band of kunai grass
and banana trees, hidden enemy troops opened fire. As the company mounted
an attack. North Vietnamese troops in bunkers, holes, and trenches pounded
the advancing Marines with heavy, grazing fire. Enemy rifles, machine
guns, mortars, RPGs, and snipers positioned on the flanks, where the
treeline extended in a crescent, inflicted 42 casualties on Company
F in the initial moments of the battle including the company commander.
Lieutenant Colonel Watson threw Companies G and H into the fight on
either flank and Company E, previously in reserve, surged forward to
replace the bloodied Company F.9
The heavy growth in
the treeline compounded the Marines' problems in estimating the enemy's
strength. While initial reports showed a North Vietnamese platoon in
the treeline, the estimate later grew to two companies. To make matters
worse, constant overflights by RVNAF aircraft supporting a nearby ARVN
unit hampered the Marines' efforts to bring artillery fire on the enemy.
For safety reasons, the Marines were compelled to "check fire" the artillery
during these unannounced overflights.
Companies G and H pressed hard against the enemy's flanks, but more and more Marines fell under the ferocious hail of fire coming from the NVA position. Late in the afternoon, the 7th Marines directed the helilift of two companies of the 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, who established blocking positions along the Suoi Co Ca, 1,000 meters to the east. The battle raged, however, until 1900, when BLT 2/7 broke contact and withdrew to the railroad berm so that supporting arms could engage the enemy without endangering friendly troops. Casualties totalled 14 Marines dead and 54 wounded, as well as 19 non-battle casualties (a category which included accidental injuries, heat casualties, and the like).10
On 20 September, BLT
2/7 directed a heavy preparation fire against the treeline, pounding
it liberally with artillery, mortars, and airstrikes. At first light,
the Marines moved forward in the attack once again, this time meeting
no resistance. Inside the treeline, they found a well-developed fortified
position and three dead enemy soldiers of the NVA 2d Battalion,
Companies G and H continued past the treeline toward the 3d Battalion blocking positions near the Suoi Co Ca. By 0800, Company G was engaged with a large enemy force, which it believed to include a battalion command post, in the hamler of Nong Son (2), about 600 meters from the river. Company G disengaged with 5 Marines dead and 19 wounded, then called for air and artillery support, while Company H attacked the enemy's right flank against strong resis-
Photo is from the Abel Collection
A Navy corpsman serving with BLT 2/7 south of Da Nang
rushes forward toward the smoke cover to take care of a wounded Marine.
Strands of a barbed wire fence can he seen behind him.