In 1967, I was sent to Vietnam and assigned to Mike Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. My military occupational specialty was 0311 - Marine rifleman, infantryman or just plain grunt. The mission of a Marine rifleman is to close with the enemy, kill him and destroy his will to fight.
Two of my proudest achievements in Vietnam were to serve as a rifle squad leader and hunter-killer team leader. All Marines are familiar with the position of a rifle squad leader, but what is a hunter-killer team leader? Our company commander was a creative and aggressive Marine company commander. He utilized unusual tactics and strategies to confuse the enemy. He conceived the idea of a hunter-killer team with the call-sign Snooper, which inevitably got shortened to Snoopy. The Snoopy Killer Team was an all volunteer six man team which carried out special missions for the company commander and reported directly to him. Our mission, first and foremost was to inflict maximum casualties on the enemy and secondarily -- reconnaissance and intelligence. In between, we infiltrated villages at night to capture Viet Cong prisoners.
The Snoopy Killer Team left our firebase in the middle of the night and went to areas where enemy forces had been seen. We would stay out for 4 days and 3 nights hunting the enemy in his backyard and ambushing his trails at night. We ate once a day and carried as much ammunition as possible. We did not wear our helmets and flak jackets which was against Marine Corps regulations at that time. However, this enabled us to move quickly and silently. And we were successful. We fought the enemy just like they fought us. They never saw us and we were unpredictable. They never knew where we would appear. We came out of the night, completed our mission and quickly disappeared.
We always had more volunteers for the killer team than we needed. So the killer team leader had the sole discretion of choosing who would be on the team. Always it was the best, the most reliable and the most capable Marines because of the risks and dangers inherent in the missions. We did not have time to teach or tell Marines what to do. Each Marine had to know what to do without communication since we were such a small force which relied on our skills, resourcefulness and daring to accomplish the mission and to remain alive in enemy territory. Our unspoken promise to each other was that we would all come back together or we would not come back at all.
Being a member of the killer team did not give you any special benefits or privileges. You retained your duties and responsibilities in the rifle squad. You were part of the squad and expected to carry out the missions of the squad. The only difference was that you shouldered additional responsibilities and missions of the killer team. So why did we do it? Why did we volunteer for additional risks, dangers and hardships? I believe it was because of pride -- pride in being the few, the proud and the brave. And because we fought to win the war, not just to survive it.
I am proud to have served with some of the finest Marines in the Marine Corps during my tour of duty in Vietnam and to be a member of a company named Mike. They were true to the motto of the Marine Corps -- "Semper Fidelis" and they upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps. They gave everything, sometimes their lives, for a country that did not appreciate their sacrifice and courage. And these Marines were only 18, 19 and 20 years old at that time. Such good men!