Recently you had a couple of news items in the newsletter about Veteran's discounts and different businesses. Here in Texas any Honorably Discharged Veteran may take his or her DD-214 down to their local DMV and show it to the person there. Upon showing their DD-214 and paying a small fee the term 'VETERAN' will then be added to your driver's license. I've attached a copy of my license showing the 'VETERAN' notation. You may use it in the newsletter if you so desire.
The state of Texas had recently started doing this as a way of honoring Veterans here and it is a big help to us. This is because your DD-214 can't really be reduced well enough to still be legibly read in order to fit in your wallet or purse. Once you get your license with the 'VETERAN' notation on it you can then show it at any business that offers discounts to active duty and or Veterans and get your discounts.
Maybe other states offer this benefit also. I would suggest that you check with your local DMV and find out if it is done. Thanks for your wonderful online store and great weekly newsletter.
Sgt of Marines
Last week I went to Pueblo, CO to bury my good friend Toby Leyba, USMC. He, Steve Ortega, and Ben Martinez were from Pueblo, Armando Garcia from Santa Fe, NM and myself also from NM went thru boot camp in 1960, Plt 276, MCRDSD. Leyba and myself served the complete 4 yrs. together.
I was reminded at the funeral that while going through boot camp, the movie "The Outsider" about Ira Hayes, starring Tony Curtis was being filmed. We were the platoon that was going through the Obstacle Course in the movie. So, proudly we are "Hollywood Marines".
Frank Briceno USMC/USMCR
Plt 276 MCRDSD
Still Got Mine
Regarding the Ka-Bar, I acquired mine covertly. I was in 3/9 rear in Quang Tri after getting a piece of shrapnel in my thigh on DEWEY Canyon in March of '69. I was PO'ed when they sent me to the armorer's hooch to clean muddy bloody medevac rifles. As I finished up the armorer stepped out and I yelled out if I was done. He said yes. As I left I slipped 6 Ka-Bars under my jacket, still in the wrapper! A lot of good they were doing in the rear! I passed them out to the guys in Kilo Co. when I got back to the bush. Still got mine.
Adam 'Wally' Mackow
The Maintenance Tractor
SOS: It's about 20 miles by sea from Kaneohe to Bellows field (old WWII fighter base) on Oahu. The trip usually takes just under two hours through the ocean and is often quite pleasant. My tractor (Amtrac) was assigned as "rescue tractor"; we would be the last in line and assist anyone having trouble. Cpl. M. was the driver, I was the crew chief and we had five swimmers on board. We were all wearing our swim gear, trunks, T-shirts, sneakers, inflatable life vest and comm helmets or utility covers. While going through the only place you wouldn't want something to happen the tractor just ahead of us (the maintenance tractor) began to have engine problems and the crew hoisted the "NAN" flag signaling for assistance. We slowly circled and came along side to ask if they needed a tow. I was standing in the crew chief hatch, Cpl M. was driving and had his driver's seat all the way in the up position and we were looking aft. The swimmers on top were preparing to heave the tow lines and they too were all looking aft. Suddenly we were in a huge shadow, I turned around and was confronted by a solid wall of green water about fifteen feet high, just ten yards in front of us coming fast! I yelled for everyone to hang on and ducked inside the tractor. The entire hatch was suddenly a blue/green stream of water which flooded the inside of the tractor up to the top of benches (about 2 feet).
After we came through the wave the driver's seat had sheared the pin that held it up, Cpl. M's helmet was hanging around his neck and full of sea water and all four bilge pumps were putting out a steady stream. The only swimmer left topside was Pfc. M who was wide-eyed and holding onto an antenna! Cpl. M had the presence of mind to flip on the aux. bilge pump and there was no danger of our tractor sinking. Before we could retrieve the swimmers in the water another wave almost as big came rolling toward us but this time we were able to power up and over it. We collected all of our swimmers from the water who had been cut up by their "trip" across the deck, thankfully, no one was unconscious or had anything broken.
The other tractor was sitting low in the water but running a little better so the driver headed for the public beach about 500 yards away. We transferred that crew and stayed with the, now sinking tractor, heading for the beach. About 100 yards from shore the tractor finally sank, did I mention that this was the maintenance tractor? The driver got out of the sinking hulk and swam the short distance to our tractor. It took about two weeks for them to retrieve the sunken tractor from something like 15 feet of water right off the public beach. This was the MAINTENANCE TRACTOR! Apparently they had forgotten to install all of their hull plugs! The crew was riding topside and didn't notice the water filling up the inside (what about the water coming out of the bilge pumps)? When it had started running crappy (did I already say that this was the MAINTENANCE tractor?) the water coming in was too much for the bilge pumps to handle.
Lesson: Always have a regular crew check out the maintenance tractor before they take it out to play.
P.S. There has been mention of S/SGT Mortis in recent letters. He was my Platoon Sgt. In K-Bay and I had the honor of baby-sitting his kids for him and his wife when I was a PFC.
Inspired Some Comments
Your Newsletter of Jan 31st Inspired Some Comments.
To Cpl C. F. Britt â€“ Our Marine Corps Heritage: once we earn it... we own it. It's ours forever. Outsiders will never understand it or us. I work with a bunch of civilians. I spend half my day trying to explain us. It's proven to be a useless endeavor. Thank you for your service Sir. Oorah!
To Sgt Dave Charbonneau â€“ We Ain't Stayin' Here: The only meal I remember from 6 years of service was from that first night. It was liver. It's the first and last time I ever digested an internal organ. That's one h-llava lousy way to welcome a kid to the Corps. Thank you for your service Sir. Semper Fi and pass the Pepto.
To Harold Wann â€“ The Marines have Landed: Thank you Sir for your service and support of our beloved Corps. Without our Docs we Marines would be left to bandage our own wounds. And, if you've ever seen a Marine try to operate a Band-Aid you'll understand what I mean. We love our Docs... they're our brothers. It's sad what happened to Mr. Wood's house. To disgrace any senior citizen is a crime. To disgrace a Marine should be punishable by death. I'm almost in tears reading how the community and our Corps have rallied around our fellow Marine. Some may think the world has gone to h-ll-in-a-hand basket. But I say otherwise. Your communities support proves my point. And when that young Marine said, "he wasn't going to leave this Marine behind," gives evidence that our Corps' values, ethos and traditions are in good hands. Those Marines you met added one more chapter to our history. They added one more entry of honor. Semper Fi Doc!
'78 - '84
"You have to poke 'em and stroke 'em."
Words of advice for leading Marines, from a Battalion Commander (then LTCOL Joe Wilson) to a new Battery Commander. Under his command, 4/14 was awarded a MUC, K-4/14 was awarded a second consecutive Cates Trophy, and this Battery Commander was awarded a Navy Comm.
Joe Kerke, 1972-2012
I have read the stories as to who called the best cadence. I believe most feel that their DI's called the best. I know I loved cadence called by none other than SSgt O. P. Kindschy, Plt 244, 1963. Just a matter of pride I guess.
FYI... I have a Zippo lighter I bought in a PX in 1945 that has an emblem with no banner and an unfouled anchor.
H.J. Sydnam 577965
S/SGT Rigor Mortis has Got To Be GY/SGT Charles Mortis that was our Senior Drill Instructor at Parris Island for Platoon 3039 From Sept-Nov 1967. We graduated as an Honor Platoon on Nov 10, 1967. So he made it to SGT/MAJ. What a G-R-E-A-T Marine! Does anybody know how he is doing.
About the "best cadence" ever heard. Has to be GySgt. Hill. I arrived at MCRD in Sept '68. Gunny Hill was our Platoon Commander for Platoon 2080. Very large black man, he'd give Arnold and Lou Ferigno a run for their money build wise. His cadence sounded like some very smooth jazz. Loved it when he took us out.
Sgt. Roger Neria
I was in the Corps from '48 to '51, Korea, Chosin, when I went in the Corps the emblem was inboard (The Anchor) was for peace time, in '50 it was outboard for war time. (Police action that's what is was called, 52,000 KIA.) That's not peace time to me. Does anyone remember the emblems being done like that?
On the story about rats... while stationed at Marble Mountain RVN, we were told not to eat before going to sleep because rats would chew on our lips because of food residue. To reinforce the lecture a stack of "Live-catch" cages with the previous night's catch was set up on the approach to the chow hall. Seeing the vicious rats which approached the size of cats made a lasting impression.
Mad Dog Poleski
While sitting still on our firebase. Everytime we had a newbie we would send them over to the Arty Batt. to get a can of back blast. Needless to say they came back to the position and told us they didn't have any. We all busted a gut and so did they.
Terry "Hardcase" Parker
Gunnery Sgt Spencer you could hear him calling cadence a mile away.
MSgt Brown 1970-1991
Proud Veteran Marine, tonight just picked up third generation Marine grandson. Joined on the delayed entry to go after graduation this summer. I was in from '61 - '68 and his dad was in from '95 - '99. So we keep the tradition alive. Oorah and Semper Fi
I enlisted in the summer of 1966 and reported to San Diego for boot training. I was extremely nervous but excited about the idea of becoming a Marine. That excitement quickly changed to shock as it was drilled into me that not only was I "not yet a Marine", it was entirely likely that I would never be. So pathetic were all of us in our drill instructor's eyes that it was highly likely that the entire platoon would be washed out and sent back for re-training.
As the weeks went on and our physical, psychological, and instructional training progressed our performance only seemed to worsen in their eyes, but somewhere around the 7th or 8th week it finally dawned on me that they weren't actually going to be able to "kill us all" as they had promised, we had all somehow managed to become immune to most of the pain and torment. Now it was just a matter of surviving whatever they would think up next.
In boot camp, two areas of training stand out as having special significance to drill instructors, the rifle range and close order drill. We had somehow managed to place first among the platoons at rifle range, but it seemed that we would never meet our DI's expectations in drill. For several weeks, along with the traditional drill training, we were introduced to something called "silent drill" which, according to our drill instructor was supposed to be a last ditch, remedial measure for platoons like ours who consistently performed so poorly (note: we would eventually go on to win all the final platoon competition pennants, including close order drill).
Silent drill was just as the name implies, our platoon sergeant would march in front of the platoon next to the platoon guide and, with our eyes fixed squarely on the back of the next Marine's head, we would march only by the cadence of our boots while performing different maneuvers. It was difficult at first but eventually the rhythmic heartbeat of the cadence and the utter silence surrounding it seemed to actually make it easier.
It was around the 9th or 10th week of our training and we were returning from a particularly grueling session on the obstacle course when our Drill Instructor loaded us all onto a bus and informed us that we were headed over to the naval hospital. Evidently we had all volunteered to give blood that day.
When we arrived at the hospital and were debarking the bus our DI gave the order to form for "silent drill" and then we were marched towards the hospital entrance. There was a large group lounging around in front of the entrance and it is difficult to describe the thoughts that were floating through my head. Almost all the servicemen were Navy personnel, mostly wearing their "whites", many with rank emblems on their sleeves and various ribbons on their chest. Their pristine appearance drew a stark contrast to what we must have looked like, dirty, ragged, sweat covered fatigues still covered with the dust and sand from the obstacle course. I think we all felt small and out of place next to these "real servicemen" in their impressive looking uniforms.
As we neared the entrance it became obvious that our drill instructor was not going to stop us and the crowd just seemed to part in front and to both sides, then we came to a halt right in front of the main door. Without a word our DI left us standing there, at attention, staring at the back of the man's head in front of us, silently, motionless, waiting for our next order. It seemed we were there for an unusually long time and I began to wonder what was going through the minds of the Sailors standing on either side of us. We must have been quite a sight. Then I began to hear a murmur in the crowd and then another and then a hushed voice from one of the Sailors saying, "Jesus... look at their eyes!"
That was not what I expected, and at that moment, I realized that this was probably something they had never seen before, at least not close up. I also realized what our drill instructor was doing... He was showing us off!
It's at that very moment that I knew I was going to graduate and become a Marine. That's when I knew that we all were.
(formerly L/CPL with 3rd Bat/26th Marines, VN 1967)
The Grunts 24/7, 9-1-1 Rescue Battery.
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Task Force Tarawa / Battle of An Nasiriyah Reunion
On March 23, 2013, Task Force Tarawa / Battle of An Nasiriyah will will be having their reunion in Quantico, VA. You can find more information about the reunion online at:
or on Facebook at Task Force Tarawa 10 year reunion. Thank you for any effort in helping get the word out.
Jason Branch (2000-2004)
Southern Drawl Like Molasses
Just a shout-out to Sgt. Mike Semones, whose letter I saw in the last Newsletter. "Iron Mike" was my Crew Chief in good old "2-7", the most squared-away "tractor" (AmTrac) in the 3rd Mar Div. As the company "wise-azs", with a serious "attitude problem" I was assigned to "Iron Mike's" tractor as his crewman. I had run through several crew chiefs that were going to "square me away", to no effect. You could not have found two more different people if you had tried. I was an 18-year-old surfer from California that was "salty" beyond his "time-in". Mike was a "hick from the sticks". South or North Carolina if I remember correctly. After a 2-3 days "getting acquainted" period in which I employed my usual bag of tricks to annoy and frustrate any authority figures I deemed unworthy of "leading" me, Mike had, had enough.
He was a big ol' boy with a southern drawl like molasses. He used both of these traits to inform me, in no uncertain terms, that my little show was ending immediately, if not sooner. There was no yelling, screaming or threats of physical harm. What he did impart was the fact that HE knew that I was, in fact, a good Marine and a damn good driver/crewman. And that the sooner I realized that, things would probably go a lot smoother for me. With him and the Marine Corps in general. I like to think that at that time a friendship and trust began that I still remember to this day. We went on many operations together and had some real adventures. (Remember the sniper when we were on river patrol)? I also recall SSgt Mortis was our Plt. Sgt. out at An Hoa, in the early days out there. Thanks, Sgt. Rock!
L/Cpl (Pvt. then!) Jeff Barnes ('64-'68)
RVN '65-'66; 3rd MarDiv / 3rd Amtracks
Mouthed Off To My Sergeant
The story on Operation Frequent Wind brought back a few memories of my own. I was a new 17 yr. old PFC and was assigned to guard duty at Camp Horno in the spring of 1975. I believe it was called "Camp 5" where some of the Vietnamese refugees were kept until sponsors could be found for them. Mostly walked guard from 6 pm to 6 am and survived one sizeable riot. I then, with the wisdom of the second youngest Marine in the 11th Marine Regiment, I mouthed off to my Sergeant, Ed Phillips, so I spent my 18th Birthday and the next 5 weeks in the pot shack at Camp 5, washing stacks of large metal trays caked with parts of baked fish, from well before sun up to well after sun down.
In the same newsletter, I also read about someone who wrote about the "Rat Patrol" exercises at 29 Palms. In the Summer of '76 I was attached to a grunt company as a scout observer, 0846, and remember sitting on a ridge top watching a gaggle of jeeps racing up a wide canyon to engage an approaching force of M-60 tanks and amtrac's. The jeeps started weaving and turning in circles as they fired at the opposing forces and raised such a cloud of dust and sand, I seem to recall numerous Jeeps colliding with each other and the attack being a failure. Myself and the entire grunt company were laughing our b-tts off. Keystone Cops come to mind.
'74 to '92
A Few Things
For Gunny Rousseau: Right on Brother! You don't pull on Superman's cape; you don't spit into the wind; you don't pull the mask off the ol' Lone Ranger; and you don't mess around with my Flag, my uniform, and you d-mned sure don't dishonor my Brothers who fought and died for your right to be ignorant. Semper Fi, Ooooo-rah!, and d-mned straight Gunny!
Two of Jim Reese's comments had me laughing: Several years ago I spent a couple of weeks in Ireland. The first morning there, I was standing in front of a pub, at 0100 hrs... the time pubs open there... as the young lady (co-owner of Toby's, as I came to find out) was unlocking the door. "Kin I help ye?" she said. "I'll have a Guinness," I said. Smiling, she looked up at me and said "Ye sounds like a Yank, but ye must be part Oyrish, ony an Oyrishman considers beer ta be breakfast." "Or a Marine," I said.
Another thing Reese said really got me chuckling: I had forgotten the "untrimmed belts". After a few weeks... and several little bitty steps up the ladder toward becoming a Marine at Parris Island, do y'all remember how refreshing (and funny) it was to see that platoon of new maggots being herded down the Battalion street, by screaming, red-faced, bulging-veined DI's; Ute covers down so far that ears stuck out like donkeys; trouser-cuffs dragging under boot-heels, a stray boot-lace, here and there, dragging out under; slouched shoulders; collars askew, one point facing north, the other maybe turned down under the hi-buttoned shirt; the wrinkles of, God knows how many months, years, balled up in the bins at receiving; the faces of total dejection, and utter fear peeking out from under the down-turned cover-brims; the belts hanging down, flapping in the breeze, nearly touching the deck on some of the rinky-dinks at the back of the herd; the belts with the buckles and brass tips looking as though they'd been vomited on by a fire-breathing swamp monster.
God, but life was good (at least better than three weeks before, when we looked like that bunch of stumbling cattle), our DI had let us "press" our "herring-bones" between the mattress and the springs the night before. We were sharp! Hah! We looked like F--king Green Waffles, and our belts were still flapping in the breeze, but, d-mn! We sure looked better than the bunch of swamp-slime that was stumbling past, and maybe, just maybe, our DI's would let us "soap" our ute-covers tonight, so they wouldn't lay flat on our heads, like so many cowpies, and we'd look like Big Green Waffles with stiff covers, the next tiny step toward the elusive EGA.
I became a teacher after my active duty years, and studied and was exposed to many forms of so-called "advancements" in education, but there never was, isn't, and never will be a more highly developed, nor more effective, nor more efficient form of education than that which is used to make Marines out of worthless civilian anti-matter. More glory to The Corps! Gung Ho! Tomorrow boys and girls, you may blouse your trousers, and cut your flapping belts to regulation length, for soon you will be Marines.
As to "yodeling DI's: When I went through PI as a boot, and during my year as permanent personnel "vacationing" on that tropical-island-paradise (Dec'58 to early '60), "yodeling" or at least "distinctive" cadence-calling was, or seemed to be the order-of-the-day for DI's. Every DI had his own signature "yodel", "song", "chant", or whatever you want to call it. Seldom did you hear anything that resembled Left; Right; Column Left; To The Rear... but you d-mned sure learned quick, the language of your own DI, as sure as a calf can pick his own mama's bawl out of a herd of hundreds of bawling mamas. I wish I had had the presence of mind (or the technology... for recording devices weren't tiny things you could stick in a pocket, but were heavy, cumbersome, reel-to-reel monsters, back then) to record the varied and wonderfully personal cadence-calls of individual DI's. Some "yodeled", some same "sang", some growled and earth vibrated, some bellowed like a bull-elk in rut. It was awesome to hear the different songs from all quarters of The Island! After a while, you could tell which platoon was where, just from the rooster's crow. So, as to identifying your "yodeling" DI, I can't help ya, bro. It was all music to me. I wish I could hear it again.
Is there any other old jarhead out there who was stationed at PI during that time, the year we were treated to a visit by Hurricane Gracie, when we had the headquarters building overflowing with permanent personnel's rug-rats, curtain-climbers, and mattress-monkeys, as the Beaufort River washed the feet of Iron Mike out front?
1847481 (Just a little salt on that.)
A Time So Many Of Us Forget
Many people take for granted our freedom. When it comes to the American way of life, American people don't realize how many soldiers have sacrificed their lives for us. I am going to write a true-life bio of a real life hero. I am going to go over a brief history of what Sergeant Raymond Zukley has done for this fine Country. Mr. Zukley is one of the few survivors from Iwo Jima, he is 90 years old today, and lives a modest life as a volunteer at Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Mr. Zukley served in the United States Marine Corps from 1942-1945.
When Ray enlisted, he went to boot camp in San Diego California. When Ray was finished, he trained in the Special Forces and served as a drill instructor for one and a half years. Later, he transferred to the "Fleet Marines". Once he was in the Fleet Marines he went to New Caledonia and continued to Guadalcanal to join the 3rd Marine Division to train for the Guam campaign. While in Guam the 3rd Marines trained for Iwo Jima. On February 19th, 1945, the 21st Marines his fleet was ordered to move to the beaches. When Ray's division arrived, there was no room on the beach, so they had to turn back and return the following day. On February 21st they were on the beach moving toward the base of the Mount Suribachi. When the flag went up Ray's Company knew that the island was not secure. They were at the bottom of the mountain on February 23rd and saw the flag being raised. They moved north through the center of Motoyasna village. On March 4th they saw the first damaged B29 land. By this point most units of the 3rd Marines have been wounded or killed. All the officers have passed and this had left Ray in charge.
Ray had moved forward with the men he had left because there was a lot of work left to accomplish. March 14th the official flag was raised for being secure. On March 27th, Ray had left Iwo Jima and went back to Guam to train for the invasion of Japan. The casualties were 5931+ and the wounded 17,272+. Americans need to realize that so many gave their lives for us, so that today we have freedoms that might not have existed if these young men didn't make such a sacrifice.
Mr. Zukley lives with his beautiful wife Irene and has 2 children, with 6 grandkids, and 6 great grand kids. This man should be recognized as one of the true American Heroes who went above and beyond for the American Freedom that we all enjoy today.
To finish this story, Ray also has achieved one of the greatest metals a military person could achieve and that was the Purple Heart. Many military personnel sacrifice their lives every day, but not many can say they were there when the flag was raised at Mount Suribachi. Ray is a true survivor and I personally want to thank him for his service and dedication to his Great Country, The United States of America.
PFC - USMC
I love the quotes at the end of your newsletters and would like to suggest these from Jack Webb in "The DI":
"Rodriguez, if you were completely surrounded this morning by an enemy force of 500 men, what would you do?"
"Kill 'em, sir!"
"Just like a bunch of little girls."
"I am not your mother. I will not wake you up like your mother does, do you hear me?"
"You ain't here for no picnic. This ain't no summer camp."
Rusty Iron Mike
Note: This movie and Sands of Iwo Jima with John (Sgt Striker) Wayne had a lot to do with my joining the Marine Corps. Little did I know at the time that similar phrases as above would be used with a bit more colorful and creative language.
Done The Same
As I do every Thursday morning, I am reading the newsletter. One of the articles was from a Cpl. Mendana, J. and his discussion with a law enforcement officer both being Marines. He said he had been in the Marines and was in the Infantry. Well as an 0311 grunt I never heard the grunts referred to as infantry. We were riflemen or grunts as 0311's. In fact, each Sgt. Major of the Marine Corps that I ever heard always said that each and every Marine was a riflemen regardless of their primary MOS. So the cop gave him a citation. As a former street cop I must say I would have done the same. There are traditions in the Corps that are not stepped on. A Marine riflemen is a Marine riflemen. We are most often and with great affection called grunts.
I loved being a grunt for close to three years but I did get tired of humping every mountain in the area or hill in the area just because it was there. Living in a fox hole full of mud got a bit tiring over the years. Humping up Mount Fuji for part of our cold weather training and to fire on the North Mount Fuji firing range just to say we could and did was not a lot of fun. The snows had come and everything was a mud hole because the tankers where going up the same road at the same time. We did hitch a ride part of the way. A ground pounder, a grunt, and a Marine Riflemen, all the same and all meaning a unit of bad azs Marines ready to answer the call no matter where they wanted to send us.
SSgt. Joseph E. whimple
U.S.M.C. 2/70 - 12/76
The FLIGHT LINE
Written By: Marine Jim McCallum (the ole gunny)
Vol. #3, #11, (Nov. 2013)
We talked about many different things that a helicopter is used for, but to those of us that fly and crew them, I think the most rewarding is the successful rescue of an injured person or the life saving assist for an injured fellow human being. It's been stated many times that since the advent and use of the helicopter that thousands of lives have been saved. That being the case maybe I'll just spend some time and recall a couple of instances that I was involved in while in country (Viet Nam).
It seemed that a normal day of flying did not go by without carrying some wounded or dead Marines, but there were certain missions that really leave more of an impact on you than others. One such mission involved a wounded young girl that we picked up in a remote village out in the brush. It was not uncommon for the VC to torture some of the local children in order to intimidate the other into working for them.
This young girl must have been all of 9 or 10 years old and the VC had shot her in the elbow in an effort to "teach here a lesson" if you would, and intimidate the other young children in the area. Somehow we got word about the incident through a Recon team that was in the area and off we went. We picked up this frail little body of a person and made her as comfortable as we could in my bird with our Corpsman at her side. She was so small and in terrible pain. The Doc gave her something to calm her down and she passed out almost immediately.
Once we got back to our "Home Plate" the ambulance was waiting and the Doc cuddled her in his arms and departed the A/C and disappeared into the back of the waiting transport vehicle. I can't tell you how bad we all felt after finding out that the little girl did not make it. There wasn't a dry eye for several days after this incident, and our anger for our foe rose ten fold. Apparently, the trauma of what had happened did more damage to her system and she wasn't very strong to begin with. War is certainly h-ll!
You never know what to expect when you're called out at anytime on a med-e-vac. I know this will sound a little off color, but getting the smell of dead bodies out of our aircraft is not easy and especially after you've had them stacked in like cord wood. I think that I've said enough.
We were also supporting the Nung, (Mountain Yards), which were conscript fighters that were hired by the South Vietnamese Army to help in their efforts to fight the North Vietnamese Army. These people were d-mn near primitive and when a helicopter landed they just didn't understand how to approach it or be around it. They were a strange group.
There were several times that we had to move some of them around and when we flew into a remote strip we had to shut down to get them loaded, and then they wanted to fill the inside of the Helo with as many as they could get in. That included their families and dogs, etc. I can't recall how many that we had on board but all the planes in the flight had to do a roll-off. This happened several times that I recall. Mostly in the II Corps area around Qui Nhon.
I've also got to tell you that if you had loose gear laying around in your helicopter, you'd better keep an eye on it because every time you carried ARVNS or Koreans you'd be sure to come up short of something that you had before the flight. I don't know how many baseball hats that I lost and the same goes for packs of cigarettes (when I was smoking). I use to take them out of my flight suit so that I wouldn't crush them and then put them in the back of my seat in the aircraft, where I thought they'd be safe. Dumb huh?
Wait For It
There are two probable routes from civilization to 29 Palms... anyone using the third (Route 62 west from Rice junction) was probably lost to start with... '62 comes from I-10, in the vicinity of Palm Springs, winds up through Morongo Pass, eases up over Yucca Valley grade, and from there is pretty much a straight shot to the traffic light at the corner of '62 and Adobe Road in 'town'... 50-60 miles or so. (Adobe runs north to the base)... the alternative to '62, coming from the other (east) direction, is Amboy Road... which leaves old US 66 at Amboy (town's probably for sale... has been for years... gas station, motel, restaurant, garage, not much more) and 49 miles later, ends a T-intersection with Adobe Road. This is the route usually taken by transferred Marines driving in from points east.
Now, the Feds, in their infinite wisdom, back in the '50's, had decided that being inveterate gamblers, they would bet anyone who was willing to do the paperwork, put $800 worth of improvements on it, and live there for five years, that after five years, five acres of Mojave desert would be awarded a deed to their 'homestead'. This caused a boom in more or less pre-fabbed small houses (real small) that sold for... wait for it... $800! There are lots of them (or were, in the 60's) scattered about along Amboy Road between SheepHole (don't ask...) Pass and the T-intersection, and most long abandoned / run down. If you didn't stop at the T-intersection, you were going to be (literally) in 'The Sand Trap'... a small building, Sand Trap sign on top, etc... might've sold soft-freeze ice cream at some point, had some association with a small golf course.
If you were motoring along Adobe Road, and noticed a car with out of state plates stopped at the Amboy Road stop sign, facing the Sand Trap, which had a grim-faced driver (high and tight haircut), a couple rug-rodents in the back seat, and a female, crumpled, sobbing, against the passenger side door? Certain bet that you were looking at a Marine and his family, who had just gotten a 49-mile preview of what they were sure 29 Palms was going to be like... It was that way on Memorial Day of 1967 (blue '64 225 Electra)... turned out to be a great duty station... 1st time by accident, 2nd time by request, and third time, advised the assignment Monitor that he could either cut my orders from Okinawa to 29, or walk down the hall to the retirement branch, and tell them to send the check there, 'cause that's where I was going...
Last time moving there, the bride had left the ankle-biters with Grandma in Omaha, and flew out to CA to meet her 'old man' coming home from a year on Okinawa, at the airport... never having lived in base housing, we thought maybe we'd give it a go. So we wandered onto the base to the Base Housing Office... at the time, there were three areas... Marine Palms, Ocotillo, and the new one, Smoke Tree (there is a tree that grows in the desert that from a distance, appears to be a small cloud of smoke... hence the name)... It just happened that the GS-11 housing officer, before his retirement as a Lt.Col, had been my boss... and his wife had taught our kids at the local grade school... having an "R" behind his USMC on his commission, he was not subject to some of the pay rules, and went to the same office/same job the day after retiring... only in civies. We also knew the lady who worked in the housing office... and they wanted to have some fun with us... gave us the keys to some older units in both the Palms, and in Ocotillo... nothing too inspiring... when we got back from looking at those, they said with a big grin... "got one more for you to look at"... this turned out to be a brand new, three bedroom, two bath house, on a corner, with a view (if you like sand and rock).
So, as we were doing paperwork, I asked the office lady... "If we rate a three bedroom, two bath, because of the kids ages and so on, what would we rate with one more kid? She looked at SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed), and a little surprised, asked "Why Jan! How long have you been pregnant?" Would you believe SWMBO hit me when I looked at my watch and said... "Oh, I'd guess about an hour and a half or so."
For the younger (and car-less) traveling on orders, having arrived in Palm Springs by either air or Greydog, in the mid-60's, their only economical means of making the trip up to the base was the local bus... Known as the Blue Tortoise, and other terms of opprobrium... this was a blue and white former school bus, formal name of "TwentyNine Palms StageCoach Lines)... owned and operated by a man oxymoronically, "Hasty"... Johnny Hasty, from memory. He owned the DOT rights to the route, had been providing the service probably since the '30's... the bus had seats in the front, cargo space in the rear... and Hasty would stop along the highway to drop off a spool of thread or a chicken, parcel from the Sears outpost, etc... the trip, one way, usually took around four hours... one trip usually did it for young troopers, and then they would find other ways to civilization...
SSgt. Charles "Rigor" Mortis was my senior DI at PISC in 1964. He retired as a Sgt. Maj. with 35 years of service and received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He passed away Feb. 21, 2011. He was a good man and a good Marine.
This past week a Marine I wrote of on Oct. 13th 2011 went on to guard the pearly gates. He was Sergeant Raymond J Bateman. For those that did not read my blog of him, he enlisted at the age of 14 when WWII broke out. He was a wonderful man to talk with and I will miss him. No idea what happened to the challenge coin and hat and pins I got for him at Sgt. Grit, but he was so pleased with them.
Cpl. C.G. Morgan
Lost And Found
I'm coming to you and your Marine readers to help put some closure to a recurring flash back I have especially around Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 1967 I was serving with 3rd Amtrac Battalion, 1st Marine Division. Amtracs near Marble Mountain were conducting "splash" training (going into the surf buttoned up). I was on the shore observing at the time. One of the P5s suddenly sank just off shore. Our crew members came to the surface and survived however three Marines from another unit were trapped and drowned.
At the time, I only knew them by the call sign they were assigned "flakey snow". The declassified records back this up as sometimes you question your memories.
For years I've wanted to put names to those three Marines. I used the internet to search the virtual wall for non-combat casualties on 11/23/67. I found three Ronald Maiorana, Ronny Roberts and Douglas Rogers. All with Kilo, 3/1. I was also a member of the body watch patrol which patrolled the beach recovering their bodies. I'm reaching out to my brother Marines of Kilo, 3/1 to close this chapter in my past and hopefully I've brought some closure to them also.
SSgt Jim Donegan (Corporal at time)
H&S Co, 3rd Amtracs, 1st MarDiv
"The more laws, the less justice."
"We are in bondage to the law so that we might be free."
"There is all the difference in the world between treating people equally and attempting to make them equal."
"When vice prevails, and impious men bear sway, the post of honor is a private station?"
"I never worry about action, but only about inaction."
"You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something in your life."
"Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? Has it ever occurred to your, Winston, that by the year 2050, at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now? The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact, there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking â€” not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness."
--George Orwell, 1984 
"Bends and mothers until you change the rotation of the earth!"
"Private, how much rent are you collecting from the visitors living in the bore?"
Attack! Attack! Attack!