~ Representing All Vietnam-Era Marine Corps Tankers, Ontos Crewmen & Support ~  



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We are the voice of  history  


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January 2012   




Dear Marine, 


A little over a year ago Dick Carey, (Founder and Past President of the "USMC Vietnam Tankers Association" and presently a "Marine Corp Vietnam Tankers Historical Foundation" Board of Directors Member) recommended that the Foundation establish a timely, inexpensive means by which we could best communicate with our nearly 600 members. In short, Dick agreed to publish a monthly, electronically conveyed News Letter. Thus was born the Breech Block.


During the just-passed Holidays we assessed the value of our efforts. In short, the Breech Block, with its evolved format, has been a resounding success. At a minimal cost we have been able to present to our readership - now expanded to twice the size of the original audience - news of Veterans' benefits, reviews of books that are Vietnam War-focused, feature Tankers and Ontos Marines awarded personal decorations for heroism, a donors section, a "Looking For" section, and selections of key Vietnam War events - the "Blast From the Past". Additionally, the Breech Block features news of our on-going activities and postings of planned reunions. The best part of the Breech Block is publishing the personal Vietnam War stories sent to us by our readers. We actively solicit the submission of personal Vietnam War stories - most especially from Ontos and Tanker Marines. To us the most interesting stories are not particularly of award winning heroics but just the "every day stuff" that tells of the life of a Marine Tanker, Ontos Crewman, or support Marine during his tour(s) in Vietnam.


You are encouraged to visit our Blog site and weigh in on any subject that appears appropriate to the Foundation's mission. Or, add your thoughts to any of the subjects already opened, as well.


And, while it's been most rewarding to serve our readership, we continue to improve all our means of communication and ask that you to let us know how we are doing. We really enjoy encouraging comments but we will take on-board your suggestions to add or delete Breech Block features or just general comments how we can do a better job.


We hope that you enjoyed a wonderful Christmas and New Year's Holiday Season and that 2012 is your very best year - ever.


Ray Stewart


PS: And don't let me be amiss in not thanking Dick for all his hard work and sharing his many talents with the Foundation. 


Carey Appointed to Military Academies Selection Board

 Dick Carey

Richard 'Dick' Carey was recently appointed to served on the Massachusetts 10th Congressional Districts' Military Academies Selection Board.   


The selection board consists of ten military and civilians appointed  by Congressman Bill Keating.  There are three enlisted combat veterans, two Marines and one Army. Others on the board are a former retired chef of police and six military staff and general officers representing the Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard.


The board met in December at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay.  The interviews lasted the entire day as each candidate for the various academies put their best foot forward. The academies represented included the Naval, Air Force, West Point, Maritime (Coast Guard),  and Merchant Marine. 


Carey stated, "As a former enlisted man I was able to assess what I would want in an officer.  I was looking for a no-nonsense dedicated individual who understood the seriousness of the position." Other factors in the selection process included SAT scores, leadership roles and extracurricular activities. During the interviews we were permitted to add points for items not included in their essays. Carey continued, "We had one young lady that had no outside of school activities. We found out during the interview that she had to go home after school to take care of her younger sister as her mother was in the final stages of cancer. We were able to award her five points, the maximum, for after school activities..  It showed to us maturity beyond her years."


"Choosing the best of best from our district is only the first step for those to being accepted to the various military academies. Once the academies receive our selections they review each candidate and only interview those they believe will be a good fit for them."


Carey is the Founder of the USMC Vietnam Tankers Association, Director of Public Relations and Treasurer for the Marine Corps Vietnam Tankers Historical Foundation and serves on Congressman Keating's Veterans Advisory Board. He has been a veterans advocate for over 40 years. 

Jim Patrick


Bronze Star MedalWhen Marine Corps 1st Lt. Jim Patrick came home from the Vietnam War in 1966, he had a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and a shattered right knee that would give him 40 years of physical pain. But he did not think of himself as disabled.


"I was a Marine," said Patrick, 70, a family counselor for the Broward schools. "I was just glad to be alive, and I was glad to be back in the world."



Courtesy of

Donors: Thank you for your support.


Mike 'Boris' Bolenbaugh ~ (2011)

Peter Brush* ~ (2011)
Dick Carey ~ (2011) 

Darrell and Jeni Cox ~ (2011/12)   

Kyle Decicco-Carey* ~ (2011)
David 'Doc'
Forsyth, ~ (2011)
Chuck Garrison, ~ (2011)
LtCol Will Lochridge, USMC (ret) ~ (2011)
Jim Raasch** ~ (2011/12)
Pappy Reynolds* ~ (2011)
LtCol Ray Stewart, USMC (ret)** ~ (2011)
Guy Wolfenberger ~ (2011+)
Martha Zaragoza~ (2011)


Michael ("Belmo") Belmessieri ~ (2011/12)
Sid Ferguson ~ (2011) 
Gene 'Doc' Hackemack (2011)
Garry Hall, ~ (2011)
LtCol Frank Slovik USMC (ret) ~ (2011/12)
Danny Farrell ~ (2011)
Louis Najfus ~ (2011) 
Larry Parshall* ~ (2011)
Michael 'Doc' Pipkin* ~ (2011)
Rick Oswood ~ (2011)
Jerry Wahl ~ (2011)


+Additional Donation 

*In-Kind Services

**In-Kind & Monetary

Your continued support is appreciated.
Please send your Donation to:

MCVTHF, 707 S.W. 350th Ct., Ste. #1 

Federal Way, WA 98023

                                                                                 Thank you!


IRS Tax EIN 91-2111544
A 501(c)(19) Non-profit Historical Foundation



January 21, 1968 - General William C. Westmoreland, Commander USMACV, ordered a temporary halt to work on the "McNamara Line", the barrier and anti-infiltration system south of the DMZ.  

Significance: This for all practical matters ended the work on the McNamara Line which officially terminated on October 22, 1968.    

January 21 - April 15, 1968 - NVA troops began shelling the base at Khe Sanh and the strongholds in the surrounding hills. This rocket, mortar, and artillery barrage initiated the 77-day "Siege of Khe Sanh".
Significance: The Siege of Khe Sanh would be one of the defining battles of the Vietnam War. Supplied by air and supported by massive artillery and air bombardments including B-52 strikes, the 6,000 man Khe Sanh garrison would hold out against elements of an estimated two North Vietnamese Divisions until relieved by U.S. forces on April 14 in Operation Pegasus.


January 30 - February 28, 1968 - Communist forces launched a country-wide offensive during the Vietnamese Tet holidays. On January 30, their Main Force units launched an aborted attack upon Da Nang. Units from the U.S. Army's Americal Division would reinforce the 1st Marine Division at Da Nang. Fighting in the Da Nang sector would continue sporadically until the end of February. Communist offensives would also occur in Hue, Quang Tri City, Hoi An, and Quang Ngai City in I Corps
Significance: While providing the Communists with the some political and propaganda successes, especially in the United States, the defeat of their nation-wide offensive would cost the Communist forces dearly in manpower in both their regular forces and especially among their Viet Cong infrastructure and local forces.


January 31 - March 2, 1968 - In the Battle for Hue City, the North Vietnamese in Division strength on January 31 captured most of the city except for small pockets of resistance. Elements of the 1st Marine Division Task Force X-ray, the South Vietnamese 1st ARVN Division, and the U.S. 1st Air Cavalry Division in month-long house to house fighting retook the city with significant losses suffered by both sides.
Significance: The capture of Hue, the ancient Imperial capital of Vietnam had significant symbolic reverberations throughout the country and was the one partially successful element of the enemy Tet offensive. The defeat of the Communist forces at Hue prevented them from possibly taking over the two northern provinces of South Vietnam.    


January 28 - March 19, 1970 - Redeployment of Marine units from Vietnam, now codenamed Keystone Robin, continued to include the 26th Marines, MAG 12, and several aviation squadrons.
Significance: U.S. redeployment plans call for III MAF units to be among the first U.S. units to depart Vietnam.  


January 30 - April 6, 1971 - On January 30 the South Vietnamese begin Lam Son 719. In phase 1 which lasted to February 8, the South Vietnamese supported by allied forces opened up the Khe Sanh base. In Phase II, the South Vietnamese forces which included the Vietnamese Marine Corps Division. U.S. advisors, including U.S. Marine advisors, were not permitted to accompany their units into Laos, they were allowed, however, to coordinate supporting fires (ARG)/Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU) remained off the Vietnamese coast, but was not committed.
Significance: Militarily, this operation was much less successful than the Cambodian incursion and called into question the capability of the South Vietnamese command to coordinate division-size forces. Again U.S. Marine units in Vietnam played almost no role in Lam Son 719 as they redeployed or planned to redeploy from Vietnam.


Selected Named Operations During January


Masher/White Wing
Thang Phong II

24 Jan  

6 Mar 66
42 days
5-8 Bns

1st Cavalry Division operation in Binh Dinh Province. USMC operation Double Eagle links in cross border segment

VC/NVA 2,389
US KIA 349

Lancaster II

21 Jan

23 Nov 68
308 days
12 Bns

3 MarDiv search-and-clear operation

VC/NVA KIA 1,801
US KIA 352

Hue City

31 Jan

25 Feb 68
26 days
5 Bns

1 MarDiv operation to clear Hue City during Tet Offensive

VC/NVA KIA 5,113
US KIA 142

Dewey Canyon

22 Jan-18 Mar69
56 days
4 Bns

1 MarDiv operation north of the A Shau Valley in Thua Thien Province

VC/NVA KIA 1,335
US KIA 121

Double Eagle I

28 Jan- 28 Feb 66
23 days
4 Bns

3 MarDiv operation in Quang Ngai Province



Can You Name That Tank & Crew?

Khe Sanh Tank

This photo is said to have been taken at Khe Sanh during the 1967/1968 siege. Email your answer. 

San Diego Newspaper's Marine of the Year


Capl Jason Gaal
Cpl Jason Gaal 


Today,the U-T launches a new tradition. Each Jan. 1, we will honor the Person of the Year, an individual or category of individuals with San Diego ties.


We can think of no better way to begin this tradition than by selecting as our first winner the Marine. Since Sept. 11, 2001, America has relied on the Marine to keep us safe from terror at home and to take the fight to our enemies abroad, a task our Marines have handled with immense courage, professionalism and honor.


Some of the 56,000 Marines based in San Diego County - the West Coast hubs for Marine ground and air forces - have served a half-dozen or more tours of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan. Their sacrifices, and those of all the other military personnel based in our county, have been  enormous.


Some have died, some have suffered horrific injuries, some are wounded in less-obvious ways. The Marine's family also has borne a huge burden.


Yet the Marine perseveres, caring for loved ones, protecting our nation and demonstrating the wisdom of Marine Commandant Charles McCawley's 1883 decision to make "semper fidelis" - Latin for "always faithful" - the Marine Corps motto. When not defending this nation abroad, the Marine is our neighbor, our friend, our children's coach, our school's supporter, a welcome, constructive and beloved member of our community.


The U-T is far from alone in its admiration. "Some people work an entire     lifetime and wonder if they have ever made a difference to the world. But the Marines don't have that problem," President Ronald Reagan wrote in a letter to a young Marine about to deploy on a dangerous mission.


We couldn't agree more.


In recognition of all the Marine has done for San Diego, for the United States and for the cause of freedom, the U-T salutes the Marine, our 2011 Person of the Year. Semper fi!



Book Review

By LtCol Ray Stewart, USMC (Ret) 


Let me start this month's "Book Review" section by pointing to the January issue of the Leatherneck Magazine of the Marines. There you will find in the "Books Review" section, page 63 my review of Eric Hammel's Always Faithful. And by following the link to our web sight where it is also posted.


This month we've looked at another dimension of the Vietnam War. A perspective that is often ignored by those who missed a lot of showers, ate cold canned "food", drank warm water, looked at the scenery through rear sights (or aiming stakes or vision blocks), donated blood - to leeches, used comm wire for boot laces, and "decorated" our frayed, filthy utilities with a mixture of white sweat salt and red mud. The "air war" we saw comprised primarily helicopters, C-130s, and occasional close air support (CAS) A - and F - 4s all in support of our face-to-face get togethers with VC "Charlie" and his better armed and trained NVA - "Mr. Charles". We did our job well and little did many suspect that we won our many battles in spite of the improper use of America's overwhelming air power superiority.


In "Strategy for Defeat: Vietnam in Retrospect" Admiral U.S. Grant Sharp, USN (Ret.) who commanded the U.S. Pacific forces during the Vietnam War, paints a disturbing picture of the checkered use of U.S. strategic air resources to cut off the aid for North Vietnam's prosecution of the war against the South from China via the bridges across the Red River and from Russia via ships, primarily through the main port of Haiphong. The idea, of course, was the interdicting of war supplies from its two main sources would inevitably result in the collapse of the NVA sent south.


U.S. politics drove the decisions for the on again/off again bombing of North Vietnam. The strategy of gradualism in the application of pressure against North Vietnam allowed the North Vietnamese to repair infrastructure damage while building one of the best air defense systems on the planet, hazarding American air (yes, and finally tank and Ontos) crews sustaining needless loss of men, equipment, and materiel by not permanently destroying the North Vietnam logistics system that fed the NVA and VC in the South as it was upgraded from a trail to multiple trails to paved highways. POL, initially delivered via back packing porters was ultimately moved via a network of pipelines and pumping stations that reached from Haiphong Harbor all the way to Cambodia to provide fuel for the more than 600 hundred Soviet-made tanks just across the border from Saigon.


As disturbing as it is to know that every bullet launched at American and Allied forces in South Vietnam could have - should have - been interdicted and stopped, in the opinion of Adm Sharp, proper use of Air Force and Naval assets against North Vietnam, it's the more disturbing to read of the undue influence of Secretary of Defense Robert Strange (indeed!) McNamara and his gaggle of "Wizkids" in the influencing of President Johnson who was being battered senseless by North Vietnam's encouragement of the American - and world-wide - anti-war movement.


Adm Sharp believes that the debacle - "our frantic, pathetic retreat " - that became Vietnam is a repeatable story. The opinion that the Vietnam War - because of failure to carry it in full force to the North - was pursued half-assidly is summed up by Adm Sharp with "The Marine who steps on a land mine that was not interdicted at the enemy's supply port does not die halfway."



ALWAYS FAITHFUL: U.S. Marines in World War II Combat - The 100 Best Photos. By Eric Hammel. Published by Osprey Publishing. 200 pages. Stock #1849085382. $36 MCA Members. $40 Regular Price.


If "A picture is worth a 1,000 words" Eric Hammel's latest - and probably his last - book speaks volumes. This 200 page masterpiece of the Marines' combat in the WW II Pacific Campaign is surely a "page turner" but not in the usual sense.


While the reader will surely be eager to turn the page, the mental "grip" of the photo is not easily loosened. Each provides a unique and specific story. The book tells the story of the Marines' nearly unfathomably costly victory over the Japanese and each picture - image by image - captures the essence of the war, providing graphic pieces of the battles and campaigns that led the Marines through that long, brutal, bloody war to victory.


Hammel briefly explains in his "Introduction" how war reporting evolved and how the first brutally graphic combat photos of Tarawa, published in the Dec.13, 1943 issue of Life Magazine, rather than demoralizing the American public as feared by the national civilian leaders, actually steeled its resolve.


At the beginning of each of the 12 chapters Hammel prepares the reader for the story of what the photos to follow, with only the date and place, will reveal. The beach assault; the hot, infested, rotten, stinking jungle; the Marine rifleman going toe-to-toe; supporting arms; closing with, attacking, and killing the enemy; taking it to the enemy with "blunt force"; pain, fear, and being human; brutal but simple - kill the enemy; "Docs" and no Marine left behind; exhaustion; the fallen; and finally "Adieu."


Found on a battlefield grave on Guadalcanal:

                                                And when he gets to Heaven,

                                                To Saint Peter he will tell,

                                               "One more Marine reporting, Sir

                                                 I've served my time in Hell."


Eric Hammel began writing military history books at age 15 with Guadalcanal: Starvation Island and since, during a 50 year career as an author, has published more than 40 books and nearly 70 magazine articles. He's also been involved with TV documentaries about Marine Corps operations in WWII, Korea, Vietnam and Beirut. According to Hammel, he "'retired' in 2008 and took up writing as a full-time hobby". To that he has recently added with a slight caveat - "Always Faithful is meant to be last call. I honestly have nothing left to say."


If it be so, Always Faithful, an exceptional coffee-table-size book may well be the last Hammel jewel with which military historians in general, and Marines in particular, crown their professional libraries.


LtCol Ray Stewart, USMC (Ret)

President, Marine Corps Vietnam Tankers

Historical Foundation

2012 VA Compensation Rates

History of the VA
 Click here to read about the history of the VA.
 Civil War

USMC ONTOS REUNION ~ May 2013, Details to Follow.

In This Issue
Carey Appointed to the Military Academies Selection Board
Heros' Corner
Donors (2011)
Donate Address
Vietnam Flashbacks
Can You Name That Tank & Crew?
San Diego Newspaper's Marine of the Year.
Book Review
2012 VA Compensation Rates
History of the VA




Marine Corps
Vietnam Tankers
Historical Foundation



President & Editor

LtCol Raymond A. Stewart USMC (ret.)



Archivist in Residence

Kyle Decicco-Carey

Harvard University

BA in History, MLIS


Author in Residence

Dr. Oscar "Ed" Gilbert


Historian in Residence

Peter Brush

Vanderbilt University

BA and MA in History


Marketing & Production

Richard 'Dick' Carey



Web Master

Lloyd 'Pappy' Reynolds




Board of Directors


LtCol Raymond A. Stewart

USMC (ret.)




Vice President


James Raasch


Oral Historian 


Richard 'Dick' Carey


Public Relations/Marketing


Richard Tilden


LtGen Martin R. Steele

USMC (ret.)



Robert 'Mike' Flick



David 'Doc' Forsyth Director


Dr. Ken Estes, LtCol

USMC (ret.)



Col William  'Bill' Davis




Rick Walters


MGySgt  Donald R. Gagnon

USMC (ret.)

Director Emeritus 


Quick Links

Ontos Web Site 

Khe Sanh Veterans

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Marine Corps Hertiage Foundation

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Defense Department 


Our Members' Books:


Beyond My Horizon

By Claude Vargo

Con Thein: Hill of Angels

By Jim Coan


By Clyde Hoch



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In Memory
Lance Corporal
Robert Hugh Gage
1st Marine Division
1st Tank Battalion
1st Anti-Tank
Alpha Company

03 July 1966
PP/ Staff Sergeant
 30 September 1974

Disclaimer:  "Marines" and the Eagle, Globe and Anchor are trademarks of the U.S. Marine Corps, used with permission. Neither the U.S. Marine Corps nor any other component of the Department of Defense has approved, endorsed or authorized this newsletter.