March 2013: Letter of the Month
In the fall of 1966, I was on a company-size operation southwest of Da Nang near Hill 22 in the Republic of South Vietnam.
We were ambushed, and one of my grena-diers, Lance Corporal Walter Markham, was killed and another wounded. I had laryngitis so I was shouting orders on the radio in a very high, squeaky voice. The company “gunny” (Master Gunnery Ser-geant Edison Allen, now deceased) was “holding down the fort” on Hill 22 while most of the company was “outside the wire.”
He had a grin on his face, when he told me on my return, “Heard you on the radio; you did a good job. Wish I was out there with you.”
My reply: “Gunny, you can go out there anytime you want for me, as I almost s--- my pants!” I was only half kidding.
His response was: “Lieutenant, look at it this way. We get two beers a day, some-times they are even cold, hot chow once or twice a week, we are not surrounded, not outnumbered 7-to-1, not 75 miles from safety, and it’s not 40 below. Vietnam combat is a piece of cake!”
He was one of the “Chosin Few” who marched from the Chosin Reservoir to the Sea of Japan. He was a member of Com-pany E, 2d Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment and was wounded at the Chosin Reservoir and earlier during the landing at Inchon.
When I start feeling sorry for myself, I think of Gunny Allen: a brave and skilled Marine infantry combat leader—and one of the Chosin Few.