Department of Defense- (USMC) Photo A190852
Marine forward observers lying on top of a bunker train high-powered
binoculars on enemy trench lines in an attempt to locate NVA mortars.
Another Marine can be seen resting inside the bunker.
special operations units, as well as information provided by the Marines
manning the defenses of Khe Sanh. In one instance, the 26th Marines
scheduled a special air and artillery strike in reaction to a report
concerning a "force-wide meeting" of enemy commanders and their staffs
in a schoolhouse on the Laotian border. Twenty minutes after the scheduled
start time of the meeting, 2 Grumman A-6 Intruders and 4 McDonnell-Douglas
F-4 Phantoms dropped 152 500-pound bombs followed by 8 artillery batteries
firing 350 rounds into an area large enough "to take in the hangers-on
and other idlers who usually congregate around large staffs."76
Near the end of February, the intensity ot enemy shelling increased
even further, reaching a crescendo on the 23d, when according to an
official count, 1,307 rounds of artillery, rocket, and mortar fire slammed
into the base, killing 12 and wounding 51.* A chance hit on Ammunition
Supply Point Number 3 caused secondary explosions which consumed over
1,600 rounds of 90mm and 106mm ammunition.77
On 25 February, Second Lieutenant Donald Jacques led the 3d Platoon,
Company B, 1st Battalion, 26th Marines through the perimeter wire of
the combat base and headed south on a short-range patrol as part of
the regiment's effort to gather information on enemy activity close
to the base. About a kilometer south of the base, the patrol spotted
three North Vietnamese near the road leading to Khe Sanh Village and
gave chase. Just south of the road, the Marines ran into an ambush.
A company-sized enemy unit occupying a bunker complex allowed the platoon
to advance to within point-blank range before opening fire and driving
the Marines to cover.78
The platoon attempted to maneuver, but under the intense enemy fire,
casualties mounted rapidly. Jacques ordered a withdrawal while the company
commander. Captain Pipes, sent another platoon to assist. Second Lieutenant
Peter W. Weiss led the 1st Platoon through the gaps in the perimeter
wire and headed for the scene of the ambush. About 300 meters from the
beleaguered 3d platoon, Weiss and his men received enemy machine gun
fire from 20 meters to their front, forcing them to the ground.79*
* Colonel Dabney doubted the accuracy of this official count, making
the point that "when you are getting that many rounds, nobody is fool
enough to sit around and count them." Dabney Comments. On the other
hand, Captain Cole related that "the FSCC made a serious attempt to
count incoming rounds-and .... Jack Hennelly [Lieutenant Colonel John
A. Hennelly, commander of the 1st Battalion, 13th Marines] was very
conservative about this, so if 1,307 was too exact, it probably was
not too far off the mark." Cole Comments, dtd 23Jun96.
** According to George W. Jayne. who was a fireteam leader with the
1st Platoon, his squad received the bulk of the enemy's first burst
of fire, killing both the squad leader and Navy corpsman. George W.
Jayne, Comments on draft, dtd 1Dec94 (Vietnam Comment File).