arms and 4.2-inch and 81mm mortars. Under illumination provided by
a C-117 flareship, a small Marine reaction force tried to locate the
attackers, but they had made good their escape.37
After a brief uneventful interlude, about 6,000 meters to the northwest of Hill 5 5, Communist gunners at 0045 3 January mortared the Hieu Duc District headquarters and the U.S. advisory compound located there. They then shelled the nearby 1st Battalion, 7th Marines command post on Hill 10. A Marine lookout in an observation tower spotted the mortar muzzle flashes and immediately radioed the coordinates to Battery G, 3d Battalion, 11th Marines, also on Hill 10 and collocated with the infantry battalion command post. Although about 40 enemy rounds impacted near the Marine battery positions, all guns remained "up and firing." The Marine 105mm howitzers responded with counter-mortar fires reinforced by 81mm mortars and 106mm recoilless rifles and silenced the VC weapons.38
Fifteen minutes later, about 0100, U.S. advisors at the MACV compound at Hieu Duc reported that about 20 sappers armed with grenades and satchel charges had penetrated the perimeter. Lieutenant Colonel William J. Davis, the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines commander whose area of operations included all of Hieu Duc District, remembered that the district's U.S. Army liaison officer radioed: "The VC are throughout our position; request assistance posthaste."39 Davis ordered an infantry platoon accompanied by two supporting M48 tanks from the 1st Tank Battalion to go to the assistance of the advisors at the district headquarters, about 500 meters east of Hill 10. The tanks had barely departed the hill when an enemy rocket team, laying in ambush, fired nine RPG rounds into the two vehicles. Although still mobile and able to use their 90mm cannons and .50 caliber machine guns, both tanks sustained damage, one a jammed turret, and casualties. Four of the eight Marine crewmen were wounded. Covered by the infantry, the two vehicles pulled back to their former positions and another M48 lumbered forward. While also hit by an RPG round, the third tank followed by part of the Marine infantry platoon smashed through the enemy ambush site, killing one of the enemy gunners. The relief force reached the MACV compound at 0325 and the enemy, estimated at company size, began to disengage. After the breaking of the "siege," the Americans discovered four enemy dead on the defensive wire. There were no casualties among the U.S. advisors. The part of the reaction force that stayed behind in the ambush site was, however, not as fortunate. Enemy gunners mortared its positions which resulted in seven Marines wounded and one killed. Again counter-mortar fire quieted the enemy tubes.40
The Communists were up to more mischief. Turning their attention from Hieu Duc and the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, in the next hour, they hit several Combined Action platoon hamlets, the Dien Ban District headquarters, an outpost near the Ba Ren River, and the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines command post at An Hoa. The enemy limited most of these attacks to small-arms harassing fire and mortars. At An Hoa, the enemy fired eight satchel charges from a "tube-like device" near the airfield there. Two of the charges detonated in the air and the other six failed to explode. In somewhat of an understatement, the battalion commander observed in his monthly report, "Although ingenious, the crude mortars proved to have a high dud rate," More serious was the VC assault on the Combined Action Platoon S-1 located in the coastal village of Phuoc Trach, east of Hoi An. After first mortaring the platoon, an unknown number of enemy overran the compound. They destroyed the communication and ammunition bunkers. By the time a relief force consisting of three neighboring Popular Force platoons arrived on the scene after daybreak, the enemy had long gone. Casualties among the Marine and PF troops in the hamlet were heavy. All of the 14 Marines assigned to the Combined Action unit were either dead or wounded. The PFs sustained 19 killed and 12 wounded. Communist losses, if any, were unknown.41*
The Communist raiders were not finished for the night. About 0400, a Marine sentry from the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, manning a tower on Hill 10, noticed large flashes about 3,000 meters to the east near the Yen River and immediately sounded the rocket attack alarm. Within a 10-minute time span, nearly 50 122mm enemy rockets impacted on the main airbase. Responding almost immediately to the attack, a Marine M48 tank on Hill 43 in the Southern Defense Sector took the suspected launching site under fire. An Air Force Douglas AC-47 "Spooky" transport equipped with 7.62mm miniguns and floodlights "also opened up immediately and hit area while enemy
*The record shows that four Marines were killed in the action at Phuoc Trach, five wounded, and five listed as missing. Although not specifically mentioned in the report, it is assumed that the five missing Marines were killed and their bodies later recovered.