Buck Coffman, a Marine’s Marine

Clovis Clyde “Buck” Coffman was born in New Orleans, LA, in 1931. He was born into a family with a long and continuing history of military service to the country. His father was a Marine Colonel in WWII, and his daughter served in the United States Coast Guard. Buck joined the Marine Corps in 1949 and began a 31-year career as a Marine.

Joining the Corps in 1949, he would soon find himself in combat during the Korean War. Indeed, he would be there for most of that war. He served in combat for 35 months in Korea with the 1st Marine Division. He was just a “boot” Marine when he arrived in Korea but would become one of the best, most experienced Marines during his long combat tour there.

He would find himself in combat again in Vietnam. This time he would serve a total of 40 months in combat. Now that’s saying something. Most Marines did one tour in Vietnam for a period of 13 months. Some did two tours, either by extending their time or having gone home and then receiving orders to return for a second tour, and they would have as many as 26 months in country. But Coffman was there for 40 months. His leadership as a Gunnery Sgt. and his growing military expertise became legendary, and he was eventually given a battlefield commission to 1st Lt.

While in Vietnam, he served with the 3rd Force Reconnaissance Bn. His knowledge and experience was such that he would be called on to write the Marine Reconnaissance Manual, and he spent some time teaching Recon tactics and techniques to Korean “Blue Dragon” Marines who would be deployed to Vietnam as one of our allied forces.

For his actions on one occasion in Vietnam, Coffman was awarded the Navy Cross. He was on a patrol with a 13-man Recon unit when they were ambushed by a force of 35-50 enemy troops.

The citation reads in part that Coffman, “immediately and skillfully organized and directed the return fire…Fearlessly disregarding his own safety, he repeatedly exposed himself in order to deploy his force and deliver maximum fire power against the attackers…At one point, he observed a wounded Marine lying helpless forward of his position. Courageously, he went to his stricken comrade’s aid. Although wounded himself, he killed three of the enemy at point blank range in order to reach the stricken Marine…he successfully returned his wounded comrade to friendly lines. When his Corpsman was disabled by wounds, he skillfully administered first aid to four seriously wounded Marines. Coffman then directed fixed wing and armed helicopter attacks against the enemy with devastating accuracy, with the result that helicopters were able to land and extract the force. Although wounded, he remained until all of his men were sagely embarked, resolutely defending the landing zone.”

“Buck” Coffman would retire from the Marine Corps as a Colonel. During his long career in the Corps, serving in two wars, he would receive the Navy Cross, three Silver Stars with “V” device for valor, five Bronze Stars with “V” devices, one Air Medal with “V” device, and seven Purple Hearts (4 in Korea and 3 in Vietnam).

I think you can see why Clovis Clyde “Buck” Coffman could be called a Marine’s Marine. His service to the Corps spanned three decades and two wars, during which he modeled all that is best about the Marine tradition, both on the field of battle and in peacetime.

We offer our sincerest respect, our honor, and our deepest thanks to Col. Clovis Clyde “Buck” Coffman for his honorable and courageous service to the nation and to the United States Marine Corps. Bravo Zulu, good Marine. We will never forget and we will remain, Semper Fidelis!

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