UPDATED 4 May 2010


For an excellent account of the marine-led Koh Tang island debacle read: Chariots of the Damned by USAF Major Mike McKinney and Mike Ryan. Superb painting by Ronald Wong.

de*ba*cle (noun)

[French debacle, from debacler to clear, from Middle French desbacler, from des- de- + bacler to block, perhaps from (assumed) Vulgar Latin bacculare, from Latin baculum staff]

First appeared 1802

1 : a tumultuous breakup of ice in a river

2 : a violent disruption (as of an army) : ROUT.

3 a : a great disaster

b : a complete failure : FIASCO

SOME U.S. marine corps (Mc) apologists whine that our many geocities/reocities.com itsg home page's "McFraud, McWaste and McAbuse" section that illustrates McErrors and offers corrections somehow "dishonors" the many dead--though everything stated is TRUE.

Using the memory of those that are not here to speak to get an emotional smokescreen that covers up real world tactical lessons that should be learned like having REAL SMOKESCREENS to save lives and win wars--is grotesque and a common ploy by Mcrapologists when faced with the facts of their bureaucracy's failures like the debacle at Koh Tang island (definition is at the top of this page for those who do not know what the word means, though they create them!). We dishonor the sacrifice of these men when we fail to learn from them so the next generation doesn't fall on its own swords, too. At the very least, those that fault our constructive criticism of the mc should spot-correct marines trash-talking the other services (a common occurrence) or else they are hypocrites.

SYNOPSIS: When U.S. troops were pulled out of Southeast Asia in early 1975, Vietnamese communist troops began capturing one city after another, with Hue, Da Nang and Ban Me Thuot in March, Xuan Loc in April, and finally on April 30, Saigon. In Cambodia, communist Khmer Rouge had captured the capital city of Phnom Penh on April 17. The last Americans were evacuated from Saigon during "Option IV", with U.S. Ambassador Martin departing on April 29. The war, according to President Ford, "was finished."

2Lt. Richard Van de Geer, assigned to the 21st Special Ops Squadron at NKP, had participated in the evacuation of Saigon, where helicopter pilots were required to fly from the decks of the 7th Fleet carriers stationed some 500 miles offshore, fly over armed enemy-held territory, collect American and allied personnel and return to the carriers via the same hazardous route, heavily loaded with passengers. Van de Geer wrote to a friend, "We pulled out close to 2,000 people. We couldn't pull out any more because it was beyond human endurance to go any more..."

However, at 11:21 a.m. on May 12, the U.S. merchant ship SS Mayaguez was seized by the Khmer Rouge in the Gulf of Siam about 60 miles from the Cambodian coastline and eight miles from Poulo Wai island. The container ship, owned by Sea-Land Corporation, was en route to Sattahip, Thailand from Hong Kong, carrying a non-arms cargo for military bases in Thailand. Capt. Charles T. Miller, a veteran of more than 40 years at sea, was on the bridge. He had steered the ship within the boundaries of international waters, but the Cambodians had recently claimed territorial waters 90 miles from the coast of Cambodia. The thirty-nine seamen aboard were taken prisoner.

President Ford ordered the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea, the guided missile destroyer USS Henry B. Wilson and the USS Holt to the area of seizure. By night, a U.S. P-3 Orion reconnaissance aircraft located the Mayaguez at anchor off Poulo WaI island.



Plans were made to rescue the crew. A battalion landing team (BLT) of 1,100 marines was ordered flown from bases in Okinawa and the Philippines to assemble at Utapao, Thailand in preparation for the assault.

The first casualties of the effort to free the Mayaguez are recorded on May 13 when a helicopter carrying Air Force security team personnel crashed en route to Utapao, killing all 23 aboard.

Early in the morning of May 13, the Mayaguez was ordered to head for Koh Tang island. Its crew was loaded aboard a Thai fishing boat and taken first to Koh Tang, then to the mainland city of Kompong Song, then to Rong San Lem island. U.S. intelligence had observed a cove with considerable activity on the island of Koh Tang, a small five-mile long island about 35 miles off the coast of Cambodia southwest of the city of Sihanoukville (Kampong Saom), and believed that some of the crew might be held there. They also knew of the Thai fishing boat, and had observed what appeared to be Caucasians aboard it, but it could not be determined if some or all of the crew was aboard.

Koh Tang island. Lazy marine planners decided to land on the two open beaches on the west and east side of the narrower center instead of landing or hovering inserting marines into an unpredictable spot inland in vegetated areas. Enemy dug-in with clear fields-of-fire and waiting for air or sea landings creamed USAF helicopters as they landed

The USS Holt was ordered to seize and secure the MAYAGUEZ, still anchored off Koh Tang. Marines were to land on the island and rescue any of the crew. Navy [A-7] jets from the USS Coral Sea were to make four strikes on military installments on the Cambodian mainland.

On May 15, the first wave of 179 marines headed for the island aboard eight Air Force "Jolly Green Giant" helicopters. Three Air Force helicopters unloaded marines from the 1st Battalion, 4th marines onto the landing pad of the USS Holt and then headed back to Utapao to pick up the second wave of marines. Planes dropped tear gas on the Mayaguez, and the USS Holt pulled up along side the vessel and the marines stormed aboard. The Mayaguez was deserted.

Simultaneously, the marines of the 2/9 were making their landings on two other areas of the island. The eastern landing zone was on the cove side where the Cambodian compound was located. The western landing zone was a narrow spit of beach about 500 feet behind the compound on the other side of the island. The marines hoped to surround the compound.

As the first troops began to unload on both beaches, the Cambodians opened fire. On the western beach, one helicopter was hit and flew off crippled, to ditch in the ocean about 1 mile away. The pilot had just disembarked his passengers, and he was rescued at sea.

Meanwhile, the eastern landing zone had become a disaster. The first two helicopters landing were met by enemy fire. Ground commander, (now) Col. Randall W. Austin had been told to expect between 20 and 40 Khmer Rouge Soldiers on the island. Instead, between 150 and 200 were encountered. First, Lt. John Shramm's helicopter tore apart and crashed into the surf after the rotor system was hit. All aboard made a dash for the tree line on the beach.

One CH-53A helicopter was flown by U.S. Air Force Major Howard Corson and 2Lt. Richard Van de Geer--and carrying 23 marines and 2 U.S. Navy corpsmen, all from the 2nd Battalion, 9th marines. As the helicopter approached the island, it was caught in a cross-fire and hit by a rocket [propelled grenade]. The severely damaged helicopter crashed into the sea just off the coast of the island and exploded. To avoid enemy fire, survivors were forced to swim out to sea for rescue. Twelve aboard, including Maj. Corson, were rescued. Those missing from the helicopter were 2Lt. Richard Van de Geer, PFC Daniel A. Benedett, PFC Lynn Blessing, PFC Walter Boyd, Lcpl. Gregory S. Copenhaver, Lcpl. Andres Garcia, PFC James J. Jacques, PFC James R. Maxwell, PFC Richard W. Rivenburgh, PFC Antonio R. Sandoval, PFC Kelton R. Turner, all U.S. marines. Also missing were HM1 Bernard Gause, Jr. and HM Ronald J. Manning, the two corpsmen.

Other helicopters were more successful in landing their passengers. One CH-53A, however was not.

SSgt. Elwood E. Rumbaugh's aircraft was near the coastline when it was shot down. Rumbaugh is the only missing man from the aircraft. The passengers were safely extracted. (It is not known whether the passengers went down with the aircraft or whether they were rescued from the island.)

By midmorning, when the Cambodians on the mainland began receiving reports of the assault, they ordered the crew of the Mayaguez on a Thai boat, and then left. The Mayaguez crew was recovered by the USS Wilson before the second wave of marines was deployed, but the second wave was ordered to attack anyway.

Late in the afternoon, the assault force had consolidated its position on the western landing zone and the eastern landing zone was evacuated at 6:00 p.m. many by precariously setting the large CH-53 helicopter's rear ramp against the stern of the USS Wilson for the men to jump out onto the deck since it was too big to land and the marines didn't know how to rappel.

By the end of the 14-hour operation, most of the marines (but not all, at least 10 were left behind alive) were extracted from the island safely, with 50 wounded. L/Cpl. Ashton Loney had been killed by enemy fire, but his body could not be recovered.

Never leave marines behind? 3 marines abandoned by other marines to be tortured and murdered by the enemy...Semper FU...


L/Cpl. Hargrove USMC

PVT. Marshall USMC

Protecting the perimeter during the final evacuation was the [7.62mm M60 medium] machine gun squad of PFC Gary L. Hall, L/Cpl. Joseph N. Hargrove and Pvt. Danny G. Marshall. They had run out of ammunition and were ordered to evacuate on the last helicopter. It was their last contact. Maj. McNemar and Maj. James H. Davis made a final sweep of the beach before boarding the helicopter and were unable to locate them. They were declared Missing in Action (MIA).

The eighteen men missing from the Mayaguez incident are listed among the missing from the Vietnam war. Although authorities believe that there are perhaps hundreds of American prisoners still alive in Southeast Asia from the war, most are pessimistic about the fates of those captured by the Khmer Rouge.

In 1988, the communist government of Kampuchea (Cambodia) announced that it wished to return the remains of several dozen Americans to the United States. (In fact, the number was higher than the official number of Americans missing in Cambodia.) Because the U.S. does not officially recognize the Cambodian government, it has refused to respond directly to the Cambodians regarding the remains. Cambodia, wishing a direct acknowledgment from the U.S. Government, still holds the remains.

FULL LENGTH STORY (Discovery Channel TV documentary)

They are the final names on the Vietnam wall. The final casualties of US involvement in South East Asia.

On May 12, 1975 -- less than two weeks following the United States evacuation of Vietnam, the SS Mayaguez a cargo ship, was steaming off the coast of Cambodia when it was fired upon - boarded - and seized by Cambodian Communist forces - the Khmer Rouge.

1. President Ford

"I felt that it was a violation of international law, and that we as a government had an obligation to get the crew and the ship back."

Three days later, on May 15th American forces were poised to launch a massive attack on a small island called Koh Tang. What they didn't know was that they were about to invade the wrong island.

The battle for Koh Tang is part of an international incident known as the Mayaguez Crisis. The following story is told by the people who there and contains never before seen secret footage and radio communications of the actual events.

In the Spring of 1975, The SS Mayaguez a 500-foot - merchant ship of U.S. registry routinely sails the volatile, war-torn waters off the coast of Vietnam and Cambodia.

12 May 1975

Gulf of Thailand, 2:40 PM

2. Ray Friedler

"On this particular trip we left from Hong Kong and were headed to Sattahip Thailand."

3. Tom LeBue

"I was on wheel watch steering the ship when we received a shot across our bow."

4. Jerry Myregard

"I felt the vibration of the ship stop, so I went outside to see what the problem was."

On the bridge Captain Charles Miller scribbles a hasty entry into the ship's log ...

"May 12, 1975...

1420 hours reduced to maneuvering speed, vessel challenged by gunboat and gunboat fires shots across starboard bow.

1421 Engines stop

1425 gunboat P128 comes along side"

5. Jerry Myregard

"When I got outside I saw these Khmer Rouge soldiers coming aboard with black pajamas, bandoleers, automatic, weapons, rocket launchers and I knew just what was happening."

12 May 1975

Washington DC, 7:30 AM

6. President Ford

"I was awakened on the morning of the 12th of May by Brent Scowcroft who said there were radio indications that an American merchant ship, the Mayaguez, had been seized in international waters."

7. Brent Scowcroft

"I called both the CIA and then I called Henry Kissinger and he had heard the same report. So we mobilized and by 10:00 that morning we had a NSC meeting."

The White House quickly issues a statement that the failure to release the crew will have the "most serious consequences."

8. James Schlesinger

"The reaction was we had to do something and had to do something dramatic."

9. Henry Kissinger

"Having just evacuated Indochina we could not graduate to the point where American ships could be captured on the high seas".

During the meeting, Director of the CIA, William Colby briefs the National Security Council. Colby informs the president that the Mayaguez is being forced into the Cambodian harbor of Kompong Som and will be making port within the hour.

10. Henry Kissinger

"The imminence of these American hostages arriving in Cambodia was something that provided a greater urgency to our decisions"

The president puts U.S. forces in the Western Pacific on alert and orders a naval task force led by the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea to proceed immediately to the Gulf of Thailand. Ford also orders the Pentagon to conduct round-the-clock surveillance of Mayaguez. In this never-before-seen, secret surveillance footage, the Mayaguez can be seen surrounded by Cambodian gunboats [Editor: see photo above on this web page]. She is located on the evening of May 12th not in the port Kompong Som where the CIA reported--but at anchor off a small island in the Gulf of Thailand, called Koh Tang.

Very little is known about Koh Tang.

It is a three-mile by two-mile island covered with dense jungle-- about 35 miles off the western coast of the Cambodian port of Kompong Som. The chance that the Americans had been taken off the ship and put on Koh Tang is encouraging. A rescue would be nearly impossible if the Mayaguez crew were taken to the Cambodian mainland.

Henry Kissinger

"Everybody especially President Ford who was in the congress at the time remembered the Pueblo incident where the North Koreans captured an American ship and sort of humiliated the United States by not releasing the prisoners."

But the fear in the White House goes well beyond the political implications of the Mayaguez.

11. Ambassador Quinn

"The thing to keep in mind about the Khmer Rouge is they're probably one of the three or four most brutal genocidal regimes the world has ever seen.

They ended up killing about two million out of seven million in the country in about four years"

12. Henry Kissinger

"...to leave the Americans in the hands of the Khmer Rouge was something we would not accept"

On the diplomatic front, Ford is faced with a difficult situation -- How to negotiate with a country the U.S. does not officially recognize.

The Mayaguez crisis is becoming an exclamation point on one of the darkest chapters in U.S. Foreign policy.

13. Ambassador Quinn

"April 12th, 1975, the American Embassy in Phnom Penh is evacuated. Five days later, //, the Khmer Rouge march into Phnom Penh and evacuate the city. A million people taken, marched out into forced, new living arrangements in the countryside. Two weeks later, April 25th, Saigon, the American Embassy evacuation begins."

14. President Ford

"We the United States had been literally kicked out of Saigon by the North Vietnamese"

The void left in South East Asian diplomatic channels leaves Ford few options.

16. President Ford

"The best avenue to get our message to the Cambodians was through their friend, their ally the People's Republic of China"

The message is simple can the Chinese contact the Khmer Rouge.

17. Henry Kissinger

"The Chinese in Washington refused to accept the communication"

On the morning of May 13th the CIA confirms Mayaguez is at anchor off Koh Tang. U.S. aircraft observe Cambodian boats making trips between the ship and the island. Since none have gone to the mainland, the CIA concludes the Americans have been put onto Koh Tang. What they don't know is the entire crew is being held on a fishing boat in the cove just east of the island.

18. Brent Scowcroft

"We established a barrier, and air barrier between Koh Tang island and the mainland to prevent the crew from being taken to the mainland."

On the evening of May 13th Ford assembles the third meeting of the National Security Council.

The news is not good.

In Thailand a helicopter transporting Air Force security personnel for an anticipated military operation has crashed killing all 23 Americans onboard. This picture was taken moments before take-off. The crisis has claimed its first American casualties. As Ford ponders the tragedy an urgent message is received from a pilot flying over the Mayaguez. Several boats are leaving Koh Tang and heading in the direction of the Cambodian mainland. The radio message is patched directly to the National Security Council meeting.

19. Brent Scowcroft

"One of the pilots of the aircraft called in and said, 'I have a boat here going to the mainland that looks like there are Caucasians on board, my orders are to stop it or sink it, what shall I do? '"

20. Raymond Friedler

"They did everything they could to stop us - to try keep the vessel from going to the main port."

21. Tom LeBue

"On the way to Kompong Som we were buzzed by American planes and they dropped tear gas in the water."

22. Raymond Friedler

"They shot the gun boats that were leading us, they shot those out of the water right away there was two that turned around and went on either side of us and as I turned around I could see them blowing them out of the water so there was only us left."

23. Brent Scowcroft

"I actually talked to the pilot and told him not to sink that particular vessel and it turned out to be one with at least part of the crew on board."

U.S. planes track the boat to within sight of the mainland but are forced to turn back as they approach Cambodian airspace.

24. Raymond Friedler

"We ended up in the port of Kompong Som where many people came down wearing black pajamas and the all had guns."

25. Jerry Myregard

"We thought we were going to be paraded through the streets. That was actually the low point in the whole episode for us."

But to the relief of the crew, and undetected by U.S intelligence... they are not taken off at Kompong Som, but moved again to the nearby island of Rong Som Lem.

On the Morning of May 14th Ford calls the fourth and final meeting of the National Security council. The CIA reports that the boat, which made it to the Cambodian mainland, carried only part of the crew. And they have been taken into the countryside but no one knows where. They now believe the crew has been separated into three groups one on the mainland, one on Koh Tang, and one remaining aboard the Mayaguez. All three hostage locations are wrong.

26. Henry Kissinger

"Almost all the CIA briefings turned out to be inaccurate. Now my problem with that was not that they were inaccurate. But what was troublesome was the assurance of which they presented it, which always was wrong."

Faulty intelligence has turned the crisis into a virtual shell game. Out of options Ford plays his final card.

27. President Ford

"I ordered the Pentagon to take whatever action was required necessary to recapture the ship and to save the crew."

28. James Schlesinger

"The diplomatic maneuvers at that point were secondary. We believed quite clearly that only a display of force was going to bring the Cambodians to yield."

Ford sets a 24-hour deadline.

"If the crew is not released by the morning of May 15th, contingents of the Navy, Air Force and marines will conduct operation 'Rescue'".

Just after dawn, two marine assault forces will simultaneously seize Koh Tang and the SS Mayaguez at anchor just North of the island. Navy and Air Force aircraft will support the operation as well as bomb-selected targets on the Cambodian Mainland.

14 May 1975

U Tapao Airfield, Thailand 7:00 PM

By the evening of the 14th U.S. forces are massing for the assault. A marine amphibious battalion is air lifted from Okinawa to U Tapao Thailand. As they arrive, the marine commander assigned to assault Koh Tang Lt. Col. Randall Austin finds that he lacks even the most basic intelligence concerning his objective.

29. Austin

"There were no maps there were no photos there was none of the normal kinds of basic information you would expect about an objective area."

30. Captain James Davis

"...so I offered my 35mm camera. I asked to send a staff sergeant to the PX to buy some film. With that//we, got aboard a Cessna twin and we headed for the island, which was around 190 miles from U Tapao."

31. Colonel Austin

"We were taking photos out the window with a hand-held camera at 4500 feet Its not the optimal in terms of gathering intelligence."

32. Captain James Davis

"I was disappointed with the detail of the photographs. I did however see two small beaches. And with that being the only advantage I saw in the photograph, and in the tactical situation I knew I would have to land helicopters on two beaches simultaneously."

The beaches Davis saw are on opposite sides of the Northern neck of Koh Tang. The island's rocky terrain and dense jungle make landing anywhere else virtually impossible. The marines are told that the majority of the Americans are held on Koh Tang in a compound located directly between the two beaches. They are also told a skeleton crew is still being held aboard the Mayaguez.

33. Lt. James McDaniel

"About midnight we started breaking out the ammunition. That was a unique experience."

34. Lt. Michael Cicere

"One of the first things that impact you on a situation like that if this is the real thing is when we started handing out grenades."

What the marines don't know is that the critical intelligence they need arrives only seconds before Capt. Davis boards his helicopter.

35. Captain James Davis

"a Staff Sergeant walked up to me and he said, 'Captain, here are your aerial photos.' These obviously were photos taken by, I assume, a U2, or any other sophisticated air platform."

36. GYSGT Lester McNemar

"It showed barracks, it showed - looked like AA positions - round, heavily fortified AA positions. You seen some bunkers and trenches."

37. Captain James Davis

"Within minutes, if not seconds, one of the pilots said, 'Saddle up, we're going in!' At that point and time, I looked over at Gunnery Sgt. McNemar, and I said, 'Gunny, I 'm not even going to show these photos to the troops. We don't have time. But I think we're in for a world of trouble.'"

At 4:15 AM on May 15th 1975, 11 Air Force helicopters carrying the two assault forces leave U Tapao, Thailand. Three choppers will drop a contingent of 1st Battalion 4th marines on the USS Harold E. Holt for a ship-to-ship assault of the Mayaguez. The 8 remaining helicopters head straight for Koh Tang.

38. Michael Cicere

"The marines were quiet; they were obviously very tense when I gave them their briefing. I tried to calm them as much as I possible could, although, you know, I was acting myself, because I was as scared as anybody else not knowing what we are going to run into."

As flight operations begin on the USS Coral Sea, U.S. intelligence picks up a radio broadcast from inside Cambodia.

39. Henry Kissinger

"The Cambodians issued a statement, which strongly implied that the hostages would be released. But they issued that on the open radio, they did not communicate it to us, through a government, or through any other means that they might have available."

40. President Ford

"We had to have some definitive answer from the Cambodian government otherwise I had no choice"

While the speech is being translated, Khmer authorities on the island of Rong Sam Lem - some 35 miles from Koh Tang release the crew of the Mayaguez placing them back on the fishing boat.

41. Raymond Friedler

"We were being escorted by a Khmer Rouge PT boat, finally they waved at us peeled off and we realized that we were being released."

Nearly three hours will pass before anyone knows the Americans have been freed.

15 May 1975

Just North of Koh Tang, 6:10 AM

As the USS Holt steams toward the Mayaguez lookouts spot Khmer guards on her deck armed with AK-47s. In preparation for the assault, Naval aircraft drop tear gas on the Mayaguez. Seconds later the destroyer pulls along side and the marines storm over the ship's rail. Moving deck to deck the marines take the ship without firing a shot. Mayaguez is empty. In the ships galley a pot of warm rice and some tea are testament to the haste in which the Cambodian guards have fled.

Dumbass marine assaulting another ship with SLEEVES ROLLED UP and no gloves"

As the fishing boat carrying the freed American's makes its way toward the Mayaguez the marines approach Koh Tang.

The plan for the siege is simple. The Eastern zone is nearest to the Cambodian compound where the marines still believe some of the crew is held. With units landing on the East beach and across the island on the West Beach the Marines plan to encircle the Cambodians.

42. Lt James McDaniel

"Over the radio, I could hear that they had identified some enemy patrol boats below us that started to shoot up."

43. Captain Davis

"I looked down and I saw an orange glow below the helicopter. I had no idea what our altitude was or where our position was in relation to the island. But the orange glow, I knew it was ground fire"

Although the helicopters are well out of reach of the Cambodian fire. Their approach to Koh Tang is no longer a secret.

44. Rot Lang

"We could hear the aircraft as they flew in from the Gulf. We contacted the commanders of regiments and battalions and told them that the situation was not good and that we heard the sound of many planes. The commanders ordered that all protecting forces around the island to prepare for war."

45. Mao Run

"Having just liberated Phnom Penh our forces were fresh and new. They had not forgotten their fighting tactics...they were all well prepared and had not lost their courageous spirit."

15 May 1975

Koh Tang, West Beach Landing, 6:15 AM

46. Lt. James McDaniel

"The sun was just starting to creep over the horizon and it's very dramatic. It's black and then all of a sudden there's just some faint sunlight and then all of a sudden the sun comes up and everything is blazing in light."

Coming in low across the water the first two choppers approach the Western zone. As they attempt to land the tree line erupts in a barrage of automatic weapons fire.

47. Lt. James McDaniel

"You could see a bullet puncture the side of the helicopter. And it seemed like it was in slow motion as it would come through the skin of the helicopter"

As McDaniel's Platoon exits the aircraft, they become the targets.

Overloaded marines stumble out the back of the USAF HH-53; note the lack of mobility, hands free to fire weapons and heads down. Helmets are not camouflaged, sleeves are rolled up for garrison "From Here to Eternity" guard duty comfort--not a firefight. They are trudging ahead, following-the-leader: more evidence of crap USMC field technique. Nothing has changed in the years ever since.

48. Lt. James McDaniel

"Staff Sergeant Salinas led the charge off of the helicopter and as he walked off onto the rocks. I could see bullets bouncing off the rocks to either side of him"

Sitting on the beach McDaniel's helicopter takes punishing hits. Having lost an engine the pilot nurses the chopper out over the water.

49. GYSGT Lester McNemar

"I see the first helicopter in the western zone going out about 500 to 600 yards out into the ocean to the north end of the island, get down in the water, sat there for like 2 seconds, flipped over and sank."

The helicopter carrying Gunnery Sergeant McNemar and Capt. Davis - then circles back and attempts to insert its marines.

50. Captain James Davis

"I was hit with something in the face and it turned me a flip. I looked to my left, and the crew chief/ gunner on the gun had been hit also."

Heavy machine gun fire rakes down the length of the chopper.

51. Captain Davis

"The chopper was badly damaged, there was hydraulic fluid, and you could smell fuel"

52. Gunny McNemar

"The pilot decided to abort and head to the mainland, back to Thailand or U Tapao, we didn't know where we were going."

Across the island the welcome for the Choppers on the East beach is even worse.

May 15 1975

Koh Tang, East Beach Landing, 6:21 AM

53. Major Al Corson

"We were doing a high-speed ingress, which is the way you want to go in to minimize your exposure time."

54. Moa Run

"4 or 5 helicopters approached the island. They were not shooting, but we knew we were in a state of war since they already bombed our boats."

55. Lt. Cicere

"I stood up and looked out the right door to assess what was happening and as we started to make our approach I could see over to the other side of the island So I started thinking to myself maybe this is not maybe going along to the plan."

56. J.D. Harston

"As we approached and started the transition from our forward flight as it into a side maneuver we started taking ground fire Randy opened up from the left side and Rich Vandegeer punched his M16 out the side window vent"

57. Terry Tonkin

"Just as we started to make our turn to the beach, I started to the aft ramp of the aircraft, to exit when we landed. And as I was about half way through the aircraft, there was a loud noise And obviously we've been hit."

58. Mike Cicere

"I heard an explosion and I looked out the door to the left and I could see knife 3-1 completely engulfed in flames at that point and the helicopter just spinning madly around"

59. Major Corson

"I lost control completely of the helicopter. We completed part of the turn then we impacted the water."

60. Terry Tonkin

"I really don't remember anything between that loud explosion and a few moments later when I wake up or became conscious, in about a foot of water with the aircraft just to my right, burning furiously."

Lt. Tonkin and several crewmembers are blown out of the aircraft by the force of the explosion. With the fire spreading many are still trapped inside.

61. J.D. Harston

"The marines were in quite a bit disarray in the back trying to get out the helicopter"

62. Terry Tonkin

"I see marines trying to push through the Plexiglas windows on the side of the aircraft"

63. J.D. Harston

"I yelled at a bunch of them to follow me out from underneath the right gun there at the doorway"

64. Terry Tonkin

"I heard one of the air force crew chiefs to my side and he already had a survival radio out and was calling a mayday, mayday,"

65. J.D. Harston

"The pilot was still in there. And really with all the shock and every thing, Al Corson was still trying to fly the helicopter."

66. Major Corson

"The next thing I remember is Sergeant Harston coming to my side window in the helicopter."

67. J.D. Harston

"I yelled at him to get out and he literally undid himself, stepped out over the rotor pedals right into the water. There was just absolutely no front on the helicopter. The co-pilot Rich Vandegeer was slumped over in his harnesses"

68. Major Corson

"When I looked at Lt. Vandegeer he was hanging in his harness... he was hanging in his harness just forward his head down hanging over the control stick and he was obviously dead and shortly thereafter, he caught on fire."

Trailing just behind the greeting for the second helicopter into the Eastern zone is every bit as fierce.

A direct hit completely severs the helicopters tail section.

69. Moa Run

"We shot down two of the helicopters, one caught fire and fell into the water and the other fell along the beach.

70. Lt. Cicere

"Once we hit the deck people collected themselves and made and immediately b-lined out of that helicopter and into the tree line."

Lt. Cicere and 3rd Platoon are pined down and cut off. Only minutes into the landing, four of the eight helicopters are damaged or destroyed and 14 marines and Air force crewmen lay dead.

71. Lt. Cicere

"With one helicopter burning out in the water just to the south of us and the carcass of what is left of our helicopter sitting fouling the landing zone it became apparent very quickly that no one else was going to land in there..."

Now the focus of the Khmer Rouge guns shifts to the survivors in the water.

72. Major Corson

"From the time we exited we were all under small arms-fire and automatic weapons fire. The only option that we had was to try to get away from that ground fire which meant going out."

73. J.D. Harston

"Everyone else took their helmets off - and I didn't, and I do not know why I didn't I just didn't and I was swimming, facing the Island dog paddling backwards, with these guys, the two marines actually hanging onto my shoulders on my back. And a round smack me right between the eyes about an inch above where the helmet comes right across, and drove me back into the water, and it was the guys who I had pulled that now pulled me out because they had to drag me out from where it drove me back in the water, and it split my helmet right in two."

Koh Tang West Beach, 8:40 AM

After making repeated attempts to land the helicopter carrying the command unit with Lt. Col. Randall Austin is forced to unload nearly a mile South of the West beach.

By 10:00 o'clock the marines find themselves divided into three groups, separated by dense jungle and rugged terrain. With the command unit isolated the leadership of the main assault force falls into the hands two 2nd Lieutenants -- with no combat experience.

74. Lt. McDaniel

"Col. Austin comes over the radio and wants a group of marines come down and linkup with his position."

75. Colonel Austin

"We were not what you would call a potent fighting force, not the kind of group that you want to be isolated with in a situation like that."

76. Lt. McDaniel

"He was the command group and they only had 4 rifles among their group."

Lt. McDaniel selects 14 marines and heads South to link up with Austin.

77. Lt. McDaniel

"All of a sudden there were 3 or 4 hand grenades that went off in the middle of us. My squad leader Lance Corporal Loney was immediately killed."

78. Rot Leng

"We opened fire with our rifles against the troops. During the attack the leader of the American troops was wounded."

79. Lt. McDaniel

" There was another marine that was directly in front of me and then there was another marine that was directly behind me. Both those two marines were severely wounded."

80. Rot Leng

"We had plenty of ammunition and strength and our forces attacked fiercely"

81. Lt. McDaniel

"We stop trying to fire back at them because every time we do there is this thick counter-fire from them. Things are quiet for a second and out folks, some of our folks are very upset to the point of being hysterical some of them start crying out for God, for Jesus to come and help. It was a very intense moment and the enemy was all around us and they could here us. They could not understand English but they could understand the emotion that was being expressed in our voices. They started laughing and it was a very eerie feeling because they were taking pleasure in hearing the emotion in our voices."

As McDaniel's platoon is fighting for their lives, across the island search and rescue Helicopters are attempting recovery of the Marines on the East beach.

Koh Tang, East Beach

81. Lt. Cicere

"All of a sudden this helicopter shows up When they came in, it was really a big surprise. They got down on the deck. And when they did, right even when they were coming in, it was like the fourth of July."

Engulfed in flames the helicopter is forced to abort the rescue attempt.

In the water below the survivors of Major Corson's helicopter have been swimming for more than three hours.

82. J.D. Harston

"I thought the helicopters were going to come back around and pick us up right quick but apparently when they saw us go down, they didn't think there would be any survivors from the crash so they didn't even make an attempt."

83. Lt. Tonkin

"After three hours or so we were getting tire-der, and tired-er and just using whatever energy we could to keep trying to move away from the island."

West Beach, 10:30 AM

84. Lt. McDaniel

"Time started to tick by and then I realized that I had these hand grenades in my pockets I couldn't fire back with my rifle but I could at least throw these hand grenades back at them"

The volley of grenades momentarily silences the Cambodian guns and Lt. McDaniel make his withdrawal.

The marines work their way out of the killing zone and back to their lines.

85. Colonel Austin

"At that point we realized that probably wasn't feasibly for them to push the perimeter very much towards us and we had, in fact, to move towards them."

East Beach, 10:45 AM

Nearly four hours after the crash of the helicopters on the East beach, Major Corson, Lt. Tonkin, Sgt. Harston and the remaining survivors (many wounded and severely burned) are pulled out of the water and taken to the USS Wilson.

The second wave including Captain Davis who would be making his second attempt to land on Koh Tang takes off just before 10:00 AM. While in route the marines get a message that triggers mixed emotions.

At 11:55 AM the fishing boat released by the Khmer Rouge on the island of Rong Sam Leng approaches the USS Wilson waving a white flag.

86. Jerry Myregard

"The Wilson trained it gun on us and we realized that perhaps we could be shot. So we waved our arms took our shirts off and made it known that we were Americans. We got along side and we climbed aboard and I met a naval officer who informed me that there were a few marines that had been shot; They had 'em on ice as he called it."

On the Wilson

The crew of the Mayaguez -- 40 Americans thought to be held on Koh Tang are safe.

In Washington the president and his chief advisors breathe a sigh of relief.

87. President Ford

"After three or four days of very tense circumstances I felt very relieved."

88. Brent Scowcroft

"And so, our attention turned to 'How do we get the marines off Koh Tang Island?' That turned into a very difficult, very difficult operation"

89. Lt. Cicere

"We were not going to plant a flag here, like Iwo Jima, and claim it for the United States. That really wasn't the reason for us being there. If the crew's been picked up, now the next step become how we going to get ourselves extracted out of this, out of this situation."

The marines on Koh Tang are still encountering heavy resistance and Lt. Cicere's 3rd platoon is isolated and extremely vulnerable. Without reinforcements the marines run the risk of becoming prisoners of the Khmer Rouge themselves. Having linked up with the main force, Col. Austin inquires on the status of the second wave.

90. Col. Austin

"Several times, I was communicating with the airborne command and control center and asking what was the state of the second wave and in one of those later inquiries was told, they had been turned back and I was somewhat dismayed by that response and asked that be reconsidered, that second wave, ah...be sent to the island"

Austin's message makes its' point. The second wave is cleared to go but they are still more than an hour from Koh Tang.

TRANSITION "The Second Wave"

In a scene eerily reminiscent of the morning raid, the first helicopter of the second wave approaches the eastern landing zone.

91. Lt. Cicere

"You don't have to be Daniel Boone to hit a helicopter especially a '53. And they waited for the opportune time to put the maximum damage on those helicopters and on anybody that happened to be inside."

The severely damaged helicopter (and her much needed reinforcements) heads directly for the Thai coast.

The remaining choppers in the second wave unload Captain Davis and 100 marines into the Western zone. Even with the reinforcements, poor communications and heavy resistance make it impossible for the marines to link up with Lt. Cicere. The only option is to get 3rd platoon out.

The Second Wave

Koh Tang, 1:00 PM

Circling just off the beach search and rescue helicopters make one last attempt to extract 3rd platoon.

92. Harry Cash

"Well we decided it was time, time to make a move. My pilot Don Backland said I think this is going to be the last train out of Dodge City"

At 5:50 PM Lt. Cicere sees the helicopter coming in for the extraction.

93. Lt. Cicere

"If I can see the helicopter coming in, so can the bad guys. So I knew we were going to be in for an interesting, a few moments, when the helicopter came in."

94. Harry Cash

"About maybe 200-meters out then they opened up. I could just hear the bullets just hitting the front of the helicopter"

With Navy and Air Force planes providing cover, 3rd platoon fights its way off the beach and into the waiting chopper.

95. Lt. Cicere

"He is hovering that helicopter, and the helicopter would drop down, give within about five feet of the deck and then it would go up, so you, what we ended up having to do was people were getting aboard was time their jump if you will to get on to the to get on to the ramp and get aboard the helicopter."

Twelve hours after the marines landed on Koh Tang the rescue helicopter carrying 3rd platoon takes off from the East beach. During the evacuation the chopper sustains so much that it would be unable to fly again.

96. Harry Cash

"I just knew that we had to get those people out. That if we didn't do it, I didn't think it'd be done."

97. Lt. Cicere

"There's just no way to describe, I don't think, how elated that you are that you realized you survived something, that could have very easily gone the other way. Especially when I think you saw right before you people in a similar situation that, unfortunately, were not as lucky as you were."


The rescue of the Rescuers

Koh Tang, 6:30 PM

With nightfall quickly approaching the airborne command and control puts the question to the marines on the beach. Can the evacuation be done under cover of darkness?

98. Col. Austin

"My response to that was yes, I think we can do it under darkness, but I'm going to lay down one proviso, here and that is that once we start we must have the commitment to finish this"

99. Capt. Davis

"Colonel Austin came up to me and said Jim how do you want to pull this I said the best thing for me to do is get this down to one commander."

100. Austin

"As the company commander, he would be left eventually with a small force and that he was going to close the beach and be amongst the last ones out."

101. Davis

"As you incrementally reduce a perimeter especially under fire in the dusk you run the risk of losing people and also losing the element of security."

As the helicopters attempt to coordinate the withdrawal, they receive a message that a wounded marine may have been left in one of the downed helos on the East beach.

The damage to Jolly Green 12 leaves only 3 helicopters to evacuate the more than 200 marines still on Koh Tang.

102. Bruce Daly

"The reports we were getting when we were making our run in that the marines were being pushed back form the tree line to the beach, to the water even and it was going to be real tight getting in there."

As the sun sets over the Gulf of Thailand the evacuation of the marines goes into full swing.

To cover the evacuation the Air Force drops the largest non-nuclear weapon in the U.S. arsenal a BLU-82 15,000- pound bomb on the center of the island behind the enemy positions. The explosion rocks the island to its core.

103. Davis

"We could see the parachute deploy we could see the pallet that was below it and I can remember saying, 'gunny I think they are going to re-supply us' and within seconds the jungle seemed to explode and we figured out what it was"

Shortly before 7:00 PM the USAF EVAC choppers approach Koh Tang.

104. Daly

"When helicopters are making their run in, you can hear how bad they got beat; sometimes you can hear 'we are taking ground fire, taking ground fire' and stuff like that. And you sit back and take a deep breath and wait your turn."

With the departure of each load of marines the forces still on the ground become more vulnerable.

105. Davis

"As the perimeter was incrementally reduced and echo company passed through my lines. I did ask the company commander, I said 'Mike do you have all of your people?" and he said yes, 'get on the choppers!'"

106. McNemar

"I went in hot on the lines check and making sure all my people got back and went on across the open space to the south side of the western zone and was checking Echo company if any of Echo company marines were over there make sure that everybody had pulled back correctly."

Every time the perimeter is reduced, Khmer Rouge forces fill in the gaps; pushing the marines closer to the sea.

107. McDaniel

"We'd here the underbrush slowly crumble as the enemy slowly crawled forward trying to come as close to our position as possible."

108. McNemar

"A Khmer Rouge took a shot at me and it went right past my flack jacket and I dropped him with two shots. The second one turned and I got him he fell down into the gully that was the last I seen of him."

109. Davis

"I picked up the radio to try to communicate and I communicated with a foreigner. Somebody had picked up one of those prick 77 radios and it wasn't a friendly."

With the last 29 marines clinging to a sliver of beach Capt. Davis faces the most harrowing moments of the operation.

110. Davis

"At the last perimeter our boots were literately almost in the water."

As the choppers make their way back to Koh Tang radio contact is lost with the marines on the beach.

111. McNemar

"We were trying to figure out wait a second do they know we are still here how are we going to get off."

112. Davis

"That's probably the longest time of my life. When your boots are wet and your elbows are in beach sand, there's not a lot - you don't own a lot of real estate. And there are not a lot of alternatives at that point in time except fighting to the death or swimming."

Shortly after 8:00 PM on May 15, 1975 - 15 hours after the first marines had fought their way onto Koh Tang--the final helicopter touches down on the beach.

113. Davis

"We boarded the helicopter then I remember Tech Sergeant Fisk jumping out of the helicopter one more time with the ramp down and checking, making a hasty check of the right side and then as he got back on the ramp of the chopper the chopper took off."

114. McNamar

"Fisk slips and the only thing I can grab is the cord to his microphone on his helmet."

115. Davis

"His eyes were getting bigger and bigger as he was sliding out the back of that helicopter."

116. McNemar

"I reached down and got his sleeve or his arm. I grabbed something and I yanked him up."

117. Davis

"It through his body into my lap and we gave each other a big hug and that was it. The day was over."

118. Rot Lang

"We finally won and took back the island. We gathered the bodies of the American marines and put them all together. We concluded that we had achieved victory."

Minutes later, word reaches the White House. The marines have been evacuated from Koh Tang.

But the relief is short lived.

119. Austin

"Within minutes of the extraction - we're taking a head count and making sure, trying to determine who we have - certainly expecting that we're going to have everybody."

120. Davis

"Colonel Austin walked up to me and asked, 'Jim to the best of your knowledge did you get all the marines off of that beach?' I said, 'Yes sir.'"

121. McNemar

"Echo Company had three marines missing.

Lance Corporal Joseph Hargrove, Private First Class Gary Hall and Private Danny Marshall were last seen shortly before the final load of marines withdrew from Koh Tang."

122. Davis

"It seams that if they would have been alive they would have come back and joined us, number 1. Number 2, Why didn't they call out for help?"

123. Austin

"We, I think, came to the correct and the only logical decision that these three marines had been killed in the extensive exchange of fire that occurred as the helicopters came in for the extraction."

The final report concludes that Hall, Hargrove and Marshall were "killed in action". [EDITOR: yes, AFTER the Kyhmer rouge tortured and murdered them]

124. Rot Lang

"As a medical person I was the one that gathered all of the dead bodies and provided bandages for the wounded Khmers and American marines. Injured Khmer soldiers were sent to the mainland, whereas the injured American marines were not. They later died on the battlefield. In the days following the attack 4 or 5 American marines came out of the forest. They came out because they did not have water to drink The island's water is salt water. The island protecting forces caught them and questioned them, and then they were sent to battalion headquarters. The battalion began the process of questioning. They were not tortured or hurt. Since at that time the Khmer did not speak the American Language they were sent to the mainland to people who could translate."

[EDITOR: I corrected Rot Lang's use of the word "Soldiers" and inserted the proper identity of "marines" in his statement. However, what's important here is that WE FUCKING LEFT 10+ AMERICANS ALIVE ON THE BATTLEFIELD. I DON'T WANT TO EVER HEAR ANY FUCKING MARINES BRAGGING ABOUT HOW "THEY NEVER LEAVE THEIR MEN BEHIND". WHAT A BUNCH OF LYING BULLSHIT.]

125. Davis

"It is the worse scenario that goes through my mind every day."

126. McNemar

"Its bad enough that I left the island and had marines that were KIA, I left marine bodies back there which I don't like to do. To think that those marines were alive - I would have gone back in myself."

127. Davis

"If there were marines on that island if there were any question as to whether or not they were dead or alive. We would have had to die there and we know that"

Including the crash of the Air Force Helicopter in Thailand the cost of the Mayaguez operation is high: 41 U.S. military personnel were killed and fifty more were wounded. The fact that the bodies of some U.S. servicemen were not recovered from the island left doubts and open wounds for years to come.

Even worse was the revelation that the heavy resistance the marines encountered on Koh Tang had nothing to do with the United States or the seizure of the Mayaguez.

128. Scowcroft

"The Cambodians and the Vietnamese were having a confrontation about who owned Koh Tang Island. And the Cambodians had put troops on the island to assert their sovereignty. We didn't know that."

129. Quinn

"And as the American ship Mayaguez comes along, the Khmer Rouge run out and seizes it, fearful that it is somehow some part of some possible Vietnamese or American trick to begin to retake the country."

Tragically the Mayaguez Crisis erupted in the wrong place at the wrong time.

130. Scowcroft

"Was it in fact necessary, we don't know we spotted important national interests at stake and we moved very quickly and in ad hoc kind of way to protect those national interests, and it worked."

131. James Schlesinger

"It was only the question of force that led the Cambodians to deliver up the hostages."

132. President Ford

"The only answer was the one that we took: meet it head on."

133. Henry Kissinger

"And we achieved what we set out to do. But when you looked at it as part of a bigger scheme of things it was sort of a paltry objective we had entered Indochina to save countries, and we wound up rescuing a ship."

Back on Koh Tang the reality of what the marines faced in 1975, can still be seen. Fragments of American helicopters, overgrown bunkers and trees scarred with bullet holes are haunting reminders of the horrors of war. From fortified positions in the dense tree line Khmer Rouge forces laid in wait to greet the marines with a force at least five times the original estimates.

We may never know the truth about the missing Americans.

Were they killed in action as the official report states? Or are they part of the dark secrets buried in the killing fields of Cambodia?

In the end, the Mayaguez Crisis is a mere footnote to the controversial history of U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia. In the end, a list of names lost amidst all of the bad news that was the Vietnam War.

By RICHARD PYLE Associated Press Writer
Nov. 2, 1995

NEW YORK (AP) - Two weeks after the fall of Saigon and Phnom Penh on May 15, 1975, marines were dispatched to rescue the crew of an American cargo ship seized by Cambodian rebels in the Gulf of Thailand.

But their assault helicopters ran into a sudden storm of hostile fire as they approached tiny Koh Tang island, and in the ensuing debacle, 38 Americans were killed - the last U.S. casualties in a war not quite over.

Now, more than 20 years later, a Navy salvage ship and a team of search experts have returned to Koh Tang, hoping to recover the remains of 18 Americans left behind in the bloody battle.

The operation, which began this week and is expected to last a month, is part of the Joint Task Force-Full Accounting program set up by the Bush administration in 1992 to find the remains of more than 2,200 pilots and other military personnel missing and presumed dead.

At Koh Tang, the missing include 10 marines, two Navy medical corpsmen and an Air Force pilot killed when his helicopter was shot down just offshore, and five others on the island itself.

Lt. Col. Roger King, a spokesman at the program's headquarters in Hawaii, said that over the weekend, the salvage vessel USS Brunswick reached Koh Tang carrying large metal coffers specially designed to siphon off tons of sand that cover the helicopter wreckage.

A team of 20 military specialists and civilian anthropologists set up camp on the island, where they will use archaeological search methods to look for remains.

Search team scientists say the best finds are teeth, which can readily be matched with dental charts. Vietnam was the first U.S. war in which dental records exist for virtually all military members.

Chances of finding the five bodies believed to be on land are slim, King said, because ''we don't have a clue to where they are.'' But he said the weather was now ideal and would allow for the best search effort.

The American freighter Mayaguez was seized by communist Khmer Rouge guerrillas on May 12, 1975, after it mistakenly sailed into Cambodian waters. Its crew of 39 was taken hostage as purported spies, and President Ford ordered a rescue by 230 marines.

Six of seven assault helicopters approaching Koh Tang were hit by heavy fire and two crashed. In the crashes and a day of desperate fighting, 38-41 Americans were killed and 50 wounded.

Adding to the debacle, the Mayaguez crew was not even on the island - it had been taken off by fishing boat to the Cambodian mainland.

In the end, all 39 crew members were released unharmed to a U.S. destroyer and were back aboard the Mayaguez before the botched rescue operation ended.

Since the Joint Task Force-Full Accounting program was set up in 1992, the lab has received 329 sets of remains from Indochina and has positively identified 98 as American.


CH-53 family of helicopters are awesome machines but not invincible

What would the 38-41 men killed, 18 missing and 50 wounded/maimed in the fiery helicopter landing zone McDebacle at Koh Tang island in 1975 say if they could be brought back to life and full body restoration and presented with all the facts?

Using simple logic and justice, they would want to know why their lives were cut short--children raised fatherless, women made widows, cancer cures not found, homes not built, business and jobs not created---all this potential lost because stupid McPlanners under-estimated the enemy as standard operating procedure (SOP) and had them land across open beaches in broad daylight into the heavy machine gun fire of battle-hardened Cambodian infantry? Those that burned to death, drowned and riddled with enemy bullets would want to know why pathfinder qualified elements didn't recon the landing zones (LZs)? Where was the oft-bragged-about force recon?

These men would want to know why an AIRBORNE smokescreen capability wasn't present to mask their landings from enemy fire despite over 10 years of U.S. indo-china war experience, where literally thousands of helicopters were shot down.

These men, looking down on their lifeless bodies would see a dug-in enemy, more mobile and better armed running circles around their brothers clinging to life in two isolated groups. For all the vaunted mc valor, the end result was scared, huddled groups pinned down by enemy fire and unable to move to link up in a desperate situation, about to be annihilated piecemeal, one helicopter load at a time. 7 years before a 3 pound gunshield that would have deflected enemy bullets attached to the end of their rifles was rejected. The marine spirits cry out in anguish:

"we were told we were the best fighting men on earth and all that mattered was that we were marines and we'd win!!! ..we are getting our ass kicked! this can't be happening, we ARE MARINES!" Their still living comrades think the same thing and cower and hide from the enemy fire praying for someone to come and rescue them from this earthly hell."

These ghosts of mc past would fly high above the jungle tops to see their prayers answered: a lone U.S. Air Force C-130 transport plane drops a 15,000 pound bomb to stun the enemy to save the desperate men below---and hold their heads down in shame for the "Fly boy" and "Air Farce" names they used to boast of their alleged McSuperiority.

Then as the enemy closes in after the horrendous bomb blast, and night fall would spell the end, a handful of AF pilots in a few battered C/HH-53 "Jolly Green Giant" SOF/CSAR helicopters struggle ashore to pick up the marines from the cauldron of fire while enemy bullets ping off their armored aircraft. AF foresight to harden their helicopters allows them to save the gyrenes in the nick of time, not baseless bragging. AF pilots supposedly inferior because they do not regularly fly off of ships do the "impossible" and offload men onto the fantail of tiny Navy destroyers and the marines are saved.

A lot of marine and AF dead for no hostages rescued.

They watch as their bodies are left behind in the mad rush to get off the island.....

"HEY! That's MY BODY being left!!! A marine NEVER leaves a fallen marine behind to the enemy!"

Not only were marines left behind, they were Airmen and sailors left, too--18 total. Not recovered until 1995--20 years later. So much for another mc boast.

But in McHistories no mention of the valor and skill of the AF pilots that saved them or the incompetence, poor equipment, training and cowardice shown in the mc fight by "official" mc history books. The valor of marines involved are praised in mc history books covering up all the errors with a nice appendix listing at the end of the dead by name. These men watching this travesty of justice from the grave vomit at the spectacle.


Twenty years later these men would scream in outrage at Koh Tang being done all over again in broad daylight with unarmored mc helicopters and narrowly missing disaster by a missile to rescue USAF Cpt Scott O'Grady, and warn that "luck cannot be counted on". A voice from heaven corrects them:

"He wasn't lucky he was blessed"........

"Scott is one of my children, and the mc still owes the U.S. Air Force from Koh Tang and Desert One. DO NOT MOCK THOSE THAT HELP AND SAVE YOU or else they will be kept from you next time".


Knowing the truth now the dead marines demand to know why their worshipped organization still foot slogs into battle and trains its young to be unthinking robots.

They see young, dedicated professionals offering ideas to fix the mc get rejected time and time again with myriad HQMC and FMF excuses. Each excuse is colored by the same lie:

"We are marines. We have never lost a battle. We have won all of America's wars. We are the best. We do not need technology. All the matters is being tough and following orders blindly, noone can beat us"


The young reformer states:

"But the Osprey cannot even carry a HMMWV inside! We are going to spend billions on an aircraft and be no better on the ground than we were in Vietnam, fighting the enemy at a foot slog with hand weapons!!! Where are the Iowas class battleships for gunfire support? Or big guns on the few armored vehicles we have? Where is the projected smokescreens? We are sending men to certain death on the beaches in tiny battalion meus!..we could land a division in 1950, today we cannot land squat!"

The HQMC official bureaucrat replies:

"Easy, we know more than you! I'm going to have to report you to the Commandant, and he's not likely to promote you with attitudes like yours. You had best worship the mc and stop thinking ahead to what the enemy is going to do, he is a 'raghead' and no match for our air-ground team".

The young reformer continues:

"What about a small gunshield on the end of the rifle to deflect bullets so the men are not riddled with enemy fire like bleeding bullet sponges?"

The jaded, all knowing HMC official milicrat replies:

"It would be 6-10 pounds and far too heavy, it will not work."

Unable to cite the actual working gunshield prototype 30 years before because the "system" doesn't share truths with mere "followers", the young reformer walks away dejected.

But such a gunshield prototype DOES EXIST, the marine asshole bureaucrat just doesn't want it to exist because it would mean empowerment for lower-ranking marines, and he can't have that! They are lower life forms!

A voice from heaven speaks through a small still voice while reading the book of Proverbs:

"Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall"

The Koh Tang McSurvivors are then taken to a future date at the end of time.

The assembled marines see the streets of heaven. I can't wait to meet "Chesty"! one remarks. Another says: "We won all the nation's wars, so we should own the place!" They cry with joy and begin to sing the last stanza of the mc hymn which proclaims they will be guarding the area. A mighty angel swoops down onto them and seals their mouths shut.

"There is no marine corps or army in heaven. You could not guard your own earthly embassies and battalion landing team headquarters from human enemies, what makes you think you can guard us from heavenly foes?"

There will be NO marines in heaven who do not repent of their ways and accept my Son, Jesus Christ as their savior. The fires of hell await all those that think being a good marine or any human role is going to earn them heaven. Heaven is for the few, the humble, the Christians who are called by my name, hell is for the proud. The U.S. marine corps is an abomination to me and all who worship it."

The marines fall to their knees and weep bitterly.

An angel looses their voices.

"But we won all the wars!!!! tears rolling down his cheeks....I was a good marine!"

George Washington, father of our nation walks to them:

"Where were you when the Continental Army froze at Valley Forge? Or at Yorktown, Saratoga, Bunker Hill? The U.S. Army won America's freedom--not the mc."

Abraham Lincoln walks from the mist:

"War is a despicable affair of the human heart. It is not something we should boast on. While you have a fine naval guard organization, I have to state unequivocally that the tragic war fought between the states was decided by the dedication and valor of the U.S. Army, and the memory of these brave souls cries out against you if you elect to rob them of their history. Let us now resolve to LEARN from these terrible events and bring a swift end to wars by humble dedication to the preservation of peace."

Lincoln walks away alone in thought, Bible in his hand.

"But we are better than the Army!"

General Matthew Ridgway, Commander of Airborne troops in WWII and both Army and mc troops in Korea walks towards the men.

"At ease, men--you can stay where you are, just listen. The U.S. Army--a citizen Soldier Army--defeated the Germans and Japanese in WWII, and later on the North Koreans and Chinese Communists in Korea. Where were you at North Africa? Sicily? Anzio? Salerno? Normandy? The Bocage? The break out? Arnhem? The Bulge? The march onto Berlin? In the Pacific, New Guinea? Philipines? Corregidor? Kiska? Attu? Burma Road? Myaktkyina? You fought alongside us in the end at Okinawa and in Korea, where do you get off with such arrogance and lying over the years? When the Airborne stormed into Panama you were sitting on your tails in CONUS. You guys didn't even survive ONE BATTLE let alone an entire war. There are MILLIONS of men here who have fought and survived more battles than you and you do not see them boasting. War is over here. You need to be writing 219 reason why we should thank the Lord that he saw fit to bless our efforts and not the enemy's. And it wasn't for us to walk around and be proud and arrogant like a German nazi. The next time you hear ANY song of another U.S. military service you had better stand at attention---until then, stay where you are and reflect on what you have said."

Evans Carlson, creator of the Marine Raider Battalions walking alongside Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, the man who saved the day at Gettysburg with a 114 "rejects", orders the marines to their feet:

Chamberlain gathers the men together:

"There is a new plague sweeping across America, an idea that we can claim title to the deeds of the past while doing nothing in the present. A new form of arrogance that says 'I am a this or a that. And who are YOU to question what I am doing'. A new aristocracy of peer pressure and what is 'politically correct' that says you cannot tell the truth if a whole bunch of easily offended people start complaining. We left the world for America because here---the truth is spoken freely and allowed to stand on its own merits. If we do not stop this new arrogance we will lose more than just battles and wars, but our soul. I cannot make you stop worshiping the marine corps, its your choice.

But the TRUTH is that each one of us is a unique human being made in God's image, period and this includes the enemy. The idea that a marine is a better warrior than another is a lie and threatens the existence of our republic. Our loyalty must be first to the truth that we are all created equal in value to each other, for in the final analysis we are not fighting for the mc or the Army or even America, we are fighting for each other"

Carlson adds in:

"This is who we are men. We are HUMAN BEINGS. Esperit de corps is not enough. When a man is cold, wet, tired and hungry, that last ounce of sacrifice takes more than esperit de corps. It takes CONVICTION."


These ghosts of mc, past, present and future are telling us these thing today, hear them and do what they say.