Page 344

Page 344 (1968: The Defining Year)

The western portion of this basin was the "Arizona Territory" and
the area on the east bank of the river was the An Hoa sector. While
the Arizona Territory, like Go Noi Island, had been tightly in the grip
of the Viet Cong for many years, the Marines had managed to maintain
a presence at An Hoa, even while committed to the fighting on the nearby
Go Noi. While the 26th Marines took control of the 1st Battalion, 7th
Marines, General Robertson reinforced the 7th Marines with his only
reserve, the 1st Battalion, 26th Marines for operations in the An Hoa

In the western sector of Mameluke Thrust under the 26th Marines, on 6 June, the 3d Battalion, 26th Marines established a patrol base on Hill 1235 (known locally as Tho Thenon), the dominant peak of the massif which overlooked the Da Nang-Hoi An-Dai Loc Triangle, the Arizona Territory, Happy Valley, and the valley of the Song Thu Bon. At the same time, the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines established its own battalion patrol base about two kilometers to the south, atop Hill 1062.

In the 7th Marines portion of the operation, Lieutenant Colonel McEwan's 1st Battalion, 26th Marines began operations in the An Hoa area on the morning of 7 June.* It did not have to wait long for action. At 0730, while moving southwest from Liberty Bridge, Company B came under fire from a North Vietnamese force atop a low hill only 1,200 meters from the bridge. The rest of the battalion quickly joined the action. As the Marines maneuvered, the North Vietnamese poured on a heavy fire, including machine guns and RPGs. The Marines called for artillery and close air support, but the enemy doggedly held the hill for nine hours, finally melting away at day's end. Marine casualties totaled 17 killed in action and 46 wounded. They found 64 dead North Vietnamese.40

In the mountains to the west, the enemy remained elusive, avoiding contact even at the risk of losing large caches and base areas to the Marines. On 9 June, Company L, 3d Battalion, 26th Marines, under the command of Captain Jesse D. Bennett, captured a recently abandoned NVA hospital. The complex contained 125 beds, medical supplies (including U.S.-made antibiotics), a clean operating room, a sterilizing area, a kitchen, food, medical records, a system of running water built with bamboo pipes, and 16 pounds of marijuana.41**

On 11 June, acting on a prisoner's information, Company I, 3d Battalion,
26th Marines located what turned out to be the command post of the notorious
368B Rocket Regiment. The quantity of equipment captured there
was staggering: rocket warheads, plotting boards, fire control devices,
drafting tools, compasses, binoculars, hundreds of uniforms, and items
of personal equipment. The entire haul totaled 18 helicopter loads.42

During the second week in June, the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines swept eastward, down from the mountains, then terminated participation in the operation. At the same time, the 1st Battalion, 26th Marines moved northward from An Hoa to the area bounded by the Thu Bon, Ai Nghia, and La Tho Rivers known as "Dodge City," and Lieutenant Colonel Donald N. Rexroad's 3d Battalion, 5thMarines moved to An Hoa.

The action seemed to follow the 1st Battalion, 26th Marines. On 13 June, only two days after entering the Dodge City area, the battalion encountered a North Vietnamese force near the village of Ky Chau, one kilometer west of a line of ROK Marine blocking positions along the National Railroad. The Communists were cut off by the Song Ky Lam to the west and south, the ROK's to the east, and the 1st Battalion, 26th Marines attacking from the north. They resolutely defended their position using heavy machine guns, 60mm mortars, and RPGs. In a nine-hour battle, the Marines lost 3 killed and 24 wounded, killing 44 of the enemy in the process.43 Late that night, as Company B lay in ambush at the junction of a trail and the railroad bed, approximately 30-50 North Vietnamese attempted to escape to the east. In the ensuing fight, 15 of the enemy died, with the Marines sustaining no casualties.

Two days later, the enemy again ran afoul of the 1st Battalion, 26th Marines. Two kilometers southeast of the 7th Marines' command post on Hill 55, a large North Vietnamese unit occupied a heavily fortified triangular-shaped position 500 meters wide, which included a trenchline and a number of bunkers. The

* Lieutenant Colonel McEwan related that Colonel Reverdy M. Hall, the commander of the 7th Marines, referred to him as the "magnet . . . [since] 1/26 always made contact with the enemy . . . ." LtCol Frederick J. McEwan, Comments on draft, dtd 7Dec94 (Vietnam Comment File).

** Colonel Bruce F. Meyers, the commander of the 26th Marines, related
that under the Geneva Agreement, the medical supplies had to be used
to treat captured prisoners of war. He remembered that all the supplies
had to be evacuated out by helicopter. Among the supplies were cartons
of brassieres and tampons, although there was no other indication of
the presence of women. According to Meyers, "the battalion surgeon practically
cried when he had to give up the finely crafted East German medical
instruments. He lamented to me, 'Col. Meyers, these are better medical
instruments than we get!'" Meyers Comments.

Page 344 (1968: The Defining Year)