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Photo from the David Douglas Duncan Collection, MCHC

MajGen Rathvon McC. Tompkins, the CG, 3d MarDiv,
is seen as a passenger with an unidentified crew member in a Marine
helicopter on one of his frequent visits to the Khe Sanh base.


of impacting shells, as well as the voices of hundreds of panic-stricken men running to escape the deadly barrage.


Just to the east of the target area, the men of Captain Earle G. Breeding's Company E, 2d Battalion, 26th Marines watched the scene from a hilltop position just 500 meters northeast of Company K's strongpoint on Hill 861. Company E had occupied the hill (dubbed "861 A") that morning, 5 February, because it blocked direct observation between Hill 861 and the 2d Battalion strongpoint on Hill 558. There were no sensors near Hill 861 or 861A.51

At 0300, about two hours after the Marine and Army artillerymen shelled
the suspected North Vietnamese regiment, the combat base came under
Communist rocket, artillery, and mortar fire. Five minutes later. Captain
Breeding reported that 200 North Vietnamese were breaching the wire
atop Hill 861 A and Colonel Lownds immediately set a "Red Alert" for
the 26th Marines.52

Photo courtesy of John J. Balanco

Smoke from a B-52 massive Arclight airstrike rises in the background
as photographed from FOB-3. During Operation Niagara, the Boeing Stratofortress
long-range homhers based at Guam and Thailand conducted hundreds, of
these strikes in support of the Marines at Khe Sanh.









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