Veteran of the Month – 1st LT. Robert F Skeels

October 1, 2013


Post 3272 – Avon, Connecticut

Military Service History

NAME: Robert F. (Bob) Skeels
ADDRESS: Simsbury, CTMILITARY JOB: Platoon LeaderRANK: 1st Lieutenant
3rd Plt, CO “E”, 2nd Bn, 4th Marines
1st Plt, Co “B”, 3rd Tank Bn, 3rd Marine Div

Rifle Platoon Commander
Tank Platoon Commander

Scotland II
Caddo Creek
Kentucky & Virginia Ridge


Combat Action Ribbon

Meritorious Unit Commendation Ribbon

Nat Defense Service Medal

Vietnam Service Medal w/4 bronze stars

Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation

Vietnam Campaign Medal


Marine OCS – Quantico, VA
Infantry Basic School – Quantico, VA
Marine Tank School – Camp Pendleton, CA

Out of basic school, I was assigned to Tank school for six weeks at Camp Pendleton, CA. After completing the course, I arrived in the RVN (Republic of Vietnam) on Oct 3, 1968 and had orders to go to an infantry unit in TAD (Temporary Active Duty) as a rifle platoon commander (3rd Platoon, Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines) for three months before reporting to a tank company for the remainder of my year.

Our mission in the infantry was to build and secure the sites for the 105mm artillery fire bases in the mountainous jungle along the DMZ (demilitarized zone) including Argonne, Alpine and Russell. We humped (hiked) into these locations, cleared fields of fire off the mountain peaks, then patrolled heavily and provided security for the base at night. There was a lot of movement on the lines at FB (Firebase) Russell and it turned out that our holes were getting mapped out by the NVA (North Vietnamese Army). Two months after I left the firebase to rotate into Tanks, the base was overrun by a battalion of sapper NVA on February 25, 1969.

For more information on this event, see the VFW Magazine of January 2008 or visit, an excellent website created in 2002 that tells the stories of nearly 300 members on the hill that night. Through this website, I have had the good fortune of connecting with both lieutenants that served with me at Echo Company, 2/4 (2nd Battalion, 4th Marines) as well as many members of my platoon and we communicate often.

Before I rotated into Tanks, in early and late December 1968, my platoon was in two NVA ambushes. One, on December 8, 1968, resulted in crossfire in the Mutters Ridge area of the DMZ and went down very badly as I had three KIAs (Killed in Action) and 12 WIAs (Wounded in Action). We did complete the mission however, and my trapped squad was rescued…albeit at a great cost! The other ambush, on December 28, 1968, was a very successful platoon “Y” shaped ambush on the banks of the Cua Viet River and a lot of intelligence was garnered from the NVA bodies.

My experience in Tanks started on January 3, 1969. I was the platoon commander with the 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 3rd Tanks. These Marines were also among the Marine Corps’ best. We participated in numerous activities such as reaction force activities, guarding bridges, convoy escorts, blocking forces, security for land clearing operations, patrolling (search and clear operations) with infantry units from both the PF (Popular Forces) and Marines, mine sweeping, extraction of KIA’s and WIA’s, and night security for the bases along Route 1 in Northern I Corps. My personal diary says my platoon hit 12 thirty-five pound anti-personnel mines during my tour (I certainly remember hitting two of them). It also seems like we were taking rocket/mortar fire at least twice a week along the DMZ and at small forward bases. We called these violations of the DMZ into the Paris Peace talks via Quang Tri.

Besides ambushes, incoming artillery and snipers for the typical infantryman (Marine Grunt) in jungle warfare, there was jungle rot that had to be lanced nightly by a corpsman. There was a particularly bad problem keeping the leeches and bamboo spiders at bay in the humid jungle canopy. Then there were the rats all over those mountains. You had to get some sleep at some point, so when you laid down on the jungle floor with your poncho liner, you just knew they were coming, you could feel their weight on your chest and they would try to get at the food left on your teeth from those wonderful “C”-Rats(rations)! There was also a problem with tigers probing the lines and listening posts. The one that was harassing us at FSB Argonne near the Laotian border was finally killed by a recon unit in the area.

When I left the RVN, I was assigned to Fifth Tanks (The 5th Tank Battalion) for my final year, but at home on leave, I received a telegram about an open position at El Toro Marine Air Station as the Special Services Officer, and I only had a day to make up my mind. When I found out it was only three miles away from Newport Beach, CA, it took me only a split second to say yes to the offer and thank God for the good fortune! After I got out of the Marines a year later, I moved up to Manhattan Beach, CA and stayed there for 21 years.

I am so proud to have been associated with these Marines and I have honored them every day since leaving the RVN through prayer and daily reflection on their sacrifices, deeds and strong love of their country.