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Floyd Ruggles - Bravo Company 68/69


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"A Brotherhood Forged In Combat"

Well back to my story. Our team of 8 Marines and the helicopter crew are all the most vulnerable in the air as history has proven. A small team of Recon Marines are safer on the ground and moving. The only thing I can say about the ride is the view is spectacular at times. And on this day with the wind in my face it was no different, that I recall, as we approached our area to start our mission. The area names that I remember are 

 Quan Duc Valley, Happy Valley, Charlie Ridge, Hai Van Pass,

 Hiep Duc Valley, Dai Loc, Thuong Duc, Bach Ma, Quang Nam,

 Elephant Valley, Phu Loc Valley, or some where out of Da Nang.

I’m not entirely sure which it was on this day. As we approach the area I recall seeing a snaking river through a valley high elevation on one side of the river and grass on the other side. As we approached it seemed to be flat ground on our side of the river with thick bush behind the grassy area. We were headed for the thick bush and a small clearing. I recall the team being on high alert. No Hoo-ya from this bunch of Marines. This time it’s all business. This is enemy controlled territory.

We are all on high alert. I’m at one of the CH46 windows which have been blown out by a previous recon team. with my M16 and looking for movement on the ground, box mines or booby traps. We approached by circling and hovering briefly.  I stood ready to return enemy fire if necessary.  Gun ships flew over the LZ to survey the area as the crew of the CH46 stood ready to return enemy fire with 50 caliber machine guns. Before we had given the enemy any thought about if they would launch an attack, the CH46 was hovering and setting down as the chopper stirred up dirt. I recall the gate of the CH46 coming down and someone, maybe 1st Lt. Riley, shouting move, move, move, I’m at the gate as it hits the ground looking for enemy movement. I’m the first or second one out of the C-46 chopper. 

Running point I’m searching the ground for signs of booby traps and at the same time searching for the enemy movement as the chopper stirred up dirt to move off the LZ “landing zone”. I recall the CH46 lifting off,  circling the team and moving off into the air.
Moving the team into thick bush this Recon Team of eight Marines. We on the ground and moving. After my team was just inserted into the bush the two chopper gun ships flew over us as if to say good luck marines and I can see them moving off to fly back to their base in Da Nang. 

I realized that what once was sealed away in my mind is now racing through it like a wild fire out of control.

The team name is "Average".  I can recall that day as if it was yesterday. Charging from that gate of and carrying my weight. And I can say I’m literally carrying my weight or more on my back. As a small Marine around 145 pounds and about 5 feet 7, I could move in and out of tight areas as a point. On my back is a rucksack “back pack” Is the team called it in the rucksack would have been enough C Rations for this mission but I can recall running out from time to time. I recall on one of my missions working with a team of 14 Marines we went out on a 5 day mission and we were socked in by the monsoon for 10 days or so live off the land eating bugs, yes bugs about 4 to 5 inch and small green bananas. Before we were lifted out of that zone by choppers I can recall the only thing on my mind the last few days of that mission was all the food, I was going to eat why I got back to base and no more bugs for this marine looking for a large steak or two. I recall the liquid die I was put on and the case of jungle rot to my feet. But that is another story as I’m thinking back to a summer day.  In my rucksack would have been rain gear, dry socks, my weapon maintenance kit, poncho liner, my camouflage blanket. I’ll can it my blankie for my grandson, camouflage paint, first aid items, map and compass, mess kit, gasmask, a canteen or two of water, my trusty camera was all ways by my side and I’m probably forgetting something. But on to my weapons now all I can say to “Charlie” is I’m packing. Ten to twenty hand grenades, gas and colored smoke canisters, extra M60 machine gun rounds, two to four clamor mines, my knife and bayonet, M16 plus 15-20 magazines. Yes this marine why packing on all my missions. Plus I would have had a ton of C4 plastic explosives with detonator. Thinking back today on this for some apparent reason I like to blow thinks up. As my wife Linda, who I love dearly is looking over my shoulder at this time and making a coy remark like I was a young dumb kid. And I reply back as I’m thinking Hoo-ya, but all those explosives were for clearing LZ “landing zone” for the choppers to land on are extractions at the end of our missions, and the C4 was for cooking our food. I don’t think she bought in to that as I’m thinking for the record a great detent for the enemy forces. But as you can see I’m literally carrying my weight.

 My steps were quick and light. I’m running point that day for a small team of brothers. They’re reconnaissance Marines out of Bravo Company. We’re on a mission to locate enemy movement and report back; it’s a 5 day mission in enemy controlled territory and my team is on the ground.

Within minutes my eyes were fixed on movement. A small group of 4 VC or NVA with small arms packs and two radios were moving along a river 200 yards or so from me on a winding trail. The enemy moved along the trail within 50 yards or so of the team and moved off down the trail into the bush. To reach higher ground our team would have to cross the river. 1st Lt. Riley ordered Sgt. Southall "at the time a Cpl" and me to move towards the river to find a river crossing for the team. We moved out towards the river moving through elephant grass as we moved very cautiously and slowly. I recall been at point arms. The grass appeared to become shorter as we approached the river. We moved over 100 yards or so before my eyes picked up movement to the right of our position. We hit the deck! A company sized unit of enemy with Chinese was moving towards our position. Carrying RPGs this company of NVA is packing and looking for a rumble. As this unit moved on the trail and the trail was now winding around me. Out gunned on this day ten to one I’m thinking back what if one of the team would have squeeze off a round or two. What if, what if can drive a man crazy some times and what if can tear your mind apart time and time again. This Company sized unit moved within five feet or so of me at times. My eyes were fixed on them, my hands were steady. I held firmly to my M16. The Sgt is 10 feet or so to my left. The balance of the team Ssgt. Romo, 1st Lt. Riley, Pfc. Brandvold, Pfc. Coy and Pfc. Plunket are 300 to 400 feet behind me in the thick bush with the radioman Pfc. Harkins and Pfc. Horne on the M60 caliber machine gun. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Cpl. Southall trying to shift from his awkward position. I’m thinking ‘Oh No’ as my life started to flash by me. As I’m thinking and looking back on it now, it would be like the movie “Christmas  Story” when Ralphie said, No more turkey, no more turkey sandwiches, no more turkey period. Thinking back now, I can also say I thought no more turkey dinners with my future wife, children, grandchildren, no more turkey period with my family. Things are about to turn worse. I’m a sweating Marine only two years out of high school and it seems like a life time ago. I was as strong as I could be. Nothing ever got to me, until this moment of this day! I’m afraid that things are about to end for me or turn worse for all of my brothers this summer day. The Sgt, whose name I can remember, is going to reposition his leg and the enemy’s all around us. As Sgt. Southall moved his leg I could hear a twig snap. Instantly one of the North Vietnamese turns and looks at me from five feet or so away. My eyes were fixed on him: my hands were steady as I gripped my weapon. This moment in time seemed like an eternity to me. His eyes seemed to be searching for me. But his weapon stayed shouldered as he turned back and moved on down the winding trail. Not a shot was fired.

 As this Company sized unit of North Vietnamese moved past me and they were packing on this day. One by one they passed by me that day, one by one but time seem like it stopped that summer day. Yes time stopped for me. It seems like yesterday for this proud recon Marine. The enemy moved past me with packs on their backs. I could almost make out the serial numbers on their RPGs as the enemy passed by me. With their weapons shouldered, carrying heavy arms and equipment. Yes the enemy passed the team by that day, moved off into the bush and not a shot was fired this time. The Sgt and I resumed our position and moved towards the river to look for a crossing for the team. We located one and returned to our brothers with painted faces. I’m running point toward the river. My steps now are quicker and lighter. Towards the river through the elephant grass we all cross that river on this day. We all moved to higher ground. What a somber place it seems to be.  1st Lt. Riley and our radio operator Pfc. Harkins, called for artillery. 

The artillery rained down on the other side of the river as my mind wandered back to that twig snapping and that North Vietnamese turning and looking at me. This moment in time seemed like an eternity to me. His eyes seem to be searching for me. As I thought of that day I was with my grandson that summer day in 2008. That day was a rare moment in time. My grandson “Jake” is our little miracle boy. He is was only three years old then but as smart as a whip. So picture one of the first days of summer ‘08 the two of us picnicking on the St. Croix river out of Stillwater, Minnesota. The weather is perfect, not a bug in sight, 70 degrees out, a light breeze and not a cloud in the sky. Except for a boat or two on the river we seemed to be alone on the planet enjoying each others company that day. Just minutes before we were at Teddy Bear park one of Jake's favorite parks. His mind is going a million miles a minute. Grandpa what's that, what's that grandpa and I’m loving every minute of it.  At the same time I'm thinking back to that one rare moment in time and this moment in time with my grandson two summer days worlds apart.  I’m having the time of my life that day and so is Jake and I hope to have many more days like that one.  And we have had over the next 12 years.

Thanks my brothers of the bush not a shot was fired that summer day fifty years ago, not a shot was fired. As the artillery continually rained down on the enemy on the other side of the river in ’69, why is this day constantly on my mind. I seem to be reliving this day over and over like that movie “Ground Hog Day” but this day didn’t have is a funny little ground hog and Bill Murray is not in it. Like Ground Hog Day I’m living this one over and over and over it seems to never end for me. Maybe I’m missing something, maybe until I can get that day right in my mind.

I'm thinking back to a time in ’68 on one of my earlier missions. I was fairly new in Vietnam at the time on a OP “observation post” in Happy Valley on Ba Na  My good friend Jonsey and I had the watch that night “guard duty”. It was the 1st or 2nd night on the OP BS and the fog started to sock the hill in. Jonsey and I set in for a miserable night on the mountain top. Like two rookies we jumped at any noise we heard that night. We lobbed grenades all night it seemed. I’m estimating we lobbed over 50 grenades that night thinking the enemy was trying to over run our position. It turned out to be only Rock Apes and yes not an Ape was hurt that night. But the team with us probably lost their sleep that night. But I had a friend for life that night. Jonsey and I have stayed in contact for the past forty years now.

I have thought a lot about that summer day. My wife who puts up with me, has been told bits and pieces from time to time. She is my anchor in life “my world” along with my children who are all grown now and my grand children that I love. I believe they have no clue of that summer day back in Vietnam. And why it would still be on my mind.

The team "Average" moved out that day in March of '69.  All my brothers moved out! Our steps were quick and light I’m proud to say. And to the team I’ll say thanks my brothers as not a shot was fired on that  day. Not one shot was fired on this lucky summer day in 1969.  We called for an emergency extraction on the 2nd or 3rd day of that mission.  But that is another story for this Marine. 

by Floyd Ruggles,
1st Reconnaissance Battalion Association 

Membership Director/Webmaster

The Memory Remains Not All Wounds Are Visible.

The Jim Southall Story
Some Give It All

Elephant Valley March 15th, 1969

Swift, Silent and Deadly

Too close to whisper...
one click for "yes", two for "no"...
"Brothers of the Bush"

Recon...their name is
their honor...and nothing more
need be said...Recon

Bravo Company


Lance Corporal, Floyd Ruggles
1st Reconnaissance Battalion

A Summer Day
In Nam

Charlie Ridge

Last night I awoke to the sounds of thunder. I was recalling a small part of a day a long time ago. As if it was yesterday, as I remember, it was the height of the war that day in ‘69. It seems to be bits and pieces of time that have been locked away for fifty + years. Names and places are not clear to me now, so I’ll do my best to remember. The team of 8 Recon Marines consisted of young, tough, bronzed warriors with an attitude, a gung ho bunch of Marines from the 1st Recon Battalion, Bravo Company, 2nd Platoon. Team name “call sign” unknown at this time. I can’t recall the team’s name for this mission but the team names that come to mind are Blue Spruce, Cayenne, Panama Hat and Albrook that I worked with from time to time. My team was getting briefed by 1st Lt. Riley, his name I can recall. 1st Lt. Brian Riley sticks in my mind because I felt I was responsible for his death and that been playing on my mind all these years. You see, as the pointman for this small team of marines. I was responsible for finding and clearing the areas of all the booby traps, mines and all other devices that can wreak havoc on my brothers in my team. As a scout I took my job seriously all the time and on all my missions. It so happened by faith, maybe luck that I considered myself to be very lucky in life and in the years of ‘68 and ‘69 and so was my good friend Lance Corporal Herman Jonse, I’ll call him Jonsey for short. Yes my good friend Jonsey of Bravo Company, at the time had just returned from R&R “rest and recuperation” in Australia where he met Margaret his wife to be, Margaret. What can I say about Margaret but she was a peach, a down to earth woman and I thought Jonsey was the luckiest guy on earth. But at the time I was a dumb kid and I had no plans to go on R&R. As I told my friend I’m saving for a brand new car. And I can recall that car today that I was saving for, it was a green 1969 Chevy with white racing stripes. A new ’69 Chevy Chevelle SS “Super Sport” with a 396 high performance engine with a Holley carburetor, chrome wheels with Goodyear F70-14 polyglass tires and this car had a Delco AM radio. Well to make a long story short Jonsey talked me into going to Australia for a week to meet his wife to be. I can recall that time in Australia and meeting Margaret as one of the best vacations I ever had and thanks to Jonsey and Margaret that R&R to Australia April 8th through April 15th, 1969 maybe saved my life who knows. 

Only one week, but your life can end in a week. When I returned to the Battalion on April 16th I found out that my team had been lost to a mine or some kind of booby trap. And 1st Lt. Riley had taken the brunt of it all and my replacement at point and our radioman were medivaced and I did not hear from them again. So I felt responsible at the time for not protecting my team on that mission because 1st Lt. Brian Riley was the Marine leading this mission on this day. He was giving the briefing the night before this mission. I recall parts of the mission and the high probability of making contact deep in enemy controlled territory. I recall that this didn’t seem to bother me at that time because I had been on plenty of patrols, about 20 missions in all to date, and because of my experience at that time as a scout. This was to be only one more mission to me. As I think back on this now I wonder why is this one mission constantly on my mind? After fifty years, why is this day on my mind. I seem to be reliving this day over and over in my mind. Like the movie “Ground Hog Day” where Bill Murray is living Ground Hog Day over and over and it seems to never end for him until he can get it right. As I wrote this down for the first time "ten years ago", it seems to be playing out and starting to come back to me a little clearer. Each time I sit down to write now my time line of 1968-1969 is becoming clearer to me.

I stumbled across the 1st Reconnaissance website on June 3rd, 2008. I was on Ebay comparing prices, thinking about inventory on hand in my Mall that day and looking for inventory to purchase for my antique business. I don’t know to this day why I keyed in Recon. It seemed to pop into my mind. I was surprised to see all the items listed under Recon on Ebay that day. I don’t know why, maybe curiosity made me switch from Ebay to my search engine and key in 1st Recon Battalion, When I keyed in 1st Recon Battalion that changed everything for me on that day in 2008. Up to that point in time I thought I had sealed the memories away for good. With that click of my mouse up popped the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion’s website. Oh my God, I didn’t believe it, my old unit in Nam. At the same time a peaceful feeling came over me like running into an old friend. yes like running into a friend. This feeling is hard for me to describe. I can recall the day I arrived at 1st Recon in Vietnam as a green know it all rookie marine with an attitude and gung ho at the same time. I was going to win the war by myself. I can look back today on this and laugh at myself. What a dumb kid I must have been then. Only moments after arriving that day, reality set in and I learned quickly that I was in hell or some where close. I can recall clearly the day I arrived at 1st Recon. It was Saturday July 7th, 1968.  I was one of the replacements for one of those brave men KIA “killed in action” on Hill 200 a month earlier on June 3rd, 1968. I spent the remaining part of that day on June 3rd, 2008 reading stores on the Battalion website. I realized that what once was sealed away in my mind is now racing through my mind like a wild fire out of control. This would go on for weeks before I started writing it down. Working as a pointman, I’ll call it a scout, I'll recall that as a boy I liked to play an old scout, you know like the one out of an old movie of the wild west or some times I played an Indian scout “Native American scout” for the cavalry. You can see my point so from time to time I will call it a scout and not a pointman. I’m just a dumb kid playing cowboys and Indians as my mother would say. I also worked as a M79 grenadier on my earlier missions for Bravo Company. Until two weeks shy of going home for good. (I was hospitalized in Yokahama on July 9th, 1969 and released from Active Duty on August 19th, 1969).

I can recall that time in August of ‘69 when I returned home and encountered the Anti-War demonstrators for the first time. My opinion then was that many Americans thought the war in Vietnam was wrong and the veterans of the war were baby killers and that most Americans hated the veteran. I can recall the words Baby Killers for the fighting men and maybe women too. But returning home in '69 it played on my mind. I never talked about the war , I just sealed it away. But I did not intentionally kill innocent civilians or babies and you can take that to the bank. I am proud of serving in the Marine Corps and my opinion will not change. I’m proud to be a Recon Marine and that you can take to the bank also. Like most of us who served in Vietnam I went there with a different attitude. I never questioned whether, morally or politically, we should have been in Vietnam. We were told and I believed that we were helping our country to stave off communism and uphold the ideals of our way of life.  I missed the anti-war demonstrations in 1968.  As a member of the armed forces beginning on December 7th,1967 I didn’t know about the demonstrations, I didn’t hear about them, and I don’t know why. Maybe I was so focused on going to war that I blanked out the world around me.

LCpl Harkins, primary radio man & PFC James "Lee" Larsen, point man was wounded on this patrol off hill 200 on April 13th, 1969 and eventually returned to Bravo Company, 1st Recon battalion. The patrol came in contact with an enemy booby trap resulting in 3 USMC (WIA) 

Hill 200

PFC James "Lee" Larsen, point man on patrol along streambed leading to the Song Vu Gia 3 Km from Hill 200 April 13,1969.  

60 mm Mortar Pit on Hill 200 OP. Bravo Co, 2nd Platoon, Lieutenant Brian Riley, April 10th, 1969. 

Lieutenant Brian Riley's 1st Recon team accidentally tripped a enemy's booby trap April 13th, 1969 at 1650 hours. He was seriously wounded by the blast of the Grenade in a C-Ration Can he was medevac. He eventually lost one of his legs and retired from the Marine Corps. 


Two cans were mounted on trees along either side of a path. The safety pins on the grenades are removed and the explosives are put into cans, which hold down the striker levers. The tripwire was then tied to each grenade. When the wire was tripped, the grenades were pulled out of the cans to detonate instantly. This could also be done with one can and a stake.  

Jim Southall 1969 Hill 200

Elephant Valley

March 1969

 Camp Reasoner March 1969