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.
Two planes roared right across the bow of the ship. "Those are Jap planes," said Turner Harris, and he watched one of the kamikazes damage two aircraft carriers. At the Battle of Okinawa, his ship bombarded the island for 59 days, all the while fighting off Japanese attacks with anti-aircraft fire and smokescreens.
Navy Corpsman Frank Walden went ashore at Omaha Beach with the Beach Battalion, a unit charged with managing the beach during the assault. After the shock of seeing the first bodies, and after a frightening rush to find safety in the chaos, he began to treat the wounded.
Trained as a Beachmaster, Mortimer Caplin shipped out for England on the Queen Mary. His unit had a lot of specialized gear and he had to form a guard detachment to keep other units from walking away with it. After they got it all to the Southern English coast, they participated in the ill-fated Exercise Tiger out of Slapton Sands.
He decided he would rather ride than walk, so Turner Harris volunteered for the Navy in 1942. His journey started out rough in an open rail car with cinders blowing on him. After basic training, he was sent to radio school and eventually assigned to the USS New Orleans, a heavy cruiser.
It was late night guard duty and Herman Buffington heard something. Then he saw a figure crouched in the brush. When the next flare went up, he sighted and fired. The figure didn't move so he shot him again. When he found out why there was no reaction, all he could do was laugh. He did get a souvenir out of the encounter, a silk Japanese flag.
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 became known as the Turkey Shoot because of the incredible numbers of downed Japanese planes. That was the Battle of the Philippine Sea and the next battle, Leyte Gulf, broke the back of the Japanese in the South Pacific. Radioman Turner Harris credits the American Hellcat pilots with his survival in those battles.
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.
The man had been shot up pretty bad, remembers Herman Buffington, who carried him back to the camp. All the way the wounded soldier had pleaded with him to leave him there, but once safe in a foxhole, he wouldn't let go of Buffington's hand, even when the medics prepared to evacuate him.
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.
They were trying to take a ridge on Okinawa where the Japanese had dug trenches and the persistent Americans tried repeatedly to take the position. Herman Buffington got close enough to vault over into a trench where he used the old helmet-on-a-bayonet trick to judge the enemy fire. He received the Bronze Star for his actions in this firefight.
Herman Buffington was taking some potshots at Japanese troops on the other side of a large ravine where they were foolishly cooking their rice out in the open. When an officer came by and asked how he was doing, he remarked that he was trying to mix a little lead with the rice. The man asked for the rifle so he could give it a try and he proved to be an excellent shot. Buffington could smell the brass and he was right. It was General Simon Buckner.
The mission to Kiel was a fateful one for B-17 bombardier Dequindre McGlaun. The bomb group was disorganized because of a base reassignment and the men were awakened at 3 AM with no advance notice of a mission. After hitting the target, his squadron was swarmed by enemy fighters. Every 50 cal machine gun on the plane was firing as the bomber slipped lower and lower toward the water.
Herman Buffington was hunkered down in his foxhole on Okinawa when a mortar round hit close by and a piece of red hot shrapnel tore through his leg. It sounded like bacon frying, but a medic got the bleeding stopped and he was going to be OK. He refused the morphine because he was already exhausted and didn't want anyone else to tend to his tourniquet.
Dequindre McGlaun was in bombardier training when Pearl Harbor was attacked. It was going well until he got sick and had to be held back and graduate with a later class. He was finally flying in B-17's when his crew was split up and he became an unassigned crew member.
Finally back home, Turner Harris could not find a job, so he reenlisted and became a Navy recruiter. After a while, he took a civilian job, but the Navy lured him back in with clandestine work, although he didn't realize that was what it was. He was working for Communications Support Activities, a Naval signal intelligence agency.
The man at the pilot physical said that Dequindre McGlaun had eyes like a horse with outstanding peripheral vision. That didn't help when he was washed out by an overzealous captain for skidding the plane in an emergency landing test. He went back to work in a civilian job but he contacted the Army Air Corps and offered himself up for bombardier training.
Turner Harris went through three typhoons during his Pacific tour. The first two didn't amount to much, but the third one was deadly. He describes the sight of the giant swells and how he avoided injury, at least until he went to fetch sandwiches.
After he got to know his group lead bombardier at his last training stop, Dequindre McGlaun volunteered for combat by taking the place of a bombardier who got cold feet. He didn't have to go but he was trained for it and he was tired of beating around the States, waiting for assignments. They got new B-17's to fly to England but, immediately, a problem developed.
Turner Harris joined the crew of the USS New Orleans just as repairs were completed. The Radioman was assigned to Radio Room 3, deep in the ship. His first action was off Wake Island, where he felt, but could not see, the artillery fire from shore. After the battle, he asked his Chief for a big favor.
The B-17 crews had crossed the Atlantic and were organizing in England. On his second mission, bombardier Dequindre McGlaun's plane was shot up so bad it had to be replaced. He told his mates that they had to get their attitude straight if they were going to deal with things like that and still be successful. After six missions, he was named lead bombardier.
Turner Harris had to go to the head but there was a long line, so he sat down for a moment on a ladder at the edge of the ship. He heard a plane in distress and turned to watch it hit one of the masts and explode. The next thing he knew, he was over the edge and hanging on for dear life.
Frank Harris recalls his joining the Army Air Corps at the young age of 18 and shipping off to training in California after he'd been admitted as a pilot. An unfortunate training accident involving his friend and roommate sticks with him to this day.
B-17 bombardier Dequindre McGlaun recalls several of his bombing missions over Northern Europe. There were other bombers that nearly hit his and there were people on the ground who wanted to kill him. He changed planes and crews when he was made lead bombardier and he describes the nose art on the new plane.
The MPM Circuit was a continuous feed from Honolulu, one coded message after another, 24 hours a day. Radioman Turner Harris translated the Morse code for the decoding officer, then was on to the next message. That was also his battle station so he spent a lot of time there. He was on a heavy cruiser that was bombarding Japanese held islands.
His crew had been split up and, after his last training post, B-17 bombardier Dequindre McGlaun was waiting for an assignment. He was sent to the 94th Bomb Group, but when he was grounded with ear problems, his pilot was killed in a crash landing. Once again, he was a wandering bombardier without a crew.