Minutes after the first shells fell to earth; an infantry attack was launched from southwest in battalion strength. Il Sodae (1st Platoon) met the initial thrust by unleashing a terrible display of firepower. Above the calamitous roar of battle, North Vietnamese were heard to be blowing whistles, beating on drums, and screaming, “Dae Han, ra di ra di” (“Koreans, come out!”) Flares illuminated the night sky; tracers darted every which way, putting on a light show the likes of which had never been seen in Quang Ngai. Fire volume from both sides of the wire was immense. Within five minutes, the remaining two NVA battalions were committed, hitting the north side with a vengeance. Som Sodae opened fire immediately, every bore online responding in a frenzy of fire, resounding in the night like thousands of runaway jackhammers.
The North Vietnamese had arranged a nightmare scenario bringing nearly 2400 seasoned troops against 294 sons of Dae Hon Min Guk.
On the north perimeter, Som Sodae was stacking up bodies across their front, having already stalled two massive surges aggressively pressing toward the trenches. In spite of intense volumes of fire by the Marines, NVA troops continued closing on the defenders, now in human waves. With fresh meat constantly pouring into the fray, North Viets gained new momentum, managing to destroy several sections of concertina blockade with Bangalore torpedoes and satchel charges. On the backs of dead comrades sprawled on the concertina, attackers moved forward, pouring into the trenches at 0422, barely twelve minutes into battle.
Staff Sergeant Bae Jang Choon’s 3rd Squad bore the brunt of the incursion. Despite serious wounds to his right shoulder, Staff Sergeant Bae refused to abandon his position, ordering his Marines to stand their ground and prepare to meet the enemy mano a mano. The squad unleashed a terrible shit storm of fire, stacking up more bodies immediately in front of their trench line. The fight escalated from rifles to grenades as North Vietnamese forced their way into the outpost. Fighting digressed to pick axes, entrenching tools, fists, boots, bayonets, and teeth in an all-out brawl for survival now spreading through the trenches. Staff Sergeant Bae, brandishing an entrenching tool, defiantly faced the oncoming horde straddling the parapet, bludgeoning five Vietnamese to death, effectively blocking access to the trench line.
Faced with an overwhelming and relentless enemy, the squad fought back with an undaunted and ferocious tenacity. PFC Kim Myong Deok gunned down ten enemy soldiers at point-blank range as they tried to storm his position before he was himself wounded by grenade explosions. Staff Sergeant Bae picked up Kim’s automatic rifle, shooting ten or twelve more to death. Seriously wounded, bleeding profusely, and out of ammo, Staff Sergeant Bae in his last mortal act exchanged hand grenades with the wall of human flesh pressing in on him; firmly standing his ground until the unshakable Marine finally succumbed to a never-ending shower of shrapnel.
PFCs Doh Sung Yong and Kim Dong Jei were hit by small arms fire. Ignoring their pain, both Marines continued fighting from their entrenched position. PFC Doh crawled to a sandbag rampart, where several NVA had taken refuge from the onslaught of 3rd Squad, lobbing a hand grenade over the top, killing five or six NVA soldiers. Doh rushed back for more grenades and repeated his attack of moments earlier under cover fire from his friend Kim Dong Jei. Unable to fire fast enough at the human wall pouring through the wire; both were overwhelmed by AK fire, going down like Marines, fighting to the last breath.
At this same moment just eight feet away, Corporal Kim Nam Suk manned his machine gun until a bullet sent him to his final rest. Assistant gunner Woo Choon Mae took over trigger position, working the M-60 a couple more minutes before stubbornly giving up his own ghost to an angry swarm of fire. The last surviving member of the machine gun team, PFC Song Young Sup, was already mortally wounded and played dead, allowing two grenades to roll from his hands while enemy soldiers filed past him in the trench. Song and the NVA were consumed in a maelstrom of flash and steel.
Further down the trench line, Sergeant Lee Hak Won, after dispatching four or five NVA with his bare hands, was mortally wounded by bayonet slashes to the point where he too could no longer fight. The tough-as-leather NCO pulled pin on two grenades and flung himself into his antagonists, taking his own life and four more North Viets with him.
PFC Lee Young Bok, defending his fighting hole, was the only squad member not killed or injured in the unfolding bedlam. The gutsy private lured North Vietnamese toward him, dropping grenades as he disappeared into one of the connecting trenches. When the grenades exploded, he reappeared and released several more into the dazed enemy, killing a number of his pursuers, temporarily stalling the attack.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Thomas Petri served Sub Unit One, 1st ANGLICO as a tactical air controller in Vietnam while attached to the Republic of Korea’s 2nd Marine Brigade. As very little has ever been bought before the American public concerning the extraordinary exploits of this special unit, Mr. Petri has long held a desire to bring tribute this very small but effective organization that earned mountains of honors but remains relatively unknown to the people it served. His research for this book evolved into a nine year work in progress that brought him in contact with several old friends and a few unforgettable Americans he’d never met before in a journey through his youthful past.
Recently retired from a satisfying business career with more time on his hands than the law allows, he finally ran out of excuses and much to his surprise, completed this work in less than a year.