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9th Marines
12 May 1966


 


This article is dedicated to the brave men of the 9th Marines and especially 1st Battalion 9th Marines whom I served with (Cpl Robert L. Peragallo). Giving special honor to 1st Squad "B" 1/9 who on May 12th of 1966 engaged (at the cost of their lives) the R20 Doc Lap VC Battalion in the village of Hoa Tay. The battle was part of the May Ky Lam Campaign. On May 12th a 14 man patrol from Bravo Company under the command of Capt. Norman E. Henry was engaged by a superior force. The 14 man patrol from "B" Company had begun a battle that would last three days and cost the lives of 12 of the original 14 man patrol plus the lives of two Marines who were part of the original reaction force.
Capt. Henry upon realizing the gravity of the patrols circumstances sent a 2nd squad to try and reinforce the then "Lost Patrol". I was a member of that 2nd squad. As the battle progressed Capt. Henry's entire Bravo Company became engaged, it too came under the overwhelming fire and mortar barrage of the R20 Battalion. "A" and "D" companies were helilifted into the battle which resulted in one helicopter being shot down and one grounded while it was unloading Marines from "A" company. No one is really sure how many Marines were killed that day, but I do know that 12 from the original squad of Marines who engaged the R20 were killed, two were killed from the reaction squad which I was a member of. The Plt commander of 1st Plt - a
2 Lt.Capel was also killed leading a charge to rescue the Lost Patrol. We never counted those wounded that day, but one did not have to go far to find a wounded Marine.
This report also honors those Marines from "A" and "D" companies who paid the price that day for coming to our aid in the battle we called 'The Lost Patrol" or "Operation Bravo".


This After Action Report covers the April action of Operation Georgia - The May Ky Lam Campaign and Operation Liberty.


This report is dedicated to those who died and to us who survived.


The "Battling Bastards of Bloody Bravo"


Cpl Robert L. Peragallo (known as the "Wop")
USMC 1/9 "B" -1st Plt. 2nd squad - 0331
12th of May 1966 - Hoa Tay Vietnam


 


U.S. MARINES IN VIETNAM
AN EXPANDING WAR
1966 by
Jack Shulimson


HISTORY AND MUSEUMS DIVISION
HEADQUARTERS, U.S. MARINE CORPS
WASHINGTON, D.C.
1982


 


 


CHAPTER 6


April Actions and Operation Georgia - The May Ky Lam Campaign - Operation Liberty


April Action and Operation Georgia


The Spring political crisis caused a serious disruption of Marine offensive operations at Da Nang. With the sudden arrival of Vietnamese Marine battalions at the Da Nang Airbase in April, the U.S. Marine regiments in Quang Nam Province suddenly found themselves with a new mission. They not only had to fight a war against the Communist, but also to prevent one between government troops and the Struggle Forces. Colonel Simmons compared the role of his regiment to that of the "ham in the sandwich," the filler to absorb the shock of the confrontation between the two opposing sides.
This situation could only benefit the Communist. The 9th Marines had to revert to the defensive because of the threat to the security of Da Nang created by the polarization of the ARVN forces into hostile factions. With the abandonment of several government outpost along Route 4 and vast amounts of ammunition, the VC not only rearmed at GVN expense, but reentered the area the Marines had just cleared during Operation Kings.


* Colonel Nicholas J. Dennis, the commanding officer of the 3rd Engineer Battalion in early 1966, commented that he vividly recalled "a request....for engineers to clear mines and booby traps from one of the abandoned ARVN encampments on Route 4." He and his engineers came under a night attack from the VC before the job was done and his engineers sustained four casualties, including one man killed. Col Nicholas J. Dennis, Comments on draft MS,n.d. (Jun 78) Vietnam Comment file.


On 16 April, an old enemy, the R-20 "Doc Lap" Battalion, attacked one of the companies from Lieutenant Colonel Donahue's 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines in position north of the abandoned 39th Ranger outpost at Phung Thu. Company H, commanded by Captain Everette S. Roane, had established defensive positions north of Route 4, and put a squad ambush south of the road. Suddenly, at 0400, the enemy opened up with recoilless rifle and mortar fire. Simultaneously, the enemy launched two company-size assaults, one from the southeast and the other from the southwest. The attack from the southwest, about 100 men, ran into a Marine ambush and stalled. According to the Marine squad leader, his men "shot 12-15 VC for sure-most likely more." At dawn the following morning, the squad found two enemy bodies in front of its position.
The approximately 150-man force attacking from the southeast reached the north side of Route 4, but was unable to penetrate the Marine company's premeter. As soon as the attackers cossed the road:
*The VC were like ducks in a shooting gallery. Many VC were shot as they crossed the road and went down into the paddy in front of the 2nd Platoon. At one point, 22 VC were shot as they attempted to remove bodies. During the lulls in illumination, as bodies would be removed and more VC would cross the road, there would be more bodies.


Marine aerial observers arrived overhead and as Marine artillery responded, the enemy's supporting mortars and recoilless rifles fell silent. The VC ground assault dissipated, and the attacking force broke up into small groups. Enemy probes continued along the Marine company perimeter, but, "this most likely was to cover the collection of VC casualties and the withdrawal of the main force."
At first light, the Marines counted 12 enemy bodies, but estimated killing another 63. Company H had not gone unscathed, suffering seven dead and 37 wounded, largely as a result of the enemy's recoilless rifle and mortar attack.
In mid-April the 9th Marines resumed the initiative, following the temporary standoff of the political crisis. Originally, the regiment planned to follow Kings with a one-battalion operation begining on 10 April in the An Hoa region south of the Ky Lam and Thu Bon. Thus, the Marines would carry out General Walt's promise to Mr. Can, the An Hoa project leader, that III MAF would protect the industrial complex there. Though unable to meet the original date, the 9th Marines completed its revised order for Operation Georgia by 14 April. The mission was assigned to Lieutenant Colonel Taylor's 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines.



With the completion of the planning, the 9th Marines battalions began preliminary preparations for the operation. On 18 April, Lieutenant Colonel Kelley's 2nd battalion, 4th marines, which had arrived at Da Nang three days earlier, relieved the 3rd Battalion on the eastern flank of the 9th Marines area of operations. Both Lieutenant Colonel Donahue's 2nd Battalion and Taylor's 3rd Battalion then reentered the former Kings area of operations in conjunction with ARVN and Vietnamese militia forces. Their assignment was not only to eradicate the VC but to determine suitable LVT river-crossing sites and assembly and resupply points for the forthcoming operations.
Although the operation had not officially begun, Lieutenant Colonel Taylor established a forward base at the An Hoa airstrip on 20 April. Helicopters from Mag-16 lifted the command group and Company L from Marble Mountain while Air Force C-123s, as in Operation Mallard, flew in an artillery battery, Battery F, 12th Marines.


On the 21st, the designated date for the start of the operation, the rear headquarters and two rifle companies, supported by a platoon of LVTH's from Company B, 1st Amphibian Tractor Battalion, moved overland toward the objective area. A third company, Company I, 9th Marines, arrived at An Hoa by helicopter and Air Force transport brought in a second 105mm battery, Battery B, 12th Marines. Both fixed-wing transports and helicopters continued to fly in supplies for the An Hoa buildup. On 22 April, Company L linked up with the LVT convoy after it had crossed the Thu Bon River.


With the establishment of the An Hoa base, the battalion began the second phase of the operation. Lieutenant Colonel taylor had divided the An Hoa region into 20 well-defined company-sized TAPRs and the Marines, with local ARVN and South Vietnamese Popular Forces, began a series of actions, using tactics similar to those used during Operation Kings. Combining Country Fair and Golden Fleece techniques, the Marines attempted to secure the hamlets surrounding the An Hoa base in order that the industrial complex there could become a reality.
Despite intelligence reports indicating the presence of the VC V-25 (5th VC) Battalion in the western sector of the Georgia zone of action, that area between the Vu Gia and Thu Bon Rivers, the Marines encountered little opposition through the end of April, only harassing fire and mines. Marines aerial observers and a platoon from the 3d Reconnaissance Battalion, supporting the operation, accounted for most of the VC sightings at this stage. Air observers and reconnaissance Marines "frequently detected movement of small enemy forces at long range and directed artillery fire at the VC with telling effect." Major Samuel M. Morrow, commander of the provisional artillery group at An Hoa, commented that although some:


"......very fine targets were observed and some excellent missions.....fired, there was a tendency on the part of these untrained observers {the reconnaissance Marines} to enter fire for effect too early and attempt to "chase the target" rather than reenter the adjustment phase....."



Yet the reconnaissance outpost on the southern and western fringes of the Georgia operation area controlled 36 artillery missions and six air strikes, resulting in at least 30 enemy dead. Lieutenant Colonel Paul C. Trammell, who relieved Lieutenant Colonel Taylor in early May as the commanding officer of the 3rd Battalion, later recalled that although Major Morrow expressed his doubts about the "effectiveness of the recon teams in fire adjustments," the artillery commander afterwards "conceded that the concept worked well."


The heaviest action of Operation Georgia occurred on 3 May. Captain George R. Griggs' Company M, 9th Marines, which had just relieved another company during the operation, prepared to cross the Thu Bon. Its objective was the hamlet of Phu Long on the northern bank of the river in the north central sector of the Georgia area. During the river crossing, an estimated one-to-two-company enemy force, later identified as being from the ubiquitous R-20 Battalion, opened fire on the Marine company in LVTs. In a four-hour firefight lasting through the afternoon, Griggs' company reinforced by two other Marine companies and supported by air and artillery, finally secured Phu Long. LVTHs, which accompanied the Marines in the river crossing, brought direct fire upon the enemy positions and were "instrumental in neutralizing enemy fire and preventing more casualties." During the engagement, the Marines suffered five dead and 54 wounded They killed 15 of the VC and estimated that they had inflicted another 100 casualties.
Although technically ending on 10 May, Georgia, like Kings before it, was in reality an extension of the Marine area of operation. Lieutenant Colonel Trammell held his command post and two rifle companies, reinforced by an artillery battery from the 12th Marines at the An Hoa base. The final reports of Georgia indicated that a favorable kill ratio had been achieved, 103 confirmed VC dead at a cost of nine Marines killed and 94 wounded.


The May Ky Lam Campaign (The Lost Patrol "B" 1/9)


Taking advantage of the truce in the political situation, on 4 May, Colonel Simmons published a renewed offensive above the Ky Lam River. The Ky Lam Campaign, named after the river, was to be a three-phased advance "to clear the regimental zone of action of organized resistance south to the line of the Thu Bon-Ky Lam-Diem Binh-Cau Lau-Hoi An Rivers." At the end of May, the forward battalions were to reach Phase Line Brown, a line which extended from below Dai Loc in the west and followed the La Tho-Thanh Quit Rivers eastward, with the exception of a 2,000 meter-wide horseshoe-shaped salient extending south 5,000 meters along both sides of Route 1 to just above Dien Ban. In June, the regiment was to begin the second phase of the operation, securing all of Route 4 west of Route 1 and extending the Marines' lines down to the Ky Lam. During July, the 9th Marines, in the final phase of the campaign, was to advance southward in the region east of Route 1 and incorporate the city of Hoi An in its area of responsibility.
The concept of operations for the offensive required the same "scrubbing" tactics used in Kings and Georgia. Battalions were "to deploy their companies in a diamond configuration, terrain permitting, and to employ all supporting arms imaginatively and vigorously." Colonel Simmons later explained that the failure to use air and artillery in the past had resulted in needless Marine casualties. He believed that the American command had to take a realistic attitude toward civilian casualties. The selective employment of supporting arms did not by itself increase the number of civilians killed and wounded, but it did cause the inhabitants of contested hamlets to abandon their homes, thus becoming refugees. Simmons viewed the refugee from his perspective as an asset, "a person who had made his election physically to move over to our side." The removal of refugees from the hamlets in the uncleared area made the Marine task that much easier. The cost of housing, feeding these refugees, and rebuilding their hamlets, if necessary, was considered a minimal price to pay.
For the Ky Lam Campaign, Colonel Simmons had four infantry battalions under his operational control. These were the 2d Battalion, 4th Marines and all three 9th Marines battalions, including the 3d Battalion in An Hoa. Lieutenant Colonel William F. Doehler's 1st Battalion 9th Marines, which had been the Da Nang Base Defense Battalion, became available for the campaign when relieved by Lieutenant Colonel Dorsey's 3d Battalion, 3d Marines. Doehler's battalion inherited Dorsey's responsibility for the 9th Marines western sector.
The heaviest fighting in the early stages of the campaign was in Doehler's zone of action. On 10 May, he had established the battalion's forward command post in Dai Loc. His Company B, commanded by Captain Norman E. Henry, was on the eastern bank of the Vu Gia, 3,500 meters south of Dai Loc to provide a covering force for units leaving the Georgia area od operations. That morning, Company A, 9th Marines, which ahd been under the operational control of the 3d Battalion during Operation Georgia, crossed the Vu Gia in LVTs and rejoined its parent battalion at Dai Loc. After the river crossing, Company A, prepared for a clearing operation around the town of Dai Loc, which Henry's company made preparations for a similar operation in southern Dai Loc District above the Thu Bon. Allied intelligence sources indicated that the R-20 Battalion had reinfiltrated this area. A report received on 11 May stated that a company of the battalion was in the hamlet of Do Nam near a small finger lake, 2,000 meters northwest of Company B's position.
On the morning of 12 May, one of Henry's patrols unexpectedly came upon the enemy. The 14-man patrol squad had left the company CP at 0630, moving east. one hour later, the patrol reported that it had come under small arms fire and captured a VC suspect. Encountering no further resistance, the Marines continued their patrol. At 0830, the squad leader radioed back that a water buffalo was in its path. Captain Henry ordered the squad to avoid the animal, but "if threatened by it, they were given permission to shoot." In the squad's next report, about 30 minutes later, the Marines stated that they had wounded the buffalo and were giving chase to finish it off. Fifteen minutes after that, the patrol reported harassing fire and seeing Viet Cong fleeing to the east "and that the patrol was giving physical pursuit." The patrol leader asked for supporting mortar fire. Company B's mortar section fired an 81mm ranging round, but the patrol was unable to observe its impact. Captain Henry ordered his mortars to cease firing, fearing that they might hit his own men. About that time, the company sent out a second squad to follow the route of the first patrol. The second squad came under small arms and mortar fire itself. The Marines countered with mortar fire from the companies base area which silenced the enemy's weapons. About 1030, the squad leader reported hearing a 'heavy volume of small arms fire, mortars, M79s, and hand grenades due east of their position," near the village of Do Nam. Believing that he had found the missing Marines, he asked for an aerial observer.
Although no Marine observation aircraft was available, "an Army AO {aerial observer} happened into the area and reported an apparent firefight" in the vicinity of the avtion recently reported by the second squad. The Army aircraft dropped a red smoke grenade in the village of Do Nam and fired four rockets into a trenchline in front of the Marines. Making another pass, the Army AO threw out two messages to the Marines below, informing them that there were 20 Vc in the trench line.
By this time, Captain Henry decided to move the rest of the company to support his embattered Marines. By 1145 he had established a 500-meter defensive line near the village of Hoa Tay, 500 meters southwest of the second squad's position. The company commander then ordered the squad, which had suffered five heat casualties, to pull back to the company lines. By 1230, the entire company was heavily engaged. The company's 81mm and 60mm mortars failed to silence the enemy's weapons and Henry asked for artillery and air support. After an artillery mission fired by the 2d Battalion, 12th Marines, the action died down for about 20 minutes. At noon, the enemy opened up again with small arms and mortars, but by this time F-4Bs from VMFA-542 were overhead. The jets' first runs on the entrenched VC in Do Nam once more temporarily silenced the enemy.
Following the air strikes, about 1320, Captain Henry's men spotted two Marines crossing an open field toward their lines. Henry ordered "a base of fire and mortar fire" to cover the two men. Both Marines were from the first patrol and badly wounded. The company commander asked them, before they went under sedation, where the rest of the squad was. The men vaguely pointed in a general direction to the northeast and said they were all dead. Before being overrun, the wounded men claimed that the patrol had killed 30 of the enemy.
Despite poor communication, Lieutenant Colonel Doehler had been able to follow the course of the Company B action. Through "fragments of information which had sifted through," the Marine battalion commander believed that his company had encountered the R-20 Battalion. He had just received an intelligence report that two companies of the R-20 had reinforced the enemy company already in the area "to ambush Marine units operating in the area."Doehler ironically remarked later that since Company B was heavily engaged at the time, "it was considered to be accurate if not timely report."
Shortly after 1330, the 1st Battalion commander decided to reinforce his Company B. After some initial problems in obtaining helicopter support, he moved Company D and a platoon from Company A to link up with Henry's company. By 1815, the three Marine units were consolidated in a 360-degree defensive perimeter around the hamlet of Hoa Tay.


By this time, Marine air and artillery had broken the back of enemy resistance. F-4Bs, F-8s, and A-4s from VMFA-542, VMF (AW)-235, and VMA-214, respectively, joined UH-1E gunships from VMO-2 in 27 close air support missions. Nine air strikes were run at half-hour intervals. Marine artillery had fired 242 supporting rounds. The combination of air and artillery apparently inflicted heavy casualties on the VC. According to Doehler, the supporting arms disorganized the enemy, forcing them to break up into small groups. Later interrogation of the villagers revealed that these small bands of VC had slipped back across the Thu Bon during the night of 12 May. They had forced civilians in the hamlets to carry their dead and wounded.


On the morning of 13 May, Lieutenant Colonel Doehler moved his CP into Hoa Tay and prepared to conduct a two-company search and clear operation. That afternoon Company B recovered the bodies of the 12 missing Marines near the western tip of the small finger lake. For the next two days the battalion carried out a series of cordons and searches in the area of southern Dai Loc District containing the hamlets of Hoa Tay, Hoa Nam, and Giao Thuy 2 and 3.
This entire sector contained a series of heavily fortified hamlets interspersed among large, open fields. Lieutenant Colonel Doehler described the village defenses as formidable, observing:


A complex network of trenches surrounded each of the villages. In many cases, communication trenches extended from village to village. These trenches typically were four to six feet deep with firing positions located every few meters. At the bottom of the trenches, tunnels were dug back into the ground to provide overhead cover.... In some places bamboo-lined bunkers were found, some of which were underground and some above ground.


Recovering Marines from the Lost patrolIn the day's fighting, the battalion killed 53 enemy and possibly another 83, but suffered 12 dead and 31 wounded.
Colonel Simmons observed that all of the regiments's contacts during May resulted from VC initiative. The enemy would begin the action when the Marines were at a disadvantage, either because of numbers or terrain, and in some cases because of both. The Marines, neverless, eventually attained the upper hand. For the entire month, the 9th Marines killed more than 270 of the enemy; 75 Marines died, 328 were wounded. Over 50 percent of the Marines casualties in May were caused by enemy mines and explosive devices, many of them made from equipment abandoned by the ARVN forces south of Da Nang.


 


 


* Colonel George W. Carrington, Jr. , who during this period was the 3d Marine Division G-2, recalled, ". . . they told Bill Doehler to confirm body counts . . . he replied there is not a damn, single {enemy} body out here. We had to pause for about three full days in counting bodies, in order to allow the totals to catch up with what {was} already reported." Col George w. Carrington, Jr. , Comments on draft MS, dtd 15 May 78 (Vietnam Comment File).


 


Colonel Simmons remarked upon the considerable increase of enemy incidents during the month, declaring that this upsurge was largely due to "the increase freedom of movement enjoyed by the Viet Cong in many outlying ateas as the result of diminished GVN military activities during the periods of political instability....." As a result, the regimental failed to reach Phase Line Brown on 31 May and the Ky Lam Campaign was behind schedule.



 



 


Operation Liberty


With the surrender of the struggle Forces at Da Nang and the restoration of some stability there, the 9th Marines once more renewed its offensive, coordinated with the South Vietnamese. On 2 June, Colonel Lap, who had replaced Colonel Yeu as the Quang Da Special commander, visited Colonel Simmons at his CP. The South Vietnamese commander wanted the 9th Marines to resume Country Fair operations in the five-village pacification area. He assured Simmons that at least one battalion from the 51st ARVN Regiment would be committed to the pacification campaign. following Lap's visit, Colonel Simmons revised portions of his previous orders. On 5 June, he ordered his battalions to renew County Fair operations with the Vietnamese and extended the deadline for the attainment of Phase Line Brown from 31 May to 20 June.
At this juncture, General Kyle decided to transform the 9th Marines Ky Lam Campaign into a division-size offensive, involving "a conventional linear type attack of all forward units to push the front lines forward in a deliberate search of every hamlet in the zone. . . . " He divided the Da Nang TAOR into three sectors: the cleared, the semicleared, and the uncleared. The cleared, area formed an irregular arc around Da Nang Air Base, delineated by the South China Sea to the east, the Cau Do to the south, the foothills to the west, and the Cu De River to the north. Extending the arc outward from the cleared area boundary, the semicleared sector reached the Thanh Quit River to the south, three to five kilometers into the high ground to the west and the Hai Van Pass to the north. The uncleared region consisted of the area between the La Tho-Thanh Quit Rivers and the banks of the ky Lam-Thu Bon. Phase Line Green, the final phase line, paralleled the latter two rivers. The 3d Marine Division commander ordered that only minimum forces be held in the rear and set 30 June as the target date for reaching Phase Line Green.


Continuing arrival of marine reinforcements allowed General Kyle to make this all-out effort. On 28 May, the 1st MP Battalion arrived at Da Nang from the United States and relieved the 3d Battalion, 3d Marines of its airfield security mission. The 3d Battalion then returned to the operational control of its parent regiment, taking over the 3d Marines western TAOR. Colonel Harold A. Hayes, Jr. , who had relieved Colonel fisher on 16 April as 3d Marines commander, at last had command of all three of his battalions Other reinforcements were scheduled to arrive at Da Nang, or were already in place. Colonel Bryan B. Mitchell was slated to transfer his 1st Marines Headquarters from Chu Lai to Da Nang in June. In fact, two of his battalions had already moved by the end of May. The 3d Battalion, 1st Marines arrived at Da Nang on 22 May while the 1st Battalion arrived on 31 May. Both battalions were temporarily placed under operational control of the 9th Marines. The 3d Battalion became the regimental reserve; the 1st Battalion relieved the regiment's eastern flank battalion, the 2d Battalion, 4th Marines, which rejoined its parent regiment at Phu Bai.
By mid-June General Kyle could expect to have three Marine infantry regiments consisting of eight battalion at Da Nang. He planned to reduce the extensive 9th Marines TAOR by assigning the 1st Marines to the eastern flank while the 3d Marines took over that part of the 9th Marines TAOR west of the Yen River. In effect, Kyle visualized a shoulder-to-shoulder advance to the Ky Lam. The operation, codenamed Liberty, was scheduled to begin on 7 June, with the 9th Marines bearing the brunt of the campaign in its initial stages.
Colonel Simmons divided his TOAR into company-sized objective areas. His reserve battalion, the 3d Battalion, 1st Marines, was to concentrate on combined operations with ARVN and Vietnamese local forces in the five-village pacification region in the semicleared area. The 3d Battalion, 9th Marines was to continue its two-company holding action in the An Hoa region. All the remaining infantry companies were assigned tot he three forward battalions, the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines on the eastern flank, the 2d Battalion 9th Marines in the center, and the 1st Battalion 9th Marines on the western flank. Thus each forward battalion was to consist of five infantry companies instead of the usual four, with three companies deployed tot he front and two to the rear. The advancing battalions were to secure Route 4 by 20 June and reach the Ky Lam by the end of the month.
Lieutenant Colonel Van D. Bell, Jr's 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, on the division's left, had its heaviest engagement just before Operation Liberty started. During the evening of 5 June, the battalion commander and his small mobile command group, embarked in three *Ontos,
found themselves stalled on the northern fringes of Phong Ho, a hamlet 10,000 meters south of the Marble Mountain Air Facility and in an area "noted for their hostility toward ARVN soldiers and their allies." Bell's vehicle had run out of gas and the group had just been resupplied by helicopter. As the aircraft took off for the return trip to Marble Mountain, VC weapons from positions approximately 1,000 meters to the southwest opened fire. Using his command group with its *Ontos as a blocking unit, Lieutenant Colonel Bell ordered reinforcements from his Company B, supported by LVTs and tanks, brought up from the south of Phong Ho. According to the battalion commander, "the result was a sound thrashing of the VC" with 11 dead enemy left on the battlefield and a number of captured weapons. Bell remembered several years afterward, "This area was never pacified and later was leveled, and the villagers removed and relocated."


*The Ontos was a full-tracked, light armoured, mobile carried mounting six 106mm recoilless rifles, four .50 caliber spotting rifles, and one .30 caliber machine gun. It had a crew of three and was the primary weapon of the antitank battalion.


On 7 June Operation Liberty began with heavy preparatory artillery fires. Marine artillery neutralized 35 objective areas in front of the advancing infantry. Initially, the enemy countered the Marine offensive with only small arms fire and mines. The mines were the more deadly of the two. The most significant mine incident occurred on 11 June in the 9th Marines central sector. Captain Carl A. Reckewell's Company F, 2d Battalion, 9th Marines walked into a large minefield in a grassy plot just south of the La Tho River. Two detonations killed three Marines and wounded 21. While the wounded were being evacuated, four to five additional explosions occurred and the grass caught fire, but fortunately there were no further Marine casualties. The following day, the artillery fired a destruction mission which caused seven secondary explosions in that same field.
On 15 June, the division completed its planned realignment of regiments in the TAOR. Colonel Mitchell assumed operational control of his two 1st Marines battalion and took over responsibility for the division's eastern flank from the 9th Marines. With a corresponding reduction in the western sector, the 9th Marines' TOAR now consisted of only 134 square miles, the regiment having given away nearly 100 square miles in the exchange.
With the adjustment of forces and sectors, the 3d Marine Division continued its "scrubbing" actions in Operation Liberty. The only serious enemy opposition occurred in the 9th Marines zone of action. On 18 June, Company C, 9th Marines, operating 2,000 meters south of Dai Loc, came under heavy mortar and small arms fire, suffering eight wounded. The company asked for supporting air and artillery which ended the enemy resistance. Lieutenant Colonel Donahue's 2d Battalion, 9th Marines underwent a similar attack on 22 June in the hamlet of La Hoa, immediately east of the railroad and 4,000 meters north of the Ky Lam. Marines once more called upon supporting arms, including naval gunfire from the destroyer USS Marton (DD 948), to silence the enemy.


According to U.S. Navy historians, "Between four and nine ships including destroyers, cruisers, and rocket ships were available for gunfire support in Vietnam at any one time and more than half the missions supported Marines in I Corps." NHD, Comments on draft MS, dtd 19June78 (Vietnam Comment file).


By the end of the month, all three Marine regiments reached Phase Line Green and the operation ended. VC resistance to the Marines advance had been scattered and ineffective. The 9th Marines observed that the lack of major enemy resistance gave plausibility to the thesis that the momentum of Operation Liberty prevented them from gaining any degree of initiative and uprooted them "from what had been a relatively secure operating area." That regiment alone claimed to have recovered 40 square miles from the VC. The Marines were once more optimistic about pacifying the extensive Da Nang enclave.

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