Mike & H&S Companies
Third Battalion, Fifth Marines
Grady Rainbow's Memoirs, (Continued), Page 7
thought the uneasy feeling of the debacle over awards was bad enough for one
day. I was wrong again it seemed. As
it grew dark we remained in the position we held, a welcome relief from the
usual hit and hump practice of Mike Company.
radio was constantly relaying information on the day’s actions. We had been Op Con to 1/5 it seems and had been working with
Bravo Company of that Battalion, now with the prisoners gone we were dug in for
the coming night. Not long after
dark a report came over the radio, Force Recon had detected a large enemy force
moving directly toward us from Go Noi Island.
We were ordered to be the blocking force and hold no matter what.
I was moved to a position by a small rice paddy dike in line with the
platoon. The night was hot and
still, the air seemed very heavy. As
I lay quietly it grew darker, if that is possible.
were quiet updates on the expected enemy. They
were estimated to be at least a battalion, perhaps more moving closer to us each
minute. My mind raced, if we could
spring the ambush we could inflict heavy damage.
Our claymore mines were out and ready, we were locked and loaded.
Then the word was passed once again; “Fix bayonets”.
Some wise ass even said “Prepare to repel boarders”.
Every muscle in my body tensed. That
order only meant one thing, we were not going to give an inch, it was hold or
die. One small under strength
Marine company facing a battalion or more of what was now reported to be NVA
hunched down in the muddy ground and locked my bayonet onto my rifle, minutes
seemed like hours. There wasn’t a
sound to be heard. We waited
listening to the whispered reports of the oncoming enemy unit, then; they were
gone. No contact, no further
sightings, nothing. Just gone.
next morning we continued to operate around the immediate area.
Where the NVA unit had disappeared to, we didn’t know but we all
suspected. Back to Dodge City and
Go Noi Island, the place was like an R & R camp for the troops from the
small no name operation netted a toll of 14 enemy confirmed dead, over 100
civilians detained (40 of which were later identified as VC including the
village chief),4 AK-47s, 3 SKS rifles, 2 M-1 rifles, 1 K44 rifle, 4 M-16 rifles,
a Chi-Com machinegun, ammunition including over 40 rounds of mortar ammo,
documents and over 3 tons of hidden rice stores. Not a bad hit on the VC in the area in such a small quickly
planned operation of two days. The
real backlash was still coming though; we had apparently wiped out the local VC
in the area. That left mainly NVA
to tend with, the NVA on Go Noi Island and the Arizona/Dodge City areas.
next day the 5th of May we took another hit ourselves.
While patrolling on of the squads took with them a Kit Carson Scout named
Tui (Twee’). They were led by an
old man from one of the villages who claimed to know the whereabouts of more VC.
It was a trap. The old Viet
led them straight into a booby-trapped area.
Tui was killed along with another one of the Mike Company Marines.
Our senior KCS, Da, went nuts. He
was found with a prisoner in a bomb crater; Da had been former NVA, he believed
in torture. Before anyone realized
he had gone missing, he had his revenge. A
loud sudden explosion rocked the crater, and Da stood by laughing grimly.
He had wired the VC with C-4, some say stuffed into a body cavity, and
blew him in place. The Skipper was furious; he lashed out at Da and threatened
him with charges. Da, looked
disdainful and said; “You don’t know how to kill Cong.” “This is my war
not yours and my country, I show you how to fight Cong.”
could be bloodthirsty when he wanted to be.
I got to know him pretty well in the bush, he usually went with Mike
Company on patrol. Da had been an
NVA officer; then the VC raided his village and by mistake killed his mother and
mutilated her body. He Chu Hoi’d
immediately,(meaning he came to our side), and bore the battle to the VC hard in
retaliation. Nothing more was said about the incident to my knowledge, it
Marine killed with Tui was Mike Companies' only real casualty on this patrol.
We had one Marine with a minor wound, but it was treated in the field.
We left the bush and headed for My Son 1, the forward CP for An Hoa and a
Company size strong point. Our next
assignment was as road security for Highway 1 from Liberty Bridge to An Hoa.
got back to An Hoa and were refitted with clean utilities and boots for those
who needed them, which was almost everybody.
The Company Police Sergeant had come up with some steaks and had them
grilling for us. The biggest prize
was “COLD” beer and soda, nice and chilled from real ice.
We also were exempt from bunker watch that night; we got to eat, shower
and get drunk in peace. I don’t
think I drank more than four beers and was passed out on the top of a small
bunker. A real party for us and it
next morning I was flown back to Da Nang with a courier package from the 1st
Sergeant. I got to live it up for three days there and back, even saw a movie at
11th Motors outdoor theater. “The
Hellfighters” with John Wayne. The
movie was slightly interrupted during the big climax scene.
In the movie they are blowing up oil well fires, three in rapid
succession. Every thing went just
fine, one well then the next, then the next; then the damned outdoor head
exploded right on cue. In coming
mortars, a gift from Charlie. I
never saw the end of that movie until years later on television. It was a good
movie, one of my favorites, but to this day I miss the “surprise” ending
from the first time I saw it.
flew back into An Hoa and found the company had moved to My Son 1, the forward
CP for the Regiment. I picked up my
gear and trudged down the road to the new company CP.
Son 1 was about one mile North of An Hoa up a red dirt road. I marched the distance wondering about any kind of security
that was out. I suppose there was
some, but besides kids trying to sell me sodas and ice I didn’t see anything.
The villagers seemed friendly enough and it appeared to be a fully
pacified area. As usual I was
wrong, the appearance was deceiving, as I would discover later.
forward CP was made up of three strong points, Alpha, Bravo and Charlie. Each
one a very different type of compound in and of itself. Alpha point was the main compound and was like a mini An Hoa.
The perimeter was row after row of concertina wire, piled high and razor
sharp. The wire was hung with the
normal C-Rat cans filled with loose pebbles so they would rattle if disturbed by
anyone trying to infiltrate the camp. Bunkers
lined the perimeter in the usual 360-degree pattern.
center of the compound was made up of a few green buildings including a full
messhall for our use. We actually
had a chance at hot chow for a change. There
was an ammo bunker and a hooch used for the company CP.
My Son 1 was a Company sized strong point. In the Northeast corner was a 106 RR mounted for use as
artillery by the CO and a low walled bunker on the East wall held a SID device.
The SID was a sensor device that had probes planted out to the East to
detect any ground vibrations caused by troop movement.
rest of the interior was comprised of the usual hard-backed tents for troop
housing. Of course with having to
man the bunkers, we really didn’t sleep there.
Directly across the road to the West was a village, including a church
with a small steeple. To the East
was open rice paddies running to the Que Son Mountains in the distance.
With no one to support or defend but our selves it seemed like heaven.
Each strong point was occupied by one platoon; the 1st Platoon
started in Alpha point.
strong point was very similar to Alpha, minus the messhall of course.
It occupied an area called the water point and was furthest from the CP.
A small creek passed by its perimeter and a water tower stood nearby.
Other than that it was unremarkable.
strong point was something to see; it was designed like no military
fortification I had ever seen outside history books.
The entire compound was constructed of massive sandbag bunkers; tied
together with thick sandbag and timber walls.
Round and high it towered up like a medieval castle, green and
intimidating. The outer walls were
surrounded by an honest to God moat; filled with sharpened punji sticks.
In front of this lay the obligatory concertina wire about six rows deep.
There was an actual drawbridge constructed of Mo-Mat that could be closed
at night and used as a bridge during the day.
mines were placed all around the walls making the taking of this strong point a
daunting task in the least. In the
center of Bravo was a tower like the one at An Hoa and an old French cottage;
half destroyed and falling down. This
was the favorite post for any platoon, all to yourself and no one to dream up
bullshit work details. One platoon
and some local PFs (Popular Forces, militia from the village) manned Bravo. With
the combined firepower in that small post I wouldn’t have wanted to assault
that place with any amount of men. There
was a clear field of fire for almost 100 yards all around the fortification.
Bravo was made to be held.
was to be home for a few days for Mike Company.
We manned the bunkers the first night and as luck would have it I got the
SID bunker. The low walls of that
point required you to lay flat on your stomach while you wore the headphones
attached to the device. It took
some getting used to, but after awhile you could tell the difference between
cattle (water buffaloes), animals and men walking by the sounds.
the East of the SID bunker was the German Hospital.
German Nationals working for the Red Cross ran it, I think.
We had very mixed feeling about the hospital; as it was there for
international relief they assisted anyone that was ill or wounded.
That included Charlie and the NVA, not just villagers.
We didn’t care to have a facility that patched up the enemy wounded at
our doorstep, but had no choice in the matter.
night the SID device worked as well as it could; picking up the sound vibrations
of any movement. Then my eardrums
were blasted by hundreds of thuds and beeps.
I jerked the headphones off and told Terry Householter, who was on watch
with me, what I heard. We surmised
a large head of water buffaloes were being moved back and forth over the fields.
Terry notified the CP and we went on alert in the compound. Right behind
us in the compound was a 6 X 6 truck that had brought supplies that day; it had
a .50 Caliber machine gun in its gun ring, ready.
arms ammo began to pop around the perimeter; the water buffalo had been an
attempt to circumvent the SID device. In
the exposed SID bunker we did no good as fighting men so Terry and I pulled back
to the cover of the truck. The
driver had been asleep in the front seat and had nothing but his M-16 and two
magazines. I crawled into the gun
ring and primed the .50 caliber, racking a round into the chamber.
Terry climbed into the truck and fired at the muzzle flashes he could see
in the paddy. The lines maintained
good fire discipline and only fired at flashes from the enemy’s gunfire.
No one went off half-cocked and just shot at anything.
said he saw constant firing straight east of us near the hospital.
I looked and could see muzzle flashes like an automatic weapon of some
sort. I aimed the .50 the best I could and started firing the heavy weapon,
watching the tracers climb toward the target.
It didn’t take long for the weapons fire to cease from there.
The general firing quit and the compound got quiet.
It had been just a probe to test our strength.
The night passed with no other incident.
the morning while we policed up the area of brass and trash Terry and I stopped
to watch the mortar crew burn the unused increments in a pit.
The guy doing the burning must have been new because he piled them up in
a large pile, climbed out of the pit and leaning over tossed in a match. The
resulting flash fire destroyed the increments all right and knocked him back
about three feet from the heat. The
poor guy had no eyebrows, eyelashes or hair on the front of his head.
His whole face looked like real bad sunburn.
noticed an M-151 jeep enter the compound and knew it had to be someone
important. It carried the Battalion
Commander, the Sergeant Major and some civilian.
They disembarked and spoke to the Company Commander; it didn’t look
like congratulations to us. The Platoon Sergeant motioned me over to the group.
I was asked if I was the man, who fired in the direction of the hospital,
I answered in the affirmative and said there was direct fire from there.
Terry acknowledged he too had seen the firing and I did in fact have a
civilian was from the German Hospital and was furious that I would have dared
fire toward a hospital full of patients. The
Sergeant Major took me aside and quietly told me if they couldn’t prove there
was VC there I might have to stand charges and court-martial. Needless to say I
was scared I was going to the brig; damn and just for doing my job.
They put me in the jeep and we drove to the site of the hospital.
Sure as hell the corner of the building was chewed up bad from the impact
of the big .50 caliber rounds. We
got out; all the time listening to the German bitch about how this was a war
by the Northwest corner of the hospital was a large bush. In the wreckage of the bush we found the butt of an AK-47,
brass cartridge cases and the lower half of a mans right arm.
The massive bullets from the .50 had ripped his arm into.
The Sergeant Major told me to get back in the jeep while the Battalion CO
finished with the German. The CO
climbed in the vehicle without a word and we drove back to My Son 1.
When we arrived the Sergeant Major told me to get out and go back to my
unit; there was nothing more said about the incident.
Platoon Commander told me to be careful about the firing areas, but said the
shoot was justified. We were broken
up into teams of three and trucked out along highway 1 to provide road security
for the convoys into An Hoa. This
became our routine for the next few days, guarding the road to prevent mines
being laid for our trucks.
and I were teamed up with another new guy in our position. Smith and Murphey (the same ones I had been on LP with
before), had another new man with them further down the road. We spent the time pacing the roadway back and forth looking
for anything out of the ordinary. Each
day we shifted our position somewhat to avoid letting Charlie booby-trap
anything. The Motor Transport guys in the convoy were grateful for our support
and some even cheered as they drove by each day.
Some of the trucks carried food for the messhalls and we reaped a reward
more than once. They would throw us off food items each day as a show of thanks.
One particular day we got 10 pounds of bologna, two full loafs of bread,
5 pounds of cheese and a 5-gallon container of COLD milk. We stuffed ourselves
that day; having a ball eating and talking about home.
The war seemed very, very far away.
Yup, I was wrong again.
next morning on the way out Murphey bummed a pack of cigarettes from me, he was
out. We got off the truck and I
waved to their team as the truck pulled away to drop them about 100 meters down
from us. It was the usual routine,
we alternated our position and began to dig in for the day. I had just found
some good sticks to make a poncho hooch with so we could keep the sun off us
when the explosion rocked the air. Looking toward the next team position I saw a
huge cloud of smoke and dirt in the air climbing toward the sun. Terry and I
yelled for the new guy to stay put and lock and load, we started running.
we ran I noticed the bomb had gone off in Smith and Murphey’s old position
from the day before. They
shouldn’t have been there, they should have been across the road.
The road had a berm on the Eastside about four feet high, we used it for
cover. I looked up and saw carnage like I had never seen before, I tossed my
rifle to Terry and screamed for him to cover me; then scrambled over the berm
wall. The VC were giving
intermittent fire with small arms, nothing automatic and their shooting was
lousy. I could see Smith and
Murphey were already dead, they couldn’t have survived the damage they had
received. Their clothes had been
blown off, leaving nothing but their boots, belts and collars to their skive
shirts still on their bodies. Smith
had been carrying an M-79 grenade launcher with about 75 rounds of HE, it had
all exploded also. Their bodies
were literally folded into neat piles of flesh, lifeless and still.
Murphey was about ten feet from Smith in the same condition.
new kid was kicking slowly in the dirt; he had been furthest from the blast.
His weapon was gone and his flak jacket was lying shredded next to him.
He must have just taken it off and set it down; it probably saved his
legs. Terry was returning fire as well as he could, but there weren’t any
clear targets. PFC Witt joined us
from the next position up the road and helped keep Charlie’s head down with
his M-16. I pulled my flak jacket
off and tried to cover the wounded man with it, don’t know if it would have
done any good, but I did it anyway. I
checked him over carefully as I could while trying to keep my head down under
the sporadic enemy fire. Under his
right arm a large hole had penetrated through his chest laterally breaking some
ribs and destroying a lung. I could
see inside his chest and watch the steel fragment smoke as it burned in his
blood. I pulled a battle dressing
out and sealed the wound with the plastic wrapper, then pressed the bandage down
on the wound. He was moaning and
mumbling incoherently as if trying to say something or ask a question. I said;
“Take it easy, I’ll get you out of here, you’re going home with this
pulled his body as slowly as I could to try not to hurt him anymore.
Terry was screaming for someone to call the CP for reinforcements.
It wasn’t necessary, in the distance we heard the trucks roaring up the
road toward us with the guys on Rough Rider duty aboard.
I slid the wounded man down to the road and retrieved my weapon from
Terry, he picked up his M-16 again. The
firing quit; it was over. The VC had done what they wanted and left.
There were no enemy confirms and no further Marine causalities.
rest of the company arrived in just moments.
“Doc” Pyle the Corpsman finished treating the wounded man, he told me
I may have saved his life. Terry
briefed the CO on the ambush and the rest of us started to spread out and check
the area carefully. We retrieved
the bodies of the two dead Marines and placed them in ponchos snapped tight.
Next to the pool of blood where the wounded man had been laying was a
C-Ration can and next to it was my bootprint about one inch away.
Under the can we found a booby-trapped grenade; if I had moved or kicked
the can I would have been blown up instantly.
We found about six or seven more devices in the close area.
don’t know why the team went back to the exact same spot that day.
Maybe they had seen something and wanted to check it out.
The main explosive was determined to have been a booby-trapped artillery
round, probably a dud that Charlie had found.
The VC were real good at that sort of thing.
We don’t know if they tripped a wire or if the bomb was command
detonated; either way it was obviously a major ambush trap.
The enemy set it up to not only take out a team, but to blow away anyone
who came to help. We were damned
lucky. With all the firing not a
single shot hit home, and none of the other devices were tripped.
we got back to the CP that afternoon; Terry went in to the new Platoon
Commanders area. We had lost Lt.
Mahlum; his bush tour was up. When
Terry came out, he showed me his squad leader's notebook; said he wanted me to
know it for sure. Terry had
recommended me for the Bronze Star Medal for the action that day.
I finally felt I was doing a good job at last. For once I had done
exactly the right thing and maybe saved a man’s life. I never found out if the wounded Marine made it out alive; I
hope so but I don’t know. As with
most cherries, I didn’t even know his name.
By the way I never received that medal, like so many other Marines it
just disappeared; no trace. I
figure it never got out of the Company, what with a new Platoon Commander and
all. In all reality someone
probably figured I just did my job and that’s all.
It was May 10th, 1969.
Platoon moved to the Bravo strong point the next day.
in the Bravo point was much better; we had only our platoon to care for there.
No working parties for the company or battalion just us.
We were able to actually rest up some while the days wore on; of course
the night was still bunker watch and the occasional firefight. The PFs in the
compound kept to themselves pretty much, but wanted to pitch in at any moment of
action. We spent the daylight hours
cleaning gear and weapons or just goofing off.
Poker and Back Alley were constant card games, hell I won almost $150
playing cards. That was a lot of
money in 1969; especially considering I didn’t make but that amount a month
including combat pay.
Hollywood has gotten one thing exactly correct about Vietnam, it was
a "Rock & Roll" war. Thanks
to Armed Forces Radio and the transistor radio we had "tunes" while we
fought, humped and dug-in. Each
morning at exactly 0600, (6:00 am), the radio was turned up and we heard "Goooooooooood
Morning Vietnam!!!" screamed by an Air Force disc jockey, followed by a
heavy drum beat rock & roll song. The
unofficial national anthem for Vietnam was "We gotta get out of this
place" by Eric Burdon and the Animals.
The song "Detroit City" was poplar because of its lyrics of
"I wanna go home...". I
guess the music gave us a tie to home and the things we had left behind in the
Books and letters from home became very valuable.
We didn't carry personal gear to the field, but, just about everyone had
a book. Any book, classics, pulp novels, biographies, or trashy sex
novels, it didn't make a difference. Just
something to read. Letters from
home were especially dear, letters from anyone. One guy in our platoon received his draft notice, forwarded
by his mother who wasn't sure what to do with it.
He even volunteered to go home and report for induction, but the Platoon
Commander wasn't buying that excuse. It
was good for a laugh. The biggest
problem with mail from home was either they wrote about everything but the war,
(like we didn't know where we were), or they wanted us to tell them everything.
We couldn't explain what our life was like.
Most of us today still can't explain what Vietnam was all about.
But, the letters helped, they kept us from being so lost.
But, the music was really the key. We
listened, sang along, and dreamed of home and happier times.
Some of the Marines really had beautiful voices and could sing anything
great. Once on patrol going up into
the mountains, as we entered the jungle, we heard the birds and monkeys
chattering all over. Suddenly from
the point element a voice began singing; clear and pure.
The song was as old favorite; "The Lion Sleeps Tonight".
Corporal Wetzel of Weapons Platoon was the singer. This man could really sing it out, and the background of
natural sounds seemed to blend perfectly.
To this day I have a vivid mental picture of our company strung out in
single column, moving up a riverbed, the sunlight streaming through green leaves
and that song echoing back in the air. Usually
the Company Gunny or the C.O. would yell at us for unnecessary noise and make us
shut-up, but not this time. This
time the music seemed right, just perfect.
It was a moment of beauty that transcends the reality of a war.
Bravo point was good compared to the rest of the area, but the enemy was still
all around. We had several small
firefights during the night as VC probed our lines. This was the most secure
place I had been in Nam, the enemy didn’t seem to have a chance to hit us hard
and the Bravo point was solid.
was another great guy in Mike Company. He
got his nickname for two reasons; one he was a big man and two he always carried
at least four canteens of water. Normal
issue was two canteens per man, Waterbull had to have more; at least twice as
much or he didn’t feel right. Actually
it was a good idea, but most of us didn’t want to hump the weight.
In fact my skinny little waist couldn’t have fit that many canteens on
my cartridge belt anyway.
night we were catching some incoming small arms fire at Bravo. Every one of us was crammed into a firing position and
pouring out the rounds. The PFs were scrambling around trying to add fire
anywhere they could. It was business as usual for a night in the area.
The PFs were armed with obsolete weapons from other wars, like M-1s, M-1
carbines, Thompsons and BARs. They were a small people and some of the weapons
were bigger than they were. One little guy was carrying a BAR, the Browning
Automatic Rifle, and a vicious weapon that used the 30-06 round.
The recoil from this on full auto was hard for a big man to handle, but
the little PF had the weapon.
the confusion he was going from place to place trying to find an open field of
fire. He thought he found one, just
his size. Standing behind Waterbull he shoved the barrel of the BAR between
Waterbull’s open legs and opened up a ten to fifteen round burst. The recoil
slammed the barrel up, hard; real hard. It drove the hard steel barrel right
into the softest part of a man’s anatomy.
The reaction was immediate and violent.
Waterbull yelled and spun around out of the firing position; the rest of
us were too busy to pay much attention at the time. The firefight died down as
usual, another probe of our lines and harassment fire to keep us awake. But the
sounds of terror didn’t go away this night, someone was yelling and a
Vietnamese was chattering like a scared monkey.
up we saw Waterbull in the tower; the offending little PF gripped by his ankles.
Waterbull had him suspended over the tower edge and was threatening to
drop him on his head into the compound. The
head of the PFs was screaming for it to stop and everyone was either yelling or
laughing. The lieutenant did manage to talk Waterbull down without
dropping the hapless little militiaman. The
PFs wouldn’t come within 25 yards of Waterbull after that, and I don’t think
he minded at all, not at all.
night we were buttoned up and all was quiet in the area, no probes and no
action. Corporal Westfall from
Weapons Platoon and I had gotten hold of some Manila Rum, a local type of
liquor. The stuff tasted like
vanilla extract and burned like hell going down, but it did get you hazy. Besides we could get it from the local PFs and it was cheap,
real cheap. Well we were sitting
outside of the old French house, where a roaring card game was going on; I know
I had dropped about twenty bucks in poker.
The rum was doing its job and the both of us, no being on watch that
night, were drinking and talking about home.
Westfall stopped the bottle midway to his mouth and just started staring in to
the wire. It hadn’t gotten fully
dark and we could see about fifty yards out pretty clear. He didn’t say a
word, just passed me the bottle and kept looking out with a goofy grin on his
face. I took a deep swallow, choked
it down and glanced down to where he was staring.
I knew then I was either really drunk or had the DTs or I had been in
country way too long.
back at Westfall and his eyes asked the same question I know mine were asking;
did we really see what we thought we saw? Westfall shook his head slowly and
said; “Don’t tell a damn soul, they’ll say we’re nuts.” I just nodded in agreement and we got down from the wall and
walked back to the house. In the
wire had been a large, white domestic rabbit; hopping around like he owned the
place. I had never seen any
Vietnamese keeping rabbits, black, brown or any other kind. But it was there, I swear to God. To make matters worse was the date; it was Easter Sunday.
all we had been at Bravo point about 5 days, then I got orders. I was to report to 1st Engineer Battalion for
training in demolitions and booby-traps. Pointman, platoon sniper now demo
training; I think someone was really trying to kill me.
And I don’t mean the VC.
my field gear, took my weapon and ammo and caught a chopper to Da Nang for three
days of training. Three days of no bush, patrols or bunker watches; it was like
a mini vacation to a grunt.
Warfare, Booby-Traps and Demolitions was the official name of the course I was
to take. I got to 1st
Engineers and was given a cot in a hard-backed hooch; not a tent but a real
hooch. There were sidewalks made of
wooden pallets and a real Enlisted Club; heaven.
night they actually had a USO show with a band from the Philippines that sounded
pretty good. There was no limit on
how much beer you could have and most of us had plenty that night.
I passed out in the hooch and woke to a killer headache the next day, not
the brightest move I could have made.
classes were pretty interesting and you certainly paid attention, explosives
aren’t very forgiving. We learned
how to place charges, wire electrical and time fuses and how to identify various
booby-trapped munitions. Care was spent in teaching us the proper way to handle
blasting caps and judge amounts of explosives to use. We set and blew charges of C-4 and TNT blocks out on the
beach. The instructors stressed
time and again to never carry caps in the same pack as explosives, that much I
considered common sense. We were
shown how to crimp a cap either over our head, if we were wearing a helmet; or
behind us if we weren’t. The idea
was if the sensitive cap blew the most you might damage was your hands and maybe
your ass. Better than your face or
what I needed to know I guess; I finished 1st in the class and
started back to An Hoa.
operations in Quang Nam province had taught the 1st Marine Division a
lesson in this type of guerrilla warfare. From
1968 and Operation Meade River, through Taylor Common, Oklahoma Hills and
Muskogee Meadows the same action took place time and again.
The Marines fought the enemy and beat him into the ground; pulled back
and he came right back in. Back to
the same areas; the Arizona, Go Noi Island and Dodge City, all around An Hoa.
River had been where my buddy from High school, Carl Yousey, had lost his eye.
It was a bloody operation that cost many Marine Casualties, yet the enemy
was ground up into mincemeat before it was over. The operation was launched with
six battalions; 2/5, 3/5, 1/1, 2/26. 3/26 and 2/27.
They had faced elements of three NVA regiments the 36th, 38th
and the 368 B, in the area known as Dodge City.
end of the battle the score was posted; enemy killed: 841 and 182 captured,
Marines: 107 killed and over 380 wounded.
River was ending another operation started; Taylor Common December 7th,
1968. It lasted until March 8th,
1969. Fought in the mountains
southwest of An Hoa it was also a bloody fight to conquer the enemy forces.
Intelligence placed the Headquarters for all NVA and VC in Quang Nam there with
units from 21st Regiment, 2nd NVA Division and the 141st
NVA Regiment. After months of
bloody fighting the operation looked over in mid February ’69.
All other Marine Units pulled back except Company “L” and Company
“M” of 3/5, the enemy counterattacked and the Marines of 3/5 beat them off
repeatably. But it was here that
Mike Company lost the bodies of their three comrades.
the tally for Taylor Common was also in; enemy killed: more than 500. Marine
Casualties: 183 killed and over 1,487 wounded.
Many of the Marines killed on this operation were killed by friendly
fire, almost 30.
Oklahoma Hills was launched by 7th Marines with support from 1/26 and
some ARVN units. Starting on
Charlie Ridge they fought a fierce battle with the NVA that lead them out of the
mountains and into the Arizona Territory. We
had supported this with Operation Muskogee Meadows. Many Marine casualties were
caused by injuries received by the men of the 7th from falls and
slides in the steep hills of Charlie Ridge.
44 Marines lost their lives on Oklahoma Hills.
pattern was always the same. We
pushed the NVA and VC into pitched battle, kicked his butt and he came back.
Always to his area of Go Noi Island, Dodge City and the Arizona.
He had deeply entrenched positions both here and in the mountains
surrounding An Hoa, the Division Commander was tired of this bullshit.
And General Simpson had a plan; working with the advice of Col. Robertson
of 1st Marines, it had a name.
Copyright 2001 by Grady Rainbow