Phoui Noui 15 June 1968
Cpl John Hudson 1st Sq Lima2
Today, 33 years ago is a day I will never forget. I had been with Lima
exactly 15 months.Cpl, 1st squad leader, Lima 2. Mike Madden noted my
work and stated how battles are seen differently by each individual.
Here's how L2A saw 15 June 68. On 14 June Lima ( I will offer my views
of Lima's actions only) was ordered to build fireteam size, covered,
sandbagged bunkers to fight out of.The Bn command chronology mentions
them as samples were built on 689 and unit leaders were shown what to
build. I felt the idea was crazy. Here's why. The design had two men
firing out of ports on either corner, the fireteam leader was to sit
on the rear entrance step and cover the front as he layed on top of
the bunker! I argued that they were death traps and violated every
principle of cover and concealment. Plus their raised, verticle sides
were perfect RPG targets. The poor guy on top would have no cover at
all! We were issued light grey sandbags, 10 per man. Against the
blackened soil and ash on Hill 685 they stood out like beacons to the
NVA. I pointed out that if the man on top was hit, he's probably fall
in and trap the others. Plus now, the inside guys couldn't cover the
front or rear. I did not know Captain Austin so I'd didn't appeal to
him. Our platoon commander (an E5 ) finally threatened me with an
Article 15 if I didn't comply. So I did. In my own salty way.
So morning 15 June a batallion of NVA hit Lima at 0515. Command
chronology correctly states NVA used approx. 30 RPGs to blast the
bunkers that were plainly visible in the early light. NVA over run
most of Lima. Many Marines break and run because they were afraid to
stay in the bunkers. After the battle ends, Sgt Fred Meyer and I as
the only NCOs left in Lima 2 walk the Lima Company lines. About 70%
of the bunkers were hit by RPGs and demo packs. In my squad, I lost
all three Marines atop the bunkers. My team leaders Cpl Coppersmith
WIA, Pfc MacClintock KIA. BTW, when hit, Mac fell in and trapped Pvt
Kurts. Pfc Stadtmiller was also hit on top his bunker.I fought from an
open hole and I moved L/cpl Swartz M60 team to another open hole just
before the NVA struck. I was planning to build enough open holes for
the whole squad but darkness prevented finishing any more. I had
followed orders but also tried to do what I knew was correct. I just
ran out of time.
That evening, India replaced Lima and we took over their lines. My
first order as Plt Sgt to our now 12 man platoon ( was 32 before the
fight) was to tear the tops off of all bunkers. Which we did.
I had served under Cols Masterpool, Vest and Lee Bendell. All three
had us fight from open top fighting holes. Bendell constantly was on
us to use cover when we setin. He never allowed fighting bunkers in
the field, only open fighting holes. I felt then and I feel today that
those bunkers were a tactical blunder. India was hit and overrun in
the same place 18 June. They were still in the sandbagged bunkers. As
I didn't see any of India's action, I won't comment further.
For those of you with access to the CC or Batallion newsletters,
closely read Col Bendells orders on fighting holes and cover. I have
copies of both and will gladly share with others at the reunion.
I want to especially commend the survivors of my squad. They alone
held in Lima 2. Pvt Ray Kurts was the lowest ranking man in the
platoon. After the fight, I combined everyone that was left into one
squad. I made Kurts squadleader. He earned it.When the second wave of
NVA hit us, Kurts rose to the occasion.Pinned in his bunker, literally
covered in Mac's blood , Ray Kurts threw 20 grenades and shot down an
NVA who had me pinned by a shower of Chicom grenades. When hit the NVA
yelled "Chu Hoi! Chu Hoi!"
Ray answered with three M16 rounds and a salty "Chu Hoi my ass ! "
Who thought up the 3 man bunkers is not known to me. Everyone else may
have thought them an excellent idea. To me, it was a disaster. A few
of my squad and platoon will be at the reunion. It's a miracle any of
us survived that day 33 years ago. I am always open to comments and
corrections. I thank the many Marines who have contacted me. Your help
and input will assure an accurate batallion story.
John A Hudson
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