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This Web Page is humbly dedicated to the memory of CW2 John W. Frederick, Jr. RIO.  A WW II and Korean War Vetran.  Shot down December 1965, POW in Hanoi, Died July 1972 while a POW.


This page is also dedicated to:  Jack Deese, Art de la Houssaye, John Kramer, Richard Kerr, James Lambert, Rick Norris, Richard Royer, William Ryan and Charles Smith.

They gave their all.
Commanding Officers from 1 Jul 1964 to 10 Sep 1982  
LtCol Norman W. Gourley  1 Jul 1964-30 Jan 1965 Maj Thomas G. Leach 1 Jun 1971-30 Apr 1972
LtCol Andrew W. O'Donnell 1 Jul 1965-20 Jul 1966 LtCol Thomas C. Leach 1 May 1972-8 Jun 1972
LtCol Aubery W. Talbert  21 Jul 1966-29 Jan 1967 LtCol Albert E. Brewster 9 Jun 1972-28 Feb 1973
LtCol Gordon H. Keller, Jr. 30 Jan 1967-15Jul 1967 LtCol Michael P. Sullivan 1 Mar 1973-2 Jul 1974
LtCol Edison W. Miller 16 Jul 1967-13 Oct 1967 LtCol Don K. Hanna 3 Jul 1974-3 Jul 1975
LtCol Harry T. Hagaman 14 Oct 1967-16 May 1968 LtCol Michael R. McDonough 4 Jul 1975-22 Jul 1976
LtCol Don J. Slee 17 May 1968-11 Dec 1968 LtCol William W. Mackey 23 Jul 1976-26 May 1977
LtCol Ira L. Morgan, Jr. 12 Dec 1968-25 Mar 1969 LtCol Hardy A. Slone 27 May 1977-1 Aug 1978
Maj Robert L. Bainbridge 1 Apr 1969-31 Jul 1969 LtCol David V. Denton 2 Aug 1978-13 Aug 1980
Maj Karl A. Zimmerman II 1 Aug 1969-9 Mar 1970 LtCol Christian F. DeFries, Jr. 14 Aug 1980-3 Sep 1981
LtCol Keith A. Smith 10 Mar 1970-6 May 1970 LtCol Jerry R. Cadick 4 Sep 1981-10 Sep 1982
LtCol Donald L. Waldvogel 7 Mar 1970-31 May 1971    
Prisoners Of War      
Dunn, John H. Miller, Edison W.    
Frederick, John W. Jr. * Warner, James H.    
*Died while a POW in 1972.    


  On 1 July 1964, the squadron returned to MCAS Cherry Point where it had been commissioned 21 years earlier and was re-designated as Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323 (VMFA-323) and received its first McDonnell Douglas F-4B Phantom II.  323 deployed to NAS Key West form 15 Dec 64 through 15 Jan 65 to stand the Cuban missile crisis fighter alert.  While deployed to Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico in March 1965, the Dominican Crisis erupted.  VMFA-323 provided air cover during the evacuation of American citizens, and flew armed reconnaissance missions with their dual role Phantoms.

   On 25 Oct 65, 323 relocated to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan.  VMFA-323 arrived in South Vietnam on 1 Dec 65 at Da Nang Air Base and commenced combat operations the day after their arrival and on 7 Dec the Deathrattlers suffered their first personnel losses.  Maj John H. Dunn, the squadron XO and his RIO CW2 John W. Fredrick were shot down.  Both were captured and Maj Dunn survived over 7 years as a POW and CW2 Fredrick died after 5 years as a POW.  From 2 Dec 65 through 28 Feb 66, the squadron flew 1.567 combat sorties for a total of 2,131.6 hours.  From March to June 66, 323 stood air defense alert on Taiwan.  On 23 June it was relieved and returned to MCAS Iwakuni the next day.  On 5 July 66, they returned to Da Nang.  On 6 Oct 66 323 was reassigned to Chu Lai airbase. 

  In the month of January 323 flew 516 combat missions for 653.4 flight hours.  On 18 April, the CO LTCol Gordon H. Keller, Jr and his RIO, Capt Hugh L. Julian on a routine mission, experienced electrical failure.  Both ejected and landed in the South China Sea.  LtCol Keller was soon spotted and rescued.  Capt Jullian, however, was not located for 9 hours.  He suffered a broken arm and was picked up by a shrimp boat.  The squadron flew more than 200 combat sorties in support of Khe Sanh from 30 April to 4 May 67.  On 15 May, VMFA-323 departed for MCAS Iwakuni for a 3 month R&R period.

  On 16 August the Deathrattlers returned to Chu Lai airbase for their 3rd tour.  In September the squadron expended a record 1,343.8 tons of ordnance.  On 13 Oct 67, the new CO, LtCol Edison W. Miller and his RIO First Lieutenant James H. Warner on a support mission near the DMZ were diverted to attack 2 tracked vehicles and were hit by ground fire.  Both men ejected and were captured and were POWs for more than 5 years.  During the same month a Phantom flown by Maj Daniel I. Carroll and Capt James J. Hare III was hit by heavy weapons fire just north of Con Thien.  Both ejected over water near Da Nang and were recovered.  On 22 Jan 68 during a flight led by the new CO, LtCol Harry T. Hagaman and his RIO Capt Dennis F. Brandon, their Phantom was hit by ground fire while skimming low over the tree tops.  Capt Brandon ejected while LtCol Hagaman tried to stabilize the F4.  This delay almost cost him his life as the Phantom started tumbling end over end barely 100 feet above the ground.  The 2nd time he saw green, he pulled the alternate ejection handle between his knees.  Within seconds,  rescue helicopters darted in and plucked the uninjured Marines to safety. 

  At 0400 on 31 Jan 68 an intense rocket and mortar attack hit the Chu Lai compound which killed Capt Arthur J.J Delahoussaye and seriously wounding First Lieutenant Richard A. Kerr who later died on board the USS Sanctuary.  In April the squadron flew 575 sorties for 640.9, totals which were representative of the preceding months.  The Deathrattlers provided support for the Marines at Khe Sanh and the A Shau Valley and north of the DMZ.  Support missions continued into the early months of 1969, but the period from 1-25 March found the squadron preparing for transfer to 3rd MAW at El Toro.  The aircraft departed Chu Lai for Cubi Point in the Philippines in mid-March and from there were loaded on ships for transport to the US.  This marked the end of the Deathrattlers 3rd combat tour of duty in the Pacific, spanning 2 decades and 3 wars.  VMFA-323 served almost continuously from December 1965 until March 1969, flying 17,000 combat sorties from Da Nang and Chu Lai in support of I Corps ground operations and against targets in North Vietnam.  During 1968, Maj Carroll Phanrtom was hit and lost hydrauklics and landed on a foam runway using his tail hook.  The cable broke and the plane caught fire as it continued down the runway.  He got the aircraft back in the air and he and his RIO punched out over the bay.

   VMFA-323 returned to MCAS El Toro, Ca in March 1969.  In 1975, under the Command of LtCol Don K. Hanna, the Death Rattlers were awarded the Robert M. Hanson Award from the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Lewis A. Wilson.  (See the Awards page for details).  The squadron participated in a long list of deployments on land and sea.  Deploying aboard the USS Coral Sea in Nov  79.  While cruising near Guam on 28 Nov, 2 of  itís Phantoms intercepted Soviet Tu-95 Bear bombers.  On 9 Dec, the Coral Sea steamed in waters near Okinawa and 1 of the squadronís F-4ns landed at Kadena, the Deathrattlersí old home field of WW II.  One day later, the Coral Sea dropped anchor at Pusan, where 323 had begun operations during the Korean War.  In March 1980, while on station in the Gulf of Omen, 7 Soviet aircraft were intercepted and escorted by VMFA-323 Phantoms.  VMFA-323 and its F-4Nís stood ready for combat in the Gulf of Oman during the Iranian hostage crisis in 1980.  On 14 September 1982, VMFA-323 turned in its last F-4N Phantoms.  323 had flown the F-4 Phantom for 18 years, longer than any other type of aircraft in its 39 year history, thus closing itís longest chapter yet.  The Death Rattlers lost 6 Killed In Action (1 died while a POW), 4 POWs, and 2 killed in Training Accidents. 

Here is a bit of Trivia History on the 1964 Death Rattlers:

     In the fall of 1964, VMFA-323 fielded a flag football team at which won either 12 or 13 games and lost 0. It won the (Cherry Point) base championship that year.  I played (at various times and games) wide receiver, center (our regular center was out for one game and I was the only other man on the team at could handle deep snapping chores, which was required for flag football), and linebacker.  The only names I can remember right now on that team was a fellow named McCandless from Odessa, Texas, and Bobby D. Cole, WO2, I believe. Cole was our quarterback.  Cole wanted us to play softball in 1965, but the powers that were nixed the idea saying our deployments to Puerto Rico and Norway would not allow us to play a full schedule.  By the way, our NATO Tour to Norway was never to be because of the Dominican Crisis (which extended our stay in Puerto Rico by two additional weeks).  Some squadron at Beaufort took our place in Norway.

     The team allowed only 13 points to be scored against it during the entire season and won the championship game by a score of 6-0 against HAMS (forget the numeral designation).

     All this is from memory and I wonder if there is any way to verify, or counter my memory.

Provided by Ellis Badon, a 1964-65 Death Rattler


Are you a former member of VMFA-323 and served in Vietnam?  We would like you to join the 1st MAW Association, Vietnam Service!  Click the email button to the left for info to join!