Vietnam

THE DOOM PATROL

After 32 casualties during the first 30 hours of Operation Pursuit, initiated in mid-February 1968 by the 1st Marine Division to search for enemy rocket caches in the mountains west of Da Nang, Lt. Col. Bill Davis ordered Charlie and Delta companies of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, to get off Hills 270 and 310 and return to their base camps in the flatlands to the east.

A little later that morning of Feb. 16, the acting commander of Charlie Company, 1st Lt. Dana F. MacCormack, whose men were descending from Hill 270, radioed Davis: “Here come the NVA, colonel! I’ve got one more KIA that the last helo did not have room for. We are having a hell of a time carrying this body, and the bones are cutting up the body bag.” Davis, on Hill 310 with the battalion command group, told MacCormack to get Charlie Company off the mountain immediately to avoid any more casualties. And that meant leaving the body behind.

Thousands of North Vietnamese Army troops had trekked down the Ho Chi Minh Trail in eastern Laos and moved through South Vietnam’s A Shau Valley before making their way to high ground, including Hills 270 and 310, overlooking an area known as Happy Valley and the Marine positions to the east.

Units from the 31st NVA Regiment and the 368B Artillery Regiment operated frequently out of Happy Valley before moving into the “Rocket Belt,” an arc running north to south around the western side of Da Nang at the ideal range for NVA forces firing Soviet-made 122 mm and 140 mm rockets at Da Nang Air Base, Marble Mountain Air

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