(1968: The Defining Year)
Photo courtesy of Col Robert C. Needham, USMC (Ret)
Col Richard B. Smith, second from left, the 9th Marines
commander, is seen visiting Strongpoint A-3 in January 1968 and in conversation with
LtCol Robert C. Needham. On the right of Col Smith, the 3d Battalion.
3d Marines commander, and two of his officers: Maj Raymond F. Findlay,
Jr, the 3d Battalion operations officer, is to the left of Col Smith,
and Captain Robert R. Beers, the commander of Company l, 3d Battalion,
3d Marines, is to the right of LtCol Needham.
and LPs on any particular night. During the day, the battalion patrolled constantly, with as many as two companies out at a time.
Lieutenant Colonel Bendell reinforced the infantry companies with
tour 106mm recoilless rifles, two .50-caliber machine guns, and six
of the battalion's 81mm mortars. He had left the two remaining mortars
back in the base camp so that the extra men from the 81 mm mortar platoon
could ". .. hump . . . additional ammo, if we had to move out."55
The 2d Battalion, 12th Marines provided direct artillery support and
the 1st MAW, close air support.
The "Thundering Third," as the battalion called itself,
was no stranger to the DMZ war. It had been at Con Thien in July through
early September 1967 during some of the heaviest fighting and bombardment
around that strong point. Lieutenant Colonel Bendell, who had assumed
command that July, remembered that the battalion "had actively
patrolled the surrounding area" that summer and helped establish
strong points at C-2, C-3, Cam Lo Bridge, and the 'Washout,' and also
deployed a detachment to Gio Linh.56
Soon after the 3d Battalion, 4th Marines arrived on Hill 28, it again
found itself engaged with the enemy. On the morning of 30 December,
Company M, commanded by Captain Raymond W. Kalm,Jr., on patrol to the
southwest of the battalion perimeter came across six empty NVA bunkers
facing east, about 2,000 meters from Hill 28. After destroying the enemy
bunkers, the company advanced toward the northwest. About 1330 that
afternoon near a small stream about 1,500 meters west of Hill 28, the
Marines ran into an enemy rearguard of about 4 to 10 men. In the resulting
exchange ot fire. Company M sustained casualties of one killed and four
wounded. Captain Kalm called in artillery and 81mm mortar missions.
After the skirmish the Marines found the body of one North Vietnamese
On the following morning. Lieutenant Colonel Bendell sent out Captain
John L. Prichard's Company I inco roughly the same area that Company
M had met the NVA. Prichard's company moved out from Hill 28 in platoon
columns. As Bendell explained, this formation discouraged the troops