Top Harry Sheppell and Gunny Bob Yaucher were two of the best men anyone could have served with. Top was a three-war Marine and Gunny had two under his belt. God knows it took every bit of that experience to keep us young Marines in line and alive, boot camp and ITR notwithstanding.
Being the person I was in the late '60s, I took great pains to avoid interaction with authority figures. I didn't fully appreciate the job they did—with what they had to work with—until years later.
Absolutely nothing made the Top's day more than doing something for his troops. No parent was ever more concerned or dedicated. Nothing made the Gunny's day more than seeing the men of Whiskey Battery operating by the book and functioning like a well-oiled green machine.
We did a lot of growing up and really came into our own during Operation Badger Catch (Jan. 1968), during which the above picture was taken. On this day, I think Top and Gunny were the only two in the battery who'd ever been on the incoming end of enemy artillery. By noon the next day there were a lot of wide eyes and open mouths on the banks of the Cua Viet River. Over the next few weeks we all learned more about the NVA's 130s and 152s than we thought there was to know.
Gunny Yaucher retired from the USMC from this operation—and stayed with us in the bush right up 'til he choppered out for retirement.
Top Sheppell's wife of over 50 years suffered a great loss in May of 1998 when this three-war Marine survivor got blindsided by a rare liver cancer that killed him five days after the diagnosis was made. Her loss was definitely Chesty's gain.
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The author: Harry Cockson served in the Corps from Sept. 1966–Sept. 1968, with Whiskey Battery 2nd Bn., 11th Marines in Vietnam 67–68; Hill 63, BLT 3/1—Cua Viet River, Camp Carroll, Ca Lu. After that BLT went to Phu Loc, then An Hoa. In February 2007, Harry retired after 32 years with the Nebraska Public Power District. Click to view then-and-now pix of author.
Top Sheppell savors
a warm brew in Nam
Photo: SSgt. Steve Taylor
First Sergeant Harry Sheppel (left) and Gunnery Sergeant Bob Yaucher, during Operation Badger Catch, RVN, Jan. 1968
Photo by Bob Heuman