service as set forth in the following
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the
call of duty as a Platoon Commander with the Third Force Reconnaissance Company, Third
Reconnaissance Battalion, Third Marine Division, in the Republic of Vietnam on 16 February
1968. While on a large-range reconnaissance mission, Lieutenant Grave's eight-man patrol
observed seven enemy soldiers approaching their position. Reacting instantly, he deployed
his men and directed their fire on the approaching enemy. After the fire had ceased, he
and two patrol members commenced a search of the area, and suddenly came under a heavy
volume of hostile small arms and automatic weapons fire from a numerically superior enemy
force. When one of his men was hit by enemy fire, Lieutenant Graves moved through the
fire-swept area to his radio and, while directing suppressive fire from his men, requested
air support and adjusted a heavy volume of
artillery and helicopter gunship fire upon the enemy. After attending the wounded,
Lieutenant Graves, accompanied by another Marine, moved from his relatively safe position
to confirm the results of the earlier engagement. Observing that several of the enemy were
still alive, he launched a determined assault, eliminating the remaining enemy troops. He
then began moving the patrol to a landing zone for extraction, when the unit again came
under intense fire which wounded two more Marines and Lieutenant Graves. Refusing medical
attention, he once more adjusted air strikes and artillery fire upon the enemy while
directing the fire of his men. He led his men to a new landing site into which he
skillfully guided the in-coming aircraft and boarded his men while remaining exposed to
the hostile fire. Realizing that one of the wounded had not embarked, he directed the
aircraft to depart and, along with another Marine, moved to the side of the causality.
Confronted with a shortage of ammunition, Lieutenant Graves utilized supporting arms and
directed fire until a second helicopter arrived. At this point, the volume of enemy fire
intensified, hitting the helicopter and causing it to crash shortly after liftoff. All
aboard were killed. Lieutenant Graves' outstanding courage, superb leadership and
indomitable fighting spirit throughout the day were in keeping with the highest traditions
of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for
From Inside Force Recon, Recon Marines in Vietnam by Michael
Lanning and Ray Stubbe;
Team Box Score of the Third Force Recon Company reached its assigned
recon zone six miles northwest of Dong Ha on 15 February 1968 by walking from the nearest
firebase. Composed of eight men including patrol leader Second Lieutenant Terrence
C. Graves, six enlisted Marines, and a corpsman, Box Score had a rather typical mission,
to determine enemy activity, engaging what enemy they found with supporting fires,
locating landing zones and trails, and attempting to capture a prisoner.
By the afternoon of the 16th, the team had reached an area overlooking
a small stream pocked with bomb craters. Hearing voices in the thick brush across
the waterway, the team crossed the stream to set up an ambush in a bomb crater alongside a
trail. Within minutes seven NVA walked down the pathway. When the enemy was
within five meters of the ambush, the recon men opened up, killing all seven. In the
brief firelight, the NVA were barely able to return fire; however, two of the rounds they
managed to get off struck Corporal Danny M. Slocum, tearing away shin and muscle from his
thigh but not producing life threatening wounds.
While the team medic, HM3 Stephen R. Thompson, was treating Slocum,
Graves hastily searched the bodies and found a diary along with other documents. The
patrol leader then called a med-evac for the wounded Marine and began moving the team to a
better point to bring in the helicopter. Box Score made it only a few meters before
the team was raked by automatic weapons fire from two different directions.
Graves ordered the team into a hasty perimeter as the Marines returned fire.
Several of the NVA machine guns were knocked out by accurate M-79 grenade launcher fire by
Corporal Robert B. Thomson, though Thomson had been unable to spot the exact position of
the automatic weapons until Private First Class Michael P. Nation exposed
himself to mark their positions with tracer rounds for Thomson to zero in on.
The silencing of the enemy machine guns brought only a brief lull to
the fighting. Every minute, more NVA joined the battle, until at least two companies
were ringing the eight-man patrol. Despite the number of NVA, Graves had to move his
team to a better position from which to fight and hopefully be extracted. As the
lieutenant directed in air strikes and gun ships to cover their movement, the team began
inching its way to the top of a small knoll. At one point a CH-46 attempted to land
near the team but took several hits and had to lift off.
As the CH 46 flew out of range, the NVA again concentrated their
firepower on the recon team. Graves took a bullet in the thigh, but an inspection by
Doc Thompson revealed that the bone was not broken. After a quick bandaging, Graves
was back on the radio coordinating the supporting fires. No sooner had the corpsman
finished with the lieutenant than Corporal Thomson yelled that he too had been hit.
A bullet had penetrated the Marine's left side and shattered the pelvic bone before
lodging in the abdominal cavity. Doc Thompson recalls, "He said, I'm
blacking out, Doc, Im blacking out. Then he passed out on me, and I
think at that moment he died. I started closed-chest cardiac massage and
mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. While I was doing this, Lopez, Private First Class
Adrian S. yelled, Doc, Emrick's (Lance Corporal Steven E.) hit, I think he's
dying. I looked over and said, Nation [who had been cross-trained by Thompson
in medical procedures], just do what you can."
Nation alternated between treating Emrick and doing his best to fight
off the NVA. According to Nation, "Emrick kept saying, 'Get the radio off.'
That was what he was talking about; he wasn't worried about himself. Lopez
finally got it off by snapping off the bottom of the pack. Then Emrick said, 'Oh my
God,' and that's the last thing he said. I started to give him mouth to mouth. Lopez
said he could still feel a pulse."
There was no letup in the NVA fire despite the repeated runs by
fixed-wing aircraft and helicopter gun ships. Graves continued to fight as he
directed the team to make another attempt to move to higher ground. With Doc
Thompson and Private First Class James E. Honeycutt dragging Thomson and with Nation and
Lopez carrying Emrick, Graves and Slocum provided covering
fire despite their wounds. A few minutes later Box Score reached the low grassy
ridge that was large enough for a set down extraction. Although the patrol was then
in a good position for extraction, the ridge they occupied was paralleled by two higher
hills, both occupied by the NVA only 100 meters away.
The fight by the eight Marines against several hundred NVA had been
going on for over an hour and a half. Another CH-46 made an attempt to reach the
team but took heavy fire and had to regain altitude. Captain David Underwood, orbiting the
fight at 1,000 feet in his H-34, radioed that he was coming in to make the extraction.
Flying behind a Huey gunship for covering fire, Underwood came in at treetop level
through a gauntlet of small-arms and machine-gun fire, touching down only a few meters
from the team. Intense fire immediately centered on the H-34, shattering the side
windows and some of the pilot's instrument panel gauges. More rounds were slamming
into the fuselage and fuel pods. Although practically every warning light was lit up
on the still operational parts of the instrument panel, Underwood stayed at the controls,
waiting for the recon team to climb aboard.
Dragging, pulling, and crawling through the elephant grass, the Marines
loaded the aircraft as Graves continued to return the NVA fire. Three long minutes
passed as the recon men ensured that their wounded buddies were pulled onto the aircraft
that was now profusely leaking fuel and was in danger of exploding. Nation later
stated, "I guess Lieutenant Graves saw how bad the plane was hit and realized if the
chopper didn't leave then it wouldn't be leaving at all, because I saw him waving at the
pilot and yelling 'get' or 'get out.' He did this realizing that he might get hit again
and his chances of getting back were pretty slim, but he wanted to make sure that the
rest of us made it back. What Lieutenant Graves did is the bravest thing I've ever
As Underwood began to lift the crippled chopper, the NVA ran out of
their protected positions for better shots. One burst strafed the bird, a bullet hitting
Lopez in the thigh and glancing off the bone and into the Marine's stomach. As the
helicopter gained a few feet of altitude, Slocum and
Honeycutt realized that Graves was being left behind, with no words exchanged between the
two, both Marines jumped from the helicopter to help their lieutenant. With the loss
of weight of the two men, Underwood was able to gain altitude quickly and nurse the bird
to the nearest medical facility. More than 20 bullet holes were later counted in the
Meanwhile, Underwood's wingman, Captain Carl Bergman, was attempting to
pick up the remaining recon men. Three passes through the NVA fire failed to find the
Marines, but on the fourth try Bergman spotted the trio and set his H-34 down near them.
The chopper immediately came under intense automatic weapons fire from NVA so close
that initially Bergman could not distinguish between the sounds of the outgoing from his
door gunners and the incoming from the enemy. A shout from the cargo compartment
revealed that the crew chief had been wounded and that the fuel cells were hit and
leaking. Bergman was forced to lift off before the remaining members of Box Score
were able to fight their way to the helicopter.
Graves, Slocum, and Honeycutt continued to return fire as they made
still another attempt to move to a more advantageous position. The NVA dropped two
mortar rounds near the trio but did no damage. Suddenly a UH-1 pilot spotted an
opening and swooped in almost on top of the Marines. The Huey hovered just off the
ground as the recon men threw their gear aboard and pulled themselves into the aircraft.
Cross fire from the NVA zeroed in on the chopper as it attempted to lift off.
Graves was hit again, as was the copilot, who slumped over the controls. The
Huey nosed over and crashed on its side into the jungle.
Slocum found himself on top of "a heap of bodies." As
he crawled out of the helicopter, 15-20 NVA were sweeping toward him on line. The
enemy spotted the Marine and opened fire as he turned and ran toward a nearby stream.
Hitting the streambed at a dead run, Slocum was able to elude his pursuers.
By then, darkness was closing in on the battle area. A reaction
force consisting of a platoon of B Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines air-landed near the
crashed Huey to rescue any survivors. Before they reached the downed aircraft, they
too became engaged with the NVA from three directions and suffered one killed and four
wounded. Unable to proceed, the platoon formed a defensive perimeter.
Slocum heard the firefight from his hiding place near the stream but
decided to remain in place. He later recalled matter-of-factly, "I didn't want
to go back over there. There was a firefight going on and I didn't want to get shot
At daylight the next morning, the remainder of B Company was lifted in
and finally reached the crashed chopper to report that Graves and Honeycutt were dead and
The missing Marines problems were not yet over. In his
attempt to link up with B Company, the infantry Marines mistook him for an NVA and called
in artillery on him. Slocum states, "It didn't bother me; I got down in a
When the infantrymen started toward Slocum's hole, not wanting to take
any more chances, he headed in the opposite direction. Finally a chopper spotted him
and coordinated his joining up with B Company. Slocum was evacuated to the Naval
Hospital in Cam Ranh Bay where after two and a half months he recovered from his wounds
and eventually rejoined the Third Company. Thomson, Lopez, and Emrick were not so
fortunate. All three died of their wounds either aboard Underwoods helicopter
or within hours of reaching the evacuation hospital.
Slocum, Doc Thompson, and Bergman later received the Silver Star.
Thomsons Silver Star and Honeycutts Navy Cross were both awarded
posthumously. Underwood also had earned a Navy Cross. On 2 December 1969, in
the office of the Vice President of the United States, Spiro T. Agnew presented the Medal
of Honor posthumously to the family of Lieutenant Graves.