Mike Company               

Third Battalion, Fifth Marines

RVN, 1966 -1971
Home Up



Mike McFerrin writes:

I remember the Op since I was keeping close tabs on the company. I felt guilty about being in An Hoa and my worst case fear had already materialized. The previous platoon commander (pc) had screwed up while in a booby trap area and there were two KIA's and I believe two emergencies and the one priority was the pc himself. This occurred during the last week of April a day or two after I was sent into An Hoa to begin the Regimental research.

The only salvation from this incident was that I knew Blackman would be Platoon Commander for a while. This was good for the platoon. But it was tempered with the fact that I knew the pc wouldn't have performed the maneuver that caused the booby trap to be hit if I had been there. The pc was scared to death of booby traps and would always defer to me when we were in such an area. In fact, I would take over his position in the column behind the point squad to get us through. And even if he hadn't, I would have without a doubt yelled at the point as soon as I saw them starting to use the dike to cross the paddy and whenever I would have yelled at him when he stopped the column in the rice paddy so he could go the front. I obviously had no proper respect but would have "tried" to be nice with something like, "Hey, we got the whole fucking platoon out in the open, Lieutenant. Why don't we get them on up in there with those other guys before you check that out?"

In this case, without me there, he was the one who actually caused the booby trap to be hit. They were in a column crossing a paddy on a double dike (two parallel dikes with a small canal in between them). They, of course, shouldn't have been on the dike at all. But they were properly spaced and casualties would have been limited if they had hit it while moving like this.

Then the pc decided to stop the column. This stopping of the column caused a lot of the spacing to be eliminated as each person got a step or two closer to the person in front of them as the word moved back and action was taken. Sort of an accordion closing effect. The word had been passed back about something the point had seen while moving into the treeline and he decided to stop the column and go up to personally see whatever it was. Never mind that the majority of the platoon was strung out across the paddy in the open and never mind that to move up to the front would require several people to move off the path of those that had gone in front of them (the path that was clear of booby traps). I am absolutely sure that these things never entered his mind. What was in his mind was that as a Lieutenant he was surely smarter than anybody out there and would be better able to assess whatever it was up there and he would take this opportunity to show everybody the truth of this.

He leaped to the other parallel dike to move up to the front and ordered his radioman to do the same thing. It was during these first few steps that the radioman stepped on the probable 105 round (the reports said a 155 because of the damage to the radioman and the number of people hit but the circumstances and the "bunching" caused the number of casualties and I believe that a 105 can blow a man in half as well as a 155). The Lieutenant, the radioman, the squad leader of the point squad, the corpsman, and at least one other went down.

I was in the company office quite a bit during the first few days of May but was becoming adjusted to the fact that I was not going to be out there and that SGT Blackman as the Platoon Commander was the best that I could hope for. Things had not yet begun to heat up in An Hoa so I sort of thought the war was over for me.

Within 30 days my view of this would begin to change. An Hoa under daily rocket barrages and ground attacks one to three times a week was not the bush but had its own way of wearing you down. I can remember feeling the same way when under mortar attack in the bush. There is not a whole lot of things you can do about a mortar round screaming in on you. You can kill ten gooks and it is not going to change a thing. You can dive for this cover or that cover. But in the end that mortar round is going to hit wherever it is headed and if its where you are, that's it.

By the end of July I felt like I had been in the bush for two months. My nerves were frazzled. The ground attacks were disconcerting simply because of the size of the base. When the gooks got in the wire it became disproportionately weird because you had no idea where they had actually come in when the word was passed. Compared to a company perimeter in the bush, An Hoa was New York City.

Anyway, I have done my time in Le Thap and the Phu Nhuans. Without a doubt the Phu Nhuans were full of VC and well connected to the NVA in the area.

Grady Rainbow writes: "Yeah thanks, I remember the Op. Things got a little hazy from time to time and the After Action report doesn't really clear all the details. This was the Op were L/Cpl. Michael (Dutch) Lenehan was recommended for the Bronze Star for capturing (3) high ranking VC. I remember the night moves and the "face painting" though.