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© Copyright Michael Dan Kellum 2010
PFC / 1st Lieutenant USMCR 1967-71
                                          MAG-16, 1st MAW, 1969-70                                               1stLt. Michael Dan Kellum, Echo Co., 2/1, 1970-71               Books I & II, American Heroes: Grunts, Pilots & "Docs"               By Michael Dan Kellum,             
Marine Air Group-16                  
1st Marine Air Wing                  
Marine Cpl. Doug Woods writes:
Dan, glad to hear from you and learn about your books.  You may use any of my personal photos that I  gave to Wally Beddoe at the July 2010 USMC Combat Helicopter Reunion in Reno and that Wally then  posted to the website.            I was a USMC Combat Correspondent officially with 1st MAW, but was assigned to, lived at, and flew all types of missions (medevacs, troop insert/extracts, recon insert/extracts, resupply, etc.) with the chopper  squadrons of MAG-16 at Marble Mountain Air Facility.  I served at MAG-16 from October 1969 to late August  1970.  I was a Corporal E-4 when I did most of my flying with MAG-16.  Based on my flight notes, the  pictures you’re interested in were probably shot in June 1970.       When I flew I used two cameras, both Asahi Pentax 35mm units that I purchased with my own money at  the Freedom Hill PX in Da Nang.  In one camera I shot “official USMC” photos using USMC-issued black &  white film, which I developed myself in our Public Affairs Office dark room at MAG-16.  The best black and  white pictures and negatives, together with their captions and stories, were then forwarded to 1st MAW  PAO at Da Nang Air Base.  Wing would then forward what it liked to the Combat Information Bureau in Da  Nang where any news outlet, i.e. Stars & Stripes, Sea Tiger, or U.S. wire services could use the material.       Only when finished taking my “official” photos did I switch to the other Pentax and shoot my personal  photos.  As a lover of history, I wanted to record a wide range of images of my Vietnam service.  With this  camera I shot, over a 7 month period when I was able to get flight orders, the color slides that ended-up on  Popasmoke’s website after I finally copied them onto a DVD.  I exclusively used Kodak Kodachrome slide  film I purchased at the PX and which came with prepaid processing envelopes.  All my color slide film was  mailed to Hawaii for processing and the mounted slides were returned to me at Marble Mountain.      I’ve decided to donate all my original materials to the Vietnam Center and Archive at Texas Tech  University. The donation will include all my original color slides and DVD, all my black and white negatives and selected prints that Wing PAO didn’t use, two large binders of USMC Vietnam Sea Tiger newspapers  from November 1969 through August 1970, and several short stories I wrote after Nam when I was in  college.  (One of the stories, plus two pictures—including one of a very young me standing in front of a  parked CH-46—was published in the “Combat Photographer” volume of the Time-Life “Vietnam  Experience” series in the early 1980’s.) Semper Fi! Doug Woods, Gresham, Oregon
This is a perfect aerial view of Marble Mountain, also known as Nui Kim Son or Gold Mountain, Hill 105 and  Thuy Son, showing the craggy peaks surrounding the Monks' retreat. The tallest peak is where a squad of  Marines controlled the heights to prevent enemy troops from launching mortar attacks on nearby Marine and  Army installations. Nui Kim Son ville is on the road to the right of Marble Mountain and in the upper right  hand corner is Camp Lauer, home of 2/1 Marines and the author's home base for a little over 10 months of his tour. (Photo by Cpl. Doug Woods, USMC Combat Correspondent/photographer, with MAG-16, 1st MAW, 1969-  1970)  
This impressive view of the Mountains of the Five Elements (Ngu Hanh Son)--Thuy Son (water) or Nui  Kim Son / Marble Mountain, Moc Son (wood), Kim Son (metal), Tho Son (soil) and Hoa Son (fire)--is  from the east over the South China Sea taken out the window of an HMM-263 Sea Knight. Marble  Mountain is to the right. The muted colors look like a painting rather than a photo. The Annamite  Cordillera Mountains on the horizon separated Vietnam from Laos just 50 miles to our west. Due west  was infamous Charlie Ridge and to the southwest was the Que Son Mountains...all hot beds of enemy  activity. (Photo by SSgt. Barney Espinoza Jr., MSgt., USMC Ret., HMM-263 S-3 Staff NCOIC/part-time  Sea Knight gunner)  
Marble Mountain is at the lower right corner of this black and white photo taken looking north towards   the Marble Mountain Air Facility at the top. The Green Beret camp is just above Marble Mountain and  just beyond that is the Green Beret POW camp. That's Highway 538 headed straight north. Worn out,  rusting military hardware is behind barbed war running a good length of the highway on the left up to  MMAF. (Photo by SSgt. Barney Espinoza Jr., MSgt., USMC Ret., HMM-263 S-3 Staff NCOIC / part-time  Sea Knight gunner)  
A Marine Sea Knight from HMM-161 Cattle Call squadron lands on 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment's  metal sheeting landing zone at Camp Lauer at some point in 1970, according to Sgt. J.D. Barber, former  USMC Combat Helicopter Association president, 2001-2007, and present board member, and a 1970 HMM-  263 Peachbush crew chief. Note how close Marble Mountain is to the LZ in this shot. It appears to be  roughly 350 meters or so from the mountain where Viet Cong "air guards" kept tabs on our aircrafts  comings and goings. The barrel of a .50 caliber machine gun sticks out of a window to the lower right of  the "5" in "35" on the aircraft. The two sets of 30-foot rotor blades are in constant motion. When I had  these photos developed from my little Kodak Instamatic camera back home, the film processor made an  apologetic notation that the photos had undergone some extreme heat somewhere which affected the  pristine quality of the photos. I don't think this guy knew anything about Vietnam and its oppressive heat.  Was it hot? Oh, yeah, a regular Devil's playground in more ways than just the heat. (Photo by Michael  DanKellum) 
HMM-161 Cattle Call Squadron          
2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment
To get an idea have much Marble Mountain towered over Camp Lauer, 2/1's Battalion Rear, the center hooch is where I laid my head down at night while to the right is 2/1's Battalion Commander Lt.Col. Bill Leftwich  Jr.'s hooch with the shaded "veranda." The South China Sea is about 50 more feet behind me from my  vantage point.  An "air guard" on Marble Mountain can easily view the entire base and a competent enemy  sniper could have killed anyone at anytime anywhere on the base. One of my strangest night's on Officer-of-  the-Day for the camp's perimeter occurred when one of my Marines on watch called in to the Duty Hut  around 0200 in a panic saying he had a lot of movement. His story was that about 30 men appearing to be  bald-headed Monks had passed in front of his position from the direction of the South China Sea towards  Marble Mountain. He said he couldn't fire upon Monks and in his hesitation they disappeared into the  darkness headed towards Marble Mountain in a gaggle. This particular guy was one of our few Asian  Marines and it would have been doubly hard on him to open up on Monks. The young man appeared to be  honestly flummoxed and would not budge from his story as to what he saw. I knew we pretty much left  Marble Mountain alone due to all the boobytraps involved in checking out all the secret tunnels and  passages. So I checked with the Marines manning the other posts in that area and no one had seen what  this Marine had reported. I dutifully logged in his sighting but put a big question mark over what he claimed  to have seen. I was thinking at the time what a ballsy move if what he saw was true. I believe this was either  my first or second night on OD at Camp Lauer after retiring from the bush. I was wondering what could top  this. (Photo by Michael Dan Kellum) 
On April 6, 1970 I took some of my 1st Platoon, Echo Co., 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines up to the top of Marble  Mountain climbing the steps cut into the north side centuries before. (In 2013 I asked 1st Recon Bn.'s Doc  David Snider to count those steps for me during a military tour visit. I had always wondered exactly how  many steps we had traversed back in 1970. After walking up the ancient stairs, Snider and two others  agreed the number of steps from the base of Marble Mountain to the top was an exhausting 347 steps.) This  is a look back down the stairs at my Marines, with their tongues hanging out from the hard, steep, hot  climb. This was one of my Echo 1 radiomen in shades immediately behind me humping a PRC-25 radio on  his back and holding onto the handset. You can just make out the radio with an antenna sticking out. Note  the ornate columns on either side of the granite steps. I left my 2nd squad on top of the mountain for the  night to guard against enemy troops occupying the heights. See Chapter 20, Book I, American Heroes:  Grunts, Pilots & "Docs." Although most of the following photos are in the book, I wanted readers to see  these scenes in color to show their true beauty, vivid colors and impressive views... truly awesome in a  harsh environment. (Photo by Michael Dan Kellum) 
This is probably a better illustration at just how steep those steps were looking up on the north side of  Marble Mountain. The Marine in front of me is most likely one of those spending the night on top of the  mountain since he is loaded down with gear, unlike the man in front of him. Again, there's ornate columns on  either side of the stairs above. Note the graffiti on the granite wall to the left. Seems someone can always be  counted on to make some mark that they were there through the centuries, i.e. Kilroy Was Here. At about this  point we were asking ourselves, those of us who weren't spending the night on top of Marble Mountain, if the  climb was worth it. (Photo by Michael Dan Kellum) 
This is the Tam Thai Pagoda about 30 or 40 yards from the top of Marble Mountain. At this elevation there  was a slight breeze to somewhat cool us off. The work that went into carving the stairs and the old pagoda  was truly impressive. Seeing such works of art by ancient cultures was an interesting positive experience in  war torn Vietnam. One of my Echo 1 Marines with a green towel around his neck for wiping the constant  sweat out of his eyes ascends the steps to get a better view of the Tam Thai Pagoda. (Photo by Michael Dan  Kellum)
To answer an earlier question on the stairs...was the climb worth it? Does this look like some old school  European artist's painting? Hell, yeah, it was worth it! I don't think I could've described the beautiful view of  the landscape before me any better than what I fortunately captured in this photo with my overworked Kodak  Instamatic camera. The foreground reminded me of pictures I'd seen of the Davis Mountains in West Texas.  And this is exactly why I wanted a website to show the true colors and beauty of Vietnam that black and  white photos in books just can't capture. This is a similar view of the black and white photo MSgt. Barney  Espinoza took from the air...only from a 105 meter elevation. Imagine my trying to explain to friends and  family back home how I felt looking out from this magical mountain occupied by Monks and a hidden VC  hospital in its innards? I could no more reconstruct the view in mere words than I could adequately explain  every war story connected to the Vietnam War. Again, just below the mountain to the north is the Green Beret  camp...I never met a Green Beret in Nam. Next is the Green Beret POW camp. Off in the distance is Marble  Mountain Air Facility. Highway 538 stretches north to the left and the South China Sea just slips into the  photo at top right. (Photo by Michael Dan Kellum) 
This photo was taken from the top of Marble Mountain looking down towards the Monks' quarters and walled-  in restricted area. The steps leading up towards granite rocks to the left of the Monk's quarters leads to an  archway that goes through the granite mountain to where there's an entrance to the hollow mountain on the  other side. Kids sold soft drinks below to some might thirsty Marines having to climb back down the stairs.  I'm not sure which of my Marines leaned in to get his photo taken but kind of looks like he's suspended in  space. At the top of the photo is Camp Lauer in the distance and South China Sea. I'm told enemy "air  guards" on other parts of Marble Mountain kept tabs on our comings and goings from Camp Lauer and  especially passed along which direction our transport helicopters were headed so they could warn their  compatriots. (Photo by Michael Dan Kellum)
Looking southwest from Marble Mountain, you can see Chinstrap rising the highest among the Five  Elements to the top right of the photo. Ostrich is next to Chinstrap to the south and the smallest "mountain"  above is Crowsnest the way I remember them. Cpl. Bailey Eames indicated that  OP Roadrunner is to the  left and he recalled spending 90 days on top of it. Below is the road leading in off Highway 538 to Camp  Lauer. Any view from the top of Marble Mountain was impressive. Originally, I thought I might have taken  this photo from a Sea Knight headed inbound or outbound from Camp Lauer due to its elevation and no  foreground obstructions. That is, until I saw a similar photo someone had taken from the exact same  vantage point on Marble Mountain and went back to find the negative for the photo that fell in among my  Marble Mountain sequence of photos. (Photo by Michael Dan Kellum) 
This is the view looking back down from the stairs leading up to the granite archway cut into the mountain.  This was the scene I had observed from the top of Marble Mountain looking at the Monk's quarters. Note the  pink Monks' residence to the left and their walled in area in the distance. Kids and young women sold us  cold canned soft drinks as we passed by. The rule was to never buy a soft drink or alcoholic beverage in a  bottle as someone could grind up glass, pop off the top and pour the fine pieces of glass into the drink and  replace the cap. And that's why they call it WAR. You just didn't know who to trust. (Photo by Michael Dan  Kellum)
HMM-263 Peachbush Sea Knights are shown heading due east towards the South China Sea  before turning north to Marble Mountain Air Facility in Da Nang, South Vietnam. Marble Mountain  and the other four mountains in the Five Elements ''mountain" chain are to the left looming out  of the sandy flatlands next to the sea. (Photo by SSgt. Barney Espinoza Jr., of San Antonio,  Texas, MSgt., USMC Ret., HMM-263 S-3 Staff NCOIC / part-time Sea Knight gunner) 
Marble Mountain/Hill 105 is to the upper left and to the lower right to the best of my memory was tall  Chinstrap and just to its right, is OP Ostrich then Crowsnest. Brownish colored OP Roadrunner is in the  dead center of the photo. 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine's Battalion Rear, Camp Lauer, is shown to the right  of Marble Mountain on the South China Sea south of Da Nang, South Vietnam. Highway 538 runs north  and south parallel to the coastline through the "mountains." (Photo by Cpl. Doug Woods, USMC Combat  Correspondent/ photographer, with MAG-16, 1st MAW, 1969-70) 
One of my unidentified Echo 1 Marines  poses near the archway through the  mountain. The entrance into the  bowels of the hollow mountain is to my  right as I'm shooting this photo. The  anorexic trees and dramatic rock  formations just oozed Asian exotic  scenery as I snapped away with my  camera. For a short period we stopped  being Marines and became awed  tourists. There was just so much  beauty in Vietnam to be seen if you  looked...which made it hard to  reconcile the day-in and day-out  bloodshed we and the VC/NVA wrought  on one another. The one insightful  thing I found out about war was how it  became personal to those of us who  survived as we sought to avenge good  men's deaths or serious injury. (Photo  by Michael Dan Kellum)
The ornate entrance to the 50-foot  sitting granite carved Buddha on a  pedestal inside beckons. I took two of  my squads into the dimly lit hollow  mountain. The amount of hollowness  inside was truly awesome. The roof of  the cavern was towering. And this is  where my inexpensive camera failed  me. The only light into the cavern was  from a small hole in the top of the  mountain that cast an eerie half-light  on Buddha's bald head and the slight  light from the entrance that led down  into the mountain. I took a couple of  photos and only a spot of light showed  up on the film where the 3x3-foot hole  was in the ceiling and the rest was  total darkness. We got hit up by a  Monk for a contribution but I declined  as I knew they were harboring enemy  soldiers in Marble Mountain and I  simply didn't want to support my  enemy.
A plaque erected inside the hollow mountain in the 1990s proclaimed a Viet Cong hospital was set up in  one of the secret chambers in Marble Mountain. The magnificent mountain has always stuck in my mind  as a place of manmade and natural beauty. All that in the middle of a bloody just seemed surreal.  To offset that April 6, 1970 day of wonderment and beauty...that night I orchestrated an ambush with my  Echo 1-1 (LCpl. Don Youmans' 1st Squad) and Echo 1-3 (Cpl. Boyd Householder's 3rd Squad) Marines  below Crowsnest in one of the Nui Kim Son villes that killed a North Vietnamese courier. That brought me  back to the reality of war and why we were there. ( Photo by Michael Dan Kellum)   Although I couldn't provide photos for you from inside Marble Mountain to see the amazing granite  sculpture of the cross-legged Buddha residing there, jonbone17 in modern times has vacationed in  Vietnam and shot impressive videos of Marble Mountain from top to bottom and put his video on You-  Tube.  They now charge a couple of dollars or so for a tourist to have the privilege of climbing up those  same steps we traversed on the north side of Marble Mountain in 1970. Also, for a little extra they will sell  tourists bottled water at the top or bottom of the steep climb. By watching the video, I realized I missed a  lot of the other sculptures and pagodas in and around the mountain some I assume were there in 1970  and others were added over the intervening years. I was in kind of a hurry during my brief visit and  missed seeing the whole enchilada at the time. The small hole weathered in the top of Marble Mountain  has now grown to five or so large holes sending bright light into the hollow mountain illuminating the  whole place like Texas Stadium. The gentleman shooting the video doesn't get around to entering the  hollow mountain until near the end of the tape. Be patient, it's worth the wait. Note how much has  changed from 1970 and the photos I took. See some of what I saw in the following...push the Control  button on the keyboard and left click your mouse to start the video and if that doesn't connect you, copy  the site below & paste it on your Search engine... note the audio doesn't kick in until a little after 1 minute:                                         
Two Insignias representing HMM-263 Peachbush Squadron in 1970
Various Views of Marble Mountain and Vicinity, 1970
Photos by SSgt. Barney Espinoza Jr., MSgt., USMC Ret., HMM-263 S-3 Staff NCOIC/part-time Sea Knight gunner
Cpl. Doug Woods, USMC Combat Correspondent / photographer