On the night of 1 November 1967 I was a Corporal in the US Marine Corps. I was a member of 1st squad,
1st platoon, Mike Company, Third Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment, 1st MarDiv FMF Westpac. In other words, I was a Marine
grunt in the bush in Nam.
Late in the dusk of this day, my squad, reinforced with a gun team, a corpsman, and a radioman with our platoon
commander, left Hill 52, moved east down the road next to the Vu Gia River for about three clicks, and set up an ambush between
the road and the river. All was quiet until about 0200 on 2 Nov 67, when we heard what sounded like a very serious firefight
coming from the direction of Hill 25. At this time our LT received a radio call telling us to return to Hill 52 ASAP.
So, about 0230 we left our positions, got to the road, and headed back to Hill 52. Our squad was in a hurry,
and as a result it was a bit disorganized, with the gun team on point, the doc behind them, then my fire team, with me in the
lead and the LT and radioman next. As we got to within maybe 500 meters of Hill 52, we ran into the back of an ambush the VC
had set up at the base of Hill 52 to catch the reaction force that the enemy expected to come off of the hill in response to
what was happening on Hill 25.
It was a good plan on the part of the VC, and would have worked if there had been a reaction force, AND if my squad
had not blundered into the back of their ambush. As it was, I donít know who was more surprised, us or them. At any rate, they
reacted first with grenades and automatic rifle fire. We all hit the dirt and returned fire. I hosed down three VC who were
standing next to each other not more than 10 meters from my position. It was hard to miss with a full magazine from my M-16.
I could hear the guys up front fighting and cursing and screaming. They were really getting the worst of it. At this point
I was pinned down and having trouble chambering a round in my rifle after having changed magazines.
I remember becoming somewhat pissed at this one VC rifleman who was getting uncomfortably close with his efforts.
So I threw a frag in his direction. It seemed to quiet things down in that direction. Shortly after that my squad and I got
up and fought our way along the road to Hill 52. We picked up our wounded, which included everyone who had been in front of me.
Most were wounded severely, and we made makeshift stretchers out of ponchos to carry them with. All this time, we were under fire
and returning fire. I canít remember who was on the poncho I was helping to carry. But he was conscious and complaining about
the hot cartridge cases raining down on him from my now-functioning M-16 as I shot across the stretcher at muzzle-flashes coming from just 10-15 meters away.
How did they miss? Did I and my fellow Marines actually hit anything ourselves, during this nightmare in the middle of the night?
Well, we made it back to our hill, the Marines there were wide-eyed and ready for the worst. But there were no mishaps,
no friendly fire, only a squad of Marines very relieved to be ďhomeĒ. Our bunkers never looked so good before. The whole hill
was on full alert for the rest of the night. The enemy never attacked. We had ruined their plans for Hill 52.
Then next morning, 1st Platoon was sent to Hill 25 to relieve 2nd Platoon of their positions, help with their wounded,
and watch as the WIAís and KIAís were choppered out. We then rounded up weapons, unexploded ordinance, etc., took what we wanted
and blew up the rest with C-4. Itís not like the VC left all THAT much TO blow up. But since the hill was to be abandoned,
we didnít want to leave anything useful.
The VC bodies, which were numerous and scattered everywhere throughout the perimeter, were left where they had fallen.
The whole hill was a mess, the sight of the deaths of many brave men, on both sides. Of course our focus was on the lost Marines.
It was a depressing day, and I was glad to get back once again to the relative safety and comfort of my bunker on Hill 52.
My battles were now numbered because I would be rotating back to the world in just two months. It was a helluva two months, though.
Anyway, I survived, Iím here, sort of, and I think that this bit of M 3/7 history should be recorded for posterity.
Iíd be happy, thrilled actually to hear from others who were there that fateful night, and what you memories of it are.
Iím getting to be an old(er) man, and I suspect my memory is not 100% accurate. Some things are sure hard to forget though, arenít they?
28 Feb 05