Sgt. Dan Bisher - Vietnam Veteran

A Late Lunch

On October 23, 2013, I'll celebrate the 50th anniversary of my arrival at MCRD San Diego. In October 1963 I walked from my home in Hillsdale, MI, to City Hall with an idea to enlist in either the Air Force or the Navy. Those two recruiters had taken a late lunch, but the Marine recruiter, a Corporal, invited me to wait for them in his office and have a cup of coffee. While waiting I noticed all the brochures, posters, etc., and asked him about the Marines. I remember him telling me, "Oh no. You came here to see the Air Force and Navy. I'm not going to steal you away from them." I responded that I wasn't under any obligation to those guys and just wondered what the Marines had to offer. To make a long story short, I enlisted in the Marine Corps and it was, by far, one of the best decisions I've made during my life.

On October 23, 1963 I left Detroit Metro airport on a 707, my first airplane ride. Arriving in San Diego, Calif., and at the Marine Corps 

Marine 7 CU.JPG

Recruit Depot (“showplace of the Marine Corps”) then standing on the yellow footprints will forever be etched in my memory banks. Along with 70-some other “maggots” and “t-rds,” recruits, privates, I ended up in Platoon 379, “I” Company, Third Recruit Battalion. The senior Drill Instructor was Staff Sergeant Washington. He was ably assisted by Sgt. Flick and Sgt. Larry Grubbs. Washington and Flick both wore Korean campaign ribbons. For the first few weeks everyone in the platoon lived in mortal fear of newly promoted Sgt. Grubbs, but as it turned out, he taught us a lot of little things that have stuck with me during my lifetime. Grubbs was a master at bed making and fingernail clipping, rifle cleaning, and basically keeping ourselves neat and clean. When we graduated and SSgt. Washington gathered us together to let us know what our MOS (military occupations specialty) would be most were 0300 (infantry) or communications, artillery and guys assigned to sea school and later as security aboard Navy boats.  Mine was 4300. I remember Washington asking me if I were some kind of genius because he'd never heard of that MOS. For those of you who have seen the movie Full Metal Jacket, I was Joker; a Marine Corps Combat Correspondent, a fighter/writer.

After Infantry Training Regiment and boot leave back home, I reported to the base newspaper and public information office at Camp Pendleton and was assigned to Headquarters Company, Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division. In August 1965 I boarded ship (Daniel I Sultan) and went off to the 3rd Mar Div in South Vietnam. Reported in to the Informational Service Office (ISO) - now called Public Information Office (PIO) - in Da Nang. My first night in country was spent on guard duty walking around General Lew Walt's HQ. After a week, or so, I was sent to Chu Lai and began humping the boonies with infantry units to gather and write stories for the Stars & Stripes, Sea Tiger (Third Marine Division newspaper), Leatherneck Magazine, and most military post and station publications.  On rare occasions, a Marine correspondent’s story would be published in a civilian newspaper or magazine.  One of my stories, a brief article about a Gemini spacecraft that flew over a night march through the rice paddies, made the New York Times. Spent most of my time accompanying the Second Battalion, Fourth Marine Regiment commanded, at that time, by Lt. Col. P. X. Kelly, later General Kelly and Commandant of the Marine Corps. Just missed Operation Starlight, but humped over mountains and through jungles and rice paddies during combat operations named Harvest Moon, Double Eagle and Double Eagle II, Utah, Texas, Hastings, Prairie and numerous others that had names I've forgotten. After Operation Double Eagle, I received a Purple Heart Medal.  When my 13-month tour came to an end, I ended up at the Marine Corps Supply Center in Barstow, Calif., working on the base newspaper "The Prospector". I liked Barstow. While there I bought a brand new 1967 Camaro Super Sport and was promoted to Sergeant. Got accepted to college and was released from active duty on September 1st, 1967, about two months short of my four-year anniversary date. I first attended Cerritos Community College in Norwalk, CA and later California State University, Fullerton. In college I majored in communications and journalism. My career has provided employment as a public relations executive, magazine and newspaper editor, columnist, reporter, investigative journalist, author, lecturer and historian. Not every Marine Corps MOS translates into civilian employment so I consider myself lucky, lucky, lucky.


Dan Bisher