The Marine Corps has a much honored place in the annals of America’s military history.
The Corps Hymn even begins with a recitation of its 19th century exploits: “From the Halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli.”
The first place recalls the Marines participation in the Mexican War and the latter refers to its stunning and bold defeat of the Barbary Pirates in the First Barbary War in the early 1800’s. This year the Marine Corps will be remembering several important anniversaries in its long tradition.
The siege at Khe Sanh
The first will be this coming January 21, 2018. That day will mark the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the siege at Khe Sanh in 1968 some ten days before the beginning of the Tet Offensive of the Vietnam War. This one is very personal to me because I was there.
I arrived in Khe Sanh on the 23rd of January as a Fleet Marine Force Navy Corpsman. I was assigned to Bravo Co., 3rd Recon Bn., 3rd Marine Division when I arrived in country a week before the siege began, but was flown up there two days after the siege had started.
The siege lasted for 77 days. The 5-6,000 Marines of the 26th Marines and elements of the 9th Marines in the hills around Khe Sanh, along with a handful of Air Force personnel, some Navy Seabees, and a unit of ARVN soldiers were surrounded by some 20-40,000 well armed and equipped NVA troops who shelled the base with artillery, mortars, and rocket fire as well as small arms fire almost daily during that time.
Over those 77 days, the Marines would suffer 205 killed in action (KIA), and 1,668 wounded in action (WIA). Bravo Co. 3rd Recon lost 19 KIA, 49 WIA, and only 42 of the original company roster of 110 before the siege were able to leave the base walking after the siege was lifted.
I was one of them.
The battle for Hue City
The second anniversary to be remembered this year is also from the Vietnam War. On January 31, 1968 the battle for Hue City during the Tet Offensive began.
s would earn the nickname, “Devil Dogs.” It was given to them by the Germans who were overwhelmed by the fierce determination of this unit.
This was a vicious, hard fought battle that went street to street and house to house from 31 January to 24 February. It was some of the most intense, in-your-face, and hand-to-hand fighting seen in the Vietnam War. There were 11 battalions of Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) troops, 4 U.S. Army battalions, and 3 Marine Corps battalions pitted against 10 battalions of People’s Army of Vietnam (NVA) and Viet Cong (VC) troops.
It was one of the bloodiest engagements of the entire war.
The Marines were in the thick of it, clawing their way, block by bitter block to retake the old Imperial City on the banks of the Perfume River. When it was over it was discovered that the NVA and VC had massacred some 4,856 civilians and captured personnel. The Marines lost 142 KIA and suffered 850 WIA during the battle.
The city was finally taken back under allied control on the 24th of January ending the Tet Offensive of 1968.
Click the button below to read about two more epic Marine battles!
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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.