Kent Wonders Remembers LZ Margo (continued)
In the meantime, the CP and supporting units and Golf Company started settling in around Margo. The largest support unit with us was our 81mm mortar platoon, which dug in across the saddle at the base of the large hill. The command post set in on the reverse side of a small knoll. I assigned the radiomen and other camp followers to start digging several parallel trenches for the command post. The attachments (other units, for example, engineers) all started their trenches nearby. The palace guard, G Company, formed a perimeter around all the rest of us and started patrolling the immediate area.
Soon it became evident that this was not a new area of the war. The LZ had been used multiple times, evidenced by the fighting holes and refuse. A distant explosion was heard followed by a call for medevac. One small unit patrolling on the hill above found an old unmarked mine field, probably left behind by the French or Americans. This was first of many casualties to come.
With little to do personally, one of the radiomen and I decided to share and dig together a sleeping hole large enough for one person to lie mostly fully stretched out. The digging was hard in the red clay and a fair amount of rooks, so we stopped at about 18 inches that first day and later came to regret our laziness. The hole was about 10 meters downhill from the battalion CP and 10 meters from where the battalion medical personal were digging.
Until now, the battalion level medical team had not gone on any of the short term and local battalion-sized patrols. It just was not practical for a doctor/surgeon or senior corpsman to go on a long walk, given the risks, wait for something to happen, and then give emergency first aid along the trail. That was the job for the Navy corpsman, one with each platoon, and a senior corpsman at the company level. (These senior medical personnel had, up until Margo, stayed in forward bases where there was a medical facility, often in underground bunkers that were used as the equivalent of an ER/Triage. Here the wounded were stabilized and quickly sent to a hospital.) Our surgeon, however, lobbied with the battalion CO and was granted permission to go on this multi-week operation.
As I recall, Major Lynch asked me to make sure the medical team stayed safe and set up in a tactical place appropriate for their job. As it turned out, that responsibility soon ended dramatically. The senior corpsman with the doctor had lots of field experience and needed no suggestions; they had heard the same S-2 briefings the rest of us had and they were well prepared with fighting holes and a small shallow trench for protection. We all knew we were located in the operational area of a NVA mortar company, so self-motivation came naturally to most of us.
On the first afternoon after landing and moving north, our companies reported much evidence of NVA presence. They found bunkers, stairs cut into steep sections of the hills, and had at least one brief firefight just before dark. The contacts were in part a group of NVA carrying mortars sighted at a distance. Sometime before daylight, the coded order came via radio that the Battalion, all our units outside the LZ area, were to do a 180 degree and return to the LZ.