Giants Of The Corps: Allan Kellogg

By Alan Pultz - Originally Published January 1979

Each morning, at about the same time, 1stSgt Allan Kellogg doubles up in pain. It happens right around 10 a.m.

There's very little anyone can do.

Kellogg, the first sergeant of Training Support Company at The Basic School, Quantico, Va., jumped on a live hand grenade in Vietnam more than eight years ago.

For his brave act, he received this nation's highest decoration; the Medal of Honor.

In addition to the daily pain, there are the scars from fragmentation.

Kellogg has not told the entire story before. He feels that it is too long a story, and he also feels that people get tired of hearing "another war story..." But this isn't an "average" war story.

This is the story of a Marine who offered himself in order to save others. This is the story of a Marine who jumped on a live grenade-and survived!

"That day started like any other. I woke up, had breakfast and coffee. I could have never imagined that what started out to be a nice day would turn out to be a nightmare," Kellogg recalled.

"I was part of a squad-sized blocking force. We were near Liberty Bridge, 20 miles south of Danang. Our job was to keep the enemy from crossing a small river while the rest of our company performed a sweeping action. I wasn't even a part of the squad. I went along for the ride," said Kellogg, who was then a young staff sergeant.

"A tank that was with the company was damaged by a mine. It took so long to repair the tank, the operation was called off. It was getting dark, and we had to defend the bridge.

"I was up on a ridge with the radio when I got the word to pull out. I summoned the squad leader, a lance corporal, and as he walked towards me, he stepped on a booby trap. It killed him right off and wounded four other Marines. It also tore up the radio, but we still managed to call for a helicopter medevac (medical evacuation).

"Of all things...they sent a Huey. The pilot said he could only take the four wounded and that he'd send back another chopper to pick up the dead Marine and the equipment.

"We waited. Nearly every chopper that flew near, I sent up a green pop up (flare) but the choppers kept flying by. Our radio was dead. So we decided to start out on our own. I had fifteen people in the beginning; I was down to ten. And it was getting dark."

Kellogg sits forward at his desk as he recalls the events of that day. His voice grows softer.

"At 1800, I started getting nervous. The place where we were was no place to be after dark with only ten men. I thought to myself, 'What am I going to do?' I had several choices; I could bury the body and come back for it the next day. I could take the body and move out, or we could set up a defense for the night.

"I figured the terrain was impossible for ten of us to defend, so we had to move. I was against leaving the body. If I were dead, I wouldn't want my body to be left behind for the vultures. Besides, I guess I remember being taught in boot camp that Marines always take their dead and wounded with them....

"A thousand things were running through my mind. We had no radio for supporting fire and not much ammo. Finally I told the others, 'This guy is dead. His soul went to heaven, and the rest of him is going with us!'"

Kellogg distributed the equipment to the others. He carried an extra flak jacket, the radio and the dead Marine.

"I was so nervous, I had more strength than usual," he admits. "You could tell that the dead Marine was new in country, though. He weighed plenty!" (Kellogg weighed only 165 in Vietnam...)

"We reached the paddies and I sank to my knees in the mud. It was tough going. After plodding another fifty yards, the rear guard reports that he's seen a half-dozen enemy soldiers. I told him not to fire unless it was absolutely necessary.

"And then I turned around for a look-see. There wasn't six. There were fifteen! We kept moving. Next time I looked back, the fifteen had increased to twenty, and there were more of them moving on our left and right flanks!"

Kellogg stops and takes a sip of coffee. He wipes the sweat from the palms of his hands and clears his throat...

"The enemy wasn't doing a whole lot," he continued. "Just watching us. Kind of like they were at the dog races and we were the rabbits. I was scared. The farther we went, the worse it got. Everybody started to sweat it.

"I kept telling the others not to worry; that help was on its way, which was a lie, but I had to tell them something.

"Then the VC started to close in from three sides. The rear guard yelled that they were about to crawl all over him, and he was begging to fire.

"Then I noticed that someone had come out from the bushes to our front. It was a Marine lieutenant. I've never been so happy to see anyone in my whole life!

"I asked the lieutenant to deploy his platoon because the enemy was everywhere. Then he told me that there was no platoon; just him and four others.

"Remember those stories about one Marine taking on fifteen of the enemy and 'no sweat'? Well, we were going to find out if it was true!

"The lieutenant took the machine gun to the rear and started blasting at the VCs. I knew that all he had done was to make them mad. As soon as he picked up the gun to move forward all hell broke loose from three sides. We were catching heavy automatic fire and M-79 (grenade) rounds.

"Man, my heart was going about ninety miles an hour. I suggested that the lieutenant cover the rear and I'd lead the rest out of the paddy."

Kellogg crouched down in the chair and whispered, as though he were back "there" again. Sweat began trickling down his face.

He remembered issuing an order: "You two, go across the bridge and set up a defense."

The two Marines made it across the bridge, taking the dead Marine with them. Kellogg followed.

"As I went across the bridge, I came to two roads; one to the left and the other to the right. I chose the right, and everybody else followed. We found ourselves in a bean patch.

"As soon as I made sure the last Marine had made it across, everything broke loose again. The VC were hitting us with everything they had. Again I lied to the men, telling them that help was coming.

"I was so scared that I'd get caught without a round in the chamber of my .45 (pistol) that every now and then, when I wasn't firing, I'd jack a round in the chamber. Before I knew it, I had five rounds in my hand and none left in the pistol!

"I was crouched against a paddy dike when I was told that the machine gunner was knocked out by a grenade, and that the VC had taken the machine gun. I asked how the VC could have taken the weapon. The Marine said that all he could see was a hand coming out of the bushes, grabbing it and disappearing.

"I couldn't believe it. I went over, popped a grenade, counted to three, and waited for the blast."

Kellogg went through the motions of throwing the grenade, and then he leaped out of his chair...

"I jumped into the bushes, grabbed the machine gun and pulled it back into the perimeter," he said. "They were throwing their grenades so hard, they'd lob over us.

"As the fire became heavier, the VC assaulted. Thank God that machine gun worked. I could see the Marine with the M-60 shooting them off the dike as they leaped over it.

"As the VC bodies landed in the perimeter, some of the Marines thought that the enemy had broken through."

The lieutenant got his radio working and made contact with a nearby unit. The closer the artillery fire got to the enemy, the closer they'd get to the Marines.

"Before you knew it," Kellogg said, "you couldn't tell who was who. I told the men to shoot, scratch or bite anything that moved anywhere, and no matter what, for none of them to move at all.

"God, I just knew that I was going to die, but I swore that my wife wasn't the only one who would be pressing a black dress. I'd take as many with me as I could.

"Hell, we were't thinking about being heroes. We were fighting for our lives.

"We stopped the artillery so a dragon (gunship) could get in and start strafing. Still, the more we pressed the enemy, the more they tried to get into our positions. Rounds were hitting everywhere; helmets, canteens, rifles-everything! The only way you knew you were hit was from a stinging sensation from the sweat, and there was no time to look at it.

"Again I yelled that help was coming. One man hollered back, asking how many VC I thought were out there. I shouted, Only about twenty...' "

" "I know you're lying,' he replies to me. 'Hell, I got me twenty up here by myself!' "

"We figured we were all together," Kellogg continued. "We were either all going to walk out together, or we were all going to be carried out together." He stopped to rub his throat, which had begun to swell. He had difficulty swallowing.

"Then it seemed as if we changed channels on a TV set. We stopped worrying about getting killed, because we all seemed to know that we were going to die.

"One of the last things I remember doing was to tell everybody to load their magazines with twenty rounds, and if they had a bayonet, to put it on.

"I was lying up against the dike. I felt something behind me. As I looked back, all I could see was a hand drawing back across the dike. The next thing I knew, I had a grenade in my hands, and it wasn't one of mine."

He held his hands out and stared at them.

"A thousand things ran through my mind. I yelled, 'Grenade!' and just rolled over, pushing the grenade into the mud. Then everything lit up," and he imitated the sound he recalls thundering through his mind and body.

"I couldn't feel anything, but I could see a little. You know how people say that when you die, your brain still functions for a while? Well, that's what I thought was happening. I thought I was dead. I guess I passed out.

"I was told later by another Marine that the VC who threw the grenade had stood up and was going to shoot me in the back when the M-79 man blasted him in the chest with an illumination round."

Kellogg was later informed that, just like in the movies, help came in the nick of time, rescuing the Marines. They weren't going to die after all.

The first sergeant spent several months recovering in hospitals. It wasn't until three years later that Kellogg was called forth, without warning, to receive the Medal of Honor from former President Richard M. Nixon.

Kellogg, one of a very few active service enlisted men entitled to wear the Medal of Honor, turned thumbs down on the possibilities of a commission.

He claims that his goal is to become a sergeant major of Marines.

Asked if he considered himself a "hero," a frown crossed his face and his eyes narrowed....

"What the hell do you think?" he snapped.