The Following is an After Action Report of the Battle for Cam Lo - 2 February 1968
Submitted: 16 June 2006
(All hand written notations written by Jakovac from 1968 are included - blue italics)
3d Marine Division (Rein), FMF
FPO, San Francisco, 96602
17 Feb 1968
This is something we got today thought you might be interested
From: Commanding Officer
To: Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific
Via: Commanding General, 3d Marine Division (Rein), FMF
Subject: Meritorious Unit Commendation; recommendations for
Ref: (a) FMBPacO P1650.1B
(b) 3dMarDivO P1650.1C
Encl: (1) Statement of 2nd Lt Michael O. Stick, 0102306/0302/9940.
He's our platoon commander, he got shrapnel in his ass at Cam Lo, Ha Ha.
(2) Copy of After Action Report covering this action
1. In accordance with the provisions of references (a) and (b), it is recommended that the following units be awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation with Bronze letter "V" for especially meritorious combat performance in connection with an extremely heavy enemy attack on their isolated position at Cam Lo District Headquarters on 2 February 1968.
a. First Squad, us First Platoon, "D" Company, First Battalion, Fourth Marines
b. Third Squad, First Platoon, "D" Company, First Battalion, Fourth Marines
c. First Squad, Third Platoon, "E" Company, Second Battalion, Ninth Marines
2. The above mentioned units were under the command of Second Lieutenant Michael O STICK, 0102306/0302/9940 USMC during the attack. At approximately 0215 on the morning of 2 February 1968, the above mentioned composite platoon came under extremely heavy enemy attack by 82mm mortars followed by a ground attack by an estimated two North Vietnamese companies. The initial mortar attack consisted of 100-150 rounds, there was lots of explosions going off - like the movies, all you could smell was gun power rounds which fell within the Combined Action Company perimeter and resulted in the death of one Army officer and the wounding of two ARVN and two Marine personnel. During the ground attack which continued for fully four hours, on the above mentioned composite platoon, the physical defenses of the perimeter were almost completely destroyed by Bangalore torpedoes and RPG fire. The bunkers near the blown wire were attacked with RPG's, heavy machine gun and small arms fire. At no time was the enemy allowed to set foot within the perimeter. The Marines in these squads fought literally to the last round of ammunition, then resupplied by carrying ammunition from abandoned Popular Forces positions under intense small arms fire. Approximately 80% of the Marines in the composite platoon became casualties during the battle. The furious intensity of this action and the courage, determination and devotion to duty of those Marines is graphically demonstrated by the fact that every helmet and every 'flack' jacket was either torn or dented by fragmentation or bullets. A total of 144 enemy bodies were counted when the sun rose and the enemy broke contact and attempt to flee the area. This action denied the enemy a major political/psychological objective in their present winter/spring offensive.
3. The courage and aggressiveness displayed by all members of the composite platoon was in keeping with the highest traditions of the Naval Service. Special recognition of the distinguished and valorous achievement of the units involved in this action appears to warrant the award of the Meritorious Unit Commendation.
4. This award is for direct participation in combat operations and the Combat Distinguishing Device is recommended.
5. Enclosure (1) is a typed statement of the action made by 2d Lt Stick, but is unsigned due to his departure on emergency leave. Enclosure (2) is a certified true copy of the Combat After Action Report on file at Headquarters, 3d Marine Division and this headquarters.
R. B. Smith
At approximately 020215H, CAC Hq. vicinity YD 129579 started receiving incoming 82mm mortars (initial volley of about 100-150 rounds). This was followed by a ground attack utilizing RPG's, RR, and small arms. The initial RPG rounds penetrated the main CAC, COC area killing the sub-sector advisor (Major Payne), two ARVN personnel, wounding two other USMC personnel, and destroying all radios except one. Capt R. L. McMaken USA assumed command of the compound and adjusted artillery to box the position in. The 1/40th then provided immediate support. A call then by Capt McMaken at approximately 0220 notified Quang Tri that they were under heavy ground attack and that a Spooky was needed. The attack seemed to come from three directions - mainly from the south, west and northeast. The Spooky arrived in the general vicinity in good time but could not get orientated to the position until about 0430H. In the interim period artillery illumination was adjusted from Cam Lo (4.2") and Dong Ha (155mm), there were approximately three rows of wire around the compound and in two areas there were enemy personnel who make it into the third row of wire, but were cut down before they could penetrate burn that surrounded the compound. 25 NVA bodies were counted at the in front of my bunker to the right northwest corner and approximately 15 bodies at the northeast corner. Also of interest was the fact that the NVA had dug prone positions about one foot in depth at the northeast salient, the two quad .50's present at the compound were hit by RPG's or RR within 20 minutes of the first incoming. we found pools of blood and that's about all we found of the men manning the quad 50's Enemy contact was furious until approximately 020615H at which time the contact was limited to scattered small arms fire. Due to the tre---iourous fighting at the compound and the extreme accuracy of the friendly artillery the enemy was forced to withdraw. A reaction force composed of two platoons and two dusters from 2/9 was dispatched to aid the CAC Hqtrs and arrived at approx 020630H. The reaction force then swept to the north of the CAC Hqtrs position, but south of the Song Cam Lo River. This succeeded in actually trapping some of the enemy as they were making their escape across the river. Captain McKight in charge of 2/9 reaction force claimed that 8 confirmed and 2 prisoners from this separate action. A reaction force from Don Ha consisting of 3 tanks, two Dusters, two Quad 50's and approx 100 troops left Dong Ha at 020600H and arrived in the CAC Hqtrs at approx 0730H. Upon moving in the compound it was learned that a bulk of the enemy forces withdrew to the southeast and northwest, the reaction force from Dong Ha was quickly organized and swept around the perimeter to the south and north of the perimeter. The quick aggressive, follow-up action accounted for the collection of the large number of POW's and prevented the enemy from reacting in the immediate vicinity. A list of the cumulative losses as of 021500H included the following: 2 USMC KIA, 1 USA KIA, 81 NVA (conf), 22 Detainees, 42 IWC, 13 CSWC, 18 USMC WIA (Medevac)
1. Code Name - Operation Kentucky
2. Date - 2 February 1968
3. Location - Cam Lo District Headquarters
a. The 1st and 3rd Squads of reinforced 1st Plt, Co D, 1/4, 3d MarDiv
b. The 1st Squad of reinforced 3rd Plt, Co E, 2/9, 3d MarDiv
c. Approximately 50 Popular Force Troops p---y ran
d. Approximately 30 Regional Force Troops
5. Supporting Forces
a. Two US Army 'Gypsies' with four man crews and squad Leader
a. 320th Division
1st Battalion - a buddy of mine, Lewis, a machine gunner seen a gook run around a grave, firing a heavy machine gun from the hip, he made the gook do a backward flip - 12 Heavy Machine Guns. 8 RPG-7's, 9 60mm and 6 82 mm mortars
1st Company, 1st Battalion 45th Regiment - 90 men
2nd Company, 1st Battalion, 45th Regiment - 90 men
3rd Company, 1st Battalion, 45th Regiment - 90
4th Company, 1st Battalion, 45th Regiment - 85 men
16th Company, '82' Recoilless Rifle - 60 men
1st Company, 4th Battalion, 52nd Regiment - 80 men
2nd Company, 5th Battalion, 52nd Regiment - 80 men
2nd Company, 6th Battalion, 52nd Regiment - 80 men
b. Weather - New moon Phase, overcast, ceiling about 200 feet
7. Mission - To defend Cam Lo District Headquarters
8. Concept of Operation
a. the 3rd Squad from 1st Platoon, Co D and the 1st Squad of 3rd Platoon, Co E initially defended the northern perimeter. The 1st Squad of 1st Platoon, Co D defended the west portion of the perimeter. Regional Force Troops defended the southern part of the perimeter and the Popular Force Troops defended the east.
At 0210 the enemy commenced its attack with well placed mortars, RPG's and artillery. Two RPG's immediately silenced the two 'Quad Fifties' and destroyed their crews. The attack by supporting fire weapons terminated in thirty minutes and the enemy began to attack in human wave assaults. Our western perimeter was hit hardest our squad and the enemy succeeded in breaching a 25 meter gap in the wire with aid of Bangalore torpedoes. At the same time those bunkers which lay in the wake of the breached wire were systematically pounded by RPG's and murderous small arms and heavy machine gun fire. The meager foxholes were penetrated by shrapnel and several of our men were wounded with one limb or another immobilized. As yet we had not received illumination from our own artillery; nevertheless, we directed all fire to bear on that area of darkness which we knew to be filled with advancing enemy. Not a man hid in his hole, but wounded or not stood with well aimed rifle in hand and returned more accurate fire than he received. I fired at muzzle flashed, plenty of them
From this point on we were supported by continuous artillery illumination. We then saw, after their tide had been turned back, how costly was their first assault. Twenty-five bodies lay just beyond the throw of a grenade from our defense line. The enemy renewed its attack by first using its supporting arms companies. The COC Bunker was hit by a RPG and the overall commander inside was killed. The generator within the compound was hit by artillery. At this point the Vietnamese guarding the eastern perimeter fled from their fighting positions and found cover behind the sturdy buildings in the center of the compound. It was shown by the lights of the exploding generator that these men were carrying no weapons and were milling around smoking cigarettes. The 30 caliber gun position which they had deserted that was Maxim in the northeast corner was subsequently manned from the closest rifle squad. The men in the 1st Squad were alerted that they might be attacked at any time from the rear. I --- the rear asst Marines distributing ammo, kept shouting 'don't shoot Marine coming down the line' Positions were hastily improvised that might enable us to resist an enemy force from advancing on our rear. The mortars stopped and now the enemy was threatening from the North. The 30 caliber gun alone held the enemy from sweeping around to and throughout eastern perimeter, artillery was called in to within fifty meters of the defensive perimeter. Once again the enemy was hurled back at a cost of one life Maxim, he up for the Medal of Honor to us and at least fifty lives to them.
At this point in the battle small arms ammunition became a critical item. We had exhausted the contents of the supply bunker and each man had, at most, 200 rounds remaining with three hours of darkness also remaining. Through heavy incoming small arms fire the silhouettes of men scurrying to seek ammunition were seen throughout the compound. One ---- at a time was found throughout the remaining three hours. Even though fire discipline was stringently practiced, the ammunition situation remained critical until the end. As we watch the enemy flee from us upon the advent of dawn the reserve ammunition was exhausted and each man had fifty rounds. this is true, I had about 60 left
At 0400 the vantage point from the tower was used to great effect in calling in artillery. From this position, entrenched positions of hundreds of enemy were spotted, as well as large emergency units 700 meters out. Grasshopper Bravo fired 'battery 2's' on command onto troops in the open. Also from the tower over a thousand M-79 rounds were fired, Popeye blew one gook in half, later during the battle a enemy round tore the M-79's------ hitting RPG's, troops and mortar tubes. Everything the enemy had was aimed at the tower but somehow the tower stood.
The crews manning three machine guns accounted for two RPG's, six machine guns, in general, helped keep eight enemy companies pinned down. On the line, LAAWS were distributed and probable targets were pointed out and blasted.
Superb coordination among the three rifle squads enabled us to shift troops to the particular areas that were being beleaguered at that time and to maintain equal ammunition distribution. At no time did any man display anything but calm courage, and heroism was almost commonplace. One corpsman was critically wounded he got hit in the same explosion that knocked me down and wounded me the second time. He was right behind me, I heard he later died early in the battle, and the remaining corpsman single handedly treated nearly every person on the lines. Every helmet and flack jacket was dented or cut from bullets or shrapnel, and nearly every man was in some way wounded in the limbs. Each rifleman had discharged upwards of three thousand well aimed shots. Each machine gun had fired rapid fire continuously for hours with only one barrel per gun, and although each barrel was white with heat, fortunately, not one gun jammed.
a. Casualties sustained
(a) 1 from 2 squads of 1st Plt, Co D, 1/4, 3d MarDiv
(b) 1 from 1st squad of 3rd Plt, 2/9, 3d MarDiv
(c) 2 from 11th Engineers
(d) 3 Army
(e) Total - 7
(a) 3 from 2 squads of 1st Plt, Co D, 1/4 required hospitalization, 1 being medevaced
(b) 8 from 1st squad, 3rd Plt, Co E, 2/9
(c) 3 from 11th Engineers
(d) Total - 14
b. Casualties inflicted
(1) Confirmed KIA's - 144
(a) Due to the NVA tactic of digging graves before the battle and burying their dead before first light, and the fact that we later discovered countless trails of bodies being dragged away and about one hundred mutilated extra helmets, we can assume that an additional hundred are hidden and buried.
c. POW's - 30
d. Captured materials
(1) 67 weapons including Chicoms, machine guns, RPG-7's, 3 82mm mortar tubes, 2 recoilless rifles, rifle grenades. Additionally there were 100 French and Chicom grenades, 17 satchel charges, several Bangalore torpedoes, rolls of communication wire, personal fighting gear, documents and medical supplies. they cheated us out of those weapons, everybody's mad about it. I didn't get that AK-43
11. Administrative Matters
a. Supply - none; ceiling was too low to lift in supplies
b. Treatment of casualties - first aid administered for all wounded
c. Medevacs - none until after the battle was over - estimated 10 Marines
12. Commander's Analysis
that three rifle squads with one-third of their perimeter deserted not only held off but also virtually destroyed eight enemy rifle companies and silenced five additional supporting companies does, I think, speak for itself. The success of the platoon was due in part to the selfless valor of every man and above the ability to find new sources of ammunition unknown to personel ------- to the compound.
CERTIFIED TO BE A TRUE COPY
D. J. LOSSKY, 1st Lt, Regt Adj
Well this is the official record, I guess. Hope you get this Bill
I shouldn't be so humble, because I am so great.