Theartis Watts was an 18-year old rifleman in my Marine infantry platoon in Viet Nam in 1968. He was a big-city kid from Philadelphia with an incredible knack for finding delicious Vietnamese fruits and vegetables to augment our C-rations, and he had one of the most brilliant smiles I’ve ever seen. When he smiled, which was often and in the most dire circumstances, his entire face lit up. Theartis won a Bronze Star with Combat “V” for conspicuous gallantry on April 13, 1968 in a nasty firefight a few kilometers east of Hue City. When my platoon sergeant and his radioman were killed, Theartis took over the radio and established comm with our company commander. Since my radioman had been wounded, and his radio rendered inoperable by enemy machine gun fire, Theartis’ action to secure an operable radio, while under heavy enemy fire was critical to making higher headquarters aware of the severity of our tactical situation.
After I transferred out of the platoon, Threartis remained behind. It was in this position on August 17, 1968, that he led a night-time patrol of Marines in an area south of Da Nang. When in their ambush position, Theartis detected a group of shadowy figures approaching. Under his Rules of Engagement, he was authorized to open fire without further action, but due to ongoing problems with RVN Popular Force (local militia loyal to Saigon) patrols wondering into Marine-only areas, Theartis challenged the approaching group. The response was immediate bursts of automatic weapons fire from the group, which proved to be a hard-core VC patrol.
Theartis was fatally wounded in the first bursts, but his Marine patrol was able to return fire from their concealed positions and secure the ambush site, forcing the VC patrol to flee. Theartis knew well that by issuing this challenge when he could have just opened fire on the unidentified figures he was taking upon himself the risk that by giving up the element of surprise he would both forfeit the Marines’ tactical advantage and put himself at mortal danger.
P.F.C. Theartis Watts gave his life in an attempt to insure that no friendly Vietnamese forces would suffer another “friendly fire” encounter as long as this 18-year old Marine was in charge.
[ See here for Theartis Watts, Jr. on the Virtual Wall. ]
Contributor: Roger Charles
By Roger Charles
Well, folks, sometimes things move much faster in Washington than experience would lead one to expect. This happened Monday and yesterday (May 21 and 22) when Sen. Carl Levin and Sen. John McCain, Chairman and Ranking Minority Member respectively, of the Senate Armed Services Committee short-circuited the public dispute between the Army acquisition mafia and NBC News about recent NBC reporting (assisted by SFTT and DefenseWatch) that showed Pinnacle Armor’s Dragon Skin performed “significantly better” (the words of retired Army Gen. Wayne Downing) than the DOD issued Interceptor Body Armor system in the first-ever comparative “shoot-off.”
SFTT/DefenseWatch have had as our final objective on the body armor issue for over a year and a half: “best-available” body armor for America’s frontline troops, and as the first intermediate objective we have called for full and fair ballistic tests of all feasible body armor systems to determine what is truly “best-available.” Once such testing takes place, America’s Grunts and their families and friends will finally have a definitive answer to the question as to what body armor these great defenders of freedom should be wearing on the killing fields in Iraq and Afghanistan. Continue reading
Washington, DC – In light of recent media reports suggesting that a particular body armor system may offer better protection than the system currently being used by our service members, Senators Jim Webb (D-VA) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) — both members of the Senate Armed Services Committee — today called on Comptroller General of the United States David M. Walker to initiate a Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigation to reassess the body armor systems currently being issued by all the military services and the Special Operations Command for effectiveness and reliability against the threats facing U.S. troops in combat.
“For several years, I have heard reports from active duty troops and military experts that Dragon Skin body armor is more effective than that currently being used,” said Senator Webb. “We owe it to those who are in harm’s way to examine conclusively whether this is true.”
“With United States troops risking their lives daily in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, we owe it to them to make sure they have the best equipment possible,” Senator Clinton said. Continue reading