Today we honor six men from the 2d Battalion, Fourth Marines who gave their lives on August 24, 1966 during Operation PRAIRIE. When helicopters began taking fire from an enemy machinegun on “Razorback Ridge,” just south of the Demilitarized Zone, elements of Company E went in to search for — and destroy — the position. The Marines began investigating a rocky, bowl-shaped position, which was surrounded by caves infested with North Vietnamese soldiers that sprung out and attacked the now-trapped Americans.
Once word reached headquarters, a rescue mission was organized. Company F’s 3rd Platoon, commanded by 2nd Lt. Stephen F. Snyder, marched through the enemy infested jungle at night to make contact with the enemy and reach their trapped comrades. While 3rd Platoon did rescue some of the wounded Marines, the rescue force was unable to break the siege; the enemy held the high ground and used the cave system to their full advantage.
The NVA attacked at dawn, but were defeated by the Marine relief force and “E” Company survivors were able to return to friendly lines. The engagement would ultimately claim the lives of six of the rescuers: Pfc. Billy Joe Harrison (19, of Knoxville, Tenn.), LCpl. Douglas S. Dubose (19, of Tampa, Fla.), Pfc. Jerry W. Nye (19, of Hummelstown, Pa.), Pfc. Wayne R. Baker (20, of Ovalo, Texas), LCpl. William R. Kelley (20, of Citronelle, Ala.) died four days later from multiple gunshot wounds after being evacuated to Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines, and Lt. Snyder, a 23-year-old native of Sunbury, Pa., was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his actions.