Mike & H&S Companies 

Third Battalion, Fifth Marines

Veterans of the Vietnam War
Home ] Up ] [ Chronology ] Obituary ] Tributes ]


Chronology of Events occuring in Vietnam during Captain Burns' second tour

(Research performed by Captain Burn's nephew, Scot Milholland)

Reference Codes are the source of the material presented:

CH = Captain Burns' Personal Combat History

HM = U.S. Marines in Vietnam, 1969: High Mobility and Standdown.  Numbers after the HM are the chapter of the book

where the reference is located.

Paul O'Connell, a member of Mike Company 3/5.

TM = Tom Mahlum, a member of Mike Company 3/5.









Johnson accepts a North Vietnam offer to conduct preliminary peace talks in Paris.


The U.S. Base at Khe Sanh is abandoned.


Burns returns to Vietnam, beginning his second tour. CH


M Company returns from a 27-day operation in which they engaged the enemy and sustained heavy casualties. First Platoon  Sergeant Leslie Thompson, one of the  most "gung-ho" Marines in M Company, won a Bronze Star for charging a bunker and killing numerous VC. (O’Connell)

The 5th Marines receive the Presidential  Unit Citation for their efforts in the operation. HM

"I watched Mike Company come back into An Hoa from an operation. The Marines looked nothing like any Marines I had ever seen. The spit and polish  was long gone. Every one of them was weighted down with enormous packs on their backs. They could hardly lift their feet when they walked, and most  of them needed a shave. Their trousers were rolled up to just below their knees. The bare skin, between where the socks ended and the roll of the trousers  began, was caked with a red-tinted mud." (Paul O'Connell )


The monsoons stop, but the NVA takes advantage of the respite and start their move towards Da Nang. USMC artillery killed over 100 NVA and all the companies move  out again to stop the enemy from advancing any further north. Mike Company engages in an operation that results in the capture of some 70 POWs. (Paul O'Connell )


NVA attack and mortar An Hoa Combat Base as a part of the overall tactical plan of the NVA to harass the Marines on a routine basis in lieu of an all-out division-sized attack. (Paul O'Connell)


The Joint Chiefs of Staff announce that all sea; air and land bombardment of North Vietnam is to stop.


Nixon is elected and promises a gradual troop withdrawal.


1st Platoon/Mike Company was stationed on Hill 85, a sandbag-fortified compound out along Liberty Road, overlooking a village known as Duc Duc. Beyond Duc Duc was An Hoa. The mortars were 4.2's (four deuces). Nearby was a German hospital that treated the Vietnamese-- South, VC, and NVA. Some of the German hospital workers were taken POW, documented in a book called, "We Only Came To Help." (Paul O'Connell)


B-52s conduct heavy raids against targets near the Cambodian border, reflecting a pattern of increased bombing of supply lines in South Vietnam following the cessation of bombing in North Vietnam. HM


Elements of M Company move from Hill 85 into a fortified CAP position about a mile from An Hoa. There are 12 Marines and 10 ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam). Massive air strikes occur some 1,000 meters from the compound. 1st Platoon rebuilds a bunker, which got hit the night before.  Lima Company lost 3 men on the direct hit. The VC rocket and mortar An Hoa for four consecutive nights. "I can still remember this particular air strike. I can hear my squad leader complaining that he couldn't hear AFVN-Monkee Mountain. The scream of the jets was drowning out his country (shit kick'n) music."(Paul O'Connell)


The 3/5 participates in Operation MEADE RIVER in the "Dodge City" area of Quang Nam Province. Five battalions from four regiments were secretly maneuvered into the area in a cordon and search operation that was conducted in conjunction with the Le Loi or "accelerated pacification" program. US casualties were 107 KIA, 385 WIA; enemy 841 KIA, 182 POW. (Chron P:83) Weather conditions are bleak as a result of a Typhoon passing through the area. (Note:O’Connell notes that M Company was  held in reserve during this operation.)


The village of Duc Duc is attacked by NVA. After failing to take a Marine compound, the NVA turn their sites on the Mike Company compound, approximately 700 yards  away. On the morning of the 22nd, Mike goes into the village, finding numerous KIA.

"The compound... Today in my mind, the compound seems so surrealistic. It seemed like a castle made of green-gray, woven-plastic, red-laterite filled sandbags. From outside, the walls seemed to be without any openings; but there were openings, slits for us to see out. There was a moat at least eight feet deep all around the compound. There was only one wooden plank that went over the moat, and that plank was lifted up every night.... The night before, we saw from the compound in Duc Duc, all sorts of movement through our starlight scope. Again, more surrealism. Just movement for  the longest time; then, in time, explosions down in Duc Duc. Then green and purple and red tracers crisscrossed the sky. Then more explosions. At first, up in the compound, we were only catching stray rounds and ricochets--weird whizzing sounds. Then, from An Hoa, a tank positioned on the defensive line opened up fire on Duc Duc. Illumination floated down upon Duc Duc. I was lying low on, top of a bunker, watching this show--all the colors, and listening to the sounds, when all of a sudden, the sounds above our heads changed from the whizzing sounds of the ricochets and strays to AK fire directed  right at us. We all scrambled for cover. It was frightening to have to pick your head up and look out the small slits to see if anyone was coming at us. Somehow, I pushed down the fear of taking a round in the face and kept my eyes opened. Somehow, the sun came up in the morning. Duc Duc was like  nothing I had ever seen in the movies. And yet, life went on back at home, which was drifting further and further away (yet I held on to that place in my mind for dear life." (Paul O'Connell)


News breaks of the Army actions in the My Lai Massacre.


U.S. Naval forces pushed up the Vam Co Dong and Vam Co Tay Rivers west of Siagon, against heavy enemy opposition, to cut infiltration routes from the "Parrot’s Beak" area of Cambodia. Operation Giant Slingshot severely hampered communist resupply in the region near Saigon and in the Plain of Reeds.


In the three provinces of I Corps, Quang Nam, Quang Tin and Quang Ngai, regiments controlled by Headquarters Military Region 3 and the 3d NVA Division - the 2d Viet Cong, 3d NVA, 22d NVA, 31st NVA, and the 401st VC (Sapper) - continued to confine their activities primarily to scattered attacks by fire, interdiction of friendly lines  of communication, and the harassment of villages, hamlets, and refugee camps surrounding the cities of Tam Ky and Quang Ngai. Taken together, reconnaissance and prisoner interrogation reports provided a somewhat accurate list of enemy units and probable locations within Base Area 112. Among the units identified were the two  main command elements which controlled NVA and VC activities within Quang Nam, Quang Tin, and Quang Ngai Provinces: Front 4 Headquarters and Headquarters Military Region 3. Attached and directly subordinate to the two headquarters elements, and also located within the base area were the 21st Regiment, 2d NVA Division,  220th Transport Regiment, Q81st (Deux Xuanj and Q83d (Dai Loc) Local Force Battalions, and 2d Battalion, 141st NVA Regiment. Reinforcing the estimated 3,500 enemy  troops were another 6,000 located just outside the base area in the Que Son Mountains and on Go Noi Island to the east. HM6


Facing the estimated 37,300 enemy troops in the three provinces at the beginning of 1969, were two major United States combat units: the Army's 23d Infantry (Americal)  Division under the command of Major General Charles M. Gettys, and Major General Ormond R. Simpson's 1st Marine Division. Despite four years of bitter warfare in Quang Nam as the new year began, Marines, together with South Vietnamese and Korean units, faced an estimated force of 24 enemy infantry and support battalions. Although massing from time to time, the enemy generally adhered to a defensive pattern established during late summer 1968, a posture of consistent refusal to engage  friendly forces in a large-scale confrontation. HM6


The 1st Division's general task, like that of all other United States combat units, was to locate and destroy enemy forces, installations, and LOCs [lines of communication]   within its assigned area of responsibility, in coordination with South Vietnamese and other allied forces. Its primary mission was the defense of Da Nang and the more than one million South Vietnamese living within the city or nearby. As General Simpson later commented: "The 1st Marine Division was, far beyond all else, tied to the   defense of the Da Nang Vital Area. This was exactly as it should have been. Da Nang was clearly a textbook example of a 'Vital Area.' Here were military headquarters,   political headquarters and officials, a great seaport, a splendid airfield, a vast array of logistical support apparatus including supplies of every variety, equipment, medical establishments, to say nothing of nearly one million Vietnamese. U.S. Forces could not have operated in ICTZ without Da Nang." Therefore, the divisions infantry units and supporting arms were to be "disposed to provide maximum security for the Da Nang vital area, installations and IDCs of greatest political, economic and military importance. HM6


Stretching from above the strategic Hai Van Pass in the north to the rugged Que Son Mountains in the south, the division's TAOR encompassed approximately 1,100 square miles and included most of Quang Nam and small portions of Thua Thien and Quang Tin Provinces. From the flat sand beaches along the South China Sea and the wide bay of Da Nang, the terrain rose westward into the jungle-covered mountains of the Annamite Chain and opened out to the south and southwest into the flat, tree line - broken, rice-paddy country of the An Hoa-Song Thu Bon basins, and Go Noi Island. It was heavily populated terrain which offered the enemy numerous places of defense and concealment, and the Marines a difficult chore of routing them out. HM6


Centered on Da Nang, the division deployed its four infantry regiments, the 1st, 5th, 7th, and elements of the 26th Marines, in a series of radiating belts. To the north, Colonel Clyde W. Hunter's 26th Marines secured portions of the Hai Van Pass and sections of Route 1. Colonel Herbert L. Beckington's 7th Marines patrolled the scrub-covered piedmont and mountainous jungle that rose to the west. To the southwest, the 5th Marines, under the command of Colonel James B. Ord, Jr., scoured the Hoa and Song Thu Bon basins. Included within the regiment's area of responsibility was the infamous Arizona Territory, that rice paddy-dotted, enemy-infested region set between the Song Thu Bon and Song Vu Gia. South of Da Nang and north of the area assigned the Korean Marines was Colonel Robert G. Lauffer's 1st Marines, whose area of operations included Dodge City, Go Noi Island, and portions of the coastal lowlands. A reinforced artillery regiment, the 11th Marines, provided fire support for the four infantry regiments, while the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion and 1st Tank Battalion supplemented and reinforced their efforts, as did contingents of engineer, transport, and service troops. (HM6) As 1969 began, all Marine artillery units within I Corps Tactical Zone were either under the control of the 11th Marines, the artillery regiment of the 1st Marine Division, or the 12th Marines, the artillery regiment of the 3d Marine Division. (14) The 11th Marines, commanded by Colonel Harry E. Dickinson consisted of four organic battalions and the attached 1st Field Artillery Group (1st 155mm Gun Battery, self-propelled [SP], later redesignated 1st 175mm Gun Battery); 1st Battalion, 13th Marines; Battery K, 4th Battalion, 13th Marines; 3d 8-inch Howitzer Battery (5P); Battery G, 29th Artillery (USA); Battery B, 8th Battalion, 4th Artillery (USA); and the 1st Armored Amphibian Company. Attached specifically for Operation Taylor Common, which was to conclude on 17 February, were elements of the 1st Battalion, 12th Marines in direct support of the 3d Marines. (14)


Situation appraisals based on the intelligence reports, indicated that the enemy units within Base Area 112 would not defend in strength, but would withdraw their headquarters, supplies, and personnel to the west and southwest, while attempting to delay friendly forces. In addition, the III MAF appraisals expected the enemy to continue to harass allied lines of communication, make maximum use of surprise firing devices, and mount attacks by fire against allied installations, specifically An Hoa Combat Base. HM6


The type of warfare carried on in southern I Corps Tactical Zone was in marked contrast to that fought in northern I Corps, where, as Colonel Robert H. Barrow later noted, "anything that moved you could shoot at because he was the enemy; you did not have to separate the armed threat from the civilian population." Barrow came to appreciate "the most difficult; the most arduous; dirty; psychologically bad situation that confronted those who fought the kind of war that was necessary to fight down in the Da Nang" area. HM6

"Those Marines who went out day after day conducting combat patrols, almost knowing that somewhere on their route of movement, they were going to have some sort of surprise visited on them, either an ambush or explosive device. I think that is the worst kind of warfare, not being able to see the enemy. You can't shoot back at him. You are kind of helpless. It is easy to become fatalistic, as indeed a lot of our young men did."


All Marine artillery units within I Corps Tactical Zone were either under the control of the 11th Marines, the artillery regiment of the 1st Marine Division, or the 12th Marines, the artillery regiment of the 3d Marine Division. The two artillery regiments' 105mm howitzer batteries were deployed offensively in direct support of Marine infantry units. The 1st Battalion, 11th Marines, with its command post on Hill 55 and batteries at fire support bases scattered about the flatlands south of Da Nang, supported the 1st Marines. From positions at An Hoa Combat Base, Liberty Bridge, and mountainous fire bases to the west, the 2d Battalion, 11th Marines and three batteries of the 1st Battalion, 12th Marines supported the 5th and 3d Marines, while the 3d Battalion, deployed at bases centered on Dai Loc and Da Nang, fired missions for the 7th Marines. The 4th Battalion, 11th Marines, headquartered on Hill 34 and batteries at the Northern Artillery Cantonment, west of Red Beach, Hill 55, and Hill 65, fired in general support of the 1st Marine Division. The 1st Battalion, 13th Marines, which administratively controlled Battery K, 4th Battalion, 13th Marines, fired missions from the Northern Cantonment and the Hai Van Pass in support of the 26th Marines. Of the general support artillery units, most were temporarily under the control of the 1st Field Artillery Group at An Hoa Combat Base. (14)



A new operation, code-named TAYLOR COMMON, hammered out two days before the formal activation of Task Force Yankee, called for units to conduct a three-phase operation to destroy enemy forces, caches, and installations in Base Area 112 and adjacent areas, and to prepare a series of fire support bases extending along likely avenues of approach to 112 from the Laotian border. During phase one, task force units were to conduct search and clear operations from Liberty Bridge to An Hoa in coordination with the 1st ARVN Ranger Group's Operation Le Loi in the An Hoa-Arizona area, in order to destroy elements of the 2d NVA Division. A series of fire support bases would then be prepared along the approaches to 112. Penetration of the enemy base area by four Marine battalions and the establishment of bases required to support the extensive search and destroy operations would be carried out in phase two. During the final phase, task force units were to conduct reconnaissance and surveillance operations deep into the mountains west of the Song Cai, develop fire support bases to sustain forces completing the neutralization of 112, and interdict the avenues of approach from the Laotian border. Vital to all phases of the operation would be the maintenance of a continuous reconnaissance screen to the north, south, and west of the maneuvering battalions as they progressed westward into the enemy base area. (HM6) During Operation Taylor Common, artillery batteries of the 11th and 12th Marines occupied 13 fire support bases in enemy Base Area 112, Go Noi Island, and the Arizona. Several batteries occupied as many as four different temporary bases during the course of the operation when almost all artillery displacement and resupply were accomplished by helicopter. Throughout the remainder of the year, the 11th Marines fired from additional 52 positions, and by year's end artillery units of the regiment occupied 17 bases stretching from Alpha-2 near the DMZ, to FSB Ryder in the Que Son Mountains. (14)



By 1969, this technique for landing reconnaissance and security elements, engineers, construction equipment, guns, crews, ammunition, and infantry on a remote peak in the midst of an enemy base area was perfected and used to such an extent that existent or abandoned fire support bases dotted the high ground throughout the corps tactical zone and batteries could be employed and firing within hours of the initial insertion. This welding of artillery and infantry into teams allowed for much more flexibility on the battlefield, as General Davis was later to observe:

It was soon discovered that the NVA could not cope with this kind of highly mobile warfare when artillery batteries were positioned on razor backs and high pinnacles throughout an area, eight kilometers apart so as to provide mutually supporting fire plus 3,000 meter overshoot to hit mortars beyond the base, with infantry battalions operating under the artillery fan. In brief an infantry battalion with its direct support artillery battery formed a team In addition the companies themselves operate independently as far as mutual support is concerned. As long as they're within the 8,000-meter fan of the artillery, there is no requirement for the rifle companies to operate together; they can be several kilometers apart. (14) The normal application of this flexible team approach was to assign each infantry company a two to three kilometer-square area within which an artillery fire support base would be established, where helicopters could resupply and lift out casualties, and from which patrols could thoroughly search the area. Once cleared, the company would then be lifted by helicopter to another area within the artillery fan. Using this method, detailed searches were made, revealing, as General Davis noted, "major trail networks and cache areas that the NVA had been using for the better part of ten years," and accounting for the success of such operations as Dewey Canyon in Quang Tri, and Taylor Common and Oklahoma Hills in Quang Nam Province. (14)


The weather was a major consideration in the planning as the monsoon season was in full swing. Since Marines would be operating in rugged terrain far from their bases and thus dependent on helicopters, there was thought of waiting for better flying weather. As General Dwyer noted, "we couldn't have picked a worse time weather-wise for helicopter operations in Base Area 112; we were going to be weather sensitive." But, he continued, "we were at the stage where we were told to run an operation, and the climatic conditions were such they said go ahead and run it." HM6


Burns participates in Operation MEADE RIVER, Quang Nam Province. (CH)( But See O’Connell Note.)


The 1st Marine Division activated the temporary command, Task Force Yankee, designating General Dwyer, a World War II and Korean War veteran and former commanding officer of the 1st Marines, as its commander. Later the same day, task force staff section heads briefed General Creighton Abrams on details of the operation at III MAF Headquarters. With no comment or question during the entire briefing, General Abrams at the conclusion turned to General Dwyer and said, "It sounds fine. Go!" HM6


Desirous of eliminating the threat to Da Nang, MACV suggested that an operation be conducted against the enemy base area as a follow-up to the highly successful operation, MEADE RIVER. Preliminary discussions and planning began in late November, as Brigadier General Ross T. Dwyer, Jr., Assistant Division Commander, 1st Marine Division, noted, "There were some planning sessions between respective 1st Division staff and III MAF staff, and then we had some of our own discussions in the 1st Division. It was our view that this was something that a regiment could handle itself. The action officer level of III MAP indicated we'd have to have a task force go out there. We didn't think it was really warranted from what they were describing to us. We argued that a reinforced regiment, beefed up out of the existing command structure that was at An Hoa at the time - then the 5th Marines - could do the job. But subsequently, it was determined, and I think at the III MAP level, that one, the task force would be formed and would conduct the operation, and that additional forces would be made available to perform the mission." HM6


Assigned to Task Force Yankee were three battalions of Colonel James B. Ord's 5th Marines - Lieutenant Colonel Richard F. Daley's 1st Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel James W. Stemple's 2d Battalion, and Lieutenant Colonel Harry E. Atkinson's 3d Battalion - as were Battalion Landing Team 17 under Lieutenant Colonel Neil A. Nelson, and elements of the 1st Force Reconnaissance Company. HM6


With the activation of Task Force Yankee, Nelson's Marines, four companies and the command group were released from Operation MEADE RIVER, and reembarked on board the Tripoli (LPH 10), where all personal gear and organizational equipment was packed for debarkation. The following day, as operational control of the landing team passed to the 1st Marine Division and then to the 5th Marines, Companies E, F, G, H, and the command group moved by helicopter to An Hoa Combat Base. Simultaneously, the team's rear echelon moved ashore to Camp Love, the 7th Engineer Battalion's command post at Da Nang, where the battalion's administrative and logistical facilities were to be established. HM6


Informed that the commander of the lead platoon had been mortally wounded when his unit was pinned down by a heavy volume of enemy fire during Operation MEADE RIVER, S/Sgt. Karl G. Taylor, Company I, 3/26, along with another marine, crawled forward to the beleaguered unit through a hail of hostile fire, shouted encouragement and instructions to the men, and deployed them to covered positions. With his companion, he then repeatedly maneuvered across an open area to rescue those marines who were too seriously wounded to move by themselves. Upon learning that there were still other seriously wounded men lying in another open area, in proximity to an enemy machinegun position, S/Sgt. Taylor, accompanied by 4 comrades, led his men forward across the fire-swept terrain in an attempt to rescue the marines. When his group was halted by devastating fire, he directed his companions to return to the company command post; whereupon he took his grenade launcher and in full view of the enemy, charged across the open rice paddy toward the machinegun position, firing his weapon as he ran. Although wounded several times, he succeeded in reaching the machinegun bunker and silencing the fire from that sector, moments before he was mortally wounded. For his actions, Taylor was awarded the Medal of Honor.


Operation TAYLOR COMMON began with a heliborne assault by Lieutenant Colonel Nelson's Marines into the southwestern corner of the Arizona Territory, three kilometers west of the Song Thin Bon, opposite An Hoa. The first wave of Marines from Company H experienced no contact as they landed at LZ Champagne, and were followed immediately by the remaining companies and the command group. In trace, the four companies moved northeast across swollen streams, rice paddies, and through dense treelines, conducting search and clear operations throughout the widely scattered Phu Loi village complex. The 1st ARVN Ranger Group assaulted into the northeast corner of the same area on the 10th, and began search and clear operations to the southwest, eventually passing through blocking positions established by Nelson's Marines, who then swept southeastward across the Song Thu Bon to My Son, and then to An Hoa. Meanwhile, elements of Colonel Ord's 5th Marines, following their return from MEADE RIVER, conducted a thorough search of their northern area of operations, from Liberty Bridge to An Hoa. HM6


These three operations, in conjunction with the 196th Infantry Brigade's search of the Que Son Mountains to the south, completed the initial phase by sweeping major enemy units from areas adjacent to An Hoa, Liberty Bridge, and Liberty Road, the main supply route between the two. But the operations were not without cost. Although engagements with enemy units were light and scattered during the first four days, surprise firing devices or boobytraps, usually consisting of M26 grenades rigged as antipersonnel mines, wounded eight. Friendly fire killed five and wounded an equal number of Marines. Both of these problems were to plague task force Marines throughout the operation, especially those working in the lowlands. HM6

"Liberty Road—it is red laterite mud in the monsoons and choking dust in the dry season is a firm part of my memory. Its ups and downs and twists and turns. We controlled it during the day; the enemy controlled it at night." (Paul O'Connell)


During this Phase One period, the first four fire support base sites were selected and bombarded by B-52, fixed-wing, and concentrated artillery fire with the heaviest barrages directed against the sites designated Fire Base Lance and Fire Base Pike. But due to the distance (eight kilometers) between Lance, the main artillery support site, and An Hoa, a temporary mobile fire support base, close to Lance and oriented southward, was opened. Its mission was to provide complementary fire support to the Nong Song Civilian Irregular Defense Group and two Mobile Strike Force companies operating along the Song Thu Bon and southern TAYLOR COMMON boundary. Battery K, 4th Battalion, 13th Marines, a self-propelled 155mm Howitzer (M109) battery, supported by Company L, 5th Marines, moved overland on the 10th to establish Fire Base Marne on the eastern shore of the Song Thin Bon, five kilometers from Lance. HM6


While search and clear operations were in progress around An Hoa, task force Marines made preparations for the move into Base Area 112. On 9 December, with no additional combat resources available from the 1st Marine Division, Task Force Yankee assumed operational control of the 1st and 3d Battalions, 3d Marines, under Colonel Michael M. Spark, from the 3d Marine Division: the 1st would join Operation TAYLOR COMMON on the 13th, and the 3d the following day. According to General Davis, the two battalions were provided to assist the 1st Marine Division in its first 'high mobility' operation out into the hills." HM6


Also in preparation for the assault, Task Force Yankee established a main logistical area with 10-day supply levels of rations and ammunition at An Hoa, in addition to a forward direct air support center (DASC). Located near the artillery fire support coordination center (FSCC), in order to pool "Save-a- Plane" information for the protection of aircraft, the DASC would not only control Marine fixed-wing and helicopter support, but also Air Force transport aircraft provided by the 15th Aerial Port Squadron, fire-ship (AC47) or "Spooky," and AC-119 or "Shadow" assistance furnished by the 14th Special Operations Wing, and special mission aircraft for heavy ordnance drops by the Seventh Air Force within the area of operation. HM6


Phase Two of Operation TAYLOR COMMON began with an assault against Hill 575, the site selected for Fire Base Lance. The location had been visually reconnoitered prior to preparatory fires by Zone Interpretation, Planning, Preparation, and Overfly (ZIPPO) and Fire Base Interpretation, Reconnaissance, Planning, Preparation and Overfly (FIRPPO) Teams to determine its suitability as a landing zone and subsequent development as a fire support base ("FSB"). Although the preparatory fires cleared a large proportion of the vegetation from the landing zone, a few large tree trunks remained, necessitating the use of rappel techniques to land engineers and a small security force, who cleared an area large enough to accommodate a helicopter. Within two hours, division engineers created an adequate zone and the main assault element of Atkinson's 3/5 landed and established perimeter security for the engineers, who then began construction of artillery positions, ammunition and command bunkers, and further enlarged the base. HM6


Once the security force was in position and the supporting artillery batteries in place, rifle companies of Atkinson's battalion radiated from Fire Base Lance (Hill 575), initiating deliberate search and clear operations. The established patrol pattern resembled a cloverleaf, expanding as Marines secured areas near the fire support base. This pattern of operation characterized the establishment of the next three support bases: Fire Base Pike (Hill 214), opened by the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines on 13 December; Fire Base Spear (Hill 558), occupied by the 1st Battalion, 3d Marines on the 15th; and Fire Base Mace (Hill 375), taken by the 3d Battalion, 3d Marines on the 19th. HM6


In conjunction with the search and destroy mission, Task Force Yankee mounted ground operations against Hills 1050 and 551, subsequently designated Dagger and Cutlass. Lieutenant Colonel Richard C. Schulze's 3d Battalion, 3d Marines secured the former and assisted in the establishment of a communications retransmission site. Lieutenant Colonel Richard B. Twohey's 1st Battalion, 3d Marines took the latter and began to exploit a major trail network identified near Mace. The battalions of the ARVN Ranger Group, meanwhile, continued search and clear operations in the Arizona area, relieving Lieutenant Colonel Nelson's battalion landing team, which assaulted into the northwestern portion of Go Noi Island on 17 December. Sweeping south, the battalion displaced to An Hoa Combat Base two days later, having met only light resistance.  Elements of Mike Company are flown in to Hill 500. HM6 & Paul O'Connell & HM6


The 21st and 39th Ranger Battalions, operating in the piedmont west of Phu Loi, encountered and then fought an estimated NVA battalion, killing 158 and capturing 18 individual and 10 crew-served weapons. HM6


"Mike Company was spread out all over the Hill 500 (575?). We had cleared the top of the hill of all its jungle growth by either blowing the trees down by wrapping "Det Cord" around the trunks and shattering the trunks with the blast; by chainsaws brought out to the bush in a resupply or by simply hacking away at the trunk of a tree with a machete, which may have taken days, but the hard work seemed worth it as we would gather to watch another huge tree fall so slowly into the jungle... We built huts and framed them with branches cut from these fallen trees. We draped our rubber ponchos over these branches. This kept us out of the rain. We built beds by laying cut branches side by side, then laid the cardboard, from the sleeves that made up the case that C-rations came in, over the branches. We slept on top of the cardboard, wrapping ourselves in our poncho liners... We built bunkers, reinforced bunkers using the fallen trees. We dug deep holes. We were wet all the time as it rained often. At night the decaying jungle matter on the ground glowed. Someone said it was like phosphorous. It reminded me of the hands on my watch. Maybe some sort of radioactive material. We gathered some of the glowing matter and arranged it to form the letters USMC and our names, and I remember us making a peace sign; but I think the Gunny made us destroy it... So often we would be told we were going to be moving in a day, in two days, in a week, yet it always seemed like no one knew what they were talking about. We pulled watches every night. Some nights we went out on LPs or ambushes. Each day a platoon would go on patrols, so that every third day you went on patrol. We found no sign of any enemy. We got lost often in the thick jungle. The radio on my back was kicking my ass. The only good thing about the radio was that it was keeping me from having to walk point and that I had the first say on who got the plastic that the batteries to the PRC25 came in. This plastic was valuable..." (Paul O'Connell)


With the establishment of four Marine battalions, under the operational control of the 3d Marines, in the eastern zone of Base Area 112, search and destroy operations against an area of reported enemy activity and concentrated installations began. During the next two weeks, Marines, in their search, found and destroyed several enemy base camps, fighting positions, hospitals, and an enemy prison camp: all of which had been vacated before the Marines arrived. Engagements were few as the enemy withdrew westward, leaving only a handful of troops to slow the advance. HM6


With the new year, TAYLOR COMMON moved into the third and final phase of operations. Combat action centered on two regions, the An Hoa basin, the scene of constant enemy activity throughout most of 1968, and Base Area 112, the high ground lying to the west and southwest. Paul O'Connell

The 3/5 airlifted into Combat Operations Base (COB) Javelin (734?), signaling the initiation of operations in the western zone of Base Area 112; more specifically, the penetration of the large basin between the Ong Thu slope and the Nui Gaing Yang Brai ridgelines near the Song Cai. Following the establishment of Javelin, the bombardment of Hill 508, future site of FSB Maxwell, began.

"On New Year's day, we boarded CH46s and were flown deeper into the mountains into an area I would later on in life learn was known as Base Area 112. It was an enemy sanctuary deep in the mountains. Many fingers of the Ho Chi Minh trail passed through this area. I remember that, from the fighting hole I manned with other members of the fire team, I could see the river."

For many Marines, this was their first experience operating in mountainous terrain, as Lance Corporal Rick L. Wackle related, "This was completely new because we had never operated up in the canopied areas. It was a whole new type of warfare up there. The density of the woods, vines, jungle; it's really thick and it's nagging and tiresome to work in, and everything is against you up there. Being it was so thick up there, it was very easy to walk past a vile; the foliage and coverage was unbelievable; you couldn't detect anything from what was right or wrong." HM6


" [Mike Company] moved from Hill 500 to Hill 734, which is about 20 miles away. Laos is right down at the bottom of the mountain, separated from Vietnam by a river. There is a chance 4 regiments of NVA are gonna try and infiltrate into South Vietnam. So that is what we are doing here. The rumor is we'll be here for about 15 days, do a 10-day sweep to the river, then get choppers back into An Hoa and get ready for Tet. We've been out of An Hoa since November 1st, I think. That's more than two months in the bush." (Paul O'Connell)


Although more than 177 tons of high explosives were used to clear a landing zone for FSB Maxwell, the number of exposed tree trunks and the continued enemy small arms fire, prevented Marines from being inserted by air. As a result, Lieutenant Colonel Twohey's 1st Battalion, 3d Marines landed on nearby Hill 728 and attacked toward Hill 508 over Hill 401, finally securing the objective on the 15th. With the six 105mm howitzers of Battery C, 12th Marines in position on FSB Maxwell, Spark's Marines were ready to pursue enemy forces westward, searching and clearing the remainder of 112.


"I remember these days. There was constant rain, yet life had to go on -- patrols and observation post during the day and lying in ambush or listening posts at night or standing watch along the perimeter. Never getting more than a few hours of sleep at any given time. We lived wrapped in rubber ponchos or if we were lucky enough, we might be able to get inside a hooch made out of bamboo poles and rubber ponchos. A Marine was killed in Mike Co. but in a different platoon. It was during the day, yet it was rather dark because of the heavy clouds and the thick jungle canopy. There was one short burst of AK fire that echoed through the jungle. Then, from where I was, I could just barely hear the yell, "Corpsman up!" And, shortly after, the word was passed around that one of us had been killed. Supposedly, the Marine who was killed had been on perimeter watch but was writing a letter home instead of watching; and the NVA came up on him and shot him dead, right through the heart. The rest of us still alive got the word passed to us in some sort of an "ass chewing," to be on the alert, that the enemy was in our area and expected to probe our positions." (Paul O'Connell)


"…[a] Marine in my platoon intentionally shot himself in the foot one morning. I remember how most of us were awakened by the muffled rifle shot. At first, we didn't know whether it was incoming or outgoing. The muffled sound was new to many of us but not Gunny. He knew what it was and came charging up the trail to see whom, in his words, "the fucking coward" was. I remember Gunny letting Doc bandage the Marine's foot only after Doc pleaded for the Marine's well being. I also remember Gunny making the Marine dig a hole while waiting for the medevac to come and remember the sound of the Marine's E-tool digging and, off in the distance, the rotor blades of the medevac chopper coming closer and closer. Gunny told us "the coward' was going to end up in jail and that not one of us should get the same idea to try and get out of the bush." (Paul O'Connell)


Elements of Mike Company are located on Hill 412. (Paul O'Connell)


While on visual reconnaissance south of FSB Maxwell, an Army UH-1H helicopter received automatic weapons fire causing it to crash and burn. On board were Colonel Michael M. Spark; the regimental sergeant major, Ted E. McClintock; the commanding officer of the 1st Battalion, 12th Marines, Lieutenant Colonel Ermil L. Whisman; and Colonel Spark's radio operator, Lance Corporal Fredrick D. Kansik. All, including the helicopter's Army crew, were killed. Colonel Paul D. Lafond assumed command of the 3d Marines, while Lieutenant Colonel Roddey B. Moss took over the 1st Battalion, 12th Marines. HM6


"…Gary Heeman was shot dead by an enemy sniper. I remember saying to myself as we wrapped his body in a poncho, "Guess Gary wasn't as lucky as I thought he was when his name was drawn to go to Da Nang and see Bob Hope..." (Paul O'Connell)


The point element of Mike Company was ambushed by the NVA. A Black Marine whose nickname was "The Judge" was hit in the chest and died in the jungle hours later from his wound. Another Marine, a staff sergeant, was also wounded. Elements of Mike Co. climbed to the top of Hill 412 to secure an area suitable enough for a medevac extraction. The jungle below Hill 412 was too thick to make an LZ or even to get what was known as a "jungle penetrater" down through the heavy vegetation. "The Judge" and the wounded staff sergeant were medevaced, along with Gary Heeman and the Marine who was wounded in the knee. (Paul O'Connell)


Peace Negotiations begin in Paris.


The 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, under Lieutenant Colonel Atkinson, continued operations through COB Broadsword toward FSB Tomahawk. Detailed search operations within Base Area 112 continued throughout the remaining days of January and into February. HM6


Elements of Mike Company move to Hill 226. (Paul O'Connell)


At 2200, in the far western sector of Go Noi Island, Company C, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, not a participant in Operation TAYLOR COMMON, observed approximately 300 enemy troops cross to the southern bank of the Song Ky Lam, six kilometers west of Dien Ban. The enemy unit, apparently forced south by 7th Marines Operation LINN RIVER and ARVN Operation HUNG QUANG 1-03, was taken under artillery fire, while the company launched an attack to block the enemy's advance. Engaging the Marines with automatic weapons and RPG fire, the enemy attempted to escape westward, but was intercepted by Company D, 5th Marines, moving from the southwest through head-high elephant grass. Fierce firefights continued throughout the night, with Marines employing 155mm artillery fire and air strikes in support of the attack. By dawn, the enemy had broken into small groups and scattered. A search of the battle area turned up 72 NVA dead, while numerous drag marks and blood trails punctuated the dense growth of elephant grass. Friendly casualties resulting from the night's action were seven wounded. HM6


The mountains were a constant up and down, an awful grueling "hump," day in, day out. Often we slept with out feet up against a tree trunk; otherwise, we would have slipped right down the side of the mountain in our sleep. The jungle was thick; we seldom got to see the sun, even on days that it shined high overhead above the jungle canopy. Everything was damp and wet. We constantly battled land leeches and mosquitoes and feared the NVA that once again had alluded us but left enough signs that the scouts constantly said we were on the trail of thousands. Deep inside, I know I was scared out of my wits. Who wouldn't be?" (Paul O'Connell )

"I remember us going back down into what I called the lowlands. Actually it was what we were told was Highway 14 or QL14. We would patrol this area for a week or so, traveling very light. We didn't even have our packs with us. Just our weapons, poncho and poncho liners, cartridge belts, and bandoleers of ammo. Our packs had been collected and placed in a cargo net and flown out by helicopter. We were, in a sense, a company-size recon unit now; and we only had two meals a day, which were LongRats – freeze dried food, light weight to carry but filling. Yet, two meals a day was not enough for the "humping" we were doing." 

"My trousers... I remember our trousers always seemed to be split in the seam or worn in the knees or ass or had a broken zipper. Ants, particularly red ants, seemed to love to get inside our trousers and bite the hell out of us. Personal appearance and personal hygiene were beyond the wildest imagination of anyone back "in the world." I use to say to myself and my buddies in Vietnam, "If only our mothers could see us now." (Paul O'Connell)


Sgt.Thompson returns from leave. Mahlum recalled that Thompson came walking through the bush into their camp, looking much like an African Safari hunter, and heading a procession of grunts carrying crates. Much to the delight of every man in Mike Company, Thompson had "obtained" and returned a least a months supply of "Long Rats," highly coveted by Marines having to hump the bush for long periods. TM


Units of Task Force Yankee were operating along the entire length of the Song Cai within Base Area 112, while 1st Force Reconnaissance Company teams penetrated deep into the western approaches. HM6


Mike Co. finished a 12-mile sweep of the Laos border along Highway 14, an overgrown jungle trail that followed the Son Vu Gia, and move onto Hill 305. Kilo Company loses 6 men to drowning. They were crossing the Vu Gia with their packs on and supposedly got carried away by the current. Some said their bodies had been recovered while others had said that their bodies were never recovered. Kilo was subsequently pinned down and took 8 more killed and over 30 wounded. (Paul O'Connell)


Task Force Yankee initiated operations west of the Song Cai as the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, following a short rest at An Hoa, assaulted Hill 435, later named Machete, and began searching north-northwest along the river toward Fire Support Base Saber. HM6


Operational control of Battalion Landing Team 2126, under Lieutenant Colonel William F. Sparks, was shifted from the 7th to the 5th Marines and the BLT joined Operation TAYLOR COMMON. Continuing the cordon and search of Go Noi Island begun early during Operation LINN RIVER, the team's Marines encountered sniper fire and a large number of booby traps as they moved across their assigned area, destroying tunnel systems, bunkers, and other enemy-prepared fighting positions. Completing its short sojourn ashore, the battalion landing team returned to the amphibious assault ship, Okinawa (LPH 3), where after a vigorous training period, it was placed in reserve for the expected Tet Offensive. HM6


While returning from a reconnaissance operation during Operation TAYLOR COMMON, 2 platoons of Company I/3/3 came under an intense automatic weapons fire and grenade attack from a well concealed North Vietnamese Army force in fortified positions. The leading element of the platoon was isolated and several marines were wounded. L/Cpl. William R. Prom immediately assumed control of a machine gun and began to deliver return fire. Disregarding his safety he advanced to a position from which he could more effectively deliver covering fire while first aid was administered to the wounded men. Realizing that the enemy would have to be destroyed before the injured marines could be evacuated, L/Cpl. Prom again moved forward and delivered a heavy volume of fire with such accuracy that he was instrumental in routing the enemy, thus permitting his men to regroup and resume their march. Shortly thereafter, the platoon again came under heavy fire in which 1 man was critically wounded. Reacting instantly, L/Cpl. Prom moved forward to protect his injured comrade. Unable to continue his fire because of his severe wounds, he continued to advance to within a few yards to the enemy positions. There, standing in full view of the enemy, he accurately directed the fire of his support elements until he was mortally wounded. Inspired by his heroic actions, the 3/3 marines launched an assault that destroyed the enemy. For his actions, Prom received the Medal of Honor.


By way of a vertical envelopment, codenamed Defiant Measure, Lieutenant Colonel J. W. P. Robertson's BLT 3/26 deployed to the Arizona, relieving the 1st ARVN Ranger Group. Due to the size of the team's area of operation (100 square kilometers), Robertson assigned each company a separate area in which to conduct search and destroy missions. Constant sniping at the moving companies, with five or six NVA tracking each company, characterized action during the first two weeks. Any halt in movement would result in sporadic sniper and incoming M79 grenade fire. HM6


By mid-February, Task Force Yankee essentially had neutralized Base Area 112 and established fire support and combat operations bases on the western approaches from the Laotian border. Upon order of the 1st Marine Division, General Dwyer, who was replaced on the 14th by Brigadier General Samuel Jaskilka, reduced on the scale by ordering the withdrawal to An Hoa of all forces in Base Area 112 with the exception of two companies (L and M) of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, each with one battery of direct support artillery, located on FSB Tomahawk and Maxwell. HM6


Mike Company moved to Hill 508 (LZ Maxwell) where there is a huge artillery battery. Elements of 1st Platoon and 16 men from Lima Company were moved the next day by chopper to Hill 1081, known as "Parker Pen Relay". The only access to Hill 1081 was by chopper. (Paul O'Connell)


Due to the increased enemy activity in the DMZ the 3rd Marines command group and its 3rd Battalion withdrew from Base Area 112 to An Hoa Combat Base, and redeployed immediately to Dong Ha. The 1st Battalion , 3rd Marines displaced to Hill 55 the following day, and subsequently airlifted to Dong Ha after participating in a short operation in the 5th Marines' northern area of operation. HM6


Following three days of rehabilitation and refurbishment at An Hoa, Lieutenant Colonel Stemple's 2d Battalion, 5th Marines moved by truck to the Phu Loc (6) Refugee Hamlet, northeast of the combat base on the Song Thu Bon. There, in coordination with the 1st ARVN Ranger and local Regional Force Groups, the battalion initiated blocking operations in conjunction with the ARVN attempt to again find, fix and destroy enemy forces, fortifications, and installations on far western Go Noi Island. Limited land-clearing operations, using high explosives, medium dozers, and Rome plows, were to be conducted after the sweep of the island, but a predawn enemy attack carried out against An Hoa Combat Base during the Tet holidays forced their cancellation. HM6


NVA started their 1969 "Tet offensive." They hit An Hoa, crossing the runway and blowing up an ammo dump. They also hit the main part of Mike Company at FSB Maxwell, as well as Kilo, Lima, and India Companies. FSB Maxwell experiences heavy ground and mortar attacks for the next four days. During the period, a total of 17 air strikes are made against the enemy positions. (Paul O'Connell)


Lance Corporal Lester W. Weber, 22, 2nd Platoon, Company M/3/7, serving as a machinegun squad leader with Company M, was dispatched to the Bo Ban area of Hieu Duc District of Quang Nam Province, to assist a squad from another platoon which had become heavily engaged with a well entrenched enemy battalion. While moving through a rice paddy covered with tall grass L/Cpl. Weber's platoon came under heavy attack from concealed NVA. He reacted by plunging into the tall grass, successfully attacking 1 enemy and forcing 11 others to break contact. Upon encountering a second NVA Army soldier, he overwhelmed him in fierce hand-to-hand combat. Observing two other soldiers firing upon his comrades from behind a dike, L/Cpl. Weber ignored the frenzied firing of the enemy and dived into their position. He neutralized the position by wrestling weapons from the hands of the two soldiers and overcoming them. Although by now the target for concentrated fire from hostile riflemen, L/Cpl. Weber remained in a dangerously exposed position to shout words of encouragement to his emboldened companions. As he moved forward to attack a fifth enemy soldier, he was mortally wounded. For his actions, Weber, received the Medal of Honor.


Shortly after midnight, the northeast corner of FSB Maxwell, near the ammunition storage area, was hit with enemy 82mm-mortar fire. Under cover of the mortar and small arms fire, enemy troops cut and entered the base's defensive wire, and from that position, using bamboo poles, were able to lob satchel charges into one of the ammunition dumps, causing a fire which ignited the remainder of the ammunition. Small arms and mortar fire broke the probe, and the enemy fled to the northeast, continually engaged by "Spooky" and artillery fire. But the enemy force had done its job. In addition to the extensive loss of ammunition, Company M sustained numerous casualties from the nightlong series of explosions, which rocked the ammunition dumps. As a direct result of the enemy attack on An Hoa, and minor probes at Liberty Bridge and on other allied installations within the Da Nang Vital Area, Colonel Ord ordered Stemple's battalion to Liberty Bridge, where the battalion assumed a local security mission. The companies requested reinforcements and General Jaskilka ordered the remainder of the 3/5 battalion redeployed to the base area. But with the attacks against An Hoa and other allied units operating nearby on the increase, Jaskilka again ordered the 3d Battalion to withdraw. With no immediate relief coming, Company M and the 3/5 was pinned down for days, with little relief.

As the number of enemy-initiated ground and indirect fire attacks around An Hoa rose, so did the number experienced by the units which remained in Base Area 112. Almost nightly, Companies L and M, operating near FSBs Tomahawk and Maxwell, reported enemy ground and mortar attacks against their defensive positions. A battalion of VC surrounded Lima Company on the 28th. Kilo Company moved towards Lima company but got hit so hard that they had to pull back.

Near the end of February, Company L made heavy contact, killing 75 enemy soldiers and destroying two .50-caliber antiaircraft positions. Over the next several days, Robertson's Marines found approximately 20 rockets, mortars, and recoilless rifles in positions from which they could be fired, line-of-sight, at An Hoa Combat Base. HM6


With the close of the operation, BLT 3/26 remained in the Arizona, concentrating on the southern portion of its assigned area while being subjected to continuous daylight sniper and night mortar, RPG, and suicide-squad attacks. HM6


A total of 1040 U.S. soldiers are KIA during the first three weeks following the Tet cease-fire.


PFC Daniel D. Bruce, 19, a 3/5 mortarman at FSB Tomahawk, was on watch in his night defensive position when he heard movements ahead of him. An enemy explosive charge was thrown toward his position and he reacted instantly, catching the device and shouting to alert his companions. Realizing the danger to the adjacent position with its 2 occupants, Pfc. Bruce held the device to his body and attempted to carry it from the vicinity of the entrenched marines. As he moved away, the charge detonated and he absorbed the full force of the explosion. Pfc. Bruce's actions saved the lives of 3 of his fellow marines. For his actions, Bruce received the Medal of Honor.


A platoon from M/3/5 scouts Hill 315, finding an "eerie" NVA gravesite with bodies wrapped in U.S. parachutes. The platoon did not encounter any hostile forces and returned to FSB Maxwell.


Planned as a one-day operation, the withdrawal of the Mike Company became a three-day battle of disengagement. On 3 March, M/3/5, while on a sweep of Hill 315, received small arms and automatic weapons fire from an estimated entrenched enemy platoon. The Company "Dog Scout", Billy Howard Best, was killed walking point in the initial exchange, as was one enemy soldier. A medical chopper evacuated both the deceased dog handler and his animal. Elements of Lt. Mahlum’s platoon were subsequently attacked, and suffered three casualties, Johnson, Akins and Freeman. Another Marine was hit in the head but only knocked unconscious. This Marine, left for dead, would awaken hours later and crawl back down the trail to safety, unnoticed by the enemy. Joseph Freeman ran from tree to tree, trying to get up to where Johnston and Akins were down on the trail, when a bullet pierced his neck, killing him. Lt. Mahlum and Sergeant Thompson found and identified the bodies of Johnson, Akins and Freeman as KIA, but were only able to recover Johnson’s body. The bodies of Akins and Freeman could not be recovered due to heavy and sustained enemy fire. Pinned down and forced to maintain its position, M Company requested additional air and artillery support.

The following day, after the enemy position had been hit with heavy artillery, napalm and additional fixed –wing ordinance, the Marines made another attempt to retrieve Akins and Freeman, but they were successful in recovering only one. Lt. Treadwell received shrapnel wounds during this engagement and was medevaced out, St. Sergeant. Blackman was wounded, and Corporal Simpson was wounded in the lower leg. Lt. Mahlum had his rifle shot out of his hands. On the 5th, an additional attempt was made to recover the remaining Marine body, but as the company attacked the enemy position, two more Marines, including Sergeant Leslie Thompson and Christianson, were killed. (Tom Mahlum) (Leslie Thompson was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his bravery in this action.) (For his actions in this engagement, Burns is awarded the Silver Star.) (O’Connell mentions a Merriweather as KIA and left behind. Research further.) (Paul O'Connell, TM & HM6). Editor note:   This was probably Merryman, according to Mike McFerrin.


M/3/5 made one last attempt to recover the bodies of their comrades. Mahlum visually confirmed the downed body of Sergeant Thompson, but was pinned down by enemy fire and could not retrieve the body, barely escaping under cover of a brief burst of infantry machine gun fire, which jammed, and a sustained cover of M-16 fire trained on the enemy position. It became so futile that only volunteers were asked to try and get up the trail. In their final drive, enemy fire proved to be too intense to warrant the risk of losing additional men, and Company M withdrew. Carrying their wounded and dead (six Marines), the Marines of M Company advanced through the dense jungle foliage toward FSB Maxwell, encountering enemy resistance along the way. The company's point element was taken under fire by an enemy squad, resulting in the wounding of one Marine, who required immediate evacuation. While M Company maintained its position, a medical evacuation helicopter extracted the wounded Marine by hoist. Poor visibility, additional enemy contact, rugged terrain, and the slow movement due to the wounded resulted in M Company arriving at FSB Maxwell after dark, too late to be lifted to An Hoa along with the artillery. HM6


Meanwhile, operations to close Tomahawk and Maxwell began. As originally conceived, helicopters were to extract the infantry companies and two artillery batteries simultaneously from both fire bases, but low clouds and sporadic enemy mortar fire around Maxwell forced the airborne helicopter controller to concentrate all lifts on Tomahawk instead. Four 105mm and two 155mm howitzers of the 11th Marines, along with one infantry company, airlifted to An Hoa; Company L remained to provide security for a downed CH-53 helicopter. On the 8th, Company L lifted to An Hoa and Tomahawk closed. The following day, the last of Atkinson's tired Marines lifted out through sporadic small arms fire, and the fire support base was closed. Mahlum, Blackmun and the other M Company wounded were evacuated out of An Hoa to the hospital in Da Nang. HM6


Operation TAYLOR COMMON is concluded in Quang Nam Province. Results of the three-month-long operation were impressive: the destruction of enemy manpower in excess of a regiment; the capture of 206 tons of rice, 430,000 rounds of ammunition, and 1,100 weapons; and the neutralization of Base Area 112. But as General Dwyer was later to observe, "We knew when we went in - and we pushed these fire bases all the way out as far as they'd go, almost to the border - we knew we couldn't stay. And we had pretty much cleaned out the area. But when you have to pull out, they just filtered back in - that was, of course, the nature of the war." Marine casualties were 183 killed and 1,487 wounded; boobytraps killed 27 and wounded 386 Marines, while 26 Marines were killed and 103 wounded by friendly fire. The ARVN Ranger Group suffered 100 killed and 378 wounded, most occurring during operations in the Arizona and on Go Noi Island. (CH)( H69 P 354, OOB, CHRON P 84) Mike Company receives the Presidential Unit Citation for its participation in TAYLOR COMMON.


Burns is wounded in upper left arm, taking a direct shrapnel hit in his flak jacket while on the run to cover at An Hoa. The force of impact from the projectile flipped him over. (CH) (Note: O’Connell recalls 122 rocket hitting a supply tent close to Mike Company's office, killing a supplyman was killed instantly. Another incident about this same day involved the battalion armory taking a direct hit, in which the armorer was killed. .


As with Liberty Bridge, the enemy maintained constant pressure against An Hoa, defended by elements of the 3rd Battalion, primarily employing attacks by fire rather than attempting an all-out infantry attack. During the month, the base received some 430 rounds of mixed rocket, mortar, and recoilless rifle fire, far more than reported during any month since III MAF established the position in April 1966. The enemy effort achieved little effect other than harassment, as his gunnery was not distinguished by a marked degree of accuracy. HM7B


U.S. begins secret bombing of Cambodia.


During the early morning hours, an estimated battalion-sized enemy force launched a determined assault against Battery D, 2d Battalion, at Phu Loc 6, near An Hoa, and succeeded in effecting a penetration of the barbed-wire perimeter. The initial burst of enemy fire caused numerous casualties among the marines who had immediately manned their howitzers during the rocket and mortar attack. Undaunted by the intense hostile fire, HC2c David R. Ray, 24, U.S. Navy, 2d Battalion, 11th Marines, 1st Marine Division (Rein), FMF.C2c, moved from parapet to parapet, rendering emergency medical treatment to the wounded. Although seriously wounded himself while administering first aid to a marine casualty, he refused medical aid and continued his lifesaving efforts. While he was bandaging and attempting to comfort another wounded marine, HC2c. Ray was forced to battle 2 enemy soldiers who attacked his position, personally killing 1 and wounding the other. Rapidly losing his strength as a result of his severe wounds, he nonetheless managed to move through the hail of enemy fire to other casualties. Once again, he was faced with the intense fire of oncoming enemy troops and, despite the grave personal danger and insurmountable odds, succeeded in treating the wounded and holding off the enemy until he ran out of ammunition, at which time he sustained fatal wounds. HC2c. Ray's final act of heroism was to protect the patient he was treating. He threw himself upon the wounded marine, thus saving the man's life when an enemy grenade exploded nearby. For his actions, Ray received the Medal of Honor.


Burns and a RECON team helicopter back to Hill 315 and perform a ladder insert to recover the bodies of Leslie Thompson and the other dead marines. The bodies were recovered intact, having remained untouched by the enemy. (HM6, TM & Paul O'Connell)


In addition to direct support and combat missions, observed artillery fire was used to supplement, and to a limited extent, replace the search and blocking activities of infantry patrols. All of these observed fires were directed to a degree by the traditional eyes of the artillery, the forward observer teams assigned to each infantry company. Often blinded by double and triple canopied jungle, elephant grass, mountainous terrain, climatic conditions, and distance between units, the artillery was forced to use additional means to supplement the eyes of the forward observers. Among these was the establishment of permanent observation posts in towers and on commanding terrain.

Taking "100 people out of my hide," as Colonel Ezell noted, he initiated a regimental observation post system in an effort "to destroy the enemy as far away as possible, to diminish his capabilities across the battlefield to perform his mission." (14)

These observation posts, each manned by a team of artillerymen and protected by infantry or reconnaissance elements, commanded the main infiltration routes into the populated lowlands surrounding Da Nang. The post atop Hill 190 covered Elephant Valley, north of Da Nang, while Hill 270, to the west, commanded routes leading from Happy Valley, Mortar Valley, Sherwood Forest, and Charlie Ridge. Covering the Thuong Duc corridor and the northwestern portion of the Arizona Territory were Hills 250 and 65. Farther south, Hill 425 in the Que Son Mountains watched Phu Loc Valley and the An Hoa basin, while artillerymen atop Hill 119 observed Go Noi Island and Dodge City. A post on FSB Ryder covered Antenna Valley and the northern section of the Que Son Valley to the south. Artillery observers at each of these positions searched the countryside for enemy movement and called fire missions on promising targets.


In response to intelligence information garnered from captured documents exhorting enemy units to step up the campaign to replenish diminished rice stocks, the 5th Marines initiated Operation MUSKOGEE MEADOW, a combined search and clear and rice-denial operation in Quang Nam Province. Expanding upon techniques developed during the GOLDEN FLEECE operations of 1966, the Marines coordinated their search and clear efforts with the rice harvest, cooperating closely with district officials involved, in this instance with those of Duc Duc and Duy Xuyen. (HM7B) While division reconnaissance teams maintained a screen along the southern and western approaches into the area, Colonel William J. Zaro's three battalions ranged across the basin's lowlands. The Marines of Lieutenant Colonel Daley's battalion were given the task of providing security for the Vietnamese rice harvesters of Duy Xuyen District, and transporting the rice, once harvested. The 2d performed a similar task within the Arizona, while the 3d secured the rice harvest of Phu Nhuan and Thu Don Districts, south of the Song Thu Bon. HM7B


Company M/3/5 begin participation in Operation MUSKOGEE MEADOW. The company hit a village in a textbook operation. All hell broke loose, but the operation ended as a huge success, with many NVA KIA, additional captured NVA POWs and weapons/rice caches. (Ward participated in this operation.) (Paul O'Connell)


Generally, both NVA and VC forces avoided Zaro's Marines; however, during a sweep of the Arizona, three of Lieutenant Colonel Higgins' companies engaged a large enemy force on the 13th, five kilometers north of An Hoa. Company E, advancing toward blocking positions established by Companies G and H, flushed an estimated company of NVA out of hiding sites on the morning of the 13th and pushed it toward Company H. Company B, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, then engaged in Operation Oklahoma Hills, supported the action from positions across the Song Vu Gia to the north, as did elements of the 3d Battalion, 1st Marines. All three of Higgins' companies remained engaged until darkness, when units of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines and 3d Battalion, 1st Marines ambushed the enemy company attempting to cross the river, killing 14 troops. HM7B


At daybreak on the 14th, the Marines closed the trap, encountering only sporadic resistance. Results of the combined 1st, 5th, and 7th Marines engagement were over 100 NVA killed and a considerable number of weapons captured, including seven individual rifles, a 12.7mm antiaircraft machine gun, and a short-range rocket launcher. HM7B


Operation MUSKOGEE MEADOW ended with the successful conclusion of the rice harvest, which added in excess of 171 tons to South Vietnamese storage bins. In comparing the two district harvests, security operations were more successful in Duy Xuyen than in Duc Duc. Under the watchful eyes of Zaro's Marines, Vietnamese farmers harvested 271,150 pounds in Duy Xuyen District against only 67,600 pounds in Duc Duc; unharvested rice was napalmed to prevent it falling into enemy hands. The reason for the wide variance in harvested rice between the two districts, was due, as Colonel Zaro noted, to Duc Duc District officials, whose "planning began late, and the Duc Duc plans were neither well-thought-out nor well executed," nor were they coordinated with 5th Marine units. Despite the shortfall, both allied and South Vietnamese officials considered the harvest operations highly successful. HM7B


Two Marines from 1st Platoon are killed one morning while moving into position to provide road security. They made went to the same exact place they had spent the day before; and when they got there a booby trap exploded, killing both men instantly. (O’Connell) O’Connell barely escapes the same fate, narrowly missing another booby-trap while retrieving the remains of the two dead soldiers. Another marine had his arm blown off by yet another mine.


Combat action by Marines of Colonel Zaro's regiment in the An Hoa basin during May centered on the increased use of small unit patrols and ambushes along that well-used and preferred approach to Pa Nang. With the end of Operation MUSKOGEE MEADOW, the regiment retained responsibility for a majority of the basin, including the Arizona, west and north of An Hoa Combat Base, across the Song Thu Bon. Deploying companies independently, Zaro saturated the area with platoon- and squad-size patrols and cordons. HM6


In one such cordon, M/3/5 joined in a well-concealed and skillfully executed night movement on the La Thap village complex, south of Liberty Bridge. Approaching the village from all directions, the company caught the La Trap Village guerrilla force by surprise. At dawn, a small plane circled the village, announcing via a loudspeaker that the entrapped VC were surrounded and should surrender. The VC attempted to escape across an open rice paddy, but ran directly into a Marine ambush concealed behind rice-paddy dikes.

Mike Company opened fire. The VC, dressed in black pajamas, stopped in their tracks and tried to turn and run back to the village but were cut down by the heavy fire. As 1st Platoon assaulted towards the village, a VC jumped up in front of O’Connell and began to run away. O’Connell and another Marine fired at the same time, and the VC was killed. (O’Connell found out later in the day that this dead VC had been an officer and was a PayMaster for the area VC.)

Later on in the day, O’Connell’s group saw additional movement, which appeared to be VC running through some high grass and then disappearing. Chasing them to the edge of a small pond, O’Connell looked down and noticed a submerged head. After discharging some 18 round of automatic M-16 fire, the VC flew up out of the water, yelling and screaming in Vietnamese. A total of four VC were dragged from the water and captured.

The La Trap operation resulted in the killing of 36 VC and the capture of 14 prisoners and 18 weapons. (Burns Situation Report, Burns Operation Report )(O’Connell)(Note: O’Connell has the date of May 5 for this event. (Paul O'Connell)


A sharp rise in the tempo of enemy activity in the Arizona during the first week of May, coupled with information gleaned from various intelligence sources suggested that one NVA battalion and elements of an undetermined number of other enemy units were using the northeastern portion of the area as a staging point for attacks on Marine installations both north and east of the Song Vu Gia. This intelligence information was to force an immediate shift from independent small unit operations to a regimentally controlled, five-company operation. Following a careful review of the intelligence estimates, Colonel Zaro directed that a plan of attack into the northern Arizona be formulated. Drafted by Lieutenant Colonel Higgins, the scheme to destroy enemy troops in the area called for three of his companies to sweep from southwest Arizona into blocking positions established by two companies of 1st Battalion in the northeast Arizona. The sweeping companies would then turn north and attack toward the Song Vu Gia where elements of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines and 3d Battalion, 1st Marines, in blocking positions on the north bank of the river, would cut off the enemy's escape. HM7B


All units involved in the operation moved to their attack positions prior to first light on 9 May. Designated to attack east and then north, Companies E, I; and H, accompanied by the battalion command group and a heavy section of tanks took up positions just north of the Song Thu Bon, following a deceptive move to the east as if to vacate the central and western portions of the Arizona. Also on the night of 8 May, Companies A and D began their night advance from the battalion command post at Liberty Bridge to prearranged blocking positions. By 0200 on the morning of the 9th, Company D had established a three-platoon block on Football Island, with Company A to the north, forming a two-company block in eastern Arizona. At 0645, a tower lookout at Liberty Bridge spotted approximately 200 enemy troops moving to the north, apparently flushed out by the maneuvering companies. Within an hour, the enemy force had grown in size and split into two groups of about 200 each, one moving to the northeast and the other to the northwest. Subsequently, both groups broke into smaller units, which were joined by additional enemy forces. Preceded by alternating artillery fires and napalm drops by F-4 Phantoms, Companies E, I; and H began their attack shortly after dawn. As each company took a series of objectives, supporting arms fire was shifted from one to another with the intention of softening the new objective and inflicting heavy casualties on the retreating enemy troops. As the intensity of the operation increased, Colonel Zaro, with a hastily assembled command group, moved to a vantage point near Liberty Bridge in order to better control the commitment of other units of the regiment. During the day's battle, the carefully coordinated Marine ground assault and air attack not only surprised the enemy, but also sent him reeling into the guns of one Marine unit after another HM7B


As the friendly elements began their push, they virtually took over completely all coordination of supporting arms. They tailed in continuous artillery barrages in front of the friendly elements while they were on the move, and at the same time the cowpokes were running continuous air strikes to the north, pushing the enemy into a disorganized retreat toward our ground units. Information from POWs indicated that the enemy communications structure broke down quickly under the hundreds of tons of ordnance dropped on them and this apparently resulted in a chaotic and a completely disorganized enemy withdrawal in all directions. As the enemy broke down into groups of five to twenty, the cowpokes kept all friendly elements advised of their movements, resulting in what must be called a "turkey shoot" as the day wore on. By 1800, Companies E, F and H, with the assistance of Companies G and K, brought in during the day by amphibian vehicles and helicopters from Liberty Bridge, had established a cordon anchored on the southern bank of the Song Vu Gia, encompassing the My Hoa village complex. HM7B


On the morning of the 10th, following an evening during which the enemy probed but did not penetrate the positions of all four companies on the cordon, the companies renewed the assault by sweeping through the cordon and destroying or capturing the remaining enemy troops. HM7B


The area was again saturated with small unit patrols on the 11th, as elements of both battalions searched out the remaining pockets of enemy resistance and directed supporting arms fire toward their destruction. The heaviest fighting of the day occurred when Company H sent a platoon-size patrol to the southeast in order to link up with a platoon from Company D, which had secured a disabled tank. At 0930, the patrol made contact with an enemy force located in mutually supporting bunkers encompassed within a treeline. Artillery and mortars were called for as the platoon closed on the enemy position. The ensuing firefight, which lasted throughout the day, was fought at close range as Marines, sometimes fighting hand-to-hand, moved from bunker to bunker until the position was neutralized and enemy fire finally silenced. HM7B


By the 12th, enemy resistance had diminished sufficiently for the 5th Marines to return the assembled units to their parent organizations, where they again took part in independent small unit operations. Later intelligence indicated that a planned enemy attack on Marine positions at Hill 65 was aborted because of the heavy losses the enemy suffered in northeastern Arizona. Lieutenant Colonel Higgins' 2d Battalion, 5th Marines was awarded a Meritorious Unit Citation for its outstanding performance in the action, which resulted in over 230 enemy casualties. HM7B


While An Hoa Combat Base experienced a number of rocket and mortar attacks, resulting in only minor damage and light casualties, on the night of 11-12 May, enemy sappers attacked the eastern portion of the base's defense perimeter. Fourteen enemy troops penetrated the outer wire, but were killed before moving further. Marine snipers equipped with night observation devices or starlight scopes had been moved into the area soon after the sappers were discovered cutting their way through the wire. According to Colonel Zaro, "they were 'dead ducks' when they reached the final strands, having been under observation the entire time. Much was learned about their wire penetration techniques and the value of the starlight scope was enhanced." Night observation was improved to such an extent that during a subsequent use, Colonel Zaro noted, "a number of Marines were observed enjoying the coolness of the water in the base's water supply tower. They were much surprised that they were detected on such a dark night and subsequently apprehended." During the same night, sappers using small arms, automatic weapons, grenades, rockets, and flame-throwers also attacked Liberty Bridge. Marines met the attack with a strong counterattack, resulting in 12 enemy killed and numerous weapons captured.  (Ward?) HM7B


In mid-May, General Simpson called Colonel Charles S. Robertson, Commanding Officer, 1st Marines, and his operations officer, Major James K. Reilly, to Headquarters, 1st Marine Division for a briefing on the concept, mission, and forces of a planned operation in Dodge City and Go Noi Island. The operation, codenamed PIPESTONE CANYON, was designed primarily to deny the North Vietnamese and main force Viet Cong safe haven in the two areas and to open Route 4 from Dai Loc to Dien Ban, closed to civilian and military traffic for several years. It was the "natural sequel" to Operations TAYLOR COMMON and OKLAHOMA HILLS. To accomplish the mission would require a sizeable amount of infantry, heavily reinforced with artillery, naval gunfire, and air. It would also require a significant landclearing effort. Specifically, as Colonel Ord pointed out, a combined Marine, Korean, and ARVN force amounting to 10 infantry battalions supported by a large artillery, naval gunfire, and armor force and including a Provisional Land-Clearing Company, composed of personnel and equipment from the 7th and 9th Marine Engineer Battalions and the Army's 687th Land Clearing Company, would be task organized and placed under the control of the 1st Marines. This would ensure enough troop density and supporting arms, he noted, "to really clear it out." HM11A


Company M engaged in a 6-day operation six miles southwest of An Hoa. During the mission, a resupply helicopter dropped certain provisions, including what appeared to be a 1,000-lb. bomb. "What am I supposed to do with a 1,000-lb bomb?" Burns radioed back to the battalion supply office. A few moments later, an anonymous voice came over the radio and advised, "You had better check that bomb, Captain, I think its melting!" To Burn’s amazement, the bomb turned out to be nothing more than a shiny silver protective covering for 200 small cups of ice cream, which had been placed inside the bomb casing by the messmen at An Hoa to protect the cargo and keep it from melting. The "Skipper" and the marines of Mike Company proceeded to enjoy some of the tastiest "ordinance" ever dropped by a resupply helicopter. (5/29/69 Stars & Stripes) (Ed note: See the article elsewhere on this page)


Colonel Robertson approved PIPESTONE CANYON and directed publication of 1st Marines Operation Order 001-69, selecting May 26th as D-Day. The operation involved clearing tunnel complexes in and around Go Noi Island. By 1969, Go Noi Island was a tunneled, cave-infested VC haven. The operation was in the same area as ALLEN BROOK in May and MEADE RIVER in December, 1968. The objective was to clear out the seven to nine enemy battalions and reopen Route 4. HM11A


The contiguous areas of Dodge City and Go Noi Island, located approximately 10 to 20 kilometers south of Da Nang and 6 to 20 kilometers west of Hoi An, constituted the western portion of Dien Ban and the eastern half of Dai Loc Districts, and included 19 villages or portions thereof. The combined area was bordered on the west by the south fork of the Song Vu Gia; on the north by the Song Ai Nghia, Song Lo Tho, and Song Thanh Quit; on the east by Route 1; and on the south by the Song Thu Bon, Song Ba Ren, and Song Chiem Son. Although bisected by the one- to two-meter-high, north-south railroad berm, the area consisted of semi-open, flat terrain, covered by numerous rice fields and grave mounds bounded by hedgerows, brush, and expanses of elephant grass. Although previous operations in the area produced significant results, the enemy stuck to the accepted technique of withdrawing his forces when pressed and then reintroducing them into their original operating areas once friendly forces shifted to a new zone of action. During the first five months of 1969, the 1st Marines saturated the fringes of the region with company- size and small-unit patrols with notable success, but these maneuvers, while effective in curtailing the enemy's free passage northward, lacked the scope necessary to produce a lasting effect on enemy forces using the area. Ridding the area of enemy troops was to become the major task of the 1st Marines during the final six months of 1969. HM11A


Operation PIPESTONE CANYON is executed in the Dodge City and Go Noi Island area of Quang Nam Province. Beginning at 0600, two battalions would attack eastward: Special Landing Force Alpha (1st Battalion, 26th Marines) from Hill 37 toward Dodge City, and, 3d Battalion, 5th Marines from Liberty Bridge toward western Go Noi Island. The attack, aimed at forcing the enemy into both areas and at the same time deceiving him as to allied intentions, would conclude with the establishment of blocking positions on the western edge of the area of operations. (CH) (AMT-Elving)


Lieutenant Colonel George C. Kliefoth's 1st Battalion, 26th Marines, under the operational control of the 7th Marines, and Atkinson's 3d Battalion, 5th Marines launched eastward, moving over ground pummeled by artillery fires of the 1st Battalion, 11th Marines and 8-inch guns of the Newport News (CA 148). Except for surprise firing devices (the road between An Hoa and Go Noi was known as "Mine Alley"), the two battalions generally met very light resistance during the advancement. However, as they drew closer to Dodge City and Go Noi Island, enemy activity picked up, the companies reporting an ever increasing number of engagements, enemy killed, and weapons and equipment discovered or captured. HM11A


Having been trucked from the compound outside of An Hoa to Liberty Bridge during the late afternoon, then resting along the Son Thu Bon, Mike Company moved towards Go Noi Island under the cover of darkness.

Moving single-file towards Go Noi Island, the point man was hit and wounded by a booby trap, signaling the VC of their arrival. AK fire broke out in a quick burst, sending the units for cover. Although the fire was no more than a token attempt to slow the Marines down, it worked.

M Company set up a hasty defense and waited for the medevac to come and get the wounded point man. When the medevac arrived and departed with the wounded Marine, M Company resumed its forward advance. However, it was discovered that the combat engineer attached to Mike Company was missing. No one could account for him following the defensive set-up, and no one knew if he was present when the company advanced again. For a day or two, Mike Company searched the area back to where he was last accounted for. (Paul O'Connell)


No movements were made on Go Noi Island without first napalming the tree lines and village perimeters. Sporadic AK fire was a common occurrence. Units constantly observed shadows moving about in the tree lines. On the morning of May 27, M Company began to move into a tree line, which camouflaged a small village. Without warning, an enormous explosion occurred, sending the body of John Kirchner into oblivion. Another soldier, Dewey from Pennsylvania, was wounded in the jaw and neck area. A corpsman, Doc Pyle, was killed as he ran to help wounded Marines maimed by a booby trap. As always, booby traps came in twos and threes so as to kill and wound others coming to the aide of those taken down by the initial blast.

The body of John Kirshner was placed in a green rubber poncho and carried towards the village. At this point, a Lieutenant hit another booby trap, causing he and his radioman to be peppered with hot burning metal. These two were medevaced. (Paul O'Connell)


On May 28, two days after his disappearance, the mutilated body of the combat engineer was found in the bottom of a bomb crater. Rumors passed around that he had been skinned alive and scalped and that his eyes had been poked out. (Paul O'Connell)


The 1/26 and the 3/5 had reached their blocking positions just west of the railroad berm and begun to dig-in in preparation for phase II. To this point, Kliefoth's and Atkinson's Marines had killed a total of 16 enemy troops, but the price was high: 10 dead and more than 100 wounded, all as a result of mines and boobytraps. HM11A


Sweeping south toward the island, the battalions generally moved out in the early morning, taking advantage of the coolest part of the day. As Lieutenant Colonel Morgenthaler explained: "at times it would reach temperatures of approximately 115 degrees and with the gear we were carrying, we figured that by moving out early in the morning, we would negate any heat casualties, and at that time the troops would be extremely fresh and more observant." The pace was slow as every bunker and tunnel complex was searched, and every hedgerow, paddy dike, grave mound, and riverbank probed for surprise firing devices and caches. As each battalion closed on the first of several successive phase lines, a small force would be positioned along the line while the remainder began a detailed and deliberate countersearch of the area just covered and naval gunfire pounded deeper targets. In addition to the forward attack and countersweep tactics, a large number of independent patrols and ambushes were deployed every evening. HM11A


During the second phase of PIPESTONE CANYON, five battalions (1st and 2d Battalions, 1st Marines; 37th ARVN Ranger Battalion; and the 1st and 4th Battalions, 51st ARVN Regiment) were to attack southward through Dodge City, coordinating with the 1st and 2d Battalions, 2d Korean Marine Corps Brigade, occupying positions on the area of operation's eastern flank. When the battalions reached the Song Ky Lam, engineering work would begin on upgrading and then eventually opening Route 4 from the railroad berm east to Route 1. At the same time, the Provisional Land-Clearing Company would be formed and staged at Liberty Bridge and one battalion would be lifted from the area of operation to provide security for the attack east across the island. (HM11A) Southwest and west of the 1st Marines' TAOR, the 5th Marines continued to defend the large broad plain dominated by the confluence of two major rivers, the Song Vu Gia and Song Thu Bon. Commanded by Colonel William J. Zaro, the regiment began the latter half of the year with Lieutenant Colonel William E. Riley, Jr.'s 1st Battalion operating in the Arizona area; Lieutenant Colonel James H. Higgins' 2d Battalion, deployed from the Arizona action, protecting Liberty Bridge and Road and conducting patrols in the surrounding terrain; and Atkinson's 3d Battalion participating in Operation PIPESTONE CANYON under the operational control of the 1st Marines. HM11A


Bombing recommences against North Vietnam.


Enemy activity throughout the 5th Marines' area of responsibility, although light during the last week of May and the first days of June, increased sharply both in frequency and intensity as the month progressed with coordinated attacks by fire against An Hoa Combat Base and units in the field. (HM11A) Substantial B-52 air strikes were commenced on the Liberty Bridge/Go Noi Island area during the first week of June. Around this time, a company engineer ("Clam Digger") went MIA. His body was later recovered in a bomb crater. TM


Major General Ormond R. Simpson continued the general scheme, adopted earlier, for deploying his four infantry regiments. Supported and reinforced by artillery batteries of the 11th Marines, the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Tank Battalion, and strong contingents of engineers, transportation, and service troops, the 1st, 5th, 7th, and 26th Marines were positioned in a series of concentric circles centered on Da Nang. Although not directly involved in the defense of the city itself, the division's responsibility began just outside the Da Nang Vital Area and radiated in all directions. To the north and northwest the 26th Marines patrolled the rocket belt, and spread out to the west and southwest was the 7th Marines. Elements of the 1st Marines were deployed to the southwest, south, and southeast of the city, while further to the southwest, the 5th Marines operated in a TAOR encompassing An Hoa Combat Base and major enemy infiltration routes along the Song Thu Bon and Song Vu Gia, and throughout the region between the two rivers, the Arizona. HM11A


From the outskirts of Da Nang to the remote mountain valleys, small detachments of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong regulars and guerrillas continued to move throughout the division's TAOR, despite the series of successful major allied operations and constant counterguerrilla patrols conducted during the first half of the year. Likewise, enemy rocket, mortar, and ground assault teams persisted in attacks against allied installations and population centers, while planting mines and boobytraps, gathering food and tribute, and maintaining an unrelenting campaign of terrorism against the civilian population. Division military operations, from the squad ambush and platoon patrol to multi-battalion sweeps, during the latter half of 1969, were aimed at the complete destruction of this endless cycle of harassment by elements of 21 enemy infantry and support battalions known to infest Quang Nam Province. HM11A


Movement became more difficult as the advancing battalions neared the PIPESTONE CANYON second phase line. Not only did both ARVN and Marines encounter a large band of mines set across their paths, but enemy activity picked up. On 2 June, as Company G moved south in midmorning, it received a number of 60mm mortar rounds followed by bursts of AK47 fire from a group of enemy troops occupying a small bunker complex. Supported by a section of tanks, elements of the company maneuvered forward, pounding the enemy position. Sweeping through the complex, the Marines discovered seven killed and one wounded, in addition to a number of weapons and propaganda leaflets. Later that same day, both the ARVN Ranger battalion and western blocking forces reported increasing activity in their zones of action as enemy troops tried to escape west, but were forced instead to move south across the Song Ky Lam onto Co Noi. HM11A


Life Magazine documented the deaths of "Doc" Pyle, Kirshner, Moore and Williams, several members of the 3/5 that had been KIA during the week.


In the early morning hours, the enemy subjected An Hoa to a company-size sapper attack supported by small arms fire, grenades, RPGs, B40 rockets, and approximately 10 rounds from 82mm mortars. Concentrating the attack in two sectors, the enemy broke through the defensive wire, but were driven back and forced to retreat under heavy volumes of Marine small arms, automatic weapons, 81mm mortar, and artillery fire. The action cost elements of the 3d NVA Sapper Battalion 19 dead and two captured. The captured sappers, according to Colonel Zaro, grateful for their treatment, demonstrated and revealed many of their infiltration techniques. HM11B


Nixon announces the withdrawal of 25,000 combat troops.


The third phase of Operation PIPESTONE CANYON began. Blocks were maintained along the north bank of the Song Ky Lam, the railroad berm on Go Noi, and engineering efforts continued on Route 4. Three battalions were to attack across the eastern portion of the island, followed by land-clearing operations, denying the enemy access and use of the area for staging and infiltration. Should circumstances warrant, Colonel Robertson retained the option of ordering additional phases. General Simpson, Colonel Charles E. Walker, interim commander of the 1st Marines in the absence of Colonel Robertson, and their tactical command group staffs were atop Hill 119, just south of Go Noi. Observation was excellent. Morgenthaler's battalion could be seen advancing from Liberty Bridge. Atkinson's 3d Battalion, 5th Marines could be seen occupying blocking positions along the railroad berm. Although they were dug in and could not be observed from 119, the ARVN forces were in position north of the island. As the command groups watched, fixed-wing attack and fighter aircraft strafed selected landing zones and surrounding areas. Finally, the fighter aircraft moved out and the attack aircraft, flying 200 feet above ground, laid down a thick stream of smoke, dividing the island. As scheduled, 22 troop-loaded CH-46s appeared and headed for two landing zones on the southern banks of eastern Go Noi. Minutes later, the combined force of Glasgow's men and Korean Marines alighted from the helicopters, formed up, and began a sweep to the north. That afternoon, Morgenthaler's armored column passed through Atkinson's lines on the railroad berm, picked up Company D, and joined in the coordinated attack. HM11B


Again advancing by numbered phase lines, the three battalions reached phase line II. At this line, the 1st Korean Marine Battalion encountered several bunker complexes and a large number of rice and equipment caches. The brigade's liaison officer informed Colonel Walker that the battalion wished to search the area, and it was agreed that Morgenthaler's and Glasgow's battalions would continue north while the Koreans carried out the search. The decision proved to be correct, for in each of the numerous tunnels and bunkers searched, the Koreans discovered enemy troops or substantial caches of rice, weapons, and equipment. The 1st and 2d Battalions, 1st Marines also added to these totals, uncovering many discarded weapons, large rice caches, and an increasing number of dead enemy troops, killed by the heavy air and artillery bombardment. HM11B


The Provisional Land-Clearing Company assembled at Liberty Bridge. An armored column was dispatched with a platoon from Company M, 3d Battalion, 5th Marines to provide security for the 10 Marine Eimco (M64) tractors and nine Army D7E Caterpillars. At midday, as the column moved out across country toward Go Noi Island, one of the tanks hit a mine, resulting in the severe wounding of two Marines and causing a temporary halt in the column's pace. After resuming the advance, a second mine disabled yet another tank and the column halted. Additional security was requested and the combined infantry, tank, and tractor column dug in for the night to make repairs. The following morning, the land-clearing unit resumed its eastward march. HM11B


Two battalions of the 1st Marines reached the Song Ky Lam and turned, beginning countersweep operations. At the same time, the Korean Marine battalion established company-size areas and began a series of detailed searches. Just north of the island, the 1st and 4th ARVN battalions moved from their blocking positions along the Song Ky Lam and initiated countersearch operations in Dodge City and areas west of Route 1.HM11B


Twenty days into the operation, the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines ceased its participation in PIPESTONE CANYON; Morgenthaler's battalion, in turn, assumed responsibility for the railroad berm and an area 500 meters west, while at the same time continuing to provide security for the land-clearing company, which was beginning the complete destruction of all vegetation and the filling and leveling of all enemy installations on eastern Go Noi. Clearing 250 acres at a time to a depth of six inches, the blades of the combined company eventually would leave behind over 8,000 dirt-brown and flat acres. The enemy, as a result, lost a long-used, major elephant grass- and bamboo-covered, bunker saturated haven and staging area.HM11B


While Lieutenant Colonel Riley's battalion fought the 90th NVA Regiment in the Arizona and Lieutenant Colonel Higgins' 2d Battalion secured Liberty Bridge and Road (North), the 3/5 began an unnamed, 13-day, search and clear operation in the Phu Loc Valley and the northern tier of the Que Son Mountains, saturating the countryside with patrols, ambushes and occasional multi-company sweeps, aimed at catching enemy troops driven south by the 1st Marines. On 15 June, the two companies crossed the Song Chiem Son from Go Noi and moved up the valley on foot. The command group and the rest of the battalion, which air assaulted into the area, joined them the following day. The 3/5 then searched the jagged, mountainous terrain, south of Alligator Lake, until the 28th, finding deserted base camps, caves, fighting positions, and encountering few enemy troops. The pattern of battalion activities varied according to region. In the Arizona, between the Song Vu Gia and Song Thu Bon, the 1st Battalion defended no fixed positions, but continually moved in company-size formations from place to place, patrolling, setting up night ambushes, searching for food and supply caches, and frequently conducting multi-company sweeps with ARVN forces in this long-time enemy stronghold. (NOTE: O’Connell indicates that there were significant engagements with the enemy during this operation, with numerous casualties.) HM11B


After several days of intense fighting, enemy activity subsided throughout the Arizona for the next several days as elements of the 90th NVA Regiment consciously avoided encounters with Marine patrols. However, shortly after midnight on the 17th, the 90th again struck in force. Supported by mortars, B40 rockets, and RPGs, two companies assaulted the battalion's night defensive position from the north and west. Relying on heavy concentrations of artillery, 81 mm mortar, and "Spooky" gunship fire, which at times fell within yards of the perimeter, 1st Battalion Marines again beat back the attack in bitter fighting, which lasted over five hours. At midmorning, a sweep of the battlefield found 32 enemy dead, two wounded, and a large quantity of weapons and miscellaneous equipment. Losing over 300 troops in 10 days, major elements of the 90th NVA Regiment withdrew into Base Area 112, and activity throughout the southern Arizona subsided. HM11B


Col. John Terry replaces Atkinson as CO of 3rd. Battalion. TM


The 3/5 withdrew from the Phu Loc Valley and flew to An Hoa, where they assumed security duty for the base and Liberty Road (South). HM11B


The 3/5, now under the command of Lieutenant Colonel John M. Terry, Jr., continued its assigned tasks of defending An Hoa Combat Base, securing the southern portion of Liberty Road, and conducting patrols within the regiment's southern area of operations, southeast of the combat base. HM11B


Activity throughout the PIPESTONE CANYON area of operation ground to a halt as Typhoon Tess brought heavy rains to Quang Nam Province for the next two days. By the 12th of July, the weather cleared and Company E, with tracked vehicles and tanks attached, moved from Route 1 back across Go Noi to await the bulldozers. During the move, one of the tanks accompanying Company E detonated a land mine that resulted in a ruptured gas tank and the severe burning of 12 Marines. The 7th Engineers, instead of following, decided it would place the tractors on low-bed trucks and drive them around to Liberty Bridge to conserve the dozers' engines and tracks. That afternoon, the forces to continue the land clearing were back on western Go Noi and operations began the following morning. (NOTE: The twelve marines burned may have been a part of Pat’s company, as he recalled a "terrible event involving a tank and several marines in his unit.") HM11B


Following the completion of land-clearing operations on Go Noi Island, the third phase of PIPESTONE CANYON came to a close. In nearly three months, the combined force logged 734 enemy killed, 382 weapons captured, and 55 prisoners taken. During the 164-day operation, each of the interrelated objectives was met. All major Viet Cong and North Vietnamese units were driven out of Dodge City and Go Noi Island. Route 4 was not only upgraded, but opened to traffic from Dien Ban west to the railroad berm, permitting access to western Quang Nam Province. Land-clearing operations had transformed Go Noi Island from a heavily vegetated tract to a barren waste, free of treeline and other cover long used by the enemy to conceal his movement across the island. And, through a series of combined cordon and search operations, the ranks of the local Viet Cong Infrastructure were depleted, especially in Dodge City. In the accomplishment of these goals, 852 enemy soldiers were killed, 58 taken prisoner, and 410 weapons, along with large quantities of equipment, ordnance, and foodstuffs, captured. The successes achieved during the operation were not, however, attained without friendly losses. A total of 71 troops, Marines and Navy Corpsmen, died, while 498 others were wounded, most by surprise firing devices, and evacuated, and 108 received minor wounds. HM11B


Following the conclusion of Operation PIPESTONE CANYON, a shift occurred among the regiment's three battalions in preparation for the 5th Marines' last multi-battalion operation of the year, Operation DURHAM PEAK, on the southern fringe of its area of operations. In order to free the 2d Battalion, two of Lieutenant Colonel Riley's companies moved from the Arizona to Phu Lac. At the same time, the remainder of the 1st Battalion airlifted to An Hoa Combat Base, there relieving Terry's 3d Battalion. Joining the two battalions would be Lieutenant Colonel Glasgow's 2d Battalion, 1st Marines. HM6

The site of the 2nd Battalion and 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines controlled operation was to be a 20-kilometer-square area encompassing Antenna Valley, Phu Loc Valley, and the Que Son Mountains, location of the enemy's old Base Area 116, approximately 10 kilometers southeast of An Hoa Combat Base. HM11B


Operation DURHAM PEAK is executed in Quang Nam Province. In preparation for the attack and search of the Que Son Mountains, two 105mm howitzer batteries of the 11th Marines moved from An Hoa Combat Base on the 19th and established a temporary fire support base on the southern edge of Go Noi Island. As a deceptive measure, they trained their guns northward. Offshore stood the Boston (CAG 1), her six 8-inch 55s at the ready. (CH) HM11B


The following morning, Batteries B and F shifted their tubes 180 degrees, and with the guns of the Boston, unleashed a barrage against preselected targets throughout the operational area. Simultaneously, the 37th Battalion, 1st ARVN Ranger Group assaulted into a previously prepared fire support base and several landing zones in the upper reaches of Antenna Valley, establishing positions aimed at blocking enemy escape routes out of the valley. Later in the day, Terry's 3d Battalion are inserted by helicopter and joined the ARVN Rangers in the area of operations and set up blocking positions to the west and southwest. Both assaults went unopposed, the day being marred only by the crash of a MAG-16 CH-46 helicopter in which several Rangers were killed. HM11B


The following day, Lieutenant Colonel Glasgow's 2d Battalion helilifted into three landing zones in the Phu Loc Valley and established positions astride known enemy escape routes from the Que Son Mountains to the north and northeast. HM11B


As 3rd Battalion company patrols moved out from their initial landing zones, they discovered extensive bunker complexes, caves, hootches, supply caches, and numerous NVA graves. Most bunkers and hootches, however, showed damage as a result of B-52 bombing raids ("Arc Lights"), carried out in the Que Son Mountains prior to the operation. Enemy resistance was light, stemming primarily from small groups attempting to evade ARVN and Marine forces. But as the Marines moved to higher ground, specific ally toward Nui Mat Rang and Nui Da Beo, activity intensified as enemy troops employed an ever- increasing number of sniper teams and ambushes. HM11B


As the month drew to a close, both Terry's and Glasgow's Marines continued to push deeper into the mountains, following the extensive enemy trail network instead of moving cross-country through the thick jungle terrain. "The NVA travel the trails," noted Lieutenant Lavery, and "everything they have is along the trails. If we are going to find them or any of their gear, it is going to be along the trails, not on cross- country sweeps." Lavery's observation proved correct: discoveries of bunkers, caves, and hidden encampments along the trails increased with elevation, as did the number of brief firefights with small groups of enemy troops, employing a wide range of delaying tactics. Simultaneously, enemy sightings by elements of the Americal's 196th Light Infantry Brigade and 5th ARVN Regiment, providing flank security in the Que Son lowlands, increased as a result of the Marines' push to the southeast. It was Colonel Zaro's belief that the blocks by these units were ineffective and permitted groups of enemy to escape to the south and east. Operating along the ridgelines and among the draws of the Que Son's created a number of problems for the two Marine battalions, chief among them, resupply. The rugged terrain, high winds, and small landing zones atop mountain peaks forced many Marine helicopter pilots to cancel direct landings and concentrate instead on resupply drops, which they often lost, forcing both Terry's and Glasgow's Marines to exist for extended periods on Long Range rations and to obtain water from local streams. The lack of purified water and adequate supplies of malaria pills produced an abnormally high incidence of the disease and related fevers in the Marines participating in the operation. HM11B


On 31 July, Colonel Zaro committed Lieutenant Colonel James H. Higgins' 2d Battalion, 5th Marines to DURHAM PEAK, which immediately established blocking positions near Hill 848 in the center of the area of operations. Three days later, the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines relieved its sister battalion in place, continuing patrols in the Que Son highlands in search of enemy units and base camps. HM11B


During the month of August, the 1st Marines, when not engaged in clean-up operations for PIPESTONE CANYON, continued aggressive patrol and ambush operations, placing heavy emphasis on clearing the Song Yen within the rocket belt and assisting the 5th Marines in Operation DURHAM PEAK. In addition, the regiment carried out cordon and search operations in the hamlets of An Thanh (1), Viem Tay (1), An Tra (1), Bo Mung (2), Tan Luu, and La Huan (2), all designated for upgrading under the Accelerated Pacification Campaign. HM11B


By the end of the first week of August, the ground had been covered and encounters had dwindled to a few short, sporadic, but fierce, hit- and-run attacks. Based on all available intelligence, the enemy remaining in the area consisted largely of the sick and wounded the able-bodied having fragmented into small groups and fled into the lowlands. On the 7th, the withdrawal began with the return of the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines and a battery of the 11th Marines to their bases in the Quang Nam lowlands. The next day, the 1st ARVN Ranger Group began its withdrawal to An Hoa Combat Base, followed by the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines and elements of the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines on the 12th. The final phase of the measured withdrawal took place on the 13th, when the remaining batteries of 2d Battalion, 11th Marines and companies of 3d Battalion, 5th Marines helilifted from the Que Son Mountains to the regimental combat base at An Hoa. HM11B


With the termination of DURHAM PEAK, the 5th Marines returned to a changed area of operation brought about by the southward shift of the 7th Marines. Of particular significance was the assumption of responsibility for the Thuong Duc Valley, north of the Song Vu Gia, including the outpost at Hill 65 and the southern slope of Charlie Ridge. On 14 August, elements of the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines relieved the 3d Battalion, 7th Marines on Hill 65, while the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines moved into the southern Arizona two days later. HM11B


At mid-month, a major shift in forces involved in the counterguerrilla campaign near Da Nang and the surrounding coastal lowlands occurred. Following successful operations against enemy forces in the Arizona Area, the 7th Marines redeployed to a new area of operations, encompassing the Que Song District of Quang Tin Province. This redeployment, along with the concurrent repositioning of the 5th Marines, 26th Marines, and Vietnamese forces, who assumed a larger role in the pacification and counterguerrilla effort closer to Da Nang, resulted in the expansion of the 1st Marines' area of responsibility. HM11B


Under the leadership of the new regimental commander, Colonel Noble L. Beck, who relieved Colonel Zaro on the 16th, the three battalions of the 5th Marines concentrated on a variety of missions within their respective areas of operation. At Liberty Bridge, Lieutenant Colonel Riley's 1st Battalion continued defensive operations in areas adjacent to the vital river crossing, while providing security patrols for truck convoys along Liberty Road, north of An Hoa Combat Base. To the northwest, the 2d Battalion, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Higgins, relieved on the 24th by Lieutenant Colonel James T. Bowen, confined its operations to company-size patrols and participation in the district pacification program, north of the Song Vu Gia, within the villages surrounding Hill 65. Terry' s 3d Battalion, operating within the Arizona, initially concentrated its efforts on destroying NVA and guerrilla havens and on interdicting enemy movement throughout the Phu Loi and Nam An village complexes, south of the Song Vu Gia and east of the Finger Lakes, and then in areas of central and southern Arizona. HM11B


A fierce battle breaks out in the Que Son Valley south of Da Nang. More than 60 American are KIA in the fighting.


It is believed that Burns transfers from the 3rd Battalion at this point. His Combat History only notes, "Participation in operations against insurgent communist forces in the Hue / Phu Bai area. (NOTE: At this point, it is unclear where Burns was re-assigned. Research Further.)(CH)


Contact within the regimental area was unusually light during the remainder of August, but with the new month, enemy activity intensified, most notably within the boundaries of the Arizona. Operating in terrain characterized by low hills, numerous tree lines, and rice paddies, Terry's Marines, first independently and then in conjunction with elements of the 1st ARVN Ranger Group, experienced a number of sharp, violent clashes with units of the reintroduced 90th NVA Regiment, while continually being subjected to a large volume of harassing small arms, mortar, and rocket fire. HM11B


While Company I moved across an open rice paddy toward a tree line between the villages of Ham Tay (1) and Ben Dau (3), near the Song Thu Bon, approximately 30 enemy troops took the company under heavy automatic weapons, rocket grenade, and mortar fire. Almost simultaneously, the battalion's S-3, Major Martin J. Dahlquist, stepped into a well-concealed enemy mine, that shattered his leg, and slightly wounded two other Marines. Although periodic sniper fire hampered helicopter operations, the medical evacuation was accomplished without damage to aircraft or loss of additional personnel. The Marines of Company I quickly returned fire, and called for air strikes, interspersed with artillery. Following a shift of artillery fire onto likely escape routes, Captain William N. Kay ordered a frontal assault and simultaneous flank envelopment. Kay's Marines moved rapidly through the enemy position, searching tree lines, bunkers, and spider holes, finding 12 NVA bodies and 16 weapons, including a Soviet carriage-mounted, heavy machine gun. Later in the day and early the next morning, Captain Kay's company again came under intense mortar and small arms fire, resulting in an additional 18 casualties. Two days later, the company, in addition to the rest of the battalion, withdrew from the Arizona and moved by air to Phu Lac , where it assumed responsibility for the security of Liberty Bridge and Liberty Road. The 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, in turn, helilifted into the Arizona. HM11B


Towards the end of September, all three battalions began rice denial and destruction operations within their respective areas of responsibility. Working in conjunction with ARVN and district forces, designated 5th Marine units were to protect Vietnamese farmers during the fall rice harvest, assist in the removal of the crop to secure storage areas, and aid in the destruction of enemy-controlled fields identified by district officials. HM11B


B-52s drop more than 1000 tons of bombs on North Vietnam targets near the DMZ.


5th Marine units provided security for elections to the Quang Nam Lower House of Representatives through screening operations, extensive patrols, and ambushes, while regional, provincial, and National Police forces provided close-in security. During the two days of election security operations, there was no attempt by the enemy to disrupt the voting within the 5th Marines area of operations. As elections generally coincided with the rice harvest, Wilkerson tasked his Marines with assisting provincial forces in providing polling place security for the provincial elections, as well as hamlet elections a month later. Extensive patrols and ambushes were run near polling sites the day before each election. On election day, Marine security operations shifted at least 500 meters from the sites, while Regional and Popular Force' s provided close-in protection. In addition, a platoon with two CH- 46 and two AH-1G helicopters stood by to provide immediate reaction to any terrorist incident which might threaten the security of elections within the 1st Marines' TAOR. HM11B


Conditions during the month of October within the regiment's area of responsibility could only be characterized by one word - wet. The northeast monsoon dumped a total of 40 inches of rain, raising river and stream levels as much as eight feet above normal. Flood conditions made movement in the lowlands difficult if not impossible. To the north in the high ground, the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines continued search and destroy operations in the Thuong Duc Valley and security patrols along Route 4. The scene was different at Liberty Bridge. The Song Thu Bon quickly rose to 17 feet above normal, covering the bridge with six feet of water and forcing Terry' s battalion to higher ground. Flood waters rose so rapidly on the night of 5 October that a security platoon and a four-man watchtower guard were cut off and had to be rescued by lifeline and helicopter. As a result of flood conditions and subsequent bridge and road damage, truck convoys were halted and resupply of An Hoa Combat Base carried out by Marine helicopters and Air Force C-130 transports. The river subsided enough for Terry's battalion to return to normal security positions, and for elements of the 7th Engineer Battalion to begin repair of the bridge's southern approach on the 13th. HM11B


In mid-October, the regiment's ability to control the battlefield with observation and fire was further enhanced by the introduction of the Integrated Observation Device (IOD). This 400-pound instrument, valued at $225,000, consisted of a high-powered Kollmorgan ships' binoculars, combined with an infrared night observation device and a laser range finder. Using the IOD, a trained observer could locate targets up to a maximum range of 30 kilometers in daylight and, employing the infrared observation device, 4,000 meters at night. Once the observer identified a target and determined its distance and direction from the observation post, firing batteries could fire for effect without the usual preliminary adjustment rounds and achieve accuracy of five meters in range and one mil in azimuth. The IOD, with its ability to achieve first round hits, was, as Colonel Ezell observed, "just what we needed." "We were losing targets because during the adjustment phase while we were trying to bracket them they were jumping holes." It proved to be the "missing ingredient as far as good fire support was concerned." (14) Initially two teams, consisting of an officer and five enlisted men, were selected from the 11th Marines' pool of forward observers, trained in the use and maintenance of the device by intelligence personnel of the division, and then assigned to observation posts commanding the Arizona and Que Son Mountains. With the initial deployment of two teams in late October, IOD-equipped observation posts reported achieving considerable success. During (be first 10 days of operation, the teams were credited with 72 kills, amounting to 28 percent of the total number of NVA and VC casualties reported by the 1st Marine Division for the same period. With the placement of four additional devices in November, enemy casualties mounted.


Following the two weeks of heavy monsoon rains, enemy activity within the regimental area of operations progressively increased, notably within northern Arizona. Consequently, plans for a multi-battalion search and clear operation were drawn up, to be put into effect at the end of the month. HM11B


The regiment assumed direct operational control of Captain Donald J. Robinson's Company M and assigned it to the Combined Unit Pacification Program. As early as the 3d, selected officers and NCOs began an intensive two-week training course conducted by the 2d Combined Action Group at Da Nang in order to prepare themselves for duty with Regional and Popular Forces. Training completed, the first unit, composed of one platoon from Company M and one platoon from the 759th Regional Force Company, along with a Revolutionary Development Team, moved into Chau Son Hamlet, two kilometers southwest of Hill 55 on the 9th. The following day, the regiment dispatched a second unit to Binh Bac Hamlet, a kilometer northeast of the regiment' s command post, and on the 30th, a third moved into Le Son (1) Hamlet, five kilometers to the northeast. During December, the 1st Marines installed five additional combined platoons in hamlets designated by the South Vietnamese Government for pacification status upgrading, as the program continued to show promise. HM11B


On 10 November, the IOD team on Ryder observed nine enemy troops carrying packs and rifles in the Que Son Valley; Battery H, 3d Battalion, 11th Marines responded and killed all nine. Four days later, Battery E, 2d Battalion claimed 11 enemy killed of 16 sighted by the IOD team on Hill 65. In November, sightings by the six teams resulted in the deaths of 463 troops, 72 percent of the enemy casualties credited to the artillery and 42 percent of all enemy casualties reported by the division. December results were equally impressive, but as Colonel Ezell was later to report, confirmed enemy casualties probably did not accurately reflect the actual number of enemy killed: (14)


Operations within northern Arizona began anew with the reinsertion of two companies of the 2d Battalion in the guise of resupplying the 1st Battalion. Under cover of darkness, Lieutenant Colonel Bowen's Marines then moved into the attack, while both Griffis' and Terry's Marines entered the area and reoccupied their original blocking positions. Three days of maneuvering followed during which the three battalions pushed a large number of enemy troops onto Football Island in the Song Thu Bon. An intensive search of the island followed on the heels of massed, preplanned, time-on-target artillery fire by the 11th Marines. Forced into an ever smaller area, approximately 40 enemy troops attempted to escape the island on the night of 20 November, but were ambushed by Griffis' blocking forces, who killed 18 and captured a large quantity of arms and foodstuffs. With the ambush of the remnants of the Q83 Battalion, operations in northern Arizona ceased and all regimental units, with the exception of the 1st and 3d Battalions that exchanged areas of responsibility, returned to their normal operational areas.


Throughout the final month of the year, the 5th Marines continued aggressive search operations throughout the An Hoa basin aimed at blocking enemy infiltration and destroying his sources of food. North of the Song Vu Gia, 1st Battalion Marines, in conjunction with Regional Force Company 193, concentrated on small-unit patrols in the Thuong Duc Valley and company- size operations in the thick canopy and steep hills of Charlie Ridge, while supplementing An Hoa base defenses. The 2d Battalion carried out similar operations in the Arizona. Until relieved on 23 December by the 3d Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Bowen's Marines, in close coordination with elements of the 51st ARVN Regiment, employed company- and platoon-size patrols and night ambushes in an effort to counter small groups of enemy moving through the region on food-gathering missions. The combined effort, which would last into the new year, achieved limited gains due to the highly successful operation carried out in November. HM11B


Eventually expanded to six by December, the IOD-equipped teams were positioned at observation posts on Hills 270, 250, 65, 119, 425, and FSB Ryder. Scanning the same countryside constantly, the trained observers in the course of time became so proficient in anticipating enemy evasive action that they could call in artillery fire so as to "lead" a moving enemy formation.


During the first two weeks of December, 3rd Battalion Marines under Lieutenant Colonel Johan S. Gestson, who relieved Lieutenant Colonel Terry on the 9th, continued to provide security for Liberty Bridge and Liberty Road, while conducting patrols and ambushes throughout the expanse of the regiment's eastern area of operations. HM11B


The 3rd Battalion displaced to An Hoa in preparation for the transfer of its area of responsibility to the 2d Battalion. While at the combat base, the regiment received intelligence reports indicating that enemy forces in the Que Son Mountains were preparing to attack the base. As a result, Colonel Beck ordered a preemptive strike, directing Lieutenant Colonel Gestson to split his force into two provisional battalions: Command Group Alpha, consisting of Companies I, K, and M; and Command Group Bravo, composed of Companies L, E, 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, and C, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines. HM11B


Group Alpha, commanded by Gestson, jumped off on 17 December for a five-day search and clear operation in the northern Que Sons, while Group Bravo, commanded by the battalion's executive officer, Major Denver T. Dale III, assumed complete responsibility for the security of Liberty Bridge, Liberty Road, and the regiment's eastern area of operations. HM11B


In late December, to supplement the usual ground patrols and ambushes, the 1st Marines instituted a new system of helicopter-borne combat patrols, codenamed Kingfisher. These patrols, the latest variant in a long series of quick-reaction infantry-helicopter combinations, were intended to seek out the enemy and initiate contact rather than exploit engagements or assist ground units already under fire. As Colonel Wilkerson noted, they were "an offensive weapon that goes out and hunt[s] them. They actually invite trouble." HM11B


Following several days of very little activity in the Que Sons, Command Group Alpha helilifted into the Arizona, relieving the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines of responsibility for the area. The next day, Colonel Beck deactivated both command groups and ordered Lieutenant Colonel Bowen's Marines to assume control of the eastern area of operations. Throughout the remainder of the month, Gestson's Marines conducted extensive patrols and rice denial operations within the Arizona, employing a denial technique, codenamed "Operation Butterfly," pioneered earlier. Split into 10-man teams and equipped with detonation cord, elements of the battalion helilifted into areas containing enemy controlled seedling beds. With the "det" cord and gasoline, Gestson's battalion destroyed the seedlings before they could be transplanted into paddies - maximizing destruction in a minimum amount of time. Utilizing this technique, the battalion and the regiment destroyed 760 rice seedlings beds, averaging 400 meters square: potentially enough rice to supply a company-size unit for months. This rice denial technique, combined with extensive patrols and night ambushes and the rotation of battalions into the Arizona at approximately one-month intervals, would continue to aid the 5th Marines in inflicting significant losses and reducing the enemy's freedom of movement throughout the An Hoa basin during the coming year. HM11B


As the year drew to a close in northern I Corps Tactical Zone, the enemy generally avoided major contact with allied forces, concentrating his efforts instead on rice collection and undermining government pacification efforts in the heavily populated lowlands near the old imperial city of Hue. In the western portions of both Thua Thien and Quang Tri provinces, now devoid of all but reconnaissance forces, he slowly began to rebuild the large base areas along the Vietnamese-Laotian border, destroyed earlier in the year. The year, however, had witnessed the defeat of NVA and VC forces at every turn, frustrating their attempts to terrorize and victimize the inhabitants of the two provinces, and denying the rice, supplies, and personnel so vital to their survival. The redeployment of the 3d Marine Division was testimony not only to this defeat, but to the great strides made in the pacification and Vietnamization of northern I Corps.HM10


To the south, the 1st Marine and Americal Divisions conducted a series of major operations to rid Quang Nam, Quang Tin, and Quang Ngai Provinces of a substantial enemy presence directed against populated areas of Da Nang and Quang Ngai. Driving into such long-time enemy strongholds as Base Area 112, Happy Valley, Charlie Ridge, Dodge City, Go Noi Island, and the Que Son Mountains, the year-long campaign by the 1st Marine Division laid waste to a large number of enemy base camps and storage areas, denying the enemy opportunity to marshal forces for any significant offensive in Quang Nam. In the heavily populated areas of the three provinces, the two divisions' unremitting counterguerrilla effort, achieved steady success over the local Viet Cong Infrastructure. From the DMZ in the north to Duc Pho in the south, III MAF combat operations during the year cost the enemy over 30,000 killed or captured, a loss equivalent to nearly three divisions. Marines losses were 2,259 killed and 16,567 wounded. HM19


Within Quang Nam Province, their primary area of responsibility, Marines would continue to develop and apply combat and counterinsurgency techniques to the fullest extent to protect Da Nang, root out enemy guerrillas and infrastructure from the countryside, and prevent enemy main forces from disrupting pacification, while encouraging Vietnamization and conducting a systematic and orderly withdrawal - a difficult task. HM19
Statistics tell only half the story. The other half is told by how well allied forces did in restoring South Vietnam to an era of peace in which the people were allowed to resume their normal pursuits. Using this measure, Major General Ormond R. Simpson thought his 1st Marine Division had done well indeed:

"We achieved limited success by that measure in the Da Nang defensive area - - the percentage of people that were voting in elections and the very high percentage of children that were in school. I counted that as a successful type of thing. At one time I had available the hectares or the acreage, as we used to have to do it, because that was the only thing we knew, or square kilometers of ground that was made safe enough for people to return to farming and to fishing and that sort of thing. It would be a rough guess, but I would suppose that area that I was responsible for during the year I was in Vietnam, the 1st Marine Division Reinforced must have doubled the area. Now, that doesn't mean anything, but it was a significant amount of acreage in which people were able to return and start in a very rudimentary fashion to rebuild their villages, to go ahead with rice farming, and the other kind of crops that they did - - Those are the kind of things that you measure success ." (CH12)


However, a truer measure of success was the effectiveness of the air-ground team, which was exploited to the fullest extent during the high-mobility mountain operations carried out by the 3d Marine Division early in the year - campaigns which combined the intrinsic capabilities of infantry maneuver, helicopter mobility, and coordinated air and artillery fire support to neutralize the hostile enemy threat to northern I Corp. HM19


Gen. Lon Nol ousts Prince Norodom Sihanouk and siezes power in Cambodia. South Vietnamese troops attack communist bases across the borders of Cambodia.


Lon Nol appeals for military assistance in Cambodia.


Anti-War demonstrations break out on college campuses.


Burns second tour ends. (CH)


Burns receives Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry w/Palm and Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry w/Bronze Star. (CH)


Burns receives the Bronze Star w/Valor. (CH)