mission of the Marine CAP Unit was to live along side the South Vietnamese and
train them to fight against the Viet Cong.
While in these remote villages the Marines adapted to Vietnamese culture
and learned the language. The threat of
a Viet Cong attack was always a possibility, which is why a majority of the CAP
Units rotated between several villages in an effort to keep the enemy at
bay. At the time of Cpl. Erchenbrecher’s
entrance into the CAP Program in 1970, it had reached its peak with four CAGs
that included 114 CAP Units distributed over villages in five South Vietnam
provinces: Quang Ngai (1st CAG), 350 km south of the DMZ; Quang Tin
(1st CAG); Quang Nam (2d CAG); Thua Thien (3rd
CAG); and Quang Tri (4th CAG), the northern most province. By this time the CAP units had also gone from
alpha-numeric designations to numeric designations, such as 1-3-2. The first digit designated the group (1-4),
the second designated the unit and the third designated the platoon.
in An Diem Hai Cpl. Erchenbrecher and his CAP unit came under Viet Cong fire
several times, most notably on May 8th, 1970. It was on this date that his compound was
over run with an estimated 150 Viet Cong soldiers around 2:00 a.m. A battle ensued that lasted until
daylight. Cpl. Erchenbrecher received a
Purple Heart as a result of the action.
During the fight, a fellow Marine, LCpl. Miguel Keith, was mortally
wounded while defending the compound.
LCpl. Keith became the 53rd Marine to be awarded the
Congressional Medal of Honor in Vietnam
due to his heroic action on May 8, 1970.
Because of Cpl. Erchenbrecher’s efforts during his nine and one-half months
of service in South Vietnam he was promoted to Lance Corporal and received the
Combat Action Ribbon. The 3rd
Marine Amphibious Force held its official deactivation ceremony September 23,
1970 on the My Khe Compound, Da Nang East, Republic of Vietnam.
arriving in the United States,
Cpl. Erchenbrecher was sent to Camp Lejeune near Jacksonville,
North Carolina to continue his
military service. He began training with
the 2d Reconnaissance Battalion - A Company as a Reconnaissance
Marine. While stationed at Camp
Lejeune he achieved his
highest rank of corporal. In September
1971, Cpl. Erchenbrecher was deployed on a six-month military cruise that ran
operations in Spain, France, Italy
and Greece. On August 11, 1972, Cpl. Erchenbrecher was
honorably discharged from active duty from the United States Marine Corps. He remained a reservist until June 15, 1975.
Scope and Content
collection, spanning the years from 1969 to1975, contains photocopies of 150
letters, military documents, approximately 270 scanned photographs and
miscellaneous paperwork pertaining to the service record of Cpl. Stephen J.
Erchenbrecher in the United States Marine Corps III Marine Amphibious Force,
CAP 1-3-2. The collection also
chronicles his experience in the 2d Reconnaissance Battalion after
serving in Vietnam. Cpl. Erchenbrecher’s letters were written to
his parents and sister from August 1969 to February 1972 while he was stationed
in Camp Pendleton,
Lejeune and during his
military cruise deployment. The
correspondence from basic training and South Vietnam include descriptions
of his military duties, his role in the CAP unit, night time raids, movements,
changes within the unit organization, his promotion, weather, camp life, and information
about his comrades. The latter half of
Cpl. Erchenbrecher’s letters describes his duties and experiences while
training as a Reconnaissance Marine.
The photographs depict areas around the Quang Ngai Province in South Vietnam,
particularly the village
of An Diem Hai while Cpl.
Erchenbrecher was stationed there in 1970.
Also included in the photographs are the locations of Da
Nang, Chu Lai, Okinawa and several
European countries. Scanned artifacts
belonging to Cpl. Erchenbrecher are also included. A cassette tape and typed transcription from
June 3, 1970 completes this collection.