A Marine Company Commander In Vietnam

by Col. R. D. Camp, Jr. with Eric Hammel

In this vividly told first-person narrative, retired Marine Colonel Dick Camp colorfully recounts the daily combat actions and command decisions of his Vietnam experience as “Lima-6”—the commander of Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 26th Marines—from June 1967 through January 1968.

Upon his arrival in Vietnam, Captain Camp finessed his way into the immediate command of Lima Company following the death of its previous commander near Khe Sanh. Instantly, he was thrown into the tense experience of patrolling the beautiful, deadly jungle valleys around Khe Sanh and escorting supply convoys along embattled Highway 9 between Dong Ha and Khe Sanh.

For six full months, Dick Camp commanded Lima Company in alternating periods of intense combat and intense waiting—a typical, virtually emblematic experience shared by his peers in the 1967-1968 phase of the war in northern Quang Tri Province, bordering the DMZ and North Vietnam. In early September 1967, Camp’s battalion was almost overrun near besieged Con Thien in an ambush sprung by a full North Vietnamese Army regiment. In early January 1968, Lima Company ambushed the commander and staff of a North Vietnamese regiment apparently charged with assaulting the Marine lines at Khe Sanh. Three weeks later, Lima Company and the rest of the reinforced 26th Marine Regiment were besieged inside the Khe Sanh Combat Base by two North Vietnamese divisions.

As much as Lima-6 is about fighting the Vietnam War, it is also the story of the tight camaraderie of the Marine infantry company at war—of men from widely disparate backgrounds thrown together to succeed or fail as a fighting force. It is a compelling human story of an infantry company at war as seen through the eyes of its commander—the lonely man upon whom all others depend for guidance, wisdom, strength, and humor.

An intensely frank, always human memoir, Lima-6 sets out to make no political or ideological points. It is a candid, refreshing narrative by a combat commander about the experience of command and the brotherhood of men at war. Lima-6 is, above all, an honest account of life and death at the heart of the Vietnam War.