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Van Daley Bell Jr.
Nickname "Ding Dong Bell"
Born August 25, 1918
Died June 3, 2009(2009-06-03) (aged 90)
Place of birth Atlanta, Georgia
Place of death Tupelo, Mississippi
Buried at Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington, Virginia
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1936–1975
Rank US-O6 insignia.svg Colonel
Commands held 1st Battalion, 1st Marines
Battles/wars

World War II

Korean War

Vietnam War

Awards Navy Cross (2)
Silver Star (2)
Purple Heart (5)

Van Daley Bell Jr. (August 25, 1918 – June 3, 2009) was a highly decorated United States Marine with the rank of colonel. He was the recipient of two Navy Crosses and veteran of three wars.

Early career[edit | edit source]

Van D. Bell was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on August 25, 1918. Bell enlisted in the Marines on March 13, 1936 and attended Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. Afterwards, he was assigned to the 4th Marine Regiment in China, before serving on board the USS Augusta where he was Admiral Harry E. Yarnell’s bodyguard.[1][2]

With the outbreak of World War II, Bell was soon promoted to Master Sergeant and participated in the battles of Guadalcanal and Okinawa with the 1st Marine Division. After the war, he was commissioned a lieutenant and returned to China in January 1947 where he remained until May 1949. He was then assigned to the Marine Barracks in Newport, Rhode Island from June 1949 to February 1951.[1][2]

Korean War[edit | edit source]

In March 1951, First Lieutenant Bell deployed to Korea and was assigned to B Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. In April, he was awarded his first Silver Star for carrying a wounded Marine 400 yards to safety while under heavy fire.[2][3]

On May 29, he took command of a platoon after it took several casualties and led it in an assault on an enemy-held ridge, knocking out three enemy bunkers. While assaulting a fourth bunker, Bell was wounded in the face by a grenade, but he continued leading his platoon until wounded again in the leg. He was awarded his first Navy Cross for his actions, and was later wounded again in October and sent back to the United States.[1][2][3]

Vietnam War[edit | edit source]

Lieutenant Colonel Bell deployed to Vietnam with the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines in December 1965. On June 6, 1966, he led three M50 Ontos vehicles into enemy territory to relieve a platoon that was heavily engaged with the enemy. His leadership repelled the enemy and resulted in 30 enemy deaths. While returning to base, the lead Ontos struck a mine and was destroyed, wounding Bell. The enemy then launched an ambush on the remaining vehicles, but Bell was able to lead his Marines in fighting them off. For his actions, he was awarded his second Navy Cross.[1][2][3]

Bell extended his tour in Vietnam for another six months in early 1967. While in Vietnam, Bell was popular among reporters and photographers for giving them straight facts. He was also given the nickname "Ding Dong Bell."[4] In February 1967, he led his battalion across a river during Operation Stone, in which over 200 enemy soldiers were killed and dozens of prisoners were taken.[5] Lieutenant Colonel Bell was awarded his second Silver Star for his leadership.[3] He later took part in Operation Union before leaving Vietnam in July 1967.[1][2][6]

Later career and life[edit | edit source]

Bell served at numerous duty stations after leaving Vietnam, including the Marine Barracks at USNB Guantanamo Bay, and Camp Smedley Butler in Okinawa, Japan. Colonel Bell retired after 39 years of service on July 1, 1975. Van D. Bell died on June 3, 2009, in Tupelo, Mississippi. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.[1][2]

References[edit | edit source]

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