Mike & H&S Companies
Third Battalion, Fifth Marines
The following is taken from the diary of Haivan Pass (Hill 1192) written by LCPL Rocco (Rock) Giambrocco of Mike Co. 3rd Bn 5th Marines 1st Marine Division out of Phu Bai May 1968.
May 5 1968
Mike Company moved out early in the morning after a night that had seen a mortar attack and an NVA assault at our position on the Truoi River Bridge. We knew we were headed for a Pass outside DaNang area that had been scouted by Scout Dan Hignight of 3/5 S-2. That is the unit I am expecting to be transferred to in a short while. I will still travel with the Companies of 3/5 – but as a Scout. Hignight had reported seeing NVA soldiers encamped on the side of a ridge near Haivan Pass. The ridge was called Hill 1192. It was reported to be steep and heavily covered with growth. Good cover.
May 6, 1968
We climbed all day and ran into numerous small waterfalls and pools of water. Hot as hell in there, but the water helped. Leeches though. A few guys were bitching about hauling up extra ammo and belts for the M60. I even saw a few guys dump shit in some deeper pools. If the CO saw that he would have had a shit fit. Capt. Pacelo was not known for being happy with guys slacking off. Gunny Harville DID see two guys dump some shit – and he sent them into the pool to retrieve the stuff. Hell – we throw stuff out and the gooks then find it and use it. It was a long day and I took a couple turns at point. Flankers were out - but not too far because the way up this pass is pretty steep. We could see the flankers. Captain Pacelo was hanging fairly close to the front of the column not far back from the point element. The point element consisted of three guys and sometimes four guys pretty close together. Steep climb, hot as hell, humid, thick air. Pretty area though.
May 7, 1968
Back on point, after a short night doing my turn at watch. Noises, but no contact with the enemy. No real signs of anything. Rick Huffman, Dave Johnston and Jerry were all walking up at the point together for most of the day and doing fine. Gunny Harville was riding our ass pretty good. We followed a stream most of the day and even part of the next day. No contact.
May 8, 1968
New guys on point and we left the stream and headed up in another direction. Hard to see in here. The air is thick. It is like trying to breathe with your face stuffed in a pillow. We were given the signal to stop for a rest. We dropped down and took the opportunity to have a smoke. Then shots rang out – only a couple. Everybody scrambled for cover but no more shots, and no one could tell where they came from. Fuckin sniper! We had two guys down. One was wounded, the other was dead. Dead was Jack Fiffe – he was humping the big radio for the CO. The wounded guy was Dale Andrews. The CO called for a medivac for Andrews and for Fiffe. They were brought down past us and I never saw either of them after that. I heard a chopper, but I have no idea how they got close enough for a pick-up. Besides, I saw Andrews later on – but not Fiffe. I was talking with Doc Bowman and I asked him his first name. He was a funny bastard. A Corpsman who carried a grease gun. Gotta love it. "Harry" he said.
Then Gunny Harville called my fireteam up to the point. Huffman, Lomax, Johnston and me. Gunny sent us up ahead to mark a trail. He told us to keep our asses down and stay alert. No problem. Alert was gonna be easy.
After a while we came upon a couple small hooches and a small group of gooks – NVA Regulars. There was a fire going and they were just milling around. Gunny got up to us and he quietly sent back for a M60 team. He told us to circle around and attack the hooches. I was pretty scared. None of us looked too anxious. We got ready to hit the place and Lomax pulled out his rocket. He was carrying Laaws Rockets and he was pretty good with them. I was content to just let him shell the fuckin place. But, attack we did.
We ran at them yelling and screaming, and firing at them. I got two as they headed toward one hooch. Some others came out of the other hooch and one guy went in the first hooch. Huffman and Johnston were firing at the second group and I went for the third gook that had gone in Hooch #1 after I blew away his two buddies. Lomax ran toward the hooch and put the Laaw up to fire it – but it did not fire. Turned out he left the safety on. Good thing – he had the rocket up to his shoulder – not the best placement for a weapon with a backflash that could burn a hole through a concrete wall.
He finally fired off the rocket and blew the second hooch to shit. I went in the first hooch and could not find the gook that went in. I hollered to the other guys and they ran over. There was a hole in the floor. I jumped down about a few feet and saw that it was a tunnel that went for quite a ways. I climbed out and fragged the shit out of it. Three of us tossed in grenades and blew it. Gunny and the CO and a squad came up and joined us. Then Gunny began deploying guys around the place. I was still shaking. He reached out and grabbed me by the shoulder and said "nice job, son" "You guys did good". We deployed and set a perimeter with everyone else. There were still bullets flying from the cover. Rich Seng was killed and a couple guys more were wounded. Hard to find a safe place for cover. Where the hell are these guys? When they were firing it looked like dozens of little lights going off from the cover around us.
May 9, 1968
Gunny Harville told Me, Rick Huffman and Dave Johnston to go over the top of the hill and start walking point down the other side. I was scared shitless – but I went. I walked maybe 100 yards down and nothing happened. Rick and Dave were right behind me, maybe 25 yards between us. The CO had a platoon set up on top looking down at us. I remember some odd shit about then. I remember talking back to Dave and saying that I could not hear any birds, no bugs, no wind – nothing. Off to the right and left of the trail, to my rear there was a vine made webbing. I figure it had a purpose of keeping us on the trail. Gunny Harville asked why I stopped and I pointed to the webbing. He hollered to keep going until I saw some gooks. I moved out.
Maybe five more steps, not much more. I was facing a ridge rising up across from me. All of a sudden rockets came in – 40’s. Small arms, machine gun fire and shit whizzing by everywhere. I got hit in the foot and dove for cover. I saw Rick take a round in the head as he was jumping off the trail. Dave was ok. No one else was over the top headed down as yet. I yelled that I was hit and Gunny hollered for Doc Bowman. Doc asked where I was hit and I said the foot, but I could move and I was ok. I told him Rick was hit in the head and was laying in the trail. The firing stopped. Dave leaped out and grabbed Rick and pulled him down to where I was. The firing had started again and I laid down cover fire for Dave.
Dave took a position just below me to my right, in some trees. I was between three trees and I could fire at the ridge. Jesus, they were all over the place. I did see one real clear and dropped his ass right in front of me – maybe 75 yards. Dave was trying to bandage Rick. Rick was alive but the hole in his head was big enough to put my fist in. He was conscious but not really ‘with us’ if you know what I mean. He kept pulling off the bandages and Dave was yelling at him to leave the fucking bandage on his head.
As the day went on there were several attempts to come down to get us. They all met with miserable results. A shitload of guys got killed and wounded. Bill Trent got pretty close with an M60 team but he got killed along with the rest of his team. I could see the top of the ridge and it was clear that guys were distraught that they could not get to us. Rick lived for hours.
I saw Doc Bowman go out after a couple guys and drag them in wounded. Then I saw him get hit. Then he got to a Marine and began working on him and he got ‘stung’ again. He asked for cover and one guy went out to him – I think Lomax, but I can’t remember. One time an automatic burst went in their direction and they shielded the body Doc was working on. Then another burst and Doc caught a few rounds in his side. He slumped over and he died. I was crushed. I never thought Doc would get it.
Randy Sterns took one in the thigh and Jerry Whitaker had a rocket go off near his head and he got a bad concussion and a few small pieces of shrapnel in his arm and face. He was pulled back with Sterns to the wounded area. I could still see Sterns laying down and firing at the ridge across from us. A lot of the wounded guys were still fighting. Ammo was low, water about gone.
The CO told Gunny to send a guy for water – back to the stream. He (don’t remember his name) took a bunch of canteens on a rope and crawled back to the stream and got some water. Thanks god.
Re-supply was about impossible because the cover was so heavy – a real thick canopy. The Captain had the guys wrap some trees with det cord and c4 and they blew an LZ into splinters. What an explosion. We were also told that another outfit (2/5 – all of it I think) was on the way up the other side to help us.
Choppers had come over to try evac and pulled away. Gunships tried to help but could not tell who was who on the ground. They did tell us that there were gooks everywhere. We already figured that part out.
May 10, 1968
Captain Pacelo decided we needed to move our position and we began doing so. I was still over the ridgeline with Dave and Rick. We started to move toward where the Company was moving. We were all headed toward the opposite ridge where all the gooks were, but the cover was better and we could now see bunkers and hooches and all kinds of stuff. Dave Johnston and I tried to pull Rick along the trail with us and Gunny Harville hollered he was coming to help us – but to NOT leave Rick behind – even though he was now dead. I looked up and saw Gunny Harville firing a weapon and headed over the top. He caught a burst in the chest and went down dead, right near the top of the ridge. Dave and I grabbed Rick and dragged and fired until we got to a small cleared area. Right then a rocket came in and exploded and Dave got hit in the face and the front torso. He was ok. We kept firing and draggin – and finally got to where the guys could pull us in.
I was laying next to Sterns – he was dead. He had bled to death from a lousy thigh wound that was a ‘through and through’. Never should of died. Medivac was impossible. Whitaker was above me and firing from behind a tree. Dave and I were firing from where we were. All of a sudden there was new fire from our left flank – they had gotten around us when we all moved. Whitaker dropped from above me – right into my lap. He was shot in the throat – he was dead. We returned fire and the gooks pulled back. The CO sent a squad over to that flank for support and we kept moving down toward the LZ.
We located caches of weapons and rice and some bunkers that we blew. Then at some point the choppers tried to come in. Pacelo ordered the worst wounded out first, then the rest, last the dead. He was staying until the 2/5 linkup came.
11 May 1968
The first chopper in took only a couple guys and it got blown out of the sky. The second chopper in took quite a few of us. Dave was not on it. Lomax was, and so were some other guys. We got up and almost made it out but the fire got the bird and it came crashing down. I got hurt pretty bad – so did a couple others. We all got out.
Later, toward dusk, more choppers came. I was put on one and hauled up in a stretcher that looked like a wire net (a stokes?). I woke up on my way to the ER from the LZ at NSA Hospital in DaNang. They all knew who we were and where we had been. We were quite a damn mess. I did see the pilot from the first chopper I had been in. he was talking to a nurse and to me. I saw her take him to a stretcher cuz he had a mean gash in his head. He squeezed my arm and told me "glad you made it, son". I was watching them real close. He died. I felt pretty bad, I fought back the tears.
This would have been the wee hours of May 12, 1968.
May 13 , 1968
I woke up in a Ward. White sheets, nurses, and lots of hurting guys. I saw a few from the Pass. A General came around and spoke to me. He gave me a Purple Heart and told me I had been recommended for a Bronze Star. His name was Weisse. I have a picture here.
Dave came by to check on me. Told me that we had hit a Base Camp and that some brass were really pissed off at S-2. He got a wheelchair and rolled me out of there and outside in the sunshine. I was hurting bad so he brought me back.
May 14, 1968
That Hill took a lot out of me. We lost a lot of good guys – guys that should have lived. Guys that were wasted because we were so far outnumbered. Lost because no one could come get us – or wouldn’t. I know I am going back to Mike Company. I am proud to be in that Company. But so many faces will not be seen again. And then I have that transfer coming to S-2 eventually. I want that job, but I also want to stay working with Mike Company – and I know I will cuz it is all part of the job.