Wieslaw V. Burdziuk
Brief History: John Cox, Ken Harding and Doc’ Steve Harper were responsible for saving my life the day I was wounded. I was hospitalized for almost a year, before being discharged. I’ve had dozen's surgeries and am still disabled.
I was contacted by John and Ken after 33 years because I signed the Vietnam Veterans of 2nd Bn, 1st Marines guest book on the Internet.
Subject: Recommendation for Military Award - Bronze Star with Combat V for:
Cpl John Cox, LCpl Ken Harding and Corpsman Steve Harper.
The above men were told by the Company C.O. who I believe was Captain Hudson and also
by the Battalion C.O. who was a Colonel that they were recommending them for a Bronze Star because of their actions that day on September 24,1966.
Unit : H & S Co. 2nd Battalion 1st Marine Regiment 1st Marine Division.
Date: September 24, 1966
Place: On an old abandoned railroad bed 15 Miles South West of DaNang Approximately one (1) mile from the damaged bridge near Hill 55 and approximately two (2) miles from our regiment.
Events: It was the morning of September 24, 1966 when our squad was sent on patrol to check and repair any damaged or sabotaged communication lines 15 miles South West of DaNang.
While stopped to make repairs, we came under intense enemy fire. I was the first casualty, being shot under the kneecap of the right leg, severing the artery, and over the kneecap of the left leg.
I dropped in the middle of the road and was unable to get cover due to the paralysis I had. I don't know why, but I looked at my watch. Maybe I wanted to know when I was going to die. It was around 11:30am. John Cox was shot in the heel of his right boot. The impact of the bullet knocked him down. He crawled off into a ditch thinking his foot was shot off.
Ken Harding was on a telephone pole doing repairs and John Cox was next to me when I got hit. They did not realize at that time I was shot.
Ken Harding jumped off the pole and while being under fire himself quickly dragged me into a ditch and began to immediately administer first aid. We had a new radio operator who could not get through to the Medevac at the time.
John Cox and Ken Harding realized that I was going to bleed to death without any medical attention. Ken Harding stayed with me and continued administrating First Aid. He had his fingers pressing on my artery for over twenty (20) minutes, while John Cox jumped onto a small flatbed vehicle we called the Mule (in the middle of the firefight) to get me the medical help that I severely needed.
John proceeded (on the MULE which was the size of a 4 X 8 piece of plywood) to a secured outpost that was located at a damaged railroad bridge near Hill 55 to get the Corpsman. John returned with Corpsman Steve Harper (Hotel Company) while still under intense fire from both sides of the old railroad bed he was driving on. The vehicle was hit numerous times but that did not deter John Cox and Steve Harper who ignoring their personal safety where coming to the aid of a badly wounded Marine.
In the meantime the radio operator finally managed to get through. The helicopter a
UH-34D from HMM-263 arrived around (20) to (25) minutes later. John Cox got a stretcher from it and he, Ken Harding and Corpsman Steve Harper tried to get me on it.
I watched as the bullets shattered the windshield. The chopper was hit ( 6 ) times and black smoke started pouring out of it. Two of the four man helicopter crew, Door Gunner, LCpl Philip R. Vanasse (died Vietnam 5-8-67) and Hospitalman Kerry D. French were both wounded. They had to fly off and leave me. Still under intense fire John Cox, Ken Harding and Steve Harper carried me across the open field back to safety. Ken Harding, John Cox and Doc Harper came up with a plan to save a dying Marine. They threw me on the mule (vehicle) and would bring me to a secured outpost about a mile down the road so the Medevac can pick me up.
While John Cox and Corpsman Harper where getting ready to transport me, Ken Harding climbed back on the telephone pole,(leaving himself wide open to enemy fire) tapped into the phone line and called in a 81mm mortar strike on the enemy.
We were a moving target. The mule (vehicle) kept getting hit. Bullets were flying everywhere. Gary Williams a machine gunner from Golf Company, 3rd Platoon was one of the Marines who was giving us protective fire, while I was being brought to the outpost to be put on another Medevac Helicopter from HMM-263.
We made it, the Medevac got me, and I'm alive to tell my story.