I was a grunt (0311) and served in country from Dec 7, 1966 to Dec 28, 1967. I ran patrols, ambushes, search and destroy operations in most of I Corps area, and I would like to say, "Shots Were Fired." I'll refer to the Hill Fights, which started in April 1967 and ended in late May 1967, and the ambush on July 21, 1967 of the 175mm artillery convoy at Calu. Lots of my buddies died or were wounded in those battles. Maybe what the writer didn't hear were the shots that didn't fire from the jammed M16s we were issued, the week before we got to Khe Sanh.
(Note: This was a response to an article on the internet.)
I was with Mike Co 3/3, 1st Platoon, 1st Squad and on April 30, 1967, we started the attack on 881s. Dug in NVA troops opened up on us with machine guns and small arms, we pushed on and made it to what we thought to be the top of the hill, but instead, were in the Saddle of the 881s and 881n. We were pinned down for several hours, caught in a heavy crossfire of every gun imaginable. Our Radioman was shot right next to me, so the Lieutenant told me to take the radio. Things got worst when they opened up on us with rockets fired from Laos. We called in for a bombing mission to take them out, but were refused because they were in Laos. They were out of range of our artillery, so they tore us up. I was hit in my right hand and left leg so they took the Radio from me. My M16 rifle didn't jam, so I was still able to fire with my left hand, someone had to reload for me since I couldn't use my right hand. One round landed in Command group of 2nd Platoon, killing the Lieutenant and wounding the Radioman and several others. The Lieutenant got us in a defensive perimeter in the tree line, where we were trying to regroup and recover the wounded and dead. We were almost out of ammo, I had about half a clip and one grenade left, so I pretty much thought I were going to die there, when the Marines of Kilo Co 3/9 broke through and got to us. Their Corpsmen came up and started helping our Corpsmen -who were over whelmed with casualties - with the more seriously wounded. I can't describe the elated feeling of seeing those grunts and the debt I owe to them. I spent 17 days on the Hospital ship and returned to Mike Co.
On July 21, 1967 a large convoy carrying a 175mm Artillery Battery to Khe Sanh passed through our Company position at Calu (between Khe Sanh and the Rockpile). The Lieutenant and I were standing on top of my bunker watching the show when he said, "they will never make it." He was right. Within minutes they were ambushed at the first bridge bypass. Our 2nd Platoon were the point of the convoy so they were caught with machine gun and small arms fire, suffering many casualties. I was told to take my undersized squad out to reinforce them and to help get the wounded out. The Lieutenant went with us. It was pretty bad when we got there and we did get several of the wounded out, but one wounded Marine was shot as we were getting him out of the Ambush site, he died instantly. I often wonder if they were shooting at me, and missed. I heard that Shot, "loud and clear." We got every one out but became trapped ourselves. The NVAs started an assault on us - four from my squad, including the Lieutenant and a gun team on the other side of the road - in large numbers. A grenade wounded the Lieutenant and my Rifleman, with the Lieutenant being the more serious. I heard a small plane, looked up and saw this guy (bird dog or FO) firing an M16 out the window of the plane, just about then I heard a Jet pulling out and saw the bombs as they whistled by, on target. Saved by a crazy FO and the Air Force. We got the Lieutenant out but he later died of the grenade wounds. I guess grenades don't count as shots fired. We did pick up some sniper fire as we pulled back, killing more good Marines.
Con Thien was the worst hellhole in the I Corps Area. The Marines (grunts) suffered casualties from the incoming mortar and sniper fire on a daily basis. I saw a glimpse of it when I rode shotgun for a re-supply convoy. The incoming started soon after the trucks were circling to unload (throwing every thing off the trucks as they turned to head back out). The Mail bag landed on a bunker and was quickly retrieved. Mail was like fuel to grunts. I felt bad leaving when they were under attack, but happy to get far away from Con Thien.
I didn't volunteer for any more convoy duty.
The writer was right about the lulls in the fighting, but it depended on who (MOS) and where your unit was located. Before we were moved to Khe Sanh we enjoyed about two months of duty at the Rockpile, while the Marines at Con Thien were being hammered by the enemy, but that changed when we arrived at Khe Sanh. Grunts were always on duty and had to respond to help other units that were under attack. It was a feeling of assurance that when things really got bad, you could depend on Marines and Corpsmen to come to your aid (Corpsmen are actually grunts in disguise) . Also the Air and Artillery support, without them I wouldn't be here.
Sgt. Caesar D DaSilva
USMC 1966 - 1969