Howard Haney, Aug. 1967

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.

I 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 Brothers!

Semper Fi
Howard Haney
Sgt. U.S.M.C.

The pictures are just prior to joining Mike Co. on Operation COCHISE, Aug. '67.
(click images to enlarge)

Tony Martinez (front) and I went through bootcamp at M.C.R.D.

OPERATION 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 again.

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.

Suddenly, someone 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!

Operation SWIFT

H&S and Mike 3/5 website