August 9th, 2004
Submitted by JD Murray
In August 2004, JD Murray and friends, including several Marines
who served with M Co. 3/5 in 1966-1967, returned to Vietnam to
view the battleground sites where they fought on Operations HASTINGS
(July '66), UNION and UNION II (May-June '67), SWIFT (Sept. '67)
and ESSEX (Nov. '67). JD Murray was on a mission when he and a
few others headed to the DMZ: a mission to find the creekbed where
Denny LaNore and several other M/3/5 Marines were slain during
Operation HASTINGS, and to lay a Memorial for Denny and specially
made crosses for their fallen comrades.
While the M
Co Swift Tour Marines toughed it out in Hue, I went North to Dong
Ha to prepare for a trip into the DMZ and hopefully find M Co BLT
3/5 Operation Hastings LZ and the creekbed battle area of 22Jul66.
sources, no Marines had been into the area where I wanted to go.
It was North of the Village of Cam Lo, and we needed permission
from the village head to enter that area.
my old 1:50,000 map, there appeared to be a trail from Cam Lo right
into the two sites I wanted to visit. I had requested to visit these
two sites 8 months before we went on the trip and assumed that we
could accomplish the task, or get within relative distance of those
images to enlarge)
I HAVE GENERALLY
TRACED THE ROUTE I TOOK ON THE 10TH OF AUGUST AND THE ROUTE WE TOOK
ON THE 11TH. THE MAP ERRONIOUSLY SHOWS THE 11TH AND THE 12TH.
August 10th, 2004
On Aug10th, I met Huy, my guide, and a Vietnamese driver, and we
headed down Rt. 9 to Cam Lo.
Kelly Handmade Crosses
created by Kevin Kelly (3rd Plt M Co. 3/5 1966-67) to be placed
as memorials as both Chuck Goebel and I saw fit during our visit.
Mr. Huy asked me where I wanted to go in the DMZ. When I showed
him my map he looked concerned. He told me he wished I had told
him earlier because he would have gotten a 4-wheel drive vehicle
and lunch for the trip. He was also concerned whether we could get
into that area. I must have looked equally shell shocked since I
had sent in maps with 8-digit coordinates on the two sites that
were a must to visit in the DMZ.
hotel in Dong Ha with Denny LaNore Memorial and crosses
At Cam Lo we
headed north on a super highway, no less, up to the old Marine Cam
Lo Combat Base. Although the highway goes further up to Con Thien,
we peeled off onto a dirt road that soon turned into a dirt path.
Trail into DMZ
DMZ had been defoliated during the Vietnam War and has since been
replanted with numerous rubber tree groves like these lining the
The DMZ is sparsely
populated with small, widely scattered farms. We did see people
gathering bamboo and a few Vietnamese searching for metal in the
The trail quickly
deteriorated into a severely eroded and bumpy trail that became
impassable for a car. We then went be motorcycles driven by local
guides. These guides were familiar with most Marine battles in their
area and when I mentioned the dates, they understood generally where
I wanted to go.
Vietnamese kids near farm in DMZ. I believe I may have been the
first American they had seen. What a frightening thought! I gave
the boy one of many racketballs I have brought over for situations
like this. I think this might be the first time he had a ball.
farm. I was beginning to have second thoughts on this venture. Had
finished half my water, butt sore from riding motorbikes, and trail
I got chills
in 100-degree heat, as I knew we were very near the creek and LZ
of Hastings. I must have appeared somewhat odd as I viewed the surrounding
terrain for NVA.
It should be
noted that I speak of two creekbeds--one is the LZ Creekbed of 18
Jul (this creek can be seen on any 1:50,000 map of area)--the other
is the creekbed of 22Jul and is not seen as a creek on a map. On
Jul22, 1966, the creek was running.
just south of Hastings LZ. Once you cross this creekbed the land
slowly rises into the surrounding hills.
above are of the LZ. I Planted numerous Kevin Kelly
Crosses there for M Co BLT 3/5 casualties suffered on 18 Jul 1966.
This was the LZ for both L and M Cos. on the 18th of July 1966 as
we launched from Operation Deckhouse 1 into Operation Hastings.
We landed right on top of a NVA unit and captured a 12.7mm antiaircraft
weapon in the LZ before they could man the gun. The remainder of
the day we fought a well- entrenched NVA unit finally overrunning
it later that day.
The above pictures
show our trek up one of the nearby hills, eating lunch, and viewing
the nearby hills where the creekbed battle of 22Jul66 was located.
About this time the heat became almost unbearable. I had finished
off 100 ozs. of water from my back pack as well as another 32 oz.
water bottle. It would take another 2 hours of climbing to reach
my next objective. I was flat out exhausted and decided to retreat
for the day. We hiked to the motorbikes and eventually the car and
returned to Dong Ha for the evening.
I was joined by John and Jerry Keker for a few beers, dinner, and,
"What have you been doing the last 38 years." John was
the 1st Platoon Commander for M Co 3/5 when we were Special Landing
Force, Vietnam, and was wounded on Operation Hastings on July 22,
1966 near the creekbed we hoped to find the following day. I had
asked John last year to consider joining me on the hunt for the
creekbed. Although he did not go on our Swift tour, he and his brother
Jerry decided to tour Vietnam and join me on the 12th of August
for our DMZ journey. Jerry joined the Marine Corps just after John
was wounded and he served in 1st Force Recon the following year
(I think). You
can also see the LaNore Memorial on the table that I planted the
drive vehicle got us closer to the objective the following day and
in this picture John and Jerry Keker and guides are following the
LZ creekbed towards the 22Jul66 creekbed. I have rear Security!
The next picture shows the vegetation near LZ creekbed.
There were no
trails or paths into the creekbed so we headed in the genreal direction
according to the map. We climbed up a small hill covered with fighting
holes and bomb craters and some unexploded ordnance to this hill
that overlooks the 22 Jul66 creekbed battle area. Certainly crossed
my mind that this was not the time to get another purple heart!
I stayed directly behind our guides. This hill was on the right
flank of the creekbed where 1st and 3rd Platoons fought the afternoon
and evening of the 22nd. Later that evening both John Keker and
Joe Mirgeaux were wounded. It should be noted again that defoliation
of most of the DMZ has changed the landscape immensely but the land
contours and physical characteristics are still distinct. I have
several shots of the hill area and the medevac area in my pictures
on Debbe and Brad Reynolds Internet Site (Operation HASTINGS
link at the bottom of the page).
As the sweat
poured off us, John, Jerry and I stood on the hill overlooking the
22Jul66 creekbed battle. Just like the feelings I got on Hill 71,
Antenna Valley, and the Knoll, my heart pounded a little faster
as we went down into the gully and the creekbed. It's Indian Territory
carefully walked down into our final destination.
It was cool and comfortable with plenty of flowers and vegetation.
guides near the creekbed.
Wild red flowers were everywhere in this isolated terrain as if
sown by our fallen comrades.
Keker trying to cool off.
The temperature was around 100 and scorching in the sun.
was recovering from the heat and relaxing, I moved down creek and
planted Denny LaNore's Memorial and crosses and laid other crosses
for all our casualties from this battle some 38 years ago. I had
promised the LaNore Family in July of this year that I would try
and get into this area and plant his memorial. I felt fortunate
in being able to accomplish that promise and to lay memorials for
our other Marines.
I left feeling I needed to do something else but wasn't sure what
that missing ingredient was. As we started another cross country
march, I began to wilt. I think the emotion of the event had gotten
to me and my legs were like sacks of cement. Jerry Keker gave this
old campaigner his walking stick for the rest of the journey out
of the DMZ. This allowed me to keep my bitching to a low roar.
Keker near LZ creekbed. He planted a cross in the LZ for M Co casualties
on the 18th of July, 1966.
Keker with our local Vietnamese guide, his wife (note the pipe in
her hand...my kind of gal!!).
They were thrilled to get our empty water bottles!
our daily DMZ special lunches before we headed back to Dong Ha.
Later that day the Kekers left and I waited for the rest of the
Swift tour to arrive in Dong Ha.
me, everything else was gravy. I had been very fortunate in accomplishing
all my objectives of the tour. It was indeed a gratifying trip and
I only wished others could have enjoyed the special camaraderie
that was in this tour.~JD