One Good Deal After Another (continued)

A New Mission ... In the DMZ

The second significant event occurred 29 or maybe 30 September.

General Robert H. Barrow, 27th Commandant of the Marine Corps called BLT 2/26 his "DMZ Rats". Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Future Commandant of the Marine Corps, Colonel Robert H. Barrow, Commanding Officer of the 9th Marines, flew into our command post with a new set of orders.

 

We were to attack a ridge a mile or so west of our present location. We could see it from our forward command post. We discussed the operation and agreed on the overall details.

 

The third significant event must have happened later the same or the next day. We were told (I don’t remember by whom or how it was done), that the 9th Marines operation was off. We were to shift to the operational control of the 3d Marines and to standby for a helicopter lift into the DMZ northeast of the regiment’s command post at Camp Carroll.

More information was given but again, I don’t remember how. In those days, battalions did not have radio encryption in the bush. Everything was said in the clear. I don’t think that we were informed by radio in the clear but maybe that’s how it happened. What we did know was that we were to replace a reinforced rifle company that had been in the DMZ for about a week.

 

Bombs had knocked down trees in that portion of the DMZ and subsequent photo intelligence analysis indicated that the North Vietnamese had cut a crude one lane road under the tree canopy. The company had been inserted into the DMZ to learn what could be learned about the road. My guess is that as soon as the company began reporting hearing heavy equipment engines at night, it became obvious to higher headquarters that the company either had to be reinforced or removed. Hence the sudden decision to commit us to an entirely different area and mission. 

 

It’s safe to say that most if not all of us were not sorry to leave LZ Margo and its surrounding area. The enemy’s 16 and 17 March mortar attacks on us were beyond tragic. They were also understandable. He was defending a field hospital that we knew nothing about. His other actions made no sense. He had troops in the area. They seemed to be covering a large geographic area but were not concentrated in large formations. Rather, they were scattered in small groups and shadowing us, working hard to avoid contact. In short, other than the hospital, which was not well defended by infantry, we could not understand their purpose or mission in occupying the area.

 

The DMZ proved to be a totally different story. We knew why the enemy was there and what he was trying to do … “nice to know” information. We were moving into a conventional warfare situation but there was nothing easy about it. The DMZ in October of 1968 was hardly a place to go unless you had a 1000 or so of your closest Marine friends with you. Even then it could be a problem.

 

As things turned out, we gave him far more problems than he gave us.

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