Skip to comments.The Attack
Posted on 03/15/2018 11:23:46 AM PDT by Chainmail
This is the continuation of my first story The DarkI posted a couple of days ago. These events took place in April, 1967.
This part of the story follows my earlier post (the Dark) made a couple of days ago. I am writing these stories to preserve some of my memories from 51 years ago and also to show a clearer picture of what infantry combat was like for Marines in Vietnam at that time. We have had a lot novels written and movies made that showed some very odd and unrealistic views of ours and the armys war back then and I am trying to provide an alternate and first-hand perspective in these stories. First, some background: in 1967 we Marines still had for the most part the older green cotton utility uniform, M1941 packs and suspender traps, and leather boots. Some of us had gotten the newer Jungle Boots but ominously, they had someone elses names on them when we got them. We had just been issues M-16s and they were showing themselves to be unreliable and not particularly accurate. Our basic load was the utility uniform, usually minus underwear because if the heat and the fungus, jacket minus half or all the sleeves (or no jacket at all) M55 plate flak vest, steel helmet, rifle, ammunition, M26 frag grenades and sometimes Illumination and/or smoke grenades, poncho, small pack with C-Rations and razor, first aid pack, and two or three canteens of water. Occasionally, we also carried 66mm LAW rockets or a two pound block of C-4 for blowing bunkers and nearly always carried the extra machinegun belt of ammo or mortar rounds for the mortar men. This load was carried in the heat of the day usually above 100 degrees and sometimes over 120 and always near 100% humidity.
The enemy consisted of three levels: at the most basic level, the local Viet Cong. They wore loose black or sometimes all-white pajamas, wore sandals and carried older bolt-action rifles and machine guns like the old Soviet DP and often carried local-made or Chinese- made stick grenades. They were part-time soldiers and often just drafted. They also surrendered pretty readily most of the time when they were cornered and were usually docile prisoners. The next level were the most feared, the Main Force VC, also known as the Hard Core VC. They were usually older, much more politically rabid, carried more modern weapons (often ours) and were the experts at the ambush, the night attack, the most cruel booby traps, and they were the ones who rarely took prisoners. The highest level were the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) (Hard Hats)and they were disciplined, physically fit, had good uniforms and modern equipment and weapons an almost always had B-40 (RPG) rockets and 82mm mortars organic to their units. They were tough, aggressive and never came in less than a battalion. If you thought that you were approaching a platoon of Hard Hats, you were wrong.
That morning after the incident with the infiltrator, a helicopter came in to take away our two dead from that night and we got some sort of new reporter and his cameraman with our new ammunition and C-Rations. He wore a bush jacket and had blond curly hair and he made it clear as soon as he landed that he thought that we were all war criminal and focused part of his time taking footage of the dead VC in our midst.
We were a hard bunch and he realized fairly quickly that we werent going to put up with too much from him so he and his Japanese sound man quickly took the next helicopter out again.
We began the approach march to our objective, linking up with the rest of our battalion, and the day got hotter. We were moving through a succession of open areas and treelines and as always, we approached every potential cover for the enemy with wariness. Foxtrot Company ahead of us, hit a large booby trap and it was a monster. After you had spent some time in Vietnam, your ear became tuned to explosions and you could tell by the sound what kind of thing went off and you could pick out the screams mixed in with the detonation. This one was a 155m howitzer round suspended in the trees and it killed a dozen Marines and wounded several more. I wont describe what I saw.
Sometime mid-morning, the other two battalion were in their blocking positions on the other sides of the objective, a long thin treeline on the edge of a wide, open field of tall yellow grass. I was in the center of our company which was in reserve, right behind the two assaulting companies so I just broke into the open when the lead companies ran into the enemy defenses. The enemy opened up with several machineguns, including one heavy machine gun and we took casualties immediately. The leading companies recoiled and returned fire and the volume of fire, the noise was deafening. I had never heard that much sustained fire in my life and it was obvious that it really was an enemy battalion and they were staying put.
I lay down flat in the grass and tried to send an artillery fire mission but the medevacs were already going and a Sav-A-Plane was in effect that stopped all artillery and mortar fire in our area until the evacuations were done. I remember hearing the bullets crack as they went by and seeing long lines of grass fall where the bullet cut through. We were pinned down and it looked like it was going to be really tough to cross that 300-400m of open ground to get to them when it was our turn to attack.
While I was lying there, a single Marine F-4 Phantom approached and crossed over me, very low and perpendicular to the enemy line. Our Forward Air Controller (FAC) mustve had him under his control because the F-4 made his pass and then turned around us one more time and passed directly over me again to make his bombing run. We were one edge of a small triangle bordered by three Marine battalions, separated by only a few hundred meters, so he had to drop whatever he had with extraordinary precision or he would kill some of us.
So he was flying very low and slow so slow that the plane was making that distinctive moaning sound Phantom usually made when they were slowing for landing. Then I saw a whole, solid wall of muzzle flashes coming from the enemy treeline and the enemy was standing up, at least a hundred of them, pouring fire at that Phantom as he approached. Without flinching, that pilot dropped four Snakeye 500 pound bombs (The Snakeye had a tail fin assembly that popped open upon release to form a broad cross at the rear of the bomb, slowing it drastically to allow the bombing aircraft to escape the blast). They fell directly on the enemy position and huge clouds of dirt, debris, rooftop and trees soared high in the air and after the sounds of the blasts faded, all the enemy fire stopped and we raced up and forward to get them. When we got into their position we discovered that the enemy had concrete and sandbag bunkers, barbed wire and mines but the four bombs killed many of them and those that could ran away into our blocking battalions and we could hear the gunfire in their direction as they ran into them.
I saw that phantom turning towards Danang. There was smoke behind him but with Phantoms always smoking it was hard to tell if he had been badly hit or not. I would love to find out who the pilot was and buy him a case of whatever he wanted to drink.
Thanks for sharing this memory and thanks for your many years of service. Keep posting your recollections.
Harrowing... thank you, Chainmail.
Again, a riveting account of a terrifiying situation. Do you have a Ping list? If not, maybe you could start one. I was in college during the years of the war ending. I didn’t know anyone, at the time, who was in Viet Nam. So sorry for ignorance and naïveté about the realities of the Viet Nam War.
I do believe the F4 Phantom had the most accurate bomb-sight of the Vietnam War, and my memories of the F4 can be found in this story: http://www.projectdelta.net/wrong_valley.htm
Thanks for your service and your descriptive account.
I (born in April of 1963) slept peacefully that evening largely because of men like you that fought to protect our freedoms which are still under attack to this very day.
May God Bless you and keep you and your family from all distress.
Semper Fi Don!
If you enjoyed that story, you can find several more at: http://www.projectdelta.net/history.htm
Thank you for sharing this. You are truly an original source for history.
You gotta figure, with the dog and the phantom, Someone upstairs was looking out for you
I tell my family that my Guardian Angel must be a big, muscular guy - because I have had a lot of lucky breaks to survive as long as I have.
Link to “The Dark”, please.
In case my tries at posting a link don't work again, here's the URL: https://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-vetscor/3639419/posts
Thanks for the trouble to ping me. I will read this tonight.
Thanks Brother, incredible!
To this day I'm enraged by the words and actions of the likes of LBJ,Kerry,Fonda and many others.And I'll bet those who were ordered there feel the same way times ten.
They need to be remembered well.
Thank for your service, too - we needed guys where you were.
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