I joined up with
Mike 3/5 in early August '67. I was attached to 1st platoon, 1st squad
and Bill Vandegriff was my squad leader. I recently was informed by
Brother Swanie (Jack Swan) that we were called "FNGs."
I was wounded on
Operation SWIFT 9/4/67 and medevaced to Balboa Hospital, San Diego,
CA. In '68
I was at Pendleton with the 28th Marines; '69 Ault Field on Whidbey
Island, WA.Then I was sent to M.C.R.D. to take care of recruits until
my discharge on 2/8/70.
had lost all contact with the Marines I served with in Mike Co. until
I found your web site in January of '06 and was reunited with some of
the Marines I served with. Jack Swan "Swanie" and myself had
no contact for 39 years. So it was a joy to find out that the second
ugliest Marine to survive Operation SWIFT, myself being the first, are
still sucking oxygen, enjoying life and Brothers for life. Thank
you for all that you have done for us Debbe and Brad. You have reunited
pictures are just prior to joining Mike Co. on Operation COCHISE, Aug.
(click images to enlarge)
Martinez (front) and I went through bootcamp at M.C.R.D.
SWIFT September 4 1967
This is a personal
recollection of September the 4th 1967 with M/3/5 on the first day of
Operation SWIFT, Que Son Valley, Vietnam.
I remember that morning as if it happened yesterday, or should I say
the things that were burned into my mind forever. I thought we were
going on another patrol, but was informed that 1/5 had ran into resistance
from the NVA and we were being sent in as reinforcements. I remember
being briefed on the situation, choppers down and we were going into
a hot LZ. We loaded up on c-rations and as much ammo as we could carry.
Then it was a waiting game for the choppers to come for us. This gave
me time to think on what was ahead, at 19 I did not have a lot of comforting
thoughts. I had made it through being ambushed two consecutive days
prior, so needless to say I was a bit worried.
The choppers showed
up around 10:30 a.m. We boarded them and then I discovered that I would
be the first one out at the LZ. This scared the shit out of me, I was
new to this and the Marines around me just told me I would know what
to do. Well, we came in to land, the door was opened and I was looking
at a rice paddy with no cover. Next thing I heard was, "Let's go!"
and out of that chopper I ran looking for some direction. Just like
I had been told, it was right in front of me. A trench with cover, and
into it I scrambled. This was at 12:05 p.m.
I remember our
company regrouping and moving out of the landing zone. We came to an
area were we were told to set in for a while and to keep our eyes open.
I was hungry, so I got some rations out and watched and waited. My squad
leader told my fire team that we would be walking point position, so
we started out in front of the company. I would say we walked about
10 min. I could see Huey's firing rockets into the hillside to my left
and thought we are in for a long day.
I heard Jack Swan,
the Marine to my right front, say, "Oh Shit!" I looked ahead
and saw this VC jump up and run about six feet and drop. I started looking
for some place to go and I saw an old rice paddy dike about 12 feet
in front of me. I took off running bent over for this dike. I made about
three steps and the hillside in front of me exploded with gun fire.
I remember seeing the smoke at the end of their gun barrels as I dove
for the ground. I was hit in mid-air and slammed to the ground. I bounced
off the ground to my feet with my arms above my head still holding my
M-16. At that instant, my mind was screaming things at me, things like
"You've been shot!", "I'm going to die!", "I'm
hit in the lungs!", "I need help!". This and more went
through my mind in a split second.
I tried to call
for help as I was falling. I screamed "Corpsman," and blood
sprayed from my mouth and covered my left arm. I hit the ground face
down and could not move. I remember the sound of the blood gurgling
in my lungs and thinking I was dying. LET ME SAY THIS, I CANNOT BEGIN
TO DESCRIBE THE FEAR THAT I WAS EXPERIENCING AT THAT MOMENT IN TIME!
When I hit the ground
after calling for help, the fire power from the NVA and Mike Company
grew into a deafening roar. This went on for some time. I started hearing
other Marines call out for our corpsman. I knew that no one could get
to us, and I could not move my left arm or my head at that point. Swanie,
who was still to my right front, yelled at me and asked if I was okay.
I told him I had been hit. He asked me if I could move, and I told him
I could not. He told me he would not leave me, and that he would get
to me as soon as he could. Swanie was pinned down, and I knew we were
very close to the NVA, I would say not over 40 or 50 yards. This was
at 2:50 p.m.
I could not move.
I was spitting blood and praying for help, this went on for another
10 to 15 minutes. I thought I was going to bleed to death, and then
it just stopped. The pain at that point was the least of my thoughts,
your mind goes into a survival mode and blocks the pain while it is
running at lightning speed. I remember laying there and trying to turn
my head, and it felt like someone had a hold on me and I was not strong
enough to move.
The roar from the
bullets flying over my head had calmed down after some time. I lay there
thinking and crying and asking God to let me live. I could hear screaming
around me. At one point we heard Marines from our company yelling to
put on our gas masks. I tried to get my mask with my right hand, but
had no success. This sent me into another nerve-shattering time, thinking
I would die from being gassed. All I could do was to lay there helpless
and examine my life and try to maintain my senses. About every hour
I would feel the fear start to come up and I could not stop it. I would
scream, and my mind would also be screaming for me to shut up, they
will hear you. I would be okay for about an hour, and it would start
Around 6:00 p.m.
we heard the Company yelling to pull back. We were in a position that
made that impossible. We had to stay. Swanie again told me that he would
not leave me. We knew we would have to wait until dark before he could
get to me. Then we heard the air strikes commence, I do believe this
was the worst part of the day for me. I had managed to turn my head
to the right and I could see their flight pattern. They would dive straight
for me and at the last second turn and drop fragmentation bombs or napalm.
We were so close to the drop site that I could hear the shrapnel cutting
through the bushes to my left. When it was the napalm, we could feel
the heat from the wall of fire. Every time they would come in for a
strike you would wonder if this was the one that was going to kill you.
The stress had reached
a breaking point by then. I remember laying there and accepting that
I was going to die. I became calm for the first time and a peace I cannot
explain came upon me. I started to drift away from the Hell I was in.
I don't know how long I was in that state, but suddenly as if hit by
lightning, I was jolted into the fact that I did not want to die. Time
runs slow when you are pinned to the ground. I thank God for Jack Swan
who stuck with me. Semper Fidelis was burned into my heart that day.
It finally got
dark, which meant we could get back to our company. I started to have
hope that this was almost over. I should have known it was not. Swanie
yelled that he was coming for me, just about the same time that our
Company started shooting up flares. This lighted up the whole area,
so once again I was back to waiting. I have no idea how many flares
went off that night, but it seemed like forever. When they were lit
it was okay, but when they went out we could hear the NVA start moving
around. Finally, they stopped for a while.
Swanie told me he
was on his way. I knew that he was not over 20 yards from me and still
to my right front. I waited in silence for him to get to me. I started
to wonder where he was because it had been a long time. Then I heard
some movement to my left. Now this sent chills up me. I could not move,
and nobody was to my left at the start of this.
jumped over this bush and landed on me grabbing my arm and said, "Haney!"
I think it was as frightful for Swanie as it was for me. I felt total
relief after the initial shock. He told me to get on his back, but I
could not get up. He then cut the pack off that I had learned to hate
that day. I told him that I thought I could crawl if I could get up.
He lifted me up and stuffed my right arm into my shirt, I still could
not move it. We then crawled over to another Marine. This Marine had
also been wounded from shrapnel.
Swanie told us
that he was going to get help. He gave us a white phosphorous grenade
and told us not to let them take us, then left for help. We could hear
the NVA moving forward and I did not know at that point if he would
make it back in time. Then I saw them. Swanie had returned with help
to get us out. They put me in a poncho and ran me back to our lines.
I was then seen by a corpsman and he told me I was going home. I was
medevaced that night to DaNang.
I owe my life to
the Marines who risked their lives for mine that day. I am forever grateful
to them. Semper Fi!
and Mike 3/5 website