Page 285

Page 285 (1968: The Defining Year)

Despite the delay, the brigade secured its landing zones and flew
in its artillery before nightfall. Throughout the area of operations,
allied forces made only light contact with the North Vietnamese. In
the following days, the operation continued in the pattern set on D-day,
including the seemingly obligatory bad weather in the mornings, which
forced delays in airmobile operations. The North Vietnamese remained

The garrison at Khe Sanh joined the offensive on 4 April from the
combat base when the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines sortied against Hill
471. With Company B protecting the perimeter at the rock quarry west
of the combat base, the battalion moved to the line of departure at
0230, finally leaving the positions it had defended for 73 days. At
0600, the Marines attacked along the fog-shrouded Che Rien Ridge toward
Hill 471, which lay two kilometers to the southeast. Following a lengthy
artillery and air preparation, Company A assaulted the hill at 1500.
The defenders, a reinforced platoon of the 8th Battalion, 66th NVA
, put up a spirited fight, but Company A soon overwhelmed
them, securing the hill at 1600. The attack cost the battalion 10 dead
and 56 wounded. The enemy left 16 dead on the objective.118

The North Vietnamese were not content to give up Hill 471 that easily.
Shortly after the Marines overran the hill, enemy rocket fire began
and by midnight, 192 rounds had fallen. At 0430, two companies of the
66th NVA Regiment assaulted Captain Ralph H. Flagler's Company
C on the eastern half of the hill. Company A, located on the western
side, was masked by the crest of the hill and could not fire in support.
North Vietnamese infantry swarmed up the slope firing rifles, sub-machine
guns, and RPGs, while heavy machine guns pounded Company C's positions.
The enemy advanced to within 20 meters of the Marine fighting holes,
but Flagler's men stood fast, with the help of almost 1,000 rounds of
artillery fire from the 1st Battalion, 13th Marines. By 0630, the enemy
attack was spent and the North Vietnamese withdrew. At a cost of 1 Marine
dead and 28 wounded, the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines killed over 140
North Vietnamese and captured 5 prisoners.119

Other units of the Khe Sanh garrison went on the offensive as well. On 6 April, Captain Lee R. Over-street's Company G, 2d Battalion, 26th Marines left Hill 558 in the early morning on the battalion's first long distance patrol of the Khe Sanh battle. Its mission was to determine if the enemy occupied the ridge which extended southeast from Hill 861 like a huge, stubby finger pointed at the combat base.120

Just before noon, as the company reached the crest of the ridge, North
Vietnamese concealed in camouflaged, mutually supporting bunkers opened
fire, cutting down several Marines at point-blank range. Unable to advance
into the heavy and accurate enemy fire, Company G suffered additional
casualties as Marines tried to recover the fallen men nearest the enemy
positions. Captain Overstreet called for artillery and air support,
but the number of aircraft available was limited and the artillery frequently
entered a "check fire" status to allow for the safe passage of planes
supporting other units. Because of these fire support coordination problems,
the Marines could not overcome the stiff enemy resistance atop the ridge.
With six Marines missing in action, but presumed to be dead within the
enemy perimeter, Captain Overstreet ordered Company G to withdraw to
Hill 558 at nightfall "as a result of regimental policy to recall units
to the defensive positions for the night." In addition to the 6 MIAs,
Company G lost 4 killed and 47 wounded and claimed 48 NVA died in the

Elsewhere in the area, many major events took place on 6 April, giving Operation Pegasus the appearance of a three-ring circus. The 1st Battalion, 26th Marines attacked out of the combat base to the south, sending Company D against the NVA bunker complex where 25 missing members of Company B had last been seen during operations on 25 February and 30 March. Company D recovered the remains of 21 Americans.122 The 1st Air Cavalry Division's 3d Brigade, clearing Route 9 in the area west of the 1st Marines, encountered a strong NVA blocking position and fought a day-long battle which ended when the enemy fled, leaving 83 dead.123 At noon, the men of the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines became the first defenders of Khe Sanh relieved in Operation Pegasus when the 2d Battalion, 12th Cavalry landed at Hill 471 and assumed responsibility for its defense.124 The 1st Battalion, 9th Marines immediately attacked westward toward Hill 689. As a climax to the many events of the day, the ARVN 84th Company, 8th Airborne Battalion landed by helicopter at the Khe Sanh Combat Base and linked up with the ARVN 37th Ranger Battalion. This marked the first entry of an organized ground combat unit into the base since the Rangers themselves had arrived on 27 January.125

The momentum of the offensive continued unabated on 7 April. The 2d
Battalion, 26th Marines returned to the scene of the previous day's

*The six missing Marines were later found dead on the ridge.

Page 285 (1968: The Defining Year)