Category Archives: Marines

Have We Forgotten Our Heroes? Chapter 16

thI60IPUKY COL Donald gilbert cookCOOK, DONALD GILBERT
Rank/Branch: O3/US Marine Corps
Unit: COMMCO, 3rd Marine Division
Date of Birth: 09 August 1934 (Brooklyn NY)
Home City of Record: Essex Junction VT (also listed in some places as New York NY and Burlington VT)
Date of Loss: 31 December 1964
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Status (in 1973): Prisoner of War/Died in Captivity
Category: 1
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground

Donald Cook was born in Brooklyn, New York. He attended Xavier High School in New York City and St. Michael’s College in Vermont. In 1956 he enlisted in the Marine Corps as a private but was quickly sent for officer training at the OCS in Quantico, Virginia. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1957. He held a series of assignments in the Marine Corps and was sent to Vietnam in late 1964, where he served as an advisor to the Vietnamese Marine Division until he was wounded and captured by the Viet Cong several weeks later. He was held as a prisoner of war by the Viet Cong in the Republic of Vietnam from December 31, 1964 until his death from malaria at age 33. He was posthumously promoted from Captain to Colonel.

Donald Cook was an advisor to the 4th Battalion, Vietnamese Marine Corps operating in the Delta when they engaged the enemy on New Year’s Eve, 1964. Cook was wounded in the leg during the battle and subsequently captured by the Viet Cong. Cook was then 30 years old.

During his years of captivity in camps north of Saigon, Cook set an example difficult to emulate by his fellow POWs. He jeopardized his own health and well-being by sharing his already meager supply of food and scarce medicines with other prisoners who were more ill than he. According to one released POW, Cook was so hard-nosed that he “would have stopped shitting if he had thought ‘Charlie’ was using it for fertilizer.” Cook became nearly legendary in his refusal to betray the Military Code of Conduct.

Air Force Colonel Norman Gaddis, upon his return from captivity, described the impossible task of adhering to the Code of Conduct. Gaddis said that he did not know anyone who had refused to cooperate with their captives after having been tortured to do so, and those who had refused were “not with us today.”

Cook refused to cooperate with his captors in any way. On one occasion, a pistol was put to his head as a threat to cooperate. Cook calmly recited the nomenclature of the parts of the pistol. He would give them nothing.

According to the Provisional Revolutionary Government (PRG) list provided to the U.S. in Paris in 1973, Donald Cook died of malaria in South Vietnam on December 8, 1967 while being moved from one camp to another. The Vietnamese provided this information to the U.S. in 1973, but have not yet “discovered” the location of his remains.

For his extraordinary actions during his captivity, Donald Cook was awarded the Medal of Honor, and has been promoted to the rank of Colonel.

“February 26, 1999
Aegis Guided Missile Destroyer Donald Cook (DDG 75) was commissioned in December in Philadelphia.
Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was the ceremony’s principal speaker. Laurette Cook, widow of the ship’s namesake, is the ship’s sponsor. In the time-honored Navy tradition, Mrs. Cook gave the order to “man our ship and bring her to life!” The ship honors Col. Donald G. Cook, US Marine Corps (1934-1967), who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for gallantry as a prisoner of war. While assigned to the Communications Company, Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division in Saigon, Republic of Vietnam, in Dec. 1964, Cook volunteered to conduct a search and recovery mission for a downed American helicopter. Ambushed on arrival at the site, he was wounded in the leg and captured.
Despite enduring deprivation, exposure, malnutrition and disease, Cook committed himself to providing inspiration for his fellow prisoners to endure and survive during his incarceration in a prison camp near the Cambodian border. Resisting all attempts to break his will, he never veered from the Code of Conduct. He shared food, led daily exercises, provided first aid for injured prisoners and distributed what meager quantities of medicine were available, often surrendering his own rations and medicine to aid fellow prisoners whose conditions were more serious than his own. Reports indicate Cook died in captivity after he succumbed to malaria on Dec. 8, 1967.
USS Donald Cook is the 25th of 51 Arleigh Burke class destroyers currently authorized by Congress. The destroyer carries Tomahawk cruise missiles, as well as Standard missiles to intercept hostile aircraft and missiles at extended ranges. USS Donald Cook is also equipped with the Phalanx Close-In Weapons System and Harpoon anti-ship cruise missiles, which are fired from stand-alone launchers.
USS Donald Cook is crewed by 25 officers and 350 enlisted personnel. The ship was built at Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine, is 505 feet in length, has a waterline beam of 66 feet and displaces approximately 8,580 tons when fully loaded. Four gas-turbine engines power the ship to speeds in excess of 30 knots.”


Have We Forgotten Our Heroes? Chapter 12


Name:                   Thomas Michael Hanratty
Rank/Branch:     Lance Corporal/US Marine Corps
Unit:                      HMM 265, Marine Air Group 16
Date of Birth:       19 June 1946 (Pueblo, CO)
Home of Record: Beulah, CO
Date of Loss:         11 June 1967
Country of Loss:   South Vietnam
Status in 1973:       Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category:                2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground:   CH46A “Sea Knight”

Other Personnel In Incident: Curtis R. Bohlscheid; Charles D. Chomel; Dennis Christie; John J. Foley; Jose J. Gonzales; Michael W. Havranek; James W. Kooi; Jim E. Moshier; John S. Oldham; James E. Widener (missing)


The Boeing-Vertol CH46 Sea Knight arrived in Southeast Asia on 8 March 1966 and served the Marine Corps throughout the rest of the war. With a crew of three or four depending on mission requirements, the tandem-rotor transport helicopter could carry 24 fully equipped troops or 4600 pounds of cargo and was instrumental in moving Marines throughout South Vietnam, then supplying them accordingly.

Because the war in Vietnam lacked a defined front line, the enemy strategy made Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols (LRRP) a needed tool to gather intelligence about communist activities throughout Southeast Asia. The ground commanders who fought the day to day war readily recognized the need for special reconnaissance units at the onset of the fighting. During 1965 provisional LRRP units were formed with all assets they could spare.

On 11 June 1967, Capt. Curtis R. “Dick” Bohlscheid, pilot; Major John S. Oldham, co-pilot; LCpl. Jose J. Gonzales, crewchief; and LCpl. Thomas M. Hanratty, door gunner; comprised the crew of the lead CH46A helicopter (aircraft #150270) on a troop insertion mission. A total of four aircraft were involved in the mission, two CH46 troop transports and two UH1E helicopter gunships that were providing air cover for the transports. In addition to being the aircraft commander of the lead Sea Knight, Capt. Bohlscheid was also the mission commander.

Cpl. Jim E. Moshier, LCpl. Dennis Christie, LCpl. James W. Kooi, LCpl. John J. Foley, LCpl. Michael W. Havranek, PFC Charles Chomel and PFC James E. Widener comprised half of Marine Reconnaissance Team (RT) Somersail One, being inserted into a designated landing zone (LZ). RT Somersail One was on an intelligence gathering mission. Early that morning Capt. Bohlscheid briefed the aircrews on the mission flight plan, while the reconnaissance team waited outside.

The flight of four aircraft departed Dong Ha and proceeded to the southern boundary of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) to an area located in the jungle covered mountains approximately 4 kilometers north of Hill 208, which was identified as the NVA’s 324B Division Command Post during Operation Hastings. It was also located 900 meters west of Hill 174, another well known NVA position.

Capt. Bohlscheid first attempted to insert the RT Somersail One west of a landmark known as “The China Wall.”  The flight pulled away from the briefed LZ when the gunships, which were clearing the LZ by making low strafing passes over the landing zone to set off any booby traps that might have been placed there as well as to locate any enemy positions, began taking enemy ground fire.

The flight returned to Dong Ha to refuel, rearm and plan a second insertion mission attempt. The second attempt was made directly at the base of The China Wall, but once again it was driven off. For the second time the helicopters returned to Dong Ha to rearm, refuel and evaluate their options.

Because of the heavy NVA pressure in the area and the need to gather current intelligence about their activities, headquarters ordered RT Somersail One be inserted at all cost. The four aircraft returned to the DMZ for the third time in a matter of hours. This time the location chosen was approximately 5 miles northwest of Firebase Vandergrift, 9 miles south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) and 11½ miles northwest of Dong Ha, Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam.

Before the Sea Knights landed, both gunships again went to work clearing the proposed LZ. This time no booby traps were sprung and no enemy fire was received. As the Hueys strafed the area, the members of RT Somersail One prepared to initiate their mission once the insertion was completed. Hank Trimble was the pilot of one of the gunship escorts. After clearing the LZ, he stationed his aircraft to the left of Dick Bohlscheid’s, then radioed him to proceed to the LZ.

At 1115 hours, the Sea Knight made its approach. At an estimated altitude of 400-600 feet above the ground, the helicopter transitioned from travel to landing speed. As the lead troop transport did so, other flight members observed it climb erratically in a manner similar to an aircraft commencing a loop. At the same time Capt. Bohlscheid radioed that they had been hit by machinegun fire.

As those aboard the other helicopters watched in horror, portions of the rear rotor blades were seen to separate from the Sea Knight. In almost slow motion, the helicopter’s nose rose, then rose more sharply and continued to climb toward the sky until it was nearly vertical to the ground. It rolled to an inverted position then appeared to perform a “split S” maneuver before it burst into flames and continued out of control. Hank Trimble reported that Dick Bohlscheid keyed his mic at the time he was inverted and started to say something, but what came out was a strangled cry, “Mama.” The Sea Knight crashed into a steep ravine on the north side of a stream that ran through it.

Ground units subsequently entered the area to search for survivors or recover the remains of the dead if possible. Due to a well-entrenched and equally well camouflaged enemy bunker complex surrounding the entire LZ and crash site, the ground units could only inspect the site through binoculars from a distance of approximately 500 meters. During the brief time available to them, they observed no survivors in or around the aircraft wreckage. At the time the ground mission was terminated, all eleven Marines were listed Killed In Action, Body Not Recovered.

If the crew and passengers aboard the Sea Knight died in their loss incident, each man has a right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if any of them were thrown free and managed to survive, the large number of enemy troops actively operating in this region most certainly would have captured them. Either way there is no doubt the Vietnamese could account for them any time they had the desire to do so.

For other Americans who remain unaccounted for their fate could be quite different. Since the end of the Vietnam War well over 21,000 reports of American prisoners, missing and otherwise unaccounted for have been received by our government. Many of these reports document LIVE America Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia.

Military men in Vietnam were called upon to fly and fight in many dangerous circumstances, and they were prepared to be wounded, killed or captured. It probably never occurred to them that they could be abandoned by the country they so proudly served.

Ira Hamilton Hayes, United States Marine Corps

untitledIra Hamilton Hayes, participant in the famous flag raising on Iwo Jima, was a Pima Indian, born at Sacaton, Arizona, on 12 January 1923. In 1932, the family moved a few miles southward to Bapchule. Both Sacaton and Bapchule are located within the boundaries of the Gila River Indian Reservation in south central Arizona. Hayes left high school after completing two years of study. He served in the Civilian Conservation Corps in May and June of 1942, and then went to work as a carpenter.

On 26 August 1942, Ira Hayes enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve at Phoenix for the duration of the National Emergency. Following boot camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at San Diego, Hayes was assigned to the Parachute Training School at Camp Gillespie, Marine Corps Base, San Diego. Graduated one month later, the Arizonan was qualified as a parachutist on 30 November and promoted to private first class the next day. On 2 December, he joined Company B, 3rd Parachute Battalion, Divisional Special Troops, 3rd Marine Division, at Camp Elliott, California, with which he sailed for Noumea, New Caledonia, on 14 March 1943.

In April, Hayes’ unit was redesignated Company K, 3rd Parachute Battalion, 1st Marine Parachute Regiment. In October Hayes sailed for Vella Lavella, arriving on the 14th. Here, he took part in the campaign and occupation of that island until 3 December when he moved north to Bougainville, arriving on the 4th. The campaign there was already underway, but the parachutists had a full share of fighting before they left on 15 January 1944.

Hayes was ordered to return to the United States where he landed at San Diego on 14 February 1944, after slightly more than 11 months overseas and two campaigns. The parachute units were disbanded in February, and Hayes was transferred to Company E, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines, of the 5th Marine Division, then at Camp Pendleton, California.

In September, Hayes sailed with his company for Hawaii for more training. He sailed from Hawaii in January en route to Iwo Jima where he landed on D-day (19 February 1945) and remained during the fighting until 26 March. Then he embarked for Hawaii where he boarded a plane for the U.S. on 15 April. On the 19th, he joined Company C, 1st Headquarters Battalion, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, Washington, D.C.

On 10 May, Hayes, Private First Class Gagnon, Pharmacist’s Mate Second Class Bradley, and Marine Technical Sergeant Keyes Beech, a combat correspondent, left on the bond selling tour. In Chicago, Hayes received orders directing his return to the 28th Marines. He arrived at Hilo, Hawaii, and rejoined Company E of the 29th on 28 May. Three weeks later, on 19 June, he was promoted to corporal.

With the end of the war, Corporal Hayes and his company left Hilo and landed at Sasebo, Japan, on 22 September to participate in the occupation of Japan. On 25 October, Corporal Hayes boarded his eleventh and last ship to return to his homeland for the third time. Landing at San Francisco on 9 November, he was honorably discharged on 1 December.

Corporal Hayes was awarded a Letter of Commendation with Commendation Ribbon by the Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, Lieutenant General Roy S. Geiger, for his “meritorious and efficient performance of duty while serving with a Marine infantry battalion during operations against the enemy on Vella Lavella and Bougainville, British Solomon Islands, from 15 August to 15 December 1943, and on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, from 19 February to 27 March 1945.”

The list of the Corporal’s decorations and medals includes the Commendation Ribbon with “V” combat device, Presidential Unit Citation with one star (for Iwo Jima), Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four stars (for Vella Lavella, Bougainville, Consolidation of the Northern Solomons, and Iwo Jima), American Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal.

The Corporal Hayes, U.S.M.C. completed his earthly tour of Duty at Bapchule on 24 January 1955. He was buried with honors on 2 February 1955 at Arlington National Cemetery, in Section 34, Plot 479A.

There are probably no more tragic stories than that of Ira Hayes. Born to Joe E. and Nancy W. Hayes on the Pima Indian Reservation in Sacaton, Arizona, Ira was the son of a poor farming family. His family and people had struggled for years to make a living in the arid conditions of the Reservation and had little success beyond survival. At one time the Pima were successful farmers but that was before the US Government cut off their water supply and created a situation where they could no longer grow enough crops to eat.

Until the beginning of W.W.II, his life was probably unnoticed by anyone more than a few miles from his birthplace. When America called its men to arms Ira answered this call and joined the US Marine Corps for several reasons: He would be able to leave the Reservation, eat regularly and send money home to his family to help them have a better life. His Tribal Chief told him to be an Honorable Warrior and to bring honor upon his people. Ira never failed to do this. He was a dedicated Marine who was admired by his peers who fought alongside him in three major battles in the Pacific.

February 23, 1945, at age 23, an event occurred that would forever place Ira Hayes in this nation’s history books and irrevocably change his life. On a hilltop above a Pacific island, a small group of Marines struggled to raise the American flag to claim victory over the Japanese occupancy. As the flag was being raised, Ira rushed to help his comrades just as the photographer snapped what was to become one of the most famous pictures in history. That picture was the “Flag Raising At Iwo Jima” and it is Ira’s hands that are outstretched to give the final thrust that planted this symbol of American victory. Six men were caught in that photograph, three of them died shortly afterwards. The battle of Iwo Jima was a costly one for our troops. Only 5 of Ira’s platoon of 45 survived and of his company of 250, only 27 escaped death or injury.

Ira Hayes was stunned when he was told that President Truman wanted him and the other survivors to return to the United State to join the 7th Bond Tour to help raise money for the war efforts. He never considered himself a hero and often said the real heroes were “my good buddies” who died during the battles. What was supposed to be an easy tour of duty turned into the worst ordeal of Ira’s military life. He never understood why he was called an American hero and struggled with the adulation that was heaped on him everywhere he went. Over and over he made statements that he was not a hero but reminded everyone of the brave men who had died and deserved this honor.

By the time Ira was released from duty he was hopelessly addicted to alcohol. The Bond Tour had been a battle that had taken more of a toll on him than any he fought in the Pacific. It seemed that this nation found one way to honor its heroes: Buy them a drink! Ira went back to the Reservation to escape the unwanted attention he’d be forced to bear but people did not stop writing and coming to see “the Indian who raised the flag.” Ira’s only escape from the conflict he felt over being viewed as a hero was the bottle. Over and over he made statements like; “I was sick. I guess I was about to crack up thinking about all my good buddies. They were better men than me and they’re not coming back. Much less back to the White House, like me.” After a ceremony where he was praised by President Eisenhower once again for being a hero, a reporter asked Ira, “How do you like the pomp & circumstances?” Ira just hung his head and said, “I don’t.”

For the next few years Ira Hayes was a drifter and loner addicted to alcohol.  He never married, was often arrested for public intoxication and was filled with despair over the plight of his people. He had been wined and dined by the rich and powerful, had been immortalized in American history but he was still no more than an Indian on a dried up Reservation now that he’d come home. There was still no water, no crops and no hope for a better life for the Pima or him. All this time he still struggled with his own inability to reconcile himself as being worthy of the fame he’d received for simply being one of the lucky ones who lived through such a horrible war. Ira never saw his military service as any more than just being an “Honorable Warrior.”

In 1954, Ira Hayes attended the dedication ceremony in Washington, D. C. for the Iwo Jima Memorial. This monument was a bronze cast replica of the now famous photograph of the flag raising, created by Felix DeWeldon. Within 10 weeks of this celebration Ira Hamilton Hayes would be dead at age 33. After another night of drinking and still lamenting over his fallen “buddies”, Ira fell into an irrigation ditch and froze to death, alone and forgotten by a country that had called him a hero. The ditch where he died was the single source of water that was provided for his people by the same government he’d proudly served.

Note: Ira H. Hayes was one of the first public figures to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. During Ira’s time, it was referred to “Shell Shock” or “Survivor’s Guilt” and there was little or no treatment. Today, about 30% of war veterans experience PTSD and receive various treatment methods. If you or someone you know exhibits PTSD characteristics please seek professional help.


Dan Akee – United States Marine Corps – Code Talker

43600aDan Akee, of the Kiyanni and Ashihii clans, was born in Coalmine Canyon in November 1922. He grew up in the Coalmine Mesa area. He started school in 1928 at an early age at the Tuba City Boarding School. Akee withdrew from school shortly after he started for medical reasons and went to a convalescence home in Kayenta, Ariz. to recover from tuberculosis. There he taught himself and reached a 10th grade level equivalent.

Akee enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1943, shortly after the outbreak of WWII. Akee trained as a code talker and was detailed to the 4th Marine Division, 25th Regiment. From 1943-45, Akee took part in some of the most ferocious fighting in the Pacific theater. He participated in the Marshall Islands, Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jima campaigns.

As a code talker, Akee transmitted and received messages in coded Navajo, a code that was never broken. During battle, Akee was often on the front lines, receiving communication for his regiment. Especially at Iwo Jima, he lost many of his regiment and friends. Some years ago, the Retired Sergeant Major received the Congressional Silver Medal of Honor for his service.

After the war, Akee retired to civilian life with a rank of Sergeant Major, the highest rank for a non-commissioned Marine officer. He went back to high school at the Sherman Institute in Calif. but did not get a high school diploma, because of post war stress trauma. According to Akee, he recovered from the trauma with the help of Navajo Way and Christianity. He worked on the railroad and in a uranium ore processing plant. In 1967, he became an interpreter with Tuba City Hospital’s mental health department where he retired in 1988 after 21 years of service.

After delivering a prayer of remembrance in Navajo, Akee outlined the skills needed to memorize the approximately 555 Navajo words in the highly classified system. The code terms were designed to communicate locations and information of strategic importance during the Second World War. Navajo words, he said, were integrated to represent approximately 450 military terms not in the traditional language, such as submarine and dive-bomber.

The Tuba City resident explained it took five months to memorize the code, which remained top-secret until declassified in 1968. He emphasized the importance of indigenous language preservation and how the code was used to save many lives on both sides, and especially hasten the end of the war.

The approximately 450 Navajo Marines were not allowed to discuss their Signal Corps role in World War II until the 1990s. In 2001, they received Congressional Medals for service to their country.

School officials said the honorary high school diploma is long overdue and recognizes Akee’s achievement as a code talker and his outstanding and tireless lifetime of service to the Navajo people and the United States.

Dan Akee and his wife have 12 children. As of 2011, Sergeant Major Dan Akee and his wife had 73 grandchildren.


Joe Palmer a.k.a. Balmer Slowtalker – United States Marine Corps – Code Talker

JOE PALMER - NAVAJO CODETALKER-ORIGINAL 29Joe Palmer was born Balmer Slowtalker on 10 March 1922 to Judge and May Slowtalker in Leupp, Arizona.

As a Marine in WWII Palmer and 28 other Code Talkers used their native language to transmit military messages on enemy tatics, Japanese troop movements and other battlefield informatian by telephone and radio.

He was honorably discharged in January of 1946. During his service he received the Purple Heart, 4 Bronze Star Medals and a Presidential Citation. In July of 2001 he received the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal for his service as one of the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers. He was a retired lineman for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

According to the Naval Historical Center in Washington, the Navajo Code Talkers took part in every assault the Marines conducted in the Pacific from 1942 to 1945 and were praised for their skill, speed and accuracy. Their work was impossible for the enemy to decode. After the war, Palmer and the others were told to keep the Navajo code a secret. Even after the information was declassified in 1968, they were reluctant to discuss it or take credit for their deeds.

Palmer, 84, Of Yuma, AZ, died on Saturday, 18 November 2006 at the VA Medical Center in Tucson. He leaves his wife, Flora Nejo Palmer; son, Kermit (Earlena); granddaughter, Cejae; brothers, Tom, Thomas (Carol), Kee (Susie), Keeteddy (Sandra), John (Zannie) and Jimmie; and sisters, Betty Slowtalker and Bessie Scott. Joe was preceded in death by his father, Judge Slowtalker and mother, Mary. He is buried at Desert Lawn Memorial Park, Yuma, AZ


From the Heart of a Soldier

Blackhawk 4 (1)As I share the memories of this life,

They come forth causing only strife.

For life has been so hard you see

Keeping others from loving me.

Walking through forest, glade and hill,

waiting, watching, wondering still

Will there be a time for us

Or will we simply turn to dust

While living with these facts, so true

It’s helpful that you know them too.

For times may come I can’t preclude

Causing stressful interludes,

Where memories return to facts so real

One wonders if they’ll ever heal

Healing after years of waiting,

During these times often hating

The events that caused the memories to form

Are always extremely far from the norm

Change them if I could? You ask.

No, I would never choose that task.

For the sacrifices once made by me

Were made to set many others free

And if events present a new

I’ll be right there to fight with you

The memories of the new inlayed

Upon the ones already made

Even then I will not cave

Provided we don’t see the grave.


“Good Night General Chesty, Wherever You Are.”

Gen Chesty Puller 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.Chesty_Puller_and_Ironman_Lee

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.lossless-page1-800px-1stLt_Lewis_B__Puller_with_members_of_the_Guardia_Nacional_tif

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.PullerGuadalcanal

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.

Korean War

Puller-BirthdayColonel Puller cutting the Marine Corps birthday cake on 10 November 1950, during a brief reprieve from battle during the Korean War

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. Th470px-Chesty_Puller_studies_the_terrain_during_the_Korean_Warat 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.”

Related articles


Have We Forgotten Our Heroes? – Chapter 23 – Hathcock, II

carlos_h2Carlos Norman Hathcock, II was a United States Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant (Gunny) sniper with a service record of 93 confirmed kills.  Gunny Hathcock’s record and his extraordinary attention to mission details made him a legend in the Marine Corps. His dedication to long distance shooting and his fame as a sniper enabled him to be a master developer of the United States Marine Corps Sniper training program.  White Feather was the name the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and the Viet Cong (VC) gave him because of a white feather he wore in this hat and one time placed it at the kill site. The Springfield Armory named a variant of the M21 rifle as the M25 White Feather.

Gunny Hathcock was born in Little Rock, Arkansas on May 20th, 1942. He was reared basically by his grandmother due to his parents separation. He learned early on to use a rifle to assist with feeding his family. Having dreamed of being a Marine since childhood on May 20th, 1959, at the age of 17, he enlisted in the Marine Corps. On November 10th, 1962, he was married and had a son whom they named Carlos Norman Hathcock, III. He also became a United States Marine and followed his father to the rank of Gunnery Sergeant prior to retirement.

The following information is taken verbatim from Wikipedia and was retrieved on October 1st, 2013.

“Marine Corps career: Before deploying to Vietnam, Hathcock had won shooting championships, including matches at Camp Perry and the Wimbledon Cup. In 1966 Hathcock started his deployment in Vietnam as an MP and later became a sniper after Captain Edward James Land pushed the Marines into raising snipers in every platoon. Land later recruited Marines who had set their own records in sharpshooting; he quickly found Hathcock, who had won the Wimbledon Cup, the most prestigious prize for long-range shooting, at Camp Perry in 1965.

Confirmed kills: During the Vietnam War Hathcock had 93 confirmed kills of North Vietnamese Army and Viet-Cong personnel. During the Vietnam War, kills had to be confirmed by an acting third party, who had to be an officer, besides the sniper’s spotter. Snipers often did not have an acting third party present, making confirmation difficult, especially if the target was behind enemy lines, as was usually the case. Hathcock himself estimated that he had killed 300 or more enemy personnel during his time in Vietnam.

Confrontations with NVA snipers: The North Vietnamese Army placed a bounty of $30,000 on Hathcock’s life for killing so many of their men. Rewards put on U.S. snipers by the N.V.A. typically ranged from $8 to $2,000. Hathcock held the record for highest bounty and killed every Vietnamese marksman who sought it. The Viet Cong and N.V.A. called Hathcock Lông Trắng, translated as “White Feather”, because of the white feather he kept in a band on his bush hat. After a platoon of Vietnamese snipers was sent to hunt down “White Feather”, many Marines in the same area donned white feathers to deceive the enemy. These Marines were aware of the impact Hathcock’s death would have and took it upon themselves to make themselves targets in order to confuse the counter-snipers.

One of Hathcock’s most famous accomplishments was shooting an enemy sniper through the enemy’s own rifle scope, hitting him in the eye and killing him. Hathcock and John Roland Burke, his spotter, were stalking the enemy sniper in the jungle near Hill 55, the firebase from which Hathcock was operating. The sniper, known only as the ‘Cobra,’ had already killed several Marines and was believed to have been sent specifically to kill Hathcock. When Hathcock saw a flash of light (light reflecting off the enemy sniper’s scope) in the bushes, he fired at it, shooting through the scope and killing the sniper. Surveying the situation, Hathcock concluded that the only feasible way he could have put the bullet straight down the enemy’s scope and through his eye would have been if both snipers were zeroing in on each other at the same time and Hathcock fired first, which gave him only a few seconds to act. Given the flight time of rounds at long ranges, the snipers could have simultaneously killed one another. Hathcock took possession of the dead sniper’s rifle, hoping to bring it home as a “trophy” but, after he turned it in and tagged it, it was stolen from the armory. A female Viet Cong sniper, platoon commander, and interrogator known as “Apache,” because of her methods of torturing US Marines and ARVN troops and letting them bleed to death, was killed by Hathcock. This was a major morale victory as “Apache” was terrorizing the troops around Hill 55.

Assassination of an NVA Commanding General: Hathcock only once removed the white feather from his bush hat while deployed in Vietnam. During a volunteer mission days before the end of his first deployment, he crawled over 1,500 yards of field to shoot an NVA commanding general. He was not informed of the details of the mission until he accepted it. This effort took four days and three nights, without sleep, of constant inch-by-inch crawling. Hathcock said he was almost stepped on as he lay camouflaged with grass and vegetation in a meadow shortly after sunset. At one point he was nearly bitten by a bamboo viper but had the presence of mind to avoid moving and giving up his position. As the general exited his encampment, Hathcock fired a single shot that struck the general in the chest, killing him. He had to crawl back instead of run when soldiers started searching, and later regretted taking the mission, for in the aftermath of the assassination the NVA doubled their attacks in the area, apparently in retaliation for their general being killed and leading to an increase in American casualties. After the arduous mission of killing the general, Hathcock returned to the United States in 1967. However, he missed the Marine Corps and returned to Vietnam in 1969, where he took command of a platoon of snipers.

Medical evacuation: Hathcock’s career as a sniper came to a sudden end along Route 1, north of LZ Baldy in September 1969, when the amtrack he was riding on, an LVT-5, struck an anti-tank mine. Hathcock pulled seven Marines off the flame-engulfed vehicle and was severely burned before jumping to safety. While recovering, Hathcock received the Purple Heart. Nearly 30 years later, he would receive the Silver Star for this action. All eight injured Marines were evacuated by helicopter to the USS Repose (AH-16), then to a Naval Hospital in Tokyo, and ultimately to the burn center at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.

After the Vietnam War: After returning to active duty, Hathcock helped establish the Marine Corps Scout Sniper School, at the Marine base in Quantico, Virginia. Due to his extreme injuries suffered in Vietnam, he was in nearly constant pain, but he continued to dedicate himself to teaching snipers. In 1975, Hathcock’s health began to deteriorate, and he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He stayed in the Corps, but his health continued to decline, and was forced to retire just 55 days short of the 20 years that would have made him eligible for full retirement pay. Being medically retired, he received 100% disability. He would have received only 50% of his final pay grade had he retired after 20 years. He fell into a state of depression when he was forced out of the Marines, because he felt as if the service had kicked him out. During this depression, his wife Jo nearly left him, but decided to stay. Hathcock eventually picked up the hobby of shark fishing, which helped him overcome his depression. Hathcock provided sniper instruction to police departments and select military units, such as SEAL Team Six. Hathcock had one expressed wish, to make the award presentation of the Carlos. N Hathcock Award to one recipient at Quantico. (One worthy individual from each graduating sniper class receives the award, not to be confused with the annual award from the National Defense Industrial Association. This award may be presented to members of any service branch.) The naming of an award after a living person was unprecedented for the Marine Corps. Despite receiving letters requesting that Hathcock’s wish be fulfilled, the Commandant of the Marine Corps did not grant it.

Civilian life: Hathcock once said that he survived in his work because of an ability to “get in the bubble,” to put himself into a state of “utter, complete, absolute concentration,” first with his equipment, then his environment, in which every breeze and every leaf meant something, and finally on his quarry. After the war, marcinkoa friend showed Hathcock a passage written by Ernest Hemingway: “Certainly there is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and like it, never really care for anything else thereafter.” He copied Hemingway’s words on a piece of paper. “He got that right,” Hathcock said. “It was the hunt, not the killing.” Hathcock said in a book written about his career as a sniper: “I like shooting, and I love hunting. But I never did enjoy killing anybody. It’s my job. If I don’t get those bastards, then they’re gonna kill a lot of these kids dressed up like Marines. That’s the way I look at it.”

Hathcock’s son, Carlos Hathcock III, later enlisted in the Marine Corps; he retired from the Marine Corps as a Gunnery Sergeant after following in his father’s footsteps as a shooter and became a member of the Board of Governors of the Marine Corps Distinguished Shooters Association.

Carlos Hathcock died on February 23, 1999, in Virginia Beach, Virginia, from complications resulting from multiple sclerosis.”carlos1