Operation Tuscaloosa

An Hoa Basin, South Vietnam– Arizona Territory: My liberty ship docked at the dynamic port of Da Nang, the Republic of Vietnam in late December 1966. I was a Marine infantryman, MOS 0311. As a replacement, I was appointed to among the rifle battalions of the 5th Marine Regiment. In Vietnam, the 5th Marines had actually battled relentless jungle fights around the beleaguered Marine Firebase Con Thien in the fall of 1966.

I signed up with the veteran Marines of Hotel Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines under their extremely concerned commanding officer, Captain Jerome Doherty. Captain Doherty remained in his 2nd trip in Vietnam had actually currently skippered Mike Company 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines in 1965. In January 1967, the Marine High Command looked for a battle royal with among the twenty-four battalions of communist infantry and assistance soldiers running in our I Corps sector of Quang Nam Province.

Our particular focus militarily was the hamlet dotted rice-producing valley referred to as the “Arizona Territory”. Arizona incorporated the Song Thu Bon and the Song Vu Gia river valleys and included numerous hundred square miles of fertile rice paddies and largely lived in peasant towns. It was here in the rice belt northwest of An Hoa that the regional and primary force VC, together with their NVA allies concerned re-provision their battalions in the fertile fields that blanketed Arizona.

The 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines started the New Year in 1967 patrolling along the river valleys in Arizona wishing to reach the evasive opponent. Rather of discovering large challengers who would stand and battle, as the Marines of 2/5 had actually experienced on the DMZ at Con Thien, ambushes and a deadly variety of booby traps and mines were the order of business.

Intelligence was collected and forwarded to First Marine Division HQ at Da Nang where experts found that brand-new opponent battalions were moving into Arizona. These opponent forces were currently difficult Marine efforts to calm the hamlets and towns and return the countryside to the tranquil guideline of the South Vietnamese federal government. No guerrilla project in history had actually ever won without the assistance and cooperation of the native population. In South Vietnam, the peasants were captured in the fatal yank of war in between the Viet Cong and their NVA henchmen, and the South Vietnamese ARVN and their American allies. 1967would be the year that the Marine Command initially Division at Phu Bai would push the offensive with the supreme objective of requiring the VC/ NVA to combat a series of set fights.

Foxtrot and Hotel installed significantly heavy patrol activity into Arizona throughout the middle part of January. The damp season remained in full speed and thick fog and inflamed paddies slowed down the Marines. The weather condition certainly preferred the Viet Cong. Patrols ran 10 to fifteen klicks through huge stretches of rice paddies, pressing through to far-off tree zone, which showed another town or hamlet that needed to be browsed. Militaries hunted the Viet Cong, seized contraband weapons, devices, food materials, and opponent files.

The couple of fire-fights that happened disappeared than short, sharp ambushes, started by the opponent who would rapidly break contact and leave. The Marines would strike the deck at the very first noises of the fight, return suppressive fire, then attack. The VC would right away dissolve into the tree zone surrounding the rice paddies or vanish into the myriad of tunnel complexes that dotted the countryside.

The total impact of these brief engagements was to annoy the Marines and their leaders. Militaries were taught to separate and select their opponents, then, with regulated little arms fire and supporting weapons, attack the private pockets of resistance up until the opponent gave up or passed away.

On the 24th of January Hotel marched from An Hoa with total packs, 60mm mortars and M60 Gatling gun with additional ammo for both televisions and the MGs. Foxtrot left the close-by firebases of Phu Loc 6 and advanced believed Arizona’s paddies and hamlets towards a night time link-up with Hotel Company. Set Carson scouts, forward observer groups, scout canine groups, and ARVN interpreters were contributed to the H & & S Company to support the maneuver business.

Foxtrot went into Bao An Tay and got reports of opponent soldiers going into a tree zone a thousand meters beyond the hamlet. The reports had actually originated from nineteen refugees who were leaving the communist forces moving into the Son Thu Bon River location. Foxtrot’s point team discovered a number of grenades and rifles together with a plastic-covered package of files. They were found in a hole covered with bags of rice inside a hut. The Battalion Commander looked out by radio at his command post in the field at the firebase at Phu Loc 6. Col. Airheart radioed the Company Commander of Foxtrot that he was continuing by chopper to Bao An Tay. A jet strike was gotten in touch with Button Thrust UHF from MAG-11 (Marine Air Group) based at Da Nang.

The Colonel was air-borne with his personnel as the 4 F-4 Phantoms sliced in low over the paddies lining up for their napalm runs. The ordnance cart-wheeled end over end till it reached the ground where the burst cylinders swallowed up the opponent trench line in a black, rippling cloud of smoke and flames that flashed radiant brilliant orange as it peaked out of the searing hellfire. Co. Airheart landed as another 75 refugees faced the town from a formerly concealed trench located in between the hamlet of Bao An Tay and the napalm strike. The Colonel got word that “lots of Viet Cong soldiers flee to the river”. 2 VC nurses were obstructed attempting to get away with the refugees. The 2 recorded nurses and the rest of the refugees were then raised out in a number of choppers runs for interrogation.

The Colonel then bought Hotel and Foxtrot’s leaders to form a tight protective boundary for the night while he pondered the method to bring his Marines into striking range of the communist forces within their riverine sanctuary.

In a low crouch, I vacated calmly to establish my listening post a hundred meters out in front of the Third squad, along Hotel’s primary boundary. I chose shallow anxiety at the edge of a raked field escaping to my front. Dropping into it I presumed a comfy sitting position with my M-14 rifle throughout my knees. I started to dedicate the unique surface functions to my front to memory, a secure versus techniques of the mind as the night advanced. My view included a hundred meters approximately of raked ground running carefully rolling swells towards a remote tree zone on the far side of the field. The sloping finger of an enormous hill fell into the field about 75 meters away on my starboard flank.

The silence was unexpectedly broken by the dull “gong, gong, gong” of cowbells as the unknown shapes of passing livestock moved into my view. I focused hard on the animals, squinting to construct the shapes of any two-legged animals joined them. As I raised as much as getting a much better appearance, VC soldiers utilizing the herd for cover fired a burst of grazing fire towards my position. It was time to leave the facilities. I collected my feet under me, and when the shooting slacked off I thrust out of my bent position and ran weaving and evading to the back. I tossed myself into the very first ditch I concerned, tearing and bruising myself versus the clusters of bamboo that grew along the edges. I landed half-conscious and gasping for breath. As damaged as I was, none of the opponent bullets had actually discovered their mark.

A fire group reached my position seconds, later on, returning fire towards the VC muzzle flashes flickering in the range. One Marine took on an M-79 grenade launcher and fired numerous complete into the field in front of my listening post. The HE rounds burst amongst the opponent with informing impact, requiring the VC to withdraw back into the timberline on the far side of the field. However when the grenadier brought his weapon below his shoulder, the VC fired a continual burst of interlocking AK-47 fire towards the shape of the still-standing Marine. The green ChiCom tracers tore into the male’s body, knocking him off his feet. With a groan, he fell throughout my prostrate kind at the bottom of the ditch. I pressed his still-warm body to the side and felt the hot pulsing of his blood as it dripped through the dark stained leas in the chest plate of his flack coat. He jerked one or two times and was still.

The opponent fire died away and the night was quiet again. We recuperated our dead pal and returned rapidly to our lines, the weight of our loss falling heavy on our hearts.

The ambushes and LPs were remembered and the rest of the night passed as in harmony as it had actually started. As I knelt shaking in the faint lighting of the incorrect dawn, somebody stuck a cup of steaming Joe in my hands. Its abrupt heat advised me of the life-blood of my fallen sibling that had actually soaked my pants simply a couple of hours previously. He had actually pertained to my rescue, and now he was dead.

A brief time later on Foxtrot and Hotel saddled approximately transfer to the river. Word boiled down from the squad leaders that Operation Tuscaloosa would be scrubbed at 1800 hours if we stopped working to reach the VC forces that had up until now avoided our sweeping maneuvers. It was the early morning of 26th January 1967, a day that the Marines of 2nd Battalion, 5th Regiment would always remember for the rest of their lives.

Foxtrot left with Hotel in a trace. More than 4 hundred Marine infantry in column development with their Headquarters and Supply systems bringing up the back. A brief thirty-minute march brought the Marines to the plant life choked bank of the Song Thu Bon River as it cut its method towards the sea.

The point team heard the river prior to they, in fact, saw it, and stopped the development twenty meters from the water’s edge. The soldiers knelt in location, many light green spots versus the darker emerald of the jungle foliage.

The business leaders and squad leaders went up to join their point aspects, crawling forward to the positions protected by the lead scouts. It would be the task of these scouts to break the path to the river, find a crossing, then discover appropriate cover and concealment on the opposite coast for the rifle teams that would follow.

A big sandbar out in the center of the river encountered our front for maybe a thousand meters, dividing the river into 2 different streams. The open surface of the sandbar included a variety of little dunes sprinkled with clumps of marsh yard. The open location ran for almost 5 hundred meters throughout prior to it abated versus the 2nd channel of the river. Someplace downstream the 2 streams signed up with once again. The sandbar was a wasteland without cover or defense, and it needed to be crossed.

The 2 business leaders created a prepare for crossing the river with Foxtrot blazing a trail on Hotel’s port flank. Foxtrot would move downstream where the 2 branches reunited and cross the river there, while Hotel covered its advance. When Foxtrot reached the security of the opposite bank, it would pivot on its starboard flank towards Hotel Company and use up position to supply flanking fire on any opponent soldiers opposing Hotel’s crossing.

2 105mm howitzers from Echo Battery, 11th Marines were released on a neighboring firebase at My Loc 2 to offer close assistance if the crossing was opposed. Fire control at An Hoa Combat Base likewise had its 155mm howitzers and 8-inch self-propelled weapons trained to support the crossing. MAG 11 at Da Nang had a flight of F-4 Phantoms filled with Napalm prepared to rush. The Battalion help station at An Hoa looked out and CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters were put on pad alert to supplied medevac help. Whatever was prepared.

Captain Doherty had actually seen his share of battle, however, he will experience a brand-new level of ferocity that would overtake anything he had actually dealt with in the past. He called his pint scouts forward. “Lafley, bring Culbertson up on point. You 2 are going to cut a course down the bank and go into the steam where it is at its narrowest out to the sandbar. Move skirmishers throughout the sandbar and stop the lead fire groups 2 hundred meters from the opponent bank. If we are struck crossing, do not stop up until positions are taken at the forward half of the sandbar 2 hundred meters from the opposite coast. We will run weapons objectives on the southern bank removing the opponent. Then we will attack straight into the opponent’s trench line and damage him”.

I progressed with Lafley and got a high path reducing the riverbank. Halfway down I sought to my port flank and saw the point team of Foxtrot coping the existing onto the far coast. I leaped from the edge of the bank into the swirling present and found that the freezing water was 4 feet deep. I had a hard time throughout the narrow stream and came to rest versus the lead edge of the sandbar, which trusts a complete 5 feet above the surface area of the water. As I reached the defense of the sandbar sniper fire appeared from our flanks kicking up plumes of water out in the stream. I pulled myself up onto the sandbar as the remainder of the team waded the stream behind me. When everybody in the point team was securely throughout, we reassembled and crawled ahead throughout the rolling area of sand.

As the remainder of the squadron crossed the stream, the sniper fire started originating from our back. The point team left continuing to edge into position till it was dealing with the southern bank 2 hundred meters directly ahead. When we reached our positions we started to take little arms fire from dug-in positions along the top of the opposite riverbank. Single, intended shots and brief bursts from automated weapons laced into the dunes where we lay clustered. Amidst the ricochets of yelling bullets, we pressed the overburden of sand to our front as we dug shallow battling holes.

A Marine yelled to my front not 10 meters away, and my face was peppered with bloody pieces of human flesh blown back on me. An only Marine had a hard time to his feet, with brilliant red splotches covering his butts and thighs. He progressed an action or two prior to another volley of VC little arms fire knocked into his stomach. He pitched forward to deal with down, his arms raised above him gesturing like a preacher offering a Sunday preaching. His blood drained gradually, making puddles in the golden sand around him.

I cleaned the gore from my eyes as PFC Holloway shrieked that he was shot in the face. The opponent round had, in fact, pierced his helmet, striking the headband in the front, then, deflecting around the liner to knock into his pack. Holloway had actually constantly been fortunate like that.

Opponent bullets laced into the Marine positions, and CP group under intense attack. Business Gunnery Sergeant Husak was struck by an opponent bullet that cut a deep furrow the length of his left lower arm. However it would take more than that to keep the indomitable Sergeant Hussak out of the battle. The Korean War veterinarian didn’t trouble to cover the injury with a fight impersonating he returned fire over the heads of the 2nd squad. There would be time for that later on.

Captain Doherty purchased Third Platoon onto the sandbar to support Second Platoon. He then moved his CP group up with the First Platoon into the river to cross on the port flank of the determined Second Platoon. A weapons fire objective was called into An Hoa’s Fire Control Centre and the 155mm battery situated there. These long-range weapons were quickly shooting postponed fuse shells into the solidified bunkers safeguarding the VC on the southern bank of the river.

The 2 105mm weapons supporting Foxtrot had actually currently fired over 8 hundred rounds, making it possible for the business to lastly turn the opponent’s flank and advance into the VC positions dealing with Hotel, now annihilated by the Marine weapons barrage.

In the last minutes of the opponent’s very heavy grazing fire that raked the sandbar from stem to stern, the young leader of Third Platoon had actually drawn his.45 handgun and hurried forward to rally his selected Marines. As he went by my battling hole, he was dropped in mid-stride as a burst from an opponent automated weapon struck him dead center in the chest. Lt. Smith was knocked on his back, dead prior to he struck the ground.

A brief, black Navy corpsman hurried forward to help the fallen officer, just to be overruled himself by another burst of opponent fire. He fell dead throughout the body of the killed officer.

A squad sergeant added to the 2 bodies, not understanding they were currently dead. VC gunners had him in their sights prior to he might reach them. A lots thumb-sized holes appeared in his upper body as if by magic, spinning him through the air like an acrobat. The passing away NCO splashed the dead corpsman and squad leader with a fresh blanket of American blood.

The Viet Cong had actually currently taken out the survivors of their primary force and had actually gotten away down the roadway to the town of La Bac where they would regroup to fulfill the Marines’ next attack. The VC leader left a team sized aspect of guys too injured to get away. They had orders to protect the trench line versus the Marines and to postpone them for as long as possible. It was a suicide objective.

As the Marines attack line went into the stream and entered into clear view, the Viet Cong suicide team opened from point-blank variety, sending out a brief, however fatal, volley into the exposed Marine ranks. One Marine was eliminated and 4 others injured. The furious Marine riflemen raked the opponent positions with lethal fire, as they rushed up the clay bank and into the VC trenches. The opponent soldiers who made it through the return fire were bayoneted.

The Marines had actually taken fifty-five casualties in the river crossing and the subsequent two-hour fire-fight at the sandbar. The majority of the injured were from little arms fire, which produced the most major injuries.

The opponent lost fifty-seven verified dead with another sixty-four possible KIAs in the bunkers. Roughly fifty opponent soldiers were approximated injured from the variety of blood tracks and weapons left. Rifles, ammo, uniforms, and 4 pounds of files were left by the primary opponent force getting away to La Bac.

Medevac helicopters from An Hoa arrived at the sandbar and eliminated the dead and injured. The staying grunts broke for chow on top of the opponent trench line, looking throughout at the sandbar where many of their associates had actually fallen.

When they completed consuming, they cleaned their weapons, renewed their ammo, and awaited the business to get their marching orders for the 2nd attack of the day into La Bac town to ruin the residues of the B-20 Main Force Battalion.

Hotel formed squadrons online. Gunny Gutierrez purchased Third Platoon to take the point and advance through a French rubber plantation towards La Bac. Hotel ruined a variety of VC sniper positions and a Gatling gun nest trying to obstruct their match on La Bac.

PFC Lafley and I crawled up a path and came under fire from an enhanced bunker to our front. I took the position under fire with my M-14, shooting the parapet to pieces. Going up, I punched a hole through the bunker and peered in just to see a VC recalling at me. I went back and shot him through the chin breaking his neck. An M-79 guy fired 2 rounds into the bunker eliminating the 2nd VC. PFC John Lafley opened on a 3rd sniper, and with precise rifle fire shot a lot of holes in the VC.

Later on in the day, I assaulted an opponent hut real estate a gatling gun position. At the exact same time, a Marine device gunner called John Materazzi opened on the VC in the wood hut with his M-60. In between the 2 people, we eliminated 5 VC and set the hut on fire. With these opponent positions lastly silenced, the squads of Hotel Company formed up for their 2nd attack of the day versus La Bac town.

As Hotel’s 2nd and 3rd squadrons formed to start the attack, the 155mm weapons at An Hoa started their adjusting fires to absolutely no in La Bac. As Soon As La Bac was targeted, Gunny Gutierrez asked for postponed merged rounds fired for impact. For 10 minutes the salvos of 155mm knocked into La Bac. The VC were caught in underground bunkers that were quickly ruined by the substantial shells. Half the opponent force was eliminated or injured by the fatal underground surges. The staying VC survivors sneaked into their spider holes and slit trenches. The Marines understood the VC would battle to the death. Their fate was currently sealed.

At the fight’s end, some fifty extra opponent soldiers had actually gotten away through the fire and smoke into the thick jungle at the far side of the town. The town was then completely browsed, while Captain Doherty reported into the battalion. Colonel Airheart bought the males to form a border around the caught town and to stand down. 2 fresh armies were being held-lifted into the location to obstruct off the VC escape paths. When they got here the Sparrowhawk Platoon from Echo Company took a getting away VC squad under fire eliminating one and discovering a number of blood tracks.

The First Marine Division personnel choppered into Phu Loc 6. On the 28th January, the Commanding General of the First Marine Division, Major General Herman Nickerson, dealt with the officers of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. He applauded the battalion for a spectacular success under severe conditions. 2 hundred twenty-one opponent soldiers had actually been eliminated or injured in the day-long fight. The 2 Marine attacks that day were similar to the previous Marine battleground exploits. The Viet Cong B-20th Main Force Battalion had actually disappeared as an outcome of the Marine aggressiveness revealed at the sandbar, and once again later on in La Bac town. The raw nerve and resourcefulness of Marine warriors will not be quickly forgotten by the vanquished Viet Cong Main Force battalion that attempted to however might not stand in the face of remarkable firepower and valor.

The General and the officers of the Second Battalion raised their glasses of white wine and a beer as the Commanding General made his toast. “Gentlemen, let us toast our Marines and honor the fallen heroes of the Fifth Marines. None Finer”.

As if on hint, the officers of the First Marine Division and particularly the Fifth Marine Regiment, snapped to stiff attention and echoed the General’s words.

“NONE FINER!”

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