One Good Deal After Another (continued)
"if you get in trouble, we don't have anybody to reinforce you."
Our largest contact with enemy infantry during this timeframe occurred on 8 October when Hotel Company ran into an unknown number of NVA defending a hill. Hotel suffered 2 KIA and 11 WIA while routing the enemy. Hotel reported 17 confirmed enemy KIA and noted that they had seen numerous other bodies being dragged away.
Otherwise, our activities were contacts with with smaller groups of enemy infantry; use of artillery to attack enemy artillery that we could hear in the distance firing at other Marine positions further south; finding and destroying empty fighting positions and ammunition; and working to find moving enemy mortar crews that would fire a few mortar rounds at our troops, then move on to strike another day. In brief, the enemy was harassing us but avoiding solid contact.
To be honest, once again, what the NVA had done made no sense, at least from our point of view. They went to great trouble to establish a major artillery position. They did not commit enough infantry to defend an artillery fire base of that size. It’s obvious purpose was to bring firepower to bear on major Marine and South Vietnamese Army installations located in the Quang Tri/Dong Ha complex on the coast. Yet had that fire base gone into action, it would have been wiped of the face of the earth in less than 36 hours, 24 of which would have been consumed getting one or two B-52 Arc Lights in position to strike.
By the same token, we too were operating on a thin margin. The infantry battalion, Second Battalion, Twenty Sixth Marines, was well understrength. The Marine commands, including us, were not familiar with what went on (if anything), inside the DMZ or, more importantly, just north of the DMZ.
Then there was the problem that we had encountered three months earlier at Con Thien. We wanted to send heavy patrols north to the DMZ but were told not to do so because, “if you get in trouble, we don’t have anybody to reinforce you.”