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The fighting for the Hook would continue for the next four days. On
2 December, even after heavy air and ground bombardment, the 3d Battalion,
5th Marines tailed to make any headway against the North Vietnamese
defenders. That evening the battalion commander. Lieutenant Colonel
Harry E. Arkinson, left one company to isolate the Hook, while the rest
of the battalion moved north another 1,000 meters to Phase Line Charlie.
On 3 December, the 3d Battalion, 26th Marines advanced from Route 4
to Phase Line Bravo to continue the attack on the Hook.65

Lieutenant Colonel Robertson, the battalion commander, recalled that
Colonel Laufter, the 1st Marines commander, took him and his battalion
operations officer up in a helicopter to make an aerial reconnaissance
of the enemy defenses there. According to Robertson, he saw a tremendous
bunker and trench complex and it was obvious that the only stratagem
was to enfilade the area and then make the final assault on the Hook
defenses from the rear. With continuing heavy resistance, the Marines
again called upon air and artillery, using 750-pound bombs, napalm,
and "danger close supporting arms." Across the Suoi Co Ca, the 2d Battalion,
5th Marines pulled back and dug into the soft mud, but Lieutenant Colonel
Stemple, the battalion commander, remembered that the exploding bombs
from across the river covered his Marines with debris. After the aerial
bombardment, an artillery officer, according co Stemple, suggested and
Colonel Lauffer approved, "the pin-point destruction ot the bunkers
using a single S-inch artillery piece, controlled by an airborne spotter."66


With the supporting destructive fires. Company I punched its way into the Hook and by nightfall on 4 December, the battalion had maneuvered to the rear of the bunker complex. After continuing artillery support and airstrikes through the night, at first light the next morning, the "field commander and I Corps Commander both taped broadcasts to entice the enemy out . . . ." With only a rew takers, the 3d Battalion prepared its final assault. After fixed-wing aircraft gave the defenders a final dousing ot napalm and bombs, the battalion overran the position. The heavy preparation fires had done the job. Without a single casualty, the 3d Battalion, 26th Marines seized the objective, where the Marines, according to differing reports, found 75 to 100 enemy dead and pulled out some 5 to 15 prisoners from "partially destroyed tunnels and bunkers."67


With the securing of die Hook, the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines started a sweep to the west and Robertson's battalion prepared to take its place on Phase Line Charlie. At the same time, the changing shape of the cordon squeezed out the two battalions on the eastern side of the Suoi Co Ca, the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines and BLT 2/26. The latter battalion except for its Company E departed the area of operations and Lieutenant Colonel Stemple ordered his 2d Battalion, 5th Marines to prepare for helicopter extraction and the return to An Hoa.68

Captain Ronald J. Drez' Company H, on the 2d Battalion's southern
flank, waited for the lift. After 15 days of what had been, for them,
a very unexciting operation, the Hotel Company Marines were anxious
to return to the base. They sat eating C-rations and idling away the
time until the helicopters arrived. At 1400, Stemple radioed Drez, ordering
him to prepare his company, not to return to base, bur to conduct a
helicopter-borne assault under the operational control of the 3d Battalion,
26th Marines. Even more startling, Drez learned that the assault lift
was to begin in five minutes! Lieutenant Colonel Stemple later remembered
that he selected Drez' company since it was closest to the 3d Battalion.
He made the turnover just as the rest of his unit departed the area.69

Drez and his company gunnery sergeant quickly put together a plan
for what Drez later characterized as one of the "shortest tactical airlifts
in history."70 The 1st Marine Aircraft Wing helicopters which
lifted the still surprised Company H Marines from the eastern bank of
the Suoi Co Ca set them down again less than 1,000 meters away. At about
the same time, helicopters also brought in Captain James R Foster's
Company A, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, which "landed in a 'hot' landing
zone, dispatched the enemy" and took up positions west of Company H.71


Lieutenant Colonel Robertson's 3d Battalion, 26th Marines, now reinforced with two additional companies, lined up with five companies abreast to continue the move to Phase Line Charlie. In the meantime, Company E, BLT 2/26, which had been under the operational control of the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines remained in "a reconnoitering role" north of the Phase Line. On the 6th, while the 3d Battalion, 26th Marines reached Phase Line Charlie without incident, Company E encountered strong NVA forces in a bunker complex that the Marines called the "Northern Bunker Complex," about 1,000 meters to the north, just below the La The River. The company remained in position until first light the next morning and then crossed the La The River and joined the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines in blocking positions there.72







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