Combat Remembered

Combat came to Hotel company at about the time the rest of us were filtered in from other Marine units in Vietnam, during Operation Mix Master in 1965. His handler Ed Nichols had been transferred from 3/3 shortly after Operation Starlight and Combat accompanied him. Combat was just a young pup at the time, but he was destined to become a well traveled, well seasoned, combat Marine veteran and win a certain amount of fame in doing so. Like all Marines, Combat had his own Service Record Book, held rank and wasn't above getting himself into some hot water with the Skipper every now and then. Above all, he served his Marine buddies as well as any Marine who ever earned the name in the following years. He was with us in the Iron Bridge Ridge area throughout November of 65, but unknown to him, he was facing a couple of sea voyages. Yeah, we were sent back to Okinawa to reorganize and get replacements for the outfit and Combat was snuck aboard the USS Valley Forge when we shipped out. Once found out, even the Skipper of the ship came down and played with him every now and then. Of course, the Corpsmen kept him well drugged so he wouldn't get too sea sick on us and he became a seasoned Marine on his first voyage.  Now after spending all this time with Marines, Combat, wasn't exactly what you'd call friendly towards Orientals. The minute he'd see an Oriental on Okinawa he'd go into his assault mode and just about tear the pant leg off whichever one happened to be strolling by. Nor was he so impressed with his fellow Marines that he wouldn't relieve himself on their pant leg if they gave him any crap. Yep, that pup was all Marine and had the attitude to prove it!  Well, we took Combat back to Vietnam with us on Operation Double Eagle in January of 66 on both phase one and phase two.  From there Combat went with us to Hill 10 about 12.5 miles s/west of Danang. During our time there Combat accompanied us on may patrols, one in particular that I remember well. It was a company patrol and for some reason Combat decided that he just wasn't up to it this day. The next thing we knew he was missing. I remember the Skipper being highly upset and worried sick that something bad had befallen our little buddy. Now you have to picture a bunch of Marines walking around in the bush calling, "Combaaaat, where are ya boy, heeeere, Combat! We really must have been a picture, but that's just what we were doing. A few days later we got back to the hill and here came a juanty, well rested, pup out to greet us. Boy, were we relieved to see him. On the other hand, we were none to amused by his antics of scaring us like that, nor was the Skipper. Combat was taken up before him on office hours and got busted in rank. As you can see in the photo in the article he was none to happy about that! About July of 66, we made the move to Dai Loc and Combat was right at our side, he was always by our side throughout the whole year. I left Vietnam in August of 66, but Combat remained with his new Marine buddies as most of the old crew were either dead, wounded, or gone home by this time.  Combat served longer, went on more patrols and operations and saw more combat then any Marine who ever served with 2/3 in Vietnam. The men of Hotel Company were trying to send Combat back to the states, but there were two problems. One, he was a dog and two, he was a Vietnamese dog, so there was a lot of red tape. So Combat died doing what Combat did, serving at the side of his Marine buddies. In 33 years there hasn't been a day gone by that I haven't thought of a little brown and white pup that went through it all with us. Nor has there been a day since I've learned of his death that my heart hasn't broke.  Semper Fi Combat, Rest in Peace my friend......By Tom Walsh

Ed Nichols found Combat on Operation Starlight while he was with 3/3 and became his handler. He brought Combat with him to 2/3 when he was transfered into Hotel 2/3. 

They were 2/1/1 redesignated 3/3/3/; 2/4/ and 3/7 for their part in this operation. They had already suffered through the throws of culture shock, homesickness, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, malaria, jungle rot, and stings and bites of an alphabet of crawlers, creepies and flying stinging things. They had been In-Country since March, most had lost at least 20 pounds.   There were shaky days and nights when RLT-7 started the "Operation STARLITE". They came carefully stepping from the north, landing from the skies on the west and splashing onto the beaches near An Cuong(2). 

It was August of 1965. It was 110 degrees with 96 percent humidity.  They were lean, mean, hungry and hot green Marine Grunts. These Gyrenes were spring steel muscle with no padding, they had the eyes of the predator, ......always searching.   "The First Big Battle" of the Vietnam period began. The foe were the 1st NVA Regiment, 60th and 80th NVA Battalions (rein), and the 16th VC Brigade (rein) on their own turf.   The Leathernecks wore the same uniforms they used in the "World".  Wool socks, full black leather combat boots and long sleeved cotton utilities. They had heard they might some day see a flack jacket. They carried one third of their weight in munitions, C-rats and explosives. They were the best organized Fighting Men in the World. They had trained to be the best.. "Brothers of Battle".  They were trained to be "Gun-Ho" Marines. Two Medals of Honor were to come from those struggles on 18 Aug. 1965. Two in a 12 hour period from three under strength Infantry Battalions. It was a first bloodying. And that they did. Forty Five Marines gave their lives, two hundred and three shed their lives blood (WIA)... 8 died later of their wounds. To a LCpl ( a retread), the casualties, KIAs seemed awfully heavy. The enemy was reportedly to have lost between 600 and 2000 of their Warriors during the siege and mop-up.   During a lull in Battle some Marine found a small emaciated puppy in a destroyed smoking village between An Cuong 1 & 2 (BS703926). As Kilo Company set in for the night the puppy was given to Lcpl NICHOLLS. The original Marine Master of the puppy went out on a listening post.   

The puppy was crowned with the name of ""COMBAT"",  his fleas came with him to pester the new masters, they were free spirit and roamed at will. The puppy was so small it fit snuggly in an empty M-60 canvas box ammo pouch.   At the conclusion of Starlite all that remained returned to the base camps on the blinding white beaches, yes, even the noisy little puppy.  "COMBAT" adapted quickly to the Marine way of life. He even enjoyed, after initial disgust, Ham and Lungers, pork sausage patties, pound cake and even peaches. "COMBAT" became more and more each day like a Marine Grunt. You couldn't be too chummy with "COMBAT", he was his own dog.  As he grew, if you gave him too much affection, he would do "a wild thing" on your leg.  Many a 10 1/2 EE got to his derrier. To Combat, that was part of being a mascot and part of a Marine thing.   

After Starlite there was Operation Piranha. "COMBAT" stayed behind, in the rear with the gear so to speak. He didn't make Triple Play nor Blue Marlin I & II. "COMBAT" became a REMF (Rear Echelon Maintenance Force[?]). He was the envy of every Vietnamese Cook, a fat little rascal.  Much to the favor of "COMBAT"s longevity,  the remainder of 3/3 were shipped off to Okinawa where it picked up raw "NFG's, (lifers) and NF0's".  "COMBAT" followed the troops on their travels, stoned to the gills (a la the US Navy Corpsman's goodies), in 60mm & 81mm Mortar ammo crates. He traveled on board ships from RVN to Okinawa, Okinawa to the Phillipenes and back to RVN. "COMBAT" participated in Jungle Training at NTA, Okinawa and drank San Miguel beer with his masters in Subic Bay on the way back to Da Nang.  He was stationed with his friends the Marines at Cade Song Bridge (Namo), Dia Loc, An Tan and accompanied Lcpl NICHOLLS on several ventures to Hill 367.  What a fiasco. He had never seen so many Marine friends. They all looked alike and his "wild thing" was not appreciated by strangers, especially the "0302's", whom were always too nosey. 

During "COMBAT"s involuntary enlistment with the Marine Forces he had picked up friends in the world.  His picture was in many major newspapers and he began receiving fan mail.  One particular group was a group of Kindergarten Children in Costa Mesa, California. The children would draw picture of "COMBAT" and sent him wee notes and would wish all his Masters well. The Teacher Miss Darcy  forwarded many packages to "COMBAT" through, then Cpl NICHOLLS.  "COMBAT" in his travels lost all his correspondence, he was very sad, so was Cpl NICHOLLS as he was going to try to hit on Miss Darcy, later, "if he made the "Freedom Bird".  Alas the Cpl became a Short Timer, then he was "NEXT", and finally-"GONE". To the Sgt's disillusionment, Miss Darcy was happily married to a civilian.  

Years later it was learned that "COMBAT" was "a KIA" in the Da Nang TAOR and his new master was a WIA.  Like many of his Green Marine Friends before him, Combat's demise was as a result of a VC Booby Trap.  Sgt NICHOLLS eventually returned to Chu Lai on a Second Tour. And again another wee puppy was adopted. "Blooper" became a Marine Mascot, of CAGCo. One (1st C.A,G. Hqs). Blooper was subsequently dog-jacked by the locals for an evening respite.  During lulls in the work as a Mailman and chores on his Texas Hill Country ranch, the Sergeant gazes off occasionally and imagines he sees "COMBAT" -that dreadfully wonderful little animal, wagging his tail, Dog Smiling, mooching a tidbit OR happily doing a wild thing on someone's leg.  "COMBAT"  was the only thing that made any sense in a 11 year war. 


by Warren Bosworth 
Staff Correspondent, Dallas Times


DAI LOC:  South Viet Nam - Are Combat's days of battle about behind him?  The men of Capt. Jack Throckmorton's Marine company hope so.  They figure Combat has had his share of this war.  "He's been shot at more than anybody in the company and we figure he's due for rotation out of here," Capt. Throckmorton grinned the other afternoon as his outfit took up new positions near here.  Getting Combat back to the United States is going to take more than a little bit of wading through red tape.  Combat poses a problem.  He's Vietnamese and he's a dog.  "We're going to go through every chain of command and doing everything possible to see he gets back to the states."  Capt. Throckmorton, the former Rice University football star from Lamarque said.  Combat has seen plenty of combat since being adopted by the Marines last August in Operation Starlight near Chu Lai.  Cpt. Ed Nicholls of South Pasadena, California found the woe-begone and frightened little pup as his company fought their way through a small hamlet.  "He was so little he wouldn't have filled up a sock," the corporal said.  "I picked him up and put him in my machine gun ammo pouch and just kept walking.  Combat quickly made friends with all the Leathernecks. "He's been everywhere with us.  Guess he's probably the most traveled dog in all of Vietnam.

Vietnam Combat Veteran
by James Leveque
of the Inquirer Staff 

An Inquirer picture of a Vietnamese pup in the arms of an assault-bound marine has brought from the dog's master a letter testifying that the animal was "the first in our company to get a confirmed VC kill."  The note came from Marine Corps Cpl. Ed Nichols of South Pasadena, CA., who'd been sent a copy of the UPI photo of the dog and himself as it appeared on page one of the Inquirer on Feb. 6th.  

Combat - that's the animal's name - was with Nichols and the 3rd Marines on Operation Double Eagle.  "After receiving light sniper fire from a hill, we swept it," writes the corporal, "and Combat captured and destroyed a VC chicken.  He ate it on the spot.  "Of course," adds Nichols, "he was severely reprimanded and was read portions of the Geneva Convention regarding the handling of enemy captives." According to Nichols, Combat was found last August in a burned out Viet cong village in the Chu Lai area and at that time was so tiny he was carried back to camp in an ammunition pouch.  "He was fed on Marine C-rations which in a short time made him a very strong little pooch, wiry and very intelligent," the letter continues.  "He has lived with the men through attacks, offensive sweep-and-clear missions, slept in fox holes and in jeeps, eaten out of cans, hands and hats."  

Meanwhile Nichols was named noncommissioned-officer in charge of Combat.  The dog has subsequently become entangled in all the red tape the military has.  Combat has been issued a service record book., inoculation records and even a Page 12 - the sheet upon which Good Conduct medals are based.  Apparently Combat's conduct as well as aggressiveness has been extraordinary, he has already been made lance corporal, just one grade below his master.  Besides having rank, Combat has a fan club of Costa Mesa, California kindergarten pupils who "send him drawings and little notes."  Nichol's letter to the Inquirer was written Feb. 18th and as of that date Combat had been on a dozen patrols and one night ambush in Vietcong territory.  "He's being a God send to these kids who do their best in a horrible place far away from home," concludes the 29 year old corporal.  "It's often been said that a Marine in the field leads a dog's life.  Obviously, it helps some to have a dog lead their life." 

By LCpl. Russell Hurley 

DA NANG - "Combat" is an appropriate name for the mascot of "H" Co. Third Regiment, 3rd Marine Division.  The small, light brown dog has participated in many operations, patrols and night ambushes.

Combat's Marine career started Aug. 14, 1965, when the men of "H" Co. found  him while participating in Operation Starlite near Chu Lai.  When the Marines returned to the Da Nang area they brought with them the four-week-old, scrawny pup.  After three weeks of feeding and constant care, he looked like a totally different pup.  When it was apparent that he would live, the company voted to name him combat, and he was promoted to private first class.  Combat is a well-traveled dog.  When the battalion sailed to Okinawa last November, Private First Class Combat went right along.  In January the battalion participated in maneuvers in the Phillipines.  Combat went ashore with the Marines in a helicopter.  

During February, Combat accompanied the battalion on Operation Double Eagle near Chu Lai.  From the USS Valley Forge to the designated assault area Combat stayed right with his comrades through numerous fire fights.  He was promoted to Lance Corporal on May 6, 1966.  During a two-day operation, however, Combat disappeared.  When the Marines returned to their command post they were greeted by a rested frolicking dog.  Being subject to all rules and regulations like other Marines, he was reduced one rank for abandoning the operation.  The men of "H" Co. think a lot of their dog, and are constantly spinning yarns about Combat's experiences.  They say he can distinquish between friendly Vietnamese and disguised Viet Cong, and that he is always ready for Combat. 
2/3  VIETNAM Veterans Association