The 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines (1/3), got the assignment to oust the NVA from their sanctuary. This was no easy task since the battalion was scattered throughout Northern I Corps. Headquarters Company, with the battalion commander Lt. Col. Charles V Jarman, and Company A were occupying positions at Dong Ha, home for 3rd Marine Division headquarters; Company B, along with Amtrak’s (amphibious tractors), was situated south of the Cua Viet River; Company C was located at Nhi Ha, northeast of Dong Ha; and Company D was manning lines at the Quang Tri Combat Base near Hill 22. The maneuver was dubbed Jones Creek, which was part of a larger operation known as Napoleon/Saline.
On July 3, 1968, Alpha Company, with the headquarters group, began a night maneuver from Dong Ha toward Camp Big John. ''Heading’ for the 'Z’ in the dark?'' exclaimed one Marine. ''You gotta be kiddin' me.'' As the Marines scanned their hostile surroundings, artillery FO’s (forward observers) radioed in the coordinates for defensive fire in event of an attack.
July 4 “The Defining Year 1968”
Everybody is firing everything they got, plus pop flairs what a show. That day as the grunts neared the sand dunes, two smoke rounds from the 105mm howitzers of Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 12th Marines, screeched high above to mark friendly artillery concentrations. In addition, a small spotter plane, a Cessna (O-IF) Bird Dog soared above and kept in constant contact with the forward air controller on the ground. The unmistakable roar of rockets was heard as the Marines sprinted for cover. Three leathernecks lay wounded as a result of the barrage, and corpsmen raced to their sides to provide them with aid.
While the medical personnel tended to the injured, the spotter plane relayed the coordinates for the NVA mortar tubes. Receiving the information, the air controller transmitted a fire mission to the artillery battery A-1/12 providing support to 1/3. Shortly thereafter, seven 105mm rounds crashed near the enemy positions. ''Left 200 meters-add 250 meters!'' shouted the radio operator to the FO. ''You're wide and short. ''Adjusting to the radioman's instructions, Alpha Battery soon found the mark and answered with a deadly bombardment.
The enemy force, estimated to have been a platoon, broke contact, leaving behind five dead. Charlie Company unearthed twenty-eight 82mm mortar rounds, RPO (rocket-propelled grenade) ammunition and 10 blocks of explosives. The Marines destroyed the cache in place. On July 7, 1968, Operation Jones Creek was terminated. The Aerial Observer has to watch so he doesn’t fly into the gun target line and shoot himself down.
At Cua Viet river and golf of Tonkin. Nothing here but sand. Came by convoy from C-3 at Cam Lo past Dong Ha then down river by Mike Boat. Been sick lately everyone got malaria at C-3. I fell of a truck, unloading ammo, and laid behind a hooch for what seamed like a couple of days. Doc gave me some pills and I went to PX and got something so am better now. Well time keeps rolling along and as I write the letters I am getting shorter in the Nam.
Still at Cua Viet River where it empties into the Golf of Tonkin. There is nothing but sand here. We swim all the time in the sea it is only 200 yards away. Lots of AmTrac’s troop carriers units. Suppose to get to see a USO show but got incoming instead 152 MM NVA guns. The USO show got back on the Mike boat and went away, we were all yelling for them to stay. The sand is good for incoming it absorbs a lot of the rounds shrapnel. Well it is hot we don’t fire much just enough to keep the barrels clean. There is sand in everything including my eyes. There is a big long sandy beach with lots of Amtrak troop carriers on it.
We are firing H&I’s (Harassment and Interdiction) most of the time now only a few fire missions. Battery commander is Lieutenant Boyle and Lieutenant Yeager. We go to the mess hall down here by truck for chow. The ocean is green and big. There are pines trees by the beach and we ride air mattress in the surf. At night sit in bunkers in the sand by the beach & listen to the Doors light my fire on a tape recorder all night.
Our battery area looks like the sand dunes of the Sahara Desert. We thru Lieutenant Boyle and Lieutenant Yeager into the ocean yesterday. There is a mess hall here at this position we go by truck to and from chow. I am still a PFC and rank is still slow. We are suppose to move out of here today and move inland by chopper I don’t know where we are going for sure. I was thinking about extending my tour for 6 months and get 30 days free leave. You spend 13 months get 30 days free leave then back to the Nam for another 6 months if the war lasts that long?
I should be getting home in 7 months and 20 days. Not vary long is it? I remember when I just got over here 13 months to do and now over 5 months are gone by and it seams like yesterday I got here but a long time since I was home last. I will be in the Green Machine Marine Corps 1 year on the 28th of July how about that! Please send me some Hot Rod magazines and Oreo cookies. Some canned stuff like tacos and Mexican foods in cans or chocolate oatmeal cookies. I am sending money orders I got over here to cover the film and stuff.
At Camp Carroll again from Qua Viet by CH 53. We waited at Qua Viet all one day and they never came. Then at 0800 the next morning the choppers came in making a sand storm you wouldn’t believe. The sand almost knocked you down pack on back all my fighting gear on we ran aboard the 53s. Had a warm Falstaff beer. Dr. Munes had a little hard booze so we are feeling all right. At the foot of the hill outside of Camp Carroll the battery is lifting out by chopper and Bradford and I are going to “W” 1/12. As we are waiting by the muddy road for Alpha to lift out one of the gun grunts Washington who wants to be in Communications is standing with his back to the passing trucks. He has a roll of unwinding communication wire on his back and turns away as a Duce and a half truck passes by. The wire catches on the trucks wood rack as it passes by in the foot deep mud. It starts to pay out as the truck pulls away and I open my mouth to say something. Just then the wire catches and yanks Washington off his feet up into the air horizontal to the ground and drags him away as he falls under the mud. When he comes up for air he yells! Ha Man over and over flapping his arms at the mud as the truck drags him away. All we can do is laugh until the truck stops about 50 feet away. As he stands up the only thing you can see is his eyes through the mud.
I am hooking up a 105 howitzer by lifting straps and ring to a CH 53. You have to stand on top of the gun to hook up the ring then look for a place to jump to when it lifts off. The helicopter drops a little hits my helmet knocks me off in front of the gun and proceeds to try to drag the gun over me. I roll as fast as I can to get out of the way almost into a deep hole but it lifts up just in time to miss me. As I watch the chopper and the gun fly away towards the West into the mountain jungle I notice the gun starts to sway from side to side under the chopper. It must be up a few thousand feet by now and it is really going from side to side. All of a sudden the gun drops! I watch it fall forever into the mountainous jungles of Viet Nam and out of sight. Oh Shit! Did I hook that thing up right? From a CH 53 you can see a lot of Viet Nam. Been from the border of Laos to the Gulf of Tonkin and So What! Raining today a tropical rainstorm. I am going to Bangkok for R&R I will probably spend a lot of money but it will be worth it.
This excerpt is from “The Defining Year 1968”
Weapons cache on the northeast slope of Dong Ha Mountain. Dug into the side of the mountain were six large bunkers, which, upon closer inspection were found to have false floors. Beneath the flooring, McTiernan's Marines discovered two complete 75mm pack howitzers and 26 rounds of howitzer ammunition. The howitzers were believed to be the ones that had harassed Camp Carroll sporadically during the preceding months. No Shit!
Whisky Battery 1st Battalion 12 Marines 1968
Well how is everybody at home? I am at Quang Tri with “W” Battery still. I got paid yesterday I got $25 and left $370 on the books. I was leaving it there so I could go on R&R. I was thinking of going to Bangkok or Australia. They say we are going to the Philippines to regroup and we might get 5 days leave in Olongapo the site of the biggest U.S. naval base in Asia. Well we are in a rear position now at Quang Tri and I saw a movie "The War Wagon" with John Wayne in it.
We eat in a mess tent and the food isn’t to bad compared with C-Rations. We are having a lot of chart drill and practice missions. They took all the old salts out of the battery the ones that didn’t have enough time left in country to go on float. They say we are going to the Philippines or Okinawa for a month. The way float works is you start on a ship then go in for 5 to 25 days then back on ship for a few days then back in to another position.