David E. Lownds

United States Marine Colonel

b. 1920

Born in Holyoke, Massachusetts and commissioned as a U.S. Marine officer during World War Two, David Lownds led a marine platoon during the invasions of Kwajalein, Saipan, and Iwo Jima. He was several times wounded and left active duty after the war.

Recalled to active status during the Korean War, Lownds was promoted to Major in 1951. During the early 1960s he held a variety of staff positions until he became commander of the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines stationed at Camp Lejeune. As operations officer of the 4th Marine Expeditionary Force in the Dominican Republic he earned a Bronze Star.

Promoted to Colonel in July 1965, Lownds made it to Vietnam in July 1967 when he replaced Colonel John Padley as regimental commander of the 26th Marines.

Lownds Takes Command of the 26th

The 26th Marines were then stationed at the Khe Sanh Combat Base in the Quang Tri Province just south of the Dimilitarized Zone (DMZ). As a result of his leadership at Khe Sanh, Colonel Lownds received the Navy Cross, the second highest award the United States confers on its warriors.

The North Vietnamese siege of Khe Sanh in early 1968 stands as a paradigmatic moment in the quagmire known as the War in Vietnam. Like the war itself, Khe Sanh can be seen as a U.S. military victory. The United States Marines withstood the North Vietnamese assault. On the other hand, soon after the siege was over, the U.S. military command abandoned the base and it ultimately fell into the hands of the North Vietnamese. But, importantly, the American domestic reaction to the battle of Khe Sanh, which further eroded the public's desire to wage war against the Vietnamese communists, has been seen as a political victory for the communists.

Military correspondent, Robert Pisor, who wrote a book about the battle in his book The End of the Line has asked and answered an important question:

How could this mighty nation not whip that little, flooded country in Southeast Asia? How? By not preparing our people for war. There must be a holy cause for America to go to war - to throw itself wholeheartedly into a fight to the death. And nobody could exactly define the holy cause in this war.

Many observers have cited Khe Sanh as a turning point in their support of the war. The war photographer, David Duncan, who lived with the Marines at Khe Sanh returned to the United States in March, 1968, published a book called I Protest and wrote:

I'm just a veteran combat photographer and foreign correspondent who cares intensely about my country and the role we are playing-- and assigning to ourselves-- in the world of today. And I want to shout a loud and clear protest at what has happened at Khe Sanh, and in all of Vietnam.

In the Spring of 1968 Duncan went on the "Mike Douglas" television talk show to press his protest. A day later, on the same show, Colonel Lownds appeared, expressing his point of view that Khe Sanh was an American victory.

The debate continues to this day. It is doubtful that there will ever be consensus about the meaning of the battle or the war. Nevertheless, a lot of blood on both sides was soaked up by the hills and valleys in Quang Tri province.

Colonel Lownds' command of the 26th Marines ended in April 1968 when he was reassigned. On May 23, in Washington, D.C., Lownds accepted, on behalf of the defenders of Khe Sanh, a Presidential Unit Citation from President Lyndon Johnson.

David Lownds- 1997 Wonderland Warrior
URL http://www.cosmicbaseball.com/lownds7.html
Published: January 15, 1997
Revised: July 25, 1997

© 1997 by the Cosmic Baseball Association
Email: editor@cosmicbaseball.com