USMC Vietnam Tankers have made history and your Foundation is making it known.

December 2010   



Dear Marine, 


    I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. In our home it was
mixed. With our family it was beyond wonderful. However, in my "other life" i.e., the Foundation, it was less so and has left us with a lot of thoughts. Let me explain the "other life" part. 

  A couple of days before Thanksgiving I received an e-mail from a young man, through my connection with the local Marine Support Battalion, asking for help in finding out more about his dying father - a former Vietnam War Veteran. This man knew is Dad had served in the Vietnam War and had some medals "2 or 3 Purple Hearts and some others" - but he never talked about his service to his family. He was preparing the eulogy to deliver at his father's services. His father was on life support and he was about to be taken off.

  I opened the Foundation's archives and asked for some very basic information of Skip. "When was your Dad in Vietnam?" "What unit(s) was he assigned to?" The answers to these questions would get me started. He had no answers and I could not move forward.

  This morning Skip informed me that his father passed away. He also found and opened a safe deposit box. He took pictures of some of what he found and sent it to me.

Skip found these medals.


  There were no written citations just these medals.

  Skip will not have not much more to say than "Dad served in Vietnam and got some medals". He's crushed and full of remorse, as is the rest of his family, that he didn't find out more about his dad. That he can't more fully recall his dad's earlier life - a Marine "Grunt" who was awarded 2, maybe 3, Purple Hearts and 2 Bronze Stars. What a story he - and Skip could tell.

  Skip would like to leave the attendees at his father's services with a more complete picture of his Dad but cannot. But, as he said to me, eulogy not withstanding, just that he and his family didn't get to know more about his Dad. And now will probably never know.

  This entire episode has left me with many thoughts and a spread of emotions. My first thoughts when I got Skip's call for help, were "Why in God's name didn't Skip know more abut his dad?" Had he, he wouldn't be in this situation. "Why didn't his dad tell Skip - at least something - about some of what was an important chapter in is life?" These are questions left unanswered, probably forever. My question, when all of this shakes out - and one that can surely be answered - "What can I take away from this piece of my this year's Thanksgiving?"

  My kids were born and raised in the Marine Corps. Running the Foundation keeps me - and them, to some degree - immersed in the Corps. I've never told my family but a few funny "sea stories" about my Vietnam War tours. And that's my choice. It's a decision I've always thought was mine alone to make. However, now with Skip's story, there's a different wrinkle to factor into this decision. In fairness to my family and friends, what would I like to leave my family to say about me at my funeral service eulogy?

  Tankers' Oral History Program


  In the previous edition of the Breech Block, the Foundation's "Macro Projects" were outlined. In the next few editions we will more fully explain in some detail just how these projects are being worked and how each of them support the Foundation's ultimate mission of writing the "Marine Tanks in the Vietnam War: A Definitive History," and how you can participate.

  The Oral History Program was one of the earliest projects the Foundation embarked upon. As with many such projects, it has expanded exponentially over the years. We are now teamed with various archiving agencies such the Veterans Oral History Project (VOHP) (as a charter member) at the Library of Congress (LOC) and the Marine Corps Historical Division (with a small grant) at Quantico, VA.

  We routinely conduct interviews with Veterans and their family members, focusing on Vietnam War-serving Marines and, more specifically, our Marine Tankers. After each individual one-on-one interview there is considerable effort to format these interviews to suit the accepting agency's requirements, which includes a written summary; the interviews are then submitted. We turn up the collection process considerably to accommodate reunions including both Tankers' reunions - so far the MCTA has not accepted our offer - and Grunt reunions (e.g., 1/9, 2/4 and The Basic School [TBS] Classes of '64 and '65). The Foundation provides all the equipment and interview personnel while the respective unit reunion leadership provides us the space. With the prospects of having one's story permanently archived, there is no shortage of volunteers to be interviewed.

  In the context of the first person interviews, one might ask, "Why family?" and "Why non-Tankers?" To the first question: The VOHP/LOC, is especially keen on matching the individual's information with that of his/her family "back home" who supported the Veteran. To the second question: Who better to tell the story of the effectiveness of tank operations than the Grunt* who is being supported? I might add that of the thousands of post-operation oral interviews conducted on-site Vietnam (or soon after the Marine's return to CONUS), very few are of Tankers. The article the Foundation wrote that was published in the Leatherneck's edition commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the "Battle for Hue City" was largely possible based on the Grunts' reporting of how Tankers worked with them during that two-part operation. Virtually nothing was reported by Tankers or is found in the 1st and 3rd Tank Battalion's Command Chronologies.

  Several years ago, while mining the Oral History Archive at Quantico, working with Dr. Fred Allison of the Marine Corps History Division, our grant request to write summaries of other archived oral histories was approved. This project resulted in multiple benefits for the Foundation. First, we can select from the thousands of interviews archived for which we want to write the summaries. Second, we are allowed to keep both the CD copy of the actual interview and our written summary for the Foundation Archives. And third - and most important - the grant money is a source, our only "outside source", of funding to support the continued operation of the Foundation.

  Finally, this article will, we trust, inspire our VTA Membership to volunteer to help with the multifaceted project. Simplistically, it's a process of listening to a half hour taped interview and writing a summary of the interview. All the support required is provided. There are a couple of other personally satisfying benefits given the Summary Writer, which I'll explain in detail should you desire to throw in with us on this project. 


*Beakey's e-mail

Map Chronology


 We promised in the last "Breech Block" that each of the Foundation's "Macro Project" that supports our ultimate goal of a published account of "Marine Tanks in the Vietnam War." Read-on about our unique project "Map Chronology Project".

  Several years ago when the Foundation was just finding its footing, during a visit to the Marine Corps History Division at Quantico, VA in a meeting with the Corps' Chief Historian, Chuck Melson, he gave us an idea that is unique in the building of unit history. Chuck stated that he had always wanted to see something like a "map chronology" i.e., something like a set of maps that would portray not just a battle but an entire campaign - or in our case, an entire war played out on maps. Sounded good to me and, knowing the talent of "Pappy" Reynolds, thought it doable.

  When I returned home, I e-mailed Pappy, ran the idea past him, he enthusiastically bought into it, and we got to work. Pappy, with some financial help from the Foundation to purchase maps and some publications, but more than his fare share of "sweat equity,"

got started. First, he went through the 1st and 3rd Tank Battalions' Command Chronologies and located them on the maps - from their introduction in-country to their back-load. Then he moved down to the Tank Companies. Each tier down introduced degrees of difficulty that would have discouraged a lesser man.

  Pappy rolls out his maps at our reunions and invites us all to see what he's plotted and to add our individual input. He reads the Foundation blog site, the Sponson Box, and researches units to tier down to the individual Tanker's personal story. What Pappy's put together with this project is truly unique and invaluable in the accomplishment of building the entire story of "Marine Tanks in Vietnam."


  Please visit our blog at and our web site located on the right side of this page . Send Pappy the details you can recall of where you were and when you were there - the best you can recall. We will run your story through the "official" history of the Marine Corps, adding the context, plot you on Pappy's Map Project and publish your story in the Breech Block.


  As the Foundation motto says "Marine Tankers made history, the Foundation's mission is to make it known."  

Foundation member has memoir published

 by Pete Rich


 Claude Regis Vargo

  Claude Regis Vargo, Marine Corps Vietnam Tankers Historical Foundation and USMC Vietnam Tankers Association Life Member since 2008, has published a book titled Beyond My Horizon: An Educational Odyssey and Combat Memoir (Dog Ear Publishing 2010). Claude was a Tank Commander with Bravo Company, 3rd Tank Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, Vietnam 1967-1969 (two tours) and was awarded three Purple Hearts during his combat duty.


  I was Claude's Platoon Commander from January to September 1969 and as a FNG in Bravo Company, was very grateful to have a salty Corporal named Vargo riding shot gun for me in Bravo 35. The one thing I will never understand is how Claude got an 1811 MOS. He stands 6'6" and to see him climb out of the TC hatch made you wonder how he could fit all that length in a vehicle designed for guys around 5' 5". We had some exciting times during our tour, tracking around the DMZ from Con Thein to Gio Linh. Like many Marines, we returned home and started non-military lives. Had it not been for the USMCVTA, I doubt that we would have ever hooked up again. Claude thought I was a KIA but through his researching skills he found me and the friendship was reborn.


  Vargo has experienced a great many things in life and has managed to translate them into a real time "how to" succeed story in Beyond My Horizon. He describes key values such as discipline, tenacity and leadership by example, Marine Corps tenets, and how they can be applied in our daily lives. More importantly, he encourages being responsible for your destiny in terms that anyone can relate too. No one said life was going to be easy but Claude has, by his real time examples, provided a guideline for success. He has drawn upon his Marine Corps training and experience to attain success at home, in college and in life. Beyond My Horizon is an excellent story, written by a former combat Marine and MCVTHFand USMCVTA Member, who has "been there, done that."

Ischemic Heart Disease & Agent Orange
by Dick Carey 

Ischemic Heart Disease

  I.H.D. is now recognized by the Department of Veteran Affairs as an automatic service-connected medical condition due to your exposure to Agent Orange. Ischemic heart disease involves a reduction of blood flow and oxygen to the heart. There is usually a buildup of cholesterol and other substances, called plaque, in the arteries that bring oxygen to heart muscle tissue. Over time, this damages and weakens the heart muscle making it difficult for the heart to fill and pump blood to the rest of the body.


  Ischemic heart disease is a common cause of congestive heart failure. People with this condition may at one time have had a heart attack, angina, or unstable angina. A few people may not have noticed any previous symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Chest pain behind the breastbone or slightly to the left of it. It may feel like tightness, heavy pressure, squeezing, or crushing pain. The pain may spread to the neck, jaw, back, shoulder, or arm.
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Feeling of indigestion or heartburn
In Memoriam
Bill Hall 

  Historical Foundation Life Member William Hall, age 65 of Richmond, Michigan passed away on 29 October. He passed away as a result of smoking and complications of C.O.P.D.


  Bill served in the Marine Corps from 1964 to 1968, serving two tours in Vietnam first in 1965 and then again in 1967/1968. He was assigned to the 3rd Tank Bn. during his tours. Bill is survived by his wife Mary; and three daughters, Denise Hall, Marion Hall, and Becky Asselin.

In This Issue
Tankers' Oral History
Map Chronology
Memoir Published
Agent Orange & IHD
In Memoriam


Owner & Publisher:

Marine Corps Vietnam Tankers Historical Foundation


President & Editor:

LtCol Raymond A. Stewart USMC (ret.)




Marketing & Production:

Richard 'Dick' Carey



Web Master:

Lloyd 'Pappy' Reynolds


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