© Copyright Michael Dan Kellum 2010
1st Lieutenant Dan Kellum’s Vietnam Snapshots
Books I & II, American Heroes: Grunts, Pilots & “Docs”
By Michael Dan Kellum
Honor Platoon 1104 (author’s boot camp platoon) graduated December 23, 1967. Sitting, L-R, Pvt. Jon King, top
Rifle Range score; Drill Instructors: Sgt. A. Flores, SSgt. M.R. Keeler and Sgt. H. Brimgentoff; and Pvt. W.J.
McDevitt, platoon guide. 1st row, L-R, Wolosonowich, Griffith, Bankston, Heany, G.W. Evans, Braddy, Ferlise,
Westlund, Hasse, Brewer, R.V. Johnson, Rodriquez, Lane; 2nd row, L-R, Speirs, M.D. Johnson, Isbell, M.P. Arnold,
Butterworth, Bush, Blankenship, Banks, Gushea, Schabeck, Boydston, Cisneroz, Mead; 3rd row, L-R, Reidel, Meir,
Tortorello, Pollard, Sparks, McAlpine, Raney, Scholz, Liddell, Kellum (author), Cate, Fuegel, Benson; 4th row, L-R,
Bolden, Hanson, Underwood, Broome, B.D. Edwards, Kirkpatrick, Bucher, Sorenson, G.H. Edwards, Clark, Gerhard
III, Broadstreet, Graham; 5th row, L-R, Morkunas, R.B. Evans Jr., Harbour, McCallister, Armstrong, Adams,
Thompson, Larson, Powell, Cover, Nieruchalski, Rehder, Smith and Wikoff. Not pictured, W.O. Arnold, Ferrara,
Jones and Lewis. (See Book I, Personnel, Platoon 1104, MCRD San Diego (Photo) for full names on this website).
(USMC Photo). See Chapter 4, Book I, American Heroes: Grunts, Pilots & "Docs" to see how recruits were
physically and mentally molded into Marines by DIs circa 1967. Or as our DI yelled at us from the get go, "Your soul
may belong to Jesus, but your ass belongs to me!"
MCRD San Diego's huge Grinder dominates the aerial view of the Boot Camp facility. Offices are along The Grinder
at left and bottom of the photo while the WW II era Quonset huts at right and top right housed the trainees. The
Receiving Barracks with the yellow footprints painted on the asphalt behind the 2-story building is at top left on The
Grinder. Note the "Hollywood" Marines marching in review on the parade grounds. The San Diego Airport is just out
of the photo at right as is the renowned obstacle course. Recruits west of the Mississippi River (the author's training
facility due to his being from Texas) were sent to MCRD San Diego while those east of the Mississippi went through
MCRD Parris Island in South Carolina creating an argument as to who went through the toughest training by the
toughest DIs. Hands down... DIs and the training was just as harsh and tough at both facilities. This photo was out of
the author's Platoon 1104 December 1967 graduation book and should bring "fond memories" of all the recruits who
matriculated through San Diego. This is where young men from polar opposite backgrounds in some cases, bonded for
life in a brotherhood known as the United States Marine Corps by completing the Spartan training at Boot Camp.
(USMC Photo) See the Boot Camp story from the author's point of view in Chapter 4, Book I, American Heroes:
Grunts, Pilots & "Docs."
What would Boot Camp
be without pugil stick
fighting? This is where
all the buildup of testos-
terone and aggression
bubbling underneath each
man's surface can be
turned loose on a viable
target to the cheers of his
fellow platoon members.
Above, left-right, either
Pvt’s. Glenn E. Cate or
it could be Steven R.
Liddell, Michael Dan
Kellum (author), Ralph
V. Johnson and David
T. Adams await their
turns at pugil stick
fighting against another
Bottom, the thrust or jab has been learned by the man on the left as he strikes a "killing" blow against his opponent's
head. This is the day one of our Platoon 1104 guys struck the outstretched leg of a man knocked to the ground in a
competing platoon and broke it. Note the impressive Obstacle Course in the distance behind the two young men.
(USMC Photo) See pugil stick story in Chapter 4, Book I, American Heroes: Grunts, Pilots & "Docs." Also, OCS
pugil stick story in Chapter 6, Book I, American Heroes: Grunts, Pilots & "Docs."
As an Enlisted Commissioning Program candidate if you passed all the various officer interviews at San
Diego/Pendleton or Parris Island/Lejeune, this is where you ended up in 1968...Officer Candidate School, OCS, (the
officers' version of enlisted Boot Camp) at Quantico, Virginia, along with college graduates and young men from other
programs. Our Combined Platoon Leaders Class lasted 10 weeks and concluded with our being commissioned as
second lieutenants in the United States Marine Corps. These are the barracks and platoon bays where platoon sergeants
and platoon commanders made young men into Marine officers. Many generations of Marine officers passed through
this "H"-shaped building holding four platoons, roughly 72 men to a platoon bay, at a time. In July 1968 I awoke on an
off Saturday morning to someone yelling, "ATTENTION, OFFICER ON DECK!!!!" It was a full bird colonel sitting
on an upturned trash can who reminisced with us for quite some time about his matriculating through OCS in that very
bay 20+ years earlier. We, indeed, were a part of Marine Corps history. Older officers will recognize the old red brick
building from their time there and no doubt will have their own stories to tell as to what went on in that building. This
photo was taken in 1993 when the building was only being used by U.S. Naval Academy personnel coming down to
Quantico from Annapolis, Maryland for training. A brand new 3- or 4-story (I seem to recall) building was built at the
far end of the Parade Ground to replace our old barracks. If only that red brick building could talk, the stories it could
tell. See my OCS "adventure story" in Chapter 6, Book I, American Heroes: Grunts, Pilots & "Docs."
Second lieutenants from The Basic School’s 3rd Platoon, C-69 class: 1st row, L-R, Hjerstad, Harris, Horton, Helmick,
Henderson, Maguire, Hellins, Marshall, Larsh, Hempel, Hosea; 2nd row, L-R, Haseman, Hinson, Lassitter (KIA),
Law, Matthews, T.T. Long, 1stLt. Nullmeyer (Staff Plt. Cmdr.), Huth (KIA), Kelley, Harvey (KIA), Hayes, Jacobson;
3rd row, L-R, Kennan, A.K. Long, King, McFarlane, Heatherman, Mack, Henson, Larson, Manes, Hively, Hexem,
Leach, Kupka (KIA); 4th row, L-R, Lohr, Kirk, G.B. James, Jacobs, Kinney, A.C. James, Hoycus, Majchrzak, Lakin
(KIA), Kelly, Kellum (author) and Hartsook. (See Book I, Personnel, 3rd Platoon, C-69, TBS (Photo) for full names
or initials on this website). (USMC Photo)
See TBS training story in Chapter 7, Book I, American Heroes: Grunts, Pilots & "Docs."
Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st
Marines officers as of August 1970.
Kneeling, 1st Lt. Bob Fawcett, 1st
Platoon commander, '69 U.S. Naval
Academy grad, would retire a full bird
colonel; standing, Left-Right, 1stLt.
Roger Calderwood, 2nd Platoon comm-
ander and would later assume command
of Hotel Co., (I think he graduated from
one of the PAC-10 colleges and played
football in the line), went on to become
a Highway Patrolman in Boston,
1stLt. Michael Dan Kellum, Echo Co. Executive Officer, former 1st Platoon commander and would briefly assume
command of Echo Co. for a heliborne operation in December 1970; 1stLt. David Mize, 3rd Platoon commander, would
later serve as 2/1's S-3A then S-3 Operations chief, U.S. Naval Academy graduate in 1969, retired a 2-star general; and
Capt. Ted Hopgood Jr., Echo Co., 2/1 Commanding Officer on his third Vietnam tour, Texas A&M '65 graduate, retired
a 2-star general and served as the 37th Commandant of the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M, 1996-2002.
(Photo by Bob Fawcett/Dan Kellum...we both had someone take the same photo with our cameras)
1stLt. Michael D. "Dan" Kellum, Echo 1 actual,
left, and SSgt. Joseph E. "Joe" Strausbaugh,
platoon sergeant, 30, of Chillicothe, Ohio pause
to read The Longview (Texas) Daily News from
the platoon commander's hometown in April
1970. The headline splashed across the front
page dated April 7, 1970 reads "Vietnam Battle
Situation Said Critical" involving a Special
Forces camp at Dak Seang attacked by the
NVA. The three men's photos on the front page
are the original Apollo 13 astronauts preparing
for their ill-fated trip to the moon April 11.
(At the time we were shaking our heads to think
we had the know-how to put men on the moon
but we couldn't seem to find a way to defeat a
Third World country---MDK).
An emotionally charged May 30, 1970 Memorial Service at Camp Lauer honored 11 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine
Regiment Marines killed in combat over the previous 3 months. Five of those 11 were from Echo Co. that included
PFC Charlie Fraley, LCpl. Billy "Brownie" Brown, LCpl. Jack Lundell, LCpl. Emilio De La Garza Jr. and LCpl.
Robert Lynn Beaver. I was selected to read a biblical quote from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 and found myself choking up
on the passage. The ceremony included words from the new battalion CO Lt.Col. William Groom "Bill" Leftwich
Jr., the chaplain and several Rear officers who were also given their selections to read from the Holy Bible by the
chaplain. Eleven Marines from the fallen Marines' respective platoons were selected to slowly walk out one at a
time as their man's name was called, square up on the sandbag in front of the cross, drive their M-16 rifle with
bayonet attached into the sandbag and slowly place their helmet on the butt end of the rifle. There were a lot of
Marines and Navy Corpsmen with tears in their eyes by the end of the ceremony as a bugler playing a haunting
Taps almost did us all in.
PFC Charles A. "Charlie" Fraley, 21, of
Milledgeville, Georgia, point man for Echo 2-3, 2/1
in 1970, is the second name on the granite monument
outside the Baldwin County Courthouse in his
hometown. Note the upside down American flag
flying above the Georgia flag on the flagpole to the
right of the monument to the county's fallen citizens
in the Vietnam War. I felt like Charlie's spirit was
messing with me with the upside down flag as he
was one to always do the unexpected in Vietnam.
See Fraley's story and comments in Book I, American
Heroes: Grunts, Pilots & "Docs" in Perspective Part I,
Chapters 1, 16, 21, 24, 25, 33 and Perspective Part II.
Also, Book II, Chapter 16 and Epilogue.
This is 1st Marine Division Headquarters in Da Nang, South Vietnam in 1970.
It was also called Division Ridge. The open white doors with the red signs over them denote the various G-1
Administration, G-2 Intelligence, G-3 Operations, etc. offices. This is where the cattle cars from the Da Nang
Airport deposited us upon our arrival. Note the Sea Knight helicopters on the LZ on top of the ridge.
This Marine officer and I reported in to 26th Marine Regiment at the same time in January 1970. While powers-to-be
were deciding where they were going to send us, we marked time for a day and a night at their Regimental Rear. We
weren't issued weapons and were told if a siren went off or we heard explosions or gunfire in the night we were to
head for the trenches where there would be plenty of armed Marines manning the lines. I recall quite a bit of
illumination popping over an open field in front of this trench line that first night. I did not sleep well and did not
feel comfortable being unarmed in a combat zone. That was the longest night I think I spent in Vietnam.
This is 2nd Battalion, 26th Marine Regiment's Battalion Rear cantonment, known as the Rockcrusher. 2/26 was
starting to stand down to rotate stateside in March 1970 and this may have been one of the first companies in the
battalion to come back to the Rockcrusher. They are marching in the front entrance to the base. Note the height of the
towering mountains in the distance to the southwest. Approximately 50 miles to the west over those mountains was
Laos and the infamous enemy supply route known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
This is the south ridgeline of
the horseshoe overlooking
the Rockcrusher. A 106mm
recoilless rifle is in the
foreground and bunkers are
scattered along the road. A
No Man's Land is in front of
the bunkers and recoilless
rifle. It was suggested to me
that area was our minefield
after I had walked across it to
look at the drop off on the
other side. I walked back
across the "minefield" very
gingerly not sure if the staff
sergeant was telling me the
truth or playing a very bad
Those tiny buildings below are part
of the Rockcrusher in the horseshoe
from the south ridgeline vantage
point. The tall peak in the distance
is down the road in front of our
camp. I had to walk to the top of
that peak to pay my H&S Co.
troops accompanied by another
lieutenant. He pooped out on me
about halfway up. Not sure how tall
that mountain is but I later referred
to it as Hill Good God Almighty! A
Marine company was up there just
off the hill on a ridgeline running
north and south. I walked through a
maze of zig-zag concertina wire at
the top of the hill where I found
two Marines sound asleep in a
bunker. I asked them if they were
supposed to be awake and they said
they weren't required to be awake
on daytime bunker duty. I then
asked them what would happen if I
had been an enemy patrol and took
over their strategic position.
They confidently pointed to a very imposing Navy destroyer in Da Nang Harbor and said if that happened the
destroyer would blow the top of the mountain off. "And what happens to you guys if they blow the top of the mountain
off?" They sat there a minute then stared out at the destroyer with new respect and fear. I think I woke them up to a
realization. I don't believe they ever thought that scenario through to its logical conclusion.
I took these photos of Cobra gunships taking off from the Marble Mountain Air Facility sometime in 1970. Note the
protective structures for aircraft in the background across the airfield. It was like watching a fancy-smancy Corvette
drive by back home.
The photos above were taken by one of the author's
Marines with his camera at the Old Cau Ha Combat
base sometime in April 970. Capt. Ted Hopgood Jr.
is shown, above left, pinning a medal on one of five
deserving Echo 1, 2/1 Marines' utility jacket during
a medal ceremony. Author 1st Lieutenant Dan
Kellum is to Hopgood's right. Tall Gy.Sgt. Willie
Williams is in the bottom left photo, furtherest one
to the right. Note the roof at ground level in the
center photo above behind the platoon formation.
It appears that is the roof that collapsed on Echo Co.'s previous CO Capt. Vince O'Neill breaking his ankle when the
rotor wash from a Sea Knight resupply helicopter blew the structure down on him and two radio operators injuring only
him. O'Neill would spend time in Japan at a hospital mending and come back to 2/1 as the S-3 and later Hotel Co. CO.
In the top right photo is the tower in the background where the author and another Marine spotted two women setting a
boobytrap in a break in a row of bushes leading to their village late one day. One of them became so nervous that we
were watching her set in the blasting cap that she accidentally tripped it..."Pop!" sending up a small cloud of sand. I
ordered an Echo 1 squad to go through a path in the wire we'd cut on night and caught one of the boobytrap setters trying
to melt into the late evening exodus of villagers to the strategic hamlet for the night. (Photos courtesy of Michael Dan
Kellum) See O'Neill's accident in Chapter 22, and the boobytrap ladies' story in Chapter 27, Book I, American
Heroes: Grunts, Pilots & "Docs."
In 2009 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, Vietnam era Marines, gathered in
Washington, D.C. for a reunion. From left, Cpl. Ron Robison, Echo
2, 2/1 mortar team leader; Cpl. Don Youmans, Echo 1-1 squad
leader; and author Dan Kellum, Echo 1 platoon commander, later XO
and briefly CO. We were a few of the 1970 era 2/1 representatives to
the reunion. We were at the Iwo Jima Monument for a ceremony
celebrating the Marine Corps' birthday November 10, 2009. The
Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James Conway and Gen. Pete
Pace were on hand to give speeches as well as saw the Marine Corps
Band and Drill team perform...very impressive. At one point a 1st
Sergeant in dress blues and a shoulder full of ribbons snapped a
salute on the three of us as he walked by. Youmans remarked in
surprise how he could have known I was an officer. I told him the
Marine didn't know. He was saluting all three of us for our service
having seen combat in Vietnam. What a true honor he paid us...but
that's the Marine Corps for you... paying tribute to those who went
before them... those of us who set the bar high for the next generation
of Marines... generation after generation.
(Photo courtesy of Ron Robison)