Marine Receives Navy Cross for Actions in Vietnam War
(February 13, 2011)
Navy Secretary Roy Mabus speaks to Ned E. Seath after presenting him with the Navy Cross and the Bronze Star Medal with “V” device for valor in a ceremony at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Va., Feb. 11, 2011.
WASHINGTON, Feb. 11, 2011 – Nearly 45 years
after he saved almost an entire company of
fellow Marines in Vietnam, a Marine Corps
veteran was formally recognized today for his
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus
presented Ned E. Seath with the Navy Cross --
the second-highest award a Marine can receive
for valor -- in a ceremony at the National
Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Va.
Then a lance corporal, Seath was serving as
a machine gun team leader with the 3rd Marine
Division's Company K, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine
Regiment, when he halted an assault of North
Vietnamese soldiers July 16, 1966, using an M-60
machine gun he reassembled from spare parts. But
his story of heroism was tucked away when his
service in the Marine Corps ended.
Seven years ago, his story resurfaced during a
battalion reunion, leading to a movement started
by Bill Hutton, who served with Seath, to
recognize Seath's heroism.
“All I could think was they're going to be overrun us and
they were going to kill us all,” Seath said. “I had Hutton
and Bennett on my flanks with fixed bayonets holding them
off. They gave me a good two more minutes to make one good
His unit, one of the four Marine battalions in
Task Force Delta, was called into action to support
Operation Hastings, an effort to push the a North Vietnamese
army division out of South Vietnam's Quang Tri province. The
company's mission was to establish a blocking position in
the middle of an enemy trail network.
Led by platoon
commander David Richwine, now a retired major general,
Seath's role was to provide machine-gun fire to aid in
disrupting North Vietnamese army activity in the area. After
landing, Seath's company soon came upon a reinforced enemy
platoon waiting for the Marines in a defensive position.
During the ensuing onslaught, Seath moved to obtain a
disabled machine gun from a wounded Marine nearby, building
an operational M-60 machine gun out of two inoperative
weapons, and he quickly returned devastatingly accurate fire
to the oncoming enemy.
One of the weapons simply
malfunctioned, Seath said, while another fire team a few
fighting positions away could provide only semi-automatic
fire. He pulled out a clean poncho, grabbed some grease and
a brush, and went to work on the two weapons to craft the
one the Marines so desperately needed.
Seath began laying down machine-gun fire in the prone
position. As his field of fire became obstructed by enemy
casualties, he completely disregarded his safety as he knelt
at first and eventually stood up, fully exposed to enemy
fire, to continue repelling the enemy's advance.
“Everyone was fighting for their lives,” Richwine said,
noting that the advancing enemy was closing in. “Several
Marines even had affixed bayonets. Seath was providing
well-aimed, disciplined machine-gun fire, which ultimately
killed their attack. It was a combined effort stopping the
enemy, but Seath was the guy with the tool to do the job
best -– all while in the dark.”
All that illuminated
the sky that night was sporadic flairs from passing
aircraft, but what lit the battlefield was the tracer rounds
-- red streaks from the Marines and green streaks from the
North Vietnamese army, Richwine said.
“If it weren't
for Ned Seath, I'd be buried right now ... in Arlington
[National Cemetery],” said Hutton, who fought alongside
Seath during that battle. “We were surrounded and
outnumbered. But Ned didn't quit. He went above and beyond
the call of duty. He saved a company of Marines.”
this night, only the second night of the operation, Seath
was very familiar of the possibility of dying on the
battlefield for the sake of his fellow Marines. Just 24
hours earlier, he had rushed to the aid of two wounded
Marines under heavy machine-gun fire that already had
claimed the lives of two Marines, and dragged them to
safety. For these actions, he received the Bronze Star Medal
with a “V” device for valor, which was presented along with
his Navy Cross.
“What Ned went through - what he did
- is emblematic of the Marine Corps,” Mabus said. “This is
one of the biggest honors I have. Ned Seath is a hero.”