The 1/26 Marines Command Chronology for February 1968 contains the following entry:
At 9:15 AM, 25 Feb 3rd Plt, Bravo 1/26, a platoon minus security patrol, was taken under automatic weapons fire and was also receiving grenades fro bunkers and trenches at XD849409. Artillery and mortar fire was called to assist in withdrawal. Support elements moved into position to provide cover by fire. The enemy force was estimated to be a Company of larger. Contact resulted in 24 friendly MIA, 17 friendly WIA, and six friendly KIA.
The patrol was about 1 kilometer south of the Khe Sanh Combat base when it came across an NVA observation post. The Marines opened fire on the NVA troops, who withdrew south. The Marines pursued the NVA and in so doing entered an ambush zone. The NVA allowed the Marines to approach within 15 feet before opening fire from concealed bunkers, spider holes and trenchlines. A reaction platoon was sent as reinforcements, but when it attempted to outflank the enemy position the platoon leader realized that his unit was being outflanked and sandwiched between the NVA position and additional enemy troops.
The best the platoon leader could do was to provide covering fire for the remnants of the patrol as they withdrew, bringing out their wounded and six of their dead - but 24 men, most of them known to be dead, could not be brought out. Three of the 24 were able to evade the NVA on their own and made their way back to friendly lines.
At the end of the day Bravo Company 1st battalion 26th Marines had one confirmed KIA (Donald Jacques), 25 missing presumed dead, and 21 wounded.
Initially, 9 of the remains recovered could not be identified and were interred in a mass grave at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. The burial took place in September 1968.
Those 27 who gave their lives that terrible foggy morning were:
- 2ndLt Donald Jacques, Rochester, NY
- SSgt George McClelland, Passaic, NJ
- Cpl Frederick Albert Billingham, Jr, Trenton, NJ
- Cpl Michael John Brellenthin, North Bergen, NJ
- Cpl Kenneth William Claire, Redwood City, CA
- Cpl Bruce E. Jones, Rockland, MA
- Cpl Donald Eugene Whitaker, Durham, MO
- LCpl Ronald Paul Akins, Akron, OH
- LCpl James Robert Bruder, Allentown, PA
- LCpl Jerry Lee Dodson, Collinsville, IL
- LCpl Charles Gregory Geller, East St Louis, IL
- LCpl Phillips Hayes, III, New Orleans, LA
- LCpl Michael John Laderoute, Boston, MA
- LCpl Richard Wayne Mc Kenzie, Oxnard, CA
- HN Lewis Wayne Moore, Wilmington, NC
- Pfc Michael Bradford Baptiste, Tampa, FL
- Pfc Joseph Chriss Battle, Houston, TX
- Pfc Doyle Gregory Clay, Chicago, IL
- Pfc John Alfred Lassiter, Slidell, LA
- Pfc Henry Mc Donald, Philadelphia, PA
- Pfc Kim Elmer Meads, Chicago, IL
- Pfc Arnold Javier Rivera, El Paso, TX
- Pfc Willie Jerome Ruff, Columbia, SC
- Pfc David Clifton Scarbrough, Marietta, OH
- Pfc Walter Francis Skinner, Soledad, CA
- Pfc Douglas Wayne Smith, Fort Worth, TX
- Pfc Clayton Joseph Theyerl, Racine, WI
The Marines returned to recover their dead, but found that many of the bodies had been badly mutilated by mortar and artillery fire. On 16 March 1973 one Marine thought to have died in the engagement returned - Sgt Ronald L. Ridgeway of Houston, Texas had been captured.
It wasn't until March 30th that the Marines of Bravo Company would be able to exact their revenge in an assault using organic infantry weapons when the company assaulted the NVA trench line in the vicinity of the February 25th ambush site. The remains, most unidentifiable after nearly 6 weeks in the open and exposure to air strikes and artillery fire, were collected. 10 more Bravo Company Marines gave their lives trying to recover the remains of their fallen brothers.
The action by Bravo 1/26 on 30 March 1968 was reflected only by a brief comment in the Battalion's Operations Journal:
"30 MAR 1968 SUMMARY: Co B conducted a search and destroy mission. During this patrol Co B received mortar and small arms fire causing 71 WIA's, nine KIA's, and two MIA's."
but there was more to it than that. Quoting from the 1/26 Command Chronology for March 1968,
"Intelligence sources revealed that Company B met and defeated in detail the main elements of a NVA Battalion, inflicted 115 NVA KIA and destroyed numerous amounts of ammunition, weapons, and equipment. The operation resulted in ten friendly KIA, two MIA, and 100 WIA, 49 of which were evacuated. ... The agressive fighting spirit of Company B combined with supporting arms fire enabled the company to engage and defeat in detail a numerically superior enemy force entrenched in mutually supporting fortified positions, in the first planned offensive attack of a known enemy position in the battle for KHE SANH Combat Base."
What both of the above entries did not mention was that this was an effort by B Company to attempt the recovery of their men who were killed and left behind on the 25th of February. The twelve men who died in the 30th of March engagement while attempting to recover their men were
- 1stLt Marion Henry Norman, Houston, TX (A Battery, 1st Bn, 13th Marines)
- Sgt Donald Albert Warren, San Diego, CA
- Cpl David Alan Aldrich, Gibsonburg, OH
- Cpl Albert Russell Sanford, Russellville, KY (H&S Co with B/1/26)
- LCpl Wayne Paul Moore, Plymouth, MA
- LCpl Author C. Smith, Glen Allen, AL
- Pfc David Bruce Anderson, Avoca, IA
- Pfc Ted Dennis Britt, Decatur, GA (Silver Star)
- Pfc Jimmie Lee Jones, Cordova, AL
- Pfc Donald Ray Rash, Pocahontas, VA (Navy Cross)
- Pfc Jose Ruiz, Jr, New York, NY
- Pfc Kenneth Romaine Totten, Jr, Brewster, NY
1stLt Marion Henry Norman was the Artillery Forward Observer; he was killed by a mortar shell which also seriously wounded the Bravo Company Commander, Captain K. W. Pipes, and all members of the company command group. The two men reported as missing in action were LCpl Author C. Smith and Pfc Ted D. Britt; their bodies were subsequently recovered.
Also read a detailed article of Company B's efforts here, along with photos and biographies about some of the men who were killed during that 25 February 1968 ambush and B Company's subsequent recovery effort on March 30, 1968.
- - - The Virtual Wall, April 2, 2014