The remains of NVA soldiers lay in the tall elephant grass
surrounding the site of the June 24 battle.


Our worst fears were realized on the evening of June 24. For most of us, it was our first real taste of battle. We had learned many lessons from rocket and mortar attacks, line probes at night and snipers. But we weren't really prepared for this. No one could have been. Indeed, the veterans who were still around from Operation Dewey Canyon in the Ashau, said the night of June 24 was far worse than anything else they had ever experienced.

Now, I am sure many veterans reading this can tell horror stories to top this. But it was our first and most dangerous contact of the war. There would be other firefights in the weeks to come, but none like the six hours of battle that began at 11:30 p.m. on a moonless night and didn't end until the sun peaked over the surrounding hills at 5:30 a.m.

It began suddenly and with a bang, literally, as a full company of 70 NVA regulars attacked one-third of 3/9's perimeter, guarded by about 30 of Kilo Co.'s 100-man company. A squad-sized ambush caught the NVA coming up the hill and inflicted significant casualties before it was almost overrun and had to flee to the safety of the perimeter. Within a minute the remainder of the NVA attackers launched its assault on the hill and a full-fledged battle, not a fleeting firefight, ensued.

It's easy to figure you're in trouble when a Spooky gunship arrives overhead and starts spraying the elephant grass only yards in front of your perimeter. They don't call Spooky out for mere firefights. That's when we realized we were in trouble.

Throughout the night, Dave Bartosek, Frank Bokan and I dodged ChiCom grenades and ducked under green tracers. I don't have room here for all the details or the heroics of my friends. Suffice it to say we all came out of it with Purple Hearts and a night of memories we will take to our graves. Unfortunately, three Marines took it to their graves that night. And another 21 of us have the scars to remind us daily.

Among the dead was L/Cpl Rod Janetta, a good friend from Minneapolis. Rod died from a severe grenade wound to the head in the early moments of the battle. Joining Rod were some 40 NVA soldiers, brave souls in their own right for having attacked a Marine Corps company dug in for the night. (Please see photo No. 22)


 Photos 19--27