View Full Version : Hill 310 Marines and NVA Both Found It a "Tough Nut" to Crack

10-04-02, 07:52 PM

Cpl Jim Quinn, platoon sergeant for Mike Co, 3/5 (left) and Cpl Dan Hignight, a scout for the intelligence section, 3/5

Story by Jack Wells
Photos courtesy of the author

Hill 310 was one of the prominent hilltops that overlooked Marine positions on Hills 10 and 41 in the Hieu Duc District of Quang Nam Province, Republic of South Vietnam. Throughout 1967 and 1968 there had been many battles against North Vietnamese soldiers on this hill and the adjoining hilltops 270 and 502 during Operations Pursuit and Worth, and during the final days of Operation Mameluke Thrust. All agreed that Hill 310 was a "tough nut."

The ghosts and cries of many fallen Marines and North Vietnamese infantry haunted this high ground. To the south of Hill 310 lay Charlie Ridge, which was a huge mountainous area overlooking the area called the "Rocket Belt." This was the area where units like the 368B North Vietnamese Army Rocket Artillery Regiment would set up its Soviet-manufactured 122 mm and 140 mm rockets to fire at the Da Nang Air Base, the city of Da Nang and Hill 55 where the Seventh Marine Regiment headquarters was located.

Since the final months of 1967, infantry units from the 31st, 36th and 141st NVA Regiments had been steadily pouring into Hieu Duc District after their journey down the Ho Chi Minh Trail through Laos. They entered South Vietnam through the A Shau Valley before turning south toward the approaches to Da Nang and other coastal cities.

Newly arrived in country and assigned to Battery G, 3d Battalion, 11th Marines, First Marine Division, First Lieutenant Jack Wells was directed to report to Company A, 1st Bn, 7th Marines as the forward observer (FO). Things were happening quickly for Lt Wells. He had arrived in the Republic of South Vietnam in early August 1968, and by 8 Aug. he had already been on one combat operation with "Alpha" Co. While that operation had been relatively uneventful, as only small caches of NVA equipment and grenades had been located, the brutal heat on the combat patrol left Wells with a sense of foreboding.

On 9 Aug. the artillery liaison officer for 1/7, 1stLt Ed Kliewer, rushed into the Alpha Co area to tell Lt Wells that he had 30 minutes to report to Bravo Co, as they were leaving on a five-day operation that very afternoon. Second Lieutenant Dan McMurray's 2d Platoon, Bravo Co had been called back earlier that day from a three-day patrol to rejoin the company for the operation. Most of the Marines in McMurray's platoon were new to Bravo Co, and some had been in Vietnam less than one week.

Wells quickly gathered his gear and reported to the Bravo Co office. First Sergeant James Gagne looked at him and asked, "Have enough ammo, Lieutenant?" When Wells naively pointed to his two .45-caliber magazines, Gagne reached into his field desk and tossed him a box of .45-cal. cartridges, saying, "Take these, Lieutenant. Where you're going there's going to be some shooting."

The Bravo Co commander, 1stLt J. W. Huffman, was a Chosin Reservoir veteran of the Korean War and already had a tour in Vietnam under his belt. He had just reported to Bravo Co around noon that day. Huffman recalled he met with the 1/7 commander, Lieutenant Colonel W. S. Fagan, early in the afternoon. Fagan had taken him outside to a raised platform that overlooked the operational area around the hill and said, "Over there is Sherwood Forest, and up there is Hill 310, and we have to go up there pretty soon."