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Born on Apr. 14, 1950
Casualty was on Mar. 5, 1969

Panel 30W - - Line 50

Leslie Thompson, Dodge City area on Go Noi island, Sept. 68

Sgt. Leslie Thompson served with the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, Mike Company. He was awarded the Bronxe Star for actions during Operation MAMELUKE THRUST and the Silver Star for his bravery on Operation TAYLOR COMMON. Sgt. Thompson was Killed In Action trying to recover fallen Marines during Operation TAYLOR COMMON. 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.

Leslie Thompson

Sgt. Leslie Thompson was one of the greatest Marines I ever served with. One tough, rugged Marine. He was what I wished I could have been as a Marine. So tough, so fearless, so gung ho. It is too bad he died so young.~Paul O'Connell, 1st Platoon Mike Company 3/5

(click to enlarge)
Sgt. Leslie Thompson's Bronze Star for Operation MAMELUKE THRUST, Sept. '68

(See also Operation MAMELUKE THRUST)

Les Thompson, Unidentified Marine, Richard Reed
(picture courtesy of Ron Thayer)

M Co. 3/5, half of 1st squad, 1st plt., Aug. '68
Back: Carlson, David Johnston, Richard Reed, Burns
Front: Ron Thayer, Les Thompson
(picture courtesy of Ron Thayer)

Les Thompson, right
(picture courtesy of Ron Thayer)

Unidentified Marine, Les Thompson, Dave Johnston, Richard Reed
(Dave Johnston was Killed In Action 3 March 1968, see David Johnston Memorial page)
(picture courtesy of Ron Thayer)


5 March 1969

I served in Mike Company with Sgt. Leslie Thompson. He arrived at Mike Company late in May, 1968. By September, he had established himself as someone who would take incredible risks. I participated in the action that he was killed in on March 5, 1969. 

Mike Company was attempting to recover the body of a dead Marine that lay directly in front of an enemy fortified position. There had been numerous unsuccessful attempts that had cost many casualties. There was a call put out for a volunteer to try one more time. Sgt. Thompson answered that call. Many of us did not want him to try because of the extreme risk. 

I personally spent about 5 minutes with him as he applied camouflage paint to his hands and face in preparation for the attempt. I tried to dissuade him, but was unsuccessful. I was a flanking base of fire for his effort. We knew that our fire was ineffective for what he had to do, and tried to communicate that just before he moved out to get to the body. We were unable to see him, but heard the enemy guns that responded.

Sgt. Thompson died as he had lived in Vietnam. One very gung ho Marine. He is definitely in every Mike Company Marine's memory. I do not know who or what Les Thompson was before he came to the Marine Corps, but I do know what he had become. America and the Marine Corps lost a man who was one of their finest. I could only quietly cry for such a man.

Michael McFerrin
Third Platoon, Mike Company
3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment, 1st Marine Division


1st squad, 1st plt. "M" Co. 3/5, late Jan. 1969

Pictured standing from L-R: Ron Christianson (Millville, CA), Les Thompson (Orlando, FL), Richard Reed (Knoxville, IA), Mike Alden (Manly, IA), David Johnston (Pinkerting, Ohio), Simpson, and kneeling, Luther Maxwell (only known picture of Luther, unless someone else has one they don't know about).To anyone not aware, Christianson,Thompson, and Johnston were K.I.A. on Hill 332. Also in rememberance K.I.A. on 332, Dennis Merryman, Joey Freeman. I pass this picture on with a sincere appreciation for the Freemans and Richard Reed for sharing this wonderful picture of members of 1st squad, 1st plt. "M" Co. 3/5. Semper FI.~Mike Alden

Joey Freeman, Les Thompson, Richard Reed sharing a beer
(picture courtesy of Ron Thayer)

"Above and beyond the call of duty"

Les, you and I went to the Nam on the same airplane. I never thought we would be on separate aircraft going home. Yourself, Christianson, Johnston, Merryman, and Freeman, I lost 5 individuals I thought would make it back to the world with no problem. Come 3/3/69 till the 5th of March, this changed my world. In three days I lost 5 Marines whom I had known most my time in Nam. You Les, were the last one I personally lost. When word came down you and Merryman were killed, no one could believe it. We lost a leader, a Marine of courage. A Marine that would come right up, give his best support in any situation. I give you my utmost respect and honor as one Marine to another.Your unselfishness, courage, determination, and your unwavering devotion to duty is always remembered by us that knew you.

As I said in Merryman's Memorial, you also went above and beyond the call of duty in my mind. You knew the risk of trying to recover Christianson. You believed as it is written, "we will leave no man behind." You were attempting to recover a Marine who made a friendship with me, a bond, that to this day exists.You may not have known of this.You gave your life to recover my best friend ever. I can not, will never be able to show or say the gratitude I have for you in that attempt.

Les, I would like to enter here a conclusion for my memorial for You, and list Christianson, Johnston, Merryman and Freeman. After writing a memorial to each (which has been long over due), I was a little closer to each one than I knew. I have become a lot closer over the years in thought. You now know about Christianson. Johnston fell by enemy fire beside me. I reached out for him. Freeman, I had the secret honor of keeping guard of him through the night. Merryman, he needed my bush hat. Merryman also gave his life for the same reason you had done.

Les, we who knew you, will always remember you, and remain forever in our thoughts. May God's eternal light shine upon you, forever and ever. Respectfully, Michael Alden

Joey Freeman, Ron Thayer, Les Thompson
(Joey Freeman was Killed In Action 3 March 1969, see Joseph Freeman Memorial page)
(picture courtesy of Ron Thayer)

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


For service as set forth in the following


For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as a Platoon Sergeant with Company M, Third Battalion, Fifth Marines, First Marine Division, in connection with operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam.

On the afternoon of 3 March 1969, during Operation TAYLOR COMMON, Company M was conducting a reconnaissance in force in Quang Nam Province when one of Sergeant Thompsonís squads was pinned down by a heavy volume of automatic weapons fire from a large North Vietnamese Army force occupying well-concealed emplacements. Immediately deploying the remainder of his platoon as a reaction unit, Sergeant Thompson placed his men in effective fighting positions enabling the beleaguered squad to withdraw.

The following day, as the platoon came under intense hostile fire, Sergeant Thompson fearlessly ran to the point of heaviest contact and exhorted his men to advance. As the Marines progressed up a hill, firing became more intensified until, fifty meters from their objective, they were forced to occupy covered emplacements.

Supplying himself with extra ammunition, Sergeant Thompson, while seeking to pinpoint the major source of Vietnamese fire, became the target of concentrated attention from two points. Maintaining his dangerously exposed position, he provided accurate suppressive fire while another Marine recovered a casualty, then skillfully maneuvered his men to a more tenable location.

On 5 March 1969, Sergeant Thompson was conducting a recovery operation when he was mortally wounded by enemy fire. By his courage, aggressive leadership, and unwavering devotion to duty, Sergeant Thompson 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.

For the President,

John H. Chafee
Secretary of the Navy

Les Thompson, Unidentified Marine, Richard Reed
(picture courtesy of Ron Thayer)



With the possible exception of the death of a high school classmate, no funeral is more important to attend than that of a fellow Marine killed in combat. For those of us who fought in Viet Nam, one additional aspect of the whole weird experience was the inability to be with our foxhole-buddy and his family at the time of his internment. As a matter of fact, many Marines were medivaced out of a combat situation, and we never heard another word as to whether he lived or died. It was an unreal world of one crazy experience after another. Since we all experienced the same regrets and could do nothing about it, we never discussed it. I at least thought about it often, and wished I could be with the Marine's family to give them some comfort in knowing how much the Marine was appreciated by the men who shared his last days.

Sgt. Leslie Thompson was an eighteen-year-old out of West Virginia who, like many other young men, had the choice of jail or military service. Sgt. Thompson had to stay in Okinawa for some time period until he had his eighteenth birthday, and had received a Bronze Star for heroic actions prior to my arrival in Mike Company, 3rd Battalion, Fifth Marines, 1st Marine Division. When I came to know him in the next few months, Sgt. Thompson served as a squad leader and Platoon Sgt. for the First Platoon of Mike Company. He was a combat Marine in every sense of the word. The men looked up to him and counted on his leadership and knowledge to get them through the endless days and nights. The purpose of this story is not to tell the many stories of Sgt. Thompson's courage under fire, but to tell the last story of his life. Sgt. Thompson was killed in combat on March 5, 1969. Due to combat conditions, his body was not recovered until about fourteen days later, and by the time the body arrived home, almost a month had passed since his death.

In the meantime, I was sent to First Medical Battalion in Danang with malaria. While there, I wrote letters to the families of my men, including the Thompson family who had moved to Tampa, Florida. It turns out I was not supposed to write to the Thompson family since the body was not yet recovered. His status was MIA. My letter regretted his death (I crawled past his body in escaping from the firefight) and acknowledged my very great fondness for this exceptional Marine. Once the body was recovered, I thought that was the end of my relations with the Thompson family other than the lifelong memories we carry. I also wrote to my parents living in Bloomington, Minnesota to inform them that I was alright, and of the loss of Sgt. Thompson and my other men. I had written to them earlier about Sgt. Thompson, and they were aware of my respect for him. I was unaware of the following until weeks later, but this is what happened.

My father, John M. Mahlum, a Marine in World War II, was an executive with Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (3M) and traveled extensively throughout the United States. On April 5th 1969, he boarded a plane in Tampa, Florida for Miami after purchasing a local paper. On the flight, he noticed an obituary with a picture of a Marine. My presence in Viet Nam amplified his interest in such articles. He read the obituary. The date of death and the name rang a bell, but dad could not figure out why the funeral was so delayed from March to April. Upon arriving in Miami, he called my mother in Minnesota and asked her to dig out my letter to confirm the name and hometown of my Sgt. Thompson. They were a match.

He cancelled his business meeting in Miami, and boarded a return flight to Tampa. Upon arriving in Tampa, he took a taxi to the funeral home. He entered, and left his suitcase in a cloakroom. He approached the casket and paid his respect. Since he did not know any of the family, he signed in the "guest book", retrieved his suitcase and exited the funeral home. Outside, attempting to hail a taxi, he was interrupted by a young woman who rushed out of the funeral home and asked my Father to come back inside because her Mother wanted to talk to him. Apparently the Thompson family had been asking each other if anyone knew the "businessman" viewing the body. Since no-one did, Mrs. Thompson asked her daughter to check the "guest register" and find out who he was. My Father had signed in "John M. Mahlum representing Lt Thomas J. Mahlum, USMC."

When my Father re-entered the funeral home, the young lady (Sgt. Thompson's sister) escorted him to her Mother.

After meeting each other, my father explained that my mother would be flying into Tampa the next morning to attend the funeral. Mrs. Thompson asked my dad to bring my mother to their home after the interment. My mother was supposed to meet my father at Fort Benning, Ga. where my brother was to be commissioned in the Army. Now she was on her way to Tampa. The next morning, dad picked up mother and they attended the funeral and internment. They approached Mrs Thompson and after introductions, Mrs Thompson again made a heartfelt request of my parents to follow them back to their home. She informed them that she had something to show them. My parents had intended to get started for Gerogia, but felt compelled to comply with Mrs. Thompson's request.

Upon arriving at the Thompson home and meeting the family, Mrs. Thompson asked my parents to wait on the living room sofa. She left the room, and soon returned and handed my mother a letter. Mom recognized my handwriting right away. Mother read the letter. When mother had finished reading the letter, Mrs Thompson told my parents that my letter was the only time anyone had said anything nice about her son. This was a very emotional moment to say the least. Mrs. Thompson went on to explain that Les Thompson had a troubled youth and until he entered the Marine Corps, he really didn't know what he wanted to do with his life. She was deeply pleased that the Marine Corps gave her son a venue for his talents. That was the best writing I ever did.

The Marines are called upon to go the extra mile beyond the call of duty. So, too, do our families. Thank you, mom and dad, for representing me at Sgt. Thompson's funeral.~Thomas J. Mahlum, USMC


A True Hero

The following letter was written by Ed Browder, M/3/5, to Sgt. Leslie Thompson's nephew, Leslie Thompson.

Mr. Thompson, I never had the pleasure of serving with your Uncle, nor did I know him. But I did lead the Force Recon platoon (Special Ops) that retrieved his and the other two Marines' bodies, Merryman and Christianson. On 2 other occasions, prior to our insertion by ladder (150 feet attached to the bottom of a CH-46 helicopter), there were attempts at getting the bodies out, but they were shot out of the LZ by enemy fire. After much bombing, defoliates (agent Orange) and the dropping of CS Crystals ( a very potent tear gas) on the area, my platoon took off at 1030 hrs on 4 April '69 to fly the 20 to 25 minutes to the area in order to get the Marines. 

You must understand that the Marine Corps has a prideful tradition "of taking care of its own". You always do your best to bring back your own....living and dead. That is the motivation that drove your Uncle that day in March '69. That and the fact that those were "his" buddies and Marines who needed help. He was NOT going to let them stay there. He knew the risk was great, but he was willing to try, and yes, even die to bring back fellow Marines. He knew full well the risks, but was willing to take them. That is the definition of a Hero in my book! 

When we got to Hill 332 we were inserted by ladder into a blown out area through the canopy. Three Marines were with our platoon (usually 6 men) from Mike Company: Captain Burns, Company Commander, Lance Corporal Westphal and PFC Lakalis. The "Mike" Marines took us to the area where your Uncle had gone to help his fellow Marines. We found the bodies very close together, no mutilation (they were where they had first fallen) with their weapons intact, including an M-79 grenade launcher and its ammo bag full of "blooper" rounds. The enemy had been regular NVA. Bodies untouched and gear left. 

Also, I'm sure they (NVA) had to clear the area fast as return fire, artillery strikes and air strikes came to bear so that Mike Company could safely clear the area. Jim Treadwell, Tom Mahlum,( ask Tom Mahlum to tell you about how his parents got to go to your Uncle's funeral), Mike McFerrin and Paul O'Connell can tell you more about the actual fighting. They were there. I can tell you your Uncle upheld the highest tradition of the Marine Corps, and brought much credit to himself in his valiant effort to help those Marines. He and the others deserved no less effort and getting them back! That is what the Marine Corps does.

Semper Fidelis, the Marine Motto means, Always Faithful. Always! Not sometimes, not when it is only convenient BUT ALWAYS and particularly when the shit is hitting the fan. Your Uncle understood that, he lived that and died that!! He is well loved and respected to this day because of his courage, character and love of his fellow Marines. Your Uncle is a TRUE hero of the best kind. Be proud of him and carry his name well. I am sure he is proud of you. Helping to get those Marines back is one of the proudest moments of my life. We would all do it again, in a heart beat.....just like your Uncle. All the best and Semper Fi, Ed Browder


You will not be forgotten, We love you

You must have been a great man, so much that your brother named me after you. I  wish I could have met you. One day I will. I am very proud to carry on your name. You will never be forgotten. From one proud American to All, never let them think they fought and died in vain, keep them in your hearts and your thoughts. They made the ultimate sacrifice, and for that I thank you. 

Love, your nephew,
Leslie Wayne Thompson

(click to enlarge)
3rd Battalion, 5th Marines Reunion 2003
LaGrange, Georgia, 15-18 May

On 17 May 2003, Sgt. Leslie Thompson's Family was presented with a shadowbox of his medals. Marines escorting the family were Tom Mahlum, Ed Browder and Paul O'Connell.