Operation Buffalo
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  1. #1

    Cool Operation Buffalo

    Operation Buffalo

    The Marines along the DMZ began construction of the strong point obstacle system south of the border in the spring and fall of 1967 in compliance with orders from MACV and Washington. The system, called the "McNamara Line" by the Marines, proved to be a major burden to the 3d Marine Division. Security of the troops building the line, coupled with the demands on Marine units to fill sandbags, creosote bunker timbers, install wire, and other associated tasks, severely restricted the division's combat activities.

    While the construction of the obstacle system limited III MAF's flexibility, higher headquarters expected its speedy completion to force southbound NVA regiments to move westward into the mountains, thereby complicating the enemy's logistical problems. The Marines' combined-arms fire power from strong points would then confront the anticipated enemy attacks. Smaller patrols and infiltration groups would face the challenge of the extensive obstacle system. The Communists, however, chose to attack before the system became too strong.

    The enemy decided to concentrate on the Marine strong point at Con Thien, located 14 miles inland and two miles south of the DMZ. This outpost was crucial to Marine efforts in the area. It occupied what would be the northwest corner of the strong point obstacle system, which enclosed an area which became known as "Leatherneck Square." Con Thien also overlooked one of the principal enemy routes in to South Vietnam. Capture of the outpost would open the way for a major enemy invasion of Quang Tn Province by 35,000 NVA troops massed north of the DMZ, a victory of immense propaganda value. Colonel Richard B. Smith, who commanded the 9th Marines, later described the outpost's importance:

    Con Thien was clearly visible from the 9th Marines Headquarters on the high ground at Dong Ha 10 miles away, so good line-of-sight communications were enjoyed. Although Con Thien was only 160 meters high, its tenants had dominant observation over the entire area. Visitors to Con Thien could look back at the vast logistics complex of Dong Ha and know instantly why the Marines had to hold the hill. If the enemy occupied it he would be looking down our throats.'
    The Communists made two offensive thrusts into the Con Thien region during the second half of 1967. Although reinforced by heavy artillery, rockets, and mortars north of the Ben Hai River in the DMZ, each thrust collapsed under a combination of Marine ground and helicopter-borne maneuvers coupled with supporting artillery, naval gunfire, and attack aircraft.

    The first offensive aimed at Con Thien, the largest in terms of troops committed, occurred in July. For the first time the NVA employed extensive artillery to support its infantry, but the Marine counterattack, Operation Buffalo, beat back the enemy, net ting more than 1,200 NVA dead.

    Operation Buffalo began on 2 July utilizing Lieutenant Colonel Richard J. Schening's 1st Battalion, 9th Marines in and around Con Thien. Companies A and B operated north-northeast of the strong point near a former market place on Route 561, while Company D, Headquarters and Service Company, and the battalion command group remained within the outpost perimeter. Company C was at Dong Ha at Colonel George E. Jerue's 9th Marines command post. Colonel Jerue described the origins of the operation:

    The TAOR assigned to the 9th Marine Regiment was so large that the regiment could not enjoy the advantage of patrolling any particular sector on a continuing basis. As a result, an area would be swept for a few days and then it would be another week or so before the area would be swept again. Consequently, it became evident that the NVA, realizing this limitation, would move back into an area as soon as a sweep was concluded.
    In an attempt to counter this NVA maneuver, it was decided to send two companies of 1/9 ("A" and "B" Cos.) into the area (1,200 yards east of Con Thien and north of the Trace) which had just been swept during the last few days in June. This is the reason the two companies were (thereon 2July].

    That morning, Captain Sterling K. Coates' Company B, a company which gained a reputation for finding the enemy during earlier actions at Khe Sanh, walked into the heaviest combat of its Vietnam assignment. It had moved a mile east of Con Thien the day before in company with Captain Albert C. Slater, Jr.'s Company A to conduct a sweep north of the cleared trace. At 0800 on the 2nd, both units began moving north. Company A was on the left. Company B moved along Route 561, an old 8- to 10-foot-wide cart road bordered by waist-high hedgerows. The road led to trouble; two NVA battalions waited in prepared positions.

    Company B's movement started smoothly and by 0900 the 2d Platoon had secured its first objective, a small crossroads 1,200 meters north of the trace. There was no contact. As the 3d Platoon and the command group moved up the trail, enemy sniper fire started. The 3d Platoon and Captain Coates' command group moved to the left to suppress the enemy's fire, but as they pushed north the NVA fire intensified, halting the platoon. Captain Coates directed his 2d Platoon to shift to the right in a second attempt to outflank the Communist position; at the same time he ordered the 1st Platoon forward to provide rear security for the company. The 2d Platoon tried to move, but enemy fire forced it back onto the road. The number of wounded and dead mounted as NVA fire hit the unit from the front and both flanks. To worsen matters, the enemy began pounding the Marines with artillery and mortars.

    Shortly after the sweep began, Company A tripped two Claymore mines and the need for casualty evacuation delayed its movement. Afterward, Captain Slater moved his company eastward to help Company B, but could not link up because of heavy small arms fire. Soon the company had so many casualties that it was unable to fight and move simultaneously.

    Company B's position deteriorated. Enemy artillery and mortar fire cut off the 3d Platoon and the command group from the 2d Platoon. The NVA troops then used flamethrowers to ignite the hedgerows on both sides of Captain Coates' unit, as well as massed artillery in close coordination with a ground artack.5 Many of the Marines, forced into the open by the flamethrowers, died under the enemy fire. The Communist artillery and mortar fire shifted to the 2d Platoon as it attacked to help the 3d Platoon and the command group. This fire killed Captain Coates, his radio operator, two platoon commanders, and the artillery forward observer. The attached forward air controller, Captain Warren 0. Keneipp, Jr., took command of the company, but he soon lost radio contact with the platoons. Only the company executive officer, at the rear of the 2d Platoon, managed to maintain radio contact with the battalion CP, but the heavy enemy fire kept him from influencing the situation.
    Down the road, the 1st Platoon also took heavy punishment as it tried to push its way up to the lead elements of the company. North Vietnamese troops swarmed against the platoon's flanks, but air support arrived and the platoon commander, Staff Sergeant Leon R. Burns, directed strikes against the enemy. Burns said later, "I asked for napalm as close as 50 yards from us, some of it came in only 20 yards away. But I'm not complaining." The air strikes disrupted the enemy assault and the 1st Platoon reached what was left of the 2d Platoon. Burns quickly established a hasty defense and began treating the wounded.

    The 1st Battalion command post at Con Thien heard the crackle of small-arms fire from the 0930 action, followed by a radio report that Company B had encountered a dug-in NVA unit. The first assessment of enemy strength was a platoon, then a battalion, and ultimately a multibattalion force. When the firing began to increase, Lieutenant Colonel "Spike" Schening alerted his Company C, at Dong Ha, to stand by to be helilifted into Company B's area. Since these reinforcements would not arrive for some time, Schening dispatched a rescue force composed of four tanks and a platoon from Company D. The assistant S-3, Captain Henry J. M. Radcliffe, went with the small force to take command of Company B if link-up could be made. First Lieutenant Gatlin J. Howell, the battalion intelligence officer, went also because he was familiar with the area where the enemy engaged Company B. The remainder of the battalion command group remained at Con Thien.

    The small rescue force moved down the cleared trace from Con Thien to the junction of Route 561 without incident, but as it turned north up the road it came under fire. A North Vietnamese unit, trying to encircle Company B, had moved south and was opposite Radcliffe's small force. Helicopter gunships and the fire from the four tanks dispersed the enemy. Company C began arriving by helicopter and Captain Radcliffe ordered the Company D platoon to secure the landing zone and evacuate casualties. As the lead elements of Company C came into the zone they met a heavy artillery barrage, which wounded 11 Marines.

    Despite enemy fire, the platoon of tanks and the lead unit of Company C continued to push north toward Company B. Half a mile up the road, the advancing Marines found the 1st Platoon. Captain Radcliffe told Burns that he was the acting commanding officer and asked where was the rest of the company. Sergeant Burns replied, "Sir, this is the company, or what's left of it.


  2. #2
    After organizing the withdrawal of the 1st Platoon's wounded, Radcliffe and the relief force, ac companied by Burns, continued to push forward to Company B's furthest point of advance to recover the company's casualties. The Marines set up a hasty defense, making maximum use of the tanks' firepower, and brought the dead and wounded into the perimeter.

    For Lieutenant Howell the scene had a particular impact. He had commanded Company B's 3d Platoon for more than eight months. Howell was seemingly everywhere as he searched for the wounded. Captain Radcliffe estimated that Howell and Corporal Charles A. Thompson of Company D were instrumental in the evacuation of at least 25 Marmnes.8 The Marines then loaded their casualties on the tanks. Lacking space on the vehicles for the arms and equipment of the wounded, Radcliffe ordered them destroyed to prevent capture. The rescue force found it impossible to recover all the bodies immediately; some bodies remained along the road.

    The company came under heavy enemy artillery fire as it began to pull back. Two of the tanks hit mines which further slowed the withdrawal. When the company reached the landing zone it came under devastating artillery and mortar fire again, hitting many of the wounded who awaited evacuation. Litter bearers and corpsmen became casualties as well.

    Casualties increased in the landing zone, among them were the platoon commander and platoon sergeant from Company D who had been directing the defense of the zone. In the resulting confusion, someone passed the word to move the casualties back to Con Thien. A group of almost 50 started making their way back until Marines at Con Thien spotted them in the cleared trace. Lieutenant Colonel Schening sent out a rescue party, headed by his executive officer, Major Darrell C. Danielson, in a truck, jeep and ambulance. Upon reaching the wounded Marines, Major Danielson saw that many were in a state of shock; some seemed in danger of bleeding to death. Fortunately, two helicopters landed in the area and the Marines loaded the more serious casualties on board. Enemy artillery fire delayed the evacuation of the remainder but, despite the fire, Major Danielson and his party managed to get everyone into the vehicles and back to Con Thien for treatment and further evacuation.

    During the battle, friendly and enemy supporting arms engaged in a furious duel. In the first few hours of the engagement Marine aircraft dropped 90 tons of ordnance during 28 sorties. Artillery fired 453 missions, while Navy destroyers fired 142 5-inch rounds into enemy positions. The NVA force fired 1,065 artillery and mortar rounds during the day at Gio Linh and Con Thien; more than 700 rounds fell on Lieutenant Colonel Schening's 1st Battalion, 9th Marines alone.

    Captain Slater's Company A remained heavily engaged. When the necessity of carrying the increasing numbers of wounded brought the company to a halt, Slater had his 3d Platoon establish a hasty landing zone in the rear of the company. After the first flight of medevac helicopters departed the zone, the enemy hit the 3d Platoon with mortars and assaulted the position. Slater moved his 2d Platoon and company command group to reinforce the 3d Platoon. The enemy advanced to within 50 meters of Company A's lines before small arms and artillery fire broke up their attack. Enemy pressure and the remaining casualties kept Company A in the defensive position until the NVA force withdrew later in the evening.

    At 1500 Schening, at Con Thien, notified the regimental commander that all of his companies were hard pressed, that he had no more units to commit, and that the situation was critical. Colonel Jerue, commanding the 9th Marines, ordered Major Willard J. Woodring's 3d Battalion, 9th Marines to move by helicopter to Schening's assistance. Three companies and the command group of the 3d Battalion were in position north of the trace by 1800. After landing, Major Woodring assumed operational control of Companies A and C of the 1st Battalion. The combined force made a twilight attack on the enemy s left flank, while elements of Company B and the platoon from Company D holding the landing zone pulled back to the Con Thien perimeter in expectation of an attack on the outpost. The increased pressure provided by the 3d Battalion caused the enemy to break contact.
    When the worn and exhausted survivors of the morning's encounter mustered for a head count, the Marines found the total casualty figure shocking. Staff Sergeant Burns, subsequently awarded the Navy Cross, stated that only 27 Company B Marines walked out of the action. Lieutenant Colonel Schening's battalion lost 53 killed, 190 wounded, and 34 missing. Not until 5 July did the battalion complete the recovery efforts that reduced the number of missing to nine, but the number of dead increased to 84. The battalion established no accurate count of enemy killed.

    During the next three days, 3-5 July, enemy contact continued. At 0930 on the 3rd, an Air Force air observer reported more than 100 NVA soldiers advancing from positions north of Con Thien. Battery E, 3d Battalion, 12th Marines fired on them and kill ed 75. To the east, Major Woodring called in continuous air strikes for 12 hours to prepare for an at tack the following day. The same day, 3 July, Lieu tenant Colonel Peter A. Wickwire's BLT 1/3 from SLF Alpha joined the 9th Marines and tied in with Woodring's right flank. The regiment planned a drive north to recover missing bodies and push the NVA out of the Lang Son area, only 4,000 meters northeast of the Con Thien perimeter.

    The attack started early the morning of the 4th. The 3d Battalion encountered heavy resistance from concealed enemy positions southwest of the site of Company B's engagement on 2 July. A prolonged fight followed, involving tanks, artillery, and close air support. By 1830 when the final Marine assault ended, Woodring's 3d Battalion, 9th Marines had lost 15 dead and 33 wounded. BLT 1/3 had 11 wounded during the same action. The same day Major Wendell 0. Beard's BLT 2/3 from SLF Bravo joined the operation; the battalion landed by helicopter north of Cam Lo at LZ Canary and moved west and then northward on the western edge of the battle area toward Con Thien.

    During daylight on 5 July all units northeast of Con Thien came under enemy mortar and artillery fire, but there was relatively little ground contact while completing the grim task of recovering Company B's dead. That afternoon an air observer spotted a large concentration of enemy troops 3,000 meters northeast of Con Thien. He called in artillery and tactical air strikes and reported seeing 200 dead NVA soldiers.
    Following preparatory fires on the morning of 6 July, all battalions continued moving north. Major Beard's BLT 2/3 ran into an enemy force supported by mortars less than 3 kilometers south of Con Thien. In the brief engagement that followed the battalion killed 35 Communist soldiers, while suffering five killed and 25 wounded.

    Northeast of the outpost, Wickwire's and Wood- ring's battalions advanced under intermittent NVA artillery and mortar fire. Major Woodring decided to move a reinforced company 1,500 meters to the north-northwest to cover his left flank. He chose Captain Slater's attached Company A, 9th Marines, which now included the survivors of Company C, and a detachment from 3d Reconnaissance Battalion. Slater's company moved into position without opposition and established a strong combat outpost. Slater's composite force dug concealed fighting positions and sent reconnaissance patrols north in an attempt to discover where the enemy crossed the Ben Hai River.

    While Slater's move was unnoticed, the same was not true for the advance of the main elements of the two battalions. As they advanced, they encountered increasingly heavy artillery fire and by 1600 they could go no further. Wickwire's battalion had lost a tank and, because of the enemy fire, pulled back without recovering it. Captain Burrell H. Landes, Jr., commanding Company B, BLT 1/3, climbed a tree to spot for air strikes and artillery fire in front of his position. An aerial observer radioed that a large enemy force was approaching his position. When Landes asked how big the force was, the reply was, "I'd hate to tell you, I'd hate to tell you." The AO had spotted a 400-man force crossing the Ben Hai River in approach march formation; it was heading directly for the two battalions. After the sightings, both battalions, less Slater's company, came under heavy, accurate artillery fire. Between 5 00-600 rounds hit the 3d Battalion's position and about 1,000 landed on BLT 1/3.

    During the Communist bombardment, one of Slater's reconnaissance patrols also spotted the 400-man NVA force and reported it moving toward the 3d Battalion. The enemy, still in column formation, was unaware that it was heading directly into Captain Slater's concealed unit. The Marines opened fire at less than 150 meters distance. Captain Slater recalled: When the point of the enemy column was brought under fire, the NVA alerted their unit with a bugle call... Their initial reaction was oneof confusion and they scattered, some of them toward Marine lines. They quickly organized and probed at every flank of the 360 degree perimeter. Concealed prepared positions and fire discipline never allowed the NVA to determine what size of unit they were dealing with. When the enemy formed and attacked, heavy accurate artillery was walked to within 75 meters of the perimeter. The few NVA that penetrated the perimeter were killed and all lines held.


  3. #3
    Heavy enemy probes, mortar fire, and small arms fire continued through the early evening. Some NVA soldiers crept close enough to hurl hand grenades into the Marine lines. One of the attached Company C fire-team leaders, Lance Corporal James L. Stuckey, responded by picking up the grenades and throwing them back toward their source. He was wounded when the third grenade exploded as it left his hand. He continued, however, to lead his fire-team for the rest of the night without medical assistance.
    Despite heavy Marine artillery fire that effectively boxed in Slater's position, the NVA maintained pressure on the Marines until 2200. For the rest of the night, enemy small arms and mortar fire harass ed Company A, but the NVA units were withdrawing. First light revealed 154 enemy bodies strewn around Company A's perimeter; the defenders had 12 casualties. Among the wounded Marines was Lance Corporal Stuckey; only tattered flesh remain ed where his hand had been.

    While the attack on Company A took place, the rest of what intelligence officers later determined to have been the 90th NVA Regiment assaulted the two Marine battalions. To add to the effect of their preparatory fires, the attacking North Vietnamese threw fuzed blocks of TNT into the Marine positions to keep the Marines down as the assaulting troops moved in. The Marines countered with supporting arms; flare ships, attack aircraft, helicopter gun- ships, naval gunfire, and all available artillery concentrated their fire on the attacking enemy. By 2130, the Marines had repelled the assault and the Communist forces began withdrawing to the north.
    At 0520 the next morning, Major Woodring ordered Captain Slater to pull back into the battalion perimeter. The decision was most opportune; immediately after Company A cleared the night position, a 30-minute NVA artillery concentration landed within its old lines. Company A returned to the battalion's perimeter without incident. Both battalions spent the rest of the 7th trying to deter mine the extent of the damage inflicted on the 90th NVA Regiment. By 8 July the Marines raised the NVA casualty count to more than 800. Counting enemy bodies proved to be a most difficult task; the grisly carnage was beyond description. Hundreds of bodies covered the scarred battleground, some half buried, others in pieces, all surrounded by a carpet of battered equipment and ammunition. Counting enemy canteens was one method used to try to establish realistic figures. The vast area which the bodies covered further complicated the morbid undertaking. As late as the afternoon of the 8th, Captain Gerald F. Reczek's Company C, BLT 1/3 found about 200 enemy bodies more than 600. meters east of Route 561.

    The scattering of bodies to the north occurred when air and artillery hit groups of North Vietnamese moving toward or away from the main battle area. The lateral scattering from the 3d Battalion's position eastward across the front of BLT 1/3 was the result of the NVA attempt to outflank Major Woodring's unit without realizing that the BLT was on line. Trying to move further east, they lost even more men to the guns of Wickwire's Marines." The Marines found it impossible to compute an accurate total of Communist losses to supporting arms because of the inability of allied forces to continue the count on the north side of the Ben Hai River.
    The last significant engagements of Operation Buffalo took place on 8 July, southwest of Con Thien. After BLT 2/3 closed on Con Thien during its northward sweep, it had turned west, and then headed south toward the Cam Lo River. Moving south, at 1030 Captain James P. Sheehan's Company G discovered a bunker complex. When small arms fire and grenades interrupted further investigation, Sheehan wisely backed off and called in air and artillery. At 1300, Company G moved in, but some NVA soldiers continued to fight. Later that after noon, after clearing the complex, Company G reported 39 dead Communists, 2 Marines killed, and 29 wounded, including the company commander.

    At 1430 while Company G cleared the bunkers, a Company F squad patrol, located some 1,200 meters southwest of Company G, engaged another enemy force. When the Communists counterattacked, the company commander, First Lieutenant Richard D. Koehler, Jr., sent in the rest of his Marines. When 82mm mortar rounds began falling, Koehler knew he was in trouble and called in artillery and air strikes. The concentration of supporting arms crack ed the enemy position, and when Company F moved in, it counted 118 enemy bodies. The Marines estimated the Communist unit to have numbered between 200 and 250. Marine losses totaled 14 killed and 43 wounded. Apparently the NVA had had enough; for the next five days BLT 2 / 3 encountered only mines and harassing fires.

    One ominous development which accompanied the Buffalo fighting was the accurate employment of large-caliber, long-range NVA artillery. On 7 July, enemy artillery scored a direct hit on the command bunker of the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines at Con Thien, killing 11, including First Lieutenant Gatlin J. Howell, the intelligence officer who had gone to the aid of Company B, 9th Marines on 2 July. Eighteen others sustained wounds; one was the battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Schening. The cause of the damage was a 152mm howitzer round, which penetrated five feet of sand bags, loose dirt, and 12x12-inch timbers.

    The same day, at Dong Ha, a delay-fuzed 130mm round landed at the base of the north wall of the 9th Marines' command post, exploding six feet below the bunker floor. Luckily, there were no injuries. The NVA also scored a direct hit on the Dong Ha chapel during Catholic services, killing the chaplain's assistant. Storage areas, helicopter maintenance areas, and medical facilities were among the targets of the long-range weapons. The frequency and accuracy of the enemy fire caused Colonel Jerue to move his command post to a location northeast of Cam Lo. There, relative quiet prevailed for the remainder of the operation.

    Another indication of the Communist buildup along the DMZ and around Con Thien during this period was the increased employment of surface-to air missiles (SAMs). While an A-4 aircraft was attacking the NVA in front of BLT 1/3 on 6 July, the enemy launched eight SAMs from sites north of the Ben Hai River. One hit Major Ralph E. Brubaker's VMA-3 11 jet, causing the aircraft to crash in enemy territory. Brubaker, only slightly wounded, remain ed in enemy territory until picked up the next morning by an Air Force rescue helicopter.

    Operation Buffalo closed on 14 July 1967. The Marines reported enemy losses as 1,290 dead and two captured. Marine losses, in contrast, totaled 159 killed and 345 wounded. The Marines found the enemy's large-scale July offensive against Con Thien a short one, but considerably more vicious than most of the Communist operations conducted in I Corps. The most savage aspect was the heavy employment of supporting arms by both sides. Of the known enemy killed, more than 500 came from air, artillery, and naval gunfire. In addition, supporting arms destroyed 164 enemy bunkers and 15 artillery and rocket positions, and caused 46 secondary explosions. To accomplish this, Marine aviation used 1,066 tons of ordnance, Marine and Army artillery consumed more than 40,000 rounds, and ships of the U.S. Seventh Fleet fired 1,500 rounds from their 5- and 8-inch naval guns. On the other hand, enemy artillery accounted for half of the Marine casualties during the operation and posed a constant threat to the Marine logistical support installations.

    The July fighting around Con Thien reaffirmed the Marines' faith in supporting arms. In spite of the appearance of SAMs and the presence of excellent, long-range Communist artillery, the Marines could prove that the latest enemy offensive had failed. Con Thien had held and at least one first line enemy regiment was in shambles. The Buffalo victory did not breed overconfidence, but the body-strewn wasteland along the DMZ provided mute evidence of the effectiveness of III MAF's defenses. The summer was far from over; they would be challenged again.



  4. #4

    Operation Buffalo

    I had a good high school buddy Steve Honnold from Wire Mountain, Camp Pendleton who was killed operating with B/1/9 3 July 1967. Our family had moved from 1625 Kraft St in O'side sometime in 1959 to 109 Dogwood St.

    Steve and his family, Major Honnold lived on the other side of Dogwood, probably 108 Dogwood. My dad was David E Sherrill, Captain (mustang) who worked at Schools Bn down in Camp Del Mar. Dad retired from the Corps after 23 and some months in as I recall June of '62 when I graduated from OHS.

    We moved to San Diego where both my Dad and myself started college...him with his GI bill....me, because what do you do when you're a stupid 18 or 19 year old kid?

    I later joined the Army Reserves in San Diego at Grantville in 1964 (knowing full well if I joined the Marines...I'd go straight back to Camp Pendleton). Steve joined in 1966 and as I had started school again at SDSC (now SDSU), I attended his graduation at MCRD SD that same year. I had joined an Army Reserve SF unit, then the 17th SFGA out of Seattle as I recall, had gone to jump school, SF Medic training, etc. and I had received a couple of letters from Steve who had arrived in Vietnam maybe late '66, early '67...I don't remember exactly when.

    I do remember that he was in the 81 mike mike guns as part of H and S company one nine. I have those letters and have digitized them.

    I have read Nolan's account of the battle and I think that I have isolated Steve and his death. Nolan based his account on eye witnesses, particularly from B/1/9. Steve being from H and S was assigned to Bravo just for that particular operation and so is not identified by name probably because none of the survivors remembered him by name but simply by what he was doing that day, the RTO of the FO of the 81 mike mikes.

    I will publish here my thoughts about Nolan's account and my interpretation of how I arrived at the identification of my buddy Steve...many years later.

    Semper Fi Mack, and De Oppreso Liber!

    Dan Sherrill

  5. #5
    Per my promise, here is a letter I got from Steve sometime in April 67. It was addressed to an old address in San Diego but I may have gotten it when I was at Bragg and with Delta Co SFTG. Then it was the training company for all the SF medics. I was there until around August or September of 67 as I recall.

    Letter postmarked 31 March 1967, US Navy Br 14030, Unit 9, 4 – PM.
    To the left of the postmark, there is the handwritten word “Free” with the cancellation waves over the top of it.

    Return Address:
    PFC SJ Honnold, 2 268 698
    1-9 H&S Co. 3rd Mar Div FMF
    FPO San Francisco, 96602

    Addressed to:
    Dan Sherrill
    4763 Reno
    San Diego, Calif

    With a note that says: Forward to Address on back if necessary,
    and that address is Dan Sherrill, 514 9th, Coronado, California.

    30 March 67
    Just a note to say hello from Dong Ha, Vietnam. This place is no picnic but it isn’t too bad either. I’m with 1st Bn. 9th Marines about 12,000 meters south of the DMZ. The gooks are pretty effective with what they have, but they’ll lose pretty soon.

    We have been on Operations Prairie II & III this month. 1 April we start Chinook II. Pretty soon they’ll have to give us a rest, we took almost 300 casualties last month, 40 dead.

    The NVA is tough. We got ambushed last week by a company and they had 82 mm & 60 mm mortars, 102 mm rockets, chicom grenades and automatic weapons. It gets pretty rocky when they pin you down with automatic weapons fire and then drop the mortar rounds down on you. In that little 15 minute ambush we lost 17 dead 63 WIA.

    The V.C. are a little easier to put up with. They aren’t reinforced and they don’t usually have all the fire power the NVA has. They almost never travel in large groups and they stray into our lines more often.

    One thing I really dislike is when we get incoming mortar rds and we aren’t dug in – That’s some kind of hairy!!

    I carry a .45 pistol and a PRC 25 radio with remote components. By the time I get loaded and up carrying about 55 lbs besides food and water. So far I haven’t had any trouble humping my gear but it gets hotter every day. The rain here is a little different than what we’re used to, too.

    I trying to pick up a Chicom weapon. Its legal spoils of war if I can capture a gook with one. The Chinese are putting some fire power into the hands of these people.

    Well, I better cut this short. My new address is:

    PFC S.J. Honnold, 2268698 USMC
    1st Bn. 9th Mar. H&S Co (comm.) 3rd Mar Div FMF
    FPO San Francisco, Calif 96602

    Try to write soon and let me know what is going on.

    Wire Mountain forever!,

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