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3d Battalion sustained casualties of 19 dead and 25 wounded.27


Not sure about the size and composition of the enemy forces. Colonel Bohn, the 5th Marines commander, that night secured permission to expand the operation. He obtained operational control from General Robertson of a command group from the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines. Bohn ordered Lieutenant Colonel Robert J. McNaughton, the battalion commander of the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, to resume command of his Companies E and G, which were already in helicopter staging areas for Operation Auburn, and reinforce the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines in LZ Hawk. At the same time, Bohn and a 5th Marines command group would also move to LZ Hawk to assume overall direction of the now two-battalion Operation Auburn.28

Marine intelligence officers believed that a North Vietnamese Battalion
had reinforced the local VC battalions in the Go Noi. A III MAF intelligence
estimate showed the battalion, possibly the 190th NVA, also
known as the 311th NVA or Quang Da Battalion, had
infiltrated into central I Corps from North Vietnam the previous April
and was equipped with crew-served weapons.29


According to the Marine plan, the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines with two of its companies was to land in LZ Hawk on the morning of 29 December, followed by the 5th Marines command group. In the meantime, the three companies already in Auburn would secure Objective l, the abandoned hamlet that Company I had seized the previous day before moving to assist Company E. After the 3d Battalion had accomplished its mission and provided flank protection, the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines would attack towards the Bao An Dong hamlet where Company E, 3d Marines had engaged the enemy on the first day.30


The operation on the 29th went much as planned with relatively light resistance from the enemy. The 3d Battalion, 5th Marines seized its objective without opposition. After its arrival in Landing Zone Hawk, shortly after 1000, the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines advanced with its Company E in the lead and Company G on the right flank and slightly in trace. An enemy rear guard of about 20 men in well-camouflaged fighting holes fought the Marines at the edge of the hamlet, but immediately disengaged 10 minutes later after Marine air and artillery pounded the enemy positions. In his account of Operation Auburn, the 2d Battalion commander observed that "realizing that fortified villages would be encountered, artillery and fixed wing air strikes were used to the maximum. Key to the success of the supporting arms was the unit commanders' ability to move under the outstanding coverage provided."31


Shortly after noon, the two Marine companies began their search of the hamlet. They detained two suspicious Vietnamese clad in the usual black pajamas and recovered the bodies of the nine Marines killed in the earlier fighting. About 1330, as the battalion command group approached, VC snipers once more opened up on the American troops, wounding one Marine. The Marines returned the fire and searched the suspected area, but the enemy had departed. After another reconnaissance of the hamlet with no further evidence of the enemy, the battalion returned to Landing Zone Hawk. The results of the day's action for the battalion were two VC suspects and an estimated six enemy dead, at a cost of two Marine wounded and evacuated.32*


At this juncture, Colonel Bohn expected the operation to come to an end. The South Vietnamese had encountered few enemy forces in their sector and wanted to release their units. General Robertson, the 1st Marine Division commander, had already informed III MAF and the 5th Marines commanders that he intended "to terminate" Auburn at noon on the 30th "barring any unforseen developments." New information, however, caused Robertson to change his mind. About 1000 on the 30th, he radioed Colonel Bohn, "Operation Auburn will continue on reduced scale until further notice." General Robertson declared that "intelligence indicates continuing enemy presence in northwest Auburn AO [area of operations]." The mes-


* Colonel Rockey, the 3d Battalion commander, recalled that he a few days later received a message about an article in the Washington Star newspaper on 31 December 1967 about the operation in the Go Noi. The reporter described the desolation of the hamlets destroyed by air and supporting arms. The article mentioned "little fires were still burning" and Marines yelling at old women and children coming out of their shelters. It quoted one Marine saying "we should have killed them all." The article does admit, however, that the Marines had "temporarily driven out the enemy including one Main Force VC and one North Vietnamese battalion, but not certain what else they had accomplished." According to Colonel Rockey, the message originated in Washington and that he had about 30 minutes to get an answer back to headquarters about the accuracy of the article: "Mind you, this was in the middle of the night, in the field, during actual action against the enemy." Col William K. Rockey, Comments on draft, dtd 4Mar95 and attached msg, n.d., reference to 31Dec67, Washington Star. Lieutenant Colonel Bowers recalled that the search of the hamlet uncovered an underground storage area containing medical supplies, rifles, and rice. Bowers Comments.





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