LtCol. Esslinger at the change of command ceremony for 5th Marines and Col. Houghton, Feb. '67
Hill 35 just outside Chu Lai

Dean Esslinger, H&S 3/5 Battalion Commander H&S 3/5 in 1966-67 He was afloat off Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Saipan, and New Herbenines in the 2nd WW, was called up to active duty for the Korean War, and served as probably the only Tanker to command a Marine Battalion in Vietnam (1st Tank Bn. (64-65). Before he was CO of 3/5, he was XO of 7th Marines. He was badly wounded on first day of UNION II when they landed on top of a large NVA unit and mortars landed on top of the Bn. CP Group.

(Picture and info courtesy of JD Murray)

Change of Command Ceremoney for Col. Houghton relieving Col. Hanes as 5th Marine CO

Picture was taken probably Dec.' 66-Jan. '67 at. LtCol. Esslinger is fifth from left hand side of pic. Front row from left to right: Gen. Stiles, CG TF XRay in Chu Lai; Col. Houghton; Gen. Walt of II MAF, Col. Hayes, and Gen. Nickerson, CG 1st MarDiv.

(Picture and info courtesy of JD Murray)

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


For service as set forth in the following


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

During Operation Union, Lieutenant Colonel ESSLINGER repeatedly exhibited exceptional leadership and professionalism in leading his men against North Vietnamese Army forces.

On 21 April 1967, he led his battalion in a helicopter force assault mission to reinforce Company F of the Second Battalion, First Marines which was heavily engaged with a numerically superior enemy force. Locating his command post in a forward position in order to better control and direct his companies, he reacted instantly to the critical situation, moving to join the companies most heavily engaged with the enemy.

Despite intensive enemy small arms, automatic weapons and mortar fire, he initiated an aggressive assault on the fortified enemy positions, repeatedly exposing himself to hostile fire to pinpoint the Viet Cong positions and to encourage his men in maintaining the momentum of the attack.

Although wounded on 28 April, Lieutenant Colonel ESSLINGER refused medical evacuation and, undaunted by the heavy volume of enemy fire, courageously continued to lead his battalion, soundly defeating the enemy at each encounter.

Again on 13 and 14 May when heavy contact was made with a reinforced North Vietnamese Army battalion concealed in a fortified complex, he demonstrated outstanding knowledge of military tactics as he skillfully employed his battalion and personally directed and coordinated artillery, naval gunfire and close air support.

On 26 May while his battalion was heavily engaged with a numerically superior enemy force, Lieutenant Colonel ESSLINGER was seriously wounded in the head but again refused medical aid in order to continue in battle. With complete disregard for his own safety and welfare, he moved from one position to another to direct and encourage his men.

Although unable to stand because of his extremely painful head wound, he selflessly continued to direct his unit’s operation until the regimental commander ordered his medical evacuation. In large part due to his expertly conceived and skillfully directed operations, his battalion accounted for 420 enemy soldiers confirmed killed and destroyed numerous enemy emplacements and caves. Throughout, his manner and method of command instilled confidence and resolute determination which inspired his men to their utmost efforts.

By his exceptional leadership, aggressive fighting spirit and loyal devotion to duty, Lieutenant Colonel ESSLINGER contributed significantly to the accomplishment of his unit’s mission and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service.

For the President,



3rd Battalion, 5th Marines Reunion 2003
La Grange, Georgia

Col. Dean Esslinger, May 2003

3rd Battalion, 5th Marines together again!

Operation DESOTO

Operation UNION

H&S and Mike 3/5 website

(Background by Redeye)