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Section 3: Khe Sanh
Crockett, Hill 950, Hill 861, Ardmore, Scotland I, and the 77-Day Siege
Delta Company's arrival at Khe Sanh (Quang Tri) is the fifth Vietnamese Province visited since February 1967 and marks the last stop of the "grand tour" of I Corps. The company arrives shortly after the last big battle around Hill 881N.
May 12, 1967
Delta Co. assumes responsibility for Khe Sanh defensive perimeter. The company arrives shortly after the last big battle around Hill 881N.
Operation Crockett is initiated. The battalion's mission is to occupy key hill positions to prevent enemy movement and conduct extensive patrolling. Immediately, Delta Co. begins a series of long-range patrols away from the Khe Sanh base. The first one is a five-day reconnaissance in force sweep that works the area around hill 861 and hill 881N. The next long patrol goes well into the valley north of Hill 558 and Hill 950.
June 3, 1967
Delta Co. pulls security along Route 9 west of Lang Vei Special Forces Camp on the Laotian border as part of an operation with the Nungs. This location is directly across the Se Phone River at the base of Co Rac Mastiff. The view of Co Rac is impressive. The hostile action of the day comes when the Marine spotter plane fires rockets at the NVA observed on Co Rac. The Laotians, at North Vietnamese instigation, register an official complaint with the International Control Commission claiming that American troops have fired across the border.
June 5, 1967
A delegation of U.S. Congressmen arrives at Khe Sanh to investigate the problems encountered with the new M-16 rifles. Some Delta Co. Marines are interviewed about their experiences with the M-16. The delegation leaves Khe Sanh just before rockets hit the base.
June 6, 1967
In the early AM, the Khe Sanh Base is mortared and rocketed while Hill 950 is attacked by an NVA force and avoids being overrun by calling in artillery on itself. The Marines defending Hill 950 suffer many casualties during the attack. Delta Co. is helifted to Hill 950 that morning to assist survivors and to provide security.
June 7-14, 1967
Delta Co. patrols the surrounding hillside and trails to look for signs of the NVA force around Hill 950. One patrol is toward the top of Hill 1015. There is a friendly fire incident when the artillery battery at Khe Sanh fires a salvo that hits the vicinity of where the company is building new and better defensive positions. The hit is close enough to throw dirt and rock on the Marines at the top of the hill.
The 1st Platoon is flown from Hill 950 to a patrol base located at the hairpin turn on Route 9 to provide security for the engineers rebuilding the bridge site over the Rao Quan River. One day, a couple of adventuresome Marines find the Rao Quan to be good fishing.
Delta Co. is relocated to Hill 861.
June 23, 1967
The NVA fires several mortar rounds at Delta Co. on Hill 861 and Bravo Co. on hill 881S. There are no Marine casualties.
June 27, 1967
At midnight, mortars attack the Khe Sanh base. Explosions from a dawn rocket attack on the base can be observed from Hill 861. There are a total of nine KIA sustained during these attacks with many wounded.
The attack by the 3/26 Marines on the ridges southeast of hill 881S (Hill 689) can be observed from Hill 861 by Delta Co. and is also monitored by radio. In this action, L and I companies assault the Hill 689 ridgeline, where they run into heavy resistance from the NVA. The 3/26 Marines have eight killed and ten wounded.
According to The Final Formation by Ray Stubbe, a total of 27 friendly forces are killed at the Khe Sanh base and in the various actions with the NVA on June 27. The following is a list of KIAs involved with these actions:
A 1/26 – 6
H&S 1/26 - 1
I 3/26 – 6
L 3/26 – 4
A 1/13 – 2
Sub Unit 5 – 4
3 Marines and one Corpsman from CAC "O".
The high plateau that leads from Hill 861 and Hill 881N is patrolled extensively as well as Hill 881N and the approaches to Hill 861. The quantity of discarded gear, old battle dressings, and NVA remains highlights the battle that has occurred here just weeks before. Bombs and artillery have pounded Hill 881N, and its terrain is marked by craters and blown trees. Delta Co. clears the slopes and upgrades the fortifications and trenches around Hill 861.
July 3, 1967
LtCol. D.E. Newton is replaced by LtCol. J.B. Wilkinson as the 1/26 Battalion Commander.
July 4, 1967
To provide fireworks for our Nation's birthday, the Khe Sanh base shoots some illumination rounds east of Hill 861 at nightfall. It is a good show from the Delta Co. position on the hill.
July 17, 1967
Operation Ardmore is started with the termination of Operation Crockett. Operation Ardmore is a continuation of the company-sized reconnaissance in force patrols to locate NVA positions and activity.
July 21, 1967
A Rough Rider convoy moves west into the mountains from Camp Carol with 175mm artillery. US commanders have decided to send these big guns to Khe Sanh for base defense and to support possible future operations into Laos by the Army and Marines. Bravo Co.1/26 is part of the security screen. Elements of the company engage the NVA, which is preparing to ambush the convoy in the vicinity of the hairpin curve along Route 9. After the Bravo Co. action, the artillery convoy, which is being held at Ca Lu, turns back to Camp Carol. Another convoy is not attempted and the big guns never reach Khe Sanh.
August 1, 1967
Captain G..D. Johnson is replaced by 1stLt E..E. Spencer as the Delta Co. Commander. The remaining original members (less than 15) of Delta Co. are rotated out of Vietnam.
Early August 1967
Delta Co. is replaced on Hill 861 on August 5th and assumes perimeter security around Khe Sanh Combat Base. The company conducts patrols through Khe Sanh Village and along the access road to Route 9.
The airstrip is torn up at this time to replace the old matting. All supplies are air dropped by C-130 with Delta providing drop zone security. This work proves to be dangerous, with some loads falling without chutes deployed.
Delta Co. participates in a boxing smoker with the Mortar section of H&S Company, providing a good distraction and at least one broken tooth.
Delta Co. conducts a five-day patrol west past the Rock Quarry and along the Hill 689 ridgeline. This is the site of the battles by the 3/26 Marines in late June. One morning before advancing on the next patrol objective, the battalion sends Delta Co. steak and eggs to cook for breakfast. During this sweep, the company finds fresh NVA digging, and trails are plentiful. "Old Charlie" is out there but is avoiding contact.
September 9, 1967
Delta Co. marches up to Hill 881S and relieves Alpha Co. The rains have set in, and it is wet and muddy. The word is that Con Thien is being hit hard and that 1/26 is now alone at Khe Sanh with the relocation of the 3/26 Marines to Leatherneck Square.
Delta Co. leaves Hill 881S and exchanges positions with another Marine company. Delta Co. begins a reconnaissance sweep along the ridgeline running from Hill 881S towards Laos. The patrol proceeds uneventfully until one of the squads finds a NVA recon map. The radio report of this finding causes a commotion with the higher-ups. With less than two hours of daylight remaining, the company is ordered to Khe Sanh base right away. To accomplish this requires a long, hasty, and dangerous movement in the rain and darkness. At one point, the company has to cross a rain-swollen creek, which is nearly impassible. It is well after dark before the company reaches the Ponderosa company area at Khe Sanh base. The stay at Khe Sanh is short, and Delta Co. returns to Hill 881S and the rain and mud.
Delta Co. conducts patrols to Hill 881N and farther west to Hill 918. Patrols are also conducted in the vicinity of Hill 861. The NVA continues to avoid contact, but the signs of recent activity are everywhere. Abandoned NVA base camps with bunkers, mortar pits and field kitchens are found, marked and left.
Ambushes and listening posts are run nightly, and Delta Co. loses a Marine to friendly fire on an ambush off 881S. The following Delta Co. Marine is killed:
Cpl. Melvin "Bud" Sink, 10/13/67 - Killed in the vicinity of Hill 881S
October 24, 1967
The 3rd Platoon of Delta Co. is relocated to Hill 950
October 25, 1967
Company B replaces Delta Company on 881S. Delta Company returns to Khe Sanh Base.
October 27, 1967
The Khe Sanh airstrip is reopened to C-123 aircraft.
October 28-29, 1967
The 1st Platoon of Delta Co. conducts a patrol west of the combat base.
October 29, 1967
Reconnaissance Team 283 engages a force of twenty NVA north of Hill 861.
November 1, 1967
Operation Scotland I begins and Operation Ardmore is terminated. Scotland I continues the series of company-sized reconnaissance in force patrols to locate NVA positions and activity in the Khe Sanh TAOR. Contact is sparse, but Delta Co. continues to find signs of NVA activity such as new roads (truck size), bunker complexes, and antiaircraft positions.
Delta Co. conducts several long-range patrols and finds signs of enemy activity. One patrol is a six-day patrol reconnaissance west of Khe Sanh around Hill 881S. Possible routes for the future support of the hill outpost are investigated. An unusual incident occurs when five water buffalo charge the 1st Platoon and pin the platoon commander to a tree. The water buffalo has to be driven off by small arms fire.
November 29, 1967
Delta Co. is sent to Hill 881S for several days. Earlier, a platoon from Bravo Co. has come under attack from 82mm mortars while on patrol. Delta Co. covers positions on Hill 881S as Bravo Company conducts a sweep of the suspected NVA locations.
One of the Delta Co. defensive position comes under fire. One weapon is found during the following search of the area.
December 2, 1967
Delta Co. is returned to the combat base.
Early December 1967
Delta Co. moves to Hill 861.
December 13, 1967
In response to the increased NVA strength at Khe Sanh, the 3/26 Marines are returned to Khe Sanh. During December, the 1/26 battalion receives new M-16 rifles.
Late December 1967
The NVA attack Hill 950 with small arms and grenades, wounding five Charlie Co. Marines.
December 26, 1967
Delta Co. is relieved on Hill 861 by Kilo Co., 3/26.
December 28, 1967
A battalion sweep is conducted by the 1/26 Marines northwest of Don Tri Mountain and Hill 950. Delta Co. is helilifted to LZ Crow beneath Hill 632. Photoreconnaissance has shown the hill to be fortified by NVA. However, there is no contact made with the NVA as the Marines advance through the area.
January 2, 1968
Five NVA officers are killed near the perimeter of the Khe Sanh base. Intelligence reports indicate two to three NVA divisions are moving into the area.
January 16, 1968
The 2/26 Marines are transferred to Khe Sanh and occupy Hill 558 north of the Khe Sanh base.
January 17-20, 1968
A Marine reconnaissance team is ambushed near Hill 881N. During the counter attack by the 3/26 Marines, a NVA battalion is badly mauled.
January 21, 1968
In the AM, a battalion-sized attack by the NVA against Hill 861 is repulsed. The Khe Sanh base is attacked by 100 mortar rounds and 60 rockets. A rocket fired from Hill 881N destroys the main ammunition dump on the eastern perimeter of the base in a colossal explosion, littering the battalion's defensive sector with live ordnance and shrapnel. Later in the morning, the CS gas storage goes up and tear gas vapors add to the difficulties of the day.
Also in the AM, Khe Sanh village is attacked by a NVA force. Late in the morning, Delta Co. is ordered to relieve Khe Sanh Village and moves out. However, the company is recalled as the lead element approaches the village and enemy actions show that Delta Co. is about to walk into an ambush.
The shelling of Khe Sanh continues throughout the 77-day siege with over 1,000 rounds on some days.
January 22, 1968
To strengthen the defenses at Khe Sanh, the 1/9 Marines are transferred. The battalion takes up positions at the rock quarry southwest of the base. A new combat outpost is established on Hill 861A by Echo Co., 2/26.
January 27-28, 1968
During a Delta Company platoon sweep near the water point northeast of the Khe Sanh base, an NVA force of unknown size is engaged. The NVA have used this location to fire at aircraft. The lead element of the patrol is hit by an RPG round and returns fire. There are four Marines WIA with one KIA during the attack. The Marines kill three NVA and capture several weapons. The following Delta Co. Marine is killed:
Pvt. Frank Uzzell, 1/27/68 - Killed by exploding round during patrol at Khe Sanh.
The 37th ARVN Ranger Battalion arrives and takes up positions in the eastern sector. The NVA shelling of Khe Sanh continues with casualties.
January 28, 1968
Another Delta Co. platoon makes a local patrol northeast of the combat base of the plateau from the end of the runway to the water point and engages an NVA force of unknown size. The patrol engages the enemy, killing one NVA and capturing one.
January 31, 1968
The NVA and main-force VC launch a countrywide attack on Vietnamese cities which marks the beginning of the "Tet Offensive".
Starting early in the month, the Khe Sanh base is blanketed by constant fog, low hanging clouds, mist, drizzle, and rain storms.
The snipers just outside the wire remain a constant threat.
ARC LIGHT bombing strikes by B-52's from Guam, fighter-bombers, and artillery pound away at the NVA throughout the siege day and night. B-52 strikes light up the night sky and rumble like thunder in the distant mountains.
February 5, 1968
A battalion-sized attack by the NVA against Hill 861A is repulsed.
The 3rd Platoon of Delta Company (2nt Lt. Hannah) was flown to Hill 861 after the attack to assist and OpCon to K/3/26. The platoon remained on Hill 861 through April 7.
February 6, 1968
The following Delta Co. Marine was killed:
Cpl. Thomas Meade, 2/6/68 - Killed by exploding round at Khe Sanh.
February 7, 1968
An NVA battalion using tanks overruns the Special Forces camp at Lang Vei. The night of this attack, the available battalion reserve is Delta Company, which is under strength; its 3rd Platoon has been relocated to Hill 861A to replace casualties. Due to the certainty of encountering a prepared NVA ambush, the relief mission to Lang Vei is never ordered.
February 8, 1968
The NVA attacks and partially overruns a combat outpost of Alpha Co., 1/9.
February 10, 1968
A Marine C-130 is hit by NVA fire and shot down.
February 14, 1968
1st Lt. E.E. Spencer is replaced by Capt. E.J. Hughes, Jr. as the Commander of Delta Co.
February 21, 1968
A NVA company probes the 37th ARVN Ranger lines.
February 23, 1968
The Khe Sanh base reaches its record number of incoming rounds taken in a day - 1,307. Most are taken when a plane or chopper comes in, or if the NVA spotters up on Hill 1015 see a large group standing together. The Marines at the combat base adopt a technique called the Khe Sanh shuffle, which is a way of quickly moving about in the open, staying alert, and then seeking cover when the attack commenced.
The NVA begins to construct a trench system reaching near the perimeter of the combat base.
The shelling of Khe Sanh has left the base a mess, and the base reeks from the smoke of trash fires.
The shelling hits the ammunition dump again, causing two explosions. Many Marines in the vicinity of the explosion are killed.
Late February 1968
B-52 strikes as close as two miles from the Khe Sanh base perimeter start. Marines watch the daily show from their bunkers as these bomber strikes devastate the target areas close to the base.
February 25, 1968
A Bravo Co. patrol is sent to search for enemy mortars southeast of the Khe Sanh base. The platoon suffers many casualties when it encounters heavy fire from their front and left flank as a large NVA force springs a devastating ambush. The Marines withdraw under fire and are forced to leave their dead. Eventually 23 Marine KIA are accounted for, and the missing are recovered during a subsequent patrol.
March 1, 1968
A major attack on the ARVN sector is defeated before it starts when the NVA regiment cannot reach ARVN lines due to artillery and air strikes.
LtCol. J. B. Wilkinson is replaced by LtCol. F. J. McEwan as the 1/26 battalion Commander.
Early March 1968
The 1st Platoon of Delta Co. is hit by mortar rounds while occupying a Bravo Co. section of the base defense perimeter. This sector has previously been assigned to the Bravo Co. Platoon, which had been ambushed by the NVA the week before. The following Delta Co. Marine later dies of wounds received during this mortar attack:
March 6, 1968
A USAF C-123 is shot down with the loss of 48 Americans, including a Delta Co. Marine. The following Delta Co. Marine is killed:
Dennis Mead, 3/6/68 - Killed during crash of aircraft at the Khe Sanh base
March 9, 1968
ARVN patrols attack the NVA trench line east of the runway.
March 15, 1968
Radio intercepts, aerial photographs, and other intelligence indicate that the NVA has begun the withdrawal of its major units from Khe Sanh.
March 20, 1968
Cpl. James Van Tassell, 5/7/68 - Died of wounds from shrapnel injuries during a mortar attack at Khe Sanh on March 20, 1968.
March 23, 1968
The Khe Sanh base takes a record number of rounds for the month of March - 1,109.
Late March 1968
Combat patrols by the 1/9 Marines and Bravo Co., 1/26 engage the NVA, killing 146 of the enemy.
March 30, 1968
Bravo Co. attacks an NVA fortified position southeast of the combat base and, using supporting arms, clears the trench line and bunkers of NVA. One objective not accomplished is the recovery of the missing Bravo Co. Marines. Friendly casualties are ten KIA with many wounded. The number of enemy killed is over 100.
Operation Scotland I terminates. Two NVA divisions are destroyed. More than 10,000 NVA are estimated to be killed during the battle of Khe Sanh, primarily by air and artillery attacks. In addition, the NVA divisions tied up at Khe Sanh are not available to attack Quang Tri City or Hue during the Tet Offensive, Giap's intended goal during Tet. Instead of joining this fight, a large portion of his troops are tied down and eventually destroyed at Khe Sanh. When he eventually tries to move some of these troops towards Hue, it is too little and too late.
April 1, 1968
Operation Pegasus, the relief of Khe Sanh, is commenced. This operation is commanded by the US Army and involves both Army and Marine units approaching from the east.
April 4, 1968
The following Delta Co. Marine was killed:
Pfc. Dennis Smith, 4/4/68 - Delta Co. Marine killed by explosive device at Khe Sanh
April 5, 1968
The NVA attacks the 1/9 Marine positions on Hill 471 and is repulsed. The 1/9 Marines kill 122 of the enemy during the attack.
April 6, 1968
The 1/9 Marines initiate a sweep towards Hill 689. Operations to push north of the Khe Sanh base are conducted by Marines of 2/26 and 3/26. Also, Delta Co. and one platoon of Bravo Co. assault the NVA trench line/bunker positions southeast of the combat base and recover the Bravo Co. Marines lost during the February ambush.
April 8, 1968
The 1/26 Marines are relieved of perimeter responsibility and begin to conduct search and destroy sweeps west of the Khe Sanh base towards the Hill 689 ridgeline. The NVA responds with sporadic mortar fire as they withdraw.
The official relief of the Khe Sanh base occurs when Army units linked up with the 1/26 Marines.
April 14, 1968
The NVA positions on Hill 881N are attacked by the 3/26 Marines. The Marines overwhelm the NVA, and 106 of the enemy are killed.
April 16, 1968
Delta Co is hit by NVA mortar fire as it sweeps the Hill 689 ridgeline. The following Delta Co. Marine is killed:
Pfc. William Coleman, 4/16/68 - Delta Co. Marine killed by mine
April 18, 1969
After Khe Sanh, the 26th Marines and its 1st and 3rd battalions are transferred to Quang Tri Base. The 2/26 Marines are placed under the operational control of the 4th Marines.
Delta Co. and the battalion are assigned to Wonder Beach, which is a supply base run by the Army on the coast near Quang Tri City. New gear and utilities are issued. For a few days, the Marines of Delta Co. get to swim, relax and wind down. However, the red clay tinted flak jackets and helmets of Delta Co. serve as reminders of the many months under NVA fire at Khe Sanh.