U.S. Marine Corps 1942-1945
U.S. Army Reserve 1946-1949
Iowa Air National Guard 1949-1951
U.S. Air Force 1951-1977
World War II 1942-1945
Cold War 1945-1977
Korean War 1953
Vietnam War 1967-1973 (POW)
Bud Day was born on February 24, 1925, in Sioux City, Iowa. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps on December 10, 1942, and spent 30 months in the South Pacific during World War II before receiving an honorable discharge on November 24, 1945.
After the war, Day joined the U.S. Army Reserve on December 11, 1946, and served until December 10, 1949. He was appointed a 2d Lt in the Iowa Air National Guard on May 17, 1950, and went on active duty in the U.S. Air Force on March 15, 1951.
Lt Day completed pilot training and was awarded his pilot wings at Webb AFB, Texas, in September 1952, and completed All-Weather Interceptor School and Gunnery School in December 1952. He served as an F-84 Thunder jet pilot with the 559th Strategic Fighter Squadron of the 12th Strategic Fighter Wing at Bergstrom AFB, Texas, from February 1953 to August 1955, with deployments to Omisawa, Japan, during this time in support of the Korean War.
His next assignment was as an F-84 and F-100 Super Sabre pilot with the 55th Fighter Bomber Squadron of the 20th Fighter Bomber Wing and later on the wing staff at RAF Wethersfield, England, from August 1955 to June 1959, followed by service as an Assistant Professor of Aerospace Science at the Air Force ROTC detachment at St. Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri, from June 1959 to August 1963. During his service in England, he became the first person ever to live through a no-chute bailout from a jet fighter.
CPT Day attended Armed Forces Staff College for Counterinsurgency Indoctrination training at Norfolk, Virginia, from August 1963 to January 1964, and then served as an Air Force Advisor to the New York Air National Guard at Niagara Falls Municipal Airport, New York, from January 1964 to April 1967.
MAJ Day then deployed to Southeast Asia, serving first as an F-100 Assistant Operations Officer at Tuy Hoa AB, South Vietnam, before organizing and serving as the first commander of the Misty Super FACs at Phu Cat AB, South Vietnam, from June 1967 until he was forced to eject over North Vietnam and was taken as a Prisoner of War on August 26, 1967. He managed to escape from his captors and make it into South Vietnam before being recaptured and taken to Hanoi. After spending 2,028 days in captivity, COL Day was released during Operation Homecoming on March 14, 1973. He was briefly hospitalized to recover from his injuries at March AFB, California, and then received an Air Force Institute of Technology assignment to complete his PhD in Political Science at Arizona State University from August 1973 to July 1974.
His final assignment was as an F-4 Phantom II pilot and Vice Commander of the 33rd Tactical Fighter Wing at Eglin AFB, Florida, from September 1974 until his retirement from the Air Force on December 9, 1977. MISTY 1, Col Bud Day, died on July 27, 2013, and was buried at Barrancas National Cemetery at NAS Pensacola, Florida.
His Medal of Honor Citation reads:
On 26 August 1967, Col. Day was forced to eject from his aircraft over North Vietnam when it was hit by ground fire. His right arm was broken in 3 places, and his left knee was badly sprained. He was immediately captured by hostile forces and taken to a prison camp where he was interrogated and severely tortured. After causing the guards to relax their vigilance, Col. Day escaped into the jungle and began the trek toward South Vietnam. Despite injuries inflicted by fragments of a bomb or rocket, he continued southward surviving only on a few berries and uncooked frogs. He successfully evaded enemy patrols and reached the Ben Hai River, where he encountered U.S. artillery barrages. With the aid of a bamboo log float, Col. Day swam across the river and entered the demilitarized zone. Due to delirium, he lost his sense of direction and wandered aimlessly for several days. After several unsuccessful attempts to signal U.S. aircraft, he was ambushed and recaptured by the Viet Cong, sustaining gunshot wounds to his left hand and thigh. He was returned to the prison from which he had escaped and later was moved to Hanoi after giving his captors false information to questions put before him. Physically, Col. Day was totally debilitated and unable to perform even the simplest task for himself. Despite his many injuries, he continued to offer maximum resistance. His personal bravery in the face of deadly enemy pressure was significant in saving the lives of fellow aviators who were still flying against the enemy. Col. Day’s conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Armed Forces.
Death: Mar. 9, 1995
Fayetteville, Cumberland County, North Carolina, USA
Daniel Pitzer was born in Fairview, WV, and joined the West Virginia National Guard in December of 1947. He graduated from West Virginia Public Schools in 1950. During his first year of college, his National Guard unit was called to active duty and moved to Ft. Benning, GA. He joined active Army, volunteering for airborne training, receiving his Airborne Wings on his 21st birthday. His first assignment was to XVIII Airborne Corps Artillery as a communications team leader and later transferred to the 5th RCT, Korea.
At the end of the Korean Conflict, he was transferred to Otsu, Japan, where he was assigned to Headquarters, South West Command, Infantry School at Ft. Benning, 3rd Armored Division Combat Command “A’ in Kirchgoens, Germany, and finally to 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, NC. He volunteered for Special Forces in 1960 and served as a medic, heavy and light weapons sergeant and team leader on various A-teams during his 15-year military career.
He arrived in the Republic of Vietnam in July of 1963. On October 29, 1963, while out on patrol with the Vietnamese Special Forces (LLDB), he was wounded and captured by the Viet Cong. He was a prisoner of war for four years, gaining release in 1967. One of his fellow POWs was Nick Rowe. On Nov. 11, 1967, after four years of torture and suffering from Beri Beri, malnutrition, malaria, hepatitis and having lost more than 85 lbs, he was returned to U.S. control.
Upon his return to the United States, he was hospitalized for eight months at Fort Bragg’s Womack Army Hospital, and following his release he served in both the 6th Special Forces Group (A) and the 5th Special Forces Group (A). His follow-on assignment was as an instructor with the U.S. Army JFK Center for Military Assistance.
In 1969, he wrote an article for Look Magazine regarding his four years in captivity. It follows next . . .
February 18, 1969
THE ANIMAL CALLED POW
“My Four Years in a Vietcong Prison
By MSgt Daniel Lee Pitzer, as told to Warren Rogers
In Vietnam in 1963, LOOKS James Karales caught Dan Pitzer… slogging back from patrol. The next day, Pitzer was captured. For four years, like Solzhenitsyn’s Ivan Denisovich, he marveled each day to be still alive. His story:
GOING THERE was routine. We moved out at three in the morning of October 29, 1963 – Capt. Humbert R. Versace, a U.S. Army adviser, and Lt. James N. Rowe and I, both members of the Special Forces, the Army’s “Green Berets.” We were with a company of the South Vietnamese Army’s Special Forces, probing for Vietcong. Another company had taken off three hours earlier, to get around in back of the target village, 14 kilometers from our base. Our plan was to trap any VC in the village between us and the blocking company.
Routinely, we sloshed through rice paddies and swamps, from our camp at Tan Phu in An Xuyen Province, just about as far south as you could go in the Mekong Delta. When we reached the village, there were no VC. The company that had left earlier decided to return to camp. So did we, but by a different route.
On our way home, trudging along one of the uncounted canals that crisscross the delta, we drew fire. We fired back and moved, but the closer we got to our base, the more VC we ran into. Soon we were surrounded. We radioed for artillery and air support, but the VC kept jamming our signal. We managed, however, to squeeze one message through. I did my best as a medic for the wounded.
Captain Versace had lost his glasses and was having trouble seeing. Lieutenant Rowe had a small wound in his left thigh. It was impossible to tell how many VC there were, but we could see them coming on. We regrouped with a handful of Vietnamese, all that was left of the company, and withdrew about 70 yards to a canal. Just as I jumped in, the whole canal bank exploded. I looked up, and there was a VC with a K-50 submachine gun, firing almost point-blank. I could see flames spitting from the muzzle, and I could hear bees swarming past my ears. A K-50 fires a 35 round clip at the rate of 90-100 rounds a minute, and how the man mimed me I will never know. I shot him.
We left the canal and ran for a cane field. The VC spotted us and came running and firing. We were split up and confused, and I knew there was no hope of fighting our way out. I decided to swim for it. I dropped in the mud and buried my M-79 grenade launcher, maps and other gear. I heard Captain Versace yelling that he was hit. I hesitated. I did not want to be captured, but I could not run off on the Captain. Just as I reached him, something exploded-a mortar round or a concussion grenade-and I was knocked down, shrapnel in my right shoulder.
I looked up, and there was a VC with an automatic weapon pointed at me. He took away my .45 caliber automatic pistol and my wristwatch. He tied my hands behind me with the small towel that most Vietnamese peasants wear around their necks.
Other VC came up. We started walking the canal path, and then we were running because mortar rounds were coming in, apparently from our relief force. We caught up with other VC who had captured Lieutenant Rowe. They sat me down, took off my green canvas-and-leather jungle boots and socks and blindfolded me.
Some of the villagers gathered around, shouting and pelting me with rocks and dirt. The VC held them off and shoved me to a canal and into what I found out later was a sampan. As I fell, I cracked my left ankle against something and broke it. Under way, I could hear aircraft strafing and bombing, and soon we were receiving artillery fire too. We pulled up, and I was dragged ashore. When the planes went away, we got back in the sampan, moved a short distance on the canal and again went ashore. Artillery was still coming in, and we were all made to lie down. The VC offered us rice, but I was too wrought up to eat.
After dark, we moved along the canal to a little grass hut. From inside came the voice of Captain Versace: “Bac si! Bac si!” In Vietnamese, this means “doctor” or “medic.” The VC refused to let me help him. They tied Rowe and me together outside the building. The mosquitoes were fierce, and my ankle, swelling badly, was painful. All the while, I could hear the Captain calling, “Bac si! Bac si!”
After about three hours, they blindfolded Rowe and me, lashed us back to back, and put us into a sampan. We were delivered to a small camp built among tall, dense trees and surrounded by knee-deep mud. Along with Captain Versace, we were put into a small cage just big enough for the three of us. It was made of mangrove logs nailed and tied and wrapped in barbed wire. The VC kept a kerosene light on us at all times. They put mosquito nets around us. The Captain’s left leg had three rounds through it, one apparently penetrating the bone around the knee, and he groaned with pain. He also had two flesh wounds in his back.
The VC brought us rice and a canned fish like sardines for breakfast the next morning, but none of us could eat much. I kept asking them to let me attend the Captain, to no avail. Finally, they sent in a medic, and he cleansed the wounds and administered a shot of penicillin. On the fourth day, they took Versace away to a VC hospital.
After about a week in the cage, we were taken out, blindfolded and, hands tied behind our backs and under a covering of straw mats, floated by sampan to what appeared to be a training camp. There were plenty of VC soldiers around. First, my hands were untied and my blindfold removed, and I was forced to lie on the ground with a VC standing over me with a bayonet, as if he had just captured me. A photographer took pictures. Next, with our hands tied behind us again, Rowe and I were marched around by the youngest and smallest of the VC while the photographer snapped away. They brought Captain Versace out of a makeshift hospital, and the three of us were posed in front of it for more propaganda pictures.
A week later, three elderly Vietnamese called on us. Speaking English with a French accent, they asked us who we were. We stuck to the military Code of Conduct and gave them name, rank, serial number, date of birth and no more. They told us we would be moved to a more permanent prison camp and a day or so later, the three of us were blindfolded, bound and hidden under a straw mat in a sampan. My ankle was still hurting a lot, but I found out much later that I had done a passable job of setting the break. I had cutoff the lower legs of my fatigue pants and with strips of the fabric bound the ankle tightly after moving the bone around until it seemed to be back in place. X rays later showed it was only two degrees off and did not have to be reset.
We traveled for five and a half days, moving at night, sleeping by day. By slipping the blindfold and watching the stars, I could tell we were traveling south, deeper through the U Minh Forest and closer to the southernmost tip of Vietnam. We slept aboard the sampans, except for one day I remember most uncomfortably. We holed up in a cowshed and awoke covered with leeches. Shivering with disgust, we pulled them off, and one of the VC burned off the still-clinging heads with a cigarette.
Our new camp, built of mangrove trees was high and dry, but surrounded by hostile terrain. We had plenty of water, caught during rains and stored in tanks, and plenty of crabs, fish and shrimp. But none of us could keep food down. Most of the two meals a day were wasted on me. Captain Versace was put into a hut the VC called a dispensary. Rowe came down with amebic dysentery, and they gave him shots, but he wasted away. He and I were together then, in one of two wooden cages whose bars were interwoven with barbed wire. Each night, we were put into leg irons.
In December, 1963, an interpreter suggested we write our families. But, suspicious that any such letters might be used for propaganda we asked if we could write instead to the International Red Cross. This we did. About three weeks later, we were told the letters did not go through, but that we could still write our families. Again we refused.
I kept losing weight because I could not eat the rice. By the end of 1963, I was down to about 140 pounds from 185. I became so weak that if I stood up quickly, I would pass out. I knew that, to live, I would have to learn to eat the rice. I would force the stuff down, vomit, rest a while, then try again. Eventually, I began to manage, and I actually gained a few pounds. Toward the end of January, 1964, we were moved again. In the new camp, hidden in an even denser forest than the last, we were isolated in wooden cages barely big enough for one man. ‘We were told arrangements were being made to free us in an exchange of prisoners. The VC questioned us, trying to get more than name, rank, serial number, date of birth. We just sat, mute.
In April, Captain Versace was taken away. He was still pretty sick. Rowe and I, from our separate cages, saw each other occasionally. We would wave and that was about it. Around June, a VC officer told us that negotiations for a prisoner exchange had collapsed.
For some reason, our guards gave us a Fourth of July party. They cooked a chicken for us and produced some bread, the first I had seen for months. But first we had a propaganda speech about how the VC appreciated Independence Day’ because they, too, were fighting for their independence. After that, they allowed us to meet once a week to talk, under the supervision of an interpreter. We managed to throw a few curves past him, however, by using a few words of German.
One old guard who had fought against the French in the Indochina war and loved to tell about it was helpful. He scrounged up some pumpkins, and we ate them until they were practically coming out of our ears. They provided plenty of Vitamin C, and soon I could literally feel the strength coming back in me. But then I suffered hepatitis, and they treated me with liver extract. I had several bouts of diarrhea, for which they gave me sulfa-guanidine. Often, they made propaganda pictures of us receiving injections.
In October, they expanded my cage and moved Rowe in. Another American, M. Sgt. Edward R. Johnson, was put in Rowe’s old cage. It was tremendous to have somebody around. For eight months, I had had only animals for companions. There was a squirrel – I called him Cyrano de Bergerac because he had an unusually long nose – who was hilarious. I fed him whatever I had, usually shrimp shells. On hot sunny days, he would perch on one of the logs of my cage and doze, batting his eyes and slumping, and finally toppling over in a dead sleep. There was a cat, the only rice eating cat I ever saw, which was why I dubbed him Victor Charles, for VC. A dog I christened Mao Tse-tupg did not last long. He disappeared probably into somebody’s soup bowl because the Vietnamese fancy dog almost as much as monkey. We had a monkey curry once, and it was very good.
Early in December, the VC began building a third cage. The new arrival proved to be Army Sgt. Leonard M. Tadios. He was wounded, and I asked if I could treat him. The VC would not let me go to Tadios, but Rowe convinced them he should be allowed to. Like me, Rowe was barefoot and dressed in VC black pajamas. Tadios refused to talk freely. He suspected, he told us later, that Rowe was a Russian adviser to the VC. Rowe eventually argued the guards into letting me look at Tadios, and I found a shrapnel wound in his left side and a piece of shrapnel in his left thigh, too deep to be removed then. Much later, when it had worked close to the surface, I cut it out with a razor blade, sterilized over a kerosene-lamp flame.
On December 23, 1964, an American L-19 observation plane zoomed over our camp and dropped red flare markers. Helicopters came in, firing rockets and machine guns. Our cage was open for feeding time, and Rowe and I ran for cover. Two armed guards fell in behind us, and the four of us struck out across the mud and swamps for about five kilometers. We were often in the muck up to our waists; sometimes, our necks. The helicopters stayed all day, bombing and strafing. That night, when we were locked up again, we saw the camp had been pretty well shot up.
At four the next morning, the VC took us back to the swamp. We spent all day in the boats, returning to our cage at night. The next day was the same, except that, to celebrate Christmas we each got five or six ounces of brown-sugar candy. Johnson and Tadios, who had been locked in their cages during the raid, were also brought out, and it was the first chance we all had to get acquainted. Johnson had a shrapnel wound in his right wrist from a helicopter rocket.
Knocking around in the swamp was depressing. It dramatized how hopelessly we were prisoners, not as much of the VC as of the terrain, our physical weakness, our isolation and our unfamiliarity with the area. Even if the VC had said, “You can go, take off and go,” we could never have made it unaided. That was the hell of it.
The VC moved us on December 26, north about 5,000 meters to a dilapidated, apparently abandoned camp. My legs were numb and aching from beriberi, and I could not keep my food down. In February, 1965, we moved again, traveling at night in the usual way. It was a five-day journey this time, to another temporary camp. I kept track of the time by a calendar I drew on cardboard taken from ammunition cans. It was accurate except that I forgot 1964 was leap year. I was one day off for months until I remembered February 29.
Things improved at the new camp, and at a more permanent facility the VC built about 1,000 meters away. They put all four of us together-, fed us pork, gave us vitamin and liver injections and let us listen to the nightly English-language broadcasts by Radio Hanoi. I picked up weight, and Johnson was eating well, but Tadios had little appetite and was losing weight. We passed the time playing cards with a deck I made from the ammunition cardboard; and we talked a lot, about our childhood, our families and our hopes. After a couple of months, they took Rowe away. Then I fell ill again, hardly able to walk. They stopped locking me up in leg irons at night because of a rash from the iron around my ankles.
In June, 1965, Tadios made a break. He was gone for three days. Recaptured, he was put in the camp where Rowe was held, about 500 meters away. In October, Tadios and Rowe both made a break, but they were caught within 24 hours. They were physically wrung-out when put back in with Johnson and me.
The VC encouraged us to listen to Radio Hanoi’s English broadcasts, and we did. That was how we learned that Captain Versace, along with Army Sgt. Kenneth M. Roraback, had been executed in retaliation for Saigon’s execution of three VC terrorists in DaNang. I had known Roraback, a fellow wearer of the Green Beret. We had made the trip to Vietnam together in July, 1963. We argued with our captors about the cold blooded killings: “You executed them. Why not execute us?” The reply was: “Don’t worry you are not in danger of that because Saigon is not going to execute any more of our people now.”
In December, 1965, we moved to a completely rebuilt camp run by a Vietcong major. The guards told us we were now prisoners of something new, the “Liberation Army,” and they went out of their way to be friendly. By New Year’s, we were told the camp was too vulnerable to air attack, and we undertook a roving existence in the U Minh Forest. We slept under ponchos, never more than a week in one place. Tadios was getting sicker all the time. And we were joined then by another very sick man, Army Capt. Orien J. Walker, Jr. I gave him vitamin and anti-malarial shots, but as we moved about, he weakened daily and soon became incoherent. He was taken away, supposedly to a VC hospital. We were told later be had died.
Another American, Army S. Sgt. Joe Parks, came to us in February, 1966. He had been held for about a year in a camp where meat and fresh vegetables were ample. He was healthy looking, even fat, but he began to decline almost immediately. Tadios, too, was slipping. “I can’t eat fish,” he would groan, but he would try, vomit, try again.
In July, we moved again. It was then that S. Sgt. James E. Jackson, Jr., another Green Beret, joined us. We all worked on Tadios, but he came down with amebic dysentery in September and was moved to a VC hospital. Again, we were told later he had died.
We were put to work in December building a camp – Rowe, Johnson, Parks, Jackson and I. As soon as we were finished, the VC moved us to an old, rundown camp. Security was tight. We were put together in a big building enclosed by barbed wire. At Christmas, the VC gave us a chicken and four bottles of beer, together with the inevitable propaganda speech. Parks was in bad shape. He had lost considerable weight, and he had amebic dysentery. On New Year’s Eve night, I remember, he said, “I can’t take it anymore; I’m going to die.” And on the morning of January 1, 1967, Joe Parks died. The VC gave us a new set of pajamas for him. We put these on and wrapped him in cloth and straw matting, and they took him out in a boat. They said they would bury Parks and notify the American authorities.
In March, we moved to a new camp, the best yet. It had a vegetable garden, chickens and even a pig. Security relaxed, and we were allowed to catch our own fish. Johnson was very sick then. He would have died if the VC had not supplied penicillin and streptomycin to fight his amebic dysentery. It was the first time that I had seen enough medication. Jackson, also a medic, took turns with me in tending to Johnson. We force-fed him and finally got him strong enough to move.
In October, we were told we had been selected for release as part of an arrangement worked out with a “peace committee” in the United States. All we had to do, the VC said, was to write letter asking to be allowed to go home to our families. Disbelieving, we took a chance and wrote the letters. At the end of October, Jackson, Johnson and I set out. We took messages from Rowe, who was kept behind, perhaps because he was an officer and more valuable trading material. If that was the VC’s motive, Rowe thwarted them. For a little over a year later, he succeeded in another escape and hid out until his rescue, climaxing an incredible five years as a prisoner of the VC.
The three of us, most of the time blindfolded, moving at night and hiding by day, traveled north and west toward Cambodia. It took two weeks to reach the border, at first by sampan and then by powerboat. We stayed there for a week. They gave us beef, my first in four years. We had canned milk and other marvelous things.
Our guards, some of whom had been with me throughout my captivity, gave us a good-bye party of beer and cookies. On November 10, we went up a river by powerboat into Cambodia. We were then driven by car to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. There, escorted by Royal Palace police, we were taken to what to us were palatial quarters: we each had a shower, a bathroom, a couch and a bed with two sheets and a mosquito net.
A Cambodian military doctor examined us, and somebody handed each of us the Cambodian equivalent of five dollars and said we could buy anything we wanted. I bought shoes, the only thing I wanted; my first shoes in four years.
The next day, we were told to put on the khaki pants and white shirts we had been given. We were taken to the home of the VC representative in Cambodia, and there we met Tom Hayden, the American who had negotiated our release with the VC. The three of us flew with Hayden west, out of Phnom Penh toward Beirut, Lebanon.
There, an American official took us to the Hotel Phoenicia, where I began to comprehend for the first time the reality of my freedom. I had my first hot shower, a little Scotch and some wine with the meal in our room. I ordered Chateaubriand for two, and I ate the whole thing myself.
The ride home from Beirut to Rome to Paris to New York to Washington to Fort Bragg, N.C. is a blur now. I was so nervous and pepped up that I all but passed out as I arrived at Fort Bragg. There, waiting for me in my hospital room was my wonderful wife. I could hardly stand it.
Yet the four years of suppressing emotions were not lightly sloughed off. There were tears, but I was still masking my feelings. To my wife and the people around me, I must have seemed a zombie. Even when my wife told me that both my parents were dead – my mother a year after my capture, and my father the following year – I did not react. It was not until I went home to West Virginia, and they were not there, that the full impact of my loss hit me. And then it hit me hard.
That is how it has been since my release. Things keep coming home to me, belatedly. Slowly, I am rejoining the world. As Lieutenant Rowe, now a major, said, we do not prize our freedom until we lose it. And I know, having spent four years in the hands of the VC, I will never again be the same after being the animal called POW.”
He was promoted to sergeant major on April 20, 1972. During this period from 1969 to 1973, he traveled extensively for the Department of Defense speaking to various community groups about the plight of American POWs. He also assisted in Operation Homecoming for released POWs in 1973.
Medically retired in 1975, he continued working in the arena of POW affairs, focusing on getting an accounting of those still listed as missing in action. During this period, he assisted the U.S. Navy in establishing and operating their Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) Training Program in San Diego. From 1987 until his death, he served as an instructor with the Army’s John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School’s SERE course.
His decorations include:
The Silver Star
Legion of Merit
Prisoner of War
National Defense Service
Vietnam Campaign w/60 devices
United Nations Service
Meritorious Unit Commendation
Master Parachutist Badge and
Combat Infantry Badge
Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller was born in West Point, Virginia to Matthew and Martha Puller. His father was a grocer who died when Lewis was 10 years old. Puller grew up listening to old veterans’ tales of the War Between the States and idolizing Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. He wanted to enlist in the United States Army to fight in the Border Wars with Mexico in 1916, but he was too young and could not get parental consent from his mother.
The following year, Puller attended the Virginia Military Institute but left at the end of his first year as World War I was still ongoing, saying that he wanted to “go where the guns are!” Inspired by the 5th Marines at the Battle of Belleau Wood, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps as a private and attended boot camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina.
Although he never saw action in that war, the Corps was expanding, and soon after graduating he attended NCO school and OCS at Quantico, Virginia, following that. Upon graduation from OCS on June 16, 1919, Puller was appointed to the grade of Second Lieutenant in the Military reserves, but reduction in force from 73,000 to 1,100 officers and 27,400 men following the war led to his being put on inactive status 10 days later and given the rank of corporal.
First Lieutenant Lewis “Chesty” Puller (center left) and Sergeant William “Ironman” Lee (center right) and two Nicaraguan soldiers in 1931
As a corporal, Puller received orders to serve in the Gendarmerie d’Haiti as a lieutenant, seeing action in the United States occupation of Haiti (1915-1934). While the United States was working under a treaty with Haiti, he participated in over forty engagements during the ensuing five years against the Cacos rebels and attempted to regain his commission as an officer twice. In 1922, he served as an Adjutant to Major Alexander Vandegrift, a future Commandant of the Marine Corps.
Puller returned stateside and was finally re-commissioned as a second lieutenant on March 6, 1924, afterward completing assignments at the Marine Barracks in Norfolk, Virginia, The Basic School in Quantico, Virginia, and with the 10th Marine Regiment in Quantico, Virginia. He was assigned to the Marine Barracks at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in July 1926 and in San Diego, California, in 1928.
In December 1928, Puller was assigned to the Nicaraguan “Guardia Nacional” National Guard detachment, where he was awarded his first Navy Cross, (military’s second highest valor award) for his actions from February 16 to August 19, 1930, when he led “five successive engagements against superior numbers of armed bandit forces.” He returned stateside in July 1931 and completed the year-long Company Officers Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, thereafter returning to Nicaragua from September 20 to October 1, 1932, and was awarded a second Navy Cross.
Puller with members of the Guardia Nacional
After his service in Nicaragua, Puller was assigned to the Marine detachment at the American Legation in Beijing, China, commanding a unit of China Marines. He then went on to serve aboard USS Augusta (CA-31), a Cruiser in the Asiatic Fleet, which was commanded by then-Captain Chester W. Nimitz. Puller returned to the States in June 1936 as an instructor at the Basic School in Philadelphia.
In May 1939, he returned to the Augusta as commander of the onboard Marine detachment, and then back to China, disembarking in Shanghai in May 1940 to serve as the executive officer of 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines. He later served as its commanding officer.
World War II
Major Puller returned to the U.S. on August 28, 1941. After a short leave, he was given command of 1st Battalion, 7th Marines (known as 1/7) of the 1st Marine Division, stationed at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, the new Marine amphibious base which would soon be renamed for the 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps, John A. Lejeune, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Early in the Pacific theater the 7th Marines formed the nucleus of the newly created 3rd Marine Brigade and arrived to defend Samoa on May 8, 1942. Later they were redeployed from the brigade and on September 4, 1942, they left Samoa and rejoined the 1st Division at Guadalcanal on September 18, 1942.
Soon after arriving on Guadalcanal, Puller led his battalion in a fierce action along the Matanikau (September 1942), in which Puller’s quick thinking saved three of his companies from annihilation. In the action, these companies were surrounded and cut off by a larger Japanese force. Puller ran to the shore, signaled a United States Navy destroyer, the USS Monssen (DD-436), and then Puller directed the destroyer to provide fire support while landing craft rescued his Marines from their precarious position. For his actions, he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V”.
Puller on Guadalcanal in September, 1942
Later on Guadalcanal, Puller was awarded his third Navy Cross, in what was later known as the Battle for Henderson Field. Puller commanded 1st Battalion 7th Marines (1/7), one of two American infantry units defending the airfield against a regiment strength Japanese force. The 3rd Battalion of the U.S. Army’s 164th Infantry Regiment (3/164) fought alongside the Marines. In a firefight on the night of October 24–25, 1942, lasting about three hours, 1/7 and 3/164 sustained 70 casualties; the Japanese force suffered over 1,400 killed in action, and the Americans held the airfield. It was in this battle that Marine Sergeant John Basilone would earn the Medal of Honor. The Marines awarded Army Lt. Colonel Robert Hall, commander of the 3/164, the Navy Cross for his role in this battle.
Puller was then made executive officer of the 7th Marine Regiment. While serving in this capacity at Cape Gloucester, Puller was awarded his fourth Navy Cross for overall performance of duty between December 26, 1943, and January 19, 1944. During this time, when the battalion commanders of 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines and, later, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, while under heavy machine gun and mortar fire, he expertly reorganized the battalion and led the successful attack against heavily fortified Japanese defensive positions. He was promoted to colonel effective February 1, 1944, and by the end of the month had been named commander of the 1st Marine Regiment. Colonel Puller would lead the 1st Marines into the protracted battle on Battle of Peleliu, one of the bloodiest battles in Marine Corps history during September and October 1944, action where he was awarded his first Legion of Merit. During the summer of 1944, Puller’s younger brother, Samuel D. Puller, the Executive Officer of the 4th Marine Regiment, was killed by a sniper on Guam.
Puller returned to the United States in November 1944, was named executive officer of the Infantry Training Regiment at Camp Lejeune and, two weeks later, Commanding Officer. After the war, he was made Director of the 8th Reserve District at New Orleans, and later commanded the Marine Barracks at Pearl Harbor.
At the outbreak of the Korean War, Puller was once again assigned as commander of the 1st Marine Regiment, with which he made a landing at Inchon on September 15, 1950, and was awarded the Silver Star Medal. For leadership from September 15 to November 2, he was awarded his second Legion of Merit. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross from the Army for action from November 29 to December 5 of that same year, and his fifth Navy Cross for action during December 5–10 at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. It was during that battle when he made the famous quote, “We’ve been looking for the enemy for some time now. We’ve finally found him. We’re surrounded. That simplifies things.”
Colonel Puller studies the terrain during the Korean War.
In January 1951, Puller was promoted to brigadier general and was assigned duty as assistant division commander (ADC) of the 1st Marine Division. On February 24, however, his immediate superior, Major General Oliver Prince Smith, was hastily transferred to command IX Corps when its Army commander, Major General Bryant Moore, died. Smith’s temporary transfer left Puller in command of his beloved 1st Marine Division. Puller would serve as ADC until he completed his tour of duty and left for the United States on May 20, 1951.
General Puller subsequently received promotions to major general and lieutenant general, and served in various command capacities until he suffered a stroke from high blood pressure and was forced to retire in 1955.
Puller was a distant cousin to Army General George S. Patton.
He requested to re-enlist so he could serve in Vietnam in 1966, at the age of 68, however, his request was denied because of his age. General Puller was living in Hampton, Virginia at the time of his passing on October 11, 1971, he was 73 years of age.
Awards and honors – Military decorations and awards
Puller received the Navy Cross, the Navy and Marine Corps second highest military award, five times (the second and only other person to be so honored, after Navy submarine commander Roy Milton Davenport). Puller received the second highest U.S. military award six times; five Navy Crosses and a U.S. Army Distinguished Service Cross.
In addition, Puller received the Silver Star Medal; the Legion of Merit with Combat “V” and Gold Star in lieu of a second award; the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V;” the Air Medal with Gold Stars in lieu of second and third awards; and the Purple Heart Medal. His other medals and decorations include the Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon with four bronze stars; the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal with one bronze star; the World War I Victory Medal with West Indies clasp; the Haitian Campaign Medal; the Second Nicaraguan Campaign Medal; the Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal with one bronze star; the China Service Medal; the American Defense Service Medal with Base clasp; the American Area Campaign Medal; the Asiatic-Pacific Area Campaign Medal with four bronze stars; the World War II Victory Medal; the National Defense Service Medal; the Korean Service Medal with one silver star in lieu of five bronze stars; the United Nations Service Medal; the Haitian Medaille Militaire; the Nicaraguan Presidential Medal of Merit with Diploma; the Nicaraguan Cross of Valor with Diploma; the Republic of Korea’s Ulchi Medal with Gold Star; and the Korean Presidential Unit Citation with Oak Leaf Cluster.
Puller’s only Purple Heart was earned at Guadalcanal on the night of November 9, 1942 – the night before the Marine Corps Birthday. Puller had campaign participation credit (“battle stars”) for Capture and Defense of Guadalcanal, Eastern New Guinea Operations, Cape Gloucester New Britain, and Capture and Occupation of the Southern Palau Islands (Peleliu). His Korean campaign battle stars include North Korean Aggression, Inchon Landing, Communist China Aggression (Chosin Reservoir), First UN Counteroffensive and Communist China Spring Offensive.
Puller is loved by enlisted U.S. Marines for his constant actions to improve their working conditions. Puller insisted upon good equipment and discipline; once he came upon a second lieutenant who had ordered an enlisted man to salute him 100 times for missing a salute. Puller told the lieutenant, “You were absolutely correct in making him salute you 100 times lieutenant, but you know that an officer must return every salute he receives. Now return them all, and I will keep count.”
He continues to be well loved by those who served under him and after him, because he led from the front and never asked a Marine to do anything he would not do first. It is rumored that he continues to motivate Marines and Recruits at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina, where at night you can hear them respectfully say “Good Night, General Chesty, wherever you are.”
- More Medals That You Could Shake a Stick at (toptenz.net)
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- Historic base housing turns 100 (dvidshub.net)
- Marines focus on amphibious roots, Asia-Pacific region (dvidshub.net)
LCDR Roy H. Boehm was born in Brooklyn New York. Boehm enlisted in the Navy in April 1941 at the age of seventeen and saw action in the Pacific theater of operation during WWII from February 1942 until the conclusion of the war in 1945. He participated in recovery of corpses and munitions from the USS Arizona while his ship, the USS Duncan, was being repaired and refitted at Pearl Harbor. He is a survivor of one of the largest “all surface” sea engagements of World War II, the Battle of Cape Esperance at Guadalcanal. Boehm was serving on the destroyer Duncan (DD 485) when the ship received fifty-eight 6″ and 8″ shell hits at point-blank range before going down. He saved a teammate from burning to death by jumping in the ocean and later he had to fight off sharks which eventually killed the sailor he saved. Boehm also participated in the following campaigns and engagements: Battle of the Coral Sea, Bouganville, Truk, Green Island, Emeru, Saipan, Tinian, and Guam. He was engaged in supplying ammunitions to the guerrillas in the Philippines and saw action in Kerama Reto and Okinawa. LCDR Boehm also saw action in the Korean conflict and the war in Vietnam.
While serving in the US Navy, Boehm attained the following qualifications: unlimited deep-sea diving, deep submergence rescue chamber operator for submarine rescue, experimental diving, and salvage diving. He is a qualified Underwater Demolition Expert, and was test pilot for underwater swimmer propulsion units. Boehm is a graduate of Airborne and Ranger Training. In early 1961, under a Presidential Two priority received from President John F Kennedy, Boehm developed, designed, implemented, and led the Navy’s commando organization known as the SEALs. He was the first Officer in Charge (OIC) of SEAL Team Two.
Boehm assisted in the design and implementation of the Navy’s first counterinsurgency course, for which he received the Navy Achievement Medal. Following this, he was named head of the Navy’s River Patrol Craft Division. There he developed tactical procedures, organized, and trained River Patrol Boat sailors for Operation Gamewarden in Vietnam.
LCDR Roy Boehm is authorized to wear the following medals and awards: Bronze Star with combat “V”, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, Navy Presidential Unit Citation (1942), Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation (1967), Navy Good Conduct Medal with 3 Stars, China Service Medal, American Defense Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal w/1 Silver Star/1 Bronze Star/ 1 Arrow Head, Victory Medal WW II, WWII Occupation Medal Navy, National Defense Service Medal with 1 Bronze Star, Korean Service Medal w/2 Bronze Stars, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, US Vietnam Service Medal, Philippines Presidential Unit Citation, Korean Presidential Unit Citation, Philippine Liberation Medal, United Nations Korean Medal, United Nations Medal, RVHJ Campaign Medal with Date, USN Expert Rifle Medal, USN Expert Pistol Medal.
Roy Boehm passed away at the age of 84 on December 30, 2008. Roy’s last wish, that his death not be publicized. He wanted no obituary, no funeral service and no fanfare over his death. Boehm was most proud of a plaque mounted on his wall: “Roy Boehm, Man-O-Warsman.” That honor was bestowed on him by the men who served under his command. “It’s the highest compliment you can get,” Boehm had said.
LCDR Roy Boehm is frequently mentioned in Richard Marcinko’s books. Boehm can be seen in the video program “The Tides Of Specwar”. Roy Boehm and Chuck Sasser have written Roy’s autobiography. “FIRST SEAL” is published by Simon & Schuster’s Pocket Books division. It is one of the best autobiographies I have ever read. It was a pleasure to read and was written so one could visualize the actions while reading.
(Some of this information was retrieved on 10.17.2013 from www.navysealteams.com, and Wikipedia, along with my own reading of his autobiography and our private personal correspondence from 2001.)