A Note from The Virtual Wall
On 22 November 1965 the coastal areas of Quang Nam Province were being inundated with rain from heavy thunderstorms, accompanied by high winds and heavy seas in the river mouths. A recon team from 1st Force Recon Company found itself cut off from high land by the rising waters and requested evacuation. Three LVTP5 amphibious tractors from B Company, 1st AMTRAC Bn, were diverted to pick up the recon team and did so, transporting the Recon Marines to the southern shore.
The 3rd Marine's Operations Log for 22 Nov 65 contains these entries:
"1350H Entry 7: From Force Recon: One of the LTVs that picked up our team on the north side of the Song CaDo lost its power and has drifted out to the east of the Nam O Bridge. Request Coast Guard to assist. Request retriever."
"1401H Entry 8: From 1/3 Marines: One LVT on way to assist powerless LVT."
"1417H Entry 9: From Force Recon: AMTRAC went down about 100 meters from ESSO storage area (AT9386). (7) personnel were in the AMTRAC."
"1530H Entry 11: From 1/3 Marines: LVT reported in SerNo 48 has sunk. 3 men are reported in water. Helos are in area."
Although helos, additional LVTP5s, a USCG cutter and a Navy LST were immediately sent to the scene, only three men were recovered. The 1st AMTRAC Bn Command Chronologies for November and December 1965 continue the story:
"22 Nov 1965: Received a message from 3d Marines S-3 at 1410 indicating that 1 of our LTVs had lost power on the Cau Do River near Nui Ham O Bridge and there were two LTVs standing by. At 221425H we received a second message from 3rd Marines S-3 that B-36 had sunk. A helicopter was on station rescuing troops. Company "B" CO left immediately for the area as did the Battalion Commander. A spot report was sent to Division G-3 at 221440H. At approximately 221600H, S-3 received a call from Maj HUNTER, Division G-3 stating that a second LTV had been lost in the same area. Indications were that seven Marines were missing and presumed drowned, two of which were from 1st AMTrac Battalion. It appeared the two vehicles had lost power on the river and had been carried out to sea by the swift current, swamped, and sank. The weather was bad with gusty winds, heavy surf, and high ground swells."
"23 Nov 1965: One of the sunken LVTs has been located near the petroleum receiving and storage area in approximately 40 feet of water and it is believed this LVT may contain bodies of the remaining men who are missing. Two bodies were found and returned to "C" Med. The two bodies were recovered this date by Vietnamese fishermen who swam ashore with them. The second LVT is near the mouth of the river on the north side beyond the surf line, however its exact position is unknown. This situation outlined above will remain unchanged through the remainder of this reporting period due to bad weather, heavy seas, and the nonavailability of salvage gear."
"03 Dec 1965: 1830H - Received call from Decedent Affairs, 3dMedBn concerning bodies of Pfc B. ANDERSON and Cpl V. LISMENTS. Bodies said to be found tonight and will be recovered 4Dec65."
"16 Dec 1965: Salvage operations recovered 1 LVT. The bodies of 6 Marines were discovered inside."
"17 Dec 1965: The six bodies from the recovered LVT were delivered to "C" Med at approximately 0730."
"17 Dec 1965: Bodies of PFC B. ANERSON and Cpl V. LISMENTS officially found 16Dec65."
It's unclear when the second LVTP5 was salvaged and the final body recovered, but the toll was nine dead:
- B Co, 1st AMTRAC Bn
- Cpl Vilis Lisments, Indianapolis, IN
- Pfc Barry F. Andersen, Harper Woods, MI
- A Btry, 1st Bn, 11th Marines
- Pfc Michael A. Beringer, Bluffton, MN
- Pfc John D. Campbell, Pleasant Hill, IL
- D Co, 1st Bn, 3rd Marines
- SSgt Moses C. Tabor, Crossville, TN
- Cpl Billy W. Hedge, Vincennes, IN
- LCpl Richard R. Bigley, Omaha, NE
- LCpl Richard G. Wick, Dayton, OH
- Pfc Darell G. Freeman, Salinas, CA