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Only the previous morning, 19 January, a platoon from Company C, 1st
Battalion, 3d Marines, patrolling the sand dunes along the coast north
of the A-1 Strongpoint, and about 5,000 meters above the Cua Viet, ran
into a company from the enemy K-400 Main Force Battalion. Corporal
Ronald R. Asher, the acting weapons platoon sergeant, remembered that
he and two of his machine gun teams accompanied the platoon. According
to Asher, the "lead squad walked into the NVA positions" and that "within
seconds the sound of AK's, M16s, . . . and the unmistakable cough pf
one of my guns was earth shattering." For a few chaotic hours, the platoon
took cover as best it could and attempted to recover its casualties.
Corporal Asher recalled that he and another squad leader assumed control
of the platoon as both the platoon leader and sergeant were incapacitated.2


By late afternoon. Lieutenant Colonel Toner had reinforced the platoon with the rest of Company C supported by tanks and LVTs. Both sides used rifles, automatic weapons, grenades, mortars, and artillery fire in a hard-fought engagement that lasted much of the day. Enemy artillery from north of the Demilitarized Zone fired some 70 130mm rounds into the Marine positions. Still the enemy supporting arms were no match for the firepower that the Americans threw into the battle including air, naval gunfire, conventional artillery, and tank direct fire. By 1500, both sides had disengaged. The Marines losses were 3 dead and 33 wounded, 31 of whom had to be evacuated. According to Marine accounts, they killed 23 of the enemy and recovered six weapons including two light machine guns.3


On the following day, the 20th, the enemy not only fired at two Navy craft, but earlier that morning also engaged a South Vietnamese Navy Coastal Patrol Force junk on patrol in the Cua Viet. The 1st Amphibian Tractor Battalion, conducting a two-company operation nearby in conjunction with the 2d ARVN Regiment, ran up against an even stronger enemy force, approximately a battalion in size, than it had the previous day. This time the battalion had established blocking positions just northwest of the hamlet of My Loc on the northern bank of the Cua Viet. Starting as a small platoon action, the action soon evolved into a fullscale battle employing all supporting arms. The enemy subjected the Marines to an artillery bombardment of about 50 130mm rounds that lasted for about a half hour to cover its withdrawal that afternoon. According to Marine officers, the North Vietnamese artillery used forward observers to adjust its fire. Two of the LVTs in the course of the battle sustained damage, one detonated an explosive device and the other was struck by three rocket propelled grenades. The Marine tractor battalion in this fray suffered casualties of 13 dead and 48 wounded and reported a bodycount of 20 dead North Vietnamese. In the same fighting, the ARVN claimed to have killed an additional 20 and captured 2 prisoners.4


The situation on the Cua Viet was becoming untenable. In the early morning hours of 21 January around 0200, a Company C, 1st Battalion, 3d Marines outpost spotted an enemy platoon attempting to dig in along the sand dunes very near the scene of the fighting on the 19th. The Marines called in artillery throughout the night and at 0930 Marine fixed-wing aircraft flew three attack sorties against the enemy troops. According to the Marine account, the enemy wore "green uniforms similar to those of previous contact. . . ." The NVA then withdrew to the north under Marine rifle fire and grenades, but left nine bodies behind. About an hour later, a Navy landing craft (LCM) on the Cua Viet triggered another mine which exploded behind it. The vessel remained afloat, but the explosion knocked out both of its engines. Another LCM which came out to tow the helpless craft back to port came under fire from the northern bank. After all the LCMs had returned safely to the Cua Viet Port Facility, the naval commander of the base announced "All USN river traffic secured."5


While the river traffic once again resumed the following day, 22 January was almost a repeat of the 21st. In the early morning hours of the 22d, an American naval gun spotter assigned to the 2d ARVN Regiment A-1 outpost observed about 300 to 500 North Vietnamese troops through his starlight scope moving south in the same general area where Company C had its previous clashes with the enemy. Pulling back a Company C ambush patrol, the American command threw in the entire spectrum of supporting arms including 105mm howitzers, 8-inch guns, Marine fixed-wing TPQ (radar-controlled) aircraft strikes, and an AC-130 "Spooky" minigun strafing run. A later ARVN battle damage assessment of the evidence, including blood stains, freshly dug graves, abandoned web equipment and documents, suggested that the enemy may have sustained as many as 100 casualties. Further south, however, on the Cua Viet the Navy reported another mining inci-




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