The Mightiest Corporal in the Marine Corps




 
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January 21st, 2012  
03USMC
 
 

Topic: The Mightiest Corporal in the Marine Corps


One of the things I enjoy most about my job is the opportunity to interact with Marine Corps veterans. Several years ago, while working as a research historian on the National Museum of the Marine Corps project, I was tasked with learning everything I could about the siege of Hill 881S, one of the hill outposts near Khe Sanh Combat Base. In the course of that work, I was fortunate to meet many of the veterans and to develop close friendships with several. One of these was former Corporal Robert J. Arrotta, who passed away in 2009. A mutual friend, Glenn Prentice, recently told me that the new ready room at the Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1) had been named in honor of Cpl Arrotta.

Unless you are a student of the siege of Khe Sanh and the surrounding hills, or of the doctrine of close air support, you have probably never heard of Corporal Robert Arrotta. You may wonder why a unit whose mission is, “to provide standardized advanced tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications that support Marine Aviation training and readiness and to provide assistance in the development and employment of aviation weapons and tactics,” would name a ready room after a largely unknown corporal.

By December 1967, the North Vietnamese presence around Khe Sanh Combat Base had grown considerably. The 304 and 325C Divisions had crossed into South Vietnam and were approaching from the west. To the east was the 320 Division, operating near the Rockpile, as well as an enemy regiment and an additional battalion whose mission it was to prevent movement along Route 9. This build-up in enemy strength was monitored closely by Lieutenant General Robert Cushman, commanding III Marine Amphibious Force. By 9 December, the 3d Battalion, 26th Marines were diverted from another mission and sent to Khe Sanh. Elements of the battalion strengthened key hilltop outposts. Kilo Company was positioned atop Hill 861 and immediately began patrolling west of Khe Sanh.

urther to the west, was Hill 881S. The highest of the surrounding hills, it was key to the defense of Khe Sanh Combat Base. Khe Sanh was dependent upon resupply and reinforcement by air. Should the NVA hold the hill, aircraft taking off from or landing from the west would be extremely vulnerable to enemy fire. The mission of holding the hill fell to the men of India Company, 3d Battalion, 26th Marines. Among them was Corporal Robert J. Arrotta, who, during the 77-day siege, would earn the title “The Mightiest Corporal in the Marine Corps.”

On 20 January 1968, then-Captain William Dabney, commanding officer of India Company 3/26, conducted a reconnaissance-in-force up Hill 881N. India Company engaged an entire North Vietnamese Army battalion moving south. The siege of Khe Sanh and the surrounding hills had begun. Both the combat base and the hills were completely dependant on resupply by air and the use of close air support to keep enemy forces at bay.

A few days into the siege, the captain who served as the Forward Air Controller on 881S was hit by shrapnel from an incoming mortar and was medically evacuated. Dabney later stated,

“At about the same time, the weather socked in, and it was several days before could bring in helicopters. When it did clear, we got the radio batteries we needed to talk to the Close Air Support aircraft but no new Forward Air Controller. When I remarked on the lack of a FAC, Bob told me he could handle it. I had nothing to lose, plenty of targets, and all the CAS aircraft we could use, so I stood by and watched as he ran the first few missions - flawlessly. I was impressed not only with his technical knowledge but also with his demeanor as a corporal giving instructions to officers through the rank of lieutenant colonel. He was assertive and unfailingly professional.”

http://www.mca-marines.org/blog/beth...l-marine-corps
January 21st, 2012  
tomtom22
 
 
A great story about a great Marine. Thanks for sharing the links, 03.
January 21st, 2012  
BritinBritain
 
 
I have always said, Corporals are the backbone of the military.

Corporal Robert J. Arrotta is a hero.
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January 22nd, 2012  
Trooper1854
 
 
I was always told only two people in the Army give orders, Generals and Corporals.
Everyone else just passes them on.
January 23rd, 2012  
Trooper1854
 
 
I remeber the Corporal from "Get Some In!" the comedy about National Service in the RAF in the '50s

"MY NAME IS MARSH! CORPORAL MARSH!
THAT'S SPELT B, A, S, T, A, R, D!"
I knew some NCOs like that.
January 23rd, 2012  
BritinBritain
 
 
That's a blast from the past. I'd forgotten all about that series.
January 23rd, 2012  
Trooper1854
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by BritinAfrica
That's a blast from the past. I'd forgotten all about that series.
"Though you're in the RAF you'll never see a 'plane!"
Great old series, very well observed. Very clever and funny.
 


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