Excerpt from YOUNG
BLOOD: a History of the 1st Bn., 27th Marines
Gary E. Jarvis, Ph.D.
All rights reserved.
the 1st Battalion, 27th Marines in Vietnam
Soon after arriving in Da Nang, Vietnam on
February 23-28,1968, the 1st Battalion, 27th
Marines participated in a very short period of indoctrination patrols
with the 2d Battalion, 3d Marines and immediately commenced patrol
activity on its own in a large region southwest of Da Nang. Because of
its history as an infiltration route for the VC/NVA, the northeast
section of this tactical area of responsibility, TAOR, was the most
active area for the battalion in the month of March 1968. The 1st Marine
Division directed that one of 1/27's companies be maintained in the Con
Dau area while the remaining companies focused their attention to the
area known as the "Rocket Belt." During the month of
March 1968, a total of
505 patrols, 214 ambushes
and 8 company size search and
destroy operations were documented.
While the newly arrived battalion's Marines were
in Vietnam, the dependents of the officers and enlisted personnel who
had been left in Hawaii were required to vacate the base and move to the
continental United States per the orders of the Air Wing commander.
Second Lieutenant John Lancaster was assigned the unenviable task of
assisting the angry dependents in Delta Company.
The battalion performed more than just offensive operations. MEDCAPS, a
medical civil actions program, and civic action projects that were part
of an overall program intent on establishing an effective people to
people program, which emphasized personal contact with the local
Vietnamese military and local hamlet/village leaders were also initiated
by the battalion. Additionally, Company A was under the operational
control of the 1st Military Police Battalion south of Da Nang City until
March 30, 1968.
On March 31, 1968, the battalion went north to
the outskirts of Hue City under the operational control of Task Force
X-Ray. During the month of April, enemy troop concentrations increased
substantially in 1/27's area of operation in the Phu Vang and
surrounding Hue City regions. The battalion encountered elements of the
804th NVA Battalion, the local
force companies and hamlet guerrillas. The battalion also engaged in
several combat operations against elements of the
802d NVA Battalion, 810th Local
Force Battalion, C-116 Local Force Company, and the
C-117 Local Force Company.
Enemy initiated contacts included: harassing and sniper fire, probing of
platoon patrol bases, mortar barrages and a significantly bloody
confrontation with the enemy on April 13, 1968, which resulted in
twenty-six (26) dead and
forty-six (46) wounded
Marines and corpsmen. The Marines killed sixty-two
(62) enemy soldiers during
the day’s action.
In the month of April, seventy-seven (77)
enemy casualties were documented and the battalion suffered
thirty-four (34) KIA and
one hundred and forty-two (142)
wounded. From a numerical perspective regarding casualties, the total
dead and wounded in April actually totaled more than the total troop
strength of one out of the four rifle companies in the battalion. The
losses could have been much higher. In retrospect, it was the combat
experience of the second tour veterans and expertise of the platoon and
company level leadership that contributed immensely to the reduction of
friendly casualties, considering the fact that the battalion was in
daily contact with an elusive enemy who generally chose his place of
battle and kept the battalion in a game of perpetual "cat and mouse"
that continued through to "Mini Tet" in the month of May.
Much of April and the first half of the month of
May was spent chasing the NVA/VC during numerous "No Name" operations.
However, in the first week of May, the enemy was more aggressive and
launched offensive actions more frequently than during the previous
month. One of those offensive enemy actions occurred on May 5, 1968 when
second platoon and the command group from Delta Company’s east and
northwest perimeter was attacked by a company of NVA. The numerically
superior NVA force overran the Marines during the early morning battle.
However, the enemy did not leave victoriously and escaped at dawn with
heavy casualties. Before the light of day, most of the enemy survivors
hastily fled, abandoning their
C-117 Local Force Company commander dead on the battlefield within
2d platoon's perimeter. Alpha Company was also attacked during the
darkness of the early mornings of May 5 and 6, 1968. Alpha Company
repulsed both enemy attacks. Another enemy confrontation occurred during
daylight on May 6, 1968 when eleven (11)
enemy killed were found on the battlefield.
During approximately six weeks of intense combat
activity in Hue and the surrounding area, most of the enemy contact
occurred during the execution of five (5) "No Name" Operations. The
battalion paid a high price in human resources to achieve its combat
objectives. Numerically, the 1st Battalion, 27th Marines sustained
losses equivalent to the troop strength of
more than two out of four
of the battalion's rifle companies. The tallied losses included
225 wounded with another
43 removed as heat
casualties during six weeks in Hue. However, the significant costs in
Marine resources were not in vain. The enemy was no longer free to move
during the day or at night in what was once an enemy-dominated canal
area. When the battalion departed Hue for a new assignment on May
15,1968, the enemy had lost control of their previously dominated area.
The insurgents had been pushed further into the extreme eastern sector
on the outskirts of Hue City closest to the coast.
While in the operational area south of Da Nang
from May 16 to 27, 1968, enemy contacts were brief and the enemy
withdrew immediately. The most dangerous activity was the mines and
surprise firing devices that were frequently used by the enemy.
mine/surprise-firing devices were encountered with nine (9)
being detonated by friendly troops and thirty-three (33)
uncovered and blown in place. The surprise firing devices were more
frequently called "booby traps" rather than surprise firing devices by
the Marines. But in military documentation it appeared to be more
appropriate to call the instruments of destruction surprise firing
devices since the victim of a booby trap would technically be a "booby"
and virtually no one who was wounded or killed was called a booby.
On May 25, 1968, the battalion sent Marines to Go
Noi Island and assumed control of Operation Allen Brook on May 28. The
1st Battalion, 27th Marines soon discovered that the enemy on Go Noi was
the 36th and 38th Regiments of
the 308th NVA Division and documents captured also indicated that
the 36th and 38th Battalions of
the 101st NVA Regiment had been encountered. The villages in the
area were heavily fortified with trenches, spider traps and bunkers. The
North Vietnamese Army, NVA, and Viet Cong, VC, had historically
controlled the area intermittently for years.
Before the battalion fulfilled its combat roles
on Go Noi Island on June 23, 1968, the Marines endured numerous
encounters with well-armed and well-equipped large NVA/VC units that
fought with determination and retreated only when threatened with being
overrun. Friendly casualties totaled
154 wounded and
58 heat casualties.
On June 23, 1968, the battalion left Go Noi
Island and returned to Camp Duong Son II. In less than four (4) weeks in
June, the battalion incurred casualties equivalent to the average troop
strength of nearly two out of
four rifle companies
in the battalion.
The final week of June provided a brief break for the physically and
mentally fatigued Marines since no significant combat activity was
From July 1-31, 1968, the 1st Battalion, 27th Marines conducted patrols
with the 51st ARVN Regiment within the "Rocket Belt" and "Mortar Belt"
outside of Da Nang. Search and clear operations and blocking forces were
also employed in conjunction with ARVN operations south of the battalion
TAOR. Additionally, the battalion assigned units to ROUGH RIDER duty and
security duty for the 7th Engineer Battalion that operated in the ROK
Marines Brigade TAOR. The main enemy force suspected to be in the area
was local force guerrillas probably from the
On July 14th, Lieutenant.Colonel John E.
Greenwood was transferred and Major Kenneth J. Skipper took over as the
new commanding officer of the 1st Battalion, 27th
Marines. Also, in the middle of July, the battalion assumed the 3d
Battalion, 27th Marines TAOR and returned to Camp Duong Son on July
31,1968. Although the 1st Battalion, 27th Marines command chronology
described the month of July 1968 as being a period of light contact, the
battalion suffered thirteen (13)
deaths, and one-hundred and four (104)
wounded along with five (5)
heat casualties. Many of the Marines died or were wounded from
encounters with booby traps. In fact, there were twenty-three (23)
surprise devices, booby traps, encountered. Six (6)
were detected and destroyed.
The month of August began with essentially the
same mission as that of July. Saturation patrols in the "Rocket Belt"
and "Mortar Belt" were conducted to prevent attacks on Da Nang and to
prevent enemy infiltration against Da Nang. Intelligence reports
indicated that the enemy planned a "Third Phase Offensive" sometime in
August. Intelligence report prognostications came true when three (3)
VC/NVA battalions committed themselves to an all out assault against the
USMC and ARVN positions. The enemy officially launched the “Third Phase
Offensive” on August 23, 1968. During the first assault, the enemy
attacked and managed to take control of the southern end of the Cam Le
Bridge. The enemy confrontation at the bridge first involved the South
Vietnamese Popular Forces and the 1st Military Police Battalion who were
guarding the bridge when the attack began in the early morning hours.
While the battle for control of the Cam Le Bridge was in progress,
Marines from all of the battalion's companies were engaged in combat
with the communists at many different locations outside of Camp Duong
Son and Da Nang. Later toward the end of the day, a platoon from E
Company 2d Battalion, 27th Marines and tanks from the 5th Tank Battalion
joined in the battle with 1/27. Contact with the enemy culminated with
the near annihilation of the VC
Main Force V-25 Battalion when the action finally ended on August
26, 1968. During the remainder of the month, the battalion resumed its
routine patrols under a high state of alert. The majority of the
battalion's casualties in the extremely hot month of August occurred
during the last week of the month. All totaled, there were twelve (12)
deaths, fifty-six (56)
wounded, and four (4) heat
casualties in August.
After serving a little less than seven (7) months
in country, the battalion's colors and a skeleton staff departed Vietnam
on September 12, 1968. As most of the Marines left the battalion during
the first and second weeks of September 1968, Typhoon Bess waved a final
farewell with winds exceeding 50 kilometers. Subsequently, the majority
of the Marines were transferred to other units in the 1st or 3d Marine
Divisions to finish their tour of duty in Vietnam or if they had served
their time in country, they may have returned to the United States with
the skeleton contingent who departed with the unit's colors to Hawaii. A
select few second tour Marines in the battalion were transferred to the
2d or 3d Battalion, 27th Marines who, after leaving Vietnam, returned to
their base in California and participated in a parade for the 27th
Marine Regiment held in San Diego, California on September 17,1968.
However, there was no parade for the 1st Battalion, 27th Marines, unless
of course, you consider the regimental parade for the 27th Marines to be
a vicarious representation of the 1st Battalion.
According to a news release in the Windward
Marine newspaper (Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii; September 1968), in less than
seven (7) months, 1/27 Marines earned
145 medals. Leathernecks
earned 20 Silver Stars,
73 Bronze Stars, and
52 Navy Commendation Medals
for acts of valor and meritorious conduct during combat. In addition, it
was noted that two Navy Crosses, five Silver Stars, two Bronze Stars and
a Navy Commendation Medal were pending at the time of the news release.
The total killed and wounded
in the battalion is reflected in the fact that
over 660 Purple Heart Medals
were awarded to Marines and corpsmen in the 1st Battalion, 27th Marines,
which is a number equivalent to
more than the total troop strength of all of the rifle companies in
March or August 1968.
After exhausting countless hours inquisitively
reviewing and analyzing Marine award citations for valor in other units
since leaving Vietnam in 1969, it became apparent that the standards for
expected combat performance demanded by the 1st Battalion, 27th Marines
was unique, in the very least, and that it would be a terrible injustice
not to note that there are countless Marines in 1/27 who displayed
bravery and courage, which was worthy of the highest decorations for
valor. However, many individual Marines were not written up for awards
and administratively recognized for their courageous actions under enemy
fire. Many Marines frequently exhibited combat behavior far above and
beyond the call of duty worthy of the nation’s highest decorations for
valor and consequently, many lives were saved. An enormous debt of
gratitude should be extended to these unrecognized dead and alive heroes
in the 1st Battalion, 27th Marines.
The most heroic of all were the Marines and
corpsmen who were killed in action. They will always be held in the
highest of esteem and remembered as the true heroes by their fellow
warriors in the 1st Battalion, 27th Marines. They unselfishly made the
supreme sacrifice for their brothers in arms.
In summary, the 1st Battalion, 27th Marines time in country
unequivocally proved to be a magnificent demonstration of
espirit de corps. The
Marines and corpsmen of 1/27 served gallantly and achieved difficult
objectives oftentimes at high costs and with very little recognition
while enduring some of the most difficult conditions imaginable. Combat
maneuvers and operations were conducted in rugged terrain (swamps, sand,
rice paddies, rivers, tunnels, elephant grass, hills) while being
constantly exposed to the elements (hot blazing scorching sun, stifling
heat, torrential rains, etc). Often the terrain was heavily booby-
trapped. The Marines were constantly vigilant, never knowing what
awaited them. They very seldom ate hot meals. It was not uncommon to go
weeks without bathing. Dehydration, physical exhaustion and emotional
fatigue also took its toll on the Marines. The Marines frequently drank
dirty, bug-infested water and suffered from sleep-deprivation. They
stayed on the offensive and defensive, battling elusive and oftentimes
well-equipped determined enemy forces who generally fought only when it
was on their terms. Despite the daily hardships and the hostile combat
adversities, the Marines in the 1st Battalion, 27th
Marines fought honorably and with unrivaled tenacity.