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Company C deployed on line and advanced up the ridge against what
appeared to be the enemy's right flank. As the Marines approached the
bunkers, enemy fire broke out from another hidden fortified position
on their left flank. Within moments, Himmer, both platoon commanders,
a platoon sergeant, and several squad leaders fell with wounds. The
acting company executive officer, First Lieutenant William C. Connelly,
assumed command. An artillery fire mission on the bunker complex to
the company's left resulted in friendly fire impacting within 50 meters
of the Marines, so the artillery forward observer ended the mission.11


At 1500, Companies A and C were both in desperate straits. Casualties were high, including many unit leaders, and the Marines were nearly immobilized in the elephant grass by the intense enemy fire from two mutually supporting bunker complexes and from nearby mortars which steadily pounded the slopes of the ridge. Nearby, Company D was helping Company A to evacuate the wounded who had been able to crawl away. Cahill moved toward the LZ, suffering three wounds along the way, and ordered Captain John W. Cargile's Company D to deploy along Company As right flank, then attack across the ridge from northwest to south-east.12


Heavy casualties had by now rendered Company A ineffective, and Captain Banks was concentrating on attempts to evacuate casualties as Company D began its attack. Cargile's men advanced through the grass, receiving heavy and accurate sniper fire which dropped four Marines with single shots to the head. The deep grass and the profusion of units and individuals on the hill firing weapons left Cargile's men uncertain of the enemy's exact location and dispositions. Although Company D continued to move forward, progress was painfully slow and casualties mounted.13


At about 1730, Banks was seriously wounded and Second Lieutenant Francis B. Lovely, Jr., assumed command of Company A. Cahill learned by radio of increasing casualties in Company D and ordered his companies to evacuate their wounded and withdraw, leaving their dead. Having assumed command of the battalion in the field only two weeks before, Cahill was not aware of General Tompkins' standing orders emphasizing that all KlAs should be evacuated.14*


It was 0300 before the last company closed on the battalion perimeter, and another hour before a casualty count reached Cahill showing 20 killed and 20 missing. The battalion continued taking musters and comparing statements of participants which soon reduced the number of missing to 15.15


At 0630 on the morning of the 17th, several Marines heard the voice of Corporal Hubert H. Hunnicutt III, calling across the valley from the ridge where the battle had taken place. Two squads moved into the valley and shouted back to him, attempting to pinpoint his location. After hearing two shots near where they thought Hunnicutt was located, the patrol no longer heard his voice.16


A few hours later, after Cahill had presented Meyers and General Glick his plan to recover the bodies on 19 April, an air observer (AO) reported seeing a live Marine about 50 meters from the enemy bunkers. Volunteers from the battalion boarded two Boeing CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters for a rescue attempt. One helicopter held a fire team and the other a body recovery detail. When the first helicopter landed atop the ridge, it crushed an enemy soldier with the tail ramp and the fire team ran out shooting. Four North Vietnamese who popped up from fighting holes fell dead immediately. Others surrounding the landing zone poured fire into the helicopter as the Marines quickly searched for the survivor. Finding only dead bodies which had been decapitated and disemboweled, the fire team ran back on board the badly shot up CH-46, which flew 1,000 meters back to Hill 689, then crash landed with about 20 hits in the engine. An AO watching the rescue attempt reported that the search party had missed the live Marine who could still be seen waving


* Several years later, General Glick declared that "the division policy
on recovery of MIAs and KlAs was, to my mind, not clearly defined, because
in the previous months that I had been there, there had been a general
understanding that the forces should not risk additional deaths and
casualties unnecessarily to recover KlAs, but that all reasonable effort
should be made to recover MIAs. . . . yes, we always recovered KlAs
if we could. But, it definitely was considered not right to go into
high-risk areas if it was a known KIA. ... If the person might still
be alive, then it would justify to take some risks with other Marines."
The general stated that Colonel Meyers of the 26th Marines "was fairly
cautious about ground operations to recover people that were probably
KlAs." BGen Jacob E. Glick intvw, 20 Jun and HJul89, pp. 10-11 (Oral
HistColl, MCHC).






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