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troops firing at what were probably other stragglers drove them back into the bush. After moving about four kilometers they found thicker cover and started moving up a ridgeline; they knew the trail to Ba To was on top of the ridge. At this time they were joined by two CIDG survivors, but the two Vietnamese almost were killed in the process. A Vietnamese with the Marines saved them by causing the Marines to hold fire as they came out of the bushes.

The Marines reached the Ba To trail, but again they were faced with a tough decision. It is a bad practice to use trails in enemy territory, but the Marines had to get away quickly and fog still blanketed the area. Fortunately the wind picked up, and it was so loud that it covered any noise the patrol made, so Jacques decided to 'head for home.' Putting the two Vietnamese stragglers out as the point on the trail, the Marines moved out. They reached Ba To without incident.

An hour after Gunnery Sergeant Jacques' party arrived at the base, another Marine survivor, wounded Lance Corporal Donald M. Woo, was brought in. Determined to survive, Lance Corporal Woo had been captured and escaped twice, and, in turn, captured two NVA soldiers and forced them, at knife point, to carry him to Ba To.

On 21 December the two missing Marines were found, dead. A patrol found 14 bodies: three Marines, the Special Forces sergeant, the Vietnamese lieutenant patrol leader, and nine CIDG troops.

As a result of the Ba To experience, and some other misadventures, a long standing force reconnaissance operational procedure was suspended. Previous training practices had dictated that when a force reconnaissance patrol was discovered it was to split up, each member evading on his own. After Ba To, force patrols went in together, stayed together, and came out together.

The 2d and 3d Platoons were returned to 3d Reconnaissance Battalion control on 24 December. On the 28th, Captain William C. Shaver relieved now Lieutenant Colonel Gaffen who was transferred upon his promotion.

As the year ended, both force and division reconnaissance units could state that their respective situations were much improved. Although 'force' was not pleased with the prospect of remaining under the paternal hand of the 3d Reconnaissance Battalion, the force company was, at last, able to conduct deep missions, and the company's supply situation was vastly improved. Division reconnaissance was still spread between three enclaves, but it also had room to maneuver; the threat of compromise was vastly diminished. Coordination, cooperation, and understanding of reconnaissance capabilities and limitations were improving. 'Recon' had a clear view of the future.

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