Two Roatanians will be attending the annual Whiskey 1/12 Marine Corps unit reunion in Boston in September. One is Vietnam veteran Ron Cummins of West Bay. The other is made out of fiberglass.
Cummins, who owns Buenos Días Coffee, plans to surprise his service buddies with a reincarnation of the unit’s mascot, Blizzard, who went missing in action following a North Vietnamese rocket attack in June 1967.
Cummins attends the reunions every year.
Whiskey Battery of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Division, 12th Marines – a close-support mortar unit – deployed to Vietnam in March 1965 and was engaged in numerous combat operations in the late ’60s. While out of country briefly at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan, in 1967, the unit adopted Blizzard, an oversized anthropomorphic rubber frog.
“Someone stole him from a pharmacy,” said Cummins, and then brought him to a unit barbecue.
“I don’t know how he got the name ‘Blizzard,’” he said.
When Whiskey Battery subsequently redeployed to Vietnam in June, Blizzard rode along with them on the USS Litchfield, a landing ship transport. He then hitched a ride with the marines on a convoy to Con Thein, near the border between North and South Vietnam, where the unit took up a position on a fortified hill. Blizzard was put on sentry duty.
During a North Vietnamese rocket attack on their position, Blizzard “got blown up,” according to Cummins. “He was a short-timer.”
Although the original Blizzard’s physical existence with the Marines was brief, his legend long outlived him. Unable to emotionally part with their mascot, the marines of Whiskey Battalion listed Blizzard officially as “MIA” (missing in action) rather than “KIA” (killed in action). They carried photos of the faux frog and invented and embellished a body of lore about his subsequent exploits. The legend only grew at annual reunions following the war.
“Rumor had it that he went to the Hanoi Hilton,” said Cummins, referring to the infamous North Vietnamese prison camp. He then reputedly appeared in Cambodia as a mercenary with anti-Communist forces in the mid-’70s.
The yarn Cummins plans to spin at this year’s reunion is that, as Cambodia fell into the hands of the Khmer Rouge, Blizzard escaped on a shrimp boat and found his way to Honduras. In fact, Cummins passed by the South Shore zipline canopy tour on West Bay road and observed that the frog on its sign bore a striking resemblance to Blizzard.
Cummins asked who had made the sign and was referred to Gessell Brousek of Maple Leaf Custom Signs in French Harbour. Brousek was able to make a replica from photos Cummins provided of the original Blizzard. They added combat boots and a Purple Heart medal in recognition of the wounds Blizzard sustained at Con Thein.
Cummins brought Blizzard II with him to the United States when he visited his children in Ohio in May. He plans to return there in September to transport him to Boston for his official unveiling at the reunion. Meanwhile, he’s keeping the fiberglass frog a “closely guarded secret,” known only to the reunion’s host.
“Marines are all a little crazy,” Cummins explained. “They’ll get a kick out of this.” [/private]