Khe Sanh Hill Fights of ‘67
Compiled by Ray Stubbe
All Rights Reserved by the Author
Preparation 01 May 1967
Enemy forces retreated from Hill 881-South during the evening of 30 Apr/lMay, and Hill 881-South was blasted all day. "The planes just started from one end; they just went clear to the other end. And after they got done there, I just couldn't imagine that anything was alive up on top of that hill." There were over 130 2,000-pound bombs dropped as well as other assorted ordinance.
M/3/3 was relieved by F/2/3 which was lifted in by helicopter. To replace the casualty-depleted M/3/3, CG 3dMarDiv choppered E/2/9 to 3/3 with advance elements beginning to arrive at 011400H and completing its movement by 1900H. One platoon had been taken from the company and heli-lifted to Hill 861 to preclude enemy reoccupation or infiltration through that objective. M/3/3 departed at 1715H for Dong Ha by fixed wing.
Early in the morning of 01 May, at 0745H, E1213 on the southern slope of Hill 881-North (at XD 782452) received 18-20 incoming mortar rounds from XD 799453 and XD 767454 resulting in 3 Marines killed, 16 wounded.
1stSgt Charles Patrinos, although wounded three times during the initial attack-in the leg, chest, and arm-refused evacuation. Disregarding his painful injuries, he organized evacuation of the wounded, moving around the area to locate them and direct medical assistance and evacuation. Refusing medical assistance himself, he continuously exposed himself to the intensive mortar barrage until all others were treated and evacuated.
PFC John R. Meuse, a radio operator of the First Squad, Second Platoon, E/2/3, exposed himself to the enemy fire as he chased down, gave aid, and evacuated a wounded comrade who had been hit in the back and gone into shock, saving him from further shock, saving him from further injury and probably saving his life.
HM3 Danny P. Williams, serving in Second Platoon, E/2/3, continuously exposed himself to the danger of incoming mortars with complete disregard for his own safety by moving about the company perimeter giving aid to wounded Marines. Together with the senior corpsman, HM2 Kenneth F. Kleinschmidt, he attended the Forward Air Control Officer who was near death with chest wounds. They undoubtedly saved the officer's life since his lungs were full of blood.
Because of this contact, plans to move E/2/3 to Objective #3, Hill 881-North, on 01 May were postponed, and further neutralization of the objective was planned.
Meanwhile, G/2/3 fought the terrain between 881 -South and 881-North, and found an extensive bunker complex.
Hospitalman Vernon Ralph Wike, assigned to G/2/3, had spotted a marine infantryman caught in crossfire and rushed to his side. Wike knew the man, but did not know he was mortally wounded. A Lt pulled the wounded man down the hill a bit, and Wike cradled the Marine's head in his arms, looking up in anguish after he saw him die. (The scene was captured by Catherine Leroy in photos printed in the 19 May 67 issue of Life, and is also on the cover and pp. 76-77 of the book, Images of War in the Vietnam Experience series.) Wike's friend, "Doe" Jerry March, later noted: "That was Vern's first casualty, and he saw two weeks of combat. He was so "characteristic." He's about 5foot-8, looked like a Marine. Red. He was like a fire-plug. Vern and I…we had a lot of fun. There were about four of us that hung out together. He came out of a typical, middle-class, grew up in Phoenix, never had any insult in his life-typical corpsman. Corpsmen got picked in Boot Camp - they give you the big, long battery of tests to decide what kind of thing-where is he intellectually? They take the top intellectual guys and people with a philosophical bent, and make these guys the healers. Well, given that, it was totally dichotomous that he should end up with the marines."
Wike was Peter Hesser's Corpsman, First Platoon, GOLF, 2/3, and Hesser was with him at the time of the photo: "I was standing right next to him when all that happened. A Marine named Foldan was killed instantly, shot right in front of me. When we were moving up that hill, maybe 6 or 8 dug-in NVA spotted us as we came up over the military crest. Andy McFarlane (Weapons Plt) was the base of fire with the MGs, and when they ceased fire, these guys popped up out of their holes and started dinging us, and killed him right there. The photographer, Kathy Leroy had the only photos that came out of Khe Sanh at that time. She'd been with us throughout that operation off and on, but she was right with my platoon when we went up there.