Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks Upon Presenting the Presidential Unit Citation to the 5th Marine Regiment (Reinforced), 1st Marine Division (Reinforced)

October 17, 1968

Secretary Ignatius, General Chapman, General Houghton, distinguished guests:

This is not a new event for the 5th Marine Regiment. Seven times in its 54-year history the 5th Marines have been awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.

During World War I, units of the 5th Marine Regiment played an important part at Belleau Wood--inflicting a major setback on the German army and halting its advance on Paris. That battle earned the Marines the nickname "devil dogs," and won for them the first of three awards--the French Croix de Guerre.

The gallant history of the 5th Marines continued throughout the days of World War II when the Regiment saw action throughout the Pacific theater--from the first U.S.. offensive at Guadalcanal to Okinawa.

As part of the 1st Marine Provisional Brigade, the Regiment was the first infantry force sent from the United States to Korea in 1950. In that campaign alone, the 5th Marines won the Presidential Citation four different times.

Units of the Regiment first went ashore in South Vietnam as special landing forces in March and April of 1966, and since then have operated in all parts of the I Corps, have taken part in numerous major operations and have defeated the enemy in every encounter. As a direct result of its actions in the early summer of 1967, the 2d North Vietnamese Army Division was rendered completely ineffective as a fighting force for many months.

So these are some of the recitations of battle activity. They may sound abstract and remote to you as we recount them here in this beautiful, brilliant garden that is half the world away from the battlefield where you served.

But they are real. And they are so close to us that they fill our hearts with anguish. But they also fill it with a swelling pride, too, and they fill it with a gratitude that I cannot find words to adequately express to each man who wears a Marine uniform.

The other evening I read the ticker, and I asked a girl to come in and take a message. I sent a message to a great Marine general, whose son, a young Marine lieutenant, had just left his legs in that bloody section of Vietnam which all of you men know so well and will always remember as the I Corps. Later that night I wrote the young lieutenant himself in his hospital, just to let him know that he was in the thoughts of his President and the hearts of the people of his country.

All I could say to that father, as I searched for words, and that son, was that America is in their debt because of their sacrifices for America--and that is for us. They were not empty words.

I stand here now before you and I think how great the debt is that America owes all of you--all of you brave men who have stood quietly, humbly, lonely, and faced the terrible test of courage and character, and in a test of both, you have always come through with flying colors to make every American proud.

These days I keep thinking of one of the most memorable lines in President Kennedy's inaugural address that our people seemed to repeat to themselves for many years, "ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country."

This morning, here as symbols of that sentence are men who have asked not something from their country, but have asked what they could do for their country--I hope that every American will think of the words of John F. Kennedy and ask himself today, not what his country can do for him, but is there anything else that he can do for his country.

In a tragic hour of our history the best men that America could produce have given their limbs, their lives, and their youth, and left their loved ones--their wives and their babies. They have given the fullest measure of their devotion. So that what? So that we who are privileged to stand here in the shadow of the White House, today in this beautiful garden, may live safely and breathe freely and our children may grow up educated, in good health, and in security.

America will endure because of you and your comrades. Freedom will live because of what you have done for us and for free people. You have moved the world and part of the world will remember you well. Your President will.

I never think of a Marine but what I think of a man who wants to do more, not less; a man you have to hold back and not shove. As I present you with this citation, I salute you in the name of the freedom that you defend and the honor that you have won for your country.

Thank you.

[Secretary of the Navy Paul R. Ignatius read the citation, the text of which follows.]

The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the




for service as set forth in the following


For extraordinary heroism in action against North Vietnamese forces during Operations UNION and UNION II in the Que Son area, Republic of Vietnam, from 25 April to 5 June 1967. Throughout this period, the 5th Marines (Reinforced) was assigned the mission of destroying the enemy forces, their supplies and equipment. With the initiation of a heavy engagement by a Marine rifle company in the vicinity of La Nga (2), the 5th Marines deployed to exploit the contact. Despite extremely short notice, the reinforced Regiment moved with alacrity to meet the enemy's challenge. This rapid reaction resulted in the establishment of contact with a well-organized North Vietnamese Army force; once engaged, the 5th Marines tenaciously pursued the enemy over an extensive pattern of rice paddies, hedgerows and fortified hamlets. Unable to disengage while being subjected to relentless pressure, the 21st North Vietnamese Regiment finally made its stand at the hamlet of Phouc Duc (4). For four days commencing 12 May, the 5th Marines resolutely attacked the fortified enemy positions. Valiantly withstanding heavy enemy mortar barrages and repelling fierce enemy counterattacks, the Marines shattered the entrenched enemy. Operation UNION II was launched on 26 May with a helicopter-borne assault to destroy the withdrawing remnants of the 21st North Vietnamese Regiment. Attacking aggressively, the 5th Marines uncovered the 3d North Vietnamese Regiment dug in near Vinh Huy and were met by a withering barrage of mortar, machine-gun and recoilless rifle fire. Resolute in their determination, the Marines continued to maintain pressure and, at nightfall, launched a bold night attack which ruptured the enemy's defenses and drove the tattered vestiges of the North Vietnamese unit from the field. UNION and UNION II inflicted over three thousand enemy casualties and eliminated the 2d North Vietnamese Army Division as a combat force to be reckoned with for many months. By their aggressive fighting spirit, superb tactical skill, steadfastness under fire, consummate professionalism and countless acts of individual heroism, the officers and men of the 5th Marine Regiment (Reinforced) upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.


Note: The President spoke at 11:45 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Secretary of the Navy Paul R. Ignatius, Gen. Leonard F. Chapman, Jr., Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Brig. Gen. Kenneth J. Houghton, Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff of the Marine Corps. During his remarks the President referred to retired Lt. Gen. Lewis B. Puller, the most decorated man in Marine Corps history, and his son, Lt. Lewis B. Puller, Jr., who lost both legs in a mine explosion in Vietnam.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks Upon Presenting the Presidential Unit Citation to the 5th Marine Regiment (Reinforced), 1st Marine Division (Reinforced) Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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