Kent Wonders Remembers LZ Margo (continued)
As a footnote, the B-52’s arrived on time with hundreds of tons of bombs dropped within 3,000 meters from LZ Margo. I have never talked to anyone then or later who ever remembered the B-52’s that day. Preoccupied minds can block out a lot. The rifle companies started north at first light the next day. However, Command Chronology Footnote 2/26 #10(b), page 4, states:
‘Commander’s Analysis (9b):
The ARCLIGHT safety factor, eg. 3000 meters that dictated return of the entire BLT (-) to the confining terrain of LZ MARGO was considered excessive and in retrospect was unwarranted. Only a few of the ARCLIGHT bombs could be seen impacting from LZ MARGO and the latter ARCLIGHTS could barely be heard. It appears that the accuracy of the ARCLIGHT was underestimated when the safety distance was established of the area destructive effects were overestimated.
In any event, it is strongly recommended that safety margins not be inflexibly levied but, rather, that the potential dangers of the tactical situation be given weight. An additional factor that apparently received little consideration was that of terrain. The terrain could have been utilized to shield BLT (-) units from ARCLIGHT effects and the then deployed units could have controlled the area in a fashion that would have reduced the casualty-inflicting mortar attacks.
A Visit From the General
The next morning, September 17, we still had several bodies to positively identify or prepare. As we completed the task, we moved the body bags to a small area of the LZ, placing the men in neat rows and waited for resupply helos to come in and take the bodies out.
While I was taking in the whole scene, a Huey approached the LZ, unannounced at least to me and landed. Several Marines stepped out. One was wearing two Stars. The general quickly took in the scene, came to attention, paused, saluted in the direction of the KIAs, and turned to me. “Lieutenant, where is the colonel?” I escorted him the few meters to the holes that were the CP and got out of the way. I left the area thinking it would not be long before the NVA mortars would start again; after all the general’s helicopter was idling on the LZ.
Later I learned the general was Major General Ray Davis, commanding 3rd Marine Division. He was the recipient of the Medal of Honor while leading 1st Battalion of the 7th Marines near the Chosin Reservoir, Korean War.