It began with an ambush. On the night of April 5, 1967, the men of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines were patrolling in the vicinity of Con Thien when they came under attack by an entire North Vietnamese Army battalion. In the initial moments of the firefight, most of the Marines were wounded or killed, including the company commander.
Marine Lance Cpl. James Stogner returned fire with his M16. He dropped three men before his rifle was shot out of his hands, destroying the weapon and breaking his nose. Then, armed only with a Kabar knife, he rejoined the fight. Pouncing from man to man with his stainless-steel blade, he killed seven enemy soldiers, including four he stabbed to death as they were torturing a wounded Marine.
Stogner earned a Navy Cross that night. While the medal recognizes his extraordinary actions, he wasn’t the first American service member to wield a Kabar to deadly effect in combat. Nor would he be the last. Over the years, and through many conflicts, the Kabar has proven an indispensable weapon in moments of extreme desperation, at times as essential to a soldier’s survival as his rifle or compass.