James Merrill Shepard, JrCorporal
SUB-UNIT 5 (CAC OSCAR), HQ BN, 3RD MARDIV, 3RD MARDIV
United States Marine Corps
22 December 1946 - 27 June 1967
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The database page for James Merrill Shepard, Jr
At 0830 on 27 June 1967, USMC Combined Action Company Oscar, stationed at Khe Sanh, sent a patrol to Hill 689, 4 kilometers west of the combat base, seeking suspected mortar and rocket launch sites spotted by an AO during an NVA rocket and mortar attack on the nearby Khe Sanh Combat Base earlier that morning.
The patrol included CPL Dennis Alfred O'Connor, CPL James Merrill Shepard, Jr., LCPL Francisco Albert Mazariegos (Oscar 3rd Plt.), and LCPL Charles Aaron Lynch of Oscar 1st plt. who had been visiting friends at O-3 and volunteered for the patrol, as well as men of the Bru tribe of the Dega people (called Montagnards by the former French colonizers) who were members of the local Popular Force ("PF") militia.
They were ambushed by a very strong enemy force on Hill 689, with most of the casualties occurring as the patrol tried to extract men who had been WIA or KIA at the outset. The above-named men were among the slain. I have been unable to learn how many Bru were KIA/WIA, or their names, as most of the people involved are now deceased, and I am not in contact with the others.
A rescue force was mounted almost immediately by the other CAPs, but took some time to form. However, though a much stronger force than the earlier patrol, they were repulsed by the NVA, who were well dug in and in great force.
Marine infantry companies India and Lima 3/26 were then brought in, but suffered heavy casualties, including the Lima CO, CPT Bynum. It took several days and a ferocious air and artillery barrage to eventually shift the determined enemy. 18 Americans were KIA, more wounded, and one man later died of wounds. I served in a companion unit (Oscar 2nd Plt.), after the men from this patrol were killed, so I never knew them. However, as I did research for the unit history I am writing, I spoke with other men who knew them.
They were members of a very small band of men in the Combined Action Program. We worked in small units in the villages, living and working alongside the people, helping them with whatever they needed to improve their lives. We also provided military security while training them to provide it for themselves.
Most of the CAP Marines I knew were young and often dedicated people, really concerned about the villagers in their area. We were JFK's kids, his inspiring oratory ringing in our ears; "Ask not what your country can do for you..." and "We shall bear any burden, pay any price...".
They will be missed by us and their nation, as well as their families.
From a comrade-in-arms,
A Note from The Virtual WallThe Khe Sanh Combat Base drew enemy artillery and mortar fire on a continuing basis, and tracking down and destroying the enemy positions was an equally continuous activity on the part of the Marines. On 27 June 1967 the Combined Action Company at Khe Sanh sent a patrol to Hill 689, 4 kilometers west of the combat base, to look for suspected mortar sites.
As the patrol reached the crest of Hill 689 they encountered a much larger NVA force and were ejected from the hilltop with two dead and two men missing in action. India 3/26, which was returning from an overnight patrol, was diverted to Hill 689 to assist the CAC OSCAR Marines. The Company Commander sent the 1st and 2nd Platoons up the hill on slightly divergent courses, intending to take the NVA from two directions. Both platoons encountered heavy enemy fire and the remainder of India 3/26 moved in to assist. At the same time, Lima 3/26 was lifted into the area. By 1930 the crest of Hill 689 had been cleared of NVA and India and Lima joined to form a consolidated night defensive position.
Both MIAs from CAC OSCAR had been found dead, and the 3/26 Marines lost 14 men in the engagement - a total of 18 Americans killed in the action. A week later LCpl Charles Gattis died from wounds received on Hill 689, raising the toll to 19 men. The Virtual Wall can identify only 18 of the 19; the "missing man" is suspected to one of two artillerymen from A Btry, 1/13 Marines who died at Khe Sanh on the 27th ... but we cannot prove it. The 18 are
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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 06 Oct 2007
Last updated 08/10/2009