One Good Deal After Another (continued)
We Leave the DMZ
The next days passed fairly quickly, the next one being just like the next one until 15 October. Sometime around noon, Lieutenant Colonel Richard Twohey helicoptered in and told me that he was there to coordinate the relief of our BLT by his battalion, the 1st Battalion of the 3d Marines.
LtCol Richard B. Twohey, Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, shown here in early 1969. Photo courtesy of U.S. Marines in Vietnam, High Mobility and Standdown 1969, History and Museums Division, Headquarters USMC.
It came as a total surprise. I don’t remember how we learned where we were going … it might have been from him.
Lieutenant Colonel Twohey was a genuine character, the type of eccentric that the Marine Corps, at least of that day, frequently attracted. He had fraudulently enlisted at quite a young age near the end of WWII and being a bright young man with little formal education beyond the 8th grade, eventually became a second lieutenant. About six years later, I worked with him at Quantico and we became good friends. He retired as a colonel and has eventually passed on.
We had a long conversation about the tactical situation. When all of his operational questions were answered, he asked when we had last had a hot meal. I couldn’t remember but it must have been a month or so. He said that, when he got back to his battalion, he would have the mess sergeant cook enough chicken pieces to fill the battalion’s vacuum cans and then they would whistle up a helicopter to fly them out to us.
All of this, he added would be done provided I gave my word of honor that the vacuum cans (they kept hot chow warm for a reasonable length of time) would be returned to his battalion (he was signed for them).
It was a beautiful thought and he was thanked with enthusiasm. I don’t remember how many “vac” cans filled with hot chicken drums arrived and I don’t remember how they got distributed but they got to us after dark.
I do remember standing in the dark waiting to get to our “vac” can and follow the long line of Marines, each of whom had dipped his dirty hand into the can and carefully lifted out the one piece that was allotted to each Marine. The vac cans were returned with thanks.
Hot chow, a rarity in the field unless someone like LtCol Twohey intervenes, is distributed from vacuum cans again to BLT 2/26 Marines a few days later at Ocean View. Detail from a larger photo by Kent Wonders.
Colonel Twohey’s battalion was helo’d in on the 16th and when he was in place, we were helicopter borne once again. This time the Nomads were on their way to a position on the coast called “Ocean View.” It was occupied by the 3d Marine Division’s amphibious tractor battalion.
The primary purpose of the movement was to get us back to the amphibious assault shipping and move us south to the 1st Marine Division’ area of operation. However, the previous few days had seen NVA units harassing Ocean View. We were to stop there and deal with the NVA before returning to the ships.