11 July 1969
From: Commanding Officer
To: Commanding Officer, 5th Marines
Subj: Cordon and Search Operation, 3-5 May 1969
Ref: (a) CO, 5th Marines verbal instructions to CO Company M of 3 July 1969
Encl: (1) La Trap Operation, Company M, 3rd Battalion, 5th
- Pursuant to reference (a), enclosure (1), prepared by the Commanding Officer, Company M,
of this organization, is here-with submitted.
Copy to: 3/5 S-3
5th Marines, S-3
Company M, 3/5
La Trap Operation
Mike Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines
- Mike Company had completed a normal five day operation within the 3rd
Battalion's TAOR on 1 May 1969. The Company was located near Phu Nhuan (5) at AT920487.
- Operational Control of Mike Company was transferred to 1st Battalion, 5th
Marines on 2 May 1969.
- A visual recon was made by helicopter of the area of operations on 2 May 1969.
- Mike Company received the operation order on 2 May 1969. Operation order contained two
particularly important points:
- All civilians were to be detailed. This was so that all civilians could be checked
against the black list, and also so a Hoi Chan could identify all VC who were apprehended.
- The operation order required that both Mike and Bravo Companies form a triangular-shaped
cordon as illustrated below:
- The problem that became apparent at first light was that sides C and D of the triangles
were much too close. Marines of the two Companies were intermingled with one another, and
fire was masked until we could move through each other and began closing the cordons in
the respective directions.
- The Company was set in a day position at AT926489 on 2 May 1969. The Operation order was
issued here which established the cordon and anchors of responsibility as illustrated on
the following page.
map to see full size)
- The operations to establish the cordon were divided into three phases: day recon
patrols, night ambushes, and the night move.
- Day patrols to recon the movement route and select night ambush positions were made by
the 3rd Platoon to AT922505 and made by the first Platoon to AT941500. Members
of the 2nd Platoon accompanied the 3rd Platoon's patrol.
- Night ambushes were established by a squad of 3rd Platoon at 022000H May 1969
at AT921500, and by the entire 1st Platoon at 022015H May 1969 at AT946500. The
1st Platoon alos employed listening posts at AT941500 and AT950500.
- Night moves to establish the cordon were made in the following time sequence:
- 022100H May 1969. 2nd and 3rd Platoons and the CP/60mm moved
to another night position at AT927943.
- 030300H May 1969. 3rd Platoon, the CP/60mm and the 2nd Platoon
(in this order) moved out in a column to respective areas of responsibilities. The 3rd
Platoon picked up its squad ambush on route.
- 030400H May 1969. The 1st Platoon began moving to its sector of
- 030530H May 1969. Cordon was complete except for the coordination point were 1st
and 3rd Platoons were to join. This proved impossible until 0900H because of
the mix up with Bravo Company.
- Bravo Company and the 2nd Platoon of Mike Company both began firing about
0545H at VC trying to break the cordon. Fire fights continued throughout the morning of 3
May as Mike Company began gently closing the cordon. These fire fights resulted in 14 VC
killed, five of whom were not found until 4 May, and only one USMC WIA, who was shot in
the finger. The Company apprehended over 100 civilians during the cordon. All of these
were questioned by ITT and checked against the Black List. Forty civilians were brought it
for more questioning; of these, 14 males (including the VC Village Chief) and two females
were confirmed as being VC, the remainder were classified as VC sympathizers. Most of the
VC were found in underground bunkers, two of which were near streams and had only
- Search of the Battle Area
- Mike Company's search of the area on 3, 4 and 5 May recovered:
4 M-16 rifles
4 AK-47 rifles
3 SKS rifles
2 M-1 rifles
1 M-1 rifle
1 K-44 rifle
1 Chinese assault machinegun
30 82mm mortar rounds
1 60mm mortar round
3 tons of rice
- The weapons were found in streams and water-filled bomb craters where the VC had thrown
them as they quit the fire fight. The rice was found in 55 gallon drums buried in the
ground and concealed as graves. The other gear and documents were in ammo cans hidden in
narrow spaces between rice paddy dikes.
- Special Training for Night Moves
- It is particularly important to develop a Marine's confidence in his ability to move at
night and accomplish a mission without being ambushed. Mike Company had made several night
moves prior to this Operation when contact was believed remote, (Contact was never made),
to instill this confidence in our men. The following principles are those we feel are most
1. Link-Up Concept. It is imperative that the move began as planned and without
confusion when leaving the assembly area. Several methods should accomplish the link-up,
the following example has always been successful for Mike Company:
Assume the Company planned a night move in a column in the order of 1st, 2nd
and 3rd Platoons. During the day the last man of 1st and 2nd
would find the position and identify of the first man of the 2nd and 3rd,
respectively. When the code word is passed to begin the link-up, the last man of the 2nd
would go to 3rd's position and lead the 3rd to his position. When
this is completed, the last man of the 1st would go the 2nd's first
man and lead 2nd and 3rd to his position. The move begins only after
the link-up has been completed.
- Platoon Commanders and squad leaders should talk to each other constantly. Especially to
insure that the correct link-up is made.
- Each Marine should know who will walk in front and back of him during the move.
- Squad leaders should have a correct count of their squad so they can determine the end
of their squad by numbers without having to ask the identity of the men.
- Out night moves are almost always made with full field packs, and the men always want to
sit down when there is any delay. We allow our men to sit only during long delays (i.e.
Medivac) and only after they receive the signal to do so. It is very easy to lose contact
when men sit, so this must be well supervised.
- The company had never used camouflage paint prior to this point; however, on the evening
of 2 May 1969 each man painted his hands and face with carbon from destroyed radio
batteries and burned wood. Hopefully this made our men more "gungy" and
impressed the importance of our mission. It definitely added to our shock effect during
the next days sweep. Each man also wore his utility shirt with the sleeves down and top
- Miscellaneous notes
- One enemy surprise firing device was detonated on 5 May which resulted in one USMC and
one Vietnamese KCS KIA.
- An aerial observer in an OV-10 spotted for both Mike and Bravo Companies while the
cordon was closed. His help was extremely valuable and enabled us to close gaps before the
VC could escape.
- We observed one VC whom we later learned was supposed to have been standing guard duty
being led away at gun point by another VC, both were captured.
- All grids refer to the Dai Loc Map, Sheet 6640 IV.
1st- 2nd Lt T.J. MAHLUM
2nd- 2nd Lt J.N. TREADWELL
3rd- SSGT F.S. BLACKMAN