|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.
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)