evening. Supported by Marine air and artillery, Dorsey estimated that his battalion had killed 75 VC. Eleven Marines were dead and 17 wounded. The VC broke contact as darkness fell and the battalion established night positions. The next morning, the Marines took Hill 43, where they joined 40 South Vietnamese soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 5th Regiment.
On the 10th, General Henderson ordered Utter to drive east and Dorsey to push northwest to compress the enemy between them. The avenue of escape to the south was to be closed by Lieutenant Colonel Robert T. Hanifin Jr.'s 2d Battalion, 1st Marines, the SLF battalion which would be lifted into the area by Porter's HMM-261.
At 1100,15 UH-34Ds from the Valley Forge lifted the assault elements of Company F to a landing zone near the hamlet of Cam La, five miles southeast of Que Son. As the helicopters landed they came under heavy 12.7mm machine gun fire from emplacements on Hill 407, 2,000 meters to the south. The intense, heavy caliber enemy fire surprised the Marines. Colonel Michael R. Yunck, the 1st MAW G-3, who had volunteered to act as Tactical Air Controller (Airborne) for the assault mission, remembered: ''We thought the LZ was far enough from the hill to the south to nullify effective fire from that distance and had pretty well scrubbed the immediate area of the LZ." As the assault helicopters lifted off, Yunck maneuvered his UH-1E over the landing zone to locate the enemy gunners, but in the process was wounded by a 12.7mm round. His co-pilot, Major Edward L. Kuykendall, took control of the air operation and directed the remaining helicopters carrying Lieutenant Colonel Hanifin's command group and Company G to land in another landing zone further west.*11
Company F at the first landing site was in trouble. The enemy kept the Marines under continuous machine gun fire and then opened up with mortars and small arms fire. The company took what cover it could in the open rice paddies and waited for reinforcements. Since the rest of the battalion had landed to the west, the task force commander ordered a company from Lieutenant Colonel Utter's battalion to move south to aid the hard-hit unit. Company E, 2d Battalion, 7th Marines pushed southward towards Hanifin's Company F, but was hit on its right flank by enemy fire. With some difficulty, Company E reached an area from which it could support the stranded company. Company F began withdrawing under the relief force's covering fire. Ten hours after the first helicopter had landed, Hanifin's battalion command group, Companies G and F, and Company E from Utter's battalion joined forces. Both companies E and F had suffered substantial casualties during the day, 20 dead and over 80 wounded.**
As darkness fell on the battlefield that day, General Walt relieved General Henderson. Brigadier General Jonas M. Platt became head of Task Force DELTA. General Platt, appraised of the battle situation, ordered another of Utter's companies to reinforce the 2d Battalion, 1st Marines. Company G, 2d Battalion, 7th Marines arrived at Hanifin's position at 0300 the next morning.
The Search of the Phouc Ha Valley
On the 11th, Task Force DELTA maneuvered to consolidate its position and General Platt, airborne in a helicopter, studied the terrain from which the Marines of Company F and helicopters of HMM-261 had received such extensive fire on the 10th. The general, surprised that his craft did not draw enemy fire, surmised that the Viet Cong must have abandoned their positions on Hill 407 during the night. Platt, therefore, ordered Lieutenant Colonel Utter to seize the hill, a task which the 2d Battalion, 7th Marines accomplished without opposition.12
In the interim, Lieutenant Colonel Dorsey's 3d Battalion searched the area to the north of Hill 407, while the remaining two companies of Hanifin's 2d Battalion, 1st Marines were helilifted from the ARG ships to join the battalion.*** By the end of the day,
* Colonel Yunck was the 1963 Marine Aviator of the Year. He was awarded his second Silver Star for his actions during HARVEST MOON. His leg had to be amputated as a result of the wound he suffered during the battle.
** One of the casualties was Captain James E. Page, Company F commander, who had been pronounced dead on the battlefield. The next day medical personnel checking the bodies detected a faint heart beat and evacuated Captain Page to a hospital. The captain recovered.
*** When the SLF was assigned to HARVEST MOON on 7 December, Companies E and H on board the APA Montrose were en route to Okinawa and the ship had to be diverted to Vietnam. It arrived offshore from the objective area at about 1600 on the 10th.
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