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US Marines in Vietnam: 1968 The Defining Year

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Page 322(1968: The Defining Year)

Department of Defense (USMC) Photo A191807

Marines of Company A, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines barely can be seen as they climb up a hill through five-foot-high elephant grass near Landing Zone Robin.

again and assaulted LZ Loon, four kilometers to the west. The enemy, quiet on D-Day, greeted the Marines at LZ Loon with light small-arms, mortar, and artillery fire, delaying the helicopter lift but not seriously hampering the landings.55

North Vietnamese interest in LZ Loon became apparent the following morning, only hours after the Marines arrived. At 0600, a company of the NVA 88th Regiment probed Company F, 2d Battalion, 4th Marines. After a short engagement, the enemy withdrew at dawn, leaving 34 dead. Company F lost 2 killed and 24 wounded.56

With both of the new landing zones secured by the 1st Marines, TF Hotel began preparing them to serve as firebases to support the 4th Marines during the second phase of the operation. The headquarters of the 4th Marines and the 1st Battalion, 12th Marines landed at LZ Robin and prepared to assume control as engineers used equipment lifted in by helicopters to construct artillery emplacements, bunkers, trenches, and barbed wire entanglements.57

Companies C and D, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines flew into LZ Loon, freeing the 2d Battalion to join the attack north toward the blocking positions. In keeping with the airmobile character of the operation, the 2d Battalion advanced by conducting still another helicopterborne assault into LZ Crow, two kilometers northeast of LZ Loon and near the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines.58

The attack northward met its first significant resistance on 5 June, when Company C, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines engaged an enemy unit four kilometers south of Route 9. The enemy troops fought from bunkers and from trees. Company C attacked the position, supported by artillery and the battalion's 106mm recoilless rifles. In a fight which lasted into the following afternoon, the Marines overran and destroyed a North Vietnamese bunker complex which documents identified as belonging to the 304th Division, a veteran of the earlier fighting during the siege of Khe Sanh.59

During the evening of 5 June, the 4th Marines assumed control of its own 1st Battalion, disposed between LZ Loon and LZ Robin, in preparation for the beginning of Operation Robin South the next morning. Before the Marines could strike, however, the North Vietnamese hit first. At 0600, an enemy battalion assaulted LZ Loon, supported by artillery and mortar fire.60 Companies C and D fought back, calling for their own artillery and mortars, as well as attack aircraft and helicopter gunships. After a two-hour battle, the enemy withdrew slightly, leaving 154 dead, but kept up a galling fire with their small arms, and frequent shelling from nearby 82mm mortars and the ever-present 130mm guns. By midday, the continued shelling had rendered LZ Loon untenable.61 Helicopters lifted Company C back to LZ Robin at 1400, followed a few hours later by Company D. The last helicopter out, a CH-46, took heavy fire from a North Vietnamese .50-caliber machine gun and crashed in flames, bringing the total U.S. casualty count for the defense of the LZ to 24 dead and 37 wounded.62

Despite the attack on LZ Loon, on 6 June, as scheduled, the 4th Marines launched Operation Robin South. Helicopters lifted the 3d Battalion, 9th Marines into a landing zone southeast of LZ Robin, near the eastern extension of the North Vietnamese jungle road. The battalion located the road and found it to be quite well-developed, up to 18 feet wide in places, with stone bridges, culverts, and a surface graded smooth by heavy engineering equipment. The North Vietnamese had concealed the road by bending trees over it and

Page 322(1968: The Defining Year)
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