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Marine Corps Historical Collection. BIT 2/9 command group,
with LtCol Austin, debarks from Jolly Green 43 on the west coast
of Koh Tang, south of the perimeter of Company G. It had to
fight its way north through Khmer Rouge-controlled jungle to
link up with the main body in the western zone.

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the Air Force aircraft in on top of Austin's position would be relatively easy compared to controlling and directing the mortar section's rounds, because only a few meters separated the enemy's lines from Keith's. This job would rest solely with the 81mm mortar platoon leader, Second Lieutenant Joseph J. McMenamin, and with Lieutenant Colonel Austin.48


McMenamin, himself, would act as the forward observer. Leaving his mortars, he crawled to a small hill and took up a position where he could observe his rounds hitting. To prevent an errant round from striking Marines in Keith's perimeter, McMenamin fired his marking round seaward, thereby safely gauging his range and deflection. After calling in the adjustment, he ordered the next spotting round fired, but this time at the enemy. It hit dead center! The Marines were ready to begin their linkup offensive.49


Lieutenant Colonel Austin began the linkup preparations none too soon. The Cambodians were preparing to mount another attack against the southern perimeter. To repel this assault, Austin and Keith employed their fire support plan. It worked superbly, stopping the Cambodians in place. The plans' success and apparent simplicity only served to mask its problems and underlying complexity. Coordination of the air strikes required Keith to have communications with both the attack aircraft and the forward air controller (FAC). Unfortunately, the FAC, First Lieutenant Tonkin, and his UHF radios had been on Knife 31 which had been shot down shortly after 0600 that morning while attempting to land in the eastern zone. Without a FAC, and more importantly his radios, First Lieutenant Keith and the battalion's air liaison officer, Captain Barry Cassidy, had to improvise. To devise a workable communications system, they used the battalion's tactical frequency and their Very High Frequency radios to talk to the airborne mission commander (AMC) who in turn relayed the information to the aircraft flying close air support (A-7s and F-4s). Eventually, the AMC told the pilots to tune directly to the battalion's frequency. In this manner, one of the tactical aircraft pilots would become the TAC(A) as long as he had enough fuel to remain on station. With this always a consideration, these aircraft constantly arrived and departed after only a relatively short time because of their high rate of fuel consumption. Each time, the replacement had first to assess the sit-

 

 









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