Ned E. Seath enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at age 19 in 1962. In December 1965 he was sent with the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment to combat in Vietnam. 3/4 Marines was then part of the 3rd Marine Division.
On July 15, 1966, the Marines began executing Operation Hastings near the Vietnam DMZ. Seath was a machine gun team leader with Company K/3/4. On July 16th, his company came up against a well-entrenched enemy force and assumed a defensive perimeter. Early in the action, two of the Marines’ M60 machine guns were rendered inoperative, causing the company to lose crucial firepower.
In complete darkness and under continuous enemy fire, Lance Corporal Seath took two broken guns and reassembled one working one. His courage under fire and fighting spirit was credited with saving the company, and he ultimately received the Navy Cross for his valor.
The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Lance Corporal Ned E. Seath, United States Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism while serving as a Machine Gun Team Leader with Company K, Third Battalion, Fourth Marines, THIRD Marine Division, in the Republic of Vietnam on 16 July 1966. In support of Operation HASTINGS, Company K was positioned in the middle of an enemy infested jungle to establish a blocking position at a major enemy trail network. Shortly after landing, the Company encountered a reinforced enemy platoon in a well-organized, defensive position. In a portion of the perimeter adjacent to Lance Corporal Seath, a machine gunner was wounded and his weapon disabled by enemy fire. Recognizing the importance of stopping the enemy, Lance Corporal Seath moved quickly through withering automatic weapons fire to extract the inoperative machine gun. Working in pitch darkness with only the occasional flickering illumination from aircraft dropped flares above and suffering a leg and hand wound from mortar fire, Lance Corporal Seath expertly crafted an operational M-60 machine gun from the pieces of two disabled weapons. Immediately and with devastating effects, he directed deadly accurate fire at the onrushing enemy. Heedless of his painful wounds, as his field of fire in the prone position became partially obscured by enemy casualties, Lance Corporal Seath stood up fully exposed to the enemy as he continued the withering fire ultimately repelling the enemy’s assault. By his bold leadership, undaunted courage, and complete dedication to duty, Lance Corporal Seath reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.
Seath’s heroism went unrecognized for many years. His Navy Cross was presented to him by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus on February 11, 2011 at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, VA – nearly 45 years after he made two machine guns one, and saved his comrades.
His company commander, Robert J. Modrzejewski, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his part in the battle. Modrzejewski will be honored in a future Their Finest Hour post. Today, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines is attached to the 7th Marine Regiment and the 1st Marine Division and are home based at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California.