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By Pat Lisi – Southern Utah Vets Aid

In Vietnam we mostly relied on our platoon commanders to know where we were at all times and to get us where we needed to go without fear of getting lost.  But, we double-checked our leaders just the same for safety and reassurance.

Pictured here is Corporal Ira Stone, the platoon guide for 2nd Platoon, Echo Company, 2nd Battalion of the 5th Marine Regiment.  I was one of the platoon’s squad leaders when this shot was taken, and Ira was making sure that we were headed in the right direction to complete the current mission (which I have long forgotten, of course).

Ira and I learned the hard way that we needed to do some homework when the platoon commander was given a destination for a mission.  Up in the Que Son Mountains we had a young 2nd lieutenant who proved to be quite handy at getting our platoon lost.  To be fair, patrolling at 1,000 feet elevation under the thick cover of jungle foliage is far different from going from point to point in the flat, rice paddy farms of the lowlands.  But, just the same, the lieutenant we worked for in the Que Sons (I’m avoiding using his name, because he died back in the states after the war) was simply not a good map reader.  And, especially in the jungle of Vietnam one had to be spot-on with their map/compass skills.  All kinds of aweful things can happen when you don’t know where you are.  “Friendly” fire missions, for example, might rain down upon your group as you flounder around trying to find a hole to crawl into.  Enemy ambush was another problem for a lost platoon of Marines.  If you don’t know where you are how can you call for support?

Homework kept us alive in Nam.  You never got into too big a rush to skip the day-to-day planning stage of an operation.  Corporal Stone was a master at keeping the lieutenant on his toes when it came to where were headed.  Stone also patrolled with the various squads in the platoon and I never heard any of the other Marines complain when he was out there with us.  Not only did he represent another rifleman on the trail if the shit broke loose, but he made sure the patrol stayed headed in the right direction.  All-in-all Stone was a great platoon guide and he helped keep us all alive.  I believe there would have been fewer casualties to the Marines in Vietnam if all the smaller units had had a guide like Corporal Stone with them.


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