Kent Wonders Remembers LZ Margo (continued)
Lt Kent Wonders in the DMZ two days after the final attack on LZ Margo looking tired, stressed and serious. Photo courtesy of Kent Wonders.
A letter to Judy dated 20 September 1968: "Well the helos were for medevac. We had a “short round” last night that killed 2 and wounded 11. A “short round” is a friendly art’y round that lands in the wrong place, namely on us. The number of accidents is overwhelming. There were many people in the hospital due to accidents when I was there."
A day or two after the move, a group of replacements arrived; one replacement was a new 2nd lieutenant who I knew from the summer of 1966 PLC class. He had graduated from college and gone to TBS about a year later than I, so he was just getting in country. We spent a long evening talking, mostly answering his questions about what to expect. Fox Company was going to be his new home. Fox was assigned and fighting up the same ridge on which the CP was located.
In the morning I asked if I could lead the small group of replacements up the trail two to three thousand meters to where Fox was located and had been in contact the afternoon and evening before. With the replacements and one of battalion’s radiomen, we started north feeling very small and alone.
The trail was like nothing I had seen before. The route was so steep the NVA had cut steps into the clay, with bamboo handles and railing in many places. It was obvious the trail was made for people carrying heavy loads. From the air the path could not have been seen because of the very large trees with lots of secondary growth. Intermittently, there were well camouflaged bunkers, some for fighting from, and some larger ones for sleeping or for storage.
As we continued and saw the first trailside complex, all of our alert levels went very high. We got off the trail, lay down, and watched and listened. Then taking one newbie with me, we went down the ridge to flank the bunker. With the others watching and covering us, we dropped a grenade in the opening, and waited for the explosion. When the smoke cleared, we checked out the inside of the empty bunker. These positions were really strong, well made with large logs and two to three feet of soil on top. After several more repeat performances, all with the same results, we held a patrol meeting and changed the order. Fox Company had been up the trail less than 24 hours ahead of us, and we would never have enough time or grenades to keep up this routine. So, we spread out, moving along the trail, pausing to observe each NVA bunker for movement, and thus picking up the pace.
As we reached Fox our first and lasting memory was that of a Marine’s body covered in his poncho. Soon the body was to start the long ride home. I did not know him which added to the distance I felt from the men of Fox whom I used to know so well. I said good-bye to the new “brown bar,” the slang name given to new 2nd lieutenants. I wished him well, knowing and imagining what the next few weeks of combat heading into the DMZ was going to be like for him. As it turned out, in less than two weeks, he was seriously wounded and headed back to the US.