On January 18, 1969, Colonel William White, USMC, concluded an investigation into the possibility of charging Corporal Alvin L. Blackburn with the murder of 13 captured enemy soldiers in Vietnam.
The colonel’s decision was to recommend the corporal for the Medal of Honor.
Two of the documents are below. Both reveal an extraordinary story of heroism in the war in Vietnam.
18 Jan 1969
From: Colonel William W. WHITE 031 562/9910 USMC
To: Commanding General, III Marine Amphibious Force
Subj: Investigation into the circumstances of the demise of 13 North Vietnamese Army (Regular) soldiers of 22 December 1968
Ref: (a) JAG Manual, par. 5017
Encl: (1) Statement of Corporal Alvin L. BLACKBURN Jr. 23 13 039/0311 USMC
(2) Statement of Lance Corporal William E. MARCOTT 24 13 049/0351 USMC
(3) Statement of Private Steve A. KEARNS 24 84 625/0351 USMC
1. As required by reference (a), an investigation was conducted to determine the feasibility of bringing charges of first degree murder, 13 separate counts, against Corporal Alvin L. Blackburn Jr.
2. Follow-up patrols confirm the count of 86 enemy dead and five friendlies at coordinates 82514316. Ten enemy dead were confirmed at 70132921. The ten confirmed at 70132921 were in addition to two decapitated bodies and thirteen enemy forces; hands tied, blind-folded and gagged. Each one had one shot hole in the temple area. Calibre unknown.
3. Friendly casualties consisted of five dead, two wounded, and the miracle (explanation to follow). Lance Corporal MARCOTT, one gunshot wound to left thigh, numerous cuts and scratches. Private KEARNS, numerous shrapnel wounds in back, buttocks and legs in addition to scratches and cuts. Both men suffered from exposure and malnutrition. The team leader, Corporal BLACKBURN, had no visual wounds other than scratches, cuts, and abrasions over the entire body area. Medical examination revealed major concussions and severe internal bleeding; exhaustion, malnutrition and was suffering from shock. Medical records indicate a prior weight of 147 pounds after weight of 102 pounds. That this marine was alive is a miracle.
4. Statements from the soldiers who first came into contact with the Marines (soldiers were from sub unit of 1st Air Cav) validate the initial condition of the Marines. Corporal BLACKBURN was carrying Private KEARNS over his shoulder and had Lance Corporal MARCOTT on a stretcher made of two branches, belts and jackets. KEARNS and MARCOTT were not coherent. Corporal BLACKBURN was, at first impression, coherent; however, it became apparent that he was in some state of shock and. exhaustion. Extracts of the aforementioned statements on the condition of BLACKBURN are indicative: “piece of ground meat” “walking dead” “zombie”.
5. The facts in this case are self-explanatory. (Refer enclosures), it is the undersigned opinion that to bring charges against this Marine would destroy what the Marine Corps and this Country stands for. It is further Recommended that Corporal BLACKBURN be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions on 21, 22, 23, 24, and 25 December 1968.
W. W. WHITE
United States Marine Corps
I, Steve A. KEARNS, make the following statement on my own free will fully aware of the consequences of false or incomplete statements:
I was a member of a seven man recon team termed DAGGER II. Our mission was to parachute somewhere forward of friendly positions and set up an ambush. We were to be heli-lifted out. The date was 21 December 1968. My team Leader was Cpl A. L. BLACKBURN 23 13 039 and had been my leader for six other missions.
We jumped on the right coordinates but dumb ass Duke landed in a tree. Brutus (investigator’s comment — “Brutus” was an alias by which the accused was identified by his counterparts) had to climb up and cut him down and then he set us in. This was to have been my last mission before skying to the world and I was really shaking my shit. I was set in across from Brutus with Jack, Duke and John flowing left; and Mark, Spook, and Bill flowing right.
Brutus told us a whole fucking gook company was coming instead of a patrol but, we couldn’t call for an extract because the enemy was too close. Brutus told us to lay quiet and wait till he moved. I had a 12 gauge and two .38s but I wish I had a fucking tank.
They must’ve been only an inch away before he stood up and he had the barrel of the BAR in this gook’s guts and cut ‘em in half. For about five minutes there was nothing but lead, shit and guts in the air. Bill and Spook were backing and blowing gooners left and right. Mark was firing bloopers from about ten feet and blew his own ass to the deck several times. Duke was lying with a BAR and was cutting loose about balls high. I don’t remember John or Jack. Brutus had a BAR screaming from his thigh and throwing grenades like candy at a fucking parade. I thought maybe Brutus had cracked his marbles but he just calmly waded through the blood and shit shouting orders for us and melting his BAR.
I didn’t see it, but Spook bought it and by that time Brutus had made it to where Spook and Bill was. The BAR was actually on fire so Brutus picked up Spook’s 16 gauge and with his own K-Bar began kicking ass and cutting throats. We didn’t stick around to count but I figure he must’ve got 40 or 50 by himself. About 2 dozen of ‘em threw guns down but Bill just kept blasting then before Brutus knocked his ass down. There was only three of us, me, Brutus and Bill. I finished off the wounded and since the radio was busted and we knew reinforcements would be coming for the gooners we got out of there fast.
We marched for 13 or 14 hours before we stopped. It was my watch, I guess about 4 or 5 in the morning when they hit us. It only lasted a minute or so and all I did was keep shooting. I was so fucking tired I could care less. Bill was hollering that his balls were blown off and two of the POWs had tried to run but the traps had blown their heads off. Somewhere, I don’t remember when, I caught shrapnel in my back ass and legs and the pain started coming on when Brutus got to me from Bill. He kept telling Bill that he would make a cute fagaot if he would get false teeth and a beard. I distinctly remember that cause Bill was bitching that his balls were gone and Brutus was trying to make him feel better and for some reason I felt like laughing. I know it sounds crazy but I was laying face down about five feet from them and Brutus was holding Bill’s balls and was calling him all sorts of dumb fucking names trying to convince him that they were still attached. I guess I passed out because the next thing was Brutus standing over me trying to stop my bleeding.
It was hard to tell whose blood was whose since he was bleeding all over. Neither Bill nor I could walk and we still had 13 POWs so Brutus did the only thing he could. He had a choice, take the POWs out or us. I don’t know what I would have done. Brutus just looked at Bill, then me, and I was really scared, more scared than when the whole company of gooks came at us, because he had blood everywhere and was shaking and his eyes. God, man, his eyes were white. I’m not shitting you white. Like a robot he walked up to each one and said “God forgive me” or something like that and shot each one in the head.
Then he loaded 2 shotguns, strapped them to each leg. He took off his clothes and ours to reduce weight. All he had was a belt a .38, 2 shotguns, 2 K-Bars and some ammo. He had used all of our first aid shit. He made a litter out of branches and belts and he alternated between carry one of us and dragging the other. We hadn’t eaten for several days and I was flashing off and on but every time I woke up we were still moving. One of the last things I remember before waking up in the cross was staring at his back. I was lying face down on this stretcher thing, and seeing the dried blood caked over the straps on his shoulders.
Without bullshitting, I don’t think I could have done it. I owe him my life and so does Bill. If they burn him I’ll be the first in line to waste the bastards that try it…and that’s no threat, that’s a blood oath.
THIS STATEMENT IS TRUE ACCORDING TO MY MEMORY. IT CONSISTS OF TWO PAGES.
STEVE A. KEARNS
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS