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Jim Doner Remembers the Barrage on the 81s

by Staff Sergeant James F. "Jim" Doner

1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 5th Reconnaissance Battalion, BLT 2/26

20 Rounds in the Air

[the first round had just exploded at the base of the hill on LZ Margo on September 16, 1968. SSgt Jim Doner of the Recon platoon ran for the CP...]

A little second lieutenant brought me up short. 'Well, Sergeant,' he said, 'if you think we're receiving mortar fire, work up a fire mission.' 

Back down the hill, I estimated the range and, with my map in my hand and juggling in my mind the elements of a call for fire and a grid coordinate, I moved to where I could see Lieutenant Green and his 81s, set up on the south side of the LZ.

I yelled 'Fire mission.' Green was up using a megaphone -- which he had liberated from the ship -- and the troops were moving in the gun pits when I heard the NVA mortars. 'Oh, Mother of God, they've got about 20 rounds in the air,' I thought; there was a distinct break and it started again: 'Bloop, bloop, bloop, ... ' -- the second volley was on the way before the first impacted.

I stood there with my mouth open. The first rounds hit the 81s and blew hell out of them. The NVA knew exactly what they were doing.

It was like the movies -- people were flying through the air, mortar tubes were flying, the base plates were flying.

James F. "Jim" Doner

1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 5th Reconnaisance Battalion, BLT 2/26

Remembering Margo, Naval Institute Proceedings, November 1995

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