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rifleman John L. Gundersen in the 1st Platoon of Company I remembered
that as soon as he and his squad alighted they came under heavy automatic
and small arms fire from the island.* The Marines took what cover they
could behind a dirt berm and returned the fire. Within a few minutes
the enemy weapons were silent. The company then searched the immediate
area at first without encountering any resistance, sweeping first to
the west and then retracing their route. As they once more entered the
paddy where they starred, the Marines again came under heavy fire, including
mortars, from the enemy-held island.34

With the increasing intensity of fire from the island and reports
that South Vietnamese forces had observed some 250 people dressed in
black pajamas moving toward the west, the Marine command decided upon
a combined operation with the ARVN to mount an assault on the enemy
forces there." Company I was to cross over the tributary to the island
using a nearby footbridge while the ARVN assaulted from the west and
protected the Marine left flank. Marine air and supporting arms were
to soften up the enemy positions before the attack. As the infantry
waited and the artillery fires lifted, the first Marine McDonnell Douglas
F4B Phantoms came in and made "a spotting run," then strafed the enemy
positions, and dropped high explosives and napalm. Marine John Gundersen
recalled that the

. .
. concussion from each bomb shaking my face and eyeballs. The explosions
blurred my vision momentarily. Small pieces of shrapnel were falling
on us wirh some larger pieces buzzing over our head. ... I couldn't
imagine anyone escaping such a pounding.35

After the air bombardment, sometime between noon and 1300, Company
I rushed over the footbridge, some 50 meters away. Captain Kolakowski
dropped off his 3d Platoon to guard the northern entrance of the bridge
while the other two platoons continued the attack on the objective,
the hamlet of Lo Giang 2 on the island. The Marine assault on the hamlet
soon bogged down as the troops followed a path that led to the village
gate. An enemy sniper killed the point man on the lead platoon and then
the Marines came under heavy fire. According to John Gundersen, his
squad then took the point and went through the gate. They had orders
to turn west until they reached a tree line and then hold fast. Gundersen
remembered as they ran "seeing numerous one and two-man fighting holes
on the edge of the treeline." When they reached the tree line, only
his fireteam was there: "We did a quick ammo check discovering we were
very low on rounds having only two grenades and two magazines of ammo
between us. Luckily, we met no resistance before being ordered back
to the rest of the platoon to dig in."36

By this time it was late afternoon and daylight had begun to fade.
The first two platoons of Company I had established a perimeter in the
southeast sector of the hamlet while the 3d Platoon remained at the
northern end of the footbridge. Gundersen recalled that they had been
resupplied and that they had dug their defensive holes along a small
path that curved around and led to the river. The Marine rifleman wondered
why they established their position there on the low ground and isolated
from the rest of the hamlet. At dusk, however, Captain Kolakowski ordered
them to leave their vulnerable defenses and silently move up to the
top of the slope and again dig in.37

Under cover of darkness the enemy struck. The Marines had called for
C-130 "Spooky" flareships to light up the area, but one of the lumbering
aircraft had run out of flares and departed before its relief appeared
overhead. The enemy took advantage of this approximately 30-minute period
of pitch blackness to mass a force before the 3d Platoon guarding the
bridge escape route. About the same time, the enemy infiltrated into
the lines of the other two platoons in the hamlet. Marine John Gundersen
recalled hearing someone inside the perimeter whistling. He was about
to tell them to be quiet "when a wall of tracers ripped through my position
from the north." This continued for a few minutes when he heard another
set of whistles very much resembling "various bird calls." This time
enemy fire came from the west and then from another direction with still
another whistle. By this time, the relief flareship was overhead and
dropped illumination canisters. In the eerie light given off by the
flares, the Marines "could see the enemy massing in front of us" and
called in artillery and mortar support. Gundersen later wrote:
"To escape the artillery which was right on target,

* Lieutenant Colonel Gene W. Bowers, the battalion operations officer,
recalled the situation somewhat less dramatically, writing that the
landing "was uneventful except for some long range sniping from the
island." LtCol Gene W. Bowers, Comments on drafr, dtd 30May95 (Vietnam
Comment File), hereafter Bowers Comments.

** Lieutenant Colonel Bowers commented that the 250 people in black
pajamas were "identified by close passes by UH-1E gunships to be villagers,
mostly women and children, who were fleeing the fighting in their village.
They collected in a huddled group on the northernmost peninsula of the
island at the rivers' convergence. They remained there unmolested throughout
the action." Bowers Comments.

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