“We won every battle we were in, at high cost. … I’ve seen some of the bravest men and women in the world. We became a band of brothers and sisters…” said Ed Hogue, Chief Warrant Officer/Gunner, U.S. Marine Corps.
He saw plenty of action in Vietnam, led men through the jungle on rescue and other missions, and he continued to serve after the war. A native of Glenwood Springs, Colorado, Hogue discovered leadership skills at an early age, learning from teachers, a Scout leader and family. Raised by his Italian grandparents and also uncles who served in World War II, he had the opportunity to meet several military personnel, including the famous Audie Murphy.
“From nine years old, I knew where I wanted to go: I wanted to be a sergeant in the United States Marines,” Hogue said.
“I grew up with a family that I didn’t realize (then) who not only loved you, but they were preparing you for what was going to happen later in your life,” he continued. “They gave you strengths that you didn’t even know were there, that you didn’t understand at the time.”
Enlisting in the Marines
The day of his high school graduation, Hogue received a draft letter from the military. His closest friends received the same type of letter. However, the Army is not where they wanted to be, so the young men got into a Jeep and drove to Grand Junction to enlist in the Marines. They traveled from Denver to San Diego and ended up at the Marine Corp Recruit Depo.
“Everybody there is zero. I don’t care if you’re a rich kid, a poor kid … your life changed from that point forward,” Hogue said. “The change is forever.”
Because of his experiences with the Scouts and interactions with his uncles and their military friends Hogue stood out during shooting qualifications at Camp Pendleton and the Enston Range. When asked at the 1,000-yard range how he had learned to shoot and gauge accuracy so well, he responded, “‘Audie Murphy, sir.’ ‘The Audie Murphy?’ Hogue was questioned. “‘Yes, sir.’” And then he was told to “Carry on.”
Infantry and rifle training were “really, really intense,” Hogue said, yet he also found satisfaction, even a sense of purpose; that included language and culture – Hogue spoke Italian in addition to English.
“To me it was an adventure, things you’ve always wanted to do and now are doing it,” he stated.
As he advanced in his military career, he discovered many lessons; some came the hard way, he said.
“Life in the military was really great in a lot of ways – you take it with an open heart, understanding it’s hurry up and wait; waiting is probably the most aggravating part – in battle plans, you gotta wait. And nothing ever goes by plan after it’s started,” he said.
“Officers need to be with their men – if an officer knows what the men are going through, they’re most likely going to take better care of their people — that’s my philosophy, and I’ve always run that through, lived by it,” he said. “You do not manage people, you lead people.”
Hogue was color blind, but he progressed through the system because he had an aviation guarantee. He recalled a major telling him, “Your shooting is unbelievable. Here’s what I can offer you. It’s not going to be easy. I’m going to offer you a battalion recon operations (position) – Special Forces – if you can make it.”
Headed to Vietnam
After more weeks of training, including jungle school in Panama, jump school, and advanced weaponry “target acquisition stuff” in Okinawa, Japan, Hogue was sent to Vietnam. His first job was that of a radio operator.
“You’re the first target they shoot at,” he said.
He began to learn another great lesson: the comradery of brotherhood. However, “you don’t get close,” he said.
“You never get close to anybody – never! You either lose them or they get hit or transferred,” Hogue said. “But you’re still human. I got very close to a sergeant. He lit up a cigarette one night with a poncho over him. Next thing I know, he’s laying on my shoulder; then I hear the sound, the report. The little air holes in the sleeve for breathers – he lit that (cigarette) and a sniper spotted him.”
Another man to whom Hogue became close with was Cal H. Waller, a captain in Vietnam who went on to become a lieutenant general and serve in Desert Storm as number two in command, Hogue said.
“One of the closest friends I ever got to know in life … was Calvin Waller – he was a young captain,” Hogue said. “We shared bunkers with the Army and Marines – that was the 1968 Tet (Offensive) in Kason. We were walking to an ammo bunker. … All of a sudden we heard thump, thump and boom. … Cal turned and looked, and I said, ‘Mortars!’ The Army has this philosophy … when a mortar is coming in, most military folks want to head for a hole; they want to dig in and get down. In Marine Recon operations, we run to the sound. A mortar tube man can’t adjust fast enough if you’re running to it.”
Waller, Hogue and others ended up in an old mortar pit with mud and water 16 inches deep; it was built like a horseshoe and smelled like an outhouse “and probably was at one time,” he said.
“We’re inside a parameter, (and) the shelling was relentless,” Hogue added.
“This was a day and night of shelling – small arms, rockets, etc. The shelling and mortars went on for months. We sat there probably five or six days in that mud pit, but that was Tet. We were getting short on supplies. … A round hit the ammo bunker (and) detonated in there – we lost that whole entire ammo bunker.”
The Army had spent months stocking the bunker “and it was all gone in minutes,” he said.
Finally, the Air Force came in and conducted “carpet-type bombing,” he said.
“That put them (the enemy) back. It simmered down and we started to get supplies.”
There was something learned from that experience as well.
“You’re not here to win a war now, you’re here to survive,” Hogue said. “You lived to survive, one day at a time, and at other times, every minute.”
Waller played a pivotal role in Hogue’s life after Vietnam, too, and in essence brought him to Casper as part of the dismantling of the Amoco Refinery. Waller worked for Kaiser-Hill, an environmental subcontractor; he died in 1996 while writing the book “The War of the Generals,” Hogue said.
A leader in Vietnam
During the Vietnam War, Hogue went from radio operator to leading a group of men and serving as a long range tactical specialist. His mentor was Charles Babcock, whom Hogue described as “one of the greatest snipers in U.S. Marine Corp history.”
“We shared a lot of common concerns, and I learned from the best – a quiet man with the eye of an eagle,” said Hogue. “It’s best that when he talks you listen.”
As part of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Recon, the primary mission for Hogue and his men was to find downed aircraft and help the pilots and crew members, no matter what branch of service they were from.
“We’re the dustoff; we are to go in and bring them back to our side of the DMZ, as many as possible,” he said.
During one such mission, rescuing the crew of a B52 that experienced mechanical failure, Hogue and his group spent five days in the jungle. They received help near Hanoi Harbor from the USS New Jersey, Marine Force Recon and the newly formed Navy Seals, Hogue said.
“They came in and dusted us off,” he said. “That was a change for us – we were special operations.
Hogue served two tours, from 1968 to 1970, leading 3 to 36 men, depending upon the mission.
Service after Vietnam
After Vietnam, Hogue worked at a correctional facility, served as a patrolman and a sheriff in his hometown, and he worked several presidential security details. His favorite White House residents were Pat Nixon, who “made brownies and ice-cold lemonade,” he said, and Gerald Ford “who was my closest president – I loved the man,” Hogue stated. He served in Nicaragua, Israel, Beirut and Kosovo, among other places – “29 countries in all,” he said.
“I worked many, many missions,” Hogue stated. “We had individual target sets. … Oftentimes you just disappeared (for a time).”
He continues serving in various ways, including as part of the Vietnam Wall Memorial Committee and the World Safety Organization. He lives by the Marine motto, Semper Fidelis.
“It mean ‘always faithful,’” Hogue said. “To a true Marine, and those who truly believe, faithful is not only faithful to God and country, but it’s to family and it’s to your young ones. Be faithful to yourself and be faithful to those in your care. I want to be true and faithful to my country.”
Sometimes that’s hard, he added, but a Marine’s oath is for life.
“It never expires – once you have taken the oath that means for your life as an American. I’m proud of my military record, I’m proud of my uniform and my Corps.”
His early life, with his grandparents and uncles, set him on that path of loyalty to country, to himself and his family.
“It set the course of where I was going to go and how I was going to do my leadership, it (all) came from my early years,” Hogue said. “The destination is the final goal, but the journey can take you any place, and in some ways, it can change the outcome of some history.”