One Good Deal After Another
“One good deal after another!" was the way Staff Sergeant H. E. Roland described our operation in and around the DMZ.
SSgt Roland was the battalion's S-2 (Intelligence Officer). A savvy staff NCO in an officer's billet, he predicted the 82mm mortar attacks that raked the battalion on LZ Margo.
SSgt H. E. Roland. Courtesy of Kent Wonders.
One of life’s great paradoxes for a few thousand Vietnam era U.S. Marines is the fact that their “Longest Day” was 16 September 1968 at a place called Landing Zone Margo. The rest of the Marine Corps of 1968 knew little or nothing about that horrible, soul wrenching event when it happened and in time, knew even less.
In 1995, so that it wouldn't fade from memory completely, I wrote an article for the Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute titled LZ Margo ... The Dead Went Last.
Then, 50 years after LZ Margo, the Veterans of Foreign Wars published Brutal Battles of Vietnam, a series of stories that included the Battalion Landing Team’s “day on the cross” to borrow an old French army expression. Even more was learned by Marines when the Marine Corps’ Leatherneck Magazine published an article about Margo and a 50 year reunion of the battle veterans in 2018.
BLT Operations Officer Major Jarvis Lynch (center, hands on hips) just before the first attack on LZ Margo. Photo by Kent Wonders.
I was the BLT’s S-3 (Operations Officer) and for that reason, was asked to write a history of the operations that "book-ended" Margo, including our training beforehand and the rough weeks we spent after the Margo tragedy in the DMZ until we returned to the ships of the Amphibious Ready Group, and then steamed south to conduct an amphibious landing near Danang in the 1st Marine Division’s Area of Responsibility.
What follows is an accounting of the two months BLT 2/26 spent in and around the DMZ, with my original LZ Margo ... The Dead Went Last article in its correct chronological sequence.
A few words of caution are in order. The information sources for these descriptions of the events before and after Margo are the Battalion Landing Team’s Command Chronology and this old man’s memory.
For those unfamiliar with a Command Chronology, it is a monthly document summarizing major events. The chronologies, prepared by each battalion in a combat zone, are forwarded to Headquarters Marine Corps and eventually wind up in a museum historic file. In our case, the document was always prepared at the BLT rear command post and its primary source of information was the “spot report” addressing important events sent from the forward command post to higher headquarters.
Needless to say, an old man’s memory is not the most accurate historical information source. However, in this case, I had the September 1968 and October 1968 Command Chronologies to draw upon. Unfortunately, the Command Chronologies do not always mention events of major importance. Why? Probably because no “spot report” concerning the incident was sent. The events not mentioned in the chronologies have been firmly fixed in my mind for years but the dates may be off by a day or two.
One more thing about the Chronologies. The September edition must have been caught in a rain downpour somewhere. It is hard to read in some places and impossible in others. The October edition is pristine. Despite the few problems, both were more than helpful in the writing of this brief history.