fire on listening posts from close range, or use mortars to harass
the main perimeters. These activities caused additional casualties and
further frustration for the Marines, who could not strike back effectively.
By 3 June, the 27th Marines had found little evidence of the enemy, causing the 1st Marine Division to determine that the "recent lack of significant contact indicates enemy forces departed Allen Brook AO."27 Accordingly, the division reduced the scale of Operation Allen Brook, ordering the 1st Battalion, 26th Marines to depart Go Noi Island for operations elsewhere, and shrinking the Allen Brook AO. It would now include only that portion of Go Noi Island west of the National Railroad and a small area on the north bank of the Song Thu Bon, opposite the island.
The 27th Marines ordered the 1st Battalion, 26th Marines to move westward along Route 537 on its departure from the island, continuing the "search and clear" process along the way. Simultaneously, the 1st Battalion, 27th Marines also would move westward, on the right flank of the 1st Battalion, 26th Marines.
By mid-morning on 5 June, the two battalions were approaching their final objectives, having lost 4 killed and 26 wounded to sniper fire and mines along the way. As Company D, 26th Marines, under First Lieutenant Daniel L. McGravey, neared the hamlet of Cu Ban (3), North Vietnamese hidden in a trenchline and bunkers to the south fired on the 1st Platoon. The Marines maneuvered to one flank, attempting to envelop the enemy, and Communist mortars joined the action. At the same time, 500 meters to the east, Company B, 26th Marines, under Captain James H. Champion, also came under heavy fire and had a platoon caught in the open, unable to maneuver.
As the Marines called for mortars, artillery, and air support to assist in suppressing the enemy fire, Lieutenant Colonel Greenwood, commanding the 1st Battalion, 27th Marines, dispatched his Company C, commanded by Captain Martin T. Farmer, to assist the beleaguered 1st Battalion, 26th Marines. Company C hurried southward and made contact with the northernmost flank of Company B, 26th Marines, then swung to the west and assaulted the nearby Communist positions. Almost immediately, Captain Farmer and his second in command were wounded by mortar fire. Attacking without "a proper base of fire" and without time to "adequately reconnoiter" enemy positions, Company C, said Lieutenant Colonel Greenwood later, "lost momentum, faltered, and stopped."28
Company D, 26th Marines was still heavily engaged near Cu Ban (3)
and now, both Company B, 26th Marines and Company C, 27th Marines were
being held down by enemy fire 500 meters east of the hamlet. The Communists,
fighting from well-covered and expertly concealed positions, kept up
heavy fire with rifles, machine guns, and mortars. The Marines, long
accustomed to the luxury of fire superiority, found that they were unable
to employ their supporting arms effectively in such close quarters without
endangering friendly troops.
As casualties mounted, helicopters landed under fire to evacuate the wounded. Two Sikorsky UH-34 "Sea Horse" helicopters suffered hits in the process, but neither were lost. In mid-afternoon, with the fight still raging, Company A, 27th Marines, accompanied by three tanks, departed Liberty Bridge to join the fray. Supported by the tanks and carefully using artillery and air support, the Marines attacked and overran the enemy positions.
The Marines lost 7 killed and 55 wounded in this hard-fought, but confused, action. They found 30 North Vietnamese dead. A machine gunner with Company C, 1st Battalion, 27th Marines summed up the battle from an infantryman's perspective: "We had a bad-ass fire fight...it lasted for awhile. Then we moved on."29
Although the Marines had finally made solid contact with the enemy,
the plan to reduce the Operation Allen Brook commitment to a single
battalion remained in effect. On 6 June, the 1st Battalion, 26th Marines
left the area and elements of the 1st Engineer Battalion arrived with
the heavy equipment needed for the new task assigned to Operation Allen
Brook forces: the virtual razing of Go Noi Island. The new mission called
for the 27th Marines to "provide support and protection for [an] engineer
effort to systematically eliminate all fortifications, dwellings, harbor
sites, and hedgerows in [the] AO."30 The first area scheduled to be
cleared was Cu Ban (3).
The clearing project presented many challenges especially since Go Noi Island was thoroughly infested with well-constructed enemy field fortifications. The typical Go Noi bunker, based on a deep hole, had overhead protection constructed from rails and ties from the nearby National Railroad. Some actually included concrete. Covered with earth and camouflaged effectively, these positions were invisible from the air and only barely apparent from the ground. In some areas, farmers had worked away the ground surrounding the