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pany K supported by Navy gunfire, mortars, and artillery repulsed
repeated assaults by the NVA battalion. These attacks, however, lacked
coordination and consisted for the most part, as described by Captain
Regal, of sporadic rushes by small groups of NVA "in a fanatic attempt
to penetrate our lines." They all failed.81


Lieutenant Colonel McQuown sent forward some LVTs with additional ammunition for the company, but North Vietnamese artillery forced the amtracs to hold up. The battalion commander then ordered Company M with two tanks to reinforce the embattled Marines of Company K whose ammunition was now running low. Arriving at daybreak and with the two tanks as a spearhead. Company M, supported by Company K, launched the counterattack against the NVA. Like the previous actions in Lam Xuan, the fighting "was from hedgerow to hedgerow driving the remainder of the NVA to the northwest through the area covered by NGF [naval gunfire]." With supporting fires from three artillery batteries, the tanks, and a destroyer offshore, the battalion reported at 1445 that afternoon while continuing to meet resistance, "most of hamlet area has been secured. Large numbers of NVA bodies and amounts of equipment are being found throughout the area." The two companies continued their search and collected the enemy weapons and equipment found upon the battlefield. At nightfall, the Marines then pulled out of the hamlet once more, establishing their night positions in Mai Xa Thi to the south. They left behind them, however, the North Vietnamese dead and Lieutenant Colonel McQuown called in "interdicting artillery and fire" on the known trail from the north leading to Lam Xuan. As the battalion commander later explained, he anticipated that the NVA "would attempt to recover the bodies." The American supporting fires "continued through the night until dawn . . . ."82

In the third battle for Lam Xuan, the Marines killed 141 of the enemy
and captured 7 prisoners at a cost of 8 Marines dead and 37 wounded.
The morning of 4 February, Companies I and K returned to Lam Xuan but
the NVA had departed. Of the enemy dead, the Marines found only nine
bodies in the hamlet which the NVA had not dragged away. Lieutenant
Colonel McQuown recalled that those corpses "left behind were still
in the makeshift litters that were being used to carry them off." As
Captain Regal later observed, "We had not seen the last of the 803d."83


Further to the west in Operation Kentucky, Tet for the 9th Marines was quieter than usual. Even so, on 31 January, Combined Action Marines assigned to hamlets in the Cam Lo sector reported large concentrations of enemy troops in their vicinity. Receiving further intelligence that the enemy might attack the Cam Lo District headquarters, south of the Cam Lo River, Colonel Smith, the 9th Marines commander, ordered Lieutenant Colonel William M. Cryan, the 2d Battalion, 9th Marines commander, to reinforce the Combined Action Company P (Papa) headquarters located there and one of the Combined Action platoons, "Papa" l, in one of the nearby hamlets on Route 9. Cryan sent an infantry platoon with a detachment of Army M42 Dusters to the Cam Lo District headquarters compound and dispatched an infantry squad to CAP Papa l.84


The Communist forces struck at 0215 the morning of 2 February with mortar and recoilless rifle bombardment of both the district headquarters and CAP Papa l compounds. At the district headquarters, the enemy also launched a three-sided ground assault. In the first fusillade, a recoilless round killed the senior U.S. advisor, Army Major James C. Payne. Army Captain Raymond E. McMacken, his deputy, then assumed command of the headquarters compound. McMacken called in artillery "to box the headquarters in." According to the Army captain, the Marine defenders "just stacked them up on the wire."* He recalled that "five Marines rushed across the compound and took over a machine gun bunker. They got a .30 [caliber] machine gun into action to kill 15 NVA on the wires in front of them." An enemy RPG gunner, however, took out the machine gun bunker, wounding all five of the Marines inside. One of the Combined Action Marines, Lance Corporal Lawrence M. Eades, the company clerk of CACO Papa, suddenly found himself a machine gunner. According to Eades, "When we were hit, I grabbed my M16 and a M60 machine gun and ran to my position on the northwest side of the perimeter." McMacken credited Eades with killing over 20 of the enemy.85


With the supporting arms including the dual 40mm antiaircraft guns mounted on the Army M42 Dusters, the Cam Lo compound successfully held out against the attackers. In fact, the enemy troops only succeeded in getting through the first of the three belts of wire around the headquarters compound. By


* Colonel Richard B. Smith recalled that before he took over the 9th Marines he was the division inspector. He stated that he was "a great believer in wire. . . . Much of my effort was to get the CAP's wired in and I mean heavily wired. The enemy didn't expect this and attackers would get hung up before realizing what was there." Col Richard B. Smith, Comments on draft, dtd 19Dec94 (Vietnam Comment File), hereafter Smith Comments.





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