“I’m going to come back with the Medal of Honor,” Larry Peters told his mother when he left for Vietnam, “or I’m not coming back.” It would be his second tour.
Marine Sgt. Peters had already served a thirteen-month tour of duty when, because of his love for and desire to help the Vietnamese people, he volunteered for a second tour. On his first tour, Peters had worked with a Marine Combined Action Program (CAP) unit and, in whatever free time he had, worked at a Catholic orphanage in Da Nang.
“He became a Catholic,” his sister Shirley said, “and he spent a lot of time on his first tour helping the nuns at an orphanage in D’Nang. He wanted to go back to his unit and to the kids that he had sort of adopted and to work with the sisters at the orphanage. That is why he wanted to be back there.”
But, in the summer of 1967, the Marines were short on sergeants and needed help on the front line. Sgt. Peters became a squad leader in 2nd Platoon, Mike Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines.
Meanwhile, the North Vietnamese Army was planning a campaign to gain control of the Quế Sơn Valley. On September 4th, they launched their assault, quickly overwhelming a company of Marines that was dug in near a small village. Mike Company was called to the rescue; soon, they too would face annihilation.
The enemy was well-camouflaged, only visible when they moved or fired. Knowing how difficult it was to spot the camouflaged enemy squad fire teams as they zigzagged forward, Peters stayed on his feet so that he could spot the enemy and point them out for his men. “Move, move, you’ve got to get moving” he said to a man hugging the ground. The man looked up to see Sgt Pete, blood on his face, neck, hands, and leg, oblivious to the fusillade of bullets and motor rounds, stood above him. Acting instinctively and by experience, the sergeant knew that they had to face and stop the enemy now or it would all be over.
In an old bomb crater, with enemy fire now coming from the front, left, and right, Sgt. Peters made his last stand. Covered in dirt and undaunted by a gunshot wound to the leg and mortar fragments in the face and neck, he had fired his M79 grenade launcher until it was empty. He now stood in the crater with an M60 machine gun, the ammo belt draped over his left arm. Shooting from the hip, Peters fired burst after devastating burst as squads of camouflaged NVA advanced, forcing the enemy to disclose their positions with their return fire.
Sgt. Peters’ Medal of Honor citation reads, in part, “Sergeant Peters stood erect in the full view of the enemy firing burst after burst forcing them to disclose their camouflaged positions. Sergeant Peters continued firing until he was critically wounded by a gunshot wound in his chest. Although unable to walk or stand, Sergeant Peters steadfastly continued to direct his squad in spite of two additional wounds, persisted in his efforts to encourage and supervise his men until; he lost consciousness and succumbed. Inspired by his selfless actions, the squad regained fire superiority and once again carried the assault to the enemy. By his outstanding valor, indomitable fighting spirit and tenacious determination in the face of overwhelming odds, Sergeant Peters upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.”
Read the story of Sgt. Larry Peters and the Marines of Mike 3/5 in my book, Swift Sword: The True Story of the Marines of MIKE 3/5 in Vietnam, 4 September 1967