A very poignant moment happened after the show I will never forget. Clustered around Ms. Raye were all of the Regimental heavies; CO, XO, SgtMaj, S-1, 2, 3, Arty Bn. CO’s and others. Of course all were in clean non-ripped or faded jungle utilities. Suddenly Ms. Raye saw an honest-to-god grunt Marine – covered in dirt, boots blanched white, utilities worn out, rifle on his shoulder, etc. He just stood there smiling at her. I watched her body shudder, and then she straightened up and marched right over to him giving him a big hug & kiss, followed by her hub cap size smile. It was a touching, very genuine moment full of meaning. She had finally seen a real warrior who was totally different than all of the others around her, and she knew it. The whole thing didn’t last a minute, but it was as powerful as a thunderclap.
A few minutes later I drifted away heading toward the LZ hoping to catch a ride back to the Rockpile. Passing by the stage and the fly tent behind I could see a form in the shadow of the tent that appeared to be slumped over. It was Ms. Raye. She was sitting on a jerry can (5 gal. water can) leaning forward with her head in her hands, sobbing deeply. There was no question that she had suddenly come to understand the real meaning of all that was happening out there, and to the Marines she came out to entertain. I had tremendous respect for Martha Ray after that.
Bless them all!
As perhaps you remember we Marines in the field saw damn few USO shows or the actors involved. In 13 months I and Lima Co. saw none. The 3d Div CG (Forward) at Dong Ha was aware of this and made an effort to somehow pay attention to the grunts out in the Fire Bases & jungle by bringing one or two out to see us as long as we had an LZ. He would drop out of the sky without warning – not so much as a “standby” from the battalion CP. All we saw was the helo approaching and the request that we pop smoke, which of course we did.
This picture was taken just after the helo had landed and out jumped CG, 3rd MarDiv (fwd), BGen Lou Metzger with this actor, Hugh O’Brian who was a cowboy gunman in a show I don’t remember; 50’s & 60’s. That’s me right behind him trying to get to a place where he could talk to as many of the Marines we had aboard; probably 100 or so. The rest were on patrol, the North Bridge, etc. You can’t see but he is wearing his six-shooter and put on a show for us, to include a few rounds downrange! He made a few quick-draws, talked to the troops and was an all around good hand. It was obvious that he was very proud to be among fighting Marines having spent most of his time in the rear with the pogues back there.
I am guessing the USO brought him out to where we were near the Rockpile.
We were so remote and close to the DMZ, we did not get many visitors or
Ken Pollock - Funny how memory is. I remember Hugh O'Brian's visit cuz I was on LZ watch when he landed at Payables. I'm not sure you weren't at Ca Lu but Mike 3/3 was at payables when Hugh landed. I intentionly wanted LZ watch cuz in Da Nang he had girls with him and I thought just maybe. I know where I was cuz after his quick trip, while he was leaving, he had almost reached the chopper when he turned and saw me. He came running to shake my hand, then turned and ran to shake the hand of the second guy an LZ watch. He then turned toward the third guy on watch, ran and half walked to shake his hand, then turned and walked to the fourth guy, shook his hand, waved goodbye, walked and got on the chopper to leave as quickly as he came.
Steve Marlin - Col, Ripley, I recall that Lima 3/3 also got a visit from Martha Raye, actress in movies/TV and vocalist. Perhaps her visit preceded your command of Lima. At the time she was probably in her late 40's or early 50's. She was not a pretty woman, and at the time I thought "Oh great, the guys in the rear get Bob Hope and the beautiful young actresses who tour with him, and we get Martha Raye".
In retrospect, I am embarassed by my thoughts. She was brave enough to leave
the relative safety of the rear areas and fly out to the boonies to visit us. Her visit
brought a short respite to the normal boredom of our daily routines. While never
a great fan of Martha Raye, I always held her in greater respect after her visit to the
troops on that hill between the Rockpile and the Razorback.
John Ripley - Amazing how the memories keep coming back, and next year will
be the 40th since this event in the picture!! Steve, I remember Martha Raye as well,
and when she came for some reason I was up at Camp Carroll. I could not get back
to the Rockpile because all of the Div. helo’s were tied up transporting Ms. Raye to
the fire bases, so I was “treated” to her show.
I liked your description; she wasn’t the first in line when they handed out looks,
but she was game and truly wanted to be with us while the Bob Hope gang never
got past Danang. They rigged up a fly tent with a makeshift stage for her and she
came out and did a modified routine – no music – just comedy & nice comments to the troops, and all this during outgoing fire missions from the perimeter batteries. I think that impressed her; that the business of war and killing the enemy didn’t stand still for a show. It made her feel a part of the grunts war and all the more proud that she was there.