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Page 77(1965: The Landing and the Buildup)  

USMC Photo A 185824

Marines from the 2d Battalion, 4th Marines assemble near a small hamlet during Operation STARLITE, The unit pictured is a command group; note the number of radio antennas.

 

 

the other leaders of the improvised rescue force. The plan was to use 'a rapidly moving tank, LVT, and Ontos column through the previously cleared An Cuong (2) area.' Before the meeting broke up, one of the flame tanks which had been in the supply column arrived at the CP. According to Comer, ' 'The crew chief, a staff sergeant, reported to me that he had just passed through An Cuong (2) without being fired upon and that he could lead us to the LVT supply column.'12

Shortly after 1300, Comer's force moved out. Just after cresting Hill 30, the M-48 tank was hit by recoilless rifle fire and stopped short. The other vehicles immediately jammed together 'and simultaneously mortar and small arms fire saturated the area.' Within a few minutes, the Marines suffered 5 dead and 17 wounded. The infantry quickly dismounted and the Ontos maneuvered to provide frontal fire and to protect the flanks. Major Comer called for artillery fire and air support. With the response of supporting arms, the enemy fire diminished but did not stop. According to Comer, ''It was obvious that the VC were deeply dug in, and emerged above ground when we presented them with an opportunity and withdrew whenever we retaliated or threatened them.''13

With the letup of the action on Hill 30, Comer ordered Company I to resume its advance toward An Cuong (2) leaving a small rear guard on Hill 30 to supervise the evacaution of the casualties. The company entered An Cuong (2) against surprisingly little resistance, but Comer and the command group were caught by intense fire from a wooded area to their right front and forced to take what cover they could in the open rice paddies. At the time, the Marines came upon the two reinforced squads from Company I which had been left to guard the downed Huey and the platoon from Company H. The two squads from Company I fought their way to Hill 30 where they were evacuated while the Company H platoon remained with Comer in the rice paddies. At this point Comer recalled:
When it became obvious that I could not move the 'B' group [the command group] in either direction ... I radioed instructions to Lieutenant Purnell to extricate the supply column as rapidly as he could as I deemed that the
Page 77(1965: The Landing and the Buildup)