date: Sep 15, 2007 11:45 PM
subject: FW: V.N. Operation Allen Brook
Which of our squadrons were involved with Allen Brook during the period listed below?
-------------- Forwarded Message: --------------
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Dave Ellison)
To: email@example.com (Adam & Lee Deveney)
Subject: V.N. Operation Allen Brook
Date: Sat, 15 Sep 2007 16:57:39 +0000
Per our comparing notes on Vietnam.....here is some background info on Operation Allen Brook that I found on line. Did you by any chance fly us in or out of this one? We flew in approx. May 16th and out on the 28th. Heading out was the best helicopter ride ever.
I was platoon leader with Company L, and PVC Robert Burke was in my platoon .... as you'll see from attached he saved many Marine lives. Forgot much of this, but do recall our Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Woodham telling us "there are only a few snipers over there...go get em".....10/4...yes sir!
An interesting couple of weeks.
Operation Allen Brook
4 May 68 - 24 August 68
By the beginning of May 1968, both the Marines at Da Nang and the Communist forces in Quang Nam were in the midst of preparations to launch offense operations against one another. While during April the enemy in Quang Nam had largely confined its activities to guerrilla activities, the increased number of reconnaissance Stingray sightings indicated that Communist regulars were re-infiltrating their old positions. The Marine command was especially concerned about the Go Noi Island sector, about 25 kilometers South of Da Nang, outlined by the confluence of the Ky Lam, Ba Ren, and Chiem Son Rivers.
Lieutenant Colonel Tullis J. Woodham, Jr., the commanding office or of the 3rd Battalion, 27th Marines, remembered that his unit had been on alert for Allen Brook and was to relieve 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines. In fact the 27th Marines, under Colonel Adolph G. Schwenk, Jr., was scheduled to take responsibility for the operation from the 7th Marines later that day. Early on the morning of the 17th, Lieutenant Colonel Woodham had received orders to truck his Battalion down to Liberty Bridge and then cross the Bridge on foot to make the planned relief. At this point, he had only two of his companies wit h him, Companies K and L. His Company M was the Danang Air Base security company and Company L, of course, was attached to Barnard's Battalion. Upon learning of the predicament of his Company L, Woodham conferred with Schwenk and agreed-upon the helicopter assault. For the time being, Woodham's Battalion would be under the operational control of the 7th Marines.
After some unexpected delays in the arrival of the aircraft and in coordination with the air preparation of the landing zone, about 1500 on the 17th, Marine helicopters finally brought the Battalion into An Tam (1) about 1,000 meters southeast of Le Nam. Even as the Battalion landed, it came under mortar and long-range weapons fire. Despite the enemy fire, the two Marine companies immediately attacked northward to link up with the 3rd battalion, 7th Marines. With extensive air and artillery support, Company K, 27th Marines broke through the enemy's defenses in Le Nam (1), and finally linked up with Company L about 1930 that evening. According to the Lieutenant Colonel Woodham, as darkness approached, the North Vietnamese resistance ceased and they began to withdraw from the battle area.
Shortly after the surprise contact, Co L started sweeping southerly looking for the remainder of the escaped enemy. They went thru some tall elephant grass and started crossing a dry river river bed in the Le Nam (1) area. All of a sudden, all hell broke out! In a tree line to their front, a large NVA force lay hidden in fortified positions. Deadly accurate snipers located in trees started picking out Marine targets while NVA machine gunners opened up with disastrous effect. One Marine after another went down. Some were killed instantly, while others lay wounded in the open under the hot sun. The enemy left them alive knowing that the Marines would try to rescue them.
One of the Marine platoons did manage to cross over the river bed and took cover along the river bank. A member of that platoon, PFC Robert Burke, a former mechanic turned grunt exposed himself above the bank and, firing a machine gun, knocked out several NVA positions which allowed more Marines to cross over and rescue some of the wounded. Eventually, enemy fire killed Burke and he would later receive the Medal of Honor posthumously.
The heavy fighting for Le Nam (1) had resulted in 39 Marines dead and 105 wounded as opposed to 81 North Vietnamese dead. Company L especially had suffered grievous losses. Of the total Marine casualties in the battle, Company L had sustained 15 killed and 50 wounded. Among the dead were Captain Thomas H. Ralph and two of his platoon leaders.
During the night of 17 May, the two Marine Battalions, the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines and the 3rd Battalion, 27th Marines, remained is separate positions, but in radio contact. Lieutenant Colonel Barnard had moved to a night position near Cu Ban (4), about 1,200 meters to the northwest of Le Nam (1), while Lieutenant Colonel Woodham retained his command group at AnTam (1). About 1900, Lieutenant Colonel Barnard had turned over operational control of Company I to Woodham and then began preparations to start out on the 18th for Liberty Bridge. Essentially, Operation Allen Brook was over for the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, which would leave as planned the next day and be replaced by the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines.
By that time the 27th Marines, under Colonel Schwenk, had assumed responsibility for Operation Allen Brook which would continue in the Go Noi. On the morning of the 18th, Lieutenant Colonel Woodham began to expand his perimeter around Le Nam. At 0930, 3rd Battalion, 27th Marines began to take sniper fire from Le Bac (2), about 300 meters to the north. Lieutenant Colonel Woodham immediately sent Companies K and L to clear out what he thought were a relatively few snipers. The "few snipers" turned out to be a formidable North Vietnamese Force which quickly brought the Marines attacked to a halt. Under an "exceedingly heavy" volume of fire, the lead elements of both companies L and K remained isolated and unable to maneuver. Woodham called for both artillery and air, but their effectiveness was limited because of the proximity of the Marines to the enemy. Both companies sustained severe casualties and the intolerable heat soon became as much a factor as the enemy bullets.
At 1500 that afternoon, Marine helicopters brought in Company M, which had already been alerted to replace the combat impaired Company L. As the latter Company boarded the helicopters for the return trip to Da Nang, Woodham thrust the newly arrived Company M into the battle for Le Bac (2). With the reinforcements, Company K which had taken the most casualties, was able to pull back and Lieutenant Colonel Woodham placed it in reserve. The fighting raged on until the night when NVA withdrew. The Marine companies pulled back to Le Nam (1) and Woodham brought in air and artillery to the rear of the former NVA positions. The Battalion had sustained serious casualties: 15 Marines were dead, another 35 were wounded, and 94 troops had succumbed to the heat. In and around the abandoned enemy position lay 20 dead North Vietnamese.
Operation Allen Brook would continue to focus through 27 May largely on the Chu Ban, Phu Dong, and Le Bac Village complexes. Beginning with the action of the 16th, the 7th, and later that 27th Marines, were in a more or less of a conventional battle against well dug in and relatively fresh and well-trained North Vietnamese regulars. Colonel Schwenk, 27th Marines Commander, commented that while the enemy troops did not initiate any offense actions, they fought back " tenaciously" from concealed positions within tree-lines and in the Hamlet's themselves. To offset the Marine advantage in supporting arms, the NVA will allow "the point of advancing units to pass through" and then open up on the "main body" with both intense small arms fire and mortars. At this close range, the Marine command can then make only limited use of artillery and air support.
To counter this tactic, the 27th Marines used heavy preparatory fires from both U.S. Navy gunfire ships offshore and artillery in coordination with air strikes to blast the enemy out of their bunkers and trenches before moving into an area. If a Marine unit encountered heavy small arms fire, it was either to hold its position or move back so that the supporting arms could be employed as much as possible under the circumstances. Colonel Schwenk remarked "that tanks with their 90 mm guns proved most effective in these circumstances", both high explosive rounds to breach enemy fortifications and with canister rounds against troops in the open. Schwenk wrote that once he committed to tanks, "the enemy would break contact almost immediately." The tanks were also at a disadvantage, however, in that terrain " caused... [them] to become channelized making them highly vulnerable to RPG fire and mines." On 24 May, two M arines from the 3rd Battalion, 27th Marines, Corporal Richard W. Buchanan from Company M and Private First Class Charles R. Yordy, from Company K were later awarded the Navy Cross for their actions that day in Le Bac (1) about 800 meters northwest of Le Bac (2). The fight for Le Bac (2) lasted until the 27th and featured some of the heaviest combat of the campaign until a torrential rain storm ended the fighting. Lieutenant Colonel Donald N. Rexroad, the Commander of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, remembered that his Battalion near the end of the month overran "an apparent NVA regimental command post."
Casualties on both sides had been heavy. For the entire operation through the end of May, the Marines reported to have killed over 600 of the enemy. They themselves sustained since the beginning of the operation 138 killed, 686 wounded including 576 serious enough to be evacuated, and another 283 non-battle casualties that had to be evacuated. The number of heat induced "non-battle casualties" had soared towards the end because of the extreme high temperatures averaging 110 degrees and the physical exertion expended in the firefights. In many engagements, the number of heat casualties equaled or exceeded the number of Marines killed and wounded.
In Operation Allen Brook, the Marines had broken the back of a planned enemy attack on Da Nang. Colonel Hall of the 7th Marines later wrote that his 3rd Battalion's re-entry into the Go Noi under cover of darkness in the early morning hours of 16 May foiled the designs of the enemy which had begun to stage its forces. Hall observed that the North Vietnamese unit engaged by his units was from the 36th Regiment, 308th NVA Division. According to a North Vietnamese prisoner from the second Battalion of that Regiment, his unit had departed North Vietnam in February and only arrived in Go Noi the night of the 15th with orders to assault allied positions north of the Thu Bon and Ky Lam Rivers. The 27th Marines would later engage both the 2nd and 3rd Ba ttalions of 36th during the fighting in the Chu Ban and Le Bac complexes.