encountered little enemy resistance, but did discover a number ot
large, recently constructed enemy bunker complexes which yielded a modest
amount of ammunition and equipment.
During the first week of December, as the 3d Battalion, now under
the command of Lieutenant Colonel William A. Donald, began a several-week,
two-company search north of Russell, Lieutenant Colonel Hopkins' 2d
Battalion assaulted into four landing zones on two parallel ridgelines
east of Mack and three kilometers north of Dong Ha Mountain. The landings
were unopposed and Hopkins' four companies fanned out toward their first
objectives, establishing perimeters while deploying listening posts
and squad ambushes.
Moving toward new objectives on 8 December a squad patrol from First
Lieutenant Jimmie G. Bearden's Company E, as it approached Hill 208,
was taken under small arms fire from a tree- and trench-line. Moving
to engage, the patrol observed approximately 10 armed enemy troops retreating
into the heavy brush. Two squads were sent to reinforce the engaged
unit and prevent the enemy's escape, but as the attacking Marine platoon
maneuvered forward it found that the enemy had taken cover in a heavily
fortified trench and bunker complex. The platoon entered the complex
and immediately was caught in a crossfire of small arms, grenades, and
white smoke or CS gas. With darkness approaching and casualties mounting,
the platoon withdrew, carrying out nine wounded Marines, but leaving
the bodies of three dead behind.
While air, artillery, and mortars pounded the complex throughout the
night, Lieutenant Colonel Hopkins rapidly moved the battalion's other
three companies into blocking positions around the complex with the
hope of catching some of the estimated 50 North Vietnamese soldiers
attempting to escape. But the enemy apparently "hit the ground running,"
and the sweep through the area the following day, during which the bodies
ot the three dead Marines were recov-
Photo from the Abel
Smoldering fires and a denuded forest bear stark
witness to the intensity of the combat for "Foxtrot Ridge," named after
Company F, 2d Battalion, 4th Marines.