James Anderson, Jr.
Every Marine has his (or her) own reasons for joining the U.S. Marine Corps. I suspect there are so many reasons that it may be impossible to catalog them all. Jim Anderson was 19 years old when he signed up from Los Angeles, California. Whatever his reason, Jim had just completed 18 months of college. Apparently, his sense of duty to his country was more important than staying in college.
As with most “West Coast” Marines, Jim Anderson attended recruit training (boot camp) at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, California. After graduation, he was promoted to Private First Class, and, as with all West Coast Marines, attended Infantry training at Camp Pendleton, California.
In late 1966, the Marines had been fighting in South Vietnam for going on two years. In December, James joined the 3rd Marine Division, and he was subsequently assigned to Company F, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment (Fox 3/3). In February, the elements of five battalions participated in Operation Prairie II — a continuation of Operation Prairie I. which took place under the overall command of Brigadier General Michael P. Ryan, formerly the Commanding General, 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade. Ryan supervised the employment of 2/3, 3/3, 3/4, 1/9, and 2/9.
These operations were necessary because during the Tet Holiday, having agreed to a cease-fire, the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) used the temporary truce to infiltrate across the DMZ into the Republic of Vietnam (RVN). On 25 February, Marine artillery initiated the bombardment of NVA units within (and north of) the Demilitarized Zone (called the DMZ). The NVA responded by bombarding the area of Con Thiên and Firebase Gio Linh.
On the morning of 27 February, a Marine reconnaissance patrol northwest of the Cam Lo Combat Base attempted to ambush a small unit of NVA soldiers. As it turned out, the NVA unit was larger than the Marines thought, which became apparent when the NVA suddenly attacked the attackers. The NVA unit was a rifle company of the 812th infantry regiment. It didn’t take long for the Marines to get on the radio and call for assistance. When the request came in for support, Lima Company, 3/4 was in the process of conducting a security patrol north of Cam Lo. Operational authority diverted Lima Company to aid the recon unit. Nothing seemed to be working out for the Marines that day because beyond being bogged down by thick vegetation, a company of NVA regulars attacked Lima Company, which stalled the effort to save the Recon Marines.
In view of these circumstances, Ryan ordered Golf Company, 2/3 from Camp Carroll to extricate the beleaguered recon patrol. Golf Company linked up with the recon Marines at around 2340 that night.
At 0630 on 28 February, the NVA hit Lima Company’s position with more than 150 mortar rounds. The communists followed their artillery bombardment with a major ground attack against three sides of the Lima Company’s perimeter. Rocket-propelled grenades slammed into both Marine tanks supporting the company but remained in operation. Within a period of two and a half hours, Lima Company repulsed three separate attacks. In that time, the company lost four Marines killed and 34 wounded. Ryan dispatched Marines from Fox Company 3/3 to reinforce Lima 3/4. Fox Company linked up with Lima Company at around 1030. Meanwhile, Golf Company 2/3 formed a blocking position on Hill 124. En route to the blocking position, the Golf Company Marines found themselves engaged by NVA from both sides of their route of march. The battle lasted well into the afternoon — with Golf Company losing seven killed, and 30 wounded.
At 1430, the 2/3 command element under Lieutenant Colonel Victor Ohanesian moved with Fox Company from Lima Company’s position toward Hill 124. Jim Anderson’s platoon had the point position. This movement triggered an NVA ambush, and the Marines were hit with intense small arms and automatic weapons fire. The platoon reacted quickly, forming a hasty defense, and mounting a stiff resistance.
PFC Anderson found himself bunched together with other members of his squad twenty yards in front of the enemy line. As the battle intensified, several of Anderson’s squad members received debilitating gunshot wounds. When an enemy grenade suddenly landed in the midst of the squad near Anderson’s position, Jim Anderson unhesitatingly, and with complete disregard for his own safety, reached out, grasped the grenade, and pulled it under his chest to shield his fellow Marines from shrapnel. PFC Anderson’s personal heroism saved members of his squad from certain death. In an instant, Private First Class James Anderson, Jr., gallantly gave up his life for his fellow Marines.
When Operation Prairie II concluded on 18 March 1967, U.S. Marines had suffered 93 killed in action, and 483 wounded. In this one operation, American forces killed 694 NVA regulars. The fight continued under Operation Prairie III on 19 March.
Richard Allen Anderson
Richard was born in Washington, D.C. on 16 April 1948 but raised in Houston, Texas, graduating from M. B. Smiley High School in May 1966. Richard Anderson also attended college before dropping out to join the Marines on 8 April 1968. After graduating from boot camp in San Diego, California, and infantry training at Camp Pendleton, California, the Marine Corps ordered Richard to Sea School in San Diego. Promoted to PFC on 1 July 1968, Richard completed his training in October and proceeded to Okinawa, Japan, where the Marine Corps assigned him to the 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade and assigned to Company D, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines.
In January 1969, Marine Headquarters assigned Anderson to Company E, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion where he served as a platoon scout and later, as an Assistant Fire Team Leader. The Marines promoted Anderson to Lance Corporal on 1 June 1969.
In the early morning hours of 24 August 1969, Anderson’s recon team came under heavy automatic weapons fire from a numerically superior and well-concealed NVA ambush. Although knocked to the ground by the enemy’s initial fire and painfully wounded in both legs, LCpl Anderson rolled into a prone shooting position and began to return fire into the enemy’s ranks. Moments later, he was wounded for a second time by an enemy soldier who had approached within eight feet of the Marine defensive line.
Undeterred by his wounds, LCpl Anderson killed the enemy soldier and continued to pour a relentless stream of fire into the enemy. Observing an enemy hand grenade land between himself and members of his fire team, Anderson immediately rolled over onto the grenade and absorbed the full impact of its deadly explosion. Through Richard’s indomitable courage and selflessness, he saved his fellow Marines from certain death. In that instant, Lance Corporal Richard A. Anderson gallantly gave up his life for his fellow Marines.
Greater love hath no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends
James and Richard Anderson, though sharing a last name, were unrelated — except that both were United States Marines. Both men were in their twenties; both Marines distinguished themselves through virtuous behavior on the field of battle. Both Marines were posthumously awarded the nation’s highest recognition: the Medal of Honor. There was but one difference in these young men: their skin color. Both of these young men gave all they had to give — and did it in order to save the lives of their Marine brothers.
 Traditionally, honor graduates from recruit training receive promotions to Private First Class upon graduation. It is likely that Anderson was so recognized in his graduating platoon.
 Michael P. Ryan, a former enlisted Marine, served at Iceland, Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Saipan, and Tinian during World War II. For service at Tarawa, Ryan was awarded the Navy Cross medal for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service as a company commander and provisional battalion commander on Betio Island.
 Killed in action.
 James Anderson was the first black Marine to receive the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War.
4 thoughts on “No Greater Love …”
Thanks for sharing these accounts of heroism.
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You’re welcome, Mark. That’s what this blog is all about. Mostly.
Mustang, I enjoy all your pieces, but this one is simple, to the point, and reveals why we are all proud to have been Marines. Thank you for including us in this, as you honor those two Marines. God Bless!
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