Ricardo C. "Rick" Binns

The Most Decorated Single Unit In

The Vietnam War

In June of 1966 Marine Reconnaissance teams were being sent out to look for enemy movements in the area west of the Chu Lai Marine Base. One of those teams was an 18-man patrol from Charlie Co. 1st Recon, lead by then Staff Sgt. Jimmie Howard. They were inserted by helicopter to the top of Hill 488, some 20 miles west of Chu Lai.


They didn’t know it then, but this patrol would become the most highly decorated single unit in the Vietnam War.


On June 13, shortly after they had been inserted on top of Hill 488, they began to spot enemy activity. They were supported by an Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) 105mm howitzer battery. They called in artillery missions on those movements. Two days later, they spotted even more enemy movements and again began calling in artillery missions. It became obvious to the enemy troops that they were being observed and they had a fair idea as to where they were being observed from as well.


It was shortly after that when Staff Sgt. Howard reported on the radio that there were squads of NVA force, later identified as being from the 3rd NVA Regiment, that were beginning to move toward his position on top of Hill 488.


In the total darkness, just after midnight on June 15th, 1966 the NVA began probing the Recon team’s position. One of the Navy Hospital Corpsman with the team, B.C. Holmes, recalled, “They were within 20 feet of us. Suddenly there were grenades all over the place. People started hollering. Guys were getting hit at the same time.”


In other words, all hell broke loose for this 18 man Recon team, which was clearly outnumbered. But they fought back with a ferocity that would later be recognized by the Marines that were airlifted out to help them get out of that mess.


The 3rd NVA regiment forces were coming at them with everything they had. The Recon Marines’ position was being swept by AK-47 and heavy machine gun fire from everywhere. Howard got on the radio and reported to Lt. Col. Arthur Sullivan.

“You’ve got to get us out of here,” he told Sullivan. “There are too many of them for my people.”


Sullivan immediately called in Marine and Air Force air support. Marine Huey gunships began strafing runs to within 20 feet of the Recon perimeters and Marine and Air Force fighter jets were dropping bombs as close as 100 meters from their position. This helped to slow down the NVA assault on Howard’s Recon Marines, but the enemy stayed in the fight throughout the night, firing AK-47 rifle fire at the Reconners all night.


Things couldn’t have been worse for Howards Recon team. They were running out of ammo. In fact, they started throwing rocks at the enemy, hoping that they would think that they were grenades.


During the night, Howard himself was hit in the back by AK-47 rifle fire. This temporarily paralyzed his legs, but not his spirit. He dragged himself from position to position throughout the night, encouraging his men, keeping them in the fight, even though every last one of them had been wounded.


At Dawn, UH-34 helicopters from Marine Aircraft Group 36 (MAG 36) flew in Marines from Charlie Co. 1st Bn, 5th Marines out of Chu Lai. They were led by 1st Lt. Marshall Darling. They were inserted at the base of Hill 488 and began to assault the NVA 3rd Regiment forces from below in the effort to help break the siege on the Reconners at the top of the hill. As they got to the top of Hill 488, they reported that when they approached the Recon Marines, nearly all of them were armed with AK-47s they had taken from the enemy dead.


Every one of the Recon Marines and Corpsmen had been wounded, most more than one time. The Marines from C/1/5 counted 42 dead NVA around the Recon position. In this fight, the Marines suffered 10 KIA, including 2 from C/1/5 and 2 from one of the Huey squadrons, meaning that 6 of the 18 Charlie, 1st Recon team members were among those KIA.


When it was all over, Staff Sgt, Jimmie Howard would be awarded the Medal of Honor; Ricardo Binns and Hospital Corpsman, B.C. Holmes would receive the Navy Cross; J.T. Adams and J.R. Thompson would be awarded the Navy Cross posthumously; Charles Bosley, Hospital Corpsman R.J. Fitzpatrick, Raymond Hildreth, Joseph Kosoglow, Robert Martinez, Daniel Mulvihill, William Norman, Thomas Powells, and Ralph Victor, would be awarded Silver Stars; And Ignatius Carlisi, T.D. Glawe, J.C. McKinney and A.N. Mascarenas would receive the Silver Star posthumously.

All 18 men were awarded for their valor that night on top of Hill 488.

The Battle of Hill 488

Binns being awarded the Navy Cross

Local Marine considered for upgrade to MoH dies

One of Boundary County's most highly decorated veterans, Force Recon Marine Ricardo C. Binns died at his home in the Moyie Springs area. His body was found today, the Marine Corps' 243rd birthday. He was 72 years old.

A man who mostly kept to himself, only a few knew the hero in our midst.

In June, 1966, Lance Corporal Binns, born December 25, 1945, in the Bronx, New York, was one of a patrol of 16 Marines and two attached Navy corpsmen, under the leadership of Staff Sergeant Jimmie E. Howard manning a reconnaissance post overlooking the Que Son Valley, one of seven tasked with reporting on movements of the People's Army of Vietnam and calling in artillery strikes.

At 10 p.m. June 15, Binns fired the first shots in what would become known as the Battle of Hill 488. By midnight, all 18 in the patrol were wounded, by the next morning, six had died in fighting that saw the Marines, running out of grenades and ammunition, fighting hand to hand and throwing rocks at the Vietnamese force trying to over run their position. Two helicopters trying to evacuate the small force were shot down before the fight ended 12 hours later, the surviving Marines still holding Hill 488.

Over 200 Vietnamese fighters were killed.

Wounded in the battle, Binns refused assistance once a company from 1st Battalion 5th Marines arrived to relieve the Marines. Awarded his second Purple Heart, he was unable to fully recover, placed on a temporary retirement list and eventually medically discharged in 1971.

Each member of the small U.S. Force was decorated, each with Purple Hearts. The Medal of Honor was bestowed on Howard. Binns and three others received the Navy Cross, the Marine Corps second highest award for valor, two posthumously.

The unit, part of the First Marine Recon Battalion, was the most highly decorated United States small unit to have fought in Vietnam.

Momentum for local Medal of Honor growing

Support for upgrading the Navy Cross Marine Corps Lance Corporal Ricardo C. Binns, retired, was awarded for heroism 44 years ago during the Vietnam War is growing, with U.S. Senators James Risch and Mike Crapo and Idaho Senator Shawn Keough all agreeing to help.

The nomination, made by retired Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Robert Adelhelm, Jacksonville, Florida, was initially submitted earlier this year with the recommendation of U.S. Congressman Raul Labrador. The recommendation is now with the U.S. Marine Corps, with a decision expected sometime in June.

The Navy Cross is the second highest award for valor and bravery that can be awarded to a Marine. On Monday, Binns will ride in the Bonners Ferry Memorial Day parade.

You can read about the Bonners Ferry Marine's heroism by clicking here.

Adelhelm first heard about Binns' heroism while studying at the Officer's Basic Course, where part of the curriculum was the Battle of Hill 488. After his retirement, he happened to meet and work with a man who'd been on the hill that day, Charles Bosley, who told him more about the events of that June, 1966, night. The more he heard, the more Adelhelm became convinced that a fellow Marine, deserving of the nation's highest honor, had been denied.

Over a period of years, he gathered documenation and statements from the survivors of the battle, some of whom have since died.

"The events covered in LCol. Adelhelm's exhaustive research are worthy of close scrunity and in my view deserve a further review by the highest authority," wrote retired Navy Rear Admiral David Harlow. "The awarding of the Navy Cross for valor, bravery, sacrifice and support of fellow Marines in deadly combat was extremely well deserved. This is a major award, but LCol. Adelhelm's efforts raise the question that possibly LCpl. Binns is deserving of the next and highest of our country's awards, the Congressional Medal of Honor."

Ray Hildreth, now living in Tulsa, Oklahoma, who was on the hill that fateful night, wrote in support of the upgrade, saying "Rick Binns was wounded multiple times by gun fire and shrapnel from grenades and refused morphine offered by our Corpsman so that he could remain alert and in the battle. The indomitable spirit that Rick Binns displayed during the battle was an inspiration to those of us that remained able to fight."

"I was with LCpl Binns when we first saw and engaged the enemy before he ordered us back to anther defensive position," wrote former Marine Tom Powell. "The enemy firing became intense from hundreds of enemy tryinig to take our position. While returning fire, I was shot and would have been killed it it wasn't for LCpl Binns pulling me to cover and treating my wound. Although I was wounded, I saw all the actions going on around me and I witnessed what LCpl Binns did during the battle. He moved from position to position through intense enemy fire helping engage the enemy where needed and at close range. He was loading magazines and passing out ammo, helping treat others who were wounded, he was firing and yelling at the enemy and encouraging us to hold our positions. I can still remember the way his eyes looked and how he fought like hell ... I saw what he did. His actions were heroic. It is still hard to believe anyone could do what he did under those conditions. He is a hero, and if it wasn't for him, we would not have survived that battle."

"I was surprised that he was not considered," wrote Bosley in support of Adelhelm's upgrade request. "I was surprised that he wasn't awarded the MOH, but figured it was because of politics. I was just a PFC (private first class) at the time and did what I was told. I was just glad to have survived that battle. I and the others survived because of LCpl Binns, and for that I am very grateful to him."

"Although many years have passed, the documented facts gathered and provided by LCol Adelhelm in support of making things right for a fellow and most worthy Marine deserve the consideration of further review," Harlow wrote. 

'For this' we remember

Mike Ashby, right, talks with guest speaker SFC Lawrence Jefferson II, left, and Medal of Honor nominee Rick Binns, center

Army Command Sergeant Major "Uncle" Bud Larsen and Marine Lance Corporal Ricardo Binns, whose Navy Cross is now being considered for upgrade to the Congressional Medal of Honor. Bud's Mercedes, Army through and through, welcomed the Marine aboard without protest.

Ricardo Courtney Binns
BIRTH 25 Nov 1945
Bronx County, New York, USA
DEATH 10 Nov 2018 (aged 72)
Boundary County, Idaho, USA
BURIAL Cremated, Specifically: Final disposition of remains as yet undecided