarees down. His first crap in days.
“BANG!!” another illumination went off farther out. “CRACK!!!” another concussion from a fragmentation greneade. Still indisposed Poplar had again pulled out his .45, and unlocked safety. Suddenly to his left facing his mortar but up on the ridge line. “CORPSMAAAAAN!!!!! CORPSMAAAAAN” voices screaming from out in the darkness.
“GUN THEE DIFLECTION…ONE THREE ZERO…ONE ROUND ILLUMINATION CHARGE THREE…FIRE WHEN READY…”
“POW” round away. Weaver had taken Poplar’s position while he worked his way back to the gun from the aiming poles.
The round hissed through the light rain and popped skyward to shed its light swinging from its parachute that held it aloft. There was activity up on the line.
“There’s a wounded man up there. Get another illumination ready yelled Myers who had moved up from the FDC to keep watch over his guns.
“Gun One…One Round Illumination…Booom!” Another lumi sailed skyward with a bang. They were getting better. Down the line a Marine threw another grenade down the mountain. CRACK!! An ear splitting thump ripped back through them. The fading light of each dying lumi gave hint of smoke hanging in the air. The smell of burning white phosphorus drifted though the air. The acrid odor of cordite from the spent rounds permiated the area.
“CEASE FIRE. CEASE FIRE GAT DAMMIT” yelled the Gunnery Sergeant. Get a chopper in here to evac this Marine NOW!!!”
“Jesus Christ!” a voice thorough the blackness. There was a strobe of dark silhouettes, men running thorough positions and jumping across underbrush to expedite the Top’s command. Then the dim light and smoke faded to black.
“Hey Top,who was wounded? What happened”
“Knock it off…carry on Marine!!” bellowed the Top to the faceless voice. Then the hill fell quiet again to only an occasional round squeezed off by a jumpy rifleman. A shakey private praying for morning. They all were keenly aware of their jagged nerves by now.
Dawn. The sun made its appearance on the gray, then violet, then flaming orange horizon of the South China Sea and the Marines busied themselves with the humorous discovery that the scrub, or rock or shape of ground that was in front of them was not the enemy after all. But surely it had moved. There was an occasional giddy crackle of relief that came from being alive and basking in the morning sun. To the east they could see the great desolate sparkling ocean as the heat steadily rose.
The Marines of K Company and their attachments spent several more nights
on this mountain, but each night was increasingly marked with the fire
discipline the essence of élan commanders strive for in training their
units. Soon, after three, perhaps
four days, the
It is unclear exactly when the story of the Marine surfaced. It was characteristic of this time, when patrols would be decimated by a land mine or an ambush or friendly fire and little detail of the action would reach the other units. Each fire team, squad or gun crew kept to themselves awaiting orders and practicing the art of war as best they could, hoping each day to come through it alive. But on that mountain over Qui Nhon in that early July of 1965, those Marines experienced the sobering reality of the perils of their business.
Weaver sitting on the edge of the gun pit, took a pack of Luckys out of his pocket. Tapping the cigarette upon the bezel of his watch he watched Platt busily cleaning his aiming device. Lighting the cigarette and skillfully puffing as he spoke. “Platt. What was that the other night? What the fuck happened?”
Platt emitted his usual funny expression, which was a smile but they knew it really wasn’t a smile. There was a serious air about him and they knew he used the smile to mask a more urgent side of himself. Hilton had called him a “lifer” because that’s what they called Marines who reenlisted, shipped over to become career Marines.
“Did you know the password on that night?” Platt asked Weaver.
“What was it Weaver?”
Platt, laughed in his funny suppressed way. The
other members of the gun were listening. Langford was flipping through his
notebook preparing for re-embarkation back aboard the
“The Marines name was Lance Corporal Chester. Al Chester. Navajo You remember him?”
“Yea, one of the Indians right? Guys hung around together back at 'Pogas', Yazzi, Pete and several others. Talkin' Indian. Yea. I remember him. It was him?”
“But what the fuck happened?” Weaver pressed for an answer. Langford a man of few words, looked up from his notebook to watch Platt.
“Well Lance Corporal Chester went out in front of the K Company lines to take a piss from what I hear. He was out for a while and when he tried to come back in he was challenged by the riflemen in the holes up there. He didn’t answer. You heard all that shit the other night? It’s a wonder there weren’t more of us that got our asses shot. After that all calmed down, they sent out a patrol but didn’t find anything.”
“Jesus Christ!” Weaver exclaimed. “Shot him dead. Gat damn! “Where is he now?”
“Alright Weaver,” Langford snapped, “You and Poplar pack up those unused canisters and get ready to saddle up. We’re pulling out of this fucking place some time or other. Hilton get those ammo cans policed up. We’re leaving this shit hole as clean as it was when we got here. Butcher pick up those C-Rat cans and boxes. You see any Luckys in them, I want’em understand.
“Okay Akabu,” said Butcher a Private from
“I can feel that shower on the
They had expected
The LPH Iwo Jima and
several other ships including the U.S.S. Galveston had now formed what would be
recorded as RLT-7. Regimental Landing Team. The Marines
bound off the choppers onto the wooden deck of the
RLT-7 chopped onward to
Entry 5 July: One man was
killed by friendly fires when he advanced forward of the defensive perimeter
without authority and without notifying anyone. He was killed when he did not
respond to a challenge upon returning to the friendly lines. …..L Company landed
by helicopter to relieve I company which returned to
Entry 6 July: One man died of
encephalitis while being evacuated by air to
Entry 8 July: the BLT was embarked aboard the original shipping upon being relieved by BLT 2/7
Entry 9-20 July: The BLT remained at sea off Qui Nhon, RVN as reserve for 2/7. Units of the BLT hold beach parties on 10, 12, and 13 July.
“In September of 1965, when you landed at An Khe, our commanders in the Central Highlands studied how to cope. We foresaw that the coming battle would be very fierce. First, we evacuated the population and prepared training camps. We improved our positions, dug shelters, and prepared caches of food and underground hospitals. We knew that sooner or later you would attack our zones, and we tried to prepare positions that would neutralize you. We knew that it would not be enough just to make propaganda saying that we were winning. We had to study how to fight the Americans.”
Hong Phuong, Major General
Vietnamese People’s Army
Quoted in"We Were Soldiers Once: And Young"
Authors post script:
It is with solemn respect in this of dedication to Lance Corporal Alvin Chester his family and his fellow Marines who have bore the burden of those first nights for all of their lives, that I have attempted recall this week on the mountain over Qui Nhon as carefully and as detailed as memory and letters would allow. The names of my fellow gun crew are unchanged except for my own, I used the name “Poplar” for myself, after a lovely shady main street in the town where I grew up. It’s easier for me to write in the third person. In actuality, our units remained upon the mountain for a week. The night of heavy firing and mortal wounding of Lance Corporal Chester occurred on the second night. In all there were two casualties due to friendly fire on the mountain. The other was a Navy Corpsman evacuated to the States and referred to in Colonel Bodley’s “Diary". Having experienced the stress of combat situations and blessed by luck, it is a safe bet that all of the Marines on this deployment suffered the same urgency as I. So it is a wonder that many others did not suffer the same tragic fate as Lance Corporal Chester. Friendly fire was and is an ever present nemisis on the battlefield and visits no dishoner on any of it's unfortunate victims.
After a time at Subic Bay, and liberty call at Hong Kong, the Iwo Jima returned us to Qui Nhon and her shore boats delivered us to the beach there
where we enjoyed ice cold Sapporo Beer and steaks. I wrote a letter home on an old
typewriter there in a delapidated school house while a
Vietnamese ARVN soldier, holding a child, watched me. An old woman, a
grandmother perhaps snarled at me when I started to shew flies crawling about on the lips of a sleeping
child. The soldier taught me
to say and write good bye. “Chao Tu Biet” The photographs included
with this manuscript were taken by me over the week
mystified by those authors of news and magazine articles today and by despots of
rogue nations who before and after 911 have expressed
1.Diem, Bui, David Chanoff,
Biography, In The Jaws of History,
2.Command Diary for BLT 3/7- Period covered by report: 25 June to
Date of submission of report: 5 September 1965,
Commanding Officer: Lieutenant Colonel C.H. Bodley,
USMC, Marine Corps Historical
Center Building 58 W/NY, 901 Main Street, Washington, DC
3. We Were
Soldiers Once, And Young, Gen. Harold G. Moore