…MCB-9 Detail Echo came under attack at 0225, receiving approximately 25 rounds of 82mm mortar fire. Seabee 81mm mortar and USMC 8 inch artillery fire was returned. Seven Seabee were wounded including CMHCN James F. Galati, USNR, who died as a result of his wounds at 1200 enroute to NSA Hospital, Da Nang. At 0710, the quarry cantonment sustained a second attack, receiving approximately 10 rounds of 82mm mortar and 57mm recoilless rifle fire, two rounds of which impacted within Detail Echo Mortar position #2. Five Seabees were killed and one seriously injured. Killed in action while directing fire against the enemy were BUL3 George R. Deshurley, BULCN Marl E Hodel, BUL3 Allan L. Mair, BUL3 John F Peek, and BUHCN James R. Retzloff, Jr. Subsequent investigations of the area from which enemy fire was initiated revealed that four Viet Cong positions were hit by the Seabee mortar crews’ return fire, killing at least nine enemy troops.
A Note from The Virtual Wall
These extracts explain what happened at the Phu Loc rock crusher site. The
first entry from the 5th Marines describes the 3 AM attack on the site,
while the second reports the downing of a medevac helo. The HMM-362 report
concerns the helo and its crew.
Six sailors and two Marines died in the incident at Phu Loc:
Det Echo, NMCB-9:
BUL3 George R. De Shurley, Roswell, NM;
BUL3 Allan L. Mair, Park City, UT;
BUL3 John F. Peek, Pontiac, MI;
CN James F. Galati, Philadelphia, PA;
CN Mark E. Hodel, Lodi, CA; and
CN James R. Retzloff, Redding, CA.
UH-34D 148792 aircrew, HMM-362, MAG-36:
Sgt Daniel Pesimer, Salt Rock, WV and
Cpl Kenneth R. Yantis, Philadelphia, PA
This is a letter from the radioman that night.
On 31 March 1968 I was a 22 year-old Construction Electrician 2nd Class
attached to Mobile Construction Battalion (MCB) Nine, Detail Echo a few
clicks south of Phu Loc, RVN as a communicator. Our mission was to
establish and hold a camp designed to quarry and crush rock for the
maintenance of Highway One, the main artery between Da Nang (our home base)
and Hue/Phu Bai.
Little did any of us in country know what was about to hit when the Tet
offensive began or its magnitude. At about 0200 under cover of heavy fog,
our camp sustained numerous incoming rounds of 57 mm recoilless rifle and
mortar fire. During that initial attack, one round of enemy fire impacted
at the base of one of our 81 mm mortar tubes killing 5 Seabees immediately
and wounding several others, including Marines from 2/5 attached to us.
Following the first of two attacks, a damage assessment indicated an
immediate need for medevac of the wounded. It was my duty to request that
for our KIA and WIA on that fateful morning when so many units had come
under attack simultaneously. With the terrible weather conditions and
darkness, we really didn't expect any assistance until first light. When
the medevac chopper I had requested contacted me, I was truly shocked that
anyone would attempt such a hazardous undertaking under the worst possible
conditions. I was talking to the pilot via my PRC-10 as he neared our
location. With the multiple attacks and below minimum weather conditions, I
never thought anyone would make the attempt to come to our aid. These
Marines did all they could to provide that assistance. The bravery of those
men is above reproach and speaks of their dedication, love for their fellow
man and devotion to duty.
As soon as I made contact with them (I don't remember the call sign) I could
just hear their rotors through the fog, slowly getting louder. I advised
the pilot to continue south and I would give him a "hack" when he was
directly in front of our wire. Slowly, the sound of their rotors grew
louder then began to diminish until I could no longer hear it. I called
them again but received no response. I tried several more times, without
response. I then returned to our CP and advised our OIC of the events. We
then requested another evac and were advised it would have to wait until
dawn. During those intervening hours, until the fog cleared and the sun
rose, I stood outside with my radio alongside the body bags that held my
friends' remains. When the second HUS arrived, I was talking him in over
our wire when the next attack occurred. The enemy had obviously waited for
him to land in an attempt to take out the HUS as well. I waved him off
verbally and manually and asked him to orbit over Cau Hai bay until the
smoke cleared. Thank God he did and we brought him in and quickly loaded
the KIA and WIA to get him airborne as rapidly as possible. He launched
without incident and returned to base carrying the bodies of my Seabee
buddies and the wounded we had sustained, one of whom our medics had kept
alive, though severely wounded, who unfortunately succumbed to his injuries
around noon of that day in the Phu Bai hospital.
Now, for some reason, something has guided me to your website and I was
shocked to read the message indicating that they had crashed north and west
of our camp, somewhere on the slopes of Hill 494, and that some had
perished. Their sacrifice will not be forgotten as it has not all these
years. To this day, I continue to recite, almost daily, the names of
George DeShurley, John Peek, Mark Hodel, Jim Retzloff, Allan Mair and Jim
Galatti; 6 US Navy Seabees who perished on that morning during Tet '68.
Nothing would make me more proud than to add the names of those gallant
Marines who died coming to our aid. Someone besides their family needs to
remember. While I am sad for the loss of these great men, I am also
overjoyed that some had survived. If only I could thank and recognize them
personally. I am going to copy the message you have posted of their loss.
Sad as this may be so many years later, it does provide me some small
closure. I have now added the names Sgt. Daniel Pesimer and Cpl. Kenneth
Yantis to my own little "memory wall" that I carry with me, in my head, to
this day. For the last 41 years, I never truly realized how plagued I was
by thoughts of that first crew and wondered at their fate and prayed that
the crew had decided that the conditions were just too hazardous to attempt
a landing and had reversed course to return to base. However, I also feared
that their fate was much worse. It's been more than a little traumatic for
me to finally know.
To the families of the Marines who came when no one else could, I can only
say that no one is truly gone as long as their memory lives. Theirs will
stay with me as long as I exist.
If it is at all possible, I would be eternally grateful to you if you are
able to find the names of the crew who came to our aid at first light on 31
March 1968 so that I may try to thank them and extend to my Jarhead angels
and brothers the deep and abiding love and respect I feel for them which I
will carry with me to my grave. If you could help me in this endeavor, I
would be forever in your debt.
May God bless and keep all our brothers and sisters-in-arms safe within his
loving embrace and protect and guide them home again.
PESIMER DANIEL : 2139396 : USMC : SGT : E5 : 0311 : 26 : SALT ROCK : WV :
19680331 : hostile, crash, land : Crew : body recovered : Thua Thien (Hue)
:03 : 19420206 : Cauc : Protestant/single : 47E : 025
YANTIS KENNETH RICHARD : 2174735 : USMC : CPL : E4 : 6332 : 19 :
PHILADELPHIA : PA : 19680331 : hostile, crash, land : Crew : body recovered
: Thua Thien (Hue) : 02 : 19480526 : Cauc : RomanCatholic/single : 47E : 029
Comment on Incident(from HMM-362 data compiled by Bob Skinder):
Dave Jones was the HAC (pilot) on a night medevac mission southeast of Phu
Bai. We were the 2nd ship in a section led by Maj Walt Shauer (Sqdrn C.O.)
enroute to the LZ in extremely low vis/low ceiling conditions @ approx 0300
I was monitoring the gauges while Dave attempted to fly fairly tight form
with the lead ship. We suddenly went inadvertent IFR and Jonesie said,
"Brownie, I just lost visual with the Skipper" or something to that effect.
Fearing a midair, Dave broke left away from the lead and attempted a
climbing left turn (mountains were ahead of us) out toward the coast and a
return to Phu Bai via GCA or TACAN approach (we had gotten separated from
the lead earlier that night on another mission and had to return on
This time we were not so lucky and hit the mountain and exploded. Ken Yantis
and Dan Pesimer were killed while Jonesie and I survived a night on the
mountain to be found by a VMO gunship and hoisted out by a 46 and taken to
Delta med at Phu Bai. Tom Brownfield, HMM-362, H2P (copilot) on mission
Submitted by Tom Brownfield, HMM-362, copilot on mission
Ken was a friend of mine. We were two of fifty Marines to go to New River,
N.C. in Feb. 1966 for UH34D OJT. That is where we met and became buddies. We
were just 18 years old. After school we went to different squadrons. We kept
in touch and occationaly ran in to each other. The last time I saw Ken was
at Hue where our squadrons were involved in a joint strike. A few weeks
later I heard of his death. I have thought of Ken many times during the last
Submitted by Dave Sharpe 2179578, Friend
I met Ken when he came to MAG 36 and we became good friends.
Just to let his friends know that his name will be displayed with honor at
National Museum of the Marine Corps.
I think you often.
Your Hooch buddy.
Submitted by Dave, Friend Replies: There have been no replies.