The Battle of Lo Giang
08 Feb 1968
ECHO-4 Reaction Force
1st Battalion, 6th Infantry
09 Feb 1968
2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry
2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines
The village of Lo Giang was located about a half-mile south of the Cau Do River, across the river from the massive base at Danang. The village was home to a Combined Action Platoon, CAP Echo-4, made up of a squad of Marines and a small number of SVN Popular Force militiamen. CAPs Echo-2 and Echo-3 were located on the north side of the Cau Do, with Echo-3 offset a mile or two to the east. All three units were part of the Second Combined Action Group's (2nd CAG) Combined Action Company Echo (CACO ECHO). Two maps show how matters stood:
The left-hand map shows the Danang area; the major military complex was on the northern bank of the Cau Do River about where the words "Hai Chau" appear, while the Marble Mountain complex was across the river on the peninsula. Highway 1 came south from the city, paralleled by the railroad, with both crossing the Cau Do at the Cam Le Bridge. The right-hand photo shows the Cam Le Bridge area in greater detail, with the Echo-2, Echo-3, and Echo-4 positions as shown.
The Tet Offensive at Danang began with early-morning attacks on 30 Jan 1968 aimed at the airfield and command and control installations to the southwest of the airfield. The I Corps Headquarters at Hoa Vang came under attack from elements of the VC R-20th and V-25th Battalions, apparent reinforcements for ground elements attacking closer to the air base proper, but got bogged down in heavy fighting with ARVN and Marine units. After daybreak on the 30th, the ARVN and Marine forces began to gain the upper hand, forcing the VC to withdraw from most of the threatened areas - but installations around Hoa Vang and the Danang and Marble Mountain airfields continued to receive rocket and mortar fires. More remote installations, such as the Chi Long Camp at Hoi An, garrisoned by the ARVN 102d Engineer Battalion, continued to receive heavy ground attacks that continued into the 31st. A heavy action developed just north of Lo Giang when the enemy forces which had attacked Hoa Vang attempted to withdraw across the river and were trapped on the sandbar; this action resulted in 102 VC killed and 88 captured. The first week of Feb 1968 was characterized by continued fighting in and around Danang, with enemy troops moving into the area from the mountainous and jungled areas adjacent to the coastal plain.
The battle around the hamlets of Lo Giang which developed on 08/09 Feb resulted from the infiltration of two enemy battalions approaching from the Que Son Valley area southwest of Danang; these troops were sighted on the morning of 07 Feb. Shortly after noon on the 7th General Cushman, commanding the 3rd MAF operational area, ordered two Army battalions to be emplaced south of the Cau Do River near Lo Giang. The first battalion (1st Battalion, 6th Infantry) was airlifted from Chu Lai in the late afternoon of the 7th, landing at the hamlet of Duong Son, just off the railroad about a mile south of the Cau Do River and about a mile southwest of Lo Giang (1). 1/6 established a defensive perimeter facing south. The second infantry battalion (2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry) was scheduled to arrive on the morning of 08 Feb.
At nightfall on 07 Feb, the situation was as follows:
- A Combined Action platoon, CAP ECHO-4, occupied a fortified position at Lo Giang (1).
- A, B, and C Companies, 1/6 Infantry, were at Duong Son, about a mile southwest of Lo Giang (1).
- Two enemy battalions - one NVA regular and one VC Main Force (with about 60% NVA personnel) - had infiltrated into and beyond the Lo Giang area and in effect were "boxed" when the 1/6th Infantry was airlifted into position south of them - but the 1/6 didn't know the VC/NVA were there in force.
08 Feb 1968
At about 0345 08 Feb ECHO-4 received mortar fire, followed shortly thereafter by a ground attack against the ECHO-4 compound as the enemy force flowed around the strongpoint, moving toward the Cau Do River ferry point. At first light on 08 Feb Alpha Company 1/6 was moved by helo to Lo Giang (5), about a half-mile northeast of Lo Giang (1) and Charlie 1/6 began a ground movement toward Lo Giang (1). The action which developed on 08 Feb involved four entirely separate fights and will be described in that fashion:
While part of the NVA/VC force laid siege to ECHO-4 the bulk of the force moved north to and forded the Cau Do River east of the Cam Le Bridge. A second Combined Action unit, CAP ECHO 3, was in place on the northern side on the river; it too was directly in the NVA/VC regiment's path. Fortunately for ECHO 3, the delay at ECHO-4 caused the NVA/VC to reach the river after sunrise, allowing a pair of A-1 Skyraiders the opportunity to disrupt the attack and force the enemy to disperse. The NVA/VC troops still south of the river withdrew into forested areas but were and regrouped
Meanwhile, ECHO-4 was getting desperate - they were running out of ammunition, supplementing their limited supplies with AK-47s and ammunition from dead NVA/VC soldiers. Although they requested extraction by air, available USMC resources were otherwise occupied - partly in supporting the 1/6th Infantrymen who were trying to fight their way to Lo Giang (1). By late afternoon on 08 Feb the ECHO-4 Marines and many of the Popular Force soldiers were lifted out of their compound by USAF helicopter; although all 11 Marines and their PF comrades were wounded, none had been killed. However, some of the PF soldiers had been captured by the NVA; they were summarily executed as the NVA were forced from the area.
ECHO-4 REACTION FORCE
The ECHO Company Commander, Captain Howard L. Joselane, probably was not fully aware of the developing actions around Lo Giang (1) nor the size of the enemy force, but he did know his men at ECHO-4 desperately needed help. He directed formation of a relief force drawn from his other platoons and led the 17-man relief force from ECHO Company headquarters at Hoa Vang. Joselane crossed the Cam Le Bridge by truck and started on foot up the dirt road toward the ECHO-4 compound. As the relief force approached a tree line surrounding Lo Giang (1) hamlet, it came nose-to-nose with 250-300 NVA/VC troops - a situation with only one possible outcome.
Captain Joselane and his Marines fought valiantly, but they were hopelessly out-numbered and out-gunned. Captain Joselane's last radio reports to the ECHO headquarters at Hoa Vang were
"... we're getting chewed up ... we're not going to get out ... there are too many ... they're all over us ... no way out. Don't send anyone else in here ... Tell my wife I love her..."
Fading daylight, uncertainty with respect to the exact location of the relief force, and limited manpower caused the 2nd CA Group headquarters to decide against sending in further forces before sunrise on the 9th. One survivor of the ambush made his way back to Hoa Vang. When the second reaction force went in, they found one badly wounded survivor, twelve dead, and three missing.
One of the missing Marines returned to friendly control; he had been captured but was able to escape his captors during the chaos of the fighting. The other two were gone. The final disposition of the 17 Marines who had set out to relieve ECHO-4 follows:
Carl "Mike" Readinger, who was manning the radios at Hoa Vang on the 8th and who went in with the second reaction force on the morning of the 9th, has prepared a description of the action as he remembers it ... you can read his
story of the ECHO-4 Reaction Force
- Killed in action:
- Capt Howard L. Joselane, Chicago, IL, Commanding Officer, CA Co ECHO
- SSgt Frank Ramos, Youngstown, OH
- Sgt Michele Basso, North White Plains, NY
- Cpl Pete F. Cruz, Chualar, CA
- HM3 Gregory A. Gifford, Billings, MT
- Cpl Lee C. Kinney, Welch, MN
- LCpl Johnnie B. Jackson, Fort Worth, TX
- LCpl Arthur W. Lamorte, Baltimore, MD
- LCpl Jimmy A. Metcalf, Dallas, TX
- LCpl John R. Murphy, Yorktown Heights, NY
- LCpl Daniel E. Sirianni, Buffalo, NY
- HN Charles E. Johnson, Toledo, OR, recently joined from Golf 2/7
- Captured - died in captivity:
- Captured - escaped and returned to US control:
- Survived ambush:
- Sgt Ed Palmer, evaded from ambush area 08 Feb
- Cpl Greeno, wounded, recovered 09 Feb
After insertion at Lo Giang (5), Alpha 1/6 began a movement to the southwest toward Lo Giang (1), crossing a large area of partially grown rice paddies toward the treeline surrounding Lo Giang (1). At about 1130 Alpha 1/6 received heavy automatic weapons and mortar fire from Lo Giang (1) and another hamlet called Co Man. Alpha 1/6 pressed on but shortly after noon was forced to withdraw out of range, taking up a position in a cemetery. At that point Alpha 1/6 came under fire from behind - the NVA/VC force which had been repulsed at the Cau Do River crossing had regrouped and now were attacking Alpha Company.
With Alpha 1/9 pinned in the middle of a huge rice paddy by flanking fire, hundreds of NVA/VC charged out of the woods surrounding Lo Giang (1) in an effort to overrun the American infantrymen. Although supporting arms (air and artillery) were able to strike the NVA/VC still at a distance from Alpha's position, the determined enemy attack had sufficient momentum to carry it into the company positions. Fierce hand-to-hand fighting developed in the rice field as Alpha's men fought for their lives.
Continued supporting-arms action isolated the Alpha Company position, and the infantrymen were able to kill or drive off the NVA/VC troops who had made it into the company perimeter. By late afternoon it was clear that Alpha Company could hold its own, but had been rendered unable to continue the assault toward Lo Giang (1).
Eighteen men from Alpha 1/6 died in the fight; no fewer than 152 NVA/VC dead were found in and around the company's position in the rice field. The American dead were
In addition, SP4 Michael Pumillo, New York, NY, was killed by enemy fire during the night of 08/09 Feb.
- 2LT Joseph B. Bowman, Roanoke, VA (Dist Svc Cross)
- PSGT John R. Poso, San Jose, CA (Silver Star)
- SSG Ramon H. Gonzalez, Newburgh, NY (DoW 02/13/1968) (Silver Star)
- SGT David L. McKinney, Richmond, VA (Bronze Star "V")
- SP4 Alberto Carrasquillo-Denton, Santurce, PR (Bronze Star "V")
- SP4 James S. Cerione, Dallas City, IL (Silver Star)
- SP4 Ralph A. Dahm, Iron Ridge, WI (Bronze Star "V")
- SP4 George R. Denslow, Boonville, NY (Bronze Star "V")
- SP4 Brian F. Durr, Whitesboro, NY (Bronze Star "V")
- SP4 Lanny E. Hale, Plano, TX (Bronze Star "V")
- SP4 John L. Jervis, Pitman, NJ (Bronze Star "V")
- SP4 James L. Lopp, Scales Mound, IL (Silver Star)
- SP4 James E. Parker, Oak City, NC (Bronze Star "V")
- SP4 Rodney P. Troyer, Blackwell, OK (Bronze Star "V")
- SP4 John A. Wilcox, Moultrie, GA (Bronze Star "V")
- PFC Amos H. Boutwell, Marianna, FL (Bronze Star "V")
- PFC Franklin Clovis, Cedartown, GA (Bronze Star "V")
- PFC Robert L. Dykes, Tifton, GA (Bronze Star "V")
Charlie 1/6 moved out shortly after sunrise, moving to the northeast across swampy land. At about 0940 the point platoon came under intense enemy fire and were pinned in an open area. Helicopter gunships took the NVA/VC positions under fire, allowing the lead platoon to withdraw, but enemy ground fire continued with such intensity that Charlie 1/6 could not move forward.
Bravo 1/6, accompanied by Golf Company 2/3 Marines, were directed to leave Duong Son by truck and proceed to a link up with Charlie 1/6, which was now under severe mortar attack. By 1530 Bravo 1/6 came into range of of the enemy mortars and started taking small arms fire. Continuous counter-fire by Bravo's mortarmen silenced the enemy mortars, but by that time all of Charlie's officers had been wounded. Captain John
Hurtado, the battalion's intelligence officer, was flown out to take command of Charlie Company. By nightfall, Bravo 1/6 had linked with Charlie 1/6 and both companies took up defensive positions southwest of Lo Giang (1) facing northeast. Golf 2/3 held a blocking position somewhat south of the 1/6 position.
Only three casualties are known from Bravo and Charlie Companies, two on 08 and one on 09 Feb:
- PFC John I. Haselbauer, New York, NY, Bravo
- PFC Walter R. Pratt, Detroit, MI (Silver Star), medic, HHC with Charlie
- SP4 Charles R. Martin, Hogansburg, NY (02/09/1968), Charlie
09 Feb 1968
The 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry, arrived from Chu Lai on the morning of 09 Feb. While 1/6 policed the 08 Feb battlefields, 2/1st Infantry attacked in a northerly direction - and found itself engaged in a nine-hour battle with the 3rd Battalion, 31st NVA Regiment. To the east of the Army engagement, the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, engaged two companies from the 1st VC Regiment as they attempted to withdraw from the area.
The two engagements produced 136 dead enemy troops, but cost the lives of seventeen Americans - twelve from 2/1 Infantry and five from 2/3 Marines.
2nd Bn, 1st Infantry:
- SSG Donald J. Haile, Caldwell, ID, Alpha 2/1
- SSG Donald D. Alvis, Hope, IN, Charlie 2/1
- SSG Norbert P. Holzapfel, Pittsburgh, PA, Charlie 2/1
- SSG William N. Flint, Naples, FL, Delta 2/1
- SGT Willis C. Rheault, Lake Linden, MI, Bravo 2/1
- SGT Alfred H. Bleigh, Sutton, WV, Charlie 2/1
- SGT Lauren J. Heydinger, Norwalk, OH, Delta 2/1
- CPL Darrel A. Bondrowski, Boothwyn, PA, Delta 2/1
- CPL Ronald L. Brown, Portsmouth, VA, Delta 2/1
- PFC John J. Palmieri, Riverside, CT, Alpha 2/1
- PFC Joseph P. Conklin, Haverstraw, NY, Charlie 2/1
- PFC Gerald P. Williams, Oakland, CA, Charlie 2/1
2nd Bn, 3rd Marines:
- 2ndLt Kenneth L. Kirkes, Tullahoma, TN, Fox 2/3
- HM3 Ronald N. Keller, Exeter, NH, H&S Co, 2/3
- LCpl Gene D. Killgore, Blythe, CA, Golf 2/3
- Pfc Raymond C. Lawson, Virgilina, VA, Fox 2/3
- Pfc John A. Page, San Diego, CA, Fox 2/3
During the night of 9/10 February the residual NVA and VC troops exfiltrated to the southwest, apparently passing through the gap between the Army forces in the Lo Giang area and the Vinh Dinh River to the south.
American forces south of the Cau Do River conducted numerous sweeps over the next few days but encountered relatively little resistance. Both the 2nd Battalion, 3d Marines to the east of the Army task force and the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines to the south reported relatively little enemy activity in their sectors. Only the 7th Marines to the west experienced an increase in incidents as North Vietnamese regulars and the VC main force troops moved to the west to return to their mountain strongholds in Base Area 114 and through Charlie Ridge into "Happy Valley. The two Army battalions were returned to Chu Lai on 12 Feb.
The battles around Lo Giang were tactical victories. Several large enemy units had been destroyed as effective fighting forces, with known losses in excess of 500 men, and Danang had been secured ... but at a high cost. Overall, the soldiers of 1/6 Infantry and 2/1 Infantry and the Marines of the Combined Action Program and 2/3 Marines lost 53 men killed in action with many more wounded.
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Last updated on 10 July 2005