LZ Margo and the DMZ (continued)
The Palace Guard
In this section of the DMZ, there was a big difference with the NVA soldiers we were fighting: they were large men, well-fed, with good haircuts and pressed uniforms, unlike their battle-worn brethren we more often encountered. We soon learned that they were the NVA's Palace Guard -- their equivalent of Marine Barracks, 8th & I, their elite. The conclusion was obvious: the North Vietnamese considered protecting this section of their border to be vital.
The Palace Guard knew what they were doing too. The enemy positions we encountered were classic reverse-slope defenses, well-concealed with dense underbrush and heavily bunkered, not easy to see in the jungle.
But the Marines were adapting too, using techniques familiar to the NVA: operating cross-country and cross-compartment in order to take full advantage of the concealment afforded by the dense vegetation.
We found that our seasoned grunts adapted well to this technique, while the NVA never seemed to grasp the fact that the main attack line and bulk of the BLT forces were not moving along the easier ground on the trace of the road being searched, but were instead coming at them from unexpected directions.
We also discovered that the enemy was vulnerable to flanking attacks, either not detecting them soon enough or reacting too slowly when they did. The rifle companies used this knowledge to good effect when planning each day's targets.
On October 2, two more Golf Company Marines were lost in a firefight with eleven North Vietnamese soldiers in a bunker complex. Afterwards, Golf called in fixed wing aircraft to destroy the complex. That night, when they heard tracked vehicles, voices and shouting 500+ meters from their position, they called in artillery with good coverage. They tried to hit the convoy with fixed wing aircraft strikes as well, but couldn't illuminate the target sufficiently since no battery was within illumination range.
In the early morning hours of October 3, two Marines from F Company were killed by 130mm artillery, with five more wounded. No one could get a fix on its source, but it was likely the same battery that had hammered the 81s platoon on the landing zone two days before.
We suspected the NVA would have an underwater bridge across the Ben Hai river to move supplies from North Vietnam, and just before noon on October 3, an aerial observer under BLT control detected two of them and a culvert bridge as well. The AO directed flights of fixed wing aircraft and destroyed the bridges and sections of the connecting road.
Early that afternoon, G Company made contact with NVA in bunkers. Meanwhile H Company found a complex of vehicle revetments. Later Golf directed artillery fire on a bunker complex and observed several secondary explosions.