Chu Lai, Vietnam 1967-1968

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Communal bunker:  Chu Lai, Vietnam

This photo was taken at the Marine Air Base, Chu Lai, Vietnam in 1967.  Chu Lai was my home for 13-months (January 1967 through February 1968).  We lived in these plywood hooches as best we could, and just hoped the flimsy structures wouldn’t be hit with incoming rocket or mortar fire.  When I first arrived in-country we didn’t have these large communal bunkers between the hooches, but in the later part of 1967 we got them dug and sandbagged.  Although they wouldn’t withstand a direct hit, they did provide some protection from flying shrapnel.  On January 31, 1968, at 0400 hours, our attack sirens went off after the first rockets exploded—the Tet Offensive of 1968 has just been launched.  As the sirens wailed we grabbed our rifles and helmets and attempted to exit our hooches and make our way into the larger bunkers for protection.  Even as we belly crawled our way across the sand towards safety the rockets began to impact in the living area destroying more than a few of our hooches.  The hangers and flight line in the background were already on fire, and the perimeter guard force was fully engaged with enemy ground forces trying to breach our defenses.  Two of our aircraft were destroyed and burning, the hangers were heavy damaged and the rockets and mortars kept coming (an estimated fifty-plus 122mm rockets hit our compound, and mortars too numerous to count).  A coordinated 2-prong ground attack was underway—one from the south at Dong Binh II and the second from the north at An Tan village.  Sappers managed to penetrate our perimeter and successfully blew up our bomb dump setting off an explosion equivalent to a 7-kiloton atomic bomb (the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan in WWII was a 9-kiloton bomb).  My hearing was never quite the same after the explosion.  The bomb dump burned for over a week.  Navy Lt Stanley “Doc” Lewis MD and Marine 2nd Lt Richard Kerr were killed instantly when their bunker sustained a direct hit, and a number of additional Marines were wounded as shrapnel continued to fly.  The Tet Offensive continued on for some months, but I departed Vietnam on February 8, 1968 to return home.  In 2004 my son Shawn and I stood atop Hill 43, and looked down on what remained of Chu Lai.  The hooches, bunkers and hangers were all gone, but the concrete runways and revetments remained.  We burned incense as a memorial offering, and drank a couple of shots of Scotch to fallen comrades.    Almost 46 years ago …

Semper Fidelis

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94 responses to “Chu Lai, Vietnam 1967-1968

  1. Thank you for sharing, although I served in the US from ’61 to ’69, instructor at E-5, still helping at home with ptsd friends. my heart breaks for all you endured. Just curious though, what kind of scotch did you have available, Laphroaig? Hope you are well today. How soon are you traveling again and where now? Stay healthy.

    • Hey Jimbo,
      The Scotch my son and I toasted with, in 2004, was Johnny Walker Black. I love Laphroaig, but drink cheap stuff now that I’m retired. Once in awhile I’ll spring for a bottle McCallan or Glen Livet, but not often.

  2. You brought back memories of my 13 month vacation at Chu Lai with H&MS-12. I departed 1st week of January 1968.
    Semper Fi!

    • We would have been at Chu Lai at the same time. Looks like you just missed the fireworks on Tet. They blew the hell out of MAG-12’s bomb dump. Biggest explosion I ever witnessed, before or after. My ears still aren’t the same. I’ve been back to Vietnam twice since the war, 2-weeks in 2004 and 4-weeks in 2008. Chu Lai is still there, but you can’t get into the old base … the best you can do is go to the top of Hill 43 (across Hwy 1) and look down on what’s left. I was able to get out to Ky Ha, on the point, which was home to MAG-36 and the Hawk missile battery. I also visited (and had coffee) in An Tan village right outside the main gate, and I ventured down to Dong Binh II to the south. It was all thatched hooches during the war when I was participating in MEDCAP’s there, but now all of the families live in small brick houses. It’s getting hard to find thatched huts anywhere in Vietnam these days. When I was there in 2008 I traveled the entire country, from the Mekong Delta in the south to Sapa in North Vietnam (up on the Chinese/Laotion border). Visited a number of H’mong hill tribes while there, as well as Hanoi and Halong Bay. If you haven’t been back you might want to consider a visit … it’s a beautiful country now that we’re not destroying it. Thank you for commenting on the blog post, and feel free to subscribe if it interests you at all. I am roaming and photographing the world for the next 15 to 20-years.

      • Stephen,

        It is really good hearing from the first Marine I have corresponded with from Chu Lai since I was discharged at MCAS El Toro in California. An Tan brings back fond memories of the people who loved and hated us. Good luck on the travel. Please keep in touch.

        • Wow, El Toro. I spent my last year at El Toro after returning from RVN. VMFA-531 … I hated it. Too uptight after Vietnam. I was a Sergeant and still had to mop, wax and buff floors like a Pogue. I was going into OCS (to get that gold bar), but took early discharge instead when it became available. Probably a good choice in hindsight, although I questioned myself at the time. Stephen F. Dennstedt Indochine Photography Expat Journal http://www.IndochinePhotography.com http://www.Facebook.com/Stephen.Dennstedt

          • VMA-214 was my home that last year at ElToro. You know you are getting old when your high school is closed, your last marine base doesn’t exist and grass huts turn into brick homes.

            I spent time in Inglewood building the first Boeing 747, then decided to spend the GI bill earning an accounting degree.

            Our great economy has kept me working.

            Good talking to you.

        • Hello Marine. I was a pilot with VMFA-314 from March 1967 to April 1968. Injured on Jan 31, 1968 on the flight line trying to move aircraft away from burning ones with the flight line and ordnance troops. I thought the world was ending. Just starting to come to terms with it at the Vet Centers. Semper Fi. Love to hear from anyone there.
          Jay LaSalle

          • Hello Jay LaSalle, I was at Chulai from February 66 to November 68. Worked mostly with the arresting gear…Later, I went to 29 Palms with as Platoon Sgt, with a Redeye group…Went back to Viet Nam, near KaI Sahn…Hill 881….
            Richard Garrett

      • My name is Ed Teal, I was assigned to the 4 inf division and was at Chu Lai when tet began, I was living in the tents on the opsite side of the runway and the boom dump was on the other side. I to have hearing problems, tried to get some help from the VA they have turned me down 3 time, saying that just because I was near that it did not mean that was the cause of my hearing loss. You are the first person who remembers it like I do we did not have bunkers, we had 5 high sand bags which collaped on top of us. It took several days for my hearing to come back, I still don’t recall much that happen after that day. My Dr. says that I could have had TBI. Just glad to hear from someone who was there. You know what the rest of us went through.
        Ed Teal contact me at edteal64@gmail.com or 1-256-572-2525

          • I remember it raining sand as long as the explosions went on. At least several days. I left Chu Lai about three days after bomb dump explosion and went through Hue and Danang on my way home on February 8th. Seems like Tet followed me.

            • Interesting, I also rotated back to CONUS on February 8, 1968 via Danang. And I also thought that Tet was following me — guess we were getting a little paranoid by that time (but just because we were paranoid doesn’t mean Charlie wasn’t after us). 🙂

      • I visited the corpmen on several ocassions prior to my departure first week of January. They pulled a tooth and fixed a bad burn and made my visits relatively painless. I have never been back and refuse to do so. I will not spend a single dollar to support continued presence of a communist government my own helped by refusing to enforce the provisions of the Paris Peace accord. My actions obviously will not free the South Vietnamese but at least I can continue solidarity with those who remember our attempt to free them.

        • YOU NEED TO NOW THE REAL REASON WE WERE THERE…DRUGS IN LAOS AND WAR =$$$$ NO ONE GAVE OR GIVES A SHIT ABOUT COMMUNISM,,THATS JUST A SMOKE SCREEN FOR THE WAR ON DRUGS,,,IT WAS ALL A BULLSHHIT STORY,,,LOOK IT UP

        • Yes I was there 67 68 OH 94 was my bird. Tom McCabe ( that’s me ), Joe Johnson and Robyn Davis we three were always together from the day our unit was formed up stateside..That was the bunker I was pulled into when the three anti aircraft missiles were hit and took off flying everywhere

  3. Sorry to hear that Chu Lai was been razed and even more disappointed that there isn’t access to the beach. I was at the Mag 12 dispensary from Feb 68 to Feb 69. We had a great crew there and week ends were the best. Brian Higgins HM2

    • Hey Brian, you can get to the beach by coming around from Ky Ha (the point of the peninsula). It’s still beautiful BTW. Also, An Tan Village is still outside of the main gate. There is some talk of reopening the airfield as an International Airport, because the runways are still intact. Da Nang still has vestiges of the war, the old control tower, transit hangar and revetments are still there. And China Beach still exists, but is getting increasingly commercialized. I’ve been back to Vietnam twice since the war, and it is now a beautiful and friendly country.

    • I wonder if HN2 Higgins was the Corpsman that pulled out one of my teeth at the MAG-12 dispensary in 1967? I was the Marine nothing would deaden. He did a hell of a better job than my current dentist is capable of doing.
      Semper Fi,
      Cpl. Rod Sexton, USMC
      Republic of South Vietnam
      Marine Airbase, Chulai 1966 to 1968

      • The Navy medical guys were great. I especially liked our Flight Surgeon, Lt. Stan (doc) Lewis, but he was killed by a 122mm rocket during Tet. Huge loss … I still mourn his passing. We both were scheduled to return to CONUS in just a few days. I did, he didn’t.

      • Yes, I remember the dispensary very well. I only knew a couple of navy doctors, flight surgeon Stan Lewis (killed 31Jan68 during the Tet attack) and a dentist named Kostanza (or something like that . . . I ran into him as a civilian in San Diego in about 1975). I do remember meeting a number of corpsman, but don’t remember their names.

        • I think I do remember Bledsoe. I reported one week after Tet in 1968 and left in Feb 1969. Worked at MAG 12 dispensary. Played a lot of ping pong! Couldn’t beat Chaplain Evert. Don’t remember any marines names, but do remember how super they were to the corpsmen. Ordered many aviation sunglasses that had plain lenses for my marine buddies.

    • I got to mag12 two weeks before tet.i was with vma-533.bomb dump was very close.i made two trips to the dispensary.once for shingles,once for a gg shot.

      • GG shot, jello shot in the ass. I remember those. Shingles, no bueno amigo. Glad you made it home okay. I rotated back to CONUS 08 Feb 68 (right after Tet and the bomb dump fireworks).

  4. I WAS AT CHU LAI 67-68. MAG 13 GROUP GUARD, PLATOON SGT. 1ST. PLATOON. I WAS ONLY A CPL., BUT WE DID NOT HAVE ENOUGH RANK TO GO AROUND.
    I ALSO LIVED IN ONE OF THE HUTS PICTURED ABOVE. NOT MUCH PROTECTION FROM ANY 122s OR EVEN A ROCK. BUT IT WAS DRY. DID NOT CARE FOR THE IN GROUND BUNKER. WE HAD A CONCRETE, SAND BAG COVERED RADIO BUNKER BESIDE THE GUARD SHACK THAT WAS BETTER IF YOU WERE ON DUTY.
    WHEN I FIRST GOT IN COUNTRY THE BUNKERS OUT ON THE LINE WERE MADE OF A PILE OF SAND WITH HOLE IN THE MIDDLE TO STAND, NO TOP, ONLY THE PONCHO WHEN IT RAINED. LATER WE GOT BETTER BUNKER W/TOP & WOOD ON INSIDE TO HOLD SIDES UP. THEY ALSO MADE GOOD HOMES FOR SNAKES & THE (ONE) THANK GOD, AND ONLY TIGER.
    ANYONE THERE IN 68 ,IF THEY DID NOT BLINK, WILL REMEMBER OUR SHORT LIVED “THATCH ROOF CLUB”. I DID GET TO LOOK INSIDE ONCE & IT WAS VERY NICE. BIG BAR, BIG STAGE, NICE GRILL. LASTED 5 DAYS. MARINE BURNING TRASH WITH SPRAY PAINT CAN IN TRASH, CAN BLEW UP, BLEW BURNING TRASH ON THATCH ROOF. CLUB GONE IN TEN MIN.
    I HAD SIX MONTHS TO GO IN MARINES & THREE IN NAM WHEN MY CO. TOLD ME I WOULD BE GOING TO OKINAWA FOR NCO LEADER SCHOOL. I PITCHED A FIT BECAUSE OF BEING SHORT TIMER. TRIED EVERY THING.THEN THE MAJOR TOLD ME THE DATES FOR THE SCHOOL.( DEC.15th THRU JAN 15th)
    CHRISTMAS & NEW YEARS IN OKINAWA. GOT THERE ON A FRIDAY NIGHT, WE WERE GIVEN A RUN DOWN ON WHAT TO EXPECT, LIBERTY STARTED AFTER MEETING TILL MONDAY MORNING. WAS LEAVING MEETING ROOM AND THE THE INSTRUCTOR STOPPED ME AND ASK IF I HAD A SISTER NAMES SANDRA, I DID,WAS MY NICK NAME IN SCHOOL BUTCH, IT WAS. HE WAS RAY FARLY. WE WERE FROM SAME HOME TOWN, SAME SCHOOL. HE HAD AN AUSTIN HALEY 3000, KNEW EVERY BAR & BAR GIRL ON THE ISLAND. WENT TO VERY,VERY FEW CLASSES BUT FINISHED SECOND IN CLASS, (ON PAPER) ANYWAY.
    GOT BACK TO CHU LAI & THIS IS THE STRANGE THING. ASK IF ANYTHING WENT ON THE LAST MONTH AND WAS TOLD NOTHING HAD HAPPENED THAT TET CAME AND WENT. DID NOT HEAR ABOUT ANYTHING TILL I GOT BACK TO THE STATES.

    PS- RAY, THE SGT. IN OKI. WENT AWOL, 6-6 & KICK. TWELVE YEARS FOR A SLANT EYE.

    • Hi Len,

      When I arrived at Chu Lai in Jan67 it was all Marines (and some Navy), but I clearly remember when the Army’s Americal Division arrived onsite. Part of Americal was the 198th (and I believe the 196th) Light Infantry Brigade(s). I left in Feb68 shortly before your friend was killed. January ushered in the Tet Offensive of 1968 which lasted for quite a while. Lt. Calley (part of Americal) was involved down the road at My Lai in about Mar68. The area around Chu Lai was a mean piece of real estate to be sure. From Quang Ngai in the south to Da Nang in the north was heavily contested. I participated in Marine combat Operations Union and Union II in the Que Son Valley just west of Tam Ky. I’ve been back to Vietnam twice (for extended periods) since the war, and it is a much changed country. Chu Lai is still there, but restricted. You can view it, however, from atop Hill 43 across National Highway One. Thank you for your comments. We lost a lot of brave souls their during the war, and continue to lose them back home. Semper Fi.

      Steve
      Sgt USMC 1965-71
      Vietnam 1967-68

  5. Thank you for your story and the picture. Man does it bring back memories….
    I was there with H&MS 13 right near the chow hall. We didn’t build our bunker until after the attack. You better believe we were all out there filling sand bags as fast as we could the next day. You’re right about that bomb dump…loudest thing I’ve ever heard.

  6. I arrived in Chu Lai on 1-09-1968 as a member of 314. I was immediately assigned to mess duty. On that morning the duty nco had awakened me at 3:45am and I was pulling on my boots when the first rounds impacted & I could hear the rockets flying overhead.
    Explosions were everywhere & as the defense platoons were gathering to help out at the wire, the bomb dump went off. I’ve never seen or heard anything like that since. A huge mushroom shaped cloud was growing in the sky when the concussion hit us and it actually knocked us to the ground. I’ve read articles that stated the explosion was seen & heard over 40 miles away. It was quite the morning. I’ll never forget it.
    Semper Fi

  7. Was with 314 through April 68……..good friend of Stan Lewis……went and visited his Mother when I got back………..Huge explosion when bomb dump went up…..shrapnel fell for 3 or 4 minutes….some real big pieces!!!!!….Dick Barton

    • Hey Dick! How are you doing? After 48 years I am just starting to deal with the Vietnam experiences we went through. Margaret & I are living in Boca Raton, FL. Where are you?
      Love to hear from you.
      Jay

  8. Arrived at MAG12 April of 66 with the launch and recovery unit or morest as it was called. I spent 18 months there and it’s still in my thoughts to this day.

  9. Did anyone know Pvt Hamm, Cpl Nowak. Pfc JJ Clayton or Moose Kilgore? They were with 314

  10. thanks for the memory I was there with the 14 security platoon in the southern part of chu lai I still have a giant piece of shrapnel that went halfway thru a sandbag that almost hit my neck guess I was lucky I remember all u said had to be scariest night of my life Richie cristadoro us army

    • Our defense platoons (Marines) had the western perimeter. Our flight line got blasted, and our flight surgeon and a 2nd/Lt were KIA by the time the attack was over. And of course we lost our bomb dump (big boom when that fucker went off). I rotated back home about a week later on 08Feb68. Never so glad to leave a place in all my life.

  11. This is Sgt. Robert Hickman USMC. Yes, I too was there from “66” to May of “68”. Will never forget Tet. Caught the concussion from a rocket and lost my hearing as well. I am one of those that can’t remember names, but definitely remember faces. I know I was there with some of You Marines. Have never forgotten Chu Lai, An Tan, and many other places. Great hearing from all You guy’s–Semper Fi.

  12. mag 12 small dispensary across from mag 13 and the airstrip ( i think) does anyone remember it was 67&68 me and mike bledsoe were there with the other corspmen and doctor richard goodman

    • I remember Doc Lewis (Lt. Stan Lewis, USNR MD) very well. Killed by rocket attack during Tet. I also remember Doc Kastanza (Lt. USNR) a navy dentist. I met him again as a civilian dentist in San Diego in the 1970’s.

  13. I am a window of LCP Alex Santa Cruz, who severed in the Marine 9th engineer Div.1967-68 in Chu lie and hill 64. I might be wrong of the number of the hill. My husband passed away Apr. 30, 2014, I am trying to get help from the VA. He passed away from Brian cancer and I would like to know if Agent orange has effected anyone who served with him. He to had hearing lost, was not getting very much monthly. Can anyone help me?

  14. Good day brothers,
    I don’t know if this is a closed blog or not but reading all the posts and comments about Chu Lai sure brings back memories for me. I was in the Navy and stationed at NASD in Chu Lai from May 25, 1967 – May 25, 1968. I was attached to Security Division at the Navy base, standing nightly Perimeter Bunker Watches as well as daytime Check-Point Watches at the Sand Ramp and the access road to the base. I have to say that being in the Navy, it was a great duty station. If I remember…. I think I was there about 2 or 3 months when they finally completed building the new Galley and the food coming from there was very good ( definitely not trying to rub that in to anybody ) but we were pretty lucky. I remember when I was on check-point watch once that an Army guy walked passed through my check-point, then stopped and turned around and said “don’t I know you?” ….turns out we were both from Lafayette, In. and he was actually friends with my brother. Long story short, he took me out to where he was stationed and when I saw the conditions he was living in as opposed to us in the Navy, I felt extremely lucky.
    Another memory I have is that of a small island I think, right across Rosemary Point and many nights the NVA or whoever they were attached to, would try to lob mortars from the beach of that island and they were constantly trying to walk the mortars up the beach in front of us and trying to hit our barracks. Many times when on bunker watch at that location they were also firing small arms at us and the tracers would come right through the window opening in the bunker and bury themselves into one of the sandbags behind me, still sizzling. But for some reason, maybe because we were in the Navy, we were never given permission to fire back while I was there, and we could see them clear as day under the full moons over there!
    The scariest by far was Tet. I remember being on bunker watch that night and of course we were on high alert. I had been sleeping in the bunker waiting to be woken up for my shift from 10pm -2am however I can’t be certain of the exact time the watch commander rousted me out of the bunk. I remember hearing loud explosions all around us in the distance, many more than normal. I stepped outside the bunker for instructions from the watch commander and it just happened that the direction I was looking was right in the direction of the ammo dump area because I remember that thing going up and holy cow, i was never so scared in all my life. Refresh my memory, was the ammo dump at or near the airport? It seems i remember the runways had to be rebuilt? We were informed that it was a good possiblity that NVA were all around us. Fortunately for us it calmed down as that night went on and the rest is history.
    I remember seeing Roger Staubach many times at the sand ramp and watched him playing catch with the football as well, he was always very courteous and professional anytime I had to deal with him.
    My best friend stationed with me was Ralph Griffith who was from Washington state. Sometime close to 30 years after Chu Lai, while playing around on my first computer in 1995’ish , I decided to do a search and see if I could find him again. It took me all of about 30 minutes and I had a list of names to call in Washington. I think it was the third number I called, a woman answered and i simply asked if her husband Ralph had been stationed in Chu Lai and she said just a minute please…… the next voice I heard was Ralph’s and it was so good to hear his voice again. Luckily my wife and I were going be going to Las Vegas in the near future, I mentioned it to Ralph and he and his wife Charlene met us there. It was so good to see him again. he told me about what they had gone through in Chu Lai after I left in May ’68, and it was so bad that he had made a deal with God that if he could get through it alive that he would become a better Christian and devote himself to God, which he has.
    Sorry for rambling on so long but the memories don’t stop. If anyone reading this remember’s me or Ralph, please feel free to drop me a line through e-mail to mworthington47@yahoo.com, I would love to hear from you.
    Thanks for letting me vent and welcome home brothers.
    Best Regards, Mike Worthington USN Chu Lai, Vietnam ’67 – ’68

    • Hi Mike,

      No, this blog is OPEN to anyone and everyone. I started it almost 5-years ago as a way to chronicle changes in my life, which includes traveling around the world. Primarily it’s a travel/photography blog, but I spout off about other stuff too. Over the years its picked up a decent following, currently I have about 350+ followers representing 125 countries. Who would have thought? I hear from a lot of veterans (all branches of service), and quite a few of them served at Chu Lai. MAG-12’s bomb dump was away from the runways, but the blast concussion did structural damage to a couple of the hangers. Two Phantom F4B’s were completely destroyed that night, and burned to the ground completely. Our Flight Surgeon, Lt (Doc) Stanley Lewis USN MD, was KIA when his bunker took a direct hit from a 122mm rocket, as well as another Marine Corps 2nd Lt. We had some WIA too. Hell of a night all said and done. Nice hearing from you, and welcome to the blog. If you’re interested you can also view my photography website at: http://www.IndochinePhotography.Wordpress.com to see some of my work. I am finishing up a 3-month visit to Ecuador (which included trips to the Amazon and the Galapagos), and will be heading to Peru this coming Tuesday. Take care.

      Steve Dennstedt
      Sgt USMC
      1965-1971 (Vietnam 1967-1968, rotated back to CONUS 08 Feb 68)

      P.S. I’ve been back to Vietnam twice since the war, the first time in 2004 (for two weeks), and the second time in 2008 (for a month). Chu Lai is still there, but only the runways and concrete revetments are left. I climbed Hill 43 (across Highway 1) to look down upon it. An Tan village is still there, as is Dong Binh II to the south. The island you spoke of (which I believe is Ky Xuan) is still there too. I was able to drive out to the point (Ky Ha) where the Hawk SAM battery was, and Marine MAG-36 (our choppers). The country has changed in many ways, but the feel, taste and look is still pure Vietnam. SFD

  15. I have just stumbled on this blog tonight by chance looking for some info on Chu Lai as I plan to be traveling there in a couple months. I plan to travel around VN as a tourist for a few weeks.. My older brother died in Chu Lai in January 1967 working to salvage the USS Manhomen County which had ran aground on the reef. His name was Roy Wells, with Harbor Clearance Group One Unit One. Surprised to find a blog with info about that time and place and can only say thank you for all you guys did during those years.

    • Hi Jim and welcome to Expat Journal. Sorry to hear about your older brother, he must have been killed just about the time I arrived at Chu Lai in early January 1967. I think that you will find Viet Nam a fascinating country. As a young Marine Sergeant I was there for my 13-month tour of duty, returning to the States 08 February 1968 after the major attack during the Tet Offensive. I have returned for extended visits in 2004 and again in 2008, and plan to go back again in the next few years. This blog is primarily a travel/photography blog, but quite a few veterans have come across it like you. Browsing through the numerous comments you will quickly get a sense of what Vietnam means to us vets. Service there was a watershed moment for sure, and certainly none of us will ever forget our time in Vietnam. Most traces of what the Vietnamese call the American War have disappeared, but scratch beneath the surface a little bit and it’s still there. If you visit Chu Lai, you may want to consider travelling farther south to visit the infamous My Lai near Quang Ngai. It does’t get a lot of visitors, but is a haunting place (I visited the memorial in 2004). Anyway, I’ve rambled on enough. Have a great trip. Also, feel free to visit my website at http://www.IndochinePhotography.me. Steve Dennstedt – Sgt USMC 1965-71 (Vietnam 1967-68)

  16. Just coming to terms with my Vietnam experiences with VMFA-314 as a pilot from March 1967 to April 1968 in Chi Lai. Flew 262 missions in the F-4. Was also Asst Aircraft Maint Officer under Maj Gerry Walsh. Was there for the attack on 1/31/68.ran from my hooch to the flight line. Like the end of the world.Guys wounded, aircraft burning and rockets hitting our flight line. I was thrown by a rocket blast that hit the top of a reinvetment along with some of my flight line crew and ordinance crew when we were hooking up an aircraft to move it away from a burning one. Injured my neck and back but we kept going.the guys were the greatest attempting to save aircraft and still get aircraft ready to fly in the morning..we all worked together to about 24 hours and I was proud of my guys. Haven’t really spoke atbout any of this for 47 years.I Was nominated for a Bronze Star for my duty then but the flight line guys were the hero’s.

    Flew most of my missions with Denny Fitz as my RIO and then with Dick Barton.Was also close friends with Stan Lewis who we lost that day.Going through some therapy at the VA and trying to open up. Thanks for listening.
    Semper Fi m

    • Hi Jay,

      I remember you (and all of the other names you mentioned) very well. I was just an enlisted puke (Sergeant) at the time but gained some success later in civilian life. I was the S-3 Operations Chief for VMFA-314 from January 1967 until approximately November 1967 (after returning from our rotation to Iwakuni). At that point Jim Coluncci who had seniority over me took over S-3 Operations and I was transferred to S-1 Admin until I rotated back to CONUS 08 February 1968. I was serving with “CAP” Pinney in VMFA-531 (El Toro) and being screened for OCS in 1969 but got married and took my discharge. For thirty years prior to my retirement in 2011 I was a Vice President with JPMorgan Chase Bank (a real suck-ass job if ever there was one) and now I am an itinerant expat travelling the world 365-days a year as a professional photographer (wildlife, nature, street photography) and writer. Visit my website at Indochine Photography at http://www.IndochinePhotography.me. It was nice seeing your name again and I wish you all the best. Take care amigo.

      Steve Dennstedt
      Sgt USMC
      1965 – 1971
      Vietnam 1967 – 1968

    • An addendum to my first reply: I’ve returned to Vietnam twice since the war, once in 2004 for two weeks and again in 2008 for a month. I’ve travelled and photographed the entire country from the Mekong Delta in the south to the frontier region in the north bordering China. I climbed Hill 43 across Highway One to view Chu Lai. It’s still there (the runways and revetments) but everything else is gone. I also drove out to Ky Ha on the peninsula where MAG3-36 and the HAWK SAM missile site was. An Tan village is still there but greatly changed as is Dong Binh II village in the south where I participated in MEDCAP (Medical Civil Affairs Program) missions with Doc. Stan Lewis and Doc. Constanza (who I ran across in the 1970’s when he was civilian dentist).

  17. Great hearing from you Steve.I went through training with Cap Pinney and flew with him In Nam. Sounds like you have a wonderful life now. I will certainly look at your wildlife work.I have several lithographs of wildlife by Charles Frace and enjoy them. Hope to speak with you again.I would really like to hear from any of the great Marines I Served with. Thanks

  18. My name is Gary Bradley,was with Mag-13 power plants Chu Lai 1967-68. Would like to here from anyone who was there then.

    • Hey Gary
      I was a pilot with VMFA-314 at Chu Lai from March 1967 to April 1968.was on the flight line during the Rocket Attack on 1/31/68.thought the world was ending. Took an unscheduled flight from the concussion of a rocket that hit the top of a revetment when we were trying to move aircraft away from burning ones.
      great to hear from you. Where are you now.
      Semper fi. I am in Boca Raton, FL
      Jay LaSalle

    • Hi Gary—-This is Bob Hickjman. I was with Mag-12 from “66” to May of “68”. I read what Jay had to say and I too got nailed from the concussion from a 122 Chicom rocket. I was a member of the Security team there @ Chu Lai. Yup, Tet was the real deal that’s for damn sure. I came home to Newport Oregon, but now live in Brooks Oregon. Take care and Semper Fi to You and all our Brothers out there.

      • Bob Hickjman, you were at MAG12 for 2 years ? I was part of the Morest And Cat crew from April 66 to Dec 67, extended one time. Got out of there a month before Tet, had some fond memories and count my blessings that I made it out of there. I had guard duty one night in Nov 67 at the south end and 3 or 4 mortars hit,Huey gunships were flying dropping flares,just wondering if you remember that since you were security team. I came back to the area the next morning and no one knew anything about it. Just curious,thanks Semper Fi

        • Hi Frank—-Yes, I was there for just shy of 2 yrs. Col. Gibson was the Group Commander and Maj. General Louis Robertshaw was the Commanding General. I absolutely remember that attack and most all of them. Like You said the Huey’s came in and popped the Flares, and also, do You remember that they had the rocket pods on and lit the damn place up, solid red, one after another? It turned completely silent after that. Tet was something else, but we knew it was coming and man did it ever. Take care Frank and Semper Fi———-

          • Robert, yes I remember a haze at dawn from all the rockets and flares. I had a month to go and why I got picked for guard duty till this day I don’t know. But they put me in a fox hole with no communication at all with anyone,and the dead silence after the shit hit the fan. Merry Christmas,Happy New Year to you and your family.

            • You and yours have a Great Christmas and New Year as well Frank. Take Care and Semper Fi.

  19. I was at Chu Lai from 4/67 to 4/69, one tour and two extensions. Transferred to Da-Nang for my last few months of the second extension. Served with VMA(AW)533, the A6 Intruder Squadron at the end of the Chu Lai runway. I was serving my one month per year tour with Group Guard on TET, when all hell broke loose. I’ve been back to Vietnam once, in 2013, on business in Hanoi. Most people there weren’t alive when we were there, as the population is mostly under 50. I was treated with great respect and kindness, during my several days in Hanoi and the surrounding area. I strongly urge my Marine Brothers to go back, at least once, and see where the Country has gone in the last 50+ years. Glad you returned, sorry we left so many behind. Semper Fi.

    • Welcome home brother!! I was in Security Division NSAD Chu Lai – May ’67 thru May ’68, all the best to you my friend.

      • Hi Mike
        good to hear from you. I was a pilot with VMFA-314 at Chu Lai from March 67 to April 68. Went thru the Rocket Attack on 1/31/68. Thought the world was ending. Semper Fi!

        • Hi Jay, nice to hear from you as well. Yeah that night I was on perimeter bunker watch at the Navy base when the watch commander came around saying things were happening all around us. I walked outside the bunker and as luck would have it I was looking right towards the direction of the airfield when the whole thing went up, thought it was a atom bomb or something, couldn’t believe how loud and bright it was and we were what, maybe 5-7 miles away?? Lots of memories for me but I can only imagine the memories you guys up front had, glad you made it home safe, welcome home brother!!

    • Hello John
      I was in Chu Lai as a pilot with VMFA-314 from March 67 thru April 68. Good to hear from you. Got thrown about 30 ft with some of my flight line troops while trying to move aircraft away from burning ones during the 1/31/68 attack.Semper Fi

  20. I was with the 198th Infantry Brigade. I was at LZ Bayonet ( across Hwy. 1 from the bomb dump, in the hills) at TET ’68. I was with a reaction squad at the top of the hill with no cover.
    I KNEW I was about to be engulfed in the fireball and die, so I had no anxiety until I realized I was still alive and the rockets were still coming.
    Two videos I took (from 8mm film)

    • Thank you so much for sending these links Len. I had no idea any footage existed of that morning. Quite the experience wasn’t it? I will be sharing the links on a new blog post. Again, thank you very much.

      • You’re welcome. BTW – if your “7 kiloton” number is correct, it would be (according my calc) 636 times more powerful than the MOAB dropped in Afghanistan.

        • It was one helluva a BANG when it went off that’s for sure. I was down by the flight line when it went up . . . first the flash (night to day) and then the explosion and concussion. Knocked me flat on my ass and affected my ears for a while. I no sooner got back to my post in the S-3 hooch when I found out Doc Lewis had been killed when a 122mm hit his bunker. The Marine 2nd Lt I didn’t know.

          • Hey Steve
            Been following your adventures. Pretty cool. As we have talked about before; I was a pilot with VMFA-314 from 3/67-4/68 at Chu Lai. I was the acting aircraft maintenance officer on 1/31/68 since Maj. Gerry Walsh was out of Country. I ran to the flight line when I heard the first 122 mms rockets arriving. Planes burning, guys wounded. We tried to move aircraft away from the burning ones. A rocket hit the top of a r evetment near us and threw us about 30 feet onto a r evetment. We were cut up and stunned. My neck and spine have never been the same. But my guys continued and saved two F-4’s. Then the ammo dump blew and I thought the world ended. I am sick tthat I do not remember my troops that were
            heroes that night but I do remember Sgt Sam Nasco an ordnance nco being there. I have a photo of him there that night. God bless them all.
            fyi- after 49 years I am finally reaching out to find my old Marine buddies. I am happy to report that I have heard from Dick Jones who I flew with in Vietnam and just this week I heard from Jeff Howell who I went thru flight training with, flew with him at Cherry Point and then Chu Lai. He went on to serve 37 years in the Marine Corps and rose to the rank of Lt. General!
            God bless us all.
            Hay LaSalle

          • I agree the blast was like turning night into day. I was up the road at Camp Miller with MCB-6 doing perimeter watch with the security platoon that night. I was between the two bunkers that I patrolled between when the first crap started, made my way to the bunker when the explosion went off, dropped me on my ass. I left in March 68, always wanted to return to see the area.

            • Though much of Chu Lai is changed it is still recognizable. When I visited in 2004 I couldn’t actually get on the base (that may have changed also) but I could view it from the top of Hill 43. Since the war I have been back twice for long visits in 2004 and 2008. I have been travelling the rest of the world since 2012 but plan to head back to Asia (and Vietnam) soon. Thank you for your comments.

            • Would like to hear back from Hal. I was on the VMFA-314 flight line during the 1/31/68 rocket attack as acting Aircraft Maintenance Officer. We were thrown over 20′ by a rocket concussion while trying to move F-4’s away from burning ones. Neck & back have never been the same. Now that I am 75 and had several surgical procedures I am in a walker. How are you doing? Mjlasalle@comcast.net

    • Thanks for sharing your footage of the attack I can imagine what went thru your minds when that bomb dump exploded. I left Chu Lai in December 67.

  21. Happy to report that I have finally re-connected with two of my old Marine Aviator buddies. First, Dick Jones, we flew for VMFA-314 in Chu lai. I will be seeing him on June 30th when he is visiting Florida- 50 years!
    Second, Jeff Howell, we went all through flight training together, Cherry Point together, and at Chu Lai together. Jeff stayed in the Corps for 37 years and retired as a Lt General (3 stars). Fantastic. We have been in touch regularly. I feel really blessed after all this time.
    jay LaSalle

  22. I was there brother. When that bomb dump went off it was just like a nuclear bomb. I was on the southern perimeter in a LAAM Battalion. Semipermanent Fi

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