A Creed of Credibility
I reported to my first combat squadron, VMO-6, at Ky Ha, RVN, on 31 December 1966. I began flying on combat operations six days later and on 10 January was shot down on an attempt to medevac a badly wounded Korean Marine. Over several hours, squadron mates I barely knew and some I had not even met, risked their lives to rescue our wounded aircrew.
When I later tried to thank those men, the transport helicopter pilot who landed in that rice paddy, facing his cockpit into enemy fire to block it from killing us said, "...when it gets that bad, the only thing that counts is the trust that we won?t leave each other in the mud." That warriors? creed formed the basis of two combat tours and the rest of my military career.
I subsequently met with the squadron awards section and extracted a promise that no action on my part involving brother Marines, would ever be allowed to be "written up" for any citation. Of eleven separate occasions meriting recognition, I accepted awards only for those involving other Services. No Marine has ever heard me ask for a "write-up", an endorsement or a solicitation for any kind of decoration. In fact, for thirty years no one was aware that I had never submitted paperwork for wounds received in action, even though eventually those wounds resulted in a career-ending disability discharge. The Purple Heart was finally awarded to me in August 1997.
Colonel Nelson's sworn eyewitness account of the combat actions on 10 May 1967 deserves a complete and timely review and objective consideration for appropriate recognition of those who have borne the battle. The decades-long legacy of imposed silence is no longer a valid reason for not doing so, especially in light of recently declassified SOG operational reports. The passage of time has become the real enemy and, sadly, illness and death have defeated men that the enemy forces could not.
James W.P. Andrews,
Major, USAR (Ret. Res.)