One Good Deal After Another (continued)
The USS Repose
After sunup on 17 September, work started on our “To Do” list.
With First Lieutenant Bob Riordan’s G Company leading the way, G Company and First Lieutenant Ty Rudd’s H Company started the climb up the western ridgeline to the high ground … the same climb that H Company and Captain Stan Hartman’s F Company had been making on the 16th when ordered back to LZ Margo to make room for the Arc Light. Meanwhile Captain Hartman’s F Company started up the eastern ridgeline, the one occupied by Captain John Cregan’s E Company on the 16th.
During the morning, the “walking” or lightly wounded Marines and Navy Corpsmen who remained to be medically evacuated after the previous day’s mortar attacks were taken by helicopter to medical facilities on the coast or the Navy’s hospital ship, USS Repose, steaming offshore. The Marines and Corpsmen killed on the 16th were also lifted by helicopter to the appropriate coastal facilities for further transfer to the United States. Additionally, late in the morning, helicopters transported 18 external slings of equipment and weapons belonging to the 16 September casualties to the BLT’s rear command post near Dong Ha on the coast.
Permanently deployed to Vietnam's coastal waters between January 1966 and March 1970, the USS Repose (AH-16) was nicknamed the "Angel of the Orient". Operating mainly in the I Corps area, the hospital ship treated over 9,000 battle casualties and 24,000 inpatients during her deployment. Photo courtesy of pinterest.com.
The afternoon of the 17th provided more excitement. At 1500 and 1700 enemy mortars attacked again.
This was the same timing as the day before, a fact that did not go unnoticed. We did not learn the cause of the somewhat strange timing until a few days later when Golf Company reached the high ground north of Margo. Surprisingly, the timing sequence was caused by the American forces. From Golf’s vantage point on the high ground, they watched as large numbers of helicopters fanned out over the 3d Marine Division’s area flying resupply missions at 1500, then again at 1700. The helicopters caused artillery fire bases to cease fire during flight operations where there was a threat of artillery rounds hitting helicopters. The “check fire” made it most difficult for us to call artillery fire missions on the enemy mortars both days.
We reported this weak link in the resupply process but never learned whether the report caused, or for some reason, could not cause any changes to the rigid schedule. None of this information was entered in the Command Chronology. What was entered referred to the 17 September mortar attacks which were much lighter than the previous day’s attacks. The 1500 attack consisted of 57 82mm mortar rounds resulting in 3 WIA. The 1700 attack was slightly larger at 60 rounds and also included a squad sized probe against Echo Company. The probe was repulsed with an unknown number of enemy casualties. Our 1700 attack losses were larger than the earlier attack, the combined totals being 16 WIA and 1 KIA.
All were evacuated by Marine helicopters on the 17th. An unknown number of the wounded eventually passed away in one of the medical facilities.