Department of Defense Phoro (USMC) A190594
Large clouds of dust and smoke obscure part of the Khe Sanh combat base after an enemy rocket and artillery bombardment. On 23 February another Marine ammunition supply point took a direct hit, which resulted in several secondary explosions
With both platoons still under extremely heavy close-range fire, the Marines at the combat base attempted to provide supporting fire from tanks, heavy machine guns, and 106mm recoilless rifles, but fog and the proximity of friendly and enemy forces hampered their efforts. To add to the confusion, the North Vietnamese entered Company B's radio net, possibly using a radio captured from one of the 3d Platoon's destroyed squads, compounding communication problems in the critical situation.80
Several survivors from the 3d Platoon filtered back to the 1st Platoon. Lieutenant Weiss ordered his men to gather the wounded and withdraw. The 3d Platoon was a shambles. Lieutenant Jacques was severely wounded, and most of his men were either wounded, dead, or missing. The 81mm mortar forward observer, a Blackfoot Indian corporal named Gilbert Wall, threw Lieutenant Jacques over his shoulder and carried him, with his radio, back to the perimeter, adjusting mortar fire missions all the way back. The lieutenant, however, was hit in both femoral arteries and bled to death even as Wall carried him.81*
For what had starred out as a platoon patrol, the casualties were staggering: 6 killed in action, 17 wounded, and 25 missing.82** No enemy casualties could be confirmed. On 27 February, Colonel Lownds issued further restrictions on patrolling,
* Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth W. Pipes, who commanded Company B at Khe
Sanh. observed that Lieutenant Jacques was one of his strongest platoon
leaders. His platoon had occupied one of the key defensive positions
at the base and Jacques' men had ambushed an NVA reconnaissance unit
in late December 1967. Pipes remarked that all the leaders of this platoon
including the squad leaders were killed in this action-in front and
leading their men. According to Pipes, "the extent of the NVA entrenchments
and fortifications were not as evident until the tragic action . . .
." Pipes Comments, 1995.
** One of the Marines listed as killed in action was Sergeant Ronald
L. Ridgway, who turned out to have been captured by the North Vietnamese
and released in March 1973 after the Paris Agreement of January 1973.