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This is NOT an official USMC combat operations page, but our personal attempt to recover as much information as we can about the operations 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, M Co. participated on in Vietnam. Please feel free to send in any relative information.

Operation HOUSTON II
1-17 May 1968

It was supposed to be a "routine" patrol during Operation HOUSTON II that took the Marines of Mike Company up the treacherous Haivan Pass, and straight into a North Vietnamese Army training base camp. The company was cut off from aid from other Marine units, and constantly under fire, unable to get supplies in, or get help for their wounded. We will be posting the remembrances of these Marines along with pictures, when available, of the men who fought, and died, in this virtually unknown battle. This will be an ongoing effort to tell this story, as we continue to locate other survivors.

Haivan Pass looking from the South
(Submitted by Curtis Batten)

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Map courtesy of Jim Blankenheim

3rd Battalion, 5th Marines Command Chronology
Operation HOUSTON II

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Captain Frank Pacello and Gunny "Ski"
(Submitted by Jim Blankenheim)


(Submitted by Rock Giambrocco)

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Rocco "Rock" Giambrocco, H&S and M/3/5

Rock's Diary of Hill 1192


May 5 1968

Mike Company moved out early in the morning after a night that had seen a mortar attack and an NVA assault at our position on the Truoi River Bridge. We knew we were headed for a Pass outside DaNang area that had been scouted by Scout Dan Hignight of 3/5 S-2. That is the unit I am expecting to be transferred to in a short while. I will still travel with the Companies of 3/5 – but as a Scout. Hignight had reported seeing NVA soldiers encamped on the side of a ridge near Haivan Pass. The ridge was called Hill 1192. It was reported to be steep and heavily covered with growth. Good cover.

May 6, 1968

We climbed all day and ran into numerous small waterfalls and pools of water. Hot as hell in there, but the water helped. Leeches though. A few guys were bitching about hauling up extra ammo and belts for the M60. I even saw a few guys dump shit in some deeper pools. If the CO saw that he would have had a shit fit. Capt. Pacelo was not known for being happy with guys slacking off. Gunny Harville DID see two guys dump some shit – and he sent them into the pool to retrieve the stuff. Hell – we throw stuff out, and the gooks then find it and use it. It was a long day and I took a couple turns at point. Flankers were out - but not too far because the way up this pass is pretty steep. We could see the flankers. Captain Pacello was hanging fairly close to the front of the column not far back from the point element. The point element consisted of three guys and sometimes four guys pretty close together. Steep climb, hot as hell, humid, thick air. Pretty area though.

May 7, 1968

Back on point, after a short night doing my turn at watch. Noises, but no contact with the enemy. No real signs of anything. Rick Huffman, Dave Johnston and Jerry were all walking up at the point together for most of the day and doing fine. Gunny Harville was riding our ass pretty good. We followed a stream most of the day and even part of the next day. No contact.

May 8, 1968

New guys on point and we left the stream and headed up in another direction. Hard to see in here. The air is thick. It is like trying to breathe with your face stuffed in a pillow. We were given the signal to stop for a rest. We dropped down and took the opportunity to have a smoke. Then shots rang out – only a couple. Everybody scrambled for cover but no more shots, and no one could tell where they came from. Fuckin sniper! We had two guys down. One was wounded, the other was dead. Dead was Jack Fiffe – he was humping the big radio for the CO. The wounded guy was Dale Andrews. The CO called for a medevac for Andrews and for Fiffe. They were brought down past us and I never saw either of them after that. I heard a chopper, but I have no idea how they got close enough for a pick-up. Besides, I saw Andrews later on – but not Fiffe. I was talking with Doc Bowman and I asked him his first name. He was a funny bastard. A Corpsman who carried a grease gun. Gotta love it. "Harry" he said.

Then Gunny Harville called my fireteam up to the point. Huffman, Lomax, Johnston and me. Gunny sent us up ahead to mark a trail. He told us to keep our asses down and stay alert. No problem. Alert was gonna be easy.

After a while we came upon a couple small hooches and a small group of gooks – NVA Regulars. There was a fire going and they were just milling around. Gunny got up to us and he quietly sent back for a M60 team. He told us to circle around and attack the hooches. I was pretty scared. None of us looked too anxious. We got ready to hit the place and Lomax pulled out his rocket. He was carrying Laaws Rockets and he was pretty good with them. I was content to just let him shell the fuckin place. But, attack we did.

We ran at them yelling and screaming, and firing at them. I got two as they headed toward one hooch. Some others came out of the other hooch and one guy went in the first hooch. Huffman and Johnston were firing at the second group and I went for the third gook that had gone in Hooch #1 after I blew away his two buddies. Lomax ran toward the hooch and put the Laaw up to fire it – but it did not fire. Turned out he left the safety on. Good thing – he had the rocket up to his shoulder – not the best placement for a weapon with a backflash that could burn a hole through a concrete wall.

He finally fired off the rocket and blew the second hooch to shit. I went in the first hooch and could not find the gook that went in. I hollered to the other guys and they ran over. There was a hole in the floor. I jumped down about a few feet and saw that it was a tunnel that went for quite a ways. I climbed out and fragged the shit out of it. Three of us tossed in grenades and blew it. Gunny and the CO and a squad came up and joined us. Then Gunny began deploying guys around the place. I was still shaking. He reached out and grabbed me by the shoulder and said "nice job, son" "You guys did good". We deployed and set a perimeter with everyone else. There were still bullets flying from the cover. Rich Seng was killed and a couple guys more were wounded. Hard to find a safe place for cover. Where the hell are these guys? When they were firing it looked like dozens of little lights going off from the cover around us.

May 9, 1968

Gunny Harville told Me, Rick Huffman and Dave Johnston to go over the top of the hill and start walking point down the other side. I was scared shitless – but I went. I walked maybe 100 yards down and nothing happened. Rick and Dave were right behind me, maybe 25 yards between us. The CO had a platoon set up on top looking down at us. I remember some odd shit about then. I remember talking back to Dave and saying that I could not hear any birds, no bugs, no wind – nothing. Off to the right and left of the trail, to my rear there was a vine made webbing. I figure it had a purpose of keeping us on the trail. Gunny Harville asked why I stopped and I pointed to the webbing. He hollered to keep going until I saw some gooks. I moved out.

Maybe five more steps, not much more. I was facing a ridge rising up across from me. All of a sudden rockets came in – 40’s. Small arms, machine gun fire and shit whizzing by everywhere. I got hit in the foot and dove for cover. I saw Rick take a round in the head as he was jumping off the trail. Dave was ok. No one else was over the top headed down as yet. I yelled that I was hit and Gunny hollered for Doc Bowman. Doc asked where I was hit and I said the foot, but I could move and I was ok. I told him Rick was hit in the head and was laying in the trail. The firing stopped. Dave leaped out and grabbed Rick and pulled him down to where I was. The firing had started again and I laid down cover fire for Dave.

Dave took a position just below me to my right, in some trees. I was between three trees and I could fire at the ridge. Jesus, they were all over the place. I did see one real clear and dropped his ass right in front of me – maybe 75 yards. Dave was trying to bandage Rick. Rick was alive but the hole in his head was big enough to put my fist in. He was conscious but not really ‘with us’ if you know what I mean. He kept pulling off the bandages and Dave was yelling at him to leave the fucking bandage on his head.

As the day went on there were several attempts to come down to get us. They all met with miserable results. A shitload of guys got killed and wounded. Bill Trent got pretty close with an M60 team but he got killed along with the rest of his team. I could see the top of the ridge and it was clear that guys were distraught that they could not get to us. Rick lived for hours.

I saw Doc Bowman go out after a couple guys and drag them in wounded. Then I saw him get hit. Then he got to a Marine and began working on him and he got ‘stung’ again. He asked for cover and one guy went out to him – I think Lomax, but I can’t remember. One time an automatic burst went in their direction and they shielded the body Doc was working on. Then another burst and Doc caught a few rounds in his side. He slumped over and he died. I was crushed. I never thought Doc would get it.

Randy Sterns took one in the thigh and Jerry Whitaker had a rocket go off near his head and he got a bad concussion and a few small pieces of shrapnel in his arm and face. He was pulled back with Sterns to the wounded area. I could still see Sterns laying down and firing at the ridge across from us. A lot of the wounded guys were still fighting. Ammo was low, water about gone.

The CO told Gunny to send a guy for water – back to the stream. He (don’t remember his name) took a bunch of canteens on a rope and crawled back to the stream and got some water. Thanks god.

Re-supply was about impossible because the cover was so heavy – a real thick canopy. The Captain had the guys wrap some trees with det cord and c4 and they blew an LZ into splinters. What an explosion. We were also told that another outfit (2/5 – all of it I think) was on the way up the other side to help us.

Choppers had come over to try evac and pulled away. Gunships tried to help but could not tell who was who on the ground. They did tell us that there were gooks everywhere. We already figured that part out.

May 10, 1968

Captain Pacello decided we needed to move our position and we began doing so. I was still over the ridgeline with Dave and Rick. We started to move toward where the Company was moving. We were all headed toward the opposite ridge where all the gooks were, but the cover was better and we could now see bunkers and hootches and all kinds of stuff. Dave Johnston and I tried to pull Rick along the trail with us and Gunny Harville hollered he was coming to help us – but to NOT leave Rick behind – even though he was now dead. I looked up and saw Gunny Harville firing a weapon and headed over the top. He caught a burst in the chest and went down dead, right near the top of the ridge. Dave and I grabbed Rick and dragged and fired until we got to a small cleared area. Right then a rocket came in and exploded and Dave got hit in the face and the front torso. He was ok. We kept firing and draggin – and finally got to where the guys could pull us in.

I was laying next to Sterns – he was dead. He had bled to death from a lousy thigh wound that was a ‘through and through’. Never should of died. Medevac was impossible. Whitaker was above me and firing from behind a tree. Dave and I were firing from where we were. All of a sudden there was new fire from our left flank – they had gotten around us when we all moved. Whitaker dropped from above me – right into my lap. He was shot in the throat – he was dead. We returned fire and the gooks pulled back. The CO sent a squad over to that flank for support and we kept moving down toward the LZ.

We located caches of weapons and rice and some bunkers that we blew. Then at some point the choppers tried to come in. Pacelo ordered the worst wounded out first, then the rest, last the dead. He was staying until the 2/5 linkup came.

11 May 1968

The first chopper in took only a couple guys and it got blown out of the sky. The second chopper in took quite a few of us. Dave was not on it. Lomax was, and so were some other guys. We got up and almost made it out but the fire got the bird and it came crashing down. I got hurt pretty bad – so did a couple others. We all got out.
Later, toward dusk, more choppers came. I was put on one and hauled up in a stretcher that looked like a wire net (a stokes?). I woke up on my way to the ER from the LZ at NSA Hospital in DaNang. They all knew who we were and where we had been. We were quite a damn mess. I did see the pilot from the first chopper I had been in. he was talking to a nurse and to me. I saw her take him to a stretcher cuz he had a mean gash in his head. He squeezed my arm and told me "glad you made it, son". I was watching them real close. He died. I felt pretty bad, I fought back the tears.

This would have been the wee hours of May 12, 1968.

May 13 , 1968

I woke up in a Ward. White sheets, nurses, and lots of hurting guys. I saw a few from the Pass. A General came around and spoke to me. He gave me a Purple Heart and told me I had been recommended for a Bronze Star. His name was Weisse. I have a picture here.

Dave came by to check on me. Told me that we had hit a Base Camp and that some brass were really pissed off at S-2. He got a wheelchair and rolled me out of there and outside in the sunshine. I was hurting bad so he brought me back.

May 14, 1968

That Hill took a lot out of me. We lost a lot of good guys – guys that should have lived. Guys that were wasted because we were so far outnumbered. Lost because no one could come get us – or wouldn’t. I know I am going back to Mike Company. I am proud to be in that Company. But so many faces will not be seen again. And then I have that transfer coming to S-2 eventually. I want that job, but I also want to stay working with Mike Company – and I know I will cuz it is all part of the job.


Hill 1192 (Haivan Pass)
(Submitted by Curtis Batten)

Curtis Batten

I remember when Jerry Lomax was hit in the arm, it was on Hill 1192 and I think that all of us that were up there remember what that steep mother looked like. That truly was a BAD scene. I remember Doc Bowman when he got hit the last time he was only about 15 or 20 twenty feet away from me. Jerry was there with him, and then the other corpsman (can't remember his name) crawled over to them but it was too late. I truly think and always will to the day I die that Doc deserved The Medal of Honor for that day, man, he just would not stop even though he was already hit. 

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I remember crying that night, we lost so so so many good men during those few days. Years later after I got home, my stepfather told me one day that he remembered a time in May 1968 that he and my mother were eating breakfast and had the morning news on. He said that it mentioned something about a Marine unit being pinned down and surrounded, very vague. He said that my mother just looked at him and said "That is Curt that they are talking about", something only a mother could understand. Since we were on that hill for "MOTHER'S DAY," I remember that after we were finally relieved I took a poster down from one of the huts (mess hall) I think. It was very a pretty picture of some flowers which had been water colored. I wrote a short note on it and then in larger letters wrote "HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY," to this day it hangs in her bedroom.~Curtis Batten


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M Co. 3/5 Rocket Team
(Submitted by Steve Howsmon, M/3/5)

1. Marine on left is Steve Howsmon, Brad Reynolds, William C. Mitchell and Ron Markel. Taken in Phu Bai in May I think. Starting from the right is Ron Markel; he got killed May 9 on hill 1192.  Next is Mitchell. He’s in Japan here with me. Next is Reynolds. He got a big chunk torn out of his rear end.  He’s in the states now.
2. Front row: the Marine holding the 3.5 rocket launcher is Ron Markel, the middle crouching down is Forrest La Wayne Bartram. The Marine, right, holding the rocket launcher is Victor Sosa.
Back row: left is Steve Howsmon, middle is unknown, and last is (I believe) LCpl. Hoying.

3. The Marine on the left is Ron Markel, he was in rockets and KIA in May '68 during Operation HOUSTON II (Hill 1192). The Marine in the middle is Victor Sosa, my rocket squad leader, and me (Steve Howsmon) on the end.


Fernando Alegria

I was with M Co., 3/5 from  Feb. '68 to July '68. I was a radio operator with 3rd platoon at Haivan Pass during May 8-13 when M Co. ran into an NVA Base Camp. I took the point with a M-60 gunner, and directed arty and air strikes for 3 days after 1st platoon was wiped out. Second plt. secured the area, and 3rd plt. was called up to secure the area. 

Since I was on the radio, I heard the captain tell the colonel that we were going to retreat. As he was talking to the colonel, I was looking around at the Marines trying to carry the dead and wounded back up the mountain. It was a scene out of a movie. It was impossible. The colonel said, "You will stand your position and fight'..., and we will send up relief." Looking at the situation, he was right. There are no others as brave as any rifle company of Marines. Semper Fi,~ Fernando


(Submitted by Art Diabo)

Tom Russell (shirt off), Duane Stolldorf (with hat), Art Diabo (bread in hand), unknown.
 On Highway 1 during Operation HOUSTON II

We were in an NVA base camp, and the occupants were still home! The snipers were picking us off at their leisure. If you stood up, you were dead. We had no food. Our re-supplies were dropped outside our lines into enemy hands. The situation was getting more disheartening with every hour that passed. The wounded lay dying because we couldn't get them out. 

When a chopper came on station, they immediately came under fire and had to back off. One such chopper counted over a hundred hits when it got back to Da Nang. My heart goes out to those guys in the wing, they really tried to get us out. Regiment knew how decimated we were after the Hill, but we're Marines and this is what we do. On to ALLEN BROOK and MAMELUKE THRUST. 

I read a lot about the Corps and Vietnam, in particular (of course) Mike 3/5. And quite honestly, there's little to read about us. Other line units experienced similar fates as Mike did. It was just a crazy time in an equally crazy place. Our youth was lost in '68, and as much as we try to reclaim it, it cannot be done. I know, I've tried and lost, you just can't go back. 


(Submitted by Doc Everett Wood, FMF Corpsman with M/3/5)

Doc Wood near Hwy. 1

I arrived in Da Nang on Feb. 14, 1968, and was attached to Mike Company, 3/5. I stayed with Mike Company until September ? 1968, and then joined the First Hospital Company in Da Nang around the First Marine Headquarters. I do remember the event going up that mountain. I remember placing many guys in body bags after several days. It was hell! I will try to convert my slides into pictures as soon as I can and will send them to you and anyone who wants a copy of them. God bless, Doc Wood

Captain Frank Pacello (left) and Mike 3/5 Marines up near Haivan Pass


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Helicopter crash

The wounded Marines of Mike 3/5 had been safely helped on board this helicopter, then to everyone's horror, the chopper crashed into the trees. "The first chopper in took only a couple guys and it got blown out of the sky. The second chopper in took quite a few of us. Dave was not on it. Lomax was, and so were some other guys. We got up and almost made it out but the fire got the bird and it came crashing down. I got hurt pretty bad – so did a couple others. We all got out."~Rock Giambrocco

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Jim Blankenheim, H&S and M/3/5

The following account is Jim Blankenheim's remembrance of the battle up on Haivan Pass (Hill 1192) as told to Jerry Lomax, who was there with Mike Company. Neither Jim nor Jerry had talked to anyone who had been there for 32 years, until this last year ('99) when they located each other, and a handful of others.


Jerry, You asked me to write something, and I will try. I can't remember the sequence of events exactly, so the timing may not be the greatest.

I remember starting out at the base of the mountain in that ville with about 80-plus men. It was supposed to be a simple 3-day-patrol. We could leave our flak jackets and helmets behind because they were heavy, and so hot. We loaded up with a change of socks, and 3 days rations. 

We started winding around up the slope alongside a mountain stream. I remember how peaceful the stream looked, and how miserable the jungle was around it. I can't remember if it was the first day or the second, but I'm guessing the second day going up, we were moving up the trail (I was a member of the infamous CP group).

We were spaced out enough so you could just see the guy in front of you, when we came to a spot where you had to go around this big rock that stuck out from the trail alongside a pool of water. The pool was only about three feet deep, but the rock stuck out quite a ways. Since I was a radio operator, I had about an 80 lb. pack on my back, and I weighed about 125 lb. all wet.

I started around the rock, and since I was not the first person to do so, the trail was wet and slippery as I came around it. The weight of the radio and pack on my back, and the slippery footing, caused me to lose my balance, and fall into that pool of water. This normally would not have been a problem except that pack board that everything was on was tight, and I managed to fall flat on my back like a turtle. I couldn't get out of my straps with the weight, and I was just under the surface of the water so I couldn't breathe. I was literally drowning in a shallow pool of water. 

The guy behind me was just far enough away that he didn't see me go in, but thank God he heard it. He managed to pull me out before I did drown. Talk about scared. I almost drowned when I was five-years-old, so the panic I felt was intense. I remember telling you about this incident, and you said from where you were you could see some idiot fall into the stream, and thinking what a dummy. So, this may be the first time we saw each other.

Well, I remember as we got near the top of the ridge someone had to be medevaced. Corporal Dave Burnham and I were the forward air controllers for the company, so we were called up to do the medevac. I remember that as the chopper was coming in, we were asked to pop-a-smoke to identify our position.

Well, everyone knows people make mistakes, and I was no exception. I was the junior controller, so I carried the radio while Burnham did the talking. This was also part of my on-the-job training for when I would become the Actual. For now, I was the Alpha (these would be our call signs on the radio so others would know which one of us they were talking to). Well, like I said everyone makes mistakes, and the ones who lived over there didn't make the same mistake twice. 

I popped the smoke like Burnham said, but it didn't pop. Maybe because of that dip in the pool earlier. Now a smoke grenade has a slow burning fuse that sets off the smoke. Being an 18-year-old rookie, (I still should have known better) I thought I could swap the fuse from a frag grenade, and still be able to pop that smoke grenade for the chopper. Now no one stopped me, which doesn't say much for the rest around me either. As soon as I pulled the pin, and placed it on a log next to us, I realized that the delay we were experiencing in the smoke not coming out was due to the 4-second delay in a frag grenade's BLASTING CAP. Before I could yell, "duck," the 4 seconds were up, and the smoke grenade blew up.

Dave caught a couple of pieces in his nose, and bled like a stuck pig. I got some pieces in the chest and chin, but none were bad. I was more worried about Burnham. I felt so stupid, and wasn't sure I wouldn't have to medevac him too, with all that blood. We finally determined that the two pieces he got were also minor, and that it looked worse than it was.

So, we popped another smoke correctly, and medevaced the guy with the broken leg. My gas mask case was covered with embedded yellow smoke, and I carried that around with me all the way through Nam to remind me of how dumb and careless one can get. I remember as we reached the summit that we heard gun fire over the top. They told us that the point elements had made contact, and were fighting within a series of hootches, and to move out on the double to give them support. We all knew hootches meant a base camp, but not until later did we find out how big. 

We eventually had the entire company over the ridge, and spread out in a small perimeter position. It was determined that we were up against a large force, and we needed help ASAP. We got on the horn to get some air support. First we had some radio problems because of the terrain, and had to get some relays set up. Then when we finally got some air support in the area, they reported that the terrain was so dense that heavy ordinance was going to be almost impossible. (This explains why the camp was where it was in the first place). 

We tried some initial hits, and thanks to the assistance of one of the platoon radio operators we were able to bring it in close, but it wasn't effective enough, and the quarters were too close to our guys. So the plan switched to artillery and this again brought it in on top of our guys but it held the NVA soldiers back and suppressed their attacks. (For the next few days, we would run artillery day and night). 

By now, we were getting low on ammunition, so a re-supply chopper was called in. Again the terrain made it impossible to get in, so they had to fly over, and kick it out the doors as they passed over. We were on one side of the ridge, and they were on the other, so the choppers would come in over us, and kick it out. Unfortunately a lot of the stuff went over the ridge to the enemy, but some of it made it to us, and was scarfed up immediately.

As I recall, two helicopters crashed farther down the valley from enemy fire, and a third one barely made it back. This was the reason we couldn't get any other choppers in for medevacs. They said that the fighting was just too intense to risk any more choppers at this time.

Somewhere around this time, Burnham came up to me and told me we needed water, and as junior man, I was going to get it. Now I don't know who told him, but the next thing I know I've got a sling with about 10 canteens on it (some were the noisiest metal ones I swear I ever heard), and I am crawling on my belly looking for a place to get water. One of the guys on the perimeter tells me that over towards this big rock might be a stream, so I crawl over, and sure enough there is this small pool of water about 2 feet in diameter. Now the shooting starts again, and I don't know if it is cover fire for me, or contact above me on the other side of this rock. All I know is I am filling these canteens as fast as I can, and cussing out those metal ones. As fast as I can, I finish and crawl back. Thank God this wasn't my day. 

I get back and give the canteens to Burnham, and go back to my radio. They tell us to dig in, but about 6 inches down we hit rock. I start grabbing any rocks I can find, and build a wall to get a little more height to my make-shift foxhole. It was like when you were a kid, and you built a rock or wood fort to play cowboys and Indians. I took one look at it and realize this won't stop a bullet, but maybe if it at least deflected it, I might have a chance. Besides, what choice did I have anyway, there was no way to dig deeper, and you don't always get to pick your spot. From this point on, it was just hold your ground, and see what happened.

At some point here, we get patched into Division command in Da Nang on the radio, and I hear Captain Pacello talking to the Division CO. The Commander is telling Pacello to maintain contact. We looked at each other, and said, "Where can we go, they're everywhere!" But we continue to make contact.

On the second day, we finally tried to get a medevac in to take out some wounded. The first one in was a CH 54 Air Force rescue chopper with a jungle penetrator on board. We only got one or two guys on it when they started to take fire, and had to leave. I heard it too barely made it back all shot up. This was the last attempt to medevac we tried until we had an LZ.

I don't remember when the explosives came in, if it was dropped, or if the reinforcements from India Company and 2/5 brought it, but we finally started to blow an LZ for medevacs. My guess is that it was after the reinforcements came because we had to expand our perimeter to cover the LZ. I sometimes think our whole perimeter before the LZ was no larger than my lot I now live on which is 150 ft. x 180 ft. They were wrapping sticks of C4 around trees, and then wrapping that with det cord. I swear they put one stick per inch of diameter of the tree around them. The concussions were unbelievable. 

Once we finally blew the LZ, we called for medevacs. By now I had been sleeping, or a facsimile there of, with my dead brothers next to me for the last five days, and the heat was awful, so the smell was something I have never been able to forget. These poor souls would be the last to leave. Our top priority was to get the worst wounded out first.

When the first CH 46 medevac chopper came in they couldn't land, so they hovered over the blown tree trunks and logs strewn over the LZ. I was on the radio, and Burnham went out to do the ground control. We loaded 16 on that chopper, and it started to lift up when suddenly I noticed it backing down the ridge towards the jungle canopy. I called the pilot, and told him to stop going back or he would hit the trees. He kept going back more and more. Now I'm screaming, "You're gonna hit the trees!," and he is calling back that he is losing his cushion and can't hold it. 

The next thing I know his chopper blades are flying through the trees above my head, and the chopper flips on its side and crashes sending a log through the cockpit. We all scrambled through the logs and stumps trying to get to our buddies. We managed to get to a log along side the down chopper, and start pulling guys out as fast as we can. Someone yells, "I smell JP4! " (flight fuel), and we know it can blow any second, so we start moving even faster to get them out. I see the pilot is okay but his copilot has a big gash on his head from the log, and doesn't look good. 

I think this is now the second time Jerry and I see each other 'cause he is probably one of the guys I'm pulling out of that chopper. Luckily, the chopper doesn't blow, and we get everyone out. We get more choppers in now, and we get everyone of the wounded and dead out finally. The rest of us will be walking out with India Co. and 2/5.

As we go through the base camp, we find bunkers with tree logs 12-16 inches in diameter supporting them. We find messhalls that could seat as many as 100 men each. The chopper has to be blown in place with thermite grenades, and the guns destroyed. I find "Chuo Hoi pamphlets" strewn all over the camp from the NVA to get us to surrender to them. After what we just went through, I don't think so. The base camp is about 2000 meters long, and winds through the mountain. We go on for another couple of days and finally come out in the rice paddies.

As we emerge from the mountains, one of the artillery batteries spots us and they fire a salvo at us because they think they have NVA troops in the open. The 2/5 Battalion CO gets on the horn and reams them out for not identifying their target any better than that.

Finally, the choppers come for us. By now, there are about 38 of us left walking from that 3-day-patrol. It is now May 17, 1968, and I will turn 19 years old tomorrow, and thank God I might make it. 

We are now south of Da Nang, and the choppers would fly us back up north of Hai Van Pass where we started just 12 days earlier. When we land, we are treated to steak and eggs, 3 cans of beer each, and a couple of hours on the beach. Yeah, this is great, maybe we can catch a break and get bridge security for a time while we build up our troop strength. Right around dusk some 6x trucks show up, and we load up. They truck us through Da Nang through the night down to hill 55 and Dodge City. 

At first light, I am 19 years old, and about to go out on Operation Allenbrook. By noon, the temperature I am told is 128 degrees in the shade-we have no water. The only well we can find is down to muddy water, so all the canteens are full of muddy water. I have a can of Dr. Pepper in my pack that I have been carrying for a month for a special occasion, and this would seem to be it. I no sooner finish it when they yell we have 7 or 8 heat stroke victims, and they need a medevac. By the time I get over to the sight, one of them some how has tripped a daisy chain, and now some are also wounded, not to mention additional personnel. Then the shit hit the fan, AGAIN!

PS Jerry, That was really hard, the tears and sadness I felt writing this were something. 

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Jim Blankenheim, Brad Reynolds, Jerry Lomax
May 2000

On May 18, 2000 (Jim's birthday), he met up with Brad Reynolds and Jerry Lomax in Georgia for their first face to face reunion. Jim (left), Brad and Jerry are standing before a banner of the names of the Mike Company Marines killed up on Haivan Pass when they ran into the NVA base camp.

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Chu Hoi propaganda pamphlets found at the NVA Base Camp

(courtesy of Jim Blankenheim)


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Earl Gerheim, USMC Correspondent 

I was with 3/5 off and on from Nov. 67 to Aug. 68. I was on Operations Junction, Denver, Auburn, Houston I, II, III, and IV, Allen Brook and Mameluke Thrust. Because of my job as correspondent, I had to rotate around because there were so few of us, and I also spent quite a bit of time with Echo 2/3, 1/5 in Operation Hue City and 2/5.

I just got in after Operation Essex in November. In fact, I was in Da Nang for three days before they shipped me to 3/5. Another of my fellow Marine correspondents was with 2/5 on Essex, and came in from the field with a 1,000-meter look. 

I know after the NVA Base Camp operation, there couldn't have been more than 40 able-bodied guys to go on Operation Allen Brook, and all of them, as Brad can tell you, were dehydrated and half-starved. I was shocked to see them loaded onto the trucks and headed south. They needed a rest. After a week on Allen Brook, I think Mike Company was down to about 20 guys. Mike had borne a terrible burden for some time prior to that. Mike took heavy casualties on Swift - note the Medals of Honor and Navy Crosses -and was hit hard on Essex. Mike also got hit hard during the TET near Thanh Quit, southeast of 3/5 Battalion Combat Base south of Da Nang. 

Postcard of Lang Co fishing village, revisited in 2000

Mike Co. was involved in the NVA base camp battle, not too long before we took off south for Operations Allen Brook and Mameluke Thrust. I still recall how half-starved and dehydrated the Mike Co. survivors of that five-day battle were when we took off South. As you might recall, they had a lot of heat casualties and, coupled with a booby trap tripped by the battalion casualty reporter while getting medevac numbers of the heat casualties, left them about 25 strong.

 Those two wounded men you mention were taken to Lang Co probably because it was the nearest 3/5 unit with a corpsman. At one time, the battalion BAS was at Phu Gia Pass, where India Co. was at the time, along with a mess tent from which the battalion attempted to provide at least one hot meal a day for as many men as possible.

 The battalion was strung out between Phu Bai and Hai Van Pass for about two months before going south. During that time I was with a lot of other units on ops - Delta, 1/27, E 2/5, E 2/3 - because we just didn't have that many correspondents. In between those ops, I'd always make it back to 3/5, which was an effort because, until Kilo got to Lang Co, it was hard to track down units because they were moving around so much.~Earl Gerheim

Earl Gerheim's Postcards of Hai Van Pass from re-visiting in 2000

South of Hai Van Pass overlooking Danang

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North of The Pass (80 km from Hue Imperial Old city)

By Cpl. Earl Gerheim

CAMP HOCMUTH, Vietnam, May 29 -- A Marine Company stumbled onto a North Vietnamese Army (NVA) base camp and held it for five days as they repulsed an enemy battalion south of Phu Bai, May 8-13.

Leathernecks of "M" Co., 3rd Bn., Fifth Marine Regiment killed 20 of the enemy in the contact.

The Marines found the base camp after a two day trek in mountainous terrain. They were proceeding down a mountainside when the enemy ambushed their rear elements.

"We hit the back door of the camp," said Capt. Frank Pacello, 27, (101 W.28th, Wilmington, Del.) the company commander.

The company fought off the enemy ambush, killing four NVA who were occupying two camouflaged huts.

For the next five days, the company withstood enemy attempts to overrun them. With close air support impossible due to the sloping terrain, the Marines relied heavily on artillery and fierce small arms combat to maintain their positions.

The enemy would attack, be fought off and then break contact with the Marines, only to hit the embattered outfit again later.

Finally, with the help of a relief column from 2nd Bn., Fifth Marine Regiment, the beleaguered company drove off the enemy, and returned to their combat base.

While in the communist camp, the Marines found six messhalls, each with a capacity of seating 100 men. The structures had benches, tables and a plumbing system made from bamboo pipes connected to a mountain stream.

The Marines found and destroyed eight tons of rice, 180 B-40 rockets, 300 Chicom grenades, 4500 blasting caps, 300 pounds of plastic explosives and 300 uniforms.

Hill 1192 – May, 1968
Steven A. Ruggiero H&S 2/5

Our unit, H&S Flames Section, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines was on a 24/7 rapid deployment alert in May, 1968. The name given for this alert was called Bald Eagle. We were told to have our gear ready to go at a moments notice. I would like to give you a date this occurred. I would need a copy of the battalion situation report to give you a timeline of these events. We were told to saddle up and took helicopters to the designated landing zone (LZ).

I believe we were the first unit to arrive at the LZ followed by India 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines. I always thought that we had linked up with one of 2/5’s line companies. Lt. Colonel Ernest Cheatham led this group and we were his security whenever he went on a mission, which was often. Being part of the CP group we were in the middle of the column moving into a heavy canopied forest with a stream running through it.

The operation was slowed down because a few members of I 3/5 were overcome by the heat. I remember their utilities seemed new so this might have been their first operation. Between being nervous and the heat, it took its toll. We again set out to climb this hill. I have been asked about tall rocks and rugged topography but I do not remember that aspect of the climb. We probably took the fastest route to relieve your unit as quickly as possible. As night fell, we slept on the side of this hill.
The next morning we reached a trail on top of the ridgeline of Hill 1192.

Coming down the trail into your position, I remember a group of wounded Marines that a Corpsman was attending to. To the right of them I noticed that trees had been blown down to enable helicopters to come in – not land but hover over this spot. India must have set up a perimeter since we stayed near the LZ area. Hill 1192 was heavily treed and with its rugged terrain was a good place for the NVA to camp. They would be difficult to spot from the air. I have read your accounts of what the NVA had on this hill: mess halls, piped in water and food stores. I do not remember seeing any of this but you may have detonated these areas by the time we arrived.

As soon as I dropped my gear, I started taking bandages off the wounded. The first Marine had been wounded in the leg and under the bandage there were maggots. I asked the Corpsman about this
and he said that was alright. He told me they kept the wound clean. I put some ointment on and redressed the wound. I helped a few others but the first one was the most memorable.

I volunteered to bring in the dead. Your Captain was distraught about the men that were lost and he made it a point that we should handle them with respect. I wrapped up a few members of your unit in ponchos. I remember thinking at the time that within a few days there was going to be a number of sad families.

I also helped out when the Chinook came in to get the wounded out. I remember when that back prop hit those trees and went down. Amazingly, nobody was killed. I remember asking the co-pilot if he was alright. The Chinook fell on his side and he made it back up the hill with a good size gash to his head. I remember him because he was in a tan flight suit while the rest of us were in jungle utilities. I would learn later from Rock Giambrocco that he died in the hospital.

I guess the decision was made to get out all the wounded unable to walk and dead off Hill 1192. A CH-53A was brought in to get everyone out. I helped with this detail too.

We formed a column and headed down the hill. We reached the bottom of the hill around dusk. I believe a unit (probably with a 106 recoilless rifle) along Route1 fired three rounds at us. These are 39 pound shells. Luckily nobody was wounded or killed. Green pop flares were fired and I understand that Lt. Col. Cheatham was angrily on the radio telling who was firing at us to stop. It rained lightly that night and I used my bayonet to cut a large leaf to block the rain. The next morning we were picked up by a Korean War vintage helicopter which I think has the designation of UH-34E. I remember looking up at the control panel that was shaking. It beat walking but barely. We went back to our tactical area of responsibility (TAOR) at Cao Doi which was in a railroad tunnel.

I never forgot you Marines on Hill 1192. Even though I had seen my share of battles and skirmishes, this experience made a big impact on my Vietnam experience.~Steven A. Ruggiero, H&S 2/5

In Memory of Marines and FMF Corpsmen Killed In Action on Hill 1192

May 8, 1968

Born on Feb. 4, 1950
Casualty was on May 8, 1968
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Memorial page


Born on Nov. 29, 1945
Casualty was on May 8, 1968
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Memorial page

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Born on Mar. 22, 1949
Casualty was on May 8, 1968
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Memorial page


May 9, 1968

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Born on Aug. 31, 1945
Casualty was on May 9, 1968
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Silver Star
Memorial page

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"Doc" Charles Mariskanish (right)

Born on Dec. 7, 1948
Casualty was on May 9, 1968
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Silver Star
Memorial page

Born on Oct. 24, 1948
Casualty was on May 8, 1968
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Navy Cross
Memorial page

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Sam Cole (left), Jerry Lomax, Willie Riviera

Born on Jan. 8, 1948
Casualty was on May 9, 1968
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Memorial page

Born on Jan. 6, 1948
Casualty was on May 9, 1968
Panel 57E - - Line 20
Memorial page

Born on Nov. 4, 1949
Casualty was on May 9, 1968
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Memorial page

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Ron Markel (left)

Born on May 14, 1947
Casualty was on May 9, 1968
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Memorial page

Born on Nov. 3, 1947
Casualty was on May 9, 1968
Panel 57E - - Line 27
Memorial page

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Born on Sept. 2, 1948
Casualty was on May 9, 1968
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Memorial page


May 10, 1968


Born on Oct. 19, 1937
Casualty was on May 10, 1968
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Silver Star
Memorial page


Born on Jan. 2, 1948
Casualty was on May 10, 1968
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Corporal William D. Trent

For extraordinary heroism while serving as a Machine Gun Squad Leader with Company M, Third Battalion, Fifth Marines, First Marine Division (Reinforced), in connection with operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam. On 9 May 1968, when Company M encountered a large North Vietnamese Army force in Quang Nam Province, Corporal Trent's platoon, serving as the forward element, came under heavy enemy automatic weapons and small-arms fire. Reacting instantly, he skillfully maneuvered his machine gun teams toward the enemy positions, despite the continuing hostile fire.

When both the gunner and assistant gunner of one of the teams became casualties, Corporal Trent, undaunted by the enemy fire erupting around him, manned the machine gun and continued to advance against the enemy. Disregarding his own safety, he delivered effective fire into a fortified position, silencing the automatic weapon. Shifting his fire to another target of opportunity, he quickly annihilated a second enemy position. He then observed two North Vietnamese soldiers moving to occupy the first gun position. Instantly, he seized his machine gun and a belt of ammunition and courageously advanced against the enemy occupied position, firing his weapon as he maneuvered forward.

Moving to within a few feet of the pinned down enemy, he killed both hostile soldiers. Quickly emplacing his machine gun in the fortified position, he began firing into the enemy's flank. Although mortally wounded by an enemy hand grenade, he remained at his exposed position until elements of his platoon were able to maneuver forward. By his bold initiative, intrepid fighting spirit and selfless devotion to duty, Corporal Trent inspired all who observed him and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

(From information provided by Jerry Lomax, one correction needs to made. This action took place in Thua Thien Province, not Quang Nam).

HM3 Harry Thomas Bowman II

The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the SILVER STAR MEDAL posthumously to


United States Navy, for service as set forth in the following


For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as a Corpsman with Company M, Third Battalion, Fifth Marines, First Marine Division. On 9 May 1968, HM3 BOWMAN's unit came under intense fire from a well entrenched force wounding several Marines. Observing three injured Marines lying in an open area exposed to the hostile fire and the courageously maneuvered across the fire-swept terrain and carried the most seriously injured man to a position of safety.

Returning to the hazardous area, he moved the second wounded Marine to a position of relative safety and, before reaching the remaining casualty, was wounded. Despite his injuries, he steadfastly continued toward his fallen comrade and was mortally wounded by heavy enemy fire.

By his extraordinary courage, determination and devotion to duty despite extreme personal danger, HM3 BOWMAN saved the lives of two Marines and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.


HM3 Charles Edward Mariskanish

On 9 May 1968 while participating in Operation HOUSTON II in Quang Nam, Petty Officer Mariskanish's unit came under intense automatic weapons and small arms fire from a well entrenched force of North Vietnamese Army Regulars, wounding three Marines who fell in an open area. Repeated attempts to evacuate the casualties failed due to the heavy enemy automatic weapons fire.

Requesting his platoon to deliver covering fire, Petty Officer Mariskanish fearlessly crawled across the fire swept terrain on two separate occasions to evacuate the injured Marines.

As he attempted to reach the remaining casualty, Petty Officer Mariskanish was mortally wounded by the hostile fire.

By his extraordinary courage, resolute determination and selfless devotion to duty at great personal risk, Petty Officer Mariskanish saved the lives of two comrades and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.

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Fernando Alegra's Bronze Star Citation

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Doc Everett Wood's Navy Commendation Citation

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Jim Blankenheim's Navy Commendation Citation


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M/3/5 Marines who served together on "Hill 1192", May '68 together at 3/5 Reunion 2003

Left: (Front): Jim Blankenheim, "Doc" Everett Wood, Jerry Lomax (Back): Frank Pacello, Art Diabo, Curtis Batten, Rock Giambrocco, Dan Hignight, Brad Reynolds
Right: (Front): Jim Blankenheim, "Doc" Everett Wood (Back): Brad Reynolds, Rock Giambrocco, "Skipper" Frank Pacello, Jerry Lomax, Curtis Batten, Art Diabo



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