Bob Le Beau

Rank:

Cpl

MOS:

Year(s) in Nam:

Unit:

Unknown

Contact Info Available?:

No

Status:

Status Unknown

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Tell me about the time you found out you're going to Vietnam up to the time you left for Vietnam.

I entered the Marine Corps in June of 1966, my boot was in San Diego and my Home of record was Wayne , Michigan . My father died when I was 15 and we moved 9 times during my life time at that point in my life. My Dad worked as a laborer for Chrysler and between layoffs and strikes, our family suffered like many had suffered in the Detroit labor force. I have only one brother, no sisters and my brother is 7 years my senior. He has recently died of an aneurysm in Florida in 1995. I joined the Marine Corps and was not drafted. The Marine Corps would change my life for ever. My platoon graduated as Regimental Honor Platoon 1048 and we had taken all the streamers. Our DIís Staff Sgt. Strickland and Erxleben had hard welded Semper Fi into our hearts and soles. As a result, I believe these two Marines saved many lives for the salt they put into our veins of all the Marines that they had trained to survive the Vietnam tour. It was from this good foundation that 1048 Marines were built for further training and developing of hard core Marines.

Before my tour I went on to ITR Camp Pendleton, Camp Le June , back to Pendleton and Camp Hanson, Okinawa upon completion January of 1967 and it was onto Da Nang for duty with FLC (1st Force Logistical Command) FLS Alpha combat group. From January 67 to March 68 my AOR was 1st Division and all its regiments. A grunt platoon was formulated, called Clutch Platoon which would be a reactionary force that would be used throughout the AOR. I was in second squad, first fire team. Our main function was to provide Logistical Support to all regiments in the AOR. However, no matter what our MOS, we were primarily 0311. Clutch was widely dispersed at times, not only providing the most important work of Logistics, but we were also doing many other jobs in the field. In the beginning it was OJT (On the Job Training) and we were provided where needed as a blocking force to many operations, FOís, LPís, roving patrols, snoop and poops, listening posts, capture or transport POWís, guard duty, relief of CAP units, guarding convoyís, temporary replacementís for Grunt platoons casualties, throughout the AOR. I was well versed with TEís, TIís and TOís to interface with command at all levels from the platoonís to Regimental. My counter parts were what you would call office poags which were in the rear with the gear. My job was to interface with every aspect of Marine Corps operations right down to digging 4 by 6 fox holes in the field. I worked with S1, S2, S3, G1, and G2 with first hand information critical to all operations. Guys like my self were referred to as thinkers, since command was not in the field next to the Grunts, we were and they needed to know your bitchís when it came to what you needed. Our first hand information was vital to making sure you had everything you needed. So many times we would go into the field with you, to eat, sleep and fight with you. We made sure your boots, clothing, and food was adequate, along with making sure you always had enough frags, smoke, illumination, C rations, etc.

As a temporary replacement until a permanent replacement could be found I would find myself assigned many Grunt outfits in 5th Marines. Because of the number of wounded and KIAís I found myself frequently with the Delta Herdís which were my favorite people and brothers. Many of you that survived your tour may or may not remember me, but I remember you. We played cards together in An Hoa, told jokes together and exchanged information about everything. I would bring news to you from many parts of I Corps that I would travel too and get stuck in.

My biggest regret during my tour was taking the reliable M-14ís out of your hands and replacing them with the M-16ís. At first they seemed to be the answer to the SKSís and AK-47ís because they were light weight, pistol gripped, they all had selectors and you could carry more magazines. How wrong that was and I would argue this point during my entire tour with command. This complaint of mine would fall on deaf ears from Company to Battalion to Regiment to Division. I would report numerous times, that the magazines would easily bend after hitting the dirt 50 60 times during night patrols. That they would jam all the time and that they had to be cleaned constantly to operate. I literally yelled at a Lt. Col. that Marines were dying with cleaning rods still rammed into the barrels without getting a round off. That the round was too light and ricocheted after hitting the smallest of objects and it was the biggest bitch of the grunts on all occasions. They didnít seem to care and I was told in no uncertain terms that 100ís of thousands of them were being shipped and it was too late to turn back now. So, I doubled up the Armories to carry twice as many Magazines then normal and because of the high use of full auto, tripled the supply of 223 rounds. My other regret was that many of the Marines I buddy up with were either wounded and send state side or killed, it was because of this I started not getting to close to many of the Delta herd for the pain was becoming be to great for me. I drifted into solitude and carried on into my job with anger and remorse. The thousand yard stare had gotten to me too. You had by then become faces in my mind without names, but deep down inside I loved you all and felt your pain as I felt the same for the Marines in the Z.


Tell me about your first few days back in the USA

Upon my return home I didnít know what to expect. My home town Detroit was recovering from race riots. I had only 20 days of leave and I was broke.

I left Vietnam on a C-130 still with full combat dress, all my stuff had been bagged, tagged and already transported to my home address ahead of me two weeks prior. Because of the TET offensive I was already late on my rotation. After 28 hours of flight, I landed at Travis Airbase in Fairfield , California . (Little did I know at the time, I would end up living in Fairfield today?) It was O dark thirty when we landed. I was tired, hungry, and had a splitting head ache from the noisy flight. I piled everything up on the tarmac, flak jacket, helmet, (removed the cover which I still have today), smoke, frags, pop flares, loaded cartridge belt, and all the gear. All I had was a few Vietnamese Pe-asteres which I traded for a carrying bag and civilian cloths with an Airman. The mess hall was just opening up and as I eat a huge breakfast. I also could see the MPís were looking for me, probably because of the ordinance I left on the tarmac. Caught a bus to Treasure Island , finally got some travel pay at Naval Dispersing and went home.

From there I went to Camp Le June and then to GITMO Cuba and then back to Camp Le June . Now it may sound strange, but all this time I spent trying to get back to Vietnam , because I was guilt ridden from all the guys I had left behind. Itís funny because when I was there all I could think about was getting short, surviving my tour and getting home. It still lives with me to this day.

Tell me about you today, and how Vietnam has influenced what you do and how you live today..

The simple answer is I still live life like an alcoholic one day at a time and I never take anything for granted. But that is too simple of an answer to a difficult question.

When one bares witness to unspeakable bravery, one humbles himself among them. When one walks in the valley of death, he shall fear no evil, because he has walked with badest in the valley.

No my life will never be the same, but from the death and destruction of war, comes the respect of life and the living. Remembering that the right things you do are the hardest and the wrong things in life are always the easiest. There was a time after the war that I hated sunsets, but over time, I have regained to like them again. To witness unspeakable human suffering, especially the children, I found myself very intolerant to child abuse and find myself questioning the welfare system that encourages people not to work and fend for themselves, the taking of kindness for weakness.

I hiked all over mountains and their peeks in the west with friends and family. Some of my Veteran friends say that Iím still on patrol, well maybe part of thatís true. But I find peace in those mountains and valleys. In my young life I have witnessed violence to the point to where all I want to do is fish, hike and remember that I am a father to my two sons.

Little did I know that I would be Marine for life, just as I am a parent for life? Even though I have lose my older blood brother, I still have many brothers that care. Roger Estelle, Darrel Dixon, Lon Cooper , Richard Russell , Cajun Bob , SMan , Marco, and the list goes on, far too many names to mention, we have survived for some reason, some meaning, some purpose. Think of all the lives that we would not have touched if we did not survive the war. So live on my brothers, to a ripe old age and go on touching more lives, because this must be at least one of the reasons for our living. What more can anyone do to us, that has not already been done.

Give me a 1 or 2 liner about anything you want to say.

Go to the website thevirtualwall.org my brothers. Leave remembrances to the ones you have known. For there are many names that still lay bare? Remember them with the thoughts of how they were and how they touched your lives. As you know many of whom were only 18, 19 and 20 years old that had just started their lives, many just out of High School. Let us make them more then just a name on the wall and tell the world what good men they were. I know Iím preaching to the chorus that sings the same song. But please, I know many of you have and maybe some of you havenít. Heck, I had just learned about it myself this past year in October of 2000. And for all of you that visit this site, please go to thevirtualwall.org and look them up and leave your remembrances and if not, read a few. One I donít mind sharing with all of you is one I wrote for my good friend Ronald W. Sanders an epitaph of the battle of Con Thien May 1967.

My one liner,

Thatís the way it goes, first your money, then you clothes!

Semper Fi

RC

 

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