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Potter, Raymond

Rank: Corporal
Killed in Action

  • Full Name: Raymond George Potter
  • Date of Birth: May 19, 1942
  • Single/Married: Single
  • Home of Record: Campbell, OH
  • College: Youngstown State University
  • OCS Platoon: C-4
  • TBS Platoon: -
  • TBS Class Standing: -
  • MOS: 0311
  • Serial Number: 2115569
  • Component (Reserve or Regular): Reserve
  • Rank: Corporal
  • Start of Tour: September 7, 1966
  • Casualty Date: KIA - September 10, 1967
  • casualty Type: Hostile, Died Outright
  • Reason: Ground Casualty
  • Detail: Artillery, Rocket or Mortar
  • Air or Ground: Ground
  • Country: South Vietnam
  • Province: Quang Tri
  • Postumous Promotion or Award: Purple Heart
  • Body Recovered: Recovered
  • Location on Wall: Panel 26E - Row 050

January 1, 2011

I didn't know Raymond personally, although he was a member of my Officer Candidate Course (38th OCC) Company, Charlie, which was one of four companies of Candidates. He was in Charlie 4 and I was in Charlie 2. I have done some research in an attempt to reconstruct his service in the Marine Corps including his service in Vietnam. Colonel Richard D. Camp’s book "Lima-6", written with military historian Eric Hamel tells the story of Raymond’s last three months of life from July 1, 1967 through September 10, 1967 in great detail, from the perspective of the Commanding Officer of his Company, Lima, 3rd Battalion, 26th Marines. Eric Hamel’s book "Ambush Valley" tells the story of the 3rd Battalion, 26th Marines four day fight for survival during the period September 7 - 10, 1967 in a valley about 1 Kilometer North of the artillery fire base know as "C-2" and approximately two Kilometers West of the Main Supply Route (MSR) connecting Cam Lo and Con Thien, the western boundary of "Leatherneck Square."

Much earlier, Raymond's Marine service began in Officer Candidate School. He reported in October of 1965 and spent the next 10 weeks working toward becoming commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Corps. For reasons known only to the OCS Staff, Raymond and 42 other Candidates were dropped on December 16, 1965 and reassigned to Schools Demonstration Troops (SDT) for a period of approximately 60 days for further infantry training and future assignment by the Commandant as appropriate. While it is entirely possible that Raymond could have avoided service in Vietnam, it was specifically to lead Marines that he had joined the Marine Corps and committed himself to the officer training of OCS. As the officer route was unavailable to him, I believe he volunteered to serve with the infantry, so he could get to the fight.

Raymond stayed on at Quantico until May of 1966. He visited with a Marine friend, Paul Ross in Newton, MA before returning to his home in Campbell, OH for the balance of his leave. At the conclusion of his leave, Raymond made his way across the US and reported to the 3rd Battalion, 26th Marines for duty.

L/Cpl Raymond G. Potter
Pictured Soon After Reporting to 3/26 at Camp Pendleton, CA
June 1966

Raymond was assigned to 1st Squad, 2nd Platoon, Lima Company. He trained with the Company from late June through early September, 1966. On September 7, 1966, 3/26 embarked on shipping for Okinawa with an intermediate stop in Hawaii.

Pictured Left to Right are Cpl Potter’s Fire Team at Camp Hansen
Lima Company, 2nd Platoon, 1st Squad, 3rd Fire Team
PFC Al Drotar, Cpl Potter, PFC Jim Cooper and PFC Tom Willey

Raymond was assigned to 1st Squad, 2nd Platoon, Lima Company. He trained with the Company from late June through early September, 1966. On September 7, 1966, 3/26 embarked on shipping for Okinawa with an intermediate stop in Hawaii.

The Battalion spent approximately one month on Okinawa training for their service in Vietnam and preparing for assignment to the Special Landing Force (SLF). It was during this training period on Okinawa that Raymond was promoted to Corporal. Next, the Battalion was assigned to the SLF. The Battalion was scheduled to make a planned operation as part of its time on the SLF; but, while practicing vertical assault and amphibious doctrine in the Philippines, a copy of the operation plan (378-66) was lost on Mindaro Island in November of 1966, and the operation having been compromised was scuttled. The Battalion did deploy as Battalion Landing Team 3/26 (BLT 3/26) to the waters of the South China Sea off South Vietnam and remained on the SLF, as a ready reaction force for another month, but was never committed in country. They returned to Subic Bay in the Philippines in early December to change shipping and were inserted at Dong Ha on December 11, 1966.

The original members of 3/26 were broken up in April of 1967. Cpl Potter remained with L-2, while the other members of his fire team were either transferred to other Lima platoons or other battalions. The Corps didn’t want all of the personnel in 3/26 to rotate at the same time, so personnel were swapped among other battalions of the 26th and 9th Marine Regiments. Later, the events of June 27, 1967 were to result in Raymond being transferred from Lima-2 to Lima-3. A patrol from Combined Action Company - Oscar (CAC-O) located in the village of Khe Sanh was searching for an NVA mortar site in the vicinity of Hill 689 which was approximately 4 kilometers west of the Khe Sanh Combat Base. When CAC-O made contact, India Company was dispatched to exploit the contact. Next, Lima Company was heli-lifted to an unnamed hill approximately 500 meters south of Hill 689. Lima Company moved toward Hill 689 with L-3 and L-2 on line, with L-3 on the left flank. L-1 remained in place and provided security for the LZ. As Lima Company moved to link up with India Company, they encountered small arms fire and booby-traps. During the fighting and consolidation, 4 of Lima?s personnel were KIA including the Company Commander, Captain Bynum, the Company Gunnery Sergeant and the 3rd Platoon Commander. Of the Company?s 15 WIAs, several were from the 1st Squad of Lima-3. Only 4 of those assigned to the 1st Squad were still effective. As a result of the decimation of 1st Squad, Lima-3, Raymond was transferred to that Squad. It was the death of Captain Bynum on June 27th that necessitated the assignment of Captain Camp to lead the Company. Again, the book "Lima-6" provides a narrative of the Lima Company?s operations from June 30, 1967 through the date that Raymond died September 10, 1967.

By September 7, 1967, Raymond had been out of the Continental United States (CONUS) for nearly 12 months. He had been pulled out of the field because he had less than 11 days to serve in Vietnam. He was with the Battalion rear in Dong Ha getting ready to depart for Da Nang and assignment to a "Freedom Bird" heading back to the States. He had orders in hand that directed him to depart RVN on September 18, 1967.

On September 7th, when 3rd Battalion, 26th Marines were first engaged by the 812th NVA Regiment, part of the battle hardened 324B NVA Division in "Ambush Valley", Lima Company, Raymond’s unit, was running a "Rough Rider" operation as security for a logistics convoy. The Company returned to Dong Ha the evening of September 7. The heavily engage Battalion Commander, LtCol Alderman requested that his detached Company, Lima, be returned to his operational control and delivered to his CP, just west of the Cam Lo - Con Thien MSR, approximately 1 kilometer north of the firebase C-2. Captain Dick Camp, realizing that he was going to be inserted into an area where the Battalion was heavily engaged and needing every Marine possible, personally approached all 30 of the short timers, who had been pulled out of the field and asked them to redraw their equipment and weapons and join the Company the next morning when they were trucked out to join the Battalion. Captain Camp stated in his book, "they didn’t have to go, but they did." Raymond was one of those, who put the threat to men of his Company, "his Marines", over his personal safety. Raymond volunteered to "get back in the fight." Raymond would rejoin Lima-3 and move with them for the next three days.

The events of the next three days for Lima Company are well documented. On September 8th, Lima Company was trucked to a site approximately one kilometer North of the Marine firebase know as C-2, which stood astride the MSR. While they were debarking the trucks and getting organized for the march to Hill 48, where the Battalion CP was located, the NVA fired rockets at them. Lima and the two platoons from Kilo Company, who were moving the Battalion’s dead and wounded from the September 7th action to the trucks for evacuation, received 35 rounds of accurate 140mm rocket fire that the NVA directed at the massed troops and trucks. After evacuating the new casualties from the rocket fire which included 1 KIA and 28 WIA, Lima Company hoisted the ammunition replenishment and humped in following their guides from Kilo Company to join the Battalion. September 9th was uneventful. Lima Company did send out a near-in patrol, but it turned up nothing. At approximately 1600, the Battalion displaced approximately 700 meters to the South and set in on a hill identified as Hill 48 to avoid mortar and rocket barrages on their daytime position.

It was the intent of the Battalion Commander to move India Company approximately two kilometers to the Southwest and have them occupy a hill that subsequently developed intelligence indicated was the Regimental CP for the 812th NVA Regiment. The Battalion would then displace forward approximately 1 kilometer to a hill that India Company would march over as it established its outpost to the West. The scheme of maneuver had Lima Company moving out to approximately 1/2 of the distance to the objective. Next, India Company would move past the right flank of Lima Company and over the Battalion’s objective to secure a hilltop approximately 1 kilometer West of the Battalion’s objective. Once India Company was in place, Lima Company would lead the balance of the Battalion to it’s objective and establish a new Battalion perimeter. The plan called for the Battalion to receive a re-supply early on the morning of September 10th to facilitate the move. Unfortunately, the re-supply was delayed and subsequent NVA actions thwarted the plan.

The actual events of September 10th found Lima Company moving off Hill 48 at approximately 0730 to the Southwest along a ridgeline and setting in to a Company perimeter approximately 700 meters from the Battalion CP. They were unopposed during their movement and once set in, awaited further direction. At 1330, India Company initiated their movement and passed to the North of Lima Company and up the slope of the hill selected for the Battalion CP that evening. They continued in a Westerly direction and were ascending the hill that would be their outpost, when they came under intense small arms fire and grenade attack at very close range. India Company withdrew and under continuing contact, consolidated a semi-circular perimeter on the hill behind their furthest point of advance that was the Battalion’s objective for the day. With India Company engaged, Lima Company requested approval to go to their aid, supplemented with two gun tanks and a flame tank. Lima Company moved in column with L-3 (Raymond’s platoon led by GySgt Almanza, platoon commander) on point, followed by L-1 and L-2. Just as L-2 moved off hill they had been holding, it erupted in 140mm rocket explosions. It is speculated that Raymond was moving with the point elements of L-3 when it crested the hill upon which India Company was dug in. In the confusion of trying to escape the rockets falling to their rear, part of the platoon swept forward momentarily beyond the fighting holes occupied by I-2.

Captain Camp described the situation as, "a terrific volume of fire erupted. It was fairly peaceful one second and then there was this solid CRACK- like the Crack of Doom." As they reached the top of the hill most of Lima Company dropped into prepared positions, where other Marines had been encamped earlier. It is speculated that the NVA were trying to flank I-2?s positions when the surge from L-3 ran headlong into them. The NVA took the lead elements of L-3 under fire and prematurely initiate their assault with all of their organic weapons, including RPGs. L-3’s surge past the I-2 perimeter threatened the lead elements of the NVA flanking unit and precipitated the huge volume of fire that was directed at Lima Company. It is believed that Cpl Potter was struck in the chest by an RPG at this point in the battle. While the casualty report indicates he died from an indirect fire weapon, anecdotal information from Marines who were there, suggest that it was an RPG round that hit Cpl Potter at approximately 16:30 on September 10, 1967. Captain Camp relates that at dawn, Lima Company fired a 10 second "Mad Moment" and then went out to search the immediate front of their positions to a depth of approximately 10 meters. It was at his time that Lima Company recovered the bodies of two Marines, who had been reported as MIA the previous evening. Raymond’s body was one of those recovered.

The Battalion Commander in his Command Chronology reported "In two battles against the 812th NVA Regiment on 7 and 10 September, this Battalion was engaged in the hardest fighting it had encountered since arriving in Vietnam." The Marine casualties for 3/26 during September 1967 were reported as 434 WIA and 55 KIA, including Raymond. The majority of these casualties were were sustained during the intense actions on the 7th and the 10th. NVA losses were reported as 191 KIA (confirmed by body count), 376 KIA (probable) and 1 Prisoner of War, again with virtually all inflicted during the fighting on the 7th and the 10th.

What is known with certainty is that Raymond not only volunteered to go to Vietnam, a fate he could have avoided; but, when his Company Commander asked him to go back into the field, after he was pulled to prepare for his return to the US, he agreed to go back into harm’s way to support the Marines of his Company, Platoon and Squad. Raymond’s actions on both counts were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the Naval Service. He was respected and loved by the Marines he served with in Lima-2 and Lima-3, who knew of his disappointment in not being commissioned. He earned the respect and admiration of his fellow Marines and his Platoon Commanders for his competent performance and maturity. He gave his life in a last affirmation of concern for "his Marines." While his performance was "above and beyond the call of duty", it was not recognized with a medal as it should have been.

Semper Fidelis, Raymond, you kept the "faith!"

Posted by: Dave Mellon
Officer Candidate Course Classmate

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