Snake – A Recon Marine




When I arrived in country in March of 1968, Snake was already a legend.     I heard he got the nickname, Snake, because he was able to turn his head almost completely to the rear while facing front.  Not sure of this, but he did run as Tail End Charlie. 


He was tallish and slim but with a hawk like nose and hollow cheeks.   In addition, he only got his hair cut when he had to and then got a buzz cut instead of a recon haircut.  This resulted in him always having dark stubble all over his head.  Many thought he looked spooky.  Personally, I thought he looked like Ichabod Crane.  Towards the end of his extension, after his bout with FUO, we told him he actually looked more like a vulture and got him to pose standing on a rack hunched over ‘vulture-like’.   


Klaus Henryk Urbaniak was from Twin Cities, Minnesota.  Early in his tour, he had been on a combat OP that was overrun.  He ran out of grenades and his M-14 had to be scrapped due to excessive heat on the barrel – effectively, it melted down.  Snake had to play dead.   Thereafter, he decided he wasn’t going to run out of frags - ever again.  He was always going to be prepared. 


When getting his ammo for a humper (i.e. a long range reconnaissance patrol from point A to point B normally lasting about a week), he would go early and stash his own case of frags.  Instead of food, he would carry grenades . . . on a week long humper. 


This love of grenades led him to a fascination with all things explosive.    It was said he made the best bombs and fireworks out of ammo cans.  On the permanent Observation Post of Ba Na, in the ruins there was a chimney.  They talked about him spending hours trying to hook shot grenades into the chimney from the top in an attempt to blow it apart from the top down.  If the grenade fell towards him, he would run to the other side.   We’ve all heard of guys throwing airburst grenades.  Snake threw airburst Claymore mines – watching them as they turned over and squeezing them off at just the right moment.  It was said, he could set the best and fastest Claymore ambush of anyone.  When he finally rotated, Doc Henry moved into Snakes corner in the hootch.    Under Snakes

rack were several hundred pounds of various and sundry demolitions (e.g. frags, det-cord, C4, Claymores, etc.).  Just in case he needed it. 

I heard later from Tom Hyder, that when they were going home, he and Snake were side by side when their sea bags had to be dumped out for inspection.  Well, out of Snakes came tumbling several frags.  The inspection staff were somewhat freaking as would be expected.  Snake, however, was simply indignant that he couldn’t keep them.   Just in case he needed them.


I got to know him early on because in the HQ hootch, we had a great reel to reel Akai tape player and  amplifier to go with it.  Vietnam was the rock and roll war because of Hong Kong and very inexpensive high quality stereo gear.  Well, Snake had these two footlocker sized speakers but wanted a good tape player to with them.  Apparently, he was very close with the progressive rock FM radio scene back home in Twin Cities.  His friends would send him all the latest songs with ‘letter’ between the songs instead of commercials.    When he was in from the bush, he’d drag the two speakers up to our hootch, hook them up to the system, grab a lawn chair and plant himself right between the speakers.  Then he’d crank up the volume and sit and groove. 


Twice he went on R&R to Hong Kong and both times crossed the border into Communist China for souvenirs.   At that time the border was quite loose because of the heavy traffic.  Nevertheless, here was this tall spooky looking American Marine . . . that no one bothered.  He brought back flags and all kinds of Red Chinese stuff.    


Frank Montez and I went to division sniper school in the summer of 1969.   We got sick from local popsicles with FUO and had to go down to Charlie Med.  When we checked in, the clerk remarked, “Recon.  We had this guy from Recon last we.  He name was Ur – something.”.  I replied, “Urbaniak?”.  He said, “Yeah.  Wow.  Was HE spooky.  He would drag his blanket outside (of the air conditioned ward) and sleep on the ground the whole time he was here.  We just left him alone”.


He was on an extension during 1969 and instead of extending again in Vietnam, he chose to extend in the Marine Corps so he could go to Embassy Guard School and get assigned to Vientiane, Laos.  As he put it, Vietnam was getting boring and he thought there might be more action in Laos.  He rotated with 65 long range reconnaissance patrols. 


I heard this past summer that he passed away in the 1970s.


Snake was a Recon Marine.


Ronald V. Overton, Sgt, AdminChief, CoA, 1st Recon Bn, 1st Marine Division, March 1968 – November 1969.

Snake - A Recon Marine

Matt McGuire Awesome treasure trove of pics. Thanks for sharing!

Bick Alberto DeMeo Thanks for all the photos Ron. SF

Emmet C. Band I enjoyed the photos, thanks Ron.

I'll finish with my company office when I arrived in country in March '68. I was company clerk under Top Barker and stayed until November '69. Wish I had more flicks. See you in Louisville. Semper Fi. Sgt. O.

Stuart Bishop Spring '68

Phantom, Darrel Paul

Overton, Ford, Doss, Daniels, June '68

Jon Blume

Doc Tubs Summer '69

Doc Ferrito

Biil McAfee

Stier and Huey (Allen)

Paul Lerma


Willie Nelson - On The Road Again

"On the Road Again" is a song written and made famous by country music singer Willie Nelson.

The song, about life on tour, came about when the executive producer of the film Honeysuckle Rose approached Nelson about writing the song for the film's soundtrack. "On the Road Again" became Nelson's 9th Country & Western No. 1 hit overall (6th as a solo recording act) in November 1980, and became one of Nelson's most recognizable tunes. In addition, the song reached No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100, and No. 7 on the Adult Contemporary chart. It was his biggest pop hit to that time and won him a Grammy Award for Best Country Song a year later.

Thanks for stopping by today!

Thanks Again - Willie Nelson

Thanks Ron,

Klaus Urbaniak "Snake" 1st Recon Battalion Alpha Company

Passed Away October 3rd, 1976



Ron Overton