I'm Michael Dan Kellum, the author of a 2-book series on the Vietnam War titled Books I and II, American Heroes: Grunts, Pilots & "Docs." 2ndLt. David W. Skibbe, a 1964 graduate of Mt. Prospect and 1968 graduate of the University of Illinois and whose father was the Des Plaines assistant postmaster at the end of his U.S. Postal career, is among 15 Illinois Marines in the two books. I met David while we were both serving with 2nd Battalion, 26th Marine Regiment in Vietnam the latter part of January 1970. When 2/26 rotated out of country in mid-March, David, already with six months in-country under his belt, requested and was reassigned to 1st Recon Battalion where our former 2/26 commanding officer, Lt.Col. "Wild Bill" Drumright, had been assigned as CO.
David and the colonel had a special bond as he had saved the colonel's life when a flatbed rail car on which they were riding and a locomotive were blown off the railroad tracks above Da Nang. David pulled the colonel out from under the locomotive before it could crush him. At 1st Recon the colonel made it known to David he wanted him to go stateside noting he had seen enough of war at 2/26. A push was on to send all 1st Recon's 7-man teams to the bush to flush out a big operation the enemy was planning. Somehow David managed to join the last team sent out to the Que Son Mountains south of Da Nang deep in an enemy controlled area March 2, 1970. His 7-man team ran head on into the forward elements of an enemy force and David was wounded trying to pull a seriously wounded sergeant who was under fire to safety. For this action he would be awarded the Navy Cross.
Airstrikes around the small Marine Recon team pushed the enemy back which allowed a hovering Sea Knight helicopter to hoist up the sergeant by cable in the fading light of day. When it was David's turn, he made it only about 50 feet into the air before the cable snapped sending him plummeting to the ground unseen by his Team Thin Man five members. He was left behind on that mountainside in the darkness and remains missing in action, presumed dead to this day. A Viet Cong deputy commander shed some light as to what happened to David in 1993 to a Joint Task Force-Full Accounting team looking for MIAs and missing KIAs. But that's a whole other story in Book II.
I spent 21 years fleshing out stories like David Skibbe's in my two books. The two volumes contain 848 pages and includes 1,019 Marines, 42 Navy Corpsmen and 48 men from the other U.S. military services. This was, of course, a labor of love for me to tell these men's stories and mine. All those who served in Vietnam deserve to be recognized for their service and, in some cases like David's situation, for their ultimate sacrifice. I've tried to put the reader in our bleached white by the sun jungle boots; wearing hot flak jackets stained with what appeared to be the previous owner's blood; and looking out from under our heat retentive steel helmets. Welcome to our war in tropical Vietnam, 1965-71 where 1 in 5.9 Marines were either wounded or killed in combat.
For more information on the books such as my biography, photos, Vietnam maps, book excerpts, Introductions to Books I and II and/or the full scope of what's inside the books go to my website at www.michaeldankellum.com or check out the numerous postings in search for "grunts, pilots and docs."