SFC Marlin C. Cook
06/01/65 - 01/29/66
RECON

- KILLED IN ACTION -

Date of Birth: 12/18/1929
Date of Casualty: 1/29/1966
Home of Record: VERNON
State: AL
Branch of Service: US Army, B-52 Project Detla, 5th Special Forces Grp (ABN)
Rank: SFC
Casualty Country: SOUTH VIETNAM
Casualty Province: near Bong Son, Binh Dinh Prov., BS571830 13k NW of
Quang Ngai City
 


The operation on which Cook was killed took place at the (sic) 29 January 1966 in the An Lo Valley. Three teams totaling 17 Americans were committed, of whom five were killed, three wounded and two MIA. The following is a list, from official sources, of those men:

TEAM 1
Keating, Henry A. SFC RA
19496375
Whitis, Robert P. SFC RA
22973251
Dupuis, Nurman C. SSG RA
21193828 (WIA)
Chiariello, Agostino SSG RA
12698873
Bell, Brooke A. SSG RA
52439074

TEAM 2
Webber, Frank R., Jr. SFC RA
13350193 (WIA)
Cook, Marlin C. SFC RA
14265805 (KIA)
Dotson, Donald L. SSG RA
14951119 (KIA)
Hoaglund, George A. SSG RA
28041136 (KIA)
Hancock, Jesse L. SFC RA
19368478 (KIA)
Hiner, Charles F. SSG RA
17429475 (WIA)

TEAM 3
Huston, Marcus L. SFC RA
16444521
McKeithe, Billy A. SSG RA
18477197
Gray, Wiley W. SSG RA
14288420
Terry, Ronald T. SSG RA
12471604 (MIA)
Hodgson, Cecil A. SFC RA
18488059 (MIA)
Badolati, Frank N. SSG RA
12327022 (KIA)

According to Chuck Hiner -- and the records -- the team was inserted into the An Lo Valley at last light on 27 January 1966. Two wet days later -- it was raining hard -- the six-man team was sitting down taking a break when it came under heavy fire from a large force of Viet Cong.

"In the initial burst of fire Cook, Weber, and Hoaglund were hit," said Hiner "and I don't know but I think Dotson and Hancock were hit then too. I don't know for sure because they were on flank security. When we got hit I went to the top of the hill to keep anybody from coming over the hill on top of us.

"Cook (the radio man) was flank security on the left side and he couldn't get to the radio -- he was paralyzed. He called me back down and I cut the radio off him.

"There was a pile of rocks in the middle of this clearing so I took the radio in there and lay down on it and started calling.

"I called everybody and their mother who would answer.

"We kept getting fire in on us and fire in on us.

"After we got the FAC (Forward Air Controller, a Capt. Kenneth L. Kerr) on the radio and started doing our shit I started looking around. I could hear Dotson. He was hit through the chest and I could hear that death rattle. This other kid (Hancock) -- first trip in, first time on the ground, the whole nine yards -- he was dead. They had stitched him from the ankle to the top of his head. Hoaglund was more-or-less still alive. Cook lasted a long time in there but he finally died, I guess maybe about 1:00 or 2:00 o'clock that afternoon."

Webber had four bullets, all in the arm, from the first burst of fire and shortly after it started Hiner was wounded when he was shot in the head by a VC firing an AK-47.

"The dude shot at me the same time I shot at him," said Hiner. "I hit him first, though, and it caused him to jerk up. It (the round) went about a quarter of an inch in my scalp. It went down into the bone and just left a perfect groove.

"I had called airstrikes in on top of our position to keep from getting overrun. It was either do that or get overrun so 'What the hell.'

"We were fighting -- I would dare say the closest -- within 10 feet of each other. It was that tight. That's why, when I popped smoke and told the FAC to take it 360 degrees from the center of that, he said 'I can't do it because it will come in on you.'

"I said well it's either you or them. And that's the way it went.

"He didn't like it but I didn't like it either."

During a lull near the end of the battle, which lasted four hours, Hiner crawled down the slope to strip the dead -- Hoaglund, Dotson and Hancock -- of their ammo since he and Webber were almost out.

Hiner said when he got back to Hoaglund, he found him on his back, beside a tree, with the rifle muzzle pointing toward his head. "He had one arm shot off, the other was hanging by a thread."

During the final minutes of the battle, two reaction forces moved frantically through the thick bush toward Hiner's position. One was from the 1st Air Cav., the other, that was first on the ground, was a Reaction Force from Project Delta commanded by a Lt. Holland -- and led by Sgt Maj. Walt Shumate, who later became an SF legend in his role as the Sgt. Maj. for "charging"Charlie Beckwith in many SF-commands.

"You know when I knew I had made it?" asked Hiner, who recounted that he and Webber, down to just a few rounds between them were crouched down behind a log. "I looked up and saw Walt's bare ass coming over the top of that log. Walt told me later he was busting bush so hard and fast coming up that hill, he had busted out his pants."