Honoring Shields: The Battle of Dong Xoai, Part 2

Today we conclude our two-part exploration of the Battle of Dong Xoai in which we recount the heroic actions of Medal of Honor recipient Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Marvin G. Shields. You can read part one here.


A destroyed building at the camp in Dong Xoai.

Of the nine-man Seabee Team, 2 men were killed: Shields and Hoover. Seven others suffered injuries. The survivors of the determined stand in the District Headquarters building reported many examples of valor. No member of Seabee Team 1104 distinguished himself more than Shields. Despite shrapnel wounds suffered during the initial mortar attack on the north end of camp, Shields fought effectively in the defense from the west berm, taking advantage of several lulls in the fighting to distribute ammunition to the other defenders.

Wounded a second time during this attack, Shields nevertheless assisted in carrying a more critically wounded man to safety, and then resumed firing at the enemy for four more hours. When the Commander, 1st Lt. Charles Williams asked for a volunteer to accompany him in an attempt to knock out an enemy machine gun emplacement which was endangering the lives of all personnel in the compound because of the accuracy of its fire, Shields unhesitatingly volunteered for this extremely hazardous mission. Proceeding toward their objective with a 3.5- inch rocket launcher, they succeeded in destroying the enemy machine gun emplacement, thus undoubtedly saving the lives of many of their fellow servicemen in the compound. Shields was mortally wounded by hostile fire while returning to his defensive position and died shortly after being evacuated from Dong Xoai on the afternoon of June 10.

Shields Casket Return

Col Xuan of the Republic of Vietnam, presented MS posthumously with the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm and the Military Merit Medal

Shields was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during a ceremony held Sept. 13, 1966. His wife, Joan, and daughter, Barbara, accepted the medal presented by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Williams, with whom Shields fought alongside to take out the enemy machine guns, was also awarded the Medal of Honor that day.

Tonight, June 10, Seabee Museum Director Dr. Lara Godbille will host a special presentation on the life of Shields and his actions in Vietnam. The presentation will begin at 6p.m. and will culminate in the unveiling of our new Hall of Fallen Heroes exhibit which will feature a presentation on Marvin Shields, and honor all Seabees who have been killed in action since World War II.

The original Medal of Honor presented to the wife of Marvin Shields which can be seen on display at the Seabee Museum.

The original Medal of Honor presented to the wife of Marvin Shields which can be seen on display at the Seabee Museum.

Honoring Shields: The Battle of Dong Xoai, Part 1

The Battle of Dong Xoai was one of the more intense fights during the Vietnam Conflict. Fifty years later, we look at the events of that two-day battle which claimed the lives of many service members including Medal of Honor recipient Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Marvin G. Shields. Over the next to days we’ll be recounting the events of Dong Xoai and the heroic actions of Marvin Shields.


Shields hailed from Port Townsend, Wash. and joined the Navy in January 1962. He completed training as a construction mechanic in Sept. 1963 upon which he was assigned to A Company, Mobile construction Battalion 11. He deployed with Seabee Team 1104 in January 1965 out of Port Hueneme, traveling to Tan Son Nhut Air Force Base in Saigon.

dong xoai

In the late hours of June 8 and heading into the early morning hours of June 9, 1965, Seabee Team 1104 woke at Dong Xoai, Republic of Vietnam to sound of mortar and 57mm recoilless rifle rounds fired by Viet Cong forces, so beginning an intense battle, one of many during the Vietnam Conflict.

Nine Seabees, led by Lt. j.g. Frank Peterlin as well as 11 soldiers assigned to U.S. Army Special Forces “A” Team 342 occupied the camp shared with approximately 400 members of the Vietnamese defense force. Some of the first mortar rounds destroyed the camp’s medical aid station and communication equipment. Several sleeping units were also hit, killing and wounding several soldiers and Seabees in just the first few moments.

At approximately 0245, supported by an intense mortar barrage, recoilless rifles, machine guns and small arms, and utilizing hand grenades and flame throwers, the Viet Cong launched an assault on the west berm of the north area of the camp. As the Viet Cong overran this area of the camp, Shields and Utilitiesman (Plumber) 2nd Class Lawrence W. Eyman and a Special Forces sergeant succeeded in carrying a badly wounded Special Forces Captain to the west end of the camp where they joined the remainder of the Americans.

Steelworker (Fabricator) 2nd Class William C. Hoover, Special Forces Staff Sgt. D.C. Dedman and Peterlin were cut off from the remainder of the defenders and began withdrawing to the east side of the camp as the Viet Cong came over the west berm. Both Hoover and Dedman had previously been wounded and Peterlin was wounded in the right foot. As the three attempted to crawl through concertina wire on the east side of the camp, Peterlin was separated from Hoover and Dedman. Both Hoover and Dedman were later found deceased.

Shortly before the assault began on the north area of the camp all the Americans in the west area had withdrawn into a District Headquarters building, which was subjected to an intense Viet Cong attack about 0300. Even though all the Americans in the building were wounded, they successfully held off the attacking Viet Cong throughout the night and following morning. U.S. and Vietnamese aircraft arrived over the camp at daybreak. The first relief forces secured a landing area about a mile and a half north of the embattled village and were quickly engaged with Viet Cong forces. A pitched battle developed as aircraft continually struck the Viet Cong positions with napalm. About noon the landing area was overrun with Viet Cong forces; only three Vietnamese soldiers survived from the group of 196 troops and two U.S. advisors.

In the meantime, a second lift of relief forces landed at a nearby rubber plantation and quickly was pinned down by intense Viet Cong fire. During the middle of the afternoon a coordinated effort of heavy close air support by fixed wing aircraft permitted elements of the 118th Aviation Company to evacuate the wounded U.S. personnel from the District Headquarters.

Shortly thereafter, a Ranger relief force landed at a soccer field southeast of the town. Another group landed near the District Headquarters compound and captured numerous Viet Cong weapons. Sporadic fighting continued throughout the second night and the Rangers moved out the next day and recaptured larger areas. The final count of casualties of the original 20 American forces was three killed, 16 wounded and one unscathed survivor. A total of 12 other Americans were listed as dead or missing as a result of action during the two-day battle. The Vietnamese forces suffered 46 wounded and 300 dead or missing. Viet Cong losses were estimated at more than 700.

Tomorrow we’ll conclude with the final events in Dong Xoai. Don’t forget, Dr. Lara Godbille, museum director, will host a special presentation tomorrow evening, June 10 at 6p.m. at the museum commemorating the 50th anniversary of Marvin Shields’ actions and death.

Honoring Shields: Events Around the Country


Various commands around the country will join the Seabee Museum in honoring Medal of Honor recipient Marvin G. Shields by hosting their own commemorations. Check out and see what’s in your region:

Gardiner, Washington
June 10, 2015 at 11 a.m.

NAVFAC Northwest is conducting a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the loss of Medal of Honor recipient CM3 Marvin G. Shields. A remembrance ceremony is planned at his gravesite at the Gardiner Cemetery in Gardiner, WA.

shields gravestone

The event is to remember and honor the heroic actions of CM3 Shields, Seabee Team 1104 and U.S. Army Special Forces Detachment A-342 for their heroic actions during the battle of Dong Xoai. The host of the event is CAPT Mark Geronime, Commanding Officer Naval Facilities Engineering Command Northwest. Invited guests include: Governor Jay Inslee, Washington State, Joan Shields-Bennett, CAPT (Ret) Dick Bennett, RADM Kate Gregory, FORCM Chris Levesque, members of Seabee Team 1104 and their families, 5th Special Forces Commander, and members of Detachment A-342 and their families.

All Seabee veterans and their families are invited, as well as the general public. Refreshments will be served immediately after the ceremony at the Gardiner Community Center and the local Port Townsend (WA) American Legion Marvin Shields Post 26 will also have open house with food and drinks.

POC: Leslie Yuenger, Public Affairs Officer, NAVFAC NW email: leslie.yuenger@navy.mil   phone: 360-396-6387.

RSVP here.

Military: Summer White
Civilian: Appropriate Attire

Port Hueneme, California
June 10 at 6p.m.

The U.S. Navy Seabee Museum will be presenting a lecture by museum director Dr. Lara Godbille on the Battle of Dong Xoai, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the those events. Parking and admission are free. Open to the public.

1001 Addor St.,
Port Hueneme, CA 93043
POC: Dr. Lara Godbille email: seabeemuseum@navy.mil   phone: 805-982-5167

Gulfport, Mississippi
June 12 at 10 a.m.

Naval Mobile Construction Battalion ELEVEN will be commemorating the 50th anniversary of Medal of Honor recipient CM3 Marvin G. Shields. The ceremony will be conducted at Naval Construction Battalion Center, Gulfport, MS, Base Training Hall, building 446. The event will be highlighted with a special presentation by Dr. Lara Godbille, the director of the Seabee museum. The presiding officer is CDRE John Adametz, Commander Naval Construction Group TWO.

Military: Uniform of the day
Civilian: Appropriate Attire

Honoring Shields: ST 1104 Arrives in Dong Xoai


Today in the #HonoringShields timeline, nine members of ST 1104 (pictured above) arrive at Dong Xoai to begin work on repairing existing and building new facilities for 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces as well as the Vietnamese Civilian Irregular Defense Group. They had previously completed similar construction projects at Ben Soi.

Dong Xoai

Dong Xoai

Don’t Forget: We’ll be closing our commemoration with a presentation by Seabee Museum Director Dr. Lara Godbille about the Battle of Dong Xoai, June 10 at 6 p.m.

Honoring Shields: Recounting those fateful final days of Marvin G. Shields


Today we begin a week-long focus on the life of Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Marvin G. Shields.

Shields was the first and only Seabee to earn the Medal of Honor, awarded for his valiant efforts during the Vietnam Conflict in the Battle of Dong Xoai. He died from wounds he sustained during the battle on June 10, 1965.

Hailing from Port Townsend, Wash., Shields joined the Navy in January 1962. He completed training as a construction mechanic in Sept. 1963 upon which he was assigned to A Company, Mobile construction Battalion 11. He deployed with Seabee Team 1104 in January 1965 out of Port Hueneme, traveling to Tan Son Nhut Air Force Base in Saigon.

Over the course of the next week, we will explore the timeline of the final days of Shields. This will culminate in a  presentation on the Battle of Dong Xoai by Seabee Museum Director Dr. Lara Godbille, June 10 at 6 p.m. in the museum’s education room.

“As the first Navy personnel to be killed in Vietnam, and the only Seabee to be awarded the Medal of Honor, Marvin Shields is the most well-known Seabee in the community,” she said. “This presentation will examine what actions he took to earn the award and solidify his legacy. It should be interesting to both members of the Seabee family, and the general public that want to learn more about American involvement in Vietnam.”

Godbille noted the presentation will coincide with the reopening of the museum’s memorial room which will be called the Hall of Fallen Heroes.

“Patrons can learn more about Shields and other Seabees and CEC officers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice,” she said. “The space, which was revamped to honor fallen Seabees from WWII to current operations, will feature an entirely new presentation on Marvin Shields that we feel reflects who he was and the reverence the Seabee community has for him.”

We hope you will follow with us as we commemorate the life of a Seabee who embodied the Navy Core Values of Honor, Courage and Commitment.