Lester Milton Ness

United States Marine Corps
12 December 1948 - 27 January 1968
York, Pennsylvania
Panel 35E Line 048


Lester M. Ness

Purple Heart, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for Lester Milton Ness

01 Apr 2001

God rest his soul.

Visit my original memorial

In honor of Lester Ness

and the

the 3/4 Marines

Judy Green

A Note from The Virtual Wall

In mid-January 1968 the North Vietnamese Army moved elements of the 320th NVA Division into the area south of the DMZ, apparently in preparation for the Tet Offensive. On 24 Jan 1968 the 64th NVA Regiment ambushed a truck convoy moving west from Dong Ha toward Camp Carroll on Route 9. The Marines at Camp Carroll launched a reaction force consisting of two tanks, two M42 "Dusters", and an infantry platoon from Hotel 2/9 Marines. The reaction force itself was hit by the 64th NVA Regiment with five deaths:
  • Capt Daniel W. Kent, Auburndale, MA, Bravo 3rd Tanks
  • Cpl John H. Neal, Jersey City, NJ, Hotel 2/9
  • CPL Billy L. Strickland, Hendersonville, NC, C Btry 1/44th Arty (US Army)
  • Pfc Gilbert Ayala, Fresno, CA, 3rd Plt, Hotel 2/9
  • Pfc Clayton M. Holland, Altoona, PA, Hotel 2/9
The Commanding General, 3rd Marine Division, directed that the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, be sent to the area with orders to clear the ambush site and reopen Route 9. LtCol Lee Bendell, 3/4 commanding officer, and Mike Company 3/4 arrived at the ambush site at 1900. With darkness falling the colonel placed Mike 3/4 into a nighttime defensive perimeter along a ridgeline overlooking Route 9 and the Cam Lo River valley. At dawn on 25 Jan Mike Company moved into the valley, sweeping the site of the ambush. Initial contacts with the NVA resulted in three Marines killed in action against nine known enemy dead:
  • Cpl Arthur J. Klabunde, Omaha, NE
  • LCpl Johnny R. Mills, Matoaka, WV
  • Pfc Peter G. Nash, Monson, MA
As Mike Company moved against the enemy, most of H&S Company, India Company, and Lima Company 3/4 were brought into the valley by helicopter. By nightfall some 800 Marines were in place, anchored by the Mike Company position on a small hill. NVA mortar and artillery fire wounded 17 Marines, but the enemy did not attack the Marines' night defensive positions. The sweep continued on 26 January, with limited contacts resulting in a number of dead NVA with no Marine losses.

After nightfall, LtCol Bendell redeployed his Marines, with Mike 3/4 on what was now known as "Mike's Hill", India 3/4 on a hill about one kilometer west, and Lima 3/4 on a higher hill to the south. At about 0300 27 Jan NVA troops assaulted Mike's Hill from three sides. As dawn approached, the attack produced a confused melee on the hilltop. LtCol Bendell directed Lima 3/4 to attack the NVA from their position to the south and India 3/4 to move from the west toward Mike's Hill. India and Lima both encountered stiff resistance but managed to link up and by 1400 had broken into the NVA defensive positions. By 1700 the NVA force, estimated to be in battalion strength, had been forced from the field of battle.

The fight for control of Route 9 had been costly to both sides. Over 130 NVA dead and large quantities of enemy weapons were policed from the field, but the 3/4 Marines lost at least 20 men in the fighting:

  • H&S Company:
    • Cpl David D. Flanagan, Lincoln, NE
    • HN Keith R. Bacorn, Warren, OH
    • HN Ralph D. Wheeler, Trafford, PA (with India 3/4)
    • Pfc Donald L. Hunter, Salem, NJ

  • India Company:
    • Capt John L. Prichard, Oklahoma City, OK (Silver Star)
    • GySgt Micheal A. Mikitis, Lakewood, OH
    • LCpl Paul Christmas, Newark, NJ
    • Cpl Lester M. Ness, York, PA
    • Pfc Thomas K. Coleman, Big Chimney, WV
    • Pfc Emmitt Galloway, New York, NY
    • Pfc Lorenzo J. Ioanni, Memphis, NY
    • Pfc Christian A. Langenfeld, Oshkosh, WI

  • Lima Company:
    • Cpl William D. Hart, Philadelphia, PA
    • Pfc James M. Buck, Chandler, OK

  • Mike Company:
    • 2ndLt John R. Burns, St Louis, MO (Silver Star)
    • Cpl Christopher J. Toppi, South Portland, ME
    • Cpl Kurt F. Zimmerman, Durand, IL
    • LCpl Daniel Escobedo, Fremont, CA
    • Pfc William E. Donohue, Buffalo, NY
    • Pfc Thomas J. Pennington, Scott City, MO

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Last updated 08/10/2009