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. 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.
There were some guys who grew quite a bit while they were in the Marines. David Greene was stuck at 5', 6" and was always on the end of the left side of the formations. He was tall enough to ship out for the Pacific, though, as a radioman.
Occupation duty in the mountains of Austria was a great chance for some deer hunting. Dan McBride and his friends were hunting when they heard sounds coming from a barn and discovered an Austrian family hiding there. They gave them some gifts and told them to go back to town. When the points system came around, he had more than enough to head home.
There was a table size mock up of Iwo Jima onboard ship. David Green saw it, so the geography of the place was no surprise. As the Marines worked their way up the island, the aim was to keep the line solid from shore to shore. He remembers strafing runs on the enemy and the opportunistic naval bombardment from ships that stayed through the battle.
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.
While on maneuvers after jump school, Dan McBride had a real close call when his chute did not open. He had a new platoon leader who made a great first impression with the men. This is the kind of officer we like!
When he had to bail out, Jim Wicker was literally sucked from the cockpit when he released the canopy because of his high rate of speed. He was just a hundred miles inland a few days after D-Day and the Germans caught him almost immediately. As he sat in solitary confinement waiting for interrogation, he was comforted by his faith.
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.
Bill Garrison was standing in a chow line when a man up the line suddenly dropped, shot dead by a sniper. That was only one hazard at the air fields in China; the others being Japanese air raids and infiltrators. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
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.
B-24 flight engineer Bill Toombs was over Germany when bad went to worse. One engine was shot out. Then an 88 round went right through the number four wing tank. It didn't blow up the plane, but they lost all the fuel for that engine, so now they had two engines out. They made a desperate run for Brussels, which had been liberated.
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.
Robert James was in the shower aboard ship when the alarm went off. He scrambled to his gun mount to man the 20 mm gun and then the threat became apparent. Kamikazes had broken through the air cover and were headed for the convoy. He heard some firing from another gun and turned around just in time to see a horrifying sight. Part 1 of 2.
It was after the war had ended that David Greene was called on to try and signal a large cargo ship with semaphore. There was a typhoon warning and the sailors were frantically signaling. Unfortunately, he was a Marine radioman and his semaphore skills were a bit lacking.
Robert James was propped up against a bulkhead, going in and out of consciousness. The kamikaze had destroyed the starboard gun mounts and there were many dead and wounded. He was grateful when someone gave him some morphine to ease the pain from multiple shrapnel wounds. This was the beginning of a painful journey to healing. Part 2 of 2.
Ubert Terrell was training to be a C-47 crew chief at the Douglas aircraft plant. While there, he also went to radio school and navigation school. He had absorbed enough knowledge about the airplane and it's controls that he was able to avert near disaster while flying with an inexperienced pilot. It was only his second time in an airplane.
He was in headquarters company, so Marine radioman David Greene was the first to return to a ship after the battle was over. After getting cleaned up and getting a new uniform, he was happy to be back on board after the long ordeal. He enjoyed being aboard ship, as long as you didn't get the bottom bunk.
As a crew chief on a C-47, Ubert Terrell and his crew spent a lot of time training with paratroopers stateside before traveling to England to prepare for the big invasion. While there, he saw some of the devastation visited on London.
There were four boys and no girls in the family, so David Greene was experienced with laundry and cooking before he was drafted in 1943. He picked the Marines when given the choice because of a rather odd reason.
The Army Air Corps had shuffled Ubert Terrell from school to school, based on his high aptitude test scores. He wound up as a thoroughly educated C-47 crew chief in the 100th Troop Carrier Squadron. He became good friends with a nucleus of men who were together through the war.
David Greene tells the story of the time he was nearly buried by a Japanese artillery shell on Iwo Jima. His services as a radioman were not needed once ashore and this led to him being maybe the only Marine who never fired a shot on the island.
He had some brothers who enlisted after Pearl Harbor, but Ubert Terrell had to be "invited" by the president to join up. He already knew how to handle a rifle because he had to hunt to put meat on the table.
He was the "scribe" of the outfit. When he returned from the war in the Pacific, David Greene had a list of names and addresses and he organized a reunion and it grew from there. Others in the group took on the job each time so that reunions were held all over the country.
Dan McBride couldn't stand the Brits and he was stuck in a British Army hospital in Brussels. He had a broken ankle, but when he was told they were going to ship him to a replacement depot, he and some more GI's hatched a plan to get back to their own unit. They finally made that happen and were reunited just in time to react to the news about a German breakthrough.
David Greene recalls hearing about the atomic bombs while aboard ship somewhere between Hawaii and Japan. When he was departing for home after his turn at occupation duty, he was asked if he wanted to pick something from a big pile of Japanese rifles.
The battle hardened men of the 82nd and 101st Airborne, who had enough points to go home, were transferred into the 17th Airborne temporarily. This stuck in their craw and they refused to wear the patch and caused some ruckus on the way home. Dan McBride had a hand in that.
They figured no more than a week for Iwo Jima, but it didn't go that way. Radioman David Greene explains why it was important to take the island and why the radio wasn't really used once the Marines were ashore.
When Dan McBride was fighting his way across France, he thought the French civilians did not like Americans and didn't want them there. Decades later, at a ceremony in Normandy, he found out how wrong he'd been.
Paratrooper Dan McBride's account of Operation Market Garden is colorful and exciting. He relates several tales, including the fate of an ill tempered sergeant, the improbable capture of a German unit four times the size of his, the reason you should not stop for tea and how he was injured by his own weapon.