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Interview with Wesley Fox [No date]

Unidentified interviewer:

First thing we'll start with is just pronounce your full name.

Wesley Fox:

Wesley Lee Fox.

Unidentified interviewer:

Sir, let me - a little bit about your childhood, where you were brought up, brothers and sisters, a little bit about the home life if you can-- and hobbies and sports.

Wesley Fox:

I was born on a small farm in Virginia, northern Virginia, not far - a couple of miles out of Herndon, from Herndon, Virginia, and--the first of 10 children. We moved after about - the years - 6th year - we moved to a bigger farm, and-- I-- loved farming, I loved everything about the work - we had horses, that was our [AHEMS] means of plowing and all-- couldn't afford tractors. I loved horses, and really intended to be a farmer. That tended to cause me to miss some of my life goals in that my - I didn't like school, I didn't feel that a farmer needed all that book learning, so I didn't do well in school, and I later, of course, regretted that. [AHEMS] But I grew up during World War II, and my cousins were all fighting that war. I was too young to go. [AHEMS] I've-- of course that made me aware of the uniform and a thought of dedication to my country for a period of time, and I guess through the, those young years, I really planned to do it - a time in uniform before getting real serious with farming, like a 4 year hitch or something like that. The war ended before I was old enough to join, but the Warren County School System kind of helped move me into - into a military mind also in that our days started with the-- the Lord's Prayer, Pledge Allegiance to the Flag, and then we, as a class, stood - of course -stood for both of those, but we always continued to stand and sing one of our service songs - we rotated through the four each morning. [AHEMS] And our teachers, during morning recess, would line us up on line and lead us in calisthenics, and I liked that regimentation, I liked that, that feeling. But again I, contrary to my dad's guidance and directions, I didn't feel I needed that school, so I, I really quit school in the 8th grade and went full time into farming. And if it had not been for the Korean War, I probably would not have gotten away from the farm. But the Korean War started, and when I could get a break from thrashing wheat and making hay I visited the Marine recruiter and ended up enlisting, and from there it was boot camp. I'd never known a Marine. I didn't know anything about Marine Corps boot camp other than what I'd seen in - on the movies - the Hollywood version of it, and I, I guess I could say I got - had an eye-opener with what Parris Island introduced me to. [AHEMS] But-- I really-- went to Parris Island with the idea that I was going to be a Marine, and there was nothing that Corporal Rieser [sp?], my senior D.I. could do to change that attitude. In the '50s verbal and physical abuse was rampant - it's up to the D.I. as to what he wanted to do and how he wanted to do it. But he only touched me once, and that was-- once-- one-- August afternoon, we'd been out on the drill field for about 3 hours, drilling, land we were-- dehydrated, hot and wet from sweat. The Marines, in those days, the Marine mentality was get tough - learn to do without water - if you can believe that - and-- and--so we didn't have canteens, and-- no water. I became aware of the fact I needed a drink, so as soon as we got back to the barracks, I intended to, to get one. In the past, Rieser would always follow us in, so-- and I'd seen other recruits get a drink as we ran in the barracks - get a quick drink on their way to our squad bay. So I was the first one in. I hit that scuttlebutt, that cold water hit my lips, and I heard this voice immediately behind me say "Shithead, I didn't tell you to drink water," And I was already moving when his boot caught me in the rear. But that was the only time he touched me. But it made a Marine out of me. In 12 weeks. Then it was the, the Korean War-- 5 months after I had enlisted, and-- I really met leadership there. A Corporal Davis from Pocatello, Idaho was my squad leader, and he was the guy I guess that had a whole lot to do with putting my mind in battery of, of a life in the Marines. Because he just had everything that, that a leader needs to lead and inspire others in tough situations like combat in a Marine rifle squad. I write a lot of the - in my mem--memoirs, Marine Rifleman, I write a lot of the, the little things that told me that he loved me -- expressed how he went about convin-- letting us know that we mattered to him. He never told us that he loved us, but he just had ways of-- making it real obvious that, that we mattered to him, and that's very important in, in leadership. But-- the move on out of the Korean War quickly--

Unidentified interviewer:

No, no, let's not do that. Let's spend a couple of minutes on the Korean War. Coming out of P.I. into Korea there's a bonding that takes place within the Marine Corps - it's a place that in Korea you had to learn the unity of a group - tell me a little bit about Korea and the environment and how you brought those units together.

Wesley Fox:

I joined-- Item [sp?] Company, Third Battalion, Fifth Marines-- First Marine Division - there was only one Marine Division in that war - right after they'd gotten out of the Chausen Trap [sp?]. My draft got there, the fourth draft, in January of 1951. And my squad leader kind of helped break me into the whole of what was needed, and-- and-- the way that, that life would be in the Marine Corps, and that's - Corporal Davis - is way in handling us. We were short in a lot of the things-- that Marines today just take, take for granted, like we had one canteen-- we had rifles and ammo, but we didn't have things like to heat our C-rations, stoves - that was before the heat tab that the services have. That came in during my year in, in Korea but-- What I'm really saying is a lot of m-- lot of days the only meals that we had was what we could chip out of a frozen can of C-rations, because you're in the attack, and it - moving in the attack you can't build a fire - you don't have the time to build a fire and to thaw out your C's and to heat 'em, and then once you take your ridge lines and you set in for the night, first thing you gotta do is dig your hole and clear your field of fire, and by then it's good and dark, and you don't build a fire to do your C's - to thaw out your C-rations. So-- so you chip that hamburgers and gravy or that corned beef hash out of your can with a bayonet if you get anything at all to eat. It was tough. Of course that was in the wintertime and it's not all-- 12 months of winter there, so the, the summers were better. But then the summers the problem was-- water. Again, we were only issued one canteen; some of us got smart and would take canteens from casualties that were evacuated and no longer needed their canteens, so we, we'd carry a couple - get a couple extra that way. But it was - that war was-- was hard f--for the way that it happened. We as a country were not prepared for a war. The Marine Corps was not prepared for a war. And in my opinion the Army was prepared even less, because they were on occupation duty, and that was pretty much the focus. The Marine Corps was down to only 68,000 Marines at the outbreak of the Korean War, and to get - scrape a division together for what MacArthur needed at Inchon just soaked up the whole Marines from all over the Marine Corps. That's why my drill instructor at Parris Island in August was a corporal instead of a sergeant, somebody that had a little more time in. The other D.I., Pfc. Daves, the junior, had only graduated from boot camp himself, and so we, we had an easy time with him, because he knew what we were going through. If it hadn't been-- We could handle Corporal -- we could handle Pfc. Daves. It was Corporal Rieser that gave us all, all the problems. But it was-- it was a tough experience, and--to take it one step further-- the only training that I had-- on the infantry side of the house, the tactics and that kind of thing, was after-- we got into, into Vietnam - or into Korea - get my wars mixed up here - we got into Korea - because the only thing we had was what we got in boot camp, and Corporal Rieser must not have been an infantryman because he didn't teach us anything on the infantry side of the house. We took our ridge lines in the Korean War in a column of files instead of deploying on line or any assault formation. The-- the hillsides, the terrain tended to-- [AHEMS] to-- [AHEMS] [OFF-MIKE COMMENTS]

Unidentified interviewer:

We were talking about leadership and learning that, and learning the importance of each person's responsibility from the fire team through the squad.

Wesley Fox:

Leadership is a, is a very important aspect in - in our daily life, in civilian life - the family, of course, mom and dads are leaders -are the first leaders that we recognize, but then when you get into the military you really see leadership at a finer level. Corporal Rieser was one kind of a leader - my D.I. in boot camp, because he was in a position of leadership - we did what he told us to do because we didn't want to suffer the consequences for not doing it. And of course I recognized that, and - but the bottom line is I would do things for Rieser because I didn't want to suffer his - the consequences for not doing it-- and Davis on the other hand, the other kind of a leader got response from me because I wanted to do it for him. And I mentioned earlier about Davis, the ways that he impressed me with the fact that I mattered to him is just little things like--the frozen C-Rations. at one time I heard Davis say that he was going to get a Coleman Burnder to thaw out our - heat our rations with even if he had to carry it. Well it wasn't that long-- before we went in reserve and-- and-- Davis showed up with a little Coleman burner. And he loved coffee in the morning, but he didn't get his coffee until all the members of his squad had finished with that stove. And little things like that. Like the issuings of C-Rations - we [AHEMS] -going in the attack, we liked to keep our, our load light. Well the C-Rations came 3 meals to a box -- and-- within that - those 3 meals there'd be-- corned beef hash that you couldn't eat, ham and lima beans that you couldn't eat and a couple of good meals -maybe a good meal like beans and franks. We members of the squad would fight for a meal that you could eat when we were issued-- the chow and 3 of us would have to split what's in that 3-meal box, because we're going in the attack and you're only going to carry one meal. [AHEMS] Davis would issue out all the meals to his squad [AHEMS] - excuse me - something's happening here-- [COUGHING] [OFF-MIKE COMMENTS] But Davis would-- issue the meals to, to his fire team leaders always with the words give me the meal that's left. That guy must have liked corned beef hash, because it's all he ever got. [AHEMS] But I think the day-- the f-- Another example is he had a 38 pistol tied low down on his hip - a personal weapon - it had belonged to a buddy of his that was killed crossing the Hon [sp?] River, and Davis intended to take that pistol back to-- the boy's father, [AHEMS] and-- Davis just didn't wear it for looks. And taking the hills and clearing the bunkers-- Davis would usually follow a clearing grenade in the bunker with that pistol. I was a Browning automatic rifleman, and it was my job really to follow the grenade in, and after becoming aware of how important Davis was to me and to, to the squad, I didn't like the idea of him-- putting himself forward like that. So I com-- confronted him with the fact that it was my job - to be the first in the bunker. Davis says "Look, Fox, that much quicker I can cover an unexpected movement or an accident -a corner of that bunker compared to you turning that long barraled B.A.R." And before I could think of a counter--statement he says "No other hand will touch this pistol." Little things like that, that I - I think the biggest was on a, a morning in March '51 and we-- were moving out - moving off the ridge. It had rained all night; the first rain we had-- [AHEMS] after that winter - our sleeping bags were wet - we were soaked -[AHEMS] - we'd been in the attack then for several days [AHEMS] - jeez maybe I better come back another day-- [OFF-MIKE COMMENTS]

Unidentified interviewer:

This should be the last story with Korean -then we'll-- [OFF-MIKE COMMENTS]

Wesley Fox:

It had rained all night-- our, our sleeping bags were wet and we were soaked - [AHEMS] we-- couldn't build a fire-- to eat a C, so we were hungry, starved, we'd - 50 percent watch every night - we really - really exhausted. We-- were ready for the rear - for a-- a period of time in reserve, and we got the word to pack up, we're moving out, and then that's what we thought we were doing - going in reserve - we could get a rest - get chow and all the good things that - that you get behind the lines. But instead, we were moving to the flank. [AHEMS] And we realized that we weren't going in reserve - we were moving-- to, to taken another objective that some other unit couldn't get or to hold a hill that the highers thought would be, be lost. Just gonna be another fight. [AHEMS] We were moving along, and personally my spirit's never been lower - it was right down in the mud with my feet, and I just didn't care any more. Other members of the squad obviously felt the same way because nobody was bitching - nobody was complaining about - nothing was said, and, and [AHEMS] that's a bad sign. Davis read it that way, and he-- obviously read it that way and-- and-- did something about it. As we moved along, I heard--somebody singing NEVER SAW THE SUN SHINING SO BRIGHT NEVER SAW THINGS GOING SO RIGHT and I couldn't believe it! Who is that ass? As I looked around and then realized it's Davis [AHEMS] - wasn't loud - he wasn't throwing it out-- being smart about it - he was just saying the words. And I had to listen closely to hear them. And then I realized he's just trying to make us feel better. I'm not gonna let him do it. And I just - stayed out here in the mud with my spirit. [AHEMS] But we continued - he kept singing - and pretty soon somebody bitched. A little bit further down the trail there was a - respond to the bitch and-- we went into bivouac and did what had to be done. Corporal Davis - the right kind of leadership - right kind of mixture. [OFF-MIKE COMMENTS] END TAPE 19 - END SIDE A START SIDE B - START TAPE 20

Unidentified interviewer:

War's over. Peacetime.

Wesley Fox:

Well, well maybe I need to come out of Korea with a medivac because that's key to me not going back to the farm.

Unidentified interviewer:

Okay. All right so pick it up - we're still in Korea.

Wesley Fox:

Okay, well of course Davis left us and, and I ended up - a month or two down the road I ended up as squad leader, but I tried to be a little Davis with handling tactics and, and that kind of thing. But-- in September of-- '51 I was medivacked out of Korea and by the time I got out of Bethesda Hospitals, I really-- wanted to go back to Korea. I was medivacked out before I was ready to leave 3rd squad, 3rd platoon, Item Company and by the time I got out of the hospitals, I-- worked to get back with letters to the commandant. I was placed in the Armed Services Police in Washington, DC and time began to tick off, and I realized that I can't get back in with this enlistment, and I learned also of other things that the Marines did that I wanted to try, like I'd heard about a Med- cruise where a battalion goes to the Med- with the Navy and hits all that great liberty, and I wanted to do that. So one thing and another to put farm off and, and I re-enlisted, so that kind of opened me for a 43 year tour in, in the Marine Corps. [AHEMS]

Unidentified interviewer:

Vietnam comes. When did you realize that you may have to face another enemy and another battle. How did that come about?

Wesley Fox:

Well, my-- from the Korean War, I was a -drill instructor - recruiter - went into force reconnaissance and while in Force Recon I was a-- with a Pathfinder team on Okinawa, Vietnam began to kick up a little action about that time, but [AHEMS] that was '62-'63 that I was in - on Okinawa - that's an unaccompanied tour without your, without your wife - family. And we-- as Pathfinders, even though helicopters were committed to Da Nang, Pathfinders didn't go along - there were no ground troops allowed, so we completed our tour, came home and-- and I was serving in Jacksonville, Florida when-- President--Johnson committed ground troops into Vietnam. I realized-- that there was going to be probably a little action - a little conflict going on there, and my aim was to get to be involved in it - to get in a rifle company in Vietnam. [AHEMS] So I visited my monitor at headquarters Marine Corps to kind of - to, to waive my overseas control date, because I wouldn't have to go, because I'd just gotten back from a unaccompanied tour overseas. Turns out that the monitor was looking for the right guy to open up a new billet in SHAPE, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe in Paris. And for a gunner sergeant. Which was my rank at the time. [AHEMS] And in spite of my desires-- I ended up getting screwed with being assigned to Paris, France. [AHEMS] If you can believe. Putting it in that term. [AHEMS] And I really thought that the Viet-- I'd miss the Vietnam War because it was a 3 year tour and the war would be over and-- I'd miss the whole, whole thing, but-- luck-- comes along now and then if you keep your nose clean and do the right thing, you kind of - you get some breaks. Several years earlier I had realized that I wanted a commission, because I liked the Marine Rifle Squad, I like the cutting edge of the Marine Corps - that's what I was getting paid for, and I thought I was pretty good at it and I liked the Marines - I liked the way we operate there, [AHEMS] and as a gunnery sergeant I was-- getting too much up in rank--the company gunny and the first sergeant aren't with the rifle squad. And I realized a lieutenant - need to be a second lieutenant and fight the rifle squads, so you could - you were back with the rifle squads, but at that stage I didn't have the education and I was too old already. Vietnam comes along, and I'm in Paris, and headquarters Marine Corps-- couldn't get the lieutenants that they needed as fast as they needed them through the normal source, so headquarters Marine Corps seated a board to select 5,000 staff NCOs for temporary commission to Second Lieutenant and Warrant Officer and the needs, the needs of the Marine Corps. I lucked out with being one of those selected for - as a temporary commission, and along with that, that termin-- upon being commissioned, and that's no OCS, no officer training - I was a gunnery sergeant one day and - and that same day I was a Second Lieutenant. That terminated that duty in Paris, and the next thing I know I'm in - after a bit of time - traveling, whatever - I'm in Vietnam. My f-- year in Vietnam - my assignment was with the Vietnamese Marines as an advisor - battalion -infantry battalion advisor. [AHEMS] The Tet Offensive caught me halfway through that year - that tour - but basically I was not happy with the way the Vietnamese handled the war. It was too much of what I classified as search and avoid instead of search and destroy operations-- we didn't take the fight to the enemy. And in spite of my battalion doing some pretty good things during the - cleaning the-- enemy out of Saigon, following - immediately following the Tet Offensive, again I was not happy with - and I've got in my, my book - my memoirs, I talk about it about some of those specifics - I won't get into 'em here - but bottom line is I extended 6 months in Vietnam to go north with our Marines, because I knew they knew how to take the fight to the enemy. I was a First Lieutenant by that time, and--even though a Marine rifle company's n--company commander normally is a captain, I had hopes of getting a company as a First Lieutenant. [AHEMS] And as luck would have it, I did end up as the company commander of Alpha, First Battalion, Ninth Marines. And-- that was a, a good experience - a good experience - throughout the whole 6 months, but I think the-- the highlight of the whole-- tour and Vietnam experience of course was my fight on 22 February 1969 in which [AHEMS] my mission was to locate - to see if an enemy unit was where it was-- the day before - if it was - do something about it. Well I found them; they were there, and I locked into them only to find they were a bigger force than my small under strength rifle company. At that time I was down to less than 90 Marines from a 240-man rifle company. And there's several reasons for that - like I left my mortars on the ridge - I couldn't fire mortars in that jungle so I didn't take 'em with me. But we'd taken casualties up to that point -this was Operation Dewey Canyon [sp?] and we were about 3 weeks into the operation at that point, so we'd been taking casualties-- along the way. [AHEMS] But on the afternoon of the 22nd of February as I say, I locked into the enemy force only to learn there was a bigger, strong force than mine. I think we later determined that it was an NVA Battalion that we locked into and-- that's based primarily on the 105 NVA bodies that were dead in the position when we finished. And, and to put that in comparison - I lost 11 Marines that day - they were killed. I get the credit for what my company did that day - of course the commander is responsible for what his unit does or fails to do, so it's good that we get the positive sides also, [AHEMS] but my Marines were the ones that really-- that, that of course did the fighting, and if there's any one thing that I did to ensure success that day, it happened prior to that. And-- and, and - and that's really boils down to training - if not training - then at least rehearsing your plans - and what I'm talking about-- [AHEMS] is-- several times I got the opportunity to - my company was assigned at fire base security around our combat base known as VandeGrif [sp?] and that took -required a rifle company to provide the perimeter security. Well, nights were the only time you had to have the whole company on the line; during the day - during daylight [AHEMS] - 90 percent of your company could go to the center, eat hot chow - go to the little exchange tent-- and get toothpaste, beer, drink beer, write letters home, do those kind of things - have fun - relax - rest - sleep. Of course you'd be on the line during the night. Well, during that time I realized that I needed to get my m-- my Marines' minds together. An example is I, I'd become aware of the fact that I'd send out an ambush and instead of them setting up an ambush the way we're taught in school, they'd go out and form a, a wagon wheel - a circle - all around security but it's not a - not an ambush in that you've got a kill zone and you've really got an effective ambush. [AHEMS] So bottom line what I did was-- seated my company on a bank, and I'm out in front of 'em, and I - and taking an ambush again as an example - I'd bring a squad forward - talk about im-- setting up an L-shaped ambush on the trail where your kill zone is - where your squad leader is - your automatic weapons -your Claymoors, who triggers the ambush - and-- talk about it - get them involved into these things. And-- what you're going to do and how you're going to do it. And then have another squad walk into your ambush as an enemy squad - who does what when - and then reverse that - you've got a friendly squad - your squads walk - walks into an enemy ambush -- who does what? How do you do it? What do you do-- at each point in it? And I-- did that with assault on 45 positions and other tactics that we needed to talk about, and what I'm really talking about is putting in a football analogy is-- we can have a bunch of players that know football, but until a coach gets 'em together and says these are our plays and Smith you're going to do this on this thing and Jones you're going to do this other thing, we don't really have a winning team. I had Marines that were coming to me that had been properly trained, ready for combat from the United States - but they had never worked together in this team. We were always taking casualties, so you got-- you, your old guys are leaving and the new guys are coming in -these new guys need to pick up the feel of the way that you do things. And-- and I was able - I probably had at least-- 4 - 4 day training sessions of that kind of thing - so on 22 February when I really-- on that-- rainy, miserable, cloudy day when we couldn't [AHEMS] use air, artillery, anything else - it was nothing but a rifleman's fight - and in that thick jungle where you could never see more than the Marine on your right and your left - the only way that we won it was because of what we did prior to-- Early in that fight I lost all my platoon leaders - killed or wounded. So the leadership was not really there other than what - of course the platoon sergeants stepped forward and they carried the fight-- along with - behind their platoon leaders and after they lost their platoon leaders. But again, what I'm saying, it was - it was each Marine's motivation to take the fight to the enemy - move into the sounds of the enemy's guns. Because no one of us could ever get-- influence any more than the Marine on your right and your left.

Unidentified interviewer:

You commanded it. Let's talk about you for a second. We have a well-trained-- platoon--but there's some things that you did during that battle-- I want to know what they were -I want to know how you were able to control -to calm them down - because bullets are flying all over - people got their heads down -they're not looking up. How were you able to control that unit-- from a defensive position to make them an offensive squad to win that fight?

Wesley Fox:

The, the fight started, I had 2 platoons in the assault - in an assault formation, moving through, through that jungle - towards the sounds of the mortar tubes that were popping, and at that point the enemy also had a machine gun that was firing into the trees. So, so we had a focal point. There, It was like here we are -- come and get us. And we did that. Two platoons up and one in reserve. [AHEMS] At-- the point where I realized that it's a bigger force of-- than what mine was, was when my assault stalled, and at that point I moved along my forward Marines in that jungle - again, I could never see more than one or two Marines at a time - it's thick jungle, and it's a misty rain falling all around - over us and-- [AHEMS] and it was really closed in. At that point I realized it's a stronger force than mine, [AHEMS] and I - what I would like to do is break contact - sorry guys and get out of here. But ev-- each Marine that I saw was down, and unless he was firing his rifle--he appeared-- probably impressed that he was a casualty. I thought that I was hurt worse than I was at the point where I-- I f-- I realized that in order to break contact I've got to get all my casualties out - I'm not leaving anybody - I'm going to lose more Marines doing that - and then I probably won't have enough to defend us-- with the - carrying the wounded and--we're gonna have our hands full and we won't be able to fight. So at, at that point I guess the one thing I did was made the decision that we'll-- win this fight - we'll either walk out or we'll all stay in the valley, and I called my--reserve platoon commander up, and told him to take-- his platoon in the attack between the center of my two attacking platoons. Normally you wouldn't like to do that -- you'd like to pull a flank movement or something of that nature, but in that thick jungle and in that r-- foggy, rainy day, I, I realized that that would be next to impossible to, to control, so I had him go throught the center of the, the two attacking platoons. A mortor or an ar-- a rocket-propelled grenade - I don't - not sure which it is - landed a amongst us at about the time that he understood the order, and seriously wounded that platoon commander. My company executive officer, Lieutenant Lee Herron, was standing there - he had heard what I'd told Jim Davis to do - and-- Lee wasn't hurt - so I asked - told Lee to take the Second Platoon in the attack which Lee did. And-- really that's what broke the enemy's back-- with what Lee Herron did - though Lee was cut down with a machine gun - died about 4 minutes after he left me, going forward. [AHEMS] So the one thing I did-- I, again, was motivate my Marines and, and with what we do in those kind of situations when I had the opportunity to look 'em in the eyeballs and say "This is what we do. This is what you can expect from me, that I'm going to have you do." And so it was not-- that any point I, Lee Herron, Jim Davis or my other platoon commanders, Bill Cristman or-- had an opportunity to say follow me-- and that many people see 'em again - it's - in that jungle thing. If you don't have your Marines and your Soldiers trained and keyed to do the right thing and that basically again is to move to the sounds of the enemy's guns, you're not going to have a winning team.

Unidentified interviewer:

Any force has two ways to go - they could go forward, they can go back - why do you think they went forward?

Wesley Fox:

My, my - why did my Marines go forward? Cause they knew that that's what I wanted of 'em. They didn't hear me - anything from me to tell them to go in another direction. They knew that we were moving to the sounds of the enemy's guns, and until somebody told 'em something clearly, differently, a Marine isn't going to lose his focus. I, I had some great Marines. And again, compared to my Korean War experience, we didn't know tactics. We took the hills one behind the other - one man-- at a time till he became a casualty and then it was the next guy stepped up, and it was that kind of a thing. In Vietnam, even there-- in that dense jungle, we deployed - maximum fire power forward, and, and to back up a bit, during my drill instructor days back in '55 and '56 as a young sergeant, I had a year on a drill field that I was God -- we did things my way - what I said was what happened and I did anything to my Marines that I wanted to do - good or bad -and unfortunately lot of it wasn't good for--positive leadership. Sergeant McKuen drowned 6 recruits at Parris Island, South Carolina after a year that I was on the field, and by-- in '56 as a matter of fact, and that changed everything-- the way the Marines make Marines. Turned recruit depots up on their ears. Officers invaded us-- they looked over our shoulders, made sure we did things the way we were supposed to do-- and what I'm saying is I was convinced that Marines would never do what we've done in the past - walk out of Chausan, fight over the, the sands of Iwo Jima - those kinds of, of things that Marines have done in the past, because we weren't making them the way we used to. Fox was wrong. We still make Marines, and, and Vietnam proved that to me-- 11 years later - on 22 February of '69 and, and my Marines so you don't need to belittle someone and put him down to make a man, make a Marine out of him to where he can go forward and do the positive things that warriors are supposed to do. I was really impressed by Marines that day on - in the Assau [sp?] Valley.

Unidentified interviewer:

That medal that you wear means a lot. What does it mean to you - what does that medal mean to you?

Wesley Fox:

Well, [LAUGHS] if you really back the medal down to what it means to me, I guess-- is truly recognition for what my company did on that day in that valley on Operation Dewey Canyon. Collectively we did it, and along with that - but what I'm saying really is I know that there were more medals of honor deserved in that fight than the one I wear. I really as a - I didn't do any Audie Murphy things like stand on a-- a tank retriever and mow down a, a number of the enemy. Mine was more in a leadership thing and, and making the right decisions at the right time. But I know that I had Marines in that Bush that did-- the-- actual fire power thing that, that eliminated the enemy and did what-- was a - really above and beyond the call of duty--and he's not recognized for it because he died in the action and the guy that saw him or the 2 guys that saw him on either side of him either died or they were wounded seriously and medivacked out the next morning. So that there was no one to tell the story. You might know that there's a requirement that there are two eyewitnesses to attest [AHEMS] to the action [COUGHING] - [PAUSE] okay-- [OFF-MIKE COMMENTS]

Wesley Fox:

There's a requirement of two eyewitnesses to a--attest to the f-- to the action that des--deserving of the Medal of Honor for the call of - above and beyond the call of duty. [AHEMS] And on the 23 February, I had 58 mem-- remember I had something like 90 Marines the day before - 11 of 'em were dead - 58 [sic] of 'em were wounded that badly that because of the threat of loss of life or limb they had to be medivacked out. So my company - I got a couple of replacements in that next day and of course I had my mortar platoon, but I was really down to a small company and we continued to operate. We stayed in the Assau Valley until 15--March. Still in the attack, still doing those kinds of things, so that I really didn't have the administrative time to sit down with dry paper and pencil and-- and do the writeups - I tried to do as best I could out there -- but there were not those witnesses around to attest to-- what was really done for other Medals of Honor. Like Lee Roy Herron, my XO in taking that second platoon in the attack - I really intended for him to have the Medal of Honor for what he did - that I know he did - but I didn't see it - and I couldn't get any eyewitnesses to what Lee did - he, he, he died in that fight, and, and the Marines with him. That or, or medivacked out, and so I could get the stories. I wrote him up, but it was because of the lack of two eyewitnesses, it was downgraded to a Navy Cross.

Unidentified interviewer:

When were you notified that you were being put in for the medal?

Wesley Fox:

My battalion commander, a couple of days after the fight, I was in his CP - he was on the ridge with us -- my company, Alpha and Charlie were on the ridge with the battalion command group - and I for whatever reason was in his CP, getting some guidance of what we were going to do I guess and I'm - on my helmet -seated on my helmet - and he tells me he's going to put me in for the Medal of Honor. Well I almost fell off my helmet. I couldn't believe it. Turns out that Doc Hudson, my senior corpsman, had come up to him and told him all these things he saw his, his lieutenant do - his lieutenant did this, his lieutenant did that - so-- Colonel Smith-- got the platoon sergeants up and a few others and got some statements and-- as my battalion commander wanted me to have the Medal of Honor. Well, first off, Doc Hudson wanted me to have the Medal of Honor and he started it, and--and again I'll say for, for-- then Colonel, now General, Retired, Smith - he tracked that-- medal all the way through. And it's probably one of the fastest ones to go through - the action was in February - I was-- out of Vietnam in May - my, my 6 months extension was over - in January - well--Colonel Smith, he was back in the States also, and a couple of times he had called me to say that the medal had progressed through the different headquarters - it's out of F&F Pack and it was-- it was at - down at headquarters Marine Corps with the blessing - do it. He called me in January of '70 - that's not even a year later - to say that the medal was on the president's desk; it had been approved by Congress that I, that I would have the Medal of Honor. Well I was an instructor at our basic school teaching lieutenants - remember I never even went to that school [LAUGHS] - and here all of a sudden I'm an instructor of lieutenants on tactics - company tactics. But he called me to say that I would get it--but then later, I guess a month or two later he called me to say that, that-- who's the president? [LAUGHS] Geez - old man-- the one that got fired--

Unidentified interviewer:

Nixon.

Wesley Fox:

[LAUGHS] Nixon. He, he called me - I guess about a month later, after telling me that it was on the president's desk, he called me to say that President Nixon was rating--waiting for the right political climate to award the medal. So this was January of, of '70 it was approved - on Nixon's desk. I didn't get it until March of '71 - a year and 3 months later -waiting for the right political climate. What it meant to Nixon was-- less living room involvement of the war - instead of one writeup and all the stuff that goes with it I gotta get the Medal of Honor he waited until he had 7 of us - 6 Army guys and me. And had us all at the White House at the same time to present the medal - so there's only one thing in the paper. Matter of fact we didn't even get - even the front section of the paper - it had 7 little pictures in, in the back part of the Washington Post.

Unidentified interviewer:

What was the ceremony like?

Wesley Fox:

[AHEMS] It was a disappointment in that I had planned - once I knew that-- that the medal was approved and I - that I would get it, I really planned to get my battalion commander, Doc Hudson, all the Alpha 1 9 Marines in that fight that I could - I wanted to be in the White House. [AHEMS] I at least wanted to offer them the opportunity. The guidance was only your immediate family. Nobody else. [AHEMS] So only my siblings, my mom and dad, my wife and children. My inlaws, my m-- father and mother in law -very much involved in this - could not attend. The-- spouses of my siblings could not attend, and it was really a - and, and it had to do with I guess with 7 of us - if they'd let us bring anybody we wanted, why the White House would be snowed under. Plus, again, with Nixon's idea - keep the -keep the thing small. So-- it was kind of a--a disappointment in that w--way. But-- again, to get the medal, you know, being a Marine, at that point I'd had-- 22 years in the Marine Corps, so-- I, I was pleased and proud to receive the medal for what my company did -for what we did on 22 February but-- [OFF-MIKE COMMENTS] END TAPE 20 - END SIDE B START TAPE 21 - SIDE A

Unidentified interviewer:

What do you think the medal and you wearing it means to the country?

Wesley Fox:

That, that's a hard one-- the-- lot of my -lot of our countrymen don't know what the Medal of Honor is [AHEMS] and, and that I guess is really not surprising, but-- it's like [AHEMS] the-- [AHEMS] like the-- little old lady on the school bus when I went home from boot camp. I caught a bus out of--Washington, DC - heading out in the country toward Winchester, Virginia, and as I get on in my Marine greens, feeling real proud, this lady says-- "Sonny you can have this seat here beside me." So I sat down - again I'm real proud - I'm a U.S. Marine as of one day. And she says "Sonny, what country are you from?" This - [LAUGHS] this woman didn't even know her Marine-- her country's Marine uniform and, and I realized I'd never seen a Marine--in, in my farm area until I-- went to my Marine recruiter, so-- I didn't put her down. We moved on - I started to say something smart like a r-- I'm a Russian paratrooper, [AHEMS] but-- we-- I told her - and she was obviously embarrassed and so I - we talked about farming - something we had in common. But-- and I f-- so it's not surprising that a lot of our countrymen don't know what the Medal of Honor is and that's-- one of the tasks that the Medal of Honor Society has [AHEMS] is making our young people aware and our countrymen aware of-- what our servicemen have done and-- and along the way some of the recognitions that the, that they get. Again, I'm, I'm pleased and proud to wear it for the Marine Corps and for what my Marines did on, on that particular fight. Again, I'm - I feel a little bit of an emptiness in knowing that there were others deserved in that fight that were not - not awarded - again, because nobody was there to tell the story.

Unidentified interviewer:

Is there anything else you would like to talk about?

Wesley Fox:

No-- [AHEMS] I mentioned earlier about my decision [AHEMS] - my thought process in--putting the farm off till later, down the road-- [AHEMS].

Unidentified interviewer:

Any regrets?

Wesley Fox:

[AHEMS] No regrets, and one of the things that-- that I wanted to do then as a young Marine in 1954 when I decided I'm going to re-enlist, I wanted to go on a Med- cruise - I think I mentioned that - to the Med- - hit all those great liberty ports in Southern France and all those places -- I retired 43 years later and I still haven't made a Med- cruise. [LAUGHS]

Unidentified interviewer:

You still want to go?

Wesley Fox:

No, the Marine Corps did-- send me over on Marine security guard duty so I was stationed in Frankfurt, and I've [AHEMS] visited all the embassies from Rome north to Oslo and-- and Moscow-- I went west to Reykjavik [sp?] so I, I got a whole lot of time in that part of the country. So I don't need a Med- cruise to have to put up with you sailors. [LAUGHS] [LAUGHTER]

Unidentified interviewer:

I never went to the Med- either! I'll tell you that story before you leave. You'll love it. Just see if you could tell me, if you can, how proud you are of being a Marine and wearing that medal - if you could put that in a phrase.

Wesley Fox:

Well - see what you can use out of this - you can cut and paste it right? To tell you how proud I am to wear the Marine uniform, my first 4 years as a Marine I didn't own one stitch of civilian clothes - everything I did was in a Marine uniform. [AHEMS] I'd go home on leave, working in the, in the hay fields or whatever - I wore Marine utilities. Go in town to see movies, I wore a Marine dress - not the dress uniform but our service uniform. And on the, the medal-- again, that battalion commander, George Smith-- on that hillside, maybe a couple of days after he told me he was putting in for it, he - we had a talk about it a couple of times - I remember him telling me-- when you get that medal-- just wear that ribbon - you don't need all those others -just wear that ribbon -- that's all you need -that says it all. He kind of impressed me with the way he hit me with that - with, with the way he presented it. After I got the medal, he was the commanding officer of the basic school where, where I worked, and I remembered, you know, and the Marine Corps regulations state that you wear all of your ribbons or your personal decorations, and you got a choice - you - but you can't do anything other - if you wear your personal decorations, you wear all of 'em. All your personals - you don't just put one on. But because my commander had told me that a couple of years before, after I got it, I walked around - I just wore the - that blue ribbon. And I've l-- later realized that a lot of my, my peers - a lot of my buddies must have thought well that egotistical, conceited son of a gun - he wants everybody to know he's got the Medal of Honor, and, and I think I -and I do feel I was wrong in doing that. And I didn't do it that long-- I probably believe - a year - well the time I was at the Basic School, a total of 2 years - around there - I just wore that one ribbon. And, and it had to do with pride - pleased with it -but I do recognize that that's wrong. You stay with Marine Corps regulations, and like I have ever since wear all my personal decorations and-- But I'm-- proud and pleased to meet with my Marines, and we, we just met last year - the Alpha 1 9 Marines and-- that are, are still around - able to-- to get together and-- and talk about what we did and, and I'm pleased to, to wear that and representative of what, of what we did as a team. And, and I won't kid anybody - it wasn't -it's not for any one thing that I did - it's what we did as a team. [OFF-MIKE COMMENTS]

Unidentified interviewer:

We're finished as far as the interview is--just going to do this real quickly - pull back a little bit-- [OFF-MIKE COMMENTS] [HAND TOUCHING MEDAL - BRING HAND OUT]

Unidentified interviewer:

What's the other ribbon? [End of Interview]

 
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  October 26, 2011
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