Page 342

Page 342 (1968: The Defining Year)

of the executive officer of Company B) ran into a North Vietnamese
force near the hamlet of Bac Dong Ban. One Marine platoon immediately
went to ground in the face of overwhelming enemy fire. As the Marines
called for air and artillery, another ad hoc company (also composed
of elements of Companies B and D) moved to the rescue under the command
of Company B's commanding officer, First Lieutenant Richard M. Wozar.

The North Vietnamese were thoroughly dug in, occupying a line of trenches and bunkers with their backs to the Song Ky Lam. For nine hours, the battle raged with neither side able to gain the upper hand. Finally, at 1800, the battalion command group, with Company A and a platoon from Company C, arrived and attacked from the west. Swinging northward, the reinforcements assaulted the enemy positions while Companies B and D provided a base of fire. By 1900, the Marines overwhelmed the enemy, suffering 6 dead, 19 wounded, and 12 heat casualties. By noon the next day, the Marines found 17 North Vietnamese dead.33

The fight at Bac Dong Ban was the 1st Battalion's last major battle in Operation Allen Brook. After completing a sweep of the eastern portion of Go Noi Island, they departed the area on 23 June and in their place, the 2d Battalion, 27th Marines assumed responsibility for Operation Allen Brook. That night the North Vietnamese welcomed the fresh battalion to Go Noi Island with 60 rounds of mortar fire on Compmies E, F, and H.

The 2d Battalion, tasked to continue the land clearing operations on Go Noi Island, arrived intent on carrying out a program of "coral destruction." Their policy included elimination of natural assembly areas, concealing foliage, treelines, bamboo groves, hedgerows, trenchlines, fighting holes, caves, bunkers, tunnels, building structures, and any natural or man-made feature providing cover. Material which could be used to build bunkers, such as concrete blocks, beams, posts, pillars, and tree trunks, would be destroyed by crushing or burning. In the words of the battalion commander. Lieutenant Colonel Albert W. Keller, "we were to level that island."34

The 2d Battalion experienced only light enemy contact throughout its stay at Go Noi Island. The enemy appeared only in small groups, usually fleeing when sighted by the Marines. Because of the sporadic nature of enemy contact, much of the battalion's efforts centered on land clearing. In one 18-day period, the engineers completely leveled the largest forested area on Go Noi Island.35 Lieutenant Colonel Keller later remarked that "by the time we destroyed and leveled that whole area ... it looked almost like a parking lot for a major ball park in the United Stares."36 As part of its land clearing effort, the battalion arranged two air-delivered herbicide missions which "were found to be quite effective."37

of Defense (USMC) Photo A650927

Two Marines from BLT 2/7 step gingerly through muck and water in a narrow
ravine during Operation Swift Play in the Da The Mountain area south
of the Go Noi. The unauthorized floppy hat worn by the Marine in the
rear probably provides more protection from the elements than the helmet.

On 16 July, the 2d Battalion, 27th Marines departed Go Noi Island, having reported killing 144 enemy at a cost of 4 Marines dead and 147 wounded. Simultaneously, the 3d Battalion, 27th Marines moved into the area and assumed responsibility for Operation Allen Brook. The character of the operation remained unchanged as the companies of the 3d Battalion alternated between patrolling and providing security for the engineers who were methodically scraping the island clean. The Communists continued to avoid significant engagements, but they did muster the temerity to fire on the aircraft which sprayed the island with herbicides on 18 July and 21 July Meanwhile, the Marines continued to fire on small groups of enemy or on Vietnamese voices heard in the night, then searched the areas later to find an occasional body or blood trail.*

* Colonel Tullis J. Woodham, Jr., at the time the 3d Battalion, 27th
Marines commander, commented thar he positioned a sniper and a 106mm
recoilless rifle team on the north/south railroad trestle: "The sniper
would spot and kill or wound an enemy soldier. As other enemy forces
would attempt to aid the dead or wounded NVA the 106 would rake them
under fire." Col Tullis J. Woodham, Jr., Comments on draft, dtd 7Dec94
(Vietnam Comment File).

Page 342 (1968: The Defining Year)