Gerheim, USMC Correspondent I
was with 3/5 off and on from Nov. '67 to Aug. '68. I was on Operations
JUNCTION, DENVER, AUBURN, HOUSTON I, II, III, and IV, ALLEN BROOK and
MAMELUKE THRUST. Because of my job as correspondent, I had to rotate
around because there were so few of us. I basically moved around looking
for trouble. I also spent quite a bit of time with Echo 2/3, 1/5 in Operation
Hue City and 2/5.
just got in after Operation Essex in November. In fact, I was in Da
Nang for three days before they shipped me to 3/5. Another of my fellow
Marine correspondents was with 2/5 on Essex, and came in from the field
with a 1,000-meter look. I had one stretch from early March to
mid-April where I was on five operations with five different platoons,
companies from different battalions. I always considered 3/5 my home
outfit and finished my tour with about eight name ops with 3/5. As you
can judge from the Kilo and Mike Co. websites, I wrote a lot on 3/5.
I think about 15 stories have been posted.
By record book I
was with Division HQ, then with Task Force X-Ray out of Phu Bai. It
made it kind of interesting because I had trouble getting paid but,
also, the units I was with were always very happy to see me.
I remember getting
Lt. Col. Rockey's letter of appreciation when he left 3/5 -I gave Ron
Heath a copy which he posted on the Kilo Co. site- but it couldn't get
put into my record book because I was an attachment and nowhere in my
record was I actually part of 3/5. That got kind of crazy because I
got my second Purple Heart with 2d platoon, E 2/3 on Operation Ford,
yet I couldn't get the Navy Unit Citation 2/3 got because I wasn't with
them by record book.
The battalion was
strung out between Phu Bai and Hai Van Pass for about two months before
going south. During that time I was with a lot of other units on ops
- Delta, 1/27, E 2/5, E 2/3 - because we just didn't have that many
correspondents. In between those ops, I'd always make it back to 3/5,
which was an effort because, until Kilo got to Lang Co, it was hard
to track down units because they were moving around so much.
We are always referring
to actions around Hai Van Pass, the Bowling Alley, Lang Co and all the
other spots between Hai Van and Phu Bai where 3/5 operated. Operation
HOUSTON was the name of the actions. When I rotated, I had Operations
HOUSTON I, II, III and IV in my record book. The goal of the HOUSTON
operations was to keep Route One open, and also to provide security
for the Army engineers who worked on and maintained that stretch of
As I've mentioned before, 3/5 was strung out along a long stretch
and the companies moved around a lot. I recall being with Mike Co. at
a ville called something like Thua Lu. A Chieu Hoi had told us an NVA
Co. was going to try to attack a nearby bridge, so we set up an ambush
by the river. The NVA never showed up, and I remember it as being the
coldest night I ever spent in Vietnam. Re-supply was a problem at times.
The battalion CP was at the ville with Mike, and I noticed when I checked
with the S-2 about something that Lt. Col. Rockey and Sgt. Maj. Hanson
were sharing a C-ration meal.
I usually got to
Danang two days a month and would load up a seabag with canned goods
from the Hill 327 PX to supplement C-rats, and also make up for the
slop laughingly called "chow" that the Task Force X-Ray messhall
would produce in Phu Bai. I had a large can of pineapple rings which
I broke out and shared with some of the Mike Co. guys. I didn't have
to ask anyone if they wanted some.
The Marines certainly
bore the brunt of combat in Vietnam, taking 40 percent of the casualties
while accounting for only 15 percent of the American troops. Shortly
after Iwo Jima in 1945, James Forrestal, the secretary of the Navy,
said he could never again look at a U.S. Marine without feeling a sense
Semper fi, Earl Gerheim
Both India and Mike
were on Operation Auburn, a bloodbath that started Dec. 28, 1967 on
Go Noi Island. I went in with Echo 2/3, known as Rent-A-Battalion because
it was a Third Div outfit under the operational control of the LstMar
Div. The plan was for Echo to go in first, followed by Indian and Mike.
Echo tripped a massive ambush by a VC Main Force unti augmented by NVA.
In the initial contact Echo suffered Nine KIA and 5 WIA. By day's end,
the company had 17 KIA and something like 35 WIA.
Because of the heavy
fire, Indian and Mike was landed far to the west of where we were. I
got hit by AK-47 fire while another Marine and I were trying to carry
a casualty to cover. We formed a defensive position. Later up came a
platoon from India commanded by Lt. Corr. Corr was a really nice guy
who used to kid around with me about my putting rolls of film in ammo
pounches. Moments later, he was shot in the chest and killed.
While near the LZ
with the rest of the casualties, I noticed Capt. Mitchell, the Mike
CO, meeting with Lt. Col. Rockey. My thought was that Mike Co. was here,
too. I spent 23 days on the USS Sanctuary before getting back to RVN.
Mitchell commanded Mike at least through August, if I recall correctly.
I know after
the NVA Base Camp operation, there couldn't have been more than 40 able-bodied
guys to go on Operation Allen Brook, and all of them, as Brad can tell
you, were dehydrated and half-starved. I was shocked to see them loaded
onto the trucks and headed south. They needed a rest.
a week on Allen Brook, I think Mike Company was down to about 20 guys.
Mike had borne a terrible burden for some time prior to that. Mike took
heavy casualties on Swift - note the Medals of Honor and Navy Crosses
-and was hit hard on Essex. Mike also got hit hard during the TET near
Thanh Quit, southeast of 3/5 Battalion Combat Base south of Da Nang.
some events when we (3/5) were along the Bowling Alley in the vicinity
of Lang Co. Lima Co. was sent to Hue in the third week of Feb. They
wound up, I believe, along the south side of the Citadel. When the battle
was over, there were only about 25 guys left to return to Phu Bai. Capt.
Niotis, in keeping with his reputation of having little regard for men's
lives, immediately had them dispatched on a sweep into the hills West
of Phu Bai.
They were ambushed
and suffered a couple of casualties. One was Doc Sinor, who later was
transferred to the 2nd Platoon of Kilo Co. Doc was hit in the arm with
Mike Co. was involved
in the NVA base camp battle in late April , not too long before we took
off south for Operations Allen Brook and Mameluke Thrust. I still recall
how half-starved and dehydrated the Mike Co. survivors of that five-day
battle were when we took off South. As you might recall, they had a
lot of heat casualties and, coupled with a booby traps tripped by the
battalion casualty reporter while getting medevac numbers of the heat
casualties, left them about 25 strong.
wounded men were taken to Lang Co probably because it was the nearest
3/5 unit with a corpsman. At one time, the battalion BAS was at Phu
Gia Pass, where India Co. was at the time, along with a mess tent from
which the battalion attempted to provide at least one hot meal a day
for as many men as possible.
Co fishing village
Postcard from re-visiting Vietnam in 2000
This pic of Lang
Co is a great shot. At the far left of the causeway is the old French
railway station Kilo Co. fortified. The area to the left of the causeway
also was the starting point where Mike Co. embarked on the sweep that
ended at the NVA base camp (May 8-13, '68).
CAMP HOCMUTH, Vietnam,
May 29 -- A Marine Company stumbled onto a North Vietnamese Army (NVA)
base camp and held it for five days as they repulsed an enemy battalion
south of Phu Bai, May 8-13.
"M" Co., 3rd Bn., Fifth Marine Regiment killed 20 of the enemy
in the contact.
The Marines found
the base camp after a two day trek in mountainous terrain. They were
proceeding down a mountainside when the enemy ambushed their rear elements.
"We hit the
back door of the camp," said Capt. Frank Pacello, 27, (101 W.28th,
Wilmington, Del.) the company commander.
The company fought
off the enemy ambush, killing four NVA who were occupying two camouflaged
For the next five
days, the company withstood enemy attempts to overrun them. With close
air support impossible due to the sloping terrain, the Marines relied
heavily on artillery and fierce small arms combat to maintain their
The enemy would
attack, be fought off and then break contact with the Marines, only
to hit the embattered outfit again later.
Finally, with the
help of a relief column from 2nd Bn., Fifth Marine Regiment, the beleaguered
company drove off the enemy, and returned to their combat base.
While in the communist
camp, the Marines found six messhalls, each with a capacity of seating
100 men. The structures had benches, tables and a plumbing system made
from bamboo pipes connected to a mountain stream.
The Marines found
and destroyed eight tons of rice, 180 B-40 rockets, 300 Chicom grenades,
4500 blasting caps, 300 pounds of plastic explosives and 300 uniforms.
of Hai Van Pass from re-visiting in 2000
of Hai Van Pass overlooking Danang
(click to enlarge)
of The Pass (80 km from Hue Imperial Old city)
Left: Trans-VN railroad through tunnel
Right: Tour buses
of Hai Van Pass
Left: Hai Van Mandarin (established under Minh Mang dynasty)
Right: Resisting towers for fighting fortress by the French and puppet
Cot phong thu cua My-Nguy
Resisting fortress by the US troops and the puppets (1954-1975)
(Interesting note: In French it says Vietnamese soldiers, but is translated
to US troops and the "puppets.")
NVA Have Contest. . . NVA Lost
By Earl Gerheim
HUE/PHU BAI -- A
Marine interpreter and a North Vietnamese (NVA) soldier held a grenade
throwing contest in the mountains south of Phu Bai.
The enemy trooper
Sgt. Terry Wilkinson
(5119 Meridian Ave., N., Seattle, Wash.) of the 1st Interpreter Team,
1st Marine Division was accompanying "M" Co., 3/5 on a company
sweep when an enemy camp was found.
The Marines were
met by fire from enemy positions on a ridge, overlooking the camp.
The Leathernecks assaulted the ridge but were pinned down under heavy
automatic weapons fire.
"I got down
behind a tree," said Wilkinson, "and then an NVA popped up
10 meters in front of me and threw a grenade."
The Chi-com (Chinese-communist)
grenade hit Wilkinson's foot but failed to explode.
a grenade back at the enemy.
The NVA threw three
more grenades at Wilkinson.
The grenades injured
The duel ended .
and Mike 3/5 website
Kilo 3/5 website