create landing zones on the ridgelines. The idea was to facilitate entry on the high ground instead of the low, but it did not succeed.51 On the morning of 27 August, Lieutenant Colonel Knight's 2d Battalion lifted into three dispersed landing zones along the Suoi Tien Hien Valley floor, six kilometers west of the Rockpile, and immediately encountered stiff resistance. The flight of helicopters carrying Captain Joel D. Ward's Company E, as it approached the proposed landing zone near the river, received a heavy volume ot ground fire. Enemy gunners shot down one CH-46 in the zone and damaged two others but there were no Marine casualties. While employing Marine UH-1E gunships in an attempt to suppress enemy fire in the zone, however, Ward's Marines were hit with a pod of rockets, resulting in two killed and two wounded.
Unlike elements of Knight's battalion, the insertion of Lieutenant Colonel Colleron's battalion into the broad Khe Giang Thoan Valley, southwest of the Rockpile, was unopposed. Once in the area of operations, the two battalions immediately moved up the ridges and secured positions on the high ground. The Marines established Fire Support Base Sandy atop the needle-point pinnacle, Dong Khe Soc, seven kilometers west of the Rockpile, to support the two battalions. Sandy, because of its size, could only accommodate one battery of 105mm howitzers, but it was the first of many that would be constructed throughout the area.52
As September began. Lieutenant Colonel Bates' 3d Battalion, 3d Marines
found itself heavily engaged with elements of the enemy's 52cl NVA Regiment,
attempting a reinforcing thrust north and northwest of the Razorback.
On the 3d, the enemy shelled Captain William B. Gray's Company L with
172 rounds of 60mm and 82mm mortars and 25 rounds of 130mm artillery.
Immediately following the enemy artillery preparation, two companies
of NVA troops assaulted the Marine company's position. But, before the
enemy had an opportunity to open fire. Ward's Marines pelted the enemy
force with more than 300 hand grenades. A search of the area revealed
a reported 11 enemy bodies and 19 weapons, three of which were machine
guns that had been fired.