4:00 | Combat is always chaotic but the recovery of the SS Mayaguez was particularly disjointed. The joint operation suffered from too many parties at the top trying to exert influence, recalls Ray Porter, who led the assault on the ship itself. Part 3 of 3.
Keywords : Ray Porter Vietnam Cambodia SS Mayaguez Cambodian Koh Tang Gerald Ford
His first military experience was in the Army National Guard, but when Ray Porter was ready to accept a commission, he had a moment of insight. Wouldn't it be better to be a Marine officer?
After several duty stations as a fresh Marine officer, it became time for Ray Porter to go to Vietnam. It was 1967 and he took command of a company in the Thuong Duc valley above Da Nang. There was a lot of action, including, believe or or not, enemy elephants.
Back when he was in New Mexico, Ray Porter trained a younger friend to shoot. Years later, he was commanding a company of Marines in Vietnam and guess who showed up as his new sniper?
Ray Porter had many fine men under his command in Vietnam but he had one lieutenant who was both incompetent and a coward. There was a big problem with sending him back to the rear, though. He was an admiral's son.
Ray Porter's company was responding to an overrun situation. There was a road that went straight to the site but, on the spur of the moment, he decided to go through the rice paddies. After mopping up the battle he returned to base on the road. That's when he found out that his hunch had paid off.
Ray Porter had a radio operator who was kind of a character. He could bring comic relief to a dire situation, including passages from the Batman TV show. Porter showed imagination as well when he tricked some VC to come out in the open.
The villagers told him he was fighting "The Cat," an elusive VC leader who was very hard to find. Eventually he found him and he would never forget it. He also met a little Vietnamese girl who eventually saved his life.
After his Vietnam tour, Marine officer Ray Porter returned to the States, where he was spit on by a hippie. He took the high road. He decided the Marines were going to be a career for him. Eventually, it was time for another overseas tour.
Ray Porter was told to get 130 Marines ready to go by midnight. They were in Okinawa and he assumed that they would be going to recover gold from the embassy in Saigon. But the mission was the recovery of the SS Mayaguez, a container ship which had been seized by Cambodian forces. Part 1 of 3.
As Ray Porter's Marines approached the SS Mayaguez, the Cambodians holding her fled. This made the actual recovery bloodless, thankfully. 41 men would lose their lives in the overall operation, though, as combat raged on the island where the ship was anchored. Then, the unthinkable happened. Marines were left behind. Part 2 of 3.
Ray Porter is proud of the Marines who served in his unit in Vietnam. They never hesitated and would give anything for their brothers. He tried to give back to them as their commander, like the time he got the Seabees to bring them a refrigeration unit.
Ray Porter tried to pass on the values he learned as a Marine to his children and grandchildren and it must have worked. They went into the military as well, including a granddaughter who flies F-18's. Looking back on a time when he was in charge of training Marines, he had someone on his staff who was quite a character, Oliver North.