Kent Wonders Remembers LZ Margo
by First Lieutenant Kent Wonders
Alfa Command Group, BLT 2/26
Planning for Margo
Today, Google Maps, GPS, and smart phones make 1968 Vietnam maps, grids and 6-digit coordinates seem oh so dark ages. The “modern” 1968 military relief maps were divided into numbered 1000 meter squares and each 1000 meters square was divided, in our mind’s eye, into tenths, both north and south and east and west. From squad leader up, we tried to know within 100 meters where we were on a map at all times. Precise knowledge of our location was the lifeline for the infantry. Help and coordination of any kind had to start with map grid coordinates.
At times, for some reason, grid location bypassed the lowly grunts; places became important enough to change from 6 digit grid locations to a formal name, for example, landing zones and support bases. For grunts, a six-number grid location was never remembered even when some fight took place there. When something significant took place at a named location, we all remembered it by that name. LZ Margo was one of those places for BLT 2/26. LZ Margo is probably most remembered by those of us who were there, by a one word question. Why?
Lt. Kent Wonders cleans his weapon on LZ Margo prior to the first attack. Photo courtesy of Kent Wonders.
The seed for the operation probably started weeks before as Marine generals and their staff conceived a plan. The Marine leadership in-country disliked the fixed defensive concepts of McNamara, which consumed far too many infantry battalions in defensive positions. As 1968 progressed, more and more Marine battalions became mobile, aggressively looking for the NVA by leaving fixed bases for weeks at a time to stay in the bush. For us, a regiment-plus-sized offensive operation was in the works.
BLT 2/26 was to be attached to the 9th Marine Regiment and our lieutenant colonel, major, and other staff officers went off to a briefing, I think at Dong Ha. I had been “demoted” to just working for Major Lynch since Captain [Charles] Divelbiss, my company commander at Fox had changed jobs to the S-3a.
In the end, the demotion meant the new S-3a stayed in the rear while I did exactly what I had been doing earlier. I was in the field still but without a title and in theory, subordinate to my prior company commander, the new S-3a. We never worked with each other in person again after I left the 2nd Platoon in July 1968, though sometimes we would talk formally on the radio while sending reports.
The battalion had at best a 24 hour warning order before the start of the new operation. The leadership scrambled to get ready. We were going by helicopter to a LZ called Margo. Each unit had to be briefed on the mission, points of departure, landing zones, order of march, and as always, right down to the amount of beans and bullets. To move about a thousand men requires hundreds of details and dozens of delegated tasks, all of which were also being done by the other battalions that would be operating in the general area under the same command.
There was not much for me to do except make sure the enlisted staff of the battalion command post (CP), mostly radio operators and a couple of drivers who became riflemen and security for the CP in the field, were ready. The CP personnel carried our personal weapons, food, and extra batteries which were a very important commodity. Also, we had to haul long range antennas so that the antennas could be extended 10 or more feet, which greatly expanded the radios’ range. The radiomen also had to carry medium range antennas that were attached to the radio when appropriate.
On this very long range patrol/operation we were all asked to carry one 81mm mortar round; these extra rounds proved worthy of the effort.