Early in the morning I heard a firefight coming from the Arizona area. There were tracers and explosions near the river where the NVA had crossed during TET. We referred to the location as “The Sand Bar.” After a lull in the action, there was a fire mission targeting the area, and the battery was using VT (Vertical Timed fuses). These high explosive rounds were timed to detonate 10 feet above the position (air burst).
The Marines from this patrol/ambush were first in line for breakfast and still full of adrenaline from the incident. Their story was: At 2200 on the 25th the patrol left Hill 65 and made their way to the river. They set up an ambush on a berm above the beach and waited. A sampan crossed the river and came ashore in the sand 15 yards from the ambush site. There were three NVA in the sampan and seven in the water (holding on). As the NVA beached the sampan and retrieved their weapons, the Marines opened up, killing all ten of the enemy soldiers. The squad leader pulled out of the position and called in artillery to finish the job.
Later in the morning Lieutenant Nowicki led a platoon to the ambush site, planning to retrieve weapons and make an after action report. The Marines were spread out along the river’s edge and were in the open with no cover. On the opposite side of the river, only 100 yards away, was a solid tree line. A single sniper round was fired, and a Marine fell. The patrol backed away from the river and called in artillery on the sniper position. The Marine was KIA with a head wound.
I had already learned to “mind my own business” * and made no effort to find out the identity of the Marine killed. During our steak BBQ a Grunt squad leader approached me and asked, “How well did you guys know Murphy?” ** I said, “He has a four-month-old daughter.” He answered, “Yeah, she will never meet her Dad.”
* See previous “Mind Your Own Business” blog March 26, 1968
** See previous “Murphy Joins India Company” blog February 15, 1968