CPL. DAVID A. JOHNSTON U.S.M.C.
DAVID A. JOHNSTON served with the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, M Co. He was K.I.A. during Operation TAYLOR COMMON. CPL. Johnston's name stands proudly on the Mike 3/5 Wall of Honor. Semper Fi, Brother Marine. We will never forget.
Operation Taylor Common started 7 December 1968 and continued through until March 8, 1969 and was conducted southwest of AnHoa in area identified as Base Area 112, a major staging area for the NVA. The intent of the operation was to build and secure a supply line from Da Nang to An Hoa. 3/5's participation started on 11 December when the battalion landed on Hill 575, and established FireBase Lance. Operations in the surrounding areas continued until February 14, 1969, when all units left except for Mike and Lima Companies 3/5. Pressure on the two remaining companies increased throughout February and by the end of the month they endured nightly mortar barrages and ground assaults. FSB Tomahawk was attacked just after midnight on March 1. Quoting from Semper Fi, Vietnam, page 231 "Four Marines in a listening post first heard the enemy moving toward their position. Private First Class Daniel D. Bruce, a mortar man from the Headquarters and Service Company, 3/5, caught the explosive device in mid-air, then shouted a warning to his buddies as he leaped from the bunker. Intent only on protecting his fellow Marines, Bruce held the device to his body as he ran into the jungle. Before he could dispose of the charge, it exploded. Bruce absorbed the full and deadly blast, but his buddies survived to fight off their attackers. Bruce would receive a posthumous Medal of Honor for his valor." On 3 March, Mike Company ran into a well entrenched enemy force. Two of the three Marines who died in the first few seconds bodies could not be recovered because of withering fire. A series of bitter fights occurred through March 6 in an effort to recover the bodies. Force Recon eventually recovered them. On March 8, the operation ended after forcing the NVA out of Base Area 112 and capturing huge quantities of arms and supplies.
Forty years have passed since that fateful day in the jungle of Quang Nam province South Vietnam.
The following are recollections and memorials collected from the MIKE 3/5 website...written by fellow Marines who fought along aside the Pickerington High School graduate and Marine for which our Post is named: David A. Johnston.May CPL. Johnston forever be remembered: as a son, a brother, and as a United States Marine. Semper Fi.
CPL. DAVID ALLEN JOHNSTON
BORN 20 NOVEMBER 1949
CANAL WINCHESTER, OHIO
K.I.A. 3 MARCH 1969
HOSTILE, GROUND CASUALTY GUN, SMALL ARMS FIRE
BODY WAS RECOVERED
QUANG NAM, SOUTH VIETNAM
Panel 30W - - Line 25
CPL. Michael McFerrin
Third Platoon, Mike Company
3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment, 1st Marine Division HILL 332 3 March 1969. On March 3, 1969, Mike Company was halfway up the ridge heading to Hill 332 when an NVA ambush was encountered. The contact with the enemy was brief and violent. The attackers withdrew shortly under withering return fire from the various portions of the column that were able to fire over or around the fallen point Marine. The scout dog handler was severely wounded and the scout dog was not approachable by anybody except his handler. This caused quite a delay as several Marines using shirts wrapped around their arms subdued the dog so that the wounded handler could be reached. The muzzle was recovered from the wounded Marine’s gear and wrestled on to the dog. With the leash and muzzle firmly in place, the dog was minimally responsive to being handled by somebody new and was secured while a corpsman treated his handler.
The incident caused us to be delayed for almost three hours. Constant attention was required to keep the wounded man alive. CPR was applied multiple times as he began to succumb. The "canopy" of tree layers above us was so thick that it was difficult to find a place where it was thin enough to at least get a sling through to remove the casualty and his dog. A place was finally found and a medevac was called. It was so late in the day that the Company Commander opted to set us into a perimeter there where the medevac was coming. While we waited for the medevac, a squad-size patrol was sent further up the trail to recon the area. This patrol ran into a heavily entrenched force some 70 meters further up the ridge. The squad left 3 men killed in action directly in front of a well camouflaged bunker when they were finally able to withdraw. The remaining hours of daylight were spent to recover these bodies and simultaneously dealing with two and three man enemy probe attacks that were slipping through the underbrush to hit the backside of our perimeter. Two bodies were recovered from the ambush site and there were three separate unsuccessful attempts to get the last one before shutting down for the very dark night that comes to the forest.
Thanks for My Life
My name is Rocco E. Giambrocco. I served with Dave in the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, Mike Company during all of 1968 and 1969 until the day he was KIA. I was wounded in the same action.
Dave and I had also been wounded at the same time in May 1968 on Hill 1192. We took heavy casualties in that battle and we lost the third member of our little group, Rick Hoffman. I was wounded first - I had been walking point. Rick came to my aid along with Dave. Rick was shot in the head and Dave and I pulled him to a safer position and I defended while Dave attempted to save Rick's life.
Rick lasted for several hours and then quietly passed away. The small-arms fire was extremely heavy and Dave decided it was time to get me out of there. In that attempt, he was wounded by shrapnel from an exploding mortar.
Dave still pulled me to safety and we awaited rescue by chopper. I went out on the chopper first, and we were shot down. Dave came out on another chopper and we eventually hooked up again at the NSA Hospital in DaNang. As we recovered, we went to a place on the base and had matching cigarette lighters made and we kept them as "good luck charms."
On March 1, 1969 I was wounded and evacuated by chopper. Dave was KIA two days later. His death haunted me for decades. It still does. Dave was my friend and he was the man who saved my life. I owed him mine. He was a good Marine, a GREAT friend, and a tremendous young man. I miss his laugh and smile, I can still hear his voice and the accent he gave to some words because he was from Ohio. He used to laugh at MY accent from Massachusetts.
I tried to locate Dave's family for many years. I even wrote to the Office of the Governor in Ohio and they actually researched for me and responded. Unfortunately they could not locate his family.
I eventually took the lighter that matched his, and I buried it with an American flag in a beautiful wooded area in Ashby, Massachusetts. I carved his name and information on a marker and I left it. I never returned to it. I tried to put it all behind me. I cannot.
I will be riding my Harley to Washington DC just prior to Memorial Day 2000. I will visit The Wall and I will visit Dave. I will say a prayer for him, thank him for the life he gave back to me, and tell him that he is thought of often, and loved by his friend from 'M' Company 3rd Battalion 5th Marine Regiment 1st Marine Division. Unit - Corps - God - Country
God Bless you Dave, and thank you. Wish I had you to talk with now and then. You are remembered. By the way, the word for the jungle is 'BUSH' not ' BOOSH'. Hahaha. Remember? Semper Fi, brother. ~Rock
FOREVER IN MY THOUGHTS
We spent many months together in the same squad. I knew of you, very well, but personally, I did not. I always felt you had too many other Marines in your life, and I would stand back. You were a very good leader, and I respected you. You were a Marine that I knew would go out of his way to help in any situation. You fell by enemy fire beside me. I reached out and touched you. I looked at your face. You were at rest. David, this is my memorial to you. I will never forget you. I think of you often. I have prayed to God, I continue to pray to God to place his eternal love in you, and give you peace and happiness forever. I salute you as you were an outstanding Marine.
Forever in my thoughts, Respectfully, Michael Alden