Robert Pierce from Fort Gaines, Georgia. He's the hero in my script "So Alone." Robert died trying to save another Marine's life, Donnie Asbury. While on patrol outside Phu Da, Donnie stepped on a booby trap. Robert rushed across 'Booby Trap Hill' to Donnie's aid and stepped on a booby trap himself. Donnie died almost immediately. Robert Pierce died on a helicopter flight to a Da Nang hospital. Just before he was carried on the helicopter, Robert told the Navy Corpsman. "My Mommy thought I was coming home. Tell all the Marines, I love them."
On the day of his death, Robert had only three more days remaining in combat. He was going home to Georgia in about a week.
I had stepped on a booby trap on that same hill only a month before. In my case, my booby trap malfunctioned.
|The American teenage Marines and Navy Corpsmen were semi-adopted by Vietnamese families, invited into their homes and dinner tables. This was at great risk to the Vietnamese families. It could have meant death. This Phu Da peasant family on the above picture had their simple peasant home always open to the Americans.||Jack Cunningham and George Dros sitting at a table in a Phu Da peasant hut near the market place. Their eyes were shut because of complete exhaustion. It was July 1970. At the time this picture was taken, the Americans in Phu Da were not sure whether the CAP Unit would be pulled out of the village or whether it would be wiped out. We were experiencing heavy combat. Intelligence reports were coming in daily that the Communists wanted to punish the village while the Americans were still there. By wiping out CAP 2-9-2, they hoped to leave an example to other CAP Villages. With alerts at the highest level, night ambush responsibilities were 100% watch throughout the night. With two long patrols a day going outside the village, it didn't leave much time for the eight or so Americans to sleep. Around the day this picture was taken, an intelligence report came in from Marine Division Headquarters in Da Nang that the high Communist Command wanted to speed up President Nixon's troop pullout from Vietnam. They wanted to embarrass the Americans on a wide-scale and influence the American People into pressuring a faster troop pullout. Their plan called for wiping out the Fifth Marines at An Hoa. It was going to involve thousands of Communist Forces. The Village of Phu Da was on the large Marine Base's perimeter and was said to be the main route for the Communist attack. Our orders that night in July 1970 was to set up in the most well protected position. Our Cap Unit was expected to try and hold off the Communist drive off as long as possible. We were expected to serve as a warning or trip wire (Queens Gambit) for the Fifth Marines.|
The Navy Corpsman and George Dros standing near the schoolhouse. A flood was coming and a camera was out. Serving as a CAP Corpsman was an exhausting responsibility. Besides caring for the Marines during times of combat, each day the Corpsman would set up a medical treatment center (MedCaps) to treat long line of peasants. It was said that the Navy Corpsmen treated from 300 to 500 peasants a month in each of the CAP Villages. Whether it was helping delivering babies, coordinating helicopters to take out the more serious ill or just putting on Band-Aids, the Corpsmen went beyond what they were called to do. Usually, if duties permitted, one or more Marines would help with the "MedCaps." It was also during these "MedCaps" that hygiene articles would be distributed as well as any donated clothes, small toys, etc. (donated from family, friends, church groups, and organizations from back in America.)
Protection of the rice harvest was extremely important to the CAP Marines. By keeping the Communists from the rice and from taxing the peasants, the Americans were winning the hearts and minds of the peasants. The extremely poor, peasants were better able to feed their families.
The knoll on the left center of this picture was known as Booby Trap Hill.
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