Max P. Mor­gan

U.S. Navy & Ma­rine Corps Vet­eran – Valencia Res­i­dent

The Signal - - VETERANS - Ed­i­tor’s Note: This is the sec­ond in­stall­ment of a two-part fea­ture on Max Mor­gan. By Bill Reynolds Sig­nal Direc­tor of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs

Chap­ter II

I found Max Mor­gan’s per­sonal story so in­ter­est­ing and his ex­pe­ri­ences so var­ied that I could not con­sol­i­date his story within one Vet­er­ans Page, so wel­come to Max Mor­gan’s Chap­ter II.

SEAL Pla­toon

Once Max com­pleted his Sur­vival, Es­cape, Re­sis­tance, and Eva­sion (SERE) train­ing he was as­signed back to Coron­ado Naval base to a SEAL Team Pla­toon con­sist­ing of 14 men in­clud­ing two of­fi­cers and 12 en­listed men.

While at Coron­ado, Max’s team trained for two months in small unit tac­tics and with a va­ri­ety of weapons.

In late 1969, Max flew to Oahu, Hawaii, in a pro­pel­ler driven Dou­glas Air­craft C-118 Lift­mas­ter for seven days of train­ing in a mock-up Viet Cong village where they prac­ticed cap­tur­ing Viet Cong com­mu­nist troops.

“That flight to Hawaii, in an old pro­pel­ler driven air­craft was slow, long and bor­ing,” Max said.

Sea Float

After Oahu, Max and his team con­tin­ued their gru­el­ing C-118 Flight to Viet­nam touch­ing down on ev­ery speck of an is­land be­fore fi­nally reach­ing Tan Son Nhat Air­port in Saigon.

From there, they took a USMC Siko­rsky H-34 he­li­copter to a unique float­ing base camp deep in the Mekong Delta lo­cated in An Xuyen Prov­ince, which is where Max served his en­tire tour of Duty.

The float­ing base camp, Sea Float, con­sisted of sev­eral pon­toon barges lashed to­gether to sup­port wa­ter and air­borne craft, and pro­vide a roof to hold equip­ment and al­low more than one hun­dred and fifty per­son­nel to fight a pro­tracted cam­paign. Two USN Sea­wolf he­li­copter gun­ships were also per­ma­nently based on the “float­ing fortress.” Life aboard Sea Float was sparse; fast­paced, and held daily dan­gers.

Max’s SEAL Team, Echo Pla­toon, was the first American ground force to chal­lenge en­emy guerilla fight­ers in An Xuyen and this area was a Vi­et­cong/ NVA (North Viet­namese Army) strong­hold which proved ex­tremely treach­er­ous.

Max made it through over 50 mis­sions dur­ing his tour of duty at An Xuyen, more than his fel­low SEALs as he was their only Corps­man and op­er­ated with both squads.

Three SEALs were killed in ac­tion and seven wounded in ac­tion in­clud­ing Max dur­ing their tour of duty.

Ong Quyen Canal Am­bush

Dur­ing a small unit op­er­a­tion on May 5, 1970, Max was han­dling an M-60 Ma­chine Gun aboard a Heavy SEAL Sup­port Craft while go­ing ashore on the Ong Quyen Canal when all hell broke loose.

In­tel­li­gence had re­ported a POW site was in the area, so their mis­sion was on.

How­ever, they were am­bushed with en­emy rock­ets scream­ing in along with heavy ma­chine gun and small arms fire.

Dur­ing the fire­fight, Max’s right hand was hit and shat­tered, but he man­aged to scram­ble and ban­dage his fel­low wounded SEALs.

With a dam­aged land­ing craft and nu­mer­ous wounded, they were forced to fight their way back out of that canal.

“That was one of my most har­row­ing ex­pe­ri­ences and I did the best I could to treat our wounded,” Max said. “I gave my­self a shot of mor­phine in my thigh to help with pain re­lief from mul­ti­ple shrap­nel wounds.”

To grip an M-16 in or­der to fin­ish his tour of duty, Max had a doc­tor mold a cast to fit his M-16 ri­fle.

Max earned a Pur­ple Heart and Bronze Star for Valor that day.

Back to Coron­ado

Their Sea Float base was a tar­get for en­emy mor­tar crews as they were con­stantly shot at.

Ev­ery day and night they dropped con­cus­sion grenades into the Cua Lon River to void out VC (Vi­et­con) sap­pers (en­emy sol­diers who sneak in to blow things up) who rou­tinely at­tempted to de­mol­ish their float­ing base.

Max’s tour of duty fi­nally ended mid-1970 and his SEAL Team re­turned Coron­ado for four months, re­plac­ing their dead and wounded.

Next, in the dead of win­ter, Max’s pla­toon was sent to Chin Hai, South Korea, to train Korean Spe­cial Forces for one month.

Train­ing ex­er­cises in­cluded a sub­ma­rine de­signed for lock-ins and lock-outs – mean­ing, that these frog­men learned how to en­ter an area un­der wa­ter and de­part the sub­ma­rine for re­con­nais­sance ex­cur­sions into en­emy ter­ri­tory and re­turn to it.

“I nearly froze my ass off. I was never that cold my en-tire life,” Max said.

Max, Hos­pi­tal Corps­man 1st Class (E-6), re­turned to Coron­ado where he fin­ished his five years of ser­vice and he was Honor­ably Dis­charged Jan. 15, 1971.

His awards in­clude Com­bat Ac­tion Rib­bon, 2 Bronze Stars w/V De­vice, 2 Navy Com­men­da­tion Medals w/V De­vice, 1 Pur­ple Heart, Gold Jump Wings, Na­tional De­fense Medal, Good Con­duct Medal, Viet­nam Ser­vice Medal, Viet­nam Cam­paign Medal, and Armed Forces Ex­pe­di­tionary Medal (Korea).

Pretty Face in the Crowd

Out of the Navy, Max re­turned to Santa Bar­bara briefly be­fore at­tend­ing Cal State Fuller­ton to re­sume his ed­u­ca­tion, us­ing the GI Bill, and grad­u­at­ing in 1974 with a de­gree in Com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

While at­tend­ing col­lege he worked full time in the city of Fuller­ton as a fire­man. Due to Max’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions ex­per­tise he was as­signed to make a fire safety pre­sen­ta­tion at St. Jude’s Hos­pi­tal and dur­ing his talk he no­ticed a pretty face in the crowd.

That pretty face be­longed to Pamela Collins who co­in­ci­den­tally, said to a Nun, “That fire­man sure is cute. I won­der if he’s sin­gle?”

The Nun spoke to Max and the next day he went back to have Pamela paged. Upon see­ing Max, she was pleas­antly sur­prised. Max said “Hi, I have some ques­tions about x-ray be­cause my sis­ter is in­ter­ested in be­ing an xray tech­ni­cian (which was ac­tu­ally true).”

Pam thought that was a lame come-on, though when he asked her out, she coyly said yes and they dated for the next six months.

Of­fi­cer In­fantry School

Un­be­knownst to Pamela, Max had joined the Ma­rine Corps Dec. 29, 1976, which he pur­posely did not dis­close to her think­ing this news could de­rail their ro­mance, so he held off un­til a later date.

Max was in­ter­ested in fly­ing F-4 Phan­tom fighter planes which was why he en­listed. To make a long story short, that did not play out, but he at­tended Of­fi­cer Can­di­date School and be­came a USMC 2nd Lieu­tenant at Quan­tico, Vir­ginia.

After OCS, Max at­tended Of­fi­cer In­fantry School for three months where he earned the most pres­ti­gious award in the class of 183 Marines, the “Lead­er­ship Award” and was pre­sented a USMC Gold Watch.

Max’s next as­sign­ment was Quan­tico’s USMC Ed­u­ca­tional Devel­op­ment Com­mand as an in­struc­tor for one year. He trained naval mid­ship­men in Ma­rine Corps in­fantry tac­tics and then he was as­signed to the most sought after USMC as­sign­ment, which was at Ka­neohe, Hawaii.

Through­out this time, Max and Pam cor­re­sponded and pe­ri­od­i­cally vis­ited each other pre­serv­ing their long dis­tance re­la­tion­ship.

The Hand of God

Max served with the 2nd Bat­tal­ion, 3rd Ma­rine Di­vi­sion as a weapons pla­toon com­man­der for two years, how­ever, part of that as­sign­ment was six months at sea with 500 Marines as part of Amer­ica’s Pa­cific front line of de­fense.

Af­ter­wards, Max was sent to Ok­i­nawa as a 1st Lieu­tenant Hu­man Af­fairs Of­fi­cer.

Max’s re­la­tion­ship con­tin­ued with Pamela over five years, but there came one morn­ing when Max sud­denly awoke with an epiphany and sud­denly ac­knowl­edged his love for Pamela was pas­sion­ate.

Max knew in­stantly that he must marry her, which they did Aug. 23, 1980.

They’ve now been mar­ried 37 years.

“It was the hand of God at work. I’ve been truly blessed to have the best wife and mother to my amaz­ing chil­dren that a man could ever hope for,” Max said.

Valor and Hero­ism

Dur­ing a 180’ deep scuba dive at Ok­i­nawa, Max spot­ted two Ja­panese boys about to drown and, though he was in de­com­pres­sion, he risked his own life to save those boys.

For his brav­ery, he was awarded the Navy/Ma­rine Corps Medal, the high­est peace time award for valor and hero­ism.

Af­ter­wards Ok­i­nawa, Cap­tain Max P. Mor­gan re­turned to Coron­ado for his 2nd Honor­able Dis­charge on Sept. 15, 1979.

His next ad­ven­ture while liv­ing in Ven­tura, Cal­i­for­nia, was as a roustabout on an off­shore oil plat­form with Sun Oil where he worked his way up to Hu­man Re­sources As­sis­tant Man­ager.

Three years later, he be­came a Los An­ge­les Deputy Sher­iff for three years and then he joined the Beverly Hills Po­lice Depart­ment for the next 17 years.

Sem­per Fi!

These days, Pamela and Max spend much time help­ing raise a grand­son and spend­ing time with their won­der­ful chil­dren, Travis and Casey.

Max loves his fam­ily and puts them ahead of all else. Be­sides fam­ily, their pas­sion is gar­den­ing which in­cludes main­tain­ing 15 fruit trees.

Max is a very proud mem­ber of the Viet­nam Vet­er­ans of Amer­ica, Chap­ter 355 and that he served his coun­try as both, a Navy SEAL and Ma­rine Corps in­fantry of­fi­cer.

Sem­per Fi, Max!

Courtesy pho­tos (Be­low left) Max and Pamela’s wed­ding photo. (Right) Navy Ma­rine Corp. medal, Hero­ism in Peace­time. (Be­low right) SEAL wa­ter photo.

Courtesy pho­tos (Above) USMC por­trait. (Left) SEAL Team A. (Be­low) USMC watch.

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