Englewood Marine took part in ‘Operation Starlite’ first major battle in Vietnam

Pvt. Jim Mazy of Englewood, Fla. is pictured as an 18-year-old Marine who took part in the first major battle in Vietnam involving American forces called “Operation Starlite” on Aug. 18, 1965. Photo provided

Jim Mazy, who lives south of Englewood, Fla. was a radio operator in Hotel Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division. He was wounded in “Operation Starlite,” the first major battle of the Vietnam War between American forces and the Viet Cong near Chu Lai, South Vietnam in 1965.

“It was Aug 18 when we decided to attack the VC before they could attack us,” the 63-year-old local leatherneck recalled. “Landing Zone Blue, where our Huey (helicopters) landed, was in the center of several VC battalions, but we didn’t know it.

“The first wave of Hueys came in with a bunch of guys to secure the landing zone. They let us land, but when the second wave of choppers landed all hell broke loose,” he said.

“Shortly after I jumped from the helicopter the VC opened up on us with everything it had. They were in their spider holes, caves and underground when they caught us in their crossfire.

“We shot back, ran for cover and did whatever we could to stay alive while trying to figure out where the hell these people were,” Mazy said. “Five of us were pinned down by a VC machine gunner. I was in back of a destroyed American tank, the other four guys were hiding close by.

“I remember my good buddy Lance Cpl. Joe Paul attacked the VC machine gunner even though he was wounded. Joe diverted the fire, but the gunner destroyed him.”

The commendation accompanying Joe’s Medal of Honor reads in part: “…Cpl. Paul dashed across the fire-swept rice paddies, placed himself between his wounded comrades and the enemy and delivered effective suppressive fire with his automatic weapon in order to divert the attack long enough to allow the casualties to be evacuated. Although critically wounded during the course of the battle, he resolutely remained in his exposed position and continued to fire his rifle until he collapsed and was evacuated. By his fortitude and gallant spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of almost certain death, he saved the lives of several of his fellow Marines.”

Mazy said, “Joe was the first man to receive the Medal of Honor in the history of the 2nd Battalion from 1918 until 1965. He was a good man.”

Ninety minutes after the VC opened up on the unsuspecting Marine intruders the enemy force faded into the bushes. They didn’t go far.

“We started to move toward another village and were attacked by the VC once again. Ernie Wallace, who earned the Navy Cross that day, shouted, ‘Shoot the trees!’ VC snipers were up in the tops of the trees shooting at us. We emptied everything we had into the trees.

“After that, everything quieted down until evening when they attacked us once more. We ran out of ammunition and had to fight with our bayonets,” Mazy said.

With no ammo left and dead and wounded Marines all about,  Company Commander Capt. Mike Jenkins wondered out loud how they were going to hold out all night against the enemy.

“’What would John Wayne do?’” Lt. Jack Sullivan replied. “’We had three tanks and we lined them up like a wagon train. What was left of our company dug in for the night.’”

“I had the only working radio left in our company. I was on the radio that night when Lt. Gen. Dick Krulak, our division commander, came on and asked who I was. I told him I was the radio operator for Hotel Company.

“The general asked to speak to our company commander. I told him he wasn’t available, so the general told me, ‘We don’t expect you all to make it through the night.’”

“I was just an 18-year-old kid, but I told the general, ‘Are you trying to tell me I’m gonna die? I ain’t dying in this godforsaken place I’ve never heard of.”

The VC didn’t finish the job they had started. They didn’t make a final thrust that night against what was left of the Marine Company.

“The next morning three Marine Corps tanks abreast with 106 millimeter guns kept firing until they blew a hole through the jungle and rescued us,” Mazy explained. “Only 29 of us survived the battle out of 259 Marines in the company. The rest were killed or wounded.”

Mazy learned later the 259 U.S. Marines of Hotel Company were fighting the 60th and 80th VC Battalion and a reinforced company of the 45th Weapons Battalion—2,000 enemy soldiers in all.

Jim Mazy looks at a Dec. 2006 edition of “Leatherneck Magazine,” the official Marine Corps publication. It contains a story about Col. Joseph “Bull” Fisher, Mazy’s regimental commander in Vietnam. Included in the story are pictures of the colonel as well as Pvt. Mazy. Sun photo by Don Moore

The next day what was left of the division regrouped and pounded the VC with its superior firepower. Mazy and the other survivors in his company got aboard ship and sailed back to Chu Lai. The American troops had won their first battle in a war that would go on for years and eventually result in a tragic defeat for America.

Pvt. Jim Mazy received four Purple Hearts during his year deployment in Vietnam. He was also awarded a Bronze Start with a “V” for valor and a Presidential Unit Citation.


This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Florida on Thursday, August 13, 2009 and is republished with permission.

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Saluting a soldier for standing up

Charlotte Sun (Port Charlotte, FL) – Saturday, August 22, 2009
– Editor:
I appreciate the Aug. 13 story relaying the war experiences of Jim Mazy , a Marine and Vietnam veteran. The chilling story of his experiences on the battlefield as an 18-year-old Marine is jolting. For those of us untested by the heat of battle, it is difficult to fathom the terror and courage this man summoned up as his group, outnumbered nearly eight to one and depleted of ammunition, were forced to rely solely on their bayonets for survival.

I am privileged to have known Jim Mazy since I moved here in 1994. I am honored that he has taken me into his confidence, and at times, given me a sense of what it was like to be there. As gripping as the story of Jim Mazy was, the real story of heroism lies in what was not said.

As terrifying as it must have been to be standing in his shoes, only God, Jim and his confidants can come close to comprehending the dozens of gut-wrenching sacrifices this soldier made and endured, any one of which would break most men.

Having read Don Moore’s recounting of Jim Mazy ‘s experiences on the battlefield, and having learned of them firsthand from Jim, it has become obvious to me that the real poignancy of these stories isn’t what was said. It is what remains unsaid.

Thank you, Jim, for standing up for us. Although the level of your bravery and fortitude in defending the rest of us may never be fully known, you are truly a great American hero. I salute you and forever appreciate the freedoms we enjoy thanks to incredibly brave men like you.

Brett Slattery

Rotonda West


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