One Good Deal After Another (continued)
"On October 1, BLT 2/26 replaced the company of 1st Battalion, 4th Marines in the DMZ and was tasked with destroying a recently built road, an extension of North Vietnam Route 1022 southward into the DMZ. Discovered with the assistance of an aerial observer in late September, the road complex generally followed the Ben Hai River before turning south, two kilometers west of Đồng Ống Cây, and ending 2,000 meters north of the DMZ southern boundary.
"North of the river the road was well-developed, open and easily located from the air as well as from prominent terrain features in the southern DMZ.
"Once it crossed the river, it was well-camouflaged and difficult to spot because of overhead cover. Built entirely by hand labor, the road was hacked out of the jungle, lined with timber, and ringed with base camps and fighting positions."
U.S. Marines in Vietnam
The Defining Year 1968
History and Museums Division
Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps
The operations order must have been issued after the landing was completed. We had our own illegal double talk system that was used when we had to get the word out in a hurry. It wasn’t fancy and used various expressions, including one word that I have forgotten … it meant disregard everything that follows. The company we were replacing was not taken out right away as we assumed would happen. I remember that they remained overnight because after the order was issued, the company commander radioed to say that he hadn’t understood a word that was said. Not a bad test of the system. He got the word from one of the company commanders.
The concept of maneuver was deliberately kept simple until we learned more about the enemy and the terrain. The motors that the company had heard at night were to our east; therefore, we would attack eastward along the road in a column of companies with Lieutenant Pete Post’s Golf Company in the lead followed by Hotel and Fox.
Our scheme of maneuver was based on the assumption that the enemy would expect frontal attacks on the road because it would be easier and perhaps faster. Frontal attacks were something that we had never done and never intended to do.
Lessons learned. The Marine Corps is fastidious about gleaning every bit of useful information from every combat situation -- and then documenting lessons learned to share with other operating units. Sometimes the lessons are learned the hard way, like those from the debacle caused by the ill-considered use of bomber aircraft near friendly troops on LZ Margo. This tidbit written by Major Lynch for the October 1968 Command Chronology, records a tactic the BLT successfully employed in the DMZ.
The lead company was to move slowly and deliberately along the road until contact was made with the enemy. That company would stop, deploy off the road and become the “base of fire” for the attacking company. The next company in line would move off the road, into the woods and slowly toward the enemy’s flank until in an assault position. Then assault.
After the first time this happened to the enemy, I worried that he would catch on and in particular, watch his southern or left flank. The reason we avoided the northern flank of the road whenever possible was because the road was on high ground and the northern flank could be easily swept by NVA artillery.
The enemy never caught on.