Mike & H&S Companies 

Third Battalion, Fifth Marines

Veterans of the Vietnam War
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Grady Rainbow's Memoirs,  (Continued), Page 7


I 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.


The 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.


There 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 regulars.


I 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.


The 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 North.


This 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.


The 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.” 


Da 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 passed.


The 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.



We 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 felt good.


The 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.


I 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.



My 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.


The 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.


The 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.


The 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.


Charlie 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.


Bravo 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.


Claymore 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.


This 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.


 To 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.


That 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.


Small 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.


Terry 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.


In 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.


We 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 target.


The 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 crime.


There 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.


The 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.


Terry 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.


The 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.


As 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.


The 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 one.”


I 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.


The 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.


I 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.


When 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.


1st Platoon moved to the Bravo strong point the next day.



Life 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 "World".


     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.


Life at 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.


“Waterbull” 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.


Well one 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.


In all 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.


Looking 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.


Another 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.


Suddenly 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.


I looked 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 in 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.


I stored 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.



Landmine 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.


The first 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.


The 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 eyes.


I learned what I needed to know I guess; I finished 1st in the class and started back to An Hoa.



Several 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.


Meade 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.


At the end of the battle the score was posted; enemy killed: 841 and 182 captured, Marines: 107 killed and over 380 wounded.


As Meade 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.


Finally 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.


Operation 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.


The 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.


Pipestone Canyon.

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Copyright 2001 by Grady Rainbow