One Good Deal After Another (continued)
"I Think You Are Surrounded"
He then added the frosting on the cake ... "I hate to tell you this but I think you are surrounded."
The artillery fire mission was on target. It was repeated. The yelling and sound of armor movement stopped.
While this was going on, a flight of Marine F-4 attack aircraft checked in with our Air Liaison Officer, Captain Dewey, and offered to give us a hand. The offer was gladly accepted but we found that we had a problem. The terrain was comprised of rugged hills, hard to see at night, especially from the air. The flight leader (who was the squadron commander) tried to get properly oriented but became convinced that we did not know our exact location. We tried to light the area with artillery illumination rounds using the 155 howitzer battery but were unable to do so. Illumination rounds lack the range of high explosive rounds. We couldn’t reach the target with illumination.
The squadron commander tried two or three dry runs and then circled and asked to talk to the S-3. He apologized but told me that he was not convinced that we knew our exact location, adding that, were he to run the mission and kill US Marines as a result, he would “never be able to live with himself.” He was told that I understood and that there were no hard feelings. He then added the frosting on the cake … “I hate to tell you this but I think you are surrounded.”
What he had seen on every dry run was red star clusters bursting in a big circle surrounding us. We could not see any of this due to the triple canopy trees. Our recon patrols routinely used red star clusters to warn off close air support aircraft who seemed to be taking too great an interest in them. The enemy knew this and I had been told, often used red star clusters to ward off our attack aircraft. Since there was no way higher headquarters would have put recon patrols anywhere near us, we had to do what the squadron commander had already done and assume they were enemy.
That, fortunately was the last indication we had that we were surrounded.
The Command Chronology makes no mention of the incident but I believe that was the night that Lieutenant Tom Roadley, our Fire Support Coordinator, told me that, with the exception of the one 155 mm howitzer battery that we had been using, we were, “out from under the artillery fan.”
We were lucky to be barely within range of that 155 battery but totally unable to return fire to artillery attacks from our north. This was a potential tragedy that had to be addressed somehow without generating radio traffic on the subject.
Major General Davis, Commanding General, 3d Marine Division, visited us the next morning and before I could mention the subject, he told me that we were “out from under” the artillery fan.
First Lieutenant Tom Roadley was a busy man in the DMZ, responsible for coordinating the fires of distant artillery batteries. Courtesy of Thomas H. Roadley.
He added that the officer responsible for that state of affairs no longer worked at the division headquarters and that, as we spoke, artillery batteries were displacing in order to cover us. A major problem solved before the enemy caught on.