Picture Gallery 2008
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(Sent in by Frank Ambrose, Oct. 9, 2008)

LCpl. Frank Ambrose receives Silver Star, Sept. 19, 2008, Parris Island MCRD

LCpl. Frank Ambrose's Silver Star Citation

Forty years ago, LCpl. Frank Ambrose of M Co. 3/5 was recommended for the Silver Star for his actions on 7 Feb. 1968, but it was never awarded. He finally received his medal at Parris Island on Sept. 19, just before the graduation of 869 Marines. Col. W.K. Rockey, the 3/5 Battalon Commander who made the recommendation in 1968, presented the medal. Former M Co. 3/5 Capt. Jim Mitchell, who re-submitted the award package to HQMC in 2006, came to show his support, also, Ken Fields, who served in M Co. 3/5 Weapons Plt. with Ambrose (For more information, see "WTOC Salutes Silver Star Vietnam Veteran"). (See also Frank Ambrose, USMC).

1. BrigGen. James Laster, Col. W.K. Rockey, LCpl. Frank Ambrose
2. Col. W.K. Rockey, LCpl. Frank Ambrose, former Capt. Jim Mitchell
3. LCpl. Frank Ambrose with son, Brent, USAF

Semper Fi, Frank...long overdue!
~ Brad and Debbe Reynolds~


(Submitted by Gary Crowell, Oct. 8, 2008)

BLT 3/5 Newsletter-REUNION 2008 WRAP-UP

Memories of our 2008 3/5 reunion still linger. Photographs help recall those of our Marine family who attended the gathering, as well as the events and good times we had. From the comments, notes and emails I received, it seems that everyone enjoyed the weekend.

I was especially moved by the words of our brothers and their spouses who were attending their first reunion. They found the entire experience to be very positive and wholesome. Most spoke the same or similar words: "I'm glad I came, but I wish I had done so a lot sooner".

The National Museum of the Marine Corps was a great location for our Friday night reception. What an impressive place! The Corps now has a first-class facility for preserving and presenting its history and legacy for generations to come.

How fortunate we were to have such good weather for our trip to DC to visit our Wall, and the Korean and WWII Memorials. The Wall will always be a sacred place for all of us; one that still evokes strong emotion and yes, even a sense of comfort.

Later, at the Iwo Jima Memorial, we felt that special pride and Esprit de Corps known only to Marines. And what about that photo frenzy when our ladies gathered at the base of the Memorial to have their picture taken; another unforgettable memory.

The banquet at The Clubs at Quantico was a delightful function. The warmth and cheerfulness of our Marine family and friends made for a very special evening. What an honor it was to have our two WWII 3/5 Marines join us, R. V. Burgin and Harry Bender. They were inspiring. Glad they had this occasion to formally present their unique photograph to an official representative of the Marine Corps Museum.

My gratitude goes to Bill and Eileen Chapman for giving the invocation and benediction, John Olsen for handling the silent auction, Joe Dodson, our Regimental Piper, for playing his moving renditions on the bagpipes, and to Gary Williams and Dick Weber (accompanied by his two grandsons) for being the color guard detail.

I also thank Tom Gainer for overseeing our website, Joe Holt for maintaining our contact lists, Pat Dodson for helping with registration and my wife, Donna, for keeping track of registration, hotel reservations and, of course, the money; but, I especially thank her for simply tolerating me throughout the whole reunion process.

Needless to say, my appreciation is extended to everyone who donated cash to assist our brothers in getting to the reunion and purchasing items for the hospitality room, and to those who donated prizes for the raffle drawings and the silent auction, including Field Logic, Inc. and Sgt Grit for their sponsorship.

As most of you know, our next reunion will be in 2010 in San Antonio, Texas. "Yukon" John Harris and Tess (the "Gypsy") have volunteered to be in charge. Knowing their love for our special 3/5 brotherhood and family members, I have no doubt that they will do an outstanding job. Periodic updates regarding the reunion will be posted to our website at www.jarhead2008.com (later to be changed to jarhead2010).

Some of you have contacted me about getting one of the reunion T-shirts. Well, I am pleased to tell you that there are a limited number available that can be purchased through Sgt Grit Inc. by contacting Kristy Fomin at kristy@grunt.com or calling 866-776-2607 ext. 112. The cost is $11.00 plus shipping and handling.

Also, I have the 3/5 reunion poster available for purchase. If you want another poster or know Marines who would like to have a copy, please send requests to me at: Gary E. Crowell, 857 Hillside Drive, Camp Hill, PA 17011. The cost is $15.00 (includes postage and handling).

In closing, I must tell you that it was an honor and privilege for me to serve as the person-in-charge of the 2008 reunion. The great turnout and the many expressions of thanks and appreciation made all the work worthwhile. Thanks for being there!

I look forward to seeing all of you at our 2010 reunion in San Antonio. In the meantime, stay healthy and in good spirit.

Semper Fi,~Gary Crowell


(Sent in by Frank Jurney, June 10, 2008)

Leatherneck Articles-"Operation ESSEX" by LtCol. Otto Lehrack
(articles posted with permission of Leatherneck Magazine)


Leatherneck Articles-"Operation SWIFT, Part 1 by LtCol. Otto Lehrack
(articles posted with permission of Leatherneck Magazine)


Leatherneck Articles-"Operation SWIFT, Part 2by LtCol. Otto Lehrack
(articles posted with permission of Leatherneck Magazine)


(Sent in by Steve Lovejoy, June 5, 2008)

2nd Plt. M Co. 3/5, 1967
(We are trying to identify the Marines in these pictures, If anyone has any info, please let us know)

1. L-R Ralph "Doc" Ewing, corpsman, unknown, Jeff Goss, Ron Mercurio, unknown
2. Unknown
3. John Lund

1. Bottom Row Left Ron Pizana
2. Taken Late Summer: Shower with a view!!
3. Bridge detail after Swift?


(Sent in by Otto Lehrack, June 1, 2008)

Sea Tiger Articles-Operation SWIFT


(Sent in by JD Murray, May 8, 2008)

For our Marines and Sailors Who fought with the M16E1
Mar67 to Dec67

The Unions, Cochise, Swift, and Essex were the 5th Marine operations where we lost so many trying to unjam their weapons. I remember distinctly when the 196th Light Infantry Brigade relieved us on Hill 63 late Sept/early Oct. Their weapons were filthy and I asked how they cleaned them. "We just fire them to clean them". 'Course they had the buffer group and Chrome chamber we hadn't received yet. I took 10 M Co weapons and we went down to the wire and fired against ten of their weapons--yes, all ten of ours malfunctioned--none of theirs did.

After Swift, a Full Col. came to M Co, examined our weapons, and chewed my butt out for not requiring sufficient cleaning of weapons. I have pondered over his remarks for many years.

I would like the entire Saga of the M16E1 as told by Dick Culver to be published for our troops. Semper Fi~JD


The Saga of the M16 in Vietnam, Parts 1 and 2
(the following email from Dick Culver to Don Greenlaw is reprinted with Dick Culver's permission)

Here's a copy of my two scribblings concerning the infamous beginnings of the "Matty-Mattel Specials". McNamara wouldn't allow the distribution of 30-round magazines to anyone other than the Army Special Forces, as their acquisition was considered to be "non-cost effective"... We had to agree with his analysis, as it was nearly impossible to get off the original 20-rounds! Wally Green had just gotten up on TV and announced that the only thing wrong with the M16 is that there weren't enough of the darned things! Again, we had to agree, it took essentially 20-rifles to get off 20-shots! That wasn't the point of course, but we had turned in every required ordnance malfunction report, and only got back an analysis from Ordnance that WE were responsible for their poor showing due to improper maintenance, lubrication and cleaning! Egad! We could have "eaten off the damned things" and I had grown up around ordinance.

My Pappy had shot for the Marine Corps back in 1919, 1920, and 1921. He taught me proper weapons maintenance from my earliest years, and had fired high individual on the Range at Parris Island. I had shot for the Marine Corps Reserve as a young Sergeant, placing in the Wimbledon Cup, and had shot for the USMC Rifle Team in the Summer of 1965. You may rest assured those damned rifles in my Rifle Company in RVN were surgically clean. I smelled a large rodent, and figured that many individuals in high places had been "directed" to put their "chop" on the excellence of the latest rifle!

The two (included) Sea-Stories will give you an idea of what we went through to keep our kids from getting killed because of McNamara's "Bottom Line"... I knew I was gonna' take it in the shorts for my rather vociferous and outspoken views, but somebody had to stick his neck in the noose, and it fell to Mike Chervenak (my XO) and Myself... We both became pariahs, but they knew we had the facts straight, and as the old saying goes, our ducks in a row... Our efforts caused the simultaneous instigation of 5-full blown Investigations:
1) 9th MAB Investigation,
2) A 3rd Marine Division Investigation,
3) A 1st Marine Division Investigation,
4) A 3rd Marine Regimental Investigation, and...
5) A Congressional Investigation, headed by Congressman "Speed O. Long" from Louisiana (a shirttail relative of Huey P. Long).
They hid the two of us so far back in the "ding-toolies" that they had to pipe sunlight into our "scuzzy-fannies"... Did it work? Yeah, that it did, but there was a lot of scurrying around under the bulkheads...
Was it worth it? Wellll... I probably wouldn't have made much of a Commandant at any rate, but it was a job that had to be done - and in retrospect, It had to be done by someone. The worse part is that things were being slowly worked out, and by the time the first year or so ground to a halt, the things were beginning to function after a fashion. Would things have been naturally worked out in the normal scheme of things? Eventually I suppose, but Mike and I kinda' kicked things off "dead -center" that might well have taken a year or so of many of kids getting killed... Mike and I simply weren't ready to let a lot of first rate Marines hang out to dry to save a lot of reputations. Following the evolution, many of my so-called friends avoided me like the plague, except for a couple of old time fiends that stuck with me through thick and thin; some even following me to the Sand Dunes of Saudi Arabia to train (or attempt to train) the "Camelnecks" (heh, heh, heh)... If you'll take the time to read the two Sea-Stories, you'll see what went on behind the scenes some years back.

URLs for the two M16 Sea-Stories:

Thanks for your efforts on the Kids taking it in the shorts to give us some sort of political Moral High Ground! Egad!

Semper Fidelis~Dick Culver


(Sent in by Brad and Debbe Reynolds, April 21, 2008)

Remembering Kayla Vandegriff
March 15, 1948--April 21, 2008

On April 21, 2008, Kayla Vandegriff began a new journey, free from the pain of terminal cancer. Kayla will always be with us, remembered as Bill Vandegriff’s wife and best friend, a loving mother and grandmother, a spiritual and physical healer, and a friend who accepted people without judgment. Our hearts and prayers are with Bill and Kayla's family.~Brad and Deb

Bill and Kayla Vandegriff
3/5 Reunion LaGrange, Georgia 2002

The first time I saw Kayla there was such a glow and warmth that surrounded her. I could tell she was a special person. We sat and talked while she was threading real small beads into a pattern, and she did it without stabbing herself a thousand times. Later on that day, Kayla showed me and Deb the many Beaded Purple Hearts she had done that were going to be presented to the wives of 3/5 Vietnam Vets that reunion in Georgia.

There’s a heaviness in my heart as I sit and look around our office and Kayla’s handy work and know Kayla is not with us, but also relieved to know she is no longer suffering as her new journey begins. Will Miss You, but Not Forget You. Semper Fi, Kayla~LCpl. Brad Reynolds, M Co. 3/5, USMC/Ret

Bill, Kayla, Sarah (daughter), Marilyn (close friend), BJ (son)
3/5 Reunion LaGrange, Georgia 2003

(Sent in by Paul Merryman)


I was introduced to the Vandegriff family in 2004. I followed them to the 3/5 Reunion. Meeting Kayla for the first time was like I knew her a lifetime. She was a women of stature with a heart full of compassion and love. Bill and family, I am forever grateful I had the chance to meet this wonderful women. May the great spirit of her ancestors know that a great woman is coming to there midst. You have my deepest sympathies. May God grant your spirit be calmed knowing that she is at peace. Your comfort and support you gave me at the reunion will always be cherished in my memories, a fellow 3/5 member. Forever your humble servant~Paul Merryman


(Sent in by Tom Lindsay, Apr. 19, 2008)

Tom Lindsay and Tony Goodrich at the Bataan Death March
New Mexico, 2008

I had two uncles on Bataan in WWII, Y.C. Lindsay and Mel Waldrop, they both survived the Bataan Death March and 3 1/2 years as POWs of the Japanese. They were beaten, starved, witnesed the slaughter of their brothers and childhood friends. They survived their trip on the Hell Ships to Japan where they were slave laborers until the end of the war. They both weighed less than ninety pounds when they were liberated. I started going to the Bataan Memorial Death March in New Mexico in 1997, and have not missed a year since. Both of my uncles always were there until their deaths, they both died in 2004. I continue to go to honor my uncles and those they served with. I mentioned to Tony Goodrich at one of our reunions about the Bataan March in N.M. and asked him to join me. He did this year, we had a great time, and will be there again next year.~Semper Fi, Tom


(Sent in by Steve Lovejoy, Mar. 9, 2008)

2nd Plt. M Co. 3/5, 1967
(We are trying to identify the Marines in these pictures, If anyone has any info, please let us know)

1. Steve Lovejoy
2. Unidentified, Steve Lovejoy (right)
3. Dave Ryan
4. Artillery

1. Pizana on the left, Wolfgang Ludge in helmet and glasses, Ryan in front of them
2. Face sure looks like Denis Flood, slight chance it's Rollie Blurton

1. John Lobur with arms raised in bunker on bridge detail
3. Cleaning machine guns, Pizana on left, Bert Watkins next, others unknown

(Much thanks to John Lobur for helping with names and captions)


(Sent in by Steve Lovejoy, Mar. 4, 2008)

2nd Plt. M Co. 3/5, 1967
John Lobur (left) and Steve Lovejoy

SEPT. 2007 I was somewhat apprehensive as I was driving the 350 miles south to San Clemente, Ca. for the commemoration of Operation SWIFT, 40 years ago, Sept. 4, 1967. Of course the 4th was the most talked about, but other events also happened during the rest of the operation. I wasn't too sure how things would go, but when I arrived and met my long-time friend, John Lobur and his lovely wife Jan, my fears quickly disappeared. John and I had spent many a day surviving in Vietnam, and it had been 31 years since we had last seen each other. It was as if we had just been separated for a short time!

We went up to Chuck Goebel's mom's home, in Lake Forrest for a back yard barbecue. Chuck, his mom, and wife Christy, Capt. J.D. Murray, Jack Swan, and others, not to mention USMC personnel at Camp Pendleton went beyond the call to organize and manage this reunion. A big thanks to all!

During the barbecue, I was interested to discover what had happened to several of my fellow Marines. I will give one example: After being on an all night ambush, with (I believe 6 men), we were fired upon by an AC47 gunship. At least one was KIA on one side of me and one WIA on the other, each being about 3-4 feet from me. I never knew what happened to the wounded Marine until Larry Nunez spoke of his being wounded during Swift by friendly fire. I spoke with Larry and we agreed that it was the AC47 gunship incident! Finally, after 40 years, I knew who it was that had been wounded and what had happened to him after he was medi-vaced. I also discovered the names of the others. Wayne Carnell lost his life and Raines was the 2nd WIA. Of course, those who did not survive Swift were the ones most honored, but we also celebrated the survivors and were grateful to learn of their lives since, even though at least some of us have suffered greatly either physically, mentally, or both, we were able to embrace each other and give thanks.

To sum up, I believe most, if not all of us that were there at the reunion, realize how important we are to each other. We were in battle(s) and now, since we have shared experiences, a bond is created that those who have not gone through this, will never know. Whether we have told others over the years or not, I think getting together allows us to realize that we will always be in each others' prayers and thoughts. I also discovered that by talking with each other we can piece together memories of actions that may have not been complete. Consequently, we owe each other debts of gratitude for what we did in Vietnam and appreciation for each other now. I guess what this all adds up to is that we all are heroes to each other! (P.S. Sorry, I do not remember Raines' first name).~Steve Lovejoy

John Lobur (left) and Steve Lovejoy, Sept. 2007

(See also Operation SWIFT Reunion/Memorial, 2007)


(Sent in by Mike Alden, Feb. 18, 2008)

Greetings to all!! "Doc" Bob Aloisio, Richard Reed, Ron Thayer, Tom Wiseman, and myself, along with our wives had a minnie reunion near Davenport, IA this weekend, 15, 16 and 17th of Feb. It was a good time for all. Richard Reed and his wife Vicky had just returned from visiting the Freemans (Joey's folks) in Greenville, S.C. Joey's dad gave Richard this picture. It is one Joey took during that mentioned resupply somewhere around Tomahawk and Maxwell Fire Support Base, SOME TIME FRAME NOW ESTIMATED AROUND END OF JAN 69. Richard sharing this picture is most appreciated by us, myself in paticular, as this is the first picture I have seen of Ron Christiansen. One that you can actually know who he is.

1st squad, 1st plt. "M" Co. 3/5, late Jan. 1969

Pictured standing from L-R: Ron Christianson (Millville, CA), Les Thompson (Orlando, FL), Richard Reed (Knoxville, IA), Mike Alden (Manly, IA), David Johnston (Pinkerting, Ohio), Simpson, and kneeling, Luther Maxwell (only known picture of Luther, unless someone else has one they don't know about).To anyone not aware, Christianson,Thompson, and Johnston were K.I.A. on Hill 332. Also in rememberance K.I.A. on 332, Dennis Merryman, Joey Freeman. I pass this picture on with a sincere appreciation for the Freemans and Richard Reed for sharing this wonderful picture of members of 1st squad, 1st plt. "M" Co. 3/5. Semper FI.~Mike Alden


(Sent in by Jim Spreine, Feb. 15, 2008)

Jim Spreine

I served with M Co. 3/5 from 66-67, I was one of the guys who was with them when they formed up at Camp Pendleton and then was with them when they first got to Vietnam. My MOS was 0311. I left the unit during operation Desoto and was transferred to Armed Forces Police in DaNang. I did a second tour and remained with the Armed Forces Police unit. I hate to admit it, but I have forgotten so very much about that time period, especially the names of the people I served with. I guess it is time for me to start remembering.

I retired as the Police Chief for the City of Laguna Beach, California. I have been retired now for two years. after serving as a police officer for 35 and 1/2 years.

I am hoping that your website will put me in touch with some the men I served with and help me with remembering their names. The one name I will always remember is Woody Draper - he had a knack for cutting a trail and I had a knack for reading a map. He and I often were the lead squad when we went out on patrol or on operations.

I am hoping that some of the guys will remember me and get in touch with me so I can start remembering names with faces. I guess I am one of the guys that came back and thought if I just put it out of my mind it would go away. Well, as you know it doesn't, but I have done a good job of forgetting the names of those I served with - I am now ready to remember. Regards and Semper Fi, Jim


(Sent in by "Doc" Phil Stern, Feb. 2, 2008)

"Doc" Phil Stern, 2nd plt. M/3/5

I was assigned to 2nd plt M/3/5 Dec 67-Feb 68. On 2/6/68, 2nd platoon was trapped in an horseshoe ambush. I was the only corpsman caught. I was shot that day and evacuated along with the others, so the 6th was my last day with the unit.

I was with Cpl. William Buckles when he died on 2/6/68. He and I both earned Silver Stars and Purple Hearts that day. He paid a much high price. I have always kept him in my thoughts as it was he who helped keep this young rookie alive his first two months in-country. He shared tapes and letters from home, laughs, and tears. I visited his grave in FL in 1995 and left a Purple Heart and a note for his family. After speaking to his brother, I learned of the effects of his death on his family and other loved ones. If he only knew how his death affected so many people. I'm sure M/3/5 will have a reunion in a better place someday, and joke and coke together again. Semper Fi.~Phil "Doc" Stern (See also Cpl. William Buckles Memorial page).

The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the SILVER STAR MEDAL to


For service as set forth in the following


“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as a Corpsman with Company M, Third Battalion, Fifth marines, First Marine Division in connection with operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam. On the morning of 6 February 1968, Company M was maneuvering toward suspected enemy positions in the village of Thanh Quit when the marines suddenly came under intense hostile small arms, automatic weapons and mortar fire and sustained several casualties. Disregarding his own safety, Hospitalman STERN fearlessly moved across the fire-swept terrain and began rendering first aid to the wounded men. While treating a casualty, he was wounded in the ankle and became unable to walk. Steadfastly refusing medical treatment, he ignored his injury and crawled about the hazardous area, administering first aid to his comrades. When his unit was ordered to withdraw to a more defensible position, he assisted in evacuating the casualties and, utilizing a poncho, dragged a wounded man across the fire swept terrain to a position of relative safety. Only after all casualties had been moved to covered positions, did he permit himself to be evacuated. By his courage, sincere devotion to duty in the face of great personal danger, Hospitalman STERN upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.”


Doc Stern in Marine Corps League Uniform

"Me and my wife at last Year's MC Ball (2007). I was guest speaker."~Phil Stern


(Sent in by Denny Farrell, Jan. 26, 2008)

Denny Farrell (Chicago) and Sgt. Kim, Korean Rok Marines 1969 Monkey Mt., relaxing

I'm Denny Farrell, but I can't jump that high any more....I was with the Korean Roc Marines and the White Horse Div in Nam in 1969. All the best,~Denny F.



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