- Eric Hammel
- ARRSE Rating
- 4.5 Mushroom Heads
The book concentrates on the 3rd Bn The 26th Marines who were sent to the area of operations around what was termed ‘The Churchyard’ just south of the demilitarized zone . On arrival in the area the Bn was attacked by two battalions of North Vietnamese Regulars, each North Vietnamese Bn numbered 250 soldiers, they were very tactically aware and operated aggressively at section and platoon level. The Vietnamese greatest asset was the 130mm Chinese field gun. They were experts with the gun and as the marines put it. ‘They could put shells down on a 50c piece.’ The battle went on for three days, Mike Company 3rd Marines lost heavily to Mortars and shellfire, mostly because they tended to ‘Bunch up'. They were relieved by India Company, India Company committed the same tactical blunder, they ‘Bunched up’ and again lost heavily, and only minutes after their arrival on takeover of the position.
The book is not in ‘story form’ but is a series of ‘I was there’ entries by the officers, the NCOs and some enlisted men, that part is extremely well done. There are parts that made me a little angry, or so to speak. The Vietnamese never valued high tech at all, when the Marines totally relied on it. The American habit which they have done since the Battle for Hue and as far back as WW2, that is to send new arrivals immediately into battle. The six new arrivals in Lima company didn’t survive for even 24 hours. When they were being placed into body bags the marines of the company were asking ‘Who is this guy?’
That is Bloody scandalous!
There are other issues of admin that are hard to understand, for example the companies running out of water a few times each day, no food for over 24 hours on occasions, even though the area to their rear was clear. However the book is a very interesting read. It is well written and well researched, the kind of book that one would keep to read again. One golden thread shows through the whole operation and that is the courage of the 18 and 19 year old US Marines.
It was a battle for survival for which the Marines won only by the skin of their teeth.
I recommend the book as a good interesting read, and award it 4.5 stars.