My Marine Corps Days

by Bill Shipley, HM1, USN

If you don't see the Index to the Left, click here

Bill Shipley's Retirement PhotoMy military career started on July 1, 1970. I started boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, Calif..

I joined the Marine Corps to do a certain job and that job was promised to me via the beloved Marine recruiter. I went completely thru Marine bootcamp without telling anyone what I was going to be. After graduation, here we around the DI in semi circle and he gives out each man his MOS. To make a long story short......the drill instructor got to me: PVT SHIPLEY! SIR! PVT SHIPLEY.....O3!! I couldn't believe it. I was just given the MOS 03, short for grunt....hump, hump and hump! VietNam here I die!

What I was expecting the Drill Instructor to say was: PVT SHIPLEY! .....SIR!....PVT SHIPLEY..MEDIC! I had know idea that the Marine Medics came from the Navy....honest! The recruiter lied to me big time! Spent my first year in the Corps as a 0341 ( Mortarman). I went to Nam very quickly. I was sent to FSB ROSS, Vietnam in Dec. 1970 and stayed in the Queson Mountains and surrounding area for about 2 months. This was the 3rd Battalion/ 5th Marines/ 1st Mar. Div. area and they were going home to Camp Pendleton, Calif..

I was transferred to 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Division in QuangTri Providence. I spent the remainder of my time in Nam on a hill ( Hill 190), in Happy Valley. I was several clicks east of DaNang Harbor/ Namo Bridge. The picture of me with the two vietnamese kids was made on that hill. I worked from this hill and the surrounding area. I was used the 60mm/ 81mm mortars and went out with the units and did boo-koo road sweeps. I would like to share one, of many, worst days I had. It was Apr. 28, 1971. I was with a Marine unit out on ops west of Hill 190. It was hot....damn hot (120+). We had already lost a guy that day due to heat stroke while making a water run. We had to take a break, it was a hell of a day. We had been humping all day and the heat was kicking our butts. I was so tired, I had to have another Marine help get my pack off. We were exhausted and hungry. We hadn't had anything to eat for since the day before.

Truthfully, I am not exactly sure where we were, but this Marine 0V-10 comes swooping in on us......probably just checking us out. It came in real low......I could see the rivets on the plane very clear. I was under a poncho, which I used for was hot. The OV-10 leaves, but comes back. I heard it make that long trip up....way up and then it comes swooping back down.....this time even lower.

I remember seeing the pilots look my direction and give a salute...which I throwed one back. A few moments crashed. We had to saddle up quick.....and run about 300 yards thru some pretty harsh bush and monkey grass. We recovered the bodies and destroyed the remaining wreckage so charlie couldn't use it later.

That was the way the Nam was. One minute your just trying to keep cool and the next your pulling a body out of wreckage. I will never forget that salute and I will never forget that day. Everytime I saw the pilots do their salute on the Hancock.....I thought of these two men who crashed in this OV-10. I also thought about them when that CH-46 went down with officers Nystil and Shea. Brought back that day in Apr. 1971. I will never forget them ( we recovered their bodies....and I will not go into that). I will never get the image of them saluting us and smiling and then the horror of seeing them hit the ground, in a very dense forest and bush area.

The explosion was extremely huge and the fireball was also huge and the heat was felt at least 100 yards before we arrived on site. Here are the pilots from the OV-10 crash (report was, they came under enemy fire):

CWO - W2 - Marine Corps - Regular
Length of service 18 years
His tour began on Aug 1, 1970
Casualty was on Apr 28, 1971
Body was recovered
Panel 03W - Line 16 ( SEYBOLD was a Silver Star recipient from another heroic action he did prior to this crash.


1LT - O2 - Marine Corps - Reserve
Length of service 4 years
His tour began on Dec 28, 1970
Casualty was on Apr 28, 1971
Body was recovered
Panel 03W - Line 16

When I got back from Nam, the 1st Marine Division went to Camp Horneo, Camp Pendleton. The Marine Corps didn't know what to do with all of returning vets, so they sent us to the 4 winds of the Marine Corps. I went to Combat Engineers, Camp Pendleton. I became a heavy junk operator for 1st Bridge Company, 7th Engineers, Camp Pendleton. I got out of the Corps in July 1974. I couldn't make a go of it in the civilian world due to the the Nam war. I decided to follow my first desire in the service and joined the Navy in Dec. 1974. This time I made sure that I had a contract to go to Corp School and become a Navy Corpman. The Navy said that the school was already full for the year and I would have to wait several months, if not a year before I could go to school. They said that they were going to put me on a ship until the school had an opening, thus my adventures on the USS Hancock.

I had never been on a ship and when I reported was up the Officers Brow. When I got out of the Marine Corps I was an E-5. When I went into the Navy, I had to settle for a bust to E-3. That is what got their attention at the Officers Brow....... an E-3 striker with over 18 medals and decorations. They definitely knew I wasn't your regular sailor coming aboard. The only Navy training I got when I joined was at NTC, SanDiego, Calif.

I went thru a 2 week OSVET course and shipped off to the Hancock. OSVET means Other Service Veteran. Corky Johnson was an OSVET X 4. He was amazing man.
Well, thats about it in a nutshell. There is it in nutshell. I tried to be brief, but I wanted you to know my connection with the two pilots that died that night during the Evacuation. I didn't sleep for days and I have never been the same. I remember the two Crew members that survived that CH-46 Crash........I got to talk to them alot as we took care of them in ships hospital.
Well, gotta go. Hope this is good. I definitely hope it makes sense. There is so much between the lines I wished I could say, but I don't like to go there. I definitely find it a great honor to have served on the USS HANCOCK. She is definitely a highlight of my Military career, in more ways than one. Semper Fi,

Semper Fi,


Bill Shipley, HM1, USN, 1975
Former Marine and Vietnam Veteran

Note: If you were this man who suffered such a terrible loss in Vietnam during those final days, or know who he is, please sound off.

Bill continues to help the Vets in his chosen field working in a VA Medical Center in Tennessee, and what a legacy he has woven for himself!

- Jake

click patch for larger image.

Medical Department Patch was provided by
Shipmate Robert J. "Bob" Chalfant, HM3, USN (Ret)
Email Bob

Some photos taken while I was in Vietnam...

Click Picture
for Larger View

Click Image for Larger View

Vietnam - 1972
Click Picture
for Larger View

Click Image for Larger View

Read Bill's exciting 'Emergency Breakaway' Story in our Oral Histories

Click here for some Off-Site info on Emergency Breakaways

How I inadvertently saved a Sailor's Life: Being Led by the Spirit - Bill wasl always on Station like the Hancock, and he listened to his 'Inner Voice' and it paid off in great dividends here!