Stephen Lee Irvin
United States Marine Corps
Columbia, Missouri
July 25, 1947 to September 10, 1967
STEPHEN L IRVIN is on the Wall at Panel 26E, Line 46

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Stephen L Irvin
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Operation SWIFT was an unplanned response to a major attack on Delta 1/5 Marines' night defensive position in the Que Son Valley before dawn on 04 Sep 1967. Bravo 1/5 was dispatched from Que Son to assist Delta but was itself engaged before it could reach the Delta 1/5 position. Kilo and Mike 3/5 Marines, together with the 1/5 Command Group, were helo-lifted into position northeast of where Delta and Bravo 1/5 were engaged. By midafternoon, all four rifle companies were heavily engaged with what turned out to be a regimental-plus NVA force. India 3/5 was committed late in the day, and Delta 1/1 was brought in during the night of 04/05 Sep. On the morning of 05 Sep, the Marine line-up consisted of

  • 1/5 Command Group with three rifle companies - India, Kilo, and Mike 3/5
  • 3/5 Command Group with three rifle companies - Bravo and Delta 1/5, Delta 1/1

05 September was spent policing the battlefield, reorganizing and resupplying, and medevacing the casualties from 04 Sept. The two Command Groups exchanged rifle companies and began active pursuit of the NVA on the morning of 06 Sep. By midday the 1/5 force to the north was fully engaged with the 1st NVA Regiment while the 3/5 force to the south was engaged with a reinforced battalion forces. Additional Marine forces were brought in during the night of 06/07 Sep.

07 Sept was spent in reorganization, resupply, and preparation for a deliberate sweep to contact planned for 09 Sep. Eleven Marine rifle companies were now in hand:

  • 1st Bn, 5th Marines - north; Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Delta 1/5; Delta 1/1; India 3/1
  • 3rd Bn, 5th Marines - south with India, Kilo, Lima, and Mike 3/5; Hotel 2/5

Although the sweep which began on 09 Sep was very productive in terms of captured arms and supplies, the NVA commanders apparently were not willing to again engage the Marines in a stand-up fight - with two exceptions, contacts on 09-14 Sep were infrequent and when they did occur the NVA attempted to slip away rather than stand their ground.

One exception was at Hill 43, which had been the scene of heavy fighting on 06 Sep. When a platoon from Hotel 2/5 approached Hill 43 on 10 Sep they found an NVA company had reoccupied the hill. Hotel 2/5, supported by heavy air and artillery strikes, took Hill 43 by storm but lost nine men in the effort:

The second exception, and the NVA's last effort against the Marines, was a night attack on the 3/5 Command Post. As the NVA troops, estimated to be in company-plus strength, approached the command post they were engaged by a larger force of Marines. After losing 35 men killed and at least 18 WIAs the NVA dispersed.

Operation SWIFT was a Marine reaction to a well-planned and executed NVA incursion into the Que Son Valley. The Marines' flexibility and maneuverability and the availability of air and artillery support turned the tide. The NVA lost 540 confirmed dead and 47 POWs, and there was evidence that 600 or more bodies had been removed as the NVA withdrew.

Although SWIFT was a very decided win for the Marines, it came at a high price: 138 Marines and sailors killed in action, 368 evacuated with wounds.

Corporal Irvin was survived by his father, Wilford M Irving, Melbourne, Columbia, Missouri. He was pre-deceased by his mother, Audrey S. CozartIrvin (1922-1967). He is buried near his parents in Memorial Park Cemetery, Columbia, Boone County, Missouri,

Stephen L Irvin

Stephen L Irvin

Four of Stephen's buddies from Hickman High School, Columbia, Missouri - paying their respects on Memorial Day, May 2013 - - an annual tradition - - pictured from left to right - Ron Blacklock (Vietnam) - Carl Smith (Vietnam) - Eddie Breedlove (U S Navy) and Gary Blackmore(Vietnam)

Stephen L Irvin

Stephen L Irvin

The other two men from Hickman High School who were paid the respect of the men above were Lance Corporal Larry Harold Coleman, Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Corporal Daniel Joseph Heibel, Columbia, Missouri.

- - The Virtual Wall, September 28, 2014

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