PEPPER, ANTHONY JOHN "TONY"


Name: Anthony John "Tony" Pepper 
Rank/Branch: Private First Class/US Marine Corps 
Unit: Company G, 2nd Battalion, 
26th Marines (Reinforced), 
3rd Marine Division 
Date of Birth: 9 October 1947 (Tacoma, WA)
Home of Record: Richmond, VA
Date of Loss: 6 April 1968 
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 164033N 1064134E (XD812432)
Click coordinates to view maps
Status in 1973: Killed/Body Not Recovered 
Category: 5
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
Other Personnel In Incident: James M. Trimble (missing) 

REMARKS:

SYNOPSIS:   In April 1968, Cpl. James M. "Jim" Trimble and PFC Anthony J. "Tony" Pepper were members of Company G, which was conducting a search and destroy operation to interdict enemy activity moving from Laos into the northwestern provinces of South Vietnam. When North Vietnam began to increase its military strength in South Vietnam, NVA and Viet Cong troops again intruded on neutral Laos for sanctuary, as the Viet Minh had done during the war with the French some years before. This border road was used by the Communists to transport weapons, supplies and troops from North Vietnam into South Vietnam, and was frequently no more than a path cut through the jungle covered mountains. US forces used all assets available to them to stop this flow of men and supplies from moving south into the war zone.

On 6 April 1968, Company G engaged a large communist force in heavy combat on a grassy hillside overlooking and in view of the Khe Sanh Combat Base. The battle site was located approximately 1 mile west of Route 608, less than 2 miles northwest of the combat base, 6 miles northwest of the city of Khe Sanh, 9 miles east of the South Vietnamese/Lao border and 24 miles south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ), Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam.

Cpl. Trimble and PFC Pepper quickly established a fighting position within a bomb crater. During the vicious battle that raged around them, several Marines were killed and wounded, and the bomb crater in which the two Marines were located took a direct hit from a mortar round. After several unsuccessful attempts were made to recover Jim Tremble and Tony Pepper's remains by surviving members of Company G, their unit was forced to withdraw from the grassy hill under fire.

On 7 April 1968, US forces returned to the battle site. During an extensive search and recovery (SAR) operation, the unit recovered the bodies of 9 Americans, but found no sign of Cpl. Trimble of PFC Pepper in or around the area. At the time the formal search was terminated, Jim Tremble and Tony Pepper were declared Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

On 24 June 1993, a joint American/Vietnamese team under the auspices of the Joint Task Force for Full Accounting (JTFFA) traveled to the area of loss where Company G had been engaged in combat. Team members interviewed local residents, but located no witnesses who had information pertaining to this case. The team also traveled to the battle site to conduct a surface search for the missing Marines, but found no remains or personal effects belonging to either Cpl. Trimble or PFC Pepper.

After completing the surface search, the team determined that Jim Trimble and Tony Pepper died as a result of a direct mortar hit during the battle in which 9 others were killed; and that the day after the battle, the area was thoroughly searched and the remains of the other 9 men were recovered and subsequently identified. Further, during the original search, no trace of either Marine was found in or around the bomb crater. Based on these facts, the JTFFA team determined, "It is unreasonable to expect that bone splinters could be located 25 years after the incident in a case such as this. The remains of each individual are unrecoverable."

The fate of Jim Trimble and Tony Pepper is not in doubt and there is virtually no chance that their remains are recoverable today. Above all else, these men have the right not to be forgotten by the nation for which they gave their lives.

However, for other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, their fate could be quite different.  Since the end of the Vietnam War well over 21,000 reports of American prisoners, missing and otherwise unaccounted for have been received by our government.  Many of these reports document LIVE American Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.

Military men were called upon to fight in many dangerous circumstances, and they were prepared to be wounded, killed or captured.  It probably never occurred to them that they could be abandoned by the country they so proudly served.