It must of been in the late spring because it was “TOO HOT” by morning. The Platoon Lt. called a squad and myself to accompanied him to investigate an incident between two Marine Companies. Apparently, a squad had been sent out to set up an ambush on a village for the first part of their mission and then move down to and across the river in order to set up another ambush next to the river. The second squad from a different company was ordered to set up outside the village and attack the VC/NVA as they left the area next the day. Intelligence had assured them that the village was a “hot bed” (you might say) of VC/NVA activity.
Well, everything went according to plan with the squad on the ambush setting up after dark and in the right place. However, unknown to them, the squad that was sent to attack the village at sunrise was to be in place by midnight. Honestly, no one understood why this squad was required to be there that long before the attack. The Intelligence Unit was not forthcoming with their thoughts on the matter (go figure–right?). Now comes the part where this well thought out plan takes a turn, the ambush squad moves out like they were told to; however, when they got to the river the Squad Leader in charge of these men decided that the river was running too fast and deep (it rains in VietNam—a lot!). So in accordance with S.O.P., they connect the Radio Operator on watch at Bn. back in An Hoa to let him know of their situation and the necessary change that was going to be made to their orders. They let it be known that this squad would be returning to the village where they had set up their first ambush and settled in for the rest of the night. It’s now midnight, the attack squad leaves their lines and process to their jump off point for their mission. Wait! Why didn’t the Bn. Radio Operator tell them of the presents of the other squad of Marines? Well, apparently he was a sleep on his watch! Actually, he did fell to sleep on his watch.
The next morning comes and the ambush squad is gathering their things to make ready to move out for their company position. The attack squad sees this action and getting excited about their luck at catching so many VC/NVA off guard. Some would think that maybe Intelligence got it right this time. We were never able to clearly find out about who fired the first shot but it was fired and “all hell breaks lose” between these two squads of Marines. It was a very intense firefight for a few minutes. When the Squad Leader called-up the 3.5 rocket—I was never sure why this unit would have brought a long something like that. My guess was that it was sent to them for this attack and the squad was reinforced with exera men—so why not fire it off and get rid of those rounds as fast as possible (you might have guess—I’m grunt). The rounds are too heavy to hump back to the company. Anyways, the ambush squad heard this order and figured that the only people who would use this fire power in a firefight would be other Marines. This is what saved this squad from some serious injuries. They were able to identify themselves to the other squad and put a stop to this fight.
The finding of this investigation was that the Bn Radio Operator failed to make note of the changes during his watch and neither of the squads were found at fault for what had happen. The problem is that this was not the only incident that occurred to my company. It has always amazed me how just one person in the chain not doing their job can put so many at risk. I have from time to time stop to think about how many situations or incidents Marines find themselves dealing with without other Americans knowing anything about it. The Navy Seals must have a pretty good P.R. person working for them—I guess.
As always, this is a true story—“Sh– you not”!
May peace be with you. Semper Fi