Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Vietnam war deaths 1956-1975

The First and the Last
The first American soldier killed in the Vietnam War was Air Force T-Sgt. Richard B. Fitzgibbon Jr. He is listed by the U.S. Department of Defense as having a casualty date of June 8, 1956. His name was added to the Wall on Memorial Day 1999.

First battlefield fatality was Specialist 4 James T. Davis who was killed on December 22, 1961.

The last American soldier killed in the Vietnam War was Kelton Rena Turner, an 18-year old Marine. He was killed in action on May 15, 1975, two weeks after the evacuation of Saigon, in what became known as the Mayaguez incident.
Others list Gary L. Hall, Joseph N. Hargrove and Danny G. Marshall as the last to die in Vietnam. These three US Marines Corps veterans were mistakenly left behind on Koh Tang Island during the Mayaguez incident. They were last seen together but unfortunately to date, their fate is unknown. They are located on panel 1W, lines 130 - 131.

In the aftermath of the Vietnam War, US forces fought one last battle. This battle took place on May 15, 1975, and concerned the rescue attempt of 39 American sailors from the merchant vessel SS Mayaguez. The SS Mayaguez was on its way from Hong Kong to Sattahip in Thailand, when, on May 12, it was intercepted and seized by the Khmer Rouge Navy. The crew was brought to the mainland, while their ship was anchored off the Island of Koh Tang. The seizure of the SS Mayaguez was seen by the USA as an act of piracy, and the US President, Gerald Ford, demanded the immediate release of the 39 sailors and their vessel by the Khmer Rouge. When this demand appeared to fall on deaf ears, an ad hoc US military force, consisting of US Marines, US Navy and US Air Force units was rapidly assembled to try to rescue the crew.
The rescue attempt ended in disaster, when four helicopters were shot down or disabled by Khmer Rouge forces. The Marines had to withdraw from Koh Tang without finding any of the US sailors. In total, the US rescue force lost 41 killed, which ironically outnumbered the SS Mayaguez crew. The 39 sailors were released shortly afterwards, together with their vessel. Even though the rescue attempt was seen by some as being indicative of the US willingness to use military force before all other efforts, including diplomatic, had been exhausted, it also reestablished faith in the USA as a dependable ally. The rescue operation showed that the USA would go to great lengths to rescue its soldiers and citizens. In doing so, the USA were determined not to let the seizure of the SS Mayaguez turn into another USS Pueblo affair.
A few hours after the news of its capture, the SS Mayaguez was located by a US Navy P-3 Orion maritime reconnaissance aircraft. The Orion located and photographed the SS Mayaguez anchored off the island of Koh Tang, 40 miles from the Cambodian mainland. There was no sign of the crew. During the reconnaissance mission, the P-3 was hit by fire from Khmer Rouge patrol boats, being lightly damaged.
After the initial diplomatic efforts failed, orders were given to US Pacific Command to assemble a rescue force. This force consisted of 288 Marines from Battalion Landing Teams 2 and 9, as well as 51 USAF Security Police personnel from the 56th SPS. The Marines were brought in from Okinawa and the Philippines, while the USAF security Police unit was based at Nakhon Phanom. Both the Marines and the Security Police were to be transported to Koh Tang in 16 Sikorsky CH-53Cs from the 40th ARRS and 21st SOS, based at Nakhon Phanom in North-Eastern Thailand. The aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) was also part of the rescue force, as well as several other ships from the US 7th Fleet, including the frigate (FF1074) USS Harold Holt. Aboard the USS Coral Sea were McDonnell Douglas F-4Ns of VF-51 and VF-111, Vought A-7E Corsair II's of VA-22 and VA-94, Grumman A-6A Intruders of VA-95, Vought RF-8G Crusaders of VFP-63 and Grumman E-1E Tracers of VAW-11.

At 0600 May 15, the first phase of the operation began with the transfer of D/1/4th Marines to the Holt. As the destroyer escort slowly came alongside, USAF A-7 aircraft "saturated" the Mayag├╝ez with tear gas munitions. Equipped with gas masks, the Marines at 0720 hours then conducted the first hostile ship-to-ship boarding by the U.S. Navy since 1826, securing the vessel after an hour-long assault, finding it empty.

Simultaneously, the eight helicopters (five CH-53 and three HH-53) of the Koh Tang assault force approached the island at 0615, encountering intense automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenade (RPG) fire from Khmer forces entrenched there. A CH-53 crash-landed on the east beach but successfully off-loaded its 20 Marines and crew of five. They set up a defense perimeter but remained cut off from both reinforcement and rescue for twelve hours.

The second CH-53 in their section was shot down by two RPGs, exploding and crashing fifty meters off-shore. A pilot, five Marines, and two Navy corpsmen were killed in the crash, another Marine drowned swimming from the wreckage, and three Marines were killed by gunfire trying to reach the beach. A tenth Marine died of his wounds while clinging to the burning wreckage. The surviving ten Marines and three Air Force crewmen were forced to swim for four hours before being picked up by the gig of the arriving Henry B. Wilson. Among the Marine survivors was the battalion's Forward Air Controller, who used an Air Force survival radio while swimming to direct air strikes against the island.

On the western beach of the island, the first section of two CH-53 helicopters came in at 0630 hours. The first landed safely but while off-loading its Marines came under heavy automatic weapons fire, destroying an engine. It managed to take off, protected by suppressive fire from the second CH-53, and ditched a mile off-shore where all but one of its crew was picked up. The second CH-53 was damaged so severely that it turned back with its Marines (including the Golf Company commander) still aboard, and crash-landed on the Thai coast, where its passengers were picked up and returned to U Tapao.

Two other sections of the first wave, consisting of the remaining four helicopters, eventually landed all of their Marines between 0630 and 0930 hours, although the final insertion required support from an AC-130 Spectre gunship in order to penetrate the Khmer fire on its fifth attempt. 81 Marines landed on the west beach under the command of the company Executive Officer, and 29 Marines of the battalion command post and mortar platoon landed a kilometer to the southwest. 130 Marines had reached Koh Tang but in three isolated beach areas and in close contact with Khmer troops. Unknown to U.S. commanders, the Khmer were well entrenched in anticipation of a Vietnamese attack over an ongoing territorial dispute. While isolated, the Marines were able to use their 81 mm mortars as fire support for their contingents and devised a makeshift communications network for controlling supporting air strikes by USAF A-7 and F-4 aircraft.

Of the eight helicopters assaulting Koh Tang, three had been destroyed and four others damaged too severely to continue operations. One of the three helicopters used on the Holt portion of the operation had also been severely damaged attempting to pick up the platoon isolated on the east beach. This left only three helicopters of the original eleven available to bring in the followup forces of BLT 2/9, so the CH-53s whose mission had been search and rescue -- the last available helicopters -- were reassigned to carry troops. The five helicopters picked up 127 Marines of the second wave at U Tapao between 0900 and 1000 hours.

15 May 1975

Koh Tang

West Beach Landing

6:15 AM

46. Lt. James McDaniel
The sun was just starting to creep over the horizon and it’s very dramatic. It’s black and then all of a sudden there’s just some faint sunlight and then all of a sudden the sun comes up and everything is blazing in light.

Coming in low across the water the first two choppers approach the Western zone. As they attempt to land the tree line erupts in a barrage of automatic weapons fire.

47. Lt. James McDaniel
You could see a bullet puncture the side of the helicopter. And it seemed like it was in slow motion as it would come through the skin of the helicopter

As McDaniel’s Platoon exits the aircraft, they become the targets.

48. Lt James McDaniel
Staff Sergeant Salinas led the charge off of the helicopter and as he walked off onto the rocks. I could see bullets bouncing off the rocks to either side of him

Sitting on the beach McDaniel’s helicopter takes punishing hits. Having lost an engine the pilot nurses the chopper out over the water.

49. GSGT Lester McNemar

I see the first helicopter in the western zone going out about 500 to 600 yards out into the ocean to the north end of the island, get down in the water, sat there for like 2 seconds, flipped over and sank.

The helicopter carrying Gunnery Sergeant McNemar and Capt. Davis – then circles back and attempts to insert its Marines.

50. Capt. James Davis

I was hit with something in the face and it turned me a flip. I looked to my left, and the crew chief/ gunner on the gun had been hit also.

Heavy machine gun fire rakes down the length of the chopper.

51. Capt. Davis
The chopper was badly damaged, there was hydraulic fluid, and you could smell fuel

52. Gunny McNemar
The pilot decided to abort and head to the mainland, back to Thailand or U Tapao, we didn’t know where we were going.

Across the island the welcome for the Choppers on the East beach is even worse.

May 15 1975

Koh Tang

East Beach Landing

6:21 AM

53. Maj. Al Corson

We were doing a high-speed ingress, which is the way you want to go in to minimize your exposure time.

54. Moa Run
4 or 5 helicopters approached the island. They were not shooting, but we knew we were in a state of war since they already bombed our boats.

55. Lt. Cicere
I stood up and looked out the right door to assess what was happening and as we started to make our approach I could see over to the other side of the island So I started thinking to myself maybe this is not maybe going along to the plan.

56. JD Harston
As we approached and started the transition from our forward flight as it into a side maneuver we started taking ground fire Randy opened up fro the left side and Rich Vandegeer punched his m16 out the side window vent

57. Terry Tonkin
Just as we started to make our turn to the beach, I started to the aft ramp of the aircraft, to exit when we landed. And as I was about half way through the aircraft, there was a loud noise And obviously we’ve been hit.

58. Mike Cicere
I heard an explosion and I looked out the door to the left and I could see knife 3-1 completely engulfed in flames at that point and the helicopter just spinning madly around

59. Maj. Corson
I lost control completely of the helicopter. We completed part of the turn then we impacted the water.

60. Terry Tonkin

I really don’t remember anything between that loud explosion and a few moments later when I wake up or became conscious, in about a foot of water with the aircraft just to my right, burning furiously.

Lt. Tonkin and several crewmembers are blown out of the aircraft by the force of the explosion. With the fire spreading many are still trapped inside.

61. JD Harston
The marines were in quite a bit disarray in the back trying to get out the helicopter

62. Terry Tonkin
See Marines trying to push through the Plexiglas windows on the side of the aircraft

63. JD Harston
I yelled at a bunch of them to follow me out from underneath the right gun there at the doorway

64. Terry Tonkin
I heard one of the air force crew chiefs to my side and he already had a survival radio out and was calling a mayday, mayday,

65. JD Harston
The pilot was still in there. And really with all the shock and every thing, Al Corson was still trying to fly the helicopter.

66. Maj. Corson
The next thing I remember is Sergeant Harston coming to my side window in the helicopter.

67. JD Harston
I yelled at him to get out and he literally undid himself, stepped out over the rotor pedals right into the water. There was just absolutely no front on the helicopter. The co-pilot Rich Vandegeer was slumped over in his harnesses

68. Maj. Corson
When I looked at Lt Vandegeer he was hanging in his harness… he was hanging in his harness just forward his head down hanging over the control stick and he was obviously dead and shortly there after he caught on fire.

Trailing just behind the greeting for the second helicopter into the Eastern zone is every bit as fierce.

A direct hit completely severs the helicopters tail section.

69. Moa Run
We shot down two of the helicopters, one caught fire and fell into the water and the other fell along the beach.

70. Lt. Cicere
Once we hit the deck people collected themselves and made and immediately b-lined out of that helicopter and into the tree line.

Lt. Cicere and 3rd Platoon are pined down and cut off. Only minutes into the landing, four of the eight helicopters are damaged or destroyed and 14 Marines and Air force crewmen lay dead.

71. Lt. Cicere
With one helicopter burning out in the water just to the south of us and the carcass of what is left of our helicopter sitting fouling the landing zone it became apparent very quickly that no one else was going to land in there…

Now the focus of the Khmer Rouge guns shifts to the survivors in the water.

72. Maj. Corson
From the time we exited we were all under small arms fire and automatic weapons fire. The only option that we had was to try to get away from that ground fire which meant going out.

73. JD Harston

Everyone else took their helmets off – and I didn’t, and I do not know why I didn’t I just didn’t and I was swimming, facing the Island dog paddling backwards, with these guys, the two marines actually hanging onto my shoulders on my back. And a round smack me right between the eyes about an inch above where the helmet comes right across, and drove me back into the water, and it was the guys who I had pulled that now pulled me out because they had to drag me out from where it drove me back in the water, and it split my helmet right in two.

Koh Tang

West Beach

8:40 AM

After making repeated attempts to land the helicopter carrying the command unit with Lt. Col. Randall Austin is forced to unload nearly a mile South of the West beach.

By 10:00 o’clock the Marines find themselves divided into three groups, separated by dense jungle and rugged terrain. With the command unit isolated the leadership of the main assault force falls into the hands two 2nd Lieutenants -- with no combat experience.

74. Lt. McDaniel
Col. Austin comes over the radio and wants a group of marines come down and linkup with his position.

75. Col. Austin
We were not what you would call a potent fighting force, not the kind of group that you want to be isolated with in a situation like that.

76. Lt. McDaniel
He was the command group and they only had 4 rifles among their group.

Lt. McDaniel selects 14 Marines and heads South to link up with Austin.

77. Lt. McDaniel

All of a sudden there were 3 or 4 hand grenades that went off in the middle of us. My squad leader Lance Corporal Loney was immediately killed.

78. Rot Leng
We opened fire with our rifles against the troops. During the attack the leader of the American troops was wounded.

There was another marine that was directly in front of me and then there was another marine that was directly behind me. Both those two marines were severely wounded.

79. Rot Leng
We had plenty of ammunition and strength and our forces attacked fiercely

80. Lt. McDaniel
We stop trying to fire back at them because every time we do there is this thick counter fire from them. Things are quiet for a second and out folks, some of our folks are very upset to the point of being hysterical some of them start crying out for God, for Jesus to come and help. It was a very intense moment and the enemy was all around us and they could here us. They could not understand English but they could understand the emotion that was being expressed in our voices. They started laughing and it was a very eerie feeling because they were taking pleasure in hearing the emotion in our voices.

As McDanial’s platoon is fighting for their lives, across the island search and rescue Helicopters are attempting recovery of the Marines on the East beach.

East Beach

Koh Tang

81. Lt. Cicere
All of a sudden this helicopter shows up When they came in, it was really a big surprise. They got down on the deck. And when they did, right even when they were coming in, it was like the fourth of July.

Engulfed in flames the helicopter is forced to abort the rescue attempt.

In the water below the survivors of Major Corson’s helicopter have been swimming for more than three hours.

82. JD Harston
I thought the helicopters were going to come back around and pick us up right quick but apparently when they saw us go down, they didn’t think there would be any survivors from the crash so they didn’t even make an attempt.

83. Lt. Tonkin
After three hours or so we were getting tire-der, and tired-er and just using whatever energy we could to keep trying to move away from the island.

West Beach

10:30 AM

84. Lt. McDaniel
Time started to tick by and then I realized that I had these hand grenades in my pockets I couldn’t fire back with my rifle but I could at least throw these hand grenades back at them

The volley of grenades momentarily silences the Cambodian guns and Lt. McDaniel make his withdrawal.

The Marines work their way out of the killing zone and back to their lines.

85. Col. Austin
At that point we realized that probably wasn’t feasibly for them to push the perimeter very much towards us and we had, in fact, to move towards them.

East Beach

10:45 AM

Nearly four hours after the crash of the helicopters on the East beach, Major Corson, Lt. Tonkin, Sgt. Harston and the remaining survivors (many wounded and severely burned) are pulled out of the water and taken to the USS Wilson.

The second wave including Capt. Davis who would be making his second attempt to land on Koh Tang takes off just before 10:00 AM. While in route the marines get a message that triggers mixed emotions.

At 11:55 AM the fishing boat released by the Khmer Rouge on the island of Rong Sam Leng approaches the USS Wilson waving a white flag.

86. Jerry Myregard
The Wilson trained it gun on us and we realized that perhaps we could be shot. So we waved our arms took our shirts off and made it known that we were Americans. We got along side and we climbed aboard and I met a naval officer who informed me that there were a few marines that had been shot; They had 'em on ice as he called it. On the Wilson

The crew of the Mayaguez -- 40 Americans thought to be held on Koh Tang are safe.

In Washington the president and his chief advisors breathe a sigh of relief.

87. President Ford
After three or four days of very tense circumstances I felt very relieved.

88. Brent Scowcroft
And so, our attention turned to "How do we get the Marines off Koh Tang Island?" That turned into a very difficult, very difficult operation

89. Lt. Cicere
We were not going to plant a flag here, like Iwo Jima, and claim it for the United States. That really wasn’t the reason for us being there. If the crew’s been picked up, now the next step become how we going to get ourselves extracted out of this, out of this situation.

The marines on Koh Tang are still encountering heavy resistance and Lt. Cicere’s 3rd platoon is isolated and extremely vulnerable. Without reinforcements the Marines run the risk of becoming prisoners of the Khmer Rouge themselves. Having linked up with the main force, Col. Austin inquires on the status of the second wave.

90. Col. Austin
Several times, I was communicating with the airborne command and control center and asking what was the state of the second wave and in one of those later inquiries was told, they had been turned back and I was somewhat dismayed by that response and asked that be reconsidered, that second wave, ah…be sent to the island

Austin’s message makes its’ point. The second wave is cleared to go but they are still more than an hour from Koh Tang.

TRANSITION “The Second Wave”

In a scene eerily reminiscent of the morning raid, the first helicopter of the second wave approaches the eastern landing zone.

91. Lt. Cicere
You don’t have to be Daniel Boone to it a helicopter especially at 53. And they waited for the opportune time to put the maximum damage on those helicopters and on anybody that happened to be inside.

The severely damaged helicopter (and her much needed reinforcements) heads directly for the Thai coast.

The remaining choppers in the second wave unload Captain Davis and 100 Marines into the Western zone. Even with the reinforcements, poor communications and heavy resistance make it impossible for the Marines to link up with Lt. Cicere. The only option is to get 3rd platoon out.

The Second Wave

Koh Tang

1:00 PM

Circling just off the beach search and rescue helicopters make one last attempt to extract 3rd platoon.

92. Harry Cash
Well we decided it was time, time to make a move. My pilot Don Backland said I think this is going to be the last train out of Dodge City

At 5:50 PM Lt. Cicere sees the helicopter coming in for the extraction.

93. Lt. Cicere
If I can see the helicopter coming in, so can the bad guys. So I knew we were going to be in for an interesting, a few moments, when the helicopter came in.

94. Harry Cash
About maybe 200-meters out then they opened up. I could just hear the bullets just hitting the front of the helicopter

With Navy and Air Force planes providing cover 3rd platoon fights its way off the beach and into the waiting chopper.

95. Lt. Cicere
He is hovering that helicopter, and the helicopter would drop down, give within about five feet of the deck and then it would go up, so you, what we ended up having to do was people were getting aboard was time their jump if you will to get on to the to get on to the ramp and get aboard the helicopter.

Twelve hours after the Marines landed on Koh Tang the rescue helicopter carrying 3rd platoon takes off from the East beach. During the evacuation the chopper sustains so much that it would be unable to fly again.

96. Harry Cash
I just knew that we had to get those people out. That if we didn’t do it, I didn’t think it’d be done.

97. Lt. Cicere
There's just no way to describe, I don’t think, how elated that you are that you realized you survived something, that could have very easily gone the other way. Especially when I think you saw right before you people in a similar situation that, unfortunately, were not as lucky as you were.

The rescue of the Rescuers

Koh Tang

6:30 PM

With nightfall quickly approaching the airborne command and control puts the question to the Marines on the beach. Can the evacuation be done under cover of darkness?

98. Col. Austin
My response to that was yes, I think we can do it under darkness, but I’m going to lay down one proviso, here and that is that once we start we must have the commitment to finish this

99. Capt. Davis
Col. Austin came up to me and said Jim how do you want to pull this I said the best thing for me to do is get this down to one commander.

100. Austin
As the company commander, he would be left eventually with a small force and that he was going to close the beach and be amongst the last ones out.

101. Davis
As you incrementally reduce a perimeter especially under fire in the dusk you run the risk of losing people and also losing the element of security.

As the helicopters attempt to coordinate the withdrawal, they receive a message that a wounded marine may have been left in one of the downed helios on the East beach.

The damage to Jolly Green 12 leaves only three helicopters to evacuate the more than 200 marines still on Koh Tang.

102. Bruce Daly
The reports we were getting when we were making our run in that the marines were being pushed back form the tree line to the beach, to the water even and it was going to be real tight getting in there.

As the sun sets over the Gulf of Thailand the evacuation of the marines goes into full swing.

To cover the evacuation the Air Force drops the largest non-nuclear weapon in the US arsenal a 15,000- pound bomb on the center of the island behind the enemy positions. The explosion rocks the island to its core.

103. Davis

We could see the parachute deploy we could see the palette that was below it and I can remember saying gunny I think they are going to re-supply us and Within seconds the jungle seemed to explode and we figured out what it was

Shortly before 7:00 PM the EVAC choppers approach Koh Tang.

104. Daly
When helicopters are making their run in, you can hear how bad they got beat; sometimes you can hear ‘we are taking ground fire, taking ground fire’ and stuff like that. And you sit back and take a deep breath and wait your turn.

With the departure of each load of marines the forces still on the ground become more vulnerable.

105. Davis

As the perimeter was incrementally reduced and echo company passed through my lines. I did ask the company commander, I said “Mike do you have all of your people?” and he said yes, “get on the choppers!”

106. McNemar
I went in hot on the lines check and making sure all my people got back and went on across the open space to the south side of the western zone and was checking Echo company if any of Echo company marines were over there make sure that everybody had pulled back correctly.

Every time the perimeter is reduced Khmer Rouge forces fill in the gaps, pushing the marines closer to the sea.

107. McDaniel

We’d here the underbrush slowly crumble as the enemy slowly crawled forward trying to come as close to our position as possible.

108. McNemar
A Khmer Rouge took a shot at me and it went right past my flack jacket and I dropped him with two shots. The second one turned and I got him he fell down into the gully that was the last I seen of him.

109. Davis
I picked up the radio to try to communicate and I communicated with a foreigner. Somebody had picked up one of those prick 77 radios and it wasn’t a friendly.

With the last 29 marines clinging to a sliver of beach Capt. Davis faces the most harrowing moments of the operation.

110. Davis
At the last perimeter our boots were literately almost in the water.

As the choppers make their way back to Koh Tang radio contact is lost with the Marines on the beach.

111. McNemar

We were trying to figure out wait a second do they know we are still here how are we going to get off.

112. Davis
That’s probably the longest time of my life. When your boots are wet and your elbows are in beach sand, there’s not a lot – you don’t own a lot of real estate. And there are not a lot of alternatives at that point in time except fighting to the death or swimming.

Shortly after 8:00 PM on May 15, 1975 – 15 hours after the first Marines had fought their way onto Koh Tang the final helicopter touches down on the beach.

113. Davis
We boarded the helicopter then I remember Tech Sergeant Fisk jumping out of the helicopter one more time with the ramp down and checking, making a hasty check of the right side and then as he got back on the ramp of the chopper the chopper took off.

114. McNamar
Fisk slips and the only thing I can grab is the cord to his microphone on his helmet.

115. Davis
His eyes were getting bigger and bigger as he was sliding out the back of that helicopter.

116. McNemar
I reached down and got his sleeve or his arm. I grabbed something and I yanked him up.

117. Davis
It through his body into my lap and we gave each other a big hug and that was it. The day was over.

118. Rot Lang
We finally won and took back the island. We gathered the bodies of the American soldiers and put them all together. We concluded that we had achieved victory.

Minutes later, word reaches the White House. The Marines have been evacuated from Koh Tang.

But the relief is short lived.

119. Austin
Within minutes of the extraction - we’re taking a head count and making sure, trying to determine who we have – certainly expecting that we’re going to have everybody.

120. Davis
Colonel Austin walked up to me and asked, “Jim to the best of your knowledge did you get all the marines off of that beach?” I said, “Yes sir.”

121. McNemar
Echo Company had three marines missing.

Lance Corporal Joseph Hargrove, Private First Class Gary Hall and Private Danny Marshall were last seen shortly before the final load of Marines withdrew from Koh Tang.

122. Davis
It seams that if they would have been alive they would have come back and joined us, number 1. Number 2, Why didn’t they call out for help?

123. Austin
We, I think, came to the correct and the only logical decision that these three marines had been killed in the extensive exchange of fire that occurred as the helicopters came in for the extraction.

The final report concludes that Hall, Hargrove and Marshall were killed in action.

124. Rot Lang
As a medical person I was the one that gathered all of the dead bodies and provided bandages for the wounded Khmers and American soldiers Injured Khmer soldiers were sent to the mainland, whereas the injured American soldiers were not. They later died on the battlefield. In the days following the attack 4 or 5 American soldiers came out of the forest. They came out because they did not have water to drink. The island’s water is salt water. The island protecting forces caught them and questioned them, and then they were sent to battalion headquarters. The battalion began the process of questioning. They were not tortured or hurt. Since at that time the Khmer did not speak the American Language they were sent to the mainland to people who could translate.

125. Davis
It is the worse scenario that goes through my mind every day.

126. McNemar
its bad enough that I left the island and had marines that were KIA, I left marine bodies back there which I don’t like to do. To think that those marines were alive – I would have gone back in myself.

127. Davis
If there were marines on that island if there were any question as to whether or not they were dead or alive //we would have had to die there and we know that

Including the crash of the Air Force Helicopter in Thailand the cost of the Mayaguez operation is high: 41 US military personnel were killed and fifty more were wounded. The fact that the bodies of some US servicemen were not recovered from the island left doubts and open wounds for years to come.

Even worse was the revelation that the heavy resistance the marines encountered on Koh Tang had nothing to do with the United States or the seizure of the Mayaguez.

128. Scowcroft
The Cambodians and the Vietnamese were having a confrontation about who owned Koh Tang Island. And the Cambodians had put troops on the island to assert their sovereignty. We didn't know that.

129. Quinn
And as the American ship Mayaguez comes along, the Khmer Rouge run out and seizes it, fearful that it is somehow some part of some possible Vietnamese or American trick to begin to retake the country.

Tragically the Mayaguez Crisis erupted in the wrong place at the wrong time.

130. Scowcroft
Was it in fact necessary, we don't know we spotted important national interests at stake and we moved very quickly and in ad hoc kind of way to protect those national interests, and it worked.

131. James Schlesinger
It was only the question of force that led the Cambodians to deliver up the hostages.

132. President Ford
The only answer was the one that we took: meet it head on.

133. Henry Kissinger
And we achieved what we set out to do. But when you looked at it as part of a bigger scheme of things it was sort of a paltry objective we had entered Indochina to save countries, and we wound up rescuing a ship.

Back on Koh Tang the reality of what the Marines faced in 1975, can still be seen. Fragments of American helicopters, overgrown bunkers and trees scarred with bullet holes are haunting reminders of the horrors of war. From fortified positions in the dense tree line Khmer Rouge forces laid in wait to greet the marines with a force at least five times the original estimates.

We may never know the truth about the missing Americans. Were they killed in action as the official report states? Or are they part of the dark secrets buried in the killing fields of Cambodia?

In the end, the Mayaguez Crisis is a mere footnote to the controversial history of US involvement in Southeast Asia. In the end, a list of names lost amidst all of the bad news that was the Vietnam War.

© 2000 Henninger Productions - All Rights Reserved

I've argued more times than I want to admit to, that Vietnam did not stop taking lives in 1973, the way most people think it did.
They didn't stop dying until 1975.
Up until recently, I thought the last two Marines did in April of 1975 until I was made aware of this. It is something I had forgotten about.

But even with this, there are still many more who paid the price with their lives far past the May 1975 date. Names you will not see on the Wall. They died of Agent Orange exposure. They died of wounds they received. More died because of the wound they carried home with them from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. By 1978 500,000 had already been diagnosed with PTSD. By 1986, 117,000 had committed suicide. Two other studies followed putting the figure between 150,000 and 200,000. These names will not be added to the Wall. What's more is that most of the families never connected what was wrong with the veteran when they came home and eventually ended their lives one way or another.

I planned to do this post for Memorial Day but when I was searching for the information, I felt it was too important for me to be the only way posting this. Please pass this on to anyone in your address book so that maybe the media can do a report on this before Memorial Day. Our record on honoring the fallen has not been very great lately. Let's try to make this Memorial Day a lot more than parades and cook-outs.

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