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.
The Russians were close enough that the American POW's could hear the fire in the distance. Their guards roused them all and put them on the road in a forced march, leaving their camp in Poland and heading for Germany. It was seventy nine days of freezing cold out in the open, with very little food. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
Jack Houston had just helped his buddy dress a wound when he volunteered to return to the Okinawa hilltop where they were getting the enemy cleared out. When he got the jump on three of them, his muzzle flash gave him away and he had to leave in a hurry. He flung himself off the hill where he came face to face with a rifle. Part 5 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Charles York had found an excellent observing position in a house overlooking the river. When his Lieutenant left to summon support to hold the position, he heard a clatter and saw eight Germans approaching up the hill. He waited until they passed, stepped out demanded that they surrender.
Several of the German weapons were far superior to his own, according to Frank "Lindy" Fancher. The Panzerfaust bazooka and the MG 42 machine gun were two that he really liked and he had more than one occasion to turn them on their makers. Sometimes he got orders that made no sense to him, like the time he was sent to a defensive position in a place that was impossible to defend.
He passed a test in high school that sent him to Cornell University with the promise of a commission and an engineering degree, but the Army needed infantry more than engineers so Charles York went to basic training and became part of the 100th Infantry Division. After a queasy Atlantic crossing, he landed in Marseille where he was advised by veteran troops on the dangers he would face.
One of the units from his group was surrounded and outnumbered by a large German force and Frank "Lindy" Fancher's platoon was ordered to keep the road open so they could escape. Later, back in a supposed safe area, he couldn't sleep and was the first to hear over the radio that the German armor was coming.
Charles York was fortunate to be assigned to the 100th Infantry Division. It was being filled at the same time as the 106th, which was decimated at the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge. His first job in the artillery battalion was just carrying shells but they need more forward observers and he was glad to move into that job. That outlook was soon modified.
They had to take the hill. Patton needed to cross the Moselle River where the German guns were targeted and Frank "Lindy" Fancher's platoon was pinned down. He was so mad that he grabbed a 30 cal machine gun and some ammo belts and charged the hill. When it was over, the crossing was secure and Fancher had won a battlefield commission.
Charles York had just been reassigned as a forward observer when he pushed toward the Maginot Line, where the Germans had turned the big guns around to face the advancing American troops. He was close when they fired over his head and glad the shells were directed elsewhere. He was charge of communications for the unit which usually meant laying phone wire because the radios were unreliable.
Hal Puett joined the Navy ahead of the draft in 1942. He was sent to radio school where he was top of his class and earned a rare Radioman's rating while still there. Finding some action was his goal but the Navy had other ideas and made him an instructor at Pre-Flight school, teaching communications to student pilots.
Frank "Lindy" Fancher, in an incident that earned him a Silver Star, had to get his unit across a minefield into some bunkers where they would guard a Ruhr River crossing. Halfway across the mine field, someone sneezed, a flare went up and the machine gun fire started. He inched his way out of there, but before it was over, he would cross that field several times to aid the wounded, repair the telephone wire, and get his men into the bunkers. He would also be on the receiving end of a Screaming Mimi barrage.
On Kwajalein, a tiny atoll in the Pacific, the Naval personnel manning the communications station were very resourceful, says Hal Puett who was in charge there in 1945 at the end of the war. They had some appropriated steaks and some blowtorches, so you can guess how they worked that out.
He was the communications specialist for the forward observer team, so Charles York had the job of laying phone wire back to the headquarters position. There was one problem, it was right through the middle of an active mine field.
It was cold and the snow was up to your waist. Your skin would stick and "burn" if you touched metal. You couldn't see through the fog during the day and you huddled together at night in snow caves because it was twenty below. That was when you weren't fighting at the Battle of the Bulge, recalls Frank "Lindy" Fancher.
The classrooms and the headquarters were on different parts of the sprawling University of Georgia campus, so the instructors at the Navy's Pre-Flight School were issued a motorcycle and sidecar to get around. Hal Puett recalls a couple of times that this arrangement went a little sideways.
They dug in every night from the fall of 1944 through the Spring of 1945. It was always rainy, and Charles York remembers waking up cold and wet. All the men in his unit had good German down coats, though, liberated from a factory, and they avoided frozen feet, thanks to some good advice.
Shortly after the Battle of the Bulge, Charles York was startled by the sight of a German jet fighter easily outrunning two Allied fighters. It was a frightening thought, that the enemy might have been able to manufacture more of them.
The paratroopers traveled through Belgium to the cheers of onlookers, but they were miserable in the open trucks. Rock Merritt says it was the coldest he's ever been. There had no cold weather gear except snow shoes as they rushed to defend Allied gains in the Battle of the Bulge. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
P.G. Caudell chose Navy because his two brothers chose Army and he wanted to be contrary. There was only one problem, he weighed less than a hundred pounds and they wanted at least ten more on a recruit. (This interview made possible with the support of Vietnam Veteran, Capt. GRAHAM G. KYLE, JR.)
Charles York describes the effects his artillery fire had on enemy positions and then the frightening feeling of being under an enemy artillery barrage. The air bursts were the worst. You could hear mortars or artillery pieces but there was one weapon, the 88mm gun, that fired with such a rapid velocity, you could not hear the round coming.
His battlefield commission from Stromberg Hill finally caught up with Frank "Lindy" Fancher and he received his Lieutenant bars. By this time, the Battle of the Bulge was on and he was in several firefights in Belgium where the Germans had superior numbers. It was during this time that he spotted an idle tank and took off in it to help a pinned down unit.
Rock Merritt had no knowledge of what he was training for in Nottingham, but soon the paratrooper was part of the vast invasion of Normandy. He describes the huge scope of the effort, the airplanes they used, and a unwanted responsibility he had regarding a bicycle. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)