Photo is from the Ted Vdorick Collection
A photo of Hill 869 was taken from the trenchline of the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines at the Rock Quarry.
The 3d Battalion command group was still on Hill 881 South, where it had gone earlier in the day to monitor Company Is battle on Hill 881 North.* The weather had closed in during the afternoon, grounding helicopters and effectively trapping Lieutenant Colonel Harry L. Alderman and key members of the battalion staff atop Hill 881 South.
Alderman's operations officer. Major Matthew P. Caulfield, contacted Hill 861 by radio during the fight and learned that Lieutenant Saulsbury had assumed command. Caulfield knew that Saulsbury had recently been dropped from flight training and had no infantry experience. Concerned, Major Caulfield told Saulsbury to rely on the company gunnery sergeant, who was well known in the battalion as an effective and experienced combat leader. "The Gunny is dead," Saulsbury replied. When Caulfield next told Saulsbury to get advice from the company first sergeant. Saulsbury informed him chac the first sergeant was in the wreck of the company command post, dying.10
Lieutenant Saulsbury turned to the task at hand, fighting Company
K like a veteran combat commander. The action was close and fierce,
with North Vietnamese moving through parts of the position, heaving
satchel charges into bunkers. The enemy next penetrated the southwest
side of 861's perimeter, forcing the 3d Platoon from its positions and
occupying the Marines' bunkers. Sergeant Mykle E. Stahl singlehand-ediy
counterattacked, distracting the enemy troops while other Marines recovered
casualties. As he advanced up the trenchline, three North Vietnamese
attempted ro capture him and Stahl suffered a bayonet wound before killing
two of them. When his rifle malfunctioned, another Marine killed the
third man. Stahl then picked up an enemy AK-47 assault rifle and attacked
a third bunker, killing three of the enemy and capturing three others.
When the 3d Platoon reoccupied its positions, Stahl, although wounded
three times, manned a .50-caliber machine gun and continued to fight.11**
Major Caulfield ordered some of the battalion's 81mm mortars on Hill 881 South to fire in support of Hill 861, ever mindful that the NVA might also attack Hill 881 South at any time. The mortars fired 680 rounds that night, causing the tubes to become so hot that the Marines cooled them first with water, then fruit juice, and finally, by urinating on them.12
By 0530, the enemy onslaught had spent itself against the determined defense of Hill 861. Marine signal intelligence personnel reported hearing the
* See Chapter -4.
** For his actions. Sergeant (later Captain) Stahl received the Navy