Nolan Nunnery, Jr.

Nolan Nunnery, Jr. I spent two tours in Vietnam. I went to Vietnam with Delta Co. 1/5, transferred in May 66 to Bravo 1/7. I was with Bravo 1/7 until rotation in November 66. I went back to Vietnam after signing a waiver in March or April 1967 (not knowing at the time I had PTSD from my first tour).

I signed my waiver to return to Vietnam in March or April 1967, while stationed as an MP at the Philadelphia Naval Yard. I spent a considerable amount of time drinking in "Tun's Tavern," the place the Marine Corps was born. I had several reasons for going back to Nam. The main and foremost was the guys I left over there in Bravo 1/7. The second one was the nightmares I was having, and the third being what I was told. One experienced Marine, I was told, would save the life of 5 Marines from having to go to Vietnam.

3rd MPs, Nolan Nunnery (far right), Danang

I was assigned to 3rd MPs until I realized how dangerous it was and volunteered immediately to go to a grunt outfit which happened to be India 3/5, also in June 67. The first time we went on a night patrol with 3rd MPs, the enemy if they were out there, had to be rolling around on the ground from laughter. There was a full moon and the 1st Lt. had blackened his face and hands, but left his silver bars on. But it was the noise and the stumbling around that made my decision, and that of another returning Nam vet on his second tour of duty. It was more dangerous to be with those guys than it was to be with a grunt outfit. As a matter of fact, not soon after we had left, two sergeants took out an ambush. One of the sergeants went outside the perimeter to check for weak spots, the other sergeant not knowing he was out there....shot him. He could have lived, but they dragged him with his wounded chest wound up instead of down. He drowned in his own blood. What makes it even worst was the fact of how close help was.

"The Nun"

Combat operations I've been listed as being on, but I believe there was more:

With Delta 1/5:
1. Operation JACK STAY.......26Mar66
2. Operation OSAGE............21Apr66
3. Participated in operations........9May66
4. Operation MONTGOMERY........14May66

With Bravo 1/7:
5. Operation MOBILE............25May66
6. Operation FRESNO..............8Sept66
7. Operation GOLDEN FLEECE.......17Sept66

With India 3/5:
8. Participated in combat operations......10June67
9. Operation PIKE..............1Aug67
10. Operation COCHISE.........9Augt67
11. Operation SWIFT..............4Sept67
12. Operation SHELBYVILLE......22Sept67
13. Operation AUBURN...........28Dec67
14. Operation ALAMO............30Jan68

As soon as we (1/5) landed in Vietnam after eight months of "Raider" training in Hawaii, I found myself walking point and scout swimmer. Eight months in Hawaii training and never once walked point. Two weeks in the Mekong Delta was the most hellish place (salt water crocodiles and only God knows what else) I'd ever been in Vietnam. I didn't know about the salt water crocodiles until after my discharge some many years later.

Operation JACK STAY

My third night and first platoon size ambush in the Mekong Delta with 1st platoon of Delta 1/5 we went out on this ambush along some river and set up an L-shape ambush. I was rear security along with a few other scared guys. The mistake that was made was setting up an ambush before it was dark. As it got dark, the mosquitos got bad. It was so dark you couldn't see your hand in front of your face. It was so hot and the mosquitos were so bad that I had to put my poncho on to protect my self from being eaten alive.

Sometime during the middle of the night, two rounds from a .57 mm landed in our company area, killing one sergeant and injuring six more and a Corporal. Not long after the explosions, we started hearing small arms fire. POW POW, then quiet. Many minutes later again, POW POW, the quiet, but closer. After the third time and the many minutes of quiet, someone stepped a bare foot on my left leg. As I looked up toward the night time sky, I could see the outline of a barrel of a rifle and hair on someone's head. I knew it could only be the enemy and as I pushed my safety off my M-14 to fire, someone else brushed against my back.

As I turned and looked skyward, I could see the barrel of a rifle (carbine) and the outline of what we called a "cowboy" hat. Many thoughts went through my head right away. Where was the first guy who stepped on me? He had to know and if I shot him, would the other one shoot me. Worst of all was would the guy to my right shoot and kill us all. I did nothing and everything turned out okay. I did see the foot prints in the mud that morning, but said nothing. It's something I'll never forget.

When they depicted how the enemy could move like ghosts at night, that is what we experienced on Operation Jack Stay. One night one of our machine gun teams thought they saw movement out in front of us. We were informed that they looked like small bushes, but everywhere we look was small bushes. We went from 100% alert to 50% to 25%. That morning my squad leader along with the corpsman who slept next to him, woke up cussing up a storm. The enemy had walked through and out of our company perimeter. They had actually stepped over and in between my squad leader and that corpsman. Their foot prints went right through our entire perimeter.

The most unusual experience I had in the Mekong Delta was while walking point and chopping my way through thick vegetation. I was just about to slash through some vines when a voice to my right yelled out "Stop." At first I thought it was one of our guys until I heard our platoon commander asked what the hold up was. It was less than a couple of minutes prior to this event when on of our guys shot and killed a snake.

By the time I started really looking, I saw a small path the size a deer might make. Looking to my right I saw nothing, but it was when I looked to my left that I saw things that weren't quite right. I saw the color blue barely seen through some heavy brush. If I had cut through the vines, it would have set off some explosives hidden on both sides of that small path and God only knows who would have suffered. Not only that, but a small cooking fire with rice boiling was discovered. The shot that killed the snake also warned the enemy.

I saved seven guys from drowning in my company on that operation including my platoon sergeant, Sgt. Garcia. Only now do I know the truth behind these guys panic. Salt Water Crocodiles. Actually, I thought those creatures were just giant bull frogs and some of the guys were just shooting at them for fun, while I swam across. How naive I was.

Operation OSAGE

Operation OSAGE was pretty uneventful for me, except for the time we took a break climbing this hill or mountain covered in mostly tall elephant grass. As point man I led the way and when we stopped to rest that had me wondering if I saw what I saw. I had just looked up towards the way we still had to go and I saw this brown face with black eyes. I turned to the guy behind me and asked him if he saw what I saw and when we both looked, the face was gone. He never saw the face.

We were far north than the Mekong Delta and it was a welcome relief not to have to be walking in mud up to your ass. There were mountains and solid land in and around Phu Loc and at the time I was not aware how close we were to the city of Hue. The only casualities we had in Delta Company was from the heat. I heard that the guys on my right flank ran into and maybe killed a Russian and North Korean advisors, but I don't know how much truth there was to that.

What was really surprising was the Vietnamese people we met once we were on this highway. They all seemed friendly and happy to see us, but we weren't allowed to stop and find out. Probably wanted to sell us something.

Somehow, we ended up on the ocean edge where our landing crafts were waiting to take us back to our ship. When we got to our ship, the ship's crew and captain had a big welcome home for us. We couldn't drink on board ship, so cases and cases of ice cold San Miguel beer was lowered down to us. Some of us were trying to drink two bottles at once. Once we were drunk enough to climb the nets back on board, there were hot showers and steaks for us. What a welcome that was.

The only other occurrence that happened was when we stopped to rest in this valley. There was little shade to be found anywhere and that shade that was found, we discovered had leeches. I found two under my arms when the alarm went out. I managed to burn both off with a lit cigarette and burnt myself trying to burn off the second leech. That smarted, especially under my arm pit.

I was either walking point or was with the point squad my entire first tour. When I was transferred to Bravo 1/7, it was the same as Ric Lee was transferred to India. I was part of the replacements 1/7 had lost in combat. The best squad leader that in my eyes was the Best, was this guy named Gill and I can only remember one other and his name was Giacoma. Before these guy rotated home, I was taught well.

I saw a lot more action in Bravo 1/7 than I did in Delta 1/5, which comes to the problem I and many others vets seem to have as time passes on. We can't remember, but can only see parts of pictures. I know at one time I had been told I would receive the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry for my actions for walking point security for our captain's C. P.

Received a "Dear John" from my girlfriend while with Bravo 1/7. We were high school sweethearts our senior year. She married some dufus guy and soon after the birth of her daughter, left them both. I did meet her many years ago and her female lover. Her family was very upset and really thought we should have been together. But such is life.


Like everything else I experienced with my superiors, going to the Quang Ngai area for as long as we did, not once was there ever a mention of any operations. We had orders to follow and that's what we did. I don't know what operation we were on during certain events I'm about to write about.

We were out on an 18-man-patrol one day, and I guess our main objective was to patrol this stretch of railroad. We had stopped for chow and afterwards, we started receiving small arms fire. It stopped, and we continued on our way along the railroad tracks. Soon we were shot at again by small arms fire and when my squad leader decided to rush the enemie's position, I lost a man in my team. He was new, and he didn't die that I know of. He was shot in the stomach and immediately medic-vaced out. Once the chopper was gone, we continued our patrol along the railroad tracks. There was a curve in the tracks, and we were hit again, but this time it was different. You see we had never come into contact with, or recognized, the sounds an AK-47 makes. We couldn't make out if they were our guys or what, the only thing we knew was we were being fired upon.

As the fire intensified and it seemed like there were quite a number of enemies firing at us, our squad leader called in Naval gun fire. Always the first round is long and the second is short, but this time as I heard the second round screaming through the air, I instinctively knew it was going to land close. I was out in the open running towards this big tree when the round exploded and I found myself flying through the air. I landed without my rifle or helmet and actually thought I was dead. But why could I still hear the battle still going? Upon opening my eyes, I saw one of our guys get shot while running to a new position. His helmet flew off because from my position he looked like he had been shot in the chest in the way that he fell. He was shot in the back of his right leg, but from my view point it looked worse than it was. I checked my body out and found no wounds or serious injury, found my rifle in some bushes, found my helmet and got back into the fight. We had lost two men to wounds, and I believe we were ordered out and to meet this truck on the highway some two clicks away.

When what was left of our patrol pulled back, this black guy named Bob from Chicago and myself gave covering fire as our patrol moved towards the highway. Bob and I was leap frogging each other as we gave covering fire. By the time we had leaped frog through this deserted village and reached the tall rice fields, we had lost contact with our patrol and found ourselves trapped. On top of this, the only time we didn't carry our usual amount of ammo, happened to be this time. I usually carried 1,000 rounds for M-14 and Bob not only carried his M-14 slung over his arm, but usually carried a backpack strapped with LAWS. Just before we hit the tall rice fields, we saw the enemy coming over the tracks and there was a lot of them all dressed in black and carrying weapons. When we found ourselves trapped, we sat back to back and vowed not to be taken alive if possible. We had very little ammo left, so we decided to wait and use it when we saw the enemy or when they saw us. As we sat there contemplating, small explosions were going off around us, then we saw this lone Marine (Corporal Sinclaire) calling for us to come towards him. He had opened a hole for us with his M-79 grenade launcher.

When we caught up with him, we could see the truck on the highway waiting for us. We had a long run and was pulled in on top of our buddies as the truck took off. Then Naval gun fire saturated the area. Meanwhile as we caught our breath and had a drink of water, we just all burst out laughing. We laughed and whooped all the way to our company area. I started carrying my usual amount of ammo plus and Bob did the same. So many passing through, and only a name here and there remembered.

A short but interesting event took place one day as we were returning from a daylight patrol. A jeep with a couple of drunken Green Berets were shooting off M-70 rounds at us, barely missing us as they drove off laughing.

Another event that stays pretty much clear in my mind was the time we went on a nighttime ambush. Once again the leadership made the terrible error of setting up our ambush position before it was dark. What saved us was the mosquitos. We were set up in some bushes and tall grass where two trails met. Even if we had been able to ambush someone, we had no cover to hide or fight behind. The mosquitos began eating us up so bad, it was impossible to stay where we were and be unnoticed or affected. Just as we all got up to moved to another position, the sky just suddenly let loose a deluge of water. We were soaking wet before we could take one step. Fortunately, there was an empty market stall that was several feet off the ground and offered protection from the rain.

It wasn't very long after we had become comfortable with our new position, when there were two explosions and automatic rifle fire on our old position. When they received no results, about 4-5 VC passed right in front of us, the problem was how many really were of them and where might they be. We didn't know and did nothing without orders from our squad leader. I learned many years ago from reading books about the Apaches, how an ambush should be done. How else did Geronimo fight off the US Army with only 21 men for over a course of years. Cochise stopped all movement for ten (10) years throughout the state of Arizona. There was an Apache chief that was eighty years old when he took his people on the war path. They called him the desert Fox. He would bury his warriors on both sides of the trail the US Army was following, with no areas of concealment or thought of ambush could materialized. Then as the soldiers passed through, the buried warriors would attack them right in their mist, creating confusion and fear.

I hope they teach our young men today about setting up positions and especially positions of ambushes. Never, never set up positions during the day when the enemy can see. Do it later when it dark and you not only have concealment, but protection from incoming if necessary.

I don't truly know what we did on the ops, but we were told after our battle that day, that some 300 of the enemy had been killed. I know what me and Bob saw that day and it did seem like there were hundreds coming over those tracks into the tall rice fields. One thing I did notice while in Bravo 1/7, was the laughter after a close call.

The only out of country R&R I had, Penang, Malaysia 1966. We were at a mountain resort swimming.

When I joined India Co. 3/5 in June 1967, I was assigned ammo carrier to a machine gun team. All that changed on "Operation Swift." Out of my entire machine gun squad, I was the only one left. I became a machine gunner during Swift and up to Operation Alamo. On Operation Shelbyville, I knocked out two machine gun positions before anyone else could get off a shot.

Bunker at main entrance to Battalion 3/5

Nolan (left) and Murray (or Murphy?)

Picture taken at our movie theater...Washington (2nd from right), Peterson "Mississippi" and Brooks "Alabama" (far left)...the other two Marines I can't recall.

Williams, New Jersey (left), Poppa Roach, Chicago

Can't remember the names of these I/3/5 Marines

"Earl", Weapons 3.5 Rockets, India 3/5

Nolan and Ric Lee (right) served together in India Co. 3/5
May 2003

Children in Vietnam

In most Asia countries where the water buffalo is used as a domestic animal, it is not unusual to see a small child on the backs of these big and dangerous animals. Dangerous to us, but not to the people of that country. Most often, I would see a small child asleep on the back of one of these animals while the animal grazed. These huge animals would always respond and obey these children the way we would have our domestic dog respond and obey.

As I got to know some of these children, I learned they were older and wiser than their years. I learned more during my second tour about Vietnam and the Vietnamese people, than I did during my first tour of duty. The children and the Vietnamese people never ceased to amazed me with their capabilities to do the impossible with what was around them.

The one true enjoyment I got was in sharing my little wealth with those poverty and most likely, orphaned children. It was not unusual for me to be in one of the Vietnamese markets and buy clothes, sandals and food for some of these poverty stricken kids.

One of several games I enjoyed most was trying to keep those kids from stealing from me, especially, if I had been to the PX and had a large bag or two. They would always out number me and while this one and that one distracted me, the others would be stealing things from the bottom of my bag or bags, while the others would steal things from my pockets. Most Americans would become angered when this happened to them, not thinking or realizing that this was their (the children) way of surviving. The children looked at us as rich and having plenty compared to the way they had to survive. For me, this game always brought a sort of joy and laughter to my heart as they robbed me.

For those children of certain villages I had become to know well, playing a card game with money was their way of robbing me. They would always change the rules as we played so that they always won. It was fun to call them cheaters as they laughed and continued to cheat. But, one thing I have to say is that there was mutual happiness whenever we saw each other.

In the Bible, it says: "It is better to give than to receive." the giving I gave made my heart happy. The thing I noticed about guys like myself over there is......we never asked for anything in return....except their friendship. For me, it always felt good to share what I had, especially, where the children are concerned. In the eyes of those in poverty, we that have so much.....and should be willing to share. Because by the grace of God, the role could be reversed. I don't know how others feel towards children and how they should be treated, but to me they are all innocents trapped into a situation (war) they never asked for or wanted.

My father and I after I went to Nam the first time in, the picture was taken in January 1967

I was born in New Orleans on March 11, 1947 and grew up in Detroit. From the 5th grade, I had known I wanted to be a Marine. I had wanted to make a career out of the Marines and retire after 30-40 years. That was my plans before and after joining the Marine Corps, but was not so when my time was up. Growing up in Detroit I was never part of a gang or in any kind of trouble, and joining the Marines I became a gangster. In February 1965, any and all African Americans from any large city were labeled or called gangsters. Not many people remember what life was like during the 60s, but with the Civil Rights Movement, the Voting Rights Act, rioting and the KKK, plus the signing of the Civil Rights Act, not everyone in the Marine Corps higher command was ready and willing to accept African Americans as equals, this included the Navy also.

When I joined the Marines in 1965, very few had graduated from high school or had over a 9th grade education and this did not just include boot camp. With my education background and as an African American, I really didn't fit in too well. Playing music from some of Europe's finest composers was not a topic among the people I was with. Being somewhat well versed in reading was not what the Marines wanted. Intelligence was almost forbidden. Because I once qualified for scholarship in Biology, I took up a home course in Biology in Hawaii. This was quickly done away with by all the obstacles of punishments for imagined infractions. I don't want to sound like one of Ric Lee's disgruntled African Americans, because I see myself like the Country Western song "Rainbow Man." My family tree consists of almost every nationality and race in America. My maternal grandfather was a white man with blonde hair and blue eyes. His great great grandmother was an African slave. On both sides of my family there is Native American and African. On my father's side there's French, Spanish and even Asian. And, naturally, white mixed in also.

Before the Marines, I did quite a lot of activities. I was in all three scoutings. In the Boy Scouts and Explorer Scouts we specialized in Native American lore. Somewhere in Lansing, Michigan, there are some pictures of me in my Native American regalia. Did a lot of camping and hiking with friends, canoeing, horseback riding and swimming. I was a qualified life guard when I graduated. I played Trumpet in the band and in my senior year, was president of our band as well as played first chair Trumpet and solo Coronet. I was in a Drum and Bugle Marching Corps. I swam on the swim team and played varsity football on a bet. After my first game, I played defensive and offensive Right Guard (5'7" 160 pounds) and was on the kick off and receiving team.

A short synopsis of what I've done since my discharge. Besides working at the Pontiac Division of General Motors for a year and half, I drove taxi's in Detroit and Orlando, Fl. for about a year each. I worked for the Michigan Department of Corrections for a little over 9 years and also the US Postal Service for 9 1/2 years. I've attended 8 colleges and universities and only have an Associates of Arts degree. I've traveled to Mexico, Canada, Holland, Belgium, France and Germany where I lived with a German family for a week in a town where no one spoke English. I've been to Hong Kong for about 5 days and close to three weeks in China and a couple of days in the Philippines. I have visited Jamaica about 4 times. I've been in most of the 50 States and I guess that's why I had a stroke to slow me down. (smile). Like many Vietnam vets, marriage has been elusive as have relationships. I'm on my fourth and final marriage I hope.

Nolan and Anita Nunnery 2003

"Knowledge is worthless, if not shared."
Historian Tom Brooks, from Gravehurst, Ontario

My best friends have always been books and that since my first library card. The one thing that has always impressed me when visiting someone's home......was the books they did or didn't have. When I die, the greatest wealth I will leave behind will be my books. Academically, I believe I've always been somewhat of a Philosopher and Historian. I picked up Astrology as a hobby back in 1973 and became very well knowledgeable. People are very unpredictable, but if certain information about a person is known, then what they do will not come as a surprise.

I'm just a misunderstood person with nothing but good intentions. My name in Chinese is "Righteous Striving." My name in Vietnamese is Nha-tu which can be interpreted in two ways. One means jail bird and the other meaning is holy man or priest. I have never had a problem with communications when it's in a different language. The problems I've had with communications has been with other Americans.

I'm very proud to be a Marine, for once a Marine...always a Marine. I have very few regrets, only wish and wanted a dream to come true. I wanted a career and didn't get it. That part of my dream that did come true...was to become a Marine. The Marine Corps taught me that there was no such word as "can't." The Marine Corps took me to some exotic places and I experienced many erotic and exotic situations. I went to places I had only read about. ~Nolan Nunnery, Jr. 2134458

Operation COCHISE
Operation SWIFT
Operation AUBURN
Operation ALAMO

Bravo 1/7 website
India 3/5 website
Delta 1/5 website

(Background by Redeye)
(Delta 1/5 graphic courtesy of Delta 1/5 website)
(Bravo 1/7 graphic courtesy of Bravo 1/7 website)

(India 3/5 graphic courtesy of India 3/5 website)