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Mike's Hill, then ordered Captain John L. McLaughlin, the Company
L commander, to maneuver his company down to Route 9 and relieve a Company
M squad surrounded by North Vietnamese troops at an ambush site near
the destroyed bridge. By noon, after overcoming determined pockets of
enemy resistance with the assistance of 81mm mortars and coordinated
small arms fire from a Company M squad on Mike's Hill, Company L reached
the bridge and relieved the embattled Marines there. In the process,
the company took some casualties, but killed 23 of the enemy and captured
3 prisoners.

With the arrival of Company L at the bridge and Mike's Hill now secure, the battalion commander directed Captain John L. Prichard, the Company I commander, to advance eastward along Route 9 from his positions toward Company L, a distance of some 1,000 meters. Because of the nature of the terrain in the sector, open ground interspersed with hedgerows and heavy brush, Bendell called artillery fire upon enemy firing positions north of the Cam Lo River to cover Company Is open left flank.* About 200 meters west of the bridge, a well-camouflaged and dug-in NVA company using streambeds and dense vegetation as cover stopped Company I. Failing to overcome the enemy resistance with repeated frontal assaults, Captain Prichard asked for reinforcements. He ordered up his reserve platoon from his old position and Lieutenant Colonel Bendell directed Company L to send one platoon to Prichard. By 1400, with the support of Huey gunships, the two companies had linked up and began the mop up. For the most part, the battle for Mike's Hill was over.35

About that time. Lieutenant Colonel Bendell received a radio message
from Colonel Dick that Major General Tompkins, the 3d Division commander,
wanted the battalion to return to Camp Carroll. Concerned that the NVA
were still in force north of the river, Bendell failed to see the tactical
advantage of "re-seizing terrain fought for earlier" and recommended
the battalion stay and mop up the area.36 After first ruling
against Bendell, Colonel Dick and General Tompkins decided to permit
the battalion to continue with the road-securing mission for another
day.** By 1700 on the 27th, "vehicles were able to move without harassment
along Route 9 from both directions to the destroyed bridge . . . ."37

After evacuating the casualties, which included the Company I commander,
Captain Prichard, who later died of his wounds, Lieutenant Colonel Bendell
formed his battalion into two companies. He placed Company I under the
operational control of Company M and attached one of Company Ms platoons
to Company L. According to the battalion commander, instead of having
"three short-strength companies," he now had two "full-strength" ones.
During the day, the battalion had killed more than 130 of the enemy,
captured 6 prisoners, and recovered 3 57mm recoilless rifles, 2 60mm
mortars, 35 AK-47s, and extensive ammunition and equipment. The 3d Battalion,
4th Marines, however, had paid a heavy price: 21 men dead and 62 men

On the 28th, the now two ad hoc companies continued their patrolling
of Route 9 with relatively little incident. About 1430, a Company L
patrol happened upon a tunnel. Its entrance was three feet in diameter
and it extended about eight feet underground. Five other tunnels, running
east to west, intersected with the first one. In these tunnels were
several North Vietnamese bodies, some lying on makeshift litters. The
Marines buried the bodies and destroyed the tunnels.*** After completing
this grisly task, the battalion received orders once more to return
to Camp Carroll. Marine helicopters flew Company L to Camp Carroll,
while the revamped Company M returned to the base on foot. Once the
Marines were a safe distance away, Air Force B-52s in an Arclight mission
carpet bombed suspected enemy avenues of retreat and firing positions
north of the Cam Lo River.39****

* Colonel Bendell recalled that he directed his operations officer and his artillery liaison officer "to 'seal off' the battle area by artillery fires all along the Cam Lo River at the suspected crossing points. This apparently prevented reinforcements and even made retreat hazardous for those south of the river." Bendell Comments.

** Colonel Dick later wrote, "it was manifest that the battalion couldn't remain in the area indefinitely and there was no available unit for relief. In any event the position would have to be uncovered .... when the CG stated his wish for 3/4 to withdraw I certainly wasn't going to 'rule' against him but did demur to the extent that Lee [Bendell} was on the ground and in a better position to make a reasonable estimate of the situation, and could be brought in the following day. Which is what happened." Dick Comments.

*** These bodies were included in the figures of North Vietnamese
dead listed above for the action of 27 January.

**** Major Leffen remembered that an aerial observer "spoke directly to me indicating we were "in a lot of trouble.' He ... could see a column of 3's headed south toward our position as far as he could see. We were then told to be five clicks south of the hill by 1700." He wrote that the B-52s struck exactly at that time and "we could see pieces of the enemy in the trees following the arclight." Leffen Comments

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