MEETING ENGAGEMENT
by Eric Hammel

Copyright © 1990 by Eric Hammel



The Con Thien Combat Base, an isolated hilltop position overlooking the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between the two Vietnams, was under siege. During the last week of August 1968, III Marine Amphibious Force intelligence analysts discovered that the 812th North Vietnamese Army (NVA) Regiment was preparing to sever Con Thien's lifeline, the Cam Lo-Con Thien Main Supply Route. In response to the threat, the 3d Battalion, 26th Marine Regiment (3/26), which was to have been the next battalion to rotate into Con Thien, was assigned to relieve two companies of the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines (1/9), at a roadside position known as the Churchyard, just north of Fire Base C-2 ("Charlie-2"), about halfway between Cam Lo and Con Thien. Three of 3/26's four infantry companies and most of the battalion headquarters-and-service company met at the Churchyard late in the afternoon of September 6, 1967. Early the next morning, portions of India/3/26 and Mike/3/26 were ordered to conduct patrols. Both companies had been operating around the Khe Sanh Combat Base all summer, and neither had ever operated in the Con Thien area between National Route 9 and the Demilitarized Zone. The September 6 patrols were more in the nature of familiarization tours than attempts to locate the enemy. Indeed, the half of 1/9 that the main body of 3/26 had relieved had not seen the enemy for more than a week.


Staff Sergeant RUSS ARMSTRONG
India Company, 3/26—1st Platoon Commander


September 7 was the anniversary of my leaving the States for Vietnam.

India Company was ordered to run a patrol out in a northwesterly direction. Lieutenant Bill Cowan's 3d Platoon was left behind to man the company position, but the rest of the company went out, including the skipper, Captain Wayne Coulter, and the exec, Lieutenant Bob Stimson.

Lance Corporal CHUCK BENNETT
India Company, 3/26—1st Platoon


On the morning of September 7, Staff Sergeant Armstrong went up to a meeting at the company CP [command post]. When he came back, he said we were going out on patrol. He was a real gung-ho Marine and liked to volunteer us for stuff. He said we'd be leading the patrol out. It was all "Hurry up! Get moving!"

1st Lieutenant BOB STIMSON
India Company, 3/26—Executive Officer


The company was good at running itself, so my job as executive officer was more tactical—an assistant company commander—than it was administrative. I went out with the patrol on September 7 because I usually went out when all or most of the company was on patrol.

A standard infantry company at the time was 210 officers and men. Going into the Churchyard, we couldn't have been more than 165. We were way down. With Lieutenant Bill Cowan's 3d Platoon staying back to man the entire company sector, we would be going out short of officers. The 1st and 2d platoons were both commanded by noncommissioned officers. Captain Coulter, the artillery FO [forward observer], and I were the only officers on the patrol. We went out about eighty-strong.

§

Staff Sergeant RUSS ARMSTRONG
India C
ompany, 3/26—1st Platoon Commander


It was a very nice day. There was still a lot of dew on the grass, and the rolling terrain looked peaceful, tranquil. The birds were singing, the sky was clear, the flowers were waving in a little breeze. It reminded me of home, of eastern Nebraska. It was so pleasant it kind of scared me. The tranquility of what I was seeing and the chaos of the war I was in didn't fit together.

As far as we were concerned, our job was to take a morning walk in the sun, see what we could see, and return to the battalion perimeter.

1st Lieutenant BOB STIMSON
India Company, 3/26—Executive Officer


The last civilians had been forcibly evacuated from the DMZ area about a half-year earlier. I had flown over the area once in a helicopter just when we arrived in-country. There were then some people living in the area, but not many, because there was already saturation bombing going on. Consequently, because there was no one living there except Marines and NVA, the cultivated areas were dormant and badly overgrown.

Several times on the patrol, squads moved out to check areas we were not able to see from the main body. Many such detachments were for purposes of security—for example, before the main body could cross a clearing or a trail. These were routine occurrences and saved us time, though the overall pace was very slow. We'd have had to go slow even if there were no danger of enemy troops being around. It took us three or four hours to go only 1,000 or 1,200 meters, though we certainly didn't cut through in a straight line. The ground was very uneven and the hedgerows blocked us everywhere. That terrain was as tough to move in as any I had ever experienced. It was very confining, very scary. I had a very bad feeling about being in such dense growth.

Staff Sergeant RUSS ARMSTRONG
India Company, 3/26—1st Platoon Commander


We marched out about a klick [kilometer], and the two platoons split.

I was supposed to reconnoiter in one direction and the 2d Platoon was supposed to reconnoiter in the other. We worked our way through fields and battered, deserted little villages. We had a general direction in which to head and a general area to reconnoiter, but there were lots of obstructions—buildings, woods, and heavy brush—so we got pretty fragmented.

My method was to send two or three Marines ahead of the main body at a faster pace while the rest of us scattered out to the sides. Everyone was very relaxed. Often as not, as we worked through a tiny built-up area, I joined a fire team and worked with them as they checked through abandoned houses and sheds, seeing what we could see, looking for signs of occupation or military activity.

The terrain was not especially rough. The ground meandered around into little rises here and there. Everything that was low had been rice paddies and everything from the edge of the paddies to the top of each knoll was covered with foliage. I couldn't tell if the growth was natural or if it had been planted by the Vietnamese. It was a combination of trees and bushes such that we couldn't see into it without going into it. It was fairly difficult to navigate in because we couldn't see far enough to locate landmarks on our maps or shoot a resection on to pinpoint our position. Also, our map sheets converged in this area, so it was doubly difficult to be sure a feature on the map was the feature we could see. It was not difficult to walk there, but navigating was difficult and tedious.

Another factor that slowed us down was that this was our very first trip out into this new area. We had had a very short turnover with 1/9 the previous afternoon, not enough time to get any details from them about local topography or places to be wary of. It was a rule to move through a new area with trepidation, so it took longer to move across relatively short distances because we tended to be more careful. Also, I was not sure what our purpose in being there was. I did not know what I was supposed to be looking for or doing.

After a while, we came to a grassy area and found four very distinct beaten-down trails in the grass where a military unit had marched through four-abreast. I knew we were somewhere near the area of responsibility of a unit of the 4th Marines, but I didn't know quite where their area began. As soon as I recognized the trails in the grass for what they were—signs of a large passing military unit—I thought, "My God, I had no idea the 4th Marines are this close to us!" I filed that away and kept the platoon moving.

Lance Corporal CHUCK BENNETT
India Company, 3/26—1st Platoon


After we'd been out for a long time, we saw some smoke. It was over by a rice paddy, in some high grass. We came across a big black kettle. There were no VC [Viet Cong] or NVA [North Vietnamese Army soldiers]—or anyone—around, but there was rice cooking in the kettle.

Staff Sergeant RUSS ARMSTRONG
India Company, 3/26—1st Platoon Commander


A little later, we came out of some undergrowth within sight of two blown-out churches, which were about 75 meters apart. Portions of both steeples were still standing. I located two destroyed churches on my map, but visibility was so lousy that I couldn't figure out if these were the same churches. I led the platoon over to the nearest church and climbed up into one of the dilapidated lath-construction steeples to try to find a land feature I could zero-in on so I could determine our position on my map.

I climbed as high as I could to get a look over the treetops. My years as a mortarman had ingrained in me the habit to know my position precisely, if possible, so I could call in fire if I had to. And I wanted to see if I could find the 2d Platoon, with which we were in radio contact but which we had not seen since splitting up with it. The vista, which was both gorgeous and tranquil, allowed me to pinpoint our position, but I was unable to see the 2d Platoon.

Shortly after I climbed down from the steeple and we started moving again, Captain Coulter's radioman called and ordered us to rejoin the command group and the 2d Platoon. I set a direct vector, and we headed out at a good pace along a little trail. The link-up was accomplished without incident, and the company headed northwest.

Eventually, we cleared a treeline and started crossing a large, open rice-paddy area. The open area was open out to only about 250 meters in front of us, to a wooded area to the west, but we could see forever to the left and right—north and south.

The paddy area was dry; it probably hadn't been cultivated in years. We crossed with the 2d Platoon in the lead and entered the wooded area. It was getting on toward midday and I began expecting to hear the skipper order us to break for chow, but he apparently wasn't ready.

As we entered the woods we found a large, dry watercourse or drainage ditch, probably eight feet deep and about ten feet across. It did not look man-made. It had a rounded bottom and the sides were semi-sloping. It would take some effort to climb up and out of it. The bottom was dry. There were trees growing up to the edges.

Lance Corporal CHUCK BENNETT
India Company, 3/26—1st Platoon


We checked the ditch out because it would have been a good spot for an ambush.

Staff Sergeant RUSS ARMSTRONG
India Company, 3/26—1st Platoon Commander


After putting out flankers to walk along the top of the ditch and more flankers partway up the side to keep visual contact with the outer flankers, the bulk of the patrol walked right into the ditch and proceeded along it. It was easier to move in there than in the broken terrain on either side.

1st Lieutenant BOB STIMSON
India Company, 3/26—Executive Officer


Even though part of the company was able to use the drainage ditch, progress remained slow because fire teams and squads had to advance through the brush on either side to provide security for the rest of us. The going for them was every bit as tough as it had been getting out to the ditch.

Lance Corporal CHUCK BENNETT
India Company, 3/26—1st Platoon


I was a flanker. It was very confined up above the ditch, so most of the time I was up on the rim of the ditch, inside.

Staff Sergeant RUSS ARMSTRONG
India Company, 3/26—1st Platoon Commander


All of a sudden, at 1150, our flankers on the left began taking some sporadic fire—burst, burst, burst, then nothing.

Lance Corporal CHUCK BENNETT
India Company, 3/26—1st Platoon


There was shooting. It was a bunch of shots—several automatic weapons. I hit the deck and started returning the fire.

Lance Corporal Gary Lindsay was the next guy to my left, about twenty feet away. I saw him go down. I knew he was hit, but I didn't know how bad. I was trying to get fire out to where they were shooting at us from. They were dug in. They were only 75 or 80 feet from me. As soon as I could, I hollered at Lindsay, but the guy never responded. I crawled over there, firing a few bursts as I went. Lindsay was hit in the head. He was already dead. He never knew what hit him.

The NVA kept firing at us and I kept firing at them, but I felt I had to get Lindsay into the ditch. I couldn't leave him out there.

Staff Sergeant RUSS ARMSTRONG
India Company, 3/26—1st Platoon Commander


We had no way of telling how many NVA were out there—one lone sniper, a fire team, or whatever. In the direction from which the fire was coming, to our left and left front, was a flat meadow and behind that, about 75 or 100 meters out, was another thick treeline through which I could see no daylight. The fire seemed to be coming from that treeline, but the vegetation was so thick I could not see muzzle flashes.

1st Lieutenant BOB STIMSON
India Company, 3/26—Executive Officer


The company command group was in the middle of the column in the ditch. As soon as the flankers got hit, Captain Coulter started reacting, but the troops reacted on their own, too.

Staff Sergeant RUSS ARMSTRONG
India Company, 3/26—1st Platoon Commander


We instantly set up a hasty defense. More or less instinctively, the unit leaders pushed troops out of the ditch to form a perimeter 20 or 30 meters in circumference in the direction of our march. If forward was 12 o'clock, the perimeter was from 9 o'clock to 3 o'clock by way of 12 o'clock. The 2d Platoon was on the right, from 12 o'clock to 3 o'clock, and my 1st Platoon were on the left, from 9 o'clock to 12 o'clock. The company command group, both platoon command groups, and some of the troops stayed in the middle of the perimeter, down in the ditch.

I passed orders for everyone to stay in place and not to try to attack the enemy position. There were some low shrubs near the ditch, about waist-high. The troops used them for cover.

My radioman told me that the word on the company net was that the 2d Platoon had had three of its flankers wounded in the initial flurry of fire. No one said so, but I assumed that Captain Coulter was calling in a medevac on the battalion net and that we would wait until the WIAs had been flown out.

There was some shooting going on, and some explosions—RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades] or hand grenades—but I don't think anyone in the ditch could see the enemy. I couldn't.

§

Captain TOM EARLY
3/26 Communications Officer


When India Company made contact at 1150, the first news we had at the battalion CP was the noise of the small-arms fire [overheard] on the battalion tactical radio net. Then we received verbal reports that they were in contact. We found out where they were and that they were pinned down.

1st Lieutenant BOB STIMSON
India Company, 3/26—Executive Officer


The official radio complement at the time provided radios only to the platoon level. We did not rate squad radios. By the book, the exec of an infantry company didn't rate a radio. Based on our experiences, though, we had acquired more than we rated.

Captain TOM EARLY
3/26 Communications Officer


The radio we used as a mainstay was the Marine PRC-25. To anybody who had been around longer than a year or two, through the transition from the PRC-8, -9, and -10, suddenly even a communications guy looked good because of his radios. The PRC-25's main advantage was that when you turned it on it worked. That kept everybody not only happy but shocked, because that was not the case with the previous radios. We depended mainly on this radio, a VHF frequency-modulated radio. It was used not only in the battalion communications net, which connected the battalion commander with all his company commanders, but also by each company's tactical net. My reasoning for passing out extra radios was that I would give each company the number of PRC-25s they needed; I had extras that I could dole out, so anybody who presented a good reason got a few extras. In many cases, the company tactical net would not only include the company commander and platoon commanders, but as far as those extra radios would go. It would encompass the squad leaders and platoon sergeants, also.

1st Lieutenant BOB STIMSON
India Company, 3/26—Executive Officer


I had my own radioman, and we had radio communication down more or less throughout the squad level, though I doubt every squad had one. The result was that the demand on everyone to report was great. People just got their butts chewed if they didn't immediately get on the radio and tell the next level up what was going on. Everybody in the chain of command was wary of this—I know I was—so the natural inclination was to immediately get on the horn and report to the next guy up the chain of command because, if you didn't, you knew there was going to be a voice coming over the channel asking why you hadn't reported.

Militarily, the adherence to reporting procedures resulted in a lot of missed opportunities to exploit situations. The North Vietnamese weren't constrained by similar requirements, so they could keep moving. It was the hallmark of the NVA to engage us, for instance, on one side and within a minute or two you had to be prepared to have them coming at you from the rear. They were experts at this. So, while the Marines were screwing around with this onerous reporting of situation, casualties, number and type of rounds expended—all the stuff that was kept in the statistical morass that was the Vietnam War—the NVA infantry was firing and maneuvering at us. They were figuring out how to beat us while we were encumbered with all the statistical stuff the Marine Corps and the Department of Defense needed so they could figure out whether we were winning the war, and by how much. It was lunacy!

Captain TOM EARLY
3/26 Communications Officer


The word was passed from India Company to our battalion CP group over the battalion tactical net. In Vietnam, very few of our nets had security devices on them, so when anything was reported over an unsecured net, the enemy, who had captured many PRC-25s, was assumed to be dialed in on that frequency. We assumed the NVA was monitoring everything that was being said, and that they knew exactly what we were doing. This gave the NVA a tremendous advantage since they knew exactly how India Company was pinned down, where they were pinned down, what they were calling for fire support, and what help they needed. The NVA knew all the essential elements of information, probably as quickly as the battalion CP group.

§

1st Lieutenant BOB STIMSON
India Company, 3/26—Executive Officer


As soon as the shooting started, some of the more adventurous squad leaders fired and maneuvered, and did the things crack infantrymen are supposed to do, but others and their seniors—the platoon commanders, Captain Coulter, and me—had to report the situation up the chain before we could do anything about the battle. Once we got that done, it was too late to exploit whatever it was we were involved with. Meanwhile, I'm sure all the NVA were either firing, or maneuvering, or trying to size up what they had come up against.

The NVA nearest to my position were very close, certainly no farther than 25 meters. There were little open areas out there, but mostly it was high brush, high grass, and trees. If they had been any distance away, they never would have seen us. Their vision was as encumbered by the thick vegetation as ours was. I'm sure the guys who first ran into us hadn't seen us until they were right on top of us. I'm sure they didn't know if we were a platoon, a company, or a battalion. While they were trying to find out what we were, most of our leadership was not doing the same. We were all trying to report.

I made sure that information from the platoons and squads got to Captain Coulter, and up to Battalion. Only when we completed the initial rush of reporting—which was coming from all sides except our rear—did we start trying to push squads and fire teams out in an organized, centrally controlled manner to see what we were up against. We were doing what they were doing, but later.

§

Staff Sergeant RUSS ARMSTRONG
India Company, 3/26—1st Platoon Commander


Shortly after we set out our hasty defense perimeter, I asked my squad leaders to report. Two of them responded instantly, but the last one, Sergeant Alexander Chisholm, of my 2d Squad, did not respond.

Scotty Chisholm was an interesting fellow. He was twenty-eight years old and a native of Scotland. He had served for five or six years in the British Army, in a Highland unit, and was a college graduate. I believe he might have been an officer. He was not a U.S. citizen, but he had a Green Card and was thus prime for the Draft. He was an exceptional land navigator; I depended on him a lot. I don't think there was anywhere in Vietnam he couldn't navigate us to. Because of him, the 1st Platoon was almost always the company's point element when we were on a move.

Scotty didn't respond when I asked the squad leaders to report, so I had to ask him again to report. He finally came to me and said, "I think Lindsay may have been hurt." That was Lance Corporal Gary Lindsay, the 2d Squad's 2d Fire Team leader. Chisholm and Lindsay were boot-camp buddies, very tight.

I asked, "Do you know for sure?"

"No, I'm not sure," he replied.

I yelled over across the field on the left side of the ditch, toward where we thought Lindsay was. At about the 9:30 position, I could see someone's shoulder and boots. They were about 15 meters out. There was no response, so I climbed up on the bank of the ditch and put on a burst of speed. I hit the ground, rolled, got up, and ran again. I did that a few times until I got to within a few feet of Lindsay, then I yelled, "Lindsay, goddammit!" There was still no answer, so I crawled up beside him, reached over, and grabbed onto him. He was limp. I rolled him over and saw that his head had a big gaping hole in it. He was dead, but I yelled for a corpsman and added that I wanted some men to help pull him in. One of the docs responded, and he and two or three others did what I had done, ran and rolled until they reached us.

Lance Corporal CHUCK BENNETT
India Company, 3/26—1st Platoon


Gary Lindsay was one of the finest guys I met in Vietnam. He was there when I got there, and he took me under his wing. He taught me the ropes. He was a good talker and a really strong man, a body builder. He was always laughing. Lindsay was a damn good Marine and a good friend. He'd taught me not to make friends over there, but he was my friend.

1st Lieutenant BOB STIMSON
India Company, 3/26—Executive Officer


Lance Corporal Lindsay had been one of the all-stars in the Hill 689 battle at the end of June. He had really come into his own there, had showed a lot of fortitude that afternoon.

Lance Corporal CHUCK BENNETT
India Company, 3/26—1st Platoon


Lindsay had a powerful build and big bones; he was muscular and heavy. And he had all his gear on. It was hard to move him.

Staff Sergeant RUSS ARMSTRONG
India Company, 3/26—1st Platoon Commander


The troops took off their belts and looped them under Lindsay's arms. When they were ready to move him, I led the way back, crawling toward the ditch.

Most of the men were manning a perimeter. Only the company command element and a squad or two were still in the ditch. So was Scotty Chisholm. As the troops who were dragging Lindsay in pulled him down the bank of the ditch, I looked right at Scotty, who was sitting erect on the bank of the ditch. He had piercing, hazy-blue eyes, and they seemed to be staring 5,000 meters into the distance. Inside his head, I was sure, he wasn't anywhere near Vietnam. Scotty had been the most effective squad leader I had. He was due to rotate home at the end of the month, with me and most of the rest of the "old" battalion. I decided then and there that as soon as we got back to the battalion perimeter that evening I was going to find him a job in the rear. He was used up; he'd had enough.

§

1st Lieutenant BOB STIMSON
India Company, 3/26—Executive Officer


They kept probing us with fire. This was to get a response from our M-60s and mortars, to see how large a unit we were. I'm sure—I know—they were moving around us and maneuvering progressively closer and closer to learn what we were.

I was busy. I also was very wary and frightened. However, I think the professional skills we had developed worked for us. Though we were late getting started because of the reporting, we knew what had to be done, and we did it. Everyone knew and everyone did it. Captain Coulter and I never worked in the same place, so I'm not sure what he was doing besides answering questions from Battalion. While the captain continued to speak with Battalion, I started moving around, helping the platoons and squads tactically. The company command group stayed in the ditch, but I moved everywhere outside the ditch.

I believe we were probed initially by several very small NVA units—fire teams. I was never sure because my view was restricted by the undergrowth, but what I heard led me to that conclusion—flurries of small-arms fire at intervals from different places. They seemed to move around a lot, so I had no idea how many fire teams there were. The whole NVA force might have been only a squad or two, altogether, but they kept us very busy and confused by firing from a lot of different places all around our position.

Staff Sergeant RUSS ARMSTRONG
India Company, 3/26—1st Platoon Commander


I was very concerned. I had no idea what lay in store for us, no idea what was out there. I knew that most of my men had only two or three weeks left. One of my short-timers was dead and another seemed to have lost his effectiveness.

Whatever enemy were out there, we were holding them with fire from our weapons. They were close, but too far away to reach us or be reached by us with hand grenades. Our fire was reactionary; whenever they fired out from the woods, we fired back. We didn't know what we were shooting at; we couldn't see anyone. All we did was fire at the source of their fire, at muzzle flashes when we could see them. When their fire stopped, ours stopped. We didn't fire again until they started firing again.

In time, the 2d Platoon's three wounded flankers and Lindsay were brought into the ditch, but another Marine—who did not respond to calls—could not be recovered from a bomb crater into which he had fallen because the enemy fire was so intense that no one could get to him.

I heard that the skipper had called for a medevac chopper, but there was quite a bit of delay.

Captain TOM EARLY
3/26 Communications Officer


It took a long time to get the helicopters from Phu Bai or wherever they came from. Our request had to go up through the helicopter request net, had to be confirmed, and then they had to send the helicopters.

Staff Sergeant RUSS ARMSTRONG
India Company, 3/26—1st Platoon Commander

I also heard that the skipper had put in a request for fixed-wing air support, but, like the medevac, it got delayed.

Captain TOM EARLY
3/26 Communications Officer


There was an AO [aerial observer] up. The AOs were always on the same frequencies. We knew what those frequencies were; we all had them in our little notebooks. Any CP could come up and talk with him, ask him any questions they wanted. The AO was an infantry officer who could either help our FOs on the ground or call artillery fire himself. He also could call naval gunfire if there was a ship on station, or he could run fixed-wing airplanes if there were any in the area, or he could assist the artillery FO on the ground in spotting exactly where the rounds should go into the enemy positions. So, we were in a position to control air either from the ground position with our own forward air controller, or from the air with the AO. It certainly was simpler for the AO because he was up there and could observe more from that little Bird Dog airplane.

The AO was aboard a single-engine light Cessna "Bird Dog" observation plane. He had arrived over the India Company position within about thirty minutes of the initial exchange of gunfire. Circling over a wide area, he located an NVA bunker and six NVA soldiers in fighting holes. He also reported that one of the NVA soldiers had an automatic weapon, and he requested immediate air support. Typically, Marine Corps jet fighter-bombers based at Danang, on the coast, needed at least thirty minutes to take off and get on station along the DMZ. They were thus due to arrive at about 1300, about seventy minutes after the first shots were fired.

Lance Corporal CHUCK BENNETT
India Company, 3/26—1st Platoon


The NVA kept firing at us. They'd fire and then they'd move and fire again. It was sporadic fire. They were probing, trying to find out what we had.

There were fast movers [jets] coming in, dropping bombs near us. They had to give us cover so we could move out of there. They were dropping right on top of us, close in. They were shaking the ground real bad.

Staff Sergeant RUSS ARMSTRONG
India Company, 3/26—1st Platoon Commander


The 2d Platoon managed to recover the Marine from the bomb crater. When they got to him, he was dead.

1st Lieutenant BOB STIMSON
India Company, 3/26—Executive Officer


It suddenly quieted down. I think the NVA left because they found out what they wanted to find out.

We had to move the wounded to an LZ [landing zone] about a hundred yards from where we had been engaged. They were all serious enough to have to be carried. An H-34 helicopter came in and picked them all up, but they didn't take the dead.

The medevac took place at 1320, ninety minutes after the first shots were fired and at least an hour after medevacs were requested. At 1325, the AO directed an additional fixed-wing strike. The pilots claimed four confirmed NVA deaths. At 1400, as India Company was moving back toward the battalion main body, the AO sighted a squad of NVA about 400 meters northwest of the original point of contact. He called for an artillery fire mission. Howitzers at Fire Base C-2 were fired, but the AO was unable to determine the result. At about the same time and several hundred meters to the southwest of the original point of contact, the AO located a new foot trail and, nearby, "many new bunkers."

§

  Although 1/9 had reported that there had been no contacts around the Churchyard, it was well known that many NVA were living in the area. Therefore, India Company's contact and the AO's sightings were not deemed significant. It was inevitable, given the number of NVA in the area, that Marines would run into them from time to time.

As the India Company patrol—tired from the fire fight and burdened with its two dead comrades—struggled across a large paddyfield 500 meters from the Churchyard perimeter, at least two battalions of the 812th NVA Regiment launched simultaneous mortar- and rocket-supported assaults on it and the battalion main body. This was the first of two regimental assaults 3/26 was to weather in three days' time.