Seventh Marines kicked off Operation Allen Brook May 4th, 1968. Go Noi Island wasn’t really an island – more like a peninsula between two rivers – but thick with gooks. Intelligence reported a reinforced regiment of NVA and three VC battalions had
moved in and were playing hell with the big American base in Da Nang. Brass
made the decision to clean them out, and India Company of the 3/27 was attached
to 7th for the operation.
I don’t care what anyone says. Somebody
should have foreseen the pile of shit the marines walked into on Go Noi. The
NVA were well armed, trained, disciplined and dug in deep. When our guys
went in, they ran into serious trouble right away, and it took the brass a
while to get their thumbs out of their asses and figure out how much reinforcement
they needed and how to bring it in. A few days later, India Company led
a battalion-sized advance near the village of Le Bac, when who knows what size
enemy force hit them. Difficult terrain and heavy enemy fire checked
the flanking movements of the two companies in support, and that left India
in the center, alone and pinned down.
The NVA decimated those poor bastards. The
enemy was so deeply dug in, even air and artillery support was of little help. The
marines fought like tigers and died like soldiers. A machine gunner with
India, Robert Burke, put Audie Murphy to shame that day. His squad pinned
down in the middle of the heaviest shit and taking casualties right and left,
Burke grabbed an M-60 and charged the enemy single-handed – and then
did it over and over again. I don’t know how many bunkers he knocked
out before the gooks finally got him, but he was awarded the Medal of Honor
for what he did that day.
Mike Company joined Operation Allen Brook on
the morning of the 17th. We’d
been running security at the POW camp south of Da Nang when we got called to
Go Noi to participate in our first large scale operation. Already pretty
well blooded patrolling our own TAOR, and I remember sitting in the LZ waiting
to fly in. I looked around at all those haunted faces around me and again
wondered how many would not come back.
- Marlin looked at the other soldiers as if gazing in a mirror – thinking
of his own mortality as much as his comrades’.
The chopper pilot that flew us in did some kind of circus-act approach, because
the LZ was hot as hell. All I saw out the back of the helicopter were
bodies strewn everywhere on the ground, and as we touched down, bloody bandages
kicked up by the rotor wash flew all over the place.
- Marlin knew at any moment, he could be transformed from detached observer
to one of the maimed, mutilated and dying marines on the ground.