7:00 | Naval ROTC graduate Ron Christmas took a Marine commission and headed to Camp LeJeune where he learned basic facts of leadership. One is that you share all hardships with your men. Another, unique to the Marines, is that everyone is trained as a rifleman.
Keywords : Ron Christmas Philadelphia Navy ROTC Quantico Cuba Camp LeJeune rifleman Mediterranean amphibious NCO Dan Daley
Platoon leader Ron Christmas was a stickler for training, even on his first deployment, and all his men who were up for promotion passed their test. From the Mediterranean, he went to the Caribbean, where a beautiful sunset changed his life.
When Ron Christmas was assigned to the Marine Barracks in Washington, he was surrounded by tradition at the Marines' oldest post. It was there that he met Blackie, a most unusual member of the garrison.
When Ron Christmas was assigned to Vietnam, he was so excited to be going that he studied the Vietnamese language at his own expense. When he arrived in country, he reluctantly took the command of a service company.
New Company commander Ron Christmas found lax discipline when he arrived at An Hoa base. This was something he could fix because he loved training, that and his 106mm recoilless rifle.
When Gen. Westmoreland decided to move around and reinforce certain units in Operation Checkers, Captain Ron Christmas found himself just outside of the city of Hue in a camp where hostiles owned the high ground.
Believing there would be an uprising among the populace, Ho Chi Minh and Gen. Giap planned a general offensive for the Tet New Year in 1968. There was no uprising, but Ron Christmas would see some of the nastiest fighting of the war as a result.
What Marine Captain Ron Christmas knew, as he assembled a relief convoy, was that action was reported in Hue. What he and others didn’t know was that the North Vietnamese Army had infiltrated the entire city.
Marines were trained for jungle warfare in Vietnam, but Captain Ron Christmas found himself in a house-to-house urban battle in Hue. He prevailed using lance corporal ingenuity and PFC power, along a handy 106mm recoilless rifle.
As Marine Captain Ron Christmas fought to regain the city of Hue, he found the enemy adept at concealment and surprise. Every soldier in a spider hole was armed with a rifle and a RPG launcher. He also encountered a nun with an AK-47. His action during this time earned him the Navy Cross.
As Ron Christmas fought to capture the Capitol building in the battle for Hue, the sight of an enemy flag angered him. Even though it was forbidden, as soon as he secured the site, he raised an American flag to boost the morale of his men.
Always looking for a bit of humor for relief, Captain Ron Christmas and his men had some fun in a posh toy room in a captured mansion. What they found in another well appointed house was an eye-opening stash of brandy. Both were great morale boosters.
Ordered to take ground across a bridge in Hue, Captain Ron Christmas used a barrage of smoke rounds to cover a dash across the span. After holding long enough to move across vital units, he found that his men were disappointed they had to withdraw.
It was Friday the Thirteenth when a North Vietnamese soldier fired an RPG at Ron Christmas. Dodging a direct hit, his legs were wounded badly enough to cause his evacuation. Unfortunately, he became lost in the medical system.
Ron Christmas tells the story of a Marine who kept getting wounded, and kept returning to battle because he couldn't desert the men that he considered to be his brothers. That, he says, is the true meaning of Semper Fidelis.
Under the rules of the Marine Corps at the time, Ron Christmas should have been discharged after he was wounded in Vietnam. As he recovered his strength, he was able to avoid a medical exam until he got in line with some inductees.
Marine Ron Christmas reflects on the basic principles of urban warfare, which he learned on the fly in the battle for Hue. He felt blessed in his later career as he received many rewarding assignments.
He could not see anyone else. In the predawn, he gathered up his parachute and began a futile search for his unit and his gear, including his weapon. Canadian paratrooper Dennis Trudeau joined with an American captain he found on the road and they made their way toward the small Normandy town which was his target. Suddenly, there was the ominous whistling of aerial bombs right on top of them.
Two engines were out, a third smoking, and they were were losing airspeed and altitude, but they were flying level and pointed home. Then time ran out for the B-17 and Don Scott had to slip down the hatch into the slipstream. Part 2 of 3.
It was their third mission over Berlin and they were heading home. Four German fighters pounced on the B-24 and it was engulfed in flame and going down. Clyde Burnette fought for consciousness as the other crew in the back of the plane bailed out. He woke in free fall with no idea how he had made it out, and soon he was in German custody. Everyone made it out of the plane except George "Danny" Daneau, the nose turret gunner, who went down with the aircraft.
When he jumped on D-Day, Canadian paratrooper Dennis Trudeau was way off target, but he finally found his unit in the small town of Varreville. Assigned to clear out a German pillbox near a bridge that was scheduled for demolition, his situation went from bad to worse when the bridge was blown.
After a nerve-wracking mission to bomb Tokyo and a typhoon, B.E. Vaughan and the destroyer O'Brien suffered a second kamikaze attack which killed all three of his hometown pals who served with him on board. Then, began the grim task of collecting the personal belongings of the dead and preparing them for burial at sea.
The first operation for the 4th Division was the landing on Roi-Namur. Lawrence Snowden remembers that, though it was an easy victory, valuable combat experience and important lessons were imparted on the Marines.
He was en route to the Philippines when the islands were surrendered to the Japanese. John Fain was rerouted to Australia where he served at General MacArthur's headquarters. Appointed Quartermaster of the 5th Air Force, he had to scramble and scrounge to supply the air fields and keep the planes flying. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
As Quartermaster for the 5th Air Force, John Fain served under General Douglas MacArthur, operating out of Australia and New Guinea. It was touch and go for a while, but as American forces were built up, the Japanese advance was stopped. One of Fain's accomplishments was the organization of a crash boat fleet which rescued downed flyers before the sharks could get them. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
John Fain had to fly between supply depots in Australia and New Guinea and he was always apprehensive about Japanese Zeros, but he got through the war without serious incident. There was one pilot, though, who made him say a prayer when he flew. He did so well as Quartermaster of the 5th Air Force that he was tapped to organize the training for the Air Force's Quartermaster Corps. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
Ray Remerowski remembers growing up during the 1930s and deciding to enlist when the war started. He managed to use the GI Bill to his advantage and got an education from it. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
Ray Remerowski wonders if there is an alternate solution to war, having lived through the atrocities of it. Being able to treat the German citizens in a civil manner sticks out to him as a special moment from the war. As time goes on, there are less and less WWII veterans to recount the war and he is proud to still be one of them. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
During a training mission in April 1944, Exercise Tiger, some American LSTs were ambushed by German E-boats and hundreds of men died. Only a few weeks later, LST 388 was participating in D-Day. Getting to the beach was a difficult undertaking with the mines that littered the water and incoming fire from the beaches ahead.
While stationed in Europe, Ray Remerowski learned how to interact with German civilians and had to deal with German soldiers. Working as a radio operator, he fortunately didn't get a lot of time in combat. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
Juergen Tibcken has a lot of interesting insights from his time growing up in Germany during WWII. Going to school under the threat of air raids was difficult for him and his family. In school, a lot of the teachers were Nazis that taught anti-semitism to them very strictly.
After the war ended in the Pacific, Roy Dugger returned to Texas A&M and then a teaching job. Assigned to teach agriculture to a class of returned veterans, he had just one problem. The assigned subjects were not at all what the aspiring farmers needed. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
Juergen Tibcken remembers the war ending and the way that the environment of their town changed after the liberation of Jewish prisoners. Learning English and trading different good in this little town taught him how to be resourceful and eventually set him up to come to America.
When he was growing up in Texas, Roy Dugger had a friend named Audie Murphy, who would go on to become one of the most highly decorated soldiers in history. He remembers how they learned to shoot, starting with a slingshot. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
When the Philippines were surrendered to the Japanese, 18 men from the USS Quail decided to try and escape in a motor launch. Lyle Bercier details the beginning of their harrowing voyage south. They almost didn't make it out of Manila Bay. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
When he shot out the target supports at aerial gunnery school, Roy Dugger expected to be repairing the equipment, but his precise shooting led to being chosen to demonstrate accurate gunnery for some visiting dignitaries. One of those men was Lyndon Johnson, who recognized Dugger right away. Later, a training flight over the Gulf of Mexico turned into his first combat experience when a German sub was spotted. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)