Curtis Morris Ashton
Chief Petty Officer
4TH PLT, SEAL TEAM 2, TF 116, USNAVFORV
United States Navy
Sweetwater, Texas
November 30, 1946 to December 27, 1969
CURTIS M ASHTON is on the Wall at Panel W15, Line 96

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Curtis M Ashton
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4 Dec 2004

Curtis was a West Texas guy. He was born in Rotan, Texas. He lived his early life there and in Colorado City, Texas. He attended Colorado City schools. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy within months after graduation from high school in Sweetwater, Texas.

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He was trained in electronics, but then applied for and was accepted as a Navy Seal. He did 2 tours in Vietnam, the first in 1967-68 with Seal Team 7 and then he returned in 1969 with Seal Team 2.

According to his Seal Team buddies, he would go any where at any time and perform any job. He is reported to have completed some 150 Seal missions before his death. He was also reported to be deadly with the Stoner Machine gun. He was awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, along with many awards for valor. He is remembered by the Permian Basin Vietnam Memorial in Midland, Texas.


22 Sep 2006

When the Permian Basin Vietnam Veteran's Memorial was dedicated in 1994, Curtis was listed with Mitchell County, Texas and his name appears that way at the Memorial Site near the Midland International Airport. That is in error. He was from Nolan County, Texas. His family moved to Sweetwater when he was seven. He attended Sweetwater High School his sophomore year and then Tye High School in Tye, Texas, his junior year. He dropped out before his senior year and joined the Navy from Sweetwater.

He was known as Butch to his family and friends. Butch is a first cousin to Johnnye Ashton Blakeley, the widow of Major Roy J. Blakeley, U.S. Air Force, of Rotan who also perished in Vietnam.

From a PBVVM representative,
Billy M. Brown
4015 Melody Lane, Odessa, Texas 79762
bmbrown@grandecom.net



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Petty Officer Ashton receiving awards following
his first tour in Vietnam. His wife, Stephanie
Jo Huddleston Ashton, looks on.

 

28 May 2006

I went to Sweetwater High School with "Butch", as we called him. My husband Chip was in Vietnam in 68-69. I'd like Butch's family to know that his sacrifice to keep us free has not been forgotten.
Sherron (Rycroft) Foster
raginred@wisewb.com

 

By December 1968, the Navy drew down SEA LORDS and formally designated that organization as Task Force 194 and Operation Giant Slingshot became Task Group194.9 with their base of Operations at Tan An with the 3rd Brigase of the 9th Infantry Division. As the operation began, firefights became so frequent that new acronyms evolved in order to speed up report writing: ENIFF (ENemy-Initiated FireFight), FRIFF (FRiendly-Initiated FireFight), ENENG (ENemy initiated ENGagement, but no friendly fire returned), FRENG (converse of ENENG), LHFT (Light Helicopter Fire Team), HHFT (Heavy attack Helicopter Fire Team) and WBGP (Waterborne Guard Post) were among those used.

Over a 1000 firefights occurred during the 515 days of the operation, an average of two per day. Duirng this period, the use and further enhancement of a nighttime tactic used by "Game Warden" forces occurred. It started as the "waterborne ambush" but as the the war changed from offensive to defensive in nature, and the ratio of watercraft to area of operations was high, the ambush was changed to the WaterBorne Guard Post (WBGP).

Instead of a few boats noisily patrolling the rivers and tributaries, more boats covering a smaller area, were able to operate in stealth, letting the tnemy come to them. The WBGP involved a River Patrol Boat (PBR) snuggling up to the bank of the river and await the enemy come to search them them out or happen by the boat. It was one of these 1000 firefights that took the life of Petty Officer 1st Class Curtis Morris Ashton.

Prior to his death, Ashton had been awarded three Bronze Star Medals, with a Combat V device duirng his first tours in Vietnam (October 23, 1967 to at least November 1968). The first was for action on the night of March 13, 1968 when, as machine gunner with his SEAL combat patrol, Petty Officer Ashton's patrol penetrated 4,000 yards into an enemy base camp occupied by a Viet Cong battalion. The patrol discovered a large barracks complex containing approximately 30 well armed insurgents. Petty Officer Ashton volunteered to act as rear security during his patrol's withdrawal through 1,000 yards occupied by a large Viet Cong force. Petty Officer Ashton held off a Viet Cong attempt to cut off and encircle his patrol, continually exposing himself to a hail of automatic weapons fire to insure his patrol's safe extraction.

The second award, a Gold Star in lieu of a Second Award of the Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V", was for meritorious service in connection with operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force while serving in the Republic of Vietnam from 23 October 1967 to 20 April 1968. Petty Officer Ashton distinguished himself by his sustained high performance of duty during combat patrols, ambushes, reconnaissances, raids and other clandestine combat operations of the swamps, jungles, streams and mud of the Mekong Delta. As a member of SEAL Team TWO, Detachment ALFA, 7th Platoon, Petty Officer Ashton actively participated as assistant squad leader with a SEAL squad on over 80 combat missions resulting in numerous enemy casualties and captives, many weapons captured and a collection of very important intelligence material. Petty Officer Ashton's aggressiveness, knowledge of guerilla tactics, clear judgment, devotion to duty and courage under fire were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

His 3rd Award, a Second Gold Star in lieu of a Third Award of the Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V" for heroic achievement while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in armed conflict against North Vietnamese and Viet Cong communist aggressors in the Republic of Vietnam on 17 November 1968. Petty Officer Ashton, as machine gunner for a seven-man squad of the Fifth Platoon, United States Navy SEAL Team, Detachment ALFA, was patrolling Thoi Son Island, a heavily defended Viet Cong stronghold. The squad moved into a three house complex in order to question residents about enemy activity in the area. Since the houses were separated, the squad was forced to disperse itself in order to set up adequately for any contingency. While they were questioning the inhabitants of the house, a ten man enemy unit came down an adjacent trail in an attempt to attack the squad in the houses. Seeing that he was the only one who could get into position to fire on the enemy, Petty Officer Ashton, with complete disregard for his own safety, mumped onto the open trail to get a clear line of fire. In his initial volley of fire, he killed five of the aggressors and routed the remainder of the unit. His aggressive actions and devotion to duty thwarted the enemy's attempt to trap his squad in the houses.

At some point after November 1968, Ashton returned home from his first tour and was presented his first tour medals as shown above and below (post ceremony). The medals that show in the photo appear to be, from top to bottom, left to right, that can be identified, are Bronze Star with V and gold star; Navy Achievement Medal with V, Purple Heart with star(s); 2nd row (Only the medallions showing) Navy Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal; (Cannot see a 3rd medallion showing); 3rd row, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal (White Star), and Vietnam Cross of Gallantry-Unit (Below Purple Heart); and two medals separate from rest is Bronze Star with V and Navy Commendation Medal with V.

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PO1 Ashton started is second tour in Vietnam on Apirl 15, 1969, this time with the 4th Platoon of SEAL Team 2. About 23:45 hours on 27 December 1969, he was killed in action when an explosion occurred near his patrol area on the Rach Tram River, 21 kilometers southeast of Nha Be (YS 010 593) and 17 kilometers west northwest of Can Gio. Ashton, in a WBGP, along with 5 other SEALS, LT Gardner, and 6 Province Regional Unit (PRU) Troops, when a LHFT (two special weapons Cobras) was called in to place strikes on lights spotted south of their position. At 2345, ordnance exploded within the guardpost, resulting in Ashton's death and the wounding of 1 PRU who was evacuated 30 minutes later.

PO1 Ashton was survived by his wife, Stephanie Jo of Virginia Beach, Virginia and his parents, Alpha Omega and Walter Richard Ashton, Sweetwater, Texas. He was survived by an older brother, Troy Davis Ashton. Troy, living in Huntingtown, Maryland, passed away January 2, 2001 at age 66. Curtis also had two other brothers, Gene and Gayland as well as two sisters, Helen and Carol.

He is buried in the Garden of Memories Cemetery, Sweetwater, Texas as are his parents, Alpha Omega Coan Ashton (1911 - 1995) and Walter Richard Ashton (1909 - 1986).

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