About six weeks later we found ourselves on an operation during the days before and after Thanksgiving. Although I think it was officially designated Operation Prairie, we had nicknamed the maneuver "Operation Turkey Loaf" in honor of the rarely encountered C-Ration delicacy and the season. Sure enough, we were wet and muddy. Because there was a low ceiling of cloud cover, we had not been supplied by choppers for several days and our C's had been gone for some time. We were baking mantioc roots in the coals of fires. They were a tuber with a filament that ran through the length of the vegetable. The consistency was that of a wax candle/potato hybrid. The Vietnamese used them for pig fodder. I remember trying to boil rice we found in my canteen cup. I was bartering cigarettes for the last remnants of "Ham and Muthuhs" not being a smoker.
We had been marching most of that morning in the misty rain and I spied Col Delong making his way back along the column. When he was adjacent to me, he inquired, "How's it going, Doc?" To which I immediately and dutifully replied in the most military manner I could muster, "Excellent to Outstanding, Sir!" Followed in a soto voco "But this kind of sucks doesn't it Colonel?" To which he grinned and replied, "You got that right, Doc." He continued back along the column.
If I had been a grunt, I probably would have been summarily dressed down. We Corpsmen were treated like demigods by the Marines and I guess that gave me dispensation with Lt. Col E.R. Delong that day.
By Doc Rod "Ruffmuthah" Hardin
Mike 3/3 1966-67
The 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines rotated to Camp Schwab in Okinawa aboard the USS Henrico in the early fall of 1966 to up Table of Operations. One morning reveille was held about an hour earlier than usual and there was much confusion regarding whether the troops would be green side out or brown side out as far as the uniform of the day was concerned. Then the question as to whether we would wear our raincoats or roll them and affix them to our cartridge belts became the next dilemma. Finally, after much ado, the word came down, "Green side out with the rain-coats affixed". We marched in formation to the base movie theatre as the morning sun was just beginning to cast an auroral glint on the horizon. Almost the instant we had all taken seats there came the notice, "Attention on Deck!" Up the center aisle of the theatre marched Lt. Colonel Earl R. Delong. Up onto the stage he went without missing a step. In the center of the stage he turned to face his troops and called parade rest and "at ease, men".
In years since then I have seen George C. Scott's portrayal of General George Patton taking much the same stance in front of the American Flag and this has always reminded me of Delong's address to his troops. In a voice that carried well to the back of the auditorium without amplification the Colonel admonished us that he was giving us a "direct order" that he wanted followed. "You will be out there in the combat zone without C-Rations or cigarettes for days. You'll be wet and up to your butts in mud. If I should come up to you and ask you how things are going, I want one answer and one answer only, "Excellent to Outstanding, Sir!" "Dismissed," he said and the whole affair was over. A few days later we boarded the USS Iwo Jima LPH for the Gulf of Tonkin .
"Excellent to Outstanding Marines"
Mike 3-3-3, 1st Platoon October 1966 Camp Schwab, Okinawa
Front Row Rod Hardin; Bentley Yohe - Bob Salser; Fred Cooke - Louis Chapman - Owen Nuemeyer - John Breckenridge
Second Row Jose Gonzales - Jose Martinez - Mike Kawahara - Frank Palma - Ken Haskins - Johnny Sumlin
Third Row Bob Koehler - Ed Szewczyk - Nick Nichols - unknown - Raymon Hardesty - Joe Esbensen - Bill Herrington
Fourth Row Dave Balance - Mike Morgan - Mel Motland - Harry Petry - Paul Benson - Willie Paskins - Robert Powell
Back Row Joe Rivera -Ellsworth Davis -Frank Roth -Don Davidson -Al Sterling -Clayton Harrold -Bill "Tiny" Lindholm -Jim Stockton