Thursday, February 19, 2009

Lima 6 Shares Tet Offensive Experience

Col Dick Camp (ret) recounted his experience as a company commander during the 1968 Tet Offensive to a Mess Hall packed with museum docents, last week.

Lima 6 was his call sign and is the title of a book he wrote about these experiences. At times, his animated talk was sobered by emotion as he recalled Marines he lost. His excitement in describing good kills was tempered with a good natured not to his wife, "I'm really not like that, honey".


Above, Camp (center) with some of his Marines at their 40th Reunion this past summer.

If you haven't read Lima 6, I recommend it. It was an especially interesting because I know Col Camp, he is the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation's Vice President of Museum Operations.

As with most books, I read this while on the elliptical trainer at the gym. I found myself running faster and faster when fire fights were described or as they trekked through the triple canopy jungle, ever wary of a possible Viet Cong ambush. I also found myself swallowing back tears as he recounted the story of one of his Marines that was mortally wounded by an IED. When he had returned to the base and inquired about the Marine (who had been alive and responsive), he was told the Marine had died. Camp went to his quarters and cried.

Col Camp is an engaging speaker. His adventure began with requesting a company command with 4th Marines. His detailer told him nothing was available. Camp said, "O.k. give me anything with the 3rd Marine Division. The detailer says, "O.k. we had a company command slot open up with the 3rd Division."

"I'll take it!" Camp said he exclaimed. Then he asked, "So, did the company commander cycle out?"

"No, he was killed last night." The detailer replied.

And so beings (at that time) Captain Camp's Vietnam adventure.

He tells of meeting then Major Carl Mundy, "He always looked like a Marine Corps recruiting poster. But I noticed his impeccable uniform was full of holes."

Camp asked Mundy about the holes, Mundy told him he had hung his uniforms in his tent and the tent got hit by a rocket, peppering his uniforms with with fragments, no miraculous near miss.

Camp also recalled his heightened senses.

"The NVA (North Vietnamese Army) smelled like fish and smoke, very distinct. Even today, if I smell fish and smoke, I alert like an old bird dog."

On one occasion, as one of his platoons traveled across a rice paddy on water detail, one of his Marines said he smelled the NVA. As they were heading up a slope, they by chance turned around and saw the rice paddy stand up and charge toward the battalion's main position. A 250 man NVA company had been waiting to ambush the Marines. You'll have to read the book to find out what happen. If you are looking for a spring break beach read, I recommend Lima 6.

No comments: