Human Interest

Sedona Heritage Museum is in possession of many amazing photographs, yet it’s a new platoon photograph that shows what courage Northern Arizona brought to the Vietnam War.

On the night spanning June 15 and 16, 1966, a small U.S. Marine Corps reconnaissance platoon engaged People’s Army of Vietnam and Viet Cong fighters, inflicting large casualties over the course of 12 hours before withdrawing with only a few dead.

This became known as the Battle of Hill 488 in the Hiệp Đức District of South Vietnam. It continues to draw comparisons to the Battle of the Alamo and the D-Day invasion.

Among the decorated Marines that took part in the battle was Bill Norman, one of three Sedona men to have enlisted as part of the Arizona Platoon in June 1965. Norman, Mike Shott and Paul Lemieux graduated from Flagstaff High School in the same year and went through boot camp together in San Diego before being assigned to their various posts. An official platoon photo was taken during this period.

The Arizona Platoon would go on to become among the most decorated of the Vietnam War.

Every member of Norman’s particular group — the 1st Marine Division Recon Platoon — ended up marooned on Hill 488, either wounded or killed during the intense fight, some as the result of hand-to-hand combat.

“Some reports say that the recon platoon was outnumbered by 20 to 1,” according to a press release from Jeannie Trevillyan, of the Sedona Heritage Museum. “The platoon was the most decorated unit for its size in 195 years of American military service, with members cumulatively receiving 18 Purple Hearts, 13 Silver Stars, four Navy Crosses and one Congressional Medal of Honor given for the Battle of Hill 488.”

The platoon photograph featuring Norman, Shott and Lemieux is on temporary loan to the museum until the Visitors and Education Center of the soon-to-be-constructed Operation Welcome Home Veterans Park in Gilbert is completed, offering the document a permanent home. With the photo is biographical information about the men and their service, along with a story about Norman’s experiences as a survivor of the Battle of Hill 488.

The photograph was placed on display to coincide with the Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans celebration and traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall event in Sedona.

The Sedona Heritage Museum is located at 735 Jordan Road in Jordan Historical Park in Uptown and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, call 282-7038.


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