Friday, May 15, 2020

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Byron Hill

Byron Hill
Doing laundry in WP can obtained from F/2/11
Byron Hill, H&S and M/3/5, 67-68 Served as Forward Observer with Mighty Mike from March through September 1967. Then served with 3/5 Hdqtrs. until January 1968.
Was proud to serve with Captain McElroy; Gunny Denny Dinota and a bunch of other great Marines during Operation UNION; UNION II; COCHISE; SWIFT; and several smaller operations. Received the Silver Star for actions in UNION. Semper fi, Byron
The following operations are listed in my OQR (Service Record Book):
1) Foxtrot X-Ray in support of US Army special forces at Tien Phouc RVN
2) Operation UNION – 23 Apr 67- 17 May 67
3) Operation UNION II- 26 May 67 – 6 Jun 67
4) Operation ADAIR – 15 Jun 67-24 Jun 67
5) Operation CALHOUN – 25 Jun 67 – 1 Jul 67
6) Operation PIKE – 1 Aug 67 – 3 Aug 67
7) Operation COCHISE – 11 Aug 67 – 26 Aug 67
8) Operation YAZOO – 27 Aug 67 – 5 Sep 67
"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as an Artillery Forward Observer with Company M, Third Battalion, Fifth Marines, First Marine Division in connection with operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam. 
 On 13 May 1967, during Operation UNION, the defensive positions of Company M came under intense enemy small arms, automatic weapons and mortar fire.  Unhesitatingly exposing himself to heavy enemy fire, First Lieutenant HILL maneuvered to an exposed vantage point to adjust artillery fire against the enemy's positions and remained in this unprotected position for over two hours, skillfully directing and adjusting supporting arms fire until the enemy fire was silenced. 
 Upon learning that the platoon commander, platoon sergeant and guide of the Second Platoon had been seriously wounded, he assumed command of the unit and moved across 200 meters of fire swept terrain to the platoon's location.  Demonstrating exceptional leadership and tactical ability, First Lieutenant HILL reorganized the unit, encouraged his men and aggressively led the platoon. 
 Later in the afternoon, he was recalled to the command post where he immediately coordinated and supervised the planning of night defensive fires for the company's position. In the early morning hours 14 May 1967, the enemy launched an intense machine gun and mortar attack, closely followed by a coordinated infantry assault against the company's position. With complete disregard for his own safety, he moved to an exposed vantage point and for over two hours, calmly directed artillery fire on the hostile force, often within ninety meters of the company's lines.  
As the attack subsided, First Lieutenant HILL relentlessly pursued the fleeing enemy with intense supporting arms fire.  In large measure due to his determined efforts and superior professional ability, Company M accounted for over 150 enemy confirmed killed.  By his steadfast courage, exceptional professionalism and selfless devotion to duty, First Lieutenant HILL was an inspiration to all who served with him and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service.
My wife Janet & I kissing goodbye at MCAS El Toro 3/21/67
Outside our tent on Hill 65
 Hill 65 was the base camp we established at the end of Operation UNION
Preparing my hole next to a tent somewhere in the Que Son Valley
Some mortar fins which the bad guys had tossed at us on one of the operations
Filling sand bags
Giving fire commands to 105 MM Howitzers of F/2/11 in support of 3/5
105MM Howitzers of F/2/11 firing in support of 3/5
Me as C.O. of F/2/11 with X.O. Lt. Joe Stenger
Taking “ Bio Break” on Hill 65 between Operation UNION and UNION II
Left: Byron with Cpl. Spears, my driver from F/2/11
Right: Capt (?) Commo of 3/5 during Operation UNION and UNION II

1st Sergeant Cauffman of F/2/11
The “Top” loved to tell the Marines of F/2/11 “How the cow eats the cabbage”! He was a great 1st Sgt. for the Marines of F/2/11, and as the C.O. I depended on him for input and trusted him completely. He was seriously wounded in the arm shortly before he was due to rotate home, but he survived.
A female French journalist and her photographer who traveled with 3/5 for several days on Operation UNION II
Using shower facilities at Hill 65 between Operation UNION and UNION II

“My Haystack”
It was located near the Ville of Que Son and was a source of comfort and inspiration for me.
  Christmas Day, 1967
On Christmas Day 1967, the villagers came to the F/2/11 position at Fort Bravo, just south of DaNang and presented this flower arrangement to the men of F/2/11. Even though it looked like “funeral flowers” to us we did appreciate the gesture, especially when it didn’t blow up.
Group of Vietnamese “DiDi’ing” through DaNang as we headed North during the 1968 Tet Offensive
 View of Hai Van Pass North of DaNang
As F/2/11 was headed north to Phu Bai during Tet in 1968, so that we could continue to support 3/5.
Left: Girls of a Philippine band that was sponsored by the USO
Right: USO Hostess at the show
Swimming in the South China Sea
F/2/11 was assigned a firing position just off the beach when things cooled down after the 1968 Tet Offensive.

IslandWalk man received S_ilver S_tar for heroism
Byron Hill was Marine artillery officer in ‘brutal fight’ at Que Son Valley
After graduating from Southern Illinois University in 1964, Byron Hill, of IslandWalk in West Villages, found his name at the top of the list to be drafted and sent to fight the war in Vietnam.
“I was told I was going to be inducted into the Army within 30 days,” he recalled decades later. “So I joined the Marine Corps. I went in the Corps because I had a cousin who was in the Marines who was killed in World War II.
“I went to Officers Candidate School at Quantico, Va. and barely got through basic because I had a terrible time doing pull-ups,” he said. “From there I was sent to Fort Sill, Okla., for artillery training and landed in Vietnam in ’67. I became an artillery spotter.
“I was involved in a brutal fight with the North Vietnamese Army in the Que Son Valley near DaNang in May 1967. Our unit was almost overrun by the NVA,” Hill recalled recently. “I was assigned to Mike Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment, 1st Marine Division. Capt. James McElroy Jr. was our company commander. We were sent out on a series of search and destroy missions to find the enemy.”
In the midst of the battle, Lt. Hill moved to an open area to call in close air support and adjust artillery fire against the NVA. He was there for hours calling in support.
A short while later, Hill received word the commander of Kilo Company had been shot. He worked his way down the front lines to where the wounded officer was and took over. McElroy, his company commander, said at the time, “I didn’t know if I had sent the young lieutenant to his death.”
“Shortly after arriving I was able to call an air strike in and that made all the difference,” Hill said. “We were dealing with incoming artillery at the same time we were trying to fight off the enemy. It was hot, surreal and unreal at the same time. We had incoming and outgoing mortars, small arms fire from all directions. Enemy soldiers were coming through our lines.
“The worst part of it, our new M-16 rifles didn’t work. They jammed.”
The situation got so bad at times Hill’s men used the enemy’s AK-47 assault rifles. They fired the same 7.62 ammunition and it could be used interchangeably.
“Over the next couple of hours, we dug in as best we could since we expected an enemy attack that night,” he explained. “At first we could see them sitting around their camp fires chanting all kinds of stuff. Then they attacked.”
“We were on the north side of the Song Ly Ly River and the NVA were about 200 meters to our front in hedgerows near a dried-up stream. About midnight loud and shrill whistles plus glaring bugles signaled the NVA’s first deadly attack.”
He called in illumination rounds to silhouette enemy soldiers. That made them vulnerable to machinegunners and riflemen. Marine forces accounted for more than 200 enemy confirmed killed with and estimated 300 or more dead or wounded having been dragged from the battle field.
At the conclusion of the fight the next morning, the NVA finally withdrew from the battlefield after failing to overrun the Marines’ position.
A report on the battle notes, “Hill brought overwhelming artillery and mortar fire to bear on the NVA. He was also directing devastatingly accurate air strikes. The initial strikes by F-8 Crusader jets is credited with turning the tide of battle in favor of the Marines. They dropped Napalm on enemy trenches.”
For his efforts, Lt. Hill received the Silver Star for heroism.
During his 15 months in Vietnam he served long enough to take part in the Tet Offensive. This was a massive coordinated effort by the NVA and VC to overrun all the major cities and military bases in South Vietnam. From a military standpoint it was a disaster for the North Vietnam forces. From a political standpoint, it successfully toppled the South Vietnamese government.
“When Tet started, I was the commander of a Howitzer company of 105s and 155s stationed with a helicopter unit at ‘Marble Mountain’ in Vietnam,” Hall said. “The NVA and VC would come charging us out of the river. We’d mow them down.
“Before the end of Tet my unit was moved to Hue (the ancient capital city). The first few days we weren’t allowed to fire on the ancient citadel. Then we got permission to fire on it and we blew it up.”
Hill said the most meaningful thing that happened during his time in Vietnam happened years after the end of the war when a half a dozen buddies from this unit returned in 2009 and went to Vietnam.
“We were seeking closure and we wanted to commemorate the memory of several of our fallen Marines and Navy corpsmen who died while serving with us,” he said. “We were drawn to the obscure hamlet of Phuoc Duc where we had all faced and witnessed death more than four decades earlier.”
They were being shown the countryside by a former colonel in the North Vietnamese Army they had fought against. He knew the terrain and the people of the area whom they met with and found delightful.
“All of a sudden there was a little lady holding a badly deformed child in our midst. He had a cleft palate and no nose. Our group was able to getthe child some medical attention to correct his serious medical problems.”
They contacted “Smile Train,” a not-for-profit operation that uses American physicians to restores badly deformed children to good health through surgical miracles.
“Today, Minh Duc, that little boy, is a pretty normal kid with a future,” Hill said.
When Hill returned from the war in the ’60s he spent a couple more years in the regular Marines in San Diego and then went to work in the private sector and joined the Marine Corps Reserve at the same time.
He spent the first decade of his civilian life working for Johnson & Johnson, then he went to work for Emerson Electric and wrapped it up working for the Marmon Group out of Chicago owned by the Pritzker family, who owned the worldwide industrial conglomerate.
He and his wife, Janice, moved to Florida in 2013. They have a daughter named Shelly.
Byron Hill, of West Villages, is pictured as a 27-year-old Marine Corps captain stationed in San Diego. He had just completed a 15-month tour in Vietnam as an artillery officer and was about to plunge into the world of big business.
Byron Hill stands in front of his company’s headquarters near DaNang, South Vietnam, in 1967.
Byron Hill is a resident of West Villages.
War Stories
Don Moore

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Byron Hill Presents NVA Flag to 5th Marines

After the dedication of the Vietnam Wall in the 5th Marines Memorial Garden today I was able to speak with Lt Col John Gianopoulos, XO of the 5th Marines, specifically I asked him if the Regiment was interested in an artifact from Operation Union I. He was very receptive and I passed along the NVA flag that Colonel Esslinger had received from members of Mike Company on May 13th 1967 during Operation Union I. 

Major General Eric Smith, CG of the 1st MarDiv agreed to accept the flag on behalf of the Regiment, so I was able to get a photo of him accepting the flag. They have a great display of artifacts, but interestingly enough, until today, nothing from Vietnam. The flag will now be displayed with the 5th Marines memorabilia from several wars dating back to 1917...WWI!

Byron Hill

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Col. Thomas F. Burke Rest in Peace

Subject: Col. Thomas F. Burke

From CWO-5 Dart: "I received a phone call this afternoon from Tom Burke, Jr."

Col. Thomas F. Burke, who served in 2/24 before coming to H&HS-48 and MACG-48 in the late 1960s and early 1970s passed away in Surprise, AZ last Friday, 16 Feb, at the age of 86.


Surprise Funeral Care
16063 West Bell Road
Surprise AZ 85374

February 25 4:00-7:00

Funeral service
Church of St Clare of Assisi
17111 West Bell Road
Surprise AZ 85374

He will be cremated and his remains brought back to Minnesota where he was originally from. There will be a military service with burial at Ft Snelling in Minneapolis this spring. I will forward details when we have them.

Tom's son, Tom Jr., would love to hear by phone or email, from any friends or Marines who served or knew his father.

Thomas Burke Jr.

2948 Canyon Road
Chaska MN 55318
612 812-0462

Semper Fi,

Bob Dart


Tom was also a mentor of mine as a Lt Col at 15th Staff Group/ HQ Det -4. A good Guy, knew his wife too at that time. S/F George and Cathy-sending.

George Braun