Walt Philbin Remembers (conclusion)
LCpl Linwood Thompson was nearly blinded by incoming 152mm artillery fire as the 81s platoon landed on LZ Duster. Photo courtesy of the Winston-Salem Journal.
Lanahan told me that after I left, 2/26 had been choppered into the DMZ itself [LZ Duster], and later when I got back Eric Smith and the others had clued me in on how they had caught the incoming no sooner than they hit the LZ.
Along with Brown-Bey getting killed, another guy [Linwood Thompson] had gotten blinded by the incoming and that Smitty had been with him at the time too.
After the DMZ, the battalion was flown to a relatively non-contact area on the beach of the South China Sea just south of the DMZ to do some maneuvers and landings there before returning to the ships.
Corporal Walt "Phil" Philbin
81mm Mortar Platoon, BLT 2/26
Trained as a mortarman, Walt Philbin spent his first month in Vietnam as a rifleman with Golf Co., 2/26, in 2dLt Bill Wentworth's First Platoon. As the battalion reinforced for deployment to Khe Sanh, Philbin was assigned duty as a 60mm mortarman.
In April, he volunteered to serve as the 81mm mortar forward observer on a patrol to retrieve the bodies of friends from his days in Golf Company. In the 81s platoon he also served as a mortarman and, ultimately, a radioman in the last several months of his tour. He was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal for "leadership, superb professionalism and loyal devotion to duty" during his service in Vietnam.
Stateside and now quite wise in the ways of the military, he was stationed at Camp Lejeune for several months.
Cpl Walt Philbin aboard the USS Princeton, about to board a chopper with his platoon. Photo courtesy of Alan Green.
There he served as the gunny's "gopher", thereby avoiding "inspections, 'junk-on-the-bunks', etc., any one of which would have surely led to my court-martial for unsquared-away sloppiness."
He returned to his native New Orleans to finish his degree in English. On graduating, he applied to 13 newspapers before being hired by one in Jackson, Mississippi as their crime and then sports reporter.
Returning to New Orleans, he became the crime reporter for the paper that became the Times-Picayune and covered many notorious crimes in his career. His last big murder story was a "crazy guy now on drugs after Hurricane Katrina who strangled his girlfriend in their French Quarter apartment", and then kept her body for days before hurling himself off the roof of a hotel. Known for uncovering details no one else had found, Walt recovered the suicide note and other "crazy notes" and had an exclusive view inside the apartment with a body still there.
When Walt retired in 2008, Eric "Smitty" Smith flew to his retirement party and regaled all present with stories from Walt's earlier life as a US Marine in Vietnam.