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


May you find peace and happiness this holiday season.

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We are the voice of  history  


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December 2011   




Dear Marine, 


Who lost the Vietnam War? The finger pointing of guilt goes on as I write. We've heard from the General in Charge, COMUSMACV, Gen William C. Westmoreland, USA in his autobiographical "A Soldier Reports". LtGen Phillip B. Davidson, USA, Gen Westmoreland's Intelligence Officer (J2) who also served under Gen Westmorland's successor, Gen Abrams, USA in his book "Vietnam at War: The History 1946-1975" spreads the blame of failure around to include several senior officials. In "Lost Victory", William Colby, who was the CIA Station Chief in Saigon and later the Director of the CIA, we see an even different picture of the Vietnam War, its miserable play-out and ghastly conclusion from the covert operations perspective. Former Secretary of State, Robert Strange (indeed!) McNamara in his apologia "In Retrospect", chronologically maps out his multiple mistakes and lapses of both judgment and back bone from the time he was confirmed as Sec State with zero background in either government or the military until his resignation. Lewis Sorley's "A Better War" provides us with a different perspective which would make Gen Abrams proud. Mark Moyar's book "Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War 1954-1965" tells it as he saw it but, unfortunately doesn't "finish" the saga that was the Vietnam War - leaving us to continue to believe the war was over in 1965 just about 10 years short of the actual final curtain. Most believe the war concluded in 1970 when the last of our Marine Tanks and Ontos left Danang. When in fact the severely diminished U.S. forces and the South Vietnamese Army fought on until 1970 - long after many Marines moved on in their military careers. The majority of Vietnam Vets pursued civilian careers, placing their Vietnam War fight some where in the reaches of their brain housing group. Just one more reference to the many books about the cause, effect, outcome, and guilty parties is "Vietnam: A History - The First Complete Account of the War" by Stanley Karnow. Lest I omit H.R. McMaster's torching of President Johnson in "Dereliction of Duty".

     Enough said about the "Big End" of the Vietnam War. But, what do you say? I would bet my stripes that there are few among us who - by varying degree - do not have an opinion. We want to hear yours. One will note, betting even money, that not a single author I've cited has lived for days - nay, weeks - on C-rats, humped ammo, popped caps, been shot at (and often hit!), or spent a whole lot of time over the years with issues of PTSD or the results of Agent Orange-caused cancers.

   Help the Foundation put together a "Marines Report" that tells collectively of the trials and tribulations of life at the "Little End" of the Vietnam War in the context of who you believe lost the more than 58,000 lives of our brothers. And, to be brutally honest, there are actually those among us who lament the fact there aren't more names on The Wall!

     On a more positive note, I and the Board of Directors of the Foundation wish to extend to you and your families our sincere best wishes for the Holidays - however you choose to celebrate them - and that the New Year brings you success, happiness, peace, and our brothers and sisters home safely.


   Ray Stewart

Readers Response




Thank you for the note updating us on your progress and success with your noble endeavors to preserve the magnificent history of the Marine Tankers of the Vietnam Era.


As I sat and & watched the 1st of the Ed Burn's Vietnam Documentary last night, I had tears in my eyes for the young brave men & their families.


Your mission is so important to educate the generations to come to see their Dads, Uncles, Grandpas, etc. did to preserve our freedom in the wonderful country.


Again I say thank you!




A wife of a marine that continues to fight that war every day of our lives.

Joseph De Los Santos: A Marine's Story

Courtsey of Stanger Herald


Joe De Los Santos

Bronze Star MedalJoseph De Los Santos, 63, of the Sanger area enlisted in the Marine Corps and went straight to Vietnam after basic training. Santos was in Vietnam in 1967-1968 and took part in the Tet Offensive. He was a commander of an Ontos, a light armored tracked vehicle that carried six recoilless rifles and other weapons. He received 14 combat decorations that include the Bronze Star and the Vietnamese Cross of Galleons.


He told his interviewer about his decision to enlist in the Marines:


"My good friend that lived across the street was in the Marine Corps. When he came home on leave--he was [in the local] reserves. Also, (when) he came home on leave he had worn the dress blues. That just totally won me over. All my family on my mother's side was all Army, the whole enchilada. I have had uncles in the Army in World War II and uncles in Korea... All of us are Purple Heart winners, all of us are combat decorated, and one even got the Navy Cross. I was the only Marine."


Basic training was not what Santos expected:


"When you join, you're not a Marine until you finish boot camp. Boot camp is initiation into the club; you don't get called a Marine until you finish boot camp. It was like any other boot camp, a lot harder than I expected...The pressures that are given to us came in handy later. I totally support and believe in what they do."

Santos remembers how he felt when he first arrived in Vietnam:

"Scared. No weapons. All you think in your mind is what we called the VC. They were going to attack us and we did not have a weapon. That stayed in my mind, also. I had to wait a couple of days to get checked in to a unit. Then they gave me a weapon, a grease gun (a type of automatic weapon), which is pretty good in close arms. I would rather have an M14 or later M16."

Santos described his deployment to Vietnam:

"I went to Da Nang. I was in what they call an Ontos unit, a little track vehicle with six 106s on it, four .50-caliber and a .30-caliber machine gun...I was an Ontos commander in combat. I became what they call a permanent float. What that means is that you have two battalions of Marines on board ships. And where ever there are firefights or action they landed. So every time we landed we knew we were going to see action. We were on what was called a permanent float because during my time there they disbanded the Ontos unit but they kept them on the float. I was the only one--last of the Ontos people in Vietnam."

Santos will never forget being in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive, the massive attack by Viet Cong and North Vietnamese on every major urban area in South Vietnam:

"The Tet...Probably the worst period to be in Vietnam January, February of '68. (They) attacked every spot in Vietnam. They knew they weren't going to win but by sheer numbers it convinced the world we should no longer be there."

Friendships in the service were hard to keep, Santos said:

"You see in movies where the people you go with are the people - it's a natural bond. So if they get killed or wounded it affects you. . . . It's just very difficult when the new guys came in to get to really want to be their friend. You sort of - I didn't really want to be that close to them because I knew if they died I would be affected. It's still really hard for me to talk about it - I'll talk to another Marine...but I don't normally talk about it."

Santos remembers the engagement he was awarded for:

"Yeah, the Bronze Star was for a two-day engagement on the 28th of January '68 and the 30th. Two engagements, really I was put in for the Silver Star but ended up with the Bronze Star. I remember very vividly on the 28th-- again a lot of rocket fire coming in. Being in the vehicle and if the rocket hits directly, it's over. But other than that we are pretty well protected. It was a pretty good kick..."

Marine life is something Santos would like to keep in the past:

"The one thing I have always been able to do is put my life behind me when I retired. I think I have done pretty good. I really didn't think about life; you don't go into combat thinking that you're going to get a Bronze Star or this or that. You just react, so really the medals we get rewarded are a joke; because it just comes natural, you just do it. You don't think about what you're going to just happens. So I was this crazy young guy. Now married got more responsibilities; I kind of wonder how I would be now under fire if that occurred again. With all these other obligations now; how would that affect me? I ain't going to find out. [Laughs]"

Donors: Thank you for your support.


Mike 'Boris' Bolenbaugh, 3d Tanks ~ (2011)

Peter Brush* ~ (2011)
Dick Carey, 3d Tanks* ~ (2011) 

Kyle Decicco-Carey* ~ (2011)
David 'Doc'
Forsyth, 1st Tanks* ~ (2011)
Chuck Garrison, 1st Tanks ~ (2011)
LtCol Will Lochridge, USMC (ret), 1st Tanks ~ (2011)
Jim Raasch, 5th Tanks** ~ (2011)
Pappy Reynolds, 3d Tanks* ~ (2011)
LtCol Ray Stewart, USMC (ret), 1st Tanks** ~ (2011)
Guy Wolfenberger, 3d Tanks ~ (2011+)
Martha Zaragoza~ (2011)

Sid Ferguson, 1st Tanks ~ (2011) 
Gene 'Doc' Hackemack, 1st Tanks (2011)
Garry Hall, 3d Tanks ~ (2011)
LtCol Frank Slovik USMC (ret), 3dTanks ~ (2011)
Danny Farrell, 1st Tanks ~ (2011)
Garry Hall, 3d Tanks ~ (2011)
Louis Najfus, 3d Anti-Tanks ~ (2011) 
Larry Parshall*, 3d Tanks ~ (2011)
Michael 'Doc' Pipkin*, 3rd Tanks ~ (2011)
Rick Oswood, 3d Tanks ~ (2011)
Jerry Wahl, 3d Tanks ~ (2011)


Those list in BOLD indicate rtecent donations.  

+Additional Donation 

*In-Kind Services

**In-Kind & Monetary

~ Donations received after 28 March will appear in the May issue.

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


 "There's been some question of including historical material that doesn't apply directly to Tank or Ontos units. Our response has been to remind the Track Community that we were almost never employed on "our own". That is, we were attached to or in direct support of the Grunts. Most often any Tank or Ontos action was reported on the Grunts' Command Chronology and not by the Tank Battalions' Command Chronology. So, for archive work its the Infantry records that are the most complete. Additionally, unit awards were given to the infantry units and to their supporting arms. So, for example, if you were attached to 3/7 when it was awarded an NUC or a PUC, you would probably qualify. If you were on the float with SLF "B" which was awarded RVN Gallantry Cross for 21-24 Dec '67 action, you'd rate that award. And, one more point - often we never knew or may have forgotten - the Infantry unit we were attached to and seeing names, places, and dates may jog memories."


Vietnam War Marine Corps Operations and Significant Events for Decembers


Note: If you can recall your month(s) of December in Vietnam, please write to us and tell us your story. Were you on the float w/SLF "B"? Attended a Bob Hope USO Show? Sat down for a traditional turkey dinner on Christmas Day? Broke open a cold can of "Limas and M/Fs"? Had a beer (or 2) to welcome in the New Year?


13 Dec, 1967 - BLT 3/26 ordered to reinforce Khe Sand

15 Dec, 1968 - 3/7 commenced search and destroy in Operation Citrus

20 Dec, 1965 - Operation Harvest Moon ended for Task Force Delta (2/7, 3/3, 2/1)

                        More than 400 VC KIA

21 Dec, 1967 - SLF "B" awarded RVN Gallantry Cross for 21-24 action


Prairie I/Deckhouse IV

3 Aug 66-31 Jan 67
182 days
13 Bns

1 MarDiv operation in the Con Thien/Gio Linh areas of the DMZ

VC/NVA KIA 1,397
US KIA 215


1 Nov 67-31 Mar 68
152 days
5 Bns

3 MarDiv operation in westernmost area of Quang Tri Province, centered in the Khe Sanh area

VC/NVA KIA 1,561
US KIA 204

Scotland II

15 Apr 68-28 Feb 69
320 days
17 Bns

1 MarDiv operation centered on the Khe Sanh area of Quang Tri Province

VC/NVA KIA 3,311
US KIA 435

Henderson Hill

24 Oct-

6 Dec 68
44 days
3 Bns

3 MarDiv search and clear operation in north-central Quang Nam Province


Meade River*

20 Nov 68-31 Jan 69
73 days
8 Bns

1 MarDiv operation in "Dodge City" area of Quang Nam Province

US KIA 107



December 7, 1968 - March 9, 1969 - The 1st Marine Division Task Force Yankee conducted Operation Taylor Common in Base Area 112 southwest of Da Nang, accounting for extensive North Vietnamese casualties.
Significance: Incorporating mobile helicopter and firebase tactics used by the 3rd Marine Division, the 1st Marine Division entered the North Vietnamese base areas, destroying much of the enemy main force logistics buildup and clearing the 2nd NVA Division elements which had taken refuge there.

Flame Tanks/B 23

By L/Cpl Guy Wolfenbarger

Bravo Co., 3rd Tanks, 67/68


On September 5 I got word to be ready to move out the next morning to relieve flame tank F-21 that had lost air pressure.


Mike Co. 3/26 and an escort from Bravo Co. Tanks left Camp Carol in the rain. I met up with F-21 and Bravo 25 on the road outside of Charlie 2, and Bravo 25 took the lead back to the CP.


The church yard where 2nd Platoon Bravo 3rd Tanks had been working with 1/9 was the bad lands. I had worked it ea rlier in July with Alpha Co. 3rd Tanks in .Operation Buffalo. Since then I had been in the area 4 or 5 times. The brush was real thick and the rice paddies over grown.


On Operation Buffalo on July 6, we took out a Catholic church at Thon Tan Hoa known as the Four Gates to Hell. The church yard was a land mark for the NVA to sight in on.   Nah Toa An Hoa was on everybody's map. Why anyone would set up a CP there is beyond me.   2nd Lt. Drnec was new in county and had not seen action or been in this area before.


The night of September 6, was quiet. The next morning a good friend from Columbus, Sgt. Larry Flora, threw a mud ball at my tank as he was going by. He gave me a thumbs up and that's the last ti me I saw him alive. 2nd Lt. Drnec made me mount my 50 cal. back in the cupola. When it's in the cupola it was worthless mounted on its side with only 50 rounds of ammo. Lt Drnec didn't get the big picture. A flame tank only has a 30 cal. and 60 seconds of napalm. With the 50 cal. mounted on a tripod on top the tank commander has some real fire power.


India Co. 3/26 made contact before 1200. I got word from B-25 to move out, but stay in behind his tank. 2nd Platoon B Co. tanks was a heavy section: 3 gun tanks plus a flame tank F-23.


2nd Lt. Drnec called and wanted to know what I was doing. I saw the lead tank start to mire down in the paddy, so I stayed on high ground. That he headed straight out into the paddy was not good tank tactics. I20didn't answer him on the radio. I stayed on high ground. The gun tanks fired a few rounds, and mortars started raining down. I dropped my 50 cal. out of the cupola and mounted it back on the tripod. The gun tanks moved on through the paddy and made it into the tree line. As we got word to start to pull back, I saw NVA in the brush.

Marine Corps Museum Seeks Children's Artwork


The National Museum of the Marine Corps is seeking original children's artwork for wounded Marines. The art will be displayed in the Wounded Warrior wing of the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. The Storybook Shoppe in Bluffton will provide special paper to children interested in drawing, coloring or painting a picture for the museum. The shop will also send the work to the museum if dropped off before Thursday. Pick up some art paper for your child at the shop, located at 41A Calhoun Street.Details: 843-757-2600,


Book Review

By LtCol Ray Stewart, USMC (Ret) 


Keith William Nolan (May 7, 1964 - February 19, 2009) was a military historian, focusing on the various campaigns of the Vietnam War. His father was a Marine Veteran. Though he was not a veteran of the Vietnam War, Nolan, who wrote extensively about it, had obtained a history degree from Webster University. Just 43 years old and though he didn't smoke, Keith Nolan was diagnosed with lung cancer and died two years later in February 2009. Here is a list of Nolan's book...

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  HQMC News





Commandant of the Marine Corps











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House Armed Services Committee Holds Hearing on the Future of the Military Services and the Consequences of Defense Sequestration

Nov. 2, 2011




USMC ONTOS REUNION ~ May 2013, Details to Follow.

In This Issue
Readers Response
Heros' Corner
Donors (2011)
Donate Address
Vietnam Flashbacks
Flame Tanks/B 23
Marine Corps Museum Seeks Children's Artwork
Book Review




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.)



Rick Walters


MGySgt  Donald R. Gagnon

USMC (ret.)

Director Emeritus 


Quick Links

Ontos Web Site 

Khe Sanh Veterans

Mustang Officers Assn.

Marine Corps Hertiage Foundation

The Marine Shop  

Defense Department 


Our Members' Books:


Beyond My Horizon

Con Thein: Hill of Angels




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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

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