LZ Margo and the DMZ (continued)
The predominant emotion among men huddled against the bare rock of Margo, trying to make themselves very small, was not just fear, or that other odd reaction you sometimes get when you think you're about to die, a detachment that lets you calmly wonder, "Is this how it ends?"
Because after enduring incoming rounds seemingly without end, feeling the ground shake and listening to impacts all around and to the sounds of men calling out in agony, every man on that barren hill was filled with a fierce burning anger to strike back.
They took the enemy's first, hard punch, but then 2/26 gave the North Vietnamese as good as it got. Even as the incoming rounds blasted them, the hill came alive with Marines fighting back.
The recon platoon spotted muzzle flashes and yelled grid coordinates to the 81s command group which was close by. From a crater just above the gunpits, the mortar fire direction center worked up a fire mission and shouted it to the guns. The mortarmen were magnificent, aiming and firing their tubes in the midst of hell all around.
Grunts from hard-hit Echo Company jumped into blasted gunpits to help decimated mortar crews run for ammunition and steady guns for firing.
Margo was encircled by steep hills of equal or greater elevation dotted with enemy spotters and weaponry. Machine gunners from several units engaged any enemy activity they could spot on the surrounding hills, and when enemy troops were seen advancing toward the hill, machine gunners from different units engaged them at long range.
And when the NVA made the tactical error of following up the mortar attack with an infantry assault, the enraged Marines fought back with a vengeance and the assault failed.
By the next day, September 17, the Marines were spread out and dug in to defend Margo and to assert themselves again in the neighborhood around their hill. That instinctive preparation turned out to be a good thing, because they received two more intense barrages of 82mm mortar fire -- over 100 rounds in all -- that day. But what doesn't kill you makes you stronger and this time, although bloodied again, the Marines were not deterred.
Soon after, our patrols found the 18 graves of the NVA command group we killed in our counter-attack. They were the men who had planned and ordered the attack on LZ Margo.