Two Early Tragedies

On June 5th, 1967, CPL Carl F. Pepple (see In Memoriam) of O-3 was killed, apparently as the result of a non-hostile hand grenade explosion while he was on watch, but the circumstances surrounding the explosion have (to my knowledge) never been definitely ascertained. As he was the only man on watch, we shall never know the whole story.

In a second tragic incident, the CO, 1st LT Sermeus (see In Memoriam), and SGT Ray Gray (see In Memoriam for both) later traveled back to O-3, where the LT issued orders (perhaps originating from the Marine command at the combat base) to clear a previously laid mine field. The NCOIC complied, though with serious reservations, as there was no map of the field.

On June 14th, CPL Craig W. Albers (see In Memoriam) lost both legs and an arm while removing mines. There was another man injured in the blast as well. I cannot find a record of his name so far, though he may have been PFC Brian "Olds" Oldervik (see In Memoriam), who appears only on the June 1967 MPR, and was retired as a PFC - obviously a medical retirement.

SGT Ray Gray said that word of the blast came while he was out on patrol with LT Sermeus. LT Sermeus was described as being "terribly shaken" by the news and said, "That was my fault !" However, in the ensuing investigation, the NCOIC at O-3 received the blame, despite his having been reluctant to clear the field without a map or mine detector. Ray described the NCOIC at O-3 as being extremely distraught as he had been close to one of the men. However, he was relieved from duty and transferred, though I am not sure what further action, if any, was taken.

LT Sermeus was replaced some time thereafter, though I am not sure if it had anything to do with this incident. When I spoke with him a few years before his death, an earlier bout with brain cancer (and possibly the traumatic nature of the incident) had left him with almost no memories of that period.