Herman Nickerson decorating GySgt. Dennis Dinota with the Silver Star
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.
The President of the United States takes pride in presenting
SILVER STAR MEDAL to
SERGEANT DENNIS T. DINOTA
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
service as set forth In the following
conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while servings
as a Platoon Commander with Company M, Third Battalion, Fifth
Marines, First Marine Division in connection with operations against
insurgent communist (Viet Cong) forces in the Republic of Vietnam.
1 February 1967, during Operation DESOTO, the lead elements of
Staff Sergeant Dinota's platoon came under heavy machine gun and
sniper fire from Viet Cong located in a series of bunkers. He
immediately moved to a position where he could direct the fire
of his men. While pinpointing the enemy positions for one of his
M-60 machine gun teams, he was exposed to a heavy volume of enemy
fire from at least six enemy bunkers.
that another machine gun team had not located the enemy bunkers,
he sprinted across sixty meters of exposed terrain to assist the
team in locating the enemy targets. Directing the fire of 3.5
rocket launchers against the hostile positions, his succeeded
in destroying one enemy bunker which produced a large secondary
explosion. In addition, he effectively marked enemy positions
which facilitated the accurate delivery of air and artillery fire,
resulting in the subsequent destruction of a series of mutually
supporting bunkers connected by trenches. As a result of his actions,
the company was able to maintain its position and establish a
the engagement, when a fire team experienced difficulty in retrieving
a wounded Marine, Staff Sergeant Dinota unhesitatingly assisted
in retrieving the wounded man and carried him over forty meters
of fire swept terrain to a position of safety. Throughout, Staff
Sergeant Dinota displayed outstanding courage, exemplary professional
skill and daring initiative in the face of heavy enemy fire, and
thereby upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and
the United States Naval Service.
Commandant of the Marine Corps
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.
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.
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
Denny Dinota receiving the Bronze Star from Lt. Gen. Robert Cushman, CG
III MAF & I Corps
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting
the BRONZE STAR MEDAL to
SERGEANT DENNIS T. DINOTA
STATES MARINE CORPS
service as set forth in the following
heroic achievement in connection with operations against the enemy
in the Republic of Vietnam while serving as Company Gunnery Sergeant
with Company M, Third Battalion, Fifth Marines, First Marine Division.
16 May 1967 during Operation UNION, Company M was deployed in the
vicinity of Phong Phu (1), Quang Tin Province, to relieve another
company which had been subjected to enemy small arms, machine gun
and mortar fire. As his company moved into position, Gunnery Sergeant
Dinota observed two mortally wounded Marines lying in an exposed
area approximately 110 meters to the front of the company's perimeter
and in danger of being captured by the numerically superior enemy
he organized a squad and led it along a trench line for seventy-five
meters across an exposed rice paddy to the position of their fallen
companions. Exposing himself to the intense enemy fire, he directed
the evacuation of the Marines, recovered three M-16 rifles and one
M-60 machine gun, and returned his squad safely to his company's
position without sustaining a casualty.
resolute courage and unwavering determination inspired all who observed
him and greatly enhanced the morale of his unit. Gunnery Sergeant
Dinota's exceptional professionalism, exemplary leadership and selfless
devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of
the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.
Combat Distinguishing Device is authorized.
Commandant of the Marine Corps
Dinota, Bill Vandegriff, Roger Nicholson, Steve Walker-Haygood, Ken Fields
3/5 Reunion 2002, La Grange, GA
M Co 3/5
December 13, 2002
couple of months ago I was approached by a young Marine Sergeant
from Weapons Company 3/6. He must haveseen my M/3/5 tattoo and heard
me telling war whoppers at the end of the bar at my favorite watering
hole where he moonlights as a bartender from time to time. After
talking for a while on several occasions and becoming friends he
asked me if I would be the Guest of Honor at his unit's Mess Night.
He said that he was to be "Mister Vice" (Vice President
for the mess night) and one of his jobs was to find the Guest of
Honor. The President of the Mess Night is of course the CO of the
I told him sure I would, all the while thinking (knowing) that it
would never happen and that they would surely be able to get some
retired general, colonel or some other upper level dignitary as
the guess of honor/speaker to bore them to death. After all, this
is Jacksonville, the home of Camp Lejeune. Why the hell they would
want a former Staff Sergeant/Gunnery Sergeant was beyond me.
A few weeks later the sergeant's unit was having a promotion wetting
down at the club and the Sergeant introduced me to his First Sergeant.
A week later a real squared-a-way Sergeant in full dress blues appears
at my door and presents me with an invitation to be the Guest of
Honor at the Weapons Company 3rd Battalion 6th Marines Mess Night.
I guess they wanted somebody who had actually occupied a fighting
hole and who had seen the "Elephant."
While putting down on paper some ideas/thoughts for my speech I
realized that of all the mess nights, Marine Balls and other formal
events I've attended over the years I cannot recall one of the speaker's
names, much less the subject matter of their talk. So I could see
myself going into the same abyss.
Well, on Friday, December 13, 2002, a squared-a-way Corporal wearing
full blues arrives at my door to escort me to the mess night!
My speech? It was about those (YOU) magnificent, wonderful skinny
"kids" I served with in Mike Company and the rest of 3rd
Battalion 5th Marines! I told them about the battles you fought
and won. I told them how you would raise up under fire and advance
against fortified positions. I told them about how you beat back
attacks. I told them about the stink of death and fear and how you
sacrificed and didn't complain and how you are still making that
sacrifice and still not complaining. I told them about the reunion
and the tears.
I told them how "I Got To" (as if it were some kind of
miraculous appointment from on high) serve with you.
I at times had to catch my breath and hold back the tears, but I
got through it. I could tell I had their attention and later when
it was over and the young PFCs and Lance Corporals and Corpsman
told me it was the first time they ever saw the men pay that much
attention to anybody before. Whether it was speeches by the general,
training instructors or whatever. That compliment coming from the
"Troops" put me in a daze. It was an award. It was like
Vandergriff telling me "Thank You" when I left Mike Company.
Seeing those "Kids" I see time frozen from thirty five
Brad Reynolds (M/3/5 67-68) and Denny Dinota
3/5 Reunion 2001, La Grange, GA
Jim Bisesi (H&S 3/5 67-68), Craig Sullivan (H&S
and M/3/5 67-68), Denny Dinota
3/5 Reunion 2001, La Grange, GA
Mike 3/5 Website
Operation UNION and