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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Serving in the Air Force, Lammie Spivey served on multiple ships during his time on the water. After being discharged and sent to shore, he stayed on in the Army Air Corps to serve in the air instead of the sea. 6 years in Japan and 3 years in France was good to him, as he got to have family with him while serving.
Departing on the U.S.S. New York to Pearl Harbor, where he transferred to Guam. While heading back to the U.S. on discharge, he had an incident on deck that led to him taking a big fall which he miraculously survived. He decided to start Army Air Corps training, where he stayed for the rest of his service.
When Georgia native William Forbes hears of the attack on Pearl Harbor, his first question is "what's a Pearl Harbor?" He soon develops a keen understanding of what's at stake, and enlists in the Army. The first casualty: his civilian clothes.
On D-Day, William Forbes' platoon storms the beaches of Normandy and fights their way through the French countryside all the way to Cherbourg. After a month of non-stop combat, he leads his team to Saint-Lo, where a bewildering explosion drastically alters his role in the war effort.
Life in the forward engine room is challenging. Willie Nelson and his fellow engineers make the best of the heat and the crazy hours, and form an "arrangement" with the combative galley cooks. (This interview made possible with the support of DALE GREGORY)
Forbes' postwar career takes him from Europe to Puerto Rico, back to Germany, on to Korea and finally to the Pentagon, where he serves under the Secretary of Defense. He retires from the Army to become a writer and a "Beltway Bandit" - and learns to appreciate Single Malt Scotch.
Charles Fallis was in the ninth grade when the war started, but he became part of the effort when he entered the Navy in 1944. Assigned to the beach party on a troop transport, he was surprised when he had to learn to do what soldiers do every day. (This interview made possible with the support of KENNETH ANTHONY WEST.)
Forbes undergoes extensive training on the road to the European theater, earning his place as a platoon leader. His company trains in England for amphibious landings and strenuous combat. In the weeks leading-up to D-Day, they are moved to a sealed camp to await orders.
The Japanese knew that Okinawa was the last step on the Allied move toward the mainland, so they went all out with suicide attacks. Charles Fallis remembers the kamikaze alerts when he was anchored there. His ship was part of the task force that readied to invade Japan, and then after the surrender, part of the occupation. (This interview made possible with the support of KENNETH ANTHONY WEST.)
Walter Fleming arrives at boot camp in San Diego, where he trains in boxing, firefighting, and piloting a Landing Craft. During an exercise at sea, he and his crew learn that horsing around can have consequences. (This interview made possible with the support of WILLIE NELSON, JR)
He was seasick the first two weeks, but it went away and he was never bothered by it again. Charles Fallis was on the USS Grimes, a troop transport that ferried troops to Iwo Jima, and then picked up the wounded for evacuation. When a severely wounded Marine died, he witnessed a burial at sea, something he will never forget. (This interview made possible with the support of KENNETH ANTHONY WEST.)
He went home on a 30 day furlough and never went back to Europe. Bob Seeley's leave was extended, his back problem tied him up for five months, and he was shuffled around to different bases until he wound up in Maine. Rather than face the cold, he resorted to drastic measures, reenlistment.
Walter Fleming's first action is the full-scale invasion of Iwo Jima. Over several perilous days, he has many close calls with mortar fire, open-sea collisions, and artillery rounds - all the while evacuating wave after wave of wounded Marines. (This interview made possible with the support of WILLIE NELSON, JR)