Photo from the Abel Collection
Marine engineer LCpl Jerry Kanone runs a detonating
cord from a charge placed inside an enemy bunker that can be seen at
the right of the picture.
the organization encountered earlier. Lieutenant Colonel Robertson credited the ARVN 2d Tnx)p, 4th ARVN Cavalry with their APCs in providing the necessary shock action to break the final NVA resistance.81* It was apparent that the fighting had taken its toll on the NVA. Collapsed bunkers and scores of dead North Vietnamese gave evidence of the ferocity of the righting. Within some bunkers, the Marines found stacks of enemy bodies. Other dead were undoubtedly buried under the rubble of their destroyed bunkers.82
Company A was first to shoot its way through the North Vietnamese
and reach the river. Captain Foster, the Company A commander, later
wrote that his Marines chased "the enemy at a sprint into the Song La
Tho . . . (and a] 'turkey shoot' ensued.83 Company H followed
shortly afterward, killing a reported 9 enemy only 20 meters from the
rivers banks. The battalion swept through the Communist stronghold thoroughly,
tabulating 130 dead North Vietnamese-some killed during the preceding
days-and took 8 prisoners. Captain Meegan, the Company L commander,
remembered that one of his platoons captured an enemy warrant officer
who told the Marines that it took him six months to reach the Dodge
At 1800, 9 December, the 1st Marines terminated Operation Meade River.
What had begun as a giant "County Fair" had turned inco a major battle
pitting determined Marines in the assault against equally determined
North Vietnamese soldiers defending from heavily fortified positions.
According to Marine sources, the immediate, tangible results of Operation
Meade River included 1,023 enemy dead, 123 prisoners, and 6 ralliers."
Intelligence personnel, working with South Vietnamese police, questioned
2,663 civilians, identifying 71 members of the VC political infrastructure.
The attacking Marines destroyed 360 bunkers and captured 20 tons of
rice. The price the Marines paid for their success was high, 108 dead
and 510 wounded. The ARVN sustained 2 killed and 37 wounded. In a message
to General Cushman, General Youngdale speculated that "... these results
should signify the end of the enemy's stranglehold on the Dodge City
The aftermath of Operation Meade River, however, is more a statement
on the nature of councerinsurgency. After the other units departed the
area, the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines crossed the Song La Tho into Dodge
City to exploit the success of the operation. By 11 December, the battalion
added to its tabulation of enemy dead, 20 more North Vietnamese while
taking 1 prisoner. A week later, patrols observed an increase in sniper
fire. As 1968 ended, the 1st Marine Division reported that ". . . the
enemy is persistent. By the end of [December] he had reoccupied the
* The role that the ARVN APC troop played still remains a matter of
controversy. Captain Drez complained rhar the ARVN tailed to come to
his aid on 8 December and then claimed credit tor participating in the
battle by reporting the serial numbers of captured weapons. Mr. Ronald
J. Drez intvw, 29Mar89, Tape 6512 (Oral HistColl, MCHC). Captain George
B. Meegan, the commander of Company L, 3d Battalion, 26th Marines in
his comments supported Captain Drez, writing "the same APCs milled around
[the] L/3/26 position (on the) last day and then claimed credit for
NVA dead that had heen killed the previous evening by my machine gunner
. . . ." Capt George B. Meegan, Comments on draft, dtd 2Nov94 (Vietnam
** Records disagree on the number of enemy casualties. Figures in
the text are from FMFPac. MarOpsV. Nov68, p. 3; 1st MarDiv ComdC, Dec68,
p. 17; 1st Mar ComdC, Dec68, p. II-C-4, 5;1st Mar AAR, Meade River.
Other repon.s were prciiired so soon after the end of the operation
(in one case, only 57 minutes later) that they did not include enemy
dead later found on the battlefield. See 1st MarDiv SitRep No. 78, Opn
Meade River, in 1st MarDiv Operation SitReps. Lieutenant Colonel Merrill
L. Bartlett, who served as commander of the 13th Interrogation and Translation
Team, commented thai he personally believed some of the statistics were
"suspect, especially the number of enemy captives." He believed that
many of the prisoners listed as VC POWs were either Vietnamese civilians
or possibly members of the VC infrastructure. Bartlett Comments.