Pfc. Donald Lyle Elliott

United States Marine Corps

2nd BN, 3rd Marines, 3rd MarDiv, III MAF, H&s Co.

Quang Tri Province, SVN

August 7 1950 - August 10, 1969

Donald Lyle Elliott

Pfc. Donald Lyle Elliott

U.S. Marine Corps Yearbook

Courtesy of Dan McKay (USMC)

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A Hero

The Battle Of Mutters Ridge

In Memory od Don and The 22 Other Marines Who Died During That Battle
and the 58 Marines Wounded.

If you never heard of the Battle of Mutter's Ridge it's probably because not many have or didn't hear about it. Although 24 Marines were killed and 58 wounded, they received little publicity. It happened at the time that Charles Manson killed those people and the news press thought that was more important to report then the Marines who had died in Vietnam at Mutters Ridge.

Because Mutter's Ridge controlled a key infiltration route from North Vietnam into South Vietnam, it was contested ground from the first days of American involvement in the war. While ownership of the ridgeline, and especially of the peaks, it changed hands several times during the Vietnam War, the 3rd Marine Division more or less retained control of the area. During the summer of 1969, that control was severely tested by the North Vietnamese Army's 304th Division,

During the summer of 1969 the North Vietnamese Army made repeated attempts to drive out the Marine forces from the heights of Mutter's Ridge, which formed a portion of the southern boundary of the Demilitarized Zone.

Echo Company had been sent into this area to seek and destroy any and all enemy forces that it would encounter. The operation was named Operation Idaho Canyon beginning August the 1st. Squad sized patrols were sent out everyday to locate enemy forces. There were brief exchanges of rifle fire. We knew they were there and they knew where we were at night.

On the night of August 9, the 3rd Platoon(that I was with) and the attached portion of the 81mm Mortar Platoon established a night defensive position near Hill 484. At mid-night we were put on full alert. That the enemy was probing our defenses to find a way in. They would throw hand grenades and satchel charges at our perimeter. We were told not fire back with our weapons and give our positions away. We took cover when the grenades were thrown. We threw our grenades at them hoping that would drive them away.

No one slept and everyone had their combat gear on. Early morning of August 10, about 0300H, we could hear movement and orders in Vietnamese given out. A few minutes after that we received incoming artillery on our position. All we could do was get in our holes and hope that an artillery round won't fall in our holes. It seemed like forever that the artillery bombardment continued.

At approximately 0430H, the Vietnamese launched a ground assault against our perimeter using automatic rifle fire, rocket propelled grenades and satchel charges(a bag with dynamite inside) during their attack. The perimeter was breached several times and each time we drove them back. The Vietnamese company would withdraw-but only to organize and attack again. This fighting back and forth lasted until about 0615H when the Vietnamese made their last attack and once again we held our perimeter and the NVA withdrew.

All communication with Headquarters had been lost for about an hour and the platoon commander was unable to call for artillery fire on our position.The Marine artillery was unable to provide supporting fire and were hesitant to fire on our position. Once the NVA had withdrawn the platoon commander was able to locate a radio and called in a fire mission on the departing NVA. The call for medical evacuation was received at Headquarters and helicopters were dispatched to pick up the Marines that were wounded and dead.

Arriving at our landing zone at 1015H, the helicopters received artillery fire. One landed, picked up a few wounded but took off. We helped and carried some of the wounded to the next ridge. Again the helicopters came in and the NVA commenced their artillery fire. The 58 wounded Marines were aboard. The decision was made to leave the 24 Marines that had been killed where they were. Headquarters did not want to lose any helicopters, pilots and crew members. Those of us that remained were given orders to hump further up the ridge line and wait until dark.

We had all our packs and gear blown up. We kept our helmets, flack jackets. The orders were that we were going back for the dead Marines. Alpha Company had sent in a platoon to provide security. We went back in the cover of darkness not knowing what to expect or if the enemy would be waiting for us. Would we able to locate all the bodies? Would we encounter the enemy there recovering their own? A million questions went through our minds. Every nerve on edge. We had survived one night. Would we survive another one? Needless to say we carried the dead Marines all night. The bodies had been wrapped in ponchos and been out in the sun all day. The smell of blood, feces and decomposing bodies was overwhelming. Most of the bodies were in bad shape to just look at much less carry them all night.

August 11, at 1015H, we stopped and constructed a landing zone. Radio call was made and helicopters were sent for the pick up. My friends and I boarded the helicopters with the dead Marines. Those six of us that survived from our platoon of 45 Marines were, Brooks Mayti, Rocco Laurie, Steve Brenesien, Fred Diaz, Gregory Germany and myself. We had been without sleep for 2 days. In such life threatening situations the body is capable of survival because of the adrenaline the body produces. It takes some time for that feeling to go away. It's like taking a drug.

The saddest part about the dead Marines situation is that in the darkness we miscounted. A Marine was left behind. The dead Marine was one of my good friends PFC Charles Alton Poe. He always joked about being related to Edgar A Poe and he would start quoting The Raven. A Recon Team was sent to locate the body. He was found three days later on August 13. I had taken his picture the afternoon of August 9. I asked him what he was thinking about. He answered I have a bad feeling. Here's the address of my wife in CA. Just in case I don't make it out of here. Several months after being discharged I contacted his wife but I never told her what actually happened to Charles. I know that he was in a closed casket and that must have been hard for her. It was hard for me. I regret not telling her about him and never sending that one last picture of him. I still remember him after all this years.

Having been to Vietnam is something I will never forget and do not regret much. I regret not being able to save some Marines. But I'm satisfied that there were those that I did. I was sent to do something for my country and to attempt to save another country that it's citizens were being slaughtered and butchered for no reason. I do regret that we were given a job to do but hindered by those in DC.

I know that I'm able to travel anywhere in this country and if I find myself in trouble I can call any of my Marine friends and they will come help me. Such is the brotherhood that exists among Marines. A brotherhood forged in combat with sweat, blood and tears. A brotherhood that exists until we are no more. We lived together, we cried for our friends that died, we shared our lives, our hopes and dreams, we shared everything, we shared about our families back home, some of them gave their lives, we bled and shed our blood together. Some of us still continue to share things after all this years. No better brotherhood exists.

With everything that happened while I was over there, I know and believe that God was with me and protected me. I never gave up on Him knowing that He wouldn't give up on me. That He had a plan for me to return home and be here today. Perhaps I haven't done much in several years. But thinking back of where I was and have been, seen and done, I think I have experienced more in one year then some people do in a lifetime. This is a chapter of my life that I haven't shared much with other people. There was too much sweat, blood and tears and a part of me that died in Vietnam. A lot of things best left unsaid.

Semper Fi

Antonio Gonsales

Visit Echo Co. Site By Antonio Gonzales

E Co, 2nd Bn, 3rd Marines
Hq Bravo, 1bn, 12th Marines
A Co, 1bn, 3rd Marines
H&S Co, 2bn, 3rd Marines Killed On 10 Aug 1969

Please click on image to go to their VVMF page
SSgt. Alberto Anzadula.
Pfc. Joseph Hesson
Lcpl. Stephen Glowe
Pfc. Richard A Johnson, Jr.
Pfc. Peter Kristof
Pfc. Robert Marmie
Pfc. Ronald R Ozimek
Pfc. Charles A Poe
Pfc. Reginald m Sater
SSgt. Charles B Seminara
Pfc. Michael F Sheridan
Pfc. Lindsay C Turner
Pfc. Luther Walker, Jr.
Pfc. Dale Wilkinson
Pfc. Donald L Elliott
Pfc. William R Dickey
Pfc. James G Hilliard
Pfc. Michael Mooney
LCpl. Sam Catalano
LCpl Lawrence K Dowd
Pfc Brian E Wolfe

How To Help Build This Memorial

We really do need your help with building this memorial to our late friend and U.S. Marine Donald Lyle Elliott. You do not need to know web editing and no financial aid is asked nor will be accepted. If you wish to contribute money, please contribute to your favorite charity in Donald's name. What is most needed is your thoughts, stories, letters and memories as well as pictures.

Your contributions of these items will allow us to create a memorial thaty tells a story about this brave young man. It is our desire to see that Donald L Elliott's short life is not limited to a name carved on a wall or in the memories of those who loved him. Those of us who knew him personally are getting on in years, so telling our stories about Donald is the best way to present this living, breathing American hero. It is also a beautiful way to remind others of the sacrifice of 58,204 other young Americans like our beloved friend and hero Donald Lyle Elliott. Thank you for visiting and helping us remember our Marine.

The music "The Parting" is © Kevin MacLeod ( and us used in compliance with the terms of a Crative commons License.

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Created on 5/7/2014

Article written by Antonio Gonzales, USMC, A Survivor

Updated and Revision 1.02b Applied 6/8/2015

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