Fred Riddle
M Co. 3/5

Fred Riddle, Mike 3/5 I joined 3/5 in Tam Ky 16 May 1967 just after Operation UNION. Was put in 60mm mortar section in Mike Co. and served in it until May 26, 1967, first day of UNION II. Was put in 3rd platoon as 3.5 rocket assistant through UNION II.

After UNION II was transferred to 81mm mortars and assigned as FO to Mike Co. until Nov. 8, 1967 when I was wounded on Operation ESSEX and medevaced out. Came back in Feb. 1968, and was put on 81mm guns until I rotated back to the States in late June 1968.

Operations include UNION II, ADAIR, CALHOUN, PIKE, COCHISE, SWIFT, ESSEX, HOUSTON, HOUSTON II, and ALLEN BROOK. I served bridge security, road sweeps, mine sweeps, patrols, squad observation posts, LP's and a few unnamed operations.

Semper fi, Fred

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Combat History pages

Operation UNION II
26 May 1967

I joined 3/5 in Tam Ky in late May 1967 right after Operation UNION. They didn't need anymore men on 81's, so the six mortar men that arrived with me were taken to Mike Co. They asked if anyone knew 60's, and I told them I had training in 60's and 81's, so they put me with the 60's section. The other men were distributed among the platoons as regular grunts.

After meeting everyone in the section, one of the Marines said something I will always remember, and that was, "He still has the TASTE of the States in his mouth." At the time it seemed like an odd thig to say, but in time I knew what he had meant.

I had just enough time to get to know everyone. I was told about UNION and how bad it was, and I just didn't have a clue as to what they were talking about. I was in for a life changing experience that would change my whole way of thinking, and makes me feel so close to the Marines I survived with to this day.

We were given the word to move out, and it really didn't have a lot of meaning at the time because I still was uaware of what this whole thing I was involved in was about. When we landed I found out, and very quickly. It was the first time being shot at, and the feeling can't be explained unless it has happened to you. Heavy ground fire and mortar fire everywhere.

We moved up out of the paddies to a small house with some trees and bamboo bordering it. I don't remember all that was going on, but I remember Cpt. McElroy on the radio and other men in the CP discussing things, but even then though I was around the CP, I had no idea of how things worked.

We started to move out to the front right of where we had come in from, and I remember everyone kind of standing around waiting. In a split second everything around me changed. I heard them coming in, but you could not act that fast. Two 82mm mortar rounds landed right in the middle of our group, and Marines were down everywhere.

After the initial shock of the event (it seemed like hours, but I know was just seconds), I got my senses together and noticed the Marine in front of me was holding his face. I asked if he was ok, and I think he said, "No, I'm not," that's when I noticed the blood. He got his face torn up and part of his right shoulder. That's when I looked at my right shoulder and noticed that my shirt was torn and I was bleeding also. Then I thought about the other guys in the section. I started looking and found several wounded on the ground. I found Rockey, but he looked like he was killed, and I found Harold. Me and him had become friends, and I had an urgent need to see if he was ok.

I noticed a Marine that was halfway in an air raid hole on the side of the paddy dike, so I went over. He had his arms up holding onto the dirt wall, but something didn't seem right about it, there was no movement. I yelled to him to see if he was ok, but no response. I pulled him back and removed his pack and started to check him. That's when I came to my senses. This was Harold, my friend, the guy just minutes before I was talking to and sharing my thoughjts and my fears about the whole thng, and he was gone. He feared mortar fire more than anything, and almost got to cover, but one small fragment entered through his back and right through his heart. I was in shock.

After we cleared the wounded back to the treeline and the dead to another area, we set up a perimeter inside the treed area. We couldn't get the wounded out because of the heavy fire, so the corpsman had to do what he could for them. Because all the mortar section was either KIA or WIA, it didn't exist any longer. I was all that was left, so I was put in 3rd platoon and assigned to the perimeter on the left side of the treeline.

I was watching across the and I noticed small puffs of grayish smoke coming from an area that was heavily wooded. Then it hit me that it was where the mortar fire was coing from, so I left my position and went looking for the FAC officer that was with the CP. I told him that I knew where the mortar fire was coming from and needed him to look for himself. He went with me and I showed him and once the bird dog got into position, they called in a massive airstrike on the area. The mortar fire stopped, but the ground fire was still heavy.

I remember going into that night, my thoughts of whether it was going to be my last day or not because we were heavily outnumbered.

26 May 1967 was the day, and even though my memory fails me about some things, these events are very clear and I forever will remember Harold and Rocky and their sacrifice.

Operation ADAIR
15-24 June '67

Operation COCHISE
11-28 August '67

Operation SWIFT
4-15 September '67

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Captured weapons, POWs and enemy KIAs

SWIFT Operations Map of Que Son Valley

"This is the Operations Map for SWIFT that I carried...I always made sure to check with several other people to make sure of my location, so this map is very accurate." ~Fred Riddle

True Valor
Remembering Father Capodanno

I was with M Co. 3/5 on 4 Sept. 1967 on Operation SWIFT serving as 81 mm mortar FO. Father Capodanno was traveling right behind me and my radioman. When we came under fire, the word was to move up to the bomb crater, and we started to make our way up there. But not Corpsman Leal and Father Capodanno. The last I saw of them, they were attending a wounded Marine. The corpsman was working on him, and the Padre was giving last rites. That was just like him to think of others, and not of his own safety.

5 Sept. 1967 was a very sad day for me when I saw both of these kind, caring men had died. Such a good person that I will always miss and think of everytime I go to a church. I became Catholic after the war, and owe a big part of my conversion to him for changing. I was so blessed to have known this man.

May '68

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3/5 Reunion 2002 in LaGrange, Georgia
Fred Riddle and his radioman, Lloyd Jeffries together again after 35 years!

Operation UNION II

Operation COCHISE

Operation SWIFT

Operation ESSEX

Operation HOUSTON II


H&S and Mike 3/5 website

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