BATTLE OF FOXTROT RIDGE
Battalion Command Chronology Month of May 1968
28 May 1968 - 0245 hours - Company F vicinity (map coordinates) received enemy probe. Initial ememy movement observed by LP using Starlight Scope. Night defensive fires called in. Enemy force over ran 4 man LP north of defensive perimeter when 3 NVA jumped into LP position with satchel charges, killing themselves and 3 of the four Marines. The ememy assaulted on a wide front from the north utilizing heavy small arms fire and at least 40 RPG rounds. Company F fired the FPL (Final Protective Line). Enemy utilized pencil flares to control their attack. Company F commander fired a green pencil flair and enemy momentarily broke contact.
Kevin Howell's Memoirs:
Two postitions were overrun. The LP/OP was really manned by 8 men. The position was called the Crows Nest, it had in it Hillbilly (Bob Croft), an FO and his radio operator, Big Hands and his M-60 machine gun and me. The gun team was hit by satchel charge suicide assholes and all killed but Big Hands. A rifleman attached to the FO team was killed and I was wounded by light schrapnel in the chest and stomach (my shirt caught on fire), later when a couple of us went back to seal a gully that ran beside our position and allowed them to try to bypass us we met a large force of about 20 and we went at it with grenades, rifles, pistols and bayonets.
I was wounded a second time by being stabbed in both hands, right arm and in the mouth. Another guy was bayoneted lightly across the chest. We had to go to that area several times during the night and clean them out and they suffered great loses in that gully.
We were the key to them overrunning the company and they never got through us in great numbers. 1st, 2nd and 3rd Platoons were ordered to draw in closer to consolidate their positions and fill in the gaps left by casualties. 2nd platoons Platoon Commander did not understand the order and ran back to the CP to get the word and on the way back to his platoon he was killed. His platoon never received the word and some of the men, finding themselves alone and cut off ran throught the enemy forces and grouped up on the roadway at the bottom of the hill and waited out the battle, the night and the coming battalion support. They were picked up the next morning by Echo Company. 81's Mortar Platoon was in the middle of the Company CP and died to a man. The company was about 125 strong when we started the battle. We were grossly under strength due to large numbers rotating at the same time and was supposed to get built up after the operation which was supposed to be a cake walk. We were the anvil in the Hammer and Anvil Op in which G and E Companies would push what was left of a badly mauled battalion into us and we would finish them off. We had FO, 81 mm Mortar, Cooks, Engineers and Recon (I was one of them) for additional support. The company itself only had about 37 men not wounded or killed.
I cannot account for the attachments who suffered heavily. Echo Company fought hard and long through the night to get to us.
By the way, the badly mauled battalion turned into a pretty hard regiment. We had over 125 dead NVA bodies inside the company position. They even stole our outgoing mail. They did not bayonet our wounded but they did pull some of our wounded down to the roadway and stripped them of their weapons but put bandages on them and left them with water and did not abuse them. They did not seem interested in taking prisoners. We in turn did not mutilate or embarass ourselves. After I recovered I requested reassignment to Fox Company as a grunt and got it and returned to them when they had been in Mai Loc for a couple of weeks. There was a Combat Correspondent with photographer in that battle and that correspondent was Dale Dye. In the movie "Platoon", which he directed and played a minor part in, he choreographed the final battle scene around Foxtrot Ridge. There has not been a day go by that I do not recall that battle.
May 28 1968 0300 hours - Company F vicinity (map coordinates) received full scale attack by estimated NVA Battalion. Enemy used heavy RPG fire to breach 1st platoon position and over-ran a 60 mm mortar position. 2nd and 3rd platoons adjust to form 360 degree defense while 1st platoon regroups to establish defensive position on knoll to the east of original position. Night defensive Battery, 1/12 and 2nd Bn, 3rd Mar. 81 mm mortars. NVA using RPG rounds from high ground vicinity (map coordinates) to support attack.
May 28 1968 0325 hours - Company G vicinity (map coordinates) received 40 rounds of 130 mm artillery fire from CoRoc.
May 28 1968 0330 hours - Company F vicinity (map coordinates), NVA attack slackens and Company G consolidates defensive position.
May 28 1968 0415 hours - Company F vicinity (map coordinates) Flare plane and fixed wing gunship arrive on station. Volume of NVA fire increases against friendly forces. Enemy .50 cal. machine gun fires at gunship.
May 28 1968 0415 hours - Company F vicinity (map coordinates), Heavy contact continues between Company F and estimated NVA battalion. Enemy continues to attack and regroup attempting to over-run friendly positions with mass ground attack supported by RPG's and automatic fire.
May 28 1968 0620 hours - Company G vicinity (map coordinates), Received 4 rounds 130 mm artillery fire from CoRoc. Results 4 USMC WIA.
May 28 1968 0700 hours - Company F vicinity (map coordinates) Helicopter gunships on station with (what looks to be L.I. or ID) I.D. reports that NVA bodies litter area around Company F position. Small groups of enemy continue to fire at friendly positions.
Dale Dye's Memoirs:
I was walking with an M-60 machine gun team (LCpl Beebe, I believe), heading south off Route 9 sometime mid-morning on 28 May. We were headed up onto high ground where we were told Foxtrot had a hell of a fight early that morning. Someone up on point spotted gooks above us and a couple of M48A3 tanks down on the road took them under fire. I remember hearing the flat trajectory, high velocity 90 mm rounds passing overhead. They sounded something like a highly pissed off rattlesnake. As we were in heavy bush at the time and I was not up near the point, I did not see the rounds impact but the Skipper told me they were ranging visual and were right on target. We later found three or four NVA bodies and credited the tanks with getting them as they were fairly well shredded by HE.
Just before noon we made contact with Foxtrot and got word out on their night fight. I remember interviewing several of the Fox Company guys and they were pretty well shaken by the experience. Before we got too terrified, Echo moved out on a sweep along the ridge line where Fox had mixed it up with the NVA. There were a few little firefights on this route....mostly stay behind NVA. We dug them out of their holes and headed toward the sound of firing. Someone else was in a fight. I was told it was Foxtrot One and the gooks were on the high ground above them. We humped off in the direction of the firing and then second platoon on our left flank spotted NVA below us moving in the same direction. I caught sight of about four of them and they were carrying RPG's. We began to take them under fire with bloopers and I borrowed a few frags to toss into the mix. We got some extended range with the frags since we were pitching them downhill. I think I threw five or six and added some M16 fire just for drill. We had an AO overhead and I remember hearing him adjust fire on the radio. We formed up on a finger of rocky ridge line and the Gunny siad we were going to get re-supplied. It was about time as we were all out of water and the M-60's in particular needed ammo. We were taking incoming during the re-supply and I believe we had some H & S guys hit coming off the choppers. Anyway, I pitched in and helped load wounded. It was a stiff fight.....one of those deals where you just seem to wander around and meet gooks at every turn. Squads and fire teams kept flushing gooks out of the bush. It seemed like there was a raging fight going on in every direction, I turned. Finally, I just tagged along with a squad leader I knew and added my weapon to the battle. Much of this was very close range. Seemed to me like we were staring right into muzzle flashes most of the time. Somewhere in here I hit the deck when we took incoming from an RPD MG and got spotted by the gunner. He hammered the hell out of me while I was trying to squirm over to a tree. After the fight, I counted four bullet holes in my NVA pack. Really pissed me off at the time as NVA packs were much better for humping than the Marine Corps issue haversack. By mid afternoon we had the upper hand and I saw an awful lot of dead gooks, gear, etc. when we swept the area. Also managed to acquire a new NVA pack to replace the one that got shredded. The gunny told me there were somewhere near 200 bodies in the area and many we'd never find as we are going to press on toward night positions. We moved out and headed uphill to a position on top of the ridge line complex, swept it and then moved to the military crest to dig in for the night. We were exhausted...but what's new. The Echo Butt plates were used to stuff like this....although I have to say all of us were shaken and jittery at sundown. I was standing radio watch to give a friend some much needed sleep when we took incoming. It started just before dawn and seemed to be mostly mortar fire. I judged it to be sixty mike-mike. We probaby took about 30 rounds that morning and our arty FO called counter battery fire on the area where he thought the mortars might be.
We moved out right after daybreak and began to sweep the ridge where Foxtrot had the big fight that started the whole deal. There were bodies and equipment everywhere we looked. The area had been thoroughly napalmed and I remember thinking that Fox had really stepped in it and were lucky to have the number of survivors they had when we reached them the day before. I did have a photographer with me during the hill fight south of Foxtrot's position...but frankly, I'd have no idea how to access any of his photos. His name was Pennington, later KIA.
May 28 1968 1045 hours - Company E vicinity (map coordinates). Moving south from Route #9 to support Company F. Two tanks in direct support fired 90 mm fire on enemy troops moving across and up ridge line toward Company F position. Resulting in 4 NVA KIA with 90 mm fire.
May 28 1968 1130 hours - Company F vicinity (map coordinates). fixed wing aircraft delivered Napalm on ridge line west of defensive perimeter against NVA reinforcements moving from west and southwest. Napalm hit with 20 meters of friendly lines. Fire, fanned by wind swept Company F positions forcing friendly forces to withdraw from ridge line. The Napalm killed an estimated 30 NVA had halted the organized enemy attack. As fire subsided on ridge line, Company F Marines quickly returned to man defensive positions and pursued by fire as enemy troops withdrew.
May 28 1968 1150 hours - Company E vicinity (map coordinates) arrive in support of Company F. Groups of NVA continued to deliver sporadic fire from east and west of Company F position. Company E swept west along ridge line routing enemy from fighting holes and bomb craters. After securing western positions of ridge line, Company E commenced sweep to east where 1st platoon of Company F was receiving enemy fire from high ground to east, southeast and northeast.
May 28 1968 1355 hours - Company E vicinity (map coordinates). AO observed 30 NVA in tree line below and southeast of Company F. Company E using M-26 grenades and M-79 grenade launchers took the NVA under fire. AO adjusted rounds, killing and confusing the enemy until the remaining NVA fled to the south. At 1500 hours emergency re-supply arrived by helo at Companies E and F positions and took out Company F WIA. Company E continued the attack making use of supporting arms moved to night positions. Results: 13 USMC KIA, 44 USMC WIA and 175 NVA KIA with many bodies remaining in area not yet searched. Many weapons and ammunition and documents were found. Report will follow on 29th of May.
May 28 1968 1805 hours - Company H vicinity (map coordinates). Received 6 mortar rounds, 82 mm. Called in 105 mm artillery counter battery. 1 USMC WIA.
May 28 1968 1825 hours - Company E vicinity (map coordinates) and (map coordinates) spotted 4 NVA at (map coordinates) and NVA digging in at (map coordinates). Called in artillery fire.
May 28 1968 1900 hours - Assumed Opcon Company E, 2nd Bn, 1st Mar.
May 28 1968 2000 hours - CP 2nd Bn, 3rd Mar. vicinity (map coordinates) received 1 82 mm mortar round. Unable to determine enemy position.
May 28 1968 0430 hours - Company E vicinity (map coordinates) received 25 60 mm mortar rounds. Fired artillery counter battery mission on suspected enemy position.
May 29 1968 0430 hours - Company H vicinity (map coordinates) received 5 82 mm mortar rounds. Replied with 105 artillery counter battery fire.
May 29 1968 0900 hours - Company F and Company F vicinity (map coordinates) conducted thorough sweep of area where massive enemy attack occurred on May 28th. Found 54 NVA KIA, 1 .30 Cal. heavy machine gun, 8 AL50's, 46 AK-47's, 14 AK-47 magazines, 4 SKS, 4 AK-50 drums, 4 RPG rocket launchers, 7 RPG rounds, 8 RPG rocket boosters, 15 Chicom grenades, approximately 2000 rounds of assorted ammunition and miscellaneous 782 gear, papers and documents. Will forward weapons, papers and documents to S - 2.
May 29 1968 1420 hours - Company E vicinity (map coordinates) observed 3 NVA at (map coordinates). Coordinates were known 105 mm artillery registration point, called 105 mm fire for effect.
May 29 1968 1500 hours - Company E vicinity (map coordinates) observed 1 NVA at (map coordinates) called in 105 mm artillery mission resulted in secondary explosion. After this there were just artillery fire missions in response to some mortars and RPG's. On May 30 1968 at 1000 hours - Assumed OPCON Company B, 1st Marines. The actual battle of Foxtrot Ridge covered two days May 28 1968 - May 29 1968.