One Good Deal After Another (continued)
The North Vietnamese Deserter
The first unusual event during the climb is not mentioned in the chronology but probably occurred the evening of 18 September. Golf Company leading the movement up the western finger had stopped for the night in the same general area that Hotel Company had used for its bivouac on 14 September during the first climb to the high ground.
That afternoon, Hotel had captured an NVA deserter. We had no trouble getting a helo to fly him to the Camp Carroll command post of the 3d Marine Regiment for interrogation.
He proved to be a warrant officer. He told his interrogators that he had been at Khe Sanh when the Marines had first come there; that he had a “love of life”; and that he was not going to fight Marines again or words to that effect.
He also reported that Hotel Company would be attacked by infantry at 2000 that evening.
We received that information just before 2000. Fortunately, Hotel was registering night defensive fires using a 155 mm howitzer battery.
The first rounds of the registration process were on the way when one of Hotel’s listening posts reported troop movement and noise in the draw on the western side of the finger they were climbing.
The rounds landed in the draw. It was a simple process to then sweep the draw with zone and shift fire missions.
There was no attack that evening.
The Chiêu Hồi Program (loosely "Open Arms") was a propaganda program featuring air-dropped leaflets like this one. Most North Vietnamese troops had seen them. Deserters were treated as valuable sources of intelligence. Courtesy of Alan Green.
However, there were sounds indicating that a large number of wounded were in the draw. There was no point in risking ambushes or booby traps by ordering Hotel to sweep the draw and count bodies, etc.
The next morning, Hotel ignored the draw and continued the climb. Golf moved into the area about 5 days later. I remember Lieutenant Riordan, the company commander, calling on the battalion tactical net to report that he wanted to keep moving north for a while because the odor of decaying bodies was overpowering. Needless to say, his request was approved.
It was most unusual for the NVA to not remove their dead and wounded. Apparently, they had been seriously hurt.