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ORIGIN to the Tim Craft message originating in Vietnam, 1968
L/Cpl Edwin L. "Tim" Craft, B Co 3rd AT's, Khe Sanh Combat Base, February, 1968

"For those that will fight for it...FREEDOM ...has a flavor the protected shall never know." 







I graduated from High School in 1966, and all of my course studies had been academic. My main interests besides girls were Marching Band and Debate. Having won the Kansas State Oratorical championship in 1964 with a speech topic "Optimism Formula For Freedom", my intentions were to become a lawyer. I was aware of the Viet Nam war, especially when it began to heat up in 1965. Little did I know that before the next year was over that I would take a journey straight into the pits of hell and see the heaviest fighting our country has ever experienced.

After high school, I enrolled in junior college. I paid my own way by also working at night part time for the H. D. Lee Company that made clothing. When I quit college to join the Marines my professors and especially the office tried to get me to reconsider by saying "But your grades are well above average. You will never have to go!" My reply, and my reason for joining, was simply "those guys fighting and dying over there are no more deserving to be there than me, and I can't feel right letting them do something I would not."

My goal was never to be heroic or gallant. That was the last thing on my mind. After joining, I was barely in the states nine months when I was sent to Nam. En route, we landed on Wake Island. It looked like a grain of sand in the middle of the ocean when our commercial flight United 747 Jet pitched downward and aimed at that grain of sand. My thought was "You've got to be kidding me". All of the Marines that fought there became POW's of the Japanese. Later, I met one of them and got to know him well. I spoke at his funeral. His name was Bob Eaton.

Next stop was Okinawa. The next day it was Da Nang, then Dong Ha, then Hell at Con Thien. My first day in the field I met a Marine who would be my Commanding Officer…a fine man. Thirty minutes later, Lt. Dallas Thompson would move in front of me and die from an explosion. He fell right across my lap and died looking into my eyes. We were taking so much incoming that our Platoon Sgt. ordered us off the hill, mainly because they had our little bunker zero'd in. When I found a hole to jump in, the Marine in it mistook me for a corpsman and called me “Doc”. He said, "’Doc’, that is some of the fanciest footwork I have ever seen. They were following you all the way down. You would go right and they would explode left, then you'd go left and they would explode right. You probably saved all of those guys.” I told him, “I'm not a corpsman. I'm a Marine, and I just got here. All I was is scared and following orders. I don't know enough to plan anything!” He just looked at me for a long while and said, "That was still some run Doc!" (Jarheads!!!) Con Thien, by the way means "Place of Angels". We were under siege there for several months and were cut off from food and water for much of it.

Leatherneck Magazine called the siege for Con Thien "Time in the Barrel". We received a minimum of 200 incoming rounds a day, and it was a small place. It felt like they hit every square inch. One thing I quickly learned was how to know the difference in the sounds of incoming. That knowledge was literally a matter of life and death. Mortars made a high arch and the initial blast in the distance was a muffled report. An artillery round has a bassier sound. It gave you slightly more time to find cover, but if it was on you, then you were in deep trouble. The other one was the most terrifying. It was the rocket, and it screamed as it came in. You could not tell where it might come down, and it came fast. They also had recoilless rifles that fired large shells. They went off almost at the same time you heard them fired at you, and they had a flat trajectory.

My second day in the field another Marine and I wiped out an artillery section that had us pinned down. The Phantoms that flew over reported we had killed 162 of the enemy. This was L/Cpl Arthur Kennedy and myself. We went out under direct fire and had to get out and make sure the grunts (infantry) were down before we could fire our Ontos. If we had been in any other branch both of us would have received the Congressional Medal of Honor. The truth I learned over and over is the Marines were too small an outfit to allow its members to go to receive them, and many of the Marines I knew were cheated out of them. During 1967 and 1968 the Marines bore the brunt of the war, and that is a fact. World Book Encyclopedia reported that fact. Don't get me wrong. I am not medal happy and I wasn't then. When I returned I had at least four rows, and the Marines make you earn theirs.

After months of carnage we had a cease fire on Christmas Eve of 1967. I arrived there about the second week of August and saw many good men die. All of us lived with death every second of every day. On this particular Christmas Eve I heard a broadcast on Armed Forces radio and learned the "Clintonites" were marching on our Capitol protesting against us! I could not believe what I was hearing. Here we were fighting for freedom and these low life commies back home were fighting against us. I was dazed. I just could not understand it. I was hurt to my soul, angered, and disgusted. (This motivated me to write a message on a C-Ration case.)

Not very long after that night we got the word that we were going to a resort area called Khe Sanh. It had not seen any of this type of action. It actually had a mess hall and a laundry, and they marched to chow. Wow!!! What unfathomable luxuries. Also, during this time I was on an operation with B Co 1/9 called Kingfisher, where we got the name "Walking Dead", and a new phrase was coined "Thousand yard stare." One of the Marines started cussing one night, and there was a big commotion. The next day we found out a tiger had grabbed him by the arm and was just carrying him off. He was punching it in the snout. It got as far as the Ben Hoa River and didn't know what to do with him, so it just let him go. That story was in Stars and Stripes. (I was afraid to write back home about that one for fear they would think I was nuts.) The Marines just kidded him about being too grisly for the tiger and that it wanted a softer cut of meat.

When I got to Khe Sanh, sure enough, they were marching to chow, had on starched utilities, and what really blew my mind was that all of their bunkers were built above ground!!! What was wrong with these people? We were met by our new CO, whom I had met at Con Thien. I didn't know who he was, just that he was a big wig. Captain James Lea told us in no uncertain terms that we would fall out in the morning clean shaven and in freshly starched utilities, because special arrangements had been made for us. The Junior Officer took over after Captain Lea left and asked if we had any questions. Being an old salt by now I told him, "Sir, with all due respect for your rank you can go ---- yourself, because me and my men are not going to live in any of these above ground bunkers.” He said “Fine, Corporal Craft" (Actually, I was only a L/Cpl, lance corporal). He said “See that wire over there? You just take your merry men and go right out there and pick out any real estate you want because that is enemy territory and they will be glad to have you. But, as long as you are here, you will comply. Is that clear?” I said “Yes sir, perfectly.”

When he turned away and went back to the HQ, we beat feet for the wire and told them we were going to be an LP (listening post). You can bet we would be too! They said “And you're taking an Ontos to an LP?” I just said “You never can be too careful!” We went out and started digging in. We were the diggingest bunch of guys you ever saw. We just dug and filled sand bags. I think they knew they had been had because they ignored us for nearly a week. Then, our Lt was sent out to read us the riot act. En route, the siege began. The enemy hit the ammo dump, and it sounded like Volkswagens flying past us. It was Con Thien all over again. The next day I was sent for and they wanted me to work with some Seabees to show then how to build the new bunkers. (I wonder why?)

This siege lasted for 77 days and was the most intense fighting of our history. Some reports say there were 1,000 of us and as many as 400,000 of the enemy. Other reports show 6,000 Marines at Khe Sanh, but this was not the Combat base. This figure had to include the surrounding hills and supporting units. Khe Sanh Combat base wasn't that big! Essentially, it was a runway. We were taking some 1,600 rounds of incoming per day every day on this tiny piece of real estate. Someone calculated that we had an explosion from an enemy device every 30 seconds day and night for 77 days. I had been called away from my safe hole when they found out my secondary mos was Ammo/Tech. It was during this time that I spotted a reporter and asked him if he would please mind getting a message back to the world for me. He asked "What is it?" I told him and he looked shocked and asked if I would mind writing that down. I said “Sure” and wrote it on a C-Ration case. That message is: "For those that will fight for it...FREEDOM ...has a flavor the protected shall never know."  

Semper Fi!

--- L/Cpl Edwin L. "Tim" Craft, B Co 3rd AT's, Khe Sanh Combat Base, February, 1968  



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