Leon Daniel Report from Vietnam/10-4-66

Here is one of legendary UPI reporter Leon Daniel's reports from the battlefields of Vietnam, this one from Oct. 4, 1966:


DONG HA, South Vietnam (UPI) -- We were sitting there in a bomb crater on the side of a hill that had be rendered virtually lifeless by artillery, bombs and napalm.

A butterfly, which was violet with some lighter shades of blue, fluttered around us and finally landed on the Marine's wrist.

Lance Cpl. William Hutton, who had just been recommended for a Silver Star, drew the butterfly close to his face, watched it for a second, and then it flew away.

"It's a shame," said Hutton, who is 19, "that butterflies have to die so quickly."

"Yeah," said PFC Arnold Jackson, a draftee from Smiths Creek, Mich. "They got some real pretty ones over here."

It is one of the things you do not say in a bull session during a lull between battles but, I thought, it is a very fine thing that these gallant young men have the sensitivity to see beauty in a situation where some can see only ugliness.

Hutton, from Canoga Park, Calif., was a private first class a few days ago. Then Kilo company of the third battalion of the 4th Marines was ordered to take a hill.

The point man was shot. Hutton volunteered to take his place. An enemy .30 calibeer machinegun was raising hell.

Hutton stood up and gave his platoon leader, 2nd Lt. Richard Mullen of Torrance, Calif., covering fire.

Hutton's buddy, Lance Cpol. Leonard Kasson of Binghamton, N.Y., was right beside him.

Mullen, who believes in leading with a capital "L" was throwing grenades.

"I saw a head fly off when Lt. Mullen threw one grenade," said Staff Sgt. Tom Garefalos of Dallas. "It just went rolling across the ground."

Mullen and Kasson, as well as Hutton are up for Silver Stars for spearheading the Kilo attack at great risks to themselves.

Hutton, who plans to go to college and later into investigative police work, at one point threw Mullen to the ground to protect him from an enemy grenade. Hutton got shrapnel in his face. It was a minor wound, but it was his third Purple Heart. Kasson also picked up his third Purple Heart as well as a battlefield promotion to lance corporal.

Tuesday, five days after that action, Mullen's men were sitting around talking. It was early in the morning, and those who had it made coffee.

Rations were short--only one C-ration meal and a canteen of water to last the whole day.

The lieutenant was mixing some C-ration peanut butter and jelly. He didn't have any bread. That was his breakfast. He and his men had been in the field for more than two weeks.

Mullen, who said he may go to law school when he gets out of the Corps, used some "bug juice" --mosquito repellent -- to keep a small fire going.

He and his men had laboriously built the fire with damp wood they had cut with machetes.

Hutton began talking about a buddy, a draftee who had been killed. The buddy was from Kasson's hometown.

"I don't see why they take a man like that," the young corporal said. "He had a college degree."

Kasson, who wants to study veterinary medicine when he is discharged, did not comment.

The conversation got back to the war.

"I bet this isn't even making the front page back home," Hutton said.

He wanted to know if I had heard anything about cowboy star Roy Rogers and his wife Dale Evans coming over here to entertain the troops. I told him I had not.

"I've got a letter from her," he said proudly.

I do not know much about Roy Rogers or Dale Evans. But I should think they would be very proud to know Lance Cpl. Bill Hutton.


Copyright: United Press International; used with permission)