Kent Wonders Remembers LZ Margo (continued)
“We should expect the NVA to go on the offensive with their 82mm mortars.”
When the maneuver companies of 2/26 got the word to return, they universally protested what they thought was an unwise tactical decision.
They had had numerous probes and heard enemy activities throughout the night. Some units had spent the night in empty, but well prepared NVA complexes which included supplies, defensive bunkers, and mortar pits. These mortar positions were dug in deep and complete with overhead, removable camouflage to make them invisible from the air. There were many reasons to rethink this latest command.
As I recall the first person to verbalize the tactical big picture was Staff Sergeant H. E. Roland.
SSgt H. E. Roland (center, after Operation Meade River) was an experienced intelligence officer. His predictions of 82mm mortar attacks proved prophetic. Photo courtesy of Kent Wonders, right.
I had barely gotten to know him through some personal conversation while standing radio watch at night together. He was a short-timer looking forward to going home, being discharged, and starting college at Kent State in northern Ohio.
He was the battalion S-2 [Intelligence Officer] as a sergeant when the S-2 was usually a lieutenant or captain. The lieutenant colonel probably gave SSgt Roland the S-2 responsibly because of his experience and competency and probably also due to the shortage of officers. Whatever the reason, SSgt Roland was a good choice.
The change in orders had to be dealt with, so shortly after first light, the battalion staff gathered around the lieutenant colonel to discuss the situation, plans, and orders of the day. Each section leader gave their report.
When it was the S-2’s turn, SSgt Roland reported in detail what each of the companies was finding. He reported that the NVA were acting very aggressively and at arm’s-length they were standing and fighting. But most important were the reports of the company’s sightings of mortar crews and their empty but prepared positions! “We should expect NVA to go on the offensive with their 82mm mortars.”
It seemed to us that the NVA were following our every move, and as we found out later, protecting extensive base camps to the north, which included supply depots, transit rest stops, medical units, and more.