In a ceremony that took place at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Va., on Feb. 11, 2011, Vietnam veteran Lance Cpl. Ned E. Seath was awarded the Navy Cross and the Bronze Star Medal with V Device for his actions 45 years ago in Vietnam, when he helped save Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, as hundreds of NVA soldiers massed on their position while clearing Quang Tri Province during Operation Hastings.
In the darkness of an assault on July 16, 1966, as the NVA was bearing down on his unit, Seath took the parts from two damaged M-60s and started reassembling one operable gun. "A rifle squad leader firing an M-79 over my left flank yelled, ‘I can’t hold ’em much longer….Hurry up, Ned,’ " said Seath. About then, he took shrapnel in the shins, but finally he had a working gun. Firing first from a prone position and then from a standing position, Seath "continued the withering fire ultimately repelling the enemy’s assault," according to the citation.
"I cut loose," he said, "I was moving the NVA down like a weed whacker."
The men Seath saved had children and grandchildren, and "there is no greater legacy than that," said Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who presented the service’s second-highest award to Seath.
The ceremony was the culmination of a seven-year effort by Seath’s fellow Marines to secure him the recognition they felt he deserved. "Had it not been for Ned Seath getting that machine gun started, there is no doubt in my mind we would have been overrun," said Bill Hutton, who fought in a foxhole next to Seath during the attacks. When Hutton discovered in 2003 that Seath received only the Purple Heart for his actions that day, he approached and worked with retired Maj. Gen. David Richwine, who at the time of the fight was their company commander, to submit a Navy Cross recommendation. Hutton spent years tracking down former 3/4 Marines, and in 2008 he and Richwine submitted the recommendation to the Marine Corps for consideration.
At the awarding ceremony, Seath was also presented the Bronze Star Medal with V Device, a medal for which he was approved in the 1960s but never received. Seath earned the medal for his actions the previous day, July 15, 1966, when he crawled under sniper fire to pull a wounded Marine, Corporal Blake, to safety. "I crawled out, grabbed him by his good leg and dragged him back. About halfway, that sniper grazed my helmet, and the round went in at the bottom of my spine about a half-inch," Seath said. "I got Blake back, and now I knew where that sniper was, so I got on the M-60 and almost cut him in half. Randy Jerral, Frank West and I then rushed the position, and from there we protected our flank and corpsmen."
To read more about Ned Seath, see "My War" in the June 2011 issue of Vietnam magazine.
To view more photos from the ceremony click here.