The War in Southeast Asia Continues For Those Left Behind

The War in Southeast Asia Continues For Those Left  Behind

The following was written by Cary Turner, whose cousin, Joseph Nelson Hargrove, was one of the three Marines left on the island of Kho- Tang, off the coast of Cambodia, during the "Mayaguez Incident" 41 years ago:

"For over 41 years there has been a cover-up involving the Lost Fire Team. After a 10-year battle investigating this incident (and) trying to get answers for the many questions that my family has had and never getting any cooperation from our own government, I had to resort to seeking those answers from foreign sources.

"Over the course of those years I was blessed enough to develop a 'network' of good-hearted people willing to help in this endeavor. We eventually gathered the story piece-by-piece until we finally obtained the truth of what really happened to those three brave Marines.

"The truth is (that) the three Marines were ordered to provide cover fire for the other Marines being extracted from the island. After carrying out those orders, they pulled back into the landing zone and waited there for pick-up as promised.

"Henry Kissinger denied the request for any rescue aircraft or a Navy Seal Team to extract those three Marines from the island. They were abandoned by orders from the White House.

"Finally, after 41 years, I am extremely happy to announce that soon to be published by Newsweek in their January 20 issue will be the story of what really happened to those Marines on the night of May 15, 1975. Everything in the article is documented and can be proven.

"We  have spent 10 years doing the ground work to expose this cover-up. Now I am asking all Vietnam veterans and any other veterans to join us in the fight to bring those three Marines home, as well as recognizing their courage and dedication in holding true to the Marine tradition (Semper Fi).

"After the article is published, I am asking for all veterans to contact their congressmen and US senators demanding an investigation.

"We have witnesses that the DPAA (Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency) has Joseph's remains and we also have reason to believe they have the remains of Gary Hall and Danny Marshall as well. They refuse to send them home for the sole purpose of protecting Henry Kissinger. In a manner of speaking, Joseph is being held as a political prisoner until Kissinger dies.

"Won't you please join us in our fight and give these three brave men their due — which is an honorable burial and a higher accommodation. Please forward this to all VVA chapters and all veterans' groups, as well as your friends."

Editor's Note:

The following was excerpted from the United States History website:

On May 12, 1975, gunboats of the Cambodian Navy seized the American merchant ship, SS Mayaguez, in international waters off Cambodia's coast. The U.S. response to the seizure would be a military operation executed by an ad hoc force of airmen, marines, and sailors. Time was a compelling factor.

According to then Chief of Staff General David C. Jones, five plans were prepared. Option Four, a twin-pronged marine assault coupled with the bombing of selected targets, was President Gerald Ford's choice. Option Four employed two destroyers, one aircraft carrier, two marine units with 12 helicopters, a generous complement of Air Force fighters, bombers, and reconnaissance aircraft. President Ford believed strongly that it was better to use too much force than too little.

Ford ordered the aircraft carrier Coral Sea and other navy ships to proceed at full speed to the Gulf of Thailand, as well as planes in the Philippines to locate the Mayaguez and keep it in view. A Navy P-3 located the ship anchored off Kho-Tang Island, 40 miles from Cambodia.

A battalion-sized marine rescue team was airlifted from Okinawa to U-Tapao Airforce Base in the Gulf of Thailand, about 300 miles from Kho-Tang. The destroyer USS Holt was directed to seize the Mayaguez, while Marines, airlifted and supported by the Air Force, would rescue the crew, at least some of whom were believed to be held on Kho-Tang. Concurrently, the Coral Sea would launch four bombing strikes on military targets near Kompong Som to convince the Khmer Rouge that the U.S. was serious.

Expecting only light resistance, the U.S. troops were met by a force of 150 to 200 heavily armed Khmer Rouge soldiers who shot down three of the first eight helicopters and damaged two others. About 100 marines were put ashore, but it soon became clear that substantial reinforcements would be needed. The assault force was supported by Air Force planes, but the attack was not going well.

While the firefight on Kho-Tang was at its most intense, bombing targets on the mainland apparently convinced the Khmer Rouge leaders that they had underestimated U.S. resolve. A fishing boat was seen to approach the destroyer Wilson with white flags flying. Aboard were the 39 crewmen of the Mayaguez.

The marines on Kho-Tang were ordered to disengage and withdraw. However, Khmer Rouge troops, perhaps directed by a local commander, continued the battle, turning from defense to offense as Air Force helicopters moved through heavy fire to withdraw U.S. forces. The last of 230 marines were not evacuated until after dark on the night of May 15. As they had throughout the Vietnam War, helicopter crews performed with unsurpassed heroism.

Eighteen Marines and airmen were killed or missing in the assault and withdrawal from Kho-Tang. Twenty-three others were killed in a helicopter crash en route from Hakhon Phanom to U-Tapao, but the objectives of the operation were achieved. The Mayaguez and its crew had been rescued, though at high cost.