Lest We Forget

By Lieutenant Commander Thomas J. Cutler, U.S. Navy (Retired)

On 10 July 1969, on a company-sized search-and-destroy mission deep in hostile territory, his platoon came upon a well-camouflaged bunker complex. Although there were no apparent signs of life, Webb deployed his men into defensive positions before approaching the bunkers. As he neared the first one, three enemy soldiers armed with hand grenades leaped out. Without hesitation Webb grabbed the closest soldier and, brandishing his .45 caliber pistol, captured all three.

Undaunted by this revelation of enemy presence, Lieutenant Webb then proceeded to the next bunker, accompanied by one of his men. Calling for the enemy in that bunker to surrender, he was answered by a live grenade tossed from within. Although it detonated dangerously close, Webb and the other Marine were not injured. He then detonated a claymore mine into the bunker entrance, accounting for two enemy casualties and disclosing the entrance to a tunnel. Despite the smoke and debris from the explosion and the possibility of additional enemy soldiers hiding in the tunnel, Webb then conducted a thorough search that yielded several items of equipment and numerous documents containing valuable intelligence data.

Continuing the assault, he approached a third bunker and was preparing to fire into it when the enemy threw another grenade. Seeing it land dangerously close to his companion, Webb simultaneously fired his weapon at the enemy, pushed the other Marine away from the grenade, and shielded him from the explosion with his own body. Although sustaining painful fragmentation wounds from the explosion, he managed to throw a grenade into the bunker's entrance and completely destroyed it.

Jim Webb's dreams of someday wearing a general's stars ended when his wounds proved career-ending, but he had clearly met the standard of those Marines who had preceded him. For his actions that day, Jim Webb was awarded the Navy Cross and a Purple Heart . . . which he added to his Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, and his other Purple Heart.

Lieutenant Commander Cutler is the author of several books, including A Sailor's History of the U.S. Navy and Brown Water, Black Berets .
 

Thomas J. Cutler is a retired lieutenant commander and former gunner's mate second class who served in patrol craft, cruisers, destroyers, and aircraft carriers. His varied assignments included an in-country Vietnam tour, small craft command, and nine years at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he served as Executive Assistant to the Chairman of the Seamanship & Navigation Department and Associate Chairman of the History Department. While at the Academy, he was awarded the William P. Clements Award for Excellence in Education (military teacher of the year).

He is the founder and former Director of the Walbrook Maritime Academy in Baltimore. Currently he is Fleet Professor of Strategy and Policy with the Naval War College and is the Director of Professional Publishing at the U.S. Naval Institute.

Winner of the Alfred Thayer Mahan Award for Naval Literature, the U.S. Naval Institute Press Author of the Year, and the U.S. Maritime Literature Award, his published works include NavCivGuide: A Handbook for Civilians in the U.S. Navy; A Sailor's History of the U.S. Navy [one of the books in the Chief of Naval Operations Reading Program]; The Battle of Leyte Gulf; Brown Water, Black Berets: Coastal & Riverine Warfare in Vietnam; and the 22nd, 23rd (Centennial), and 24th editions of The Bluejacket's Manual. His other works include revisions of Jack Sweetman's The Illustrated History of the U.S. Naval Academy and Dutton's Nautical Navigation. He and his wife, Deborah W. Cutler, are the co-editors of the Dictionary of Naval Terms and the Dictionary of Naval Abbreviations.

His books have been published in various forms, including paperback and audio, and have appeared as main and alternate selections of the History Book Club, Military Book Club, and Book of the Month Club. He has served as a panelist, commentator, and keynote speaker on military and writing topics at many events and for various organizations, including the Naval History and Heritage Command, Smithsonian Institution, the Navy Memorial, U.S. Naval Academy, MacArthur Memorial Foundation, Johns Hopkins University, U.S. Naval Institute, Armed Forces Electronics Communications and Electronics Association, Naval War College, Civitan, and many veterans' organizations. His television appearances include the History Channel's Biography series, A&E's Our Century, Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor, and CBS's 48 Hours.

More by this Author

BROWN WATER, BLACK BERETS
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DUTTON'S NAUTICAL NAVIGATION, 15TH EDITION
As paper navigational charts are replaced by vector images on computer screens, magnetic compasses... Read More
A SAILOR'S HISTORY OF THE U.S. NAVY
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Events and Conferences

Guest Lecturer
12:30pm, “Shifley Lecture Series,” U.S. Naval Academy Museum, 118 Maryland Ave., Annapolis, MD /... Read More

 
 

Conferences and Events

2014 U.S. Naval Institute History Conference

Wed, 2014-10-01

The 2014 Naval History Conference is hosted by the U.S. Naval Institute and the U.S. Naval Academywith support from The William M...

Defense Forum Washington 2014

Newseum - Knight Conference Center

2015 WEST Conference

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