PFC Paul Melvin Beddoe was a member of Company B, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion. PFC Beddoe died Jan. 21, 1968 in a Da Nang hospital, one day after he received fragment wounds from an explosive device while on patrol in the vicinity of Khe Sanh (Hill 881S). He was my Dad’s 1st cousin. As long as he is remembered, he will never be forgotten! ~Cpl. Beddoe
Bob (PJ) Pagano was with Paul when he was hit. The following is PJ’s first-hand account as written to me.
I didn’t know Paul that long. He was a “new guy” compared to the hand full of us that were left from when the company moved up to Khe Sanh. At the time Paul came to the company I had pulled twenty something patrols and was pretty crazy compared to those who were just coming on board. Crazy in the way you had to be to survive so many missions in the densely jungled and incredibly rough terrain at Khe Sanh which held at least 20,000 fresh NVA solders. All that combined to give Bravo Company the highest casualty rate of any Recon Company in the war for that period – by far. I became, let’s say, “focused” on being in the bush and my social skills kind of dropped away as did all the more refined behavioral features of my personality. I didn’t really get to know the new guys well because they were, well, new and I didn’t like getting to know them and then see them get killed or wounded. If I stayed kind of aloof I wouldn’t get emotionally invested and loosing them would be easier, or so I thought anyway (it didn’t really work but one grabs at anything to try to blunt the blow). The new guys, in turn, were a little stand offish with us older guys (keep in mind that chronological age is irrelevant, it was time in the bush that determined if you were “old” or “new”). They saw us as kind of wild and strange – and we were.
I pulled a couple of patrols with Paul before Barkwood. He had a good sense of humor and was of upright character. New guys were sent out with experienced teams to get “snapped in” as they say. They then either stayed with that team or were assigned to another team as needed. Barkwood was a brand new team having just been formed and consisted mostly of new guys that, like Paul, had already been “snapped in”. The exceptions were Lionel Guerra and Ron Parr both of whom had a fair amount of experience. However, Barkwood didn’t have an experienced radio operator so when I approached the team leader, Corporal “Bill” Bryan, and asked if I could join the team he walked me right over to the XO and got it approved. As you know from having read the stuff on the website about the Warriors of Hill 881S; we (Team Barkwood) choppered up to Hill 881S on January 19th 1968. India Company of 3/26 occupied the hill under the command of Captain William Dabney and he was to take most of India Company the following day and patrol up to Hill 881N where they were to look for the lost radio from Recon Team Dockleaf that had been hit there on the 17th and lost two men. (I had been in the bush on the 17th and remember monitoring the fire fight on my radio and telling our team leader, Julian Kalama, that Cpl. Healy and Lt.Yeary had been killed. I don’t remember the call sign of Kalama’s team at that point but I do remember that when I came in from that patrol I instantly asked to go out with Barkwood because I wanted to get back in the bush.) We were attached to India’s 3rd Platoon who made up the right column and we were to drop off covertly when we neared Hill 881N. (This was a method that was used from time to time to insert Recon teams. I didn’t care for it because you immediately had to worry about the Grunts opening up on you. It only took one of them not to get the word, catch a glimpse of you, mistake you for the NVA and open up whereupon the rest would as well.) Our orders were that if India came under fire before we could drop off we were to return to Hill 881S (because our mission at that point would have been blown). When about half way to Hill 881N the Grunts came under fire. It started with seven shots from a heavy machine gun; first three then four a second later. India took a lot of casualties and our team leader, Cpl. “Bill” Bryan volunteered that the team join the Grunts rather than withdraw as instructed by our operation order. Lt. Brindly, India’s 3rd Platoon Commander, accepted the offer and we added our seven rifles to theirs.
Paul was calm and collected as we took some fire and established a perimeter for evacuation of the Grunt wounded and dead. He required no special attention and did what he was supposed to without hesitation or complaint. That may not sound like much but it is; it really is. A lot of guys, especially new guys, jam up at these times. Helping with dead and wounded Marines, taking fire, smoke, concussion, noise like you’ve never heard before, choppers coming in firing, not knowing what will happen next – all that is really scary stuff. Paul didn’t bat an eye, kept a steady hand and performed like a real pro.
Lt. Brindly asked us to get on line for an assault up the small hill in front of us (the intermediate objective). This was the classic Marine “walking assault”. To put a point on it: We were about to walk, uphill, into the flaming muzzels of an entrenched, numerically superior and determined enemy. By comparison, the scariest thing you’ve ever imagined is kids stuff. Paul got on line, again, without hesitation or complaint.
Lieutenant Brindly gave the command: “Fix bayonets!” We all looked at him at once. Recon guys never hear this command in their line of work. In fact, I doubt that there was a single bayonet among us. But it sure drove the fact home about what we were about to do.
Paul never wavered. The assault stepped off and we moved downhill for a few yards and then started up the intermediate objective. We quickly lost contact with the Grunts on our left (what remained of 3rd Platoon) and were now the extreme right of the Marine line. The elephant grass was high and we had trouble keeping sight of each other. The enemy held fire until we were among them at the top of the hill. Then things got pretty dicey.
The Grunts didn’t know we had made it that far and opened up on us at the same time the NVA did (the Grunts couldn’t see us because of the elephant grass and were shooting at where they knew the NVA were). We were vastly outnumbered and rifle fire was coming from every direction along with enemy grenades and Marine mortar rounds. There was so much fire and so many NVA that each of us was locked in our own little war. It was pretty desperate fighting and we were all hit. I took a bullet right away and was preoccupied with that and getting the Marine fire off of us so I don’t know what happened with Paul – I couldn’t see him. He was taken from the hill along with Lionel Guerra and the others about an hour or so before I was. I know Lionel saw him at the bottom of the hill where they had taken the wounded (Lionel was wounded very badly also).
Eventually, I was taken from the hill (something I had not expected to live to see) through a fantastically courageous rescue by the Marines of India Company (God bless the Grunts). After a short stop at Khe Sanh for blood, morphine and bandages I was flown to the huge Navy Hospital in Da Nang. They had me on a gurney and were wheeling me into a large, dark room that had scores of metal saw horses holding up stretchers on either side of the central isle that they were rolling my gurney down. The room seemed cavernous and had only enough light to barley make out the interior. As we proceeded down the isle there was an island of bright light coming up on my left. As we got loser I could see that there were lights and medical personnel clustered around a stretcher. I.V.’s were running to a Marine on the stretcher; it was Paul.
The Corpsman around him were comforting him in the uniquely tender way military men do. A genuine form of love that exists only in those circumstances. I called out for him not to worry, that everything was OK and that he was going home. He didn’t hear me. He was quite delirious and wasn’t conscious in the real sense of the word. Had he survived he would have had no memory of that time – I’m sure of that. The Corpsman pushing my gurney told me in a subdued voice that Paul had shrapnel wounds throughout his liver and pancreas and wouldn’t survive. “S**t!” I thought (the same thing I thought back on the hill when Cpl. Bryan told me he was going to die and then did so). S**t – what a totally inadequate comment. “Inadequate” applies though; that’s what I felt while I watched my friends die and could do nothing about it.
I don’t know how anyone can say that something positive can come out of a tragedy like Paul’s death. But, for me at least, I’ve tried to off set it to the tiny degree that I can. Over the last 37 years I’ve never passed an accident or failed to render assistance whenever the opportunity presented itself. I’m not a paramedic or anything but I’ve been able to help none the less. I know some basic first aid but I’ve found that holding and comforting an injured person while waiting for the ambulance to arrive helps them a great deal – they’ve told me so. One went through a lot of trouble to track me down two years after the fact, just to say thanks. I do it because of Paul, and he’s with me while I’m doing it.
This is something else you must know: When Lionel and I were at the Khe Sanh reunion last July we were swarmed by the Grunts that were there on January 20th 1968. They told us that Team Barkwood was eternally bonded to their company for having fought beside them on that hellish day. A few years ago Col. Dabney (the C.O. of India Company) told me that when we assaulted up that hill we assaulted into a company sized flanking movement that the NVA were making on the Marine right. He said our aggressiveness stalled the NVA attack (the NVA mistook us for a much larger unit than the seven men we were). Had that flanking movement been successful a lot of marines would have died – a lot. That night hill 861 was hit and almost fell (an incredible battle). It held because of the supporting fire that 881S was able to deliver. Had that NVA flanking movement not been stalled the Marines on 881S probably would not have been able to support hill 861 and without that support 861 certainly would have fallen (indeed, 881S might have fallen as well). There, at the reunion, I looked at all the Marines and Corpsmen from those two hills and I realized that there were hundreds of children and grand children alive today because of Paul’s courage. His death is neither in vain nor hollow. It begot a great deal of life.
I spoke with Lionel Guerra the other day and he told me that before that fateful day he and Paul had been talking and he discovered that Paul had family in Oregon and Washington. After Lionel got home to Washington he tracked down an aunt of Paul’s in the eastern part of the state. He told me that she said Paul’s death had been hard on the family and abruptly brushed him off. Obviously, Lionel didn’t pursue any further contact. So, I leave it to you as to whom you pass this along to. I don’t think it can hurt to know that a loved one’s death was not for naught but I leave it to your good judgment.
Son Of Phoenix Couple Dies In Vietnam Hospital
Marine PFC. Paul Melvin Beddoe Jr., 19, son of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Melvin Beddoe, Route 4, Box 466A, Phoenix, died Jan. 21 in a Da Nang hospital, one day after he received fragment wounds from an explosive device while on patrol in the vicinity of Quang Tri. The Marine was a member of Company B, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion. He was rushed to the hospital in Da Nang immediately after the injury occurred but treatment failed to save his life.
The message was delivered by a Marine captain and a Navy officer from Eugene to the youth’s mother yesterday afternoon. His father, who is with the Miller Products Division of W. R. Grace Company, was attending a meeting in Sacramento where he was contacted. He returned to Medford last night.
Young Beddoe, an outstanding student throughout his high school career at Phoenix, had been interested in military history throughout his life, listing it as his favorite subject. After attending Walla Walla College in College Place, Wash., for one year he enlisted in the Marines June 1, 1967, and arrived in Da Nang Dec. 4.
He was born in Medford Nov. 13, 1948. While a student at Phoenix High School, he won the first place trophy in the junior men’s division in oratory at the Linfield College Speech Tournament. He was also prominent in track at the high school with the shotput his leading event. He was one of the speakers at his class graduation at Phoenix High School and was a member of the Young Americans for Freedom.
The Beddoe family has lived in the Rogue River Valley since 1945. Surviving in addition to the Marine’s parents are two sisters, Dr. Gladys Beddoe, who is in her first year of residency for surgery in the Riverside County Hospital, Riverside, Calif., Pamela Beddoe, a freshman at Phoenix High School, and one brother, Alex F. Beddoe, in his second year at Loma Linda University School of Dentistry, Loma Linda, Calif.
Siskiyou funeral Service Directors are in charge of arrangements.