In conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Tet Offensive – a series of surprise attacks by the North Vietnamese army against the South Vietnamese army and its allies during the Vietnam War – the 1st Force Reconnaissance Company was profiled in depth in the February 2018 edition of Leatherneck magazine, a monthly publication for veteran and active U.S. Marine Corps personnel.
Galloway Township resident Robert Schoelkopf was a member of 1st Force Recon, a special operations dive team whose primary purpose was to conduct preliminary reconnaissance of planned beach landing sites for the Marines and report all findings to a task force called the III Marine Amphibious Force.
Schoelkopf was a U.S. Navy corpsman, or field medical specialist, who volunteered for 1st Force Recon during the Vietnam War.
He said the 1st Force Recon conducted more than 2,200 reconnaissance patrols before being deactivated at the start of the United States' withdrawal from Vietnam.
Many of those patrols were in and around Hue City, the site of some of the fiercest battles in the weeks-long fighting that followed the start of the Tet Offensive on Jan. 30, 1968, Schoelkopf said.
The Tet Offensive is widely regarded as a major turning point in the Vietnam War, and marked the beginning of American Armed Forces withdrawal from the region.
Schoelkopf said he lost 50 percent of his hearing in both ears during the intense fighting of the Tet Offensive.
In 1978, he and his wife, Sheila, founded the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine. In its 40-year history, the MMSC has rescued and rehabilitated more than 5,000 marine mammals and sea turtles.