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L. E. McCartney: My Recollections of LZ Margo (continued)

Death and Heroism at the Water Hole

Just a few minutes after arriving and starting to 'dig in' we began taking heavy 'incoming' mortar fire. LCpl Daffin immediately fell into what had to pass for a 'hole' and I rolled over on top of him. The first few rounds impacted at the water hole. It obviously was a previously registered target.


PFCs Hunter, Durham, Cunningham, and Donohue were mortally wounded. The rounds were so close I could hear the shrapnel 'whizzing' over but not hitting me due to the point of impact and the angle of the hill.

More rounds impacted nearby and as I looked I could see and hear the rounds landing progressively closer; the enemy was 'walking' the rounds right to the water hole. I heard Lance Corporal Cliff Spiller call for PFC Hunter several times, then for PFC Durham. Neither responded.


I saw LCpl Spiller running towards the water hole. He was a big man, over 6 feet tall and solidly muscled; at least 180 or more pounds even in our emaciated condition. I will never forget seeing him in mid-stride, both feet completely off the ground, as he ran, full-tilt, to the scene of the carnage as rounds were impacting nearby.

LCpl Spiller checked each of the injured Marines, then he picked up PFC Hunter who was only slightly smaller than himself, and cradling him in his arms he started to take Hunter towards the Platoon Command Post (CP) where a Corpsman could help him.


Spiller only took a few steps before he evidently, as did I, heard more 'incoming' mortars, so he dropped to his knees, put Hunter down, then laid atop Hunter, shielding him with his body.


More rounds impacted and I could see Spiller jerk while still lying atop Hunter.

Spiller looked up and seeing me he called out; "Mack!" but I had difficulty hearing amid the explosions and ringing in my ears.


Sadly, his plight didn't immediately register and he had to call several times before I could hear and comprehend the severity of the situation.

LCpl Clifton Spiller, 26, died of mortal wounds he received on LZ Margo while shielding another Marine with his own body. Cliff had volunteered for the Marine Corps after service in the Air Force. His dog tags were found in Vietnam and were  brought home on September 16, 2018. Photo courtesy of the Virtual Wall.

Finally realizing the danger Spiller was in I nudged Daffin, who upon seeing Spiller immediately asked if I was okay and if I could I go to the Platoon CP for help. I said I was and he told me to go. He said he was going to help the injured Marines.


I grabbed his shoulder and told him to be careful, but Daffin looked at me and responded; "Larry, those Marines need help now."


So I nodded and headed towards the Platoon CP as he headed to the water hole.

Just as we were splitting up a mortar round impacted between us.

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