LZ Kevin
USMC, H&S 1/3
"Speaks and Jackson saved my life by giving theirs."
May 22nd, 1969

Copyright (2009) by Bill Bratton
USMC, 1968-1972


USMC Bill Bratton, H&S 1/3, LZ Kevin, 1969
Photo Left: USMC Sergeant Bill Bratton. 1969.

LZ Kevin, Northern I Corps of Vietnam - I was a radio operator (2531) in H&S Co. First Battalion, Third Marines, Third Marine Division (H&S 1/3/3). I was attached to 81mm Mortars officially, but did not spend all my time with them. On LZ Kevin, that day, I was with Delta 1/3.

It was May 22nd, 1969 and we were supposed to move off of LZ Kevin that morning. The time for the choppers came and went. Scuttlebutt said that the General needed the choppers to go to the PX. You know how scuttlebutt is. Some had even started filling in the holes. We were leaving this place. Then the rounds started coming in.

We were close to the DMZ so we caught a little of everything. It went on and on. Someone was just over the top of the hill from me and they were standing up between impacts trying to get a fix on where the mortars were so we could call in Arty on them. After it had gone on for what seemed like hours, I heard the unmistakable sound of a round landing down in a hole.

(Left) USMC Tim (Last unknown). (Right) USMC KIA Paul Edward Speaks. 1969
Corporal Paul Edward Speaks and PFC Ralford John Jackson were in the next hole over from me, about six feet away. I jumped up to check on them knowing there was no chance since it was a direct hit in their hole. A couple of us started to lift one of them out of the hole by his arms and legs. When we started to lift, the remains began to come apart. We had to wrap them in ponchos and gently lift them out of the hole and carry them up to the LZ so they could be flown out when the shelling stopped.

When I went back to my hole, it had also taken a direct hit while I was moving Speaks and Jackson to the LZ. My weapon, my pack, all my gear and all my personal items had been destroyed. If we had been in that hole, we would have been dead too. Speaks and Jackson saved my life by giving theirs. I will never forget that.

(Left) USMC Tim (Last unkown).
(Right) USMC KIA Paul Edward Speaks. 1969.

KIA USMC Ralfrod John Jackson, H&S 1/3, LZ Kevin, 1969.

I heard just last year from another Marine, Bill Ervin, a machine gunner with D 1/3 who was on LZ Kevin that day, that the After Action Report said there were between 400 and 500 NVA regulars closing in on that hill when we moved to another hill and were pulled out.

This has been on my mind for almost 40 years. I recently watched a movie called, "Taking Chance." It is based on a true story about Marine LtCol Michael Strobl escorting the remains of Marine Chance Phelps back home. I decided at that time to try to contact family members of Paul Speaks and Ralford Jackson. I still have not reached any of Paul Speaks' family but I did get in touch with Ralford's mother. It was a very emotional time for both of us. Mrs. Jackson told me that every year on Memorial Day some of Ralford's old friends come over and visit with her. I told her how well her son was liked by his fellow Marines. I told her how he did not suffer and never even knew what hit him. I told her how him dying had saved my life and how I would never forget that. She thanked me for calling and asked that I stay in touch with her.

Photo Right: KIA USMC Ralfrod John Jackson, H&S 1/3, LZ Kevin, 1969.


If anyone knows how I can get in touch with Paul Speaks' family then please contact me at twbratton@comcast.net. Paul's home of record was Newark, Ohio.

“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” —G. K. Chesterton
"Often Tested, Always Faithful, Brothers Forever"
Bill Bratton- Former Sergeant of Marines