Tom Noonans' Fireteam on Hill 1175 followup

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Tom Noonans' Fireteam on Hill 1175 followup

Postby Rooker » Wed Oct 29, 2008 9:01 pm

I find it odd that those of us that were on Hill 1175 and talk about the battle when we were descending it and no one replies to my question. I received an email from John Meyers but my question remains the same. What happened to us after we moved out. I know for a fact that Ton, John, Lew and I were behind this large rock. I know Tom was looking out to the front. He yelled lets go and I know Tom and I started out as he was in front of me. I know that there was an explosion and I was shot in the leg and had a minor shrapnel cut on my hand. I know that someone grabbed me and dragged me back stopped then dragged me again and stopped and after some time someone dragged me back and we went over a fallen tree were the Doc worked on me. I need to know who dragged me because I believe it was Tom because he would of come for us if we were hurt. What happenned to the Doc that his citation says he dragged back? Did he live? My recollection was that he was hit in the neck and losing blood quickly. Someone must know what happened that day and the ones after it.

I need to find the truth my therapy requires my knowing what happened.

So please if you know the truth tell me if not then I will have to stay with what I believe unless someone can prove me wrong.

Semper Fi

MSgt Ken Rooker USMC (Ret.)
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Re: Tom Noonans' Fireteam on Hill 1175 followup

Postby Pete1175 » Sun Nov 09, 2008 1:15 pm

Ken,
I was a gunner at the big rock to the right of Noonan's position. Bob McCluskey and I had an agreement that he would fire our gun at the first opportunity in a firefight since he carried it previously but made squad leader without having used it. We were assigned to third platoon and responded to the call of "guns up" and got behind the big rock along with two bloops and another gun. He was KIA clearing a jam on the gun. I can fill you in as to our overall trek down the mountain and everything else going on from my perspective. One thing I know is that all of us remember certain details which sometimes are shared by someone else. I spoke to Lew Weber about the memories of getting down hill and we both remember the same things but unbelievably didn't know each other then. We must have been next to each other at the time to have seen these things. If I can help in any way let me know. As far as who pulled you back I couldn't say. Tom may have done it. I just received the book "Don't Tell America" and read the passage on 1175. That is why I checked the 2/9 site today. I usually only check it out once every couple of months. We are all going through some difficult memories. I get this way at every anniversary (40 years...I can't believe it) and if you were wounded on this one I can only guess it is a very painful memory for you. Ken I wish you the best. Semper Fi.....Pete Grosso
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Re: Tom Noonans' Fireteam on Hill 1175 followup

Postby Rooker » Mon Nov 10, 2008 10:46 pm

Pete,

Thank you for replying and helping me keep some grip on the events of that day.

I would be interested in anything you can tell me about the day and ther trek down to the river. I will be very grateful for the information.

John Meyers and Lew were part of our fireteam and Tom was out leadr. He took me under his wing so to speak since I was a boot and needed some one on one. Tom really was a great man for the short time that I knew him. I have been sending flowers to his memorial park in Queens for a number of years every Feb 5th and NoV 10th. I now send a donation in his name to St Jude Hospital. Tom was a PE teacher at a grade school in NYC and he always talked about the kids and how much he enjoyed working with him.

I believe Tom did drag me back and until someone knows otherwise that is where I stand. I owe him my life as I do all of Golf company and I think of it often.

I have not read anything in a book about that day except for Semper Fi Marines in Vietnam but the story is a little bit different.

I anxiously await hearing from you when you have the time. I know it is difficult but all we have is each other and no one knows mopre than we do!

Semper Fi

MSgt Ken Rooker USMC (Ret.)
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Re: Tom Noonans' Fireteam on Hill 1175 followup

Postby Pete1175 » Tue Nov 11, 2008 6:58 pm

Ken,
I can fill you in as to my experience. I guess you can tell by my handle that 1175 was a defining moment for me. The fact that I was a gunner attached to the third platoon explains to some extent why I didn't know too many guys outside of my little fireteam and squad. We responded to the "guns up" that day and McCluskey and I were the first fireteam to get to the firing point other that the guys in your platoon. We set up behind the big rock and started putting out rounds. I don't know for sure who it was but I saw a group of men to my left leave cover and walk out in the direction of the firing. They were almost immediately hit and fell. This could be you and Tom I don't know. I remember the intense firing where green tracers were coming in and our red were going out. It was dark in the beginning but gradually grew light as we shot down all the trees in a pretty large area. A WP rocket propelled grenade landed between a Lt.'s legs who was sitting behind me in the cover of our rock and we both looked at it with it's propellant charges burning violently but it didn't explode. I will never forget the look of terror on his face. McCluskey was KIA at this point.
When it was over I remember we cut bamboo to make stretchers and we eventually tied the dead on single poles and carried them tied at the wrist and ankle. I am skimming over a lot of emotional info here. It is hard to seperate it from the story but I figure you know where it goes.
Once we were organized and able to plan our descent we started moving down the hill. My gun was now going to be rear security. We had a very hard time getting everyone down the tiers of the mountain and moving was very slow. Sometime after dark( I almost said sunset which as you know is pretty funny since it was dark all the time in the rain in this place) we stopped for a time. This is when I saw the gooks were following us down. I saw one cross the trail behind me but before I could get a bead on him he blended into the mist. I passed the word down and eventually it reached the Captain who called for illumination. I remember the sound of the case of the arty round falling somewhere nearby. They never opened up on us. Maybe they were as beat as we were and were scared of the artillery being able to reach them. I don't know.
Ken...this is getting long...let me know if this is along the lines of what you are looking for and I will take it from here the next time.....Pete
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Re: Tom Noonans' Fireteam on Hill 1175 followup

Postby Rooker » Tue Nov 11, 2008 8:10 pm

Pete,

This is great and I know it is hard it never really leaves you and you always search for more information trying to fill in the gaps or guesses.

If you find this to difficult and want to stop just let me know it is okay - we all have been through a lot. I will let you know this in case you don't but, the 9th made Marine Corps History during that Op and it is part of the Corps history. All of us that wore that Army PUC told any senior officer or enlisted where we were and what be did and went through. All of them looked upon us in a different light and with a tremedous amount of pride.

Everyone past and present should take great pride in serving in the 9th and unfortunately we also carry the scars...............

Semper Fi

MSgt Kenneth Rooker USMC (Ret.)
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Re: Tom Noonans' Fireteam on Hill 1175 followup

Postby Pete1175 » Sat Nov 15, 2008 3:43 pm

Ken,
I am sorry that it took so long to get back to you but my PC crashed and I am using a laptop now. We left off at the point where the gooks had been following us down the trail. The fact that we weren't fired on has puzzled me over the years. I can guess that it was viewed as a mistake by the NVA to risk getting an artillery barrage sent their way although I had heard somewhere that we couldn't reach their position anyway. One day we may find out why but I for one am happy that they didn't fire on us since we had no cover and would have taken a lot more casualties if they had. As I stated the last time I wrote to you I had tried to draw a bead on the NVA as he crossed the trail but by the time I did he was gone. The reason is I had my gun in a rubber mattress to keep it dry. The couple of seconds it took to get it out caused the delay and may have saved the lives of the men in the rear of the column. We as I said had no cover at all and were basically presenting a line target down the next 50 yards. If we had fired they would have fired and maybe it was lucky the way it played out although I was mad as hell at the time.
We still had not eaten and we were all running on the deep reserves that the USMC had placed in us with it's training. I remember hearing about an army unit that had refused to go on patrol because they had not gotten hot chow. This was around the same time as our trip up 1175. I don't know if that was true or not but I remember thinking how would they have handled no food at all. I had dropped my pack in the battalion area and took no food with me. The trip up and the trip down was without any eats and I can tell you bark from the various trees didn't get it at all. When we finally had Echo company drop long rats near the bottom of the hill I had a spoonful of chicken and rice and couldn't eat anything else. I know it was the same with most of the men. Some knew better and took a can or two with them I heard but I never saw anyone near me eating so I don't know if that is true either.
The next time we stopped the hump down we set up a perimeter. It may have been the next night I am not sure. I had blood from Bob dripping out of the pistol grip of the gun and took some time to field strip it and clean it when we had stopped. The dead we had placed in the center of our perimeter and I don't know if Echo co. was with us at this point but it is possible. Exhaustion makes the memory fade I think. I do remember an officer seeing me cleaning the M-60 and saying something like " That's a good marine there taking care of his weapon first" I didn't recognize him so it could have been from Echo company. Little did he know I was cleaning it because it was spooking me out to have Bob's blood drip out every time I held the grip. I'll stop once again Ken and start off from here with how the choppers tried to get to us...SF.....Pete
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Re: Tom Noonans' Fireteam on Hill 1175 followup

Postby Rooker » Sat Nov 15, 2008 11:55 pm

Pete this is great and I know it is tough but you are giving more information so that I can sort out in my head what was going on.

When 2nd platoon left the LZ for our trip to 1175 each man was told to carry only three cans of solids, no packs or unecessary equipment. I don't think they thought we would be out for more than three days. I had my three can rolled up in my poncho liner and tied to my back. I carried two bandoliers of magazines and one just rounds then. When we were moving up the trail and found that little area where there was a few hootches. We were taking sporadic sniper fire. Second platoon had tailend on the second day and our squad and fireteam were tailend. John Meyers was the last man and I was the next one up from him. Tom had told me not to lose contact with John and make sure he knows when we move. The last item was that I had John back so be very careful not to leave him hanging out there. We were moving along when I heard John yell my name and as I turned around there was an NVA soldier with an AK standing on the trail looking at me. I slide down the side of the trail spraying all 18 rounds on full automatic in his direction. I heard all these zings, pops and wood splintering around me as I fired he was very close. We set in the night and I had a ponco liner shot full of holes with one can of food shot cleanly through the can. My canteen cover was torn were a bullet creased it and my helmet cover had numerous rips in it from his gunfire. I was very lucky that day given that if I was one milisecond slower I would not be typing this right now. I did eat the can of food - hell we only had three and that was my last one. John Meyers remembers this incident luckily he was spared and we found some blood but it trailed off into the jungle and we didn't have time to search for him.

Pete you are helping in more ways than you could imagine. I will also have something to give to my children so that they will remember how we fought and died.

Semper fi

Msgt Ken Rooker USMC (Ret.)
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Re: Tom Noonans' Fireteam on Hill 1175 followup

Postby Pete1175 » Wed Nov 19, 2008 2:44 pm

Ken,
I once again had PC problems

We left off with the descent where we had stopped on a more or less level spot somewhere near the bottom of the mountain. I remember being completely amazed at only being able to eat one spoonful of chicken and rice after being so excited in getting a shot at food. My stomach shrunk up to the point that one spoonful was all it took to fill it. (I usually weighed in around 190 and at the end of Dewey Canyon I was on the hospital ship with malaria and weighed 130).

We got the word to saddle up sometime after it got light and we humped down to a spot where we were near the river. The choppers were in the air that morning and were being sniped at. I was detailed to put out rounds where we thought they were firing from. Blood still seeped out of the pistol grip and ran down my arm and dropped off my elbow. I think the blood congealed inside the grip and loosened up when it was fired.

In the meantime the guys got to work clearing an LZ on the side of the trail but it was too steep a grade for the birds to land. Every time this one chopper would set down and power down he would start sliding down the hill and have to gun it in order not to crash. We were getting pretty discouraged by this since we wanted to get our wounded out. I guess you were one of them Ken. We were taking some fire from across the river and between our firing and I think a Bronco that was flying up the valley; we finally relaxed a bit to witness the efforts of the chopper. Someone had popped a smoke and the pilot came in low over the river where there were three rocks sticking out. Two of them were in relatively calm water but the third, the closet to the nose of the bird, was in in the rapids that were sweeping by. The pilot amazingly got his rear two wheels onto the the two rocks and his front just rested on the one in the rapids. I don't believe he could even power down but kind of hovered there. I watched as the crew members started throwing out cases of C-rations and water jugs (they thought we were dying of thirst as well as hunger) when the rear gate lowered. Once the bird was clear of its load the procession of wounded got on. I remember the walking wounded then the stretchers and then the dead. I don't think there was a dry eye in the whole of what was left of our company who saw this. I never looked at chopper pilots and crews after this in the same way. They went above and beyond that day. I believe you were on this bird Ken.

When I got close enough to the river I submerged the gun in the water and shook it to try to get rid of the blood. Bob had been clearing it when he got hit and bled directly into the receiver. I hoped this would put an end to the spook show.

I will come back to finish the story and end it at the point when we get back to the battalion area. SF.....Pete
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Re: Tom Noonans' Fireteam on Hill 1175 followup

Postby Rooker » Wed Dec 10, 2008 11:08 am

Pete - I now remember some of those things like to helos coming in through the fog/mist to land on the rock bed of the river we crossed a couple of days prior. I remeber goping to 3rd Med and I had my poncho liner covering me and over my head as we were all wet and cold and I was trying to get some warmth out of the liner. I heard someone talking so I worked myself up on my elbows and when the liner fell off my head their was a shocked Chaplain staring at me. I was mistakingly placed with our comrades that do not make it and was receiving last rites albeit a little premature.

I was rushed to the triage area to start the process of getting treatment. I was out for three days and later they sent me by C-130 to Danang from Quang Tri and a C-141 to Guam. I did see some of our brothers in the Hospital such as John Meyers and some others getting some of the news about the Company. I returned to the Company in April just in time for Apache Snow another trip into the Ashau. What I didn't know until recently when we were on the Dawson River ops we were actually preparing for Dewey Canyon. So Dawson River turned into Dewey Canyon some time about the 19th or 22nd of Jan 1969.

I want to take this opportunity to wish everyine a Happy Hoiliday and a healthy and prosperous new year.

MSgt Kenneth Rooker USMC (Ret.)
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Re: Tom Noonans' Fireteam on Hill 1175 followup

Postby Rooker » Thu Jan 01, 2009 1:28 am

Pete,

The memories are very raw for you and no one knows more about that than me. You have provided with the best picture yet of what happenned that morning. I cannot think of an appropriate way to thank you but please accept my warmest regards and deep appreciation for sharing with me. You have helped me immensely and my Therapist thinks that is good. If I can ever do anything to help you as you have me please never hestitate to ask. My brotherhood of Marines mean more to me that any bound of marriage or any other committments.

I do wonder why John Meyers and Lew Weber never joinded in as they were part of Tom's fireteam. I had hoped that they could fill in some things but maybe it is to painfill or they just don't want to remember or talk about it.

Semper Fi Pete - I hope to meet you one day!

MSgt Kenneth Rooker USMC (Ret.)
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Re: Tom Noonans' Fireteam on Hill 1175 followup

Postby Pete1175 » Mon Jan 05, 2009 1:43 pm

Ken,
Thank you for the kind words. That means a lot to me. I am very glad that I answered you posting if it helped you. We all have dealt with the memories in our own ways. I believe the hardships and pain we went through has served to toughen us. I don't know if you remember it but the saying "It don't mean nothing" was what we said many times when something painful or unbelievable happened. In World War Two it was "FUBAR". This lent an element of sanity to an insane situation. I think it was a way of accepting fate. "It don't mean nothing" got me through a lot. I hope Lew and John, and every other guy who came down that mountain are OK, and remember "It don't mean nothing".

I met Mrs. Noonan a couple of years before she died and spent time with her in her apartment in Queens, NY. She told me many a story about Tom when he was growing up. I think she was a tough old lady. She still had a way of laughing at life in a way common to her generation. I told her I was going to write a book about 1175 one day and she thought that was a great idea. Once I get clear of some other things I will do it.

Keep in touch Ken and have a Happy New Year...Semper Fi.....Pete
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Re: Tom Noonans' Fireteam on Hill 1175 followup

Postby ronost6123 » Sun Oct 25, 2009 1:26 pm

atfer reading these post over about 3 or 4 time it was like yesterday i remember everthing about that day from the time the fire fight started till we got to the bottom of the hill i remember the word was coming back that the point men just spoted some nva i told the guy in front of me to get ready we are going to get into it i had just finish saying that and all hell break out they call me up right away for i had a m-79 do know that tom was killed right off alone with the dr and a guy name from mich name ski i remember this guy from chiacgo got shot in the leg and pinned down and he ask wht to do i told him to just stay thier and try and cover up the best he could but he got shot in the other leg as will myself and 3 others guys give chase to what was left of the nva down the path aways us four had the rear watch till we got down the hill and was meet by the company that come tho help us i also will say this but i had no idea i had been combat promoted that day till col fox to this day i have never said a word about this fire fight untill i read this post if i help someone with this please feel free to let me know
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Re: Tom Noonans' Fireteam on Hill 1175 followup

Postby Doc D » Wed Oct 28, 2009 2:55 pm

Ken
I was a Corpsman, I was shot on 31 January about 16:30hrs on the way up 1175. The night before I was wounded I sat and talked with Tom and a few of his fireteam members. Maybe you were one of them, I don't know. Tom was talking with me because we were both from New York. If you remember, let me know. The Corpsman that was hit, was Senior Corpsman Doc Bruce Bernstein. I spoke with my fellow Plt. Corpsman Tom Cella when he returned home. Doc Cella told me about Doc Bernstein and Tom Noonan. That's all I can tell you as I was not around on that day. I'm sorry to give you the sad news about Doc B. I hope it helps you. Please respond and let me know you have read this note. I would like to know if you were with Tom when we last spoke. That would help me with my issues.
Thanks Doc D.
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Re: Tom Noonans' Fireteam on Hill 1175 followup

Postby Rooker » Fri Dec 11, 2009 9:24 pm

Doc D - yes I do remember that night when we were all Bsing. The one day we were getting snipers I remember an NVA on the trail. We were tailend charlie Meyers and then me. Meyers called out to me I turned saw the NVA and opened up on auto. I then dove off the trail along wood splittering and the sound of his rounds passing around me. That night when we set in I has a crease in my helmet cover, my poncho liner was perforated a can of chow had a hole through it and one of my canteens were creased. That was a close call given that most of my gear was on my back!

Doc hope you are doing well and let me wish your family and you a Happy Holiday!
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Re: Tom Noonans' Fireteam on Hill 1175 followup

Postby Doc D » Tue Jan 12, 2010 12:51 pm

Ken
Thanks for responding. You are the first I have been in contact with that remembers talking with me. I was not there very long so I did not get to know many of the guys beyond face and nickname. I met Pete on this site and we have similar memories of Dewey Canyon but I don't think I ever s/w him in country. I remember a Lt. Henderson, a Corporal, last name Sargent, Doc Tom Cella, Chief (M-79), a Marine nicknamed Tennessee or Mississippi. He helped carry me off 1175 all night to a FSB after I was hit, I remember him because he had a foot problem I had been helping him with. And I knew Tom and Doc Bernstein.
I copied this from your note...

Meyers called out to me I turned saw the NVA and opened up on auto. I then dove off the trail along wood splittering and the sound of his rounds passing around me.

Ken
Was the above the next afternoon following the night we were all Bsing ? If so it was the same time I was shot. Happened real quick, lots of stuff flying around for a short time and then it was over. Radio man started patching me up during the fight, then Doc Cella got to me. From what I remember Chief got one with his M-79. I also had been raked by AK 47 rounds so you and I must have been near each other when it started. I told Doc Cella to take my morphine for his supply, I kept it in one of those plastic cigarette packs with salt pills.
I carried it in my shirt pocket over my chest. Tom opened the plastic pack and the salt pills had to turned to dust. The morphine syrette was in two pieces and there were two holes in the plastic cigarette container one on each opposite end.
A round had passed over my chest and thru that plastic container. Doc Cella went to take my 45 clip so he would have extra,
he opened up the magazine pouch on my web belt to get the clip and discovered another AK 47 round had passed thru the pouch flap, impacted the 45 clip and stopped. I still have the 45 pouch, clip and AK round, the plastic smoke pack and 1/2 half of the syrette. Doc Cella kept the other syrette half for good luck.

Sorry to ramble on..getting to that time of year we all remember. It was an Honor to have been with you Marines.
Doc D
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