Robert Wayne Swafford
Shortly before dawn on 04 Sep 1967 NVA and VC troops attacked US Marines in the Que Son Valley, beginning Operation Swift. As the battle escalated, both sides introduced additional forces.
On 6 September two battalions of the 1st VC Regiment attacked the lead company of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines. Bravo Company was isolated and nearly overrun before artillery-delivered tear gas drove the enemy back.
The nearby 3rd Battalion was heavily engaged a few hours later. When India 3/5 was dispatched to attack an enemy held hill, it was isolated and nearly overrun by the 1st VC Regiment's previously uncommitted 3rd Battalion.
Kilo 3/5 was sent to relieve India and, though it eventually fought through, the two-company force couldn't move because of the many casualties. That night, two assaults were repulsed.
In a night attack of their own, Mike 3/5 broke through to the encircled companies, completing the disruption of the enemy force. By dawn on the 7th the NVA/VC had withdrawn into the surrounding mountains.
The following men from India and Kilo 3/5 died in the fight for Hill 43:
Over all, one hundred seven Marines were killed as a result of this 3 day battle for the 1st and 3rd Battalions, 5th Marine Regiment.
Operation Swift continued through 15 Sep 1967 as the Marines and an ARVN force pursued the withdrawing VC. On termination, one hundred thirty US Marines and sailors were dead. The intensity of the fighting can be judged by the fact that three Medals of Honor and three Navy Crosses were awarded posthumously to Marines and sailors who died in the battle for Hill 43 and the remainder of Operation Swift.
Sergeant Richard J. Brown fought in the battle and wasn't killed, but he did receive the Silver Star for his actions during this battle. Almost 6 weeks later, he was leading a squad patrol about 7 kilometers west-northwest of Dien Ban when a booby-trapped 60mm mortar shell was tripped. The 5th Marines Command Chronology for October 1967 contains the following entry for 26 October:
"261215H: K CO 3/5 Search and Destroy at 995610 detonated 1 booby trap believed to be 60mm [mortar] round. Searched area with negative results. 4 USMC WIA."
Two of the four men died from their injuries - Sergeant Brown and Corporal Converse Rising Lewis, III of College Station, Texas. Cpl Lewis' grandfather, Colonel Converse Rising Lewis was a career Army Officer, receiving a Distinguished Service Cross during the Phillipine Insurrection.
Born in St. Louis, Robert entered on active duty on 29 January 1965. It is unknown when he started his tour in Vietnam.
At the time of his death, PFC Swafford was survived by his mother Gloria Shirley (1922-1997), father Bradie E Swafford (1921-2003), siblings Larry E., James B. 'Butch', Sue, Linda, Janice R, Charles S. 'Steve', Betty J, Gary M. 'Mike', Cindy K, Tammy L., and Danny D..
Robert is buried, along with his parents, in Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, Lemay, St. Louis County, Missouri. His father was also a veteran of the Army in World War II.
- - The Virtual Wall, November 6, 2014
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