A True Hero
A True Marine
On October 3rd 1965 Cpl. Larry Harvey was Killed In Action
He was on patrol with 3rd Platoon Mike 3/9
You Are Not Forgotten
The above 4 Photos Were Submitted by Linda Murphy, Larry Harvey's Daughter
Click Here - An article written by Cliff McCurley Larry Harvey's Great Nephew
LLooking for Larry
Early in the afternoon of 3 October 1965, a detachment of Marines left the perimeter of their camp somewhere in the vicinity of the hamlet of An Trach, Vietnam. These Marines were members of Mike Company, 3rd Battalion of the 9th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, which had been patrolling the Vietnamese farmlands roughly ten miles south of the port city of Da Nang. They had been in this general area since they arrived in country on March 8th, 1965. In fact, they were part of the first actual American combat troop deployment to the Republic of Vietnam.
Up until this date, the loss of American life in the Vietnam War had been relatively light, even among among troops on the ground. This was good because it was giving our soldiers and Marines a chance to test tactics, and adapt to fighting an enemy who not only blended in with the civilian population, but in many cases WAS the civilian population. This enemy was known as the Viet Cong. The Viet Cong, or "VC" (also sometimes called "Victor Charlie", or simply "Charlie") were a guerilla style force made of mostly of irregulars (armed civilians who act in a military style capacity), similar to the Minutemen of our American Revolution (if I may use that as an example). The Viet Cong style of fighting mainly consited of sniping, hit and run ambush tactics and the use of booby traps. It also consisted greatly of terror tactics in trying to get other members of the local population to agree with their cause.
The area that Mike 3/9 had been patrolling, looking for VC, had been relatively calm up to this point, but that would all change about 20 minutes after one the platoons left the perimeter.
From the scant information information that can be gathered, it was more or less a massacre, one of the largest in the war to that date. However, the Battles of LZ X-Ray and LZ Albany in the Ia Drang Valley (of "We Were Soldiers" and "We Were Soldiers One, and Young" fame), which took place about a month and a half later would over shadow it in many peoples' minds.
My Great Uncle Larry Harvey was one of the Marines killed that day. He was a Corporal in the weapons platoon. Killed along with him that day were 12 other Marines. For four decades, my family knew little else besides the fact that about 150-200 Viet Cong guerillas had popped up out of their underground tunnel network and ambushed them, killing many platoon members, including their platoon leader. The area was so hot that his body could not be recovered for a day or two afterwards, and 36 hours after he was killed, his first child, a girl, was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Larry Drew Harvey was the first American ground troop from Oklahoma City to be killed in Vietnam.
Last known picture of my Uncle Larry. Probably Da Nang, Vietnam
Many people reading this know that I am kind of a history junkie. I would like to tell you that my interest in history, especially military history, began the first time my Grandma showed me pictures of my Uncle taken in Vietnam. She also let me read the letters he wrote home from Vietnam. Along with his personal, handwritten letters were the letters from my Uncle Larry's company commander writing to express his regrets for my family's loss.
Many years had gone by for me since the first time I saw my Uncle's letters. I got into reenacting, researching and studying different subjects in American history. Recently things came full circle, and I started studying the Vietnam War a little more. My Grandma heard about this, and she asked me if I could maybe do some research for her about the Marine Corps involvement in 1965, specifically what her baby brother had gone through. She, along with the rest of my family had very little knowledge about what actually happened on that October day so long ago.
I told her I would, and I started where anyone else would… Google. I was hoping to find a veterans site, or some kind of commemorative page with any info on 3rd Batt, 9th Marines, but I couldn't find anything that would help me. After hitting dead end after dead end I decided to give something else a shot. I went to the official website for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (the "Wall"). I went to the search page and pulled up the date on which my Uncle was killed in action (KIA). Fifteen U.S. servicemen were killed that day. Two of them were Army soldiers, and the other thirteen were Marines from 3/9, my Uncle's battalion. Knowing that many Marines died with my Uncle, I figured that most of these men listed were probably there. For each KIA listed on the website, there is a comment section. Mostly the comments come from strangers who pass by on the site and decided to leave a message of respect or reverance. However, as I was looking at each of their comment sections, I noticed that one person had left a comment on two of the Marines' pages. Both of these comments alluded to the fact that he was a member of this platoon, but had been asked to stay behind in the perimeter and watch the radio. After seeing this I decided to e-mail the man, named Harrison, and ask if he knew my Uncle, or if he could at least answer some questions about the events of that day. I wasn't sure if I'd get a response, but I thought I'd give it a shot anyways.
The next day Mr. Harrison e-mailed me back, and told me that he didn't recognize my Uncle's name, but that he'd be happy to answer any questions I had about 3 October. He left me his phone numbers, so I decided to give him a call instead of e-mailing him. Before I could call him, he e-mailed me again, almost as an afterthought, and asked if my Uncle was in the weapons platoon, and if he had tattoos. I was pretty sure he was in the weapons platoon, because there are pictures of him holding a 3.5 in rocket launcher, but I wasn't sure about the tattoos. With that in my mind I called Mr. Harrison the day after he wrote me. I introduced myself and we got right to talking. He started out by saying that October 3rd 1965 was a day that he will never forget. He told me how the day before he had drank some water out of a local stream and had gotten really sick. He had been up all night losing all control of his functions. He figures he had to go to a nearby stream about ten times to rinse himself, his pants and drawers off. The next day as he they were getting ready for the patrol, an older Marine from the weapons platoon walked over to his platoon sargeant and mentioned something about the sick man being up all night, and that he may not want to take him out on the patrol. The platoon sargeant then walked over to Harrison. Harrison was surprised when the sargeant didn't yell at him, and even more surprised the Sargeant told him instead to stay in, take it easy and watch the radio.
PFC. David Harrison around the time of the firefight
He then told me how members of his platoon (about 16 or 17 Marines total) had left the perimeter on a pretty routine patrol. They worked thier way to a tree line a short distance away, on the otherside of which was a small village. The detachment, from what I can gather consisted of a rifle squad with the rocket team from the weapons platoon attached, started searching the village. After finding nothing, it was time to make the next move. Beyond this village were rice paddies, with two other small villages nearby, in the rough shape of a triangle. For reasons unknown, maybe inexperiance of the new platoon leader, maybe a momentary lapse of judge on the part of the experianced platoon sargeant, the Marines moved out into the open rice paddies in between the three villages. This was the point in time when a sick Marine 250 yards away heard automatic weapons fire erupt in the distance, followed by the sound of one of his best friends, radioman Bernard Masny, yelling into the radio to the company commander for reenforcements. He was on the radio because the platoon leader and platoon sargeant had already been wounded and could not. Mr. Harrison listened to the radio until Masny was killed and the radio was destroyed.
Radioman Bernard Masny, KIA along with my Uncle on 3 Oct. 1965
After the firefight the Viet Cong came and executed the Lieutenant and Sargeant, and possibly others. Only three men came back in the wire that day. The only way they made it out alive was by hiding under the bodies of the other fallen Marines. Also, about a week or two later, another wounded and dazed Marine stumbled back into the perimeter and told David Harrison about the villages, the fight and the execution of the wounded.
From this day on, Mike Company was known as "Medevac Mike". Medevac is short for "medical evacuation".
When I was talking to Mr. Harrison, he told me why he wanted to know if my Uncle had any tattoos. The only reason he is alive today was because this older, tattooed Marine from a different platoon had concern for his well being. He told me how Marines back then just didn't do that for one another, and the only time you would miss a patrol was if you were wounded. However, this stranger had a heart for this young, 18 year old Marine. He told me point blank that he hoped it was my uncle because he had wondered who he was for 40 years. He has already credited this man's heart with saving his life that day. I told him that I didn't think it was my Uncle. At 21, he was definitely older than him (any Marine will tell you that three years difference in the Marine Cosps is a big difference, like dog years). However, Uncle Larry was a very strong Christian, and a very conservative man. In 1965 I didn't think he would have had tattoos, but I would ask my Grandma.
When I asked my Grandma and my Dad, they both told me that he wouldn't have had any tattoos, but my Grandma said she would ask my Great Uncle Bill. That was fine, I was just happy that my family now knew a little more about the events surrounding my Uncle's death.
Two days later, my Uncle Bill called me and left a message stating that my Uncle did in fact have a large tattoo. They went and got them together before he deployed. My Uncle Bill got his first, then my Uncle Larry sat in the chair and saw a bigger one. He got that one instead, feeling the need to otdo his big brother. The tattoo was two horizontal roses with a ribon running through them that said "My Mother, the Rose of My Heart". After learning this, I e-mailed Mr. Harrison a few pictures of my Uncle, as well as the description of the tattoo. He wrote me back the next day and said he recognized him as the older man that saved his life by caring about him.
I called him that same night and he told me how he was glad that after 40 years he finally knew the name of the man that saved his life. He was glad tha the man had a family, because he thought he was an orphan. I asked him why, and he told me that the man had a tattoo, which led him to believe his parents were dead. I told him that my Great Grandparents were very much alive at that point. He thought he must have been mistaken because he recognized my Uncle right away. Apparently my Uncle walked around with no shirt on all the time. The only thing he knew about my Uncle at that time was that he was older, had tattoos and glasses. We surmized that the two roses may have led him to believe that his parents were dead, but it was a stretch for me. After that conversation I wasn't so sure anymore… until a few days ago when I was talking to my Aunt about all this. I didn't mention that Mr. Harrison thought he was an orphan. I told her about the rose tattoo, and she said right away that my Uncle had another tattoo as well. I asked her what it was. She told me that one day, he had apparently gotten really angry at his father (they fought a lot), so he went out and got a tattoo of a tombstone with the word "Dad" underneath it. This confirmed it for me, as well as for Mr. Harrison, who was very happy to finally know who saved his life.
David Harrison had always wondered who this Marine was. He couldn't ask anyone because everyone who knew him had been killed. He had gone over the names of the Marines killed that day to try and recognize him, but he couldn't. The survivors of 3rd Platoon were split up after the firefight. Most being sent to Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment (C/1/1). They were replaced by members of Hotel Company 2/9. After Harrison finished his tour in Vietnam, he went back for a second tour in 1968 as a platoon sargeant with Delta Company 1/27 Marines. They operated in the northern part of the I Corps area, mostly between Da Nang and the DMZ to the north. They also participated in Operation Hue City during the Tet Offensive of 1968. To this day Marines veterans tell him he's lucky when they hear he was with Mike 3/9 on 3 October 1968.
My Uncle Larry is the only Marine in my family, except for my cousin Dustin. Other than him my family has mostly been an Army family. My Great Grandpa Harvey was a career Army soldier, which is one of the reasons my Uncle Larry joined the Marine Corps. My Grandma was so mad that when my Uncle Larry got married, my Grandpa showed up to the wedding with a shaved head in protest.
However, one of the only times he wore his dress uniform after his retirement was for his son's funeral as a final salute to his fallen fellow serviceman.
L to R: Uncle Bill, Grandpa Harvey meeting Uncle Larry's casket at the airport
I'm writing this down mostly for my family. I must admit that I, as well as all them, are glad to finally know a little more about my uncle, his sacrifice and how his act of kindness saved the life of a young man, who in turn saved men under his leadership later in the same war. Also, an old Marine is happy to finaly have closure in an answer to a 40 year old question.
CPL. Larry Drew Harvey 13 Sept. 1944 - 3 Oct. 1965
Marines from Mike Company 3/9 Killed with my Uncle on 3 October 1965 are:
PFC. Robert Allan
SSGT. Roscoe Ammerman
Sgt. Nelton Bryant
Cpl. Eugene Ellwood
PFC. Louie Fritts
PFC. Michael Fulk
SGT. Paul Hamilton
CPL. Larry Harvey
PFC. Leon Lampley
PFC. Bernard Masny
SGT. Reginald Nicholas
1LT. Adam Simpson
PFC. James Thomas
Their names are on Panel 02 East Lines 103-105 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Updated on 2/15/09 with this post script:
The following is a link to the tribute page that Mr. Harrison made for my Uncle Larry using the pictures I sent him. He is the webmaster for the veterans website of the company he did his second tour in Nam with (D/1/27). You can also navigate to Mr. Harrison's main page and see what he did during his second tour.
II want to thank you so very much for your excellent website and for the tribute to my best high school buddy Corporal Larry Drew Harvey. I was home on leave from the Navy when I opened the Daily Oklahoman and found the front page picture of Larry and his wife, and the heartbreaking news of his death in combat.
For many years I wished I could know more about how and where he died. I tried several years ago to make contact with his daughter, but hit a dead end. At that time, she had noted on the website for kids of those killed in Vietnam and had said her mother refused to tell her anything about Larry. I am happy to see that now she finally, hopefully, got some closure thanks to her Marine Corps family.
I plan on visiting Vietnam soon and had wanted to try to get as close as possible to where Larry met his fate, your article will help immensely in that effort.
Again, thank you so much and keep up the good work
SSG Sammy W. Graves, US Army Retired