Go Noi Island
~Recollection by Keith Hansford, H&S 3/5~
I remember around middle of June, '69 word came we were to join several units on an OP named "Pipestone Canyon." We were told it was used as an R&R center for NVA, Great! Put us in the worst shit you can find!
We saddled up and got on Chinooks to deliver us to what turned out to be a safe LZ on the island. I remember it seemed a joke at first sight to me. Engineers with a dozer, tank, dozer, tank, etc.** in echelon reinforced with Grunts from different companies literally making a huge parking lot of the place. That feeling of superior utopia lasted about thirty minutes when we made contact! They decided real quick the big "show" was not going to work and withdrew tanks and dozers and left it to the Grunts.
If I remember correctly, it was 27th Marines we worked with. At that point there was a lot of confusion, and we knew we were in shit. Never saw so many tunnels and weapons caches! For those who were there, they know.
First day and night bad, here we are on an island of NVA regulars, and they didn't want us messing up their party. We finally got organized enough before sundown, we got our wounded and dead out, and got a perimeter set up using several different squads from different companies. Sat up next to a berm wall that was so tall and straight it seemed like a "railroad road bed."
I was a squad leader and went on LP's like everyone else. NEVER tell a man to do something you won't do yourself. Anyway, I didn't feel right about it that night. I took a guy who had been incountry about the same time I had, and a thirty-day-in man. Took all precautions, briefed everyone precisely where we would be, radio silence, checked with the line up and down, letting them know all details, still, something felt wrong.
My "A" gunner assumed the gun in my absence, and about an hour after dark we crawled very silently to our position, and set up watch. Very uneasy, kept it to myself. About 22:30 heard movement so close my gut ached. Directly in front. The new guy was noddin' so I put my hand over his mouth not knowing how he would react, poor guy turned white. At the same moment: Thump>>>>Thump>>>>so close the flash of the tube outlined the gook mortar team. Immediately all hell broke loose , we were between them and our line. Knew we were dead, again...
We had planned what to do in a similar situation and did it, we radioed by our prc 88's we were comin' in on a run in one mike..mike...We each rolled on our back, pulled pins, on nod threw, got at a crouch and beat feet toward line, then it got hairy, apparently in the initial mellee one GUN thought we were gooks and sprayed us! Dropped, and died again! My gut was in my mouth and my mouth was on the PRC cussin' appropriately! I'm shakin' now. We got in, I stormed to that gun, locked & loaded before I realized what I was doin'. I stood there...the look on that gunners face will never leave me...the disgust in my heart of what I almost did never will either. God forgive me!
Went to my gun, and was called to berm where some fool on that side had allowed a gun to be taken on their LP. They were not so lucky, gooks got them and the gun. The screams, God help me... gun started firing at our line, what can you do man!! Not sure our guys are dead. After repeated and repeated and repeated tries to raise them on the net, our answer came by a gook voice on the radio!
God help us, we knew it was over for them. The sight was prepped, and salvo after salvo of 81's was strewn all over the sight. God help us all...
To those brave young men who I never knew, there has got to be a place in heaven for you, your hell has been here.
3/5 Memorial graphic by Vic Vilionis, 7th Marines
Background by Redeye