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Sgt Grit Newsletter - 04 JUN 2015

In this issue:
• Corpsman's Life On The Line
• My Battlefield Cross
• Courage Under Fire

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Here is a booklet that was issued to me upon my arrival in APRIL of '68. I had forgotten about it until I was going through my stuff. It's been so long I don't remember if I had read it, then well, I started to read it and laugh but stopped stared at the wall and had visions of Nam in my mind from so long ago. My new unit was FLC 1st FSR TrkCo.

Vic DeLeon
Cpl. Semper Fi

Corpsman's Life On The Line

I was at An Hoa in '68 – '69 with the 11th Marines. They always ran the pay line through sick bay. The Corpsman would check your shot record, and if you needed shots you had to get them before they would pay you. One of my fondest memories of my time in that lovely land was watching a very nervous Corpsman explain to the very upset Colonel that the Colonel needed to get four shots before he could be paid. To his credit, after fuming a short while, the Colonel rolled up his sleeves and took his medicine like a man. God bless those Corpsmen. They put their lives on the line in more ways than one.

Dale R. Rueber
Sgt. of Marines

My Battlefield Cross

The attached pictures are from a Memorial that I put up in my front yard every Memorial Day and Veterans Day as a tribute to my fallen brothers. My "Battlefield Cross"... (with the helmet, weapon, dog tags and boots of a fallen Marine/Soldier/Airman/Sailor...) are very special to me... I started doing this in my front yard many years ago but just never really shared it. Only the neighbors and people who drove by would stop and look and take pictures... And then I would take about 60/70 pictures just to find the perfect one to print and save.

I not only do this for my Fallen Brothers but for myself as a sort of healing and time of special remembrance to them. I served as a FMF Corpsman assigned to the Corps in 1972 after graduating high school at 17 and so therefore I've had the opportunity to be stationed on board a few Carriers and TAD's during a wonderful time with and in the Military. My first duty station was with the Naval Activity Support Hospital (on the flight line for Medivac and care/treatment of our wounded and the RSVN soldiers) in DaNang, in 1972 until April 1973 and then went on to finish out my career with many more Marine Corps Detachments.

I wanted to take a moment and send these photos and if you have a Memorial Day Photo Section, maybe you'll find one out of this bunch that you'd like to share with your readers. This year I had made the White Cross and included it to my tribute you see here with the Branches of service decals for the US Marines, Navy, Air Force, Army and Coast Guard. FYI... the weapon you see here is an MKA 1919 12 gauge assault shotgun... (has a 5 round mag that shoots a mean 3" magnum slug...) made almost exactly as the great and powerful M-16 used back in the day... (I have 2 AR-15's but I wasn't about to use them outside just in case some body got sticky fingers)... I live in a nice neighborhood but thieves will be thieves... the helmet is the same one I was assigned in Vietnam... I just put on a newer Mitchell pattern cover years ago... and the dog tags are my original ones issued to me in '72 when I started out as a fresh squid... but after going FMF, my life changed and I was a squid no more... it took along time to become a true "Doc"... I appreciate your time reading this story of mine. May God Bless You for all you do and be safe...

My wife and I enjoy wearing our t-shirts and other things that we purchase from our SGT. GRIT.

P.S. Can you spot the Grit's yard flag?

Semper Fi

"Corpsman Up"
Donnie Lee, '72
God Shall Forever Be With Us... through all our days...

Treated As A Staff Sergeant

When I landed as an 18 year old Private First Class in Da Nang on July 9, 1970, I was trucked to Dog Patch near Freedom Hill for processing. I spent two full days there as they could not figure out where to assign me. As it turned out my Cartographer MOS required that I not be assigned below a Battalion Headquarters level and the only position for a Cartographer was a Staff position at the 1st Marine Division Headquarters G-2. The Sergeant that processed me at Dog Patch told me this, and that they had contacted the Colonel at 1stMarDiv G-2 and he had agreed to accept me in that position, as the Staff Sergeant currently in place had been there more then 13 months.

I was sent to the Division Headquarters in Chu Lai and was told that as I was filling a Staff position. I would be treated as a Staff Sergeant, but would not be able to draw the pay or wear the rank. Needless to say it made my Vietnam experience much easier. I returned home an E-5 Sergeant with two Combat promotions and the Navy Achievement Medal with a Combat Star.

Semper Fi for Life
SGT. Wayne J. Sanders
Vietnam '70-'71

Windward Marine 08 June 1962

A little history from the "Windward Marine" the base newspaper for Kaneohe MCAS. I was stationed there in VMA 212 from 1961 to 1963.

Norm Spilleth
1960 - 1964

I Was Blessed, I Think

Regarding the items about never forgetting your Drill Instructors, I really made out at MCRD PI in 1966. Lucky me... I had six. Platoon 1015 June - August '66. Senior - GySgt Mounce, Juniors Sgt. Babb (this guy was card carrying crazy) and Sgt Jones.

My dad died while I was at PI so I was sent home for 10 days emergency leave - (two rotten days on buses from Yemassee to the Port Authority Terminal in NYC).

When I returned I was placed in First RTR casual company for a bit and then assigned to Platoon 1027: Senior - SSgt Johnson; Juniors Sgt Shexnader (evil, this one was) and Sgt Gochanauer (we were never sure if this guy even had an IQ).

Nope. Never forgot a one. Eat your hearts out Marines. I think...

Cpl. Gerry Zanzalari
1966 - 1970
RVN 1968 - 1969

USS Henrico APA 45​

The old tub was still going strong in the summer of 1966 when she took a boat load of us Marines from San Diego to Okinawa. I was with 5th Shore Party Bn as part of BLT 26th Marines (Rein). There were several ships in the convoy. We went into port at Pearl Harbor and got 2 days and 1 night shore liberty. When we got underway and were in the open ocean again the ships in the convoy fell in line and a plane pulled a target sleeve behind it so the Navy could take target practice. We all gathered on deck to watch and I believe it would have been safer to have been riding the target sleeve than in the tow plane. I don't know if anyone ever hit it or not.

Semper Fi,
Bob Mauney
Cpl of Marines

Courage Under Fire

Article by Pete Mecca

More than one Leatherneck would agree, it's befitting that a young man from Montezuma chose to join the United States Marine Corps. The month was November, the year 1965, the man: Eli Fobbs.

"I remember basic at Camp Lejeune," Fobbs said. "Back then the Corps didn't play around. They'd insult your momma, sister your wife; shoot, those guys would bust your nose and scare you to death. It didn't take me long to believe I'd joined the wrong organization."

Fobbs had what it took to become a Marine. After advanced training at Camp Pendleton, Fobbs arrived at Da Nang, South Vietnam in June, '66 with arguably the most dangerous job in 'Injun' Country': that of an M-60 machine gunner.

Assigned to the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, dubbed "The Walking Dead", Fobbs went into combat almost immediately. A hard-hitting breed of Marines, "The Walking Dead" even carried Tabasco Sauce in their packs to kill the taste of WWII era C-rations.

In early April, '67, Charlie Company approached the village of Phu An, a well-established haven for North Vietnam's 234 Division. Fobbs stated, "It was near dusk and we were told to dig in, but the sandy soil was so saturated we hit water at 3-to-4 inches. So we kept low to the ground in a prone position."

At nightfall Charlie Company moved out toward a tree line then all hell broke loose. "The enemy came out of nowhere," Fobbs said. "We got hit hard and took a lot of casualties."

A deadly hindrance was the recently introduced M-16 assault rifle. Never properly field tested and hurried into combat, the new M-16 jammed consistently which rendered U.S. soldiers defenseless.

"We had called for reinforcements and were told to 'cease fire' on our right flank because Delta Company was coming in to help us," Fobbs said. "It wasn't Delta Company, it was the enemy. They swarmed all over us, dropping hand grenades and executing our wounded. I got hit in the arms and legs and was overwhelmed by 4 Viet Cong. They took my K-bar knife, the machine gun, and then drug me into the tree line. I was screaming in pain. The VC jabbed my wounds with sticks trying to make me talk. Shoot, I didn't even understand Vietnamese." Charlie Company had been decimated. Almost every platoon member was either dead or wounded. The company commander was dead; the FO was dead – there was no leadership.

Another Marine, Lance Corporal James Stogner, had been 'in country' for months. Before the firefight erupted, illumination, for some weird reason, had been called in to 'light up the area.' Stogner was a battle-hardened Marine and recognized the sounds of diverse artillery rounds. Perceiving that the 'lights would soon be on'; Stogner knelt and waited for the night to turn into day.

As the obscured sky became sunlit, Stogner spotted three enemy soldiers in front of his position. He took out all three with an automatic burst from his M-16. Then his M-16 jammed and the receiver slammed back into his face, breaking his nose and lacerating his skin. The illumination burned out; night returned. With a K-bar knife as his only protection, Stogner, vulnerable and with few options, lay in the dark trying to figure out his next move Stogner heard the moans of wounded and dying Marines, many yelling for help. Then he heard Vietnamese voices, a lot of them, slipping into the perimeter to shoot wounded Marines in the head and strip them of weapons and gear.

Instead of slipping away, instead of saving his own skin, Stogner joined the enemy, so to speak, in the darkness, armed with his K-bar knife. In short order he killed numerous NVA soldiers, thus saving many Marines from a certain death. Still Stogner moved, like a nocturnal hunter, until he found and silenced more NVA soldiers, saving even more Marines.

The NVA in the tree line knew something was amiss. Their men were being silenced which meant one, if not more, member of the Marines were still alive. Chi Com grenades blanketed the Marine position. Stogner survived the barrage, but was now alone in the dark. He decided to crawl away from the killing zone until he heard a Marine shriek in pain from the tree line. The Marine in trouble was Eli Fobbs.

Fobbs recalled, "The VC or NVA, whoever those guys were, kept jabbing my wounds and beating me. One of them heard something and left the torture area. He never came back." James Stogner had slipped into the area, grabbed the lone NVA in the darkness, and silenced him with the K-bar knife. One of the other NVA soldiers came to investigate. He, too, soon visited his ancestors.

"The other two guys were still going at me when suddenly this skinny white dude came screaming out of the darkness like a wild man," Fobbs said. He stabbed one in the chest and quickly grabbed the last guy, wrestled him to the ground, and, well, he was a goner, too."

Stogner threw Fobbs over his shoulder, grabbed the M-60 machine gun, and struggled back to friendly lines. Amid grenade explosions and small arms fire, Stogner eventually delivered his human cargo to safety until both were airlifted out for medical treatment the next morning.

James Stogner and Eli Fobbs recovered from their wounds and returned to combat. Fobbs earned 3 Purple Hearts in Vietnam while Stogner was awarded at least two Purple Hearts during his tour of duty.

The inexcusable irony is the total lack of acknowledgment for Stogner's heroics in the best tradition of the United States Marine Corps. Many of the eyewitnesses, especially the officers, were killed in action and any paperwork that may have been processed was lost in never-ending paper-shuffling.

While loading additional casualties onto choppers the next morning, a Corporal named Carl Van Meeteren overheard Gunnery Sergeant Bush comment on Stogner's courage.

"I saw men in the Korean War get the Medal of Honor for doing things like this," he said.

The Medal of Honor requires at least two reliable witnesses. Eli Fobbs is one. Fobbs assistant gunner, Bob Carpenter, was the other. In December of '93, while sitting at the breakfast table with his wife and two sons, for reasons known but to God, Carpenter pulled out a .45 caliber pistol and ended his own life.

"You know, I've seen and talked with James, but it took us 41 years to get together," Eli Fobbs said. "We are dear friends. But I have black friends that don't believe this story, a story of a skinny white kid saving a black man in combat. I got news for them, the only color in war is red, and we all bled it."

In war, the few too often pay the price for the many. Perhaps it's time for the many, especially our congressmen, to pay more investigative attention to the few.

Story submitted by Wayne Armstrong

Having The GAUL

All of these letters regarding coming before the paymaster dusted off the memory bank and brought to mind my first pay from Uncle Sam. Summer of 1969, MCRD San Diego. Out on the edge of the grinder in front of the quonset huts of the 2nd recruit training battalion. We were instructed to have our I.D. cards ready and address the paymaster in a specific way (can't remember the details). After receiving a cash payment ($100?), our Platoon Commander was right there as we stepped away from the paymaster table, berating each of us recruits for having the GAUL to take the taxpayers money for doing so little and being so worthless. As you would expect, more colorful language was used than I can share here.

Greg Pawlik
Cpl 1969-1972

Attitude Is Everything Day 27

Here is this week's most popular Marine Corps quote that was posted on Sgt Grit's Facebook Page. The replies are nothing short of what you would expect from our fellow Marine brothers and sister, or Marine family members.

Here are a few of their comments:

LLoyd Red Carroll - There's a lot of truth in the quote "You can't handle the truth".

Adam Edwards - Eh, I don't know. I think most Marines really like that part of the movie, but I'm not sure channeling the "accessory to murder" villain from a movie is the best attitude to cultivate.

Tom Hager - The Col. Jessup character was a true azshole.

Timothy Bucher - All Marines, past or present can be azsholes. Some like me, take pride in sh-tting on your day. Copy?

Gene Evans - Gung-ho!

Check daily to see what the next quote or saying of the day will be on the Sgt Grit Facebook page.

Usually The Same Guys

Seeing all of the stories about payday brought to mind one that happened in our barracks every pay day, without exception. There would be three or four cr-p games going on at various spots around the barracks, including the head, and about five minutes after every one was paid, three or four guys, usually the same guys, would come around asking to borrow a few bucks for beer and cigarettes. Never failed.

Dick Stites, 663517
Sgt of Marines

An Intelligent Form Of MARINE Life

More on Henrico and pay day.

I went aboard the Henrico (APA-45) in Aug '57 and about 2 weeks later we were on the way to WESTPAC with a 'full load' of USMC.

We stopped at Pearl Harbor and the CO called me in and told me to write my mother and convince her I was not AWOL or going to jail for 'dodging the draft' as I 'signed' in 1956 (Nov 10 by the way) and turned 18 in Oct '57, the FBI was 'looking for me' etc...


The CO also asked why I hadn't taken any pay? I scratched my head and said "PAY? I was taken out of 'poverty', sent to a place where I got some regimented exercise, 3 squares a day, plenty of new friends, (though the people in charge could be 'nasty'), place to lay my head and NOW you have me in Hawaii on the way to Japan AND YOU TELL ME I GET PAID real money?..."

End 'JOKE'

'Funny' thing about FBI, right out of Boot Camp I went to Imperial Beach, CA for Communications Technician School and needed the FULL BI to get on the base, yet six or so months later, the same FBI was looking for me?

Between Boot and Henrico, I was assigned to Mess Cooking at Navsta San Diego and one of the 'Gentleman' at the Gate gigged me for a spot on my whites or something and I missed my bus for a 72. Like they say, paybacks are wonderful. Few days later, said 'Gentleman' was coming through the line and I was serving – somehow gravy or such got all over his tray... OOPS... Sorry about that...

Also on the 'old' APAs Troop Quarters had running sluice toilets which served double duty... just a long metal trench on a downhill slant which could be used for sitting or standing... The seats were raised and if you needed one, you just pulled it down. No stalls, NO privacy, just a long tube with about 15(?) or so people utilizing it at the same time. One of the 'tricks' was to light a roll of sandpaper (I mean so called toilet paper) and launch it on the top side...

Also chow was served standing up and I used to 'have' to eat with the troops on occasion due to watchstanding duties... Would grab a spot at the end of the table as when the ship would roll, everything rolled with it, causing some of the personnel to discharge any recent material that had been swallowed. I remember a nasty roll, the trays started sliding, someone barfed and as a tray was going over the end of the table I speared a Pork Chop off the tray. Needless to say the table cleared out...

Ah, some good memories!

Always remember if a Squid (an intelligent form of MARINE life) and one of Uncle Sam's Misguided Children were to be mixing it up, woe be the Doggie or Flyboy or Civilian that tried to break it up... HE (they) would then have both (or more) of US to contend with...

George O'Connell
RM2 (E5) USN 1956-64
USS Henrico (APA-45) 1957-60
USS Terrell County (LST-1157) 1960-62

Camp Mathews Photos

Sgt. Grit,

Spring and Summer of 1959 I was stationed at Camp Matthews, the rifle range for MCRD San Diego. I am looking for photographs of the whole camp from the mid to late 50's for my Marine Corps wall in my office. I have contacted the museum at MCRD but they didn't know where I could look and they said they didn't have much. There are some in the recruit graduation book from 1958 which I have from my platoon but I was hoping some Marines out there could help me with copies of photos from there and that era. Many thanks and Semper Fi. Still throwin' lead downrange.

Austin, A. D. (Tony) 183----

Lost And Found

Anyone from plt. 246 PISC, April/July 1958? Gimme a shout at johnbolan[at]hotmail.com.

John Bolan
Cpl. 1958-1962

Short Rounds

A shout-out to Joe "DOC" Garcia, "I" 3/9 "65-66". Doc I was with "I" 3/9 "67-68"... Welcome Home! Ya'll put me on a med-vac chopper.

Thanks for ur'e service!

OooRah-Semper Fi
David "Geronimo" Groncki

Does anyone know how to get a replacement Purple Heart certificate? I have tried the National Personnel Records Center to no result except "the Department of the Navy does not provide Purple Heart certificates". I have the original medal but the certificate was lost long ago.

Ron Myers


"Come on, you sons of bitches! Do you want to live forever?"
--GySgt. Daniel Daly, USMC

"There is a rank due to the United States, among nations, which will be withheld, if not absolutely lost, by the reputation of weakness. If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure peace... it must be known that we are at all times ready for war."
--George Washington (1793)

"One of the consequences of such notions as "entitlements" is that people who have contributed nothing to society feel that society owes them something, apparently just for being nice enough to grace us with their presence."
--Thomas Sowell, USMC, Korea

"We're not retreating, Hell! We're just attacking in different direction!"
--Gen. Oliver Smith, USMC

​​"Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it."
--Mark Twain

"I have just returned from visiting the MARINES at the front, and there is not a finer fighting organization in the world!"
--Gen. Douglas MacArthur, U.S. Army

"Stay Green!"


​"To All My Fellow Belleau Woodsmen..."

God Bless the American Dream.
Semper fi!
Sgt Grit

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