exploiting the effects of the Arclight strikes. The battalion found
many potential landing zone sites, but discovered no evidence of current
or past use of the area by enemy aircraft.
As Companies G and H consolidated at several landing zones in preparation
for extraction by helicopter, Poindexter's Marines suffered their only
casualty during the day-long raid. While one flight of helicopters attempted
to set down at one of the landing zones, a command detonated claymore
rigged to an 82mm mortar round exploded, destroying one CH-46 helicopter
and damaging several others. Three of the CH-46's crewmen and one of
the battalion's Marines were killed, while two Marine pilots were wounded.18
Because of darkness and sporadic enemy fire, Companies E and F and the battalion command group remained in the DMZ until the following morning. At 0700 they began moving south on foot. The heat was overwhelming, making the cross-country movement slow and, as a result, helicopters eventually extracted the battalion at 1730 from landing zones five kilometers north of Con Thien.
Although the raid into the DMZ uncovered no evidence of enemy helicopter or other air activity, it did force out a large number of enemy troops from the area. Scattered by the combination of air and artillery attacks and Poindexter's heliborne assault, the fleeing enemy fell prey to other Marine blocking forces in both the Kentucky and Lancaster areas of operation. The first contacts were initiated by Company B, 1st Marines and the Army's Company A, 77th Armored Regiment near Hill 56. On the morning of the 19th, both companies, whose defensive positions had been probed continuously during the night, engaged an enemy platoon attempting to escape to the east. Supported by the platoon of tanks from the 3d Tank Battalion, which at the time was advancing toward the hill from the east, the combined Army and Marine force killed a reported 26 enemy troops.
Also on the 19th, while moving eastward through the piedmont, six kilometers southwest of Con Thien, Company M, 9th Marines intercepted an estimated reinforced enemy platoon fleeing in its direction. Company M Marines suppressed the enemy's small arms, automatic weapons, and RPG fire, and maneuvered toward the commanding terrain under an umbrella of artillery fire and fixed-wing airstrikes. A later search of the area resulted in the discovery of over 30 enemy bodies and the capture of two prisoners of war.
Sporadic contact with fleeing enemy forces continued throughout the night of the 19th and into the following day. As five tanks of the 3d Tank Battalion returned to Hill 56 on the morning of 20 August, with Companies G and H, 9th Marines serving as blocking forces, two enemy squads attacked the advancing Marines with small arms, rocket propelled grenades, mortars, and artillery. Responding with a similar combination of weapons, the Marines forced the two enemy units to withdraw northward, leaving their dead, all of whom were credited to the marksmanship of Marine tankers.
Less than 1,000 meters northwest of Company Ms encounter on the 19th, shortly after noon on the 21st, Company I, 9th Marines began receiving sniper fire. Within a hour, the company had engaged an enemy unit of undetermined size, firing small arms and grenades at the Marines. Countering with accurate rocket, mortar, and artillery fire, the Marine company forced the enemy to break contact and withdraw to the north. In one instance during the two-hour engagement, a grenadier with an M72 (LAAW) rocket destroyed an enemy 60mm mortar emplacement. A search of the area before dark revealed a reported 14 North Vietnamese bodies and 12 weapons.
While the enemy seemed reluctant to expose his large units to combat along the eastern DMZ, he displayed no hesitation in attacking small Marine reconnaissance patrols in the Kentucky area of operations during the month. In two Leatherneck Square actions, he paid a high price for his efforts, miscalculating on the proximity of reinforcing units and the immediate availability of supporting arms.
At 1000 on 15 August, an estimated enemy company attacked a four-man reconnaissance team southeast of Con Thien near the abandoned airstrip at Nam Dong. The patrol returned fire and requested reinforcement, while simultaneously calling in preplanned artillery fires. Within minutes a platoon from Company A, 1st Marines, accompanied by three tanks, moved out of positions a kilometer away and headed south to assist. The coordinated attack, which included more than 150 rounds of 105mm artillery, 40 rounds of 4.2-inch mortar, 75 rounds from the 90mm guns of the tanks, and airstrikes by Marine UH-1E gunships accounted for several enemy dead.
In a second attack, the enemy paid an even greater price. At 1700 on 24 August, reconnaissance team "Tender Rancho" was moving north through high grass, seven kilometers southeast of Con Thien near Dao Xuyen, when the point man observed 15 khaki-clothed enemy troops cooking and talking. The team in a burst of small arms fire killed three, then another