Kent Wonders Remembers LZ Margo (continued)
The Barrage Seemed To Go On And On
[on September 16, 1968, on LZ Margo] "Lt. Kent Wonders, an assistant to [Major Jarvis] Lynch, ran to his hole that he had been able to deepen to two feet. But he was the last of four men arriving, leaving him six inches or more above ground.
'During the thunderous explosions, my face was buried between the bodies of the Marines layered below me,' he remembers. 'The noise was so loud my ears rang for days afterward.'"
Robert E. Widener
author of "Deadly Dilemma at LZ Margo" in the VFW's book "Brutal Battles of Vietnam".
The LZ become way too crowded with over 600 Marines tightly packed around Margo and another 200 or more on the way. I remember the S-3 discussing where the last company was to be placed, and it was decided to bring them inside the circle and disperse them among the rest of us as best as possible.
Golf Company men, the last to arrive, were standing and milling around, seemingly everywhere in the battalion CP area. Some were dropping their packs in the patches of shade and getting something to drink and eat. Fox Company had spotted NVA trailing Golf as they crossed the stream at the base of the hill below Margo. Fox probably requested to fire on the NVA, but it was feared that the troops spotted could be the end of Echo Company.
A short time later, Fox reported mortar rounds landing way north, and then at about the same time a probe of their lines started. The Marines in the area opened up with their weapons, driving the attackers back. My guess, in hindsight, is that this was a planned, noisy diversion to cover the mortar rounds used to bracket the target. The NVA mortar teams were located in dispersed locations nearby.
BLT 2/26 Alfa Command Group on LZ Margo looking for trouble in the surrounding hills. Air Liaison Officer Capt. Ken Dewey is scanning with binoculars. Center, hands on hips, is Major Jarvis Lynch. Photo courtesy of Kent Wonders.
The major was busy talking to Fox, getting the FO (forward observer) for the 81’s and regiment artillery to prepare for firing on the prepared mortar positions that had been discovered and plotted the day before. I was standing near waiting to see if he wanted me to do something. Incoming mortars were not on my mind; I probably wanted to go to Fox’s position and see what had just happened.
It is hard to remember the details of the next 24 hours, but I do vividly remember the next few moments. Maybe six to ten, 82mm mortar rounds landed simultaneously all around us; I mean in a cluster, all in the vicinity of the battalion CP. I ran the ten meters to “my” hole. The sleeping trench had been deepened by then to maybe 24 inches. However, I was the last of three or four Marines to arrive; all of us humans had arrived by crash landing, after a short airborne flight. I was last in the landing pattern, leaving my body six or more inches above ground with the other Marines probably wondering who the poor guy on the top was.
The first barrage seemed to go on and on….probably several hundred rounds …on and on. The official report said, “Approximately 158 rounds of 82mm.” NO ONE WAS COUNTING! Some landed within a meter or two from the highest point of my anatomy, my butt, as proven by the craters. During the thunderous explosions my face was buried between bodies of the Marines layered below me. Fortunately, mortars explode in a cone shape pattern, narrow at the bottom and ever widening in an up-and-out pattern. With my hands over the back of my neck, I was praying a direct hit would not kill us all.
The noise was so loud that my ears rang for days. Several times that night I heard, “Lieutenant, you are talking too loud!”