John Arthur Eller

Lance Corporal
United States Marine Corps
29 August 1943 - 23 August 1968
Norfolk, Virginia
Panel 47W Line 040


Silver Star

Purple Heart, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for John Arthur Eller

02 Nov 2001

Lance Corporal John Eller was a member of the 3rd Squad, 3rd Platoon. He was killed in action in the early morning hours of 23 August 1968, at the battle for the Cam Le bridge.

The Cam Le Bridge lies south of the Da Nang air base and southwest of the city of Danang. A single-span bridge, it carries Highway 1 across the river. A second bridge, the Cao Do Bridge, lies to the west of the Cam Le Bridge. Elements of the 1st MP Battalion routinely guarded the northern and southern approaches to the Cam Le Bridge.

In the early hours of 23 August, the 402nd Viet Cong Sapper Battalion and elements of the 38th North Vietnamese Regiment attacked the small Marine security force on the southern bank. First Squad, 3rd Platoon, D/1MP, found themselves engaged in hand to hand fighting with a larger and heavily armed force. After taking heavy casualties, the surviving members of the 1st Squad - all wounded - were able to escape across the bridge to the northern side.

Third Squad, 3rd Platoon, led by LCPL Eller, attempted a north-to-south counter-attack across the bridge. As the squad reached the southern end of the bridge they were ambushed by the VC/NVA troops and forced to withdraw. John Eller was killed during the withdrawal.

I was the 1st Fire Team Leader in 1st Squad - the squad originally forced back over the bridge to the northern bank. Although we all were wounded, we had been ordered to go back and try to retake the southern end of the bridge. Honestly speaking, none of us wanted to return to the hell we had just left, and with our wounds we knew we would be even less effective - but we were Marines and we were preparing to return when LCPL Eller and his fresh squad volunteered to take our place.

For his actions John Eller was awarded a posthumous Silver star. There are not many days that go by that I don't think about him - because of him and his squad, other Marines including me are alive today. I feel he died in my place.

From a fellow Marine who was with John at the Cam Le bridge,
John W. Thomas
3321 Liberty Heights Ave, #304, Baltimore, Md. 21215

A Note from The Virtual Wall

At 0300 23 August the Marine security outposts at the Cam Le Bridge just south of Danang came under heavy attack by what appeared to be most of a North Vietnamese battalion. Although the outpost on the north bank of the river held out, the outpost on the south side was overrun after a four hour fight. A reaction force from the 1st MP Bn (which had elements of the 3rd MP Bn attached) moved to reinforce the north bank outpost, while elements of the 1/27 and 2/27 Marines, supported by tanks from the 1st Tank Bn moved to recapture the southern end of the bridge. The fighting lasted well into the 23rd and resulted in a number of US killed and wounded - but the actions north and south of the river and follow-up sweeps by the Marines and the 52nd ARVN Infantry on 24-26 August resulted in several hundred NVA dead left on the field.

The number of casualties at the Cam Le Bridge is difficult to determine with exactitude because a number of different units were involved. Close reading of the Command Chronologies shows that not fewer than 15 Marines and sailors died in the fight for the Cam Le Bridge:

  • D Co, 1st MP Bn:
  • H&S Co, 3rd MP Bn:
    • Cpl Robert D. Purdie, Sherman Oaks, CA
    • HN Alan R. Gerrish, Woburn, MA (Navy Cross)
    • LCpl Harold J. Klusendorf, Troy, MI
    • LCpl Jerry A. Weimer, Fort Morgan, CO
    • Pfc Christopher L. Chambers, Molalla, OR

  • A Co, 1st Bn, 27th Marines:
    • LCpl Henry H. Ballew, South Roxana, IL
    • LCpl Leo M. Jennette, Buxton, NC

  • H&S Co, 1st Bn, 27th Marines:
  • E Co, 2nd Bn, 27th Marines:
    • LCpl Michael L. Cooper, Chesapeake, WV

  • F Co, 2nd Bn, 27th Marines:
    • LCpl George A. Kyricos, Tewksbury, MA

The point-of-contact for this memorial is
a fellow Marine at the battle for the Cam Le Bridge,
John W. Thomas Sr.
3321 Liberty Heights Ave, #304, Baltimore, Md 21215

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 5 Nov 2001
Last updated 10/26/2006