Herschel Pittman Helm, Jr

Private First Class
United States Marine Corps
30 July 1943 - 18 September 1966
Coffeeville, Mississippi
Panel 10E Line 113


Herschel P Helm

Purple Heart, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for Herschel Pittman Helm, Jr

10 Nov 2001

Following the death of their son in 1966, the following letter, written by Tom Howard, was received by the parents of Herschel P. Helm, Jr.

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Helm,

I found it hard to start this letter because I couldn't think of what would be appropriate to say. I have thought about how my folks would feel if I didn't come back and I realized how hard it is on the people back home. This is a part of war, I guess. I want to tell you how sorry I am about your son. I know words can't mean very much, especially from somebody you never heard of.

My name is Tom Howard and I knew H.P. since April. We were gunners together. In fact, he was the senior gunner. H.P. and I were hit about the same time that same day and had similar wounds, except that I was lucky or God decided I should live. This has bothered me a lot. Besides H.P., many other people I knew were killed that day. Why them and not me, I will never understand.

H.P. died doing his job. He put his gun up on a knoll in the area where the V.C. had concentrated their fire. He was trying to help the men trapped and pinned down by the V.C. by giving them a heavy column of fire with his gun. He was warned to get out, but he stayed too long. He just started to find some cover when he was hit. He had a Bible in his helmet and the corpsman said he was praying before he died.

I hope this letter has done some good. H.P. was a nice guy. Even out here in Asia, where morals usually aren't too high, he wasn't like the rest of us. He never made a fool of himself. He just wanted to go home like the rest of us and do his job.

A memorial from his cousin.

18 Apr 2006

I am from Herschel's home town of Coffeeville, Mississippi. He and I attended school together and I knew him all my life. I was on the USS SAINT PAUL (CA-73) during the time he was in Nam. I was unaware that he was there at the same time. I found out a few years ago at the dedication of the Park in our town to his memory that it was my ship which was providing Naval gunfire support. I wish to this day that we could have done more to help those guys, but some of his unit members told me that we did all we could, even getting closer than was comfortable. Rest In Peace, Buddy.

From a friend,
John R Denley

From The Virtual Wall:

The BLT 1/26 After-Action Report for OPERATION DECKHOUSE IV contains the following comment:

"Naval gunfire support played an important role in the operation, accounting for a significant number of enemy dead and wounded. ... The USS ST PAUL (CA-73) provided excellent support, her 8" guns being called in as close as 200 yards to friendly lines during one enemy assault. The enthusiasm and spirit, coupled with good shooting, of the Naval ships was a significant factor in the success of the operation and once again upheld the highest traditions of the Navy-Marine Corps Team."

A Note from The Virtual Wall

During the summer of 1966 the North Vietnamese Army's 324B Division had infiltrated south of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) with the clear intention of setting up a major presence in northern Quang Tri Province. The NVA 341st Division was positioned within and north of the DMZ and prepared to support the 324B Division and/or exploit opportunities arising from the 324B's operations.

CG 3rd MAF, the senior US commander in northern South Vietnam, initiated Operation HASTINGS, aimed at discouraging the 324B Division and forcing it back into the DMZ (at the time, US forces could not enter into the DMZ - it was an NVA sanctuary). Heavy fighting continued through July 1966, particularly around the "Rockpile" between Khe Sanh and Camp Carroll. HASTINGS ended, and a series of recon-in-force operations - termed Operation PRAIRIE - began on 03 August 1966.

Operation DECKHOUSE IV was conducted by the 7th Fleet's Special Landing Force Bravo (Battalion Landing Team 1/26) as an adjunct to Operation PRAIRIE. BLT 1/26's area was about 8 miles north-east of Dong Ha, and began with an amphibious landing and a heliborne landing some six miles inland west of Highway 1. At about 1330 15 Sep 1966, a recon team made contact with an NVA company. That contact was the first in what became ten days of heavy fighting for BLT 1/26's Marines and sailors. Although DECKHOUSE IV officially ended on the 18th, BLT 1/26 stayed in support of PRAIRIE until the 25th. The operation claimed at least 200 NVA killed at a cost of 37 Marines and sailors killed in action and another 167 wounded. The dead were

  • A Co, 5th Recon Bn:
  • A Co, 5th Tank Bn:
    • LCpl Estill L. Childers, Slater, MO

  • W Btry, 3rd Bn, 12th Marines:
    • Pfc Charles E. Stokes, Santa Ana, CA

  • A Co, 1st Bn, 26th Marines:
    • 1stLt Glenn E. Insprucker, Glendale, CA
    • LCpl Dennis K. Eaker, Duboistown, PA
    • Pfc Richard S. Bates, Nutley, NJ
    • Pfc Nicholson Brown, Washington, DC
    • Pfc Sherman L. Ivey, Cleveland, OH
    • Pfc Ronald Mc Cracken, Elmsford, NY
    • Pfc Edward Ramos, Clyde, TX

  • B Co, 1st Bn, 26th Marines:
  • C Co, 1st Bn, 26th Marines:
    • LCpl Jack E. Crouch, Mount Vernon, IL (Silver Star)
    • LCpl Carlton Griffin, Putney, GA
    • LCpl James L. Pettiford, Clairton, PA
    • Pfc Garry D. Davis, Elizabethtown, IL
    • Pfc Joseph A. Friel, West Roxbury, MA (Silver Star)
    • Pfc John H. Fulcher, Arlington, VA
    • Pvt Thomas J. Kane, Dorchester, MA

  • D Co, 1st Bn, 26th Marines:
    • 1stLt Gerald D. Geoghegan, Verona, NJ
    • Cpl Stephen P. Miller, Philadelphia, PA
    • LCpl Micky J. Johns, Levittown, NY
    • Pfc Bruce B. Backeberg, Helena, MT (Silver Star)
    • Pfc David R. Beattie, Neptune, NJ
    • Pfc Elmer L. Boatman, Wayland, MO
    • Pfc Ronald C. Dexter, Milbank, SD
    • Pfc Herschel P. Helm, Coffeeville, MS
    • Pfc Thomas C. Jonozzo, Bedford, OH
    • Pfc Danny R. Rundle, Whittier, CA
    • Pfc Florentino J. Santana, Elgin, IL

  • H&S Co, 1st Bn, 26th Marines:
    • 1stLt Dennis D. Bradley, Marysville, WA
    • Sgt John F. Sewell, Severn, MD
    • HM3 John O. Oquendo, Campbell, OH

The point-of-contact for this memorial is
his cousin.
10 Nov 2001

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Last updated 04/21/2006