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MEMORY OF DENNY DINOTA
Denny Dinota, GySgt. M Co. 3/5 I served with Mike Company from about Dec. '66 through Operation DESOTO - end of Jan. through Feb. '67, and through Operations UNION and UNION II spring and summer of '67. Transfered out after ADAIR to DaNang area the end of June early July (?). I was platoon sergeant and platoon commander of 2nd platoon (and another platoon for a short while), and was the company gunny during UNION and UNION II. During UNION and UNION II, 3/5 engaged in three pretty big battles. Mike Company was up front in all of them.
On May 12-13, we got what you might call Banzai-ed after an all day fight. We were out-numbered by several hundred. The NVA did manage to break through our line, but died for their efforts. During times like that you don't see officers and staff getting up running about the area giving directions and displaying leadership and all that stuff. You couldn't stick your little finger in the air without getting it shot off.
The skinny kids in the fighting holes did what they were trained to do, and did it. point man was the first to come upon what was left of Fox 2/1. He first came up on a Marine machine gun squad still around their gun. Because they still had their gun means to me that they fought until they died, and the enemy never got the gun. About 10 yards further, we came upon the rest of the company. They were on line, halfway across a rice paddy, dead. Most of them anyway. Very few emergency evacs. Officers still had their radio handsets to their ears. All very surreal.
During that time earlier in the day as we were losing people we received replacements from the rear. They were cooks, bakers and candlestick makers who probably earlier in the day were fat and happy and getting a sun tan. Boy, were they in for "It." Anyway, when the sun came up in the morning we were all in a daze. I didn't count the dead NVA, but the rumored number was 167 that they left on the field. We don't know how many they managed to take with them.
Combat experience is all relative to each individual's own experience. During January and February we had been in some pretty good scraps. I knew I had experienced combat. I could have left the war and felt satisfied. The company had seen the elephant. On May 12-13 and the rest of UNION, I realized that I (we) hadn't seen shit. And it never stopped for six weeks.
About a week after UNION, we were still in the field on yet another operation. I was standing at the bottom of a hill when a company runner came running down and with excitement told me that I was getting transferred. I felt bad about leaving, but at the same time I couldn't believe that I just might get out alive. As I started up the hill to the C.P., Bill Vandegriff stopped me to tell me thanks. I'll never forget that. Coming from a man like Vandegriff it was like getting the Medal of Honor. There is no way to describe what goes on, and everybody while going through the same experience remembers it differently. Strange life we have here. Denny
I'ts a sad day with the loss of Gunny -had the honor to serve with him in Nam- he was a true Marine. I' m sure he's standing watch over the Gates today in his dress blues. Semper Fi, Frank Jurney, M Co. 3/5
Our beloved fellow Marine and grunt Denny passed away in the late evening on 15 June 2003. He passed peacefully and in no pain as the result of rapidly spreading cancer. He is now with thousands of his fellow Marines from throughout the history of our Corps.
Jones Funeral Home, Jacksonville, NC is in charge of funeral details. Visitation is from 10 -11a.m.,Wednesday 18 June 2003 followed by burial at 11a.m., Wednesday 18 June 2003 at North Carolina Veterans Cemetary, just off LeJeune Blvd. [Hwy 24] by the main gate to Camp Johnson [Camp LeJeune complex]. For those desiring to express condolences to the next of kin, the names and addresses will be provided later. Bill Vandegriff and I will attend the services.
It is requested that Debbe and Brad, and Curtis use their computer lists to notify all of Denny's death. Thanks.
With best regards, J.R. McElroy
For more information on Denny's Memorial and Funeral service, please see Ed McCurry's write up on the H&S and Mike 3/5 website under Denny Dinota http://www.securenet.net/3rdbn5th/mike35/dinota2.htm
Denny Dinota joined the Marine Corps at age seventeen. Here he was, in combat for the first time as a twenty-five year old Staff Sergeant. He had missed going to combat as a rifleman. There just hadn't been a war and he couldn't do anything about it. He was with Mike Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines for six months. Here are some of my memories of Denny.
In his first large operation, Operation DESOTO, Staff Sergeant Dinota distinguished himself as a platoon commander by ensuring the destruction of a series of six mutually supporting enemy bunkers connected by a number of trenches. While sprinting over open terrain to direct fires of machine guns and rocket launchers, he marked enemy positions for air and artillery. His skills were obvious. He knew how to look out for his men and he could lead; and, his knowledge of infantry weapons, support arms, offensive and defensive tactics, and map reading was superior.
Denny received a meritorious promotion to Gunnery Sergeant just prior to to Operations UNION and UNION II and became Company Gunnery Sergeant. Additionally, he served as Company Executive Officer in the field. During Operation UNION, Denny was continually picking fragments from his red, largely swollen left arm. It was obviously infected. He wouldn't turn himself in and wasn't about to leave in spite of the Battalion Commander's expressed concern to me. It seemed combat to him was both a mental and physical challenge. He fought aggressively, but with control. Denny constantly checked lines at night for security. He was keenly aware of ammo, water and supply requirements and kept up with them at all times. On the move, his major effort was to detect ambushes or surprises.
In mid May after an all day encounter with NVA forces, the company set up nighttime defensive positions. At dusk and into darkness, Gunny Dinota had the right flank of the company lines moved back and new positions dug in. At midnight when the company again came under intense NVA mortars, the bugles sounded and a ground attack followed. The main thrust of the NVA ground attack was where Denny had moved the lines and the enemy advanced right into our machine guns, rifles and M-79s firing down their flank. The NVA assault met with disaster. Several days later, Gunny Dinota became aware of two Marines (found to be mortally wounded) in front of the company perimeter in danger of being captured by the NVA. Amid mortars and small arms fire, he quickly organized and led a squad along a trench through an exposed rice paddy. From there the Marines and their weapons were evacuated back to the company perimeter without a casualty.
Throughout these operations Denny possessed a unique ability to quickly and accurately diagnose the strength, disposition and size of an enemy force. He was a superb leader who looked out for his men.
These are a few of my memories of Denny. After Denny was transferred from Mike Company, he received a Battlefield Commission in August. J. R. McElroy, Jr.
He will be missed....I feel like someone just kicked me in the stomach. Ed McCurry, H&S 3/5
Fi, Gunny...you are missed
We have truly lost one of the best in the Corps. He has joined our fallen brothers in keeping heaven's gate for our Blessed Savior. We have gained a true Guardian Angel. We will miss him, and knowing he is no longer in pain. May he and the 3/5 Bothers be Blessed by our Lord and rest in peace. For his battle is won. Semper Fi! Terrapin Mike! Jerry Bain, India 3/5
When I first found out about the Mike 3/5 web site from Chuck Cummings and went on the site, so many names from the past were brought back into my mind and in some cases, my life. Through the site I found that Denny Dinota was living in Jacksonville, NC. My son-in -law, Rich is stationed at Camp LeJeune. When Merry and I went to visit my daughter Amy, Rich and their sons last summer, I looked in the phone book and found a D. Dinota. I called, said "Hello," and asked when we could get together. Merry and I met Denny at the Paradise Point Golf Course on Camp LeJeune. We talked about what had taken place in the last 30-35 years and talked in general about Mike Co. and some of the operations we were on. During that 2 1/2 hours, it was easy to tell the pride that Denny felt having been a member of "Mighty Mike."
At Christmas time we went to visit my daughter and family again. I called Denny and he said to meet him at a place called Sywanyk's. It is a private club. Denny told us, "Just tell them you're meeting Denny Dinota and they'll let you in." We did that and soon Denny arrived. Sywanyk's is a club with two floors with a bar on each. This place is amazing!! It's loaded with Marine Corps history and has so much memorabilia, that it should be a museum. During this visit Denny was not talking in general terms. He was pretty specific about his feeling for Mike Co. and grunts. At one point I was looking at some Marine items related to the Air Wing. He said, "What are you looking at that for? That's only Air Wing stuff. They ate three meals a day and slept in a dry place with no mud and didn't get shot at." He had no time for them.
He showed us around Sywanyk's and we came to a place near the front and he pointed to the ceiling. On the ceiling were groups of ribbons from different Marines. Denny's were on display. He didn't volunteer that they were his. I sort of had to pull that out of him. He did say something that told me a whole lot about him. He said that he had some medals and awards that were more important to him that were not shown. He said that what Bill Vandegriff said to him when Denny left Mike Co. was like a medal that meant more to him than those on display on the ceiling. Denny said those of us that did what we did can only know that feeling for those with us. He said he would see us at the Reunion. He looked forward to seeing everyone again. He was there in spirit. He was a special guy and I'm glad that we were able to get together to renew a friendship. Semper Fidelis, Kevin Kelly, Mike Co. 3/5
Dear 3/5 family, It saddens me to hear of the passing of Gunny Dinota. Hear another year has come and we lose still another one of our Brothers. And we have to wonder who will be next? That's what makes our reunions so important and so special. I know in my heart that the Gunny is in a better place. But I will still miss him as I did at the last reunion. And so I raise my glass to this Brother Marine grunt, and say SEMPER FI. Gunny, I will see you again some day. Until then may you rest in peace. Jimmie L. Christy, India 3/5
Sure am sad to hear about Denny...I really loved that Marine...we became pretty good friends since the 2001 reunion...Semper Fi, Mike Mannell, I Co. 3/5
Gunny was such a great person, I got along with him great. I am surely gonna miss him more than anyone can realize. I'm still in shock. I pray that his family are gonna be ok because I know how much they will miss him. Semper Fi Gunny, now you will be guarding the gates of heaven and God has a great person on his side. Amen my brother, I will miss you a lot. Eddie Garcia, "the Bamba Kid", India 3/5
sad day indeed for us all. Just reminds me that we are all marching
toward that great unknown.
I was saddened hearing about Denny, it makes you think how short life is and how quick it can end. Semper Fi, Nick Nicholson, M Co. 3/5
GYSGT. DENNY DINOTA’S VIETNAM LEGACY
I joined Mike Company just a day before the company went out on Operation UNION (I) and served under Gunney Dinota through Operation ADAIR. I do not remember if I had any direct person to person contact with him as I was just a lowly assistant machine gunner and he was the company gunnery sergeant.
I don’t know if it was true, but the scuttlebutt was that he was the youngest gunnery sergeant in the Marine Corps at that time. If not, he was certainly one of the youngest looking.
I do remember the night we were “banzai-ed” (May 13, 1967). Looking back from my fighting hole I saw Gunney Dinota standing in his fighting hole with one foot up on the parapet waving his .45 caliber pistol while he was directing our fire. This while devastating enemy incoming was raking our positions. The sight was a classic “John Wayne” movie shot.
I told this vignette to Denny while at the 2002 reunion; he humbly denied remembering ever standing up in the face of enemy fire. He did, however, volunteer that he never cleaned his .45 and it probably wouldn’t have fired anyway.
us who served with and under Gunney Dinota learned well under
his tutelage and we were inspired numerous times by his leadership
and actions in the field, especially under fire. I know I was.
The lessons taught and the inspirations given to those of us who did know and serve with GySgt. Denny Dinota were carried with us through our tours and we passed them on to the men who came after. They in turn passed them on to you, and so on. We who benefited from his knowledge, leadership and inspirations are, in part, what we are today because of Denny Dinota. And that, my brothers, is the Vietnam legacy that followed Denny throughout his life. And, again, will be carried on by us in our hearts and minds and again passed on to our children, and so on.
I am not trying to make Denny out to be a saint. In fact, he would probably say that this was all bullsh*t; that was the way Denny was. But, he certainly does rate all of our praise and admiration for we will miss him. Semper Fi Gunney!! Ken Fields, Mike Company 67~68, 1st Platoon, Guns
With the passing of Gunny Dinota, we have not only lost a true friend, but we have lost a Marine Warrior who truly cared about his men and the Corps. Gunny was a Leader of men and a highly respected Marine.
God gave us our life here on earth and allowed us to make of it what we will. It is then up to us to make a difference or not, and as to what we will do with it. Denny chose his on destiny and traveled his on road as a Marine to the end. Gunny was a man who cared about the welfare and well being of his fellow man.
Denny touched many of us who served with him in Mike Company, and the Third Battalion Fifth Marines, he also made a difference in the lives of many other Marines throughout the Corps. We will truly miss him but we will never forget him.
Rest in Peace Gunny, you have once again led the way for all of us who will follow you. May God welcome you into his Kingdom and allow you to take your place as one of our Guardian Angels. Until we meet again. Semper Fi Gunny, Sully, M Co. 3/5
While on Op DESOTO, I was to take part in a reactionary force in case one of our ambushes got into trouble. On this night, you couldn't see five feet in front of you. When it got dark over there, it was dark like a tomb. Our ambush went out just after the sun went down, I believe. I was with 1st squad, 1st plt. We were told to be ready to go at a moment's notice. Being in someone else's sand box, you play when they want to play. This night was play time, so the game was on. Charlie hit the ambush with grenades and small arms fire, the call came in for help. "Move out!" came down the line, "Be ready to haul ass!"
We had been told not to take our gear off other than our packs. Trying to sleep with one's gear on is quite uncomfortable, so I took mine off and laid it next to me. When the word came to haul ass, I had a hell of time finding my gear in the damn dark! Our brothers were in trouble, and here I am looking for my web gear! It only took a very short time for me to find the gear, but it seemed like an eternity feeling on the ground for the gear.
When I got to the CP, Gunny Dinota was madder then hell. The way he was hollering, someone was in big trouble, that someone was me. The next thing I saw was these pretty little stars, Gunny D had whacked me alongside the head, damn he could hit hard. My first thought was how dare him lay a hand on me, and him being a staff NCO to boot! For the next two days I felt like putting a bullet in him, who would have known in a firefight. As soon as I got over being mad and had time to think about what had happened, I knew he was right in his actions.
The lesson of that night taught me to be ready at all times for anything. A lesson like that stays with you, it served me well in the next ten months! Thanks Gunny, you sure saved my dumb ass!! Bill Vandegriff, M/3/5
Semper Fi, Denny. The two reunions you attended and the email we exchanged made me feel like I knew you forever. Someday we will all meet again. Tom Wityak, M Co. 3/5
Semper Fi, Gunny - and may God be guarded by you. My prayers to you and your family. I miss you already. I love you, brother. Semper fi, Rock, M and H&S 3/5
My only disappointment at the Reunion this year was not being able to see Denny...I had been looking forward to it. Denny was the first person from M/3/5 that I connected with after I found his e-mail address on the M/3/5 website. It was great to get caught up. He told me that the only reason he bought a computer was to get in touch with his old buddies.
me to attend a reunion, and when I talked to him from La Grange
this year his concern was not about himself (he already knew
by then that he was sick), but whether I was having a good time
and happy that I came.
I felt bad
that I did not see Gunny Dinota at the Reunion. Jack Swan told
me at the Reunion that Gunny said I was a good Marine. That
was the most blessed compliment I ever had in my whole
My condolences to the family. I will say a prayer for them. Regards, Mario Deludos, M Co. 3/5
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