On the morning of the 27th of January ,1968, Kilo, Lima, Mike and India Company's had already spent two days engaged in small skirmishes with the NVA along highway 9, North of Camp Carol and south of the Cam Lo river. On the evening of the 26 th , Mike set up a defensive perimeter on a small hill at the east end of the valley, which later, would become known, as Mikes hill. Kilo and Lima, where in similar perimeters to the North and West of Mikes position, between Mike and the Cam lo river, while India Company spent the night in a defensive perimeter on a very low rise at the west end of the valley. Between Mikes hill and India's position the terrain was a narrow open field, scatted with scrub brush, and with Highway 9 bisected this open field and the valley.
Throughout the early morning small arms fire could be heard coming form Mike Company's position, and as dawn began to break, several small elements of North Vietnamese soldiers could be seem moving into positions along the road west of Mike's Hill and in the creek bed north of Highway 9.
While these NVA where well out of M-16 range, India Company opened up anyway. Actually seeing NVA troops out in the open, even thought they were out of rifle range, resulted in a nearly spontaneous attempt to bring fire on the enemy. In a effort to bring some effective fire on the enemy, Cpl. Richard Kowalski, stood up put his M-60 to his shoulder , and began to fire from the off hand position, scattering some of the enemy, and killing several.
The North Vietnamese commanders knew if they could put enough pressure on Mike Company, the Marines would call for re-enforcements. Drawing a relief column into a ambush had become a accepted and proven tactic for the NVA, They knew if they could just put enough pressure on Mike, eventually India company would come across the valley to reinforce Mike's position...so while they advanced their attacked up Mike's hill they began to set a trap for India Company. They concealed a 50 caliber machine gun north of highway 9, that would attack India's left flank, while several light machine guns positions where dug into the dry creek bed, to bring fire directly on the assaulting Marines. In addition numerous spider traps where dug into the edges of Hwy 9, and along dry creek bed south of Hwy 9.
While the NVA set up the ambush they intensified their attack on Mike Company's western and northern flanks. The NVA had managed to use the nearly dry creek bed that ran from the Cam Lo river to the base of Mikes Hill and eventually to the bridge at Highway 9 to cover their advance to the base of Mikes hill . The NVA
knew they had to get in real tight to the Marines on Mikes Hill , this would prevent the Marines from using their Air and Artillery assets. As the battle for Mikes Hill intensified the Battalion Commander ,Col. Bendell, ordered India's Company commander ,Capt Prichard, to assembly two of his three platoons into a skirmish line, running north and south, perpendicular to highway 9, and then to assault on line, east towards Mikes Hill.
Leaving 1 st Platoon behind to protect their rear, the skirmish line was formed up with 2nd platoon commanded by Lt White taking the north side of Hwy 9 , Capt Prichard, the Gunny,the Radio Operator and a Guns squad from 3 rd platoon took the center of the road, and the 3 rd platoon, commanded by Lt Steward, took the southern side of Hwy 9...When the two platoons had formed up perfectly on line ,Capt. Prichard, at the direction Of Col. Bendell , ordered India Company to move East.
To ensure the Marines would be drawn into the trap....the NVA placed a small group of NVA soldiers just west of their machine gun positions, their job ,when the Marines started to get close was to get up and run away from the Marines and towards their own lines, this would insure the Marines would then give chase and would result in the Marines charging right into the NVA machine gun positions. Thus the trap was set, all the NVA needed was to draw the Marines into the field of fire..
Prichard having lined up his Platoons in a battle skirmish line, and gave the command to move forward The two platoons of India Company began to move east in a line as straight as any drill instructor could have asked for on any grinder in Paris Island...... just at that moment, two NVA jumped up in front of 3 rd platoon, and started to run east, 3 rd platoon's 3 Charlie squad open up and the NVA where killed almost immediately but the charge had been triggered...
As the Marines of India Company began to pick up speed and cover more ground , a battle cry began to rise out of the valley as load as any ever heard on Iwo Jima.
It was at this point that the NVA machine guns began to open up, and this is when the real human carnage began...Capt .Prichard and Gunny Mikitis where killed immediately, while Prichard's radio man, took 4 rounds right in the chest. The Marines of 2 Platoon charging across the open field began to take heavy causalities
from the NVA 50 cal's position.
Richard Kowalski identified the location of the enemy guns and opened up, standing in the middle of the road, he fired his M60 in the off hand position into the enemies positions until he ran out of ammo. Mean while , 2 nd platoon on the north side of the road was being to be cut to pieces....Marines bodies laying where they fell , where strafed continually by enemy fire until they stopped moving. Lt Steward was wounded next, along with a number of his men in 3 rd Platoon . As the corpsmen attempted to attend to the wounded Marines on the battle field they where racked by enemy machine gun fire. 2 nd Platoon fought valiantly against overwhelming fire power, knocking out the 50 cal machine gun position buy shear force of will and charging right into the enemies field of fire. 3 rd platoon was able to make the dry creek bed, found some cover and began to slowing move east and north.
Col Bendell watching the battle from Mikes hill radioed down on to the battle field franticly trying establish a line of communication with one of his officers, but there was no response, Finally one of the platoon radio operators, answered, " this is 3- go"....Col Bendell thinking he was talking to one of his officers demanded to know why India company was slowing down, The PFC smartly answered, " Sir, the officers and the Gunny are either killed or wounded,.. we are doing the very best we can to over come the enemies superior fire power..." At this moment Cpl John Blair swung 3- Charlie North and assaulted the NVA position from their southern flank, while Lt White and his Marines advanced east under heavy fire until they reached the the creek bed and the base of Mike's Hill.
January 27, 1968 was a day when uncommon valor became common place virtue, against over welling enemy fire superiority, without any artillery, mortar, or air support , the Marines of India Companies 2 nd and 3 rd platoons, with most of their officers and senior NCOs killed or wounded , crossed the open ground between them and Mikes Hill, over running the enemy positions and thus routing the enemy from the field of battle in their support of Mike Company.
Attached is a Arial photograph of Mikes Hill and the battle field along Hwy nine....While this is not the account you will read on the 3/4 web-site this is exactly what happened....
Sergeant. R.G.Harriman. USMC, 2351321, Ret.