DENNIS GARY MERRYMAN
on June 29, 1949
From SPARTA, MICHIGAN
Casualty was on Mar. 5, 1969
in QUANG NAM, SOUTH VIETNAM
HOSTILE, GROUND CASUALTY
GUN, SMALL ARMS FIRE
30W - - Line 48
(picture courtesy of his brother, Paul Merryman)
Dennis Merryman served with the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines,
Mike Company. He was Killed In Action during Operation
TAYLOR COMMON, and awarded the Bronze Star, posthumously, on Sept
28, 2010. His name stands proudly on the Mike 3/5 Wall of Honor
alongside the Marines he fought and died with. Semper fi, Brother
Marine. We will never forget.
images to enlarge)
Marines, Dennis Merryman is on the left
of Paul Merryman)
would like to hear from anyone who served with my brother, Dennis.
Paul Merryman, M Co. 3/9
Merryman home on leave after Basic Training
Merryman, M Co. 3/5
Merryman awarded the Bronze Star, Memorial Day 2011
Merryman family gathered together with M Co. 3/5 Marines at the David
Johnston American Legion Post #283 to accept the Bronze Star Medal
for Dennis Merryman, 43 yrs. overdue. Grateful thanks to these M Co.
3/5 Marines and to the Merryman's for their tireless efforts to see
this award finally come through for Dennis.
of the award ceremony sent in by Mike Alden
To the Merryman Family, I am most honored to have been
a part of securing the Bronze Star for your brother, Dennis.~Mike
Presentation of the Bronze Star to Paul Merryman on behalf of his
brother L/Cpl. Dennis Merryman.
2. Paul O'Connell reading the Bronze Star citation for L/Cpl. Dennis
3. Janice, Marlene, Paul, and Kelly Merryman
4. Joy and Tom Mahlum, Candice Biddlecom (Paul Merryman's
granddaughter), Paul, Mike Alden, Fran (Paul's wife)
Merryman's Bronze Star Citation
of the finest Marines our company had
came up to me and asked for my bush hat. You said to me, "I need
one to go 'up there' with." I gave you my bush hat. I also told
you to bring it back to me. You uttered something to me and left.
I did not care about that bush hat. I wanted you to come back. You
went back to the point of contact, to recover Christianson. You went
above and beyond the call of duty in my mind, you knowing that recovering
Christianson from in front of an enemy bunker was high stakes. You
paid the highest price, Dennis. We Marines were speechless when the
word came down that we lost you . We couldn't believe it. Dennis,
you were one of the finest our company had. My words can not describe
the honor I have for you. You remain in my heart and thoughts forever.
I will never let go .....May God bless and comfort you forever. Respectfully,
of M Co. 3/5 Marines Dennis sent home from Vietnam before he was killed
written by Mike McFerrin to Dennis Merryman's brother, Paul
Merryman, former M/3/9 Marine, May 2003
brother volunteered, along with his platoon sergeant, to try
to get the body of a dead Marine back from in front of a fortified
enemy position up in the mountains (5th Marines operated out
of the combat base at An Hoa at the time, about 30 miles south
of Danang). I did not meet your brother until some few minutes
before he went out on the attempt.
eerie looking at these photos of Dennis Merryman for the first
time. I probably only saw him six or seven times in brief flashes
amongst other unidentifiable Marines while I was there. That's
what I remember thinking when he walked up to Thompson and I
while we were talking just before their deaths. I also for some
reason thought he was relatively new in the bush, but he wasn't.But
I only had to look at these pictures for a couple of seconds
before his face and that final incident came together in my
mind. That IS the guy.
problem with the "good memory" that I have is that
it is not selective. I remember almost EVERYTHING when I remember.
I remember the frustration that I was feeling in trying to talk
Thompson out of this attempt, and then a bit of shock as I realized
that Dennis had also volunteered to go out there with him.
a few brief seconds after Merryman walked away, my feelings
were mixed since I wanted neither to go under the circumstances,
but realized that with both out there it might allow at least
one of them to survive. It was unclear as to exactly what was
going to happen that day, but it was the third straight day
of round-the-clock combat up there and my sixth sense was functioning
very well. I KNEW that it was going to be a bad day. I have
attached my description of the circumstances that was written
for his platoon sergeant, Sgt. Leslie Thompson's family~Mike
3 March 1969
Third Platoon, Mike Company
3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment, 1st Marine Division
March 3, 1969, Mike Company was halfway up the ridge heading
to Hill 332 when an NVA ambush was encountered. The contact
with the enemy was brief and violent. The attackers withdrew
shortly under withering return fire from the various portions
of the column that were able to fire over or around the fallen
point Marine. The scout dog handler was severely wounded and
the scout dog was not approachable by anybody except his handler.
This caused quite a delay as several Marines using shirts wrapped
around their arms subdued the dog so that the wounded handler
could be reached. The muzzle was recovered from the wounded
Marine’s gear and wrestled on to the dog. With the leash and
muzzle firmly in place, the dog was minimally responsive to
being handled by somebody new and was secured while a corpsman
treated his handler.
incident caused us to be delayed for almost three hours. Constant
attention was required to keep the wounded man alive. CPR was
applied multiple times as he began to succumb. The "canopy"
of tree layers above us was so thick that it was difficult to
find a place where it was thin enough to at least get a sling
through to remove the casualty and his dog. A place was finally
found, and a medevac was called. It was so late in the day that
the Company Commander opted to set us into a perimeter there
where the medevac was coming.
we waited for the medevac, a squad-size patrol was sent further
up the trail to recon the area. This patrol ran into a heavily-entrenched
force some 70 meters further up the ridge. The squad left 3
men killed in action directly in front of a well-camouflaged
bunker when they were finally able to withdraw. The remaining
hours of daylight were spent to recover these bodies and simultaneously
dealing with two and three man enemy probe attacks that were
slipping through the underbrush to hit the backside of our perimeter.
Two bodies were recovered from the ambush site and there were
three separate unsuccessful attempts to get the last one before
shutting down for the very dark night that comes to the forest.
March 4th, we expected the enemy probes to stop during daylight
hours, but they did not. They launched them every 3 or 4 hours
in the daylight. In the meantime, the platoon that had lost
the men the day before continued to assault the enemy bunkers
in attempts to recover the last body. Many more casualties were
taken. The enemy’s movements around our perimeter were increasing.
Artillery fire, helicopters, Phantom jets, and "Spooky"
AC-130 planes with large rapid fire machine guns began to be
employed, firing in a circle around us to try and keep the enemy
back as well as to “soften” the defense that kept us from recovering
the body. This support continued non-stop through the night,
and into the following day.
on March 5th, all platoons began to assist in the attempts to
recover the last body but after a couple of attempts our cumulative
casualty total for the two days had risen to the point that
the Battalion Commander ordered us to get out of there. By that
time though, there were not enough of us left to carry all of
the dead and wounded and still fight our way out. The Battalion
Commander ordered another Marine Company to come to our assistance.
They were moved to a point where they would be ready to fight
their way in on the following day.
Company Commander wanted to try at least one more time to recover
the Marine’s body. It had already been proven that this would
have only a slim chance for success so this time he asked for
a volunteer to make a final attempt to get the body. When the
call for a volunteer was brought to me, I cringed. I moved through
my platoon area stopping at each position to advise them of
the request for a volunteer. There were no takers. At least
not immediate ones. Maybe some were thinking about it. By the
time I returned to my platoon command post, I heard that Sergeant
Thompson had already volunteered. I remember shaking my head
in an “I should have known” way, plopping down on the edge of
my foxhole, and considering the situation.
I felt very close to Sergeant Thompson for several reasons.
The main reason was that any Marine in the company who had been
there long enough to have experienced and survived the battles
fought up until mid-November was truly a veteran in good standing.
There were not that many of us. All were considered “pillars
of experience” amongst the majority “new people” in the company
that helped guarantee the unit’s survival in these worst case
scenarios. Regardless of their rank, these men were the real
anchors of any unit in battle in Vietnam. Thompson was certainly
one of these.
of the reasons that I felt an affinity was that he was not only
an experienced bush Marine, but he was now also a Platoon Sergeant.
Our bush careers were almost parallel. We had both moved up
in our different platoons at almost the same rate. From the
time that I had first talked with him on September 11, 1968,
I had regular communication with him during those times in the
bush when we were in a position to do so. I was comfortable
in a night defensive perimeter with his platoon having a third
of the responsibility for our survival even though his platoon
also often suffered from the “too many new guys” syndrome. He,
as others and I had to do, balanced the lines at night to deal
with this potentially disastrous shortage of experience in our
platoons. And it hadn’t escaped my notice that Thompson had
become a very serious and a very dedicated Marine since that
day of the previous year that he crossed the paddy and attacked
that NVA bunker.
experienced the fellowship of being survivors of many bad battles
and the mutual respect earned by engineering increasingly larger
portions of the unit’s survival that required more and more
of our dependence on each other. But above all of that, I truly
liked what he had become. I was not a “lifer” in any sense of
the word nor did have any real awe or respect for rank alone
or real lifers. That was because I had found out what a “professional”
was. I knew that Les Thompson would become a lifer. But long
before that time and far more important was that Les Thompson
had become a professional Marine. That is how I saw him.
became less and less comfortable with Sergeant Thompson taking
this risk. Whether he was successful or not in recovering this
body, Mike Company still had to get off this mountain to a place
where we could safely get the wounded, the dead, and the rest
of us out. The survival of the company was at stake here and
he could be a vital portion of that. My Platoon Commander came
from the Company Command Post and gave me the assignment to
take my platoon out to the right side of the enemy perimeter
and start an assault to distract them while Sergeant Thompson
got into position to recover the body.
was only a few minutes left. I got my platoon up and moving
over to the side of our perimeter where we would exit then looked
for Les. I didn’t have to go far. There he was, sitting on a
felled tree and camouflaging himself. I sat on the log facing
him as he applied something to face and neck. Mud, ashes, and
I think he had a stick of camouflage paint because I wondered
where he got it. We had always used mud and ashes because for
some reason we never had the real stuff. I talked with him about
the value of what was being done and tried to slip right into
his value to the company. He stopped me when he realized that
I was trying to say that he shouldn’t go and said, “Well, if
I don’t somebody else will have to.”
spent another 2 or 3 minutes trying to find logic or a way to
present it to get him to “unvolunteer.” I realized that I was
losing but my head and heart ached with the thought of losing
him so I kept at it. Then a young Marine from his platoon walked
up to us to tell Thompson that he was ready to go. This is when
I found out that Les would not be by himself in the attempt.
It was time to go. I let him know that I would give him all
that I could on the flank assault, wished him luck and shook
his hand. As I walked away I began to seize upon the new fact
of the other person being out there. This could certainly improve
the chances of success. I used this thought to buoy myself to
a positive hopeful level.
took about 10 minutes for me to brief the platoon and then move
out of the perimeter to a starting point for our covering assault.
As I walked the width of the assault line to get a view of what
everybody faced, I was shocked. I could not get more than eight
men across because of the terrain and even the last two or three
were in jeopardy because they would not be able to keep up with
the others. And I couldn’t even place myself where Thompson
would be visible so that I could accurately direct fire. I radioed
back to advise the Platoon and Company Commanders of the situation
secretly hoping it might change what was happening. Instead,
I was told to adapt the assault to the terrain, pick the correct
tree to keep all of our fire in front of, and completely cease
firing when I was radioed to do so.
started our assault and it immediately fell apart. The ground
on the 50 to 70 degree slope was loose which caused everybody
to slip backwards. This turned our eight man front into a 5
man front instantly. I yelled lots of orders but after about
five forward steps we found that we could only move forward
if we used one hand on a tree to pull ourselves up and forward
while firing the rifle with the other. Then the enemy began
returning fire and rolling hand grenades down on us. I had actually
moved up to become part of the assault to increase our firepower
when the other three men fell back so the radio man had to yell
to me when the cease fire order came. I issued it and prayed.
It was no more than 10 seconds later that I heard the gunfire
that wasn’t ours. I knew but didn’t want to. When the radioman
indicated I needed to come and get the handset to personally
speak to the Platoon Commander, I could not avoid it.~Mike
from Ed Browder written to Dennis Merryman's brother, Paul, May 2003
Co. 3/5 Marines 1969
Kneeling (L to R) Capt. Burns, Lt. Ted Lewis
Standing (L to R) Lt. Ed Browder, Lt. Jim Treadwell
Wow. Just seeing the name Merryman sent chills down my spine tonight.
Never having met your brother I cannot tell you too much about his
death or about him as a person or Marine, but I can never forget his
name nor Christianson nor Thompson who were also recovered with your
was a First Force Recon platoon commander at the time, and my platoon
just happened to be the ones who were able to get the bodies out.
It took a month to retrieve them because the times that we were sent
in prior, we were shot out of the LZ. The place was a hot spot...even
a month later, we were ambushed by a few NVA/VC types hanging out
in that bunker complex. Paul O'Connell was one of Tom Mahlum's Marines,
and was on Parker Pen Relay during Hill 332. If he did not know your
brother, I can guarantee you that he knows someone who did.
Platoon, 1st Force Recon
of those troops retrieved the bodies off Hill 332. That is a very
young Ed Browder in the right rear with the "butter bar' on the
cover. Three troops from M Co. 3/5 went with us, Capt. Burns, CO;
Lankalais; and another whose name escapes me now.
chopper that took us to Hill 332 for the body recovery
troops and 3 of M Co's troops, including Capt. Burns on the ladder.
The first ladder insert in Marine Corps history.
I can tell you about the recovery was even a month later, after Agent
Orange was dropped to defoliate the area and CS crystals were used
to "flood" the area with gas (we went in on a ladder insert...with
gas masks on), the bodies of all 3 were found about 5 feet apart,
intact, no mutilation (which surprised me at the time), and weapons
there too including an M-79 with a bag full of HE rounds. Now that
really surprized me.
I am sure that the other guys can give you the information that you
seek. I am glad that you found the M/3/5 site and will be able to
find out about your brother. This much I can tell you...if he was
in either Tom or Jim's platoon, he was led by 2 of the best!! I trusted
them with my life 35 years ago ...would do the same today. Ditto for
Paul O'Connell. I cannot say better of any man. The troops he served
with while young, were also the tops. Hell, we were all young. Good
luck. And let me know if I can help in any way.