Thomas Howard Retschulte

Lance Corporal
United States Marine Corps
07 February 1947 - 21 January 1968
Covington, Kentucky
Panel 35E Line 008


Purple Heart, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for Thomas Howard Retschulte

28 Jul 2007

July 6-8, 2007 the American Veterans Traveling Tribute Wall was in Susanville, California. A photograph of the Wall taken by Terry Chapman, Historian for American Legion Post #204, late at night showed the name THOMAS H. RETSCHULTE. Realizing that there was no memorial page on behalf of this fallen hero I have decided to honor him by creating one.

Further research on behalf of LCPL Retschulte indicated that he and 4 others of C Co, 3rd Recon Bn team "LITTLE GULL" lost their lives on 21 Jan 1968.

To LCPL Retschulte, the 4 other team members of "LITTLE GULL" and to all who are honored upon the Vietnam Veterans Mermorial Wall - YOU ARE NOT FORGOTTEN. God bless you all.

From a fellow Vietnam Veteran,
Bruce D. Dyer, USN
MACV, Saigon 69-70

A Note from The Virtual Wall

The post-patrol report for Recon Team LITTLE GULL (2nd Plt, C Company), submitted by message as 3rd Recon Bn 221519Z JAN 68, is contained in the 3rd Recon Bn's Jan 1968 Command Chronology. It states the patrol was made up of nine men, 8 US and one Vietnamese Kit Carson scout, and began its move into its operating area on foot on 15 Jan 1968. Their mission was to determine enemy activity, plot prospective landing zones, and prosecute the enemy using air and/or artillery. The operating area was in the vicinity of Hill 484, about 14 kilometers north-northwest of the Ca Lu Airfield and 23 kilometers north-northeast of the Khe Sanh combat base. After extraction the team's surviving members were debriefed by Captain G. W. O'Dell, who prepared the report quoted below:
"5. Observation of enemy and terrain.
    A. Synopsis: Patrol was ambushed by estimated 30 VC/NVA, results were (6) USMC KIA (1) WIA. Two men evaded and were picked up by helicopter. Patrol also had (1) Kit Carson scout MIA, subsequently returned after escaping from NVA.
    B. Enemy:
        (1) 191510H [3:10 pm, 19 Jan] XD969616. Patrol was moving through 6-8 foot high elephant grass on Hill 484 when they were hit by estimated 30 VC/NVA approximately 20 meters away. Patrol received a heavy volume of M-79, grenades, and automatic weapons fire and sustained 4 USMC killed in this initial burst. The patrol returned fire with M-16 and grenades. The point and Kit Carson Scout were not hit in the initial burst and the point shouted that they were returning to the remainder of the patrol. The patrol heard a long burst of automatic weapons fire and couldn't receive any answer when they called out. (2) USMC killed. The alternate radioman was WIA and had crawled back to the remaining two men. He attempted to return to his radio approximately 20 meters away. Last two men heard him trying to talk on radio when a long burst of automatic weapons fire was fired, voice ceased. Last two men (1) WIA stayed in position approximately 30 minutes firing small arms, then began to move south toward the Rockpile. They accounted for (3) VC/NVA KIA during the time they were at the ambush site. [They] stated the enemy were dressed in black PJs and armed with AK-47s. They also stated that grenades received were not ChiComs but of US variety. Aerial observer on scene but men couldn't signal him, they'd thrown red smoke earlier in attempt but didn't feel they succeeded. While they were moving VC/NVA attempted to cut them off but they managed to evade them. They continued to move and [illegible word] an aerial observer on the morning of the 20th. Helicopter picked up men."
The body of the Chronology contains a summary (page 11) which reads
"During the initial firefight 5 USMC were KIA and 1 WIA. Two men (1 WIA) managed to break contact and evade until picked up by helicopter. An attached Kit Carson scout was captured by the NVA and taken to their harbor site. During the evening he managed to loosen his bonds, overpower his guard, and evaded back to friendly lines. He related that enemy KIAs numbered 15."
There are two discrepancies between the reports quoted above and the casualty database:
  1. The patrol report says 9 men went out - 8 US and 1 KC scout. Captain O'Dell's post-patrol report accounts for all 9 men: 6 killed; 2 recovered; 1 KC scout returned from MIA. The page 11 summary accounts for only 8 men: 5 killed; 2 recovered; 1 KC scout captured, escaped, and returned to friendly lines. The difference in number killed may simply be that Captain O'Dell counted both the point man and the KC scout as killed ("(2) USMC killed.") - but where is the 9th man?
  2. The post-patrol report is quite clear in stating the action occurred on 19 Jan 1968, but the casualty file date of death for the five men listed below is 21 Jan 1968. This discrepancy probably derives from the date the bodies were recovered - 21 Jan 1968.
The five Marines who can be associated with RT LITTLE GULL are:
  • LCpl Merle C. Eicher, Smithfield, PA
  • LCpl Thomas H. Retschulte, Covington, KY
  • Pfc Lawrence E. Bisonett, Clayton, NY
  • Pfc Thomas J. Moody, Guilford, ME
  • Pfc James L. Siron, Sedalia, MO
The Virtual Wall cannot determine with absolute certainty if there was a sixth death involved with LITTLE GULL, but it doesn't seem so. Forty-six Marines and Navy Corpsmen died in Quang Tri Province 19-21 January inclusive, and all 46 have been accounted for by unit and respective unit diary entries.

The point-of-contact for this memorial is
a fellow Vietnam Veteran,
Bruce D. Dyer, USN
MACV, Saigon 69-70

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 28 Jul 2007
Last updated 07/31/2007