KEVIN PATRICK BROOKS (Charlie Co 1/3, 1967-1968 Vietnam)
Kevin was a new 2nd LT, Artillery Forward Observer with A/1/12/3, when he arrived in Vietnam in May 1967. He was assigned to Charlie Company, 1st Bn, 3rd Marines which was on SLF-A at the time. Our prior Arty FO Billy West had been moved to another assignment after being wounded on Operation Beaver Cage-May 10, 1967. Capt. Reczek, the CO of Charlie Company, remembers the young LT as being anxious to call in his first fire mission. Capt Reczek said one day the opportunity to call in an Artillery mission happened, and LT Brooks , went to work. The Capt wanted a WP(White Phosphorus or Wooly Peter) Round fired first to see where it landed. I guess it went well, LT Brooks stayed with us. At the 2018 Reunion in Colorado Springs, Kevin who had continued his Marine Corps career and retired a Full Bird COL, was there. One night in the 1/3 Bunker, he was telling a small group of us, about the Fire mission he called in on Operation Cochise- Que Son Valley- Aug 17th, 1967. He called in the mission on the NVA positions, while a squad went out to recover some of our guys who had been in the field all day long. This was at dusk, and all went well. On October 11th, 1967 when Charlie Company was over-ran on Operation Medina, LT Brooks was in the CP group that was shot up bad. After the new Capt was wounded, Kevin did do a lot that morning. I know Kevin was with Charlie Company at A-3 and C-4, and called on a lot more Fire Missions. Think he was a 1st LT then. I had met Kevin a couple times through the years. He had talked of writing a Book about Operation Medina, but it di not happen. He was one of the Good Guys, that I served with. Early this year, Kevin, who lived in Brooklyn, New York, got the Covid-19 virus. He fought a good fight but passed on April 3, 2020. REST IN PEACE my Friend and Brother.
Don Bumgarner C/1/3 67-68,
JAMES RAYMOND COOPER (Charlie Co 1/3, 1967 Vietnam- KIA May 10, 1967 Operation Union/Beaver Cage in the Que Son Valley)
The following is a Letter written by Kenneth W Burkitt, Charlie Co 1/3 1967-68 Vietnam, which was left at Jim’s Headstone and Grave in Lawrence, Kansas in October 2014, I think. Ken had mentioned to me(Don Bumgarner) at the prior Reunion he wanted me to meet him in Lawrence, Kansas. I happened be in Lawrence, Kansas that weekend, we met. Ken drove from Mt Carmel, Illinois to Lawrence, and stayed with me at a friends house there. We (Ken and I) went to the cemetery the following morning. We found Jim’s grave in the Military Section. Ken read the letter to Jim, It was very emotional, as you can imagine, and the letter was attached to his Headstone. I’m glad that I was there with Ken, and we cried, hugged, and consoled one another. Ken said he wished he had been there on the 10th too, and I told he could have been killed too.
BILLY BATTLE ( Charlie Co 1/3 1st Platoon Guns-1967-1968)
Lt Kevin Cahalan (1st Platoon Leader Charlie Co 1/3 1968-69) sent me this letter after hearing of Billy’s passing Dec 16th, 2020 in Ohio.
Ed Little called me a while ago with news that Billy Battle had died. He was one of the two Marines in the First Platoon of Charlie Company, when I arrived, who came from Louisiana. I know it’s silly; but I always expected to meet him here outside of New Orleans one day – most probably as the police officer stopping me for speeding or something. I was very surprised to hear his son was up north (Ed thought in Pennsylvania). Billy was very important to me and to the platoon and I would like to pass on my condolences to his family. But, more importantly, Billy played a vital role in the development of Marine infantry tactics that his family should be made aware of.
It happened this way.Shortly after I arrived and just before Tet 1968, Billy and his squad leader, Corporal Frenchy Podary (I am not sure of the spelling; but that’s how his name sounded) came to me and Gunny Hebert (the platoon sergeant) with a rough sketch for the best deployment of our two machine gun fire teams during any sort of troop movements. Hitherto, all any Martine unit would do was to keep relatively together in either lines or columns as they moved. Machine gun teams were included, but not as anything special and they were only really thought of when the unit stopped and deployed – as in an ambush. What Billy and Frenchy came up with was something much more intricate and seemingly complicated; but it was ingenious for the way it incorporated the strengths and weaknesses of all the platoon’s elements into a single cohesive unit. Gunny and I were intrigued and, with Frenchy and Billy, we kept tweaking the idea until we came up with a formation that proved magnificently apt for movements in all sorts of terrain – the semi-desert along the coast, forests, rice paddies, even the highlands. It had the advantage of immediate deployment capability when we stopped. It protected the weakest part of the platoon – such as radio men, corpsmen, call forward observers, and me (the platoon leader); while maximizing the strengths of fire teams and machine guns. And it was the most easily controllable formation from a command point of interest.
If you looked at us from above, we were like the drawing of a house with a satellite disc on the roof. The disc would be the point fire team, followed by three fire teams in a big, upside down “ Vee” – two echeloned toward our most exposed side and one echeloned in the other direction. Then one fire team flanked each side in columns and the remaining squad was in a bent line, like a smile, across the bottom of the house as rear guard/reserve. Support elements like radio and corpsmen and I were inside the house. We used this formation all the time. It made us both incredibly safe and yet effective.It was kept by the lieutenant who replaced me – another Kevin if memory serves.
It was when I was returning home from my second tour in Vietnam, in late 1969, that I met a group of very nervous, insecure new second lieutenants who were on their wayto their first assignments. Just like I was two years earlier, they were desperate for anything anyone with experience could tell them. They asked me what I thought would help them most and I drew the formation on a napkin. You can imagine my surprise when they said that is what they were taught in Basic Infantry Officers’ School in Quantico, Virginia. It seems that the fellow who replaced me in 1/3 – that other Kevin – went to Quantico as an instructor after Viet Nam and that Billy and Frenchy’s idea was now being taught as the standard formation for groups company sized and smaller throughout the Marine Corps.
You, Ed Little, and I are the only people on earth who know this story as I just wrote it. I doubt that there is any recognition of Billy’s role in any Marine histories or manuals.I cannot help but believe that there are many old Marines alive today with families that exist only because of Billy’s design and the courage and confidence he showed in presenting it to Gunny and me.
If you could forward this letter to Billy’s family or tell me how to contact them, I would be very, very grateful.
With hopes that you are well and happy and handling this pandemic well,Sincerely,