Talking Proud --- Military

RT Breaker Patrol, the Hill Battles of Vietnam

March 1, 2006

RT Breaker Patrol's heroic four return home after 38 years, 2005

Breaker and other remains, locked in small black containers, were repatriated in May 2003, from Danang, Vietnam. Once in Hawaii, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) was able to identify three of the four Breaker men. The Joint Task Force (JTF) in Vietnam searching sites for our POW/MIA returned to Hill 665 in 2004 and recovered remains that identified the fourth man (Presented by Bob Skinder’s Interview of Ron Zaczek,

Breaker leaves Danang, Vietnam, bound for Hawaii, USA, May 2003. Presented by Bob Skinder’s Interview of Ron Zaczek,

The Breaker Marines were not easy to find. Hill 665 took a beating during the Vietnam War, bombing, artillery, scavengers, the weather. Twenty-six years after their loss, in 1993 a search for Breaker was launched, but the coordinates were wrong. The Joint Task Force (JTF), trying to recover Breaker remains, searched the lower slopes instead of the hill top. Nothing found.

Ron Zaczek said that Hill 665 was about ten kms northwest of Khe Sanh. USAF Master Sgt. Jay Ebert conducted research on RT Breaker, and found that the original mission coordinates had been changed twice in Marine archives, once to a location due north of Khe Sanh, the other northeast, both wrong.

A local villager found boots atop the hill in 1998, but our investigatory capacity was limited and the case-load was heavy. Delayed, but not forgotten.

Zaczek worked with the JPAC, insisted that his Scarface crew extracted the survivors from the top of the hill, and located the spot on a topographic map.

An anthropologist, Sam Connell, who specializes in the ancient civilizations of the Maya and Inca, signed on with JPAC in 2002 to lead excavation teams. He and the team found four pair of boots, then 11. But it emerged that an artillery unit from the 101st Airborne Division had occupied the hill in 1968, and, as a result, a lot of debris was left at the site, C-ration containers, combs, toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes, bits of socks, artillery casings, sandbags.

Pre-excavation and excavation JTF photos show where remains were found atop Hill 665. The Huey that rescued the survivors came in from the right and departed to the left. Presented by Bob Skinder’s Interview of Ron Zaczek and "Pop A Smoke"

Connell hired some 50 villagers to sift through the dirt. They found all kinds of things. After two weeks, they came across 31 individual teeth or tooth fragments, plus bone fragments. Connell knew right away these were not Asian teeth; the incisors were not right, nor were the dental fillings.

The JTF agreed these remains belonged to Americans and sent them back to Hawaii for identification in May 2003.

JPAC firmly identified the remains as belonging to the lost Breakers. Eleven of the teeth belonged to HM3 Miller; three belonged to Sgt. Tycz; Lt. Ahlmeter was identified from a single tooth filling found at the site. The team had to go back to the site digging for more, and they found L/Cpl Sharp.

The identifications were announced in February 2005.

Lance Corporal Samuel A. Sharp Jr. was buried in April 2005 in San Jose alongside his family members. Lt Heinz Ahlmeyer Jr., Sergeant James Neil Tycz, and Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Malcolm T. "Doc" Miller were buried at Arlington National Cemetery on May 10, 2005. LCpl. Sharp was honored at this ceremony with his other team members.

In her article entitled "The Last Goodbye," published by the Washington Post on May 10, 2005, Lynne Duke wrote this about these Marines' return home:

"The four flag-draped caskets arrived Sunday (May 8, 2005) at Dulles International Airport on a United Airlines flight from Hawaii. Four hearses awaited them. Military escorts saluted.

"The caskets of Ahlmeyer, Tycz and Miller each contained a folded green blanket. Wrapped inside were a few teeth, positively linked to each man by the JPAC. Atop the blanket lay a dress-blue uniform, pressed and laid out with all their ribbons and decorations. Sharp's remains were put to rest beside his father last month in San Jose. The fourth casket at Dulles represented the group, and held teeth and bone fragments found on Hill 665 that were circumstantially linked to the four men.

"The hearses left Dulles in a convoy, carrying the dead from a long-ago war."

These are photos of the burial ceremonies at Arlington for the "Breaker Four." They were presented by
Arlington Cemetery.

"There is no greater testimonial to the spirit of a Marine and a man than the battle for Khe Sanh ... strength and sheer will to live."

"Their story is known to all of you. It is the story of the American man-at-arms ... I regard him as one of the world's noblest figures; not only as one of the finest military characters, but also as one of the most stainless."

"For more than 30 years, virtually the only people who knew about the Hill Fights were the Marines who fought them."