There a lot of people running around proclaiming themselves to be members of “The Walking Dead” and most are either idiots or wannabe’s who can’t identify the actual unit designation of the battalion nicknamed “The Walking Dead.” Worst of all they can’t even tell you how that name was earned. Here’s what happened.
In 1965 the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, made an amphibious landing near Da Nang, Republic of Viet Nam (South Viet Nam) as the first American combat unit deployed to that war (prior to that all Americans were “advisors”). In the ensuing months the battalion conducted combat operation in an area south of Da Nang that stretched from the South China Sea to the Laotian border area.
One particular valley within 1/9’s Tactical Area of Responsibility had been a communist stronghold since WW II when the Viet Minh were fighting the Japanese. Neither the Japanese nor the French who followed had ever been able to take and hold that valley. 1/9 did. This loss of a propaganda tool was a real problem for the Viet Cong and especially their North Vietnamese comrades. Ho Chi Minh was in some deep political trouble due to this defeat and was having trouble with his Central Committee. He made a speech in which he said something to the effect of ”Don’t worry about these American Marines. They are walking dead men.” He followed that threat up by assigning the 324 B Infantry Division the task of wiping out 1/9. From that day forward every time 1/9 would go out on an operation the 324 B would break contact with whatever they were doing and go to where 1/9 was. On more than one occasion the 324 B had to stand down as ‘combat ineffective’ and be reconstituted due to the extremely heavy casualties inflicted on them by the Marines of 1/9. The multiple defeats of the 324 B Infantry Division was not without cost to the Marines. In the 48 months the battalion was deployed in combat operations in Vietnam, 1st Battalion 9th Marines suffered 747 Marines and sailors Killed In Action ( 93%). That is the longest period of sustained combat and the highest casualty rate in the history of the Marine Corps to date.
1/9 had it’s bi-annual reunion from August 18th through the 21st. At the banquet the Network president asked all those with a Purple Heart to stand and be recognized. Of the 180 Marines present only five remained seated (not to include the amputees who were wheelchair bound) much to the stunned astonishment of the guests speaker and honored guests.
So, the next time you hear someone say he was part of the “Walking Dead” and he can’t tell you the unit’s designation or history, please kick his butt for those who did serve.